Friday, April 16, 2010

From Chad Swanzy

I just read this amazing letter from Chad Swanzy over at that I think is right on the mark.

Read and enjoy.

Dear Church... everywhere.

How shall I put this? Yesterday was my two year anniversary of serving in the city of Austin. I am nothing special nor do I feel like people are waiting on the edge of their seat to hear what I have to say. I do have an audience though and from time to time it generates discussion in my virtual life and in my personal life. So I write. I write to create energy in the room and to make people move.

I need you to be moved.

I need you to listen as you read. I need you to believe me. Because I know I'm the guy in the room whose passion can not be questioned. I have been accused of being too serious, too driven, too dogmatic and even challenged to back off because I've isolated myself and locked in on one endeavour. But at the end of the day I know what I'm talking about.

I am in this trench and have been at war for the lives of students for a long time. I have been in West Coast transplanted Denver, wheels off melting pot South Florida, circus spiritual sideshow Dallas, and now culturally emerging epicenter Austin. I have seen your homes walked with your children and served as their shepherd. I listen to my peers, read their blogs, rub shoulders with them at conferences, and answer their questions. I am not alone and there are many who would raise their hand in agreement with what I'm going to say.

This is bordering on obnoxious irresponsibility.

The church is getting silly with tradition and one tradition that is going to destroy us is compartementalizing people and resources in incredibly unintentional ways. You spend way too much on influencing adults and bartering for their participation and spend way too little time on confronting them on how they have pursued their children and pass down God's story.

You're shoving everything you've got, staffing positions, buildings, and experiences toward a group of people that have proven to have already made up their minds, happy to consume, and often immovable in their commitment. You started laying this pattern years ago and I don't blame you if you've just kept doing what worked in the past but you need to wake up. You need dynamic change and to take serious inspection of the coming landscape.

How many times are you going to hear this and not understand it?
Close to 75% of the people who have ever trusted Christ did so before the age of 17.

This generation of middle school and high school students today is the second largest generation in north america in population. Only the baby boomers have been larger. The mission field and listen... last line in the sand is the public schools of this country. You are 2-3 generations from looking more like an abandoned vfw post or masonic lodge that nobody understands anymore or gets in the eyes of your future young adults. I trust God I know he is not a liar. He promised that if we lift him up he will draw his people to him. So, I know even now our teenagers are hearing him, examining their void, burned out on the highs and the lows but you're not speaking their language or helping those who do... to show them Jesus. You've become a place you go when you get old but not a place that deserves your thoughts when you're living.

My brothers and sisters have to beg and plead you to support them and you throw them a nickel on the dollar.

The people equipped as the "special forces" for this battle do life with these kids and are on reduced pay. Gnawing on rations and treating their wounded while their grip is still tight on the stock of God's word and being Jesus to the broken world. The church in Younglife and the mission that they are can't even get you to come to the banquet but they look your sons and your daughters in the eyes to tell them they mean something when they've been broken and used at the end of their worn out miserable lonely life. You wait till the last minute to call them and beg them to salvage your kids. They look at you and ask, "Where have you been?" It's not just my sister and brother in YL but student ministry too. They need help, committed people who will do life with teenagers, resources, challenging, pushing, presence, and questions. They are tired of thinking you don't care because you've never shown up in their events or asked them one question (not born out of a parent phone call) since you interviewed them when they took the job.

They are smarter than us.

Billions are spent on catching this coming generations purchasing power, shaping their values, capturing their voting potential, educating their minds, and shaping their persona. They are wonderful and beautiful creations of God with hearts, lives, promise, and potential. They are chased, pushed, catered to, targeted, and influenced by every single corporation and movement. Why? Because those people are smarter than us. They can see what's coming and we can't. We will spend more on the bulletin this year than we will on students. Sunday school is over. Baby sitting is dead. Don't shirk responsibility anymore. Do something. If nothing just ask your youth leader... "How can I help? What do you see? Where are we hurting? What do you need? How can I speak for you in this auditorium? Should we rewrite your job description? What are you doing? How do you know it's working? How do you spend your time? Who are these kids? What are their struggles? What do they think? How do we reach them?"

We feel alone, undervalued, unempowered, misunderstood, and tired but not tired of Jesus. He is all we have, need, and want. We just are looking for you to get that and to get it for these students. They don't need you... you need them.



Don and Ri said...

WOW! This is huge and you're right; he really hit the mark.

springer said...

WOW, great words for sure...I wish I was on reduced pay, at least I would still be employed with YL. Really great read for sure.

Never seen your blog, great job...Hope you guys are doing well up there.