On not Letting Things Happen

It’s been a bit over 9 months now since my dad moved into a memory care facility.  We found a very nice place; one which he agreed would be fine, that was conveniently close to my mom.

It is also fairly close to where I live.  Of their three sons, I am by far the closest to our parents.  This was true even before we moved from Waco to Euless in June of 2012.  In fact, my primary motivation for seeking an appointment in the Metroplex was to be closer to our parents as they aged.

The idea was that I would be able to see them more often, and be more available to help.

I believe I have succeeded in the latter cause; until last week, though, I have felt a failure in  the former.

It turns out that living within 20 minutes of ones parents does not mean one will necessarily see them more or spend time with them.  Between being a newly appointed pastor at a growing church, having to pre-school aged children, and being a man intent on maintaining a healthy marriage, time to go and spend with parents, even one now in a nursing home, doesn’t just happen.

Two weeks ago, then I decided I would no longer just wait for time with dad to happen. I choose to make it happen.  Two consecutive Mondays now I have driven to spend some time with dad.  One of these I stopped and picked up mom as well. Today, I went alone.

I share this not out of a need for affirmation or applause, but to invite you to consider what kinds of things you might have been waiting to happen, wanting to “let happen” in relationships. Surely sometimes things happen without our initiative.  But I wonder how many relationships have ended out of waiting to let something happen.

I wish I could share with you some profound benefit I’ve already received from this commitment to see my dad weekly (regularly, actually; I know better than to think this will work every Monday).  I have no such stories, and, frankly, don’t expect them.  Parkinson’s related dementia leads me, rather, to think that this commitment was important for reasons other than what I might get out of it.

Or, maybe, what I expect to get out of this commitment is confirmation that simply waiting for something to happen is not always the better choice.

Behaviour in Youth Ministry

Another topic from my days last week at Perkins School of Youth Ministry:

In one session of the formative meetings about covenant membership in the YouthWorker Movement, one of us led a brief discussion on discipline in youth ministry.

For the first 5-8 minutes, the discussion was about nothing but punishment for unacceptable behavior (which I spelled Britishly in the heading-did you notice?).

It seems that for many of us in youth ministry, the main point of discipline is to punish (or at best, give consequences to) bad behavior.

Richard Foster offers an exquisite definition of discipline in his classic The Celebration of Discipline. Discipline, Foster tells us, is “the ability to do what ought to be done when it ought to be done.” Leave behind the boot camp images, set aside negative stereotypes. Discipline isn’t punishment. If it were, we would simply call it punishment.

The first and best way we discipline youth is to model appropriate behavior at all times. For this to be effective, we must also let youth close enough to ouselves, to who we really are and what makes us tick (and what ticks us off) that they can see that we don’t just behave well because we have boring lives; we behave well because we have learned to do so.

Sometime after discipline enters the life of the youth minister, it can begin to find its way into the lives of youth.