Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The Jones Memorial Carpet"

From the very first moment I ever heard him open his mouth, I knew that the late Mike Yaconelli was a leader of the Jesus Revolution.  He said things, did things and believed things that made it clear he was no friend to "organized religion," yet he and his ministry partner Wayne Rice were in large part responsible for organizing student ministry as we know it.  You can read more about Yac on my post Influences: Mike Yaconelli.  Today I want to focus more on one of Yac's signature phrases.  It seemed he never spoke about youth ministry without uttering the phrase "the Jones Memorial Carpet."  He was not talking about a specific carpet, or even a carpet at all. He was talking about an attitude of the church. And since I am a Jones...let's just say it has real meaning to me.

Pirate Night @ Wesley Memorial
 Yac generally used the phrase when speaking about how churches want young people around, they just don't want them to act like teenagers.  They want youth ministries to be clean and neat.  Nothing too wild should go on.  Keep the music turned down.  No piercings or tattoos.  And don't spill anything on the Jones Memorial Carpet.  Anyone who knows anything about student ministry knows that is not how it works.  It's messy pretty much all the time- both physically and spiritually.  Yac (and Tic Long) also used to say that if there is not at least one rule at your church that exists because of YOU (the youth pastor), then you are not doing your job.  I have seen those rules.  No playing kick-the-can in the cemetery.  No playing Sardines in the John J. Blair Class- since those "youth" destroyed their coffee pot.  No red Kool-Aid anywhere.  No dodgeball in the Sanctuary (OK- that one is legit) and no pie-throwing in the Fellowship Hall.  To Yac, all of those messes and all of those stains were cause for a celebration- in his words, "WHOOO-HOOO!"  They simply meant you had kids in your church.  But churches seldom see it that way.

One church I served, which had a real heart for student ministry and the messes it can create, decided to install new carpet in our youth room.  The old carpet was covered in massive stains and there was money to replace it.  I was excited until I went to a Trustees meeting and began to hear all of the things we could no longer do once the new carpet was installed.  No more food in the room.  Seriously?  No food in a youth room?  We ate supper there every week.  No more messy games.  Really?  No more Jell-O Nights?  No more Honey Bee Club?  C'mon, man!  And the list went on.  When I complained, they asked me for suggestions as to how to keep from messing up what was quickly becoming the Jones Memorial Carpet.  I gave them the following suggestions:
  1. Purchase a carpet that was pre-stained or tie-dyed so no one would ever see the stains.
  2. Forget about carpet and just use drop clothes.
  3. Install tile instead.  Easier to clean, but extremely slippery.  A law suit is better than a stain any day!
  4. Purchase a light colored carpet, then stage a pre-emptive spill with red "Bug Juice" and cover the whole area.  Oops!
  5. Just get it over with and shut down the youth program, because teenagers are just not your thing.
OK, so I didn't actually say any of those things.  But I did remind them that in youth ministry we are always at work in a mission field, and to reach our target audience requires us to be different, messy and sometimes outright revolutionary.  We want to give them Jesus, but we have to have a relationship with them first.  I told them about the Jones Memorial Carpet.  And I gave them a "WHOOO-HOOO!"  The new carpet and some new furniture wound up in THE PARLOR.  I didn't even have a key to that room...

My long-winded point today is this- both student ministry and the Jesus Revolution are not likely to be successful if we only think it terms of "this is how we do it at church."  The people impressed by our "church piety" are already at church.  It's the lost and the hurting we need to connect with and show love to.  And that will always be messy.  It may involve the homeless, the unclean, the HIV positive and the criminal.  It will definitely mean that people who don't know (or care) "how we do it at church" will be coming through our doors.   If they do, I'm willing to bet you they will leave stains on the Jones Memorial Carpet.  And I think you would hear Jesus crying out- WHOOO-HOOO!  Viva la revolution!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous2/22/2011

    I think you deserve a WHOOO-HOOO for that one... -Adam M.

  2. You're more cowboy than you ever knew!!

  3. Thanks buddy. I take that as a real compliment.


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