Thursday, July 7, 2011

Viva la Guatemala!

Just a heads up: I leave Saturday with a group of twelve other bold folks from Johns Creek UMC to head to Panajachel, Guatemala to visit Rev. Tom Heaton and his incredible ministry, Mission Guatemala. This is the first trip I've led in over a year, and as someone who worked for the short-term mission agency of the UMC, I'm not us being stateside for so long!

While I am away, you can be a part of our adventure by following along on our team blog: I hope you'll be in prayer for us as we go.

One more plug: if you are interested in this sort of thing and are part of the North Georgia Conference, Stacey and I are leading a team to Uganda in early March of 2012 through the conference's Bridges initiative. We'd love to have you go with us. If you want to know more, drop me a line.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On social media

There has been quite a stink lately about the Kentucky Conference's social media policy, and while I do not care to dive too deep into the crevasse of Board of Ordained Ministry policy, I do think it is WAY past time for those of us who are pastors to figure out how to use social media.

I have taken the tack, so far, of wait-and-see. I have never been one to post intensely personal things on Facebook (or on this blog, for that matter), but I also have kept my Facebook privacy settings pretty strict. I don't limit what folks can see once I friend them, but I also have made it so that I can't be searched for. This strategy has worked, so far, in my capacity as part of a multi-staff congregation; people are not that interested in the online life of an associate pastor. Besides, I really don't care to rock the boat too much as an associate. I want to be myself, of course, but I honestly also don't want to do anything to distract from the senior pastor's vision for the church.

I don't have anything online I am ashamed of, short of the haircut displayed in several high school photos in which I have been tagged. I do not have photos of myself doing kegstands with bikini models or whatever. I'm pretty boring. You'd be hard-pressed to point to a place on Facebook where I've violated the social principles (though, I should note, this is not a challenge!).

Still, there's the issue of integrity. I want to be who I am, and I want who I am in real life to match up with who I am online. I think those members of my generation--especially in the clergy, though not exclusively so--are sort of at a crossroads with this social media business.

Those who are older than me did not grow up with the internet. They did not get into Facebook when it was The Facebook (and only open to colleges and universities). Many of them entered (and continue to enter!) the world of social media with a wary eye and a general feeling of inevitability. There does not seem to be a problem, with some of these folks, about how to handle social media, but then again social media is not so much "social" for many of these folks as it is, well, an assigned parking place on the internet.

Those who are younger than me have grown up with a Facebook page to which their parents had access. They instinctively know how to operate online, or at least they are good at hiding those things which they do not want their parents to see. I suspect that as they come into the professional world--and as those who are called enter the ministry--they will face many of the questions my generation is now facing. For now, though, they seem to operate online quite well, devoid of much professional responsibility.

But those of us in the middle--I'd say four or five good years worth of Facebook users--entered the social media world thinking it was one thing and are now being told it is something else entirely. The problem is not so much the changing nature of social media. The nature of technology is that it changes.

The problem is that those changes mean I have to reconfigure how I am socially oriented, and if this sounds like an exaggeration, let me just say that I grew up with the internet, quite literally. My first AOL handle was DRush11, reflective of my age at the time. Those of us who are now young professionals, especially young adults navigating the clergy universe, have been taught to be social online in a certain way. Now that my role has changed, now that I am living into my calling, I have to fundamentally reorient my social self. This is difficult, and I suspect this is also why so many United Methodist young adults are reacting so viscerally to new policies on social media.

So cut us a little slack. We are figuring this stuff out--and from a much different place than those who are writing the policies. As people of integrity (and most of us are!) we recognize the issues. We just need a little time to make the adjustments.

As for me, I'm still deciding on how to use Facebook. If we're talking integrity, hiding behind privacy controls does not seem to me to be much better than lying about who I am on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The prison of the short-term

We are held prisoner by the short-term nature of decision-making. Health care costs are skyrocketing because, in the moment of crisis, please, doctor, do whatever you can to stabilize great-great grandma. I do not mean to deny empathy to those at the end of their lives, but at what point to we tack on an extra two months to someone's life at the expense of providing basic healthcare to the uninsured? Surely there is a way to ensure basic health care for all people, rather than viewing health through the lens of crisis: somebody get the crash cart, do whatever you can, keep trying.

And, in war, we spend three hundred thousand dollars to produce one Humvee, when that money could provide a hot meal for over a million children, perhaps negating the need for the armored vehicle in the first place, with the added benefit of, you know, feeding a million children. In the heat of the moment we allow military spending and healthcare innovation to be its own end, but standing at the precipice of the future, surveying the whole world and God's call to faithfulness, these things cannot be their own end. Perhaps they are a means to an end, but they cannot be their own end.

All of this makes me wonder how God views history. I think I know, but it must be interesting to watch us scurry about.