Happy Labor Day Simply Insiders! Hope you are enjoying a true day of rest.
We’ve got an amazing article from Rick Lawrence to read while you are relaxing and having fun! Read his response to a thought-provoking question:
Right after my second daughter, Emma Grace, was born, a youth ministry friend asked me: “When your daughter is a graduating senior, what impact do you dream her youth group experience will have had on her life?”
What a great question.
Emma is now entering fifth grade, and I thought it’d be interesting to look back on how I answered my friend 10 years ago. I’ve listed eight things that seemed important to me at the time, and still seem important to me now. These five “dreams” don’t simply emerge out of the brine when she becomes a teenager—in the next year she’ll need a children’s ministry that has “run the good race” and can slap the baton into the hand of a youth pastor…
1. She’ll have a heart for the poor and hurting. I mean, she’ll have the heart of Jesus—who spent almost all his time and ministry energy on desperate people. Youth groups that are passionate about exercising “radical hospitality” toward strangers and outcasts teach kids the heart of Jesus. According to the latest Notre Dame research into how kids learn to be generous (see “The Science of Generosity” in GROUP Magazine’s September/October issue: www.groupmagazine.com), the most powerful way to impact kids’ behavior is to talk a lot about it while simultaneously modeling a radically welcoming environment.
2. She’ll know how to communicate with God intimately. Prayer at its best is akin to breathing—when you look back on your day you realize you’ve had a running conversation with God that includes “formal prayer,” but only as a sliver. If prayer is simply a bookend at the start and end of your regular activities, you may be teaching kids to compartmentalize it. Prayer that is modeled spontaneously, creatively, and naturally will break down the compartment walls.
3. She’ll be a veteran workcamp and outreach participant. The more research we do into how kids grow into a deeper faith commitment, the more we know that workcamps, mission trips, and outreach projects have transformed them from ministry consumers into ministry owners. The evidence is overwhelming. And as much as planning your own service project offers flexibility and control, I’ve seen firsthand how disconnecting yourself from program and administrative details can free you to engage kids when they’re most open to your impact. (You can’t miss with our Group Workcamps or Week of Hope programs—our team crafts the program and takes care of the logistics—www.groupworkcamps.com.)
4. She’ll know how to shoulder real ministry responsibilities. The more kids you have involved in teaching or leading or serving, the more kids you have growing at a deeper level.
5. She’ll have many memories of her parents’ involvement in her youth ministry activities. Research proves, over and over, that parents’ impact on their children’s faith is dominant. Do your kids’ parents see you as a partner or a service-provider? What if you decided to “unfairly“ shoulder 100 percent of the responsibility in that relationship? How would that change how you give?
6. She’ll understand biblical basics well enough to defend her faith. Today’s kids are experiencing God often and well, but they’re not very good at thinking through the rational reasons for their commitment. And research into the “rejection patterns” of young atheists suggests that churches have expected too little, not too much, of those who are looking for serious reasons to commit their lives to Christ.
7. She’ll be captain of her ongoing relationship with God. She won’t depend on church activities, or even her parents’ input, for her growth. Her ministry leaders would show her how to develop personal spiritual disciplines rather than short-term addiction to church-driven activities.
8. She’ll be clearly “in the world” but “not of it.” I mean, she’ll be so used to thinking in a Kingdom of God way that it will be impossible for her to listen to music or read a book or watch a film without her “gospel truth” filter kicking in.
Rick (firstname.lastname@example.org and @RickSkip on Twitter) has been editor of GROUP Magazine for 25 years. He’s author of 99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living, the LIVE small-group curriculum Jesus-Centered Living, and wrote the books Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand and Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus as an excuse to immerse himself in the presence of Jesus.
Love you guys!