Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Paving The Way to Divorce

You are wondering what the deal is with this title, as this blog is dedicated to the Middle School and Jr. High ministry. No, this is not a post about parents and thier divorces, although related to the subject at hand, it about MS/JH relationships.
Lets be very real, if you work MS/JH students you are living in a continual episode of 90210, Gossip Girl, and Friday Night Smackdown, combined and that is just the 6th graders... Seriously, You know as well as I do that these little relationships never last, but are packed with drama, emotions, and heartache. On top of that, parents are in the middle of things encouraging and honestly running more drama on top of it. What are we doing to our young pre-teen and teens.

We are paving the way for thier future of divorce and failure in relationships.

It is starting younger and younger, and it is all "cute", but the reality is we are setting the tone and cycle for relationships. What use to be "SH only" lesson and convesations about sex and purity is now becoming a norm for our ministries to MS/JH.

A couple thoughts for our ministries:
- emphasize friends, de-emphasize "dating"
- make programs and events more about groups and bonding (sorry "couples skate")
- begin teach a deeper understanding of relationships of all sorts
- be real about your failures and pain in relationships... to a point
- involve your spouse, students need to see a real relationship and marriage-- even "co-teach" a series
- be real about what God's Word says about love, sex, marriage, and divorce.
- teach the parents?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Morning Reflections?

As I sip some hot coffee and reflect on a week in MS/JH ministry, I am continued to be amazed by the depth and beauty of a students heart. Once you get past the shell of "there just a JHer" (personally, I will throw down if I hear it again) you find something so real and true. They are truly wet cement! What you say/or don't say and do/or don't do is going to leave an impression. How you react to them is going to impact them one way or the other. The thing is there is no or very little adult agenda yet, it is honest and blunt. You get the "God (blank) Sucks", instead of the polite churchy "I am struggle with my personal life with God"... nope it is right there no hold barred. Take it or leave it. I guess the problem is more people are leaving it? Church adults get flipped out and uncomfortable with real and authentic Christianity. So we end up impressing on our young christians: christians don't struggle and christians aren't transparent and real with each other? Also, by adults not wanting to commit to ministering to JHers, it tells them they are not important until they are older, and by then it just maybe to late.

Just a little reflection as the caffeine begins to kick in over some converstations with both students and adults over the last week or so

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cool, Uncool, Old, Too Old...

So I am sitting for my "morning reading" session...if you catch my drift. This morning's grab was "Kurt and Scott's Jr. High Adventure". To me it is the JH youth worker's version of "Uncle John's" (seriously)

I was re-reading the "Uncool is OK" article. If you haven't read it, it was orginally submitted to Group Magazine in 2006, and now republished in the book. To sum it all up, Kurt claming to be "uncool" gives some great suggestions about what is most important and what mean more to students than just being cool, young and hip.

I agree with his points, but that fact is as much as we want to believe it, cool still figures in to the equation. Also as much as we want to close our eyes and wish with all our might, age is a factor too. Maybe not so much for volunteers, but for us who are the lead on-staff person up front -age and coolness is the unwritten rule. Honestly how many 65 year old youth pastors do you see rolling around? Walk around a youth conference how many black socks and sandals and tape on the glasses kind of people do you run into. Some I admit, but come on...

Here is my points (for better or worse):

1. You have to be at least a little cool. I can not count the times a student commented on my clothes, music, and style. I have been introduced as "this is my pastor, he is my parent's age but he is cool, you should see how he dresses. Understand, I can't afford to keep up with every fashion or buy album, but also I am not faking it either. I honestly dress like I dress and I honestly like the music. Our personal kids are not Jr. Highers...yet, but my wife and I are aware of what we wear and what our kids wear. We are also aware of how we act and present ourselves. We don't go to the extremes either, I don't have piercings and tatoos or wear crazy stuff, we just try our best to be "in". You are thinking "UgH- superficial!" We are honestly not superficial people, we rock the outlets and the extreme clearance racks. We understand, how we act, how we dress, what we listen to, etc...allows us more opportunities to teach, reach, and connect. My wife can talk about modesty because we shop at the same place our student's do and wear appropriate things. I can walk up to my students at school or at the mall without thier friends say, "who's dad is that?"
Here is the thought, you dress and act for any job. You work at a construction site, you wear a hard hat- You work on wall street you wear a suit, you know how to act and talk- same with youth ministry.
* Alittle addtional note to the whole cool thing, is also I do my best to drop the "pastor" before my name. I leave it up to the parents and the student. You want to watch a mood of a conversation change, drop the word "pastor".

2. You will be to old for this. I am not as young as I use to be, I am real enough to know that. My "biological youth ministry clock" is ticking. I know that I am suppose to go be an associate pastor or sr. pastor someday, but I honestly don't feel that call. I love middle school and jr. high students. I know in order for me to continue to work full-time and make a living working with MS/JH students I will have to go work somewhere else. Personal experience and observation I have painfully watched the guys who have held on for too long. They never transitioned out, got the educaiton to something else, or just plain didn't get it. Also the reality is the big names and living legend are no longer really "doing it". Case and Point-Doug Fields still writes the books and has the title, but someone else is doing the teach and ministry with students.

Do I think this is right? Kind or but not really. It is just the nature of the beast. We are missionaries to this culture. You wouldn't show up in the middle of the jungle in a suit and tie and speak proper English then get mad at the tribal people for thinking you were an outsider. If you are called to and your heart is to minister to a certain group of people you learn the culture, language, dress and style and that becomes yours as well. The mission field we work in is a "culture of cool and young". You have to know your audience to reach your audience.

-reference helps: "merchants of cool" (pbs documentary), "trendcentral", "youthtrends", "tween marketers", "mr. youth"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why? Blue Like JH Jazz Band?

I sat not so long ago, at a local jr. high school, at a jazz concert. I was there to give support and love to the students of ministry. I had an amazing group of very talented musicians. Even at a young age some of these students were committed to pursuing music as life time thing. One of the students, whose mom was a concert pianist, was already thinking about studying tuba...of all things, and pursuing a scholarship to a prestigious music school. Going to these concerts were almost as big to these students, as if I showed up the play-offs of my more athletic students. I would get emails and phone calls reminding me. I did it not out of obligation only I really do enjoy music. I in addition, actually rather like jazz, the smooth and soothing sounds. On a few occasions, in my more hip moments, I have found a cool little coffee house that has jazz nights. I will sit and sip my coffee, and enjoy the notes as they wash over me and relax, as I drink in the bitterness of black coffee with the mixture of sweet melodic notes of the performance. This was not one of those nights or moments.
As I sat by myself in the balcony looking down on my students and the other student musicians, it was not smooth or relaxing. It was actually rather uncomfortable and a little disconcerting. The director was as it seemed a very passionate and dedicated man of the arts. He walked them through a long playlist of I am sure were, past tense, great pieces that he had found. The thing of it was, there was something missing. It wasn't the same blue notes of musical depth. Musically, the notes were there and present. Physically, there was talent and the pieces were performed, and I am sure practiced. The issue was there was a sense of discomfort and disjointedness to the whole thing, as the students seemed to struggle to find their way through the music and give it life. The one poor guy looked like he was going to sweat right through his crisp white shirt and freshly pressed black pants. It was not natural and it did not flow. The pieces were written from a heart of someone who had something to say, express, and with a true depth. Jazz is the music of the soul and heart. It connects to center of the person who wrote it and originally performed it. My talented and well meaning students did not make that connection.
Like any good, “posty” and “emerger” I have read Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”, about a young man’s spiritual journey and religious exploration, etc… Obliviously the name of this blog is a slight rip off but as I sat at the concert and re-read the book, it struck me that is where I (we) live in JH/MS ministry. We are leading students who are in a desperate search for the true story, heart, and depth of what it means to be a Christ Follower. They show up, look the part, say the right word, and give their best effort. We like the director are trying with all that we have to lead them and pull out of them something more. The reality is JH/MS faith is messy, disjointed, sometimes disconnected, but powerful journey of exploration.
To me JH/MS ministry is THE emerging church. You want to know where the church is headed or you want to be a part of where it headed, get involved in this ministry. With God’s power and call on our lives we grab the baton of youth ministry and look out at our group of students and say “let’s really play something beautiful.”

To be continued…?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome to the Adventure

Here it a little jump into the blogosphere, somewhat anonymously. Why anonymous? Am I ashamed or embarressed.. not at all.. I would just like the freedom to express, explain, and expound my thoughts while protecing the innocent. The things I hope to discuss and reflect on, if you know ministry might be delicate to just dump out for the world to read with connection back to the real people involved.

I am who I claim to be everything you read and comment on is real. I hope you enjoy and connect, and hopefully this will be place for you to to find freedom in your life of ministry.

So...Welcome to the Adventure