Monday, November 10, 2008

What I'm Doing Now

Today I received an anonymous comment from a blog reader. I'm completely OK with a good amount of disagreement about youth ministry. I believe that constant questioning of our practices make us better ministers. It keeps us sharp. It helps us think through why we do what we do.

But in reading this reader's comment I realized that the message and purpose of this blog might be completely ignored because of people's perceptions about me. Here's the comment:

"I just read through a lot of your posts, but I think it would've been more meaninful if you were still in ministry. It's easy to sit on the sidelines, even if it's on a court you once played, and yell at those who are still participating. Roll up your sleeves and see some of these things happen."

I guess the perception is that youth ministry became "too hard" and has "too many flaws" so I just quit. Or that I'm no longer involved or interested in fixing the problems. That I'm just content to complain or criticize about what's broken.

I hope this isn't the common reaction.

My concern isn't about my credibility as much as readers rejecting the issues raised in this blog because of perceptions about the writer. Maybe a bit of context will help.

I've never shared my reason for leaving youth ministry other than "God simply led me to something different." Maybe knowing what that "something" is will help clarify my departure from youth pastordom. It's a long story, but I'll make it short.

Our family (not just me) has felt a clear call to those Jesus called "the least of these" - the outcasts, forgotten, oppressed, poor, unlovable - and especially widows and orphans. This call led us all the way to Ethiopia where whe adopted two little orphan girls. My wife increased her hours at the hospital to support our family so I can rehab houses for seniors (especially widows) living in one of the poorest areas of Toledo. This winter we hope to insulate several attics free of charge. This is what we've been doing for the last year.

As per the "getting involved" comment... Unless youth ministry is narrowly defined as "youth pastor" I don't feel like I'm "sitting on the sidelines". I just feel like I'm playing on a different court. Or maybe I'm just playing a different position than before. I've found a way to maintain my involvement with students at the local high school. I invite young people into directly serving the seniors I've met over the past year (hopefully even moreso in the future). And just today I trained and equipped a group of parents to become the primary spiritual investors in their kids lives.

41 comments:

joel diaz said...

good to hear from you. i appreciated your earlier posts and look forward to reading more about your work.

in a few weeks i am going to sit down with the parents of our church, and our youth leaders and begin to ask many of the questions you raised. i mentioned this to a fellow staff member. they told me that it sounded like i was going to work myself right out of a job. i smiled.

Christ's peace.

Nathaniel Dame said...

Good post, thanks for sharing. There are a lot of people out there that feel that you need to be in youth ministry to help youth pastors with youth ministry. I'm not sure I agree with that. If you look at businesses, the ones that just compare themselves with their competitors either end up making the same mistakes they did or simply not being able to innovate. The ones that succeed are the ones that look for ideas from all sources, both inside and outside of their specialty.

Sometimes you need an outside opinion to help get you out of the "rut" and on to the next level of growth in ministry. It's incredibly valuable to get a fresh pair of eyes on a situation--they will see things you have been looking over for years.

I love the help and feedback, no matter where it comes from.

Anonymous said...

I just googled recovering youth pastor and got to yours from another blog. I am a "retired" volunteer youth pastor of 10 years and wondered if anyone else felt some of the things I feel. It's encouraging to know I'm not alone. It's interesting that a lot of youth pastors leave YM and go into the least of these types of ministries. I myself feel that call. I read some different books, did some inner city outreach, worked with the homeless in Philly and found my heart changed. I find myself in transition for the last 2 years but in a strange way enjoying it. Thanks again.

Matt Schaffner said...

I definitely think not taking feedback/critique seriously destroys something otherwise worthwhile. Yes, there is a lot to be said for being "in the game" or at minimal involved somewhere (our motto is, "If you're not rowing the boat, you don't have the right to try and steer the boat."), but being a part doesn't mean worthwhile feedback!

I am one of those youth pastor's who is stuck in the rut of how it has always been done. I have tried to focus on real discipleship, not just events, but it is so easy to fall into that mentality! The question our city's youth ministerial alliance has been asking is "what have we been doing that hasn't led us to be fruitful in terms of disciples (not just those who talk about it, those who live it and are bearing fruit)?" We have been doing a lot of things (sowing a lot of seeds), but have reaped little and the question became one of why? What we came back to was asking a question from the beginning of our alliance: how many disciples would we say we had. We went around the room, the answers were 2, 1, 0, 3, 2 which was roughly what we had two years ago when we began. That led us to the question of what a disciple really was.

As we talked and pondered Scripture, we came to the point where we said doing quarterly "fun" or "outreach" events is well and good, but it hasn't been doing anything worthwhile in terms of kingdom advancement so we would focus on being disciples first (holding each other accountable, being completely open and honest with each other, filling our meetings with Scripture and prayer, and in general working at being disciples so we can make disciples). It's been a rocky road, especially for the ministers who have churches who expect certain things and numbers from their minister. For others of us, it has been reinvigorating to see fire and passion return to our ministry. The big thing though was being willing to drop our pretenses and share the journey of discipleship together (crazy, focusing on being disciples ourselves instead of on events has made a ton of difference in my ministry)

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Arturo Paulino said...

I believe you could well be out of the whole church setting and still be in the fighting arena whether you are a lawyer, coach, teacher, business man etc.
I my point of view to "sidelined" is to not love God and serve others and it that could be possible even while holding a church position

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