Gap this!

I am making final preparations for teaching at next week’s Perkins School of Youth Ministry.  One of the classes I will be teaching is titled “Deconstructing the Generation Gap.”  I will allege, and hopefully convince my class, that the generation gap is a social construct and one that is (ought to be) unwelcome in the church.

It struck me today that the term “generation gap” really came into being as the Baby Boomers began to rise into late adolescence and early adulthood.  Now, however, they are on the other end of the gap.

How are you doing, Baby Boomers, from this side of the “gap,” as compared to how the older generation did when you were on the young end?

Letting Go

I want to speak. I want to preach. I want to lead. One of the challenging parts of being who and where I am these days is letting go of these desires.

If I am speaking or preaching, someone else isn’t. If I have led well, I have to learn to allow others to lead now.

I recently completed a time of service as a Coordinator of Youth Ministry in the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. At my final meeting with this group, my successor was elected in the opening hours of the weekend event.

For the rest of the event, I was there and not there.

It was very surreal for me. I found myself biting my lip throughout discussions.

One of the major emphases in this group has been youth leadership. We allegedly strive to create and leave space for the youth to do the leading.

Yet I find that we adults do most of the talking. When youth talk, they speak deferentially toward adults. It sounds, and feels, like we (adults) often speak with an edge of concern that if we aren’t active and vocal the youth will take off in unreliable and undesirable directions.

I have not found this to be the case, however.  The huge majority of the youth in leadership that I’ve worked with have shared a sincere and deep desire to serve God and to work together.

We can trust them.

To do so, we have to let go.  Letting go is not easy.

Humiliation in Youth Ministry

Had a discussion the other night about what we’d be militant about.

I’m pretty laid back, and wouldn’t get militant over much.

But then I thought of it.

I am militantly opposed to humiliation in the name of youth ministry. Do you know what I mean?

Like those times on retreats or mission trips, when someone loses his or her nametag? Humiliation in youth ministry says they should be made to sing or dance in front of everyone to earn to back.

That kind of thing will never again happen if I am at the event.

Had it happened to me as a youth, I would have left the church. I’ve talked to at least one person who left the church more than a decade ago for such a reason.

If you think the solution is that people should just grow thicker skin, perhaps you should read the gospels again.

Are you with me?

-Focus, simplify

Eliza was sick (and thus at home) one day last week. Rachel and I split the day off to take care of her. We have a swing out back that she has loved since the day we brought her home.  Probably because I feel I am not very good at spending a long time at home with her, she and I went out to the swing a couple of times in the afternoon.

One of the times we were out there together, my mind was running with a list of things I could also be accomplishing. Some of these things could have been done without detracting too much from taking care of her.

You might think I had been thinking of Mary and Martha (Luke 10) to convince myself that “one thing is important” right now. I don’t recall thinking of Mary or Martha. I did think of Jesus, though.

I don’t mean I thought of Jesus in some spiritual way, or in some guilt-invoking way. I thought of Jesus and, thus, how simple and focused his life and direction always seemed to be.

I soon realized that even spinning thoughts about all the other things I could (or should) be doing was detracting from the one valuable thing: spending time with Eliza. I determined to stop the spinning and focus.

Some call this mindfulness. It is beyond the cult of physical presence. Mindfulness is being entirely present with another. They deserve it. We all yearn for it. Let’s focus on giving it.

Pick your battles

On this first day of business sessions of the Central Texas Annual Conference, I am blogging about youth ministry.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to brag on one of our kids to his grandmother. This kid has grown remarkably in his three years here, and is a valuable and dynamic part of our Praise Band. I shared this with his grandmother.

She beamed proudly, thanked me, and then asked, “Can you get him to cut his hair?”

“No,” I replied, without hesitation. “That’s really not a battle I care to fight.”

Kids who come into our care have seen a wide variety of care and lack thereof.  Several at our graduation last week told of growing up hearing the adults in their life tell them they would never make it. Now, proudly, here they were, high school graduates.  Many of them the first ever in their family to accomplish this.

Honestly, anytime I hear an adult do any serious grumbling over adolescent hair I stand amazed.  I really thought we got that all hammered out in the 1970s.  The funny (funny as in sad) thing about this is the adult who are grousing NOW about teen’s hair were very likely the ones pushing the coif-envelope in their youth – in the 1970s.

Well, pick your battles with today’s youth.  If you want to even further alienate them, ignore their accomplishments and focus on what you think is wrong with them.

Did you like when your parents did that to you?

I wonder what lessons I can draw from this that will be relevant for me today at Annual Conference….