Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Teaching Passion


I am a facilitator, trainer, coach, and teacher. Basically I teach people how to teach. My beginnings were in middle school education at the University of Northern Iowa, which is a foundation that has served me well. Through the years I have learned to sit down, talk less, and listen more. My formula for teaching began with the first two words, with skill, method and passion added later.

Passion is something often recognized by the sound of ones voice, the sparkle in a person’s eye an enthusiasm that oozes out of them, a fire in the belly (Nathan's line) or even a heated urgency. Passionate people are often associated with loud fast speaking, but not necessarily so. I also see passion in the quiet, heart felt wisdom, of the person who speaks only a few words, but behind those words you can sense a deep sincerity.

So as a teacher of teachers, I wonder, can passion be taught? For a while I saw passion as something that had to be caught, more than taught, the idea that if you expose learners to passionate people, it may rub off on them. In a discussion over email with one of my Augsburg students I discovered a line out of Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli. “Passion can’t be fabricated or manipulated. Passion springs from gratitude”

If this is true, then reaching passion can come from learning to be grateful. Maybe it is so. My passions are the things I love to do most, the beliefs I hold dear to my heart, experiences I would never give up, my fondest relationships, and the surprising moments of discovery. Most all of these can be summed up in recognizing that I am so grateful that I can do, believe, experience, relate and discover. What I am most grateful for becomes my passion.

Okay a confession… I like listening to talk radio. Not a lot, but enough to catch the entertainment value of loud angry white men getting paid to riel people enough to tune in and call in. (Just for fun I sometimes count accusatory pronouns such as, they, them, and those people. Seem to average about 5 per minute.) I admit they sound passionate, but an aggressive, angry kind of passion. Are they grateful? Assuming behind their rants they actually believe what they profess must come from a belief, experience, relationship, or discovery that feels threatening by all the theys, thems and those peoples. When something grateful is challenged, or attacked, people may respond with passionate angry.

So, grateful! Teach people to name what they are most grateful for and they will discover their passions. True, passion cannot be fabricated or manipulated. But I can invite people to become conscious of and name what they are grateful for.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Slip Sliding Away

Wow! 41º
It's a February heat wave.
After some very cold weeks I was able to get back out running along the creek.
Got as far as an ice flow coming down the side of the hill.
Tried to stand still but...

Sunday, February 18, 2007


a bit of my world with the Institute...
more fun than is leagaly Lutheran to have! (as Marilyn would say)

The Youth and Family Tapestry of Leadership

As an Institute we are proud and honored to have become one of the major weavers in the fabric of leadership training for the Youth and Family movement. Direct leadership opportunities on all levels and stages are part of this of influence that includes youth, family members, congregational leaders, professional staff and clergy, undergraduate degrees and advanced degrees.

Examples include these vital threads.

…Youth learning about Peer Ministry, the core training for frontline caring ministry.

… Large numbers of congregational members learn in quickly at Passing on the Faith Conferences a new paradigm for partnering homes and congregations.

…Staff and volunteers getting a huge jump start at the 3-week Certification School, which is a partnership with our Institute and The Center for Youth Ministry at Wartburg Theological Seminary, offers professionals, volunteers and clergy an emersion experience into the latest studies, skills and practices in Youth and Family ministry.

… Congregations and staff who we walk with over longer periods of time with our Signature Coaching.

… Staler undergrad programs at Augsburg College’s Youth and Family Ministry major, now 55 students strong, and Concordia St. Paul’s D.C.E. major, where our staff teaches.

…Graduate influence as we are invited in to teach at Wartburg Theological Seminary, and Luther Seminary.

Countless others invite us to participate and teach in the midst of places like the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza, Princeton Forums on Youth Ministry and youth gatherings such as the National Episcopal Youth Event, The Disciple Projects in Texas and South Dakota.

These are just a few of the threads of an amazing tapestry created by leaders of all ages and influences. We at the The Youth & Family Institute want to say thank you to the thousands that we get to connect with through out a year. Lyle Griner, the Institute’s Peer Ministry Director, says, “We are about nothing less then changing the world, be it one person at a time.”

No matter who you are, or what level of ministry you serve at, we look hope you join in soon creating a relational web encircling the children of all ages in our hands.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Augustana College

Got to share the microphone with Jonathan Rundman this weekend in Sioux Falls as High School kids and leaders gathered for their "FaithFest" annual youth gathering.

I often say there is a huge difference between “youth group” and “youth ministry.” Youth group focuses inward. It has a club mentality. Youth ministry focuses outward... Caring about one’s neighbor, feeding sheep, doing onto the least, doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God. Youth ministry kids are kids who are honest about the world not always coating it in “happy slappy” Jesus songs, bowling nights, or strangely painted youth rooms hidden away from the rest of the congregation. Okay, I like a little “happy slappy” myself.

Maybe it is time for a new scorecard. Instead of evaluating youth group success by how many kids showed up maybe we should count…
➢ The number of kids trained to care for other kids
➢ Parents equipped with specific ways (“four keys”) of faith practices in their homes.
➢ God parents, grandparents, anuts and uncles who are intentionally given ways to nurture faith
➢ Intergenerational experiences where young kids to old, old adults hear each others stories
➢ Numbers of adult mentors who surround each child
➢ The times that kids are intentionally exposed to community situations where people live their faith outside the “god boxes” we create.
➢ Times kids get to learn from other’s stories who are “different” because of race, economics, cultural differences, and
➢ Kids who have found ways to be a part of a congregation community by leading with their own skills and interest. (Kids are either leading or they are leaving.)

I am not against kids gathering, it is just that teaching kids that a youth group is a way to get away from, even hide from everything else that is going on around them, may not be the best method. No more “holy huddles.” At least not without going into the world that surrounds us.

I am of course a bit bias, but Peer Ministry is the way for kids to deal with the realities of life that in their young ages they already have to deal with. It is the way to have support from adults equipped to walk with. One of the beautiful things about the Good Samaritan story is that the Samaritan takes the wounded person to the Inn Keeper. Kids need to know who the Inn Keepers are and how to guide their friends to them as they walk along side.

(Kathi, you got me going this morning!)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tampa 3rd night

Out with a few of the best training crew in the world!

Two days with the Intensive Care course for a delightful crew of beginning youth ministers.

Two good runs along the bay. Missed the tornados last night!