Category Archives: Uncategorized

Following Jesus in an Age of Authenticity

Following Jesus in an Age of Authenticity from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

 

A great 15 min interview which explores talking with young people about freedom, identity and following Jesus. How do we respond to people that claim ultimate freedom of choice and expression? How do we help them see that they are actually slaves to their cultural norms and expectations and subcultures. How do we help them see that ultimate freedom is found in Christ?  In this short video there is some exceptional thinking around these questions.

 

This new roundtable video features Tim Keller (TGC vice president and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan) and Russell Moore (president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of Onward) with Collin Hansen (TGC editorial director and author of Blind Spots).

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Stop Doing Ministry To Young People

0020.community hand imageI don’t like having things done to me. Like my dentist who wants to drill into my teeth with the most annoying sounding drill ever created. Or my physio always wants to cause me pain, always assuring me that I will feel more sore tomorrow. And while we have high levels of appreciation for them, no one likes going to the hospital and having all sorts of things done to them by nurses and doctors. Having things done to you is generally not a positive experience.

I find it fascinating to hear so often that such and such a church has a ministry to youth and young adults. Or how I often hear people talk about the ministry they are involved in to young people.

While people may not mean much by this type of language, it is actually very telling. It shows that young people are not very important to you. This type of understanding and language actually communicates disconnection. It is something you do “to” them over “there” so you can come back over “here” and get on with your life or get on with the other ministry of the church.

It is a way of thinking that removes young people from where they should be in our lives and in our communities and puts them in a place where we can do things to them and then let them go. We can have a certain amount of detachment from them. We don’t have to get to involved in their life and things don’t get too messy. We have clear boundaries of when we invest and when we care and how much we expose ourselves to them, and when that time is up, we can go back to how we like it, where things are easy and safe.

If your church is doing ministry to young people, it could be possible that you are missing the point.

Wouldn’t it sound strange if we talked about Jesus doing ministry to his disciples. Or even talked about Jesus running a program to grow his disciples in their faith.

If Jesus ministered to his disciples the way that we do much of our ministry to young people, I’m not sure how long this whole Christian thing would have lasted.

What Jesus models to us (and even more powerfully, what God models to us in Jesus) is incarnation. A coming and being with. A taking up residence in our world and in our lives. A coming alongside of and living with. A oneness, a unity. It was messy and frustrating (Matt 15:16) and discouraging and exciting (Matt 11:4-6). But it birthed the kingdom of God in the disciples.

If you or your church wants to be most effective in ministry to young people, it does not need a program. It cannot afford to do ministry to them. What it needs is a willingness to open up the life of the church and the lives of the individuals in the church to the messiness that is young people.

If you’re a parent, you understand that having children around is messy and frustrating and exciting. That there are moments of despair and grief and moments of pride and joy. But you gladly go through it all because you want your children to thrive in life.

Our churches need to recapture the understanding that it is our responsibility to adopt the young people in our church into our spiritual families and live with all the mess that comes with this. Anything less is not true discipleship. It is about giving them space, and permission and a voice in our community just like we would our own children in our homes. It’s about nurturing their gifts and talents and potential and doing everything we can to help them succeed. It’s about sacrifice and laying down our life so that our children have the best chance of thriving in faith and life.

David Sawler in his book, ‘Before they say goodbye’, says

“A church will only experience long term growth when it lays down its life to reach, disciple, and parent its own young…. When it does what Jesus did for the disciples.”

Whatever opinions or arguments you have about how important the traditions and rituals in your church are, nothing can ever be more important than the young people in your church and in your community. This is your first and most important priority as a church. If we as a church can’t do this well, then I think there is not much else in the great commission we can do well either.

It is time for the faith of our young to become a focus of our communities. Does this mean we neglect the elderly and only do worship and sermons for kids, youth and young adults? No. It means that we understand that God’s church is best expressed as a family who loves and serves each other and invites each other into their lives as an act of discipleship. We grow an understanding that the prayer of a 6 year old boy is just as powerful and nourishing for the community as the prayer of the 60 year old elder.

This means as a church we equip the entire family to fulfil its mission to be the body of Christ. We call and equip those more mature in our community to live a life that does not do ministry to young people, that does not get involved in a program with young people. Instead we call and equip them to live lives that invite young people into their homes and their families and their joys and their struggles and their faith. That helps young people encounter the embodied and alive Christ in the lives of each other.

This is the type of life I believe Jesus called us to when he called us to make disciples. He called us into the mess of life, and he called us to invite others into that mess as well, so that we could see together all the strange and amazing and ordinary and joyful ways that he turns up every day.

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Discipleship in the age of consumerism

A great 5min Video by Allan Hirsh on Discipleship.

Confessions of a Former Church Cynic

Found THIS great article which i feel clearly represents some of the feeling of young adults regarding the church.  Some if this is backed up by the LYQ research as well. Key points are

  • We crave community
  • We desire wisdom
  • We seek resolve

Check it out.

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It’s not about the worship style… But it kinda is as well.

Let me say this clearly. It… is… not… about… the… worship style.

Part of my job is talking with people in churches about how to do effective ministry to young adults. In almost every conversation the assumption from the person I am talking with is that the main issue of why young adults are disengaging from church is because of the worship style.

If only it was that simple.

I would be delighted if all that we had to do as a church to keep our young people engaged in their faith and in our communities was to change a few of the songs and jazz up the liturgy a little. This would be easy. This would be simple compared to the true challenge that faces our faith communities in their struggle to stay relevant to young people.

The reality is much more complex.

Tom Rainer in his most recent podcast highlighted six keys for reaching millennials (young adults) that helps paint a more holistic picture of what is involved in effective ministry to young people.

Some highlights from the podcast include:

  • Anyone who is intentional about reaching others for Christ will reach more than those who are not. Intentionality is a must.
  • Churches need to understand that Millennials have different views than previous generations on social issues.
  • When Millennials look at a potential church, ministries and opportunities for their kids are major deciding factors.
  • If you want to reach a generation who cares about their children, the church must care about their children as well.
  • Millennials want to have intentional mentors to come along beside them.
  • Churches must offer Millennials opportunities to serve and to lead. Don’t make them “wait their turn.”
  • If your church is relying on the worship style or architecture to reach Millennials, you’re relying on the wrong thing.

 

The six keys for churches to reach Millennials are:

  1. Be intentional in engaging & understanding them

  2. Be authentic

  3. Offer ministries for their family and children

  4. Offer to mentor them

  5. Offer opportunities for them to serve and to lead

  6. Have a presence in the community

 

This shows us that what really needs to happen is not simply a change in style, but a change in attitude towards young people. Our churches can not afford to be an ‘old boys club’ where those with the most years experience get to make the decisions. Rather, they need to be a place where young people and what they bring (including their youthful optimism and naivety) is seen as a valuable gift of God to the life of the church. Where we celebrate the fact that children are present and noisy. Where we accept that they will often get things wrong and mess things up because we are simply delighted that they are involved in the life and practices of the church.

We need to be a place where we value the opinion and worldview and faith of a 6 year old, a 16 year old and a 26 year old as much as we do a 56 year old. Where we respect, value, seek to understand and celebrate the unique viewpoints and way of relating to God that each one brings.

Young adults are not looking for contemporary songs as much as they are looking for a place to serve where they can effect real change in your community, where their view actually counts for something.

I have often said, if you are not letting your young people do things in your church that upset you, you’re not letting them do enough. What I mean is that we need to give them permission to do things their way. To express their faith. And sometimes that will be something that makes us awkward or will be something we don’t agree with or think isn’t right…and this is OK.

This is how you will keep young adults in your community.

It’s not about worship styles… but then it also kind of is.

You see, if we have involved children and young people and young adults so much in our community, if we have given them responsibility and permission to effect real change, if we seek to serve and understand their faith as much as they seek to serve and understand ours, if we seek to communicate the gospel in an authentic way to their life stage and world view…

Then our worship will look different.

Not because we think this is what young adults want, but because we have integrated the place and influence of young people into our communities.

So next time you talk about how to keep young adults and young people engaged in your church community, please do not start by talking about worship style. It is not about worship style.  Please start somewhere deeper.

 

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Dear Church -This is why young adults are leaving

It’s easy to come past “this is whats wrong with church” posts all to often on the internet. While I often find myself agreeing with much of what they have to say I also don’t find them very helpful and I don’t think they represent the whole picture or give a very balanced argument.  I came across THIS article by John Pavlovitz and thought it was worth sharing for a number of reasons

  • It gives insight into the fact that young adults are also disillusioned from “Big and Flashy” church.
  • I feel that the reasons he gives are pretty spot on.
  • The second half of the article becomes more of a cry for help, rather then a critique and i find it quite refreshing and confronting.

While i feel that John is very confrontational in his approach and this article has the feel of “it’s all your fault and none of mine”, if you can get past that, there is some good reading to be had here and some good questions are raised.

The main thing to take away from this is that Young adults are looking for authenticity and a gospel that connects with their everyday life.  So much of what they see in their church seems to be about something else or is just enough off target that it doesn’t connect.

They want the gospel in simple(simple delivery, not simple content), honest, and relevant ways that will connect with their world and challenge them to grow stronger in their faith.

read the article here

Discomfortphobia

Discomfortphobia

If you are a Christian, you live with the reality that Australia and the western world is becoming more and more hostile to what you believe. It is becoming more and more uncomfortable to be a christian in the public sphere. In Australia over the last 10-15 years the attitude towards christian belief has changed from tolerance to hostility. Not physical hostility but an attitude that if you believe in God you are stupid, illogical and behind the times. Almost a sense of pity that you would subscribe to suck out of date beliefs. Here is a great sermon from Mark Sayers about our aversion to discomfort and how we can live openly as Christian is this culture. Click the title above to listen

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Everybody wants to be somebody

whoamiI just finished reading a great book called “Sticky Faith Youth Workers edition: practical ideas to nurture long-term faith in teenagers” by Dr Kara E Powell and Brad M Griffin.

There is a stack of great stuff in this book that you should all read, but I want to focus on one quote that really stood out to me:

 “The breadth of peer relationships that young people experience means they get a wider variety of feedback about how they are perceived. Because friends opinions matter so much during adolescence, the result is a delay in identity formation. Quite simply, kids receive inconsistent and too much feedback in response to what they say and how they act, so they often postpone committing to who they want to become.”  –  Sticky Faith Youth Worker edition, Powell and Griffin, page 54 (kindle location 733)

 

The first thing that occurs to me regarding this is Facebook and, sure this is part of the problem mentioned above, but I think even Facebook is part of a bigger social shift.

Everyone wants to be somebody.

I feel like we live in a time where there is a growing emphasis on the importance of being well known;  that fame seems to be more reachable than ever before; and that it is realistic for young people to thing that one day they will be famous. This has driven a desire to be known and connected to more people. Is this the result of social media or is social media feeding off something that was already there?

What I do know is that many young people are not satisfied to have a small circle of friends anymore. There is greater and greater focus on curating a self-image that is sent out to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. There is an expectation that if I am not getting feedback and interaction beyond my small circle of friends, then I am not popular enough and there is something wrong with me.

We live in the tension between a lie and reality. The lie is that the more people I am connected to, the healthier I am as a person and the better off I will be.  The content of this quote indicates that the reality is quite different: the more people I am connected with, the less healthy I am and the longer it takes me to form my identity and sense of self and place in the world.

 

HOW DO WE HELP TEENS DEAL WITH THIS?

When the whole world is shouting at a young person that they need to be more popular and connected, how can we speak into that with a loud enough alternative?

I think the key is substance. Or maybe we can call it depth.

Yes, young people are receiving way too much feedback on who they are and how they act, but most of it is shallow and trite.  It is wrapped up in niceties and generalities that make it bland, impersonal and fake.  But if it’s all they get, they will take it.

It is our job to speak words into a young person that are deeper, more genuine, more impacting, more life-imparting than the words of the world around us.

 

· When was the last time you told a young person about the strengths you see in their character?
· When was the last time you shared what you see deep down in them behind the mask and facade they put on?
· When was the last time you dreamed with a young person about who you believe they can grow up to be?
· When was the last time you encouraged a young person in the unique gifts you see in them?
· When was the last time you spoke the word of God over a young person to strengthen their identity?

 

If we can take the time to get to know a young person and speak into their life with deep, raw, true words of what we see in them and the potential they have, I think these words will be much louder than the shouting of the world.  These words will stick more and have a greater impact. These words will help develop their identity in the right way.

Jesus doesn’t care about your dreams

Stumbled across this Article which is a letter addressed to American teenagers, But i think it applies just as much to Aussie ones as well.

In our ministry, what are we telling students that Jesus cares about? What message are we conveying. Because i can almost guarantee you that if your message is along the lines of “Jesus want’s you to be happy and fulfill your dreams”, then the students in your ministry will eventually leave and loose their faith because you have set them up with an unrealistic expectation of the role Jesus plays in their life. Their world will come crashing down, and you students will be left picking up the pieces wondering why Jesus didn’t live up to the hype.  Then they will move on with their life leaving Jesus behind.

If “Jesus can help you realize your dreams” is the best we have for students, then we need to rediscover our faith, because there is so much more than this.

here is the link 

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