Friday, November 28, 2008

NYWC and YM 3.0 and A New Kind of Christian...Part 2

This is a continuation from the previous post, you may want to read it first in order for this to make more sense. That being said away we go...

Reflecting back on all of these things, there are a few observations I want to share.

I have found that God never leaves you in a place all by yourself; especially if He wants something to be done because He knows how much we need a community to join with us. This was true for me with my struggle with the church. When I went to NYWC 2007 where I heard Marko's talk on Youth Ministry 3.0, it was so encouraging to me because it was not a hate church speech or a we need to start a new church, but simple we need to realize where we need to take it next. This was so refreshing to me, especially since I work in a mainline church. There was a HOPE within his talk that what we have been doing was good at that time, but he encouraged us to realize that it needs to change because people have changed. In fact, McLaren's book had the same feel; the pastor is ready to give up on the church and go teach in a school, but the professor engages him in a deep conversation aimed at keeping him in the church. This feel like I am not alone, but God has placed others around me to encourage challenge and guide me is what Marko calls "Communion" a community with Christ in our midst.
Marko's book YM 3.0 carried the same tone as his talk at NYWC, hope that the church has done well, but also that it needs to change. There was even a facebook group started to engage people in conversations about YM 3.0; I was really excited! I found out that so many other felt the same way about needing the church to have a shift, but I also gained new struggles from this group too. This group helped me realize how hard this shift is going to be from programs to presence, from driven to not driven, results based to God based. To me, it seemed like person after person was feeling like there was something not quite right about the church, but the same we unable to get out of the mindset of where the church is now.
I guess for me, since is spoke so directly to me, I was ready to try anything even if i meant getting beat up about it because it was not how we had always done it; but it seemed like so many others were taking the surface points of the books and trying to fit them into the current church setting.
It was at this frustration and excitement communion that I entered into NYWC 2008.
I was so excited to have brought five volunteers with me; one of which is my wife who is also called to youth ministry! I cannot imagine going this journey without her!!
Upon getting into the conference, we went one day early so our females could go to HERstory, a day of pouring into women in youth ministry. Seeing the ladies excitement from that might have been one of the highlights from the weekend. My wife and I also sat down to coffee with Marko, the author of YM 3.0 and President of Youth Specialties. It was great to sit down with the one who really started me on this new part of my journey (Ok so God had a lot to do with it too :-) ) From here, everyone started showing up for the main part of the conference. From this time on til the end of the conference, I felt like my group and a few others we in such a different place than a lot of the rest. This is not saying better or worse, just different.
Within the conference, you have the option to really go to or not go to everything or anything in between. There is a full schedule for the whole time, and I really felt pulled not to miss anything because there was a lot of good stuff, but also pulled to miss most of it because I just needed to sit down with God.

I ended up only going to one breakout session, the main sessions, and the sanctuary. The sanctuary was something new this year and i have to say it might have been my favorite part, outside of my ladies reaction to HERstory and three of the main sessions! In the Sanctuary, there was just an atmosphere where God was present, sitting among us. Another reason I really resonated with it is because I feel a HUGE pull towards the Christian Disciplines and spending more time with God and resting in Him. There was even a part called "Nap Time" where there was just a light guitar and singing and you were literally encouraged to lay down and nap!! It was so refreshing.

I was still struggling as always with the consumeristic feel of the conference. The booth area with all the vendors is like wading through a small pond with 200 sharks; I hate it because I know several of the vendors. At each of the main sessions there were about 2-5 products and events being advertised. This is tough for me because I have a marketing degree, and actually went the other way to be against being sold anything and just loving people.

Ok so I hate when you have to say it, but I needed to wrap it up, also I know this is really only the beginning, but oh well.
I am learning more and more about the great NEED of Communion, community with Christ in our midst. Not only should we seek it for ourselves, but we should try to encourage it with youth.
I learned the NEED for God sized patience, a patience that as Marko put it is "so patient it is annoying"

I continue to learn the NEED for God. I know this sounds funny, but I think that we forget sometimes that when we do it on our own (which happens a lot in ministry too) we are forgetting we need God.

I cannot wait to see where I, the church, youth ministry, Youth Specialties, and everyone else end up! What and exciting journey we get to be a part of!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NYWC and YM 3.0 and A New Kind of Christian

It is hard sometimes for me to collect my thoughts enough to feel like I have something "postworthy". I don't know if this is or not but it is stirring in my mind, and I maybe if I write it down it will help....maybe not :-) Here goes nothing:

There are a few things that have really been working on me in the past month or so.

One is a book I read called "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian D. McLaren which is a conversation between a pastor and professor about where the church is and where it needs to go.

Second is the book "Youth Ministry 3.0" by Mark Oestreicher (Marko)the President of Youth Specialties(YS) who writes about where youth ministry was, is, and need to be.

The third and final thing has been the National Youth Workers Convention, the annual gathering of youth workers through YS to be challenged, encouraged, and refreshed.

What I love about how God works is that He finds a way to weave the seemingly unrelated events in our lives into a perfect cohesion of love and grace, and through it all it stretches us to be molded into what we were created to be. Such is the case with these three things...

About a a year and a half ago, I was in BooksaMillion and saw the Brian McLaren book and picked it up because I loved the idea of it being a conversation, not just another book. About a year ago, I was at NYWC and heard Marko speak on what is now called YM 3.0. And about three months ago, I finally pick up and started reading the McLaren book. About a two weeks ago, I finished it and got a copy of YM 3.0 and starting reading it. Last Thursday, I finished YM 3.0 and left for NYWC. I got back from NYWC last night.

So why does any of this matter?

For almost two years now, I have really struggled with the church, youth ministry, Christians, and myself. I really felt and feel like where we are as a Christian Community and where we are called to be are two different places; how we are approaching church and youth ministry and the world are for the most part not really working.

My personal struggle was that most people get to this point and leave the church or maybe start thier own. For me, I really felt this was not answer; why would God want us to give up on the church?

So I am really struggling with this when I go to NYWC 2007 in Atlanta. The whole weekend is great, and Phyllis Tickle addresses it some, but there is still this underlying struggle in myself. The final talk is by Marko on the last day. His talk is about Youth Ministry 3.0, where we have been, are and should go in youth ministry. As he talks, he is explaining exactly what was going on in my heart and soul for the past year. How Marko explains it there is a HOPE that the church WILL change, from here I am really changed to start look to where we need to go.

So I have struggled with this and worked on it for about seven months, and I am seeing progress and struggling at the same time, and at this point I pick up the McLaren book. This conversation between a pastor and professor is basically like I was the reason they wrote the book. The pastor is in a place where he has all but given up on the church and is asking the professor how to become a teacher. The professor does not just tell him, but engages him in a conversation that lasts the rest of the book, and apparently through two more books too, which I have not read yet. In the conversation they address the struggle we have in the church, politics, programs, the whole nine yards... Anyway, it really affirmed me to read the struggles that they had gone through the same things that I was in...

It was right at this time that I received the new book, YM 3.0; which is about the same thing but in youth ministry. Marko even adds comments from people who commented on his blog to engage all sorts of opinions. In the book, he lays out the YM 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Describing each by the drive and purpose and verse and youth struggle for either identity, affinity, and autonomy. It is basically his talk expanded with a few more thoughts on what it 3.0 might actually look like.

What has been interesting has been reading on the facebook group for this book, all the thoughts and struggle and ideas from the youth ministry community. It seems as though so many are in this same place of struggle with the Christian Church and Community. What I find so fascinating is how even though so many are struggling with the current system, they are unable to see past it to a new way. (I use "way" meaning different from the previous, but I don't believe that there is really even a way meaning certain way to do it) Each are struggling with making YM 3.0 fit into a YM 2.0 church.

So I head to NYWC 2008 in Nashville, and actually have coffee with Marko. We really only have a few minutes to get to know each other, but I really feel like he was on a similar page. What I find compelling about what Marko is expressing in the book is that it should no longer be about curriculum and books so much as it should be about seeking God and responding to that. This is easier to believe, not only because I have the same feeling, but also because curriculum and books are almost all that Marko company does.

At NWYC, I felt several things:
One - I felt like there was an almost divide. Like there was several different places people were in. Some were here for the first time and could not believe that there was such a community of youth ministers! Some were here, same as every year, to get the newest program or curriculum for the next year. Others were hear because they needed to get away from their setting and desperately needed to be healed and restored. Maybe I was more in the last group, needing to get away from the set ways and dream about where we could be and should go. In fact, I only went to one breakout session the whole weekend out of about 15 I could have gone to.
Two - In the main sessions, I had very mixed emotions after leaving each one. Some I felt really encouraged and refreshed, others I felt challenged, and others I felt like I was being blamed fro why the church was the way it was. I struggled with how a few speakers approached their topics, with a the church is doing this and it is wrong approach. We all work in churches in some fashion and I took some of it personally because as stated before I really feel like abandoning the church is not the answer; not even that they said this or meant to but it came off that way. I loved the idea that we need to open up to the ideas that maybe science and faith can get along! I loved the idea that we are sent to love not judge or condemn! I loved the idea that we are called to do youth ministry WITH students not to them! I want to join the slow club, and restore my soul!!!!
Three - The feeling of consumerism in the main area was crushing me. The booths area I actually tried to avoid after being jumped by vendor after vendor of stuff I do not want, and felt really weird that they each felt they needed to give away something to even get me in their booth.
Four - I LOVED THE SANCTUARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It may have been my favorite part other than three main session. It was an intimate room which just overwhelmed you with the presence of God! Not tvs, computers, loud music.

Ok, so this is like the longest post ever...I know. So I am going to post it and come back and post again with why any of this matters

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dialogue with a good friend...

In our youth group, we are teaching each youth how to discover who God is through the Christian Disciplines. The current discipline we are experiencing is meditation. Last Sunday night we had a guided meditation in which we were lead down a path, a path of our life, along the path we meet Jesus who takes our burden from us, and we continue to walk down the path together, holding a conversation. It ends here and you were prompted to write the conversation you and Jesus had. (If you would like to follow what we did there is a link on our youth website)

Anyway, I wanted to share what I conversation

Me: Hey
Jesus: Hey, how have you been?
Me: Good, I guess. I mean I really have nothing to complain about. I have food, clothing, shelter, and a beautiful loving wife.
Jesus: So why "I guess"?
Me: I mean I just want so badly to do something HUGE with my life. I know that you have me here to help impact these kids, but I wish there was just an easy way to tell if they "get it". I mean I can see lives moved and changed but what about the group? Is the whole group changed? Is it supposed to be? I think it is, because through a changed group of Christians you can change the world...
Jesus: Yes, but do not feel that it is all on you shoulders, I am here
Me: I know. I guess I wish I could just change it all now. RIGHT NOW. I wish the church reflected God like you did and do
Jesus: You know, when I came I was not loved by all, not even really liked, in fact some hated me as you know. But when I said my yoke is easy it does not mean it will always be a walk in the park, it means you won't have to go it alone. And you can have HOPE that in the end, we win!
Me: My struggle is that even I get sucked into the world's version of church: numbers, size, programs even sometimes the need for people to understand...
Jesus: Much of what I taught was not understood, and the rest that was understood was not easy to many to do.
Me: You see that is just it. I feel your message is simple, but so hard to do. "Love God, love others because you are first loved." But it is so hard to not make it more complicated. It seems everything else is, shouldn't the one thing that involves eternity be too?
Jesus: That is just it. I am not of this world. My way is that simple, but also that hard to do. You must be constantly filling your self up so that I might use you. The way to fill yourself up is not complicated either. LOVE is about a relationship. Filling yourself up is just like being with a good friend who when you leave being with them, you feel good and like everything even for a moment doesn't matter as much because you have a good friend; only this relationship with me fills and fixes even the most broken pieces.
Me: So how are you?
Jesus: Why do you ask?
Me: I want to be filled so that we can heal the world
Jesus: Well, let me tell you about my friend Sally........

Maybe It is time we took out all the complications and just sat down with Jesus...