“why should he run the meeting in english?! we all speak korean here! he should speak korean, too!!”

i am a big believer that youth ministry is actually family ministry. there is no way a couple of hours a week at church can shape the heart of a young person. if we’re going to reach students for Christ, then we must reach their families.

and herein lies the dilemma. most of the time, i find myself completely unable to navigate first-generation korean culture. it’s not just that i cannot speak the language (although there has been perhaps a 15% improvement in comprehension over the last couple of years); the cultural gap seems to be growing larger the longer i serve in this context.

last sunday, we had a pta meeting here at church. knowing that very few people look forward to these poorly-attended meetings, the education pastors did our best to keep it short (only about 15 minutes total, between three different ministries — not bad!). we closed in prayer together with the parents and i gathered my things to leave.

it was then, about five or six feet behind me, that i heard one particular dad start ranting, loudly, to a small group of people around him about how unhappy he was. apparently, since i had made all of three announcements in english, he was about to blow a gasket. in the couple of months since we’ve been at this church, i have heard numerous comments from this particular man about how he wants things to be run and the mistakes others have made.

i really wanted to turn around and tell him to calm down. that if i could, of course i would have run my part of the meeting in korean. that there were plenty of other people here who also struggled with english, but seemed to be handling it fine. that, even if i could not communicate well with him, i am reaching his kids. but, of course, since we don’t speak each other’s language (in more ways than one) i chose not to say anything. plus, i was pretty steamed, which is not always the best way to engage a conversation with a church member.

i want to be pastoral with him. his life has been really hard — not only as an immigrant to this country, but with a family life that would make anyone bitter and frustrated. most of the time, this man is very nice, even charming, with church people. but i think he must feel the need to flex on someone. all of his disenfranchisement and disappointment with life come bubbling to the surface, and he lashes out at the youth and education ministries (on whom he must feel like he has the upper hand).

i don’t mean to bad-mouth our church. most of the people here have been very kind, and i certainly don’t expect anyone to cater to my needs. as a pastor, i’m here to serve, after all. however, i am getting worn out by this kind of attitude. it’s not like this church is unique in this. while it might only be a small percentage of people, this type of attitude has been present in almost every ministry in which i’ve served.

grow a thicker skin.
pray more.
learn korean.
i know there’s a laundry list of things i can/should do in response to all of this. but it’s still frustrating.