Back in January I got to hear Mark Scandrette talk about his faith community in California. I was captivated by what he had to say about the Jesus Dojo and decided to attempt something similar with our families at church over this past summer.
We decided that on Wednesday nights we would have “Family Dojo.” Dojo means “way of life.” We wanted our families to center their way of life around the teachings of Jesus. To do this we looked at short passages from the Sermon on the Mount, shared in some discussion then experimented with what it would be like to live those passages out during the week. The response was varied. Some families found it natural to “experiment” in this way, others it was forced. I wasn’t bothered by this since the goal was simply to discover practical ways of living out the ways of Jesus. If it proved difficult for families, then perhaps they were able to reflect on what may need to change about their family rhythm. Families that found the experiments fitting naturally into their lives said the kids would remind the parents of what they were supposed to do!
Below are links to the short devotionals I put together and offered to the families.
- Hokey Pokey
- Praying with Jesus
- Reminder Rocks
- Secret Mission
- Tattle Tale Boomerang
- Trading My Worries Away
- Turn That Frown Upside Down
- Yes Be Yes & No Be No
- You’re Already Bright!
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?
“This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes.” Written by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:29
If we do not begin at a place where, from the very start, all God saw in us was perfection we are doomed to always see ourselves as not good enough. Because “God created mankind upright,” He sees in us something that we rarely see in ourselves. That in our core we were made to be in perfect fellowship with Him.
Sadly, we go looking for ways to make life “better” for ourselves without realizing all our efforts are in vain.
Life is never better than when we see ourselves as God made us and take joy in being nothing more.
The many schemes we devise to become enough in the eyes of the world simply lead to our destruction. Its only when we surrender our search for more that we find the one truth Solomon was able realize –
God made you good.
“You mean we get to take her home?” I remember my wife, Krista, putting into words the very thoughts I had been having since the nurse told us that we would be discharged from the hospital. Our daughter had been born not even 72 hours before we got into our Ford Focus and headed home. Were we ready? We thought we were…
Until we realized that “getting ready” meant much more than baby showers, putting cribs together and stocking up on diapers. In reality, our efforts to make our home a place that was absolutely perfect for our baby girl were vain attempts to control a situation that was out of our hands to begin with. What we only realized in part, was that God was yearning for us to fully surrender our newborn baby over to him. He was still certainly going to use us to raise her, but He had something very important for us to learn that we could not find in the pages of a self-help book. We would learn it by raising the white flag.
In the single act of surrender, we were doing more for our child than years spent striving to be a better parent or know enough about child-rearing. Our surrender meant that we believe God holds the victory in our daughter’s life and that we can choose to join him in it or be his adversaries. Whether or not we were enough as parents didn’t matter if we had gone “palms up” and handed her over. This surrender meant that we would have to become better listeners. We wait for God to speak. He does and we hear, then choose to continue on with the white flag raised. This surrender means that we may not have clear answers. We do not negotiate the terms, we simply trust.
When we raise the white flag and surrender our parenting over to God, he takes us where we are and begins the victory dance. In fact, he invites us to join in with him. When you dance with the Victor, the parenting battles become boogies, the tantrums become tangos, the wrestling turns to a waltz. We dance with God in the joy of surrender and let him take the lead.