Posts Tagged ‘Emergent’

I’ve been working on this post for a while. This poem by Taylor Malli inspired me to post it today:

We like to be on the cutting edge. We like to be on the front lines of culture. I like to be cutting edge and “with it” when it comes to culture. When it comes to youth ministry I love being versed in all the latest philosophies and conversations “out there.” However, in an emergent era of history (or any era really) we must also remember to ask, “What does faithfulness look like?” Yes even in youth ministry we can ask, “What is an orthodox youth ministry?”

I’ve been spending time in some of the historical and prophetic books in the Old Testament lately. You can’t help but hear the pain in the heart of God as his people with one king after the other walk away from his good and faithful Word. Yes, God proclaims judgement through the prophets but the Lord of all creation also keeps offering second chance after second chance through the prophets. Painfully those second chances are often ignored. Exile and destruction finally came.

Truth and righteousness are important to God.
So much so that God put flesh on -ate, drank, walked, bled, died, and rose again so we might be saved.

In hopes of a conversation to follow, in light of the boldness of the prophets, in spirit of the challenge by Taylor Malli, and inspired by the articulation of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study with well articulated markers in youth ministry like their marks of mature Christian youth I suggest 6 marks of Orthodox Youth Ministry:

MARK 1: Law and Gospel are regularly proclaimed. Over and over again we are to remind youth that sin is reprehensible to God SO in His vast Love he sent Jesus to redeem us. Frequently reminding youth of the God of second chances and to avoid the fate of our spiritual ancestors who ignored God’s covenant and where exiled. Let us not ignore this EXTRAORDINARY gift lest we fall into exile for eternity.

MARK 2: God’s Word is the lens we use to look at the world, programs, leadership development, volunteer recruitment, time management, culture, relationships, ministry philosophy, and whatever other category I didn’t think to write here. Leaders practicing orthodox youth ministry are hounded by a desire to be in the WORD everyday and are passionate about sharing that promise and presence into the lives of youth. Every great era in Christian history includes a renewed focus on God’s Word, this is true in this Great Emergence today as much as it was for the Reformation 500 years ago.

MARK 3: We ARE grateful to God for all those who “show up” but we are not satisfied by it. Orthodox youth ministry strives for marks of Christian maturity (see exemplary study docs on this ) in youth and in their families through discipleship. I recently heard Mark Driscoll in a very Bonhoeffer esq way put it another way “SALVATION is free but discipleship costs everything”

MARK 4: In response to God’s EXTRAORDINARY gift youth and families following Jesus are ruined by the knowledge that some have not heard or are still ignoring this gift. Motivated by LOVE they are compelled by the Gospel to no longer remain silent.

MARK 5: In the Spirit of Matthew 25 & Philippians 2, and a God who feeds the hungry and touches the outcast WE CANNOT ignore the OTHER in our backyard or across an ocean. Orthodox youth ministries engender a spirit of servanthood and a conviction to never ignore the hungry, thirsty, homeless, forgotten, broken-hearted, imprisoned, and victim of injustice.

MARK 6: Orthodox youth ministries have ministers who seek to be incarnational, perichoretic, and call youth to live Holy lives by the power of the Spirit in and among us. By INCARNATIONAL I mean: modeled by Christ we live into a lifestyle of discipleship and are little Christ’ with and alongside youth and families in daily life as we invite youth and families to do the same. By PERICHORETIC I mean: Modeled by the nature of God in the Trinity we teach and live in dynamic and significant relationships to live out our calling. By HOLY I mean: Remembering we are in but not of the world orthodox youth ministries teach and model asking the Holy Spirit for discernment to live a pietist and holy life.


It’s been too long since I blogged specifically on the Great Emergencce.

I recently heard a great sermon that included the life and testimony of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and our call to evangelism (hear part three of the sermon series here: Bonhoeffer’s witness and writings help us consider what it means to confess our faith in the society marked by a life together through vast global social media outlets. As I look through lens of a Christian in the Lutheran tradition called to youth ministry here is what gets mixed up in my blender:

We can begin to grapple with ecclesiological question in the Great Emergence when we consider:

1. Bonhoeffer says that ultimate reality is found in Jesus Christ.  
2. Global mediums has made us interconnected producers of media – not just passive recepients
3. The Great Emergence suggest the church is wrestling with it’s identity, vocation, & has stirred up the question of the authority.
4. Nearly every expert observes a sea change in youth ministry, regardless of the how, all suggest the biggest change includes a deeper connection with a WHO (see Andy Root’s two recent books)

Given all that I think it leaves youth ministry along with the rest of the church striving to figure out how to be church fully embedded in the world without abandoning the vine which is Christ, or the Word of God which is Christ incarnate.  We are tempted to be synconistic with culture while we are embedded there instead of loving the world towards a place of redemption.

So what does all this academic mumbo jumbo mean for youth ministry?  We have to figure out how live with teenagers because we love them, because we need them, because we all need redemption, and teenagers need to hear and know through relationship the powerful good news of Jesus Christ. It’s not enough to just be “with” on facebook, twitter, or even hang out with on a Wednesday. We must strive to truly live with, suffer with, and boldly proclaim the Gospel in the name of Christ.

As part two of that sermon series reminded me. Bonehoeffer preached Christ to his death, living and suffering with his fellow prisoners in a concentration camp. His life was marked by genuine relationships and a bold spoken overt witness. We are called I think to do both today.

A new post is up at about our development of Life Teams in our congregation. It’s the pragmatic part 4 of my thesis, but more than that it’s a critical way we are striving to pass on faith to our teens here in North Texas! Love to hear your take.

Please check out my second posting for the folks at the Exemplary Youth Ministry site. I’m fleshing out more of the Life Team story that I first introduced in my thesis. These posts will be about how to actually apply the Exemplary Youth Ministry findings to real world ministry.

Check out this post I wrote on a new blog called Exemplary Youth Ministry based on the study by the same name. There are some great contributers, I’m the exception to the rule. Check out what I wrote about Life Teams today and tomorrow:

Life Teams are one example of practicing the narrative of Samuel’s life in our world today. Whenever the greek word for life zoe is used in the New Testament it’s always referring to life in Christ. Given what we’ve seen in this hermeneutic of our world today its easy to see we need a praxis that involves the longevity of living together, the partnership with our first circle partner the family, and the fidelity of the only way to life itself in Christ. in our context in Plano, TX instead of confirming youth into the cultural concept of ‘now you go do it’ we say those who confirm their faith also commit to an intentional LIFE together. Through that partnership youth hear their calling and engage them into the missio dei as full participants in the great commission. Life Teams create open systems that “bridge” the secular world and the kingdom of God. Though these systems include programs, the bridge will not be a program but will be a part of the way we equip our youth for the sake of the Gospel with tools like Peer Ministry for youth in relationship not for themselves but for the ‘other.’

The first goal will be to create a mentoring ministry. We’ll call life teams which will be adults like Eli with the blessing of Hannah to guide youth into their vocation (which includes mission) and recognize the Word of God still speaking into their lives today. To measure our goals we will use the research from the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study as a guide for that evaluation. It could look like this:

1. Youth participants will Exhibit 1 characteristic from each category of the Exemplary Youth Ministry “Characteristic of Mature Christian Youth” by the end of their Life Team lifecycle. The categories are: Seeking Spiritual Growth, Both Alone and With Others; Believe God is Present in the World;, Act Out of a Commitment of Faith;, Are Active With God’s People; Possess a Positive; Hopeful Spirit; Live Out of a Life of Service; Live a Christian Moral Life.

2. These characteristics begin to be reflected (as reported by youth & parents) in the home relationship between parent & child.

3. PMLC understands this as the primary source of faith formation in our youth ministry with 100 adults engaged in the lives of youth after 3 years.

These Life teams for each youth will include their parents, their confirmation mentor, another caring adult in the congregation, and one youth. The vision is for intentional relationship that is built around a long term commitment (from confirmation through college), includes conversation around the EYM marks of a mature Christian, and is evaluated together through conversations with their parents. It’s not a group that will meet with youth, it is members of the body of Christ who have committed to invest in that youth. Youth ministry fellowship activities shift to become venues for nurturing those relationships. Outreach activities & Mission trips become opportunities for youth to practice their vocation and participate in creating that bridge to the world.

Mission then gets lived out not just in a program but in the lives of youth where they live. And when it happens formally as church it’s about the body of Christ living out it’s vocation together whether on a mission trip or on an event aimed at welcoming youth in our community. Outreach that once attempted to be flashy enough events to get busy AP students to carve out a few hours from their busy AP schedule now are more dependent on Peer Ministry trained youth who have naturally fostered a relationship.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Eli equipped Samuel to listen. The greatest gift the congregation can teach its partners today is to know how to truly listen to God’s word. Mentors and parents alike must be taught the gift of discernment. Mark Yaconelli author of Contemplative Youth Ministry suggests that this foundational skill is taught when the church practices spirituals disciplines of contemplative prayer and Holy listening and offered the church a “Liturgy of Discernment” to be done in community to accomplish this task in our crowded and noisy world today. Listening together, living together, praying together, forgiving together as the zoe life in Christ. These are the gifts Eli (representative of the church today) provided Samuel and these are gifts youth workers can gift parents, teens, families, and long term mentors with to help youth like Samuel respond to God’s Word and transform the world.
May all of us emerge as cruciform people in this Great Emergence in Youth Ministry. Clinging closely to God’s Word venturing out of that dwelling place only to pray for wisdom in a 500-year shift that has ramifications for generations to come. Reformed then by God’s Word may we rediscover what it means to be the community of faith in the ecclesia. Having heard God’s voice there, feeling the presence of Spirit, knowing the grace of an incarnate Emmanuel who suffered, may we recognize the call to participate in the vocation of God’s redemptive work and unleash scores of Samuels out into the world.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Normative practice in earlier eras of youth ministry were linked to Adolescent psychologists like “Storm & Stress” originator G. Stanley Hall who said the primary role of teenagers is to form their identity. In the late 1980’s youth ministry’s best minds suggested the role of the youth worker was to create a safe place (usually a portable building called the ‘youth room’) where youth could create this identity. Somehow effective socials, games, retreats, and bible studies would help youth see how their identity should be formed by Christ.

Listening to God’s Word in light of the larger question of ecclesiology realized in vocation give us praxis revealed clearly in the narrative of Samuel. Samuel’s call to significance emanated out of God’s Word and he could only hear it because of the mentoring partnership between his family and the congregation realized in the life of Eli. Life long partnership and community were necessary for Samuel to hear God’s Word resulting in vocation and ultimately transformation for the world through Samuel’s life of ministry. Fidelity, longevity, and faithfulness are attributes of God that become the new marks of disciple life relationships.

Normative practice in today’s Great Emergence must be grounded by a life dwelling in God’s Word. This first language of faith is the source and norm for our way forward. Luther in the Reformation, monasticism in dark ages, prophets in the exile, and guides like Eli all testify to reality in ‘rummage sales’ throughout history.

Hope and faith are passed down through this “thin tradition” as Douglas John Hall refers to it in The Cross in Our Context of the theology of the Cross is still with us as it always as been. The Holy Spirit seeks to anchor us to the Passion of Christ and remind us all in this era as in every era with the knowledge that no one grows beyond kneeling at the foot of the cross. Hall proclaims that “Christianity makes the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of the word, for the sake of the creature’s shalom suffered-suffers-the loss precisely of that preeminence.”

God’s preeminence is revealed as He initiates life. This central tenet of the “rua” (or God’s breath) filling us with life is God’s action that precedes our own and reminds us that leadership, ministry, and vocation emanate from God through us His creation. So what we do only happens and is dependant on what God has already done. Christian leadership, normative living, and faithful praxis therefore emanates out of a faithful attentiveness to this ‘rua”“Karl Barth has suggested that the structure of these opening verses [in Genesis] deliberately create the condition of a void in order to show that only when God speaks is there a response. The word of God creates the response. The void – the ex nihilo – is the necessary condition for the Word to bring for God’s creation.” We are the void that God’s word speaks into, breathing life, vocation, and purpose into our being.

Life and vocation are exhaled from theological reflection of Christ’s incarnation, the inter relatedness of the Trinity, and the work of the cross. We can no longer use the felt needs of the Human condition as a “Strategy of Influence” (Root) even if it is well founded adolescent development as the soul basis for ministry (as Oestreicher laid out in YM 1.0 – 3.0). Barth reminds us that we like Josiah who rediscovered God’s Word must die in the waters of Baptism to become the void that is filled into our nothingness with God’s Word. Kenda Creasy Dean puts it this way, “Anchoring youth ministry in the life, death, andThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. resurrection of Christ suggest an approach to youth ministry that relies less on the order of human development and more on the order of salvation.”

Through this unexpected new order God speaks into those voids through, with, and alongside humanity. The call of Samuel (in 1 Samuel 3) reflects God’s “rua” which initiates Samuel’s vocation and work in the world through community. God calls Samuel through the faith and sacrifice of Hannah who offers Samuel to God. God speaks into the void through the wisdom and humble ear of Samuel’s mentor Eli who didn’t keep God’s Word to himself but helped Samuel hear it. God’s Word becomes the voice and authority for Samuel’s work in the world.

Notice how God speaks into a dependent community which reflects the inter-relatedness of God’s perichoretic imagination. Life which reflects God’s order is dependant first on God’s Word and then on the community God uses to give voice to that vocation.

So like the Karate Kid again its not just good educational models to give us catechesis that Smith articulated we were lacking but mentors to teach us the reality of what we’ve already learned and in fact The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.what God has already done. This gets at what Dr. Andrew Root articulates as ministry preceding theology, so the ‘other-ness’ and ‘with-ness’ of God is unveiled in being with Christ. Mentors like Eli or Hannah do this when they are steeped in the Word made flesh around us and not just culture where the cry for good teaching by Smith and Denton makes the largest impact. Like Eli, mentors must partner with and empower our first circle of influence, the family ,as Samuel’s life reflected with Hannah. This normative praxis begins first with God’s action revealed by God’s servants living incarnationally among, “place holders” Root might call them.

Sociologist Jeffrey Jenson Arnett can’t understand how youth steeped in years of religious educationThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. disregard life long catechesis so quickly when encountering this quest in emerging adulthood. But it makes complete sense in a world wanting meaning that a system “stripped of grace” and forced into a crude data dump of religious info is quickly lost on those who have grown up in the information age wanting the depth that lies beneath. Dietrich Bonheoffer gives us a lens on all of this when he writes candidly, “Christian means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There is no Christian community that is more than this and none that is less than this…We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.” So it is only in relationships of fidelity that we truly encounter Christ, and truly encounter what it means to be the church, and only then gives imagination for what we are called for in the world.

It should come as no surprise in light of the this new era that relational didache or teaching that the Great Commission demands of us happens in our most fundamental relationships – our families. The apostle Paul recognizes the intimacy of family so much that he often uses marriage as the closest human imagery of what our relationship with God is like. Kenda Creasy Dean in Practicing Passion puts it best when she says, “Belonging precedes Believing.” Her example is poignant, “For teenagers, true love is bound to the promise that they are “to die for,” whether that promise enacted by the Crips or the Bloods or their parents” (shades of Clarks clusters). Therefore any practical theology of Youth & Family ministry but be living and breathing in the heart of the relationships where teenagers find their most significant belonging. The incarnation and cross are tied together in this type of didache that must be lived out in a life together of community (ecclesiology) and is realized in our own connection with God’s missio dei (vocation).

Acts 16 give us two examples (representative of many in the New Testament) of evangelism, the power of family ministry, and what I think is a theological foundation for the dynamic of nurture vs. evangelism in faith formation. These texts and others like it outline how we are called to share the Gospel with those who have yet to hear the story and how that message quickly infects the whole household. They eliminate the dichotomy between nurture and evangelism and remind us that both are needed. They affirm the household as faith formative, and make Luther call in Large Catechism, “Surely Parents are the apostles, priests, bishops and teachers for their children” possible in the same way Eli made it possible for Samuel (because the lived together). These texts prioritize the role of the household in the Pastoral Epistles in places like Titus 1:6 we are told that the criteria for an elder include passing on the faith to their own children. Deuteronomy 6 gives us the clearest command to pass on our faith through our families and it provides a long history to remind us to remember this essential discipline of faith.

Andrew Root noted that “Education often happens in community of faith and not in class rooms” and at its best family is our first and most frequent experience of community. Picking up on this history of practicing devotions, ritual, service, and relational work is why the Youth & Family Institute tell us faith is caught more than it is taught. If ministry precedes theology and belonging precedes belief then the family sits at the center of the theological formation of the Church as affirmed by both the Scriptures and our Confessions.

The Reformation predicated these ecclesiological questions first hinted at in the reformation with the priesthood of all believers now seen in adolescents who demand full participation or nothing. Hall’s analogy, “ A hammer is just when it is capable of doing the thing that hammers are meant to do…Similarly, justification is the righting of the human person so that he or she will behave humanly – will become, so to speak himself or herself, will be as Bonheoffer put it, a human being.” As youth dwell in the grace of God’s Word and do what they were created to do, they get in touch with what it means to be fully human. So praxis becomes signs of God’s work and not just a means to an ends.

Timothy is being called to be a martyr, a witness—getting at the heart’s desire of youth and describing the need for a mentoring relationship that is shaped by discipleship. Focused on the cross and grounded in his practice in the real world; Timothy isn’t just being challenged to “do what’s right” his life is being held up as salt and light in the world. Remember those 8% in Youth & Religion study described as devoted youth in America have been engaged in leadership. The thin tradition calls us into an identity shaped by the cross or as Hall put it a “cruciform” people.

However our pluralistic and departmentalized world looks much different from that of Josiah, Samuel, or Luther who called families within a backdrop of cultural unanimity not seen in our world today. How can this be done then? What do partnerships like with home and church look different than Eli and Hannah model? We begin with faith in God’s Word. If the Holy Spirit did it among a remnant of Israel in exile and if the Holy Spirit spoke words of dynamic faith in the midst of the evil scourge of Nazism through Bonheoffer then we can trust the Holy Spirit is still at work today.

In Youth Ministry 3.0 Oestreicher quotes a youth worker confessing an allegiance to the false idea of the “if we build it they will come” mentality of youth ministry. He admitted that what really worked in his ministry was never really ‘his’ at all but only what God’s Spirit did as they were connected to His incarnational and redemptive work in the world. In the Great Emergence of youth ministry the old crock pot for relationships, the ‘program’, needs to shift to the side course while primary relationships in families, mentors, and the deep koinonia of the worshiping community become central. So in the same way one would see an outing at Ranger Stadium sponsored by the Big Brother Big Sister organization as a secondary and supplemental to their primary essence of the relationship between a teen girl and her big sister we now programmed events in the role of youth ministry and the calling of the youth minister as supplemental and secondary.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Instead of simply counting the number of events and youth who attended we now count the number of meaningful relationships that help youth listen to God’s Word that develops attributes that reflect the Josiah like redisovery. The Exemplary Youth Ministry study led by Dr. Roland Martinson have mined the ministries of those already living in this new reality and have identified 7 markers of a mature Christian in line with the revealed Word and work of the Spirit in our lives and communities of faith. Note how numbers and accountability still matter. We are not allowed to say numbers which reflect people are less important we just need to understand how to count more accurately. The new accounting system also gives the youth minister a measuring stick for the difficult task of knowing how much time to give to affinity rather than events and programs by asking if they serve our first priorities. This doesn’t make discernment easy in light of old expectations but we do now have a framework to judge our time, schedules, and ministries agenda against.