Monday, March 28, 2011

Internalization Part 3

Internalization as Evidenced in Morality

My friend, co-laborer, and youth pastor at our church, Nathan Wagner, made several really great points about internalization on the last post. Nate makes the point that choosing God's way in any given situation out of trust and love for God is evidence of faith taking root. Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton put it this way in Soul Searching "Even though many teens said religion is important in their lives, it still seemed to us to be mostly part of the furniture in the background of their lives. ... Quite often, teens said they did not think their relgion affected their family relationships, they did not believe religion was relavant to the conduct of a dating relationship, they did not see that religion affected their life at school and so on." They go on to state that this was true of adoelscents who told the researchers that religion was very important in their lives. Clearly there is a gap in the undertanding and practice of Christianity, and this is evidenced in moral decisions.

Nate has a great point- that choosing an option that lines up with the teaching of Christ is fruit of internalization. I agree with him when he takes it further to say that this decision needs to founded and rooted in trust in God's character. It has to go beyond just actions, even though consistent patterns of action are fruit of what we actually believe. Some moral choices are moments when our true motives are laid bare, and being founded in the knowledge that God loves you and expects rightesouness is a poweful motive. Knowledge about God needs to lead to actions and thought patterns that demonstrate that His way is worth risking.

Is internalization the subtle ingesting of truth in a place where decisions are made?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Obsessive TV Watching

I have been watching many, many episodes of the West Wing. In fact, I think that I have given eight hours in the past two days to this endeavor. It is one of the few times that I can turn my mind off. This is a much-needed break. One of my favorite characters, Sam Seaborn, is a speechwriter for the President. What a job, huh? When someone asked him why he had not taken credit for ghostwriting for Governors, Congressmen, Presidents, and Kings he said "Because that is not what speech writers do."

My friend, Annie, who is generously feeding my addition, says that Sam is too good. And that may be true, his character always seems to do the right thing, even when he is angry. Sometimes especially when he is angry. And I think that this is what I like about him. I like that no matter what, when the chips are down, Sam will follow his conscience. Always. Idealised character traits are one of the great gifts of fiction. No one can behave like Sam, but it is encouraging to see it played out. It is inspiring to watch him encourage the downtrodden, fight for what he believes in, go toe to toe with the President, and to confront those that he believes to be wrong. Sam encourages me to do the right thing, even when I am tired.

We all need breaks. There is always the pressure in a blog entry to say something pithy, to make a point, or to generally write an entry with at least one message. I don't have that. But I wanted to put it out there in the world that sometimes I get postive, encouraging things out of obessively watching TV.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Internalization part 2

Internalization as part of identity development
In their article Riding the Highs and Lows of Teenage Faith Development Identity Formation and the Importance of Moratorium, Kara Powell and Meredith Miller explain James Marcia's theory of identity development that states that people go through various stages of rest, unrest, and integration in regards to

their faith. Here are the four stages as they list them:

Diffusion "Persons in diffusion have simply not thought about their identity. They are not sure what they believe about key issues such as religion, politics, gender roles, or occupation, nor are they concerned with them."

Foreclosure "This is a status in which adolescents have definite opinions about their identity, but those opinions have been inherited from external forces rather than cultivated from within themselves. They have stable commitments, but have not experienced exploration or crisis."

Moratorium "They question who they are and what they believe and are unable to land on clearly defined beliefs and standards. This is the stage in which individuals challenge what they have inherited. For this reason, they will often express doubts and uncertainties about what they believe."

Achievement "The goal of identity development is to reach the achieved status. It is the status wherein individuals have explored who they are and what they believe and hold stable commitments to a set of beliefs, values and standards. Their identity is defined, and they have thought through their perspectives."

Internalization might be best equated with the "achievement" stage. Powell and Miller challenge youth workers to engage moratorium with the understanding that it will help bring about a more solid, owned faith in an adolescent. Is internalization the achievement stage? The whole process? I am inclined to say that it is the last two phases of identity development- moratorium and achievement.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Internalization part 1

I did it. I finally picked up my capstone and read through it, paying attention to and injesting the comments of my advisor. He asked me to expand on a concept called Internalization. I found this to be a little annoying on several levels, not the least of which being that it is something that is incredibly hard to define and measure. This is a concept I first learned of from Meredith Miller in The Lockbox Theory’s Implications for Your Students. Fuller Youth Institute mentions this idea quite a bit in their research, and this was my starting point. It is, however, a theme in all of the research about the church drop out rate. In a very small nut shell internalization is an understanding that faith applies to many aspects of life and involves translating that understanding into action.

Internalization involves the translation of one's faith into actions and it involves the ability to articulate one's faith and basic doctrinal beliefs. But those two things are fruit of the internalization itself. It is that subtle and potentially unmeasurable ownership of faith. People with internalizaed faith "get it." Are you starting to see my frustration? Obviously this is incredibly important to longevity in anyone's faith, and, I am sure, one of the goals of every ministry that takes Christianity seriously. How on earth does one expand on and define this even further? Of course I understand the need, but where does one start with explaining this concept?

I am sure there will be many more posts exploring this idea, because I can feel it catching my internally. But for now, I will take up at least a piece of the challenge from Dr. Cooper. Over the next few posts, let me suggest a few basic ideas. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Which one do you resonate with the most? Why? Do you have other suggestions?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Heart of Youth Minsitry- What Keeps Me Going

When I get lost in all the things that I have to do about ministry- who to call, who to touch base with, which problem to solve, which person to pray for, which talk to prepare, I always find myself searching for a foundation. This is what I come back to. Please let me share it with you.

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul tells the story of Moses spending time in the presence of God on Mount Sinai. He spent so much time there that he literally glowed when he came back down to the Israelites- and they could not handle it. They asked him to put a veil over his face so that this glory that was too great was hidden. “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. …And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is Spirit. Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

Ministry? Ministry!? Yes, ministry. Being transformed with an unveiled face into the likeness of Christ is ministry. In youth ministry this is it. When the chips are down this is what matters, this is what we have to bring as youth ministers: our lives and our relationships with Christ. The call is so very clear- we are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face. So I always come back to asking myself two very simple questions. “Am I actively pursuing my relationship with Christ for its own sake?” and “Am I being vulnerable and honest about that journey with the students God has placed in my life?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the doing of youth ministry when, in fact, youth ministry is about who we are. We are being transformed to be more like Christ. Youth ministry is about being transformed to be more like Christ and letting young people into that journey. Period

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Everything I need to know about ministry, I learned at TIU

Everything I need to know about ministry, I learned at TIU. Okay, not everything, but a good number of things. In this case: the importance of modeling. Everything is clanging gongs and crashing symbols without love and every attempt at discipleship is empty without modeling. This afternoon (by which I mean two or three weeks ago when I actually drafted this post), as I sat at the
Towne Square
restaurant with Stephanie, many of my thoughts about small groups came into focus. This is partially because these days I am preoccupied with the revamp of our youth group and partially because Stephanie articulated something that I have been ruminating on- the importance of modeling in transformative ministry.

The people who have had the most impact on my life are those who have let me into theirs. I really want our small groups to be a place where adolescents see the inside of the lives of adults who are living out their faith. And I think that this is why people volunteer in youth ministry- yes?  I want to see adults and teenagers connecting, and in Stephanie’s words, realizing that they are both human.

Yes! I am passionate about this connection and its value, but Steph rightly pointed out that it is the foundation to something greater. As one who would seek to disciple adolescents, not only do I have to be transparent, but I need to be living out my faith, AND I have to be willing to let young people see my life. This is where I feel the most challenged- one cannot program authentic, soul-changing, life changing Christianity. But it can be fed, nurtured and modeled.