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Tales of Adventure Blog

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

 

Filtering by Tag: Young Adult Ministry

Accompanying Young Adults by Engaging Economics

Matthew Overton

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I have written a good bit about side effects in doing ministry through social enterprise. I think risking doing anything innovatively causes all sorts of new things to bubble to the surface of an organization or relationship. You often thing you are doing one thing, but you are really doing another.

One of the unintended side effects, or unexpected outcomes of this experiment has been what it has done amongst the young adults in my church. We wanted to help teens and we are. But, while our landscaping company employs teens and helps launch them to more permanent jobs it has actually had unexpected economic benefits for local young adults.  Let me throw out some small vignettes:

1. Employee #1- We were able to talk through a difficult season of life while they were working for us. They hadn't graduated from college for some difficult reasons. They couldn't find an job and they were dealing with a significant amount of depression. We helped initiate a conversation about these hurdles and helped them address them with their family. They are now in more permanent employment after 2 separate stints with us. They were not the best landscaper for us (and they would freely admit that), but we were willing to tolerate some inefficiency for the sake of ministry opportunity. It was the right decision.

2. Employee #2- This employee learned hard lessons with us. We housed them at our church after they worked with Mowtown Teen Lawn Care and we got them a benefited custodial job. The problem was that they just weren't ready to take on responsibility. After 3 failed attempts and coaching by multiple adults we had to let them go. It was hard. We may have been pushing them to a level of responsibility that they were not ready for that soon. But, 1.5 years later they have a full time job doing construction and wandered back through our doors to let us know during our college dinner at Christmas.

3. Employee #3- This person just needed some extra hours. They have some big dreams for themselves, but not necessarily a helpful framework on how to get there. They were dedicated to their faith and that spawned a load of windshield conversations about theology and how the Bible is put together. It was a fascinating relationship in inviting somebody into deeper thought about the Christian tradition. Eventually they moved onto another job.

4. Employee #4- This young adult was also dedicated in their faith and was thinking about going to Bible college. Most of our conversations had to do with money. It was difficult to figure out how to try to point out the financial impracticality of someone else's dream. This is especially true when you know them, but not super well. They eventually went off to Bible college but quickly realized that the education wouldn't produce the financial runway they needed to pay off their debt. They moved back, got a more permanent job, and now live in our church's young adult house. We continue to maintain ministry and conversation with them about life, theology, and money. They are taking full advantage of this experience by paying down their debt which is possibly because of the reduced rent of our young adult housing.

5. Employee #5- This employee was working for a for profit organization that was paying them illegally under the table in a field that they were interested in pursuing. They had graduated from a university, but were just stuck on what to do next and barely barely scraping by. We have employed them now in two ways in our organization. They worked for the landscaping operation as a crew boss and also in admin. support for our non-profit operation. This allowed them a host of experiences that would build their resume. We also worked heavily with them on conflict avoidance which was the main thing that allowed them to linger so long in their previous job on poverty wages in an unhealthy environment. We still coach them on the next steps in their journey and they are starting some exciting chapters trying to figure out how to fund what they love to do most! They are a fabulous mentor for our students.

Employee #6- This individual found us online and as it turned out they had been served by our church 10 years ago when we were on a mission trip. They are a single parent and are trying to find sound economic footing and build a life for themselves. They had previous landscaping experience and we may see them as the future owner operator of Mowtown which would be an an amazing opportunity to bless them. They also live in our young adult house which allows us to create community with them.

Employee #7- This former student of our youth ministry finished college and cannot get a job in their particular field: Advertising using analytics. So, I offered to allow them to build their resume by helping us build our online profile. We have a lot to learn and they can teach us while building their portfolio.  They were happy to do so. My hope is that this work provides them some initial free lance work to build their resume so that they can find the job that they are looking for. Further, I think it helps foster the sense in them that what they are working on in their career can be ministry. They can find ways to benefit God's Kingdom while doing good work.  It also provides another opportunity for feedback and coaching as they transition through their young adult years.

Even as I type all of this I am floored. I want to make it clear that this has been a messy process and many of these stories, like all of ours, are still in process. There have been a lot of road blocks here and periods where I wasn't sure we were being very helpful. But, what I see is that engaging the economics of our world has enabled us to lengthen the meaningfulness of our church's ministry to young adults. It shows them that we care about their actual lives. It also shows them that God cares about their actual lives. Here and now.

I had wondered for a number of years how, given the lengthening of adolescence, we could accompany our young adults effectively in the next chapter of their lives. As it turns out we have been doing it for the last 4 years, but we just stumbled into it by initially trying to minister to teens more effectively and prepare them for adulthood. Most of our ministry really has just been coaching and accompaniment.

I continue to be amazed at how God honors experiments. The Spirit is often the one who takes us from the place that we think we are going into places we would not or could not have tread previously. My hope is that we as ministers and youth ministers continue to risk and experiment so that we end up in those unexpected gospel places!

Guest Innovator Post #3: The Beacon House

Matthew Overton

The post below is a gues post from Jim McLaughlin who runs the Beacon House. Beacon is a young adult home for young men in Vancouver Wa. Vancouver has one university and one junior college, but no housing for students. Many students want to move out from mom and dad, but have no way to do so....and rents are soaring. Many churches struggle with forming a young adult ministry in their town because of the sporadic schedules of their college age young adults and because there is no way to gather them consistently. This might be a way forward.  It's a pretty cool way to start a young adult ministry.

 

Exhausted and getting ready to enjoy a little ‘me’ time during my Christmas vacation, I got the millennial version of the bat signal—a text simply saying, “Jim there is water shooting out of the faucet at the front of the house.”  Now, if there is anything an aging youth and young adult minister doesn’t want to do on his vacation it is go to work, but as the minister in charge of the young adult ministry at our church, known as the Beacon House, I had no choice.  So got up and prepared to get soaked on a very chilly but slightly above freezing Monday night in January.  It turned out that an outdoor faucet had been capped and the cap had burst, due to the below freezing temps the day before.  The repair was fairly simple once I found a replacement cap and the water shut off valve, but I left the house thinking three things: 1) how long has this been shooting water? 2) Why did no one else call me during the day? 3) Am I about to have frostbite on my feet like Adam Sandler’s character in Mr. Deeds? (A further investigation revealed that is had indeed been shooting out during the day, but none of the residents seems to think that the noise was worth investigating.  Also, I did not get frostbite.)

                The Beacon House is currently the primary vehicle of our young adult ministry at our church.  It is an experiment in combining ministry with residential living.  Like most churches, we don’t have large bags of money lying around to try experiments.  What we do have is a session (governing body of a Presbyterian church) that is willing to experiment.  They allowed us this experiment in part, because we told them that it would have no cost to the church.  We owned the house with no mortgage, which was an asset.  Our “residents” pay rent at just slightly below fair market value, and in exchange for living in the house agree to do “ministry” in the community, live by a covenant agreement they have created and meet together weekly and with me, one on one, regularly.  All of the rent money received is used for the ministry, and to take care of the house, so far at zero cost to the church (there was initial start up cost covered, which was later recouped through rents).

                We decided to focus on young men, because they were the ones still around.  Statistically, young men are less likely to attend, graduate, and even pursue continuing education after high school.  Increasingly, they are being left behind in life, struggling to move forward in more traditional ways.  Very intentionally we wanted to create a ministry that truly met these young men where they were.   

Where they were, was frankly, sometimes frustrating.  For the first few months, the house was a mess.  No one was willing to step up and take responsibility for things.  When something went wrong, most of them assumed, someone would come by to take care of it.  On the surface it appeared they were exactly the caricatures of the millennial generation: clueless young adults lacking skills, experience, and motivation.  As a blue collar kid from rural Pennsylvania, it was an anathema to me.  When something went wrong at our house, we fixed it.  There was no money to hire someone to do it; so I learned, when something goes wrong, you have to figure it out yourself.  If I didn’t know it, there was always someone in a larger social circle who could. Normally, they would do it, if I would help.  However, there was one thing that was made abundantly clear, if something needed done, I better take the initiative to get it done.  Even if I tried and failed, there would be some teasing, then someone would show me how it was done.  I learned things because I was constantly bumping into people doing things.

Coming from this background, I just expected they would know the basics of life, and what they didn’t know they would figure out. I was wrong.  It was confusing and frustrating. until we realized something extraordinary:  they actually didn’t know what to do.  Laziness was not the problem.  Lack of motivation wasn’t the problem.  They were completely overwhelmed by adult life, because they hadn’t learned many of the skills, I had taken for granted.  We needed a different approach. 

These young men had not had the benefit of a large community helping to teach them about life.  The adults in their lives were legitimately too busy, and the extended family support, the default environment in my life, was not there.  What they needed was an environment where they could have permission to experiment and fail, where they could learn, and where they would be pushed towards their best selves in a loving gracious way.   Rather than punish or lecture, we decided to intentionally teach and mentor them in important areas of life:

·         Money management

·         How to live with others

·         Conflict management

·         Household skills: bill paying, cleaning, cooking

·         Life Coaching

·         Service to the community

·         Problem Solving

·         Disciple making

·         Accountability

  

Seven months into this experiment our residents are learning to ask the questions, ‘What is God showing me?’ and, ‘What am I going to do about it?’  They have grown, identified their individual hurdles and foibles, found employment, faced disappointments, had conflicts, and have talked through difficult choices.  They have learned that they are not alone. There is a community of people who cares about them and their development, not because of what they can do for us, but because we recognize they are not someday adults, but children of God, just like us.  It hasn’t all been perfect. One of our residents after personal struggle, decided a few months in, that this wasn’t for him and moved out.  Obviously, we were disappointed, but, quickly decided, if we aren’t reaching out to young men, who could possibly “fail” then we weren’t really doing the ministry of Jesus Christ.  As word has gotten out, we are having more and more young men interested in being a part of this ministry.  It seems to have struck a chord. 

I will end the way I started, with a quick story.  There are two toilets in the house, one in a traditional bathroom, and the other awkwardly stuck in a mud room.  Not in a stall, just sitting out on against the wall.  It’s odd.  The guys think it is hilarious.  This toilet broke.  During one of our meetings I was reminded that it wasn’t working.  When they tried to flush, the handle just turned without doing anything.  It’s an easy fix.  I began to say I would show them how to fix it, when one of the residents stopped me and said, “Can you wait.  I think I know how to fix it, and want to give it a try first.”  That is our ministry in a nutshell:  to move these young men from passive observers in life and faith to active participants, by walking with them, encouraging them, and giving them a place where they can take initiative, knowing they don’t have to go it alone, because there is an entire community behind them; to move them from, “Jim, we have a problem,” to “I think I know how to fix that, and I want to try it first.”