Thursday, December 20, 2012

#CFyouth -- Instagram and Ministry

Why the hash-tag (#)?  Because, being the hip youth pastor I am (that's a joke), I plan to use it in a way that is to benefit my youth group.  Before I make my way to the How, I would first like to clarify the why.

When I arrived at Chamblee First UMC about 8 months ago, one of the first things I did was to meet with our volunteer committee that we call our "Youth Council."  In that meeting, there were the usual introductions that one would expect, but I made a special effort to focus on some of our time on visioning in order to gain some direction from the crew that I was to work with.  Fortunately, they are an awesome group of people and we were all mostly on the same page with many common goals.  The common thread, of course, was the youth, and our trying to understand how to meet them where they are.  If what we are offering is not appealing to the students, then, as wonderful to us as it may be, it will not work.

Somewhere along the lines of church history, we have made a sore mistake.  We, the church, have removed ourselves from those of whom we were chosen to serve.  Now, this makes sense, when reading verses of how our purity means to coexist in opposition to that of the world:
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
But, one must also take into consideration that the Father also sent to us a son that would become manifest through humanity and take form as Christ.  This, of course, is the mystery of Christ, that he was 100% man and 100% God.  Considering our picture of Christ is one of a man on a cross, a superhero of sorts saving the people, it is easy to skip over the 100% human part and look straight to him as the Son of God, here to save the day.  And though, yes he was here to save the day, he was also human.  His existence occupied both time and space.
Luke 1:31
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
With it being the Christmas season, we hear this verse quite often.  It's from an angel, Gabriel, speaking on behalf of God to Mary, the mother of Jesus, delivering to her the news that she is to become the mother of God's son.  But the significance here is two-fold: 1) Christ's heritage runs straight between Christ and God himself, a point we are not tackling here, and 2) Christ entered humanity through a virgin womb.  Christ came into being as a child, born of a mother, fully human.  Having just taken a class on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology, we could study this more in depth as his christological beliefs shape nearly every other part of his conception of God's interaction with the world, but the main point that we need to know is that Christ was born, human, in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Now, this started with a hash-tag, and somehow has turned into the ramblings of a youth pastor and Christ's humanity...How did this happen?  It happened because I firmly believe that God intentionally made the decision to become manifest as human into a world that has turned its back to God far too many times, yet Christ was sent anyway.  Why?  Because God loves us.  We are God's creations...reflections of God's image in which we were made.  This glorious news is that God has not given up on the world.  Has the church?

The reason this started as a hash-tag is because on that list of goals the youth council created in that visioning session was a realization that we must meet youth where they are.  Well, where are they?  They are all over the place.  Mine are on Facebook, and Instagram.  They're on the soccer fields and swim teams, taking tests in schools, and trying out crappy part-time jobs.  If an all powerful God, who can do whatever he cares to do, sent his only Son into the world to save it, then where is Christ's bridegroom to be?  I believe that we, the church, are to be on those soccer fields, in the schools, on Facebook, and, yes, on Instagram, too, if that's where the people are.

#CFyouth is a representative of Chamblee First UMC's youth program that works everyday of the week, free of charge, and appeals to students.  Sure, I would love to make the youth drop their cell phones in a box as they walk in the door because of its use as a distraction, but because we have not required them to conform to our agendas, we have students with Bible apps downloaded on their phones.  We have opportunities to utilize social media instead of battling it.  We have put our rusty swords down and are reevaluating, restrategizing once again, our approach to ministry.  We are set apart.  A people loved by God.  This set apart and loved person by God is tired of the church's disconnect with society and wants to see it once again a moral barometer with whom people can trust.

What must our youth group do to spread the gospel of Christ in our community and turn hearts towards Christ?  We must do whatever it takes to spread the gospel of Christ in our community and turn hearts towards Christ.  Pride swallowed.  Past considered.  Let us move forward with Christ's blessing in his Great Commission with a model that becomes available to the whims of pop-culture, and not one that moves in opposition to it.

Note: There is, obviously, an ethical limit as to how far within the world the church reaches, less it become the world.  This blog post is simply meant to be a reminder for us youth workers that middle and high-school students learn differently than we did, and, in light of that fact, adjustments to our approach to ministry must be made.
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