Friday, April 06, 2007

Youth Pastor Search: Cedarbrook Distinctives

This post is intended for youth candidates but anyone new to Cedarbrook will appreciate the info.

As I said in my previous post, we are looking for a youth pastor who shares our approach to ministry. I never think of our approach as different, but people tell me that Cedarbrook is very different. I guess you either love it or not. So, let me list a few things that we value in the way we do ministry:
  • Being normal. We try to eliminate religious jargon from our talk. Cedarbrook is full of a wide variety of people from various church and non-church backgrounds. Religous words that mean something to one mean nothing to another and are offensive to yet others. You can love Jesus without peppering your sentences with "God told me this" and "hallelujah". We don't want people to recognize us for our religiosity but our Christ-like character and deeds.
  • Encouraging dialogue. I think the church has missed a huge opportunity to engage culture by being so strong about what we believe. Do you ever notice how Christians sponsor "debates" instead of "dialogues". The words alone are telling! "Debate" says we are right and the opposition is wrong. In sermons and conversations, we try to stimulate dialogue then let the Holy Spirit do the rest. We might openly engage people that embrace views that are rejected by the church at large. In doing so, we are not embracing their ideas. We are embracing the person, telling them, "We value you. You are important to me and God. We may not agree with your thinking, but we know that you are passionate and we appreciate that passion."
  • Women are equal in both theory and practice. It's embarrassing to me in the 21st century to even mention this. Every church talks about women being equal to men but many don't practice it. At Cedarbrook women function in every role that men do in the church. We have women elders and pastors. I've worked in churches with and without women in leadership. I would never go back to the old way.
  • Breaking down barriers to meeting God. Once you develop an eye for it, there are many things that church people do to make newcomers FEEL like outsiders. There is a strong "us/them" culture that insiders don't see but newcomers sense a mile away. And if people feel put off by church they are hearing that God doesn't want them either. The list is too long to mention here but it's a common discussion among staff to be on the guard for this behavior.
  • Look for the win-win. It's easy to point out the bad. That makes you look so good! But we believe that there are better ways to approach most issues. How can we affirm the good in others, ignore the bad (if possible) and eventually win them over to seek a better way? That's the challenge.
  • Look for what we share in common with others. Along the lines of a "win/win", we believe we share more in common with the unchurched than we often care to admit. Rather than pointing out the differences, why not talk about all that we share in common, the weakness, the failure, the joy and sorrows of life, the hopes and dreams, etc? We want to be building bridges and not walls.
  • Being real. I think churches are much more inviting when we drop the charade and just tell people how it is...we've got our issues but we are in process, moving toward God by following Jesus. True community is developed in brokenness, not in people only showing their best side.
  • Being consistent. The only way to make our faith credible to others (not to mention God) is if we let our faith impact EVERY aspect of our lives. When people see that our faith affects the way we spend our time, the way we treat people, the way we invest our money and the way we invest our talents, they see what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus. That says something. But when they simply hear a bunch of talk and religious activity, it turns them off and sends them away.

You can probably sense that these values are a reaction to something. That's true. Many of us, myself included, have come out of churches that left us feeling empty and disappointed. They were like the sizzle without the steak...saying the right words with little depth of conviction. To make things worse, religious words were a thin veil for the very same small minded, critical thinking that we saw in the world.

At Cedarbrook, we are trying our best to walk away from that kind of church and offer something real and inviting. That's why we follow our name with "come and be refreshed". We are far from perfect. We fall into many of the same traps I've spoken against. But we are actively working at trying to do church in a new way to please God and be inviting to those who might want to join us.

To learn more about the Cedarbrook vision I encourage you to read through some of my blogs, especially the series called "Why I Don't Like Church". Also, go to our website and read my sermons under Sermons & More>>Past Sermons>>Cedarbrook Vision. Just reading the summary of these sermons will tell you a lot about who we are.

Youth Pastor Search

Once you stop blogging, it's hard to start again! I guess I've been busy screening youth pastor candidates so let me talk about that journey.

The history is that after a three year run, our previous youth pastor (Andre) resigned. He's currently working as an engineer...what he went to school for. Since last September, Brad Kehn has graciously stepped up to be our interim pastor. Brad works full time as the Director of Youth Alive, a ministry to youth ministries (offering camps and training). Brad has added his Cedarbrook duties to his already full plate. We tried to hire someone last summer but we didn't find the right match (lots of candidates). Now we've resumed our search. We aren't just looking for anyone to fill the slot. We want someone who can build on the foundation that we have for youth as well as fit in with our somewhat different approach to church.

It's interesting to review the resumes because so many of the candidate's work history (75%) stops 1-3 years ago. For one reason or another, they were fired or quit and they have been unable to find another position. That makes me uncomfortable...hiring someone with a failed experience...but that's the nature of the beast. Youth pastors often go into a church setting, expected to create a thriving ministry but they get caught in an unfriendly church political environment with unrealistic expectations on them...or...they have little experience and can't juggle all the balls expected of a minister. Either way, they end up on the street, wounded, disillusioned and looking for a new home. The average stay for a youth pastor is 1.5 years!

It's also hard for me as I review resumes because I'm looking for someone who matches our ministry philosophy but realistically, these are young people who are still in process. They don't know what they believe for sure. And that's probably another reason that they fail. They take a position thinking that they agree with the church on everything but then their thinking evolves and they move away from what the church wants.

Speed-interviewing? Frustrated with a pile of resumes that seem more or less the same, I came up with an idea. You've probably heard of speed-dating. I decided to do speed-interviewing. Rather than spend time emailing and calling candidates, trying to narrow down the pile, I decided to invite them to visit a Sunday service and meet with me and a few leaders briefly. It's not an interview really. It's just a "meet and greet" time to help both parties decide if there is any chemistry. We haven't done this yet but I'm in the process of inviting people in April. I'm hopeful that it will bring clarity to a very muddy process.

I hope to report that we've found the perfect candidate yet this spring!