Tired and Hopeful

Well, another semester, another year, is wrapping up, which means time to look back and to look forward (and to start blogging again).

I’m usually pretty tired at the end of a semester, which means I’m also a little more grumpy/cynical than normal. This is the natural outcome of another year watching people make the same mistakes over and over again (even though your advice and guidance is so golden). Of another meeting where someone is on their phone the whole time. Of another person late for the millionth time. Another cancel. Another flake.

That’s life. That’s ministry. And at the end of a semester it sure feels like it has added up into a huge mound of “why-can’t-people-get-their-stuff-together.”

But despite that I can’t remember a year ending and feeling this good about life.

Fundraising has gone well, with the usual unbelievable stories that go along with it.

I am so proud of our students. This year has been packed with great stories, life change, and a very clear front-row-seat to God moving.

I love our little community in Roslindale. Having multiple friends right down the street has been life-giving.

Our family is amazing. Amy is an incredible mother, and Marina is a joy to be around (those things are very strongly correlated).

And I have a lot of hope that there are some very cool things coming up just around the bend. The future is bright. Praise the Lord.

First World Problems, Atheism, Gender, and Thinking

Tony Jones created waves this week when he said that he is not an atheist (despite his doubts about God), because the overwhelming majority of people around the world believe in God. (Original post here; response to waves here)

In other words, atheism is a first-world problem.

Which is a fascinating way to think about it, and it highlights a common conversation I have with students.

Higher education in the US places students squarely in the middle of a great paradox.

  • On the one hand, they are lucky enough to have access to an incredible amount of knowledge, research, information, and skills. They have access to more of these things than any other human beings in the history of the world.
  • On the other hand, what is presented and taught as enlightened/educated/sophisticated thinking (and not just the thinking but also the conclusions) are ideas that are actually shared by a very small percentage of people (both historical and living).

A great example of this (alongside Jones’ point) can be found in this interview with Camille Paglia. Her point is neatly summarized by the sub-title of the article: “ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.” (Read the whole thing, it’s a tour de force).

I’m sure my feminist friends at various universities around Boston would want to paint Camille as a quack, but here’s the more essential point: what is often packaged as truth and enlightened thinking are ideas and conclusions that very few people around the rest of the world actually share.

Now, I am not a traditionalist, I am not advocating for group think, or for chucking our ability to draw our own conclusions.

But, and I am speaking here most directly to my student friends, what is often communicated to you, especially in the university setting, are conclusions draw from a very  narrow stream of thought. The knowledge available in this world is a big, wide steam.

There’s a lot more out there.
Keep thinking, keep exploring, keep learning.

Drama Camp #sojournboston #collegiateministry

One of the beautiful stories of the summer is unfolding in the Dorchester neighborhood through one of our key neighborhood partners. The Quincy Street crew pulled off a great summer Drama Camp program last year (they did a performance of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”), but they have taken it to a whole other level this time around. They wrote grants (and received them), they hired neighborhood youth to be Jr Counselors, and they recruited Sojourn students to be interns and volunteers.

This summer the campers are writing their own play, which is very cool. In addition, they are learning all kinds of amazing skills, new games, positive ways to interact and help each other, and getting to see some sites via Friday Field Trips. I love everything about this, but I especially love watching our (college) students invest in this program and this neighborhood. Most of the students volunteering or interning have experience in theater or music and it’s beautiful to see them using their skills and training to bless these kids. I attended the Drama Camp Open House last night and was blown away by what they all have accomplished over the last few weeks. Check out the pics:

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DIG!

Great start last night to SojournBoston’s summer gathering, which we like to call DIG.

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Easter!

Celebrated Easter with REUNION (our church community) and then had students and family over for dinner. Good times!

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Affirmative

HPIM6762There are volumes of virtual articles and actual books that examine the current generation of 18-35 year olds. Some of that work is highly positive, a lot of it disconcerting, and there’s a bit of it that is downright paranoid.

There are certainly things to be concerned about. If I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t do what I do.

But, I am also deeply encouraged.

I see signs of hope all the time. During conversations over a cup of coffee, in students who wake up early on Saturday mornings to tutor kids, in our leaders, and on trips like we took to Joplin.

For 8 days I saw students who have grown up in the most self-centered, narcissistic era of all time (according to some), give and serve and sacrifice, and do it all with a happy heart, a cheerful disposition, and absolutely no complaining.

Which was amazing, but here’s my favorite part:

At the end of each spring break trip I’ve been on I’ve led groups through a simple exercise called “the hot seat.” When you are on the hot seat you silently sit and let the rest of the group speak words of affirmation and life into you.

It’s deeply moving.

Students today get all kinds of accolades and positive feedback from the culture at large (especially if they buy the right things, wear the right things, and say the right things on Facebook).

But, in my experience, as these cultural accolades increase, there is less space for
an actual person,
who actually knows you,
who has actually seen you in your element,
to say real and honest words
to your face.

In these moments you see the power of words, the power of real human interactions, and the greatness that resides inside each of these individuals.

We are blessed right now with some amazing students who God is using to do amazing things.

I’m grateful to just be here and to witness it.

“Most American …

“Most American teens do not, by and large, abandon their identification with religious faith during the first year out [first year in college]. Religious involvement drops, to be sure, but not teens’ self-identification as a religious person…

“Teens who deposit their religious identities in a lockbox during the first year out do so because they see everyday life and religious identification as separate and distinct entities. Teens view religious faith and practice as largely irrelevant tot his stage in their life cycle.

“The religious story of most teens is the story of a thousand missed opportunities…it is striking how haphazardly most congregations go about it…they gain only sketchy and frequently mistaken understandings of what their religion believes and practices…

“When all is said and done, what most teens gain from this haphazard religious socialization is reinforcement of the theistic and moral dimensions of popular American culture: ‘There is a God; God wants me to be a nice person; and he’ll help me out if I am.’ It is a simple faith, but a surprisingly enduring one, as it can withstand long stays in an identity lockbox.”

From “The First Year Out” by Tim Clysdale

Why You Should Care About Collegiate Ministry

Final reflection piece for the year. Will have another marina pic and some top 5 lists, but regular blogging won’t happen again until 2013.

This post reflects a little bit of my journey over the past year…I wholeheartedly believe in the work we are doing here in Boston: here’s why…

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Confession: a pet peeve of mine is the minimizing of the importance of collegiate ministry. Our field has not always done a great job advertising our awesomeness (probably because campus ministers are too busy to do marketing). But, in my lower moments, I find the misunderstandings of our work to be aggravating.

Some look at college ministry as intellectual youth ministry. Others dismiss it as a mere “life-stage” ministry. Some deride it as an unhelpful “parachurch” organism/parasite. I get asked about once a month: “so when are you going to become a ‘real’ pastor.”

There are many people who get it and who invest in it and who think what we are doing is important. And that is beautiful. But the misunderstandings still drive me crazy.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to hang with people from other ministries all over the world. When I asked them to tell me the story about how they got interested and inspired to do their work they all started with this:

“When I was in college…”

That phrase has been difficult to get out of mind over the last several weeks.

Collegiate ministry may not be directly addressing poverty, or dirty water, or whatever other issue or cause you might care about, BUT it will have an impact on all of those things.

If you care about the fact that church attendance is declining rapidly in the remerging generation you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about issues of class and race and poverty that affect our cities and the education of our young people you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

If you care about global missions you should care about collegiate ministry (for two reasons: US students will be called at this point in their lives to go abroad and international students studying in the US will take the good news of Jesus back with them).

If you care about sex-trafficking, human slavery, and other rights-based issues you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about the direction of technological advancement, research, medical and scientific developments, and the progression of philosophical thought and practice you should care about collegiate ministry.

If you care about politics you should care about collegiate ministry.

And, at the risk of exploiting current events, if you care about the deep, deep brokenness in our country you should care deeply about collegiate ministry.

I had the opportunity to meet with some Boston University officials at the end of the Spring semester and they revealed a startling development:

During that semester the school, for the first time that anyone could remember, made more hospital calls for students struggling with mental health issues than for alcohol related incidents.

Among emerging adults there is a profound crisis centering around questions of meaning and being.

The shootings in Newtown and other communities are the extreme expressions of a culture that is failing miserably to answer these questions in any kind of meaningful way.

We don’t know how to talk about truly significant things like evil, life, and ultimate meaning.

Most of the people (men? boys?) committing these unthinkable shootings are between the ages of 18 and 25.

Over the next couple of weeks and months we will hear about gun control and mental health reform, and both are important and needed conversations.

But, neither get to the heart of the issue. President Obama got us there for a moment in his speech on Sunday when he asked: “Why are we here?”

This question and other questions of meaning and being (what is a human? what does it mean to be human? is there purpose and meaning and importance to life and the universe? etc, etc) are at the center of our national crisis, a crisis that impacts our young people (specifically college aged students) more than anyone.

And if you care about this, if you care about how we answer and will answer these questions as a nation and a culture, then you should care deeply and passionately about collegiate ministry.

SojournBU Being Awesome

As college students recover and discover the good news of Jesus we hope that they begin to shape their whole lives in response. This looks like everything from inviting friends to events, to stepping into roles of servanthood and leadership, to investing in neighborhoods and causes that help increase shalom in the world.

One of our students at BU, Stefi, has been responding to good news in this very way this semester. I had the opportunity to brag on her a bit in my last teaching at REUNION. The short story is that she read the book Half the Sky (also hugely influential on Amy and her decision to practice to women’s health physical therapy), and wanted to get more involved in efforts to combat the trafficking of women (especially for sexual exploitation). She has become an ambassador for Amirah Boston (you can also hear more about this in my REUNION teaching).

Stefi invited the BU crew to Amirah’s celebration dinner and it was a privilege to be included in this night of hearing stories of how God is at work bringing rescue and restoration to women through Amirah’s work (and the work of volunteers like Stefi). Good stuff!

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Easters!

We had a great Easter Sunday yesterday. Unofficially 650 people came to REUNION (Sojourn’s church partner), which will be a record. I love the energy in the Hilton when the room is so packed.

And, we hosted friends and family in our home afterwards. It is always great to bring family, church, students, and Amy’s work together in one place because it doesn’t happen often (or at least as often as we would like). It was on mission, and most of all it was FUN.

One of my all time favorite Easters!