Word of the Week

image copyYou are never too old it seems to go to youth camp.

. . . even when you are not a youth minister bringing kids to camp.

. . . even if you're not a pastor of a particular church.

. . . even if you haven't sung a praise song on a screen in years.

. . . even when your cabin for the week is nowhere near the bathhouse and you aren't sure you are going to find it with ease in the middle of the night.

If you are a friend of Son Servants, the mission wing of Youth Conference Ministries, you are always welcomed. You are never too old to serve alongside them as I did in Chattanooga last week.

I came without a defined role-- other than the unofficial camp pastor. Soon I began to call myself captain of all things miscellaneous.

In this, I led a few devotions for the adult leaders and taught a group Bible Study at one of the mission sites last Tuesday. But other than this, I moved coolers. I washed tables. I went on errands. I supervised middle school kids cleaning bathrooms.

I struggled at first-- saying to myself, "I'm too old for this" and "What am I doing here? I could be doing something that uses some of my better skills..."

But the more I got into the daily rhythms of last week, the more I realized youth camp for this pastor in transition was a wonderful place to be.

image copy 2I began to marvel at the joy and enthusiasm of the 19-year-old summer staff for their work (thinking, wow, I'm old! I used to be them!)-- their presence reminded me to not take life so seriously as I naturally do.

I got to learn new worship songs-- songs that I'd never sung before all part of a particular culture of church ministry I'd maybe long written off, but still has much to teach the Church as a whole.

I got to live the Son Servants mentality: "To love is to serve" as there was never a task too dirty that ANY of us would not be asked to do (cleaning toilets was a daily part of my job)-- and I loved it strangely. Work of the hands is good for the soul!

I got to spend quality time with a dear friend, entering into the deep waters of life that only experiences like going to Sam's and Sam's again and again can provide you.

After a couple of days, my frustrations of "What am I doing here?" were turned into exclamations of thanksgiving for being in such a place of love and acceptance-- something I've really missed in our family's transitional life for the past six months.

I'm so glad my life schedule allowed me to say "Yes!" to this opportunity to go back to youth camp last week.

image copy 3I'm so glad I received the challenge of being pushed in my life toward new patterns of eating, work and prayer.

I'm so glad to have been wrapped up in the blanket of Christian community that only a camp setting like this can provide-- if even for only 8 short days.

I AM SO GLAD that in my life that God's gracious leading is often about circles. Circles that take me back to physical places and emotional spaces where I still have more to learn-- even if I could boast saying "I'd been there and done that. . . " Nope (not true!) in fact, I still have so much to learn!

You're never too old for youth camp if you are a part of the Son Servants family and I'm very proud to have been welcomed by them again last week.

When texting became all the more mainstream (especially with those under the age of 30) around 2005-2006 ish, I was a bit skeptical of the practice. What was the point? Why not just call someone?

Even with my reservations, I got in, especially as  youth in the church where I was serving full-time were texting me no matter if I liked it or not. My cell phone bills soared. So, eventually, I broke down and bought a texting friendly phone plan too. I found that certain youth would only come to events if 1) they didn't have anything  to better to do 2) I texted to remind them to come. If I wanted a youth group, texting was a key!

And, soon I found myself texting my husband when a meeting ran over or when I was going to meet him for dinner. I texted friends happy birthday. I kept up with my sister in college through texts. Texting was not just "for the youth" it was part of my personal life too. Of course, it didn't replace personal contact and even voice-to-voice phone calls, but it enhanced communication in an ongoing relationship.

Yet, when I became the pastor of Washington Plaza, I thought for a while that my texting days were over as far as work stuff was concerned. "No one here will be kept from coming to an event because I forgot to text them, " I thought. I was entering as the pastor of a congregation made mostly (at the time) of folks over 60. However, a few folks, though have surprised me. (It always makes me smile to get a text message from someone over 50. Always).

But as texting has become all the more mainstream in culture and we've added some young members to our roles, texting as pastoral care has become all the more important part of what I do. In a given week:

Members text me to tell me prayer requests or to give me updates on sick family members.

Members text me to ask for rides to church or to let me know if they will or will not be at a Bible Study.

Members text me to remind me to perform a particular task before Sunday morning worship begins if they are out sick.

I text members to check on them when I know they've been going through a particularly difficult time.

I text members to let them know about the urgent needs of those in our community such as a death or a hospital stay so that they can extend their arms of service in our community too.

I text members to tell them that I missed them in worship and can't wait to see them again soon.

You can call a text message impersonal form of contact, but ultimately, it is contact. Contact is all about love, concern and faithfulness to those in whom we are covenanted together in community with. I will keep  doing whatever it takes to have members and visitors alike in this community know that I care about them and so does the church-- even if it means sending them a message I thought never would be considered pastoral: a text.