.::Same Sex Marriage & Youth Ministry

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, Theology, youth ministry on June 30, 2015 by Walter

There have been terabytes of comments presenting both sides of this divisive debate. I have some of my own opinions on this, but I thought I would write this post from the possible perspective of a 15 year-old in our youth groups. What might they be noticing? What might they be hearing? What message are adults sending through this debate?

Here are just a few observations from my imaginary friend Chad who is a 15 year-old rising Junior in your youth group:

4teens_thumbnailLOVE>HATE? When I am at church I hear the preacher and the youth minister talk about how we are to live our life by a compass of love, but I don’t see much of that in the Christian responses I have been reading on Facebook and Twitter, even people at my church. Ought not our response be, “How can we do a better job of loving everyone regardless of their attraction?” I know this is a difficult issue, but can’t we err on the side of love? Hate is far to powerful of an emotion that easily takes refuge in our hearts.

DIVORCE vs. SAME SEX MARRIAGE: When you talk about the Bible and homosexuality, I am able to read similar language in the text about God’s attitude toward divorce. This confuses me a lot! Why aren’t you adults as outraged with it comes to divorce in our churches? It seems to me as though you rank different sin above others and this sends me a confusing message. I mean, I know of so many people in our church who have gone through a divorce, and we let them stay. I read in the Bible that God HATES divorce. I get that. You have no idea what kind of damage those divorces have had on my friends in youth group. I have one friend who spends half a week at one house and the other half at another. They hate it. It is brutal. You should hear them talk about how awful holidays are being split back and forth. I am NOT asking we kick out divorced people. I appreciate how we readily (and appropriately) offer love and support to those going through divorce. We need to keep doing this. But why can we not offer the same love and support with those with same sex attraction?

BEWARE! WE ARE ALREADY HERE: In case you don’t already know, a few of my friends in youth group have same sex attraction (Yes, CHURCH Youth group!). They haven’t told anyone over 18 years of age in our church because they think you will freak out and abandon them. This breaks my heart because in our late night discussions at camp (yes Bible Camp), we talk about these things when no adults are around. I hear their pain and loneliness. I know how much they NEED your support and your love but they don’t think they can get that because of what they are hearing in the hallways of church as you talk (and read what you post) about these topics.

IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME…BEFORE THEY ARE GONE: As soon as their moms and dads stop making them come to church they are gone. They have told me this firsthand. They are going to bail as fast as possible to other communities that will love and accept them for who they have chosen to be. I have a few friends that will stick around in church, but as soon as they lose the support they get from others in youth group or campus ministries, I know they are out of here. There is only so much rejection a person can take. I don’t blame them.

THE REAL ISSUE: LOVE : I don’t know, or really care about this issue. We also get the idea of Truth, God’s truth. We need that too. But please hear that what my friends and I do care about is if you all really care about ALL people…every single person. Do you care about PEOPLE more than ISSUES? We know that everyone in our church has their own sin they deal with. Some deal with gossiping, some are greedy, some look at porn, some are living together and aren’t married, I could go on, but I won’t. You get the point. We all have our junk. We see how you love and care for others with those other sins. We are looking CLOSELY at how you treat others different from you, because we see story after story after story of Jesus treating tax collectors, women caught in adultery, Samaritan women, and more lovingly, kindly, and compassionately. If you want us teenagers to be loving, we need to learn how to do that from YOU! If you want us to be divisive, sectarian, and hateful, we are going to have to learn how to do that from you as well. WE. ARE. WATCHING. YOU. CLOSELY!

BIG GOSPEL: The more and more I read the Bible. The more and more I experience powerful love in this youth group and church. The more and more I see God and Jesus through our worship times, the more I really believe this whole God thing. I know it to be true. I want it to be true. I have experienced it to be true. I KNOW The GOSPEL of CHRIST is big enough for us to deal with this lovingly and compassionately.

How big can this Good News be?
How far reaching can the Love of Christ really, reach?
Can God be as loving as I read about?
Can WE be love like we are called to be?
Do WE have enough faith to trust God on this one?

The World is watching US through this debate, can we please show them a vivid image of Jesus?

.::The Power Of The Subjunctive and Youth Ministry

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , on May 26, 2015 by Walter

There is both POWER and DANGER that is the subjunctive voice in grammar. The subjunctive is used to look into the past and talk about what COULD HAVE happened.  We use it in the future to talk about what MIGHT happen.  It is a time-space dream machine that can conjure alternate realities.

The PAST is regret and life lessons learned the hard way.

The FUTURE is HOPE and endless POSSIBILITY.

Rather than me tell you more about it, you might want to watch this amazing TED talk that describes it wonderfully (and interestingly)

I think about the use of the subjunctive in the arena of faith, I think about both the DANGER and HOPE that the subjunctive can provide for us.  Let’s look at both lenses:

THE PAST

The subjunctive in one’s faith is that stick we beat ourselves over the head with over and over and over.  Its the rear view mirror of life where we replay mistake after mistake.  It’s the: “I should have done such and such INSTEAD of so and so” <SUBEXT: I’m an idiot.  I’m a failure.>

It’s an, “If only I had…”

It’s regret…would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.

It’s crippling, debilitating.

It’s why Paul says, “I forget what lies behind…”

The only benefit of the past subjunctive is when we actually learn something helpful from the past.  The life lessons.  The wisdom we gain. The reminder to not enter those dark corners again.

Sadly, this is not what we usually do…we keep a detailed inventory of those mistakes and we do not let ourselves forget them. And we revisit them regularly, much to our demise.

This is also where in youth ministry we have tried to turn the screws of discipleship into the hearts of teens.  We revisit the problem of their adolescent mistakes and offer the handy solution of Christ.  It can be an easy transaction if we allow it to be.  If twisted hard enough, we can get dozens of altar call responses as well.

THE FUTURE

However, when the subjunctive is used for the future, it can fill us with a panoply of possibilities.  It is filled with HOPE.  This is the “What ifs?”

Its what is POSSIBLE.

It’s what MIGHT happen?

In our faith we can use the subjunctive to dream and to soar greater than we could imagine.  It is the business section of Barnes & Noble’s that contains book after book after book of how to succeed.  How to build the next big thing.

In youth ministry we can use the subjunctive to offer students endless possibilities of what their future can look like. We can help direct their gaze from the mistakes of their past to the redemption and reconciliation of the future.  If we are not careful though, we can present hoop after hoop that we call students to jump through if we do not contextualize it adequately.

BONUS LENS: THE PRESENT WITHOUT THE SUBJUNCTIVE 

However, the really interesting thing about this TED talk was that the speaker’s parents came from a culture whose language had NO subjunctive.  They were not weighed down with the question of “what if?” that the subjunctive presents.  They only knew the present and what IS.  As I contemplate that, I think about how potentially freeing that is.  To live in the present–fully.  You would not have to ever second guess yourself by asking, “What if?” You only lived in what IS?

Our students live in a culture where they have to jump through countless hoops on a daily basis in order to receive affirmation and acceptance from friends, teachers, coaches, youth ministers, and parents.  Over and over and over they are bombarded with subjunctive messages of you should be like this. What if you were like this? Over and over…its an endless array of message after message presenting a subjunctive future that isn’t filled with hope, but filled with expectation.  The hopeful “What if” easily gets distorted into a “Why aren’t you this?”

Perhaps youth ministry could learn something about doing away with some of our use of the subjunctive.  What if we allowed our students to simply experience the Risen Christ NOW?* Not how we think they should experience Jesus.

Could we simply share with students a message of “You. Are. Worthy.  Period.”?

No strings attached.

No hoops to jump through.

Just you.

Right here.

Right now.

 

No if’s

 

 

 

*(I understand the irony of using the subjunctive here to dream of a new possibility)

.:: A Prayer from Solitude for My Students

Posted in adolescence, disciplines, Prayer, spiritual disciplines, Theology with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Walter

One of the courses I teach is Spiritual Disciplines and a significant portion of that class is actually practicing the disciplines when it is feasible in class.  Today I got to share in practicing solitude with them as we dispersed across the green on campus and spent a hour in solitude on an amazing fall day.  Here is a prayer that I wrote for my students during this time:

My prayer for them is that they could be FULLY PRESENT with you God as we commune together in Solitude.

May the peace of Christ dwell in their hearts as they declutter their lives from the noise of the start of a busy week.

May they be taken to the dark parts of their souls and do the difficult work of self-reflection.

May they see you God in the delicate beauty of Autumn that is breaking through.

May their souls be still.

May they be taken from loneliness to intimacy as they experience Your Presence.

May the warmth of the Autumn sun be a gift and reminder of Your Grace.

Father, they are so busy-they had tremendous amounts of stress bearing down upon them–please come near to them in this time.

Give HOPE to those struggling with classes, grades, homework.

Give PEACE to those with problems with family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates.

Give HEALING to those with health issues and medical problems.

Give RELEASE to those with financial struggles, job schedule issues, and those who need just another hour in their day.

As they encounter Your Presence in solitude whisper into their souls that You are Fully Present with them.

Sign Up NOW for Lipscomb’s Ministry Intern Fair!

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Walter

Lipscomb’s annual ministry fair is here to serve churches to help place students with ministries that have internship opportunities.  This year’s intern fair will be Tuesday, November 4th from 1:00-5:00pm on Lipscomb’s campus.

To begin the process please register your internship position with us.  Churches and ministries that are not able to interview in person at Lipscomb are encouraged to register and we will have students contact you directly.  These internships are intended to take place summer of 2015.

Interview Day – Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

(Last day to sign up is October 30th, 2014)

Tuesday, November 4th

1:00-5:30pm

Lipscomb University

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER YOUR MINISTRY

Event format is similar to “speed interviewing”. Before the 5th, students will sign up for interview slots with the churches that interest them. You will arrive on the 5th to an interview table for your congregation.  You will interview candidates during the 3 hour event.  Interview slots will be a standard 20 minutes with 5 minutes between so students can find the table for their interview during the following time slot.

We’re proud of our students and look forward to working with you as you’re introduced to them!

Summer Camp

Posted in Ministry, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2014 by Walter

My guess is that if you asked 100 students in youth ministries across the nation what their favorite part of the summer is, 99 of them would say CAMP!  There is something about getting away from all the noise that distracts us in our daily lives and being able to focus on those things that are really important…Faith and Friends.

I had the blessing of serving at this year’s Otter Creek Christian Camp as a staff member.  My responsibilities included writing the curriculum, training staff and participating in a Book Club. It was an AMAZING year.  I am constantly amazed to see how God shows up to camp. I lost count after counter over 52 weeks of camps and retreats in my youth ministry history.  Over a year of my life spent at camp!  What a rich, rich blessing!  I have been so fortunate to witness time and time again God showing up in some of the most expected ways:

  • There was one year we gave students over 3 hours of solitude time at FDC.
  • The 3 hour Concert of Prayer at SEMP in Seattle and it felt like 10 minutes.
  • When Lou Zamperini (of Unbroken fame)spoke to students at LDYR (both times).
  • Campfires at Teen Camp.
  • Counselor Devos at IMPACT Training where they SING.
  • Guys Night at the GROVE.
  • Watching “Invisible Children” for the first time at Wildwood Camp.
  • Witnessing to people one the streets at SEMP Portland.
  • Seeing student lead groups and speak at SoCal Retreat.
  • Doing Shalom Circles at the Unity Retreat.
  • Countless student-led devos.

Over and over, times where you don’t think anything will happen, God shows up in unexpected ways.  That happened this year at OCCC.  One night we had the students go on a short walk with their favorite verse from the Bible.  They ended up spread out in a field where we had a time where we worshipped by hearing the Word spoken out loud.  Imagine a field filled with 300 tiny lights illuminating scripture and hearing AWESOME verses being shouted out loud.  The lights looked light stars that were hovering over the meadow we were sitting in, but what was more breathtaking was hearing verse after verse being spoken.  It was HOLY.

It truly embodies the passage that testifies:

“For the word of God is alive and active. 

Sharper than any double-edged sword, 

it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

That night the Word of God as truly ALIVE as it was spoken, shouted, lived and experienced.  I feel in many of our communities of faith the Word is a nice companion that we enjoy a marginal acquaintance with, but we do not want an intimate relationship with it.  We do what we can to keep it at arm’s length.  We do not really engage it or wrestle with it.  It is nice if it wants to make an appearance in our lives every now and then, but don’t get too intimate.

I encourage you to ENGAGE with scripture in a new and intimate way today.  Maybe its reading it out loud, listening to it with greater interest, reading it as if the very words of life come forth from it, sharing it with another through text messages, talking about it with a friend, or living it in a new way.  Regardless of the way(s) you choose to encounter God’s Word today, I hope you are able to hear something new and fresh.  May you experience the Living Word this week.

Theo and YM Audio Files

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, spiritual disciplines, Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2014 by Walter

There are many who have requested the MP3s of the general session and break out sessions from Lipscomb University’s Youth Ministry Conference, “Theology & Youth Ministry.”(Links below)  It was a great day where over 130 youth workers, students, and church leaders gathered to wrestle with the large idea of “Why?” Theology demands that we ask “WHY?” of all we do in our ministry.  Please set aside March 3, 2015 for our next conference—We will give more details soon on this.

It was great getting to hear from the following speakers:


Andrew Root, PhD.
@RootAndrew

Andrew-Root-BIOPhoto-1Andrew Root, PhD (Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is the author of The Relational Pastor (IVP, 2013) as well as a four book series with Zondervan called A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry (titles include Taking Theology to Youth Ministry, Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry, Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry, and Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry).  He is also the author of the 2012 Christianity Today Book of Merit award for The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (with Kenda Creasy Dean, IVP, 2011).   Andy has worked in congregations, parachurch ministries, and social service programs. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Kara, two children, Owen and Maisy, and their two dogs. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Andy spends far too much time watching TV and movies.


Lauren Smelser White

LaurenLauren holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from Harding and Abilene Christian Universities (respectively); she also has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University, where she is currently a third-year doctoral student in Theological Studies and a Fellow in Theology and Practice. Her work focuses on the intersections of systematic theology and literary theory so as to think critically about the overlap of scriptural interpretation, spiritual formation, and revelation. Practically speaking, she is interested in resourcing the Christian tradition and imagination to aid conservative Christians in developing renewed yet scripturally-faithful understandings of religious pluralism, gender roles, and relations with secular culture. Lauren and her husband Jason are excitedly anticipating the birth of their first child, a girl, in early May.

BREAKOUT SPEAKERS

Chris Gonzalez, PhD @FajitaBoy  

ChrisChris Gonzalez is the husband of one wife, the father of two teens and is a believer in all youth. His career has taken a winding path through teaching 7th grade English in public schools, youth ministry in a local church, and marriage and family therapy in a small non-profit – with the common thread being engagement with youth. He did his doctoral studies in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota studying Positive Youth Development. His current research project is to study Positive Youth Development with former child slaves in Ghana. His current position is director of the Marriage and Family Therapy masters program at Lipscomb University.

George Goldman, PhD @goldmange

GEGeorge has taught in the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb since 1998 and currently serves as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Bible. George has a Ph.D. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, an M.Div. from Harding Graduate School and an M.A. and B.A. from Lipscomb. He is a part-time campus minister at Vanderbilt, and often teaches Bible classes at the Otter Creek Church of Christ. George is married to Wendy and they have two daughters, Shannon (16) and Lauren (14), and one son Nathan (5).

CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL SESSIONS: https://app.box.com/s/tz5frul9rwo86zo49bdr

CLICK HERE FOR BREAKOUTS SESSIONS: https://app.box.com/s/4gvwsx8gimmmzavvwrwi

First Day of School Prayer!

Posted in Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , on August 16, 2014 by Walter

IMG_0405.PNGToday is the first day of classes for Lipscomb.  The first day of a school year is always pregnant with hope. Hope that this will be a better year. Hope that students will stay on top of their homework and reading. Hope that things will be different…better.  Here is a prayer for my students:

Father as we enter a new academic year I invite You to be impossible to ignore in the classroom.  May students see Your Creativity in the wonder of discovery as students are introduced to new ideas and concepts.

I praise You for the minds that want to be pushed, prodded, filled and challenged.  May they see You in the new information, discoveries, knowledge and wisdom.

I praise You for the relationships that will be formed between student and teacher.  May they begin a journey  of learning together that lasts a lifetime.

For those students that will experience loss, grief, struggle, discouragement, and doubt, will you send an extra measure of comfort and peace into their souls?  Please send teachers and classmates around those who are hurting to offer compassion and support.

May we all recognize that the classroom is truly Holy Ground.  May we see something transcendant when teacher and student gather together to seek knowledge and understand the extraordinary and truly awesome privilege it is to study in an institution of higher learning such as Lipscomb.  May we not take for granted the blessing that literally billions of others on earth would like.  Give us the discipline and self-control to take in all that this academic year has to offer in our readings, classes, activities, discussions, seminars, labs, and more have to offer.  

May You illuminate us with the light of knowledge and may that Truth we discern and discover this year set us free to help those who are oppressed, needy, hungry, naked, and lost.

Give my students the wisdom to know the meaning and purpose of their lives and learning so their knowledge, skills and gifts be able to make Your Kingdom a better place for your greater glory.

Grant me patience for the students who need that little bit extra.  Give me the ability to be fully present for every class, lecture, conversation and office meeting so that I can serve those around me in the best way possible.

May I learn more from my students than I have ever before and grant me new perspectives to places that have become overly familiar.  

May we be able to look back at this year and be able to undeniably praise You for all the growth that we have experienced through this year.

Amen.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 917 other followers