When Someone’s Faith is Drowning (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to have faith and to keep faith, and also the flipside of that–what it looks like when faith fades or ceases to exist altogether. How do, and should, churches and faith communities respond to that?

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Photo Credit: Stephen Di Donato

When Someone’s Faith is Drowning

It’s not a secret that young adults are leaving the church and, in many cases, leaving faith as well. Yet the numbers only show the big picture, not the stories of the individuals whose lives have, for whatever reason, changed from being one where faith is a central component to one where faith is, if existent, merely a side project. And I can’t help thinking that those stories, of faith slowly fading, or of wrestling with pain, or of doubt creeping in and taking over, don’t happen overnight. So where are the people reaching out to the real, living, breathing people who are experiencing these realities?

I once heard a story of someone being at a pier where people were jumping into the water. Suddenly, the screams of delight ceased as people began to notice a young woman struggling in the water. Shouts came from the pier, encouraging the woman to swim harder, to keep kicking, that she was getting close to the ladder. Someone dove in to help her and they both climbed out of the water to safety, but in those tense moments before that person jumped in, the noise was all directed at the woman in distress. Meanwhile, in the water itself, silence reigned.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

The Real Way to Create Community (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Lately I’ve been thinking about church again–why I go, what the purpose is, how participants in a church go about enfolding everyone into the life of the church–so today, I’m writing at YALT about community.

The Real Way to Create Community

Evoking images of shared meals and laughing people, community is a popular word in Christian circles. While not the sole intent of a church, creating a sense of community among their members is a mission most churches value, because strong Christian 2015-07-22 20.49.48-1community is certainly good, and even biblical. The how to create community is where things get complicated though. Countless books and blogs posts have been written, all offering various tactics and strategies, but I think the real way to create community cannot be distilled into an easy formula.

I think the way to create community is to embrace the awkward.

Keep reading at the YALT blog.

Let’s Talk About Booze (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. This time I’m writing about alcohol, which is a topic I’ve thought a lot about but have yet to explore in written form in any public space. It’s a complex topic, and I’ve to hear your thoughts in the comments on the YALT blog.

Let’s Talk About Booze

In the Christian Reformed church I grew up in, alcohol wasn’t really ever talked about. Most of the adults I knew didn’t drink (or at least not that I saw), so over time, I was left to develop my own thoughts about alcohol and the place it would or wouldn’t have in my life. Considering I facilitate a Bible study I named “Women & Wine,” where I landed–at least for my current phase of life–is clear.

And yet, I think it’s a conversation that has been missing in many church communities. I don’t think the question is whether Christians should talk about alcohol, but how and why we should talk about it. By not talking about it, we miss out on asking the deeper questions of how and why we choose not to or to engage in particular behaviors. By talking about it, we open ourselves up to be continually contemplating how we are able to best emulate Jesus, and how that plays out in very practical terms in our everyday lives.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

You Are Not Disqualified

I almost didn’t publish my last two posts.

 

After all, I’m a Christian. I work at a Christian company and am heavily involved at my church, including being a youth leader. There’s a Bible passage stating, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…”

 

Giving God a Piece of My Mind” and “I Stopped Reading My Bible” are not exactly “good little Christian” titles.

 

As I sat in our first youth gathering of the school year, I wondered a bit if I should have published them. If maybe spewing my insecurities and doubts and issues with God onto the Internet was not a wise move for a youth leader, or even just as a Christian.

It crossed my mind that maybe they were words I should have kept to myself, because maybe putting them out there made me a bad example, a bad youth leader, a bad Christian. Maybe they disqualified me, and maybe I should have waved goodbye to those high school and middle schoolers and walked out the door.

 

Then I wondered if it would’ve been, in some way, worse for me to not have published them. Nothing I wrote, of  not really knowing what the deal is with God and having mostly stopped reading my Bible right now, was untrue.

Which is exactly why I decided to publish them anyway.

I chose to put the messy, ugliness of what I’ve been thinking and feeling into a public space, but doing so wasn’t what caused me to think and feel that way. It was simply putting words to what already was.

 

But would it really have been the publishing of those words that disqualified me? Or the thinking and feeling and them?

 

As I sat there, it hit me: I am not disqualified. 

Those messy thoughts and feelings and questions I have about God and following him do not disqualify me from serving him. They don’t disqualify me from hanging out with high school and middle schoolers, they don’t disqualify me from greeting people at church, they don’t disqualify me from being a Christian. 

 

And here’s the thing:

YOU are not disqualified either. 

 

I don’t know what your messy thoughts and feelings about God and Jesus and prayer and the Bible are, I don’t know what you’re arguing with God over right now, I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve read your Bible. But I do know those struggles do not disqualify you from serving him and being used by him.

If they did, there would be no pastors, no seminary professors, no Christian conference speakers. No one who follows Jesus has it all figured out, all the time.

God is in the business of using imperfect people. They’re the only kind he ever has.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever felt disqualified from being used by God? How were you reminded that you’re not?

The Singles in Your Sanctuary (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. My latest post there is some further thoughts on singleness and Church. I know, I keep writing about it, but I keep writing because I think it matters. Here’s the first bit, and I hope you keep reading over here.

 

The Singles in Your Sanctuary

In my last post in this space, I presented the results of a survey about single pastors in the church. While my survey focused on pastors, it became apparent that a scarcity of single church leaders is only the beginning of the problem. Based on my own experience, conversations with others, and reading about the experience of many other single people, it is not uncommon for single people to feel marginalized in the Church. As I wrote last time, many churches focus heavily on marriage and families, which can result in not understanding how to embrace singles and their good, but different, experiences.

I think the topic of how churches enfold singles into the community is of particular importance for the Church right now. It has been widely documented that Millennials are getting married later than previous generations did, and also that they are less likely to continue or to begin involvement in a church. As more Millennials remain single for longer periods of time, the Church must be willing to meet these people where they are at and to intentionally seek to be an environment where all people are valued for who they are and not because of their relationship status.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

All the Single Pastors? (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. This post, even more than most of mine, is one I feel strongly aboutYou might even say I get a little bit feisty when I talk about it. Because I think it matters. Here’s the first bit, and I hope you keep reading over here.

 

All the Single Pastors?

As a single person, I find that church can sometimes be an isolating place. Many churches seem to be naturally oriented towards caring for families and married people, and although I don’t think any church would intentionally exclude single people, they may unintentionally do so.

The more I thought about this, it occurred to me that If I were to make a list of the single pastors I know of, it would be quite a short one. Wondering if it was maybe just my own experience, I recently did an informal survey asking people a few questions about single pastors in the church. The results of my survey turned out to match my own experience quite closely. Less than 10 percent of people who replied have attended a church where a single (non-married, non-engaged) person was the primary preaching pastor. Just less than half (45.9%) have attended a church with a single person serving as another type of pastor.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

How to Make Friends at Church (From the YALT Blog)

A few weeks ago, someone sent me a direct message on Twitter, asking if I wanted to become a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. I’d read posts there, and decided it seem a fine lot to join forces with–so here we are. This is the first of what will be monthly posts from me over there.

 

Making friends is pretty easy when we’re children. We find a few commonalities, such as liking to play in the sandbox or having the same favorite TV show, and away we go. As we get older, it becomes a bit more complex, but often we continue to have the common ground of the same school or at least the shared experience of being a student.

Things get trickier when we reach young adulthood. Some people may be working full time, while others are in grad school. Some may be married with children, living in a house they own, while others may be single and living with parents or roommates. And, in the Church, these differences often become even more pronounced. Some people walk in the door and head straight to the nursery or children’s worship rooms, while others head for the coffee cart or sanctuary. Most of us have probably had conversations where, once we get past our names, what we do, and maybe where we live, conversation seems to lag. With each change of life stage, from single to married and from married to married with kids, the gap seems to widen…and suddenly, greeting time before or after church becomes segmented and kind of awkward.

Keep reading…

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Lessons from The Little Rascals (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. I thought this week’s had a bit broader appeal than some, so I’m sharing it here.

 

As a child, The Little Rascals was one of my favorite movies. My siblings and I watched it more times than I can count and nearly had it memorized. At the beginning of the film, Spanky and his friends Alfalfa, Stymie, Porky, Buckwheat, and others form the He-Man Woman Haters Club, which pretty much exists to keep girls out of it. As the movie goes on though, we discover that Alfalfa has not only been hanging out with a girl named Darla, but even serenading her with a love song on a romantic boat ride.

When the other boys find out, they are shocked and even a little grossed out, so they hatch a plan to break up Alfalfa and Darla. Yet through a series of events, by the end of the movie the boys realize that Darla and her friends are not so bad and invite them to hang out in their clubhouse. While there are a variety of circumstances that bring about this change of heart, it all began with Alfalfa.

Though we may not make official signs, I think the Church often creates its own versions of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. It can be easy to point this out in the Church as the worldwide body of Christ, but we cannot ignore the implications for us personally. We may not make physical signs, but we make them in our thoughts, behaviors, and hearts. There are certain types of people we are just hesitant to enfold into Church life. Maybe we base it on occupation, income level, sexual orientation, age, political views, or any number of factors. After a while, we get entrenched in the mentality of there being an insider “us” factor to the Church, and an outsider “them” label for those we don’t deem worthy.

Keep reading at The Midweek Encounter blog.

Dust, Redeemed

I believe in a God of little things.

Of big things, too, but also an orchestrator of little things–the kind I overlook on a daily basis, but occasionally catch a glimpse of.

Sunday morning as I got ready for church, I listened to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” It had been a while since I listened to it, and I realized we hadn’t sung it in church for a while either.

When I arrived at church that morning, there was “Beautiful Things” on the set list.

A little thing, and just the one I needed.

Not only is it a gorgeous song, it’s one that holds a lot of meaning. Last spring we had a worship service in our building before all the construction had been completed. As literal dust caked the soles of our shoes and hung in the air, we sang the words “You make beautiful things out of the dust,” laced with our hopes for the ways we’d see God work there. It was a glorious, goose bump and tear-inducing moment.

And this week, as we sang it again, I looked around at the nicely painted walls, the finished floor, the rows of people who likely didn’t even know the church existed those months ago, and it was a goose bump and tear-inducing moment again. It has been so exciting to be part of the church as we take up residence in our new building, figuring out who we are as a church and what it means for our community and how we use this gift of space.

We have physically seen God make beautiful things out of dust.

While “Beautiful Things” is certainly fitting for my church, it also feels fitting on a personal level at the start of a new year. Every year brings with it some “dust”—some unexpecteds that we’d rather do without. 2013 didn’t have as many as some of my other years, but it still had them.

It also had moments of seeing how God can use the dust of years gone by to do something amazing.

Even beautiful.

So that’s what I’m looking forward to this year: the ways that God redeems dust and turns it into good things.

Maybe it’ll be more of a dust-accumulating year than a dust-redeeming one, but I’m hoping I’ll know enough to pay attention. It may not always be in big ways or ones that I see right away, or there may be dust that is only and ever that—dust—but there is possibility.

I believe in a God who redeems dust.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you seen God redeem dust?

Top Posts of 2013

Another year is almost over, and again I’m wondering exactly how that happened. I’m not really all that old, but sometimes the way the years slip by makes me feel like I am. 2013 contained a decent amount of blogging from me, though not as much as perhaps I originally intended–so these things go. My piece Giving Up the White Dress appeared on Prodigal Magazine this year, which was one of my blogging highlights. And here, in no particular order, are 7 top posts from 2013.

 

“I Love Jesus, But I Hate You.”

I would have liked to listen to her, to hear her stories of Christians who had hurt her, and maybe cry with her and tell her that I am so, so sorry that anyone, but especially those who claim the label of Christian, treated her that way.

And after I listened, I would have liked to apologize, for the ways and the days that I still proclaim Jesus as my Savior but act very little like him.

 5 Reasons Being Single Rocks

1)      You get to go where you want, when you want, with who you want.

No arguments because one of you wants to go out for pizza and the other wants Chinese, no phone calls checking in to see if your significant other is okay with you hanging out with a friend after work, no trying to make excuses for not wanting to hang out with your significant other’s friends that you find irritating for no explainable reason. You go where you want, my single friend. When you want, with who you want.

5 Reasons Being Single Sucks

5) The not knowing if being single is a season, or forever.

I’ve said that if I could know for sure that I will get married at some point in the future, I could handle it a lot better. But there are no guarantees. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being single. Statistcally speaking, most people do get married at some point in their lifetime–but not all. I’ve never been one to handle uncertainty well, and not knowing if I’ll ever get married is one of the scariest uncertainties of all.

The Beauty of Church

But some really, awesome, beautiful things can happen when you hang out with his people. I’m not saying they happy every day, every month, or even every year—but they do happen. And in those moments you see and feel the way that God is moving in Church and in those broken, messy people, and you count it all grace and mercy and love and you wonder how a feeling like that can possibly stay contained in your human body, because it just feels so out of this world because itis.

A Valentine’s Day Plea

And I ask of you, the world at large, please don’t tell me how to feel.

Not just me, but everyone around you.

Please don’t tell them to turn their frown upside down.

Please don’t negate their feelings of sadness or loneliness.

Please don’t remind them of things they have heard over and and over again with sayings that minimize honest feelings.

Would Jesus Tweet About Gay Marriage?

The next time something controversial is happening in the world, I would love to see an empty news feed. Not because people don’t care about what’s going on in the world, but because they’re out listening, engaging in face-to-face conversations, which will always tell us more than words on a screen. All the CAPITAL LETTERS, bold font, and italics in the world can’t convey as much as facial expressions and tone of voice.

How To Be Alone

The truth is, most people are too busy with their own lives to notice someone sitting at a table without anyone else. I may have been the only person in the restaurant that night, besides the server, who even noticed the woman and thought anything of her.

There is nothing wrong with being alone. Instead, there is a type of goodness I have yet to fully understand, the type that is attentive to the food, the drink, and perhaps the words, and nothing else.

 

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll write more about 2013, all the changes and goodness and messes and people and places that have colored the past year. It seems a difficult year to encapsulate in a few words, so perhaps these highlights will suffice.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What has been your favorite blog post (here or elsewhere) of 2013?