Thursday, October 13, 2011


Sometimes we have theology because we have studied the Scriptures and we have concluded what we believe.  Hopefully, for the most part, we are confident in our theology, but not certain.  The older I get the less I am certain of.  However, when it comes to ministering to people, I am certain there will always be pain and suffering that we are called to care for.  Families that fall apart due to divorce are just one of the causes of such pain.

When it comes to divorce, we know from research that evangelical couples are not that much different than couples who do not profess faith. footnote  So we should not be surprised when kids in our ministries suffer this fracture in their family.  The question then is not “what if” but rather “when” students find themselves in a dissolving family, what will we do?  Here are a few thoughts…
  • We must confront the situation head on.  It’s easy to find ourselves beating around the bush when talking with students because we don’t want to break confidences or make students more uncomfortable.  Yet, when it comes to the pain and questions they ARE facing in this situation it is important we take the lead and address the situation head on.
  • We must be in it for the long haul.  Meeting with a middle school student one time and asking them how they are doing is more likely to illicit at “fine” response than a genuine one.  It takes time for students to open up to the level which allows them share their heart.  We must be in the relationship for the long haul.   The pain of divorce does not go away with a few short meetings.
  • Don’t forget the parents.  Maybe it’s because I’m the parent of teenagers and the couples divorcing in my group happen to be my friends, but this new perspective has lead me to be much more concerned for and attentive to the parents who are suffering through divorce.  Find them a support group and journey with them as well as their kids.
What do you do?  How do you help kids caught in a family that is breaking apart?  What resources do you have that have helped you?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Intergenerational Worship...

As we have wrestled with the concept of “sticky faith” in our context, the importance of intergenerational worship has risen to the top of our list of adjustments to make.  Like so many churches, we have enjoyed years of great age appropriate and age segmented ministry.  These individual ministries have been amazing and have been effective in many ways.  However, in the past few years, we have noticed an increase in the number of students who refer to the student ministry programming at their church.  In fact, some have stated their parents go to “Christ Community” but they themselves go to “encounter” or another youth program.

In an effort to begin to more holistically incorporate our students into the life of the body, we see the corporate worship service as playing a significant part.  For this reason, we have cancelled our Sunday morning student programs for about 12 weeks of our year.  These cancellations force our families to attend corporate worship together where our students have the chance to meet more adults and feel more a part of our congregation.  In addition, it gives our adults a great chance to meet students and be positively impacted by their energy, spirit, and youthful zeal.  It is definitely a two way street and a win-win situation.

We have chosen to focus our time around Advent and Lent, cancelling four or five weeks in a row for each of these two seasons.  In addition, we have taken the opportunity around Spring Break and July 4 to also cancel.  These windows offer us a balance of age segmented and age appropriate ministry while holding up the significant value of being together as a corporate body.

Has this been easy?  No!  Has there been resistance?  Yes!  Is it worth it?  You bet!  We look forward to where we are going and what awaits us.

*This blog post was first written for Kara Powell and the Stick Faith blog.  It was recently posted on Scott McKnight's blog and received a fair number of comments (many of which challenged why we would even be in the position of offering a middle school worship service in the first place.  The following is a response to those comments).

I originally wrote this blog post for Kara and the Sticky Faith website as a way to transparently express how our church is seeking to build “sticky faith” in the lives of our teenagers. There is a lot right about age appropriate ministry in the church today, but there are some things that we are discovering may not as healthy as we thought they were, or at least they are having some unintended negative consequences we did not imagine when we decided to implement them. A large group worship service on Sunday morning, at least in our context, is one of these areas.

I am over 40 and when I was a teen, we went to Sunday School and church. We were at church whenever the doors were open as were most of our friends. However, in the context I currently live and minister in, this is nowhere near the case. Most families are so involved in other things they only attend one service on Sunday mornings. It’s all they can fit into their busy lives (a whole new matter entirely to discuss). When the student ministry offers ANYTHING during the hour they are there, Sunday School, small groups, or a large group program, most students will opt for the student ministry program rather than the corporate worship service. Most parents would encourage this choice. In fact, some of the flack we have taken for cancelling ministry like we have has included families considering moving to another church down the street where families can get what they want.

Change is hard and must be managed well. We are in a larger church context with multi-site implications and significant history and preferences to overcome. We are excited about where we are going and will continue to make adjustments and changes that hopefully lead to a more significantly sticky faith in the lives of our teenagers. The struggles your church faces may be different than the struggles we face in my context, but the question remains, how are you doing at building sticky faith in your teens? Are you going about your business blind to the realities of students leaving not only your church but their faith when they graduate or are you actively seeking ways to adapt your ministry and encourage a deep and sticky faith? What needs to change in your context and how are you going about changing it?