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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: Youth Ministry Entrepreneurship

Windshield Conversations...

Matthew Overton

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I have written several posts about how one of the biggest surprises about how we have tried to do youth ministry and social enterprise at my church (other than how hard it is!) is the impact I think it is having on adults. I have felt that doing a mentoring and business based model of youth ministry has drawn out the gifts of numerous adults in my church who probably would not have had anything to do with youth ministry previously. This sense has been affirmed over the last few weeks in particular.

A few weeks back I was in a parking lot in my truck when one of my mentors called. They wanted to clarify a few things about their student and also check in on their paperwork status. While I was trying to make it into my next appointment I found myself getting the chance to do what I enjoy most: Coaching someone in how to do ministry with teenagers. But, really I was coaching them in how to do ministry with their fellow human being. We talked about listening well and about the unique personality of their particular assigned student. We talked about what to do if any particular crisis issue came up and we revisited our abuse prevention protocols. I also assured them that I was just a phone call away.

The best part about the conversation was that this adult had no business doing ministry with teenagers, and I don't mean because of relative age. I have always used older adults more than younger ones in youth ministry. Age is somewhat irrelevant. What I mean is that this particular adult, while a WONDERFUL human being, just doesn't strike you as somebody you would expect to be hanging out with a teenager. They would be one of the last sort of folks I might recruit for a number of the normal elements that make up a youth ministry. This of course is probably more of an indictment of youth ministry than it is a characterization of the individual. The fact that our models couldn't accommodate the gifts and talents of this individual is egregiously bad. When it comes to youth ministry the hand has often been saying to the foot, "I don't need you."

And then this experience with this one adult seemed to repeat itself another three times in the next week.

What had happened in part was that in the 4th year of our program we doubled in size. We now have 23 students in the program and that has meant pulling from a wider crop of adults from our church and beyond for the first time. During the first three years we mostly had adults that had a good deal of experience with teens from our ministry community. They entered the program with a certain sense of confidence and veterancy in what they were doing. But, this year is requiring more encouragement, coaching, and listening. And it's a ton of fun. In many ways, I feel like I am doing exactly what I ought to be doing most of the time.

When we built the initial landscaping company, one of the things we talked about was "windshield time". We meant that while we were driving around we wanted to take advantage of conversations that would happen along the road with students. But, as it turns out adults need windshield time too. They want to help students. They want to do ministry. But, they just need somebody as a kind of reflective backstop. It's funny at times because I am coaching people who are nearly twice my age. In a lot of ways their nervousness reminds me of my experiences of doing hospital chaplaincy in my early 20's. I remember vividly feeling like I didn't know what to say, what to do, or whether I was going to really screw somebody up through ignorance and the sugary additive of good intentions. It's not a fun feeling, but it is a necessary stage of ministry.

This is what my adult mentors are learning.

1. Most of life's problems are not solvable by human beings. They are knots that are just too hard to untangle. This is partially why relationship with God is so powerful. God does the work we cannot. And while that can make us feel futile at times as servants of our neighbors it's also kind of a relief to know that we don't have to solve problems.

2. Ministry and service to one's neighbor always involve getting involved in someone's mess. When you really engage ministry you find out how most of our forms of service are actually designed to keep us distant from the recipient. We serve at arm's length in most contexts. it's safer that way. Real face to face ministry in which you actually have to just listen and walk with somebody through their crap is often messy. You are invited into the story of a neighbor and that is inherently risky. It might cost you some sleep, some money, time, and probably part of your heart.

3. You don't know your neighbor or their experience until you know them. When you engage ministry you quickly find that you don't have clue about other people's experiences. Most of what we live on in life are assumptions about others from a safe distance. Ministry has a way of disrupting our stereotypes and assumptions about people from the outside because it invites you into the inside of their lives. You end up in conversations, homes, and at tables that teach us just how ignorant we are. It's embarrassing and awkward, but it's good work and it is never finished. You are never done learning about the folks to which you minister.

4. Good listening is the best skill you have. People often get frustrated with how church folk and others will offer all kinds of platitudes to people in crisis ("God doesn't give you more than you can handle."). Often they do this because platitudes actually kind of work...when you keep your distance from your neighbor. They make you feel that you have helped your neighbor when in fact they mostly have just reinforced your distance from them. It's only actual ministry that exposes them for what they are: manure. Actual ministry, wading into the life of my neighbor reveals that reflective listening is the best, and often the only, balm we have. Good listening and good questions are the first tool in a pretty limited actual ministry tool bag.

In any event, these conversations have been fun. It's nice to be doing what you are supposed to be doing. It's nice to invite others into the holy mess that God invited me into some years ago.

Innovators Guest Post #7- Starting an Innovative Youth Ministry from Scratch

Matthew Overton

As a youth leader, have you ever thought or dreamed about starting up a youth ministry from scratch?  Maybe that represents a personal nightmare scenario, but for some youth workers it is a an experience that they have always wanted to try on for size.  Chris Cummings, who is our guest poster today is doing just that through a church plant in Tennessee.  Chris has been reading the posts on Youth Ministry Innovators for some time and gave me a call a couple of weeks ago.  Chris is in his most preliminary missionary stages of entering a new gospel environment. He is just beginning to discern what God might be calling him to do or not do in his new context.  Here is what he has to say.

"Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a Youth Pastor. 

I wanted to share about the new adventure that I am on, that I am not sure of the destination or even the journey to get there.  

Five weeks ago, I started at a new church plant in south Nashville, www.thevillagenashville.com.  The church launched in Jan, but I was just hired mid August to start the youth ministry from scratch.

I have been in youth ministry for over 10 years now, but I have never started one from scratch.  As I started to pray and dream about what God wanted this to look like, I knew that it couldn’t and shouldn’t look like just another youth ministry.  The mission of the church is to connect people who have left the church or have never connected to the church to make disciples who make disciples. 

If you are going to target people who have either left the church or have never been connected to one, it is pretty obvious that just doing the same ol’ thing isn’t going to cut it.

And here is where I find myself, in an amazingly missional and active church, without a building; planted in the middle of a fast growing area, hoping to reach as many teens and families as possible for the sake of the Kingdom.

As I have been working through what this is going to look like, I have come down to a couple things that I think God always uses to help guide us, which Frederick Buechner said so well: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”

1. DEEP HUNGER - What are the needs of the community?

In order to know this, we need to be go where people are and become great listeners.  We need to listen to the spoken needs and also the unspoken ones they might not know to express.  Asking questions like “What needs to be set right again?”  “Where is there brokenness?”  “What are the places that need a Band-Aid while also figuring out what system is causing the wounds?”

We hope to spend this fall and into the winter as listeners.

2.  DEEP GLADNESS - What are the gifts of our church?

We hope to spend the next few months gathering our group of teens and leaders, helping them discover their gifts, and then practicing them and looking at how they might meet the needs of our community.

What if we, the church, are gifted in each of our contexts to specifically meet needs in our community?  What if it is exactly as this intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness that we find our vision, purpose, and direction?

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7)

So this is where I am, we are, on a new adventure of seeking where God is at work and joining in for the redemption of our community and world.

BUT...

I can’t seem to shake everything that I have always known as youth ministry.  Youth Group, small groups, mission trips, fun nights, etc.  And I know that none of these are inherently bad, but I don’t want them to be the goal or even focus.

How do I lean into the intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness, while also creating a space for teens to grow as disciples that make disciples?

This is the question I am asking myself all the time, and it is the one guiding our choices.  What would you do?"

Bootstrapping, Cheat Codes, and Missional Entrepreneurship

Matthew Overton

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We are at this tricky spot as a venture where we don't quite have enough hours/funds to pay a full time employee, but we almost need one in order to keep up with business and to continue to help business expand.  I have been running this landscaping company while working a full time job with a high burnout rate for the last year.  It hasn't been easy.

So a few weeks ago I phoned and met with a couple of friends to talk about how we might fund this project further.  I had to figure out whether I needed for profit investment or non profit grant funding and how to get it.  It was urgent because I have a sense that if I have to work the current model for another 2 years let's say, I might just implode.  It is high energy. The basic answer I got back from my friends was that I need to work my model until it runs smoothly and shines.  Whether for profit or non profit, no one really wants to fund an experimental venture.  They want to come in when there is significant proof of viability.  They told me that I would have to bootstrap until my model sang.

This was a hard word to receive in some ways. Bootstrapping your venture when you are 24 is one thing. Doing it when you are 36, have two kids, and are already working a job that is 60 hours/week is another.  Most mornings I am up at about 4:15 working on writing or the business. I often finish the day with a few emails or bids for jobs to customers.  If I could eat Ramen and work on this stuff in an apartment 12 years ago it would have been a bit easier I think.  But, in a lot of ways the answer I received about funding was something I already knew.  There are no shortcuts in starting a good business.

When I was 11 my good friend J.P. got a new device for his Nintendo called the Game Genie. It was this crazy thing that allowed you to plug in cheat codes to any game that you had. You could add lives, weapons, etc. etc. etc. until Kingdom come.  It described itself as a "Video Game Enhancer". It was anything but.  What I quickly learned was that short cutting the game did two things.  First, I tired of all the games quickly. Since there was no challenge they made the video games boring in a hurry. You never had to earn anything through game play. Second, the more I cheated the worse I became at the games. I loved playing sports games on my Nintendo, but what I discovered was that after using the Game Genie I was worse at those games. My friends would beat me when we played once I had used the Genie. I had gotten sloppy and learned bad habits because I had been using shortcuts.  This lesson is true for any startup social entrepreneurship.

If I had started with a 100K grant instead of 15K of my own money, this whole venture would have been hopeless. Part of the success of what I am doing IS the fact that I have had to learn it all myself. I had to learn to use the tools, how to walk into a local business and sell my idea, learn how to fix my equipment, learn how to make jobs more efficient, learn what the life skills trainings look like and so on. And most importantly, I have had to learn exactly what the work is that my employees are doing. If I hadn't done all those reeking filthy runs to the dump with wet leaves and rotten grass myself how would I know what to pay my crews?  I also wouldn't have had the relational time with our first 5-6 students to feel out what we need to be training them on in terms of life and faith.  What are their strength points that need to be honed further? What are the weak points that need to be addressed?  The point is that every little bit of learning as you bootstrap is exactly what you need. I think the best sorts of things in life are built one bloody step at a time.  It is the recipe for all things good.

My hope is that we will either get enough business that I can bring someone on full time or that we can get some small funding in the near future.  Yet, as much as I want to move onto that second phase where I can hand chunks of this business off, I also can see why understanding my operation and working my operation without any cheat codes or short cuts really matters. I am prayerfully gauging whether it might just be critical for me to bootstrap this thing for a bit longer. For now, I had better get outside and pray while I am swapping the wheels on my Honda lawn mower. The drive system isn't engaging and I have no idea why. Did I mention that I am not REALLY mechanical?

 

Blessings on your innovations, risks, and adventures! May you follow the Kingdom as it unfolds before you!

Young Entrepreneurs and the Church: Guest Innovator Post #4

Matthew Overton

Meghan Easley is the Project Coordinator at the Fuller Theological Seminary Youth Ministry Institute.  She is also a graduate student at U.S.C working on a Masters Degree in Social Entrepreneurship. She has agreed to offer her perspective on social entrepreneurship/impact investing and the church. She also reflects on why the church needs to incorporate this way of thinking about it's missional identity in order to reach young adults who desperately want to impact their world...and remain a part of the church they have loved.

I write from a myriad of perspectives, to a myriad of audiences. I'm the 24 year old you desperately want in your pews and engaged in your ministries. I am the graduate level student of theology, social entrepreneurship, and young people. I have my fingers on the pulse of the academic side of church, impact and young people, and breathe it in everyday as a young adult that all of my professors are writing and lecturing about. I'm the fly on the wall, engaged in two worlds oftentimes disconnected but looking for a bridge.

 

While we're mostly a group of dreamers with unrealistic visions for how early adulthood is supposed to unfold, my generation of young people are desiring to make a difference. Both Millennials and women are entering the global workforce in larger numbers than ever before, and within a few decades, baby boomers will transfer $30-40 trillion of their wealth to this new generation. With the majority of wealth control in the hands of young adults and women, and their commitment to jobs that are focused around creating value, the marketplace can't help but stop and listen to the growing noise in this arena. Few can deny that young people are eager to make a difference, and the church would be foolish not to stop and pay attention.

 

There is the undeniable fact that the church has long been a place of community, spiritual formation, and support for people. I grew up in the church, and have many wonderful memories of the bonds of true community I found there. The spiritual growth I experienced is truly something church does well and reminds me of each week. But as a young person looking to discover a career and a calling, the church has largely abandoned me. Less than a year into a degree I thought would lead me to a pastoral staff role, I realized I did not feel called to dedicate my life in a predetermined course of ministry. I began studies at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California Soon after, which revealed new sides of myself that tied my desires for social impact in with a marketplace-driven formula. This has changed everything for me, and I know I am only one among many in the younger generation that is seeking after impact with creative and sustainable manifestations. 

 

Yet my church continues to be a place for my heart. I am engaged in activities of service where I can support the spiritual development of my peers or youth, I can paint a sidewalk for a service day and I can usher on a Sunday service greeting team. Is there a place for me to wrestle with my desire to live a meaningful life, faith and work?

 

My everyday life demands a place to wrestle with the large questions of values and vocation. I sit in class after class at business school surrounded by people longing to make a difference, live a full life, and care for the people and places that are most important to them. Most are not people of faith, but are driven by the gut-wrenching feeling that they can do something to change the world. It is admirable, and they are constantly proving they have what it takes to impact others through development and impact enterprises. But I can't help but realize their desires to help are in no way driven by a vision of God's kingdom or the goodness of his created order.

 

Why such disconnect? Why are the most passionate people about changing the world not in our churches? What is it about church that does not resonate, that causes the chasm between the impact enterprise world and the churches in our communities? My church inspires me to examine my life, my faith and the ways I am embodying the life of Christ. But, for the most part, my church does not care about how I use my career.

 

In my mind, this is a shame and is a continued nail in the coffin of the growing irrelevance of the church to emerging adults. We do not want more programs, more volunteer days, or more Sunday School classes. We want causes, we want innovation, we want spaces crafted for us to dream, reflect and do the things we are most passionate about and cannot not do with our lives. We want the intersection of should and must to carry the great weight of both our faith and our work. What happens when they don't overlap? In some cases, young people feel the pull of the Monday-Friday workweek carrying greater significance than sticking around for a weekend church service.

 

My hope is that whether you are a senior pastor, an elder, or the college or youth pastor, is to look around you at the emerging adults in your midst. Look at the passions they have, the books they are reading, and the things they post about on Instagram. These young people, the ones about to accept the biggest wealth transfer in history, will be making significant decisions about the life of the church with their wallets and how they spend their time. Their values matter. Their voices carry increasing weight, and it is to the detriment of the church not to listen to what they most value and want to spend their time doing. This is not about getting us back into your pews. This is about forming us into your communities to grow, build and dream with both young and old. This is the revolutionary concept of social entrepreneurship in the church: our communities have older generations with a lifetime of professional business experience seated next to the young people looking to make a difference in the world. It gives opportunity to tap into the gifts of the older generation along with the budding talent of emerging adults. To shape a vision for life that is not categorized into church here and my work over there, but a vision where our lives and deepest passions can bring economic and community development from within the walls of our churches.

 

Church, I am your biggest supporter, the one rallying behind you and recognizing that you have played a significant role in who I am and what I choose to pursue with my life. But if you want to keep me around, you have to prove to me that you care about my passions and the career I am seeking to develop. We have the potential for great partnership, but I need to know that you care and are willing to devote the time and resources necessary to make it happen. I propose that the untapped field of social impact is the very place for us to play and innovate together, crafting a holistic picture of transformed lives and communities.

Let the dreamers and doers in your congregation find space to delve into their deepest passions, to figure out what they must do with their one life and make it a sustainable reality.

Upper Left Part #2- How to Launch a Missional Entrepreneurship

Matthew Overton

In my last post on this a few weeks ago I wrote about how the Northwest is a pretty good incubator for social entrepreneurship. I also said that I would write a follow up post on how one might go about launching a social entrepreneurship out of a church.  That would be this post.

I cannot possibly contain all the steps and hurdles that I have cleared and fallen over along the way. All I want to do here is speak to the formation of the idea and how to execute on it in the most basic terms.  My hope is that this can be a blessing to folks who are trying to figure out how to fund their own youth ministry budgets or even just fund their own jobs in some churches around the United States. More on demographics, dollars, and youth ministry in a bit.

STEP 1- Inventory Yourself

Okay, so this might be the hardest and most spiritual part of the whole process.  My sense is that a few things have to happen here.  First, you need to have done enough spiritual reflection that you know yourself.  I don't think MOST people who engage in social entrepreneurship are going to be able to build a social entrepreneurship out of something they know nothing about (like a pay as you go restaurant). You either need something you know or something that a whole bunch of people in your church community know better than you. You need to know what your own gifts, talents, and passions are as well. Do you Myers Briggs again. Reflect on your own missionary journey. What aspects of serving Jesus and the world light you up in a way that nothing else does? What thing would you be willing to sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears for?  If you don't know these things about yourself it is going to be a lost cause.  If I didn't love my idea and have some roots in it there is no way that I would be willing to wake up at 4 a.m. to work on it and smell like old grass and manure when I go to my church job. You better know the field and be willing to go to the cross for it.

STEP 2- Embed Yourself-

You will also need to be embedded somewhere for a while.  I don't necessarily mean geographically, but that probably will be important. Essentially we are talking about good missional principles here. In order for us to sense God's call to engage a particular group of people or neighborhood or issue we are going to need to sit with it for a while. Like a GOOD missionary we will need to reflect on the issue, know the people, know their longings, and know the place that we are about to interact with before we can even get an inkling as to what God might be calling us to do in that place. You want to make sure that you love the place/problem enough that you aren't engaging it from a place of pity, but from a place of understanding. You want to build your entrepreneurship by taking advantage of the strengths of a place rather than its weaknesses. The best kind of justice is not enacted from pity but from mutual love and  mutual exchange. Learn more about this concept here.

STEP 3- Build a Team-

Anyone with half a brain can tell you that in the era of wikinomics, you don't have all the information you need in you or in your church. And you never will.  You are going to need to put together a group of folks who have the skills you need to get this idea off the ground. My team was filled with small business owners and folks who were interested in mentoring teenagers.  I needed folks who understood business. But, I also created a whole web of folks electronically that I could go to for key conversations. I had non-profit folks. I had folks who worked in justice in the third world. I had folks who knew the local school districts and people in them.  The strangest questions will come up along the way and you are going to need strange answers. Make sure you build a team first.

STEP 4- Formulate a Vision Together-

Your Team is never going to be able to move forward with a new idea if they aren't on the same page. They need to share your passion and heart and it is going to take a while to help them do this. We are still working on ours over a year into starting.  Your startup needs to answer five basic questions before it will go.

     1. What is the clear picture of our future together? (Vision)

     2.  Why do we exist? (Mission/Purpose)

     3.  What will we do to accomplish that? (Program)

     4.  What won't we compromise over? (Values)

     5.  How will we measure success? (Metrics)

These question will be critical because without them, your team won't know if they are doing their job and won't have a sense of where they are headed or how they should be heading there! This process serves as a phenomenal filter that helps you decide what you do and don't want to do as an entrepreneurship. Certain things will fit with your organization and certain things won't. Certain people will fit on your team and certain people won't. You won't know how to make those choices without doing this work. It may take a long while and it won't totally ever be finished. IT IS WORTH EVERY MINUTE YOU SPEND ON IT.

STEP 5- Have a Meeting with Law and Tax Folks

At some point you are going to need to have a sit down with some legal and tax folks. They are going to keep you legal and also help you think about how to structure your organization in the ways that are most helpful for you to create change quickly and effectively. Social impact is great, but it will never be as effective if you are wrangling with state labor laws you weren't aware of!  These folks might be a part of your core team or maybe not. A human resources person might not be bad either. They helped me create an employee handbook and understand a bunch about employees and benefits.

STEP 6- Pitch It To Your Church

At some point you are going to have to sell your church on this thing. It probably will come way earlier in the process than this. Here is how this step works:

     A.  Bring your head of staff in the loop early if you have one. You need this person in the loop and it might be the most important pitch you make!

     B.  You need to know whether your church understands why social entrepreneurship needs to happen in the American church. They may not even realize that the church as we know it is dying under their feet. What you are pitching might sound like a trip to Mars. That isn't their fault, but it is your job to solve.  I understood intuitively why social entrepreneurship needed to happen in the American church, but I had to explain it to my board of elders.  Thankfully, I am really good at explaining macro concepts in clear and concise ways.

     C. You are going to need a business plan of two years. I had NEVER even seen a business plan before I borrowed one and adapted it. It was hard, but I did it with the help (build a team!) of my brother in law.

     D.  You will also need an F.A.Q. document. Mine asked and answered 40 questions. You will need to anticipate the fear this will strike in your church. People might wonder if you are leaving. They might wonder if this is just a money making scheme. They might wonder if you are going to blow up their beloved youth group. The will wonder how much of your time and their money is this going to cost them.  (Don't freak out though, they might also wonder how they can jump on board!)  Anticipate the fear based questions and don't react. Welcome those questions. They are going to help you refine your idea even further and will help you increase your social impact. These people in that room are going to share this idea! So, it is critical that you nail this pitch because they are going to be your early ambassadors. You need not just their blessing, but their buy in. If they can't see the vision this thing will blow up in your face down the road.  Heck, maybe invite one of them onto your team!?

STEP 7- Pray and Buckle Up

This thing is going to be a crazy ride of ups and downs. Remember when I mentioned finding something that is worth your blood, sweat, and tears? It will be filled with that, so you better steel yourself.  Prayer under-girds all of this. I pray for the right leaders to show up. I pray for ways forward. I pray that the social mission stays in front of me. I pray that God helps me find financial solutions that I can't see yet. I pray that my equipment doesn't break. I pray that I will be ready to shut this thing down if my wife and family decided they hate it. I pray that God spreads this vision like wild fire throughout the American church so that we can engage the world where God wants us to. And I pray that as it spreads that God helps us to do it with integrity and transparency. There is a lot of potential danger in business plus church.

I pray that God blesses you as you dream and launch. This enterprise has been the greatest blessing in my 16 years of ministry. I have never felt more like an evangelist. It is exhaustingly good news. May you and I proclaim it in ways that do the most good for God's Kingdom.

 

 

Father Boyle on Staggering Backwards into Something...

Matthew Overton

Father Boyle has been an inspiration to the ministry we are working on at our church and I am thrilled that somehow we have secured him to come and speak here next fall. I have no idea how that has happened!  I was struck this morning by reading this article in Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership publication. Whenever I read about Boyle I am usually struck by a few things he says, but this quote made me smile because it encapsulates the feeling I have had over and over again over the last year and a half.  The feeling of "How did this happen?" "Maybe this is a good idea?!" Is this really real ministry?! and "God, I am terrified because I don't know where this is going."  Here is what he said about how Homeboy Industries "happened":

"A lot of times, people ask, “How did you ever think this up?” And the truth is, nobody would have thunk this up. I certainly didn’t. But you evolve, and you walk backwards into things, and the next thing you know, “Oh my God, here we are. How did that happen? How did we get to a place like this?” It’s like what E.L. Doctorow said about writing a novel. You’re on a country road, there are no lights, it’s a moonless night, and you can only go as far as your headlights take you. And then you get there, and then you can only go as far as your headlights will take you again. And that’s kind of like the story of Homeboy."

That is how I feel all the time lately. I feel like this stuff that we are working on fell out of the sky on top of me and I can't decide whether I should run from it or go after it some days.  It is nuts. Last week someone called who had been reading my posts and said that he was trying to build his own teen mentoring program around fishing Pike out of the Snake River. The government will pay to have the fish removed. The connection was obvious. Adult fishermen/women fishing with teens, doing faith and life together. I was so floored that I didn't know what to do for the next hour after our conversation.

I think this kind of sense of "accidental" discovery is at the heart of all good missionary work and at the heart of social entrepreneurship/missional entrepreneurship. You inhabit a place and people and hopefully listen well and eventually God pushes you into the places there where the gospel can be good news to God's people.  I feel like I lived in a place for 6 years, started to get an inkling of what God MIGHT be telling me about how to be good news here, and then "staggered backwards" into something that I did not expect.  It has brought together strands of my life and ministry that I never would have bundled on their own and it would take me 3 hours to explain the terrifying beauty of it all.  It is so humbling to get to do this work.  I can't wait for the chance to get to watch God bless more students through this ministry.

Princeton's Youth and Philanthropy Academy- Part 1

Matthew Overton

This past week I was invited to attend a gathering at Princeton Theological Seminary for a really forward thinking initiative called the 'Youth and Philanthropy Academy'. Over the next couple of days I am going to do a few posts about that  "Y.P.A." initiative.  This first one will take a look at what the experience looked like and the next couple will look at some of its implications for  youth ministry at my local church.

YPA is a pilot program through Princeton Theological that is designed to help foster Kingdom thinking  and Kingdom action in students. Students are going to be encouraged to develop and execute on philanthropic ideas in their communities.    

The idea has come through a partnership with an organization called, "Giving Point".  Giving Point, which is centered in Atlanta, Georgia does this exact kind of work with teenagers from around the United States.  Their social media platform has over 10,000 teen followers. The most motivated of these are given coaching and adult help so that those students can bring their philanthropic ideas to life.  But, the burden of passion and forward movement always rests with the student. In this way, Giving Point encourages teens as empowered agents of change rather than as passive recipients of adult initiative.  Princeton is trying to see if they can create a version of that kind of program through the seminary.    

The basic plan is to bring about 15 students to Princeton for a week long summer session.  At this YPA experience, students will connect their ideas to their faith and come up with a plan to execute on that plan while collaborating with other students.  Here is what the overall framework will look like:

1. A student will apply to go to YPA.

2. Once selected they will fly to Princeton for the  Youth and Philanthropy Academy week.

3. At the camp they will receive coaching on how to communicate the idea they are passionate about persuasively and develop a year long plan on executing the idea.

4. From there they will be tasked with going back to their local church and assembling a group of teenagers and adults (maybe from within and from outside of the church) to help with the project.  These folks serve as participants and mentors along the way.

5.  Princeton will also provide some kind of funding incentive plan for the students. They are still working out how this might work. But, they might get $500 from Princeton if they can raise $500 of funds on their own.

6.  Last, if they are successful in executing on that year long plan and assembling that team of adults they will then be invited back to a kind of gala dinner in which they would pitch their idea to groups of folks who would fund the initiatives.  They are describing this as a kind of grace filled "Shark Tank".

Each day at the academy students will be given a group session, opportunities to work collaboratively, individual speech coaching, and time for reflection so that they can process what they are learning as well as what God might be saying through their experience.  All I can say at this point was that it was a really cool experience and that it is one of the most innovative things I have ever heard of in youth ministry. The group of people in attendance was from a pretty diverse set of backgrounds and Giving Point sent a couple of their representatives and two high school students who are actively working on projects. The students were amazing. I was blown away. There have been many students over the years that have impressed me. I have never met a student that has truly floored me. These two did. They had both high social intellegence and intellectual intelligence.  It was amazing. I plan on trying to send one or two of our students this Summer if we can.  More on how this impacts my local ministry in my next post.

 

The Freedom To Flourish

Matthew Overton

Some mornings when I am exhausted and tired of thinking about Youth Ministry that Works or this "new" way of doing ministry I like to watch this video. I am not sure that I would like all the ideology behind it and it uses to many masculine pronouns for my taste. But,  I do like the way it gives honor to different kinds of good and honorable work. I think God is in the midst of all kinds of work in our world and that is partly why I am trying to build an arm of youth ministry in the United States around this idea.  Maybe it will inspire you as you work today.  Enjoy!