Tag Archives: adventures in missions

the future of youth ministry, episode 2

i led a late night discussion at the national youth workers convention this past fall on “the future of youth ministry”. in preparation for that discussion, i emailed a few dozen friends with better youth ministry minds than my own, and asked them to complete the sentence, “the future of youth ministry….” about 15 of them responded (often with more than a sentence!). i’m going to post them here as a series, sometimes with a bit of commentary from myself, and sometimes merely as a reflection-prod. would love to hear your responses.

Seth Barnes (seth is the founder and executive director of adventures in missions. a brilliant thinker and entrepreneur with a heart for the broken of the world, seth is passionate about discipleship. he blogs here; but you shouldn’t read his blog unless you want to be challenged out of any speck of complacency you might hold onto.)

20 years from now, youth ministry in the US will look like youth ministry in Europe.
A few youth ministers will rediscover Jesus’ model of youth ministry and actually try it out (with 20-somethings).
The gap year experience will become an increasingly powerful tool in the youth minister’s toolbox.

my thoughts:
it’s difficult to know exactly what seth perceives youth ministry in europe to look like (maybe he’ll comment here and fill us in on his thinking); but i’m guessing that he’s referring more to youth ministry in a truly post-christian culture than he’s referring to any particular approaches to youth ministry found in europe. if that interpretation is correct, i fully agree with seth. our epoch of well-resourced churches is on the wane, and an assumed christian perspective is already gone in much of the u.s. (less so in the south, of course).

i’m very intrigued by seth’s 2nd sentence, and his inference that great youth ministry might look like a long series of praxis experiences born out in the context of small community (the 12 with jesus). of course, this implies a great deal of sacrifice on the part of both the youth worker and the disciples; and i’m skeptical (sorry) that many will be willing to go there.

as to the gap year experience (a common practice in the UK and other parts of europe where young adults take a year — often before or after college — to give themselves to a serving opportunity that often becomes a significant worldview shaper): i’m a huge fan. i wish we had more of this as a norm in the u.s.

Mark Riddle (mark is a very smart pot-stirrer who clearly has the ability to practice systemic thinking and knock people off balance into a perspective-altering space of disequilibration. mark leads ‘the riddle group‘, one of the premier youth ministry consultant organizations. and he blogs — occasionally — here.)

The greatest barriers to God’s dreams for the future of youth ministry are sitting in this room right now.

my thoughts:
like i said, mark is a pot-stirrer. my understanding of mark’s comment is that we have a natural tendency to limit what could be — particularly in the area of significant change — by our perspectives, biases and experiences. in a sense, we always ‘limit’ possible change; whereas an outsider, or someone thinking from a completely ‘other’ paradigm, can bring cross-current ideas and thinking that leap change forward, rather than tweaking and tinkering.

mark actually sat in on my late night discussion at the nashville convention, and had much more to say about this (that helped all of us in the room). i’m hoping he’ll comment here and help us all.

relevant magazine article on my church’s partnership with a haitian church

i was totally stoked to see that relevant magazine published an article about adventures in missions’ church-to-church partnership program, which connects american churches with haitian churches. the article uses my own church as the primary illustration. it’s been so cool to see my church lean into the vision for this thing. we’ve had two teams travel to our partner church already, and three more trips are planned between now and january (construction teams, medical teams, and care-giving teams, all serving under the vision and leadership of the partner church pastor).

here’s a taste of the article:

Pastor Edouard Clerhomme and Pastor Ed Noble likely never would have met if an earthquake hadn’t filled Haiti’s streets with rubble. But now the relationship between them and the churches they lead is growing into something that has life beyond the tragedy.

In late May, Noble, the pastor of Journey Community Church in La Mesa, Calif., traveled to Haiti with a group of ministry bloggers to help kick off the Church-to-Church Program through which interdenominational missions organization Adventures in Missions (AIM) is facilitating direct partnerships between churches in Haiti and churches in America.

As they met Haitian pastors already in AIM’s network of trustworthy pastors and churches, Noble and Mark Oestreicher, a speaker, author and consultant from his congregation, were hoping to find the church that Journey Church could partner with.

By the last day of the visit, they still hadn’t met a pastor who felt like the right fit. Yet they had a sense about Clerhomme and were hopeful as they headed to their meeting with him. “Our meeting was stunning,” Oestreicher says. “It was one of those rare moments where God’s presence was obvious.”

click here for the rest of the article.

click here for more info on aim’s church-to-church program.

click here to see my church’s “journey in haiti” blog.

youth leaders and church leaders: interested in exploring a trip to haiti?

i’m so glad i took adam mclane to haiti this past february. i’m glad because i really enjoy him as a friend, and it was great to spend that week with him. but it’s much more than that — adam was clearly moved on our trip, and followed up by taking a 2nd trip this summer, with a random crew of peeps he recruited via social media (as only adam would do).

but now’s he’s at it again. adam wants to take 10 – 15 youth leaders and church leaders on a trip to port-au-prince, december 26 – january 1. he’s specifically hoping to include people on the trip who are either considering taking a group (but want to check it out first), or are considering a church partnership.

here’s adam with a few details:

i couldn’t encourage you to go more strongly. my church has a church partnership that has already been so wonderful for both churches (in fact, my church has a team in haiti at this moment!).

if you’re interested, contact adam: facebook, flickr, website contact page, twitter, or walk into the freakin’ ys office and let him show you the bullet hole in his window.

Q&A on Discipleship, Missions, & the Evolution of Youth Ministry

the fine people at the adventures in missions youth worker blog asked if i would do a Q&A on discipleship, missions, and the evolution of youth ministry; and i happily complied. click here for the whole post.

here are the first two questions and the answers i gave:

Q: What has changed about the way youth workers (yourself and in general) disciple students over your career in youth ministry?

There’s been a healthy shift away from a one-size-fits-all mentality. We were really into creating “discipleship programs” that offered one path, one option, when I was a young youth worker. Of course, there’s many still pursuing this route. But, my thinking is (and the thinking of lots of youth workers these days) that a mono-optional “program”-driven approach isn’t honoring to either the disciple or to God. It’s not honoring to the disciple because it only allows for one kind of disciple, the kind that is naturally wired for the expectations and path of the program or approach. And it’s not honoring to God because it denies, at its core, the gorgeous diversity of God creation as seen in the body of Christ.

The move toward mentoring as a key theme in many youth ministry discussions is a reflection of this shift. the old approach was to programmatic; the new (and, really, super-old, in that it’s the way Jesus discipled!) is relational. The old was all about “do this”, while the new (super-old) is all about “follow me.”

Q: What’s the same?

Teenagers are living in a different world, to be sure. But they’re still teenagers, and they’re still dealing with all the developmental realities of a post-pubescent awakening. They’re still wrestling with core questions of Identity, Autonomy, and Affinity (or Belonging). All of these necessarily play into any discussions about teenage discipleship, since they were and are central to the everyday experience of all teenagers (whether they’re aware of these issues or not). Another way to say this: teenagers are still wrestling with who they are (identity), they’re still wrestling with how they’re unique and to what extent they can influence the world around themselves (autonomy), and they’re still wrestling with the question of to whom and where they belong (affinity). All of these are deeply discipleship questions, at the end of the day. Or, at least, they should be!

the remaining questions were:

Q: What’s the best “how-to” discipleship advice you’ve ever received?

Q: What’s one trend in youth ministry today that you disagree with (or want to change)?

Q: Why are (or why aren’t) mission trips good for building students’ character? How high of a priority should they be in youth ministry?

but you’ll have to click through to see my responses.

hello, my name is randomness; nice to meet you

adventures in missions has launched a new blog for youth workers. particularly, the blog (with posts from various aim staff, as well as a handful of youth workers), focuses on discipleship, and how short-term missions can play a role in that. good stuff. i encourage you to check it out. i’ve added it to my blog reader.


Lord Jesus Christ suffers minor injuries in downtown Northampton crosswalk mishap

[the police] said officers checked Christ’s identification at the scene and confirmed it was his legal name.

(ht to scott miller)


entire wedding party falls into a lake — no one thought about the dock not being made for that many people!


a totally hilarious espn column about an extremely strange “sport”: the sauna world championships. seriously, give yourself a 3 minute break and read it. you’ll be refreshed.


andy martin’s wonderfully weird and strangely beautiful little bit of musical animation…

Dry Fish from Andy Martin on Vimeo.

(and here’s a “making of” bit)

meet geftay and john, or, why people give

i think i miscalculated something. please hear me on this: what i’m about to explain is not an attempt to guilt anyone or manipulate. i thought about how i should write about this, and realized that my blog isn’t about spin, and that i should just say what’s on my mind. so here it is, my miscalculation…

i thought it would be super easy to raise $35,000 for AIM’s church to church program. i think (and thought) it’s such a unique and revolutionary approach to long-term help for haiti. and i think (and thought) people would be quickly “in” on helping finance that kind of thing, particularly when the funds we were trying to generate are for the express purpose of providing the salaries of a few haitian church leaders.

but, man, i miscalculated. so far, our efforts have brought in a total of about $750 (plus a $3500 offering taken at my own church a week ago), even though we’ve had tens of thousands of blog readers and radio listeners hear about it. some of our team think people in the US have “haiti fatigue”. that may be true; but i’ve been very pleased with the response to the church partnership program in terms of interested churches (this was the very successful part of our trip there this past week). and i can already tell that the partnership my own church has formed will be transformational for both churches. so i’m not completely convinced it’s a “haiti fatigue” issue.

what i’m wondering is: did we talk about it in the wrong way?

i was (finally) reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide on the plane ride home sunday (i bought the book on kindle back when it came out, but my wife short-cut me on it, and it fell out of my ‘to read’ cycle). the authors mentioned, at one point, research that shows what people are more likely to give to: the research showed that people will give to a real person who’s story moves them much more than they will give to a program, even if the program is very promising in terms of impacting the lives of hundreds or thousands. and it struck me: we’d talked about the concept of church to church, and how it will bring sustainable change in haiti; but we’d failed to tell the stories of the few church leaders we’re hiring in haiti to run it.

so, let me introduce you to geftay and john, two of the three (the other is samuel, but i didn’t get to know him as well). geftay and john were two of our translators on our first trip to haiti in february. but now, on this return trip, they are basically the haitian hands-and-feet (and heart!) of this program. they’re amazing young leaders, with big hearts and ready smiles. they love the church and their country, and they’re 100% committed to standing in the middle of god’s kingdom flow, god’s restoration work in haiti. every day, geftay and john are working long hours, meeting with haitian church leaders, discerning needs and hearts. they’re the guys who are able to give us the insight on which pastors have a heart for their communities (rather than a heart for building their own kingdoms). they’re leading discipleship groups of haitian pastors. they’re providing leadership for work sites (for groups coming down to help). they have shown absolute integrity, and have proven that they’re not in this for their own gain.

at one point on the trip, i had a chance to chat casually with john. he told me why he’s had to postpone his wedding: he can’t get married until he has a place to move with his future wife. but the house he was in the midst of building was destroyed in the earthquake. so he’s starting all over again (though he doesn’t currently have any money to do so). geftay is an architect, who is putting his training into the service of god through his work in the church to church program. both guys lost the jobs they had due to the earthquake (as pretty much everyone in haiti also did — this is one of the most significant problems there today, resulting in a complete lack of resources for basis life needs, like food). but they’re not involved in the church to church program merely because they need employment — this is missional stuff for them. i get the sense that they would do it whether they were being paid or not.

here’s my sense of geftay and john: both of these guys will be key leaders in the haitian church over the next decade (or more). both of them are clear-minded leaders, but with humble hearts. they’re value-driven, passionate and articulate, but they listen more than they talk (a leadership trait i often lack). they understand suffering at a deeper level than i ever will, and bring that compassionate leadership to every interaction (whether with a haitian or an american).

it wasn’t until we were halfway through our week there that i realized that geftay and john (and samuel) are the three haitian church leaders we were trying to fund with this giving project. for me, the whole thing moved from a great concept to a wonderful personal story.

so, again — no manipulation or guilt from me; i’m not interested in using those tools. and, i think this is probably the last time i’ll ask here on my blog. but, if you’d like to support geftay, john and samuel, in their desire to connect haitian churches with non-haitian churches, for long-term restoration in haiti, here’s the link. geftay, john and samuel are paid $10/day. they work 6 or 7 days a week, every week. if you give $10, you can cover a day; or $30 will cover all three of them for a day. give $60, and you’ll cover one for a week; $180 covers all three for a week. or, go big: about $300 covers one for a month; or $900, all three of them for a month.

a few of my favorite pics from haiti

between my photos and the hundreds i collected from the other teammates, i have a huge photo album from our trip. but i’ll share just a few here, all taken with my handy-dandy iphone, many of which i was able to instantly upload to facebook (some of which have shown up in previous posts)…

this one felt like a metaphor for everything in haiti right now. it’s hard, complex and back-breaking.

jean michelle on my back at the son of god orphange. both his parents died in the quake, and he’d been living alone on the streets until 3 days prior to this photo, when the orphanage found him and took him in.

a face that could launch a thousand ships.

and another thousand ships. those eyes. seriously.

somehow, a muddy tent city is still home.

this angel slept on seth barnes‘ lap for about 3 hours during a meeting with tent city community leaders. it was sleep born of starvation.

doug pagitt was amazed when some girls in a tent city didn’t ask for anything while he chatted with them through an interpreter. but when they found him later and asked if he was interested in buying some salami, he couldn’t say no.

tash mcgill climbed this mound to get a better view and a good photo. but i don’t think she saw the word “toilette” spray-painted on the wall next to the mound.

desperation, deplorable conditions, and beauty all mingled together.

pastor edouard very excited about the shirt he received that symbolized the partnership between his church and mine.

the face i now associate with partnering (haiti, day 4)

yesterday morning, we started the day by delivering a few dozen cots to a church that has a small tent city on their grounds. in many ways, it was about as bad as a tent city gets — tight, muddy pathways, people smashed together. but in another way, hope was present there in a way i didn’t see it in marassa 9 (the end-of-the-line tent city we’d been to the day before). and this was due to the ministry of the church they were gathered around. there was a large open-air school right in the middle; and when we were there, there was a band — with real brass and woodwind instruments — practicing. it was amazing to see these teenagers who live in utter squalor, playing real instruments together in this school.

but the afternoon was one of the highlights of our trip. i’ve brought along the teaching pastor from my church — ed noble — with the hope that we would enter into a church partnership with a haitian church. ed had met several pastors during our time here; but many of them didn’t quite feel like the right fit. for whatever reason, even though we were both open (even desiring), we’d gotten to our last full day without a partnership that seemed like the right choice. ed and i touched base yesterday morning, and we both had a sense about pastor edouard (we’ve joked that it was because they have the same name). he was clearly a godly dude, with wisdom, and a heart for his community. so we asked if the AIM staff could have him come over to the AIM house where we’re staying.

our meeting was stunning. it was one of those rare moments where god’s presence was obvious. i teared up several times, just from the feeling of the meeting.

pastor edouard is in his upper 50s. he’s been around the block, and has the wisdom that comes with that turf. he directly leads a church in carrefour, just SW of downtown port-au-prince. but he also oversees 10 other churches spread around haiti. he has a rich, holistic passion for the people of his community (for example: he paid for and ran a free medical clinic in the community for years; unfortunately, while he’s continued to pay the rent on the space, he hasn’t been able to have it open for three years, because he can’t afford to pay a doctor or buy medications).

ed (noble, that is) talked passionately about us wanting to serve pastor edouard’s vision, not the other way around. in order for this partnership between our churches to be beneficial to both churches, we have to follow their lead, and we need to learn from them. edouard was gracious, and sometimes very quiet (particularly when he was emotionally moved); but he’s also very passionate, and (thankfully) stood his ground about what would really be helpful and what wouldn’t be (one of the cautions we’ve had to sort through here is that the church leaders are so thankful for any help, they’ll quickly agree to any suggestions we have).

i’m hoping (and expecting) this will develop into a long partnership between our two churches. we outlined four specific projects/ideas where we might start engaging (i’ll not list those all here, as i want ed noble to be able to process them with our church first). these will certainly include regular communication for prayer (us praying for them; them praying for us), supplies and funds for specific projects we’re agreeing on, and groups of people from our church going to haiti to help. there’s even talk of pastor edouard visiting our church at some point, which would be wonderful.

we had a rich time of prayer together at the end of the meeting. edouard’s prayer for us and the people of journey community church had my heart in my throat. and, possibly my single favorite moment of this entire trip came when ed ran upstairs and grabbed a polo shirt with our church’s name on it and gave it to pastor edouard. his face completely lit up, and he jumped up and down a bit, raising his hand in the air. it felt like that was the moment when, for pastor edouard, this partnership became real.

if you would like to have your church explore a partnership like this, check out AIM’s church to church program. click the same link if you’d consider supporting our effort to raise funds for 3 haitian leaders to oversee this program and all the work involved in communication, discipleship, and accountability.

the complexity of haiti (haiti, day 3)

yesterday, our team spent most of the day in the two marassa tent cities our february team discovered. these two side-by-side communities are very dear to my heart, and were a significant part of what god did in me on that first trip. our first team mounted an all-out attempt to get anderson cooper to show up; but, when that didn’t happen, we found ourselves being used by god as the answers to our own prayers.

i had heard that some other NGOs had finally come to marassa in the weeks that followed (really, i’d like to think, as a result of our amazing god-experiences bumbling around the NGO community staging out of the airport). and i knew that AIM had delivered more than $10,000 of food and supplies (which sounds like a TON, but — seriously — is a drop in the bucket of what’s needed). so i was full of anticipation about returning, seeing people again, and finding out how things were going. to be honest, i was excited, and a little bit nervous, knowing it was more likely to be disheartening than heartening.


we entered marassa 14, the tent community closer to the main road. and i was immediately blown away and encouraged. there were dozens of big, beautiful new tents, in perfect rows, on newly flattened ground. of course, these were alongside the old tattered tents. but the impression was: PROGRESS! then my eyes fell on a collection of porta-potties. eh, better than a hole in the ground; still not great. but a second later, i noticed a row of nicely constructed sanitary units, built on a platform, with reaching-for-the-sky ventilation thingys, and i thought: SERIOUS PROGRESS!

but as the community leaders led us to a shell of a building that’s going to be a school, a new reality sunk in: this isn’t temporary anymore; this place is becoming permanent. and these people are going to be living here — long after their supercool tents donated by wycliffe jean and yeli haiti wear out and become scraps added to tin and lumber and sheets — for years, probably decades, maybe generations.

ugh. really, will the little children who moved here months ago raise their own children here? more likely than not. and that just kills me. because as much progress as they’ve made, this place is still three steps from hell.

moving two steps closer to hell (leaving you, if you do the math, one step from hell), all one needs to do is walk across a small muddy road and a small field filled with trash and a few pigs. you’ll arrive at marassa 9 (which, somehow, on our first trip, we understood to be ‘marassa 17’). the assistance that marassa 14 has received hasn’t quite made it the extra 100 yards to marassa 9. adding a taste of reality, it was lightly raining when we walked through marassa 14, but it started pouring when we walked into marassa 9.

humorous sidebar: i was wearing a red baseball cap, to keep the sun off my head. but as i walked through marassa 9 in the pouring rain, i noticed people staring at me. at one point, our interpreter said, “are you ok?” “sure, why?” i asked. “are you hurt?” he asked. “no.” just then, i noticed a bright red drop of water drop off the brim of my hat. sure enough: the dye in my hat was dripping bright red all over my face, neck and shoulders. it looked like i was bleeding all over the place.

to the point: marassa 9 is a mess. there are a couple little improvements (they have water, and a few outhouses, and a few tarps). but overall, i would say it looks worse than when we saw it in late february. the leaders are frustrated, but they also seem greedy and disorganized. my heart broke as i saw little kids in underwear, in the pouring rain. the mud was thick. the ground was uneven. there was a spirit of messiness and hopelessness in the place. we spoke with a couple of the committee members (village leaders), but couldn’t really get a straight story about their reality (one leader asked if we could provide a tv so they could watch the world cup).

so, we have marassa 14 on one side, which is getting some help; but they’re still in dire need. a little angel of a girl fell asleep on seth barnes’ lap as we were meeting with the leaders; and when we asked about how many days a week they go without food, they laughed, and said, “she’s not sleeping because she’s tired; she’s sleeping because she’s starving.” but they seem organized, and it feels like we could really help them.

on the other hand, there’s marassa 9, where the situation is so, so bleak. they’re not organized, and helping them would likely be pouring help into a very deep hole. but they’re still people. they’re still made in the image of god. and their suffering is so extreme.

as we left today, i was in a bit of a funk. i had felt deeply. but i was torn about how to respond to what i’d seen today. i’m still thinking on it, praying about it.

and just to throw a wrench in the works: there are hundreds of “marassas” in port-au-prince. how can we give up and allow our attention to fade so quickly? why does gary coleman’s death take so much precedence over these lives? why has our giving project only raised about $500 so far (of the $35,000 we’d hoped to raise)? how do we really help here? what can i really do?

these are the questions, matched with the faces of the people of marassa 9 and 14, that i took to bed with me.