As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently running off 3 hours of sleep for the past 40 hours, so I feel I should make that disclaimer before I continue with the rest of this blog entry. The lack of sleep is also the reason why I’m choosing to limit how much I try to communicate here tonight and keep this semi-brief.
I’ll start with Dan Kimball’s workshop on Issues we need to address that our emerging culture is asking. His main idea was that people are respectful and open to Jesus, but not to Christians or the church. He then proceeded to takes us through six main misconceptions outsiders have when viewing the church and how youth leaders can respond.
1. The church and Christianity is an “organized religion” with a political agenda.
2. The church has leaders who think they know all the answers and there is no room to question them.
3. The church takes the Bible too literally and the Bible has been corrupted and not of divine origin.
4. The church is male dominated and oppresses females.
5. The church is homophobic and sexually uptight — Jesus didn’t talk about sexual issues.
6. The church is narrow-minded and arrogant for thinking they have the exclusive way to God and everyone else is wrong.
His message really vibed with something I’ve been thinking more seriously about for a couple weeks now based on personal experiences with students: We teach a lot about prayer and reading the Bible in youth group, but we need to start thinking about the questions our students are asking and prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. Last week I purchased several copies of Reasons for Believing by Frank Harber a book I highly recommend for a quick read on popular apologetical issues. After several recent discussions with students who are asking, “How do we know the Bible is God’s Word?” and “How do we know Christianity is the religion that’s got it right?” or “How do we KNOW Jesus was God?” Too often our youth groups just assume that these concepts will not be challenged and we create an environment where students do not feel the freedom to discuss such matters. However, in my opinion, challenging these issues and coming to grips with them on a personal level should be encouraged because that’s when a teenager’s faith stops being their parent’s faith and becomes their own. So, I purchased copies of Frank’s book with the intention of using his content as a resource for writing Sunday morning lessons. Dan Kimball’s message confirmed a lot of what I was thinking, affirming that all this is much bigger than just my local youth ministry, and giving me a clearer direction of how to address the matters. I intend to teach through his list of misconceptions about the church, explaining all the different viewpoints, the positive and negative aspects of each one, and then presenting our position and why we believe what we believe on the matter. My prayer is that this will prepare them for stages ahead in life, especially as they move on to secular universities.
Secondly, Doug Field’s message tonight in the general session addressed boundaries in youth ministry and the necessity of saying “no.” Fortunately, I tend to know my limits and I stick to it. This was ingrained into me through courses in both Bible college and seminary. However, one of his “warning lights” to someone who needs to slow down was Addiction to Speed. As he elaborated, I realized that this warning light applied to me and that I’m not doing as good as I thought I was with setting boundaries. I realized that I often feel that parents and students expect more “speed” in a youth ministry than what I’m offering. As it is, my part-time position sometimes makes it a struggle to successfully pull off even one youth event each month. I am not satisfied with this level of activity and my perception is that students and parents aren’t either (although none have actually said anything about it). Even though I see all the in-office work that’s done, the behind the scenes responsibilities, all the weekly meetings with church staff and interns, the lesson planning and other tasks to keep week-to-week ministry going, most other people don’t see that, so I’m left feeling like I need to defend my position at the church by creating more public events. Maybe this is all self-inflicted and totally a false perception of what parents and students are really thinking, and maybe I’m too concerned with what other people think. I really WANT to do more, but current limitations force me to say “no” and stick with what we’ve got. I need to worry less about how others perceive my work-load and do only what can be done within my set boundaries.
Here are some pictures I took today from the convention, too. Hopefully they’re all pretty self-explanatory. I’m finally off to bed now for a five hour sleep before waking up again to shower and head over for an 8:00 AM workshop.
Posted on November 19, 2005