Hook up apps

IMG_2767 (1)

I’ve spent the last week and a half in a class on crisis issues in youth ministry discussing abuse. We’ve talked about physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse. We’ve talked about mandated reporting, impact on families and communities, and what is the role of a youth worker. I’ve been teaching this same class for nearly two decades and it never gets easier.

So what is the role of a youth worker? Dean Borgman in Hear My Story asks is this “Do we need to work together to stop the dangers young people experience — and to heal their hurts?” When asked this, my class offered a resounding YES! And then stared blankly, sitting silently. As they began to open up, they struggled to say how hard they thought this task would be. The finally said while they felt like we should do something, they felt helpless. Then came the conversation of perhaps not being as helpless now as they were a few weeks ago. The conversation that maybe they need to learn more so they may speak out more.

I tell my students that long after they graduate they need to continue reading. With that, check out this link on apps for hooking up. For many of us, we are settled in life and this is not even on our radar. The recent rise in STD’s and young people finding themselves in dangerous situations however says that we need to be aware of what is our of our typical worlds. Whether you agree with the conclusion of the article or not, it’s worth the read! As you read ask yourself, “Do we need to work together to stop the dangers young people experience?”

 

 

 

pardon me, your sexism is showing

shadow

Knocked up?

Usually a phrase reserved for teenagers and unplanned pregnancy but it seems to be the same attitude conveyed by some when they find out their female pastor is pregnant.

Recently, I received this text from a former student of mine who is now a youth pastor. In what should be one of the most exciting joyous times in life, this is on her mind:

“Do you have time to talk? I just talked with my pastor about taking my baby to camps and retreats and stuff and he said as far as he is concerned it is not an option because I won’t be able to do my job.”

As we talked she unfolded the backstory and full conversation. This is a church that officially professes to be open to women in leadership. In fact, they take pride in being progressive and welcoming. So far the church has been supportive of her and the other females on staff. But now with her baby in the picture, it seems the church has been caught off guard and is trying to figure out how to handle it.The following  have been expressed particularly regarding camps and retreats:

  • that the baby will be a distraction for both her and the youth;
  • that she will not have time to be present with youth and children if the baby is anywhere on the camp property (even with a dedicated babysitter for the week);
  • that she won’t be able to sleep in the cabins with the youth and children at camp (despite the fact she has never slept in the same room with the youth in past years at camp);
  • that she should have considered her job before becoming pregnant;
  • that breast pumps were made for weeks away from the baby during the summer;
  • that her husband should stay home from the multi-church youth retreat to take care of the baby (even when the other male youth pastors will have their wives and children at the retreat);
  • and that a baby would make it difficult for boys to relate to her and would turn them away from her leadership.

She was female when they hired her. In fact they celebrated that fact! She hasn’t hidden who she is. AND, if I may say so myself, she is remarkably gifted in pastoral and leadership roles. She has done, and is doing, her job well. She has a plan in place for extra support and is doing a great deal of work ahead of time to ensure no one is inconvenienced during her short maternal leave of absence.

This happens too often for women.

Anyone – and I do mean anyone – who has seen me speak, lecture, or been with me as I’ve led multiple mission trips overseas and camps stateside in the last six years has only seen me accompanied by an entourage of one or more.

I’m a mom. Not only am I a mom but I’m a mom of three children aged 5, 3, and 1!

I’m also a minister, preacher, teacher, and writer.

I always disclose the fact that I’ll need to bring at least one of my children. I say something to the effect of “I’ll have to bring a baby, we need each other and we just can’t be apart for more than a few hours at a time.” Most often, the quick response is that they would be delighted to have me and it’s a bonus to see a real live person modeling ministry and family together.

I know several male pastors and male youth pastors who have taken their babies and children to camp. It is often a highlight for their own family and for all involved. It is an up close and personal time for many youth and young adults to see an intact family seeking to honor God together. I have another former student experiencing exactly this. He is encouraged to bring his wife and new baby around because it is good for his family and for the church.

Yet, I know too many female ministers who have had conversations similar to the one seen in the text message above.

I am neither naive nor unaware of the challenges and difficulties of having a child and serving in ministry. Having a child changes the way you do ministry. I made those changes myself. Now, I am less often the one leading midnight karaoke or flying down the zip line. I may actually take a rest during free time in the afternoon when previously I would have worked on the evening’s program. I may actually have to ask for help and delegate more.

Mostly though, I stopped having to be in control of everything and learned to invite others more frequently into the ministry that I once thought was solely my responsibility, which, by the way, sets them free for greater ministry. I get to be present with my own children as my faith and skills are stretched. More opportunities are opened up for me to sit on a porch holding the baby while having a deep, Holy Spirit filled conversation when I would have been sorting t-shirts or setting up prayer stations. In short, having a baby present forced me to accept a pace that invited conversation and shared the load, helping me to see not only that delegation was possible but that it is closer to the model of being the body of Christ.

I am a better minister and do my job better with my children present than without.

What words of encouragement can we send to this youth pastor – and countless others – who are, have been, or will be in similar circumstances? What do we say to let her know that having a baby is NOT the end of their ministerial career? The initial opposition expressed by some at her church has led to much discussion and many committee meetings.  Some are supportive, some not so much, some are in the middle wanting to hear both sides.  Now they are trying to figure out what it will look like for her to be a minister and mom.

She has heard what I have to say. What do you say?

Talk about discrimination

lestinnocentbloodJust because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I talk with youth workers all the time about inclusion. Inclusion is woven into our very jargon when we speak of the gospel being for everyone. What we say officially however does not always match functionally.

As Ferguson has permeated the news, conversations of racism have risen again. A tragic reason, and long overdue, but the conversations are needed. What I am hearing from many young (african american, asian, hispanic, native american and white) leaders is that they know racism exists but that it is not their battle or that they just don’t see it. I couldn’t make this up. As I proceed to name a few places where I see it with them, it is as if a veil is being lifted. And then the floodgate is opened. Frustration or anger often follows. They begin to realize that they had be so socialized to see something as “normal” that they didn’t even see it as discrimination.

I hear this same comment when I bring up including people with disabilities. “Oh, yes, that is important but we don’t have anyone with a disability in our youth group / church / school / community”.

I hear this same comment when talking about including women in leadership. “Oh, we don’t have any women who are interested / qualified / called”.

And again when I talk about the gospel and those with different gender or sex orientations. “Oh yes, that is a huge issue in The church, but not my church. We don’t have anyone identifying / struggling / living with any of those issues.”

Inclusion demands that we talk, openly about all of these possibilities. Inclusion demands that we talk long before we know someone with a disability or can identify racism. You will do it imperfectly, do it anyway. You will make mistakes, do it anyway. You will receive pushback, do it anyway.

One of my very favorite books is “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed” by Philip Hallie. It is the story of a small village named Le Chambon in France during the Holocaust. In this village, conversations of peace making, of the gospel’s inclusion for all had been taking place for 400 years. Long before they knew that they would be put to the test, long before they dreamed they may have a chance to extend life to anyone…Jewish refugees and Nazi soldiers…they talked about inclusion. It will blow your mind to see what a difference their deep seeded beliefs made when faced with a real life situation.

We are late to the party. We don’t have the luxury of 400 years of history shaping us to push hard for inclusion of all, to work for peace, to fight discrimination for a variety of people. To be imitators of Jesus inviting all to the table with welcoming arms.

Late to the party however still means that the party is going on. It’s not over and indeed, in this case I would argue better late than never.

What we do have is a choice of how to respond today. Our junior high and high school students see issues of discrimination every day. It is a part of the fabric of their lives. It’s time we adults figure out how to better model what God actually intended. It is time we learn to navigate the waters of discrimination on a variety of fronts so that all may know Jesus actually brought good news for everyone.

 

Women in Ministry- CYMT style

My friends at CYMT.org have done it again! Great reads on women in ministry and I was lucky enough to be one of the people asked to write. Check out the wisdom from women who have been there, survived, still love Jesus and the church. Each has a unique story, each will leave you thinking and encouraged. Enjoy!

Was a non-descript clone really God’s idea?

Snapshot 2:26:14 1:54 PM

Can you be a Christian and…

This seems to be a dominant conversation in my world. Almost every twenty or thirty-something I know is asking this.

I had a a young woman meet with me last week. Her biggest concern…can she be a feminist and a Christian? As we talked it was more can I be a feminist and part of a church? part of a Christian community? Everything she was reading in the Bible was setting her free. Everything she learned about Jesus brought life to her. She also has a group of friends who equated Christianity with Jesus and they let her know in no uncertain terms that Christianity was just a ruse for male domination. For men being in charge and stating why women were inferior. She didn’t see that in scripture. She doesn’t see that yet she was afraid to ask anyone in church. AFRAID! She was afraid this beautiful, loving, guiding, convicting, embracing voice of Jesus would be taken from her if she dared to ask questions. She both desperately wants to belong, to be in conversations, to grow in faith and is scared to death of finding out that what her feminist non-Christian friends have said might be true. We talked for a long time. We talked of the amazing creativity and openness of Jesus. We then talked of the struggle to be a Christian and…

Navajo

Divorced

Homosexual

Not in ministry (and don’t want to be)

In the military

A stay at home parent

A mom who doesn’t stay at home

Smart

Into science

Everything I listed above is from a similar conversation I have had in the last twelve months with someone about being a Christian and…

Seems for many people there is always someone telling them who is in and who is out. For most of the people with whom I talk, they’d like to be in. In fact they are reading the Bible, seeking Jesus, praying…and then they tell me why they have been excluded. It’s really confusing. They are facing toward Jesus, walking ever closer and yet are told why there is some barrier that they can never overcome unless they become other than what they are.  Paul Hiebert famously wrote of this years ago in a conversation on bounded sets and centered sets. In short, one why of deciding who is in is by a strict boundary, the other way is by who is seeking Christ.

The passage that is most often quoted when we talk about this inability to be Christian and is Galatians 3:28. Pete Rollins says Galatians 3:28 “is not an expression of both/and in which we retain our identity when located in a new community of believers, but rather a neither/nor where we put aside those identities…Some worry that such an idea does violence to our particularity. But far from  trying to pull back from the violence of this verse, perhaps we need to affirm it all the more strongly…” (Church in the Present Tense, p. 23, 25) In all fairness, I think Rollins was actually trying to widen the realm of possibilities for people to become “other” as transformation in Christ is experienced. His fatal flaw on this one point for me was in essentially pathologizing particularities. Just naming that he knows that is a criticism does not make it any less a valid critique.

So back to the young woman with whom I was meeting. Can she be a feminist and a Christian? I say yes. Just as I said yes to every other person with whom I have had this similar conversation. God never intended that we all be clones, looking, sounding and existing in one narrow model of what constitutes a Christian. Rollins names it, it is violence but not a violence to which we are to succumb. It is a violence from which we have been set free.

P.S. I did point her toward Sarah Bessey. What a fun conversation to let her know she is not alone on this journey!

 

 

Where do you go when she’s pregnant?

Snapshot 9:25:13 3:08 PM

For a long time successful youth ministry could be defined by a group keeping a young girl from being pregnant and a young man from getting someone pregnant. It was crap theology then and still is today. And yet, this conversation of sexuality simply dominates life in general and certainly ministry.

I currently have undergrads in a course learning about the theology and philosophy of youth ministry. We discussed teen pregnancy as one of our case scenarios. At the end of it, they realized that they had little ground on which to stand for ministerial choices they offered. None had thought of the theological implications. None had considered what to do if this happened in their ministry.

According to a new study released by the CDC, teen pregnancy is down by nearly 50% since 1991. Indeed, that is something to celebrate! This still leaves nearly 30 births/1,000 teen girls in the US. I could discuss the politics of this, the reality that this is still among the highest rate for an industrialized country but that’s not the point here.

Teen pregnancy still happens. Repeat pregnancies for teenagers are not uncommon. For many in ministry, prayers are offered up in hopes that this never happens. When it does, at best support and good intentions follow but few resources. At worst, the young woman is labeled and asked with words or actions to not return. She is marked, she is judged and all at a time of life when she most needs others. There are however a handful of amazing ministers who are called to be the hands of feet of Christ to young women whom others have cast away. In case you didn’t know, there are two Christian organizations nationwide who come alongside teen moms. Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Young Lives (YoungLife for teen moms).

There are also numerous small ministries that continue faithfully, year after year with little to no fanfare. I got hang out with one this past week and was blown away by the sheer intensity of ministry taking place each and every day. My dear friend Joyce del Rosario is executive director or New Creation Home ministries. She oversees multiple homes for young women and their children as well as mentoring, leading Bible studies and currently working on a transitions project to help them successfully re-enter the regular world.

We began the day by 8am together though I knew she had already been up e-mailing and taking care of the details of the day. After a meeting with a potential volunteer, we headed to the house. It is surprisingly unsuspecting from the outside. Each girl has a small room for herself and her child or children. A laundry schedule hangs from the wall, each shelf of a pantry is designated for a resident. She worked on a paperwork for a caseworker claiming that a used care valued at $2000 was too large of a gift for one of her residents…that it would need to be returned and she had to go back to public transportation. She then turned her attention to meetings with staff members to cover the details of an upcoming fundraiser, relationship issues in the house, repairs that needed to take place only to be interrupted by a graduate desperate for prayer.

This graduate is considered a success story. She has moved out and is now volunteering in ministry herself. She however is trying to advocate for her son only to find the old feelings of inadequacy and failure creeping in. She knows his life is at stake and that he arrived long before she was ready to care for him. She also knows she has a team of people who will continue to equip her long after she has left. After all, there is a life at stake and they all take this seriously. It is one of the most intense, impromptu times of prayer I have experienced in ministry at any time.

After a few more items of the day, we drive to dinner. Well into the evening calls continue to come; donations for the fundraiser, an issue with a volunteer leader, needs of girls and all of this after Joyce has already put in more than 8 hours. As we say goodbye that night, I realize I will be up early the next morning to take care of my baby. Joyce, however, will awaken to taking care of multiple babies and their mothers. She will teach moms to do their own laundry, to consider nutrition while pregnant and long after for themselves and their children. She will remind them that they are capable even if the dad has long since disappeared. She will make calls to plumbers and caseworkers all the while being ever aware that the work she does  goes largely un-noticed and is for girls most ministries hoped would never exist or would just go away.

What can you do? How can you pray? Is this a ministry you need to begin? Or is this a ministry you can support from a distance financially? Keeping girls from being pregnant is not good youth ministry. Inviting them to follow Christ long before they find themselves in this situation, in the middle of it and long after a baby is born is good ministry. It is great that teen pregnancy is down…but let’s not forget the moms, dads and babies who are with us.

p.s. After posting I heard from my friend Joyce, she wanted to be certain that it was clear that the ministry to young women, their babies and families was a team effort and that she could not do it without an amazing group of people around her. No slights were intended and any errors were my fault. Props to all the heroes out there serving daily with little to no recognition. Yours is a noble cause and the Lord knows all you do and who you are!

Are people still talking about egalitarian marriage?

Snapshot 8:5:13 8:03 AM-2

An egalitarian marriage is something I haven’t spent a lot of time pondering. The first time I heard the term “mutual submission” I was 20, sitting on the living room floor of friends I met in seminary who were married. They described their marriage as being intentionally egalitarian. While I had never heard that term before, I didn’t know what the other options were.

I learned those options quickly being female and attending a southern baptist seminary. I dated on guy who seemed great! He did all the right things down to having his roommate leave roses all over my room when we were out playing catch at the ball park at Arlington for our Valentines Day date. What I didn’t realize was that he expected a lot for his early shows of affection. And I don’t mean sex. He expected me to tow the line and even when I disagreed with him to never (and I mean NEVER) allow others (as in ANYONE, not even my own family) to know this. My words and actions needed to align with his. He assured me he would listen to me and take my opinion into account (how magnanimous of him!) but that in the end, it was his job to break the tie and mine to trust that he would do what was right and best in all our decisions. Needless to say, we didn’t last.

I can’t imagine anything apart from equality in marriage. It seems to belittle both sides. It makes women seem second class and men seem insecure. It betrays the perichoresis and pushes for a hierarchical relationship in the godhead, which by the way is considered heresy. I digress.

This past week I was asked if I could recommend a book on marriage. In particular one that discussed an egalitarian marriage. There seem to be dozens on a complementarian marriage. I realized I didn’t know an egalitarian book on marriage. I realized my many conversations on egalitarian issues have all focused on ministry. I also learned that while I haven’t focused on this issue much over the years, many people have.

After a little digging I found one blog that offered an accessible and non-sensationalized look at an egalitarian approach to marriage. I wish I had written. It was the picture of the mom from The Incredibles at the top of the blog that caught my attention. (I so wish I could have her super powers!) It is the content that makes me recommend Egalitarian Marriage: What It Looks Like.

With that in mind, I have added Heirs Together: Applying the Biblical Principle of Mutual Submission in your Marriage by Patricia Gundry to my fall reading list. If you have other suggestions, I am open.

the backlash when speaking up about abuse

ingo_hero

In nearly every class I have taught for the last 15 years two major topics have arisen. One is a conversation around ministry with and to those with disabilities. The second, and all too often not unrelated, is around issues of abuse and violence.

I have no shortage of stories of horrific things that have been done to children and youth. I also have no shortage of youth workers who have been wounded in the process of trying to do right. I have spoken before about the very seminary where I taught being told that there was no place in chapel to have this conversation. As frustrated and angry as that made me, I was simply ignored not told I was a trouble maker for bringing up this very subject.

It is beyond time for leaders, vocational ministers and lay leaders to take a stand. To demand better. To seek justice so that peace may come. To be willing to face consequences and speak truth even when it costs.

Amy Smith has been valiantly speaking up for those who have been abused for years. She has also been a volunteer youth worker for years. It seems that a narrow understanding of what is “good” for our children has distorted the perspective of leadership where she has been. While I do not know her personally, I know her work. I know that what she is experiencing is deeply personal. I also know that being uninvited to the table is not necessarily a sign of being wrong. In fact, it may be that she was a little too right.

Read her story, hear her words. I am telling you now, if you are not angry at the end you need to check yourself. We MUST have this conversation and we MUST encourage those who are being wounded in the process.

Being silent does not mean there is not a problem. It means the problem is sure to continue.

Amy Smith- watchkeep

re-post from Andrew Sullivan

Well two things seem to be conspiring against me this week. Grades are due…and it is National No Screen Week. My daughter has taken this very seriously so finding any moments without her chastising me for sitting at the computer has been a trick.

In the spirit of the week but not wanting to offer nothing. I realized it had been quite some time since I horrified anyone virtually by ignoring taboos. My students in class tell me I horrify them regularly.

A pastor friend sent this link to me this week with the admonition that those of us who care about teenagers, who really care about them and their future lives as adults have to pay attention to this and be willing to talk about it. I do, and I am.

Andrew Sullivan posted “Being master of your own domain” with comments by many. It is worth the listen to the Ted talk, and the reading of the comments. Enjoy!

Comments from “An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation”

I am constantly concerned for the damage we do to young people in the name of ministry. (I equally try to celebrate what is done well!) I write about it often here on this blog.

I had a former student (thanks D.A.!) send this post to me yesterday and not only is the actual post one we need to hear from within this current adolescent generation but the comments are especially telling. We wonder why so many don’t want to be a part of our churches but they want to be a part of the church? Just read the comments. One in particular responds to the young woman who wrote the blog saying “This is why your generation sucks.” Really…? Is that the care and concern Jesus demonstrated for others?

Regardless of where you land on the issue she addresses, she is speaking for many, not all, but many. Her post is a little lengthy itself but offers insight. Don’t give up. Read it then look to the comments and decide for yourself if that is the church as you want it to be.

An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation