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?

Slow down this Fall

True confession…I started this post 2 weeks ago. Ironic given the topic. I need to follow my own advice!

file0001505331013

Hey youth pastors…it’s fall. Everything seems to be kicking into high gear!! Gone are the lazy days of summer, in comes football, and kick offs, and new programming, and a whole new group of kids entering youth group. It’s exciting, busy, and the chill in the air makes everything seem just a little bit like something great is about to happen.

There is also a danger of falling into the trap missing the moment. Along with the excitement, comes everyone trying to out-program everyone else. Youth groups are no exception. Even if new activities aren’t being added, programming becomes busier, more intense, in many cases more desperate.

Here is what I mean. Youth ministers can spend so much time trying to make everything over the top, that they neglect their own spiritual life. We can only give out of our own faith history for so long. Even if you aren’t neglecting your own faith formation and spiritual growth, when the focus is on creating something huge, you don’t have time to be present for the countless small moments. You miss out on little conversations where big revelations occur.

So here is my invitation, instead of kicking into high gear to make things more chaotic, kick into high gear to slow down. I know, it sounds backwards. Being busy will just happen without any effort on your part. Being slow requires intentionality and priorities. It means taking an afternoon to pray, to think, to rest, and choosing what is most important for you, your family, your community, and the teens and families you serve. It might not look like work, but it frees you to do real work instead of looking like you are present when your mind is already on to the next thing.

There are a lot of slow activities you may choose. I was asked to write a fall post for Ministry Architects. Look for the link on the front page if you’d like to find some great slowing down options. Everything from a pick up game of softball to a technology fast, go for a moonlight walk or bust out with a little “Jesus in the Boat” nap-time for 15 minutes one night at youth group.

What’s your favorite way to slow down for your self?

What’s your favorite way to slow life down for your students?

Happy Fall!

Did my time as a youth pastor

One of those stupid, “I didn’t mean anything by it” comments was made by a pastor again. It went something like this…”You’re going to love this guy! We both did our time in youth ministry and now he’s graduating to adult ministry in the church.” Really?! Did our time in Youth Ministry?! Is this what senior pastors really think of youth ministry?

 

This kind of statement comes with strong implications.

  1. Youth ministry is a punishment to be likened to prison.
  2. Youth ministry is something to survived or escaped, like prison.
  3. There is hope beyond the sentence of being a youth pastor to which all real ministers should aspire.

If you don’t like teens and never want to be a youth pastor, that’s ok. DON’T take the job as youth worker just because you can’t get any other ministerial position. If you go into youth ministry and then are called elsewhere, that, too, is ok. Go where the Holy Spirit leads.

But don’t ever, even for a moment, think it is something that is a rite of initiation, a punishment or something to be endured until real ministry comes along. Don’t talk about your days in youth ministry as if it were a holding pattern or a hazing for some greater fraternity around the corner. Not valuing youth ministry disrespects the teens you serve, their families, the church, the adults those teens become, and ultimately God.

So, dear senior pastor, you may not have meant anything by your comment of serving your time in youth ministry, but you communicated volumes. It didn’t go unnoticed. The teens in your church heard you. Their parents heard you. Other members of the congregation heard you. What you communicated is that teens are second rate. That one day they will be worthy of the best but they have to grow up first. Oh and when they do grow up, they get to reflect on the assumption that those who were with them in the most formative years of their lives never actually wanted to be there.

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!

Lenten Pick up 1- Kids don’t want to be seen as different

Snapshot 3:6:14 10:20 AM

In the season of lent where the conversation circles around inclusion, around Jesus being included and Jesus including others…there is still a community often missing from youth groups. It is the community of teens and their families impacted by disabilities. What I now hear most often is that a youth pastor doesn’t want to harm or insult someone with a disability. Their response then becomes to ignore that person. I’ve got news for you, that is harmful! Option B seems

to be to point out just how “different” that teen is. And by different, what gets left unsaid is wrong or disruptive. Steve Grcevich addresses this beautifully here Kids don’t want to be seen as different. 

This lenten season, let the eyes of Christ be one of the things you pick up. Just like every other teenager wants to be included, so do those with disabilities.

From a parent on communication…

Dear youth workers. You know I adore you. You know I believe in you. You know I want good things for you. And then I get to have conversations like this. Take heed and listen to this mom’s words. She may not be in your group but someone just like her is.

I had a long talk with a mom and volunteer leader this morning about communication with youth leaders and the ministry and hear is the summary of what she had to say:

1) Keep your communication up to date. Don’t expect me to troll your facebook page looking for the next event. Make it clear with detailed info. of where, what time and who exactly is involved and I need e-mail, a calendar for my fridge or bulletin board and maybe even a text reminder but facebook is for my kids…and I never assume they are going to tell me anything. I’ve got more than one kid and I never know if it’s for junior high, HS or both.

2) If you have updates from activities from two years ago online, I assume you haven’t done anything in two years. It’s not cool to show history and how long you’ve been doing something to anyone but the youth who were there two years ago. I couldn’t care less. Show me a picture of someone currently in the youth group.

3) Many people are transient these days. Military, jobs or family keeps us on the move. Your church web page is my first impression. When you can’t be bothered to keep it up to date, I assume you can’t be bothered to take good care of my kids.

4) I am more interested in up to date, accurate information than your bells and whistles. I appreciate good graphics and pictures but if you make me “enter” your site or download a player every time just to get to basic information my limited time gets eaten up and I lose interest.

5) I’m a denominational kind of gal. When I transfer to a new town, I go to the denominational website first. I look for a church and denominational events. When it is out of date, I assume that no one cares about what is happening locally. I will still find a church and I will volunteer but heck if I am going to advocate for denominational anything if that is out of date.

What do you do well when it comes to communication and where do you need help? What resources do you have? I’d love to share with others!

 

Youth Ministry Is Sacred Work

For well over a decade I have had the privilege of getting to teach theology and youth ministry. I get to sit with adults, some still in adolescence themselves, others who are a bit more seasoned. All of them excited about the possibilities of the future.

There are a few principles I share with every class I teach. What you see below are some of these.

1. Never let anyone tell you what you are doing is less than God ordained ministry. You are not playing games and vacationing. You are not unable to grow up and consequently chose a field that allows play for the rest of your life. You are doing sacred work. During a time when lifelong patterns and truths are becoming deeply embedded, you get to speak truth into the lives of adolescents. And by the way, speaking doesn’t always include words. It’s the attitude, the tone of voice and your very presence that makes as much of an impression as the words you choose.

2. Your education will be difficult, not impossible but difficult. You are not a generalist who barely knows anything, you become fluent in many fields. You must not only know, but be able to translate to adolescents, parents, and the community from a variety of fields including: biblical studies, theology, spiritual formation, culture, human development, administration and ecclesiology.

3. You are not alone. There will be days when it will feel like it. Find like minded friends even if they are states away. Make regular times of contacting to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Share stories. Share successes. Share failures. Share your ministry with other near and far. You were never meant to do this alone and just like you tell your students that maybe, just maybe it isn’t about someone finding you but that you need to reach out to someone else, do it. Build a network even if that network begins with 2.

4. You attitude and personal connections matter as much if not more than how smart you are. Just because you have been to class and can say big words does not mean that you should. If you are concerned that people know what you know, write it somewhere and hope for positive reviews. If you are concerned that adolescents know God and know that God loves them, be in ministry.

There is much more to say but for now, I am marinating in the words of Mark Yaconelli from YS last weekend. “Do not participate in any act of the church that leaves you less alive.” Youth ministry is sacred work. You are set apart to participate in amazing things. It won’t always be easy, but it is life giving when done well and in the right place!

 

 

 

Humility is alive and well in youth work

I was blessed to be asked to be the speaker for the first Young Life Capernaum Metro Wide leader training in San Jose. What this really means is that I got to hang out with really cool staff and volunteers who do ministry with teens with disabilities. As we went around the room and shared our name, where we were serving and nicknames from HS one thing became very evident, I was woefully underqualified to be there in any capacity for teaching.

There were 30+ people around the room. There were three who were in their first year of ministry. Several in the first 3-5 years. Over half had served in youth ministry for more than a decade. Several for more than two decades, a few for more than three and one for 51 years!!

James 3:1 was ever present with me. What could I possibly teach this group that they did not already know? How could I possibly offer something of worth or substance when some of them have been serving in youth ministry longer than I’ve been alive?  (And it has been a LONG time since I was considered a young leader.)

Add to this that the very first club kid the founder of Capernaum ever had is now a volunteer leader. His story is one of lifelong disability, difficult speech and amazing devotion to Jesus. For many, he is easily passed by. It takes great effort to hold a conversation and lots of patience to keep asking for a repeat of what he has said. Oh but when you do take the time! He has a wicked sense of humor, a deep devotion to his wife matched only by his devotion to God. He was the embodiment of being perfectly capable but invisible. He has lived what I only feel at times. He has learned to listen to the truths from God where I often drown in my own self degradation. He has learned to be joyful in the moment when I too often seek situations that bring joy.

I did speak throughout the weekend. I offered what I could and each person was so gracious in their response. What I took away however was priceless. A room full of people who are well qualified, talented, dedicated and serving the Lord but not a single ego in sight. There was no posturing. There was humility. There was a deference to God and gratitude for getting to serve. There was a beautiful spirit of getting to share faith without having to prove your own worth along the way.

Younger leaders and older leaders, seasoned veterans and rookies, those with disabilities and typically bodied people…all together, all learning and leading.

James 3:1 does say that not many should be teachers. In this room, every person was and they are exactly the people you want teaching and leading in any ministry, anywhere. I learned that weekend that it’s not always about what I teach, but what I get to continue to learn when I speak. I had it modeled for me. I pray I am able to do the same.

P.S. A bonus for anyone reading who is at the beginning of this ministry journey. Did you notice how many people I mentioned who were serving for 10, 20 even 50+ years? Hang in there!! We need you for the long haul!

 

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!