Love the comments on the blog…I totally agree that the 20 something gap is huge. It’s the product of the failure of our approach to children’s and family ministry in the last decade or more.
I think there are three factors in the Orange approach that we’re integrating at Connexus that can change the reality in many families and in many young adult lives with the next generation. The first, is getting teens engaged in mission…in serving others.
There comes a point where each of us needs to stop being a consumer and start being a contributor. Life just works better that way…in marriage, at work, in parenting, in friendships. If all we do is take, and never give, then somehow we end up feeling empty…deeply unsatisfied. Ironically, the very thing we are afraid of losing if we give to others (our fulfilment) is the very thing we gain when we give back. But then Jesus taught on that, didn’t he?
People speak of a prolonged adolescence among so many young adults today…I just want to avoid that in the next generation. If, by the time our kids are 12 years old, they are learning to serve others, they will be able to put into practice all they have learned and will continue to learn. So while they still play Wii at Xtreme, they may also choose to help with set up and tear down at the theatres, or learn to run a sound board for UpStreet or serve in a homeless shelter. Teens can also get into the thick of serving by serving as small group leaders in Waumba Land or UpStreet, or help in some meaningful way. By giving back to others what God has given to them, they become whole.
What I love about people like Sarah, Terra, Tim and Laurie who are returning to church after an absence or as young adults, is that they are people who have learned to give back. This may be a key to fulfillment for each of them. Ironically, while we really want to get, what they have seen is that by giving we get the most.
Parents have a critical role to play in the formation of this next generation. By partnering with church leaders throughout the different stages in life, parents get equipped by the church to help kids assimilate faith and character into their lives from the youngest age. But as their son or daughter heads into the pre-teen and especially teen years, by applying what they are learning through serving, and living outside themselves serving other kids, going on mission trips, and helping those on the margins of society, our kids may finally be able to see why we believe what we say we believe, and have what they know deeply integrated into their being by the time they are 18. I think this might create a "stick" factor for Christianity that is much higher and much truer to Jesus. After all, if it’s only information we’re teaching our kids without application, there will be no transformation. And it’s pretty hard to walk away from transformation.
The other key component is moving from class-room based ministry to group-based ministry. By teaching kids at every age level in a large session, people with teaching gifts are freed up to be engaging and to do what they do best. In our model (as in all Orange models), kids then switch from a large teach time into small groups, where they have the same small group leader who tracks with them regularly. The kids in the group are the same week to week too, so every child gets another adult building deeply into their lives and friends who are running the right direction. This creates a powerful chemistry of relationship that is also very hard to walk away from. It’s easy to skip out on class…it’s much harder to walk away from real relationship. But then Jesus modeled that too right…something about 12 close followers…disciples….
Throughout the process, group leaders are interacting with parents to equip parents to bring home what God started on Sundays and to help address what’s happening in the home. As we all know, sometimes kids stop listening to their parents (really?), and having another adult saying the same things parents say can make all the difference in the world.
I believe that mission for teens, groups for everyone and partnering with parents can really help kids get deeply grounded in their relationship with Christ before they leave home. It will give them something real to walk away with, not from.
Long post…what are your thoughts?