NYWC St Louis Friday 2 November

Critical Concerns 2: Understanding Teenage Guys & Girls
Steve Gerali & Ginny Olson

General Session #1: David Crowder Band, Duffy Robbins, Flatfoot 56, Joe Castillo

Seminar #1: The Expectations That Killed The Youth Worker
Mark Oestreicher & Mark Riddle

General Session #2: David Crowder Band, Jars of Clay, Jared Hall, Chris Hill, Joe Castillo, Nooma #18

Massive day that got off to a great start and finished just as well, if not better.

Part Two of the Critical Concerns Course, inevitably moved a little faster when the pressure of the clock was on. The subject matter covered is fleshed out in the books BUT there is a synergy about engaging with the authors around the subject, especially when seeing connections between different but affected topics. For example, I was heavily reflected on the male stereotyping adolescent boys are subjected to, but how the outcomes of that stereotyping negatively impact female identity development as well.

Standout Statement: One of the strongest parts of Steve Gerali’s overall presentation is the scriptural, disciple’s filter on it all. He has a natural resonance with bringing scientific and sociological discoveries back under the sufficiency of the Saviour and the eternal truth we live under. Thus, he well identifies several.. no, many.. false teachings around societal norms that actually have been spiritualised into foundational belief systems within our youth ministries.

In discussion and reflection, some of these foundational lies about identity, sexuality and expectation are the cracks in the foundation for identity and spiritual crisis that manifests later on. I become increasing convinced about the necessary impact of physiological, psychological, sociological and historical understanding to be part of forming the framework for birthing environments and collective communities of young people that are nurturing places for these questions and discoveries to take place.

Collective communities: because in NZ our youth communities are not limited or primarily based around geographical context. That’s only a secondary measure. The primary measures are relational/social and/or historical.I’m debating whether or not this is a healthy or at least more appropriate word for ‘youth ministry’. What I don’t like about the word ‘youth ministry’ in the context of this conversation are the broad and varied understandings and perceptions of the word itself.

The general session with Duffy was actually very good. The sand artist, Joe Castillo, was phenomenal – more on that later. The band Flatfoot 56 were all at once the most hilarious, bemusing and perplexing thing I have seen so far. A Celtic punk band complete with heavy vocals, soothing psuedo-Celt accented pronounciation and bagpipes. And the piper was in fact wearing a kilt. I literally have no words beyond that. I might post photos tomorrow to expand the speechlessness. Duffy was in remarkable form – very funny and the audience was extremely receptive to the easy & predictable humour. To be honest, I was not expecting a wow from his presentation having heard most of his excellent material earlier in the year. But I was pleasantly delighted, especially with the particular Peter story he chose and the simplicity of what he delivered within it.
Standout Statement: It’s refreshing to see and understand that the real life disciples were regularly involved in undisciplelike behaviour. Usually when they were choosing to operate in Reason over Righteousness (righteousness being the way of obedient faith – not just faithful obedience). Peter is the only person in Scripture to be literally interrupted by all three members of the Trinity – nice observation.

David Crowder Band are the living, breathing, real-life version of great worship leaders and songwriters. The context of the songs is almost more worthy of appreciation than the presentation or musicality behind the composition. Seamleass (mostly) transitions between blues-originated work to real country four on the floor. His vocal work is hard to follow, a couple of keys out of my really comfortable range but that’s more reason to sit back a little and admire the way he connects and engages with the crowd. Very different from Tomlin and I can understand the different connection points that are triggered for me by each one.. so that’s good, and a development from last time I saw them both in close proximity to each other. Crowder played both the general sessions with gracefulness, humour and humanity.

Joe Castillo of SandStory is a physical sculpture artist working with music, a video camera, a lightbox full of black iron ore sand and his fingers. He crafts the sand into shapes, channels and passages where the contrast between the opacity of the sand and the illuminate of the lightbox create both complex and simple images translated by video feed to a screen for display. Today he presented the creation story and images of Christ in two separate presentations. He says nothing, but lets the visual & aural art symphony speak for itself. I love what he’s doing because it’s emotive, captivating, engaging and sensory on many levels. It connects not just with the artistic but also with those who engage in functional fascination.. those who want to know how it works.

Of course, in the midst of watching it, there was a moment of awe and deep, sighing relief. An almost audible sound escaping from my soul to God’s spirit saying “oh look, there you go again”. Watching Joe’s art being formed only to last for moments before being shaped into the next image reminds me of the Rabbi Stones (for my sake all this was made/i am but dust). Each rendition of the piece is slightly different. The particular grains of sand scattered over time. Is it the same sand? How many stages and floors has ‘art’ been spilt on, swept up, vacuumed away from? But in it all.. Joe’s gift as an artist is remarkably close to the creation process at work in each of us every day.

Not only does Joe see the art before it exists, but he understands how to make it, makes it himself with his own messy fingers, doesn’t mind starting again in order to perfect it, sees art where there is none yet and most importantly… without the light there would be no image to gaze on and call art – so light is important. however, without the spaces for light to shine, the nothings.. there would be no room for light at all. So in us, God is also at work, fingers deep in our messiness, seeing art before it exists, making art and most importantly.. making art from the spaces and the nothings within us.

The Expectations are the mostly silent and deadly hit squad within our youth ministers, a problem that’s proliferated at home by younger and younger youthworkers being employed without appropriate groundwork, training, information and support services. Also, there are too many churches who still employ, without realising or acting on the knowledge that churches generally could use a really good spring clean of their professional practices and human resource management capability. And the problem seems the same whether the church is large or small. The seminar was compassionate, empathetic, practical and honest. I was stoked when ‘stuff’ was called to the table like… our own expectations, immaturity, pride, ambition getting in the way of successful communication with employers/supervisors etc. The Ladder of Inference (how we estab

lish actions based on beliefs that are impacted by assumption and data selection) is a really useful tool both for self reflection and assessment as well as working with others in broader environments.

In General Session #2 Chris Hill spoke really well on the story of Absalom and the building of monuments in his life. His communication ability comes leaping off the stage at you, in the warm, caramel tones of a black man. Most of his short and concise observations about anger, bitterness, rebellion, revolution, leadership, pride, humility and fellowship were worthwhile in commentary. Probably to have so many short points was a good call, as expansion may have turned the taste of it sour.. short and sweet, with a good little punch. Definitely a performer, rather than a presenter but there are times and seasons for that.
Standout Statement: The seed of bitterness grew and grew until he no longer felt comfortable in the kingdom. The object of his pride became the thing that ensared him. He was alone without companionship at the end – he’d alienated even those who were meant to be in the battle with him. Rebellion and bitterness can lead us to become the very thing we despised in the first place – the focus gets out of whack. Our arrogance leads us to desire monuments to ourselves – recognition on earth, but earth is not our home. Better to build monuments of clay, rather than stone.. monuments of clay that will be celebrated with us in our heavenly home.

Nooma #18 – Name was played at the end of the general session tonight. There could not have been a more poignant yet quiet moment as the intersecting themes of my life came rushing into wovenness together in the film. For the first time ever, I think I walked away knowing my story is even better than the content in this BUT… my journey of identity, discovery, embracing, revealing and delighting in who I am at the same time as discovering my own storyline and realising that my path is different and has permission to be different first became apparent to me in 2004 during and post the YS NYWC, thanks in part of Yaconelli, Nouwen and mostly, a very patient Saviour who has waited a long time for me to embrace his sufficiency. It’s worth watching – but I still think my, unfinished, story about my name is going to be better.

Late Night
Had a perfect nightcap with some new friends and less-new friends. I am blessed actually, with the conversations, handshakes and smiles.

What do you think?