Family Ministry Field Guide

Family Ministry Field Guide

During this interim (read unemployed) time I have been doing a great deal of praying and thinking about ministry. One of the things that I keep coming back to is the notion of family based student ministry. A few weeks ago I was sitting in church and had this thought

As a youth pastor I spend a great deal of effort trying to help students from broken homes. Why not put some of that effort towards fixing broken homes, or helping them not to become broken. 

That thought has been running through my head now along with several others. One of the things that I love about Lifeway and writing for the KNOWN curriculum from time to time is their understanding that parents are vital to student ministry. The primary spiritual caregiver of a student is the parent. That is their Biblical role and it is against the ordained plan of God if the church steps in and tries to take over that role.

Anyway, I could ramble on about ministry to parents for a while. This is a realization that has been building in me for some time, but only just recently has gelled into a complete thought and mindset change. In the future I will be talking more about ways to help parents to be invested in the spiritual lives of their students (I love the thought of parent/child mission trips for starters) but like I said this is all just starting to come together in my head.

So with that stuff moving around in my mind and some free time on my hands I went to the local Lifeway store looking for a book on Children’s ministry. The first thing that jumped out at me with this book Family Ministry Field Guide. I was intrigued by the title and blown away after looking at just a few pages. I am just a couple of chapter in, and I am already learning a great deal.

But the whole point of this entry was to give a quote from the foreword by Mark DeVries. Speaking about his church and the changes that they have made towards a family based approached to ministry he said,

“What we did get right was the almost magical alchemy of a church that empowers parents and stands in the gap when they don’t feel so powerful.”

What a great idea. That is the type of student ministry (to both children and youth) that I want to be a part of–one that empowers parents and helps them when they don’t feel powerful. I want to be a part of a ministry that helps parents take on the mantle of spiritual leaders without adding one more meeting or another pile of guilt or shame on top of their shoulders.

I am still early in my family ministry journey, so keep checking back for the next few weeks and months as I share where God is leading me.

Shaped by the Story

A while back I read a book on Chronological Storytelling. It told of the process that missionaries use to teach the Bible to non-literate people. I remember thinking at the time how great that would be for student ministry. Students aren’t exactly illiterate, they are what I like to call post literate. They know how to read and write, but reading and writing isn’t how they process information. Here are a couple of quotes from Shaped by the Story.

First, a good majority of the students struggled with reading and comprehension. Many couldn’t define simple words and struggled with reading aloud. This was especially surprising coming from upper-middle class families within highly rated school systems. Yet, basic literacy is essential to many Bible-study methods, so this was a big problem. (20)
Writing and reading are becoming a means to manipulate other media. (49)

I picked up this book Shaped by the Story by Mike Novelli and was immediately thrown back into those ideas. Finally someone else took the time to talk about story and how it relates to youth ministry. Novelli has a site that has a host of storying resources. I have to say that I was pretty excited about it.

As I have been reading through this book and thinking about storying again I find myself getting excited. I am a storyteller. Whatever else I play around with at my heart I want to tell stories. So I think I am going to take my students on a journey through the Bible starting in Genesis and going all the way through Christ’s ascension. The idea is to tell the Bible in such a way that all of the many parts connect and students are able to see God’s story as more than just verses to live by, but as an complete narrative of redemption.

I am excited because I have seen how much stories can change lives. Here is a great quote from the book.

The new conversations, on which our very lives depend, require a poet not a moralist. Because finally people are like other people; we are not changed by new rules. The deep places in our lives–places of resistance and embrace–are not ultimately reached by instruction. Those places of resistance and embrace are reached only by stories, by images, metaphors and phrases that line out the world differently apart from fear or hurt. (Walter Brueggermann)

This past Wednesday I did a little pre-story sort of talk that you may find helpful. The basic idea came from Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

When we let the things we have seen slip from our minds we will find ourselves in trouble. When we forget the basic of our own God story we can start believing anything. Just take a look at the Israelites. They saw God drop 10 plagues on the Egyptians, walked through the Red Sea, we led by fire and cloud, and were fed by mana and still made a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sanai. They forgot their own story.

So on Wednesday after I walked through some of my story (I talked about how someone could come to me and tell me that my dad who died 20 years ago this month didn’t love me, but I wouldn’t believe it because I remember the stories that proved his love) I had them write their own God story or at least a few chapters of it and then we broke into groups and they shared some of their story. It was pretty fun night.

I will keep you posted on how the storytelling through the Bible progresses.


Kindle Reader

I’m not really interested in owning a Kindle. I have lots of gadgets and packing up for an overnight trip already consists of carrying a whole bunch of cords and cases. But I did pick up the Kindle Reader for my iPod touch. I wasn’t sure what I would think about reading on such a small screen, but it was free so I thought I would try it.

The first book I tried with Tribes which I had seen on the reading lists of lots of different blogs so I thought I would give it a try. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t really like the book or something about that style book on such a small device, but after trying a few times to get into it I just moved the Kindle reader icon to the back page of my iPod and forgot about it.

Well, this week I was out of books and out of magazines to read when I was…well…when I was alone in the only place that you can be alone with a 3 year old in the house. So I went looking for books on Kindle. I found all sorts of free books, and not just old stories either. There are a number of books that are the first in a series that are free as well. I thought I would try the reader again and picked up a couple of classics and a couple of the first in a series things too.

I chose a Mark Twain story Pudd’nhead Wilson. Other than the fact that I hate reading Mark Twain dialect the story is pretty good, but more than that I started liking my reading on my iPod. It is great for sitting beside Noah’s bed as he tries to go to sleep because since it is back lit you can read in the dark. It is perfect for reading whenever I have time to kill because I generally have my iPod with me.

I don’t know if it was just finding a better story or getting used to the device, but I actually like reading on my iPod. I think I am going to read some Sherlock Holmes next, or maybe The Three Musketeers.

DaVinci Code

In anticipation of the upcoming movie and all of the discussion that it will probably start I am listening to the DaVinci Code in my car. Let me start by saying that it is a compelling story, even if it isn’t very well written. (but I am a bit of a snob when it comes to popular fiction so don’t take my word for it.) On the whole "Christianity" side of the story there are 2 things that jump out at me.

1) There is a bunch of stuff that they talk about that they say "The church is trying to cover up" like the stuff about the how they put together than cannon and stuff. But most of this stuff isn’t a secret, it is just boring. When you start talking about it people get a glazed over look in their eye. It isn’t that we are trying to keep it a secret it is that people don’t really care. Maybe we should make a book about it.

2) I am fascinated by how much the Catholic Church and "the church" are considered on an the same by our society. At least by the society that isn’t involved in church. I know that for a long time there there was only the Catholic church and that church became very political, but I think they have reformed a bit, and I know that there is a big chunk of the church that is outside of the Catholic tradition.

Now I grew up in the south so I have never really been around a whole lot of Catholics or lived in an area that was dominated by Catholicism so when I see on TV and in other media outlets people speaking of Catholicism as the only aspect of Christianity I am always sort of surprised.

When you read a book like this you see some very biased opinions against organized religion, and there are times when I have to say that I agree with them. I think one of the biggest problems we have in the church right now is that we are more concerned with bureaucracy than worship. I also think that too many churches aren’t encouraging their members to seek after truth. The DaVinci Code makes the church out to be this place that stifles the arts and hides the truth. The reality of God is just the opposite God must be worshiped through art because words are insufficient and any relationship with God will continually lead to more truth. I want people to dig in and find the truth. I encourage people to study and learn and make their own decisions. Our church isn’t a place where we will tell you what to believe. We are a place where we will show you what we have learned and encourage you to seek the truth.

But the image of the Church that is portrayed most often is one that is closed minded and afraid. We are children of God. We are followers of The Way, The Truth and The Life. We can never be afraid of knowledge because God is knowledge. 

I had something else that I was going to say about the book, but I can’t remember what now. I do hope that when the movie comes out and this book come back to the front of our national consciousness that people will remember that it is a work of fiction and not a text book. 

Oh yeah, I remember what I was going to say. One of the things that the book does bring up besides the whole deity of Jesus thing is the role of women in the church. I strongly believe that we have missed the boat about women in many ways and that if you look at the Bible and the way that Jesus really exalted women (compared to his contemporaries) then the church should be a champion of women’s rights. But that is really for another post. 

Velvet Elvis

Some of my thoughts of late have been colored by the book Velvet Elvis. It is by Rob Bell the guy from Mars Hill Church. The post I made a while back about questions was a direct result of this book, and I can’t believe I haven’t talked about it yet.

There are  few things that I don’t really agree with, but that is true about most things I read. For the most part it is a very challenging book that forced me to look at Christianity in a different way. Here are some quotes, and I could do literally hundreds, but I like these.

Over time when you purposefully try to live the way of Jesus, you start noticing something deeper going on. You begin realizing the reason this is the best way to live is that it is rooted in profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more and more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels. Jesus’ intention was, and is, to call people to live in tune with reality. (21)

The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up. And is we made him up, then we are in control. (25)

God has spoken, and everything else is commentary. (52)

We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God. (63)

I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian anymore. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a Christian anymore. (104)

Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it. (114)

And those few who do the difficult work, who stare their junk in the face, who get counsel, who let Jesus into all of the rooms in their soul that no one ever goes in, they make a difference. They are so different; they’re coming from such a different place that their voices inevitably get heard above the others. They are pursuing wholeness and shalom, and it’s contagious. They inspire me to keep going. (120)

litter and pollution are spiritual issues. (158)

Most of the messages we receive are about how to make life easier. The cal of Jesus goes the other direction: It’s about making our lives more difficult. It is going out of our way to be more generous and disciplined and loving and free. It is refusing to escape and become numb to and check out of this broken, fractured world. (169)