Category Archives: Culture

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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#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?

Ouch! Honesty Hurts!

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by Bethany L King)

A couple of days ago, Eugene Cho had this post on his blog. He mentioned Amos 5:21-24 and challenged to read it as if it were addressed to each of us. He pointed out that it is cool for us to point out the cheesiness of “those Christians” and makes the case that we sometimes cross the line and become what we are criticizing.

Here’s the text from Amos 5:21-24 (The Message):

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.

I know that I can be pretty critical of evangelical subculture, and I have been. Thanks, Eugene, for the reminder to remain humble and not make the criticisms the goal.

What are your thoughts? Can we be too critical of our more traditional and fundamental brothers and sisters? When have we crossed the line from passion into criticism?

 

"Christians Rule!"

A month ago I finally watched the 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards from Nickelodeon. Yes, I know… it was on a while ago… why hadn’t I seen it already… Well, it hadn’t been aired in Canada, so it took a while before seeing it. ANYWAY… I watched award after award being accepted. Then Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) received the award for Favourite Female Singer and Favourite Female TV Actress. She got up and thanked her “Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ” for her awards. Now, there is nothing wrong with doing that, but I wonder… why make a point of it? It’s almost as if she HAD to say it in order to legitimize her standing in the I’m-a-Christian club.

OK, maybe I’m being harsh. But anyone can say something like that. Anyone can say they are a Christian. What’s even worse than saying something like that when accepting an award is the response by the evangelical community. “Oh look! Hannah Montana is a Christian! It’s OK now to watch the TV show and buy all her CD’s!” We jump up and down and celebrate “yet another Christian shining their light in evil Hollywood.” We celebrate that she is part of the club… That is until she messes up. Then she’s thrown out of the Christian club. “Oh, we don’t let our kids watch that show. Can you believe what she did? <Gasp!> And her father… and he says he’s a Christian. Tsk, tsk, tsk…”

What are we doing?!?

On top of that we have Christian-ized everything from video upload websites to popular video games. You may wonder what’s the harm in doing stuff like that. Don’t we want to have “Christian alternatives” to “what’s out in the world?” I don’t know anymore. We are so busy creating a subculture called evangelical Christianity that we get obsessed with sanitizing everything so that it is acceptable rather than going out and engaging our communities and building relationships with those outside a relationship with God. Then we pass that on to our children.

I still remember the episode of Kid Nation. It was episode 4 entitled “Bless Us and Keep us Safe.” If you never watched Kid Nation, it was a show which aired in the Fall of 2007 that put a group of kids in a New Mexico ghost town to see if they could run a town without the influence of adults. It did have it’s own set of controversy surrounding the conditions there. Anyway, the kids quickly separated into their different belief camps. The most “vocal” kids were the Christian kids. I wish I could say that I was proud of this, but most of what came from those kids were statements like: “Christians Rule!” and “Christians are Better!”

These Christian kids polarized themselves into a group and ostracized the others simply because they had different belief systems. It was completely foreign to these kids to be respectful of other beliefs while holding onto their own. At the end of the episode, many of the Christian kids did finally enter into conversations about faith or lack thereof. The sad thing is… most of those kids became confused about their Christian beliefs.

Many of us would say: Well, the reason those kids got confused is because they weren’t given enough truth. They weren’t taught apologetics. They didn’t know enough Bible stories. They weren’t taught to be deep in their spiritual walk.

I would disagree.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

We spend so much time on the first commandment that Jesus talked about. That is great. We should emphasize loving God. We should be teaching children out of the Bible. They should be learning verses. But we miss out on the second commandment Jesus talked about. The extent to which we teach children to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to make sure we don’t hit and be helpful. We forget to teach children to treat ALL people with respect. We forget to teach children that just because someone else has a different belief system or has made different lifestyle choices doesn’t mean we treat them with contempt or avoid them or treat them as if we will win some cool supernatural prize if we convert them.

I think we do a disservice to the Gospel (which is more than about getting to heaven but has more to do with being a part of the transformational work God wants to do in the lives of people) by perpetuating a subculture of Christianity… a brand of Christianity that tries to insulate itself from the world and at the same time tries to make the world conform to its set of rules.

Instead of spending money on Christian t-shirts (which simply serve to identify you to other Christians as a fellow club member), sponsor a child who is in a marginalized part of the world. Instead of watching hours on end of Christian TV and movies, go outside and meet your neighbours.

A while back, the phrase WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) was popularized. It continues to be another one of those Christian subculture things. If we were to truly seek out the answer to that questions, I think many of us would be surprised and even shocked. Jesus spent his time with unpolished fishermen who probably didn’t use the best of language, embezzlers who threw some wild parties… hey, he even supplied some really good wine at a party where many of the people were already buzzed.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all go out and party it up. What I am saying, though, is that we need to engage our communities… the people in our neighbourhoods. We need to teach our kids not to be afraid of being contaminated. We need to teach our children grace. We need to teach our children how to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength AND how to truly love ALL our neighbours as we love ourselves.

In the end, it’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about broken images of God reaching out to other broken images of God and pointing them the one who can make them whole again. We can’t do that from the inside of a clubhouse.