Posts Tagged ‘ Faith Assets ’

What if? More from the D6 Conference……………………Jason Miller

There is a great deal of power in those words.  What if children, youth and family ministries were more than a program?  What if they become the basis of a fully integrated mindset for the relationship between the church and the home?  Imagine the possibilities.  Parents taking on their God-given roles as the primary faith formers for their children.  Families committed to serving their church and the world in the name of Christ.  The end of “drop-off” ministry because parents are actively engaged in ministry with their children.  A church where ministry silos are integrated and connected to a common goal…strengthening the home and therefore strengthening the church in its mission to the world.

Pretty lofty, huh?  For years we have recognized the need and have tried to start program after program with the goal of encouraging a relationship between home and congregation with modest results.  The time has come to think differently about family faith formation, more holistically.

Permeating the discussions at the D6 Conference this year was the insight that the Schema (Deuteronomy 6) was not a program to be implemented, but a mindset, an ethos to become part of our DNA.  Many of the presentations revolved around this “easier said than done” notion.  It’s just that,  but it is the ONLY way we will truly succeed in partnering with parents in forming faith in young Christians.  And that’s what the “family assets” of the EYM study are really all about.   Churches who are constantly figuring out how to make this partnership a part of who they are.  They did this by intentionally engaging and including the single most influential people in the lives of young people…their parents.

Now I want to hear from all of you.  Is D6 a part of your (and your congregation’s) DNA?  What are you doing in your life and your church community to live out the Schema?

Jason Miller is a husband, dad and Christ follower who serves as Director of Christian Education for a congregation in Apollo Beach, FL.  He has been engaged in Children’s, Youth and Family Ministry for over a decade.


For Every Sport There is a Season……………………….Jerry Watts

I’m a big fan of the four seasons.  There’s football season, basketball season, baseball season, and… well you get the idea.  If you are a sports aficionado there is always something to fill your TIVO box, fantasy league addiction, swipe your debit card for, or fill up your calendar with.   The same kind of frenetic rhythm is true in the lives of teens as well as our youth ministries today.

There’s the gear up for fall kick-off season, weekly program season, retreat season, confirmation season, summer mission trip season, and … well you get the idea.  There is an info meeting to go to, a deposit check to be cut, and facebook event page to click “maybe” on.   I am certain if you are reading this blog you can easily fill in the blanks of season upon demanding season in the life of a teenager today.

Because of this youth ministry often (and rightly so) tends to look for gaps or windows in those busy seasons to offer retreats, a weekly respite, or frankly make room to share the Gospel.   Either that or we find ways to invest in walking along side youth at their football games, or band concerts, lunch hours, or maybe the occasional 5th quarter party.  I’m not suggesting we abandon all those tools, however I am suggesting that the EYM study and yes Holy Scriptures themselves call us to something more.

The EYM study reminds us that exemplary youth ministries nurture mature Christian youth who see God active in their DAILY lives, who spend regular time in the WORD through a personal devotional life, and recognize God has a purpose for them…today.  These markers go beyond mission trip week, winter camp, youth group night, or any other gap, window, or program wedge we can squeeze into an already packed schedule.

Isaiah 40:8 reminds us that “the grass withers and the flowers fade but the Word of our God stands forever.”  What red thread weaves through the youth ministry you lead or partner with that calls youth to be engaged by God’s Word that supersedes every season? As Isaiah reminds us, in the final analysis, God’s Word is the only thing that will last.  Can we retrain our radar from looking at gaps in a calendar to scan for opportunities to help kids pick up on the voice of God calling, inviting, and speaking to their hearts everyday?   Maybe we don’t need to start by throwing out all of our youth ministry seasons, but maybe we do need to start looking for relationships that can be the mixing boards that sort out the noise of busyness to hear God speak…everyday.

Jerry Watts is still serving as Youth and Family Minister in Plano, TX.  He’s been doing in youth ministry for almost seventeen years.

EYM On the Road………………………………..Terri Martinson Elton

We called it, “EYM On the Road.” The weekend began with three Luther Seminary staff piling into a mini-van and heading across the farm fields of Minnesota, Power Points and lectures ready. The weekend ended with an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the greater church, and for the people God’s called into leading youth and family ministry in these changing times. Let me explain.

Luther Seminary has been committed to sharing the findings of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study to as many people as we can for almost five years now. We, at Luther, have been doing this in many ways, including developing workshops, websites, webinars and coaching congregations. Last year we made the decision that it was time to take the “workshop,” developed to help congregational teams think about the EYM findings through the lens of their own context, out to the church. And South Dakota was our first destination.

For almost two days, on a weekend in the end of July, 30 people from eastern South Dakota came together eager to learn. During our time, we shared stories, about young people and vibrant congregational life; we rethought what it is to be church in these days; and we focused on the call to join young people and families in a journey of discipleship. As our time progressed, the posture of the participants shifted from taking in information, to imagining what it means to create a congregational culture of youth ministry, to brainstorming ways to move into such a new reality, and to networking with future long-term conversation partners. A new way of thinking about ministry with and for young people and their families was birthed, and hope was in the air.

When the three of us piled back into the van at the end, we did so with a sense of gratitude and humility. I am convinced that the findings of this study are challenging us, even forcing us, as leaders in youth ministry to look with new eyes at ministry with young people, and be open to new things. And as we do, our faithful God meets us and the Spirit moves among us, and we are not the same.

I am looking forward to seeing what God is up to in South Dakota in the weeks and months and years ahead. God has planted gifted and passionate leaders there, people that really care about young people and God’s church, and that are willing to find a new way forward together. May you too be so fortunate as to discover travel companions as you seek to faithful be in ministry with and for young people.

Terri Martinson Elton is the Director of the Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  She has a PhD in Congregational Mission and Leadership and teaches youth ministry and other classes at Luther.

The P Word………….Michael Best

Youth workers are known for being fun and spontaneous.  The reason most of us started in youth ministry was because of our love and passion for teenagers.  Nearly all of us would rather hang out at Starbucks with students than sit in an office. But in the midst of all the busy day to day activity in ministry, when is the last time you really thought ahead?

Planning is not cutting edge.  Planning is often not fun.  Planning is not cool.  But planning is an important part of an effective youth ministry.  Assets 38 and 39 of the EYM study show that youth ministries need to use many approaches and be organized well.  These two assets demand planning.

What if instead of thinking about what to teach this weekend or this summer, you planned a four to six year strategy of teaching?  What if instead of going to the beach with some students you planned several strategic service opportunities for them?  What if your planning was based on the characteristics of maturing Chrisitan faith?

We need more than a passion for students to grow in Christ, we need a plan that will give them opportunities to grow.
So what about you?  Where are you in your planning of teaching topics, of missions opportunities, of creative events?

Michael Best is a first time EYM Blogger.   Welcome Michael!   He has been serving in youth ministry for over three years. He lives and ministers in Chicago, IL.

Welcomes Questions……………………………..Kristen Baltrum

This past week I have had three separate conversations with teenage girls. The first, “Amy,” is a senior in high school and mentoring a first grader at our local elementary school. The little girl’s father overdosed over the weekend. As Amy wonders aloud how to ‘be’ with this little girl, I reminded her to be simply who she is. But then she asked me, “How do I do that if I don’t even know who I am?” The second girl, “Brandi,” is a freshman in college. She said, “I am doing all the right things. I am getting good grades, making good choices, and I know what I am passionate about. But I still don’t know who I am.” Then there is “Cindy”, who is beginning to identify that she simply feels sad all the time. Her comment was “I am just sad. I don’t know who I am. I want to be free.”

The common theme between all of these girls is identity. They are in search of that sense of clarity, of affirmation, of value, and of purpose. The assets from the Exemplar study lay the ground work for this kind of exploration and conversation, and call us as leaders to structure ministry so that they can take place. EYM Asset #14 says “The congregation encourages thinking: welcomes questions and reflection on faith and life.” Along with that are seven other assets that speak directly to quality relationship with other youth and adults that allow for these conversations and questions to happen. All of the assets work together to create an environment for young people to express their doubt and acknowledge their fear. From there they can be caught up and claimed and sent through the work of the Spirit.

The answers to the girl’s questions are not easy. Those answers probably won’t be found right away. But the ground that those questions are planted in is nothing less than Holy Ground.  That’s where I want to be working.

Kristen Baltrum serves with students in Longmont, CO.

Uses Many Approaches……………………….Nancy Going

What is unique about the life of people in the place where you live?  What are the distinctive ministry needs where church and youth and youth ministry can and should dig in?

That question grows out of one of the key learnings from the Exemplary Youth ministry study.   Asset  38:  “Uses Many Approaches: intentionally, creatively employs multiple activities appropriate to the ministry’s mission and context.”

This asset means that in a church in rural Nebraska, the high school students regularly put on the VBS for smaller children.  The reality is that if they had not organized and made it happen, their church would not have had a VBS.  The faith of those high school students grew measurably in the process.

In suburban Dallas, a youth ministry that engages parents in multiple significant ways, providing both parental support, and utilizing lots of  parental volunteers in the ministry helped both youth and parents connect to their faith and to the ministry of the larger church.

Instead of thinking that their program should look a certain way because of that program’s success at another church, these churches looked at and identified what the needs are in their church and community, and structured their ministry around those needs.

Gather some people who can help you see, if you need it.  Imagine where this asset could take you………

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.

From the First/Third Event……………………………….Nancy Going

At last week’s FIRST/THIRD Event at Luther Seminary, Kenda Dean focused her first lecture by asking these questions:

“What if the problem with the American church is not the youth? What if the problem is the church?”

I know that statement gets youth ministry people like you and me all excited about the ways that statement underscores what we’ve been thinking for years. And the rest of Kenda’s lecture was about the following two statements:

1      The best way to stimulate spiritual health in a congregation is to invest in the spiritual growth of young people.

2      The best way to stimulate spiritual health in young people is to invest in the spiritual growth of their parents.

Again something that you and I might already know, but are we doing it?  Or are we complaining about their parents?  Are we fighting with the priorities of their parents? Are we focusing on the spiritual growth of parents in such a concentrated way that it will actually have an impact on their young people?

Instead, how could we prioritize and develop the kinds of relationships with parents that will allow them to see us as a partners?

These insights of Kenda’s are borne out by the both the NSYR study and in these Exemplary churches.  Look at the first of the 44 Faith Assets related to the family:

Possess Strong Parental Faith: parent(s) possess and practice a vital and informed faith

If you were to add just ONE asset to your ministry, why not this one?

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.