It was finally here! It was the day I had been looking forward to ever since I started looking to be on a church staff as a paid youth worker. It was my first day on the job, and to make the day even better, we were going to have a staff meeting that day! If you have ever participated in a church staff meeting, you know how disappointed and disillusioned I was in just 90 minutes.
After just a month on the job I started to come to the realization that being a paid youth worker for a church is much more complicated than I first thought. What I envisioned as a job where I was going to be paid to love students and help them love Jesus was actually a job with expectations, politics, meetings, evaluations, and tasks to be assigned by pastor.
With 15 years of vocational youth ministry under my belt, I have come to realize that the great bureaucracy of the church is not the awful boogieman that is thwarting the advancement of the Kingdom. I have watched many of my colleagues get swallowed up by this bureaucracy and become disillusioned. I have seen others attempt to just survive in spite of the bureaucracy. But I am convinced that a youth worker doesn’t have to just survive the inner workings of the Church and attempt to have an impact on students despite all the red tape. Rather if you understand it, the bureaucracy of the church can actually be fertile ground to thrive in.
1) The Church is a Corporation and You Are an Employee:
This was such an interesting election to say the least. Now that there has been time for me and you to collect our whits, I am left with a couple of thoughts that I think are important for the church to come to terms with. And with the church, I mean the suburban white church that I am a part of.
Here is my take away: After all the exit polls and post mortem of the election, I see the election as a choice between two cultures: The Judeo-Christian White Man vs. Those who have been wronged by that culture combined with those who feel bad for those who have been wronged. And for the first time, ever, the Judeo-Christian suburban culture has been rejected by the majority of Americans.
Before you react, think about it for a second. Think about who you voted for and what values you were choosing. Think about all the demographic information we have learned since the election. Think about who you want to cast your lot with? For the first time ever the majority cast their lot against the Judeo-Christian, suburban, middle class, married, white man. And if not him specifically, the culture he represents.
Suburban Christians have lost the Culture War: Now what?
As a true Gen-Xer, I once again find myself angsty as I fully live between two dominant generational movements. I standing in the middle of the evangelical boomers who are beat down after a dramatic ride as spearheading the religious right and the rising millennial evangelicals who are firmly embracing the religious left.
Back in the good ‘ol days the boomer evangelicals realized that they could join forces and become a political powerhouse. The moral majority or the religious right led by James Dobson and others took shape and has been played a major role in the political world for 20+ years. And in the predictable pattern of the pendulum, the next generation of evangelicals have pushed back on the way the religious right used their power and influence to crush, belittle, stereotype, and marginalize those who didn’t agree with their positions. Abortion, Darwinism, and homosexuality were the issues that the religious right took up and made a stand for God and used the power of the government to get others to comply.
For a ton of reasons, the moral majority and the religious right have now gone the way of the dinosaur.
with 2010 wrapping up, i thought i would add my little nugget to the overwhelming verity of top 10 lists. unfortunately i am not clever enough to share the top 10 quotes, or savvy enough to share the top 10 youtube videos, or hip enough to share the top 10 songs.
thankfully, there are plenty of those people out there in the world. but it was an interesting exercise to think about the top 10 media that has shaped me this year. these are the books, movies, commercials, websites, etc, that have actually impacted my thinking and therefore impacted my actions throughout the year. some of these media have dramatically altered the course of my life, and others have simply brought joy. but no matter how significant they are in the grand scheme of things, these are the 10 media that has shaped me over this past year.
1. outliers: the story of success by malcolm gladwell: if i could be anyone, other than my handsome self, i think i would choose gladwell. he is one of the most interesting and thought provoking writers i have ever read. the unique way he approaches the world is amazing. he can see the big picture, he understands the systems, and describes culture in a clever and thoughtful way. outliers is not a new book this year, but it was new to me. he dismantles the story of success. our story is that if you work hard and apply yourself you will succeed. but he unpacks this story and highlights how there are unique cultural stories that shape what success means and then adds historical, social, and economic factors that play into how successful someone can be. it helped me understand some of my professional angst, as well as helped me come up with a plan for change. (if one can actually break out of their historical, cultural, and social settings) we will have to see how this goes in 2011.
2. sustainable youth ministry by mark devries: i loved this book! as someone who has been doing youth ministry for 15 years, i wasn’t sure how i was going to take another “how to” book for youth ministry. but for the first time i read a book where the author calls out our profession and the need for real and healthy systems to deliver an impacting message. in his forward he describes how many books talk about the treasure in the jars of clay, but this book was about developing our jars. for me, this book came at just the right time and gave me a fresh picture of ministry and challenged some of my systems which both added life and freshness to this calling into student ministry.
3. harry potter (the movies): i know i am a late comer to this harry potter deal. but as i have re-engaged my calling to student ministry and challenged to re-engage the ever changing youth culture, i have finally gotten around to watching these movies. although the movies themselves may not have rocked my world, the refreshing work that god has been doing in me to get to the point of actually wanting to watch them is significant, and therefore worthy of the list.
4. modern family: this is hands down my favorite television show. every week i come home from youth group and laugh out loud and all of the antics in this show. for the first time in a long time there is a show that represents real life and doesn’t take it too seriously. it is a true situational comedy. as someone who needs to laugh more, this is a vital part of my media diet.
5. why we love the church by kevin deyoung and ted kluck: i came across this book last christmas and spent the early part of the year digesting it. i have spent the last couple of years reading through the many “we are pissed at the church,” “we love jesus, but hate the church,” and “if only the church didn’t screw everything up” books. this book was a fresh departure from that genre. this book is a thoughtful, biblical, and theological argument for the institutional church. and since 99% of the christians i know participate in an institutional church and 100% of the youth workers i know are employed by one, it was nice to read a book that affirms what we all do, and gives hope for moving forward. say no to angst and bitterness and yes to hope.
6. affirming the apostles’ creed by j.i. packer: as i have come to a re-found respect for the institutional church, i have also come to a re-awaking of some of the history and traditions of our faith that are the foundation of who we are and what we believe. the apostles’ creed is one of the foundational documents for the church, and packer’s book on them was a refreshing and convicting devotional. packer challenges the reader to understand that the continual dilution of the gospel and our history is bad for our faith development and for the church. at some point we need to step up and do some of the hard intellectual work to understand the deeper things of faith. and this book, for being a quick read, gave new life to an old document.
7. realclearpolitics.com: in case you were living under a rock 2010 was an election year. no matter where you land on the political spectrum, you have to admit that this was the most important election EVER!! actually, i think that is said about every election. i think the political process is so interesting. it seems that politics is less and less about governing, and more about battling for the hearts and minds of the electorate. it is a grudge match between two opposing teams, who actually hate each other. it is sad how divided we are and how much weight political party identification shapes our presuppositions. for the past few election cycles i have enjoyed playing the devil’s advocate in discussions and debate. and i have found this website to give me plenty of ammunition for both sides.
8. rei commercial:
i watch this commercial, and i want to get into my car, drive to yosemite, hike through the wilderness, and even have small, meaningless conversation with people i meet. rei has captured the longings of this suburban man. thankfully i have finally gotten the church credit card to be and rei card, and this march i will have almost $500 in dividends to spend, and will be spending this spring and summer using my equipment to live out my less handsome version of this commercial.
9. All things apple: as you could probably tell from #8, i am weak minded when it comes to the power of advertising. because of commercials i have bought scarves from gap, speed reading programs from informercials, and even a kriby. i admit it, i have a problem. but one problem i don’t want to be cured from is apple. their commercials speak to my soul. i actually stop our tivo just to watch them. i will sell everything in my garage, save up for a year, whatever it takes to buy the next product. right now i am saving up for the april launch of the ipad 2. let’s facetime!
10. red: this was an amazing film. the cinematography , the screen play, the special effects, and the acting are all worthy of . . . ok, the movie red is not worthy of any special honors. but it did have bruce willis in it. so how did this movie round out my top 10 list? one of my favorite rhythms of this year has been to wait until the wife and kids are asleep, grab some guy friends, and go to the movies. as a man, i like simple movies where things blow up. i pretend to like the academy award movies so i have things to talk about in social gatherings, but the truth is i want to see action. this shameful vice has been great for my soul and for my male bonding. (crying during small groups is great, but awful action movies are need too)
we are shaped by so many things, it was interesting to reflect on what shaped me. what shaped you? i wonder what will shape me this next year! happy new year!