Friday, January 8, 2010

In-Laws… or In-Loves?

I went to a Memorial service yesterday. It was for a youth pastor at our sister Nazarene church (Aurora) 8 miles away. Jordan Crouch died in his sleep Sunday morning at 1am. He was only 28 yrs old.

I didn't know Jordo, but I know the staff he worked with well. Mark (the other pastor I work with) and I thought going to the memorial service would be a good way to support our fellow ministry partners. Although I didn't know Jordo well, I was deeply moved throughout the service. Jordo, being just shy of two full years younger than me, got married a week before Bree and I did and had a son 3 months after Phineas, my son was born. It was easy for me to relate to the pain and loss of those present. The stories of smiles and good times touched the hearts. The message shared by Jim Manker spoke truth into the sad situation.

While sitting in the ceremony, several things stood out to me. The one I want to touch on is the reference to Jordo's wife's family. They were spoken of not as in-laws, but as in-loves… his father-in-love, his mother-in-love. These seemingly insignificant modifications to a common term spoke volumes to me about the kind of life Jordo lived. From what I gather from even this slight modification from in-law to in-love, Jordo displayed for all to see his passion for the Kingdom of God; his desire to love God, love life, and love family.

I hope to continue – having participated in a memorial for a colleague I didn't know – to live (as my friend Jason Harwood said) a better life having known him. I hope to live in-love. May my relationships be defined, not by the law, but by the Love – the love Christ so graciously has bestowed upon me!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thoughts on University Ministry

In writing these ideas down, I hope they help to aid our continual outlook into ways of engage the University community in the Kingdom of God!

Pastor vs. Missionary:

This is an interesting topic isn't it? Since my time at NTS I've often thought of myself and the types of ministries I'm involved in as missional. When I was in a Missions class at NTS we were asked to research a mission area, interview the missionaries and present a report giving site statistics and information about our world mission area. Being interested in secular campus ministry I asked if I could research Nazarene Secular Campus Mission and the Nazarene ministry in Lawrence.

One reason I bring up the concept of Pastor vs Missionary is that traditionally the Pastor is paid and supported through the local church. In a campus ministry, and one can assume especially working with a secular campus, the college students are not going to be able to support a paid staff person. The staff person almost needs to be seen more as a missionary – supported by the general church, perhaps in this case the district.

I think we have a good example of the district taking on a missionary here in Seattle at the Church of the Undignified. In 2002 the WAPAC district brought on a young couple to begin mission work on Capitol Hill, a neighborhood known for its drug abuse, prostitution, homosexuality, and wealth. It has been through the leadership of Benji and Abbi Rodes, seen as pastors/missionaries that the ministry on Capitol Hill has flourished and touched many lives.

In the church we often tell our people they can be missionaries right where they are. We encourage them to engage the culture we're in as we hope to communicate the Gospel where we are… even in the post-modern era. Perhaps this is one (of many) opportunity for the local churches and districts within the Church of the Nazarene to support local missions. As David Kyncl, the director of the 2:8 House says of the University of Oklahoma, "there are students from all 50 states and more than 100 other countries who attend OU. That is our mission field, and reason this ministry exists" (taken from the Nazarene Secular Campus Mission

In my perspective regional districts within the Church of the Nazarene have the opportunity to be an example throughout the denomination by standing alongside the WAPAC and Oklahoma districts in seeing part of their own district as a mission field worth sending and supporting – through prayer & finances.

Creative Access:

We have a family friend who is a Missionary for the Church of the Nazarene in a "Creative Access" area. For practical description purposes in the church this means she's in a country which does not allow missionaries. While visiting with her at General Assembly she told us her hope of developing a "store front" community center which can help financially support the ministry while also providing a means into the lives of those in her community.

Basically this is where my philosophy of ministry plays out. I believe even here in North America we are in need of utilizing creative access type ministries to engage our culture. We don't have to do be creative to work around the government but we do have to be creative to build relationships and create ways to step into the lives of our neighborhoods. I believe this is true for University Ministries as well as for the general church.

This can be done in several ways, and of course my most recent experience, which I'm still involved in and hold dearly, revolves around a coffee house. Here in Seattle, it is said that only 2% of all of the people claim any religious affiliation. And so a creative access ministry such as the coffee house comes in to play in providing a safe place to get to know neighbors. Our coffee house has created a new vision of what the church is and can be for many in our community. Our church, because of the coffee house, is now seen as a vital participant in the life of our friends and neighborhood. We, the Pastoral Staff and Church at large, are invited to the corporate table to discuss needs – a privilege in today's city.

Operate a large living facility:

What I envision here is something similar to a Greek House – incorporating intentional community practicing Kingdom ethics.

A friend of mine up until this school year worked with the Baptist Church at the University of Washington. Back in the 1960's the Baptist church bought an old Frat House across the street from UW. Today they operate the old frat house as the Purple Door.

The Purple Door has been a place for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at UW to offer intentional Christian communal housing to students. Over the past few years the Purple Door has required a once a week mandatory meal where the residents prepare a meal, eat and discuss a topic together. They often had guest speakers and themes for discussion. During the summer of 2008 many of the residents went on a "mission trip to India". Although the house was originally going to be purely Christian Students desiring to live in such a community, to fill all the rooms, non-Christian students moved in. The community truly became a safe place for all where open dialogue became the norm.

In 2005 when my wife and I began working with University Church in Lawrence KS, the leadership was looking into purchasing/renting an old Frat House. The hope was to provide a living place while also fostering Christian community and allowing the rented rooms to cover the cost of the mortgage or rent. Along with this vision was also the thought that the main floor common area could be created in such a way as to mimic that of a coffee house; an open space to anyone in the (student) community. Interactions of this nature have the potential to make a vital impact on the lives of students.


Invest in a Campus Ministry Center:

Traditionally Campus Ministry Centers have been buildings similar to a church facility, used for limited hours throughout the week.

Ideally the campus ministry center would be as close to campus as possible. One possibility with Campus Ministry Center's is that you can "kill" two birds with one stone by having the house double as the residence for the Campus Pastor. And depending on the size of the house – interns or several students could stay there as well (also accomplishing the above mentioned idea).

Out of the life of a Campus Ministry Center, activities such as weekly bible studies, book clubs, study groups, small groups, and large community meals can take place. Worship services and house churches could even be birthed from the Campus Ministry Center.

Within the Church of the Nazarene, it seems as though the purchase of a home for a district might be an odd thing. However, when we boil it down that's essentially what each church parsonage is – district owned. And it seems as though this model could work out to the benefit of the district in that the property, next to a State University, is in a prime location for ministry opportunities as well as investments. Another possible plus side to the Student Ministry Center being owned and operated by the district is that in the event of a minister leaving the location all assets remain in the district hands to continue in God's mission.


As I think and pray about my own ministry, I come back to the idea that not one thing will define it. All of the things I've listed above are true and can take place, yet not one of them can happen purely on its own. The beauty of the Church and its ministries is that they all have life and personalities and yet are interconnected. If I were to be directing a Communal Living facility, I would plan on also being involved in a local church. The same is true of a Campus Ministry Center.

Notice not one of my ideas was to develop a church specifically for the University students. At this time in my life I personally don't think this is a healthy function or option. (However, if one grew out of an item listed above, who are we to stop the Spirit?) But, as I see it, too often we tailor our ministries to a specific group, and it makes me wonder – how do they function on the other side?

What do High School students do when released from the Youth Ministry? Well, many drop out of the church. What do college students do once they've graduated? If they attended church during college, many of them flounder in the general church, longing for age specific ministries. It seems a healthier strategy is to introduce them throughout their church experience to a multi-generational ministry. The church, and the kingdom of God, is neither descriptive of one age group nor prescribed for one distinctive age.

I would hope that given opportunities to develop and create a campus ministry that we would somehow unite the Church of the Nazarene around the common goal of loving as Christ loves; having a united church, with different arms and legs and flavors throughout the city engaging and reaching the community with the love that knows no boundaries.