Dreaming of More for The Next Generation – A Reflection
I 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.
“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.’”
We 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.
When 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?