Friday, November 18, 2011

Middle School Small Groups and Friendships

I am leading a volunteer through the book “Middle SchoolMinistry” by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.  Today we talked about the chapter on friendships.  If you’ve read the book, or you have worked with middle school students for more than an hour, you know that friendships can be intimate, deep, water tight, volatile, shaky, brittle, and unpredictable all in the same day.  So, how do you structure your small groups?  At the 30,000 foot level, in our ministry we have structured our groups by grade and gender.  This is a great starting point.  However, when you dig down from there, how to you break the students up within that grade and gender?  Do you keep all the friends together (they may not be friends next week)?  Do you split them all up and have a melting pot of students?  Do you keep consistent small groups each week or do you mix them up each week?  Does the answer to this question change between sixth and eighth grade?  What do you think?  How do we best set up our groups for success in not only their small group experience, but the cultivation of friendships?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Advent is coming…

Advent is just two weeks away and in our context with the coming of Advent comes a very exciting time for our push toward intergenerational ministry.  In our church, Advent is one of the times in the year where we have committed to putting student ministry on hold so we can intentionally encourage families to worship together in the corporate worship services.  The Sticky Faith research has played a large role in moving us in this direction.  You can read in Kara Powell’s new book “Sticky Faith” that although there is not really a “silver bullet” for building sticky faith in our kids, there are some trends that seems to be very significant and students worshiping in a corporate setting is one of those trends.

Involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation.” – Kara Powell

In our context, families are largely single service families.  Thus, when they arrive on campus each week, students will attend the student ministry and never set foot in the worship center.  We hope to change this, little by little, as we encourage families to worship together.  If you think of it, please be in prayer for us as we seek to lead in this new direction.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brain Quotes...

Random Quotes from “Beautiful Brains” by David Dobbs
National Geographic - Oct 2011

This article was only slightly helpful.  I found the author’s worldview in such stark contrast to my own that many of this conclusions were not helpful.  However, as with all of us, he did get part of the story right.  Here are a few quotes from the article that I found thought provoking if not helpful.

Teenagers value rewards more than consequences.  In situations where risk can get them something they want, they value the reward more than the risk or consequence.

The hunt for novelty can go awry when teens try to top each new kick with another, more intense one.  But it also helps them find their path.

B J Casey - neuroscientist:  there is nothing wrong with a teenager questioning their parent’s beliefs. That's normal and healthy. It helps a teen develop a sense of identity.

Laurence Steinberg - think of teen choices as an equation were consequences are not given the weight they should be. And when teens are around friends, that throws the equation off even more. 

Some brain scans show teens react to peer exclusion in much the same way as they respond to physical health or food supply. At a neural level they perceive social rejection as a threat to existence. 

Studies show when parents engage and guide their teens with a light but steady hand their kids generally do much better in life. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sitting in “Big Church”

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am on a quest with our church leadership to transition the ethos of our church to a place where intergenerational relationships are the norm, not the exception.  For us, one of the flagship changes that we are seeking to bring about in this process is seeking to have more of our students engage with our corporate worship services.  If you know anything about my church, you know we are not generally considered “fluffy” in our teaching.  Our senior pastor is an amazing expository preacher and he does not “water things down.”  In the ten years I have been here I have seen our pastor come to use language that is more accessible by more people, adjust his delivery style to be less tied to his notes, and incorporate more transparent examples when appropriate.  However, in all these changes, he has not compromised his commitment to Scripture and expository preaching.  I love my pastor and enjoy sitting under his teaching each week.

One of the things I hear most often from parents when we talk about the corporate worship service centers around our pastor and his preaching.  In some form or fashion what people often say is “my kids don’t get anything out of the sermons, they are over their heads.”  This same comment has been articulated by adults when asked about why they don’t invite friends and neighbors to church.  Responses to this type of question go something like “please don’t change the style of preaching, that is why we are here, but I would not invite a friend, it’s too deep.”  All this causes me to pause a bit.  Is this a problem?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s more an issue with expectation.

Today, I received an email from our high school pastor who included the dialogue he had on facebook with one of our college freshmen.  The last line of the conversation included this statement.  “I miss pastor tom’s preaching a lot.”  WOW!  I heard the parent of several elementary students recently say how much they enjoyed having their kids in the service because of all they learn.

Another thought comes to mind when I think about the brain research that has surfaced over the past five years.  Mark Ostreicher quotes Dr. Jay Giedd and his “use it or lose it principle” in his book “Middle School Ministry”.  The concept here is that students need to be using their brains if they are going to see growth in their brains occur.  If this is the case, why not challenge our kids with more opportunity to “use it”?  Why not ask them to think about a sermon they hear?  Why not then position parents to have conversations with their teens after those services, mine nuggets learned, and share insights they themselves had?  Why not?  We expect they can’t handle it.  We expect they will be board.  We expect too little.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sharing Stories of Future Hope

I’ve written before about our desire as a local church to move to a place where we are more intergenerational.  This is a huge DNA and ethos shift, not just a slight programmatic tweak.  Intergenerational is not the result of throwing a few people from different generations into the same room.  That may be multigenerational, but it is not intergenerational.  Intergenerational ministry is when people from multiple generations are ministering together, learning together, sharing with one another, and most importantly teaching each other.  And none of these things is a one-way street from oldest to youngest.  We believe our adults can learn from our students as much as our students can learn from our adults.

However, as we seek to implement this more holistic approach to ministry, there are challenges.  I heard it said (maybe by Dr. Scott Cormode of Fuller Seminary) that people are not afraid of change, but they are afraid of loss.  This is so true and what we are trying to do has the potential to feel like loss to people.  Why?  Not because we are doing away with any one thing in particular, but because we are making adjustments that may take people out of their comfort zones and into unknown and uncharted territory.  When you leave the known for the unknown it can feel like loss. 

Dr. Cormode has also mentioned that if we are to help people through times of change one thing that can be a significant benefit to the process is sharing stories of future hope.  I have struggled with really grasping what he was talking about until last night.  My wife graduated from Wheaton College and there was a gathering of Wheaton graduates at a friend’s house last night.  At this gathering, Dr. Phil Ryken, the president of Wheaton College, took about 20 minutes to share some of his experiences on campus.  As he talked and shared stories of students and faculty, I was struck by his approach.  I am a Taylor University graduate and if you know anything about the TU culture, there is a fun rivalry between TU and Wheaton.  Thus, I have no real vested interest in hearing about Wheaton College, but by the time Dr. Ryken was finished I wanted to send my kids to Wheaton.  I was on board with the mission and vision of the college.  Through the entire presentation I found myself thinking “this is what Dr. Cormode was talking about.”  This is the power of story.  This is how we help our families to see the value of intergenerational ministry.  We share stories.  I get it.