Tag Archives: change

we need some painful disruption in youth ministry

a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me this quote in a google chat:

“The major advances in civilisation are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur”
(Alfred North Whitehead)

and, immediately, i started thinking of youth ministry.

and this is what came to mind: i don’t like pain. i avoid pain. but i really like change. in fact, two of the seven vocational core values i came up with for myself earlier this year when i was doing some reflection on where i’m headed were:

I want to change the world. I believe in my gut that I am invited into the ongoing restoration work of Christ in the world, and I want to actively participate in that Kingdom work.

Change is non-negotiable. Upheaval, starting new things, risk and failure are all necessary and good, both for the organization I’m a part of and for my own level of thriving.

sounds like a recipe for pain, doesn’t it? because, really, there’s no way to lean into change and upheaval without also heading into some pain.

i pray for, long for, dream of, and want to be an active part in youth ministry changing. i won’t go into long detail about what that looks like; but i will say that our continued isolation of teenagers, our culturally lame attempts to entertain them, our arrogance about how cool we are (please know i’m looking in the mirror on that one), our immaturity, and our ongoing fondling of bigger and better as a measurement of success all need some painful disruption.

tweaking isn’t going to get us there.

here’s where i might be shooting myself in the foot (which would, i assume, be painful): i’m a youth worker. i can’t escape that calling. and — if i’m honest — i don’t really have a sure-fire recipe for a new way. whatever disruption happens is likely to hurt me in one way or another.

but that quote got me thinking:

what would “processes that all but wreck the [youth ministry structures and assumptions and culture and organizations] in which they occur” look like?
what would it mean?
where would it come from?
what might be beautiful and smelling of the kingdom of god on the other side of it?

the slow and arduous process of change, and the need for help

i’d just finished leading a seminar on organizational change yesterday, called “the flywheel of change”, when i popped online and saw this video (it’s short – watch it):

given the conversations i’d been a part of only minutes earlier, the video quickly became a metaphor for me. i had presented adizes’ model of organizational life-cycles (see this post for a little unpacking of that model). we’d talked about the hard path of rebooting an organization (business, church, youth ministry) that is already into entitlement and bureaucracy. we’d talked about the courage and challenge required for the first couple pushes on a flywheel of change, which have to (counter-intuitively) occur when everything seems to be going well, and most leaders want to ‘stay the course’. i’d shared stories of this from my youth specialties days, and consulting work i’ve done with churches and other organizations. and participants in the seminar shared stories of their attempts, as well as the organizational inertia or outright opposition that resisted their change efforts. it was encouraging, in the sense that we were all acknowledging the difficulty, as well as suggesting pathways to new vitality and life. but it was also discouraging in some ways, because change is hard and slow, and fraught with blind alleys and saboteurs, human and systemic.

the poor three-toed sloth just wants to cross the pickin’ road, for goodness sake. but even getting to the road (the metaphorical transition space of change) is a plodding effort. stepping (or crawling) onto the road is to offer himself up, unknowingly, to become likely roadkill. really, without the intentional, careful, knowledgeable (did you notice how the guy knew where to grab the sloth?) assistance of a gracious guide, the sloth would likely not have reached the other side of the road.

but… but, when the guy picks him up (did you notice this? watch it again if you didn’t.), the sloth becomes superman in flight — reaching out to the lush life on the far side.

in our attempts to bring change to the organizations in which we work and serve, we need help. the helper dude is a metaphor for many things:
the holy spirit, on whom we must rely for discernment while crossing the life-threatening space and duration of change.
the community of people who enter into change with us. leading organizational change (from a position granted that responsibility, or from a “leading up” position) is not, cannot be, a solo endeavor. in order for change to occur with both minimized risk and minimized damage, it absolutely has to be a collaborative process.
outside input, wisdom and ideation from others more familiar with the road.
hope. belly down to the road, the sloth could barely see the other side, and certainly couldn’t see all the oncoming threats. but from his elevated superman, flying position, hope rears its head. this isn’t x-games, no-fear hope; nope, this is peeing my slothy underparts fear mixed with a view of the destination. this is biblical hope: choosing confidence when it doesn’t feel logical.

the sloth can’t hop the road or run to the other side. change isn’t quick or easy. it’s slow and arduous and risky. how wonderful that (if we are wise) we don’t have to cross the road alone.

what are you dreaming of changing?
what are the risks you see?
who might have a better view of the risks you don’t see?
who is joining you in moving toward change? who’s on your team?
what role can/should the holy spirit play in your process of change?
where is your hope placed?

things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school

scott rubin and i need a little help from you for our middle school ministry book. in the “middle school culture” chapter, we have a list of things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school (well, at least when i was in middle school, in the mid-70s). here’s what we have:

– Cell phones
– The internet (meaning, websites and buying stuff online and everything else that is so completely normal today)
– Text Messages
– IM
– Hybrid Cars
– Social Networking
– “Friends with benefits”
– “Bi-Curious”
– Cable TV
– Digital Video Recording (or TiVo)
– Mp3s and downloadable music
– DVDs
– Hi-Def
– Satellite Radio
– Xboxes and Wiis and other amazing gaming systems (“Pong” was introduced when I, Marko, was a young teen, and “Space Invaders” had just showed up in the commons of a local community college).
– Email
– Spam (the email variety – we had the stuff in the can, made of humans).
– Any kind of camera, video or still, that didn’t need developing.
– Cordless phones
– In-ear headphones
– Ringtones
– Call waiting
– iChat or other video conferencing
– snowboards and wakeboards
– rollerblades
– an African American president and a female Secretary of State
– Airport Security (and National Security levels, and Terrorist threats)
– Internet porn
– snowboards and wakeboards
– rollerblades
– Starbucks
– Viagra
– Plastic Pop Bottles
– X Games
– Energy Drinks
– Home Theaters (?)
– The Simpsons, Spongebob, American Idol and a host of other dependable TV staples
– Reality TV
– Crack Cocaine
– Minivans
– Disposable Cameras
– Disposable Contacts
– Abortion Pill
– Doppler Radar
– Space Shuttle
– USA Today
– Paintball and Airsoft
– Laser Tag
– iPods
– MTV (could be in the “started and faded away” list…)
– DNA fingerprinting
– Artificial Heart
– Fantasy Sports Teams (which are still lame)
– Cloning animals
– The SuperBowl as a kind of National Holiday (I’m reaching)
– Cutting (?)
– “Walkman” came & went — remember that!
– Suitcases with wheels on the bottom (seriously …. Nobody had em!)
– most piercings… Besides ears…
– McDonalds Playlands

this second list is things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school, then came on the scene in a major way, and have already faded:

– Fax machines
– CDs (seriously – who buys CDs anymore? They’re the betamax cartridge of this generation.)
– Video tapes
– Internet chat rooms
– Really, we could put email on this list, since teenagers don’t use email anymore, except to communicate with parents or teachers.
– Music videos played on MTV
– The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
– The Walkman (pre-mp3 cassette and CD players)

what are we missing?? would love to hear as many additional ideas as you have…