Apr 042014
 

At a Leadership Network collaborative event tech-gridfor churches strategizing about “What’s Next”, I made a presentation titled “The Present Future of Digital Technologies.”

I did the 15-minute talk twice. Listen to either 1 of 2 audios and follow along with the slide deck for a useful framework to thinking strategically about how to use current & emerging technologies for current & future opportunities.

Version 1

Version 2

Honored to be presenting with Nils Smith (OnlineChurch.com) during these sessions. I don’t think he had slides; I do have an upcoming episode with Nils on the Social Media Church podcast [will add link here.] Posting this presentation in reply to this tweet.

@andrewcyee

Mar 292014
 

Yes there is hope and help for people that struggle with mental illness, but it is not easy to get help when there is so much social stigma about someone needing psychiatric help. Plus, even if stigma weren’t in the way, there isn’t enough professionals and resources to meet the overwhelming need–approximately 61.5 million (1 in 4 US adults) experience mental illness in a given year and only a third receive help!

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church yesterday was a powerful time of exhortation for how churches around the world must take more of its part to better help people that struggle with mental illness. Here’s why: the church is statistically and anecdotally the first place people go for help with mental illness. 3,200 were in attendance at the sold-out event and many thousands more watching online via the free webcast. Tommy Hilliker announced that the plenary videos and all workshop audios will be posted online for free – what a great & generous resource! 

/ [update] Watch/listen to the recordings from The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church /

hope4mh-13487340514_87432e3aca_z
[photo credit: Explorations Media, L.L.C.]

2 Christian ministries equipping people to run peer-based support groups were featured:

fresh_hopeGrace-Alliance

Fresh Hope -  a peer-to-peer Christ-centered wellness approach to mental health recovery that empowers people to connect both their faith and recovery principles

The Grace Alliance - provides personal assistance to navigate professional care and improve personal life management through its Mental Illness Recovery Program (THRIVE) and support groups. Also helps the church understand the biblical and clinical perspective of mental health difficulties and disorders.

I missed hearing about church-based support groups. When I searched for them on the Internet during the past hour, I found no popular church programs to care for people struggling with mental illness, though there are a handful of local examples here and there.

Maybe a few churches will be prompted to develop church-based programs after yesterday’s event and make their curriculum available to churches everywhere. If history is an indicator, maybe Saddleback Church will be one of those curriculum-makers, like its past roll-outs: Purpose-Driven Church, Purpose-Driven Life, Celebrate Recovery, and Daniel Plan.

Millions are suffering and struggling with mental disorders (cf. NIMH): Mood Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Phobia, Agoraphobia, Specific Phobia, Eating Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Personality Disorders, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder. And I think we/they can use all the help they can possibly get. Will the church arise?

[update] One OC Christian support group, Families and Friends of those with Mental Illness, meets on alternating Monday nights 7:00pm-8:30pm at Saddleback Church (1 Saddleback Pkwy, Lake Forest, CA 92630) in Room 310, nearby Tent 3. About this group::

To provide an informative, supportive and safe experience for families and friends with loved ones suffering from severe or chonic mental illness. This support group provides an environment where you can share your burdens, glean from others experience and find strength being with people who also have a loved one battling mental illness. You don’t have to go through it alone. Come and be with people who can relate to what you are going through.

Mar 272014
 

Watch the free webcast for The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church held on 3/28/14, noted as the nation’s first religiously backed conference to address mental health issues

hope4mh-watch

/ [update] Watch/listen to the recordings from The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church All of the plenary session videos and workshop audios are online for free. /

Traditional media mentions, most recently:

I’m most eager to hear of the next steps and sustained efforts at keeping the conversations alive and ongoing, raising awareness, shaping and changing perceptions, breaking stigma over time. It won’t happen overnight. I do pray that a bunch of good things will birth from this event. And I hope the event organizers will record the webcast videos and make those available as a very valuable resource.

Aside: I haven’t yet found discussions online leading up to the event, though I did find a few blog posts. (My attempt to contact organizers about follow-up next steps got a reply of: “… decisions have not been made yet.”)

Mar 152014
 

March 28th, 2014 is the day when the world could have more safe communities for people with mental illness. The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church is convening on 3/28 from 8:30am to 9:00pm (Pacific Time, UTC-7) Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and word is that there will be a FREE livestream webcast. See website mentalhealthandthechurch.com for more event info and if you’re local to Southern California, please come – and don’t let money be a barrier. Event hashtag = #hope4mh

mentalhealthychurch

Here’s your personal invitation from the organizers:

Studies show that one out of every four adults in America will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. The first place many go for help is to their priest or to their pastor because the heart of Jesus and the Church has always been for those who suffer.

You are invited to The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a one-day event designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.

Join Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and NAMI-OC (National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County), and other faith and community leaders on Friday, March 28 for a hope-filled and inspiring event, as together we call the Church to action on behalf of those living with mental illness, equip lay and pastoral leadership, and stand side-by-side with those who suffer.

The headline on this Christian Post article, Rick and Kay Warren to Host ‘Mental Health and the Church’ Summit; Organizers Hope to Wipe Out Stigma of Mental Illness, is quite an overstatement, in my humble opinion. One event will not wipe out the stigma, as the headline suggests (or it could be read that way, I did). It will take a long sustained effort to change things, with the social stigma pervasive in societies and families, faith communities and churches alike.

I’m personally very grateful for this one influential church taking a first step to start addressing this. I’m eager to see what the second step will be, and the many steps ahead that many others will begin to take. It all starts with the first step, and I sincerely hope it’s the first of many, not only for Saddleback, but many many others.

kaywarren313postAnd, one more thing. I’ll be there in person myself. Please say hello if you can come too, I would be happy to connect. (personal disclosure: Saddleback Church is my home church)

cf. also read Kay Warren’s poignant blog post (Facebook calls it a “story”): ‘… shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to “move on.”‘

Mar 082014
 

Though I’m not at SXSW 2014 in person, I can peek in with the lively conversations there all over social media. This gathering is the largest convergence of cultural-shaping streams of film (movies, videos) + interactive (digital, social media, online, mobile) + music (soundtrack, poetry, arts) and still the place-to-be for connecting into the currents of the latest vibe in today’s popular culture.

Faith is very much a part of the human condition, though not at the center of pop culture, it is featured at 2 #sxsw sessions and embedded in the bio’s of several speakers:

Is Facebook Making Houses of Worship Go Extinct? @ Monday 3/10 11:00am CT #sxsw #faithbook

  • Rebecca Saidlower (Dir of Mktg & Communications, The Jewish Education Project) @RSaidlower
  • Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse (Social Media Coordinator, NJOP – National Jewish Outreach program) @susqhb + @JewishTweets

#sxsw #MLK2BAKER

Black Church Activism in the Digital Era @ Tuesday 3/11 9:30am CT #sxsw #MLK2BAKER
“As social media begins to democratize communication and give voice to the voiceless; What will be the impact of social media on the future Black Church activism in the digital era?”

  • Jamye Wooten (CEO/Publisher, Kinetics Communcations) @KineticsLive
  • Ralph Watkins (Assoc Prof of Evangelism and Church Growth, Columbia Theological Seminary) @ralphbasui

And here’s other people of faith in the #sxsw 2014 mix ::

  • Catherine Woodiwiss (Co-Founder, Trestles Creative Agency) @chwoodiwiss@trestlestweets
    Catherine is a journalist, start-up founder, musician, and community-accumulator… Catherine is also a columnist and editor at Sojourners, a leading faith-based social justice blog and advocacy group in DC. Presenter at session: Do It Together Is the New Do It Yourself #sxsw #DIYalive
  • Beth Katz (Founder & Exec Dir, Project Interfaith) @bethkatz + @ProjectIntrf8th
    Beth is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Interfaith (www.projectinterfaith.org). Her passion for creating a world where people of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures are valued…
  • Greg Stielstra (Engagement Strategist, Healthways) @GregStielstra
    Greg is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience and special expertise in behavioral economics and how influence spreads through human social networks… He is the author of two books: PyroMarketing (HarperCollins, 2005) and Faith-Based Marketing (Wiley, 2009) and was the marketing director for The Purpose Driven Life, the fastest selling hardcover book in American history. Presenter at session: Transform Community Behavior with Digital Design #sxsw #LiveBetter
Mar 022014
 

Language shapes culture. I’ve also heard it said that language and culture are intricately connected. Another dimension of that came to light recently as I listened to this NPR TED podcast episode, Does The Subjunctive Have A Dark Side? [transcript] – where a portion of a TEDx talk delivered by a 2nd-gen Vietnamese-American explained how the absence of a subjunctive mood with verbs in Vietnamese (and by inference, Asian languages), resulted in a huge difference in how they experienced life, for himself and his 1st-gen Vietnamese dad.

I had to find the full talk and here it is. Watch that TEDxDirigo talk Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive by Phuc Tran::

The video is worth watching in its entirety. (For those that read faster than they listen, the full transcript of Phuc Tran’s talk is posted at racialicous.) I’ve excerpted keen insights below (and emphasis added are mine):

… I remember talking to my dad about the subjunctive, and because he wasn’t a native English speaker, he didn’t understand all the nuances of the subjunctive. “Listen, Dad. You can say something like ‘If it hadn’t rained, we would have gone to the beach.’” And his response? “That’s a stupid thing to say. Why are you talking about something that didn’t happen?”

… The subjunctive mood allows us to look into the future and see multiple, highly nuanced possibilities with just a little sprinkling of could’s, would’s and might’s.

… I didn’t know it then, but I was pondering things that my parents couldn’t ponder at all because of the English subjunctive.

… So what happens if a language doesn’t have the subjunctive? What if a language can’t express the idea of something that could have happened? And what if that language were Vietnamese? For my father, there were no alternate realities… There was just what happened and what didn’t happen. There were no sustained moments of contemplating what could have been for him because Vietnamese didn’t allow it.

… For my parents’ survival, however, this lack of the subjunctive was fundamental to their resiliency. They were able to provide for me and my brother, able to find the strength to do what needed to be done in part because they didn’t expend psychic energy on what could have been.

… There I was, hovering between two very different worlds: Vietnamese with its stark indicative, and English with its mirage of the subjunctive.

… The subjunctive helped me envision what I could be; it allowed me to be creative and to entertain crazy visions of “what if.” But as I unpacked all those possibilities, I also fell prey to the dark side of the subjunctive, the idea of “should have.” The idea of what “should have” didn’t improve my present or my future–it clouded my ability to see what actually was because I was fixated on what wasn’t.

… The subjunctive allows us to innovate, but it also allows us to become mired in regret. The indicative does not allow us to imagine at all, but it does allow us to talk about ourselves and our experience in real terms…

Can you relate? For decades I’ve worked at bridging communications between first-generation and second-generation Asian Americans, attempting to better connect with my own parents, as well as for my work with ethnic Asian churches. Not only are language and culture tightly connected together, so also is my personal identity with them, and all of that shape how I see the world and experience life.

As it is with any cross-cultural comparisons and contrasts, the temptation is to pick what’s better and what’s worse in each culture. Don’t fall for that. Different cultures are just that, they’re different. And depending on the context, some cultural artifacts work better in certain situations. Cultivate the cultural-savvy to navigate in our increasingly-diverse multi-cultural world.

Aside: This is the nomenclature I’m using for Asian Americans. First-generation refers to foreign-born Asian Americans that immigrated to the USA after age 12. Second-generation refers to both foreign-born Asian Americans that immigrated under age 12 and of course all native-born Americans of Asian ancestry. Age 12 is not a magical number of changing worldview, but from my life experience, that seems to be the inflection point for which culture holds the greater influence on one’s identity.

Feb 142014
 

More churches are asking how they can reach the next generation (some for its own survival, some for the mandate of reaching more people in their community as part of its on-going mission.) Recently I got this question from a pastor of a church wanting to reach the next generation, and he texted it to me this way: “what are best days/times for worship services for Emerging adults (20s) aka post-college?” I could rephrase it as: what are the best worship times for reaching young adults (to be friendlier to search-engines.)

I checked with Benson Hines, the best expert I know of that’s thoroughly researched  college ministries (chronicled at exploringcollegeministry.com), and thus the subsequent post-college stage of life after the inevitable graduation of most college students. Here’s his reply, posted with permission:bensonhines

Do you mean a church worship service that serves as one of the “weekend worship services” (seen as a regular church service, just targeting that group)? In that case, Sunday night seems to be a favorite in some places, but there are probably plenty that do Sat. night or Sun. morning.

It’s probably more contextually about what people will do in a given city (and how else the church is structured for the other parts of its discipleship – for instance, if there’s a Sunday morning activity, then most young adults would probably only want to come once, rather than once in the morning and then again on Sunday night).

But I would tend to think Sunday night, all things being equal.

If you’re asking about a general “citywide worship service” that isn’t meant to replace the weekend service, that’s even less clear – I haven’t run into enough of them to say, and my best bet is that it’s highly contextual based on the city. Tuesday, though, seems like one good option (especially if the city’s “nightlife” starts on Thursday); Tuesday is when our church’s big young adult gathering (2,000 sometimes) happens. [ed.note: Benson's at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas]

But I think Sunday night, Monday night, and Wednesday night would all be viable. 

And I’d add that for a weekend service, I wouldn’t assume that later is better – in some cities, young adults would prefer an earlier service and having their whole day remaining.

Getting to know one’s city will provide a lot of insight. What are its “rhythms”; when do other groups do things with the same crowd (for ministry or otherwise)? It also depends on where the church is geographically – how long it takes to drive there, how “easy” it seems, etc., matters a lot. And if there are already young adults around, you should simply ask them. Maybe try some one-off gatherings and experiment.

BUT if we’re talking about mid-week “citywide” services… I’d add for those generally thinking about starting something: The general “citywide” service can be an excellent tool but is a terrible “default” or “go-to” method. Lots of churches start these as attempts to draw new people to a non-existent ministry, draw people to the church (even though they present it as for anyone), OR to jumpstart an ailing ministry. These moves are common but don’t tend to work out well. When I’ve seen these citywide services be truly successful, they seem to be either highly strategic (someone has very clearly discerned that THIS city needs this at THIS time), or organic (someone starts something small and it simply grows and grows).

What has your experience been with effective churches reaching & ministering with young adults? Would love your input. Add a comment.

Jan 272014
 

I confess that I have an uneasy relationship with money. And having spent a decade of my life preparing for being a pastor, I’ve given these related topics more than the average Joe or Jane. (This blog post is more of a stream-of-conscience thinking-my-confusion-out-loud, so the ideas here may not be entirely coherent and should not be quoted as such in publications or what have you.) And, granted, I live in a privileged first-world context where I have been blessed with the luxury to contemplate about money, instead of having to use all time and energy living from paycheck to paycheck, or worse.money

With recent media exposure of pastors making a lot of money from churches and Christian ministries and books and conferences (cf. Preachers of LA reality television show, scrutiny about Pastor Steven Furtick’s new home, Pastor Ed Young Jr.’s reality TV show in the works, ad nauseum), it stirs up my own discomfort with money, and what I mean by that is, those examples tend to reinforce my discomfort and dislike for money. And it’s also been noted by our US government: Large churches have come under severe criticism for being impersonal and motivated by money. In 2008, several megachurches came under IRS scrutiny due to the wealthy lifestyle of the pastors, and some of those pastors resisted investigation.

I’ve realize that many (or most?) people who like money, or love money, and want to have more of it, even working hard for it, or whatever it takes, even in ministry. But that’s not me. That’s not to say I don’t need money; I do need money because I have bills to pay and I am not financially independent.

The Bible has a lot to say about money, how the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10), how a person cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), and your heart will always be where your treasure is (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). Those don’t resolve this dilemma for me, the desire to have good motives and then what to do with money.

There is clear biblical justification for a person to do the work of Christian ministry and earn money from it, by being financially supported by others, as it is written: “… the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) There it is, it’s biblical to have paid pastors.

Getting paid for doing ministry is a right, a good thing, but it’s not a necessary thing. The minister can choose to opt-out. First example of this is the bi-vocational Apostle Paul, who did the work of ministry (and it is work, hard work) while funding it by himself in the tent business. He explained it in 1 Corinthians 9:15-18, “But I have not used any of these rights… that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

And when a minister does opts-out and does ministry without getting pay, that’s commendable, and it gets unusual attention from everyone. Newsweek (in 2005) noted that Pastor Rick Warren returned ”.. his own salary back to his church, retroactively, for the past 25 years… and to “reverse tithe”: he gives away 90 percent of what he earns.” (Disclosure: I attend his church, Saddleback Church)

When money is taken out of the ministry equation, it’s a whole different game. Getting money out of the way is one way to ensure altruism, or at least, to get the motive of greed crossed off the suspect list. Money does muddle motives but it doesn’t have to. There you have it: one way to unmuddle motives, the money motive anyways, is to opt-out of getting paid for ministry. A second way, is to take a reasonable salary commensurate with the average member in the congregation. And then there’s Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. Since its formation, the church has paid all of its staff members the same annual salary, which is currently $26,400. The only difference in pay is compensation for dependents.

What do you think? Add a comment with other good ideas to keep the money motive in check, both for the spiritual health of the pastor as well as a more effective public witness for Gospel proclamation.

Aside: Recently, Cameron Lee (Professor of Family Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary) posted a more thorough treatment in his blog series “Money and Ministry” with 4 posts– part 1, 2, 3, 4.

(photo credit: thomashawk)