What Kind of Worship Do THEY Want?

Boring.  Too long.  Pointless.

These are all words I’ve heard youth use to describe worship.  I’m sure many of you have as well.  And I think in our media-loaded world many of us have looked for ways to incorporate the text, the tweet, the YouTube into our worship.  iWorship if you will.  I know I’ve sought popular songs, images, and readings to help translate the message.  Today I heard a different message.  One I think is important to share.

What Kind of Worship Do THEY Want?  Worship that offers some silence.


That’s right.  During a worship planning meeting with high school and college young people, the element of worship they wanted to introduce youth to at our discover day is silence.  Not silence with music in the background.  Or silence with a choir singing.  Plain old silence silence.  The kind that can sometimes make us all a little uncomfortable.  And they also want to be real about sharing how the silence is tough.  They feel so strongly  that they are requesting young people leave cell phones, iPods, iPhones, etc…in their vehicles.  Perhaps this concept isn’t revolutionary.  But what I thought important to share is that this desire, this hunger, this yearning came from our young people. A desire to share the gift of silence with younger youth.  A desire to share the gift of silence a as Lenten discipline.  A desire to be honest both about our discomfort with and our hunger for silence.

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


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So how was the Poverty Simulation?

That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot over the last three weeks.  And it’s a question I’ve been trying to answer in this blog for just about as long.  So how was it?

Crowded.  Challenging.  Complex.

One word answers.  My teacher-self is not pleased with these answers…and crowded, come on?  In all seriousness, it was crowded.  Uncomfortably crowded.  I think that’s part of what made it effective.  The cramped quarters of time and space really did generate feelings of frustration and anxiety from all participants, whether they were managing the “local power company” or one of many “families” struggling to make ends meet.  But for some reason, that’s not the story that needs to be told.  (Not that the story of the simulation isn’t excellent.  It is.  The story has just already been written (and published).

But I also don’t know if that story.  The story of the poverty simulation is my story from the day.  Honestly, what struck me the most throughout the event is our own nature (myself included) to tell young people what to do or think.  During our discussion time after the simulation, the room filled with engaged voices. Voices ready to tell the youth participants how to take this information to their homes, schools, and churches.  How often I find myself doing this same thing.  Wanting to tell people, especially youth, what to do.  (I have this trait in Spades.)  And yet the pastor in me knows that listening–really listening–is not only a spiritual discipline but the beginning of leading.  Why is that kind of leading so hard?  What are we afraid we might hear?

What I Learned About Leading from the Poverty Simulation

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Is Confirmation the Ticket Out the Door?

A couple of Saturdays ago, we hosted our first Youth Discover Day for the 2011-2012 school year.  Traditionally it’s a day where pastors and lay leaders bring confirmands to learn about theological education and the value of asking theological questions. You can guess how much enthusiasm these youth traditionally start with.  That’s right–it’s Saturday morning at 9:30.  You’re here with your pastor, a few people you know, a bunch of teens you don’t, and a group of peer and seminary mentors.  Often times the day is one of the requirements for the confirmand.  The God-moment for me seems to be the repeated enjoyment, energy, and engagement these youth have by the end of the event.  In my mind, truly a testament to the spiritual and theological hunger of our young people–but I digress.

What struck me this year was the trust our guests have for sharing with their peer and seminary mentors.  In small group conversations, groups talked about waiting and preparation (it is Advent after all). And so the obvious connection–what are you waiting/preparing for with Confirmation?

Answer:  That I don’t have to go to church anymore.

Now, I realize that this statement isn’t exactly a revelation.  We in the world of faith formation and Christian education have long bemoaned the ticket out the door phenomenon of Confirmation.  But friends, here’s the elephant in the living room, your young people not only think of it as the ticket out the door.  They actually name it.

Now before you get defensive, argumentative, or defeated–pause.  These young people simply stated what you already know to be true.  These young people said these things while on a seminary campus.  With seminary and peer mentors.  They have gifted us with naming the really real.  Now, how does God call us to respond with and to this reality?  In this Advent season, what new ways of confirming and affirming our faith seek to be born?


Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Choosing Church

In an effort to be more mindful of my resources, I have committed to buying fresh and buying local as much as possible this fall.  In addition to being a member at a CSA, this fall I have grocery shopped at a new local market that boasts locally grown and made products.  In shopping I have discovered that I now appreciate what I eat more, that I think more intentionally about my shopping needs, and that I really enjoy NOT having as many choices.  That’s right.  I like that the shelf with the coffee has about three choices.  That there are two kinds of peanut butter.  One bakery provides a variety of breads.

How does this lack of choice in the market relate to church?  I guess what I’m saying is that sometime fewer choices are better.  Limiting choices is better.  Less is sometimes more.

Think about it.  Today teens have a million and one choices for a million for just about every aspect of life.  There’s a plethora of extra curricular activities to select from, a smorgasbord of service groups to participate in, and a panoply of denominations, churches, and houses of worship.  Each of these offering its own brand of belonging.  In a world so filled with brands and branding, how  do teens choose church?

Join us on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 to hear Dr. Carol Lytch speak about what she uncovered and discovered in her research and conversations with young people.

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Ministry With Youth: I’ll Follow You Into the Dark

At a conference level Christian education meeting this week, one of the pastors lamented about his confirmation class:  three eighth grade girls.  All of whom dislike church.  His question:

How can you make them like CHURCH?

My response:  By letting them dislike church.

How much do any of us like to be told what to think or to feel?  Not much, right?  Why would teens–who are developing their sense of self and independence–think or feel any differently? And come on, how much would you like a place where there are only three of you within a generation?  Probably not much.  So what’s the worst that could happen by honoring their feelings?  And asking–so what don’t you like?

It takes a risk of asking this question:  What don’t YOU like?  But the reality is it’s reality–whether you inquire or not.  And here’s the other secret–they may actually like it more than you think–they may want to see how you’ll respond–so surprise ’em.

This reminds me of a fantastic story I heard this week.  I’ve actually been holding it all week.  A story about a Mom and a daughter.  Mom is back in school (seminary).  Daughter is 14.  Mom is knee-deep in a summer intensive.  In the midst of that, she and Daughter have a fight.  Daughter melts down.  While Mom is digging through research, Daughter leaves home.  No note.  No call.  No text.  If you’re like me, your heartbeat is probably increasing as you read.  You’ve either been there or you could see going there all too easy.

So what does this Mom do?  She gets the car and drives around town.  Not too odd.  But that part that got me in this story.  The part that I pray I have the wisdom for.  The part that is the a-ha–the God moment is when she finds her Daughter.  Her Daughter is walking around town.  And what does Mom do?

Yell? Drag?  Guilt-trip?  Cajole?

Nope.  She simply drives behind her Daughter.  For three hours, she drives while her Daughter walks.  No words.  No honks.  Nothing.  And finally her Daughter gets in the car.

This story captures my image of youth ministry.  Scratch that–ministry.  Scratch that–how God interacts with humans.  If only.  If only we can follow one another into the dark.  Driving behind.  And trust that at some point, somewhere, they will come to the car.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


Cross Cultural Encounters

This year’s Summer Global Experience (SGE) will be to Northern Ireland.  You might not think this will provide much a of a cross cultural encounter, but I beg to differ.  “Wait Cross Cultural, what?  Don’t you mean mission trip?”

Nope.  I don’t.  I mean a cross cultural experience.  Encounter.  Undertaking.  You see our SGE isn’t about doing…it’s about being.  Challenging ourselves to be human beings (not humans doing) with other human beings.  We move beyond our comfort zones of culture and customs.  It’s through these encounters that our eyes and hearts open…we wake up, sometimes we get shaken up.  How we think the world works, how we think Christianity works, who we think we are, and what we think we believe–suddenly our certainties aren’t so sure. The SGE teaches what we cannot teach or learn by ourselves and with ourselves.

And now you’re thinking, we can do all of that in Northern Ireland?  That’s a European country, right?  That uses the British pound, right?  That’s not going to be cross cultural or challenge my understanding of Christianity.

Well, Northern Ireland is part of Eurpoe, part of Great Britain, and does indeed use the British pound. It is also a country that has been torn about by political and religious conflict for centuries.  Belfast and Baghdad were both on the do-not-visit list in the 1990s.  Its city streets still share a story of generations of hatred and strife. Murals of The Troubles remind us of what our rage, resentment, and self-righteousness yield.  In an era where our own nation demands you choose: blue states or red states, Evangelicals or Mainliners, Coke or Pepsi, we could certainly learn from those who have sought a third way.  A way of reconciliation.  A way of letting go of yesterday’s pain not by denying it, burying it, or gentrifying it but by naming the hurt, sharing stories, and saying, “It stops here.  It stops with me.”

If you have participated in a Leadership Academy with us, we invite you to take this pilgrimage to Northern Ireland.  A sojourn to learn about the Christian practice of reconciliation and the very real challenge of practicing the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.

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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


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So When Do They Learn Leadership?

“So when do we learn leadership here?  I don’t see a class for that.” A student approached me with this comment after an opening workshop on theology of worship.  This astute young woman had carefully perused all the materials we provided.  Did a detailed analysis of the schedule for the week.  Read and re-read the information about covenant groups, meals, and community guidelines for life together….no where did she find information about leadership.

How could this possibly be a leadership academy if none of our coursework, curriculum, workshops, or focus areas are on leadership?

For anyone who has ever graced the front of a classroom, led a Bible study, or simply tried to teach a child to ride a bike, you may have observed that what is taught and what is learned are often two different things.  And with something like riding a bike, there are two kinds of learning.  The learning of “names and process.”  This is a bike.  These are the handles.  These are the peddles.  You push them with your feet to go forward.  Then there’s the learning of  “riding.”  And there’s really only one way to learn that.  To get on the bike and ride.  To wibble and wobble.  Sometimes to fall.  Sometimes to soar down a hill forgetting how to brake.  Always picking yourself up and giving it another go.  And one day, you’re riding.  It becomes like breathing.

Leadership Academy takes the second, bike riding approach to learning leadership.  Sure we could give young people an elaborate definitions of leadership.  We could take notes in graphic organizers, create detailed analysis of leadership styles, debate the best characteristics of leaders.  But we don’t.  We don’t do any of these things.

Instead we support young people in learning to lead by allowing them to do just that—lead.  Leadership Academy is a place for young people to be in community with other young people to have conversation about faith and life.  It’s a place to create worship, to explore questions about who we are, whose we are, and how , the Bible fits with any of this.  It’s a time to practice using individual gifts and to risk trying something new.  It’s a time to nurture spiritual gifts for leadership through practice and reflection and safe community.  If you know a young person in your church, school, or community who’d benefit from Leadership Academy, give them an application.

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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Leadership Academy


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