The Continued Zonio Adventures

Back in June 2010, I resigned my position as the children’s pastor at Redwood Park Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario just north of Minnesota on Lake Superior to move back to the San Francisco Bay Area where Erin and I grew up. We weren’t sure what was next, we just knew that it was time to move, so we trusted God and took a leap of faith. Over the past four years, it’s been an amazing adventure!

A few weeks ago, I participated in the graduation ceremony for the sociology department as SJSU and was hooded as along with four other from my graduate cohort as a Master of Arts recipient! While I officially receive my degree in August, I’ve passed my thesis defense and submitted my thesis to the graduate studies department at SJSU. As a result, the Zonios find themselves at another launching off point.

As we’ve looked ahead at the kind of family life we want as well as the dreams we want to hold on to, we have realized that we need to take another leap of faith.

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The front page of the above newspaper sums up what we’re up to next🙂 There will be another Zonio family living in the Lexington, KY area beginning in July. (My brother and his family already live there. BTW, if you are looking for a top notch photographer, check out Conrhod Zonio Photography!)

One of the reasons we are moving simply has to do with affordability. As we are looking forward, in order for us to continue living in the Bay Area, both Erin and I will have to work full time. That is not what we want or dreamed of for our family. Additionally, neither Erin nor I are in fields that can strive here in the Bay Area. Moving to Lexington puts us in a place that is more affordable for our family and allows us margin to enjoy being together.

Another reason for moving to Lexington is that there are more opportunities for me to pursue my goal of being able to teach at a liberal arts college or university. Even if we stay in the Bay Area, we would have to move in five years or so in order for me to find a faculty position at a liberal arts institution. Consequently, I will be applying to the Ph.D. program in sociology at the University of Kentucky for Fall 2015.

While our lives are, once again, up in the air for the immediate future, we are excited to jump into this next part of our family journey. We are praying that this move will be the last major move for a LONG time. We are also looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us. Already, we’ve seen God take care of little details on this side of the move.

We are hugely appreciative for all of the people who have cheered, supported and prayed for us along the way. We ask that you continue to pray for us. Here are some things you can pray for as we move forward:

  • that I will quickly find full time employment in Lexington
  • for safety as we move our stuff from the SF Bay Area to Lexington
  • for our children as they adjust to a new area and new schools
  • that we will quickly find community to be a part of

We’re scared, excited, sad, anxious and expectant about this move… yes, a bunch of contradictory emotions. Most of all, we can’t wait to see what this part of our journey has for each of us.

I’ll end this post with a song that is becoming one of our family theme songs as we get closer to this move.

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The Spectacle that is Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham

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(graphic from BioLogos)

I shared this on Facebook, but I thought I’d share here in light of what I see as pointless posturing from two sides of multifaceted and nuanced understandings of a much larger conversation on origins.

BioLogos has a series of posts on the whole Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye “showdown”. I encourage you to hop on over to their site and read those posts. I have the utmost respect for BioLogos and what they are doing to engage in dialogue concerning faith and science.

Stuff like this adds to the alienation of those of us who don’t see this issue as one vs. the other or “us” vs. “them”. It also reinforces shallow caricatures of “Godless academics” and “Ignorant Christians.”

Rather than tuning into tonight’s rhetorical circus, I suggest picking up a book like Sigmund Brouwer’s “Who Made the Moon?: A Father Explores How Faith and Science Agree”, which offers what I believe is a better way to explore faith and science with your kids.

What are some other resources out there helping people explore faith and science that don’t resort to “us” vs. “them” dichotomies?

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Kidmin Culture Industry

I can’t stand your religious meetings.

I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
Eugene Cho recently posted the above verse as his Facebook status. I had read the verse before, and in that translation but had forgotten about it. Thanks to Eugene for reminding me of it🙂
Over the past few years, I’ve become more aware at the overabundance of conferences and workshops from everything to leadership to getting rich quick to church planting to living simply and I recently came across an NPR story on a conference on how to capitalize on failure…
In the kidmin world, we’re not immune to conferences. It seems like there are conferences popping up all over the place: volunteer conferences, color-coded conferences, gospel-driven-missional-biblical-relevant-fun conferences… I’ve even come across conferences on how to have conferences!
Don’t get me wrong. I love going to conferences just as much as the next conference junkie… Admittedly, I like to go so I can hang out with people and have an excuse to eat out more than I should.
The more I critically analyze and look at kidmin conferences, though, the more I see that we are simply engaging in and perpetuating a Kidmin Culture Industry. By “culture industry,” I am referring to the commercialization of a culture. In this instance, kidmin culture. Kidmin is a definite culture with multiple subcultures, and if you look close enough, each of those subcultures have their own conferences and associations and workshops and curriculum and publishing houses. I attend a number of these conferences, lead some of those workshops and even write for some of those publishing houses. Again, I’m not criticizing any of that…
What I am concerned with is that we are letting the Kidmin Culture Industry dictate and control what kidmin is supposed to look like. The theory behind “culture industry” is that a culture industry shapes and pre-packages what a certain culture is supposed to look like so that all we have to do is consume what the culture industry gives us. In so doing, we lose “authentic culture.” We lose out on unique and revolutionary voices because they don’t fit into the mold of the Kidmin Culture Industry.
Kidmin is ripe for that kind of consumption. We’re always looking for the best way to lead teams, the best way to recruit and train volunteers, the best way to teach the Bible… we even fret about the names we come up for our ministries and classrooms. So we look for books that are “practical.” We read blogs for the “37.5 Ways to Fold Take Home Papers so Parents Will Read Them.” We seek out the names of those who are successful or, at least, sound successful.
We look to the Kidmin Culture Industry to tell us what kidmin is supposed to look like.
We lose sight of authentic culture. We lose sight of the uniqueness God has gifted each of us with.
We lose sight of the people God has put in front of us and focus on some hegemonic ideal of what kidmin is supposed to look like thinking that if we could just be more like _______________ (fill in the blank of whatever kidmin you covet after), then we would be fulfilling God’s calling for our kidmin.
I’m not saying conferences and workshops and books and blogs are bad… they aren’t. What I am saying is that we need to spend more time talking with the kids and families and other people in our ministries and churches and connecting with them and their stories and connecting their stories to a much larger Story.
Spend more time building an unique, creative and authentic culture that fits your community bringing peace and justice and more of God’s Kingdom to your community.
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Kids These Days are Disengaged…

All they do is text each other. They don’t know how to have face-to-face conversations. Before cell phones, people had to actually talk to each other. Nowadays kids would rather sit in front of a screen, their thumbs deftly punching out LOL and K and🙂

Now that we’ve put kids in their place, take a look at this video:

Sociologist George Mead states that our sense of self is shaped by our interactions with each other. In other words, you shape your understanding of who you are based on how you interpret the way people interact with you. So if most of the people you interact with treat you with respect, awe and deference, you will see yourself as someone with authority and act accordingly. On the flip side, if most people around you gaze at you suspiciously, avoid speaking with you and single you out for criticism, you will see your self as an outsider. Mead called this type of interaction labeling. A person or group will eventually embody the labels placed on them if those labels are persistently applied over time by other people and groups in power.

So why the sociology lesson?

Those of us in ministry leadership wield a great deal of power over the people in our ministries whether we think so or not. This is especially true when it comes to children’s and youth ministry leaders. The labels we place on kids and students have power over them. We reproduce those labels amongst other adults we have influence over: parents, volunteer leaders, other adults at the churches we minister in… Those labels, in turn, are reinforced by those adults, influencing how we all view and interpret the actions of kids and students… Eventually, those labels influence how kids and students view themselves, and many of them begin to embody those labels. Other kids and students, though, fight against those labels, and it is our job, as those in positions of influence and authority, to stand alongside the kids and students we work with as allies and advocates. It is our job as people in positions of power in our ministries to expose the negative labels we’ve placed on kids. Once we do that we can demolish the perceived “generation gaps” we’ve constructed over time with negative labels.

What do you think?

Are these labels simply descriptions of the reality of kids and students?

Or have we created self-fulfilling prophecies of who kids and students are?

What are some negative labels you’ve placed on kids and students?

What are you doing to dispel the negative labels that are placed on kids and students?

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Winner of the Orange 13 ticket is…

Jodi Quinn!

Congratulations to Jodi for winning, and thank you for all of you sharing your game changing stories.

Amy Dolan Re-Imagines Partnering with Parents

I love Amy Dolan‘s perspective on spiritual formation and how to engage families from all walks of life. Check out this amazing post over at her blog on what I believe is a much better way to see what are job is as children’s ministers when it comes to partnering with parents.

“helping parents identify things that get in their way, and then leading each to cast aside the preventers. a new way of partnering with parents.”

Here’s a great post from Gordon West about how we need to spend more time living out Jesus every day and not focus just on “putting Christ back in Christmas.”

Gordon West - KidZ PreZ

Christmas TreeWe just heard yet another news story about the evergreen tree with colored lights on it being called a “holiday tree” this year. We attended the Phoenix Symphony yesterday for a wonderful afternoon of “Holiday Pops,” where Santa Claus wished us all “Happy Holidays.” And last night a very kind Home Depot employee noticed my VBS t-shirt before telling us that he refuses to obey corporate policy and always wishes people a “Merry Christmas.”

All of this got me wondering, does it really make any difference? Perhaps the bigger issue is how we, who know Jesus, celebrate every day of our lives!  In fact, instead of watching the world take Christ out of Christmas, what if we put Jesus INTO every holiday?  Why not try celebrating a bit differently in 2013:

  • On January 21 (MLK Day), honor God and Martin Luther King, Jr, by living in peace with others in…

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#OrangeTour comes to the San Francisco Bay Area!!!

I’m excited to be at the Orange Tour at Westgate Church in San Jose, CA.

I thought these name tags with your Twitter handle were great!

Reggie opened up with a great challenge to meet the changes of culture in a positive light. I love this emphasis by Reggie and the ReThink group. He challenged all of us to think about how we are trying to reach the 75% of the people who will never enter the church. I can go on about my ideas of the theological and sociological ideals that have led to the church focusing on just the 25% who are already here, but that would take too long and many of you would nod off. In short, I agree with Reggie that we have lost sight of one of our imperatives to go outside of ourselves and respectfully engage those who don’t believe what we believe.

If you haven’t attended anything Orange, and you are in any type of ministry that engages families, what are you waiting for? Check out one of the Tour stops or go to the Orange Conference!

#MAKEASTAND

Have you heard of this amazing 8 year old?

“Gandhi was one person. Martin Luther King was one person. Mother Theresa was one person. Why can’t you be one person?”

Vivienne Harr, an 8 year old girl in Fairfax, CA saw a picture of two boys who are victims of modern-day slavery carrying huge slabs of rock on their backs. She decided that she wanted to raise enough money to free 500 kids from slavery. With the help of her family, she set up a lemonade stand in May of 2012 to accomplish this. She has made lemonade and shown up to sell it everyday since then. So far, she’s raised $20,000! She has inspired people all over the world to join her efforts and is even collaborating to come out with her very own brand of lemonade of which all profits will go to Not For Sale.

What are we doing in our children’s ministries to inspire children like this? Is it even important to do so? How do we go beyond inspiration to empowerment?

Family Ministry Blog Tour

I’m a couple of days late on getting this post up for the Family Ministry Blog Tour. (You can take a look at all the other posts on this tour here.) Life’s been crazy between being a dad taking care of kids on summer break, beginning research for my masters thesis (which has yet to take any coherent form), and working part time as part of the children’s ministry team at Menlo Park Presbyterian.

Figuring out what it means to minister to families has been something I’ve wrestled with since I stumbled upon a Children’s Ministry article in 2001 about a church in Atlanta that was doing a shared family experience. It talked about how this church was finding ways to intentionally partner with parents in the discipleship of their children. Following that, I had the opportunity to hear the family ministry director of the church at that time speak at a conference. While at that conference, I was able to grab lunch with that ministry leader and was challenged about my ideas and prejudices in children’s ministry.

Fast forward to the present… I’m still wrestling with what it means to minister to families! My views, thoughts, philosophies, understandings and practices continue to change. I’ve been in ministry as a volunteer and on staff. I’ve been in megachurches, small churches and churches in between. I’ve worked as a solo children’s minister and as part of a team. I’ve also served in various contexts in the United States and Canada. Family ministry has looked differently in each of the different places I’ve been.

I’m currently reading a book by Stephanie Coontz, a historian and family researcher, entitled “The Way We Never Were.” In it, Coontz details and debunks our fascination with the idea of a “traditional family” by shedding light on what families, especially American families, have looked like over the past 200 years. One of the themes in the book is that we will not be able to move forward and help families thrive if we continue to long “for a past that was never as idyllic or uncomplicated as we sometimes imagine” (p. xxviii). While Coontz is referring to helping families thrive socially, I believe the same issue is keeping us from helping families thrive spiritually.

As I survey the different discussions surrounding family ministry, I have heard many voices calling for a return to “gospel-centered” or “biblical” families. While these calls are well-intentioned, I don’t think they do much to help families enter into what Skye Jethani refers to as the “with-God” life. The reason for this is because those calls infer that there is an ideal style or model of family that exists or existed. Those calls berate families for falling short of this mythical ideal and, in turn, discourage parents who already feel deficient in how they are conducting the direction of their families.

Family has always been in a continual state of flux. (Note that I did not say that the Gospel has been in a state of flux.) There has never been a “golden age” of family life and there never will be; trying to point back to one is pointless. So, how do we move forward and frame what family ministry is?

First, we recognize the gospel story is a story… God’s Story. It is a story of hope, love and redemption that God began at creation, turned on its head with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ and continues to write today.

Second, we recognize that the idea of family is a continually changing story. Families throughout history and locations will look different from each other, and each of those families is writing their own stories.

Third, we help families discover how to allow God to rewrite their stories rather than God simply being a recurring character or footnote in their stories.

This kind of family ministry is messy. This kind of family ministry doesn’t have all the answers. This kind of family ministry isn’t about replicating an ideal family type. This kind of family ministry empowers each family to uniquely become more like the family God wants them to be rather than the kind of family I think all families should be like.