Archive for the ‘ministry’ Category

Fall 2009: Teaching the Bible in Church

July 11, 2010

It has taken me longer than I would have liked to blog about the classes I have taken at Princeton Theological Seminary thus far, but it is still my intention to do just that.

The last class I took in Fall 2009 was Teaching the Bible in Church with Dr. Gordon Mikoski.  I took the class in the Fall short term (also referred to as the Jan or J term) so the class met Monday through Friday 9am – 12pm for three weeks.  The syllabus described the course this way:

Pastors and teachers in congregational settings require dynamic conceptions of the theory and practice of teaching scripture in order to carry out the church’s ministry of education and formation in effective ways. This course will explore the dynamic intersections between biblical knowledge, needs of various learners in congregations, and creative pedagogies. This course fulfills the education and formation requirement.

The books used were: (more…)

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Teaching the Bible Using Art

July 11, 2010

This is my final project for my “Teaching the Bible in Church” class at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Due to copyright restrictions I cannot post the whole thing, but I post the majority of it here in case it is helpful or interesting to some.  I have written about the entire course separately.

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PART ONE: MAIN PEDAGOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS

Description of the Learners and Historical Assumptions

This curriculum is intended for the Adult Education Ministry at Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).  There are two full time ministers, one Parrish Visitor, and seventeen paid staff members at GBPC, including the Director for the Pre-school on site. The congregation’s reported total membership for 2008 was just over 1,200 people which is significantly greater than the average membership of 250 people.  Over the past ten years, the church has continued an overall trend of increased membership and worship attendance averages 702 people.  The church has a robust Christian Education program and enrollment averages 794.  The church is composed of a majority of affluent professionals, middle-class working families, and elderly people.  Generally speaking, the congregation is well educated, most having completed at least a Bachelor’s Degree.  The majority of the congregation is white.  There are some minority populations represented, but they are, however, the minority both as a whole and when broken down into specific racial and ethnic demographics.  Spiritually speaking the congregation is comprised of individuals who are just beginning in the faith to those who have been faithful Christians for many years. There are three worship services each Sunday (8:30, 9:45, and 11:15am) with the first and last service being contemporary worship and the 9:45, traditional.  Adult Sunday school is offered during each service.

This curriculum is intended for (more…)

Confused: Too Many Possibilities

January 10, 2010

Photo by: Stefan Baudy

Lately I have been frustrated with the choices I have in front of me.  While I was comfortable coming into seminary not knowing what I would end up doing afterwards (since it is at least 3 years away), I have definitely been seeking clarity with respect to my call.  I have quite a few great opportunities with the programs the seminary offers, and it is all very exciting!  That is except when I start to plan what it will look like to follow that path and subsequently wonder if it is the path I will walk or not.  For instance, there is a great joint degree program that Princeton Seminary offers that would allow me to earn a Master’s in Social Work with only one additional year of schooling.  As this is something I have felt drawn towards in the past, it started to seem as though that was something I was called to do.  As this would require me to be much more judicious with the courses I take, I came up with a fabulous spread sheet to keep track of the credit requirements for the M-Div and leave room for classes that would count towards the MSW.  But now I am doubting that.  I am taking a class about teaching in the church and it is becoming very evident to me that I am passionate about helping people learn.  But what am I supposed to do with that?  I have thought that maybe I could see if they would let me shift to a dual degree so I could get an Master’s degree in Christian Education and the M.Div. but I can’t very well do that and the MSW program.  I’m not trying to make plans of my own without regard for what God is calling me to do but maybe that’s what’s happening.  I am trying to discern what God is calling me to do which to me means stepping out in faith and being willing to be wrong.  I wonder if that’s part of the problem then?  Maybe I am not really willing to be wrong.  Maybe I just want to pick something and have it magically be part of what God is calling me to do.  I guess I will try to hold the possibility that I am wrong and the hope that I have discerned rightly together for as long as possible and wait for God to redirect my plans.  If only that we as easy to do as it is to say.

On a positive note, I am scheduled to meet with my session via Skype on Tuesday to start the process of becoming a Candidate for ministry of Word and Sacrament.  My meeting with CPM (the ordination committee for PC(USA)) is scheduled for Jan 19th though I will not be going to the Presbytery meeting until April.  I am okay with that though because it means everyone will be able to be there.

Thought Provoking

December 22, 2009

My friend recently included me in a facebook dialogue that she started in order to think about how the church might better be the church.  Her letter is below.  This post will be long, but it is worth it and may turn into a series of posts.  Comments are not only welcomed, but encouraged.  : )  I pray any who read these words will show me much grace in putting them to paper as I seek to refine the chaos that is often my brain.

Everyone,
I’ve spent much time in recent months deeply in the desert of prayer. I love our church, its people, its mission… its hope. More than anything, I treasure the life giving transformation that happens so often there (my son finding true life, as the most shining example).

I’m sharing a few thoughts I’ve had that would provide a way for us to grow in the blessing of glorifying God through what we already have and do in slightly different ways, as well as a few simple new ways to bring Him glory and us to a more familial place.

The main point here is to begin a discussion with a larger community within our larger “C” Community and gather thoughts and possible volunteers to help us find the steps in our new dance with the Holy Spirit in the diaspora God blessed us with to bring us closer to him in these financially creative times.

Be blessed — in the freedom to know exactly who you are (and are not;-) in the hope and possibility of a God who loves us enough to call us to accountability.

Love,
10-weed

Our church showers amazing love & grace for those well-connected in the church. What of those on periphery, not sure how to get in? Do we have a volunteer base set up for helping them with funerals, like a funeral committee of sorts, to provide for their needs? Bringing lunch, helping with reception after the funeral, childcare, household help, food donations, etc.?

Art Gallery – With so many gifted artists in our faith community, and so much wall space, why are we not celebrating those gifts by hanging them for a month or quarter? (Understandably, given the economic situation, interested artists should pull together a plan for what they would like to showcase, where & plan to invest their own time in glorifying God by setting those on display themselves after gaining approval.)

Events around town section – to encourage our faith community to be present in the world outside of our church walls as a way to carry the gospel they seek to live into the lives of others by fellowshipping in the midst of life??

Website noodling:
Not just what we do at our church, but *why* we believe we are called to do it.

What do we aim to teach our children, young adults, varying adult classes? And why?

What are the classes studying now, or planning to study in the near future?

Major theological ideas we celebrate:
What are they??
(Baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation…)

Pertaining to valuable pre-education:
What topics are covered?
Expectations participants should have
What it is that they are doing from a faith perspective, as in bringing their child forth for baptism
Expectations parents (if applicable) should have
The faith community’s role/responsbility in these events, and in the lives of its members

Well, I have no idea how much of this will apply, but below are my thoughts of in response to what is mentioned above. This is my first response kind of deal so there is not a great deal of refinement of these ideas at this point. Anyway, here ’tis:

  • I think you hit the nail on the head with childcare. While I don’t have children, I have heard about this dynamic from a few different places. It is frustrating for younger generations where both husband and wife work to be involved in the life and work of the church when there is no childcare available. I think it was a book I read named “Tribal Church” by Rev. Carol Howard Meritt who talked about a church (maybe hers?) where they had child care available whenever the doors were open for any church related “function” whether it is a meeting or a Bible study.
  • It seems to me that another area of frustration for both older and younger generations is the inclusion of young adults. In some circles, the young adults are included with the “youth” ministry. While there are definitely similarities in format and so on, the life issues that young adults deal with are significantly different. There are struggles on both sides for sure, but the young adults (and youth) aren’t just the future of the church, they are the church in the same way that the generations that have gone before them are. And they have a lot to share if they are invited not to the table of Christ as passive participants but as people whose thoughts and ideas are validated and put into practice as legitimate ministry ideas. Lack of experience doesn’t mean a lack of good ideas….it just means those ideas may need more support of those who have gone before them.
  • Something that has also given me food for thought are the niches of the community that are in need of more assistance. Groups that come to mind: – Single parents: offer free child care – People from other countries: offer classes on English idioms, etc. (these people are often much smarter than we give them credit for becuase they are not always able to put their thoughts into English as well as a mative speaker. But I often ask myself, “Self, can I speak their language?” The answer is always no unless it is French and even in that I am on a 3rd grade level (if that) so I respect anyone who is pursuing a career or education in a language that is not their native tongue.)
  • Those with developmental/physical disabilities: It seems to me that it is not just important that these folks are a part of the body of Christ in thought or ideal, but in reality and action. Are these folks attending your services? Are these folks invited to be integral members of committees and serving as deacons who pass the collection plates and assist with communion and other visible events? While many times we feel these folks are disadvantaged (even the term “disability” is not helpful though it is maybe a bit better than “handicapped”), the reality is that in many aspects they are probably much more equipped for ministry. 
  • Talking about race – Do people in our church (whatever church that may be) feel comfortable talking about race and ethnicity?  In an effort to make sure no one was offended, I feel as though I grew up ignoring differences so there was no possibility of offending anyone.  This is not helpful.  The language we use to talk about race and ethnicity is also not helpful.  For those of us white folks, how many know what caucasian is?  Most of us aren’t actually caucasian.  Not are all of us white folks Anglos either to use another common word.  The diversity of humanity is beyond any system of categorization that the IRS or anyone else comes up with.  It seems to me that even if we are welcoming of others (whatever “other” is for each of us) in theory, if we aren’t comfortable talking about the differences in perception and aren’t willing to validate another persons way of doing something it is no longer about Christ.  At this point it is about how we are doing something and this is stifling to the Spirit and the Body of Christ. 

These thoughts both humble and challenge me.  Their incompleteness is heartbreaking.  And their lack of wings to fly into the face of the status quo are debilitating to me as well as the church.

A Book Review: nuChristian by Russell E. D. Rathbun

October 13, 2009
Image by: Judson Press

Image by: Judson Press

Recently, I was asked to do a book review of a book called nuChristian (no that’s not a typo…its actually ‘nu’ as in ‘new’) that is a response of sorts, but more so a contribution to the ongoing conversation that resulted from the book unChristian written by Dave Kinnamon (President of The Barna Group) and Gabe Lyon (founder of Fermi Group, now Q) and published in 2007.   Written by Rev. Russell Rathbun, one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the book is practical, pastoral, and conversational and based largely on Russel’s experience in the post-modern world.  As such Russell is upfront about the fact that he is writing from a “highly subjective, extremely relational perspective” (p. viii).  While some may discount his book since it is “subjective” and “relational,” I think it has a great deal of insight to offer and I am thankful Russell chose to write from this standpoint.

In the Forward of the book, Shane Claiborne writes, “I am convinced that if we lose a generation in the church, that loss won’t be because we failed to entertain them, but because we failed to dare them–to take the words of Jesus seriously and to do something about the things that are wrong in the world” (p. vi).  According to Shane, “Russell Rahtburn offers us that dare–to renew a Christianity that reminds the world of Jesus again” (p.vi).

There is a lot that I could say about this book.  I think Russell does a great job of responding to the data presented in The Barna Group’s study.  And I very much appreciate his straightforward but gracious approach in his response.  I think the two things that jumped out at me the most while reading Russell’s book were his discussion of ‘scapegoating’ and his understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible.

Russell goes into some depth to draw his reader into his understanding of ‘scapgoating.’  While I was familiar with the term, I very much appreciated his efforts to place the concept within our current culture and context.  Early on in the book Russell writes, “The kingdom of God is made up of every kind of person there is” (p. 3).  Though this may result in a response of “well, duh” from many people but let’s be honest…this is not the reality of many churches.  I personally have attended or visited many churches and found them to be demographically and ideologically anemic.  Many write this off as a result of people seeking to be with others who are like them (what Russell refers to as the “homogenous unit principle” as introduced by Dr. Donald A. McGraven [p. 1]).  I personally think this it’s a cop out.  Russell presents the idea that it is ‘scapegoating’ (p. 6).  The bottom line in this seems to be that “scapegoating is when we find someone else like us, and we bond of the shared object of our envy, anxiety, and fear” (p. 6) since “one of us most be wrong” (p. 7) if there is a difference in desires or opinions.  It is harder for me to walk the line between scapegoating and judgement, but undoubtedly blaming any one certain group for the ills of society is unfounded at best.  I appreciate Russell’s efforts to drive the point home that “nuChristians listen to and consider the opinions of others” (p.88).  That coupled with the reality that “human perfections is an illusion” (p.88) makes a great case in and of itself for leaving the judgement of others to God.

As for Russell’s understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible, he first explains that previous generations typically view scripture “as an instruction book, a guidebook, [or] a book of answers” (p.16).  In this line of thing, “there is only one right interpretation of every text in the Bible”  (p.16).  In the eyes of a postmodern person, if this is trued, they “see the Scriptures as something dead” (p. 17).  Instead of thinking of the Bible as an answer book, Russell proposes that we view it “as a book of really good questions” (p.18).  I really like that.  It took quite some time in my own life to see that if Christianity is just about following rules, you don’t need the Holy Spirit.  Or discernment.  Or a brain even.  Machines can follow rules.  Russell compares this to the use of a “checklist” saying, “you don’t need God when you have a checklist” (p.19).  I also found it very intriguing that Russell has found that “in [his] own ministry…highlighting the questions we find in Scriptures gives people permission to voice the questions they have always wondered about” (p. 18).  It’s rather boring, after all, when someone just provides you with all the answers.  Our brains can only take so much of that.  It’s boring, frankly, and it assumes that the person giving the who is on the receiving end of the answers doesn’t have the mental capacity to think through things on their own.  Our curiosity is primed, so to speak, when there is mystery.  And if there is one place there is enough ministry to last us until Christ returns, it’s God and the Bible.  Allowing people to wade through the deep waters that are the Scriptures will surely bear more fruit and cramming answers in their brains.

While I am sure I disagree with Russell on at least a few things, the more I think about it the more I understand agreeing isn’t really important.  It seems to me that Russell is daring us to hold our beliefs loosely and others tightly.  Love of God and Love of neighbor are linked inseparably.  And if loving my neighbor means challenging myself to be more accepting of ambiguity and more realistic about the limits of my own humanity I am all for it.  No one has it all figured out.  We can all learn from each other.  The question is, will we humble ourselves enough to allow that to happen?

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6.8

*for more reviews on this book, visit http://www.judsonpress.com/blogtour.cfm for a list of blogs included on this blog tour*