I’ve had a weird journey over the last few months with my job responsibilities at Teen Lifeline. Being that we are growing rapidly as an organization, we are spreading into new areas of the metroplex where we do not have previous relationships. We have a new school district coming online in an area where we do not have any trained adult facilitators to run our support groups. So we did what any good organization does to recruit new volunteers.
Cold calls. Bleh.
Now a little backstory might help. Our support groups give students a safe place to talk through the stresses and challenges of being a teenager and are usually run by us as a staff, or by volunteer youth pastors from local churches. As we have grown, so has the need for volunteers to lead these groups. So far we have not had to say “no” to a school requesting our services, but there are times we wonder if that will be the case someday.
As we made our cold calls, we were pretty confident that most of the ministers would say “yes” to what we do. It is a minimal time commitment during the week with a lot of potential impact. But, what we found was quite surprising. Many pastors had a lot of interest in what we were doing, but either they had too much to do with their own programming to commit, or their senior pastors would not let them because of their responsibilities to their congregation.
Now, I understand we are all busy. For me, I can’ think of a busier time than the present. To add anything else to my schedule makes me pretty uneasy, and I understand most of us are like that.
But, the fundamental issue of being too busy with your own programming or your own flock to serve the least served students in a district is a little puzzling to me.
At first I was pretty frustrated with these guys. Why wouldn’t you want to do this? Isn’t this the stuff Jesus called us to do? Get out of your church, folks! Walk with those who need it!
Once I had some conversations with people much smarter and level headed than me (my wife, my co-writers on this blog), my stance changed from frustration to something more like sadness or regret.
Because, this is the position for so many ministers in mainline evangelical churches. At the end of the day if what they are doing isn’t directly or even indirectly benefiting their church organization, they are nervous they won’t be supported. The guys who are working with us take some measured risks with their own congregations that they are doing too much outside the walls of the church.
I felt this pressure a lot as well when in ministry. For a few years I would focus more on the neighborhood kids than the “church” kids and I got a lot of pushback about it. I remember having conversations with parents and church leaders about how we were neglecting the needs of the member’s kids to speak to the needs of the neighborhood kids. Many nights I would go home frustrated and even fearing my job because of my desire to reach out to those who had no families, no church, no real relationship with God.
This week we have been exploring the idea of the way we live our lives defines us. What we actually do with our time is really important.
Think about your church. What do they talk about from the pulpit? What are their core values? What is important in the scope and themes of their teaching and theology?
Take that and match what is encouraged as a lifestyle for you and your family. How do they encourage you to spend your time? Who with? How does their staff spend their time? Who with?
The truth is, we might all be a little surprised/thrown off by the real answer. So many of us believe things at our core to be important, but have very little connection to that belief by virtue of the way our lives live out daily.
So, how does your theology match your actions? How does your church’s theology match up with programming?
I’d like to hear from you. What have you seen from yourself in this area? Your church? What could be different?