Tuesday, July 14, 2009

a Third of children in South Africa stays with both parents

We often speak of family values, family-based this and that, or perfect family, etc. A recent study amongst families on South Africa, in 2002 and 2007, found that only about 40% of children stays with their moms, 3% with their fathers and 23% don't stay with any of the mother or father.

The Beeld reports that there is a significant difference amongst white, coloured, black and indian families, with black and coloured young people generally not staying with both parents. The article suggest that this could be part of the reason for the rise in crime and social decay.

Of course, the question need to be asked what the reasons are for this state of affairs. What are the reasons for the racially skewed nature of family-life. Are coloured and blacks simply generically prone to promiscuity or immoral, cursed or sinful?

Furthermore one should grapple with the more difficult one, on how to respond to this reality, as a church and as Christians, in particular. It seems as if the old 'tug' (discipline) system need to be reviewed, as well as our deepest assumptions about 'normal' or 'perfect' families.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Relational Youth Ministry-Andy Root

I found this link on the Princeton Theological Seminary's Institute for Youth Ministry's website, of a speech/interview by Andy Root on relational ministry. His main arguement seems to be that youth ministry (or any ministry, for that matter) should not see the building relationships as a means to an end. This he calls functional understanding. Relationships, is the end.

So click here to listen.

when is winning not enough, for parents ?

I had a fascinating conversation with a colleague yesterday in the bus, where we talked amongst others, about schoolsport. His children are in it deep and mine are only starting. He is also experienced in family ministry and an expert in education, so, we reflected on the obsession of us as parents and schools to make our children winners. We, as parents often pay the price (literally as well!), our lifestyle and forms of practicing our faith change and we are left wondering: when is enough enough or, when is winning not enough..

One of the things he said was that there comes a time, when winning is not the best outcome. Indeed, winning will not allways be the outcome, because the system is geared to valorise winning with a step-up'to the next level'. On this level, we often start at the bottom again. But also, there are situations where winning, at all costs, might be going against what your reasons for participation was in the first place.

Another very important consideration then, is the question why we are participating and why do we, as parents, allow our children to participate or, in some cases, expect them to participate and win.

What does it mean when Paul speaks of 'glorifying or thanking' God (Col3:17), in everything we do and participate in? Does it mean to be the best, to be on top and succesful or is there a place for the embarassing cross, and if so, where.

Often, young people struggle with their own losses, their own vulnerabilities and fears. Often they struggle to live up to the expectations of parents, teachers, and a winning, smurking God, who parades with the trophies. Does it help when the God we present to them, is a Superman-God, who expects his children also to be super-human?

Monday, July 06, 2009

youth ministry: what's the point ?

Having read a few youth ministry books, the last few weeks have made me wonder what the essence is of youth ministry. Of course, one immediately think adrenaline, fun and lots of lean, athletic stars, leading hundreds, if not thousands of young people 'to the Lord'. I was there, but failed miserably. I simply could not keep up the show. The show couldn't just go on. Upon reflection and again reading books of some other failures in 'showbiz youth ministry', it seems to me more and more, that, also in our journey with young people, the key question is actually the same question as with adults: what does it mean to be a Christian.

Being a Christian for Paul was, some would argue, sheer excitement, lots of struggles, but also lots of adventures. These are the adrenaline junkie's staplefood. Paul lived in a time where it seemed as if these elements are the essential make-up of a bloodied struggle to get on the top. We also see it today amongst some young people, where they would give it all (and more!) and then they would say, with blood running down their cheeks, smiling through the mud: it was fun!

Let's however look a bit deeper at Paul's 'escapades'. After he left the people, (Acts 20) where he had a 'Red Bull' night out,an all-night-through-er, he met up and shared with the leadership the essence of his work as an apostle. This work for Paul entails much more then mere preaching and doing 'spiritual things'. It seems as if he simply focused on 1) nurturing deep relationships, sharing pain, tears, joys-sharing life. Everywhere he goes, one picks up how he seeks times of fellowship, he nurtures friendships and he is spending time with his friends everywhere. One wonders about ('Revisits'- Andrew Root) the notion of 'relational ministry', where it seems as if the point of his visits was not so much, to tell people something or to change them. It seems as if the point was to develop deep and lasting friendships, friendships that nourish new values, that transforms their worlds (both Paul’s and that of his friends). Even in the context of unstable relations amongst the Jewish community, where language ('die taalstryd')played a role, where new religious movements, in particular the way of Jesus of Nazareth, were causing deep and bitter divisions, Paul was trying to convince people of the continuities, the common grounds- he was trying to build unity, across languages, faith communities and even culture, as a goal in itself. One could argue that the goal of unity, amongst a diversity of believers was the goal, not unity for more 'effective ministry', or for reaching the 'unreached', or relevance- unity for its own sake. This reminds one of the words of Jesus, Christ: by this shall all men (sic) know that you are my disciples, if you love one another...

Next thing, ironically linked to his search for unity, across boundaries, Paul suffers. It seems as if, in his quest for deeper understandings of community, there is a constant reminder of suffering, of persecution, of being misunderstood. It seems as if the persecution of Jesus himself, haunts his followers as well. This is possibly not even a consequence of what they do or seek, but everywhere, and seemingly closer to the heart of the gospel, than we think. It is therefore no surprise that the Holy Communion is so central as a ritual in most (if not all!) of the Christian communities. It speaks of and identifies with the suffering God, who suffers in the suffering of the least of these bretheren. Its a suffering that, in and through the cross becomes redemptive, liberative.

In the third place, we see that this journey of Paul is in actual fact, his witness. In these difficult and trying relationships, in these painful, costly misunderstandings, which Brian McClaran and Tony Campolo call "Adventures in missing the point", there is a deep witness. This witness is a challenge to the powers, the empires of the day, be they church empires or political empires, that Jesus, the one who came to walk with ordinary women and men and restored life to young daughters and boys, the Jesus who died, violently, is actually Lord. That we find our deepest fulfilment in these adventures is no surprise, as this is the way we celebrate this life, with Holy Communion, celebrating restored relationships, celebrating in painful relationships, celebrating Jesus Christ. This is where I find myself and I often discover, this is where my younger companions also often find themselves.Hopefully this is the point, where we may find each other.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

the soft God- a reading of Jonah ?

This morning, we listened to Jerome Prince speaking on Jonah 3. He is a Bibleschool student and shared some interesting thoughts on this particular, sometimes controversial story. We then celebrated the holy Communion.

Jerome didn't go into the question whether there was an actual 'big fish' or whether the story happened. For him, that was not the issue. I suppose those questions might be of interest to academic theologians and the like, people who have the luxary of arguing about these. For Jerome, being born and bred Riverlea, the story was all about God. This is a story about a God, who calls reluctant and unasuming Jonah's, a terrifying God, who scares hardened seafairers, yet, also the God, who's heart softens- a God who, in love, are willing even to change his mind.

I often listened to Biblical schiolars the last few weeks, and, with Gerald West, at the Ujamaa centre in Kwazulu-Natal, also wondered about how we read in interpret the Bible, depending on where we come from. West and possibly Dube, Phiri and Nadar, would suggest that the Bible text itself, creates a picture of a fearsome, conquering God, hard and willing to kill, destroy people, who do not listen to him. They try to uncover, in their readings of the Bible, the softer side of God- in short: the soft God. I think Jerome straddled skillfully between the vengefull, judgemental God, who haunts the reluctant prophet, and the compassionate, softer God, whose mind change when people earnestly search for compassion. This is God, that does not go well with the prophets, who claim to know him, yet it's the God, who hears and sees the cries, even those who does not deserve Him.

Thanks for the reflections Jerome !