Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why do Our Kids Leave the Church - Personal Caveats

It’s my paranoia taking I just know, but when I sound critical, I start to read the minds of the listener. The best example of my realized paranoia was when a poster on Imonk said something to the effect of, “I’m tried of these highbrow people sitting in Starbucks and typing criticisms about the church from their Blackberrys.” The implication of his comment was that was all they do (Vs doing anything about the problem). I had to laugh because I was one of the previous posters, who said critical things, and I was literally reading his comments on my Blackberry at Starbucks. LOL.

But there is truth to the concern about those critics who do nothing else. I’m not a fan of clichés but the one, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution” is sometimes true . . . maybe.

So, I thought I would humbly give my background of how I’ve tried (and as they say down South . . . “God knows I’ve tried”) to make a difference. I share my background in humility, not trying to boast about any of it. Actually take any church ministry expert and let them review my record and they will tell you that everything I’ve attempted in the past 30 years has been a complete failure. But, you will realize that I don’t happen to sit in Starbucks all the time and throw hand grenades at the church across the street from the safety of my round burnt-orange table (don’t call the police it is just a metaphor).

I became a Christian when I was 17. When I was 18, I took over the leadership of our youth group and functioned as the youth pastor for the next four years (while I was in college). Simultaneously, during my four years of undergraduate school, I was involved with the Navigators in a very intense ministry on campus of East Tennessee State University.

After finishing college, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky for the main purposes of a.) attending graduate school, b.) helping to start a new Navigator campus ministry at the University of Kentucky and c.) to endure (and endure is a polite word) a very intensive Navigator staff training program for four years.

After graduate school, I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where I worked full time plus attempted to start a new Navigator ministry at Eastern Michigan University. My wife and I eventually became involve with international students (more so than American) at EMU. We were a host family to Yemenese students for four years.

During that same four years, I led the college and career group at our local church.

From that point, we went as Navigator missionaries to the Middle East, to work with Muslims. We were missionaries for three years.

Once we returned to the states (and I haven’t mentioned our own children yet) our family grew to five children. I had a few years of confusion before we settled back into the church scene.
I was the “Deacon of Small Groups” at our church for four years, while our children were still young.

When I kept running to barriers at the traditional church (after spending a huge amount of energy and research) I started a house church. It lasted for a little over a year and I disbanded it when the families wanted to turn it into a cult. But my main reason for trying to start the house church was to create a more positive church experience for our kids.

We moved to another town, about the time the oldest ones were becoming teenagers. One of the reasons we moved was because a good friend of mine was the youth pastor of a large church in that town. I was also involved with that ministry for that year. That church went through an ugly split and my employer was in a mess so we moved again.

One of the main reasons that our next move took us to Rochester, Minnesota was because that was the US headquarters of LAbri Fellowship International. I wanted my kids (and myself) to be exposed to their unique ministry. They also had a school “Schaeffer Academy” that we planned on enrolling our kids in (but it never worked out for reasons too complicated to describe here). We lived there for five years. We went to a large church that had a youth pastor, but my wife and I were very involved with those youth groups and things for the younger kids, like Awana.

We eventually moved from that area out here to the West Coast about six years ago. It is a long story, but one of the reasons we moved was the negative influence that a couple of our teenagers were experiencing via friends in Minnesota. It was a smart move.

In the last six years we have been very involved with a local church. I’ve been an elder, head elder, Sunday school teacher for both adults and teens and a small group leader.

So throughout this 30 year saga, I’ve worked very hard to make the church what I think it should be. But most, if not all, of the time I’ve failed miserable. So I don’t just sit in Starbucks and type on my Blackberry. Actually I’m sitting in Starbucks right now but I’m typing on my VAIO laptop.


Anonymous said...

Caveats are of my favorite things to add to any pot I'm stirring. :)

This bit of personal history was interesting. Looking forward to more.

MJ said...

Oh I meant to add, that there are many people out there . . . who are more gifted that I am . . . who could have made a difference, where I failed to.

Also, did you see my question. Do you happen to know pastor Don and Mary Lou Bowery? They are in Anchorage and Mary Lou was in the East Tennessee State U. Nav ministry with me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I forgot to answer that. No. I'm not in Anchorage. But your blizzard comment was cool. :)