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Dreaming of More for The Next Generation – A Reflection

9781434700162_p0_v1_s260x420I just started reading Dreaming of More For the Next Generation by Michelle Anthony. One chapter in, I am already impressed with the biblical foundation she lays for a family ministry paradigm. The end of the first chapter she invites readers to “reflect,” “respond,” and “dream” about what how might want to awaken us to more in our lives personally and in ministry to children and their families.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Reflect:

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Luke 5:37-39

Family-MinistryWe are asked to describe our current wineskin. What a great question! From a family ministry perspective, I would describe our ministry to children and families as “Family Friendly.” The children and youth programs function independently but create opportunities for parents to get involved on some level. The discipleship of children is important and parents are viewed as having a crucial role but they must rely heavily on the programs provided. Little is done outside of the youth and children’s ministry to equip them to be more spiritually focused in their child-rearing.

In my six years working in children’s ministry this model has been a source of frustration at times. I think many times churches want to hire children’s ministers to oversee children’s programs and give a head-nod to the role of parents but are satisfied if mediocre content is taught by volunteers whose arms may have been twisted into plugging a hole on Sunday morning. This has not been the case in every classroom of my ministry career but in praxis has been the general result of the ministry as a whole when not everyone is on the same page regarding what successful children & family ministry looks like. The resulting fruit is families who are not only unequipped by their church family but even hindered in their ability because “spiritual formation is best left to the experts.” In the lives of children, fruit is measured in terms of ministry event attendance and levels of Bible knowledge and skill. We might even pat ourselves on the back if we feel that their Bible class attendance and knowledge of scripture affects the child’s behavior, though none of these provide an accurate measure of faith.

Leather Wine SkinWhen we are faced with the choice to change the system, lay down our old wineskin in exchange for a new one, we panic or circle the wagons. We worry that without the old wineskins our children will not know the Bible. We become concerned that if children aren’t attending our program, they might not be spiritually formed anywhere. We place on a pedestal our old wineskin and claim that it worked for me when I was a kid without considering that the Spirit knew just what we needed at that time. Now, perhaps the Spirit is choosing for the growing generation a different vintage. The Spirit wants to pour out a new wine but our old wineskins can’t handle it. They will simply burst.

What if we were willing to create (or allow ourselves to be created into) a vessel worthy of the sweet wine the Spirit was ready to pour out? What would ministry to children and families look like that did this? Right now, I don’t know. But I do know that if the Spirit was being poured out and we had allowed ourselves to become a wineskin worthy of receiving him, we would be measuring success in terms of how well we cultivate an atmosphere where parents are primary.

What would your ministry look like if God were pouring out new wine on it?

Creating A Spiritual Legacy

Nobody wants to think about leaving a legacy, but we do it every day with every single decision we make. Here is a sermon in which I share a story of Jesus and what we can see about intentionally creating a spiritual legacy for everyone we influence.

~JK

Christlikeness is the Reward

Our preacher at Wellspring, Andy Hudelson, encouraged us to participate in a Bible reading plan this year.  He shared a strategy from Wayne Coreiro’s book Divine Mentor in which you basically allow the writers of the Bible to become your mentor for 30 minutes a day. Andy encouraged those at Wellspring to journal about their thoughts on our Church’s community website. Below is what I shared there on today’s passage, Matthew 6-10.

___________________________

Today’s reading had me dwelling on Matthew 6:33. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I used to think that this was some sort of system that would get me anything I wanted. Chapter 7:7-9 would serve as further confirmation to me that if I wanted something, I just had to ask. As I have grown in my walk with Christ, I have learned not to gloss over the important parts like, “Seek FIRST his kingdom.” It’s amazing how when we are putting kingdom needs first how unimportant the things we typically ask for really are.

The chapters for todays reading reflect this kingdom perspective in ways that are really difficult for me sometimes. I can often be a judgemental worrier who would rather walk the broad road to build my house on the sand. Seeking first his kingdom centers me. It forces me to ask if my will is aligned with God’s will and if it is not, I probably need to stop the asking and get centered on Jesus.

The cost of this is not going to put me in comfortable places. In chapter 10, verse 17 Jesus tells his disciples, “Be on your guard; you WILL be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.” Jesus does not paint a pretty picture of the cost of discipleship but in the end He offers this encouragement, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Mt. 10:40)” Jesus wants his disciples to have a kingdom perspective and to seek first His kingdom. I believe the reward that Jesus has to offer here is contentment in believing that following him is the best way to live. Christlikeness is the reward of seeking first his kingdom.

 

~JK

Do-Overs

We all like second chances.  Today we went to the Spring Hill Country Ham Festival. All sorts of booths and vendors were set up. Many had little games for the kids similar to those you find at a carnival or a fair.  When I play games like washers or hit the balloon with the dart, I always feel like I am going to do better the second time around. I heard a kid today ask if he could have a second chance at a game he’d not done so well on. When he continued to have some difficulty, he asked again, “Can I have a second chance?” I guess sometimes we need third chances…or fourths…

Krista and I decided a while back that in order for things to function well in our house, every now and then we need to be allowed by each other to have bad days.  This does not mean we give each other free reign to disregard the feelings of family members. It simply means that every now and then, you have a bad day and an extra measure of grace is needed to simply get through. 

With our children we decided we would start giving “Do-Overs.”

It’s probably not hard to believe that in the house with a kindergartener and a 2-year-old that we get the occasional scream between sisters.  They are both quite good at it and didn’t seem to need much practice to perfect it.  Often our curious toddler will decide to push the buttons of her older sister and the response is ear-deafening. Though we don’t always respond with a good example this is a prime situation to offer “Do-Overs.” We say to our five year old, “Wow, I am so sorry she treated you like that. Would you like a do-over on how you responded.”  Our daughters know that we are much more likely to intervene if they have tried to work it out on their own and have been unsuccessful.  We simply like for them to give it a go first.  Perhaps we are catching a little back talk after we have asked them to do something.  Simply asking, “Would you like to try that response again?” shows that we disapprove of their first response without them feeling like they are incapable of getting it right. 

We feel this extra measure of grace every now and then is a good concrete way of helping them to understand something about God which is very abstract.  I certainly do not understand everything about God’s grace. Giving “do-overs” to our girls gives us something that we can refer back to and even incorporate scripture.  2 Peter 3:9 says,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. “

If we were to reword this as parents, it might read:

“Your parents are not slow in helping you succeed in life. They are patient with you, not wanting you to suffer, but to arrive at the right way to handle things.”

Usually if given the option of a do-over or a consequence kids will choose a do-over. It’s a great chance to share the great news of Jesus with them in the process.  He has given you do-overs!

~JK

Life on Life

I picked up a new Bible study guide today and decided that I would blog my response to the “Journaling” section rather than write it out in my book.  The passage for my reading today was 1 John 1:1-2:2.

Here’s the question:

What are some practical things Christians can do to strengthen their fellowship with one another?

In a previous question I defined fellowship as the “willful partnering with others in the life and mission of Jesus.” We have solidarity in the terms of our relationship with him enough that we can mutually benefit in our discipleship. I have been thinking all afternoon about what sort of practical things Christians can do to foster this type of solidarity.  I was reminded of a strategic half hour between worship and Bible class at one church I attended that was called “focused fellowship.” For parents it meant 25 minutes longer than was needed to wrestle with kids in the hallways and keep them from sneaking extra donuts.  For others it was a chance to warm their coffee or get a bite of breakfast since they left the house in such a hurry. Could this environment be characterized as fellowship? I believe it could, just needs to be a bit more intentional.

I do not believe that being in the proximity of other Christians means you are fellowshipping unless something is happening that draws you into a better imitation of Christ. So practically speaking, some intentional things that I would consider fellowship might be:

  • Having a clearly communicated purpose to intentional inactivity. i.e. “Let’s get together and just share life together!” or “Between worship service and class we hope you will encourage each other over coffee in the foyer.”
  • Taking a meal to a family that just came home from the hospital.
  • Getting together for coffee to hear what has been happening in someone’s family in hopes of encouraging them to press on through struggles.
  • Gathering with a group of men to play ultimate frisbee to strengthen bonds and accountability.

John 1:3 says:

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (TNIV)

And verse 7:

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (TNIV)

Fellowship with others creates joy and helps us to walk in the light.  When we have such an openness in community with others who believe that Jesus’ blood purifies us, it is difficult for us to walk in darkness.  Dr. Grover Carlton Emmons in a prayer he wrote says, “Forbid that I should walk alone in shadowed valleys, or grope in perplexity when I am privileged to walk with Thee in the light.” Being in the fellowship of the light helps to illuminate our darkness and bring order to our confusion. As we participate in community with others who carry the name of Jesus we shine light in darkness and our lives intersect in ways that make joy complete.

~JK

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