Pastors often confuse leadership with discipleship. Our infatuation with leaders has stunted the development of disciples in our churches.
- Don’t shop on Thanksgiving! – This year, in a sign of pure greed, many retailers will open up their stores for pre-Black Friday sales. Target stores nationwide will open at 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving, basically destroying the holiday for their employees. Their employees started a petition to keep Black Friday on Friday. Last week I got several emails inviting me to “secret sales” where I could get Black Friday deals right now. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Making low-level employees work on a holiday so you can make extra money is wrong.
- We all pay taxes! It is true that lots and lots of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes directly. But I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with people saying that most people don’t pay taxes. We all pay taxes, lots and lots of them. And while most of the readers of this blog won’t write a check for federal income taxes we pay taxes in lots of seen and unseen places that our more affluent neighbors don’t. We all pay sales tax, property tax, payroll tax, state income tax, tariffs we don’t see, taxes added into the goods we buy like gasoline. Then there are the taxes we pay not in money, but in situations beyond our control. Can someone in the working poor pay to send their kids to an elite school? Nope… so that’s a tax on them. Can the working poor afford the best access to healthcare? Nope… so that’s a tax on them. What about the best nutrition? Or social access to powerful people. On and on and on. My point is simply that we all pay taxes!
- There’s more to church leadership than preaching! No, really. The more I get to know folks in a lot of contexts the more I realize that what you do off the platform is what makes you a leader in the church. And if you look away from the org chart and walk around seeing who is actually leading, almost all leadership (People leading others where they wouldn’t go by themselves) is happening outside of the preaching person and outside of the paid staff. I’m not talking about redefining what leadership is in the church… I’m talking about recognizing who are the leaders in your church. How can you go to a church, see all that goes on, and say… “Oh, this is ____’s church.” Gimme a break.
OK, I got those off my chest. Time for a second cup of coffee.
Next week, I have the opportunity to speak at the Boost Conference. Boost is the premier conference for out-of-school time professionals and administrators. While not exactly youth ministry like we define it in our tribe, these are adults who are very similar to our tribe. They live, breathe, and love children and teenagers. In some circles they even refer to themselves as youth workers! (Yes, this tribe has TONS of Christians. I can’t wait.)
Here’s a description of my talk:
Engaging with the Faith-Based Community
Current trends in the faith-based subculture have faith-based organizations, including churches, looking for opportunities to serve the needs of the community. in this seminar, we will examine this trend, fill in some gaps of misinformation, address a shared past of difficulties, look at some current examples, and explore ground rules for positive engagement. When it comes to the children of our communities, we have a lot in common, including many shared values. let’s bridge some gaps and create a new story together.
I need your help
This seminar will be a lot better if I have some recent data and input from people currently involved vocationally in churches. I can speak to this topic in generalities and can point to data points from other research, but I’d love to have fresh data specifically for this talk.
I’d love it if 150 – 200 people currently employed by a church / parachurch would share their insights into this important topic.
Would you please take 15 minutes to complete this survey?
Please help me reach my goal by sharing with other staff people you know.
And yes, I’ll be sure to share what I learn both from this survey and my time at Boost, right here on my blog.
Editorial note: This is part 2 of a guest post from a local San Diego friend. (Part 1) I don’t normally offer guest posts, but this point-of-view is important. Church and youth leaders need to hear from men in their congregations like him. While this post is anonymous, I invite you to dialog with him through me.
I grew up reading comic books; it was an escape from the horrible living environment I was stuck in. I had a brother, 9 years older than me, who made me his punching bag; an ex-alcoholic father who switched his addiction to rage, and my mom who had to take a lot of abuse from my dad.
I was attracted to comic books because it clearly spelled out who was good and evil; the good guys won most of the time and what I liked at the end of the day was that they could conceal their identity. Superman became Clark Kent. Batman deftly changed into the billionaire, Bruce Wayne. Green Lantern willed himself back to being Hal Jordan. And poor Spiderman usually stumbled back into his apartment, collapsing onto the bed as Peter Parker.
Their secret identity brought them peace; they protected their loved ones by having it. They managed two distinct and separate lives. It’s something that sounded so great.
But when you have a secret identity, it is more painful than a bruise on your chest or cigarette burn on your arm.
When I was about 14 I realized something; I was attracted to the guys in my high school, not the girls. The realization is a lot to take in, especially around the time that AIDS had surfaced; people were scared; protests were hitting the streets. The words “faggot” and “homo” were en vogue.
I knew I was in trouble.
I managed to keep in secret until about 18 when I told my high school counselor. He sympathized and explain that there were other people out there like me. Once I got to college, my life would change.
It did. My first week at college I became a Christian.
And I was still gay.
In the college Christian group I was a part of, there were great people, but a large majority of them used the words homo, queer, and faggot. I was in some deep trouble.
I had to hide the fact that I was gay. I mean, who could I tell? And the pressure to date was nearly insurmountable.
I managed coming out to some friends, but the loneliness, the isolation was great. No one got it.
That was about 20 years ago.
Since then I’ve tried counseling for 7 years; it was helpful to unpack a lot of the abuse I took, but I still wasn’t attracted to women.
I had a girlfriend in seminary for a year and a half. I thought I could change and make it work.
I didn’t. I broke her heart.
I have mastered the ability to blend in with straight people; they rarely suspect I’m gay. In the Christian world, being gay is right up there with child molester.
You have to understand; I have had friends I’ve never been able to tell. They make the occasional gay joke or if they see two men who are clearly together, they have some kind of snide remark. And I’m sitting across from them.
Now, just so we’re clear: I’m celibate. I’m not planning on having a relationship. You might be thinking, “Oh, good. You’re one of us.” Afraid not. And so we don’t get into a political quagmire that this blog isn’t designed to function for, I won’t get into the reasons why.
The purpose of me spilling this story, the most painful one I have, is to say this.
We sit amongst you.
We are people struggling with being gay, afraid of what their closest family and friends would say. We laugh at your homo jokes and then we go in the bathroom and look in the mirror and hate what we see. We take a deep breath and we go back inside.
We tolerate churches designed around married couples, married conferences, and marriage sermons.
Most of use can’t come out. We risk losing the friendships we have so we’d rather dine on surface relationships, instead of having none.
We long for someone to understand, to get it. And one reason I don’t play the lottery (besides Dave Ramsey’s advice) is that I’ve already won it. I have friends that I’d take a bullet for, who know my true story and love me. It’s not that they don’t love me regardless because I’m not doing anything. I’m not at gay bars or trolling the internet looking for someone. I’m not sinning in my sexual behavior.
I came out to a friend of mine and he looked down at the table, sullen and said, “Everything must be really difficult for you.” We sat there in silence for awhile and I thought, he gets it.
The church will hug the man that just cheated his wife for a year and shun the struggling gay guy who hasn’t had sex in 10 years. Guaranteed. Easy money.
And I’d burn every earthly possession I have, empty my bank accounts, quit my job, and terminate every relationship I have for a pill to change over—in a heartbeat—I’d walk away from that pyre buck-naked, unemployed, broke, but straight.
But unlike my heroes of my youth, my secret identity clings to me and I am forced to hide from what is called to be most loving, compassionate place on the planet—the church.
So here’s what I ask: be kind to us. We are looking for friends that listen and have compassion on us. We are not looking for you to understand us completely, we just want to go through our day not feeling like monsters. We run the risk of losing the people we value by coming out, but we must weigh that against being fake and pretending we are straight.
I also ask that we cut out the gay-bashing talk; I get that it’s funny with your friends and it cuts to the quick, but I guarantee you’ve said it in front of us and we twist inside and mourn inside.
Be kind to us; we are broken and we need no more reminders.