The Chocolate Covered Turd

There’s a series of videos that, seemingly, the Mothership has poured a lot of resources into. I tried to like it. I really did. I tried to like it. I tried to support it. But I can’t. I couldn’t. Because, I found it corny as hell.

And I hated the fact that I felt that way, because, in theory, this is a great tool.
I have watched every single episode, hoping I’ll like it.
But I dont. It just … feels corny.

You know what it really feels like?

You remember when we were teenagers? And our parents would be the most embarrassing people on earth? And you would try to hide them from the public?
Do you remember your parents trying to be “cool” and “hip” and use the “hip language”?
Remember how you would want to curl up in a ball somewhere and die from embarrassment and you wonder how such squares could produce someone like you?
Or how just old your parents looked when they were trying to use the words “yo”? (No? Just me…?)

That’s what it feels like to me.
It feels like my grandpa knows what’s cool and what’s in, because he is using youtube.

The thing is, just because you use a modern and relevant medium, it doesn’t make the content modern and relevant.

In a sense: a chocolate covered turd. Just because you covered it in chocolate it doesn’t change the content — the core. It’s still a turd.

I did an informal and unofficial survey to see how these videos resonated with folks.
I found that people who were decades older than me and have been long time UMCers loved it. Thought it was great. And thought that this should be used as an evangelical tool for young folks who don’t come to church. 

The young folks who are indoctrinated with the UMC — you know, the youth who are lovely and great and thoroughly Methodist through and through — they loved it.

A handful of 20 year olds (all Korean-Americans) who are heavily involved in ministry (most in the UMC) thought it was corny. At best.

A friend of mine, who doesn’t go to church, requested that I never waste his time like that again. (It had nothing to do with it being a Christian video.)

From this small sample, unofficial survey and conversations with friends and colleagues at Annual Conference, I concluded that these videos are popular amongst the already churched, particularly long time UMCers.

Which is great… More resources for the folks who are already coming faithfully to our churches. And a part of me bristles that we’re putting a lot of resources into something for those who are already loyal to our brand of theology.

And maybe it’s my fault for thinking that this series are an evangelical tool. Maybe that was never their intention or purpose, but to just educate those who are already coming faithfully, week in and week out. After all, the videos end with the same tag line, which assumes the viewer does go to church.

However, the few older folks I did talk to, felt it was a great tool for evangelism.
And I think, the heart of it, it’s because the videos use a newer medium. A medium that we know are used by younger folks.

But, just because it’s social media, it doesn’t automatically become viral. There’s a reason why viral videos become viral.

Now, I know I just poured out a lot of hate. I apologize.

These videos do their service. And they probably do a great job of reaching to people who are already going to church and educating them on church happenings and language and the Methodist culture and polity.

And I guess what really bristles within me is the disconnect that we have with my generation and beyond.

I feel like that uncle who has no idea what a 6 year old boy wants anymore, so as a gift, I bring that him a toy train because when I was 6, toy trains, trucks, dinosaurs, GI Joes, Thunder Cats, TMNT, Transformers, were awesome. Beyond awesome. But, when I arrive with the train, I discover that he’s evolved beyond the toy train. That was 3 years ago. He would’ve much rather appreciated a game or an app on his (Dad’s) iPad. Or a Nintendo 3DS game. (Do kids still play that…?)

It wouldn’t surprise me if there are churches who are going to hold a church council meeting, soon, to debate and argue the use of a projector and screen and powerpoint in the worship services and DVDs for their Bible studies. And a handful arguing against it because it changes the church that they know.

Which brings me to a deeper and more personal experience.

Every time I faced the BOOM (Board of Ordained Ministry), they asked me the same damn question. Every. Single. Time.

“We’re concerned that your experience in ministry has only been in youth ministry. We are concerned that you will not be able to relate to the older folks of the church, particularly the elderly. How do you plan on ministering to the older people of the church?”

And I always responded the same: The needs of the people are universal regardless of generation and culture. Teenagers and the elderly have the same need. They all want to be heard. They all want to feel accepted. They all want to be understood. They all want to be loved. They all want to feel part of the community and, for a lack of a better word, useful. Isn’t understanding and knowing that more than enough?
(Senior Home drama often mirror Jr. High/High school drama. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this…)

My answers never satisfied them. They saw my ministry experiences with the young people as a liability in the ordination process. They went out of their way to let me know and make me feel that my experience in youth ministry was more of a hindrance; a handicap for ministering in the local church. That my experiences in relating to the young people hurt me more than help me in the process of hoops that the BOOM has to make you jump through.

So I asked them one year, “If I worked as a chaplain for a senior home, what would you have said about my experiences in ministry?”
And they replied, “We wouldn’t have as many questions or concerns.”

It bothered me to no end back then. And it still does today.

Particularly because lot of people I know (mostly Korean-Americans) are doing youth and college ministry as they go through the process. And some of them have already been asked that question.
And, to me, it makes no sense, because we, as a conference and a denomination, have a hard time relating and understanding the younger generation of our community. But the 4 times that I faced the BOOM, they were worried that I would not be able to connect with yesterday’s generation. 
And don’t get me wrong, that is a valid concern. That generation is important. That generation paved the way for punks like me. In no way am I advocating that we push them aside and make way for the new. We need to work with together. Both generations making sacrifices and compromises.

What I didn’t appreciate was that I was made to feel incompetent and unprepared to further pursue my vocation and my calling, because I was working with today’s and tomorrow’s generation.

If we put all of our resources for the already churched and the decade long members of the UMC, and continue to not find ways to reach today’s and tomorrow’s generation, we’ll find ourselves in the situation that Israel found themselves after Joshua died. 

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:8-10, emphasis mine)