What is the future of Christian proclamation in a society increasingly driven by networked technologies and 140-character communications? What place does preaching to young people have in such a society, and what form might it take? How might we move from mere sermons and “youth talks” into affecting the lives of young hearers?
I'm excited to participate in this important Conference. COME JOIN US.
Immerse is a proud sponsor of the National Youth Worker Convention Theological Forums again this year. Over the next months leading up to the conferences we will be having some of the panelists that will be at the forums sharing some pre-cursory thoughts on some of the questions they will be asked. This week our friend Andy Root lets us in on his preparation for the up coming eschatology panel.
As I was preparing for my eschatology panel in Dallas at the National Youth Workers Convention, I got an email from a youth worker asking for some insight on why he was so uncomfortable with a youth mission trip he had just gone on. He explained that his young people spent all day working, motivated by rhetoric from the leadership on how big a difference they were making, how they were changing the world. The kids were told over and over again that if they really believed in Jesus and really wanted it, they could do anything.
Yet, he explained, “I’ve now been back there six years in a row, same place, and honestly things aren’t getting better but worse. So what are we doing there?”
I thought it was a great question and one that could only be answered through an eschatological perspective embedded in the resurrection of Jesus. As I’ll say on that panel in Dallas on eschatology, the only way for eschatology not to be weird (like a poorly done Christian Apocalyptic movie) is for all our eschatological assertions to be embedded in the person and action of Jesus. Jesus is the man of the eschaton because Jesus is the new Adam. Unlike his friend Lazarus, who is raised to die again, Jesus is the man of the future, man of completion because, now alive, death is no more. (Death is no more for him, and because we are in him, as Paul says, we are promised that one day death will be no more for us too. But this is in our future, in the eschaton, though it is now for Jesus—because he is the man of the future).
What did I say back? Something like this: (which, by the way, comes from an upcoming book, Unlocking Eschatology and Mission in Youth Ministry [Zondervan 2012]).
A mission trip in youth ministry is about witnessing to the resurrection; it is not about bringing the resurrection. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the resurrection. The mission trip is about joining in God’s action by entering death with people, trusting that our actions are windows into the promise of God to take all that is death (hungry stomachs, sagging roofs, parentless children) and bring life out of it. Promise can happen only within reality, only within bearing death. But promise honestly enters into the death of this reality, hoping and waiting for the next, the new reality.
It is about what is coming. The mission trip is standing in reality while, through our action, witnessing to the action of God, who promises to overcome death in all its forms.
The youth ministry mission trip possesses no power to bring forth justice. But it nevertheless bends its life toward justice by seeking the person of Jesus who brings forth the coming of God’s future, when all will be fed and cared for. So now, today, we feed and care for others as a sacrament of the fullness of God’s coming future.
There is a Youth Director position open at Second Presbyterian Church in the Brookside area of Kansas City. I have had the privilege to participate with the great team at Second Presbyterian in developing this position. There is some flexibility with this position concerning the amount of hours per week.
Paul Rock is the pastor at Second Presbyterian and he is a visionary and thoughtful leader. I'm excited about working with Paul, the congregation and the new Youth Director in designing a theologically robust youth ministry at Second. As the President of Youthfront, I'm also interested in exploring the possiblity of discussing a Youthfront role for whoever is hired for the Second Presbyterian position.
Immerse and Youthfront is a proud sponsor of the National Youth Worker Convention Theological Forums again this year. Over the next months leading up to the conferences we will be having the various panelists that will be at the forums sharing some pre-cursory thoughts on some of the questions they will be asked. This week our friend Amy Jacober is speaking briefly to her experience with interpreting scripture.
I have had more than one conversation about a concern regarding me allegedly not taking scripture seriously enough. Ironically, it is because I have such a high view of scripture that I end up in such conversations. It is always a little uncomfortable for people when they learn they have aligned their lives around biblical beliefs that are, well…not biblical.
While I can think of several times this has been the case, early in my ministry career an incident took place that has become a theme in my life. Years ago I served as a Bible Study leader for my denominational camp. What this meant was that for 10 weeks that summer, new groups of churches would trust their youth to our staff and we got to lead them in Bible study, recreation and a whole host of other really fun and silly things. Relationships were formed and theological questions came up daily.
In my very first week of camp on the very first day of Bible study, a student asked if the Bible allowed drinking. I mustered every bit of wisdom my 21 year-old self had and said I didn’t want to speak out of turn and would do some research and return the following day with an answer. That night I checked with my roommate, our director and every translation of the Bible we had, not to mention a commentary or two. I came ready to share what I had learned. And what I learned was that drinking was not forbidden but drunkenness was (Ephesians 5:18). I also reminded the group that in this country, we are also called to obey the law of the land and the legal age for drinking was 21 so the issue of their drinking was not an option for any of them as high school students (Romans 13:1). I then shared that as believers, we sometimes are held to higher standards and that our entire staff had signed a contract promising to not drink throughout the entire summer. I was proud of all that I had shared, thought I had offered a solid response that under no circumstances should a high-schooler be drinking and backed it up with scripture! Recreation came next and lunch followed.
Before I could even finish getting my lunch there was a clearly ticked off woman making a beeline for me. She grabbed my arm and pulled me over to her table with a few other angry leaders waiting. She asked why I had told all her youth that it was OK to drink. Stunned, I listened to her vent for a few moments and then offered my explanation of what had happened. I pointed out my careful study of the passages and that I had said it was okay to drink but not get drunk, that we must also obey the law of the land and even go above that sometimes as Christians. She looked at me and said I had undermined all her church had been teaching. Slowly and calmly (and in a moment of clarity I still can’t explain) I asked her to show me which passage she had used in her teaching as I would love to follow suit if her teaching was based on something more than personal opinion. She simply said to me that I was wrong and that I clearly didn’t know what the Bible said. There was no reasoning with her at that point. She asked for all of her students to be removed from the Bible study I was leading and called for me to be fired.
While I managed to maintain my job I was told, by my supervisor that it was better to share the opinions of the churches even when they seem to contradict scripture. That was the only time in my career that idea was instructed to me explicitly but over the last 20 years it has been implicitly communicated to me numerous times and in numerous ways. Including from inside some of the academic institutions where I was teaching.
James K.A. Smith from Calvin College writes for Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership about how innovation requires grounding in tradition if it is going to truly flourish. The article is entitled, "Tradition for Innovation" and I guess I'm posting it because I really agree with the core of what he's saying. Here are some of his thoughts:
"The entrepreneurial independence of evangelical spirituality leaves room for all kinds of congregational startups that require little if any institutional support. Catering to increasingly specialized “niche” audiences, these startups are not beholden to liturgical forms or institutional legacies. Indeed, many proudly announce their desire to 'reinvent church.'”
"If the church is going to send out 'restorers' who engage culture for the common good, we need to recover and remember the rich imaginative practices of historic Christian worship that carry the unique story of the gospel."
Smith also describes "many ways in which the liturgical tradition nurtures and replenishes the imagination:"
"• Kneeling in confession and voicing “the things we have done and the things we have left undone …” tangibly and viscerally impresses upon us the brokenness of our world and humbles our own pretensions;
• Pledging allegiance in the Creed is a political act -- a reminder that we are citizens of a coming kingdom, curtailing our temptation to overidentify with any configuration of the earthly city;
• The rite of baptism, where the congregation vows to help raise a child alongside the parents, is just the liturgical formation we need to be a people who can support those raising children with intellectual disabilities or other special needs;
• Sitting at the Lord’s Table with the risen King, where all are invited to eat, is a tactile reminder of the just, abundant world that God longs for."
This is the quote I wish I could have tweeted but it was past the character count.
"We cannot hope to re-create the world if we are constantly reinventing “church.” Instead, we will reinvent ourselves right out of the story. Liturgical tradition is the platform for imaginative innovation."
I'm really excited about participating in the Grace, Grace and More Grace: Spiritual Formation as God's Care for Us Conference hosted by Renovaré. The conference is September 27-29 and will be held at Friends University in Wichita, KS. I'm doing an intensive session on Presence-Centered Youth Ministry and I'd love to engage with a bunch of youth workers and church planters during this time. Download Aprentis_09_2012_event_brochure. More Info. Register.
The conference is going to be excellent because the lineup of speakers and topics are amazing.
We have been so blessed recently by a generous outporing of help from friends of Youthfront. A couple of weeks ago, our good friend Steve Burbridge of Anthony Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, brought a team of technicians to Youthfront West to service all of our HVAC units, no small task. This was a huge gift and blessing.
Last weekend, we had around 250 volunteers from several churches who worked all day Saturday. A majority of them went to Youthfront West and painted 16 cabins and our camp managers house, along with completing other smaller projects. Not only did they help but they paid for the super paint. This was organized by a coalition of churches collaborating together as "What if the Church" did extraordinary things together to make a difference in our communities.
Another team worked at our Argentine ministry site, especially in and around the historic Franklin Center. We have been involved in resurrecting this amazing building for ministry and to be a blessing to the community. It's our urban ministry initiative that is revealing much goodness, not only in the Argentine district, but in many of us who are being impacted by what we sense Jesus is up to in this community.
A HUGE Thank you to these churches who make up the "What if the Church" coallition:
33 Church - Olathe, KS Breakpoint Community Church - Overland Park, KS Cedar Ridge Christian Church - Lenexa, KS Colonial Presbyterian Church - Kansas City, MO Community Covenant Church - Lenexa, KS Community Life Church - Shawnee, KS Crosspoints Church - Shawnee, KS Discover Church - Lees Summit, MO Freedom Covenant Church - Kansas City, MO Harvest Ridge Covenant Church - Shawnee, KS Heartland Community Church - Olathe, KS Hillcrest Covenant Church - Prairie Village, KS Impact Chrisitian Fellowship - Overland Park, KS Indian Creek Community Church - Gardner, KS Indian Creek Community Church - Olathe, KS Kansas City Community Church - Kansas City, KS Kaw Prairie Community Church - Shawnee, KS Koinonia Bible Church - Kansas City, MO Lakewood Way Community Church - Lees Summit, MO Leawood Presbyterian Church - Leawood, KS LifeQuest Church - Belton, MO Macedonia Baptist Church - Kansas City, MO Metro Life Church - Kansas City, MO Midtown Community Church - Kansas City, MO New City Community Church - Prairie Village, KS New Life Community Church - Gardner, KS Northside Christian Church - Kansas City, MO Olathe Bible Church - Olathe, KS Paseo Baptist Church - Kansas City, MO Redeemer Fellowship - Kansas City, MO Restore Community Church - Liberty, MO Restore Community Church - Park Hill, MO Servant Community Church - Kansas City, KS True Life Nazarene Church - Kansas City, MO Via De Esperanza - Olathe, KS Westbrooke Church - Overland Park, KS Westside Family Church - Lenexa, KS Westside Family Church - Kansas City, KS
youTheology is a Saint Paul School of Theology Pan-Methodist program that is preparing leaders, deepening faith, providing youth ministry resources, and giving opportunities for loving and serving God and others with high school students and youth workers.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jesus Christ
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced in my four decades of youth ministry was to serve as a Pallbearer for the funeral of one of a 13-year-old boy in my youth group. Paul was the victim of repeated bullying by a large group of peers that tragically left Paul with the mistaken conclusion that his reality was too unbearable and he chose to end his own life. This happened nearly 30 years ago. Unfortunately, bullying has gotten much worse in the last ten years.
Right now the movie documentary Bully, along with several highly publicized cases involving tragic results because of bullying among teenagers, has created a heightened awareness of the frightening dynamic of this issue in our culture.
Working with adolescents, we regularly hear stories of young people who everyday have to deal with being bullied. Everyday, hundreds of thousands of young people have to deal with the fear of attending school where they know they will be bullied. It’s estimated that an average of more than 150,000 young people stay home from school everyday to avoid being bullied. Most of the time this occurs without parents being aware that it’s happening to their child.
Bullying involves acts of repetitive negative behavior of a person or persons toward another person or persons that is aggressive and intimidating in nature. Bullying can take the forms of emotional, verbal, and/or physical abuse. Bullying can be a one-on-one issue but most often it involves a collaborative group engaged in peer abuse directed at one or more individuals.
Research reveals that young people who are regularly bullied face an increased risk of mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, despair, helplessness, and suicidal thoughts prevail among those who are dealing with being perpetually bullied. In addition to thinking about harming themselves, some begin to fanaticize about hurting their tormenters. According to a report by the Secret Service, two-thirds of students who participated in school shootings were victims of bullying at school that had reached the level of self-described “torment.”
Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, "There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide."
In addition to aggressive and physical actions that intimidate and harm the victims of bullying there are new forms of bullying that have emerged through social media. This type of Cyber-bullying attempts to socially isolate the victim by spreading rumors, name calling, threatening, criticizing, manipulating, ostracizing, etc. through a variety of social medias, including Facebook, Twitter, and whatever new social media tools emerged last week, along with those that will surface this week.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, One in five teenagers are harassed regularly online. Almost one-half of all teenagers have experienced some form of online harassment. More than one-third (37%) of teens admit to using social networking sites to victimize and harass their peers.
Before we, as adults, rest in the idea that we have moved beyond the ability to bully, let me suggest that we may not engage in the overt bullying actions of adolescents but we must ask ourselves if we have not just adopted more sophisticated forms of bullying – gossip, character assassination, ostracizing, sabotaging, and exclusionary behavior toward others.
When Jesus was asked what it means to truly be his follower he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27. He then tells one of the best-known stories called the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to explain and explore the heart of what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ. In this parable Jesus commends the man who comes to the rescue and takes care of a victim of extreme bullying. We must stand up for those who are being bullied. Christians must speak up. We have to take action concerning this issue
What is Youthfront doing about this issue?
Teaching young people to treat all people with respect and the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Teaching young people the Golden Rule taught by Jesus, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12
Teaching and mentoring young people the importance of defending and standing up for the marginalized victims of bullying.
What can parents do?
Talk to your kids about bullying.
Go see the movie Bully with your age appropriate kids.
Educate yourself on your kid’s world, their friends and the social environments they spend time in.
Be appropriately curious of your kid’s social media world.
I believe that we have a window of opportunity created by this movie Bully and the media’s attention on this issue to double down our effort to radically alter the reality of bullying in our culture. This, I believe is something that the followers of Jesus and God’s church must passionately engage in. We must do this for our kids.
Resources The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, www.cpyu.org Wikipedia