Thursday, May 24, 2012

Breathing New Life

When I worked for a church in Wooster, Ohio, the youth ministry was not well-established.  The church was full of people eager for youth ministry, but they had been in transition in this area for awhile.  At that church, I walked a tightrope of implementing programs and ministry fast while getting to dream with people about what they wanted and what I thought was best.  It was great, overwhelming, exciting, and fearful.  There was nothing ahead of us - so I knew that almost anything I put in place would be new and the kids would have not experienced it before.  It was definitely an interesting place to be.  The youth pastor who is there now has taken the opportunity he has before him and run with it, doing awesome things in the lives of the students and their church.  I love that he is doing it, and I love the way that he does so with excitement.

Having working in Marysville for 2+ years, I love that I get to work for my home youth ministry and work with great people in an established program.  It's amazing to already have a budget laid out, know what week we'll go on a mission trip, and not have to re-write the confirmation program.  But here, it's harder to make huge changes.  It takes more time to start from scratch, and sometimes it's easier to do things the way we always have.  For instance, I've been wanting to re-write our confirmation curriculum since I came here; Carrie thinks it's a great idea, but it always gets to the bottom of my list.  Our curriculum now is good but it's not great - so each year, I just settle for it.  It's harder to decide what needs to stay and go, and how the pieces all fit together when that happens.  Even when Carrie and I chose to cancel our monthly CD subscription, it was painful.  We've always had that - even before she came ten years ago. Will our kids no longer listen to Christian music if we get rid of it, even though they never borrow the CDs now?, we thought.  We knew it was a waste of money in 2012 and that sometimes, things need to move aside.  So that's why this article struck me.  I like to ask these questions sometimes, and I know that in my naivete, I don't have all the answers.  Working with a team, though, I think we can answer these questions (actually, this just made me think - and now I'm going to send the MTD post to all of our adult leaders for their answers) and come away with fresh eyes and renewed focus. 

What questions would a new youth worker in your position immediately ask about the youth ministry?
What changes would be a no-brainer?
Who they would do ministry with? 
What programs a new youth pastor would kill with ease?

In my coach training with SLI, we talk a lot about new church plants and churches that need revived.  Planting a church is hard work that I could never undertake (at least I don't think so).  It requires lots of skills that I just don't have, and takes a 24/7/365 commitment.  But at the same time, revival is also hard working.  Letting God breath new life into ministry isn't easy, and requires saying 'no' to a lot of things you hold dear and 'yes' to a lot of things that are scary.  Even healthy ministries need a willingness to have new life breathed into them regularly.  And I would say that healthy ministries especially and eagerly do this.  See the original post here, and be willing to ask these questions.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Restructure Items

General Conference has made some potential changes to the workings of our denomination in order to be more nimble.  As I feared, lots of these initiatives have lost the strength they had when we walked in the door five months ago ten days ago, but that is the beauty of compromise.  A group of people who had two different plans for restructure came together to draft Plan UMC.  This happened after the General Administration committee had no plan to come forward with for restructure because they voted down all three potential plans by a tight margin.  It was definitely an interesting committee to hear about afterwards!  No one got exactly what they wanted, but we have made progress.  Here is what the "restructure" of the church will look like in general.

Taken from planumc.org
It is more streamlined, and hopefully will make sense in the future.  There was also discussion of having the president of the council of bishops (which already exists) cease from being appointed to an annual conference, in order to serve the whole church better. This petition was defeated.

We also brought to an end "guaranteed appointments", a term that doesn't actually exist in the Book of Discipline.  As you may know, elders in the church are promised an appointment at a local church as long as they are faithful to the the Book of Discipline. Currently, there is no streamlined way to exit ineffective elders in the church.  Annual conferences already can get rid of elders who are doing active damage to the church.  However, the gist of this legislation helps deal with the pastors who are consistently doing harm to more than one appointment (I read in one place that the definition of "ineffective" is having three consecutive churches ask for their pastor to be removed).  In many places, ineffective pastors are placed again and again because they haven't done anything disastrous but they have hurt numerous churches.  We have a regular practice of keeping damaging pastors in the system, rather than gracefully moving them out.  This legislation was amended to add great safeguards in place - the bishop or district would NOT act alone but with a group of people who would work with people around this issue.  Here is a wonderful article about what was done.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Being a Mama at General Conference

In 2004, I attended General Conference as a high school junior.  Mom, Dad, Mike, and I went home during our weekend break (when we got Saturday and Sunday off) so I could go to prom with a really cute guy.  Mom and Dad hosted students at our house for after prom, cooked a huge breakfast for us, and then we packed up and headed back to Pittsburgh.

In 2008, I went to General Conference, headed back to Asbury University for finals, and got married three weeks later.  My amazing family and fiancĂ© cared for details at home while Dad and I attended.

But 2012 is the most unique of all.  This time, I am a mom.  And (sorry male readers), a nursing mom.  Eric is with us and works from the hotel.  Mom is watching Emmalyn all day, and they are cooped up in a hotel.  Poor Mom!  Poor Eric!  They are truly sacrificing so much for us!  Emmalyn has been a huge trooper in the midst of this - all while getting two teeth!  She has tried more new foods in the past ten days than ever before, and she LOVES seeing all of the people around.

As a sidenote, Emmalyn loves any person who has darker skin than her oh-so-pale parents.  When our friend Grace visited from Uganda, Emmalyn was obsessed with her and couldn't stop staring at her (at only three months old).  This has been very apparent this week.  I had Emmalyn at the convention center during a break and while I held her, lots of people were around us.  One of the translators, who is an African woman, came up to us to see Emmalyn, and our baby girl dove out of my arms to go to her.  It was very clear who she preferred in the group!  Throughout the week, we have been spending time with Jorge Acevedo, and Emmalyn cannot stop staring at him.  It's actually pretty comical, and is teaching me to be in awe of the uniqueness with which God has created us.  Emmalyn's definitely a sweet little ice-breaker.

When I was very pregnant with Emmalyn, I was elected to General Conference.  We didn't know what we would do with her when the time came.  I planned on nursing until she was at least six months old, but Emmalyn was not ready to quit and neither was I.  General Conference kept looming in my mind.  Through a combination of pumping, rushing to the hotel during breaks, and meeting Mom here when I couldn't get away, it has been much better than I imagined.  Since I don't see Emmalyn much during the day, it is great to have a few minutes to bond with her and it definitely gives her the mama time she needs during the day. Today for instance, I have been able to get to her during every break and I think it's helped both of us have a better day!

There have been moments when I have felt like I am doing a dis-service to General Conference by skipping out on worship or showing up five minutes late after a break.  But thankfully, I don't believe I have missed any votes.  I am sure that people have judged me sneaking out a bit early at times, and a few nights ago, that wore on me as I walked out before the end of worship.  But as I left the convention center at 8:30 p.m., I saw a woman pacing on the sidewalk.  She was on her cell phone and I thought she was talking in a different language until I realized she was singing.  She seemed a little embarrassed, and I wondered why she would sing on her phone.  As I got closer, I realized that she was singing a lullaby to her child on the phone.  It was so precious to me and affirmed that my primary responsibility is, even in the midst of General Conference, to be a mom. What a great privilege that is!