When your in debt…

Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)

There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……

Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.

So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…

What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.

A nice way to think about these situations are like this (your planting the seeds of stewardship)

328 × 272 – colsdioc.org

What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..

575 × 300 – staparish.net

What it didn’t include:

ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….

The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.

I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…

and less about this

367 × 224 – salempresbytery.org

If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!

But here is the long and short of it.

American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….

All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….

We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.

Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?

I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)

And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!

 

Graph from the fascinating article linked above

“I don’t think it’s going to work….

“I don’t think that’s going to work” This remark was not made as a criticism, but as a statement of what this person saw as the facts of the situation.

“I don’t think people are going to let go”

“Well, that is what we are going to have to learn” I responded

Ultimately we discussed the matter a little more and it ended with the remark “I don’t think people are going to change”

To which I replied “I have to believe they can, or I can’t be a pastor–I have to believe people will change for the better an learn to work together, otherwise what am I doing here?”

Ah, Truth!

What controversial issue was I discussing? Something about technology or homosexuality, something to do with theology or principles? Some issue about the order of worship or where church takes place or who is sitting in what pews (these issues are so often where the rubber hits the road in ministry)

Nope:

Name: Pastor Katy

Quest: To minister to the body of Christ so that we can build the Kingdom of God

Current Mission: To get people to share in the leadership of the Farmer’s Market.

That’s it, the issue is the people who ran the farmer’s market last year have some very important grandparenting duties this summer, plus it was a super-duper-success last year

So I told them, I wanted to put two people in charge of the Farmer’s Market in June, July  and August (with me to open and close in May and Sept/Oct). I started out by noting that

a. delegating is harder work than doing it yourself

b. people are not going to be doing things exactly as we want them

c. BUT its important that people are invested.

Here is the test of ministry, not on theology or worship but politics. How do we work together as a community–but I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I believe the church exists ultimately as community builders–that is true https://i0.wp.com/radiofreebabylon.com/RFB%20Images/CoffeeWithJesus/coffeewithjesus500.jpgKingdom building work, and its hard, its messy and its dirty–but there it is!!!

Now to figure out how to do it!!!!

 

Life, Fairy Tales, God, Children: How Katy Works

Why do I go to church?

You know, most people my age don’t go to church

Most of them don’t even believe in religion

They may believe in God, but if they do it tends not to be the “standard” version of God

These people are usually identified as “nones‘ (which is kind of a detrimental name, even though I know it isn’t meant that way…maybe we should be calling them/us something else) Something like 75% of people my age don’t affiliate in their religion

(for more about why I include myself, a pastor, in this at times, please read my post “I don’t Know What I believe”)

But I believe in God….Life is just too short to be meaningless…

Meaningless is just too hopeless to be believed

And people are just to wonderful to give up on….

And because of these truths, I believe in God….I know that not everyone believes what I believe, and I don’t mind (usually). As long as you aren’t preaching hate as gospel, I’m pretty ok with most beliefs…after all I’m not the one who is going to judge whether the fig tree is bearing fruit. That is up to the boss.

What I do worry about, is my generation in terms of willingness to try to religion. Have we given up? Do we truly think it has nothing to offer? Does the bad really outweigh the good? Do we think that we can only find our own spirituality outside of church? (What does that have to say about church, but what does that also have to say about us).

I recently learned that millenials are those of us born between 1980 and 2000. Here is what we have in common.

We grew up in a boom, but came into maturity in a economic downturn/depression

We are the children of baby boomers

We tend to be called hipsters

We don’t have a lot of life opportunities: jobs, marriages, having children–>we have to put these things off

We were all born in a pre 9/11 reality

We grew up with Harry Potter

We like individuality–but tend not to rebel, but instead go off our own way

We are thought of as ungrateful and lazy

We don’t have a strong religiousity

Yet here I am: mother, fairy tale enthusiast and pastor. Here I am, trying to figure out if I have a strong enough call to conduct a ministry via sci-fi and fantasy that I need to invent something to do this.

In a lot of ways I am “old-fashioned” for my age. I am young, married, have three children and an “old-fashioned” kind of job that carries with it healthcare and a pension (at least for now). And yet, I feel the pain of those around me. I too am physically weighed dow

n by student debt that I’m terrified I’ll never get rid of, I too understand that completeness and fulfillment will not fully come from my employment (hmm…that should be on the list above).

So I guess I’ll keep at it, hang onto the understanding th

at my concept of religion and my relationship with God is helpful to some of the people in my life, and that people will or won’t join churches on their own, and its not my responsibility.

Still–and take this for what its worth–I like church and I believe in God…

Katy likes it! Hopefully if/when you are interested you can find a place that fits you too!

Dear Child: Faith is a journey. –Love God

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Faith is a journey, and sometimes that journey isn’t an easy one.

But as we learn more and more about Jesus, here is what we learned

1. Jesus did ministry on the move. You notice that Jesus is almost always making his way between cities? Sure Israel is the size of the New Jersey but the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee is about 240 miles, and Jesus walked that more than once.

2. Jesus believed in packing light, but he also believed in good traveling companions—Jesus asks us to take no extra baggage, but to always remember to take a friend, so if you are considering going on a visit for church, pursuing ministry or just doing something new in your spiritual life, Jesus recommends doing it with someone else. (which is why I advocate Co-Pastorships)

3. The Holy Spirit guides us—just as it guided Jesus Christ, we need to remember that we are following Christ’s footsteps, and we have the best guide, we just need to take the time to listen to what God is doing.

4. Its called walking in “Jesus’s Footsteps” not “Sitting in Jesus’s Pews.” My Church’s Farmer’s Market has been a giant step outside of our sanctuary (which is sad that this is a big step, nevertheless its great we’ve done-so) , but we need to figure out where Christ is going, and how to follow him there (as opposed to say, staying where we are and assuming that God wants us to stay there forever)

5. Jesus took Sabbath: Jesus escaped the crowds, he rode boats, he ate with friends, he prayed alone. He found ways to take a break for himself and his ministry, so that he could recharge for the next one.

6. Jesus did not have a checklist. Jesus did not have any requirements for following him—he did not require gold, food or certain characteristics. You can bet one of the disciples was the person who always complained about everything, and another one was that nice but not too bright person, and that one of them had a mental illness, one of them was socially awkward and one of them talked incessantly, while another wouldn’t talk at all. Yet Jesus invited them all to journey with him. He didn’t even require belief (instead he fostered it). He just asked people to come exactly as they were.

What can we do?

Recently I’ve been thinking about how to better meet and get to know the community. What are their needs? What are their prayer concerns?

Maybe we should have a prayer concern board out at the farmer’s market. Maybe we should have projects to thank all those who serve the community (nurses, EMTs, police, Firefighters), maybe we should fundraise for the poor, maybe we should give out free meals, maybe we should grow our own garden to donate fresh food, maybe we should provide a space for people to pray—as you can I’m full of ideas. In fact, at times I get carried away, and it can be overwhelming for others. But, I am confident that we have important things to do, and we are capable to do them!

Convergences, Nones and the church is dying (do you believe in resurrection?)

http://www.faithandleadership.com/blog/01-10-2013/david-lose-its-time-think-differently

“What’s the problem? someone might ask. “People don’t go to church in the numbers they used to,” we answer. No, that’s not the problem. “People don’t give money to programs like they once did.” Nope, not that either. These are just symptoms.

And as long as you think the problem is lower attendance or giving, then the only possible response is to do what we’ve always done, except do it better. We preach the same as we always did, except now we use screens and PowerPoint. Worship hasn’t really changed, but now we’ve thrown in a drum set. What we are doing is fundamentally the same, yet we somehow expect different results….(excerpted from above blog)”

hmmm….maybe the problem is THEOLOGICAL

Ie changing the time of church or the order of worship and adding more programs (the most common solutions I’ve seen to “change” the church) do not an exciting/relevant church make.

Recently my friends and I had a discussion on facebook about what church is…here is a microcosm (kind of the adverse of NPR’s study on why people don’t go to church, we discussed what church could/should be)

Tim said “A lot of theological terms confuse and get misconstrued…and I think you’re right – finding the people locally rather than them finding you. How? is the big question. Through all the misconceptions and stigma “church” gets, it’s a real challenge. There has to be some risk-taking…”

Shellie said…”Yes!!! It’s life together, authentic relationships, passionate worship, interactive study of scripture, no agenda or programs to distract or divide us, communion as a meal gathered at the table. Intimate yet informal, depth yet accessibility. A truly beautiful expression of the Church”

Tim said “Distractions being key there. We are easily distracted into thinking the programs/building/structure is “church” even when we agree that the “church” is relationships between God and people.”

Shellie said “Yes. Exactly. I’ve worked in several churches where – even with the best of intentions – the emphasis shifts to the curriculum, programs, worship service performance – and relationships slide further down the priority list. And it’s not just a pastoral problem or leadership problem – the “church” has grand expectations for its pastors.” and “es!!! How often does “do authentic relationships” or “serve the widowed, poor, oppressed” or “spend face-to-face time with the unlovely or persons outside the faith” show on our job descriptions of the church’s expectations?”

Oh and I said some stuff too…

“i think that’s what confuses people, they think church is just for belief, but I maintain its for unbelievers and faith (belief is something else!)”

“Awesome, its so hard, I think that we “do” church differently and a lot of people who are friends of mine would come, but now I need to find those people locally, I think that the idea of “church” gets in our way”

“I always say that when the church bought its first building everyone was probably like “what? That’s crazy, that won’t be real church, real church happens in peoples houses” etc, etc. all the objections people have to churches without pews or in different locations (coffeeshops, etc)”

“lol which is hilarious because the pastor’s job is to put themselves out of a job (teach others to pray, teach others to preach, teach others to lead–but church’s do focus on the programs”

The convergence continues

(Young Spiritual (and maybe not religious) people are converging! See the following article for more about the awesome convergence!!!)

Shasta and Aslan -Horse and His Boy

“While Nevin’s …

“While Nevin’s elevation of the church to the status of being Christ’s mystical body resulted in a condemnation of his views by his contemporary, Charles Hodge (1797-1878), president of Princeton Seminary, who particularly objected to the place of the church in Nevin’s work, stating that the whole spirit of The Mystical Presence “is churchy,”presenting “all our access to Christ [as] through a mediating church,” ascribing “to the outward church, the attributes and prerogatives of the mystical body of Christ.”-

-Barb Hedges-Goettl,

how about that, the whole church used to be considered Spiritual and not Religious

Think One Person Can Change the World?????

We do too

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That’s where they got me. I mean I was pretty sure that Oberlin was the undergraduate program for me. I had talked to the dweeby guy, stood up to my counselor “You sure you want to move that far away” (um…DUH I hate high school), and all, but when I got the packet with Oberlin’s old motto, it got me.

I also probably should have realized that I was going to be a minister then, because I was kind of like one person has changed the world (ie Jesus) and he has totally empowered me to do the sameImage

…ah the confidence of youth….

But if you know me, I am the eternal optimist, so I hopefully haven’t become too cynical since then, even though the world keeps on giving me worst and worst news….bad economy, little jobs, sucky compensation for work done, the evaporation of pension funds, the need to put off life (marriage, house, children etc) due to the aforementioned problems, wars, fiscal cliffs, national debts and taxes.

However I believe there has been a cultural shift in the last election–it hasn’t really to do with the president but more the fact that racism and bigotry has been limited due to the backlash for some representatives comments Re; gays, women, abortion, etc.

Part of that change was examined in my last post Open Source Culture (Go Millenials!)

Thanks to a recent conversation with my philosophical compadre Charlie, I have crystalized some of what I have been writing towards in the last couple of posts. (PS he totally pointed out that at least in a democracy we all have a vote that is value–talk about power)Image

Churches need to do the following to Change the World

Build a Community that

1. Forgives Debts: That’s right, be proactive, do a kickstart, open donations, find some way to address indidividual’s debts in your community–I suggest starting with student debt since that is the least questionable kind of debt. What if we as the church worked to communally Forgive as many debts as possible?

Image

2. Be multigenerational: Church is one of the few places where different generations interact who are not related. Embrace this. Keep young people in church, give them a special space to be look at one example. If we make those connections that otherwise can’t be made, then we are providing a service. (and of course this means making worship accessible to those spiritual but not religious people).

3. Finally Educate, educate, educate. Why are people in debt? In pursuit of education. What if church’s provided free community education: relieving debt and bringing generations together in one fell swoop (HA, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) I would love to spearhead a million different educational opportunities for my community, because that is a concrete way of helping people.

THink one church can change the world????

Open Sourcing and Laziness

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Ok, so what if this open source movement which started with the music companies and the digital downloading (actually it started with the record button on VCRs but I’m too youngImage to remember that). Was a cultural shift today? If you look at communities sharing businesses, etc. this generation is into open source

Examples include Relayrides, carsharing, CSA, community gardens, couchsurfing, firefox, anything Wiki and of course probably the most famous and one of the first Linux

Opensource means sharing information freely so that the community benefits. Granted making money by sharing your car isn’t a direct example of open source, but the free sharing of when you use and don’t use your car helps to free it up so others can use it (see what I mean). It also can hint at laziness because your are using someone else’s work/resources to get information. You didn’t do the work yet you get to benefit from it!

When it comes to Spirituality, my generation also tends to take a more open source perspective, enjoying all of the knowledge that comes from religion and then choosing what they want to practice (hence spiritual not religious can mean anything from a vague idea of God, to a number of spiritual practices that just to happen to exist via the church). I think this is a piece of culture of millennials that older people are missing. In fact there is a slight movement towards Open Source Theology/Christianity Read Landon Whitsitt’s book  or blog(http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/11/27/pecans-and-pastors-continued/) or checkout http://www.opensourcetheology.net/ and the Bible without Religion Project http://jimpalmerblog.com/rfv-bible-religion-free-version-by-jim-palmer/.

Which brings me to the “lazy” idea. There is this idea that unemployed people are lazy, and since roughly %40  of those who are unemployed are under the age of 30 I take great offense of this. Every single person I know is looking for a job, those who are employed are either underemployed or unable to make enough to support themselves/their families (this is esp. true for families where one spouse has found employment and the other is more limited in their geographical choices). It isn’t that we are lazy, its that we can’t find work, and we have to make do in the in-between. (And if you think people don’t want to be working, do me a favor and offer someone a job and see what they say)

In the meantime we are making do by sharing, by returning to trading times, goods and services for things instead of money. Something that started as an internet phenomenon (free information: its everywhere) became a necessity as we couldn’t get to work, and the reality that working harder has not meant that we do better/make more money or are more successful. Since we’ve seen through the promise of “work hard and you’ll succeed” (because that’s what we were told growing up).

If you mean we won’t work harder for little to no rewards, if you mean that we don’t have our eye on the prize, if you mean we are less possessive and are becoming instead an open source generation: then yes, I guess your right we are lazy Instead we are doing what we need to make ends meet and then using our extra time creatively.

But I, instead, see it as a cultural shift away from materials and valuing information, a place where timeand space are seen as more definitional than profession or monetary status. Image

Yes, boredom helps creativity, and yes we as a generation are bored, there is little to no meaning in our lives, and all the things we were taught to strive for (no student debt, professional fulfillment, financial security) are inattainable–but that boredom is giving us creativity. And if that is a side effect to our so called laziness, I’ll take it.

I see this as a moment for change…

Go Laziness, Go Openness, Go Millenials, I wonder what we will do next

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REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please

Shannon A Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

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