Monday, December 29, 2008

Social Networking and Ministry

Relationships...what are they? We talk about relationships all the time. Sometimes it is a boyfriend or girlfriend, sometimes we are talking about friendship or various other relationships. In my conversation with some youth pastors and a youth ministry seminary professor about social networking and youth ministry dealt specifically with this issue. They were convinced that social networking (myspace, facebook, or others) is keeping students from being able to have "real relationships". This obviously begs the question, what is a real relationship?

It is important to point out again that there are different kinds of relationships. Certainly a marriage can not be maintained in a healthy way exclusively over one of these social networks, but what about a friendship, a business relationship, or some other kind of relationship? defines a relationship this way, " a connection, association, or involvement." Based on this definition it certainly seems possible to have a relationship over some kind of social network. I don't know how having a relationship over a social network would be any different than using email, or some other form of electronic communication. You can certainly connect, have an association, or be involved in some way. Another question could be asked, what makes a relationship real?

From a logical standpoint this question is redundant. Any relationship is by definition a "real" relationship. In Scripture we see various examples of relationships we see marriages (we actually get a pretty in depth look at what those relationships are to be like), friendships, dating, boss employee, etc... There are many qualities that are good and Godly in a relationship like honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, love, accountability, etc... As I sit here and think about all of the good qualities that describe a good relationship and social networking I must ask this question, does social networking limit or distinguish any of these qualities? I think the answer is no! Some forms of real relationships can be initiated and maintained via social networking.

Marriage relationships of course require physical intimacy so to argue that a marriage could be maintained via social networking would be ridiculous. A friendship or even the relationship between business partners, mentor and mentee or other forms of relationships can certainly be maintained via social networking. There are still other questions that need to be asked. Does social networking limit a person's (especially students) ability to interact socially when face to face? Are people different online? How do these networks impact how we do ministry? Should we be fighting involvement in these networks or should we be using them? What would Jesus do? That last question might seem a little weird, but it is probably more significant than you might think. I will address these questions in upcoming posts.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Social Networking and Ministry

It's crazy, but when I started on facebook I needed to get to the fifty friends mark and once I did that one hundred seemed pretty doable. I made one hundred and then I realized I was just a beginner, I only had one hundred friends...what a loser. You probably get where this is going. There are more questions about facebook, myspace, twitter and the other social networking options out there than whether they are cool or not. How do these things impact relationships, and more specifically a students ability to interact with others? Can relationships start and be maintained using these social networks? What are the moral implications?

I had a conversation today with a youth pastor and a seminary professor who teaches youth ministry regarding this very thing. I am not going to go over the conversation, but I am going to do a series of blogs dealing with this issue from a theological and practical perspective. In the end I will come to some kind of conclusion. I do not know for sure what it will be, but hopefully my journey through this issue will be helpful to you. What this will not be about is safety online, bashing any particular social network, or promoting any particular network. I will likely dive in to some vague ideas for how these things might be used as it is appropriate. This will largely be a theological approach to these things. It will be up to the reader to figure out how to address the practical implications. I will try to get these blogs out in a timely fashion, but it may be one a week. The next post will look at the idea of relationship and community, what are they?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Doing it Right

Last night after youth group two students got in a car accident on the way home. Youth ministry is kind of weird. We are dealing with minors, but most likely we don't check them in and out of our programs. Even if we do there is a sense of independence, they find there own rides home, or they drive, and for the younger ones parents will pick them up.
Waiting until everyone leaves to go home and making sure everything is ok once they leave may seem tough, boring, and unnecessary. Last night all of that changed. We had one student that kinda disappeared. In the end she was found and everything turned out ok, but what if I had gone home when I could have instead of when I should have? The student may not have been found and when the accident happened I would have already been in bead.
Staying late is hard on me and sometimes my family. Being on the scene of an accident two of my students were involved in was invaluable. They were ok, other than being shaken up, and in the end everything will turn out for the better. The relationship bonds that took place last night between me, my leaders, and the students can not be replaced.
Taking short cuts might get you to bed earlier, but it will hurt your ministry in the long run.

Monday, September 29, 2008

When Bad Days Happen

Everyone has them. Sometimes they are caused by some kid having a bad attitude, sometimes they are caused by me having a bad attitude. There are still other times when it isn't about an attitude at all. I had one of those day on Sunday. My aunt was in town which changed by schedule a little bit. Because of that I attended first service when I usually attend third. Student ministries meets during second service. I usually take some time to prep during first service. I did plan ahead, I made sure the sound was set up and my guitar was tuned. Media Shout was ready and loaded. Everything was ready to go. We had worked hard on putting together a video for the students to kick off the fall campaign.

Unfortunately this was the day everything would go wrong. I got up to lead worship and my guitar was out of tune, I don't know how, but it was. It was far enough out of tune that I could not let it be, I had to tune it. I didn't have a pedal tuner (I do now) so I had to sit there and do it by ear. The students didn't exactly get excited about the worship (probably because of the rough start) and to be honest I have done a better job. The drummer wasn't on, and when we got to the video we had worked so hard on the audio didn't work because of a codec problem.

You might be waiting for the positive shoe to drop. Unfortunately that isn't the case. It was just a bad day. So what now?

The truth is I don't exactly know. I know I learned some lessons. The codec problem is fixed and I bought a pedal tuner. Those problems won't happen again, maybe that is all the good that will come of it. Sometimes there are just bad days. Maybe God did something that I am not aware of. Maybe there will be more good that will come of this.

Bad days come and go, Youth Ministry is no exception. What do we do? We move on, we point to the cross, and we continue to love Jesus.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Looking for a job

I have been in transition since January. The church I attempted to plant didn't take root. My future in ministry has been in limbo for about 6 months. It wasn't that I was going to quit doing ministry as much as what kind of ministry I was going to do. After a long process of thinking, praying, talking to people, sending out resumes, and interviewing it looks like I am circling for a landing. I am going to stay (or go back into) student ministries. This blog entry is really an attempt to give some tips to guys who may be looking for a ministry position. If you are thinking about changing your position in ministry or simply looking to get out of the one you are in, this may be helpful.

I didn't leave the church plant, we closed. That left me without a job. Still I have left ministries in the past and there are several good reasons to leave. Most of this entry will focus on the new position, but I thought I would go over a few good reasons to leave a ministry:
  • Money
    • I know some of you are thinking, "what, ministry isn't about the money!!" You are right. I wish I was independently wealthy and that I could do full time ministry for free. I am not and I can't. I need to take care of my family in a responsible way.
    • That said, if you are in a good situation, give your current ministry every opportunity to pay you a reasonable wage.
  • Leadership
    • There is no one rule in this regard, but it is important for the leadership to at least be functional.
    • Sometimes perseverance pays off in these situations. Other times it just makes things worse. Use wisdom and prayer here.
    • Leadership change
      • When leadership changes (senior pastor leaves and a new one comes) this may be the time to move on. Again use wisdom here.
If the time to move on has come let me make a couple of suggestions regarding your resume:
  • Get Help
    • You are not a wiener if you get help with your resume. I went back to the career services department of my alma mater and sat down with someone before I even started putting my resume together. It was extremely helpful. Have the look at it and rip it apart. This is not taking God out of the equation.
  • Be Honest
    • You want to present your good side as much as possible, but you don't want to create false expectations.
  • Include personal information
    • This is not necessary or even good in the business world, but in the ministry world things like family are important.
  • Cover Letter
    • My cover letter morphed as time went on. At first it was really positive and sounded great (If it was in the business world). As time went on I was not happy with the response I was getting, so I began (with the help of some objective eyes) to change things. When I started to talk about failures (in a general sense) and the fact that I have learned and changes for the positive as a result of those failures I started to get a much better response. To be honest this approach is more reflective of my personality anyway.
  • Don't send your resume to everyone!!! I was selective when it came to sending out my resume. I would check out the web site of the church, listen to sermons if they were available, and I would definitely Google them. I would sometimes check out the town or city and get an idea of what the cost of living was before I sent the resume out.
When it comes time for the interview, make sure you are prepared to ask some questions of them as well. The idea is to find a good fit. You might be a rock star, but if you end up with a country band it wont matter, you need a rock band. Be yourself. When you notice differences that might be a problem don't conceal them, point them out. Where there seems to be agreement point that out as well. Whenever possible give examples. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know" or "I haven't thought about that." If you try to fake an answer they will probably see through that. It is better to be thought teachable than to be thought of as a know it all. Last, learn for every interview. You will probably be asked the same kind of questions over and over again. If you don't think you did very well on a question develop an answer for the next interview.

There will come a time when you will be turned away. Understand, this may not be something negative about you as much as it is a chemistry thing. I was interviewed for a student ministry position at a large church (600) that had a beautiful youth center. The interview went well, but they were only going to bring back two guys for a second interview. As it turned out I was third on the list. They started with well over 50 resumes and I ended up third, that ain't bad. There have been many churches that didn't even respond to my resume. It looks like I will be headed to a larger church (1100) who had well over 120 resumes turned in. Being turned away may mean you weren't qualified, but it might also mean it simply wasn't a good fit. There are times when you may be able to find a position for which you are not qualified because the chemistry is good. Be patient.

Make sure you are debriefing after interviews or visits. Be honest with yourself. I interviewed with another church that was about 200. I had a good time at the interview, I enjoyed the people and thought I could work well with the pastor. In the end I moved on partially because of another opportunity and partially because I was not sure if I would be a good fit. I think my time there might have been short. I don't think I would be satisfied long term in that community. It would not be fair to them for me to take that kind of job. I had one church I interviewed over the phone with three times. It wasn't until the last interview that we both realized things were not going to work out. It is about fit!!!

There are some sites I used to find postings. I used sites I had access to for free, because I am cheap:
  • (need user name and password)
Over the next year I will be making some entries about starting in a new ministry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why Youth Ministry Rocks

Sometimes youth ministry is hard, some times it is thankless, and it is often exhausting. There are days when you wonder if it is worth it to keep going. I could probably think of 100 reasons, but here are ten off the top of my head:
  • It's fun. Where else can you do cool and crazy things without people thinking you are a complete moron? Ok, they might think you are a moron for doing youth ministry, but at least you have some kind of excuse.
  • You can sleep in. This may not be the case for everyone, but a lot of youth pastors get to sleep in a little when they are working at night.
  • You get to answer ridiculous questions like, "When are you going to become a real pastor?"
  • You get the privilege of doing announcements on Sunday Morning.
  • You can take students skiing, have the church pay for it, and call it work.
  • You get paid to study scripture, that rocks.
  • You get to travel for mission trips, conferences, and continuing ed. Again the church picks up the tab. Those things are work, but it is still fun.
  • You have the privelege of telling your wife you need two wardrobes. One for working with the kids and one for working with the parents and pastoral team.
  • You get to officiate weddings for students whom God has impacted through your efforts. (Way to go!)
  • You get to brag about the students who were once in your ministry and are now serving God in ministry.
I probably missed a bunch, but these are some pretty good ones. Keep up the good fight.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reading the Dead Guys

The older I get, the older the books I read get. I am going to do something rare and recommend a book, but before I do I want to suggest something else. Read the dead guys!!

So much of the time we are flooded with books to read. If I read every book recommended to me I would have to read a book every day for the rest of my life. That doesn't even count the books I see in the book store that I would like to pick up. The problem is you never know what you are going to get. So here is my suggestion, read the dead guys!!

The thing about reading the dead guys is this, they have been tested. There is a reason the names Spurgeon, Calvin, Boice, Luther, Augustine, Tozer, C. S. Lewis, and so on have so much meaning. Their writing has stood the test of time. They will say something significant in their writings. Besides the test of time, you sound so much smarter when you quote dead guys as apposed to quoting the latest author on a particular topic. I have been amazed at how culturally relevant these guys are. It almost seems like human nature doesn't change...hmmmm

Alright, here is the book recommendation. Spurgeon wrote this little book called Come Ye Children aka Spiritual Parenting. This book is a small treasure!! It is excelent for children's workers and youth workers alike. As a parent it contains some excelent advice. Pick this book up for under ten bucks and read it. After you are done reading that book, pick up the book I contributed to Youth Ministry Lemonade @ (can you say shameless plug?)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Something New is Something Old With a New Paint Job

When I was 11 or 12 my step dad had a 1968 Camaro SS RS. It had hidden head lights, leather interior and an amazing stereo system. To this day it is my favorite car. It was really loud too. I love loud pipes!! We only took the car out on special occasions and my mom was barely aloud to drive it.

The funny thing is that car was old. Sure it was in perfect condition. It had a new paint job and everything was pristine. Today Chevy is still making Camaros and they are amazing cars. In the end they are still just cars. They are completely new yet they still accomplish the same old purpose of getting you from one place to the next. What does this have to do with youth ministry?

Remember that book in the Old Testament, that one written by Solomon. He said there is nothing new (paraphrase). In ministry we would do well to remember this. It is amazing how relevant the Bible is in todays world. Some of the "new" things are just old things with new paint jobs. I am not against giving old things new paint jobs, especially if it is a Camaro. Some things, however, are not Camaros. My first car was a Ford Fairmont. It was baby blue and went 0-60 in 4.5 hours. The good news is tickets were hard to come by, I still managed. That car didn't need a new paint job, it needed to be driven to the junk yard.

When something new comes along in ministry or anywhere else the first thing we should ask is, "where have I seen this before?" Many of today's churches have been distracted by old things with new paint jobs. Many of those old things might look cool, they might even have flames painted on the side, but in reality they need to be driven straight to the junk yard.

New theology is usually just old, bad theology with a new paint job. The latest trends in ministry are trends, they will fade away. Recently I heard a sermon by a pastor who openly downplayed theology from the pulpit. He was attempting to make the Bible look attractive to a young and hip crowd of mostly college age people (we felt old with our two kids). I must admit I was disappointed. Clearly he had no idea what he was doing. The Bible isn't a book meant for entertainment, although it can be entertaining at times. The Bible is not a reference book with short and simple answers to all of life's little problems either. We should not present it to students in that manner. Instead it is a book filled with life changing truth (theology) about God, man, and how God saves man. It isn't trivial, it isn't an encyclopedia, and it isn't to be taken lightly. It is the WORD OF GOD. I wonder if that is the impression we give to students when we read from it, study it, and communicate it to them?

I left church that day thinking, "if the pastor would just teach the life changing message of scripture he wouldn't have to try so hard to make it sound interesting!"