So I was going to do a “best of” post for 2006, but the year has been filled with so much that I don’t even think its worth it. It is safe to say that 2006 was probably the most transitional year of my life (graduation, marriage, new house, new job) and the switch from school to work has had a negative impact on my time.
The best part of 2006 was obviously getting married to my long-time best friend, Renee, and beginning our lives together. This event was bittersweat however as we also said farewell to Renee’s grandmother in the midst of all of that.
Beginning my first “real call” in ministry was a highlight, but that also has been bittersweet as my senior pastor (who I’ve worked well with) is leaving at the beginning of February. While I love my job, love the church I serve, and love the kids I work with, I had just started to get comfortable with how things were going and gotten into a routine and now things are going to get stirred up a bit. But, I have to trust that everything will be okay and in a year, or two, or maybe even three, we’ll look back and say “hmm, that was tough but we got through it, and we’re in a good spot now”.
Becoming a homeowner was an exciting part of the year, after seven years of living in a box to have a multi-room house was a totally new experience. Along with it came the fun of maintaining a home but we’ve had a really easy ride with that so far (knock on wood). Closely tied to this was the fun of being able to settle into a community. During college and seminary I kind of felt like a resident alien – I lived in Grove City, but it wasn’t really my community. Same with seminary – I lived in East Liberty, but I worked in the North Hills, so I was sort of split there. Now, I live and work in the same community so I actually feel like I belong someplace. I walked through the local Wal-Mart and I see people who I go to church with and work with, which is a neat experience after seven years of being in transition.
The 16-month period from Sept. 2005 – Dec. 2006 may be one of the most significant with regards to my theological growth ever. Although my first year of seminary was also big, this last time period forced to me to rethink everything I had ever believed and to look at it through new categories. With my introduction to the “post-conservative” branch of theology, post-modern theology, relational truth, “missional thinking”, combined with everything I had learned previously has helped open my eyes once again to read the bible with new eyes, and to understand the bible is a different, but even more powerful way.
2007 will be another exciting and dynamic year for a lot of reasons, church, family, etc. I’m excited to see where I’ll be a year from now.
Thrown into the middle of the early month craziness was a retreat with just our group to Camp Crestfield. It was our senior high group and I was really thankful – it was the type of group that because I really had to wing things (Doug’s announcement came earlier that same week). What I learned and haven noticed in the past, is when you don’t have any prep time and you’re forced to wing things, God will bless it and work through it ways more powerful that you ever expected. If you have the prep time and you choose not to use it, and then wing it God usually won’t bless that in the same way. Anyway, this retreat was luckily the first case, and God really did give me some super inspiration at just the right time. We talked about “Questions of Faith” and the theme for the weekend was “Doubts, Fears, and Questions are part of Faith”. What I’ve learned is that for kids who have grown up in the church there needs to be a period of “doubt”. Marko dealt with this topic a little while back and I guess I have come to prefer the word “transition” because this transition between childhood faith to adulthood faith is a transition period that is sometimes marked by what people would call doubt. I know my transition really occurred when I was seventeen, and it was doubt I guess, but when I found myself praying prayers like “God, I know you don’t exist, you can’t possibly exist” while I was praying I through the doubt and questions.
Anyway, the vast majority of the sr high students I work with can be described as “church kids”, despite varying levels of involvement. So, the goal of this retreat was to give them the space to ask the tough questions and recognize that they weren’t losing their faith – it was growing right along with them.
The retreat turned out to be a huge blessing to me, as for the first time ever I felt as though when I came back from a retreat I too had had a chance to refresh and reload. One of the reasons for this was what I did with the schedule. Breakfast @ Crestfield is at 8 am, which is early for both me and the group. So… after breakfast they had til 10am to do whatever they wanted – this also gave me time to do some last minute prep and relax. By the time 10 o’clock rolled around, everyone was a lot more awake and ready to go.
What was cool was that a lot of what I talked about was stuff I had learned about while I was at the National Youth Workers Convention. My first talk was one I had adjusted from our Jr. High retreat that dealt with how God speaks, through “shear silence” as Elijah found out. That led into a bible study of 1 Samuel 3, based on what Kenda Dean talked about at the NYWC, where I talked about the relationship between younger and older members of the community of faith, and how younger ones hear different things, but need their elder members of the community to help them discern whether they’re hearing God or if they’re hearing themselves. My second talk was centerd around John the Baptist sending messengers to Jesus to ask “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” this had two purposes (1) Validate the role of honest questioning within faith (2) Talk about the way to deal with these questions and doubts – to bring them to God. In the evening we did a variety of stations and a guided meditation for about 2 hours in the evening. All in all, despite the rush in the week leading up to it, I thought things went quite well.
I was told in seminary that Christmas time and Easter time would forever more be a time of insanity rather than peace, and I have to say that that is partially true – the time leading up to Christmas is definitely insane.
As some of you know, the insanity of the past month really began right after Thanksgiving when I headed off to the National Youth Workers Convention in Charlotte. It was a time of relaxation and refreshment without question and I came back really focused on the road ahead. Then, the Tuesday I got back it all changed, when my boss, who I had just been bragging about, told me he had accepted another call. Two emotions really ran through my mind – one, I was really happy for him. Doug’s real strengths is organization, process, and diplomacy, and in his new job working with the Presbytery he will utilize all three skills. And this was a great opportunity to say the least. On the other hand, I was dissapointed. I felt so fortunate to have found a senior pastor who I could really work with. I also realized that this would put a whole lot of weight on me for a short period of time. Since we have no associate pastor right now, I’m the only pastor the church will have for the time period between Doug’s departure (the beginning of February) and the arrival of an interim pastor. Needless to say, this will entail a lot of work, but I’ve been through this type of thing before and I trust that God will guide myself and the church through it just fine.
However, that announcement touched off a series of events that happened fast. My previously scheduled ordination trials took on a new significance that following Thursday, followed by a special session meeting that night. Since then a lot of my time has been spent preparing for the transition and figuring out details, etc. Throw into that a youth group retreat the week of Doug’s announcement and my ordination trials and well, it was a busy time. (I’ll blog more about the retreat in another post)
The next major adventure was 5 services in one day on Christmas Eve. We normally have services at 8:15, 9:15, and 11. We cancelled our 8:15 so we only had two in the morning, following by evening services at 5, 7:30, and 10. I was starting to fade during the 7:30 service but after a 32 ounce Pepsi and a doughnut, I was wide awake for the 10 o’clock service.
Christmas morning we got up and went over to Renee’s mom’s house, then to her Aunt’s house for a late Christmas dinner, and then drove through the rain on Christmas day to arrive in Rochester Christmas night. We’re headed back to Pittsburgh tomorrow, in time for Renee to work on Saturday and me to preach on Sunday morning.
We’re also in the midst of having to transition our living room again. We finally broke down and signed up for cable, and bought a TV to boot. So there won’t be any room in the living room for a desk and a TV, so the desk and computer are headed downstairs. So hopefully we’ll be working on that on Saturday and finishing it up on New Year’s Day. Oh the joys of being a homeowner.
From last night’s Jr. High Christmas Party:
Jr. High boy is trying to sing, but can’t keep a pitch because his voice is cracking. A few in the group begin to laugh
(Jr. High Boy): Ahhhh!!! Don’t laugh at me. I can’t help it that I’m going through puberty and I can’t sing!
Gotta love high schoolers…
Me: Okay, so if you went home this afternoon after worship and your parents sat you down and told you that you were going to have a new brother or sister, what would your reaction be?
Whole Group: Ewwww!!!!!
(High School Girl): I wouldn’t get anywhere close to their bed
Whole Group: Ah!!! TMI!!! TMI !!!
It was too funny not to share.
Me: So what would you preach about if you were preaching on joy?
Marissa: “Me and Amy”
Gotta love smart-aleck Sr. High girls….
This is the tenth and last post..
On Monday morning I went to a seminar on Taize. For those of who don’t know Taize is an ecumenical monastic community in France that has gotten a lot of press in recent years. It attracts tons and tons of young people every year. The seminar was well done and very interesting. I do think the key challenge when it comes to learning from Taize is trying to import it into youth ministry.
Okay, summary comments.
Talk about a sterotype – At a lot of events I feel very much like an abnormality. This Thursday I’ll be joining Pittsburgh Presbytery where according to my calculation I’ll be the younger minister member of the Presbytery. However, at the NYWC I feel like the stereotype, well, because I am. The joke goes that everyone at NYWC is a white male 20 something with short hair, straight out of school, and has a goatee. Okay, so no goatee but other than that I fit the stereotype perfectly.
Talk about a show – On Saturday night at the Late Night Theology Discussion I met and talked with Natalie who was invited to attend the NYWC after she posted about why she stopped going to youth group. I asked Natalie what she though of things and she said something to the effort of, “I’m really enjoying it, but when I see all the lights and stuff I get a little weirded out. Think of how much they could have done with all the money they spend on all that.” (Again, that’s not a direct quote but it’s the general direction). I think Natalie has a point – the NYWC is a good show. The lights, multiple screens, massive control area, etc. all make the General Sessions what they are. However, in defense of Youth Specialities – I’ve learned that all that stuff isn’t just show. Given the size of the conventions you’ve got to be able to broadcast to a lot of people – so screens that let more people see the person closer up are really import for the overall quality and effectiveness of someone’s presentation. A quality sound system is also a must in order to have an effectice presentation. And all that lighting? Improper light, especially when combined with a room with poor lighting (as convention centers have) and a TV camera would make the images on the screens horrible. Once you’ve gotten to this point you might as well go all the way and add in the extra frills, because they probably don’t cost that much more anyway. So while I see what Natalie is saying, I think the reality of the settings dictate a lot of the technology needs as far as lighting, sound, and video.
Talk about a who’s who of Youth Ministry – In all the conferences I’ve come across there is none that compare to NYWC as far as the plethora and quality of speakers.
Talk about post-denominational – As I talked about in an earlier post, the NYWC attracts a ton of people from a ton of different backgrounds and generally things seem to stay pretty civil. The Late Night Theology Discussion can sometimes get a tad heated as a diversity of perspectives come together, but other than that it stays pretty calm. It is cool to see all these people from different perspectives come together for something like this however.
Talk about giveaways – Well, not so much. Compared to last year I came home with a lot less free stuff than I did last year. We got quite a few free books and things last year and that was definitely not the case this year. I’m not sure of the reason really – but it was a change. One nice benefit this year was now that Youth Specialties is owned by Zondervan there were more products in the bookstore that were discounted (including Zondervan bibles at 20% off)
The one thing that was really impressive this year was that there was not a single general session speaker who I didn’t think did a fantastic job and every seminar I picked was really really good. Last year I was more hit or miss, but this year I came away from every seminar with something really valuable.
As a “two-timer” @ the NYWC I highly recommend it to anyone in youth ministry, whether you’re staff or volunteer, in-charger or just a leader.
Okay, I think that finishes my blogging about the NYWC… next year it’s either Atlanta or St. Louis!