Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lunch With Jesus

I have been going for lunch weekly with a number of young men for almost 2 years. We started this tradition in their grade 12 year and have continued to eat lunch together regularly after they graduated. Our favorite spot is a place called Pho Tau Bay--a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. We’ve been there so often the waitress doesn’t bring us menus. I’ve even learned some Vietnamese.

Other than that I haven’t had a lot to report--we just ate lunch together. Conversation, if there was any, revolved around video games and mutual mockery. To be honest I found myself frustrated, feeling like I was wasting my time and money. It began to wear on my self-esteem, like I wasn’t a good youthworker because I wasn’t having deep spiritual conversations.

It wasn’t until the second week of January this year that something changed. That week each young man separately approached me to talk about something important that was going on in their life. I was able to share about grace with one young man, another needed someone to talk to after a fight with his girlfriend, another shared about his new job and his feelings of self-esteem in it, a fourth asked me if I thought he would be a good youthworker.

That week God reminded me of 2 truths:

First, that we are not asked to be successful only to be faithful. It’s nearly impossible to measure success or even growth as a youthworker. The indicators are usually intangible, unmeasurable and eternal (or at least long-term.) Even victories like a baptism or conversion 6 months later can look like a failure when there’s no change or things are even worse (not uncommon.)

Secondly, that when we are faithful in the little things, he is faithful in the big ones. I realized I had been minimizing God’s work. Who am I the clay to tell the potter how I should be shaped or what I should be used for. My job is just to be good clay, respond to the hand of the Master and let him create the masterpiece--both in my life and the youth I work with.

I don’t know what next week’s conversations over Pho will be but I do know that at our table there is a seat set for Jesus. I look forward to watching him work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crisis Intervention Plan

Most youthworkers and youth pastors are quite familiar with the crisis phone calls/text messages. Frequently these do not occur during our "working" hours whatever that looks like. I'd like to share some ideas our team has developed for these situations. We have created a set of questions we use to evaluate a crisis before we step into action.

Is Your God Big Enough?

First off,  in dealing with a crisis, you need to deal with yourself. Consider for a moment, that your apparent selfless act of leaving your sleep and your family behind, maybe more about your need for validation than helping the person in crisis--in reality your selfless act is quite selfish. 

You have to ask yourself if you believe in the Sovereignty of God. Is your God big enough to deal with a crisis without you? If you can't answer yes to this question or you answer it with a "Ya, but..." you are likely setting yourself up to burn out. You may have the subtley put on the superman underwear thinking that you can save these kids. If that's the case, pride is now creeping into you life. Only Jesus can save these kids. He may choose you to be his vessel but it's always his work not yours. 

Is this a REAL Crisis?

A counselor once told me there is no such thing as a crisis that cannot be dealt with tomorrow. There is actually a lot of truth in that statement. In cases where a person's life is in danger your first action should be to call 911. Pretty much any other crisis can (and maybe should) wait for tomorrow.

Is God directing me to go?

There maybe times when it's not a life & death crisis but the Holy Spirit is impressing on us the need to go. Who am I to argue with the God of the Universe? Outside of the direct leading of God here are some concrete questions we ask ourselves before we act on a crisis:

Am I healthy enough to go? (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual)
  1. Have I had enough sleep this week?
  2. Have I had enough exercise this week?
  3. Am I sick?
  4. Do I have the emotional, physical and spiritual energy to give?
  5. Did my stress levels spike when I the phone rang?
  6. Have I spent meaningful time in prayer/scripture today/this week?
Have I taken care of my family?

If you can't take care of your family why do feel like you can take care of someone else's. This is one area I encourage you to ask your family for feedback on.
  1. Have I spent meaningful time with my spouse? (Ask your spouse)
  2. Have I spent meaningful time with my kids? (Ask your kids)
Can someone else go?

One thing our team has learned is that often (not always) a person reaches out to multiple people when in crisis. Our team has often realized after the fact that a teen in crisis was texting all of us at the same time. A few questions in the heat of the moment might have cleared that up. Instead of 4 of us having a sleepless night 1 person could have been sufficient.

Perhaps you have deemed this an important crisis but based on your self evaluation feel you cannot or should not go. This is where you need to refer/employ/empower your teammates, volunteers and other community services. Just because it's a crisis doesn't mean you have to be the one to respond.

Do you have a similar protocol? Did I miss any important questions? Feedback or Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Win an iPod Nano

Langley Youth Unlimited is looking to expand our work. If you are a Youth in the Langley Area we would appreciate your input. If you fill out our survey you will be entered to win an iPod Nano.
If you are a Parent, a Faith Leader or a Community Leader in the Langley area your input is also greatly appreciated. Please fill out the appropriate survey below. Pass this survey on--A second iPod Nano will be given to the person who helps us the most! If you would prefer to arrange for an interview with one of our staff please email us directly.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Youthworkers Should Watch Modern Family

I am about to make a blanket statement… If you are a youthworker or youth pastor and are not watching ABC’s Modern Family you probably should clear your schedule for Wednesday nights at 8 pm. If that’s not an option you need to set your pvr or watch it online. 

Here’s a link if you wanna watch the pilot episode

What It’s All About: 
“When the Pritchett-Delgado-Dunphy family agrees to be interviewed by a documentary crew, they have no idea just how much they're about to reveal about themselves. Family patriarch Jay Pritchett met the stunning Columbian Gloria Delgado when she bartended in a bikini at the pool party he threw for himself the day his wife left him. Now Jay and Gloria are married and Jay tries hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter wife and her passionate teenage son, Manny. Jay's daughter, Claire, is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except for the fact that he thinks he's "down" with their teenage kids, much to their embarrassment. Claire's brother Mitchell and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just adopted Lily, a precious little baby girl from Vietnam. But when everyone gets together, things are bound to get awkward… But that's the thing about family: no matter how badly you behave, hopefully they'll forgive... or maybe even forget. In the tradition of The Office, this engaging new comedy offers a 'mockumentary' view into the complicated, messy, loving life of a modern day super-extended family.” 

So why do I think you should watch this show? 
  1. Laughter: This show absolutely hilarious. If for no other reason than a good hearty laugh you will find yourself rewarded for watching an episode of Modern Family.
  2. Family Friendly: It can be hard to find shows on tv that aren’t violent, crude or sexual. While not necessarily traditional it is actually quite family friendly.
  3. Popular Culture: Your youth are watching it and so should you even if it’s just as a popular culture lesson. It’s so popular, in fact, that in it’s first season it was nominated for 14 Emmys—winning 6 of them (including best comedy, best supporting actor, and writing.)
  4. A New Traditional Family: Your youth can relate because their families and/or their friend’s families look a lot more like the “Modern Family” than the “Traditional Family.” In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that many of your youth are growing up in a family even less traditional than the “Modern Family.”
  5. Our Family Mandate: Closely related to the last point is this: most youthworkers and youth pastors know that their job is as much working with a youths family (parents and siblings) as the youth themselves.
  6. Lessons in Conflict: Every episode is a great lesson in conflict and conflict resolution. It’s amazing and hilarious to watch how an expectation, an assumption, a lie, or a miscommunication leads to such conflict (not all together unlike real life.)
  7. Learning to Love: You might see love in places you’ve never really understood before. Despite all the conflict and neurotic mess of this non-traditional family you’ll see how much they love each other. They might not understand each other or their choices but they are willing to fight for each other. Perhaps you too will begin to fall in love with them—foibles and all. Perhaps it might take you to a place of tolerance (I can disagree with you and love you without having to change you) you’ve never been before.
That’s my pitch. I hope you enjoy Modern Family as much as I have. If you do find it worth your while may I also recommend you stick around and check out The Middle which follows Modern Family. Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up blog on why youthworkers should watch it but that’s for another day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All Apologies,8599,1992171,00.html

This was the June 2010 cover of TIME magazine. I happened upon it while rushing to an ATM in a convenience store. The restaurant I had just eaten at took cash only and I only had plastic. To make matters worse I had brought a number of youth along with the promise that I would pay for the meal. So while my young friends awkwardly hung-out at our table, I rushed to my car and drove like a madman trying to find an ATM. It's funny how easily distracted I can be. This magazine caught my eye and I forgot about what I was supposed to be doing. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. Eventually I did remember and got the cash, returned to the restaurant and paid the bill.

So what was it about this cover that stopped me in my tracks? It wasn't the catholic church's sexual abuse scandal that I resinated with. It wasn't the the Pope's unwillingness to apologize. I saw a much deeper, more universal issue. It was the church's (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Liberal, Anabaptist, Independent, Parachurch...) unwillingness to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness.

I will admit that perhaps my view of church has been skewed or rather scarred by a few people who hurt me deeply. It is something I have wrestled with for many years now. There was a time, because of my wounds, when I wanted nothing to do with God and especially not his church. Over the years God has healed my wounds and brought me to a great church, not a perfect one, but a good one. I still walk with limp, but I see much clearer. I believe God has used my wounds to teach me much about myself and his church. I might even go so far to say that I am glad for the wounds but it has been a long and dark road to be able to speak those words. 

I empathize deeply with those who are frustrated with the church, who've been hurt by the church, who've become disappointed with God because of the church. One thing I've learned is that hate toward one church quickly spreads like a cancer toward the whole church and eventually toward God. Most atheist's I've talked to have stopped believing in God rather than never believed in God--often because of very negative experiences with religious people. I believe this is one reason why humility and confession are such an important practice for the church. At times we've done good things (like Evangelism) in bad ways and hurt people. At times we've done bad things (like Legalism) with good of intentions and hurt people. James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." We need to wake up to the fact that there are a lot of walking wounded both inside and outside the church. Maybe you weren't the one who hurt them but perhaps you can be the Good Samaritan in their life.

Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz, tells a story of how confession began to change the university he attended. Every year his school celebrated a week of debauchery--anything went. He and his friends decided to set-up a confessional booth in the middle of campus with a sign outside that said "confess your sins." They dressed as priests, pastors and monks and waited for people to come. Inside the confessional booth the priest would then confess the church's sin--the inquisition, the holocaust, racism, witch hunts, homosexual hatred etc. With tears in their eyes people would leave the both and run to get their friends. It was a transformative moment.

I have experienced the power of confession first hand. It was the day I went back to my doctor to refill my anti-depressant prescription--I had sunk into depression shortly after resigning as youth pastor. After a year symptom free I stopped treatment but soon the darkness returned. On my way home from the doctor's office I had to drive past my old church. I decided to see how the church secretary was doing. As we were chatting, the new pastor popped in and asked if he could talk with me. He talked for a long time about what he was doing with the church. I was wondering why he was telling me this, when he stopped and said, "So the question I have for you is... What if anything does this church need to do to be in right relationship with you?" I broke down in tears in this strangers office. He was the first person to acknowledge my hurt and he had nothing to do with my wounds. I don't know what happened that day but I walked out of that room a changed man. That night I went to take my pills but something inside of me was different. That was years ago and I still haven't touched those pills. I was healed by stranger who humbled himself on behalf of others and sought to make amends.

I guess what I've been trying to say is perhaps what the world needs from us Christians is less Apologetics and more Apologies.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Honest Response

After my previous post, The Secret of an Easy Yoke, I received the following email:

I just read your blog and I really connected with it. I wrote the email below to my pastor today - I'm sharing it with you because I feel like you may understand. I don't ever want to talk about it - just be understood from afar. In psychology they say that if you keep on smiling when you are not happy eventually the emotions of happiness will follow. I guess I am hoping the same is true for faith - even when there is none, if I keep on pretending that eventually it will come..... I know it's not true but I don't know what else to hope for.

-A Friend

Dear Pastor,

I've done a lot of thinking since we talked and have come up with some answers. You asked why we kept on going to church after our previous one had wounded us and I didn't have an answer but I do now. There are 2 reasons - because my spouse still believes in God and because if we continued on with church like nothing happened the people at previous church would think that they didn't hurt us and we had the upper hand. I really have no other reasons for showing up and quickly realized after our conversation that I had put my feelings where they were not going to disturb me and began to 'fake happy' at church again. I have realized that I really don't have a problem with _______, but rather with the fact that he is the only one that has really asked me how I am doing and I have to be fake with him to protect myself and I hate it - but I hate it because of me not because of him. I have left the church just like so many people have, I just happen to still be showing up physically. I can convince myself that I want to believe when I am at church but I leave and I'm empty and my faith is gone. I know everything in my head but all of that can be easily explained away and I just don't have it in me to care. I can talk the talk, fake it to lead small group & to sing in the worship team but there's nothing beyond that for me and I just don't care anymore.

-A Friend