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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: millennials

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.”


On Millennials and Moralisms....

Matthew Overton

This week I was able to meet with a couple folks from a regional building supply company about possibly serving as a feeder for teen jobs. Essentially they want to see if teens working their way through our fledgling mentoring program can hire out to work for them.  It was the second conversation we have had and it seems very promising. I cannot think of a more ideal company to work with when I hear and see their ethos towards their employees.

As often happens when I talk about teenagers with folks from older generations I end up talking about demographic trends that I both read about and experience.  To some degree demographic trends are stereotypes and we all hate being categorized, but they are helpful lenses most of the time.  They often help put a name or term to gaps between generations that would otherwise simply feel confusing.  Sometimes the folks I work with are familiar with millennials and generation Z and sometimes they are not.  But always, they resonate with some of the issues that I suggest they might be confronting when they feel frustrated with the "younger generation".  You might think this is an old folks sort of problem, but I have watched folks from the younger end of Gen X do it as well.  It is a natural reaction to what we find confusing.

Whenever I am in these situations I try to stress one thing: The issues you are facing with millennials in your work place are not primarily moral ones.  We have a nasty tendency in our culture to see everything through a moral framework and it can often be really unproductive. Maybe it's our puritan roots. Some people attribute this to solely religion, but the truth is that I know many folks who place themselves outside a network of belief who moralize in the same way.

I think this is an important thing for us to remember as we think about how to do ministry to youth in new ways.  What we see in teenagers is mostly a mirror of the adult world (and its priorities) that we have surrounded them with. Whatever they are, they are because of the framework in which they have grown up.  And as with all generations, some of their traits will need to be softened, but others are simply sign posts of how the world is moving forward in new ways.  The point is that if we don't dull the edge of our generational attitude as we look to innovate and create new ways of doing ministry among these teenagers, we will end up creating systems and structures that are less than productive...and might even be destructive.  Worse, yet those ministries will be absent of hope and grace.

What I hear underneath all the moralisms, about millennials in particular, is a tone of fear.  There is a sense of fear among the conversations because businesses and churches don't know how they will keep their current models running with new generations. And there is fear among parents in these conversations about how their children will "turn out".  This of course bleeds into ministries in the church as well.  Many of us know that fear sells.  Many of us find it detestable when it becomes a kind of fear huckstering.  And many of us can recognize it when it manifests itself from the pulpit in the flaming forms of damnation and condemnation and a picture of the Kingdom that has been reduced to angels, clouds, and harp filled repose.  However, we are much more blind to the other forms of that same fear  when we are buying it or selling it in the curriculum we purchase and the smaller and more localized conversations we have with parents, fellow ministers, and folks in our business communities.  We might be even more blind to that fear when we are trying to innovate and create new things with our own hands, hearts, and minds.  As most of us have experienced in one way or another, a gospel that is rife with fear tends to produce ministries filled with anxiety, control, subtle manipulations, and narcissists.  When we are afraid, we will do anything and listen to anything.  See: Donald Trump and Mark Driscoll. So what is a subtly afraid soul to do?

As we sail out into new ministry directions I think we need to think about how hope and grace might characterize our new ventures.  All generations benefit from the wisdom of those who have come before them and both the old and young need to adjust to one another in order to thrive, but as the creators of millennial culture our older generations need to focus on helping millennials where they need it and harnessing their talents in other areas.  We might ask whether what we are building and innovating with comes from a place of hope for the future that God has promised or a place of anxiety and terror.  What if we kept asking the question, "What's possible?" Isn't that a question for Kingdom people?  It might be good for instance to mine our teenagers for their feedback on whether we are answering the right questions as we try new things out.  Are we speaking to the hopes that God is building within them?  Are we helping them confront their own vacuums of trust and hope or are we simply foisting our present fears on their future plans?  Good missionaries after all, figure out what the gospel has to say to the people they serve by listening at length before doing anything.  If we want innovations that produce good fruit, then we need innovations based on hope, not moralisms. May the Lord of Hope and Grace be with you as you speak, write, minister, ponder, and innovate! May God's perfect love cast out all your fears and mine!