Monday, May 30, 2011

Why do you do youth ministry?

At dinner the other night, a friend asked me, “Why do you do youth ministry”? I sat there and was thinking about it and the answer came fairly quickly.

I do youth work, because as a teenager my church and my youth pastor in high school made me feel relevant, important, and valued by my church family. I felt that I was not the future of the church, but important to the church and useful even as a younger member. I realize that my pastor, like our previous youth pastor (also my boss now) knew youth are not the future of the church, but the present and that we can not look to youth as just future leaders, but as leaders.

I thought about this more today as I sat the walk in closet in my wife and my bedroom. You see last week, the present closet racks we had decided to leap off the wall. Now I could have sat on the decision to take on a closet redesign and just put the racks we had back up on the wall with stronger drywall anchors. I say I could have, but my wife and I had this discussion earlier this spring about designing and having closet shelves installed with new racks.

Why do I tell you about my newest home improvement project? Because if I had never been trusted as a teen to go to the Mountains of Appalachia and learn home repair projects for the Appalachia Service Project and work with adults who trusted me, I may have never taken on this project. I would have probably been like many people and just hung them back on the wall and taken the easy way out, but I didn’t because I believed I could do it.

Last year one of my youth decided college was not for him. That instead he thought he would follow his desire to join the military. He wanted to follow his dream to join the infantry. He wanted to serve his country and while mom may have had some reservations, she trusted he knew what he wanted. He knew that people trusted him and that after his training people would trust them with his life. This was from years of being involved of the swim team and having adults in his life who helped him trust his decision.

Another case is a youth who has joined our council. She works to show the entire congregation that teens are not just future leaders. That the church trusted her to make decisions that affected everyone in the church.

We just had Youth Sunday on May 15, 2011. Not only did we have teens running every aspect of the 7:45 AM and 9 AM services, but this was the first year of our Youth Band. These 14 young people reworked and learned 3 songs for the service and impressed the congregation so much they have already invited the band to play “Sweet Home Upper Dublin” on Confirmation Sunday.

So, as I look around I see all the things youth are doing and proving that youth are the present part of the church and I believe the entire church is doing youth work without realizing it. I know that we will keep seeing all those youth who have been empowered will become youth workers by just being the adults that the church modeled for them as youth.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Technoliday...Do we all need one?

So last night my wife and I were getting ready for dinner. I mention I would like to see what is on TV so I sit down at the laptop she was working on in the kitchen, log in to Facebook and start reading. I then get up to do some things at the stove and she asks "so when did checking what is on TV equal logging into facebook?

I froze and thought, TV. I wanted to see what was on TV!!!! Why did I log into facebook. She then floated that we may need to put a stop to all the time we get sucked out of life with these types of things.

I immediately say, "oh it is not that bad." Then 10 minute later, was downstairs with my laptop open, my XBOX on (playing Black Ops online if it must be known), with my cell phone next to me, while she streamed a show on the desktop and I started thinking...SHE IS RIGHT.

Now, before you all send this to my wife and she prints it for use later in life, I should preface this by saying, my wife is at genius level intelligence. Literally, not like oh she is genius, but like super smart and has amazing art abilities. If this were Italy during the Renaissance, she would be hanging with DiVinci asking what is up with the dead body in the other room. So, for her to be right is not really an odd occurrence, but pretty much an everyday occurrence at our home.

Now, as I moved on from quietly mulling this over and on my 40th game of bejeweled on Facebook, I start thinking...What could I gave done in the last 40 minutes if I was not sitting with a computer in my lap. At very least, I could have sat with Deena and watched TV.

So now, about 13 hours later (8:15 AM EDT for those who need details), I sit thinking what would i be able to give up and what kind of sense of emotional, psychological, and physical pain would it cause me and do I really feel I can do it? I know, many people realize my ability to cut FB or email out of my life is almost impossible, but I think I could do it. The problem is, can I cut it out and then come back to a less frequent usage and not have a sense of loss for the time I have given it in my life.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not anti-Facebook or technology all of a sudden, I am just realizing how much communication I do only digital and how little in person I do and wondering how healthy that is?

As a youth director for UDLC, I am constantly saying "ok, cell phones away." or "Please stop texting" or "if I see that again I will hold it till we are done" and in the past this was just for texting, but now it is facebook updates, tweets, games, photos, video streaming, and music. I mean these young people have what Star Trek was only dreaming of in the 1960's. Yet, I know the technology is important and to them is the umbilical cord to their social lives, but I ask how healthy is it?

* How healthy is it when we read about people texting up to a housemate, spouse, or child on the upper level of a house or the same floor asking them to do something.

* How healthy is it that youth spend more time relating over facebook than carrying on real conversations?

* How healthy is it that youth and younger generations (and some older) now expect immediate satisfaction or information or answer because of Google or Bing or any Wikipedia?

* Why has it become so important to have to reach someone at anytime, anywhere, for anything? Why is leaving a message not good enough?

Now granted there are great things coming from online personalities. Reclusive people and introverts, may be able to express or share more in the written form and I mean who sends cards or notes anymore? People with communication challenges are able to be a part of an online community with everyone else, but is that also taking the burden from learning about their challenges easier for the masses?

I don't have answers, I just have more questions and follow ups. I just wonder if opening this dialogue and personal experiment may show how instead of only helped, how much technology and always being plugged in HINDERS us from each other and the world around us.