Thursday, January 27, 2011

OMG Project

Fellow youth minister Crystal Rowe curates an excellent website called Soul Munchies.  She recently invited me to read, discuss, and blog about OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook - a resource developed by Kenda Creasy Dean, Rollie Martinson, and other youth ministry scholars.  

Bottom line: I highly recommend OMG to anyone who is remotely serious about the vocation about youth ministry.

For my part, I offered some reflections on Chapter 1: Haunting Questions.  My article can be found here.

Click here for more information about this blogging project over at Soul Munchies.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Extravaganza Workshops

This weekend I'll be at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network "Extravaganza" - a time of continuing education and renewal for youth ministers.  I like going to this event for two reasons -- spending time with colleagues and attending workshops.  There are lots of good offerings this year at the Extravaganza.  Here are the ones I'm planning to attend:

101 Children’s Ministry Ideas
Angel Petit & Biz Behrens

Looking for a bucket list of ideas for your next Children’s Ministry or Family Ministry event? Our goal is to share 101 DIFFERENT ideas about themes, programs, curriculum, and ideas that we have never tried! We want to think BIG - and share that with you!

There’s a App for That
Rebekah Wedge Thornhill

Churches are traditionally behind the curve of technology, although technology can enhance ministry. Explore Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and the connectivity of smart phones and texting. Look at the practical theology surrounding these media and the real life applications of technology in the life of the church and the lives of youth.

Write On! Creating Engaging Curriculum for Your Church
Dr. Jeremy Myers & Amanda Berger

You’ll be presented with a sure-fire method for putting together your own curriculum or adapting purchased curriculum to your particular context. You’ll also have the opportunity to engage in the writing process and boost your creativity as well as practice writing your own small group lesson.

Staying Healthy in an Anxious Environment and Congregational System
Sue Megrund & Kris Bjorke

All churches, groups and families are systems. When there is anxiousness in these systems, emotions diminish our ability to creatively solve issues. How we fit into the system, and how we can stay calm and healthy in anxious times is the key to leadership. Join us to discuss these areas along with some tips and tools on how to stay healthy personally under these circumstances.

Renewing Worship: Beyond "Traditional" and "Contemporary"
Nate Frambach

This workshop will survey critically the landscape of Christian worship and expose what’s behind this false divide: a deeper longing for alternatives--not to "traditional" or "contemporary", but rather an alternative to conventionality. Explore principles and practices that will assist congregations to be vital, faithful, and missional worshiping communities.

Changes in suburban youth ministry
Matthew Bolz-Weber

The demographics of the suburbs are shifting. How do congregations help young people wrestle honestly with the myth of suburban affluence? How can young people help congregations recognize and wrestle with living a life of faith in the context of a changing reality that is often unnamed? How do suburban young people faithfully follow Jesus?

Theological Youth Ministry

Jerry Watts, a blogger at Reform This, had an insightful post about whether or not "theological youth ministry is just a fad."  I encourage you to read his post.

Here was my reply...

Some of us have been doing theology in youth ministry for years - long before many non-denominational evangelicals "discovered" it.  In some ways, this marks a natural progression of a new Christian.  Consider:

A young man named Chris, tired of the bar scene, connects with a co-worker who tells him about this sweet new church in town.  Chris is wary about "church"; fraught with boring liturgy, early morning worship services, dozens of blue-haired old women who think they own the place, and stuffy preaching from an old white pastor.  His friend assures him this new church is nothing like it.  They have LCD screens, a rock band, a surfer dude that is called 'pastor', a lot of laid back young people, and a Sunday night worship service that doesn't cramp his style.  Chris is intrigued, so he goes to check it out.  Everything about the church is 'seeker-sensitive' and benign.  He loves it.  After a few years of high-level involvement, Chris discovers that this church's approach to ministry feels 'comfortable', but lacks depth and substance.  Even his small group is a little thin; only reinforcing the surface-level content of the previous 45-minute sermon.  He has profound questions that aren't being answered...he wants worship that is connected to something beyond this group of 21st century hipsters...he becomes concerned that his financial contributions are being used to buy the latest technology for the expanding building, instead of being used for mission.  He wants more than what is being offered, but he doesn't know where to find it.

Like Chris, many new evangelicals are discovering theology for the first time.  For children that grow up in the church and are engaged in Sunday School, VBS, confirmation, etc. - they start to 'discover theology' in adolescence.  Therefore, there is just as much need for theological youth ministry as there is for emerging theology in non-denominational churches.  I hope that our adult leaders have the integrity to make this more than just another fad.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking the Good With the Bad

Many ELCA leaders continue to be mindful of the fallout from the votes on human sexuality at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  At the time, some feared that this would be a major schism across the church.  Certainly there are many households, congregations, and synods that are still struggling with the reality that openly gay pastors in a publicly-accountable relationship can be available for a call to ministry.    

In the 17 months since the "big gay votes," about 3.4% of congregations have officially severed ties with the ELCA.  An undisclosed number of additional congregations have remained affiliated with the denomination but are withholding financial support to ELCA ministries.  These decisions have, in some cases, crippled the ability of the larger church to function in its pre-2009 form.  

Even within these congregations, some interesting stories have emerged.  One tale, in particular, caught my attention this past week.

In August 2009 pastor of a large congregation made several public statements of disagreement with the assembly votes.  Soon thereafter this congregation chose to withhold half of its benevolence to the larger church in protest of the decisions (an amount that represented less than 1% of the congregation's total budget).  A member of the congregation, dismayed with this decision, wrote the synod bishop a letter of apology.  Enclosed with the letter was a check that made up the difference for the next few years, along with a pledge to repeat this act if the congregation hadn't restored its full benevolence within five years. 

I know of other congregations that have made an intentional increase in their 2011 benevolence to support the ministries of the larger church in direct response to neighboring churches that have made cuts.  Some congregations that remained affiliated with the ELCA have seen growth in giving and attendance because people left a nearby church that became inundated with anti-ELCA rhetoric.

I'm not sure there are any larger thematic statements to be made from these stories...but I'm encouraged to hear that God continues to do creative and redeeming things in ELCA congregations.  The news isn't all doom-and-gloom for Lutherans.  Thanks be to God!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

LIFT on Living Lutheran

The Living Lutheran 'blog' did a nice write-up about the LIFT Task Force.  My friend Kathleen and I are quoted a few times in the piece.

My question for koinonia readers: "What gives you hope for the future of your church?"