Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Poverty and Youth Ministry

Ever wondered why the group sponsoring 30 Hour Famine in most churches are the youth? How about this, why are most mission trips to the poor and needy a function of the youth ministry? Because youth ministers are poor! :) Especially Methodist youth ministers. We can identify with those who are poor, needy, and starving.

Ok, so I'm being just a tad bit "over the top." But there is a point to be made here. My career in youth ministry started at a Baptist church, with me volunteering. When I first approached the church about my desire to be on staff, there was an almost immediate "called meeting" to make that happen. When I graduated college and expressed a desire to be made "full time staff" this was done almost as quickly, though the budget year was already well under way.

My first staff position at a Baptist church out of seminary was a great experience. The church was incredibly supportive, the pastor and I had a wonderful working relationship, and some great things happened in my life through that experience. This was also a church that made sure my salary and benefits were equal to my education and experience. I began serving that church in 2000 (eight years ago) and earned a full $14,000 more at that church at that time than I do now serving an United Methodist Church.

This is the second UMC congregation I have served as a Minister to Students. Perhaps I'm just crazy, but I feel a calling to help revive student ministry in these churches and contribute to stronger student ministry in the denomination as a whole. In both churches, I was surprised at the low salary being offered given my education and experience and the church's desire to have a vibrant ministry to students. In both cases I was told there would be "job reviews" after a period of six months, at which time the salary could be adjusted. At both churches the six months have come, review has been performed, ministry has been praised, and then.....I'm told the budget can't be adjusted "mid-stream."

I think I've learned my lesson! However, I continue to push the Staff Parish Committee at my current church to do the right thing, and provide a salary and benefit package that is adequate at the very least, and begins to move towards a 2008 "price tag" for my experience and education level, as well as the responsibilities involved.

In looking for information to support my "push," I typically have to rely upon Baptist research, since they are typically many years ahead of the UMC in ministry to students, and provisions for Student Ministry staff. But I was surprised to find the following "Epworth Document" at the YouthWorker Movement website. Very encouraging document, and something I would encourage any Minister to Students, Staff Parish member, or Clergy person to keep on file. Here is the link:

I can't hide the fact that I'm disappointed in how differently I'm treated from a personnel standpoint at the two UMC churches where I've been on staff compared to my experiences on the staff of Southern Baptist churches. But I'm encouraged that a group from the UMC understands the problem and addresses it in such a "dead-on" manner. Perhaps this will be a difference maker in the minds of many people within our denomination.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Am I showing up on the Methoblog feed?

My last post did not...this is mostly a test to see if this one shall.

But I'll also share a quick story that is very cute:

I took my oldest daughter to see Iron Man today. Pretty good movie. This was part of our Mother's Day gift to her mom...just giving S a break from the constant neediness of K and I both :)

So I had promised K that we would go get some ice cream at Marble Slab after the movie. When we got to Marble Slab they were closed "due to Mother's Day" (lame!). As we drove away, I tried to divert K's disappointment by talking to her about the movie. I asked her what her favorite part of the movie was, to which she replied, with a very dejected voice: "When I thought I was going to get some ice cream."

question of the week...I would love your response :)

So maybe I went about this the wrong way, this being my first week of blogging. Perhaps I needed at least a few "readers" before posting a question of the week...but I do hope for some thoughtful replies. So I'll post it one more time in an attempt to solicit those replies :)

So here's the question:
What do you see as the biggest current concern needing to be addressed by the UMC church and what are some steps you think can be taken to effectively address that concern?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

My last blog entry was about a day of Sabbath, and the time it afforded me to spend with my family. Yesterday, wasn't a day of "Sabbath", but it was a great day with family, and just a wonderful day in general.

K, my 5 year-old daughter, is full of energy and curiosity, and always makes me smile, despite the constant need to admonish her about her typical 5 year-old behavior. One of my favorite recent stories with her was an evening that we made a grocery store run for mom. As I placed her in the buggy--simply out of convenience, she rarely rides in the buggy anymore--I commented that she was growing too big to fit. I said "I sure wish you would stop growing so fast. I'm gonna miss my little girl when she's all grown up." And this little 5 year-old, without any hesitation, just says "Well, that's just how life goes Daddy."

So yesterday, we all went to Childrens Hospital for a doctor's appointment for the baby girl, J. J's doctor was great, assured us all is well, and gave much comfort. On the way back home, I took the family to the seminary I attended where we ate lunch and visited the bookstore. K loved the place! She was fascinated by an indoor water fountain, couldn't get enough of climbing up and down the stairs, and wanted to say "hello" to everyone in the building (very loudly at that). She certainly made her presence known!

As she was enjoying her adventure in a "new land", I thought about that evening when she reminded me of "how life goes." She will continue to grow and change, and much too soon, will no longer be a little girl, but will be a young woman living out her purpose and passion. I couldn't help but wonder if her passion would lead her back to the seminary or to a similar place of study and preparation. My prayers for her always include asking God to raise her up as a true disciple, completely in love with Christ, fully committed to God's plan for her life. Yesterday, in a very real and powerful way, I began to sense some of the hope and promise in seeing this little girl develop into a wonderful, loving daughter of God.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An unexpected day of "sabbath"

Mondays are normally my day off from church. But I seldom actually take the entire day off. My wife(S) and I have a couple of business interests to help with finances. So besides my work as a Minister to Students, I run a very small business and have some investment property. So....Mondays are normally not a true day off!

Also, I have now begun a small group Bible study for 8th and 9th grade boys. Monday after school was the best available day for the guys, so it turns out Monday is now a day of ministry also for at least 3 hours, and more if I get conned into going to a meeting after, or wind up hanging out with the guys a little longer.

Now I don't want to confuse anyone and pretend to be a workaholic. Believe me, I am not! I enjoy my rest, sleep at least 6-8 hours daily (though not always at, and love to have time with my family. But, between my ministry position (always at least 40 hours per week), and the other business interests, I am involved in "occupational" stuff at least 60-70 hours weekly. I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule with all of the interests. I don't keep "normal" office hours at church, since so much of student ministry is either on a school campus, with students after school, or at the church after school and on weekends, especially Sunday. The business interests are done mostly at night, though some day-time work is involved most weeks, which is why Monday is rarely a "true" day off.

But yesterday was Tuesday! On Tuesdays I'm always at the least in the afternoons. On Tuesdays I often have leadership meetings at the Jr. High. On Tuesdays I normally am getting ready for Wednesday Bible study and worship. Tuesdays, in other words, are busy. And they should's the "first day" of my work week (Sunday actually is, since I'm "working" for the church, but Tuesday is when I start cranking up for all things that will lead up to the next Sunday).

But yesterday, the Tuesday that has just barely ended, was a day in which I actually did absolutely nothing! Unless you count time of rest, and time with family doing something. And I do :) I actually consider it to be HUGE! And I need more days like that. I slept in, woke up and played with my oldest daughter (K) for about 20 mins, then slept some more :) Woke up a little later, laid down beside my baby daughter (J), and "played" with her for around 20 mins. She's always the most playful and shows the most personality before lunch. And believe it or not, after making a couple of phone calls, eating a bowl of soup, and talking to my wife a bit....I actually went back to sleep! I have to elevate my left leg a lot right now, so I'm spending more time in bed or on the couch than usual....and today I took full advantage of that! :)

The afternoon was spent mostly with the girls, but I even fell asleep one more time while K and I were playing in her room. None of the naps were very long, but all of them were awesome! Like 3 power naps in one day! I never even called the Just took the day off. The evening was equally enjoyable. I'm really not home a lot during the 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. time frame. Almost every day there is a council meeting, ministry stuff, or house stuff (that's another part-time job...we're building a house), that keeps me out after 5. But tonight, I was there....and I loved it! :)

I guess I lied about doing absolutely nothing today. I did leave the house around 9:30 p.m. to take care of the night time work for our small business. But by that time, I had truly had a full day of rest. A day of Sabbath.

And lest you think I sleep "too much"'s nearly 5 a.m. and I haven't yet slept again :) Still up since coming in from the night-time work. And I probably will not sleep again until after midnight tonight (Wednesday). Though I will take the day off today because we are taking J to Children's Hospital for an important doctor's appointment. If you happen to read this blog today, please say a prayer for her, and for my wife....she's a little bit anxious about the day.

I'm trusting God for another blessed day, and actually feeling much better about this day after having a true day of Sabbath.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Now open for business

I've been contemplating having a blog for the past several years. Until today, I simply contemplated. Today I actually took the steps to have my own blog.

The reason for wanting to blog all those years ago was becoming a staff member at an United Methodist Church, and beginning to read WesleyBlog by Shane Raynor. As far as I know, Shane no longer blogs, but I wish he did. He offered some great insights and he led the way for the beginning of a "Methodist blogging community" or Methobloggers.

There were some "hot button issues" back in those days that created a lot of activity in the methoblogosphere. I spent a lot of time back then posting at the different blogs, thought I might start my own blog, and then just kind of went into a couple of years of reading the blogs daily, but only posting from time to time.

Since General Conference has just taken place and some key issues are again being discussed, I've once again been posting several replies. So here I am, finally "opening up" for business on my own. Hope you enjoy some of what you read, and please stop by often. Feel free to engage in conversation whenever you'd like!