A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Working myself out of a job November 2, 2013

Yesterday, I told you a little about my journey to seminary and my ministry foundations. Today, let me tell a little about what I am currently up to in ministry. I finished seminary, was ordained a little over a year ago and I am the part-time associate pastor of youth and household ministry at this really great (and fun!) church in a Denver suburb. My senior pastor is Rob Moss (honestly, you should stop reading my blog and go read his, it’s better: The Neighborhood Church) and so far it’s going great for me but you will have to ask Rob if it’s going as well for him. Seriously, go read his blog. You’re still reading this? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you….

We do have one of the longest church names in the history of the free world though: Lutheran Church of the Master. So, it gets shortened to LCM. Mostly that is fine, except it is also the acronym for “Lutheran Campus Ministry” in the Rocky Mountain Synod. Confusion can occur.

LCM is a place that when the Holy Spirit decides she is going to move-she moves and you had better be able to keep up. It can be exhausting but mostly it is a lot of fun and fulfills my need to be creative and “outside the box.” Actually, my favorite thing to say is that I have left the box and set fire to it so that no one can get back in. We are in a place and time in the greater Church where status quo is not even a possibility and I honestly have very little patience for it. This is where LCM and I are a great ministry match.

So what does this mean for youth and household ministry at LCM? Well, several things. One, is that we recognize we are in a culture where there is no longer a sacred time of the week (or two if you think about Wednesdays) when a large population will come to worship or participate in faith education. Two, we recognize that our under 30 generation does not want our worship or institution and that is ok. We don’t know completely what that will look like but we are willing to step out onto the edge. Three, what the under 30’s DO want is to be relevant, useful and to engage in something meaningful. In reality, isn’t this what we all want, regardless of our age? It just takes on a different flavor in this generation (as it has in every preceding generation). Four, age segregated, one hour education (i.e. Sunday school and/or confirmation) doesn’t form faithful followers of Jesus. We are acknowledging that we have to resource, empower and equip families to have faith conversations in their homes. Five, we are not the only church undergoing these culture shifts. It’s us and every other church in the Western Hemisphere. Comforting and yet…

I could list more but this is enough to keep me busy for a few years I suspect. As I mentioned yesterday, my passion is for Christ-centered, stable families, so everything I do in a day, week or month is to work toward a vision of families reading the Bible, praying, serving and loving their neighbors for the sake of the community and world around them. A vision that includes families and households (whatever configuration or number of people in a home) who so naturally serve and engage the community around them, that LCM becomes known not just as a place to come on Sunday mornings or other times but is a place where people leave to fill the world with the love of God. I also say that my job is to work myself out of a job. What if people so naturally participated in God’s mission that they didn’t need me (or any pastor) to walk beside them? I would hope that they would want me to walk with them as part of the body of Christ.

I won’t bore you with specifics of how I work toward that vision but one of the key components for me in ministry is relationships. I think that we are all so hungry for connectivity that has been lost in our “leave our house box, for the car box, for the cubicle box, and then return to the house box, to stare at the TV box” culture that we look for it in anyway possible-healthy or unhealthy. Hence the rise of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. It’s interesting to me that the newest social media sites, such as “Meet-up,” are about people actually connecting at some point-what for it-in real life! We are created by the Triune God for relationship with God and one another. We are only as whole, healthy and happy as we are connected to God and others. We cannot be whole alone. This globalization that has emerged only proves the point. It matters what happens to children in Syria, it matters what happens to the rice crop in China, it matters when women in India are not safe, it matters when our neighbor across the street suffers from depression. It matters to God and it should matter to us as God’s people.

This is what propels me to walk beside families in this complex world that we live in. The gospel of Jesus Christ has something to say about our relationships: the love and mercy of God are for all, in every time and in every place. We are freed from worrying about our salvation and so we GET to simply be the love of God in the world. We are freed from worrying about if we will get it 100% correct (we won’t) because God is in the midst of our attempts. That is a HUGE praise God for me as I mess up frequently. Ok, daily. OK, OK, I have probably messed up 8 times just in the time I have taken to write this post. But this is the message that I think the world desperately needs to hear and needs leaders willing to be transparent in our own failed attempts. We are not alone, we are in this together and most importantly-God is and promises to always be with us.

 

I have many issues-let me name one

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 2:03 am
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Ok, I am following my friend, Andee Zomerman’s (natureofaservant.com) lead and doing the national blog posting month. It’s where people with a blog commit to posting every day for the month of November. I have always thought about doing more blogging but honestly, I harbor the fear that I have nothing to say (those of you who know me can quit laughing now) or perhaps more specifically, that I have nothing relevant to say.
Here goes nothin’…
Full disclosure for those who may not know me well or at all: I have many issues but my main one is that I think about my job ALL THE TIME. Not in a “OMG why do I do this work” sort of way, but more in a “I love my job, I want to be the best I can be at it and what if I don’t know enough, do enough or am effective enough” sort of way. You see, a little over a year ago I finished seminary and was ordained an ELCA pastor in youth and household ministry at a church in Lakewood, CO. Now I have actually worked in ministry for several years as what the Church calls “lay staff” (kinda like if you are not ordained you “lay” around waiting for the “real” leader-you know the pastor-to do the actual work) in early childhood and faith formation. I have a passion for stable, grounded and healthy families and my bias for that foundation is obviously Jesus Christ (if you disagree with me-cool but that is not the point here).

Families in our culture are struggling for many reasons, some that have been around since the beginning of time, and some that are unique to our time and place in 21st America. As a director of a preschool in a suburb of Portland, OR I was smacked daily by these struggles and was equally smacked by the impact of teaching daily faith practices to families who had never even considered darkened a door of a church except for affordable early childhood education. Families who barely knew about God suddenly wanted to know more about the prayers their children were learning, the Bible stories of dysfunctional families that sounded all too familiar, the unconditional love and support of community and, most of all, the idea that they were created in the image of a loving and forgiving God. In a society that remembers every wrong you have ever committed, where your credit history is a litany of all your youthful missteps, that judges you by your appearance or the appearance of your children (no mac and cheese stained shirts), and expects your home to look like the cover to Good Housekeeping, I noticed how when these families darted out of the Oregon rain through the glass doors with a big ol’ cross on it, they relaxed. They stopped and talked with one another and after some time shared vulnerabilities and the foibles of parenting and life in general.

They formed close friendships and daily life conversations on childcare, laundry tips, breastfeeding support (yes even from dads!), coupons and recipes for toddlers became an oasis in isolated and individualistic desert for these young families. It was so social in the mornings when the parents dropped off their child that we had to alter the drop off routine to accommodate this communal time. We intentionally did not do anything to curb it or shorten it but instead offered activities for the children that encouraged parents to hang out and connect. This chaotic, loud and beautiful community was the reason why I went to seminary. THIS is what the people of God are hungry for-authentic, unconditional, contextual, imperfect, non-demanding and messy community. Counter cultural, unpretentious and achingly marvelous.

Nearly every single second of my day I am thinking, dreaming and scheming about how to bring this to every family, every household, every person, every day. Obsessive? Most definitely. Could I use another hobby? Likely. Should I care that those things are true? Probably. But honestly, I don’t know how to do anything different.