It's fall and that means all things pumpkin spice. In a recent podcast from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, Walt Mueller and Jason Soucinek discuss the temptations related to being cool. How teens and even leaders in the church fall victim to the trends pushed into pop culture via marketing and social media.
I just love getting packages in the mail! The other day, I received one from CPH that contained a copy of Cynthia Brown's new book Energizing Your Children's Ministry. Cynthia's book is a great resource for laying or relaying the foundation of children's ministry in your church. The book provides a solid step by step process along with a number of great forms and charts that you can use whether you are a volunteer Sunday school director or veteran DCE looking for way to walk a group of volunteers through to a new vision for children's ministry in your church. The book is quite comprehensive despite its small size. If you have responsibility over children's ministry in your church, I would encourage you to check this book out.
At the heart of liberty is the right define one's own concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
The words above were penned by Judge Anthony Kennedy in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. Rev. Marcus Zill (LCMS U Director) rightly cited Judges 21:25 in his blog response to last weeks SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage across all 50 state. "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
It was interesting timing to be digesting the reality of the decision during the final day of our district convention. There were a good number of conversations going on as pastors and others discussed how they might need to respond with in the contexts of their own congregations. Pres. Stoterau offered words of calm and caution. We do not need to rush out and protect ourselves. Churches do not need to change their constitutions or stop doing weddings for non-members. We do need to be wise and circumspect in how we function as a church, but this we should already have been doing.
For those of us who work with children and youth, this topic may hit us closer to home than for others in the church. My concern is that for many of our young people, the constant pressures and influences of our culture will continue to work against our teaching and reshape many who lack a biblical foundation by which to have a balanced understanding of this complicated issue. The balance was well articulate by Synod President Harrison:
As faithful Christians, we shall continue to be obedient to just laws. We affirm the human rights of all individuals and the inherent and equal value of all people. We respect the divinely given dignity of all people, no matter their sexual preference. We recognize that, under the exacting and demanding laws of God, we are indeed sinners in thought, word and deed, just as are all (Romans 3:9ff.). We confess that the “blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins” (1 John 1:7). We confess that God’s divine law of marriage and the entire Ten Commandments apply to all, and that so also the life-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross is for all. It is a “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).
1 John 4:16 reads "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." President Obama may claim the "love is love" but as Christians we know the true foundation of our love is in Christ. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
We are all sinners in need of a Savior. As the church we must remain faithful to that message. As those called to teach this faith to emerging generations, our task will be to offer a counter-revolutionary message to a philosophy that once was itself a counter-revolution now turned "mainstream." This will not be simple and it will not be easy, but when has youth ministry ever been about what it easy.
This week and in the weeks and years to come do what you have always done, turn to Christ and turn to his Word. Present the Word in both Law and Gospel in your teaching. Create space in your youth ministries for honest questions, honest struggles, and honest answers. Pray that you will bear witness both boldly and with love to the truth of Scripture with regard to the true nature of sin and all of our need for repentance and forgiveness. May we all be blessed to offer the forgiveness of Christ to those we serve.
Resources from the Youth eSource:
HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE
BIBLE STUDY: DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE…REAL LOVE?
Free apps are all over the place. I just got a new desk top for my office and with Window 8.1 discovered all the various apps that you can get for free to help you in all kinds of ways.
CPH has also created a great free app that all of your confirmation students should know about. It is their Small Catechim app. In this simple easy to use and attractive app you have all the original content of Luther's Small Catechism right there on your iPhone or iPad.
Check it out and share it with your youth: Luther's Small Catechism
A blog post by Gene Veith the following claim is made:
A new study has discovered what is being called the “holy grail” for keeping teenagers in the church when they become adults: Parents. If their parents talked about their faith at home, showed that their faith is important to them, and were active in church, 82% of their children became similarly religious as adults. The connection is “nearly deterministic,” according to one researcher. (Cranach)
Veith goes on the quote the following from a post by David Briggs:
The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: Parents.
What does this all mean for those of us who work with families in our churches? In a way this is good news. This is encouraging news for parents who at times are very concerned that their children will fall way from the faith in their teenage years. In a way this may also be bad news. As a parent I know all to well how my children mirror my behavior. I often hear the voice of my father coming out of my mouth, and can see specific mannerisms of my own or my wife's taking shape in our boys. We get to see both the good and the bad formed in them.
Having been through the NSYR data for my own research, Smith is right to call the results "nearly deterministic." In a conference that Smith presented at a few year's ago, he discussed these result along the lines of the spiritual formation of young adults having been formed as a direct result of what they saw modeled for them in their parents.
This is the potential down side. What the behaviors of parents in church and you may see both reason to celebrate and reason to be concerned. I see both in my own church. Now that I am no longer serving on a church staff I have time as a parent to consider what it is like to be in worship with two small kids, trying, sometimes desperately to focus on the sermon.
I also get to see the patterns of my fellow parents as many come to church as a family and then quickly split off, kids off the Sunday school, and parents to worship. I get it. I disagree. But I get it. I understand why it would seem far simpler to not have small children in worship. I have two active boys and on the days where my wife is singing in the praise team, I understand the desire to have them handled by someone else. They are a potential distraction to those around me, and I am certainly not wholly present in worship.
However, I cannot have a short term view on matters of eternal significance. Sure they are constantly on the move, fighting with each other, scribbling on everything, but then again they are present for worship. A few weeks ago, I decided to cut out the kids activity bags, so as to avoid the boys fighting with each other over them. A risky move, as this was a solo dad day. Interestingly enough they behaved better that morning. Even the two year old began to imitate the postures I took as I worshiped.
Having my kids in worship with me is an investment for the long term. I teach a Bible study on Sunday mornings, during the same hour as the most well attended service and Sunday school. That is intentional. We want to be able to have our kids on worship and Sunday school, thus we have shaped out Sunday morning around those values. We want to have out kids see us in Bible study, so that as the NSYR results suggest they will grow up to value Bible study. We want to have our kids see us in worship so that they learn what it means to worship and grow up with that as an essential part of their lives.
So what does a study like this mean for those who work in the church? It means we have evidence that what we value and promote has validity. We can make the claim with confidence that encouraging parents to proactively practice their faith in the presence of their children will have an impact for today, tomorrow, and eternity.
The following is a letter from Dr. Gilbert Fugitt, Dean of Students at Concordia University Irvine:
Hello Church Leaders,
It was not that long ago, when my church had very little to offer on a Sunday morning for children. There was a solid family feel when we joined, but there was certainly room to grow in the programming for children.
Since that time, the Sunday school program has expanded a couple of times and continues to attract and involve more and more children and volunteers. So what happened. How should smaller churches attempt to start or relaunch their children's ministry? I would recommend the following main points:
Mark Oestreicher included the following in a recent blog post on churchleaders.com on the topic of 10 Trends That Will Reshape Youth Ministry.
What do you think? Will the investment in youth ministry shift to children's ministry? Are we in the Lutheran church ahead of the curve with out schools or behind the curve with DCE ministry still holding a stigma of being youth ministry oriented?
How do we form relationships in ministry? As a DCE, relational connections in ministry are and have always been a vital part of what my ministry is all about. The challenge however has always been how to manage the depth of those relationships. Are we truly called to be in deep relationships with all the children, youth, and families that we are called to serve in our congregations? Is that even possible?
If we consider the example of Christ, even he seemed to limit his relational depth, and He is divine. While he intentionally took time to be with all people, he reserved special time for His disciples, and further reserved even more special time and relational depth for a select few disciples.
So how do we approach ministry today? The launch of fall programming is just around the corner. Now is the time many of us are called to reach out to those less connected. I would argue that we need a balanced approach. I have watched fellow servants of the Gospel make themselves literally ill trying to reach all people. I cannot recommend that. Yet can we justify not reaching out to everyone? I cannot recommend that either.
A balanced approach understands that you will naturally develop deeper relationships with certain people. Key youth and volunteers, even staff members will become a special part of our lives. Not everyone can or even wants to. However we must make sure to be wholly present for everyone we encounter and find time to be present in this manner for all we are called to serve.
Fall is a great time to reach out and connect with folks we don't see all that often. They may not become a deep part of our lives, but perhaps in the process you will better connect them to others in your community of faith who will. That is the beautiful part of the Body of Christ.
The following was originally posted as a part of Lutherans Engage at lcms.org
Matthew Rhodes, a 19-year-old college sophomore from South Dakota, said his local church and youth ministry helped him find a solid faith in Jesus Christ. Learn how LCMS Youth Ministry works with congregations and districts, and serves as a resource and a network for their ministry to young people inside and outside the Christian faith.