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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Is this really what we want to pass on to our kids?

Written by: on November 18, 2017

From the time children are small parents tell them, “You can be anything if you put your mind to it,” in an attempt to encourage them to be imaginative and to pursue their dreams. Children’s books such as Snoopy’s, “You Can Be Anything” reinforce this belief. Yet there’s a myth hidden in this pop culture phrase of the last few generations. Psychologist Erica Reischer shares in her parenting article, “I see [children’s] books like “You Can Be Anything” as a mirror of our own anxieties about our children’s identities and futures. I suspect that many of us harbor the secret desire that our children’s accomplishments will reflect well on our parenting, and, more selflessly, that our children’s high achievement will guarantee their well-being.”[1]

The shaping of human identity and how we see and engage the world is addressed in Anthony Elliott’s Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. Elliott writes about the broad strokes of society with particular interest in trending topics today (which is excellent as a professor of college students) while still majoring on social theory history, its implications and introductory stories to help comprehend the content more readily. His book is well outlined and easy to follow for anyone in the social sciences in particular, but also for the novice if they are willing to do a little work to navigate some of the terms. There are nearly no reviews debunking his text (and although I am sure I did not review all the literature, I did some serious library digging to find at least one without success) and few that discuss his latest edition. Yet, the results that came up time and again when I searched were reviews on Elliott’s other recent texts (Identity Troubles: An Introduction, and Reinvention). These texts expand on the section on globalization from Contemporary Social Theory.

So what do parent’s good but warped intentions for their children’s future and globalization have to do with one another? A lot as it turns out. As the primary people shaping their children’s identity, parents own identity will naturally bleed into their children. Part of our identity as Westerners today is living in a global individualistic culture where we believe we can have and do anything. As Elliott points out, “globalization, ironically, offers people a kind of ‘absolute freedom’ to do whatever they like. The irony is that the world of ‘everything goes’ has become crippling, as the anxiety of choice floats unhinged from both practical and ethical considerations as to what is worth pursuing.”[2]

The globalized world is not necessarily bad or good as Elliott critiques. However, within the new individualism that has ramped up as an outcome of globalization there are emotional effects. Globalization “reshapes not only institutions and organizations but also the very fabric of identity and personal life.”[3] Elliott continues, revealing the costs of individualism including personal confusion (lack of identity), intense anxiety, and disquieting depression.

The costs of our individualism are not self-contained. Rather we pass them to our kids, our co-workers, our friends and those we meet day-to-day. Anxiety, confusion and depression are products of the fallacy that we are limitless. The truth is (and Elliott does not discuss this), with as much access as we have to the world, we are all only able to have one body, one set of gifts, and one life we are living. As interconnected as we are able to be we still will never be anyone else, let alone everyone else.

To deny our limitations is to be deceived. “Throughout the polished, expensive cities of the West there is an emergent ‘new individualism’ centered on continual self-actualization and instant self-reinvention.”[4] Consumerism, neo-liberalism and privatization are wielding this new individualist world with heightened anxiety as their outcome.

In April I attended a daylong church leaders conference to hear Mark Sayers present on the church and its engagement with culture. Sayers, an author, cultural commentator, and lead pastor of Red Church in Australia spoke about globalization and the placelessness in our culture today. The non-place as he called it included many of the ideas Elliott shares including the ability to choose our own identities, the light relational ties to one another and the offer of incredible freedom. But Sayers also talked about the reaction against globalization in the nationalism that has rapidly spread over the last few years.[5] Both perspectives operate from a fragile, reactive and anxiety filled place that does not ever fulfill a person or create a sense of self-actualization. Sayers concluded by taking us to Galatians five explaining the concept of discipling anti-fragile people who are non-anxious because they live in the Kingdom by the Spirit, having crucified the flesh and its desires.[6]

What if in encouraging children to be imaginative and to pursue their dreams we modeled a non-anxious presence of being part of the world but not consumed by it, enjoying what we have but honestly confronting our limitations, of continuing to grow in our skills but recognizing we need the gifts of others as well? What if we lived not by our flesh but in the truest sense of who we actually are, spiritual people who struggle but are willing to live as a creative minority to the dominant culture? Perhaps if we helped them to know all of who they are in Christ and recognize the boundaries of who they are not meant to be they would walk in freedom rather than anxiety in our globalized reality. I believe both children and adults desperately need mentors who will consistently walk alongside in a Christ-like differentiated presence modeling and reminding us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything.”[7]

 

 

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/02/18/no-honey-you-cant-be-anything-you-want-to-be-and-thats-okay/?utm_term=.8d430ee5b7dd

[2] Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An introduction. New York: Routledge, 2014. 362.

[3] Elliott, 360.

[4] Elliott, 361.

[5] Mark Sayers, Presentation on Strange Days. Portland: Portland Four Square Church, April 21, 2017.

[6] Galatians 5:24-5

[7] Philippians 4:6

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

10 responses to “Is this really what we want to pass on to our kids?”

  1. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Trish,

    Two things really interested me in your post. First of all, your statement, “As interconnected as we are able to be we still will never be anyone else, let alone everyone else.” Amen. That is powerful! Globalization has high return, but certainly some risk, and expecting us to be all things to all people would be a shortcoming. Well said, Trish!

    The other word that you talked about that made me really pay attention was this concept of “placelessness” and I am going to think more on that.

  2. Shawn Hart says:

    Trish, very insightful. To be honest, I was not sure where you were going in the beginning, but you ended up with a very powerful point. I remember telling my father when I was younger that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Rather than the typical answer you drew upon, my father told me that I could explore the stars when I got to heaven…I needed to be a preacher. To be honest, I resented the response. I had a great ability in mathematics, I was very smart and driven (do not mean that arrogantly), and in all actuality, I very well could have been an astronaut with the proper motivation. Because of that reality, even though now I see that God was leading me even then, I still taught my children that though I hoped they were always teaching others about Christ, I just wanted them to do something they were passionate about. I believe we can instill great values in our children while not planting seeds of impossible dreams; but I also believe there is no need to squash dreams when they have them. Hard work combined with the right opportunities could make any number of things possible…just not definite. I feel we live in a society right now that has a group of young adults that are somehow waiting for the “promised” perfect job, and because it hasn’t dropped out of the sky, they are not producing anything.

    Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
    6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

  3. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Trisha,
    Great insight on the spiritual response to the world we live in. Here in Texas I find way to many who are wrapped up in the identity of politics as the identifier of their religion. There are many who say, “You can’t be a Christian and be a Democrat” as if the two were interconnected. I wonder, is it the same in your neck of the woods from the other point of view? I think we would all better off if we would identify as Christ followers and leave the other stuff out of the conversation of religion.

    Jason

  4. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Hey Trish, this one hit close to home. My husband’s parents always told him that he was good at everything and that he could do anything, and this ended up handicapping him because he didn’t know who to discern his own genuine gifts and talents. I had not related this to the ideaof being a “non-anxious presence”–something God has been teaching me to be for years now in relation to my own adult children. Thanks for putting these together for me!

  5. Anxiety is a significant cultural issue today in the West. Thanks, Trisha, for highlighting this. My clients recently approved a grant for a Christian university’s expansion of their Wellness Centre. They have experienced a dramatic increase in students requiring counselling or medical intervention for anxiety, specifically, in the past several years.

    What do you attribute this increase in anxiety to? Are you experiencing the same at your school?

  6. mm M Webb says:

    Trisha,

    Like you, I found reviews on Elliott’s other works, and they offered valuable insights on his social theory patterns. There is a “cost” to individualism. Human nature reveals the conflict, and theologically we see the need for salvation and redemption of the sin problem. I disagree with Elliott’s “we will never be anyone else” quote. 2 Cor. 5:17 comes to mind that we are “new creations” in Christ.

    Amen to your mini-sermon conclusion on your Elliott post! I think our Elite-8 are called to do just that, become mentors, disciplers, and leaders in the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

    Stand firm,

    M. Webb

  7. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    ‘What If’ indeed? What if we had any ability at all to resist the suffocating hedonism, materialism, and consumerism that is most notably evident in the culture of the U.S.? My own pessimism suggests that even with the transformative power of Christ our addictive response to the pleasure gained from our hedonistic lifestyle prevents us from experiencing anything close to the freedom God intended. Unfortunately, I also struggle to see how we will have much success in orienting our children to resist these aspects of culture either, though I continue to attempt such with every bone in my body. I also am not convinced that the Amish have the right idea, though maybe they are closer to it than I am able to understand. I am also convinced that even Elliott, with all his academic rigor, is unable to resist the urge to glorify the past in interpreting the present. Maybe John Wesley was closest to demonstrating a path that allowed him to live in the freedom provided by Jesus while also being the most benefit to others. “Earn all you can, save all you can, give away all you can,” was his adage.

  8. Excellent post Trisha! I totally agree with your statement, “As the primary people shaping their children’s identity, parents own identity will naturally bleed into their children.” I see this so often with the kids I work with, they reflect the healthiness or unhealthiness of their parents and many times they don’t see the connection. I think parents knowing themselves and their identity is one of the best gifts they can give their children. Curious how you have seen this in your own parenting.

  9. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Good job Trish. The idea of globalization exponentially increasing the pressures of FOMO was a great insight. FOMO is a real thing paralyzing us millennials! That’s the Fear of Missings Out for those who don’t know. And it’s why no one will ever mark “going” on their facebook event invites. People don’t want to commit, just in case something better comes along.

  10. Dave Watermulder says:

    Trisha,
    Thanks for this post. It was clear that you had spent time seeking out critique and reviews on this book, and that you creatively pivoted when you didn’t quite find what you were looking for! Appreciated the framing of thinking about globalization as it relates to our children and our own “self-actualization”…

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