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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

A question for Rudy:
Rudy, breifly (I know you are busy) can you tell us about the role of community with youth local ministry and outreach.
Success? Really?
I hear lots of youth workers claiming successes in thier youth ministries and while I'm not sure that "success" as we know it a biblical concept, I wish we had a broader more longterm view of our ministries. We can have short term "victories" in our ministries... students accept Christ, 100% of our kids worship with depth, 100% involved in leadership in the ministry and their schools, hundreds of new students coming to our programs and small groups, kids accepting calls to ministry, students serving as ushers in "big church", kids praying for their schools at flag poles... all short term victories. Most youth pastors would love a group like this. These are all "wins" in youth ministry. I say, that can be. But none of these are the ultimate goals. If this is what you want your youth ministry to look like, then I say you are probably hurting kids long-term more than you are helping them. Youth ministry's real job is not to do any of these things, but to create adult disciples, by the power of God. How many of your students are still following Jesus with the same kid of passion you told them they needed, now that they are 25-30 years old? I'm guessing you can think of a couple. They were your key kids. The ones you knew really well. Now how about all the other kids. How about the hundreds of students who have come to all the lockin's in your ministry carrier? how about all those amazingly active student leaders who are disconnected from any church now that they are older?
Did you not say the right things? Did you not educate them enough? Did they not know Jesus? What if you said all the right things, they knew Jesus, and they've learned it all... but still aren't in the church? Why not? Rebellion?
How about this idea?.

Your ministry shows them a different gospel.
Your ministry lied to them about what the church was.
Your ministry lied to them about what being a christian is about.
Your ministry lied to them about what ministry is.
Your ministry lied to them about what community is.
You didn't lie. Your ministry did.
The very programs you create, and moreso, the very system your church (likely) functions in lied.
I do not questions youth pastors hearts. They are desparate to see kids be ministered to.
Most deeply love God. Most really love kids.
But they are stuck in a system, a matrix, a routine, a pile of assumptions that undermines the gospel and everything it stands for.
So if you really love kids. If you really love God.
you have nothing to defend... only truth to seek.
Will you reimagine youth ministry?
email me

post a comment.
let's reimagine ways of ministering to youth

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Maybe we need to rename this blog from re-imagining youth ministry to reimagining church?
What do you think?

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I posted this on the youth specialties listserv and got a few emails to post it here too.
Submitted for your perusal is one of the spaciest wandering non-specific posts I've written in a while, but... well... see my blog for how to act like a postmodern prophet. ;-) haha
:::::QUOTE (Gman @ Apr 27 2003, 01:04 PM) :::::
:::::Great Question. Why do churches have doors? What does it mean to be the church? Is youth ministry all there is? What do you think? Is failure a bad thing or can one learn from failure? Maybe Yac's article is an opportunity. :::::

I believe it is just the tip of the iceberg, actually. I really think we're wrong in trying to redefine youth ministry without redefining church in general. Are you a church if you don't worship weekly? What if you worship without the music? The sermon? The organ? The pastor? The youth? The adults? What could you drop or add to the worship service that defines whether it is worship or not? Have we taken the things that scripture shows as positive and made them necessities instead of proactive choices? By assuming that scripture has prescribed all of what church is, are we being arrogant in our ways?

I dont' know. I think we are all slaves to certain mores and dogmatic 'needs' that mark the church as "church". Some people believe if the entire family isn't ministered to, it isn't church. Others believe we cannot minister unless we divide and conquer. But I know one thing for sure -- those who toil in Christ's name will be built, broken, reborn, over and over -- but all within the providence and care of the Father.

Feeling this kind of security, while 'there is nothing new under the sun', there is a lot of space under the sun that we haven't played with yet. To say we have failed is to declare retirement. To say we have not yet succeeded is more close to the truth. But then, falling short is what living in a sinful world is all about -- we are supposed to plant seeds and come out crawling; tangible fruit will be produced, and we might not even agree on what THAT looks like.

So what is the fruit of youth ministry in its ideal form? I mean we have some people saying 'vocation ministry' (does that mean to you that you are paid or that your life's calling is to do youth ministry while being an attorney, a kindergarten teacher, a cook?) Other people refer to the altar call, the confirmation, or the longterm regular attendance. Still others refer to missions, replication evangelism and commitment.

I think this rich recipe will be revealed in a specific call for each whose heart is personalized by the Lord. Some of us are going to throw pies at kids each week at 5pm for sunday youth group, using the manuals; flowcharts; and administrative software to assure that each of our sheep are itemized and cared for in an orderly fashion. Others are going to replace the pews with beanbag chairs and crucify curriculum pieces on their walls, calling for freedom from the evil regime of old church "stuff". But probably whoever we are, when we get rolling with something, Christ will come like in that "laughing jesus" painting and say "ehhhhh i have a different direction for you to take. It's still bigger than this." and we will sigh and fall to our knees and wonder what we would do without our savior.

Churches have doors so puppies can't pee in them. (that's why the rooms of my house have doors at least.)

So as we build, I think we need to keep from losing sight of the facets of unique call. We assume our youth ministries are the same because there are mainstream statistics and discussions and articles coming out of the major publishers describing these programs whose success is measured in certain ways, we see common threads, and we assume those threads are the identifying traits. We might be wrong on that too. Let's not assume we know what all the ministries look like. Even the ones we work in.

I'm going to sleep now.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Failure of Youth Ministry

Saw this article and wondering what you think! I think Yaconelli is probably right; sounds a lot like Mark Riddle ...and maybe put some perceptive on rethinking Youth Ministry! What do you think?
Programs and reimagining youth ministry:
I think we all agree that programs are simply vehicles. Moving students to something.
This begs the question... what are we moving them to?

Are we moving them to relationships with other teenage consumers? other amazingly spiritual teens? other teens who worship God with all their hearts? a youth group? a small group? a teen-age community?

When we move teens to (this space)... how does that mold/ scew / abuse their view of who God is and what his church is about.
Does it change at all? If it does... what are the misleading elements of what we are showing them?

My whole premise for the need to rethink youth ministry is based in these thoughts.

We all know we teach teens two ways.
What we say. and what we do.
Every north american youth pastor has at some point said, "Share Christ everywhere you go and when needed use words" (or something like that) We understand that how we live influences our students in their walk with God. The same is true for our ministries. When we say, "You are the church" or "you are ministers" and then systematically seperate them from being known and knowing the rest of the community our actions speak louder than our words. Our arrogance comes through about how we think the church is behind the times. How the students really know how to worship. How we get it in the youth group and the rest of the church doesn't get it. We teach humility with our words and we teach arrogance with our ministries. We tell kids not to let anyone look down on them because they are young. Yet our ministries are build around the idea that students can't or won't want to be around adults. We teach them to go off to college and be apart of a church. Yet we have only shown them how to be seperate from the church. Like having a "family ministry" or more volunteers will show teens what it means to be a body. This is basic systems thinking. (Which is not taught to our pastors in bible schools and seminaries.) not to mention our ego's involvement in all this.

Youth Pastor. Why do you do youth ministry. I'm guessing it's pretty simple. You want to minister to youth. You feel called by God to be apart of divine transformation in teens. What a weighty role. What a heavy responsibility. What an immeasurable privledge. You and I can not change kids. Not one kid can be transformed by our power. But we can mislead them. Take some time (a week or a month) to take inventory of why you do what you do and how you do it. Are we misleading even our best students with youth ministries. What is God dreaming in you?

Thursday, April 24, 2003

can we PLEASE quit using the terms "believer," "unbeliever," and "nonbeliever?" I'd explain my reasoning, but if it's not obvious to you, then it's not worth it. I bring this up because I finally got around to reading the inaugural issue of Relevant Magazine, which started off with great promise about being for "all who follow God," but by about the third page they were offering resources for "believers." All the kids at our church are believers, and they're all unbelievers, too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

My problem with programs is when they become an end in and of themselves. "We have programs because we have programs for the purpose of having programs." Andy's self described "simple answer": "if it gives life, do it. if it doesn't, don't." I think goes along with what I'm thinking as well. Programs - formalized, organized activities involving groups of people for a specific purpose - are necessary and useful, but too often they loose their meaning and are continued ad nauseum, "just because".

I think it goes back to what is really our job as ministers to/with/for/of youth. Are we making converts to the institutional Christendom/religion, disciples of Christ, or forming a people/community of God. I would vote for the latter (which would include the second, but move beyond the first). Programs will be needed to accomplish that end, whether they are Bible studies, book discussion groups, accountability partners, service projects, or fellowship outings. But perhaps we need to embrace a theology of death when it comes to programs. Allow programmed activities to shape us for God's purposes, but allow them to "die" when their time has come. This would keep us from becoming program-aholics and keep new life happening in our midst.

Sunday, April 20, 2003


When my job title changes to "guy who doesn't work with youth except when they're with their families but they can be separate sometimes but not much" and we remove the word "youth" from my business cards, which won't be that because they aren't for a business and we all stop meeting in a sanctuary because we shouldn't be indoors and we don't meet at a regular time each week because that's a program...

then what?

I was quite against the easter egg hunt that occurred at my church the other day. The youth, every year, set this up. But afterwards, we went out for pizza. I'm not sure some of the youth who came out for pizza would have been there if we hadn't first done the easter egg hunt. Some of the parents who came for the hunt were there for VERY wrong reasons... but... if they instead need the living water of Christ, a seed was planted. Innefficiently, sure. but... a seed was planted.

Where is the line between "needs to go away", "necessary evil", and "ordained by God," when defining program? What about a particular program are we evaluating? How do we define program?

My simple answer: if it gives life, do it. if it doesn't, don't.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Walking Beside
The very idea of youth “leader” and youth “pastor” creates a model where we set ourselves as the path to God. We portray ourselves as the conduit by which young people reach God. We instruct, guide, connect – it doesn’t happen on its own or by the searching of a faithful soul – only through us.

Ministry is not about leadership, but about service. It’s about walking beside someone as we serve him or her. And we can’t “walk beside” as long as we must be certain that we are the leader, or that we are always in control. My goal, then, is to learn to walk beside those whom I am ministering to, whether they are 6, 16, or 60. My goal is to let myself learn their patterns and rhythms of life; to truly feel their pain, to join in their grief, to find joy as they do. Then I can let my relationship with God speak to them, to let God truly use me to minister to them - and I can let their relationship with God speak to me, and let God truly use them to minister to me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I think the idea of having kids at the church building all the time rather than developing relationships outside the church is bad. Let me cite an example - On a forum I'm on; they want the latest gimmicks; games and that ...even a debate about extra-curricular activites interfering with youth group time? How dare they; right? As I look at the church; so often I see us as being a culture onto ourselves rather than emerging; influence and even being counter-cultural. Too often we look like program directors; YMCA; Recreational 101 rather than is a matter of reimagining Church. I think YS is on the way with the Emergent stuff; and trying to rethink; I also was thinking this ...YS put together The Core - 3 yrs ...their Core Values for Youth Ministry but those could and should be working in the context of the whole church body and not just our youth ministries. A Volunteer and I were discussing that as this material was presented. The values of Veracity, Authenticity, Audacity, Sanctuary, Diversity, Humility, Intimacy, Mystery, and Creativity. Along with that Core skills of Core relationships, conversations, connection, message, encounters, and design. The more I look at this...the more I see the need for the church to rethink doing a monologue of preaching each Sunday morning and being intent on being interactive to the people and making a connection to them as well as to God.

Are Programs the Problem?

We like to trash programs. We over-program our students... Programs get in the way of real ministry... Programs separate students from the rest of the church rather than develop community across generations...

While each of these statements may be true, is it really "Programs" that is the problem? Or is it that we aren't programming well? For me, the issue is not getting rid of all programs - if we do that then there is no forum for students, or anyone else, to develop the relationships that are necessary for change and growth. The real issue for me is developing programs that are not an end in themselves. I want to develop programs that bring students into the community of faith. I want to develop programs that will cross generational barriers and help students understand and value the rest of the body - and vise versa. I want to develop programs in a way that students are not 'over-programmed.'

I don't know exactly how to accomplish this yet, but I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. The way that we have programmed in the past has not worked in most situations. I'm thinking that we shouldn't stop programming - just program more effectively. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Well, the interview has now come and gone. Last night my husband and I went on a 3 hour walk after the interview and discussed what was said. As we talked it became so clear that these Elders and Deacons have no idea of what being "the church" means. I think this fits alot of people today. They have lost the fact that church is the people. I mean we say it every day. I remember a song by a group called AVB and they started the song with some kid screaming..."BUT DAD WE ARE THE CCHHHHHUUURRRCCHHH"...I think we know to say it but in our hearts do we mean it? In our churches are we acting it? I'm so tired of this LoneRanger attitude about our christian walk. I have a picture of the catacoms (sorry for spelling) where the christians hid while being persecuted. I don't think any of them ever thought of themselves durning that time. I think they were thinking about each other and taking care of one another. We have lost that art in our churches. I'm not sure how we get there. I just know that I have teens in my church that need to be cared for and the Elders are too busy figuring out ways to seperate them from older people who need them. I don't know that our teens or children or adults for that matter, will ever grow until we realize that we need each other. We are in this together. This all won't happen until we understand that church is community. I think we need to start redifining church before we can go further. Maybe in your situations it isn't like that. But where I'm sitting, in my pew ;), we need to start understanding church as a community and not as a place we look good each Sunday. I'm tired and frustrated right now and I'm wondering why I'm on this path. Blessings to all of you and thank you for your blogs here.

Monday, April 14, 2003

I wonder -- do we change institutions counterinstitutionally or do we start without them?

Another argument today in staff meeting about office hours. I have a cell, email, instant messenger, and I am in the office almost every afternoon, but there are morning people who believe that work must be done in the morning. Where the FLIP is my time going to come from for that, and why the FLIP is that so important that it took more of our staff meeting than any other issue? In fact why the FLIP did I go to staff meeting??? It had NOTHING to do with ministry, except pleasing the people who pay my salary so that I can concentrate "more" on ministry than if I had a "secular" job -- but if I spend this much time pleasing them, am I not working a secular job anyway?

Can't wait till tomorrow when I can do ministry instead of sit in a FLIPPIN meeting looking at our FLIPPIN calendars and wondering what the people FLIPPIN feel about us as their FLIPPIN church staff.

So ... are institutional churches going to change or be replaced totally? I've been thinking about starting a little fellowship group in my house; just some friends who can explore scripture together and worship and pray for one another and take trips and hang out and stuff... a church I guess. We did it before in another town where I lived. That group is now a planted church. But WOW they got programmatic fast. Maybe it would be different here ? But I don't know. This will take prayer for me. A lot.
All those parachurch organizations are basically trying to be church without saying it. Either partner with a local church or become one. Make up your mind. Sometimes when re-imagining youth ministry is what kind of my cat was doing this weekend. I was using a laser pointer and he was chasing it and ultimately lead to chasing his own tail. The church is like this too. The world has their own laser pointer and we (As the church) ultimately chase our tails. We try so hard to fit into the culture instead of being an influence of the church. That is how we have "Businessitized" (Is that a word?) the church, having pastors as CEOs rather than being shepherds of the flock. So how do we stop the tail chasing? Maybe not focusing on the pointer so much.

Multicultural youth ministry mags?

A friend posted this to my blog. It's in reference to an article about Latino ministry that is online at the Youthworker web site:

... found that article a couple of weeks ago... read it and loved it ... so why didn't YW print it? As far as I remember, YW hasn't printed much that is culturally "specific" since I became a reader a couple of years ago. I like Youth Specialties and YW, I really do... went to the Nashville convention last year... but a lot of the suburban Anglo kids I work with are so embedded in the multiculture that evangelical institutions including YS seem way behind the times.

Tired complaints, I know, but I'm wondering: is there more promise for YW and other mainstream youth ministry outlets than what I see? Or am I really supposed to buy the next white rock music CD from a church-kid band and pretend it's cool? Hip hop, goths, Anime, racing... I sense a thirst among many of us youth workers to hear and share far more specifically about the different channels of incarnational ministry we're moving through with the kids in our communities.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Young Life :
Young life needs to just officially become a church.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Comments on Comments:
Read and use the comment section of the board. there are some good conversations happening there.
More Random thoughts:

I believe that much of what we do in youth ministry is harmful. When we say things like "It's a sin to bore a kid" we do an injustice to that student.
When we make everything fun, we do an injustice to the kid.

the church is called to be a culture shaping force in the world. It is called to redeem culture. One of our worlds biggest lies is that teens are different from adults, in that they have different primary needs. The church has bought it. So have many of us. Show me where it says this in scripture. You say " but i see it before my eyes, they don't belong together." I say "I see lots of things that aren't right and I don't wholesale believe it."

Students can not know the fullness of God and his love without having signigicant relationships with the rest of the church. Sitting next to an adult in church, or at the organ, or as an usher or on as a mercenary volunteer is a good start. Believe me it is. But it is far short of what I believe God is calling us to be. Far short of what is easily possible. It's not just that they need teaching or wisdom. Our students need to live their stories with the rest of the community. I would say more than they do outside.
Practically. it is important because I see God in community. Sure kids see God in their peers. But what kind of God do you see if you only see him through the eyes of other teens. The teen world is warped. Teens don't need a warped God. Sure they need time with themselves. But ministering to students primarily outside of the community is a deeply flawed system that hurt us all in the following ways. Few (if any) of these are intentional. Most are actually against the core values of what we believe as youth pastors. But sometimes the structures we create and operate in can actually work against what we belieive and goals we have for students.

First. Church is not about teens. But in the average youth ministry the way it operates re-enforces that it is no matter what you tell them. Sure we do missions projects, suer we serve and find giftedness. But the very act of seperating students from adults and making the ministry different goes against our ultimate goals.
Second. Youthful arrogance is structurally encouraged. Let's not even touch that fact that most of us as youth pastors think we do ministry better and more effectively than other folks in our church. Let's just go with the system that is there to provide goods and services to students as they want or even NEED them.

I'll stop there for now. this post is getting long.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

So how do we change it? I'm for change and re-imagination; but ultimately to what Goal? Me I'm trying to do the old LGLO principle Love God Love Others ...never easy though
Thoughts to a friend on Family Ministry:
I like what you said about youth ministry being harmful because it divides the family. I think that is right on the money. I wonder if that's too limited a view though. I wonder if it's harmful because it divides the church from older generations, other traditions, and the saints who have gone before us. I get the feeling you agree with this.
I too, like family ministry. But not at the cost of separating families from the rest of the church.

I'm not saying the youth can't have a skate park to hang out. I'm not saying that youth don't do stuff on their own. Small groups. Road trips. Etc. I'm saying that the very air the church breathes lends itself towards inclusion of lives and stories on a greater scale and that the primary spiritual needs of teens are met within the nuclear family and the extended family of the church.

I guess my concern is that family ministries I've seen around the country for the past 10 years are all just youth ministries with a couple more parents at the big events. A good place to start to change a culture (in the church) might be to change some titles. I would encourage you and (your youth pastor) to sit down and come up with a title that reflects a more inclusive view of adolescents and their families. Family minister isn't it, in my opinion. There must be a new breed of people who advocate youth and their families who are not associated with the bad systems and models who have gone before us. If (your youth pastor) worked with me, I'd encourage him to spend more time equipping and empowering the church to put their arms around students. Does that mean programs. Sure. I really have nothing against a community of believers programming things. But programs are only beneficial when they move people into a significant form of community and they function even better when they are birthed from community. Programs become vehicles then. Which was the original intent of things like Sunday school, Sunday am worship etc.

I guess I'm saying don't give up on the utopian idea that students can be fully integrated into the local church. Just redefine what fully integrated means. It does not mean that every time a student steps foot inside the door of your church, or into a bible study or better yet, experiences community that it is a intergenerational experience.
I think it does mean that the students primary nurture happens in the home, and when it doesn't, it's the extended family of the church, (not only a youth group)that embraces the student.

Just some thoughts.

Words we must Eliminate:"Big Church"
Our words do change how we think. For a student who visits a "youth service" how does the term "Big Church" change you over time?
I'll start by noticing two ways.
1. If the youth service is hip with all the cool passion music played like on the cd, then I'd say that Big church means for older people and that it's the irrelevant part of the church that isn't really following God.
2. I guess I'm not a part of the real church.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

whether youth CAN REALLY plant and run a church
I took 19-year-old Jamaal with me to a Latin American youth church planting conference in Cartagena, Colombia back in August, 2001. He came back and led a youth house, daily prayer, community-living thing at Harambee for half a year. What I think now, after that experience, is that youth are entirely capable of starting and even running small movements - churches - groups, but that scaling, training and maintaining such a thing requires a lot more skill than most youth tend to have.

How do we continue to follow the lead of youth / young people yet come alongside them as... what... coaches? fathers? spiritual fathers?

Jamaal in Cartagena with Mika,
a 21-year-old church planter from Tokyo

What is the youth ministry equivalent
of riding a 60 foot wave at Jaws?
( photo taken from this page )
Rudy... I have not heard of youth running ministries overall... and I think that they can- and probably do a better job of reaching their peers as well as not being afraid to take different approaches. That, I think, is where I tend to fail. It is easy to have that old standby program or ministry trick up your sleeve when the going gets rough. Teens have less fear (this is debatable) than adults do when experimenting with change. Maybe because they are so caught up in change already in their lives. It is easy for adults to get in a rut and follow the blazed path... That being said, I hope that I have allowed my youth to be responsible in ministry and in what takes place at the church. Giving them responsibilities and roles.. but what if I turned it ALL over to them for the whole summer? I wonder what would happen? Would anyone here be willing to do that?

Monday, April 07, 2003


What do yall think the basic components of youth ministry are ... let's try listing what we believe these to be.

Here's what I figure; if we list things which are so basic, fundamental, etc. then we would end up with a list of things so important that if one were removed, it would no longer be ministry. For instance, if you remove hydrogen from water, it is no longer water. So what are those things that are fundamental?

Off the top of my head:
OK - I'm taking a walk out of my box:
Perhaps the modern model of youth ministry is just not a working model and needs to be replaced with something completely different. In the same way the science existed before and after the dead end of alchemy, perhaps evangelism and ministry will exist before and after a failed experiment of 100 years of youth ministry. In this case, our focus is deconstruction followed by replacement or return rather than reconstruction.

i.e. tear the building down - then use the land for something more fruitful.

So...What do we to do with the land?
teen church planters
Anyone out there think teenagers can plant churches? Seen it done in the U.S.? I hear stories that teens in African and Latin Americans are pastoring churches all over those regions.
Some thoughts on Family ministry
Interesting is to be the Church God called. So what are some practice ways? Right now it is to go beyond the mundane and be authentic ...some of the practical stories I'm reading like stories of the emerging church and hoping to add my own story as well ...maybe that is what it means to rethink youth ministry is to be and love the church; faults and all ...and try to change it ....Not really an out of the box idea but moreso an ideal!

Sunday, April 06, 2003

A couple musings spurred by Andy:
Reimagining is a 2 sided coin.
Welcome to one of the many conversations that are putting feet on what we believe.
#2 - Emergent - I've made comments a bit like this over the past few years. (Ironically it's deconstructing deconstructionist). There are at least 3 members of the EMERGENT coordinating team on this blog. Not being a member, I'm going to make the following statements. A) These folks want your input on what all this is looking like. They are leaders who are listen. I would say continue giving your perspectives. At the same time what you are not saying anything they have not heard before. Every day someone gets it a bit more, and that someone decides we've done enough deconstruction. It seems to be apart of the maturity process on this journey we're on. Emergent folks are mostly silent on the critizism on this issue... which I am glad. B) I'll address the critizism in light of the 3 guys on this blog. Dan Kimball - Recently published his new book, in it he reaches out to modern pastors and makes a very eloquent effort at bringing them up to speed on what we are talking about in the "emerging church". That is reconstruction in my mind.
Tony Jones - Wrote postmodern youth ministry and has another book on ancient practices or something coming out in a few weeks.
Rudy Carraso - Lives reconstruction. I'm having trouble seeing what's not positive about this. Let us keep in mind that when we make comments about these people that they are us.
#3 Youth ministry must change along with the church. We're into the "change the church" conversation enough to start this dialogue on "reimagining youth ministry" I think.
#4 Everyone. There are some very sharp folks here on this blog. Let's keep up posting our thoughts!
Thanks Andy for spurring these thoughts in me!

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Re-imagining is a 2 sided coin.
You know what's really bothering me about the emergent / deconstructionist / unlearning / countercultural / whatever youth ministry stuff that's coming out?

We're just fabulous at pointing out where the church goes wrong. I do it all the time. I could talk to you for 3 hours about the "establishment" disease our institutional churches have, the "teaching about religion" instead of experiencing the presence of Christ "stuff" that we do, but I really want to see this movement take a positive turn. I think we desperately need to build something rather than deconstruct it, you know what I mean? Sure, there is a lot of unlearning to do; sure, there is some knocking down of old walls, killing of some sacred cows, but in the end will we stand in a pile of rubble or a pile of building supplies? What I see coming from many sides is a set of principles talking about what "not" to do -- but not what to do. Then we're good at saying "well that's the point, there IS no WHAT TO DO list" -- but then what do we do if we shouldn't do anything?

My answer in my group was to allow the "programming" to exist as a necessary evil. It does bring people into our territory of friendship potential, so to speak, it does set up the opportunity for relationships to flourish, and it does meet the expectations of most church members who thus pay me making it possible for me to eat, buy my laptop computer, and put together an array of more practical, spirit-guided, relational, realistic ministry aspects and study what the gurus are saying as well...

For my group it has been a trek of relationship building, spiritual practice "optioning" and connection to the larger church. That is our positive.

So my big statement here is -- let's make sure after we tear down that there's something to use to build with too. Let's not just point out what we don't like about "church as we know it." Sometimes I wonder if I type some of the "wonders" ("I wonder what would happen if...") just to shock and awe myself? Or do I really wonder? I don't know. But if we're going to be "emergent" (why do we use that word, anyway? I always think of a baby covered in that slime stuff coming from the womb) then something's got to emerge, and let's not cop out and say "Don't worry Andy... God is in control" or "obviously you don't have enough faith to see what will come" -- I say we start dreaming in positive ways! Let's START DOING MINISTRY. I wonder if this will sound like an anti-rant rant? :-)
No, it wasn't Tony, it was Holly Rankin Zaher who made the comments during a planned "rant" sort of a thing in a general session. Holly is really nice and very intelligent. She's from Pittsburgh and is part of Rock the World Youth Mission Alliance; Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and part of Emergent. Her comments certainly stirred some conversation!

Friday, April 04, 2003

Tony Jones at Emergent:
Ok. So I'm slow and not in the loop. Was it Tony Jones who said "Let stop doing youth ministry" at the emergent convention? Tony (since you stop by here occassionally). Tell us why. Push us and prod us. upload your notes or something.
A couple notes:
1. Rudy. I'm giving you admin POWER! want to set up squalkbox on here? That way we can dialogue some through comments?
2. There are new faces who have joined. Introduce yourselves.
3. Great stuff here folks. keep the post rolling. post without fear! Get out on some limbs with your ideas!

It think it has started..

Well at my church, which is a one of the big denoms, full of company guys (and gals), I have started to discuss what needs to happen in order for me to stay on staff... I am not for ultimatums, but I really what to change and make a difference... I cannot remember the last time that I was "moved" by a worship service in a church. Anyway, I have a group meeting on Monday nights that is made up of all age groups (mostly youth to 30 something) to discuss the direction of the church and how we "worship" together. I am not doing "Bible study" on Wednesday nights at church, but I said I would come to any home that wants to get a group together to have conversation... and I am only doing "youth group" twice a month... mostly for what you can call "fun" activities... don't know if I am on the right track or not, but I am really searching on how to connect people in our church beside the "pass the plate" in service interaction. So far so good... Monday nights group is reading The Celtic Way as a starting point of conversation.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

setting aside the deep wisdom of TJones' call to move past youth ministry altogether to something much deeper...

I alluded somewhere below to the fact that I learn more about ministering to young people from non-youth ministry books than I do from anything directly on subject. One example is the book The Lexus and the Olive Tree. In the case of that seminal book, it was the chapter on information arbitrage that got to me. Thomas Friedman writes about his need to be versed in multiple subjects just to give a proper account of the mideast conflict. That chapter made me think that I needed to understand economics, local politics, science and the environment, and diverse ethnic cultures to go along with theology and youth culture in order to be an effective youth worker.

I now believe that I need to understand all those things just to be an effective Christian in the city - and an effective youth worker in the city.
Re-imagining youth ministry really has to do with re-imagining the church. How does the church relate to people? So often we say this or that will help? How about be the church? Hmm there's a thought. I mean be the church God wants and not a CEO! I expressed this time and time again ..reach out to GASP ..sinners. I'm tired. I've travelled by car 1000 miles in 3 days ...but it was worth it. Why? Because I went to 2 funerals of people that were the Church. Did they write many books? Nope. But they lived the life ...Too bad we didn't have more of that

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Follow the leader?
What if we weren't the leaders? What if our leaders were those with the greatest faith? Even if that meant that meant a 14 years old girl? Would we be more or less likely to draw close to God?

Is it possible to eliminate all "ministries" and just teach people to care. To quit grouping people - just to reach out and care for someone regardless of age, socioeconomic status, social condition, etc. - just because you knew they needed you to care. Today let Julie help Ann, and tomorrow it'll be Mark helping, and then I'll help Bertha, and so on.

What if our local congregations were small enough that we didn't need special people to "minister"?
Hey friends, "Hello, my name is Andy and I'm a repenting youthworker!"

It occurred to me when my first youth group hit 160, I burnt out, my budget was cut, and I wanted to get out of dodge, that something might be wrong. Ever since, my spiritual walk vocationally and my spiritual walk personally have been becoming healthier instead of conflicting. I've been in youth ministry for 7 years, a professional congregation-jumper, and countercultural anti-institutional-christianityology kind of guy.

If you read my blog at you'll see my definition of christianityology, but basically I believe that trapped between rampant church-member consumerism and institutional survivalism, the church has become a seller of peace-of-mind, a place to study the faith rather than live it, a place to buy discipleship instead of practice it, a place where God is bought, sold, and boxed up in a building called the sanctuary. The house of God has put the Lord under house arrest, and I'm flat out pissed off that my vocational dreams are to be contricted to "program program program" because of it.

But here's the problem: Being the typical "generation Xesque" ranter, I am great at being grumpy and pointing out what is wrong. The problem is... the gospel is good news. What is attractive about the re-imagining youth ministry blog is its title -- I sense many of us in youth ministry are fed up with certain things -- but how many of us have the community support to move into the step of building? I met the new youth director at a church on the other side of town, here in Wilmington NC. Her first question was how many youth do I have coming? I answered that right now Christ has about 41 in a given month. She answered she had 17 a week. (not that I asked... also, didn't pick up on my "Christ" line or didn't understand, but that's ok, I'm going to buy her lunches until she understands!) It's like when new dogs sniff each others' butts or something. I felt dirty even answering her question. I hate numbers. Yet the local youthworkers' network is a veritable math fair; success and congratulations abound for numbers from 130 and up. I don't give a flying squirrel how many youth come.

I have no doubt that someone out there somewhere is going to write a book. Every new movement needs a book, then several follow-ups and maybe some nice bracelets. But I think our pictures of youth ministry will be in pop-up books, they will be regarded even by many of our churched youth as ridiculous, and how do you institute counter institutionalization? I think we'll end up in ghettos of youthworker networks; but I really believe we need to establish networking and friendships with youthworkers who are around us and gather mentorship from those peers while we slowly infect them with the truth -- that we CANNOT TEACH CHURCH ANY MORE. That we are not salespeople for the Lord, recruiters for statistically sound programs, that we will not turn a profit for the survival of "the church" and that we cannot take on the role of savior. Here I am spouting about what I think we are not, again.

Here's what my ministry is working on: we have a ductape labyrinth in the basement with our electronics,blacklight-filled couch infested youth room; but we spend more time playing basketball, installing cd players in each others' cars, surfing, and eating. (maybe too much eating.) But I really believe LIFE is the only credible word left in ministry. To give life is to spend time, spend effort, spend money, spend work, and spend play with one another. It is to journey; to pray together, to worship together, and to spread the gospel by walking with one another rather than publishing at one another. It is to see the Gospel as the only paradigm model for ministry; and to be unafraid of truth. I believe youth ministry looks like this:

Building community horizontally -- youth, adults, families, un-families, etc. -- LIFE!

And building community vertically -- (God handles this part if you provide a space, and even if you don't provide a space, he manages anyway) -- the vertical relationship is between the individual and the Lord.

Without these two, the vertical, and the horizontal, youth ministry is empty. We lose the cross. Here's the catch to all of this: EVERYTHING ELSE IS NEGOTIABLE.
And THAT is when the program train starts rolling and if you're not on it, you are asked to find another job. I think I have found the congregation where I can be vocational, supported financially, do some program, but teach them gradually to WALK instead of PROGRAM; to seek God's calling rather than the consumer's calling. We'll see. Thanks for reading this wordy entry; I've been waiting to spew it.

--Andy Byrne
Wilmington, NC
I had a dream
I allowed myself to dream the other day. I allowed myself to think about if I could have complete control on my church and youth. I kept seeing us gathering and seeing us mixing with each other. The word "program" never came up, but fellowship did. Because of fellowship things began to change. The unloved felt loved, the people who didn't belong belonged, and people who didn't have relationship with God started one.
How do we get to that point? I'm not sure but here are some thoughts that come to mind. To look at ourselves and say "We have had enough! We have had enough of playing church. We have had enough of fake relationships. We have had enough of watching our youth wither and die away. Here and now we draw a line and we open our hearts to you Lord Jesus to make the difference" When I had my "I had enough" moment my life changed. The youth I'm teaching right now are actually starting to get it. I have a couple e-mailing me asking about the things I have shared and it all came down to that I shared my "I had enough" moment with them. I may not be able to change my church in one swoop but I pray God will let me change it one person at a time. I pray that we all say that we have had enough and work towards a renewal of mind and spirit. Maybe this is all silly and I'm insane. I have been tossing around so many thoughts that have been said here. Wondering if I have what it takes. To be honest I don't know that I do. To be even more honest I'm so impressed with the men here I feel even less qualified. I just know that I have come to a place where I'm tired and I want to see what God can do. Is what we are talking about here a dream or is it reality. I think it is a dream that will become a reality.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

the heart of the matter

'i just read through most of what is on this blog and i think mark really made the most profound statement in this whole discussion. he said:

"We cannot rethink youth ministry without rethinking our understanding of the church."

that statement to me, is the heart of the whole problem. if the church itself does not rethink and re-imagine itself, then how can the youth ministry within it? interestingly if you think of this, youth ministry was birthed first as a parachurch ministry because of our understanding of the church. then as the church caught up with what the parachurch movement understood, the church changed and embraced youth ministry. we then became "professional". however, as once again the church is facing some interesting times - we again need to be rethinking and reimagining who and what we are as the church. and with that, comes rethinking who and what youth ministry is. BUT- if the church itself doesn't do this, i believe that any youth pastor or youth ministry who does reimagine and rethink will only struggle and probably even end up getting fired and then disillusioned with vocational ministry and even church as a result. i would strongly encourage youth workers to engage their senior pastors and elders or whoever else in the hierarchical system at their churches they need to in the re-imagining. i have hope that if done in the right spirit, and if done with great prayer, that church leaders will be open to some reimagining and rethinking.

the whole thing STARTING WITH THE CHURCH needs reimagining. i personally feel we need to take at least some steps and move past deconstructing.....although absolutely needed, i personally get depressed after sitting in the deconstruction puddle too long and there are too many youth who need Jesus and kingdom life to be processing and analyzing all this too much without at least beginning to try something. i greatly look forward to hearing the adventures and stories, good and bad, wounds and joys of what happens and we re-imagine this all together.......

may youth pastors and youth workers lead the way in the reimagining and rethinking of the church.

Happy Birthday Tony Jones!
"A land of milk and coffee..."
Yes, I meant to say it. Just being a bit spunky.