Tonight is the first meeting of the pub theology group I have organized as part of my seminary internship. My internship requires me to lead a small group, and I am at church at least 6 days a week so I decided I wanted my small group to meet outside of the church (and to reach people outside of the church).
Where do people outside of the church hangout during the week? Bars? Yes. Soccer practice? Yes. Do I want to spend my Tuesday night at a kids soccer practice? No. Do the parents of those kids want to go to a bar after sitting through a 2 hour soccer practice? Yes.
The concept for pub theology is simple: a conversation about faith around a table with tasty beer. That’s it. There is no other agenda.
With our first meeting tonight (I really don’t like to use the word meeting but I can’t think of a replacement) I have been doing some research on how successful pub theology groups operate. And for a lot of people who come tonight, this might be there first experience with pub theology, or even a conversation about faith.
Here are some pointers, rules, or guidelines that people should keep in mind when participating in a discussion about faith around a bar table. These were complied from Pomomusings, Pub Theology 101, and Next Church.
Listen first, speak second. Everyone has a voice, and everyone’s voice has a right to be heard.
You do not have to agree with anyone, but you do have to respect everyone.
No single perspective is correct. Everyone is on their own spiritual journey, but we gather as pilgrims seeking to learn from one another.
If you are free tonight (Dec. 3) I hope that you will consider joining us at Kate’s Irish Pub for a few beers and great conversation. You can signup here but then again, you can just show up too! Feel free to buy Jason his favorite drink, an appletini!
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’f feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
We are exactly one week away from my second favorite holiday of the year. Behind Easter, Thanksgiving sits as a highlighted and circled day on my calendar that is marked with a gold star. From turkey and stuffing, sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes, to the cranberry sauce (the homemade kind) and pumpkin pie, I look forward to Thanksgiving each year. And who wouldn’t?!!Regardless of where you are, or who you are with, this is the one time a year that we are all allowed to over-eat and then retire to the living room to watch football, take a nap, or go back for a third serving of pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is a time of year when we all pause to give thanks to God for the blessings we have enjoyed over the past year. It is a time of year when we can look back on the blessings God has given to us and look forward to what those blessings will mean for us in the year to come. No matter where you are or who you are celebrating with, it is next to impossible not to give thanks.
Over the summer this group gathering for worship welcomed me and allowed me to share in worship with you. And a lot has happened since the last time I was here. Last time I was with you all my wife, Allison, and I were expecting our first child. I am happy to report that Camden James was born just before 9:30 AM on August 10th. Since the moment Camden was born he has been the pride and joy of our family. His grandparents, aunts, and uncle rearrange their schedules each week just to spend time with him. Every morning when Allison or I walk into his room, he greets us with a big smile. He is the happiest baby on the planet. And even though I get to spend everyday of the week with him, because he comes to the office with me, Camden is a momma’s boy.
At first glance, our Gospel reading this evening may seem like an obvious Thanksgiving reading. On the surface it is a healing story. At first glance it is a story of Jesus healing ten lepers while on a road-trip with His disciples. But if we peel back the layers of the story there is more.
The backdrop for this story in Saint Luke’s Gospel is Jesus and his disciples moving towards Jerusalem (v. 11), and as they made their way towards Jerusalem Jesus and His disciples moved through a part of the region where Jews would have lived in close proximity with Samaritans. They could have taken a more direct route to Jerusalem, but instead they took the long way.
In this healing story, there are a two key points we need to remember. One, this group of lepers was quarantined in exile away from the temple. They were not allowed to participate in any form of communal worship. As prescribed by Leviticus 13 of the Hebrew Bible, lepers were ritually unclean outcasts within Jewish society.
The second point to realize is that nine of the ten lepers were Jews, and only one was a Samaritan (v. 16). Samaritans and Jews did not mix well. These two groups had been at odds with one another since the split between the northern and southern kingdoms, and the homecoming of the Jewish exile. Samaritans did not adhere to the Jewish laws in a way that the Jewish people agreed with and also had a history of worshiping pagan gods. Because of this, Jews would have gone out of their way to not only avoid contact with a Samaritan but also to avoid land where Samaritans would have lived.
For these nine lepers to be living with one Samaritan leper would imply that they too were on the fringes of Jewish society. They too were the lowest of the low. The fact that Jesus was moving through an area where Samaritans would have been present foreshadows for us that something big is going to go down.
When the ten lepers approached Jesus Saint Luke writes, “When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.” When we think of a New Testament healing we typically imagine Jesus laying his hands on a person or like in Saint Mark’s Gospel a young girl grabbing Jesus’s robe (Mark 5.27). But in this instance Jesus did not place his hands on the lepers to heal them. In typical Jesus fashion, He does what we least expect Him to do. He simply told the ten to “go and show yourselves”. Their faithful obedience to his command of “go and show yourselves” was enough to be healed.
When Camden was born, after being awake for over 24 hours, Allison and I were both filled with happiness, joy, thankfulness. The excitement overtook me. I must have jumped 100 feet in the air. These feelings of happiness, joy, and thanksgiving were enough to re-energize us after being awake for so long. We were happy that Camden was healthy and safe. Filled with joy over the gift that had been given to us. And filled thanksgiving towards God for trusting us with his precious life and for allow us to be his parents. We were so focused on breathing and pushing that when Camden was finally born the feelings of happiness, joy, and thanks came upon us quickly.
I would imagine the sudden emotion of thankfulness that Allison and I felt would have come upon the ten healed lepers in a similar manner. Just like Allison and I waited and waited for Camden’s arrival, wondering if he would ever come, the lepers in Saint Luke’s Gospel must have waited and waited, wondering if they would ever be healed, knowing their chance were low because they had been exiled from their community. Filled with excitement the ten rush off to the temple to show the priests that they had been healed. One stopped. A Samaritan.
The one who was a stranger or allogenes (al-log-en-ace’), which was a term used for a foreigner, alien, or a person from another tribe who was prohibited from entering the temple, stops and turns back and “prostrated” (v. 16) himself. Being reduced by his overwhelming of thanksgiving, the man fell onto the ground, with a “loud voice” the healed man gave thanks and glorified God. The one who would have been barred from the temple stops, drops to the ground overcome with gratitude, and worships Christ.
Jesus tells the man that he is now made well (v. 19), meaning that his faithfulness has fully reconciled the man before God. It was not that the man ran to the temple, telling everyone of how he had been healed by the Son of God that reconciled the man, but instead it was his faithfulness and gratitude expressed towards God. The man’s thankfulness was directly tied to the man’s faithfulness, and ultimately to being reconciled with God.
This year, Thanksgiving is a little more special for Allison and I. A wise retired, tattooless, Lutheran Navy Chaplain told me that a child, our Camden, is a “gift on loan from God”. The emotion of being healed that the Samaritan leper must have felt is the same emotion that I felt when Camden, our gift from God, was born and is the same emotion of thanksgiving that I feel every morning when we start a new day together as a family.
The healed Samaritan had a new lease on life. No longer was he an unclean outcast (Lev. 13). Each new day for this healed man had new meaning. The same is true for me. Each new day is a another day to watch Camden grow and learn new things. Each day will be a chance for me to teach my little momma’s boy how to be a man. Each day is a new day for me to play with him, to care for him, and for us to grow together as a family. Each day is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift that has been entrusted to Allison and I. This year, Thanksgiving is a little more special for my family.
My hope and prayer is that each of us will pause over the coming week and give thanks. Giving thanks to God for the blessings entrusted to us. Giving thanks to God for healing and strength. Giving thanks to God for another year with friends and family. But most of all, giving thanks that it is through the healing offered to us through Jesus that we might be fully reconciled before God. Amen.
How many churches, and those of us who work in youth ministries, get the itch every now and then to work on “branding” our ministry, or really get our name out there? I know I am guilty of it. What can we call our youth group? Last fall, my colleague and I came up with “YChurch!”. Y for youth and for the question.
There are multiple churches along Fort Hunt Road in Alexandria, VA. Each flavor of protestantism is there: Baptists (x2), Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians. And at the beginning of every school year we all advertise on form or another of a back-to-school, end-of-summer, fall-kickoff party. These usually have a few inflatable games, lots of food, and some form of music.
Brian Kirk, professor at Eden Theological Seminary, argues that churches who do this, who attempt to brand their youth ministries with special game nights, junk food at every event, and even catchy names are following the lead that many fast food companies use to target teens. He says, “Church use these same tactics in a way that undermines our own efforts to offer teens an authentic, transparent, and mature experience of the gospel.”
Fast food companies target consumers with flashy advertising, sugar and fat infused foods, and endless promotions, all in an effort to target consumers. Kirk cites an article from Psychology Today that makes the point that fast food chains do more than target our taste buds, but in fact have studied the way teens brains work and know exactly what appeals to teenage consumers.
Fast food and teenagers go hand-in-hand. Last month, on our way back from serving dinner in D.C., three teenagers in my car wanted to stop at McDonald’s. So we did, and in less than 5 minutes the three teenagers inhaled 60 mcnuggets.
Are we doing the same thing in our youth ministries? Are we infusing our programs with promotions, fat and sugar, and catchy logos in an effort to compete with all of the other activities competing for teenagers?
Think about it, sports teams have their logos and slogans, and so do the dance teams and music groups teeangers participate in. These are the same groups we (those in youth ministry) compete with on a day-to-day basis. According to Kirk, the “if we can’t beat them, why not join them” mentality that many of us have is beginning to take hold in many youth ministry settings.
If we water down our youth programs to be another flavor of the week we are doing exactly what Kirk described as undermining “our own efforts to offer teens an authentic, transparent, and mature experience of the gospel”. We are manipulating not only our programs but teens “brains in a way that ultimately distracts from our goal of engaging teens in meaningful faith”. Some of the best experiences I have had in youth ministry has been in the less scripted, more hands-on service opportunities and discussions with teenagers. It was not the moon-bounce or cool logo that opened a dialogue about faith and how Christianity is just as relevant on Sunday morning as it is in the lunch room on Wednesdays at school.
Implications for Youth Ministry
The challenge for those of us in youth ministry is to attract teens while not manipulating them or the Gospel in an effort to get them in the door. Kirk closes his article in Patheos with this:
“But why not use all this knowledge of the brain in a different way? Why not brand our youth ministries in such a way that teens see them clearly as places where we speak against injustice, welcome all, serve the needy, and center ourselves in love? Why not stimulate the brain’s desire for novelty by confronting teens with Jesus’ upside down view of the world where all are cared for and there are no outsiders? Why not challenge the teen brain’s desire to be satiated with fat and sugar by offering a different lifestyle—one centered in seeing what is really important in life and how sometimes doing without the things we crave might open the possibility of others having what they need to live.”
These are the questions that we need to address in our ministry settings. Parents, volunteers, as well as paid-staff need to work together to decide how we want to engage teens and how we go about doing so in an age of advertising that is telling us to constantly reinvent our programs and to be the newest flavor of the week.
Maybe Kirk is right in his idea that this could be a contributing factor to why teens leave the church once they have graduated high school. They come to the realization that the fat and sugar infused, over-processed programs are not spiritually satisfying to them.
You can read the rest of Brian Kirk’s article, Fast Food Youth Ministry, here.
There is a short list of things that annoy the living crap out of me. Allison not refilling the toilet paper, having to show Jason how to use the internet, the lack of parking in my neighborhood, any grocery store on Saturday OR Sunday, and door-to-door sales people… just to name a few.
With the invention of the internet I really do not see the need for this occupation anymore. No, I do not want a magazine subscription. No, I do not want to purchase a 6 month supply of pre-packaged chicken. If another security company comes to my door asking if my family’s safety is a priority they will need some safety!
On Monday when I arrived home from school I found a Jehovah’s Witness brochure sitting on my coffee table. Usually these types of brochure, along with Chinese take-out menus, go directly into our recycling bin. They barely make it through the front door. Come to think of it, I should just take them in through the garage door. I sat down on the couch, kicked off my shoes, and read the brochure.
“Can the dead really live again?” was on the title page.
“Where did this come from?” I asked Allison. Allison told me a woman approached her as she was parking in our driveway.
The woman asked if Allison knew her savior. Allison replied with yes (I am sure it was very enthusiastic) and the woman invited Allison to church. Allison informed the woman that she already attended a church and when prompted with the questions of what kind, Allison responded with “Methodist”.
The woman proceeded to role her eyes and then walk away.
Disclaimer: You should know that I do not think door-to-door evangelism works. This is different from inviting a neighbor to church, which I know for a fact does work. But a stranger coming to your door, offering you a brochure that was designed in the 70′s is not the best way to spread the Gospel (in my opinion).
At first when Allison told me about her encounter I brushed it off and we went on to eat dinner. Later I began to think about the story. And I thought, this is a prime example of the judging behavior that Christians are getting a bad rap for. I am not looking for a debate on whether or not Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons are “real” Christians. But what Allison’s encounter with the door-to-door evangelist is an example of is exactly why I loathed any form of door-to-door salesmanship, religious or commercial.
This door-to-door evangelist should have been thrilled that this young woman, carrying a small child, was connected with a church and that this young child would be growing up learning about Jesus.
This door-to-door evangelist could have asked about Allison’s experiences in the church or how Allison came to know Jesus.
This door-to-door evangelist could have done a lot of things, but rolling her eyes was not one of them. The flyer given to Allison had a lot of scripture quoted in it along with bullet point talking-points illustrating eternal life and salvation through Christ. What this door-to-door evangelist forgot was that judgement is reserved for Christ.
What this door-to-door evangelist forgot was that if you want to convert someone or perhaps invite that person to visit your congregation, judgement is the last thing that will make a mother and her child or anyone for that matter feel welcome.
What have you been your experiences with door-to-door evangelists? Do they work? Were you converted by someone knocking on your door?
On Sunday night I joined a group of volunteers from Aldersgate to prepare bologna sandwiches and serve dinner to the homeless in D.C. We packed up brown bag lunches, pasta, and hot tea before we headed north.
There are two locations in where dinner was served. At the second location a woman approached me and one of the youth who I was serving with, Anna. She handed us each a small clementine orange. Thinking nothing of it, I put the orange in my pocket and returned to distributing bagged lunches. The woman returned a few minutes later handing out cucumbers. I thought “ok, this is a little weird”. Then I looked over at Anna, we exchanged a smile and returned to our work.
Finally, the woman returned a third time and handed each of us, all of the volunteers, a Thanksgiving greeting card, and this is when I took a moment to pause.
I looked over at Anna and said, “did you ever think we would find the Gospel in a clementine, cucumber, Thanksgiving card, and bologna sandwich?” Anna responded with her signature smile and returned to dishing out pasta.
It is easy to say that we see the face of Christ, or experience the presence of God while serving a stranger. It is even easier when that stranger is homeless or lives in poverty. But what happens when the roles are reversed, when we lower our guard enough to allow ourselves to be served? This is exactly what Anna and I experienced on Sunday evening. The simple act of handing me a greeting card turned the tables, Anna and I went from being the ones serving to the one served.
Mark 10.45 says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. So in this instance, through the reversal of roles neither Anna nor I would not have predicted, we found Christ in the face of woman, a stranger, as well as a clementine, a cucumber, and greeting card.
Implications for Youth Ministry
There are certain things that can be taught in a classroom. We can teach the the foundations of Christian faith with relatively no problem. We can play games, enjoy fellowship, and pray with one another without ever leaving the confines of our churches or homes. But to experience Christ, to experience Christ through another person we have to get out of comfortable youth rooms. Anna and I would have never experienced this form of grace had we been hunkered down in our church.
To experience the world through the eyes of teens we have to be with them. Whether that is visiting a football game or serving alongside them. Here is where we have the ability to not only show them what the face of Christ looks like, but we also have the opportunity to experience it with one another.
On Tuesday night Allison and I went out on the town in D.C. We dropped Camden off with his aunt and headed to Chinatown. Our destination was Calvary Baptist Church on 8th Street to hear Rev. Nadia-Bolz Weber speak (I know, a crazy night on the town, right?!). Nadia is the pastor of a congregation, House For All Sinners and Saints, in Denver, CO. She is definitely not what you typically think of when you think of a Lutheran pastor.
We arrived just as the house music was ending. The program began with a few readings from Nadia’s (I feel that I can refer to Nadia as Nadia because I feel as though I know her better than I know many of my friends, even though we did not actually meet on Tuesday) memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint.
Two things from these readings stood out to me.
One, Nadia said that theology should be done in the first person, meaning that everyone in the church (and outside the church for that matter) who has ever spoken of God is a theologian. We all have the ability, and the authority, to speak of God. This means we are all able to speak of how God engages us, about how we see God engaging the world, and also questioning where God is when we see pain and suffering. I think this is a full embrace of the priesthood of all believers.
Two, in describing her experiences during her stint in CPE (which is loathed by seminarians) as a hospital chaplain she was told her job was to, “be aware of God’s presence in the room.” For me, and I am sure for many, I do not always know what to do or feel comfortable in a pastoral counseling situation.
When someone loses a family member or needs to talk but there are no words to say, I often find myself searching for what to do. The simple task of being aware of God’s presence in the room, being aware of the work of the Holy Spirit can have profound implications on not only the lives of those whom we are called to minister to but also for ourselves.
The conversation shifted half-way through the evening when the pastor of Calvary Baptist, Amy Butler, along with National Journal’s Amy Sullivan (a member of Calvary Baptist Church) to discuss ministry from the perspectives of two urban pastors. Questions were submitted from the audience via Twitter with the hashtag #NadiaAndAmy. No topic was off the table.
The two pastors discussed being a welcoming congregation versus toning down their denominational theology or dumbing down the faith. Both pastor agreed that toning down their beliefs to make new members comfortable did a disservice not only to the community as a whole but to the new member as well.
There were a few lighthearted moments. Nadia mentioned, when referring to contemporary praise music, “that shit is awful”, and referred to denominational reports as a “soul sucking activity”.
From a selling indulgence bake sale to using a traditional Lutheran liturgy, Nadia showed that you can in fact be an “old school” congregation while still maintaining relevancy within your community, something that I think all churches should think about.
Personally, I did not grow up in a church that utilized a traditional liturgy. We had an order of service that was used each week but there was no connection (outside outside of the Lord’s Prayer) that connected us with the saints before us. I am coming around to the use of liturgy. Previously I had viewed it as out of date, irrelevant, and obsolete. But after hearing Nadia and Amy speak Tuesday night, as well as experiencing liturgy in other communities I am beginning to think its time to give it another try.
I leave you with a few quotes from the evening that I thought were either hilarious or extremely thought provoking. I will let you determine which category they each fall into.
“A graduate degree from a seminary is like a degree from Hogwarts.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
“Everyone should have an equal opportunity to be uncomfortable in church.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
“We must be deeply rooted in tradition to be innovate effectively.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
“We have a marketing problem.” – Amy Butler
“all I have are my fishnets and will for working” – I come to the Lakeshore
“Clergy shouldn’t try to be people they’re not.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
“Foamy condoms” – Nadia Bolz-Weber, referring to the foamy condoms on lapel microphones
There is a culture within high schools (and even middle schools) that most parents are unaware of, and if they are aware of it they either ignore it or assume their child “knows better”. Through social media (Facebook and Twitter) and smart-phone apps, teenagers are now moving into a world where “hooking up” is the norm, and being friends with benefits is preferred over simply being friends. Through apps like Snapchat, Tinder, Grindr, Blendr, and even old fashion text messaging, teens are now able to solicit one another for a quick hook up.
It should be no surprise that teenagers today have been exposed to more internet pornography, as well as established expectations through TV and the fashion industry that tells them that sex sells and if you want to get ahead in life then you better be ready to play the game. We need to look no further than the performance of Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMA awards as an example of this message.
The over-sexualization of teenage girls is a systemic problem that will have long lasting implications. Livescience.com reported that, “The authors (of the study) suggest that the media or moms who sexualize women may predispose girls toward objectifying themselves; then, the other factor (mom or media) reinforces the messages, amplifying the effect.”
A recent article in Vanity Fair brought even more light to this topic. “We don’t date; we just hook up” said a teenage girl to Nancy Jo Sales. Facilitating all of this is the fact that 81 percent of teens are active on social media and teens spend on average 11 hours per day connected to an electronic device (cell phone, tablet, laptop).
“There are so many apps and shit that just, like, hand you girls.” This response from a teenage boy is an example of what Sales described as a world where “boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers.”
My immediate concern here is twofold. One, teenage girls no longer see themselves a children of worth, meaning that they are loved by a God who is greater than any pickup line they receive via text message. Two, teenage boys have missed the point. They now see girls as an end to a means. If they cannot get what they are looking for from a girl they move on the next girl in their history class.
Teenage girls and boys are being manipulated into believing that they find their worth in the physical acts of the hook up culture, rather than finding worth in one another as equal parts of creation and loved by their creator.
When prompted a teen in the Vanity Fair article said, “social media is destroying our lives”. When she was asked why she then continues to use it her response was, “because then we would have no life”. But there is life outside of social media hookups and selfies. Jesus offers us a new way of life. A way of life where we do not have to be concerned with the unrealistic expectations that can be placed on us as a result of the hook up culture and a media culture that tells us “sex sells”.
Implications for Youth Ministry
This is where youth ministry has the ability to step in and set the record straight. Whether it is stepping up and saying that the picture a young lady posts is inappropriate (explaining why, and not simply saying she looks like a “slut”) or emphasizing that each of us are created in the image of our creator and thus we are of great worth in the eyes of God, and because of this we do not have to find our worth in the prevailing hook up culture.
Teenage boys need mentors. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the mentors that stepped up and showed me what it meant to be man. I am not saying that I have a perfect track record or that I was a perfect teenager. I was not. But what I am saying is that, especially for teenage boys, youth ministry settings have an opportunity here to set the record straight and to fight back against this culture that is taking off like wildfire in our communities.
You can read the entire Vanity Fair article here.
Today is All Saints Day. Traditionally, this is the day where Christians remember those who have passed over the last year and reflect upon those lives. Methodists traditionally celebrate this day of remembrance on the first Sunday of November.
Pope Gregory III moved the day of remembrance from May 13, which was established by Pope Boniface IV in 609 or 610), to November 1 in order to remember all “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”
There are two times where I can remember experiencing the sting of death: the death of my grandfather, Lt Col. Dal T Hardy, and the death of Lori Shipley. I have attended funerals for co-workers as well as members of our faith community but these are the two times I can remember (and still feel) the sting that death has.
There are two things I will always remember about my granddad: his cooking and love of photography. My granddad could cook! And what I mean that is, being a native Texan, he could grill up a steak better than anyone I know (sorry Mike & Justin). He could go to the butcher and get the thickest steaks he could find and grill them to perfection, and would do so every chance he got.
Granddad spoiled his grandkids. Whether it was the toys or video games mom and dad would not get us or taking us to the “green park” anytime we wanted, he always made us the center of attention when were around. I can remember him taking me to Fort Belvoir or to Quantico to get a hair cut as a kid.
My granddad loved to take photographs. We actually do not have many photos of him because he was always the one behind the camera. Every year our church would have a Christmas pageant and every year my grandfather would be along the balcony of the fellowship hall with his VHS video camera (I am including a link for what a VHS tape is for those who missed the 90’s). I would like to think that we started the trend of crazy parents video-taping Christmas pageants and soccer games.
Lori Shipley was the second mother I never asked for, and I was the son she never wanted. She and her husband, Greg, were instrumental in ensuring that I stayed on the right track in high school. Not only was Lori a dear friend, she was also my Sunday school teacher. Which in hindsight, allows me to partially blame her for my call to ministry.
The memory that of Lori that I will carry forever is during Advent of 2001. In Sunday School that morning we had learned what the word Emmanuel means (God with us). Later at the 11:00 service, Rev. Bob Manthey turned around to the youth choir and asked if any of us knew what the word meant as he was preaching. Of course, all 20 of us looked back with blank stares and then felt the glaring stare from Lori. I will never forget the way Lori welcomed us to Sunday School the following week as we discussed Emmanuel AGAIN, and we continued our discussion of the word for the entire hour we were together.
Who are you remember on this All Saints Day? What impact did they have on your life and what will you always remember about them?
In July of 2012 a young man was asked not to participate in his church’s youth programs. According to the letter written by the boy’s father, the young man was not hurting any other students in the group nor was he damaging church property. The self-described “non-conformist” family no longer fit in with the new model for youth ministry that the congregation was pursuing.
Here is part of the father’s response:
“Your son is messing up Sunday School for all the normal children. Something has to be done.” On the day of the pronouncement, the Father of the Quirky Family was trying to figure out how to not to run screaming in fear from all the broken-ness in himself and the rest of the Quirky Family. The last thing he needed was a new problem that needed to be monitored and managed.
So the Five Dimensional Son was no longer welcome in Sunday School. He grows up from pre-teen to adult never stepping inside church again. This church just had no way to be a good place for the Quirky Family under stress, it could not offer itself as a safe place, it needed to be safe for the together people, a place that accomplishes goals, more than it needed to be a safe place for the strange people.
This young man, as admitted by his father, was distracting but does this constitute banning him from future youth activities? Does this behavior constitute shunning the young man and his family for youth ministry within this congregation? What message does this send to other students in the group: shape up or ship out?
Beyond the obvious UMC taglines, “open hearts, open doors…” what are the underlying issues here? Theologically there are some issues. Jesus welcomed all to come to him. Jesus reached out to those who were outcasts from their communities. Jesus healed those people that the temple priests refused to minister to.
Implications For Youth Ministry
In this case, did the part-time volunteer do the right thing? Personally, if the student does not want to be a part of the group, and is disruptive (while not physically hurting anyone), the student probably should reevaluate their participation in the group. This is where parents and volunteers or staff can step in a mediate the situation before it escalates to banning the student from a church activity. I’m sure that when I was in youth group as a kid I was disruptive and asked to leave the group for the evening but I was not removed from the group indefinitely. If the same approach had been taken in this example I might not have found this story on multiple blogs.
It is important to remember that in this case we are only reading one account of the story. Which is another implication for youth ministry. When a breakdown occurs or a situation arises we must look at all angles of the situation before making a decision. It seems in this case the youth worker was on the defensive and not taking proactive steps to mediate the situation.
You can read the father’s letter here: http://toyblog.typepad.com/lemon/2012/07/the-day-they-kicked-my-son-out-of-sunday-school.html