Monday, January 14, 2008

On being passionate

For any of you who found the title titillating I'm afraid you're in for a disappointment. I'm talking about being passionate about faith and ministry.

My last post was a rant about folks who, if I'm being honest, I thought gored my ox. As it turned out it was mostly mis-communication with one of them(but not the other). A wise lady friend and former youth minister sent me a long but profound note about youth ministry. It got me thinking.

And here's what I thought:

I've known for years that I'm really only interested in things that I can dive fully into. That's when I'm fully engaged and I tend to throw myself into it. I was that way for a long time in my previous career in radio. It's how I am about youth ministry. One of my catch phrases is "Good enough isn't good enough". I have a perfectionist streak in me. When things aren't perfect I tend to get down about it. I could have done more, I could have done it better.

You can not imagine how many times my lady wife has watched me beat myself up this way. It's what I do.

But it's also what makes me good at what I do. I can get fully engaged because I BELIEVE in what I'm doing. And it bugs the heck out of me when I see people who aren't willing to go that far. I used to drive people crazy in my last career because I'd say "I only expect you to work as hard as I do. I accept that you may be better at some things than I am and that I'm better at somethings than you are. Final results are whatever they turn out to be. But I expect you to work as hard as I do. And I work very hard".

I expect that when a diocese or congregation tells me that youth ministry is important that they are going to WORK HARD at it. Too often youth programs are just that, programs designed to keep the kids busy and out of the adults hair. It's about the lecture hall vision of teaching and the "We have relationship with our youth for two hours every Sunday". It's "Oh that Bob and Mary's daughter" instead of learning the kid's name.

I have a confession (you're going to think I'm nuts). I hate what I'm about to do. It feels like cheating, like I can't do my own thinking and writing. It feels like I'm slacking.

I told you, I'm nuts. But it's how I feel.

I'm going to quote somebody else (see, see!!!! Nuts!). Martin Saunders is the Editor of Youthwork Magazine and Chair of Youthwork the Partnership, a huge youth ministry movement in the UK. I saw this interview at a great website run by the amazing Len Evans (Youth Ministry Interviews) and it just spoke to me. Len asked him "How would you like to see youth ministry change":

"I’d like to see every member of our churches start to take responsibility for young people – starting with the ‘adult’ leaders. The biggest problem for youth workers here is that many churches employ them to ‘take care of the problem’ of young people, instead of trying to understand and engage with them at every level. Unless young people get integrated into the hearts of our churches, then our churches are not long for this world. And of course, it’s the adult church leaders who hold the keys. So I’d love to see us move towards a model where the whole church takes some responsibility for young people – even if that just means praying for and mentoring them."

(Lazy. Slacker. You disgust me.)(I'm JOKING people!)

Martin got it exactly right. This is my hope for youth ministry as well. I don't care if we do great programs, or any program at all. I don't care if we do Youth Sundays or whatever.

We need to stop taking care of our youth and begin caring about our youth.

And now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to work.



PseudoPiskie said...

One of our candidates for bishop said we treat our youth as dependent, somewhat stupid children and fail to give them the responsibilities they can and need to learn to handle. She believes that we should challenge them to be leaders as they grow. Even if we and they think they can't do something, we should give them a chance to try and support the results even if they are less than desired. People who are treated as second class eventually lose interest.

Jay said...

And I'd agree with that candidate completely. It's amazing how often I see people say they're giving the youth a chance to lead but can't seem to get out of their way. Or equally try to insure that they succeed no matter what. Sometimes you need to let them fail.

Martin said...

Hey - just came across this blog, and your very kind treatment of something I said (doesn't usually happen!). It's interesting that I was speaking very much from a UK perspective, but the fact that it resonates with someone working in New York suggests it's a global church issue, which I find kind of interesting, and kind of sad. Still sounds like you're going to be one of the guys who trys to break that model, and all power to you for that.

God bless you and your ministry!