Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Relational Ministry of Place-Sharing

Last week I was on the campus of Gordon College for a youth ministry symposium. The lecturer for the symposium was Andrew Root. Root is the assistant professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary and recently released a book called Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation.

What this guy had to say has pretty much rocked my world.

To begin with, Root is all about relational ministry. This may sound redundant to you—like saying ATM machine—but it’s been my experience that we can’t assume that all ministry is relationship oriented. Nevertheless, he draws a stark distinction between a relational ministry of influence, and a relational ministry of place-sharing.

According to Root, when relationships are used to influence we treat relationships as a means to an end. In other words, relationships are a vessel that we use to arrive at some other desired outcome. In the context of youth ministry, this “other desired outcome” could be getting a kid to come to youth group, attend a retreat, or make a decision to follow Christ.

On the other hand, a relational ministry of place-sharing is one that values relationships for what they already are. The relationship is itself regarded as the end goal and the desired outcome. Root insists that place-sharing is what is at the heart of the Incarnation of Christ—the mysterious melding of man and God who shares the place of us all to the fullest extent of what it means to be human.

I found this rather convicting. How many times have I befriended a student because he or she was potential to grow the church’s youth program? How many times did I start a conversation with a kid because I needed to fill more seats in a van for our next youth activity?

The next day following the symposium I had dinner with a family from the church who has two boys in high school. Throughout the evening I learned a lot about the family and even helped stir the Risotto. I learned a lot about their family dynamic, the challenges of a blended family, and what life is like for them on a day-to-day basis. I wish I could say that these two boys attended youth group later that week. They were no-shows. But that’s not what it was about. I didn’t come to recruit more kids for youth group. I came just to share in their place—to share a place at the dinner table and hopefully a larger place in their family.

In some ways it's a lot easier this way. I don't have to worry so much about how many kids come to youth group. Christ never called me to that. Christ calls me to exist in loving relationships that give witness to the God's love through the Incarnation of Jesus.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Live Free Or Dodge

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to be playing in a semi-competitive dodge ball league through the New Hampshire Sports and Social Club. We're now two weeks into the season and so I thought I'd share about how it's going so far.

Before I even signed up I heard stories about people literally breaking their arms last year because they threw the ball so furiously. On the night of our first match I was told by several other dodge ball veterans to be sure to warm-up my arm. But of course I didn't heed their warning and I just started heaving the ball as hard as I could.

Turns out this wasn't such a great idea. You see, the balls we use are not the classic red rubber balls one might think of using when playing dodge ball. Instead, they are smaller, softer balls that have little resistance when thrown. Pretty much it's like throwing a ping-pong ball as hard as you can. The lack of resistance on the throwing motion kills your arm!

I can't believe how sore my arm was the next day. Even lifting the smallest of objects proved difficult. But I was more surprised that my arm was still sore four days later. I've learned my lesson; next time I'm going to do some serious stretching and warm-up exercises before giving 'em the heater again.

The after game festivities at the sponsoring bar are pretty good, too. I don't think I can do the $2 Bud Lights, though. I've never tasted a more disgusting beer. Oh, and by the way, "Live Free Or Dodge" is the name of our team...how amazing is that!?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's October and Jake Lives on My Couch

It's been about 2 weeks since my last post. Unacceptable, I know. To my mother and my 3 other faithful readers, my deepest apologies. Moving on, my transient friend Jake is currently living with me and we're doing our best to make the most of October in New England. Last Saturday Jake and I and my two friends Jen and Abby hiked a 9 mile loop called the Franconia Ridge. During the car ride north we appreciated the colorful foliage. By the time we reached Franconia's exposed ridge we were enduring snow, ice, and powerful wind gusts.

On Monday and Tuesday I dragged Jake along to a youth workers retreat at a camp in western New Hampshire. We stuck around a little longer after the retreat and canoed around Swanzey lake while my friend Carol shared "little known facts" about the lake and the surrounding houses.

Jake and I are also planning a trip to New York and D.C. and we hope to meet up with our friend Adam who recently moved to Delaware.