Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Well today is my day in Mark Yaconelli's "Contemplative Youth Ministry" Blog tour. I have tried to take a little bit of a different direction from other contributers to the tour. So if you have been following the tour since day 1, my hope is that this first part of my review becomes an interesting "rest stop" along the journey.

I have put together a meditative video that shares the words and ideas from Mark himself, along with the stories from actual youth workers who have put into practice the ideas in "Contemplative Youth Ministry" set to a soundtrack that I came up with yesterday morning. I believe that this meditation does justice to Mark's book and for those who are interested in knowing more about the idea of contemplative youth ministry- i think it speaks to that, as well.

(about 9.5 minutes)

Also, I was able to catch up early this morning with Mark, via an email conversation. I raised a couple of questions from which he had wonderful and challenging responses:

Jonathon: So Mark, where does social justice/kingdom building fit into contemplative youth

Mark: After years of working with social justice groups Franciscan activist Richard Rohr (Everything Belongs) discerned that the biggest issue within Christian Social Justice movements was that activists weren't grounded in prayer and the experience of God. The result was that people became bitter, cynical, angry and burned out. He then founded the center for action and contemplation in Albuquerque, NM to address the issue.
My work in contemplative youth ministry has been about seeking to ground "activist" youth workers in prayer, discernment and community. Sometimes people characterize contemplative youth ministry as too inward focused, and yet they forget that our target audience is busy, active youth ministers. When you take people who regularly spend time in the public square (meeting kids, ministering to families, interacting with the culture) and then slow them down, invite them to listen in prayer and silence...something breaks open. It seems to me that the Jesus-life breaks forth in us when we're in that tension between prayer and service, solitude on the mountain and chaos in the streets.
In a contemplative approach to ministry everything begins in prayer and discernment. All of our actions come out of listening to the Spirit and then following what you hear. My experience is that when we listen in prayer we're not drawn into isolation but rather our eyes are opened to the way in which God is weaving us together in community with people we previously considered "different" or "other." Real contemplation, real prayer and listening to the Spirit of Jesus leads to authentic action, action that isn't about our own ego or need to prove ourselves, action that is rooted and grounded in love.

how do we keep our youth ministries from turning this into a "magic formula"
and help our congregations see this as a "way of life"?

Mark: Well, certainly as we researched this there were people (primarily senior pastors) who tried to turn this into a formula. In such cases silence became oppressive and prayer...even contemplative prayer became heavy with expectation and even manipulation.
Human beings always want formulas because we want some kind of control and order....we're terrified of the way in which Jesus lived...completely free, open to the present moment without a planned formula. Jesus invites us into the same kind of freedom...which is very difficult for us to handle...we'd much rather have a leader, a seven point formula, a progression to holiness with check points. Instead God offers us a moving, living relationship that can move and breath and shift and die and be reborn...just like real relationships. Doesn't every married couple look for a system or formula in which to relate to each other? It never works, once there's a system then we no longer have to pay attention to one another, the relationship becomes predictable and begins to die. Here are some of the ways I try to keep from living and ministering by a formula:
1. I continue to struggle to pray in silence and listening each day. Silent or contemplative prayer allows God to speak and move within me breaking up the stifling, stuck places within me. 2. I have spiritual companions who listen to my spiritual life and help me discern what is of God and what is my own brokeness, sin, anxiety, etc. 3. Ministering in community helps to bring different perspectives so that my own agendas are challenged or modified. 4. I try and tell the truth. As much as I can, I tell the truth about my doubts, my anger, my hopes, my joy so that I'm more able to see and let-go off every thing in my life and ministry that is false and strive toward that which is life-giving and of God.

Thanks Mark for the words of wisdom and I look forward to seeing you Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Here's how this week's blog tour has gone and is going:

You can also check out Gavo's contributions to the blog tour, part 1 & part 2.



gavin richardson said...

i like mark's answer to 'activist' within the social justice world not being grounded become bitter, burned out, etc. i totally see that

St.Phransus said...

me too. i have seen quite a few friends in the social justice world who are either bitter towards the church and end up as social workers/activists, hopeless and burnt out, or simply unpleasant to be around.

i like his response- IMMENSELY- and i think he's dead on.

gavin richardson said...

ditto, and i thoroughly enjoyed the video. thanks for the blessing

gmw said...

Thanks for sharing the interview. As a pastor, I've been challenged (and continue to be) along these lines by Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor and Working the Angles, both of which focus on the radical idea that we been grounded in Scripture, prayer, spiritual direction, and community and that our ministries ought to be about those things.