Some drink too much. Some curse extravagantly.
Some eat too much. Some exercise too much.
Some are Republican. Some are Democrat. Some are neither.
Some worry too much. Some use the f-bomb to explain what they do not care about.
Some discuss hard issues about faith and the world…and doubt.
Some think they have all the answers…and are certain.
This group I’m describing are all people I know who are deeply committed to their Christian faith, and I couldn’t help but think of them in light of a recent conversation about holiness, where the discussion turned to what felt more like rules of how to act. I must confess that holiness as many use it is a dangerous construct for me. Its a frozen dogma or stagnant principles. It is used more for exclusion than inclusion.
Are there norms that Jesus described for his followers? Yes. You can find them pretty neatly laid out in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Yet I cannot help but think the things we use today to describe being (or acting holy) would be foreign to a bunch of fishermen, prostitutes, zealots, and tax collectors with whom Jesus dined, kept company, and called as his disciples. I don’t intend to make excuses for my or anyone else’s actions that are not in keeping with the previously defined holiness, but I do wonder if we spend more time on the things we can judge, rather than a call to mercy, compassion and love. If I recall correctly, Jesus knew a group that spent more time on outward appearances…and they had him crucified.
Getting to the auditorium late was bad enough. Then I had to find a seat. After several “oh, it’s saved” interactions I finally found seating next to a 14-year-old girl with electric blue hair. At this readers’ theater, she snapped her fingers to show appreciation and encouragement. She cheered with delight for her peers and strangers alike. She celebrated the uniqueness of others and their expressions of self, whether through apparel or hair color. She welcomed me to share the seat next to her.
This was the setting for the readers’ theater that concluded the youth summer writing academy where Brock had just spent two weeks. I listened to teens read their pieces, many deeply personal, over the next two hours. Two things stood out:
- There is a lot of hurt, anger, and fear in the lives of these teenagers. Many are “artsy” kids that find themselves the target of bullies, who might even be parents that just want “normal” kids.They lack a refuge at home and school where they find unconditional acceptance and love. This isn’t my assumption based on appearances but rather from the pieces shared, peer reactions, and eavesdropping on conversations all around.
- Despite all of the angst… and this was more than your normal teen “angsty-ness,” there was also a deep community forged and shared at this two-week camp. Many of the students had come here multiple years. Others like Brock were rookies. Watching the teenagers was wonderful. The carefree joy and laughter that came after the angst-riddled show demonstrated love shared and experiences connected.
All of this left me wondering. For many of these students, they find safety and community in a writing camp two weeks out of the year. While I celebrate what they have, my heart hurts for what they lack the remainder of the year. We have to do better. My finger snapping, giddy, seat offering friend that night deserves better. She made room for me. How am I making room for her?
NOTE: This post is the first in a three-part series about the Blue Haired girls of the world. Next up, I’ve asked Brock to share his reflections, especially as they relate to how people grasped what the church and God thought about them.
I wonder if a false dichotomy is defining a very important conversation at this year’s CBF General Assembly, where a 15 year old hiring policy impacting LGBTQ workers is being questioned. Two options as possible endings are being presented.
- Repeal the policy and lots of churches/$/global partners will leave the Fellowship.
- Keep the policy and millennial ministers are going to leave the Fellowship.
I don’t particularly consider organizational hostage situations or hyperbolic hand-grenades to be healthy responses. I consider them to be couched in fear, not love, in language of us/them.
There’s a better option in the Fellowship, and it’s one that we as a people of faith need to be modeling for our world. An option of conversation where we agree on unity, but don’t confuse it with uniformity. An option where we remain in joyful communion, not begrudging passing of the elements.
I pray that this difficult conversation becomes a courageous one, where we agree to get dirty in the messiness of a complicated spiritual, organizational, and, often, deeply personal issue. I pray that the posture is one of grace rather than finger pointing and line drawing.
While I don’t agree with the hiring policy, I’m committed to conversation about how to help local churches navigate this so they can be the presence of Christ in their communities. However, if we can’t, as a Fellowship model that, we can’t expect our churches to. And what kind of example of Christian community would we be? So before you speak this week, are you in a courageous conversation or preaching to the choir?
The pastor and her family are out at dinner on a Friday night. A church member sees them and comes over to talk about something they need done.
Another minister is out and notices church members walk in the door. He hides his beer under the table.
A group of ministers comes together every quarter and the conversation inevitably circles back to the soul crushing nature of working in the church. The unreal expectations, the hiding of perspectives for fear of angering church members, and the constant push to grow the church are all themes that are found in minister-type meetings.
One, ministers really do want to be treated as regular people. However, the symbolic role of the minister makes it hard for many non-ministers to see as a regular person. I am fairly certain that this is not even a conscious choice.
Two, ministers really do want to speak truthfully about what they feel led to believe. However, an angry church member who cannot imagine how their youth minister doesn’t support conservative politics or end times theology, can make a minister’s life miserable. It’s easier to just sit quietly for many.
Church members say they want their clergy to be real people and feel comfortable being themselves. Clergy do not feel this in most situations. Is it the symbolic nature of the role? Is it fear of being genuine because some one will try to have you fired? Yes, and…
How do we fix it?
- Start with awareness
- Build trust-based relationships
- Move to vulnerability
- Realize that when someone disagrees it does not mean they are the enemy or rejecting you.
- Give the benefit of the doubt
- Call out bullies
- Love God. Love your neighbor.
“We have a problem and we cannot find the solution.”
“Maybe if we try harder it will work.”
“We’ve always done it this way.”
Any of those statements sound familiar? Chances are we, our team, our business, or our church has found itself there before. Then we continue to mine the same set of answers hoping one will suddenly fit. We may even decide that it is an effort level. To an extent it is…not a work level effort, but rather a changing mindset effort.
Call it a battle between the “Fixed Mind versus the Growth Mind.” Fixed tells us what we are supposed to do, but never answers the “why” question very effectively. Fixed keeps us limited to a box. Fixed causes us to stall out.
The Growth Mind challenges us to begin with “why or why not.” Growth challenges us to move beyond the boxed paradigms and stagnant pasts. It causes creative conflict and breaks open new possibilities. But it can be harder and messier than Fixed. And you can remain stuck, if harder and messier is too much effort.
If you have ever stood on one side of a canyon knowing you had to cross the valley to get to the other peak, you know that the destination is somewhat unknown, and the journey to get there most certainly is. Use the Growth Mind to immerse yourself in the chaos of the valley and the journey to a new height. You will find that the destination is visible until it isn’t. In the chaos there are new findings and new adventures. It is even possible that the destination isn’t what you imagined it would be from the other side of the canyon. Perhaps it is even more than you had hoped for. Journey on!
If you have ever worked in a church, you know that the demands of the job are far greater than what most first time ministers expected. In seminaries and divinity schools, ministers are taught about hermeneutics, exegesis and ethics, with preaching, languages and theology sprinkled in. Then they get to the local church and the demands require budgeting, leadership, administration, marketing and politics. The following statistics are from the business world, but I suspect they are comparable for ministers.
- ½ to ¾ of American managers are inadequate for their job demands (Hogan, Curphy and Hogan, 1994)
- ½ of high profile senior executives that companies hire fail within 2 years (Burns & Kiley, 2006)
What we lack in congregational leadership and ministerial longevity is often mismatched expectations, and only those with great savvy as quick studies in organizational theory, or a PhD in “faking it until making it” survive. Where is the disconnect? Is it the educational system’s fault? The minister? The congregation? Hard to say, but this much is worth noting, congregations might want to consider increasing continuing education for ministers rather than cutting it.
More revolutionary might be giving the minister a couple days per month to learn best practices from a variety of leaders within their own community. Imagine a minister that is able to learn about advertising or budgeting by spending a few days interning or shadowing an ad executive or budget officer.
Do I have the solution? No, but I have more questions to ask and a desire to treat a cause, not a symptom.