In these past few months, I have had many conversations regarding Korean church youth ministry. Through these discussions, I realized that there were some things to reconsider in terms of the hiring process of youth pastors. Do youth pastors really need a Master’s of Divinity?

In my culture, having a life-long calling as a youth pastor is very unusual. It is more common for a pastor with an M. Div. to strive to become an adult ministry pastor, and not “settle” for youth. Usually youth ministry is seen as more of a stepping stone to reach this call or do ministry while pursuing their studies. I also think they don’t settle due to the lack of recognition of a youth pastor. While I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with this scenario, I do see that there is a definite shortage of youth pastors due to the qualification of needing an M.Div. Setting up such a high standard on paper sometime might miss the opportunity of high quality youth pastors that are just satisfied with their undergrad ministry degree.

There needs to be a paradigm shift and a remedy to this situation. It is evident that it is becoming more difficult to find someone with an M.Div that also has a call for youth ministry. Korean churches are losing out on young, talented gifted individuals that have a heart to serve the youth students, simply because they do not possess an M.Div. credential.

I think it is time for some churches to stretch the boundaries of accepting candidates with a degree in Christian Education, youth ministry, or a masters in biblical or theological studies. To think even further, it would be awesome to even consider hiring candidates that have an undergrad degree at a Christian College or University. Due to my cultural context, I do understand the title given as “Pastor” can be uncomfortable to someone that has not completed an M. Div., so a possible solution is to give them the title of “Youth Director” instead. Simple, right?

Don’t get me wrong, having an M. Div. could only help and better our youth students, but let’s not count out those brave individuals that have a true passion and desire to serve in youth ministry!

- Estevao / @estevaoyu

Cosby and Christendom

 —  November 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

bill-cosby-rape-allegations-pr-nightmareThe Cosby show is recorded before a live audience.

You know this, not because the voice of “Rudy” told you so… but because of all the new coverage and social media chatter about the iconic comedian Bill Cosby. Multiple women have come forth after decades of silence to make claims of sexual assault and drug-induced rendezvous against their will.

I’ve been processing all of this awkwardness like many of you have… not just because he’s been one of my favorite comedians over the years, or even my thirteen-year old son’s recent discovery online of the old 80′s show.

The real “Cosby show” that I’m interested in is how this all relates to you, me and the Church.

bentateConsider the sports commentators on my local radio station who were discussing how athlete Ben Tate was let go from the Cleveland Browns. They noted how after talking about it for an hour, no one called in or sent a message to the station in defense of this player whose firing seemed more related to locker room antics than his skills on the field.

Perhaps because of that filter, I’ve been wondering about if anyone will publicly come to Cosby’s defense. It could arguably be career suicide for such a fellow celebrity, for even Cosby’s own legacy is now in jeopardy. According to Variety newspaper:

Given what a public figure Cosby has been throughout his life, and the likelihood many will believe his accusers no matter what he says, this sets up significant dilemma. Cosby can seek to address the situation head-on, with no assurance that will allow him to rehabilitate his reputation; or choose to stay quiet, which would very likely entail living out his days as a pariah – someone with whom no network, streaming service or sponsor would understandably want to be associated. 

The media are hardly known for long attention spans, and if Cosby opts for the latter path, the drip, drip, drip of accusations will inevitably begin to subside. Yet he will no longer be able to perform – or certainly do interviews to promote any of his appearances – without inviting a new round of uncomfortable questions.

All of this highlights for me our own controversies within Christendom, between the latest megachurch pastor resignation to the ways smaller, extreme radicals of the faith become mountains out of molehills in the local press. Consider that in light of this quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

jellocosbyThe heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another.

It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.

Finger-PointingWhat might be your response to this if it happened in your arena of life?

  • Imagine someone leveled harsh accusations against someone in your church that everyone loved. How would you handle it, especially if you loved this person? Someone recently told me, “I don’t care what people say about Bill Cosby. I love that guy.” Ever felt that same sentiment from someone who thought someone in the church could do no wrong?
  • What is in your past that could be brought up and addressed in a crowd of embarrassment? Maybe the accusations by themselves are slim, but if you got four or five people in a room together sharing stories of your shortsightedness or sin… what would happen next? Should you navigate that ahead of time and confess the situations – whether they’re actual or perceived – or hope that no one notices?
  • How would you feel if your internet search history was published within your church? What would you hope no one would notice or see? How does this affect how you are practicing cover up… or are you practicing transformation?

cosby-show-11The character of Cliff Huxtable was ranked first in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” None of that seems to matter in all of these allegations against Cosby, unless you consider how it seems that much more sad if this all pans out to be true. Some argue no one wanted to talk about the allegations back then because he made so many white Americans feel so good about race.

Should there be an opportunity for restoration?

What about if we’re not just talking about Cosby, but among people within the church?

What if you were the “Cosby” individual and the allegations start flying?

Where is the consistency and the hypocrisy in how we should deal with this in our own circles?

Are you confused by your “Cliff Huxtable” reputation and assuming all the flubs in your life can be solved by “going to commercial break” or making a silly face when they come up?

How should prayer and confession guide any of that?

Your life and ministry, after all, are being recorded before a live audience.



I-am-wrongConfession…

my favorite part of being wrong is when I admit it out loud.

That may seem like the average person’s least favorite moment.

Let me explain why I feel the opposite about it.

When you’re wrong, there’s usually someone who is passionately trying to point it out to you. Perhaps they’re on a mission to highlight what is plain to them that you’ve somehow been blind to. They’re attempting to get you to be mature or responsible about something you may have been immature or shortsighted about.

This tends to amplify when they feel you wronged them.

On your end, it’s likely not easy to admit that you missed something or made another person feel awkward. This is why when you actually do own it as a genuine step of maturity to the situation or the relationship… something amazing and unexpected happens.

The other person is also now tasked to choose if they’re going to be mature or immature in response to your response.

coneofshameAgain, this individual was on a quest to point out something you missed. In doing so, they situationally claimed the high ground – perhaps for all the right reasons, or maybe for the wrong reasons. They may not have even expected you to own it.

Only… you did. They had a great point. You confessed it, along with a desire to grow.

This is where it’s revealed if that person truly is a friend who will stick with you into the next curve or simply was a critic who wanted to lay a zinger on you. You once were being small in not owning something big, and now that person has to decide what they’re going to do with your mature ability to own your immaturity.

Unfortunately, this is where many conscious accusers become unconsciously divided.

  • They have nothing new left to say… yet they don’t know what to now do with any remnants of the unspoken negativity they felt toward you seconds earlier.
  • They have nothing left to point out… yet find themselves still wanting to be a critical spirit when they generally look at you.
  • They have nothing left to get you to admit… yet find themselves wanting to become your personal “life coach” and show you other things you’ve been blind to.

I adore this moment, not because I’m waiting to see if the accuser will be hypocritical… but because what once was a one-sided pursuit in my direction gets to be a defining moment in every direction of the relationship.

Will the person who felt you were wayward choose to let it go and walk into the future with you?

(By the way – think about how you handle this when you’re the one trying to expose another person to something they’re blind to.)

Reconcile_With_One_AnotherThe reason this is a defining moment?

Because it shows what the relationship is really made of and if two Christ-followers will keep following Christ together. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray for forgiveness from God that is equal to the way we’ve forgiven other people who have wronged us:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

So the best part about being wrong?

It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to put Jesus on display in what happens next between those involved.

Then again…

I could be wrong.

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Our 25th episode is HERE!!! In this episode we give you four ways that has helped us support our students, in their spiritual growth. We love sharing our experiences and learnings with you, so thanks for watching. Don’t forget to Subscribe to get the newest show straight to email.

 

Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt



My Thanksgiving Tyrade

 —  November 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

185816528It happened literally the day after Halloween. Actually the two coincided. Stores started putting up their Christmas decorations. By November 5th it was in full swing. Santa was set up at the mall and all the red, gold, and green decor one could imagine was covering everything. Parking lot pumpkin patches are already being replaced with Christmas Tree sales. Even Starbucks already launched their “red cups” and Christmas drinks. A week or so ago I started receiving ads to help me “prepare” for Black Friday shopping. Actually, in some places if I want I can just start the savings on November 27th.

Does that date sound vaguely familiar? It should because it is Thanksgiving Day. You know the holiday we have somehow forgot that lands between the candy fest and Christmas. It’s the day we all eat too much, hold hands and go around the table and say “thank you” for things big and small from the last year. Stephanie Caro wrote a great post called, “Fall Into Christmas” where she actually discussed some ways to enjoy this middle holiday as we HEAD towards Christmas.

The issue for me is that it isn’t that we are reflecting more deeply on, “The Reason for the Season.” It’s about buying and doing more this year than we did last year. In the meantime, have we stopped to breathe in the crisp Fall air, eat all things pumpkin, and be thankful? I never thought about it before, but all the thanking prepared my heart for Christmas. I naturally turned my heart towards being grateful that God came to earth to be with us when I was well, being thankful.

Let’s not skip this time of giving thanks. Here are some cool ideas I have seen out and about that you and your students can try:

Handwritten “THANK YOU” Notes

Inspire your students to sit down and write two to five thank you notes to people who influence their lives. It can be parents, teachers, coaches or even you. Help them say thank you to those people who take the time to pour into them. For you sit down and write a couple of handwritten notes to your team. Everyone needs to hear thank you every so often, and I think it does every soul good to actually say it as well.

 Pour It On:

This is something you could do in small groups or give as a suggestion for the meal time at home. Take a vase and place it in a bowl. Give everyone a cup of water. Everyone goes around expressing thanks for things from the past year. When they do, they pour some water in the vase. The goal it to physically see it pour over. Get it? The whole cup runs over…literally.

Thank You Jar or Wall:

Keep a jar in a central place in your ministry. Have students keep one in their home. This is something you can do all year round. Every time they are thankful for something a small note is written and placed in the jar. Better yet, keep a wall with sticky notes available. Have students continuously fill the wall with ways they are thankful. Then take some time to read them all out loud.

I think my issue about overlooking Thanksgiving would be less if as a nation we were more focused on celebrating Emmanuel. Yet, it’s become more about getting than ever before. I think we need to inspire each other to have that attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving has always been a great catalyst for this. It’s not just about the turkey or the football or the pilgrims. Let’s make sure we don’t skip it, I promise there’s still time.

What are you thankful for?

Church Membership?

 —  November 14, 2014 — 4 Comments

Member Stamp Shows Membership Registration And SubscribingDoes church membership really matter?

You may not be the person in charge of this area of your congregation, but I’d presume you’ve heard this question before. Maybe you’ve even asked it yourself on occasion.

What’s your response?

Someone asked me recently, “Why do I need to be a member of any church? Why can’t I just as a Christian show up for Bible studies and services without all that red tape?”

I was exhausted at the time, so maybe my response was too candid. Still, I liked it as it rolled out of me:

“Why? Because you’re absolutely right. It isn’t necessary. It doesn’t matter. It’s a broken system. Many churches use it to gauge their effectiveness or build up arrogance at their numbers, and that’s a horrible idea. It’s a concept that people have rightfully grown suspicious of, and we shouldn’t even do it….

which is exactly why we do it.

It’s the same reason that you’re going to encourage your kids to get married versus live with someone, because you know that marriage is more than a piece of paper – even though society has made it feel like that’s all it is. It’s why you’re going to work on your health, even though you know your body will eventually surprise you – because maybe that gives you a better context to invest into others, even though you could just eat horribly everyday and think only of yourself.

band-of-brothersChurch membership may feel like blindly clicking ‘I agree’ on a software installation, but what if it’s more… what if it’s a chance to really link arms in a covenant relationship with others and know that much more how much you want to get each other’s backs? What if it’s agreeing to get into a foxhole on the battlefield and vowing to cover one direction of offense/defense so the people next to you can cover the other directions, and no one is insecure about it?

What if the reason membership matters is because in perceiving it doesn’t matter, we realize how much it matters?”

I don’t think he expected that answer.

He simply nodded and said, “Okay… wow, okay…”

foxhole_kidsWhat do you think?

Does church membership actually matter…

precisely because it doesn’t seem to matter?

How might you respond to someone’s question about it?



179862805

We are living in a connection driven world.  Every day it seems technology is advancing to help us better stay in touch with those we love. The upside of this is that those High School reunions are way less awkward now that we can deal with all the drama before we ever get there. The downside is a generation is arising that doesn’t always know the difference between “real” and “fake” relationships.

There are different types of relationships. As a nation we once took this to heart. A person with common interests who you felt safe enough to share your secrets with was a close friend. The guy you make small talk with while waiting at the dentist’s office was not. Now since we can go home and follow dentist guy on Twitter, we don’t always know how to define him.

Today’s teens are the first generation to never recall a time when they could not connect to someone via technology. They are used to having access to people at any time in any format. We can learn about them through pictures, videos, and 160 written characters or less. It can give us the illusion that we know someone just because we know some information about them.

Sociologists use the term, “social ties” to explain the way are truly connected to a person. How strong a tie is between any two people depends on the amount of time spent together, the emotional connection, the level of closeness and (I like this one) the reality of how reciprocal the relationship is.

They claim there are three types of social ties we can have with someone. I think it is vital to start teaching our students the truth about these different types of connections.

They are:

Weak Ties

These are “acquaintances” or  people we interact with but are not emotionally attached to. This is the person we see everyday in the hallway and say.”Hi” to but that’s it. We follow them on social media because we met them once. We might see a lot about their lives, but don’t really have anything to do with them.

Strong Ties:

These are the relationships that are most important to us. These are people we share our lives with, and who share their lives with us. Some would say this could never happen via social media. Personally, I would contend there needs to be some times when you truly interact with these people in person, or face to face in some way. However, with Skype or a good old-fashioned telephone, we can have long distance friendships pretty easily. What’s important in these ties is that you are going deep and that the connection is not one-sided.

Intermediate Ties:

These may go slightly deeper than just watching someone on Instagram, but they aren’t the people we will share our inner most desires with either. This is where many of our social media interactions lie. They are somewhere between an acquaintance and a true friend.

 

When we don’t know the difference between these types of relationships we can get confused. We follow someone on our social media of choice and maybe have some witty interactions. We don’t know what to call this person. Are they a friend or an acquaintance? We can navigate this in person, now to learn it online.

Various scientists keep studying the effects of our new way of connecting via technology. The common find is that the deepest intrinsic longing of people is for quality over quantity of relationships. Personally, I think that started way back in the Garden when we knew what it was like to walk and talk with God. He created two at the beginning not a mass mob. It speaks to the very depth of our soul’s need in so many ways.

We need to understand safety in building relationships online as well. Is there someone we shouldn’t be talking to? Don’t tell your students talking online to friends is evil.

What’s vital is to understand the level of truth those people hold in our lives. There needs to be a way of building a safe relationship that is not a manufactured version of ourselves.  It’s funny, but we have to teach our students how to make friends in this new world.

Thoughts?

- Leneita / @leneitafix

SocialMediaGuide

 

Need help navigating social media with students and in your ministry? Check out the Social Media Guide for Ministry by Nils Smith!!

 

Holy Movies!

 —  November 11, 2014 — 10 Comments

holymovieLike movies?

Which ones are you going to see with your students?

Several years ago, I was inundated with mail and promotional materials telling me that every cool youth pastor would be taking their youth groups to go see “Extreme Days.” (Technically, it didn’t say that… but that was the inference, along with the hint that there would be a guaranteed, rock-solid presentation of the Gospel.)

The problem was the movie was less about Jesus and more about a group of guys doing extreme sports together. There was an attractive Christian girl that a guy in the group was crushing on but she didn’t feel comfortable returning the crushing because he wasn’t a Christian… and he made a bet with one of his buddies about how he’d get her to do… you know… but then she started crushing him after he gave away some groceries to a homeless man…. which apparently meant that it’s okay to be into a guy who’s made a bet about you as long as he did a good deed, regardless of what he believed. I think that was the Christian part… that, and Toby Mac made up a special song for the movie. So, you know… all of that was why all the cool youth pastors were supposed to take their youth groups to see it.

As you can probably tell from my tone, I’m a bit more cautious about these things.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy taking students to see movies, but that I’d rather do some discernment on the front end. Movie companies literally want you to “buy into” the promotion they’re putting out by having you take your students with you. Do the math – one convinced youth worker equals “x” number of students they sell the film to.

It’s why I’d like to invite you to exercise caution even with these films that may have value as you plan out your calendar:

  • 186155h1Jesus Freak (December 5th 2014 – select theaters, April 10, 2015 – nationwide): Four friends and a youth Pastor set out on a cross country trip to Las Vegas to win souls for Jesus. Kristen is cute, sweet and considered “the Jesus Freak” of the bunch. Perhaps the most vocal of them all, she quotes the most scriptures, and prays the most prayers. She is honest, loyal and faithful to abstain from sex until marriage with sure determination. Still, Kristen and her friends are tempted and tested once they arrive in Las Vegas.
  • exodusExodus: Gods and Kings (December 12, 2014): Ridley Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton).
  • Clavius (2015):Another Jesus-themed movie… this time,Joseph Fiennes is an agnostic Centurion dispatched to investigate the events surrounding Christ’s missing body after his crucifixion.
  • Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (2016): Based on the novel by Anne Rice, it tells the story of Jesus Christ at age seven as He and His family depart Egypt to return home to Nazareth
  • Ben-Hur (2016): A remake of the classic movie about a falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him.

minionsI’ll admit that I’d rather take a group of students to go see Minions and laugh ourselves silly than take a chance on a movie that can twist theology more than it can root it.

Then again, that’s just me…

trying to make sense of all these holy movies in these…

ahem…

“extreme days.”

With all the somewhat-theological movies coming out sooner or later, how do you navigate whether or not each is worth your endorsement?