Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model- Milestone 7

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3- Milestones 1 & 2

Part 4- Milestones 3 & 4

Part 5- Milestones 5 & 6

Well...we've "made it".  And, if you'll notice, the process begins at birth and we now find ourselves with a high school graduate.  For those of you really paying attention...this took 18 years.  Please focus on the last part of that last sentence..."this took 18 years."  This is discipleship.  There is no quick fix option for making followers of Christ.  For making "rule-followers" and "pew sitters"?  That's the easiest thing in the world.  But, discipleship is an entirely different row to hoe.  But...even here...after high school...we are not done.  If those 18 years were rough, the "terrible two's", adolescence, the temptations of high school...what about college?  Career?  Life in the church?  Parenthood?

Milestone 7- Life in Christ. "Every adult has a place at the table of Milestone 7--single or married, kids or no kids, young or old, all of us must abide in Christ and join him in the mission.  Churches embracing a strategy linking church and home for the spiritual formation of the next generation can;t afford to be apathetic about adult spiritual development.  All along the path of milestones, we ask adults to be disciple-makers.  Adults who become parents are expected to be the primary faith influencers of their children.  Adults from every season of life serve in the ministries relating to children and teenagers.  The key to this entire strategy involves developing adults who are also parents, volunteer leaders and deeply committed Christ-followers."

Wow.  You read that right, every single adult in the church, regardless of age, situation...every one, is committed to making disciples of the young people in the church.  
  • Champion:  The champion for this milestone is the discipleship pastor, spiritual formation pastor or senior pastor.  This person has three primary responsibilities:
    • Selection of curriculum that is focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ, teaches the Bible, embraces the core competencies (below) of this milestone, and integrates families.  If this seems like a lot, it is because it is.  As noted above, discipleship is not easy, and frankly, we need to stop acting like we make them when people simply sit in a pew for an hour on Sunday mornings.  If we are not holistic in our approach...if we are not truly equipping people, then we are not making disciples.  
    • Equips volunteer leaders to teach the Bible and model life in Christ.  If we are not equipping out lay leaders to lead, we are failing.
    • Works to equip all the adults to pursue life as people abiding in Christ. 
  • Core Competencies:  
    • Prayer- "When we study the earthly life of Jesus, we find a man of prayer."
    • Scripture- "Followers of Christ learn to study Scripture so they can live Jesus' way."
    • Authentic faith- "Authentic faith bows to the supremacy of Jesus as King, recognizing him as the head of every church and every home, according to Colossians 1:18."
    • Obedient follower- "Obedient followers know the Shepherd's voice and respond to his direction."
    • Disciple-maker- "We point adults to every ministry in our church for the opportunity to disciple others."  This is a fascinating concept, and one that I believe many churches miss.  Serving on the worship team, the building team, leading a class, cleaning the bathrooms, working in the kitchen, time with students...it's all about making disciples.  If we've not made that clear...then people are simply "filling a spot."  Every role we fill is bent on making disciples.
    • Giving/serving- "What if we truly gave and served to the point of making ourselves last so everyone else could be first?  What if we were truly servants of all?  Adults who embrace this core competency join in Christ's ministry to others.  Parents who learn to give and serve raise kids who respect others, love others, and prove it by giving and serving.  Husbands and wives who give and serve don't divorce."
    • Community- "We were designed for community.  The problem is that we're conditioned to be individualistc and self-sufficient...Biblical church is community."
  • Equipping Environments:  
    • Small group Bible studies- Teach adults Scripture and foster community
    • Adult education- Wednesday night classes geared to teach core competencies of the various milestones, within community.
    • Worship- Immerses adults in Scripture and milestones are highlighted as they occur.
Hard questions/why this might fail:  How committed are we to making disciples?  A strategy like the one above will force us to re-think every aspect of our corporate church life.  Sacred cows will be killed left and right, our time will be dramatically re-oriented, our priority-set will change.  We will spend time leading people down paths that might be better for them, against their wishes.  We will be constantly forced to choose between what we desire, and what we need to become a fully-committed follower of Christ.  While there are areas that could be implemented without full and complete church support, the implementation will be limited.

What might a complete overhaul within your church context look like?
How may people might you be willing to have walk because of a change of focus?
What kind of leaders might you need to recruit and equip to implement change?
What are the holes in the above strategy?  What are the blind-spots...the problems?

And...the most important question...is the above Biblical?  Why?  Why not?

Questions?  Concerns?  Possible solutions?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model- Milestones 5 & 6

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3- Milestones 1 & 2

Part 4- Milestones 3 & 4

Milestone 5- Passage to Adulthood. This milestone "delineates the responsibilities associated with becoming a man or woman of God.  It also lays out the Bible's expectations that parents will lead their children to become men and women of God before they leave home."  This is the opportunity for kids, along with their parents, to become increasingly involved in specific activities within the church. 
  • Core Competencies: Roles of men and women, spiritual gifts and service, basic tenets of faith
  • Champion:  The champion for this milestone is the student ministry team, specifically a small group leader or the youth minister. 
  • Parent Seminar:  "Preparing my Child for Adulthood"- Parents are equipped to  help their kids identify the spiritual gifts that are present and exercise them in their families and the church.  This seminar takes place in grades 9-10; parents are shown how to discuss a Biblical worldview using Faith Talks and God Sightings with their kids.   
  • Church Event:  There is no church event for this milestone, because it is meant to be done solely within the context of family.
  • Family Event: Parents are encouraged to create their own event for their children that clearly communicates that the young person is not a man or woman.  This would be similar to a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah for Jewish boys or girls.
Milestone 6- High School Graduation.   In this milestone, the church seeks to equip parents to lead discussions about God's plan for their children to be disciple-makers as the prepare for post-high school life.  Parents are taught how to defend their faith that they may pass those skills to their children.
  • Core Competencies: Defending my faith, God's plan for my life, dating, marriage, life skills
  • Champion: The champion here is the student ministry team, specifically, the youth minister or a small group leader takes on this role within the church, the family and the students.  Parents are encouraged to continue Faith Talks and God Sightings, and for seniors, a specific set of lessons is taught on Sunday mornings.  Their parents are taught the same material in their own small group context. 
  • Parent Seminar: "Preparing My Child to Leave Home"- This seminar equips parents to both encourage and deal with the hard questions of faith that their kids are dealing with.  It teaches them to use Scripture as their "true north" so that their kids can confidently defend their beliefs.  Additionally, parents are encouraged to be in real relationship with their kids, this culminates in a parental "blessing" ceremony.
  • Church Event: The church event is a "Senior Summit"- This event includes a meal and times of reflection, thanksgiving and blessing.  During the parent seminar, parents were encouraged to write a blessing for their children; at the senior summit, this blessing is given to their children.  These young men and women leave this night knowing with confidence that their parents are proud of them and excited about the future.
  • Family Event: "Blessing"
Questions?  Concerns?  Possible solutions?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model- Milestones 3 & 4

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3- Milestones 1 & 2

Milestone 3- Preparing for Adolescence.  "This stage of development requires parents to rethink how they connect with their children relationally to lead them spiritually....Understanding our identity in Christ answers two questions that are important for every person to answer: Who am I--and whose am I?"  The church comes alongside parents to help them lead these Faith Talks and God Sightings at home. 
  • Core Competencies: Identity in Christ, spiritual growth, spiritual disciplines
  • Champion:  The champion for this milestone is the children's ministry team in conjunction with the student ministry team.  The focus is on Faith Talks, God Sightings and resources to equip parents.
  • Parent Seminar:  This seminar takes place before age 9; while that seems (and is) young, the foundation for identity in Christ must be set early because the challenge to maintain that identity in light of our cultures sexualization.  Here, parents learn how to help their children navigate physical change, identity and sex issues. 
  • Church Event:  Each year, Brian's church has a 24-hour retreat for fourth and fifth grade students that specifically deal with one of the core competencies for this milestone.  In the time leading up to this retreat, the childrens ministry focuses on spiritual disciplines, identity and spiritual growth.  Sexual purity is NOT addressed, but parents are resource for a family/parent getaway to specifically address it.
  • Family Event: This is a Road Trip that has been carefully planned by the parents to celebrate the transition into adolescence.  The Faith Talks and God Sightings that precede this lay the foundation for the event.  

Milestone 4- Commitment to Purity.   "Purity for life is a foreign concept in mainstream culture.  Without a foundational moral source like the Bible, young people face a chaotic number of relational options.  But God has a clear plan for life, relationships, marriage and sex."  .  The ages between 7-13 are when many children growing up in a Christian home will make a commitment to Christ.  What does this look like?
  • Core Competencies: Biblical purity, healthy relationships, identity in Christ
  • Champion: The champion here is the student ministry team, specifically, the youth minister or a small group leader takes on this role within the church, the family and the students.  They "ensure that integration is occurring between the youth ministry experience at church and the parents' spiritual direction at home."  Curriculum, events, and programming is intentionally chosen to reflect the competencies and parents are sourced for Faith Talks and God Sightings
  • Parent Seminar: This seminar takes place at the beginning of a students' 6th grade year, and Brian has mature high school seniors share about the realities of a sexualized culture with parents.  A number of resources are made available to parents, with the key being parents encouraged to keep the lines of communication open about this topic. 
  • Church Event: The church event is a Commitment to Purity weekend.  A representative from a local crisis pregnancy center might be brought in on Friday to share the experiences of that person and organization.  "The youth ministry and pregnancy help center can only reiterate the principles parents have been teaching for months."  Saturday is a discussion-based event about identity in Christ, friendships, accountability and wide variety of other similar topics discussed.  Sunday worship is a celebration of purity and commitment.
  • Family Event: The family gives their son or daughter a purity ring as a symbol of their commitment.
Again, we are at the "gee...this looks perfect."   I've said it before, and I will say it again: parents need to step it up.  But, the church must be there to help them step it up.  In Exodus 17, Moses' arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur held them up.  Here is the honest truth, the church as a whole has, for too long, taken the place of parents in spiritual development.  There are a ton of reasons for this, some legitimate, most are not.  I love parents, and want to equip them, but, this must be a church-wide effort. 

"Parents must be pursuing spiritual growth and exercising spiritual disciplines as an outpouring of their identity in Christ to influence their children to do the same.  This is why a strong adult Christian education ministry is so important."  If the adult education process in a church is not clearly focused on making disciples and equipping the Body of Christ to make disciples above all other things, a student and children's ministry will be limited, and severely so.  

Hard question: How can we lovingly come alongside parents to teach and equip them, knowing that some might not want to disciple their kids?

Questions?  Concerns?  Possible solutions?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model- Milestones 1 & 2

Part 1

Part 2

Reminder, a milestone is a "marker of progression on the spiritual formation journey." With that in mind...

Milestone 1- The Birth of a Baby.  Brian Haynes writes "Christian parents are naturally compelled to dedicate their newborn children to God.  The act of dedication is actually a commitment on the parents' part to raise their children in the ways of the Lord." 
  • Core Competency: The parent as the primary faith influencer.
  • Champion:  The champion for this milestone is the children's ministry team, specifically, those over the preschool area.  This person works to build relationships with new (or repeating parents), and this should begin long before birth.  In the midst of relationship building, they prepare parents for the church event and faith training at home.
  • Parent Seminar:  Where Brian serves, this is a required 2-hour seminar, and it is all about creating the understanding of parents as primary faith influencer.  Parents learn the big picture (all seven milestones) and the church clearly communicates how they will partner and equip the parents. 
  • Church Event:  Once the parents have attended the seminar, they schedule the baby dedication for a time when the whole church can celebrate.  Those gathered serve as witnesses and take their stand with the parents and new born.
 Milestone 2- Faith Commitment.  The ages between 7-13 are when many children growing up in a Christian home will make a commitment to Christ.  What does this look like?
  • Core Competency: Jesus, faith, the Bible, sin, repentance, salvation
  • Champion: The champion here is the children's ministry team, specifically the ministry team leader.  This person equips parents so that they can engage their kids with Faith Talks and God Sightings.  The church teaches these things in both children's ministry and adult ministry contexts.
  • Parent Seminar: Brian offers this twice per year, with the focus on leading Faith Talks and God Sightings in the home  It's not a checklist; it is about have real conversations in the midst of life.  
  • Church Event: For Eastview, this would be immersion, and might take place in our building, at camp, on a service project (we've baptised students in all 3 environments).  
  • Family Event: The family holds a spiritual birthday party in their home, family, church members (especially their champions) are present.  
These two are the foundations for a solid, practical family ministry model.   And, for the church filled with "church kids", looks pretty simple.  But...

Are the adults and parents living out an authentic relationship with Christ?  
This teaching fall squarely on church leadership to clearly communicate, and then expect, people who call themselves followers of Christ, to provide opportunities for people to minister and be edified as those followers of Christ.  The teaching needs to include the biblical mandate for their role in the family.  To start, the church leadership, at all levels, must embrace and live out the model if they are to pass it down to the rest of the body.  When asked about this at KidMin in October, Brian stated that landing this among the leadership, creating the vision and implementation, took at least 18 months from start to finish.  There was a 4-6 month teaching process for their leadership team.  Like everything else in life, this will take patience and time.

What about kids coming from an un-churched family? 
If the above is tough, this is the real tough nut to crack.  Once the church leadership families are living this out, their role is to partner with kids from these "non-traditional families" and, in some ways take ownership of this situation.  The church cannot sit idly by and watch kids fall through the cracks.  All the while, these families should be developing relationships with parents and families as a "big-picture" church ministry effort.  And this will be a long and arduous path that churches must decide on the front end that they will walk. 

How do we deal with the brokenness, the mess of ministry that will be created by the above?
By living out the Gospel...love, mercy, grace, trust, faith, hope, service and equipping and being equipped for ministry.  It will take effort, coin and time.  It will take the church being the Body of Christ.  Ephesians 5:1-2 says this- "Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  In short, it will take everything that we have, which requires the church leadership to lead from the front.

Questions?  Concerns?  Possible solutions? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model, Part 2- Milestones

Part 1

What follows is a specific plan for the implementation of a family-ministry model created by Brian Haynes at his church in Texas.  It is not THE model, but A possible one.  No doubt, there are questions, thoughts, concerns, comments and observations to be made; this series of posts is designed to promote thought and curiosity in how a similar model might be created where you worship.  What this series is not designed to do is to convince parents of their role as primary faith influencers for their families.  I've done that ad naseum on previous posts (here, and here).  Parents...it's on you.  Let's talk "How?"

Picking up where we left off yesterday, let's talk about Milestones.  A Milestone is a "marker of progression on the spiritual formation journey."  When these markers are reached, there is a celebration, both in the church and the home.  Brian writes, "As parents, (we) needed a simple step-by-step approach to becoming the primary faith influences for our daughters.  Even more so, we needed the church to partner with us in the spiritual development of our children--not to take our place as the primary faith influencers, but to train us and to reinforce what we're teaching our children."  Enter Milestones as the progression:

Milestone 1- The Birth of a Baby

Milestone 2- Faith Commitment

Milestone 3- Preparing for Adolescence

Milestone 4- Commitment to Purity

Milestone 5- Passage to Adulthood

Milestone 6- High School Graduation

Milestone 7- Life in Christ

Chances are, your church is already doing something within the context of the above things.  Perhaps your church celebrates birth through a baby dedication or sprinkles infants.  Maybe your youth ministry has an event that culminates with a purity ring being given.  Certainly, you celebrate when high school student graduate.  Moving toward a model like the one above begins with a review of what milestones (we call them transitions at Eastview) you are already doing and then thinking about what they might look like at another level.  Over the next week, I will detail what each of the above milestones looks like, and how they might be applied within my specific context.  I'd love for your thoughts and feedback, ministry is not to be done alone!

So...what methods does your church use now to celebrate or observe life transitions?

Tomorrow: Milestones 1 & 2.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family Ministry- A Model, Part 1

To summarize anything that has ever been said on this site, Christians are to evangelize the lost.  This happens best when people are not only equipped by the leaders of the church through practical ministry opportunities to serve, love and worship God, but when they engage in those ministy opportunities.  Essentially, there are two parts that we are necessarily called to: equipping and doing.  A church that merely equips yet does not act is guilty of the sin of omission (not doing what you know you ought) and the church that merely acts without the motivation of Christ is in danger of the the sin of commission in that they might point to false fruit as evidence of an inner working of Christ-why?  The lack of a Holy Spirit presence means that it's not worth doing. 

The family, is a key vehicle through which this happens.  The family is bigger than "just" people with kids, because God's family includes each and every follower of Christ, married, single, divorced, young, old, those with disabilities, those marginalized in society...God's family includes everyone.   So...what might a holistic "family ministry" look like?  I am a huge fan of Brian Haynes and his Legacy/Milestones Path.  I read his book in 2010, and attended all of his sessions at the recent KidMin Conference in Chicago last month.

Over the next week and a half, I will use his book Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today to methodically describe the model I'd begin with (and contextualize for the specific ministry situation) if I had the opportunity.  Here's the caveat the Brian himself makes at the front of the book: the specifics laid out were done with his situation and context in mind.  As I read his book last year, I was filled with questions, real legitimate ones that need to be asked.  And now, my caveat...this is not and would not be easy to implement.  Without the Holy Spirit working in the hearts and minds of the church leadership, it won't happen.  What's needed at the front end is a Champion, and that must be Christ as the Head.  So, to begin, let's define Brian's terms:

Milestones: They are "markers of progression on the spiritual formation journey" (there are 7 milestones).

Core Competencies: "Key truths learned as progression from one milestone to the next."

Faith Talks: "Intentional times set aside each week for conversation based on Scripture."

God Sightings: "Informal opportunities to discuss God and His Work around us."

Church Events: "Equipping opportunities for parents, families, adults and kids, as well as milestone celebrations."

Parent Summit Conference: "Twice a year events hosted by the church to encourage and motivate parents and adults."

Parent Seminars: "Seminars related specifically to the 7 milestones."

Family Celebrations: "At-home celebrations for milestones."

Take-Home Sunday: "We teach people in adult Bible study groups a specific skill related to leading children through the milestones."

Generational Team: "Aligns the children, youth and adult ministries along a common path of spiritual formation that links faith and home and develops ways to equip parents as primary faith influencers."

Well, there you have it.  If you're like me, you've now got a million questions.
"What about kids from families that don't go to my (or any) church?" 
"How do we implement this?"
"Where do I start?"

Next Post: Listing the 7 Milestones.