Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things I Love About Working In A University

1. Academics are the norm, always
I have a very large internal nerd, and I love, love, love working in a place where it is normal to read, discuss, and debate the world of ideas. I love that i can ask a biology professor if it is possible for all ethnicities to have come from two sets of DNA. I love that it is normal to ask questions and care about the answers.
2. Speakers, forums, debates and other academics events. So far at TIU I have been to a debate on the nature of the relationships inside of the Trinity, listened to philosophers, pastors, authors and professors. I have heard lectures on the nature of sin, women in ministry, and international economics.
3. This one is not really all that different from #2, but I am going to embarce it anway, and you should, too. Time off for conferences, meetings and speakers, forums, debates and other academics events. Not only are these available to me, but I get to take some of my vacation time to attend. And I don't have to use a ton of vacation time to do it because I can walk to them, and return to my work day.
4. Regalia!
5. Titles. Prof. Dr., President, Provost, etc.
6. The academic schedule. No, I do not get the summers off, but things still move in semesters even for staff. Our days and weeks and years are ruled by the rhythm of mid terms, homecoming, and commencement. We all work and rest with learning and achievement.
7. It has to be said- my co-workers. They are the best part of my work day, and we just happen to work at a University.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Am Second: Why I Fight With God

I am a fighter, and I am second, and I feel so loved. My friend Stefanie shared the video below in her blog. It is Pete Briscoe from the I am second series. I find a kindred spirit in his explaination of why he is second to Christ.  Bricoe says, “He went to the cross and died for me, and when I come to grips with his depth of love for me and His passion for me, it seems incongruent for anything else to be first.” One of the most frequent ways I engage with the Lord is to fight with Him. I often feel self-conscious about it because bringing anger, objection, and hurt are not socially acceptable ways of relating to God in the American Evangelical subculture. So, I do it alone or with my most trusted friends. But it must be done.

I fight with God, rail against Him, and bring all of my strength and inner world, all of my accusations and hurt out of trust the He can handle not only the content of my fight, and all the fight in me, but also me in the fight. It is a beautiful and satisfying intimacy. Nowhere else do I know this level of safety and acceptance. Nowhere else can I be held so thoroughly and deeply.

In the process of fighting with God I run into His strength and glory that is paired with so much tenderness and delight - in me! I am most welcome in all of my many forms. And so I throw myself at my God with all of who I am - which definitely includes a little spitfire. I can’t not do it. I can’t hold out on the Lord that way. Why would I keep from Him the one part of me that only He can see and know and respond to so fully and completely? Why would I hold back something that is just between us? I don’t want to miss out on the intimacy that lives in that exchange. In the wrestling I find an Other who is so gloriously first in all things. And I come back time and time again to this place because I am second, and I feel so loved.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Best Way to Celebrate Graduation

It is the season of graduations. I enjoy formal ceremonies like graduations, weddings, and even funerals. I think there is something to the structure, formality, and ritual of these occasions. Ever notice that they each have their own expected events and even clothing? Tux, white dress, black or grey, and cap and gown. You exchange rings, listen to a eulogy, walk across a stage, shake a hand, and get a diploma. At my graduation they commissioned us to go out into the world with the knowledge we have and endeavor to change and influence the world for Christ. I felt the weight of that call.

I think there is something in that, too. As churches we have a burden to help mark high school graduation as a right of passage. We are to help students understand their own spiritual journeys and to go forth into what is beyond high school- building on the foundation of their relationship with God. Yes, I thnk that we can help them celebrate their personal growth and achievements, but their families, high schools, friends, and our society already help them do that. As a church it is our calling to help them understand where they have been in their spiritual lives and, maybe more importantly, where they are going.

If youth are graduating from the church and never returning after they leave high school, then this occasion is a crucial time for youth workers to mark this as a passage into another leg of their spiritual marathon. We ought to help them identify the foundations of their spiritual lives. We ought to help them to see that their relationship with Christ affects their decisions as they move forward. We ought to help them make space to engage with him as they move on to the next thing in life. It is our role to call them to know god better in the next phase of life and to commit to walk with them as they learn what that means. Graduation celebrations ought to be unabashedly spiritual in nature.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Insulting 7th Grade Girls

I was at a public event this weekend, that may or may not have been a  high school graduation, and the speaker insulted all 7th grade girls. No, I am not kidding. I wish that I were. In the midst of making a point, he said something to the effect of "Do you actually enjoy conflict? Do you enjoy being at odds with or in the midst of an aurgument with another person? There is a word for that - dramatic pause - a seventh grade girl." My head shot up, the jaw of the person next to me dropped and suprise registered on her face, there was scattered laughter from the audience, and I noticed several dads and moms put their arms comfortingly around young women while speaking in their ears. My heart broke when I saw the face of a crestfallen young woman regsiter the statement.

It is 18 hours later and I am still offended and upset. It is not okay to insult your audience for the sake of entertainment. It very well may not have occured to him that there would be 7th grade girls in the room, and people that love 7th grade girls.  It is unfortunate, as he was in many other ways an expcetional speaker, but he lost my respect after that point. And I wonder why he was chosen to speak at an event honoring young men and women as they make their transition into adulthood.

Sadly, it is common practice for speakers to insult teenagers. I understand a little of why people do this. Teenagers are very visible in our culture, and shows like Glee do not cast them in the best light. Teenagers can be hard to understand and very initmidating, especially in large groups. Many adults view teenagers as foolish, fiivolous, and unfriendly. And people laugh at these jokes. So, in some ways it can be the perfect mix of ingredients for a laugh when one is one stage. Adolescents are incredibly insecure, and it is unkind to insult them at all, and unwise to do so when speaking in public. These are young men and women created in God's image, and because of their insecurities and vulnerabilities they deserve the extra mile when it comes to compassion.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sabbath Sundays

So, we just finished a four week break from "regular" youth group, which means that I had four weeks off. Man, I am going to miss my Sundays. There is something about knowing that I have the whole day free that feels more refreshing. I don't usually do anything super exciting between five and ten on Sunday nights, but knowing that I could is the best thing ever. I am going to miss knowing that I can play football or volleyball after church as late as I want and still get in a shower, a movie, time with my roommate, or a beer on the roof.

the BSGE at Annie's 30th. woot.

There is something truly great about Sunday afternoons. They provide all kinds of mental and emotional rest for me and giving up that space is one of the hardest things for me about being a volunteer. My small group (aka the Best Small Group Ever. What? Yes, I know that it is a pretentious name. Yes, I know that is a bit of a problem, but seriously, these four women and I have been in a small group for seven years! SO, SO much change and love and growth and joy and moving of the Holy Spirit in all five lives!) has been doing a study on the sabbath. I think that I might be more consufed than when we started. There is so much to dive into Biblically, historically,  and traditionally. One of the things that I am walking away with is the idea of marking the beginning and end of the sabbath with ceremonies; this sets aside the time of the sabbath as sacred.

In order to maintain my sanity moving back into spending my Sunday nights at youth group I think I need to find some kind of ceremony to close out the sabbath at about 4pm on Sunday afternoons. What shall I do? Smell spcies? Have a beverage (non-alchoholic, I think) on the roof? Read a passage? Spend time in silence? Something must be done to help preserve not only my own time and emotional health, but also to honor the day itself. Sundays as sabbath should be rich times of praising God with people who are also committed to Him, diving into the Word and streching my mind, spending time with friends, and participating in the richness of the life that is given to me. Life both spiritual and physical. I think that marking the end of that time will encourage me to use it well by marking its end, thus setting it aside internally.

But, what shall I do? I am at a loss, and open to suggestions.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Academic Crush

It feels a little vulnerable to put this out there in the world -- I have an academic crush. Yes, an academic crush. I get actual flitters in my stomach when I think about all the amazing work done by this woman. I find myself checking out all her books at the library, reading her blog, listening to her pod casts and thinking about doing a PhD at her institution- all just to learn from her and hear more of her thoughts. Sometimes I even get that big, silly grin on my face when I think about all the things I know and like about her. Who is she? Kenda Creasy Dean. She is courageous, wise, and very, very up to date, one sure-fire way to my academic heart,  she participated in some very large, very respectable research projects.

Listen to this woman's courage:
“Youth Ministry is as much about being the church as it is working with adolescents. If teenagers consider Christianity inconsequential- if American young people find the church worthy of “benign wateverism” and no more- them maybe the issue is simple that the emperor has no clothes, and young people are telling churches that that we are not who we say we are. If we fail to bear God’s life-altering, world-changing, fear-shattering good news (which is after all the reason the church exists in the first place) –if desire for God and devotion to our fellow human beings is replaces by a loveless shell of religiosity- then young people unable to find consequential Christianity in the church absolutely should default to something safer. In fact, that is exactly what they are doing."- Almost Christian, 24.

Dang. "a loveless shell of religiosity" That is something I often think, but she just laid it out there. Brave. And yet it is loving in and of itself, does not love speak the truth directly when it needs to be done? I think that she is delivering some very important messages about the state of the church in America. Are we listening?

Listen to her passion and tenderness of heart:
" During my years of parish youth ministry I learned that pastoring teenagers is not about 'youth ministry'; its about minsitry. period. Tending to the souls of the young taught me how to listen more deeply to the needs of people - all people- young and old alike. Ministry that addresses adolescents' most deep-seated, acted out passions touches something fundamental to being human, not just fundamental to being a teenager." - The Godbearing Life, 15.

She is theolgically grounded:

“What matters is not that young people belong to a peculiar story, but to a peculiar story about God. Christian identity is not determined by our oddity as a religion, but by Jesus Christ, who incarnation is evidence that God is not a distant, disinterested entity, but a living, invested, passionate Being who relentlessly loves us, forgives us, and drenches our lives in grace. Christian tradition maintains that the Word of God is not a text, but a person, the divine Logos, Jesus Christ.” Almost Christian, 66.

From her Amazon Page, I am not that much of a creeper.

And, in addition to all that, she just looks like she would be super-friendly! Doesn't she? I want to sit next to her on that plane and hear all about the conference she is going to or coming from. So, that is it. I have put it out there in the world: I really admire this woman.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Big Dreams: Towards a New Approach to Youth Ministry - Part 2

More about the new model at youth group.

The leadership team has 5 roles. A team leader, a large group leader, a worship coordinator, an outreach director, and a small group coordinator. These four people oversee the whole of what goes on in the youth ministry. This means that the salaried youth pastor delagates a large part of his responsibilites to others who carry out their area of the week in and week out tasks of implimenting the vision.

The Team Leader is responsible for the leadership, coordination, and vision for the youth group and the leadership team.
The Large Group Leader is responsible for the time at the church including the speakers, coordinating with the worship leader, overseeing any set up or take down for the facilies, mixers, etc.
The Worship Leader is responsible for leading worship, leading and developing a worship team, coordinating with the large group leader, and overseeing the audio visual team.
The Fuse Group/Small Group Leader is responsible for overseeing adult volunteers to lead and host the fuse groups, and for connecting incoming and current students with a fuse group in their area.
The Outreach Leader is responsible for overseeing all outreach events, and for connecting new students with the minsitry as a whole.

That is the leadership structure. There are a few adjustments in our group due to size, opportunities, and staffing. Nathan is serving  in two roles as the Team Leader and as the Large Group Leader. We are also connected with our local Youth For Christ in Mundelein High School, so most of our outreach events are in conjunction with the Mundelein YFC.

As the Small Group/Fuse Group Leader is is my passion to see the lives of godly, founded, transparent adults affect the lives of adolescents as those adults follow Christ. That is it. I am passionate about the minsitry of being. It is who we are that affects others more than anything else and it is who we are that needs the most work, the most time and the most effort. Who we are as Christians is about the imperfect, messy journey of becomming more like Christ. Growing into our identity as it ought to have been and will be when perfected, that journey is the one that we ought to be sharing with the adolescents in our lives. With that said, it is my passion to encourage and listen to and help equip those adult volunteers however possible. I think the majority of that comes through listening, praying, and encouraing them both in their minsitry and in their spiritual lives. It is a ministry of being, and of walking alongside of those who are being minsiters to the students in our youth group.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

FYI- Why you should sign up

Yes, you.

Fuller Youth Institute is not only a handy link on the side of my blog- they are a group of people passionate about changing the lives of young people in a culturally relevant manner. More than that- they are doing quality, well-done research AND sharing those results with you for FREE!!! Yes, Free! They have an e-journal to which you can subscribe delivering that information right to your email. DO IT.

Why, you ask? Well... let me tell you. Because they provide information on what contributes to lasting faith, information on doing short-term missions effectively, information on intergenerational ministry, and interviews with people in the trenches. Do you ever wonder "How much difference do parents actually make?" "How do I talk about homosexuality?" "Are short-term missions worth anything to the people we serve?" "What do I need to be doing that will help the faith of my students last into college and beyond?" That is just a sampling of what is on their home page.

If you ask me, "Sarah, even if I can get that answer, how do I know that it came from a reliable source?" Well, FYI is connected to Fuller Theological Seminary. FYI is doing it right. They are putting in the hard work of making sure their information is accruate, up to date, and relavant. They publish the tools used for their research and they make sure that they publish their sample sizes and research methods. They get it done. And then they provide information to serve you, the youth worker - volunteers, parents, those studying youth minsitry, those teaching youth ministry, and most especially the salaried youth pastor. That is right, there is free information from informed, cutlurally aware poeple who are passionate about helping you to reach adolescents with the life-changing truths of the gospel. And thier thoughts are delivered to your inbox, for free! Awesome. now... if you read this far and did not sign up, I am going to have to insist that you do so now. No spam. No fees. No excuses.

Sign up for the e-journal here.