Thursday, April 05, 2007

Soar: A Journal About Ministers As Perpetual Children?

I saw an ad just now in the new Christian Century (p. 61) that chafed at me. It seems to me lately that ministry-oriented ads are either totally bizarr-o (like the recent Meadville Lombard fiasco that looked like a reject from the "Close Encounters Of the Third Kind" ad campaign) or saccharinely precious, and forgive me for saying it, overtly feminized, if not exactly feminine.

The ad is for SOAR, a journal put out by Baylor University's Center for Family and Community Ministries in the School of Social Work. Sounds like a great journal. The graphic, however, gives me the willies. It shows the sillhouette of a chubby woman with scrambly short hair wearing what looks to be a hooded anorak and swinging way up in the air on a swing set.
Soar Ad

Here's what I thought the moment I saw this ad, and it wasn't a good thought:

Weeeee! I'm so in touch with my Inner Child!

Given that the journal is about ministering, I presume that the silhouetted figure is a minister. Let me just say right here that if this was an ad for a church, I would be afraid. I would be very afraid. I'd be all ready for the seed in the Dixie cup homily on Sunday morning, if you know what I mean.

Believe me, I have nothing against middle-aged people swinging on swing sets. I like to spend most of my summer toodling around lakes and pools riding a big yellow styrofoam noodle, myself, and living on a diet of berry pie, chips-and-salsa and sangria. I like to dance in my living room to "Cherchez La Femme." Ministers need to have fun, to be silly, to exercise their wild sides, let down their hair, etc. etc. etc. However, I am highly suspicious of the suggestion that this aspect of self-care is the main orientation and energy out of which we do pastoral ministry.

My ministry to families over the past ten years has encompassed these issues, to name a few:
addiction (pills, booze, sex, gambling, spending)
crises arising from transitions (college, nursing homes, divorce, etc.)
mental illness
financial worries
serious illness
rape and domestic violence
religious conflicts
lawsuits, imprisonment and legal issues
birth (including unintended pregnancies, abortion and fertility stresses)

When I think of ministry within the context of the family, I don't think of me swinging alone on a swing set -- not even in autumnal dusk (suggesting, in the ad, maturity and the light and dark of human life, yea, I get it, I get it). In fact, I never see me alone. That's ridiculous. Family ministry doesn't happen at the playground. It happens with families. That's another thing that's wrong with this image.

If I was designing the ad for this new journal, I would show...this is radical, but stay with me... a family. And I would show a figure set somewhat apart, sitting in a rocking chair, listening. All you would see is the backs of everyone's heads. There would maybe be a dog on the floor. Inner city, suburbs, rural, everyone can see themselves in that.

Or maybe I would show someone riding in a car with a very serious, meditative expression on their face. Kind of nervous, obviously prayerful, obviously eager to get there. Every minister would know that this is how we look when we're on our way somewhere to be with people.

I mean, there's a lot of ways to visually express the intensity and urgency of family and community ministry. I just don't think that me going la la la on a swing is one of them.


Blogger Shaktidas said...


Granted, that is a goofy ad. A little scary, I must agree.

However, she doesn't look that chubby to me. The bigger I get, the fewer people look chubby to me.

Blogger karlassi said...

Amen, amen, amen and amen.
In addition, you would never see a male minister depicted in this way.
Just a thought.


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