Sunday, October 30, 2005

The 3/52 Challenge

Now comes the post where I tell you all how to run your churches.

When my present church was looking to fill my position, the senior pastor gathered three students to serve on the interview panel. He prepped the students on what the interview would look like and began to give them examples of certain questions that would be asked. The first question was: "How do you feel about women in ministry?"

The students were perplexed by this question. A sophomore girl voiced their confusion, "Do you really mean that there are people who wouldn't want a woman pastor?"

My heart was warmed when I heard this story. The students at my church have a hard time comprehending why this is even an issue. These students have grown up with women pastors. They don't bat an eye when a woman steps up to the pulpit.

I've spoken with many pastors who are strong advocates for women in ministry but for whatever reason do not currently have women ministers on staff. Either:

1. They don't have any current opennings
2. They can't seem to find the "right" woman
3. They say that they support women in ministry, but their congregation just isn't ready for it (and just between you and me, I don't buy this answer. What would the pastor say if the congregation" just wasn't ready to care for the poor"? Maybe preach a sermon on the topic?)

Well, to all the pastors who, for one reason or another do not have a woman pastor on staff, my advice is this: invite women pastors to guest preach at least 3 times a year. With 52 Sundays a year, giving up 3 won't kill you. (Actually, I'd like to suggest pastors do this 10, 15, or 25 times a year, but I'm trying to be steps).

If you really want to awaken sleeping calls on young girl's lives, you must give them models of ministry. I think I struggled with my call for so long simply because I didn't know it was an option. No one blatantly told me that I couldn't be a pastor...but no one was telling me that I could, either. It was in seminary where I first remember hearing an ordained woman preach in a Sunday morning service. I remember trying to hide my tears as I shook her hand after the service.

If you are a pastor of a congregation, youth group, prison ministry, etc. and you are not presently in the position to hire a woman pastor fulltime, I encourage you to share the pulpit.

By the way, if you take the 3/52 challenge, a woman pastor speaking on Mother's Day doesn't count...nor do sermons on Ruth or Esther. Sorry.

3/52--that's my challenge for churches. My challenge for college campuses would be to have at least 1/3 of their chapel speakers be women (preferrably 50/50). College campuses are full of women who are convinced their calling is to marry a pastor when perhaps they are the ones being called into ministry (I spent the first 20 years of my life in that's a good thing I ended up pursuing ministry, otherwise I'd be smothering my husband with all my "helpful hints").

While I'm on the subject, would someone please invent a lapel mike that doesn't need to clip onto pants? I'd like to occassionally preach in a dress, but it's just not practical. Whoever invents such a device would be the champion of women pastors everywhere.

I wish I could end this post the way my students end their chain e-mails ("If you don't follow these instructions, something bad will happen to you at 11:11 pm"), but that probably wouldn't be very professional.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Big Sick Baby

I'm sick. Very, very sick. After a whirlwind weekend in Michigan I returned home with a fever, sinus infection, strep throat, and fluid behind my ears. I was kept awake last night by a throbbing fingernail. I had to sleep sitting up so I could breath. I'm sick. Very very sick.

When I went to the doctor she said, "Now I'm not going to give you the 'wash-your-hands-a-lot-and-cover-your-mouth-when-you-cough' lecture because you're a woman and probably do those things anyway. Men are a different story. They're just big babies." I gave a nervous laugh (mostly because John could beat me in a cleanliness competition any day of the week).

John was sick last week. Whenever someone finds out that John has been sick, they always ask, "Is John a big baby when he's sick?" I normally say "yes." He asks for tea, medicine, movies, etc. He sits on the couch, blanket wrapped around his shoulders while giving the "Pop-I-think-I-have-the-black-lung" cough (ala "Zoolander").

Normally, when I get sick, I'm just a little baby...I ask John to pour me a drink of water, but I get my own medicine. I ask him to adjust the temperature while I get my own book.

But then I started thinking: what do I possibly have to gain by suppressing the big baby inside of me? What do I get out of being a martyr? Why do I try to prove to John that I can take care of myself? Am I trying to impress him? Surely walking around like a zombie in my bathrobe, with Marge Simpson slippers, and Kleenex stuffed up my nose won't impress anyone. If anything, it shows a lack of intelligence.

So yesterday, on my way home from the doctor, I decided that I was going to try being a big baby. I got home and sat on the couch. I asked John to do menial task after menial task. He adjusted the temperature, volume, my feet, etc. He fetched lunch, dinner, water, snacks, books, movies, etc. I was a complete baby, and John rose to the occasion...he even seemed honored!

So that's the little lesson that I recently learned--that sometimes it's better to just be the big baby.

By the way, with the gravity of my illness, I have been unable to keep up with normal e-mail correspondence...So I apologize to anyone who is waiting on e-mails from me. I'll have John respond to you ASAP. I am very, very sick after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Youth Specialties Blogservations

The National Youth Workers Convention: Where the men's line is longer than the women's.

I just returned from the National Youth Specialties Conference in Pittsburgh. Wow! What an amazing experience. Here are some of the highlights:

*Doug Fields from Saddleback increased my newly acquired addiction to pre-packaged curriculum.

*If you are single and looking for a spouse, sign up for NYWC regardless of whether or not you're a youth pastor. People were looking. People were looking very openly. Once woman posted her personal information on a bulletin board. When checking out women, most guys try to slyly lower their eyes to check out a figure. Not Youth Specialty guys. Youth Specialty guys still look down, only they're checking out the all important finger.

*They give out AMAZING bags. Paul Kind told me about these bags. He specifically said, "Don't worry about bringing a bag, they give you really cool bags." At the time I thought he simply had some kind of bag fetish. But he was right. They were really cool. Sorry, Paul.

*If you go to a NYWC be sure to sign up for a free consulation with a youth group consultant. Wow. You get an hour with an expert who scrutinizes your youth group (I actually signed up twice to meet with two different guys, but don't tell anyone).

*If you ever get the chance to hear Tony Compolo speak on politics, take it. Even if you don't agree with him, he'll get you thinking. Compolo's lecture of politics somewhat summed up my political shaping at seminary. I picked up a few copies of this lecture if you want to borrow it...This was the highlight of my NYMC experience.

*I can tell who is from California just by looking at them. I'm serious. I can.

* I echo Paul Kind's suggestion to sign up for a small group. I met up with a handful of strangers and greatly enjoyed their company.

*Biggest take away thought from Doug Fields: "Jesus left people unhealed. He left questions unanswered."

*I lost count of how many illustrations were given where the youth pastor sweeps in as "the Jesus" of the story. I lost count how often I heard the rough equivalent of, "Jesus did it like 'X', therefore we should do it like 'X'." As someone who struggles with somewhat of a Messiah Complex (ie: I MUST do this...If I don't do this, no one else will...I must bring this person to faith, etc), I had to keep stepping back and say, "Yes, Jesus lives a sinless life. Yes, I want to live a sinless life. But I am not Jesus. I cannot die for people's sins. I cannot WWJD because I am not the Son of God." I'm still pondering this issue...where is the line? When does my trying to act like Jesus become idolic?

*I needed to get away for a few days to break my newly aquired "Alias" addiction brought on by our recent subscription to Netflix. I knew I was watching too much when I packed my luggage and asked myself if I "had all my intel."

*My main suggestion to NYWC: Have a funny woman on stage. Right now it seems like the men are funny and the women pray. (I also told them to put cookies in our dinner boxes, but I didn't think this suggestion was as important.)

*I had some conversations I wanted to pass on to you. Some unbelievably funny...others just unbelievable.

Conversation #1:
Person 1: So Amanda, where did you go to seminary?
Me: I went to Princeton Seminary.
(Long Pause)
Person 1: Oh. Um. Uh. I don't really like to think that much.

Conversation #2 (I wish I could say the below conversation only took place once):

Person 1: What do you do at your church?
Me: I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: A volunteer?
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: You mean you assist the youth pastor?
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: So you're like a director.
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.

The people I had the above conversation were not necessarily against women pastors, actually they were just suprised--they hadn't seen many. Most of them were women, who after they finally got it said, "Oh! Great! I want to do that too, someday." (By the way, I'm currently working on a women in ministry post that I hope to put up next week...stay tuned.)

Conversation #3:

Man 1: Are you married, Amanda?
Me: Yes, I've been married for 3 years.
Man 1: Do you have any kids?
Me: No.
Man 1: Oh. Are you waiting for your husband to be ready?"
Me: (Long pause) Uh, no. Not really. We're both fine where we're at right now.

*Another highlight for me was realizing how much I missed being at DUMC. I couldn't wait to get back to my job. I like what I do.

*Next year I'd like to coordinate all the Wesleyan Youth Pastors going to this event...let's talk...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Eatting Crow

Throughout seminary I scoffed at "those-lazy-youth-pastors-who-used-published- curriculum-instead-of-writing-their-own." I guess I was kinda like the nursing mom who looks down on the mom who uses formula...kinda.

I now recant that scoffing. I can officially be counted among the lazy. I've sold my soul to Group Publications. Don't worry, I don't use curriculum straight from the book; I do the appropriate tweeking for my students. But I can't write three sermons a week...not even three sermonettes. Nope.

So consider this an open apology to any youth pastor I may have offended over the years. Sorry.

I'll post again soon...I'm currently preparing for the Youth Specialties Conference in Pittsburgh. Ah! Curriculum heaven.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sex and Violence

Did that title get your attention??

I was somewhat startled as a freshman in college when I read Malachi 2:16 in its entirety. I had often heard the first part quoted: "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel." But up until that moment, I had never heard the remainder of that verse: "...and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

While I never would have said that God loved violence, I was startled to see this verse in this context and was also a little annoyed that I had not come across it earlier. Up until this point I had made sins of sex the ultimate no-no. Could it be that acts of violence were just as bad as premarital sex? (Please forgive the sarcasm.)

All of these thoughts came rushing back to me at a Middle School Bible Study this week. I was working my way through curriculum that had retellings of the story of Saul and the Amalekites and David and Bathsheba.

In the story of King Saul, the writer of this curriculum included all the details: God told Saul "to kill all men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys."

However, when the writer was retelling the story or David and Bathsheba, he conveniently left out a few pertinent details: "One evening, from the roof of his palace, King David of Israel saw a beautiful woman..." That's it! No bathing. No nudity. Just this G-rated description of how these two star-crossed lovers discovered one another.

I guess the writer assumed that I as a youth pastor would have an easier time explaining to 13-year-olds why God told Saul to kill babies as opposed to explaining why David watched a woman bathe.

This is not a post calling for censorship of the Bible...not at all. However, I am questioning why it is sometimes easier for Christians to ignore violence while playing sex as the trump card. (Feel free to insert whatever political parallels you may choose here.)

By the way, I read the PG-13 version of David's encounter with Bathsheba which led to an amazing discussion among these 7th graders... "Wait! This is the same David that killed Goliath?" "David was supposed to be a good guy." "And God still forgave David after he did all that stuff?" I really like my job.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Problematic Vision Preaching

I'm preaching my first vision casting sermon this Sunday. October is stewardship month at DUMC, and rather than throwing a bunch of numbers at the congregation, we are attempting to present a "narrative budget." Which means this Sunday I will attempt to cast vision for student ministries in an attempt to encourage people to give of their time, talents, and tithe.

I finished the 2 Timothy 1:1-14 sermon yesterday--I'm focusing on Paul's charge to "fan into flame the gift of God," and how this church is full of "small sparks" that are in need of fanning...cute, right?

The sermon was flowing smoothly and I was actually quite excited about it until I came to the end and realized that I said "we" a whole lot more than "God." I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this, but I'm having a difficult time finding an alternative. What I am planning on preaching is true. I believe/hope it is edifying. I believe/hope it will engage the congregation to serve with their time, talents, and tithe...but I'm not sure that the congregation will be leaving with a clearer understanding of grace, mercy, justice, etc.

I realize that in a perfect world I should be able to preach on the attributes of God; out of which would flow an ideal vision for the church, but...

Please don't leave a comment telling me I need to re-write my sermon (unless you feel very strongly that I should...and then only if you also attach a downloadable, uncopyrighted sermon).

Is it okay to preach a sermon that focuses more horizontally than vertically? Where is that line?

Sigh! My Princeton friends would shake their fingers at me and say, "This is what happens when you stray from the lectionary!"