Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of the year.

So, according to this, my last post was May.  Really?  May.  Either way.  I've been channeling my energy lately into simply spinning my wheels.  Time to regain some perspective and get back on track.  I decided a few months back that I wanted to go back to work.  50+ job apps later and clearly, my job is to be a stay at home father for a bit longer.  I've had some flip-flop about my feelings on this but reflecting on what I haven't missed out on with my daughter brings things back to what my wife and I feel is right for our family.

Aside:  If I were also at work, I wouldn't have been present to see the little one eat applesauce with her feet.  I would not have had the pleasure to ride through town and have Ms. Annabel say that three different statues were me.  (A.P. Hill:  daddy hat.  Jackson:  daddy-cow.  Columbus:  daddy-hair.  Both in the same day.  I get to take 90% of the blame for the potty-training.  I also get to know that I do my best to create a sanctuary for my wife to come home to after a day at work.

Honestly, I don't know what's in store for the Ratledge family in 2012, but I'd like to enjoy the ride this time instead of fret about "the next big thing" for me.  This is probably the most pointless blog-entry ever, yet I felt the urge to resurrect the life in this.  So there you go, another cup of Joeseph.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daddy Day at the Mall

Today was Daddy-Day care day at the mall and men who looked completed awkward with one, two, and even three children in tow found solidarity with other men whom they perceived to be just as uncomfortable.  Smiles, nods, "how are you's" were the norm.  I, however, must have had the look on my face that this is not uncomfortable or awkward or I just sent out a vibe where other fathers with children wanted to sit near me in the play section.  Anti-social I felt, but when one man turned to me to talk, I took my gaze from our child, smiled and prepared myself to talk about the NBA play-offs, "gittin' Osammy been layden", the economy, or fuel prices...instead I was pleasantly surprised with, "I think Ian and Kathleen like playing with your daughter.  How old is she?"  Wow, normal parental talk, which I actually welcomed.  

"Two on the seventeenth, what about yours?"

"She is four and he'll be two in September, we're working on sharing on the slide." 

Also pleasantly surprised, Ian was doing his best to turn around on the slide, while Annabel patiently waited.  After they both went down without incident, four year old Kathleen ran up to Anna and said, "Let's play Tag!"  Anna promptly reached out, touched her hand, yelled "taaaaaaa-eeee" then ran away with Kathleen following.  

I let Ms. Annabel play for a bit, but knew we were short on time.  (Being ever prepared, I left her sippy on the counter at home and it was getting close to lunch time.)  I did, however, feel that she would have thought I was being torturous for bringing her to the mall and not let her play in the kids area.  So, let's play!  A few minutes later, it was really time to head home. I scooped her up, telling her it was time to go home and eat.  "EAT!" she yelled.  The nuclear meltdown I was expecting was diverted, so I prompted her to tell her new friends "bye."  "BYE!"  This was uttered with so much intensity that Kelly Clarkson was briefly drowned out and a brief echo was heard resonating throughout the nearly deserted space.  Kathleen, Ian, their father, and the two newly arrived families all paused and provided a collective "bye" as we made our way out of the play area, past the shoe store, the freshly baked cinnamon buns, and through Macy's.  As I was leaving the Route 1 exit of Macy's, I passed another dad with his kids with a look of sheer terror on his face...that look that expresses his complete shock at entering a public space with both kids and no spouse in sight.  I smiled, greeted him and wished he had a great morning out with the kids.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Social Media and Youth Ministry

Yesterday on Youth Worker Journal's website there was an article discussing youth ministry and social media.  (Whole article here:  http://ht.ly/3TRe5)  I found this article interesting for the fact that, being the true fence sitter that I am, I agree and disagree with all four of the interviewees.  So here's my take for the 3 of you who follow and might read.  Well, it's really for me to organize my thoughts for my ministry.  I am really only going to talk about two of the four, but that's not important anyway.

The first person, and I really like what this guy says, but we're not seeing things eye to eye, is:  Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University.  Dr. Bauerlein prohibits his students from using the internet for research.  I get it, we need to know how to use the library, journals, etc....  His take is that social media cripples social interactions.  Well, it does.  He speaks about how communicating is not just words, but tone, inflection, body language, all of it.  He's right.  There is so much that can be lost in candid conversation when it is posted through tweets, wall up-dates, texts, and blogs.  How many of us have said something in jest in an e-mail or wall update and it really, really backfired.  Meaning was misconstrued.  Communicating accurately failed.  I think, that in the end, his take was that technology isolates us and cripples our social interactions.  Once again, he's right, there's all kinds of research studies that prove his point.  

Now, for the other guy I liked from the article, his name is Adam McLane.  He is now Youth Specialties' technology guy' and he spends his days immersed in the digital world, helping youth workers find community there.  As you may be able to guess, he is a fan of technology.  His take for youth ministry is that utilizing tech and social media is the current "getting in the trenches" form of ministry, meeting them where they are.  There's not much more for me to comment on him, so I'm going to move to my blending and my $0.02.

Youth ministry should incorporate both schools of thought.  I remember when my sister and I were teenagers, we communicated via phone.  That's it.  Phone, and usually there was a cord attached to it too.  This form of communication was effective, while not seeing a person, tone and inflection were not lost through the phone.  This kind of conversation did not lend itself to the openness that Facebook can provide.  Let me digress for a second.  I have Facebook, my youth group has a group page, most of my folks have a profile.  All of my group texts.  All e-mail, but many of them rarely.  You get the picture.  If I post something on my profile, or on the group page, it invites others to join the conversation, even if it is a "like."  I can jump online and see what someone posted about their Friday night and can comment.  The last time I was a youth pastor, this wasn't so.  Adolescents are more selective about what is shared vocally than electronically.  Therefore, I feel like I can get to know someone more personal this way.  I think I just heard some of your minds coming to a screeching halt.  Yep, I can get to know some of my youth more personally through facebook, but that does not say I have a deeper spiritual relationship with them.  This is the point where the kill switch on the phone, computer, ipad, whatever gets flipped.

Communicating "in the trenches" per se, is not relationship building, and for a meaningful youth ministry for youth, relationships are essential.  Therefore, meetings, small groups, church, concerts, lock-ins, retreats, and mission trips become the life blood of turning the knowing of "stuff" about people via electronic communications into meaningful relationships.  Communicating in the trenches gets the information out to the youth in the way they will see it, read it, hear it, and respond to it.

I guess all of this is to say that social media has slowly become a way of life for a lot of us.  We keep up with old friends, we miscommunicate through written word and have to make a phone call to fix it, we stay on top of our friends' lives outside of school/work.  We communicate with it, yet it doesn't build relationships as real life interactions do.  So, embrace the technology.  Ministry can function without it, relationship can be built without it, but embracing today's technological culture appropriately can definitely be used in ministry. 

Also used appropriately, social media is a way for us to be "in the world and not of it."  

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2.15-17

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12.2 NLT