Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Our friend Wes Vander Lugt has written an excellent review on the book The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Kendra Creasy. One of the goals of GYFM is to help youth pastors think more deeply and theologically about ministry to young people. As Wes states, the Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is a great help in asking good questions and starting the conversation on how to have a theology of youth ministry, and then how that theology is practically played out. Check out the review!
The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (IVP, 2011) is not your average youth ministry book. Rather than a pragmatic manual, Andrew Root (professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary) and Kendra Creasy Dean (professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary) have put together an engaging work of practical theology. As such, the goal of this book is to resource and re-imagine youth ministry as Christopraxis oriented toward existential and eschatological horizons.
Youth ministers might think they can escape theology, but this is impossible. Every ministry is enacted theology and every theology is ministerial. The goal of practical theology is to make more intentional connections between theological reflection and ministerial action, which continually inform one another. Root explains theology as the process of attending to God’s revelation and ever-changing contexts, letting God’s revelation answer the questions arising from our encounters with particular people and situations. In addition, Dean notes that the youth themselves are intuitive theologians, and by doing ministry with youth, we can craft theology and ministry attentive to their actual needs and desires.
Theology constructed with youth, as Root articulates, is theology that begins by acknowledging and articulating the crisis of reality, and then recognizing God’s act and being within it. Youth ministry as practical theology takes seriously the mix and tangle of real life (the apologetic element), while always situating these complexities within the overall biblical drama (the kerygmatic element). The relational-social dimension of ministry should never be separated from the biblical-theological element. Because of this, youth ministers should not presume that theology always provides simple answers to questions arising out of complex relationships and situations. In fact, a robust theology of God’s presence and absence allows ministers, along with young people, to be patient with honest yearning and to persevere with the suffering while rejoicing with the healed.
While the first half of the book is a deep exploration of theological themes, the second half unfolds how ministry practices might be affected by this theology, whether conversations about sin, sexual issues, summer camps, nature trips, short-term missions, and mentoring relationships. In fact, it is in these practical issues that the pay-off of practical theology is most clearly seen and where it is easiest to register and articulate my agreement and disagreement with the proposals.
For example, I wholeheartedly resonate with Root’s concern to orient mission trips away from accomplishment and toward accompaniment, focusing more on being with and partnering with one’s hosts rather than doing something for them. Seen in this light, the purpose of a mission trip is learn more about God’s kingdom and to build relationship with Christians around the world rather than accomplishing something that makes us feel good but maybe does more harm than good. In addition, I applaud Dean’s identification of desire as the foundation of spirituality, and her insistence that youth ministry cannot divorce sexuality from spirituality. The ongoing challenge of the youth minister is to affirm the structure of desire while providing pastoral guidance regarding the direction and expression of desire, and this requires us to expel “the corset of modern rationalism.”
At other points, however, the practical suggestions reveal my disagreement with the authors’ theology. For instance, by identifying evil as nothingness and sin as flirting with death and non-being, I think Root makes conversations about sin more convoluted than they need to be. Much more helpful, in my opinion, is describing sin as Cornelius Plantinga does—“not the way things are supposed to be”—which includes both the objective brokenness of the world and our complicity in breaking it. In addition, because of his strong Barthian theology, Root claims that nature is inert and does not reveal God in his beauty and grandeur. On the contrary, a stronger view of general revelation and a more robust theology of creation leads me to believe that no element of creation is inert and every creature is a full participant in the drama of creation and re-creation. As a result, outdoor trips are a time to experience longings and brokenness, but they are also a time to encounter God. Furthermore, while I agree that a youth minister should be a “captain of the company of companion doubters,” I disagree that “Christianity has nothing to do with certainty.” It is true that Christianity does not offer hard, rationalistic certainty, but there remains, as Newbigin maintained, a “proper confidence” rooted in the reality of Christ’s resurrection and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. “Faith seeking understanding” can dispel some doubts while learning to live with others. Finally, while it is necessary to keep theology and ministry rooted to the “crisis” of reality, our starting point and ultimate point of reference needs to be the abundance of God in Christ and his creation. Even though Root maintains that theology and ministry should always maintain a tragic and comedic element, his theology and practice tips toward the tragic. “Healing is wonderful, but it’s weird” is a tragic perspective; a comic perspective claims that although wonderful healing may be sporadic, it’s actually the way things should be.
Even though I disagree with the authors’ theology at times, overall I am encouraged by this “theological turn in youth ministry.” The best youth ministry arises from and leads to robust theology. As my theological critiques reveal, however, there will always be “theologies” of youth ministry rather than “a theology” of youth ministry. Divergent theologies result from different conclusions regarding what God has communicated in Scripture and creation, different conversations partners within the Christian tradition, and doing ministry in different contexts. Consequently, if the theological turn in youth ministry is going to spread and mature, youth ministers intentionally need to bring their theology into conversation with other theological traditions. The goal is not to blend all theologies into a nebulous amalgam, but to realize how our own sin, cultural situation, and human finiteness have blinded us to some aspects of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. The theological turn in youth ministry, therefore, is also the global turn in youth ministry, because the collective reflection of the global church serves as a corrective to particularly theological and ministerial deficit disorders. It is exciting that Root and Dean were courageous enough to begin these theological conversations, and it is even more exciting that this is only the beginning.
After serving in youth ministry in Mexico and the USA, Wes now ministers to young people in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, where he is a PhD candidate in Theology, Imagination and the Arts. Check out his blog at: http://theatricaltheology.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
The small group times, which are the heart of our time with the students, can sometimes prove challenging as it can take some time to open up, but even in these it was exciting to see how quickly the students grasped the opportunity to engage. One of the things we were most excited about was the ability to connect with several students who will soon be coming back to the US for university. It was AWESOME to hear how excited they all were to know that we would be here waiting for them, especially those that will wind up in Chattanooga at Covenant College!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
One of the things that we love about the area retreat is working with such a wonderful team of youth leaders. It is a blessing to come together and watch all of our gifts compliment each others. It is awesome to be encouraged by one another, and to see how much we really do need each other as we work to serve. Drew and I always feel so sad at the end of the retreat not only because of having to say goodbye to the students that we have built relationships with, but also having to say goodbye to many of our dear friends who are on the team but live in different parts of the U.S. This past week was filled with lots of laughter and memories!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
On October 8th, we face twenty-seven hours of travel, including one thirteen hour flight, only to dive into the midst of 50 adolescent students from all over Asia and the Pacific Islands. Clearly, we are gonna need your prayers!
But before we get to into that, we moved to Maryland! Mid August we sold off much of our furniture, clothes, and junk, loaded up a mostly functional Budget truck, and booked for eighteen hours across 5 state lines to arrive in Annapolis, MD. We chose to move out here because this is where Drew grew up, and because it is here that we believe we will have the greatest networks to draw from as we continue to build our support team to work with Mission to the World's (MTW) the Global Youth and Family Ministry (GYFM).
And now back to the adventure! Come mid October, we will be traveling to Malaysia. Why are we going there, you ask? Because that is where MTW is hosting the Asia / Pacific Area Retreat. These Area Retreats function as MTW's version of hospitality, and are held every four years for each continent, giving all the missionaries throughout the regions a bit of a break from their work to relax as a family, attend seminars, and generally pursue some mental, relational, and spiritual health. Each year GYFM brings a team of youth workers from around the U.S. to put on a program (picture: crazy games, worship, hilarious video skits, and a time of talking aout God's word), but most importantly to spend time with students in small groups building relationships and encouraging MKs. This will eventually be a huge part of our job once we are fully funded, but for now we have the privilege of volunteering! Please pray for us as we go!
Raising support feels like a daunting task, but an exciting one nonetheless. We continually trust in God's care and provision for us, and we are thrilled to see the ways that this is being manifested through you! We believe that each person is called to live missionally in this world bringing the gospel of reconcilliation to those who are hurting. We know that all of you have ways that you are spreading God's kingdom already, and we would like to invite you to prayerfully consider supporting us as members of GYFM as another way to further God's kingdom! By supporting us monthly through financial giving and/or through prayer you enable us to be the hands and feet that personally bring love and care to missionary kids around the world as well as to bring training to global and domestic pastors on how to reach the next generation! We would ask you to consider giving a monthly gift of $50, $75, $100 or more. We need your partnership in this! There are many ways that you can give!
MTW has online giving. Go to www.mtw.org or you can mail a check to MTW PO Box 116284 Atlanta, GA 30368. Please include our names and our account number 18294 in the memo line.
We love you! Thanks so much for keeping up with us as we launch this endeavor together!
- Drew & Lindsey
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
In the afternoon we went for a 6 mile run/walk on this new favorite route near our house. As we were walking I was brought to tears out of thankfulness for how God has provided for us. We live in such a beautiful location and it is truly by God's grace and provision that we have this spot. We prayed for a place to live in Annapolis while we support raise and the Lord provided. Here are a few snap shots of the views that we get while we exercise in the neighborhood down the street from ours.
The view is spectacular and we found ourselves thanking the Lord for the beauty that surrounds us. The houses in the neighborhood are also beautiful and we always enjoy dreaming about what it would be like to live in one and own a sailboat! It makes for fun conversation while we run or walk.
Monday, August 22, 2011
And so it begins! We've got a lot to accomplish while we are here and we are now beginning to start strategizing ways that we can engage the challenge of support raising well, but as we are committed to keeping our readers in the loop, we need your prayers to make it all possible. The biggest "next step" for us at the moment is a trip we have scheduled this October to help host the adolescent side of things for MTW's Asia/Pacific Area Retreat in Malaysia. It's a pretty large project and we need a lot of help to get it going, but we have been fully satisfied in God's provision for us every step of the way so far and excited to follow through to see the next steps he has for this trip as well. We'll be filling in more details about this trip in the near future, and we are excited to explore ways that you all can partner with us to bring it all together!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Some of the highlights of the trip were playing an entire game of monopoly - which I am not sure if anyone has ever done that before ever. I (Lindsey) beat Drew and definitely landed on Park Place three times. We also visited a few wineries and had a great time sitting on our deck enjoying the peace and quiet and reflecting together. We were celebrating our 6th anniversary a little early, and continue to fall more and more in love with each passing year! Here are a few more pictures from our time.