Correcting some misconceptions

As I’ve talked with more and more people about attractional youth ministry and my own reasons for striving to find a different–better–way of doing ministry with students I’ve realized something. When I say I don’t like attractional youth ministry, or I have misgivings about it, or I’m concerned that it puts the focus on the wrong things what people tend to hear is, “I don’t want fun.”

This is actually furthest from the case. Fun–whatever form that takes–is a vital part of a healthy church, and a healthy youth ministry. Sure, if the only thing we ever do is “fun,” and we never do Bible study, or prayer or service then we’re missing the fullness of things (I should be quick to note that all of those things can and should be “fun,”). The problem isn’t with having fun, the problem is with replacing Jesus and his kingdom with fun.

One of the most successful youth ministries I have ever been a part of spent huge amounts of time being together, hanging out, talking, playing games, walking around town, going to a family’s cabin, playing games, going out to eat, going to movies, and playing games. These kinds of “social” times weren’t merely fun for us, but they allowed us to build trust with one another and enter into shared life–what we might call, community–on a very regular basis. The point of this stuff, however, was not to attract new students to the ministry. The point was for the Body of Christ to live life together.

As I told a student recently, regardless of how they might feel, the last thing their friend wants or needs is more fun. What their friend needs and wants (even if they aren’t at a place to articulate this yet) is something that goes beyond a culture that demands we be concerned with getting ahead. Jesus offers that. We need to stop being embarrassed by the counter-cultural nature of Jesus. At the same time, this isn’t to say that one should never spend time simply hanging out and being together. That is as much a part of enacting Jesus’ mission on earth as studying the Bible, praying or building homes; in our over-stressed and over-worked society, time to simply relax and be together is a vital spiritual practice.

Fractal Theory and Youth Ministry

Paul brings up an interesting topic. To be completely honest, I felt a little bit like I was in an episode of Numb3rs–but that isn’t a bad thing–as I was reading his post. You should click on the link above and read Paul’s post too.

Paul makes an fascinating observation that the way we begin our individual programs is often analogous to how we begin and end our program years. This makes me wonder, a little, because we’ve made a small change to our midweek middle school program: we no longer start with a game. Of course, we didn’t do a big kickoff this year either. Maybe there is something to his observation. But what I’d like to spend some time interacting with is the final question Paul poses: what does it mean if we break the pattern and do something different simply to change things up?

I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of change for the sake of change. Sometimes it’s needed, and I acknowledge that, but at the end of the day I think the changes we make really need to be more purposeful than that. For instance, we noticed in our midweek program that the game, far from allowing our middle school students to get the jitters out, actually tended to get them more wound up. It didn’t set the right tone for our time together, which we wanted to be more about being together and talking. The change came out of a process of asking what we could do to set the tone better.

We chose not to do a large kickoff for different reasons. Our ministry has, in the past, been quite attractional. We are currently transitioning to what will hopefully be a more contemplative and open ministry. This takes time. The choice not to do a big kickoff was partly due to this and partly to a related issue that we wanted to help students begin to sense a rhythm to our week. In this regard, I suppose, a kickoff would have set the wrong tone for our year. Maybe the similarities really are there. But either way neither of the changes was made for the sake of change.

Having read Paul’s blog for awhile, I doubt that he’s really proposing that we make a bunch of changes just to make changes. I sometimes wonder if we don’t need more major changes in the realm of youth ministry. But I want all of those changes to be made for a reason. It is an interesting observation Paul has made, however, and I’ll probably end up inadvertently analyzing each of our programs over the next week or so and seeing how they fall into or don’t fall into this pattern.

Blog Meme

Oh, I’ve been tagged friends. Tagged not once, but twice! Both Adam and Kevin have done an incredible job of coming up with post titles that I could see myself writing. I laughed at both of them for a good five minutes. So, here are the rules for this meme.

1. Tag five Biblical studies bloggers.
2. Invent fictional posts that they might have written over the last month.
3. Link to the original meme post at Lingamish.

Earl Barnett at earlbarnett.com – “I’ve read another book by Alister McGrath, and you should too!”
Art Boulet at finitum non capax infiniti – “How [insert recent happening with the Red Sox] sheds light on Louis Ginzberg’s classic collection Legends of the Jews.”
Dr. George Snyder Jr. at The Rabbi – “I, Jeremiah…”

That, I’m afraid, will have to do. I don’t know any other Biblical studies bloggers who have not already been tagged.

A bit of news

I’m taking this week off from thinking (aside from work related things), so don’t expect blog posts of any substance unless I get a sudden and unexpected urge to actually use the gray matter contained inside my cranium. Much like Eric I intend to read fiction (currently the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn cycle by Tad Williams), play games (specifically Tales of Symphonia, and if I finish it I’ll possibly start Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits), drink coffee (which isn’t really a departure from normal. I’m currently brewing a fine Harrar and will probably crack open some Kona by the end of the week), and conquer the world with Mandy in Civilization IV. I’ll perhaps emerge from this cocoon of hedonism in roughly a week when I begin preparing for my Intermediate Greek class in Summer I, and finish up my Semlink.

But that’s not the reason that I even began this post. In my meanderings this morning I found this article on CNN.com. Roland Martin often has some interesting things to say, in my opinion; I thought his take on the whole Rev. Wright thing was fascinating (that, and I’m a karma whore).

Wii Friend Code

I realized today that I have never given out my Wii Friend Code. So, since I know there are at least a few of my readers who now have Wiis, here ya go: 0286 5016 1201 9524

I’ll be expecting to receive yours as well. I’m always up for a game of Mario Strikers Charged.