The Center for Faith & Culture—Olivet Nazarene University

Mark Holcomb

Just for Fun

Not sure where you're at in your ministry rhythm, but it's January on the calendar, and for many of us that means some type of winter fare; skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, tubing, winter retreats, etc.

Along with that come some of the most vivid memories to my days in youth ministry.  So I'm sitting in a Starbucks yesterday talking with a youth pastor, and we began to reminisce about incidents we encountered while on one of these winter trips with our youth groups.  I realize stories like these aren't limited to the month of January, but also thought maybe you needed something to laugh about, something to remind you of the reason we all are in youth ministry, to watch our students hurt themselves.  In every case we shared, we agreed and knew that it "hurt", but it was "funny".  Thanks Brittany.

In that vein, here are a couple of my stories.

On this particular evening, we were skiing on a hill in Michigan called Bittersweet, and that is what this particular night entailed.  I remember skiing down one of the runs, to see several students from our group looking down in a ravine, which is never a good thing.  I asked them what was going on, and they proceeded to tell me that Sarah was down there.  Apparently what had happened is she was "cut off" by another skier, and was sent flying off the run, into the ravine, where she came to a stop under a fallen tree.  The reason cut off is in quotation marks is because you've never seen Sarah ski.  Well, after I quit laughing, listening to her languish about her knee being bent in ways it shouldn't, we got some help to get her out.  Her knee was okay, her ego wasn't.

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Tags: Youth

Sabbath: Option or Mandate?


Now, I'm not an expert on Sabbath, Sabbath-keeping, etc., but I think that is part of the problem.  Let me try and explain what I'm talking about.

I recently got off the phone with a youth pastor who is just flat burned out.  He talked with me about the need he was having for a break, and what I think he was asking for was a Sabbath, a rest, a break from the routine.  This was more than just a time to spend with family; as a matter of fact, from the outside looking in, I thought he was one of the guys who had it all together.  I thought he was pretty balanced in his life at church and home.  From the outside, he seemed like he was doing okay.  Apparently I was wrong.

He didn't have an affair, not even on the radar screen.  He didn't have a meltdown, loss of work ethic, fractured marriage, or kids who hated him.  He didn't have a board that was too demanding, a slave driver as a senior pastor, or a youth staff that expected him to be at everything and do it all himself.  He was just dying from the inside out.  His pastor was shocked when he told him how he felt.  The board was supportive but a little bewildered by his request for a sabbatical.  How does this happen?  How do we get here? 

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Tags: Sabbath, Youth

The Fine Art of Discipline


As a veteran youth worker, I realized as I thought about this topic, that at times I've not been very good at saying no.  Let me explain by retelling a story that occurred when my children were very young. 

We were going into JC Penney to buy a pair of shoes for my then 6-year-old first grader, with my then 4-year-old daughter tagging along.  I had a conversation with my four-year-old that went something like this:  "Now Kelli, we're going into this store to buy shoes for Kristin, not for you.  You don't need shoes, she does.  Daddy isn't going to buy you shoes.  This is just for Kristin."

We then proceeded to go through the long tedious process of finding that pair of shoes that was just right.  27 pair of shoes later, watching my 4-year-old slump deeper and deeper into despair, agonizing over the fact that she was watching her sister try on one pair of shoes after another, she disappeared.  Can't really say that I blame her, I wanted to leave the scene as well. 

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Tags: Youth

Purpose-Driven; in or out?

 “Ministry is not something we do to someone else.  It is a holy way of living toward God and toward one another. . .Somehow in the din of modernity, . . .we traded holiness for effectiveness, charisms for careers, soulfulness for savvy.  In the meantime, youth got lost. So did many adults.”
(The Godbearing Life, pg. 9)

There are two books on my shelf that were written the same year, and seem to come from two different perspectives of ministry.  One is written by a mega-church youth pastor, with a very catchy title.  The other is co-written by educators, with a familiar title, but not outside of youth ministry circles.  One talks about growing a healthy youth ministry, while the other talks about tending to the souls of students.  One talks of putting oneself on a “path” of maturity, while the other talks of maturity through a particular set of practices.   So, which one is right?

I want to begin by saying that there is help that we can take from both, but it depends on the way we approach them.  Let me explain.<--break->

There was a popular parody on Saturday Night Live last fall involving the character Oscar Rogers.  His remedy to everything is to “identify the problem, and FIX IT!  Then you identify another problem, and FIX IT!  It’s a simple three step process.  Step one, FIX.  Step two, IT.  Step three, FIX IT.  Then repeat steps one, two, and three until it’s FIXED.  Tomorrow morning when I eat my bowl of cheerios, I better read it’s been FIXED!”

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Tags: Youth

Closing the Chasm

As a youth pastor and life-long youth worker, I’ve always tried to be a student of culture. So much of what we do in youth ministry is missional in its approach and missionary in its activity. Youth ministry has been shaped for well more than 15 years by words like incarnation and transformation, and more recently by words like postmodernity and emergence. This has led us to an openness and innovation that, at least from where I stand, is able to be more fluid and flexible than other ministries in the church.

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Tags: Youth