Friday, August 20, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque

I'm not much of a Keith Olbermann fan.  He's often an agitator and a blowhard.  Though I usually agree with his opinions more than others of his ilk (O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh, etc.) his antagonistic approach is tiresome.

He has recently taken an unpopular viewpoint on the controversy surrounding the Muslim community center that will be built within a few blocks of the World Trade Center memorial in New York City.  His main point, among others, is that "there is no 'Ground Zero Mosque'" and that it is un-American (and even bigoted) to deny freedom of religion.  He even quotes Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, in a way that seems contrived at first, but makes more sense as he expands his thesis.

Aside from the political rhetoric about conservative foes and the over-simplification of a few details, I find myself with Olbermann on this one.  He makes a compelling, intelligent, and sobering case for why this community center should be allowed to exist in downtown Manhattan.

What do you think?

thanks to Erik "Pub Pastor" Samuelson for sharing this video via Facebook.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Missional Advocacy

USA Today recently ran a story addressing issues facing youth ministers.  Mark Ostreicher weighed in with his perspective, which (of course) led to several comments on his blog.  Joe Mele offered a blurb that caught my attention:

Imagine a youth minister that had no contact with teens. Instead their contact was with adults within the community whose gifts and talents are transformed into moments of apostolic opportunities of disciple based mentoring and formation. Instead of visiting high schools, the youth ministers visits parents in their communities to discuss adolescent discipleship and praying with children. Instead of mission trip, the youth minister coordinates opportunities for families to sign up and serve within the local community. Missiological advocacy focuses on holding up a vision of discipleship not just for adolescent but for the entire community to be a congregation of active disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today.

Is it possible for a youth minister to be an adult-equipper and not a teen-buddy?  

Should youth ministers get out of the business of doing relational ministry and start talking to parents, grandparents, etc. about how to relate to the young people in their midst?  

Can a youth minister speak have credibility with other adults if they aren't "in the trenches" with young people on a regular basis?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Director or Doer?

Here's something I wrote for the August newsletter where I work.

I keep a copy of my original job description on my desk.  It’s helpful for me to remember what I was called to do here in the first place.  Much has changed since then, and some of these changes have caused me to modify how I function. Programs have been added.  Staff transitions have required that I phase into new roles.  Changes in my gifts and interests have also impacted shifts in my duties and responsibilities.

Despite these (and other) variations in the past several years, one thing hasn’t changed: this position is for someone to be the director of family life and youth ministry; not the sole doer of this ministry.

In the past couple of years, as we have lost many key adult leaders in our youth and family ministry, I have (against my better judgment) taken on some additional doer tasks instead of requesting, equipping, and even directing Spirit-filled members of our church to do ministry to, for, and with our young people and families.  This may have been a necessary way to keep ministries and programs happening in the short-term, but it is an unhealthy and ineffective long-term solution.

I have asked the Youth Committee to spend the remainder of the 2010 revisiting the job description for the Family Life & Youth Director.  We are a very different church than we were in 2002, when the original job description was crafted.  We need to make sure that this position continues to meet the needs of our congregation and community.  

In the meantime, I will be praying and seeking for people to serve as [I go on to list several congregational ministries that are in need of help].  Working with our amazing young people isn’t just our congregation’s obligation, it is our joy.  I look forward to collaborating with these people to continue being present the lives of our young people and increasing their positive adult interaction at church.

This was a tough article to write, because it required me to be honest about some of my own shortcomings, as well as offer a critical analysis of how our congregation has evolved in the past few years.  In speaking with youth ministry friends, I realized that others make similar mistakes.  Many of us get to the point where "It takes me longer to train someone for a particular task than it does for me to just do it myself"...and yet, most ministry experts agree that the doer approach leads to siloed ministries, pied-piper leadership, and youth director burn-out.

At the heart of this, for me and others, are two unfortunate traits:

Insecurity.  Sometimes we feel the need to be busy in order to demonstrate how important or necessary we are to the congregation.  If we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off, it will show the people who pay our salaries that we are worthy of their tithe.  We are filled with insecurity about how to do effective ministry because, in many cases, it barely resembles the way in which most of our members function in their jobs.  Prayer, study, discernment, reflection, patience...these are not virtues in the high-paced world of business, and yet these are the attributes that we should be extolling for our ministers.  (This is related to the "We're paying you to do the youth ministry and turn our kids into Good Christians" mentality that plagues many congregations and seeps into the psyches of youth ministers.)

Control.  We are passionate about what we do, which makes it difficult to turn it over to somebody else.   In many cases, we do most of the behind-the-scenes tasks to put events/programs/ministries it's natural (yet unhelpful) to want it done our way and on our time table.  This means less involvement from lay people and more isolation for the youth minister.

Do you know of youth ministers that do a good job of balancing the director vs. doer roles?  How do they go about living in both worlds?  What kinds of boundaries exist?  Who is in charge of laying out the expectations for how ministry plays out?  I'd love to know of some examples!