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The “Un-glory” and Glory of Short Term Missions

“I hope some teams  will never come back again.”  These words were spoken by my new senior pastor, a 26-year career missionary who joined our church staff last year.  He said these words last April during training for our short-term mission teams. After a lifetime in the mission field as well as leading various international mission organizations where he’d welcomed teams from all over the world, these words were most profound to me.

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Leading Through Personal Trials

Leading Through Personal Trials

By Adam Mashni

Cartel note: Adam Mashni was one of five youth workers who gave a 5 – 7 minute ‘soapbox’ talk in the Saturday morning main session of the Middle School Ministry Campference a couple weeks ago. We loved what these people talked about, and thought they would make great blog posts for others to access their thoughts. 

On May 8, 2014 I was told I most likely had Testicular Cancer.  I went in for a referral appointment to essentially push aside any extreme worries.  Within 10 seconds the urologist said, “this doesn’t feel good.”  That night I went in for emergency surgery to remove my left testicle.  My life, everything about it, was put on pause (and I also started leaning a little…too soon?). A few days later I would find out it is indeed cancer and it had spread to my abdominal lymph nodes and my lungs.  I was to be married on August 8, 2014…so the 3 months leading up to my wedding was full of Chemo treatments and doctor appointments.

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Ten Truths about Dating as a Single Woman in Ministry

i_cant_even-faintingLet’s talk about my dating life for a minute. I say a minute, because that’s about all it will take.

I will preface this list with: You can’t make this stuff up.

  1. Male youth ministers think it’s appropriate to hit on you. Sometimes they use pickups that are spiritual in nature. One man messaged me on Facebook and quickly began talking about how in his spiritual upbringing, women were really celebrated in leadership; therefore, he was really turned on by strong women in ministerial positions. Huh.
  2. People are always trying to set you up. During a meet-and-greet at my first church as director, a mom tried to set me up with her child who just went away to college the week before. How is that okay?! One time an older man told me that I was “ripe” and that he was going to try to “get me some.” Like… I can’t even…
  3. Most guys are super intimidated. As a Millennial, my generation is trying to figure out our faith as it is. But to date a minister–a person would ask how could I be worthy of that? Most men, when they hear my occupation, don’t fully grasp what that means, or get freaked and dart. The guys who do have their act together spiritually may be more conservative, and not as accepting about women in leadership.
  4. The line of “missionary dating” is fuzzy. I grew up with a list of characteristics for my future husband, and decided I would never meander from them. However, that list is kind of unrealistic, which begs the question: Do I date a man who maybe needs some work?  Or do I hold out for the ideal? Does this ideal exist? Can I use my woman powers of manipulation to get the guy I want from a guy who’s available? Yikes.
  5. We don’t necessarily want to date pastors. This is confusing, because on one hand I would like a guy to have theological training—or at least be well read and conversed. But I didn’t sign up to be a pastor’s wife. I’m called to be a minister, not to marry one.
  6. Meeting other single people is tough. Honestly: where do I go to meet other single people my age? It’s tough just making friends—especially as a young adult—but a boyfriend? If you have the answer to that, you could make a fortune.
  7. Online Dating is (almost a necessary) mess. In our culture where meeting people is tough, most single people I know have tried online dating. It’s no longer taboo. Even people in their early twenties are trying it out!  The hard part is that our culture is extremely seasoned at giving false impressions online, and oftentimes online dating can become more of a disappointment than a decent experience.
  8. The ministry schedule does not allow for easy dating. A friend texted me a few weeks ago, “I just went on my first date in five years.” This friend of mine is very cute and very normal. Then she said, “It’s been a week and I already don’t think it’s going to work out.” Why is that? Because to expect a guy to fit into my ministry time schedule is hard.  Wait, you want to see me more than twice a month?  Sorry, but I work all day on Sunday, so I can’t meet your family. I work one, sometimes two, weekends a month, so there goes a few of our date nights. I don’t understand why you don’t want to date me…
  9. Being single isn’t always my choice.  Some days, especially after an atrociously awkward date, I feel like being single is the easier choice.  But I’m getting to a point where it really hurts sometimes.  Many of my friends and I talk about the terrible baby fever we have. We’ve even joked about adoption—and by joked I mean seriously entertained the idea. The truth is that it aches at times. But I have a cat to help with that.
  10. I don’t have a ton of time on my hands because I’m single. Yes, my Netflix patterns could be a little worrisome, but that’s after working two retreats two weekends in a row. And like I’ve already said–how am I supposed to develop healthy relationships if I spend so much of my time doing ministry? Don’t overload my plate because I’m single. I should have the same rights and privileges as any other person in ministry, whether they are male or female, single or married, parent or not.

During this season of life, I have chosen to treat my singleness as a gift in some aspects. But, I don’t want to stay single forever.

So, if you’re reading this as a single person, let’s collaborate and support each other (but that isn’t code for date each other).

And if you’re reading this as a married person, male or female, I ask that you be advocates for us single people. Our lives revolve around ministering to your family, and we would appreciate the same—even if our family is a party of one.

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We’re one… but we’re not the same

Frontrunner - Women in Youth Ministry Campference

Frontrunner - Women in Youth Ministry CampferenceOn the women in youth ministry Facebook group, I asked the ladies what their first association was with ‘women in youth ministry’. To be honest, I had expected answers along the lines of ‘struggle’, or ‘loneliness’. Instead, some women replied that they were more worried about having too many female leaders in the/their church.

It reminded me once again of the diverse positions of women in youth ministry. Some of us do struggle, with being accepted for instance. With getting treated as an equal to men. With finding a position that befits our calling and spiritual gifts.

But that’s certainly not the case for everyone. A few women responded that they were grateful to be in a church where women leaders were the most normal thing in the world.

Women in youth ministry. We’re one, but we’re not the same. We’re sisters in Jesus Christ, but we come from different places, backgrounds and walks of life. We’re in different churches, roles, places in our lives. Yet we get to carry each other.

As we count down to the Women in Youth Minstry Campference in April 2015, we want to share some of our stories with you and with each other. We long to get to know each other, learn from each other and encourage each other.

If you have a story to share, we’d love to publish it on this blog! Just contact us through the contact form.

p.s. The Early Bird deadline for a discounted registering to the Women in Youth Ministry Campference is coming up fast. Reserve your spot today!

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The Power of Story

power of storyHave you ever wondering where stories come from and why they are so powerful?

The origin of story is found in something we lovingly refer to as oral tradition. From the dawn of time, human beings gathered together to share in story – story of life’s origin, story of purpose, story of definition and story of hope. Every human culture that has ever existed has elevated story to be the capstone of their existence. We are immersed in story.

Story is in the sinew that binds the human narrative together.

One of my favourite things to do as a parent is to tell stories to my children. Sometimes these stories are about my own childhood memories; sometimes the stories I tell are focused on producing some sort of desired response; and at other times stories are simply about celebrating something.

Stories are powerful because they matter to us. Here are three ways the power of story is revealed.

Story inspires. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve gotta great story to tell?” They proceed to dive into a great tale of some triumph or failure, evoking emotion, engagement and wonder as a result. Great stories are ones that inspire us in some way. Inspiration is a fickle thing. At times it demands an active response, and at others it invokes a pensive state. In all its forms, great story-telling catapults the listener into an emotively saturated climate called inspiration.

Story celebrates. The best stories told through image or words are those that seek to elevate a cause, an individual or a dilemma that is worth celebrating. While Hollywood has done society a great disservice is many regards, what Hollywood does do well is celebrate great stories. Historical turning points, social awareness issues and personal triumphs have been captivated in print or on-screen in ways that have allowed millions of people to be influenced in some way. Awards shows like the Grammys & Emmys provide a platform through which the telling of story is honoured, and the stories themselves may gain the recognition and joy they deserve.

Story breathes. Stories are alive. Don’t believe me? Try telling someone a story and see what happens. Stories evoke question, wonder & hope at the drop of a hat. What we say, how we say it, and how we choose to live in response to what we’ve experienced are signs of life…life that is wrought into existence by the power of story.

One of my goals as a leader is to learn to harness the power of story in my own life – knowing that what I say and what I do are stitching together a narrative that influences the world around me. More importantly, knowing that my life as story exists within the context of a greater unfolding story known as human existence, which has been authored by a creator God in a loving and determined fashion.

It’s this story that all of human kind finds itself immersed in. Which leaves me to ponder how we are engaging the power of story in all its forms to inspire, celebrate & breathe in present reality and the not so distant future? What do you think?

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English is Crazy

After watching the video I’ve got 3 questions for my fellow youth workers:

  1. According to this 2010 U.S. census report, “More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. The rise in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.” (source) Question: Is your church/youth ministry seeing an increase in Hispanic families participating in your worship services or program offerings? 
  2. As the video pointed out, learning English as a second (or third) language is very difficult. As is documented in this Department of Labor report, English language proficiency is directly tied to both employment, in general, and wages directly. Question: Is your church/youth ministry engaged in helping English language learners? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments about your experience. 
  3. “In 2011, about 22 percent of school-age children spoke a language other than English at home, and 5 percent of school-age children both spoke a language other than English at home and had difficulty speaking English.” (Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2013) Beyond the educational and labor issues of English-language learners, there’s also the challenge of worshipping Jesus in your native language. Rooted in the Protestant tradition and in the Reformation itself is the idea of accessing the Bible and worshipping in your own language. Wars fought, martyrs celebrated, and denominations were founded on the issue of accessing worship in a native vernacular. Question: What efforts is your ministry taking to minister to the 22% of children/teenagers growing up in homes that natively speak another language? 

As you can see from the questions above, I don’t have answers to these questions. But I think these are truly important questions for our ministries to think about as our culture sees a rapid increase in non-English speakers within our population.