Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Confessions of a Part Time "Pastor"

I am a part time "pastor." I use the quotes because I am not an ordained pastor. Technically, I am a director. But the line between the two occupations is blurry. I hold a masters degree. I preach regularly. I teach adult discipleship classes. I lead youth on mission trips. I am expected to hold regular office hours. As an ordained ruling elder, I even help serve communion. But I am not a pastor. I have no vote or voice at session. When big decisions about the direction of the church are considered, I am left out of the conversation. I do not get health insurance. I do not get retirement benefits. But I am expected to look and behave like a pastor.

"Tent Making is the wave of the future." I hear that phrase batted around a lot in the church. Let me tell you. If this is the wave of the future we need to back up our bags and go to a better beach.

One of the hardest parts about being in a 25 hour a week roll at church is that I need two other jobs to keep my wages at the minimum for living in my city. So I am a delivery boy for 20 hours a week and a handyman for another 10. I do not mind working 50 hour weeks. I knew getting into the ministry that it was a vocation that required a lot of work. The problem arises when three jobs are competing for the SAME hours. I can only be in one place at 3:00 pm on a Wednesday. All three jobs expect that I place my priority for them at 3:00 pm on a Wednesday.

Another hardship is that despite the fact I put my heart and soul into my ministry it doesn't count on a resume for being "as good" as full time. The perception of the quality of my work is diminished when looking for full time jobs. When a hiring committee sees one resume with three years of part time experience and another resume with eighteen months full time experience they tend to favor the latter. Because of this perception, it is hard to get out of the part time role.

I write to this as a warning and a consideration for lay people. Be nice to your part time people. Also, realize, this is not the way of the future. Very few people can lead a life like mine. Part time work is a luxury. Frankly, if I were to get married and have a kid, at this point I would have to find another profession. We as the American church can't rest on "tent making" to solve church employment issues. We still need to come up with an exhaustive plan about how to fund the pastors that we want and need.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Three Reasons We Should Get Rid of “Young Adults” in the Church

I have a lot of experience working with “young adults.” I work at a church. My position title is Director of Youth and Young Adults. I am the leader at one of those rare small churches in the presbytery that has a healthy discipleship program geared specifically toward people in their 20s and 30s.  In my free time I am the moderator of a denominational wide community focused on equipping “Young PCUSA Leaders.” It is from this position of authority that I beg you:

Please stop using the descriptor Young Adults.

  1. The definition is vague. What is a young adult? The median age of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is 61. For every worshiper between the ages of 15 and 25 there are more than six worshipers over the age of 65.  Today to be a “young adult” basically means “Not near retirement.” The majority (65 and over) consider anyone younger than their age group as a “young adult.” In my travels I have heard of people wanting to extend the descriptor of to those people in their 50s. The title of “young adult” is so broad is is void of any meaning.

  1. No one self-identifies as a young adult. If you ask a teenager they will tell you they are a teen or a teenager. College age students are just that “college aged.” People in their 20s and 30s feel comfortable talking about their generation (Millennials) or maybe they will say “I’m in my twenties/thirties.” But NO ONE uses the term “young adult.” Even in literary circles, fiction designed for “young adults” is now described as “teen fiction.”  I lead a bible study of “young adults.” However, when I tell them we are “young adults” they are mildly offended. One woman told me “I’ve been married for 8 years and I have a three year old son, can I just be a regular adult?”

  1. It underscores a larger problem in the church: Ageism. I believe one of the largest hurdles the church has to overcome in the next 50 years is the discrimination of people based on their age. The phrase “young adult” puts those between that ages of 13-39 into an unlikely church quarantine. “Young adult” is an offensive term to many because it suggest inexperience and immaturity. It is a disqualifying descriptor. No wonder people want to avoid it.

We ask, “Why are there not more ‘young adults’ in the church?” Perhaps the first step in answering that question is to listen to how they wish define themselves.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

March 2015 Reading List

I'm a little out of practice when it comes to keeping my book list up to date. So here is a list of everything I can remember reading since my last update. There is more but it would be too hard to hunt them all down.

The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James
A life changing book that I recommend to anyone who has lost a loved one. Incredibly healing for me in a season of life marred by death and change.

I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path To Jesus by Don Evert and Doug Shcaupp
I love being among those who are turning their hearts toward Jesus for the first time. But the process is far more complicated than I had expected. This book lays out a beautiful path that all follow on their way to becoming a christian. The hard news, it requires people of faith to actually invest in friends and family AND for these faithful people to live lives that reflect their belief in God.

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
The church can be filled with unhealthy people that have unhealthy boundaries. This book was nice to help me understand where I begin and another person ends. And also, how to identify people who want to take over my life and personality.

Furious Longing for God by Brennan Manning
It is hard to not like a Manning book. This was just another in the set of satisfying books.

Abbas Child By Brennan Manning
Brennan's reflections of "The Impostor" are revolutionary and I could not appreciate them more.

Iron John by Richard Ferrone
I read this at the urging of a clergy friend of mine. It was not very good. Ferrone is too quick to generalize motifs across ancient regional tribes. Instead of uncovering some ancient truth he is wrapping his own philosophy with antiquity in order to grant it legitimacy.

The United States and the Middle East: 1914-9/11 by Salim Yaqub
A long lecture series that was fairly dry.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Recommended to me by a parent of a child with autism. It is a great first hand account about what it is like living with autism.

The World of Byzantium by Prof. Kenneth W. Harl
This era is overlooked by Western Christians but it is historically fascinating to see how the church thrived in the east.

Leading Change by John P. Kotter
I wanted to know more about transitioning congregations into contextually appropriate ministry formats. This was mildly useful.

Friday, August 22, 2014

26 Good Bible Study Questions

I have a list of questions I go through while writing a sermon. They are simple questions anyone can use to get the most out of a personal or small group bible study. Below is my list use it! An asterisk (*) denotes a question that it is okay to google to find the answer. Other than that I would encourage the creative use of one's brain to discover the answer.
  1. Who is the weakest person in this passage and what is their point of view?
  2. Who is the strongest person in this passage and what is their point of view?
  3. Where does this passage take place? *
  4. When and to whom was it written? *
  5. Are jobs mentioned? What are the implications of these professions?
  6. Who are the people mentioned in the text?
  7. How many descriptors can I give each character? Jobs, gender, titles, etc.
  8. What injustices are being addressed?
  9. Are their racial or socioeconomic conflicts in this passage?
  10. How would an oppressed person identify with this passage?
  11. How would a wealthy or empowered person identify with this passage? 
  12. What does this passage say about God?
  13. What does this passage say about (and to) people in general?
  14. What does this passage say about (and to) the church?
  15. What does this passage say about (and to) me?
  16. What does this passage remind you of in the bible?
  17. What would this passage mean to it’s original hearers? *
  18. What has this passage meant to Christians and Jews throughout the ages? * 
  19. Are there any ancient or modern day rites of passage that this passage highlights mimicks, or echos? 
  20. What would the world's advice to the gospel be in relationship to this passage?
  21. How does this passage fit in to the text of the surrounding chapters?
  22. How does this passage interact with the broad themes of the entire book? *
  23. What bothers me about this passage? 
  24. Where do I want to disagree with the passage?
  25. How do I need to respond to what I just learned?
  26. Are there any unusual words or phrases that I should research further?


What questions would you want to add to the list?





Saturday, July 26, 2014

July Reading List

Evangelical Theology by Karl Barth
A meticulous scholar, relevant but dull at times.

Taking on the Cross in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root
A fantastic piece of theology which uses narratives from youth ministry to illustrate the importance of the crucifixion as a means for developing identity.

Children of Divorce by Andrew Root
I liked Root's other book so much I read this one too. It felt a little repetitive in the context of reading Taking on the Cross.

The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins (READ THIS BOOK)
This one is the find of the month. It is the big recommendation. Jenkins takes us briefly through the history of Christendom then argues, very successfully, that present Christianity is not dying. it is growing and it is also migrating south. A perfect book for anyone concerned about the "death of the church" it gives a lot of hope.

Conversation, How it Works by Anne Curzan
I like linguistics. This was a brief lecture about how we communicate with each other. It was pretty basic stuff.

Poems by Walt Whitman
I love poetry. I thought it was time for me to get acquainted with the grandfather of the American poem.

Monster Hunter: Nemesis by Larry Corriea 
I like to switch up my reading. Especially when the list gets too "thinky." So I read a book about the wolfman fighting the Frankenstein monster. It is not for everyone but for me, there is nothing wrong with a little pulp genre fiction every once in awhile. :)


Friday, July 4, 2014

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
-Walt Whitman

Happy Fourth People