File this story under “4-H Fail” or perhaps “The Green Acres Effect”. Here’s a post just for fun today. Enjoy.

When my family moved to the far edge of Waukesha, WI in 1995, I was determined to help our family acclimate to our new zip code as quickly as possible. Several new friends told me their kids were active in various local 4-H clubs. We’d been to the county fair. We’d seen the blue ribbons given to goats, fruit pies and macrame projects. The whole thing seemed fairly self-explanatory. Bake a pie. Win a ribbon. We decided we’d give 4-H a try.

In retrospect, I realize this assumption was my first mistake. I assumed that joining 4-H was like becoming a Cub Scout. You paid some dues, went to a few meetings, learned a new skill or two, and did some community service. The people in charge of Scouting or Awana programs held orientations for new parents, and explained how the program worked. Why wouldn’t 4-H be the same way?

It didn’t take me long to discover that 4-H seemed to be organized more like a secret society such as the Masonic Lodge, the CIA or the Illuminati. [Read more]

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In my earlier posts in this series, I queried pastors and church leaders about their experience pastoring those over 40. (Click here if you’d like to have a peek at those posts.) Those responsible for shepherding their congregations are stretched in dozens of different directions on any given day. A discussion about how to effectively minister to older congregants may sound as though I’m suggesting adding another half-dozen tasks to that impossible to-do list.

As several respondents to that survey noted, some in this demographic tend to be the ones that utter that darling phrase that almost always sucks all the air from a room: “But we’ve always done it that way”. While some pastors noted that older members were key participants and leaders in their congregations, many other leaders expressed at least mild frustration with their perceptions of rigidity and immaturity among older members.

Each one of us is responsible for cultivating our individual relationship with the Lord. (Going to church every time the doors are open doesn’t automatically confer maturity on us. On the other hand, nor does avoiding any sort of corporate connection with other believers. We are not a constellation of disconnected individuals – we are all part of the Bride. One Bride. Singular.) That noted, our life together as believers is meant to form us as individuals as well as in expressing Christ’s love to the world he came to redeem. [Read more]

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Maybe ten years ago, I participated in a small playwriting workshop led by a man who’d directed a number of Broadway plays in the 1960′s and 1970′s. (For the life of me, I can not remember his name at this moment.) Each workshop participant read the short scene he or she had brought to the class. I was feeling pretty great about the script I’d created, frankly.

The workshop leader smiled and nodded appreciatively as I read. Obviously my positive feelings about my own work were being mirrored by this experienced, respected director.

I smiled back at him, but my smile was frozen by the next words he spoke to the group. “Now, outline a new ending to your script.” [Read more]

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Mar

08

2014

Review: Jesus Feminist

One of the benefits of being a Patheos blogger is the opportunity to participate in a book club-themed conversation about a particular book during a certain two-week or so time period. It’s interesting to get a lot of different perspectives from a variety of good thinkers on an author’s work. If you decide to purchase the book in question for yourself, you’ll bring all the questions and insights from book club bloggers into the pages as you read it. If you don’t choose to read the book, the posts serve to acquaint you with the work, which can be helpful if the either the title or subject matter arises in conversation.

I missed the first round of internet conversation about blogger Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist: An Invitation To Revisit The Bible’s View of Women (Howard, 2013) when it released last fall, so I’m glad to catch a second wave in order to interact with Bessey’s thoughts on the topic. Bessey is a well-known Canadian blogger who had a mostly-positive, egalitarian Vineyard church experience as she grew up. As she headed to college in the Charismatic Bible belt of Tulsa, she discovered that her experience in the church with women in leadership was far from universal. After graduation, Bessey and her husband Brian moved to Texas so Brian could become a youth pastor in a large church. It was there that the dissonance she was feeling crystallized into questions about the way some churches do a work-around on the issue of women in leadership: [Read more]

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Last May, after hearing from more than 400 people over the age of 40 about the nature of their relationship with a local church, I made these observations:

Church leaders must do some serious thinking about their models for spiritual health, growth and church “success”. Yes, I know there are hundreds of people speaking and writing about how and why to do this, all promoting their specific fix for the problems of our churches (Be missional! Be multi-site! Formal liturgy/modern worship/yada yada yada! Reformed theology! Reach families/youth!). The focus many leaders have had on endlessly building and tinkering with church forms and structures has burned (and burned out) a sizeable number of older members. Many of my survey’s respondents willingly participated in earlier versions of the same old carnival ride when they were younger and wisely recognize that it is insanity to keep repeating the same cycle of church life and expect different results.

Church leaders need to reconsider how they speak of and nurture spiritual maturity in their congregations. The fact that almost half of those over 40 who took my survey are less involved in their congregations today than they were ten years ago is, in many cases, a marker of their spiritual maturity, though precious few church leaders would likely assess it in that way. Many older people are limited from church involvement because they’re caregivers for frail parents, ill spouses or their grandkids. Others have “aged out” of their church’s family-centered programming, and have found other ways in their community to connect, serve, mentor and learn. Filling a slot on a church org chart may be a sign of a member’s church commitment, but it is not a measure of his or her spiritual maturity. Churches that understand themselves as launch pads rather than destinations appear to be poised to best equip those over 40 to flourish when those in their second adulthood are bearing their fruit outside the four walls of a local church. These congregations that embrace and celebrate these people will have the additional benefit of continuing to access these members’ gifts, experience and presence.

More than 60 pastors and church leaders shared some observations about their experience ministering to and with congregants over 40 in the survey I ran last month on this blog. (Note: The survey is still open if you’d like to weigh in, though I did award amazon gift card to respondent KC over the weekend.) I am very grateful to each one who participated.

This week, in my Paul’s Letters & Acts class at Northern Seminary, prof Scot McKnight suggested that there are three general categories of pastors in our modern world: [Read more]

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