Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This conversation is missing your voice

I posted some video's on Vimeo recently for our pastors in our Nebraska Region.  They were filmed during our annual spring pastors conference.  The speaker was Dr. David Fitch and the content of these videos are very helpful for anyone wanting to learn from a true practitioner what the "Missional Church" is all about.

I checked the Vimeo channel to make sure everything was working without logging in and noticed at the bottom of the individual video's an interesting phrase.
This conversation is missing your voice. Please join Vimeo or log in.
This is a great statement.  It really speaks to an attitude churches and church leaders can take in order to better engage young adults.

Often times churches and church leaders have a great desire to invite and welcome new people into the community.  They hope others will join the church, Bible study, or Wednesday night kids/youth programs.  This is all done in a way that makes it clear they believe they are a welcoming and warm congregation.  They truly hope others will join their church and "log in" to the many programs and activities available.  I believe the rub comes in the first part of the Vimeo statement.

Many of these same very welcoming, warm, and loving congregations are not in a place where they believe the Christian conversation is missing any voices.   The same voices that have been speaking within the life of the congregation are good enough and will continue to lead for some time.  Even when they say they are tired and hope others will take the lead, in reality they are hoping someone will take the lead as long as it is the way they would do it.

But if young adults and any new member of any age is to join a community of faith they have to believe that the conversation is missing their voice.  That there is actually a conversation taking place.  People who are struggling with how to apply faith to every corner of life.  What does the church community have to do with my work, vocation, and shopping habit?  To join a conversation requires both a willingness to engage in the community and to be informed by the community.  A new participant into the conversation has to be willing to hear what is taking place and allow it to shape them as much as they are willing to engage and contribute.

I found Vimeo's statement meaningful and powerful.  There is a Christian conversation taking place all around us and if you are not engaged we are missing your voice, just as much as you are missing ours.  My prayer is that we all find ways to truly engage in conversation in order to hear and to be heard, to actually contribute and to receive.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cultural Observations and T-Ball

I am volunteering at our local Little League as an "I-Ball" coach.  The "I" stands for "instructional."  It is basically the old fashioned T-ball for 4-6 year olds. The kids are fun and energetic and eager to play the game.  Their parents are supportive and willing to help with anything from extra coaching to bringing snacks. I have been engaging these kids and their parents for a while now and I have made a strange observation.

All my years of church leadership I have never worked with such eager volunteers. The parents of my little 4-6 year olds are very helpful and supportive. They also want to get the most out their I-ball experience.  We received our schedule in early April and I was astounded to see that we were scheduled to play 2-3 games a week and encouraged to include a practice.  And here is the kicker, there is only one other I-ball team, meaning over the course of the next two months we were expected to play the same team 21 times and hold 10 practices.  So upon receiving the schedule I made contact with the other teams coach and we settled on one game a week and one practice.

My very supportive parents looked at me with curiosity.  Why in the world would I want to shorten a season essentially by half by eliminating one game a week?  I defended this decision by sharing that 4-6 year olds don't need to be at a scheduled events in evening 4 times a week. With that many games where is the time for the "instructional" portion of I-ball?  How could I teach them fundamentals if they were always in a game? They will begin to hate the baseball if they are always at practice or a game. Plus I personally believe we are over-scheduled as a society and this was my way of giving back some time to these family units.  My parents are still skeptical but have agreed to the new regiment.

Now is the fun part.  I have worked with "church people" on a daily basis for nearly fifteen years now.  I have scheduled events and activities and found more often than not that things are difficult to arrange.  There is always a reason someone cannot make a community event, worship time, or service project.  I have heard them all: from family visiting to other appointments, feeling ill to on vacation, and the honest I don't want to go if "those people" are there to 'I just don't want to go' The point is, getting people to engage in a Christian community is hard work sometimes.

Not so with I-ball parents.  When we changed the schedule they were skeptical but agreed.  I asked what day of the week practice would work best.  Monday? "Sure yeah that works"  Tuesday? "Absolutely do you need us to bring anything?"  How about Wednesday as our game night?  "We will be here and have the kids in uniform ready to play."  How about Thursday morning at 6am to have the kids lift weights and run laps? "Of course we will get them here."   Okay the last one is a lie but I think if I suggested it they would have agreed!

The distinction between I-ball families and church people is remarkable.  Parents and families are rescheduling their weeknights to be at a ball field for an hour of 4-6 years olds playing baseball badly.  I have not had a single absentee or late arrival!  In fourteen years of church life, I have never had 100% participation in anything!

So my question is this. Why?  What makes I-ball different?  Why are they so willing to make and stick to a snack schedule, show up for picture day, and substitute for me when I am traveling?  Why is it so easy to get them to agree to be present any day of the week and have their kids do mini drills at home?
And why is it so hard to get "church people" to engage in Christian community?  Show up for activities and service projects?  Disciple their own children at home?

I have never worked with such a willing group of people as these I-ball families.  Why?  What makes them different?