I’m Back… and The Haps

My lack of posting isn’t helping drive my blogging success.

Sorry readers, life with two little ones, and feeling a little off-center aren’t the greatest motivators for me to post content. My sincerest apologies.

I’ve decided that I will start blogging again. How often will I post? I’m not sure, but I think this is important. So there. I’m back.

Here are a few links to cool things happening:

Open Seattle: Here’s a shameless plug. I’m working along side The Youth Cartel to host Open this year. I’m excited to see how this turns out. If you are in the area and thinking about signing-up, do it!

The Summit: I’m a fan of what Adam and Marko are doing. They are seeking to think deeply about issues of youth ministry. I’m not going this year, but I thought I would plug there event anyway since it will probably be amazing!

 

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Open Seattle

I’m behind in posting this. I have been a little preoccupied by the birth of our second daughter, not to mention a little sleep deprived.

The Youth Cartel announced Open Seattle last month. This is exciting news! First, because the Northwest will finally get to play host to a youth ministry specific event. Second, because I have been working with Adam and others to help make Open a possibility, and now it is going to happen.

Back in the Fall, Adam McLane approached me with his Open manifesto, and asked me what I thought. I loved it. We talked, and it seemed to us that Seattle would be the perfect place to try something like this out. Since we launched the website, we have been getting a lot of good feedback, along with a desire to see Open in other cities. This is so encouraging.

I have felt for many years, that ideas have always come from “the top.” From those that have the experience, the degrees, etc. I have also felt that sometimes we can best learn from one another. There are so many innovative ideas out there, and in a ever shifting culture we need more than ever to hear from those in the trenches.

What I love most about the philosophy behind Open is that it really is just that, open. There isn’t going to be a lot of flash, just an opportunity to get together and share ideas with each other.There will be room for dialog, and feedback to presenters. Best of all, it’s cheap ($25)!

What is my role with Open Seattle? I’m a host and the MC for the day. I’m honored to be playing an active role with Open. I believe this event is going to be a lot of fun, and I believe it will start a movement of collaborative innovation within youth ministry (yep, I have high hopes).

If you are thinking about being one of our speakers, you can submit a proposal here. Deadline for speaker proposals is June 1.

I can’t wait to hear from our speakers. I’m excited to engage on a different level with youth workers of all kinds from around the Northwest and beyond. I hope we get a bit edgy. I hope we have honest dialog together. Most of all, I hope we have a lot of fun with this!

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The Family Based Ministry Model: Some Initial Thoughts

A short film was released last year that I’m sure many of you saw called “Divided“. It took some of the research that has come out about teenagers, that many of them are walking away from the church after high school. It appears the intention of the film was to shoot holes into youth ministry as it is now. Despite that this documentary is presumptuous at best, and lacks a real theological and biblical basis, it seems now everyone is scrambling to try to come up with new ministry models to fix the problem (to clarify, this is not based on this documentary alone). A model that is rising above the rest is a movement to “family based ministry.” Even more recently, conferences have been created based on this model, books on how to effectively reach and disciple families, and churches are even creating new job titles based on a “new” model of ministry. As a result there is discouragement among many youth workers, and looks as though lines are now being drawn, dividing youth workers, and creating some hostility. As I’ve been watching this unfold I’m I have some initial thoughts.

1) This is part of the change, and I think it’s healthy. We have been talking for years about how youth ministry is shifting, and the models that are currently being used are not working. Marko mentioned a number of years ago at NYWC that youth ministry is failing. He’s right, something must change! There is a time for action, and churches are exploring ways of changing things. This is good.

2) There is no need get too excited about this. We all need to take a deep breath, and realize that this is not the end of youth ministry. Because we recognize a problem, there are going to arise many solutions. God has gifted us with brains, and creativity. We have the ability to use them for His glory. If we get to upset over things we disagree with, that only distracts us from our work.

3) It’s still all about Jesus. No matter how we go about it, the goal of the church is to proclaim the Gospel. End of story.

At this point, though I have many questions and challenges to the “family ministry model,” it’s still young enough that I don’t feel I can give an honest opinion. Let me be clear, I’m not for, or against this model, I just wanted to offer some of my initial thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Here is a link to a video from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary that got me thinking. Watch it here.

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A Movement to Youth Advocacy: A Parable

Shortly after I arrived at my first full-time job as a youth pastor I was told that “youth Sunday” was coming up, and I needed to help the students come up with the program for the morning service. Looking back, I’m not even sure how youth Sunday became a tradition, or who decided it would be a good idea (probably some attempt at intergenerational community) Anyway, it is still roaming around out there I’m sure.

I digress… back to my story.

At the time, there were a lot of changes taking place at our small church. The Senior Pastor wanted the youth ministry to be the best thing around, and honestly, so did I. I thought it would be cool to launch a weekly Church service for youth. After all, that is what Saddleback Church was doing, and I thought that was the best model for us too. So we came up with the idea of making our youth Sunday service a model for our new weekly youth service. I planned, I cast vision to my students, I planned some more; it would blow everyone out of the water! Novel, experiential, communal, biblical, I felt good about it for sure. The night before our service I gathered the students together to prep for the service. That’s when it all fell apart. The chairs didn’t set up quite the way we wanted them too. The worship band was having a major communication breakdown. Not to mention there was a conflict with my wife and a couple of mischievous Senior High guys who thought it would be funny to huddle around the bathroom door and stare at her as she came out. Tensions were so high it was palpable. We tried very hard to work through the struggles of that night, and the service went off without a hitch. My pastor informed me later that the board was very pleased. I was not. That experience set off a chain of events that lead to more, and more conflict between me, and my students. It became plain to me that I was pushing for something they did not want. At the same time I felt pressure to perform by my pastor and my board. The relationships I had built with my students were compromised. My students felt like I was not listening to them.  At the same time I wanted to things to look good. I thought I knew what a successful youth ministry looked like, and felt I needed to get it there, faster than it would take to foster relationships. I look back on that moment as a mistake that I will never make again. I will never compromise the relationship I have with my students for the desires of running a successful program, or youth ministry.

I look back on that experience and wish that I had done one of two things. First, I should have put aside my program plans to truly engage with my students. It was, after all, their service. Why was I so afraid of letting them plan the service how they thought it should go? Second, I could have stood up and said no, on their behalf. It felt to me that youth Sunday was just something that the church did, without really thinking through the purpose behind it. It was an awkward tradition that felt forced, and perhaps cultivated a culture of separation between the youth and the adults in our Church. Needless to say, I could have been a better advocate for me students. Instead I distanced myself, giving way to a false notion that I know what’s best for my students, instead of nurturing and cultivating a community where students can grow, and practice their faith. My intentions were good. Our intentions are good. However, if we want students to own their faith, perhaps we should think ourselves not just as “youth workers,” but “youth advocates.” (More on this later)

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A Work in Progress

clipart via creative commons HT ryanlerch

The Left Coast Youth Worker is a work in progress. As you can see, I’ve been moving a little slowly in adding and posting content. I hope to get in a healthy habit of posting soon. In the mean time check out my “about pages” to get a feel of what this blog is going to be about. Hope to see you around the inter web soon.

Jonas

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Shifting

Over the last year, I have realized something: God has not called me to youth ministry. For the last ten years or so, that is what I thought. I thought that youth ministry was my calling. The only thing that I could do, and if I tried to do something else God wouldn’t let me do it.

Call it a quarter-life crisis if you will, but over the last month or so I have had to wrestle with some serious questions. Without going in to tons of detail. I believe I have come out of the other side of this with a few thoughts.

First of all, I am not called to youth ministry, God is calling me to Himself. It’s not about what I do, but who I am as a Christ Follower and a Child of God. This pretty simple, but I am coming to understand what this actually looks like.

Second, I am going to stay put. I love my job, and we are seeing some amazing things happening in the lives of the young people we are working with. I have a team to lead, vision to cast, and experiments to test. My role is shifting, and I am excited about it.

Third, There has been a lot of talk lately about the shifts happening in youth ministry. These are things that I am well aware of, and I am excited to be part of them in my corner of the youth ministry world.

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The Re-launch

The Left Coast Youth Worker is back!

Chances are, you probably never knew it was gone. That’s ok, I’m glad you’re here. I know there’s not much to look at now, but keep coming back, and you may find yourself subscribing to another Youth Ministry blog. In the mean time, check out the “About” page and prepare to engage, find encouragement, and get inspired.

Why did LCYW go away? Well, it’s complicated, but I needed a break from youth ministry blogging. I think that sometimes we get so enveloped by youth ministry that the last thing you want to do is blog about it. I’ve come full circle, and my hope is that this blog will not be more white noise, but something refreshing and different. I can’t do this alone. As the reader, I need your engagement. I know you have ideas too. Send them my way, and lets see what we can do together! Thanks for reading.

Grace and Peace,

Jonas

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