Tools of the trade. Here are some great ways to get caring conversations going. My current favorite is the thumb ball and I’m always a fan of the milestone ministry blessing bowl. How are you starting conversations?
If you’re like me, you have a set of recipes that tend to find their way to the table more often than you’d like to admit. Time for some change in the menu? Maybe time for some refreshing ideas on games, visual arts, etc. Creative folks live and dwell on Pinterest. I just go find them.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters. Colossians 3:23
So, I’ve lived and dwelt with the idea that blogging meant long, tiresome, time suckers and I’ve been a bad blogger or maybe a good avoider if that was the real deal. SO, I’m approaching this task a little differently. I spent last week with some amazing Youth & Family folks who are creative, caring people of faith who are also tired, exhausted and stretched to capacity.
My gift to them and to you – highlights of their wonderful ideas, helpful hints for ministry and a commitment to be a better curator of resources. Thank you John Roberto.
Celebrating Volunteers – we can’t survive without them. Here are a few great ideas I’ve gleaned from Pinterest. How do you celebrate the work of those tireless volunteers? If you don’t – when are you starting?
Below is a copy of my 2012 Assembly speech. Several of you wanted to reprint. Here ya go.
Tammy Jones West, AiM Youth & Family Ministry Coordinator
Thank you for the honor of sharing with you this afternoon. It is a joy to serve as your youth and family ministry coordinator. Let me begin with a word of prayer. The Lord be with you.
Heavenly Father – I lift these words of a hymn as my prayer this day. God of tempest, God of whirlwind, as on Pentecost descend. Drive us out from sheltered comfort; past these walls your people send. Sweep us into costly service, there with Christ to bear the cross, there with Christ to bear the cross. Amen
When I prepare for this time with you I keep a list of stories, texts and prayers in a file and when May rolls around I’ll grab that file and go sit somewhere quiet, pray and start writing. The time is short but so important. This year however, the story I thought I’d be sharing with you really fit better into a sermon I preached at Nativity, Arden in late March so May rolled by and none of the things on the list seemed right SO I worked on assembly and prayed that the right words would come.
Have mercy. Last Saturday I started to stress a little about this. One week and not a word. So, on Pentecost Sunday we heard these words – “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with signs too deep for words.” Sighs too deep for words.
The world we live in today must cause some serious sighs. Christianity has gotten a bad name. Words of hatred spewing from pulpits – some of the most horrific right here in our state, in this county and the world watches. Our youth and young adults watch.
I had a call from a family member asking me if any Lutheran churches were against Amendment 1 recently. Now, this family member happened to grow up Baptist so even I, the one without a good filter, know to tread lightly. Three strikes – family, political issue, and religion too! Not a recipe for warm chocolate chip cookies. So, I started with – well, we have members on each side of this issue and congregations too. We, as a church, are still in the process of learning how to disagree on hot topics but our congregations would run the gamut. Then he said – I don’t even expect them to actually speak out, just at least not have the signs in favor of it in the yard. I say this not to make an issue out of that amendment – you are family too but the sad part for me is that he had such low expectations of the church as a voice in any issue. He and his friends couldn’t understand the need for the church anymore even though he grew up in the church. The world watches. Sighs too deep for words.
I’m convinced we’re needing a little Pentecost or maybe a big Pentecost. Something to move us from membership to discipleship. Something that moves us from our safe spots on Sunday out into the world to love like Jesus. Several years ago I mentioned right here on this stage that one of my hopes for my sister and her then fiancé was that they got their butts in a pew. I stand by the thought that when we gather in worship it is a powerful thing to be surrounded by a faith family and a great cloud of witnesses. However – I’d like to add to that thought – it’s also time to get our butts out of the pews and into the world so that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are more than a service organization. We come together to worship and we leave to serve in Christ’s name for the sake of the world.
We’ve gotten a little complacent or maybe a lot. For the vast majority of us sitting in the auditorium, church is what we do; it’s what we’ve always done and a little bit of who we are. Notice I said church – maybe not so much discipleship. Things have changed and yet we have not. We sometimes wouldn’t know a vision for the future if it jumped up and did the wave. We easily fall into that wonderful nostalgia of days gone by when people showed up in their Sunday best and we knew few people who were not sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings. Folks, it’s over, it’s past, it’s not happening. Let’s move on.
We can wring our hands over what was or we can grab another hand and move forward. I lean toward the latter and I think I have my mother to thank for that. There were a few sort of non-negotiables for Vickie Valentine Jones and for those of you who know my mother she’s a little over 5 feet tall and very seldom takes a stand on things so when she does you pay attention. 1. Never leave the house without your make-up on – hey, she’s been in Mary Kay since I was 6. 2. Write your thank you notes or don’t even think you’re playing with the gift or cashing the check and 3. Don’t complain about something unless you’re willing to help fix it. That last one tends to get me into trouble.
I serve as chair of the SYMBOL network, which is a group of my peers who do youth and family ministry across the ELCA. Last year let’s just say that over a glass of wine in the lobby of some hotel at some meeting a group of us were bemoaning the state of affairs across this church and truly concerned for our young people. Even at age 43, I still hear that voice – don’t complain unless…. You’d think I would just learn to not complain wouldn’t you?
So, rather than complain about what we’re not doing and that our youth and young adults are nowhere to be seen, let’s work on doing something. I can tell you from experience of the projects this morning – no one turned down our offer of help. Some even came in on a day other than normal business to make it happen. There are needs out there and if you’ll give me until AFTER the youth gathering – I’m willing to put some energy into helping us ask the right questions, find where we can serve and do that together. My peers in SYMBOL and I have developed a resource to help congregations do just that. A way to deeply listen to the needs of the community – WITH our young people and finding ways to walk alongside those in need. See me if this interests you.
God is active, moving in this world and when we ask “Where is God in all this we also ask ourselves – where are we responding to the needs of the world? Where is St. Andrew’s in all this, Mt. Olive, Ascension, St. James in all this? Let’s be known as the church that starts in the building but also leaves the building to serve. I know our young people have servant hearts and are aching for the church to be that voice crying out in the wilderness – to ask more of them and expect more of them than just a warm body. If we are to live our theme of Joyfully Serving Christ Together each day – we’ll have to do it together. Let’s get started.
There are those moments in life when you have to step back and say – where is the silver lining in this huge black cloud? While not denying the black cloud, today I’ve felt the need to say thank you to all educators and especially band directors and chorus teachers. My son lost his band director this week and the world lost a wonderful musician. My friend, Judy, lost a loving husband. Too soon.
I also learned something at Randy’s funeral yesterday. The Methodist pastor who did the tribute (separate from the homily) spoke of a character in the Old Testament that I fully admit I did not remember. The funeral bulletin listed 1 Chronicles as a text and I remember thinking – what text could that be? The right one is what text that could be and was. 1 Chronicles 15:14-16, 22. “Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, was to direct the music, for he understood it.” Well, I won’t forget that name now. Music teachers understand it. They share their love of music and encourage, push and expect great things from their students.
In my life, that person was Mr. Bob Hendrick who taught band at Crest Jr. & Sr. High. For six years, Mr. Hendrick was a part of my life for 180 days each year and for several weeks of band camps, Friday evening football games and contests. He is an incredible musician, teacher and friend. He made me a better flute player and our band members better people. What a gift!
For my son, Robert, he has been blessed with incredible musical leadership. Ms. Hawkins in middle school and this year – Mr. Bob Taylor and the late Mr. Randy Ingold. His words that he posted show the impact Mr. Ingold had in such a short period of time. We saw Mr. Ingold Sunday as he was leaving the early service and we were heading in for Sunday school. He mentioned Robert making all state band and told him how proud he was of him. Those were his last words to Robert. He passed away on Wednesday.
Robert’s tribute to Mr. Ingold.
Your last words to me were that you were proud of me and what I had accomplished. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with you and I wish with everything I am that I could have but even without a lot of time with you I loved you. you meant the world to me. there wasn’t a dry eye at your funeral and it was a gorgeous service. you will never be forgotten with all of your students and family because the world has lost a fabulous musician, a loving friend, and a life changing band director. you inspired a countless number of lives for years and from now on every sound that comes out of my instrument is all for you.
Rest in peace Randy Ingold.
You are missed greatly.
Music educators – thank you. For enduring those first months of students learning to sing or play an instrument. Your gift of teaching gives us the gift of music – thanks be to God for those gifts. You are Chenaniah’s for the world and we are thankful.
I’ve had calls from congregations who have questions about the upcoming 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering. Some ask because they want to know why they should go if they went last time. Some ask out of rumblings centered around some distrust for the church at large. Others just want to know – what is this all about? So, here’s my two cents, and why I am for the first time a part of a gathering team.
I was asked to serve on the Practice Discipleship Team as a coach of the coaches. Each synod has a Gathering Coach (ours is Liz Fisher) and a Gathering Coordinator (ours is Heather Langan). The coordinator position is not new but vital to sharing information about the gathering. The Coach piece is new to this gathering and one of the reasons I said yes to this team. The Coach has the wonderful opportunity to provide high quality youth ministry training to all the adults in our synod, through face-to-face trainings like those that happened at synod assembly, at fall convo and others around our synod. PLUS, free webinars are happening so that anyone can be a part of these trainings without ever having the first plan to attend the gathering. SO, the gathering team is investing in training adults even if they don’t attend the gathering. I liked that idea. I also said yes because I have great respect for and trust in Catherine Anderson and the Rev. Todd Buegler who are leading this day of the gathering. Getting to work with Jo Mueller as my coaching co-hort didn’t hurt either. These are folks you want to work with and be a part of things they dream up. So, I said yes. Now, Jo and I have divided up the synods and I have 32 coaches to check in on and guide through this process. Enough of that – here’s why I think you should consider this event.
1. Relationships – we have a new and sustained friendship with the people of New Orleans. It’s one of the reasons we go back to Upper Darby, PA each time we do a synod mission trip. You get to know folks and accompany them as they go about their journey of ministry.
2. The theme – the gathering team wrote it best – “The theme, citizens with the saints, is drawn from the second lesson for Sunday, July 22, 2012 (Ephesians 2:14–20), paraphrased here:
Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. The foundation of God’s house was built of apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.
The theme also blends the rich faith history, diverse cultures and arts of New Orleans with the communion of saints that is present whenever and wherever God’s people gather!”
3. The experience, three days centered around Discipleship, Peacemaking and Justice - “The Gathering program is built around three core practices in which young people will be immersed before they come to New Orleans, while they are attending the Gathering, and again, in the communities of their congregations and synods when they return home.
4. Practice Discipleship - What is Practice Discipleship? During this day, we will gather as a synod – a first in gathering practice and one for which I am extremely excited about. We will be together as we journey toward deepening our faith and finding ways to work together when we return home.
On the Practice Justice day, the clean and predictable lives of many of us will get messed up a bit by learning about the ongoing struggles in New Orleans. New Orleanians want us to know about their struggles, they want us to see the truth of their lives because after the initial rush of public interest following Katrina, people have steadily stopped paying attention. Now, six years after Katrina, New Orleans still needs our attention.”
So, the “agenda” of the gathering centers around the baptismal journey, living it, practicing, experiencing and struggling with what it means to be children of God together. By training adults to journey with these young people, the gathering team is investing not only in a 5 day experience but in a life-long journey of discipleship, peacemaking and justice. Join me!
The actual, living, breathing young person I mentioned in my report. Several of you asked for the other 19 things she had to say. I used #17 in my assembly report this year. Thanks Tamie for responding to that question and thank you again, Pastor Dave Keck for sharing it with me.
Tammy Jones West
How to get more young people in church
from: The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona
by The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith/Bishop of Arizona
One of the most frequently asked questions I face as I visit parishes is, “How do we get young people to come to church?” I thought this week I would allow a genuine young person to answer that question. Tamie Fields Harkins served for four years as our chaplain to NAU Episcopal Canterbury Fellowship. Last week she had this to say about that question on her blog, which I share with you here.
Here is a step-by-step plan for how to get more young people into the church:
1. Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.
2. Stop pretending you have a rock band.
3. Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.
4. Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.
5. Stop looking for the “objective truth” in Scripture.
6. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.
7. Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it’s pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don’t worry: during those 10 years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.
8. Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.
9. Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By “extraordinary music” I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have an uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.
10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
11. Learn how to sit with people who are dying.
12. Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.
13. Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.
14. Be vulnerable.
15. Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn’t going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.
16. Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.
17. Remind yourself that you don’t have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.
18. Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.
19. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.
20. Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.
This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.