"Cheer up. Remember what the Monty Python boys say."
"Always look on the bright side of life?"
"No, 'Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.'"

Monday, February 18, 2008

About My Weekend Away...

Well, WinterFest this year was pretty uneventful. It was calm laid back for the most part.

So why did I feel like something was just ‘off’? Why did it feel stilted and slightly uncomfortable? I didn’t miss the drama that accompanies taking a group of high school kids but I missed the bustle of a larger group. Don’t get me wrong, our whole whopping 4 kids were wonderful, but I wish more of them had been there. Maybe it was the feeling that that DH and I were not necessary as chaperones (4 kids to 4 adults). We had very little to do with any actual planning; basically we brought the food, picked up food and then cooked food. Just call DH the traveling chef... lol If it hadn't been for really enjoying Je.ff Wal.lin.g as a speaker, we would have been willing to bow out of the event altogether. (The worst part for me was having the one other high school kid we had going, bow out. I always enjoy having her around.)

The speakers were great and I wish I had the faith of just their pinky nail. They were amazing.

  • One woman spent 24 years creating a written language and translating the bible in the language of a Pupae New Guinea tribe.
  • A 16 year old spent several weeks in Vietnam with 7 other teens smuggling bible in under treat of violence or death.
  • And a man with severe physical birth defects (no arms, shorter that average legs, like a little person) that has become the worship minister for a church in big Texas.

As far as getting something out of the conference, I really did. I love Jeff as a speaker and I like that in many ways he goes against the tide of traditional C of C thinking. The whole point this year was "Know Jesus, Be Jesus, See Jesus". The part that struck me the most was the inablity to really "Be Jesus" when judgement is involved. We, as the Church, are not meant to judge each other based on perception and belief. We may not agree with someone's faith, walk, religion, but that does not give us the right to persecute them.

Unfortunately, as Christians, we tend to do this way too often, and not just to the outside, but also within our own ranks. It is really easy to point at someone and say, "You are sinning by doing/not doing (fill in the blank)." What isn't taken into account is the fact that sin is sin is sin. No one sin is greater than another. We are all ready to pounce on se.xua.l lifestyles but what about lying, cheating, greed, etc? If you chastize one person, then why not include everyone, even ourselves. It reminds me of the pharasees in the bible; they were well read, studied, prayed, and versed, yet, Jesus rebuked them for placing judgement and laws on everyone around them. Just because a person sees themselves as a better Christian does not mean they are better than the other person.

Sunday morning I had a headache, on top of no sleep, so DH and I skipped going to an Ashville C of C to “…experience new worship...” venues. I am sure it was great, but from someone who went from an instrumental church to an acapella church, I have experienced other worship venues. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved it, but what I experienced (and am still experiencing) from not going is just as rewarding to me.

The kids liked the experience (the first time for 3 of the 4 of them) but I am still bummed by the fact that our high school students basically protested based on the 8th graders' attendance. I understood where they were coming from to an extent, but I the same time, it was childish.

I feel that there has been a shift in the tide when it comes to our youth group at church. I can’t say I love it or hate it, yet I feel that the older kids have been given up on. It is almost like they are the “throw-away” group. I realize that they are a hard group to fix but in some way, I know we are failing their needs. It isn’t one certain person’s fault either; it is the fault of the collective.


Monica Fayth said...

Is there a way the older kids can be given more leadership roles or a bit more "control" about what is going on? That way they feel that there is a place for them and that people are listening to them.

Of course this was college, but when I was a part of the Baptist Student Union where we students were in charge of just about everything including outreach, worship, Bible studies, etc. We had our campus ministers for direction and support. But I think the reason it was such a great experience was that we were each an integral part of what was going on.

Also, it's interesting b/c my pastor just did a sermon on the difference between being a Christian vs a Jesus follower. It was great: http://www.tlcfamily.com/arcmychurch6.htm

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

I wish I could say that it is a lack of deisre on the part of the kids, but it isn't.

We have a rough group to content with. Many of them come from broken homes, single parent homes, major dysfunction, etc. and they are trying to find themselves and failing.

They had a great youth leader that just walked away. It was better for his marriage but it broke the hearts of our teens. (He was a little too personally involved) They confide in DH and I but there are very few people that they trust. I know part of it is just dealing with inner city issues but mostly the church seems to have given up on doing anything of substance until after the Senoirs graduate. Almost a cleansing of bad blood, kwim? It seems they are more interested in the "future high schoolers" then the current group.

I admit, I got burned out on teaching them on Wednesday nights. I would only have 2-3 and any type of lesson planning didn't work because I would need to recap each week.

I think you would have really liked the conference. We think the same in a lot of ways (I forgot to tell you that I got all the same results from your I'm bored quizes, lol).

One of my biggest beefs with going to a C of C is the endless rhetoric and tradition. People are so hung up on doing things "the way they first church did it" that they are cutting themselves off and not growing. Even our church, which is pretty progressive in this area, has been losing members like crazy. It is discouraging.

Amy Paden said...

It's all a matter of perspective.

I do think it is a lack of desire on the part of the kids. If the desire was there, they would go to WF even if we had younger kids going (in fact you'd think they'd be happy for the younger ones to get the experience!) they'd show up to class, and wouldn't have to be forced to go, regardless of who is working with them. If the desire was there they would take a more active role.

He was not that great of a youth leader. He's the one that pretty much single handedly created the "Great Divide" in the group, he was great with getting one group of people involved, but basically pushed away 1/2 of the group.

Nothing has been done to cut off the Seniors from the rest of the group-except for not wanting 1 senior to go to WF. The fact of the matter is, this fall, we will have a group of students go off to college, some may stay in the area, some may not. We can't spend the next 6 months focusing on them. There is a younger group of kids that has incredible amounts of potential.

In my opinion the youth group never should have been just 9-12 grades. It should be 7-12, especially at the size of church we are. It doesn't make sense to have that divide.

As for the church losing members, IMO it has nothing to do with striving to be like the first church. It's probably the fact that we aren't like the first church. People read in their bible, and go in search of that, and leave when they don't find it, and go in search of "true christianity". (This is about people leaving the coC in general)

But for TRC specifically...
I don't know about you, but I can only name a handful of people that have left. I think that is the real problem, not trying to be like the first church. We say we are a caring, loving church, but we sure don't show it. Maybe its due to the lack of organization, or the lack of good leadership, lack of good programs, etc. We don't grow because most of the congregation is satisfied with status quo, and status quo won't keep people around. The work of basically 2 men cannot make the church grow, and things change, it has to be the work and DESIRE of the collective.

Anyways, just some of my opinions from my perspective.

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

As you said, it is a matter of perspective…

I think that the kids DO desire more they just don’t know what that ~more~ is. I also think that there has been such a chaotic approach to that group in the last few years (myself included) that they do not have the chance to know what is out there too desire. This group has never had a “Ben” to desire, just what they know.

Yes, “F” had his issues and was not always correct in his approach, but I do recall sitting down with him and listening to the passion he had for those kids. There was a divide with our group before he started due to the massive difference in upbringing. The other half was not much involved even when “M” was there, with the exclusion of “K”.

Being as I was told by several of the group why they were not going, I know that it had nothing to do with that one person not being ~welcome~ to attend. And the focus on them hasn’t been a priority for a while. Things get mentioned in passing but nothing ever comes to fruition. Yes, the new group has this great and wonderful potential, I get that, but it too is a completely different background of kids; mostly kids who grew up at TRC. (Not to unlike your group had.)

Until this year there has been too big a division in age to have everyone together. Personally, I don’t think I would want my 6th grader (the age of these young ones now) in a class about dating, relationships and sex. That was when the division was made and it sort of stuck. Maybe they should have been combined last year, but it didn’t happen. And unlike the group before this (just past yours) sibling interaction is completely different and quite distracting when trying to teach, I have tired.

In the last few years, there has been a considerable downward trend in attendance. Some revoke membership; some do not. I was not speaking of TRC; I was speaking of the average conservative C of C mindset: No women in any position where a man in persevered to have his authority taken away, instrumentation is a sin, only where your Sunday best, don’t question the collective mindset or you are apostate, only the C of C is going to heaven.
I am not sure what you mean by “true Christianity”. That is open to interpretation. When we start trying to define “true Christianity” judgment is involved. Tradition in the C of C says anyone outside of the “True Church” is going to Hell. I don’t believe that at all. In fact, there are several issues I still have with C of C doctrine but they are not enough to make me leave TRC. Andrew doesn’t preach on them so I don’t worry about them.

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

I have never fhidden my distain for traditional Churchs of Christ. Unfortunately, these statements ring too true in a lot of C of C in the Dayton Area(and in some of the older members)

You know you are C of C if:

- you truly think that your church is not a Denomination because the first century church came before the Reformation

- your sign has the obligatory "Meets Here," just in case visitors confuse the church
as the building and not the people.

- you have well-rehearsed speeches to tell your friends and Baptist-visitors why there is no piano.

- you know that singing A Capella is really 2 words & that singing A Capella means no drums either.

- the real reason there are 2 cofC's in your town is because you stopped using the song book to go to an overhead.

- if you quietly idolize Keith Lancaster, Max Lucado & Jeff Walling.

- If you own a pitch pipe.

- You can name almost all of the Acappella albums and the years of their release and the vocalists present on the recording.

- a gospel singing is the only reason you would dare be in the same room with the people from the church across town.

- you scowl when saying words like "Baptist" & "Pentecostal"

- volume = skill when singing.

- it's ok for a woman to pass the Lord's Supper, but it's not ok if she's standing at the end of the pews.

- You get angry when your non-CofC-visitor-friend says you're "Baptist."

- if your recounting of church history starts with Antioch3

- if you hear a sermon on baptism at least once per month in case a Baptist were to arrive.

- the preacher has a spare "baptism" sermon if a Baptist arrives unannounced

- he's a preacher or a minister... not a pastor

- if your congregation's growth is inversely proportionate to your "sister congregation's" across town.

- you've ever contemplated not listening to the local "Christian" radio station because they play instrumental music... so you switch to the local country station which uses instruments.

- you're against more things at church than you're for.

- you believe any church with more than 200 members is watering down the message by leaving the water out too much.

- you know what the "cross-roads movement" was.

- your greatest goal in life is to convert the local First Baptist Church Pastor.

Amy Paden said...

Desire God... not any person.

true Christianity= the Christianity shown in the Bible

M and B had some of the same kids in the youth group, then B and F had pretty much the same kids in the group. BUT the now seniors were not part of the youth group when M was here the first time, they entered the group when B was here.

Yes there was already a division, but F added to the divide by not TRYING to invite or include people. I can't even begin to count the number of times my sister was not told about an activity. F catered to that group of 6-8 teens, and no one else.

I never implied that Trenton was the reason the seniors didn't go to WF.

The younger group of kids coming up is completely different from the group I had. Sam is the only one that has spent his life at TR. Ryan probably comes close as well. Being at the church for the last 5-7 years is not growing up at the church. Siblings will always have a problem being in a class together because they usually don't get along. My brother and I are the prime examples of that- you never taught our group, so you wouldn't know how the siblings interacted.

The people that are currently working with the group are doing the best they can. With M being sick and having no energy, and H being out of town 5 days a week. It's hard. They try to do activity (movie nights or whatever) when they can, but do to life circumstances they can't sacrifice as much time as they probably want to.

tammy said...

I am not dogging the current situation, it is less than ideal and we all know that but it is a start and I know that both are trying very hard. I am grateful for that. In a perfect world/church we would have a youth minister on staff but that is not feasible right now. It was an observation not a slam. All my comments were observation; none of it was a personal attack on any one person or group.

“Desire God... not any person, true Christianity = the Christianity shown in the Bible” You were meaning other religions not denominations, I presume? (Because I know the spin (my IL’s have tried to get me to see the light) and there are certain denominations that desire God yet the C of C would condemn them as not Christian. That is why I asked what you meant.)

F was the only leader that most of those kids knew. I was unaware that K was consistently excluded, but I do know that he tried without fail to get A.M. kids to attend and it was always a no go. Like I said, this group didn’t have a B or M to unify them. Some leaders are just wonderful and some lack. It is the luck of the draw.

Let me rephrase… 5-7 years in a church when a kid is 12-13 is still more than enough to get the basics. The kids coming into the group now had M.H. as a teacher and he is great and the foundation teaching, something this group seemed to lack. Sam, Ryan, Will, Harry, etc… No, I didn’t teach your group, but you & A still managed to be civil in public. J and H are not.

Monica Fayth said...

wow, this turned into a big discussion. One of the cool things we did when I was teaching SS was we would start with a whole group 7-12 grade and then break into smaller groups 7-8, 9-10, 11-12. On Wed nights, they had a Bible study, but I'm not sure how much they were divided. On Friday nights we had F3 (F cubed--friends, fun, fellowship) where we would have dinner, games, and then some type of lesson. It was whole group, but everyone was great. We also had kids work with some of the leaders to plan the activities/games.

Amy Paden said...

One thought: I meant that I think the kids don't have a desire for God, which is made obvious by their actions and words. Then you came back with they didn't have anyone like Ben to desire, which is why I said "Desire God... Not people"

Different thought:True Christianity is what was found in the Bible, the example that was given to all of us, regardless, of denomination, traditional/conservative or contemporary. There are things I agree with, and also things I don't agree with in church doctrine. I think you'll find that with anyone you ask... I don't think that by being a member of the CoC is th only way to get to heaven, I do believe one must be baptized though. But that's a different story that's not appropriate at this time.

the now seniors were the main kids in Brent's youth group. I believe Brent was fall 2003 to 2004, then Frank was after that.

Aaron and I fought verbally, and physically while in the youth group. Kelsey and I still on occasion argue verbally in public. It's just something that goes along with having a sibling close in age.

Amy Paden said...

Monica, the way you guys handled SS sounds like a good way to do it. We however have a severe lack of volunteers/teachers to do something like that.

tammy said...

I am not saying that they desire people, they desire something, and they don’t know what it is. Your group had Ben, who from what I hear was Super Youth Minister. He helped get the kids passionate about God. We haven’t had that since the first time M was the leader.
Do our kids have passion to know God? By there actions, I would say know but that is really between them and God. I think they struggle with being in the world not of the world. Not having a firm foundation to stand on doesn’t help matters either. They are a world apart from the way you and I grew up, and ideally; they need someone from the same background to identify with.
I hear the “true Christianity” stuff from so many dyed in the wool C of C members that I wasn’t exactly sure where you were going with it; I had a hunch but I still wasn’t 100%.
Honestly, neither one of us really knows how the other one feels completely in regards to doctrine. I don’t often share because I have learned that discussing politics and religion stir up emotions. You do know that I disagree with you on baptism though. I have never been silent on that issue. And no, this is not the place for a doctrinal study.

Brent was not the acting youth minister for very long and when you come right down to it, he was just one of the kids, just older. The never really respected him as an authority figure.

I was around N and N a lot more that you and Aaron, but I didn’t think it was as severe as I see with the others. I must have been wrong.

Monica, what you suggested was great but Amy is right, we don’t have the manpower for that set up… yet? :o) Someday, I would hope we could incorporate something like that here.

Amy Paden said...

Brent was the acting youth minister for over a year. Whether the kids respected his authority or not, he was GIVEN the authority over the youth group, even if he did relate to them on their level. I think its safe for me to say that there has been a problem with everyone who has worked with the youth group of finding the balance between teacher and friend.

I avoid talking about doctrine and politics usually too... there's less drama that way. My stance on baptism is one thing that I do let out. lol

I had Ben as a youth leader when i was in 7th and 8th grade, so I do not know what it was like to have him as one when I was in highschool. Dave, Michelle, Andrea and Howard were the teachers I had in high school. Yes, Ben was probably great, but he, like everyone else, has downfalls.

I don't know if we'd ever have the manpower to do something like that. Getting people to volunteer is one thing, but getting people to stick with it, is a completely different story especially when it comes to TR. So no, I don't see it being possible in the forseeable future, if ever.

tammy said...

Well, this was not meant to turn into a debate on who was the best, worst, etc. for the TRC youth. My main point or observation was that our seniors are kind of the Lost Boys of the group right now. I wasn’t trying to place blame.

Unfortunately, TRC has a lot of potential but no one able to implement it on a grander scale. There are great ideas but that is where it usually stops. And you are right a few good men are not going to move the mountain.

But honestly, don’t you wonder what it would be like if we just did what was needed and said, “Get over it” to the naysayers? :o)