Some Thoughts on Collaboration

When I hear the word “collaboration” I tend to break out in a rash. Collaboration conjures up horrible group project assignments from high school and college where I ended up doing all the work and getting half the grade I could have received working solo.

I hear pretentious educators dropping buzz words into conversations in the lunch room as a way to rip on each other.

I see bloggers who talk about the joys of collaboration in almost every post but don’t give you the time of days when you offer your services.

I get shivers thinking about conferences I’ve been to with big white boards and breakout sessions where people from different ministries get to share “ideas”.

My ideal work situation (for writing, planning, etc) would be to have an office, in a cabin, in a wooded area, with large windows overlooking a body of water, with many, many books, and no other people around. Introvert dream!

Despite that fundamental aversion, it turns out that I spend a good amount of time collaborating. Everything from planning semester activities with Sojourn to writing sermons with REUNION is done in a team context.

And it’s good.

I was reflecting on this other day when I considered how funny it is, given my natural tendencies, that I spend so much time working with people on projects.

This is probably why I blog. It’s like an outlet for solo endeavors.

What I want to say is this: when you trust people and love the people you work with, collaborating is great, and it’s fun, and it’s productive.

But without those two ingredients it’s a sort of Steve-kryptonite .

So, find people you love to work with and get some stuff done!

Peterson on Morality

The Christian life does not start with moral behavior. We don’t become good in order to get God…moral behavior provides forms for maturing in a resurrection life. Moral acts are art forms for arranging and giving expression to resurrection.”

 – Eugene H. Peterson Practice Resurrection

Thank You Dallas Willard

The great Dallas Willard passed away yesterday and Jesus followers all over the world mourn the loss of one of Christendom’s greatest minds.

It has long been my contention that much of what we see emerging from the church today: from the actual “emergent” movement, to the Shane Claiborne/social justice crowd, to Willow Creek’s renewed focus on discipleship, to the “missional” cohorts, all of it is response to Willard’s monumental work, The Divine Conspiracy. Starting pulling on the thread of any of these movements and you don’t have to unravel much to get to Willard.

On a personal level, Divine Conspiracy was the first book I read “for fun” after graduating from college and it profoundly shaped not only my thinking but practical decisions about my vocation.

So, thank you Dallas, for calling us to actually follow Jesus, the master teacher, to be his disciples, and for reminding us of the counter-intuitive power of the upside down kingdom.

Also, Willard taught at the most revered institution of higher education in our household: the University of Southern California.

Fight On, Dallas.

The Commodification of Everything #quotes

“The family has long been a haven in a heartless world, the one place immune to market forces and economic calculations, where the personal, the private, and the emotional hold sway. Yet, that is no longer the case: everything that was once part of private life–love, friendship, child rearing–is being transformed into packaged expertise to be sold back to confused, harried Americans.

[There is an] incursion of the market into every stage of intimate life. From dating services that train you to be the CEO of your love life to wedding planners who create a couple’s ‘personal narrative’; from nameologists (who help you name your child) to wantologists (who help you name your goals); from commercial surrogate farms in India to hired mourners who will scatter your loved one’s ashes in the ocean of your choice…the most intuitive and emotional human acts have become work for hire.

– Christopher Lasch

5 Things I’ve Learned From 4 Years in Collegiate Ministry in Boston

The end of this semester marks the end of my fourth year on staff with Sojourn Collegiate Ministry. Crazy to think about! I’m sure in another four years this list will transform, but at this point here are a few things I know:

  1. New England/Boston is indeed a challenging place to do ministry, but it’s not all bad. There are plenty of studies and surveys that indicate that the Northeast is one of the least churched/most post-christian regions of the country. Boston is always in the top 5 for cities in these categories. Some of those stats are even more pronounced on campus where things move faster than the prevailing culture. However, most of those studies tend to come with hand-wringing and a concern that is not always truthful. There are a lot of beautiful things going on in the city and in the region. Churches are being planted, people are coming to know Jesus, and new movements and expressions of community are bursting forth. Yes, there are unique challenges, but there is also a movement of God in New England and it is humbling to play a part in that.
  2. College students today are experiencing unique pressures. I always come back to a conversation I had with some Boston University officials a year ago. They were trying to wrap their minds around the fact that for the first in anyone’s memory the school sent more students to the hospital for mental health issues than for alcohol related issues. I see two things at play here: (1) The amount of family baggage kids bring with them to college is staggering. I would argue that family of origin issues are the “thing” students are wrestling with today. (2) Students are unable to profoundly answer the important questions of being and meaning (who are you and what are you doing here?). This is closely related to the family issue, but deep identity questions are at the heart of the unique situation and pressures faced by students today.
  3. Students want to be led. Most students will present as self-assured and desire autonomy and the ability to make their own decisions. And that is a huge part of the college experience: drawing new conclusions and learning how to handle the freedom to make good and bad choices. In ministry, this can be difficult because students want to (a) keep their options open, or (b) take control/ownership of the ministry. That second one, in particular, is interesting because once a student is “in” they are usually all in, and they make great leaders in our ministry. And the tendency them is to let them run with it. But, underneath all that, students want to be led. They want to know you care about them. They want to know you want the best for them. And even if it is really, really hard they want to trust you to lead them somewhere good. It make take a very long time to acquire that trust, and it may be delicate to maintain that trust, but they want to follow somebody.
  4. Students want to see our family. Students love coming over to our house and they love checking out Marina (even if they don’t quite know what to do with her). Our family, and the story we are creating as the three of us, are, in many ways, more essential to our ministry than planning meetings, one on ones, and service trips.
  5. Students are interested in church. They may not come every week, and they may not like everything about REUNION (or whatever church they attend), but they ask a TON of questions about church. What that tells me is that they care about it, they know it’s important, and they want to talk about what it is, what’s wrong, and what it could be.

One of our key leaders at Northeastern graduated this weekend and his parent’s were at REUNION yesterday. I got to meet his family and they were extremely grateful for the role that Sojourn has played in the life of their son. I had to work hard to keep it together during that conversation.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is this: it an honor and a privilege to do this work. I understand that even more now as a parent myself.

There are parent’s all over the country praying for their kids, and in some way I/we get to be the answer to those prayers. Wow.

Bruno Mars on Wilding Out

Reflecting on his wild years:

“You begin to lose yourself, you know…a lot of men think the more women they get, the better. But…you lose a piece of yourself with every time you do that. If you are out there wilding out, drinking and partying, that’s not real life.”

On marriage and having kids:

“That’s happiness.”