How's Your Family (part two – helping kids stick)

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?


  1. Doris Schuster on November 18, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Hello Michael C. (Mike) It was great to work with you over the past couple of mornings in setting up the infants and kids environments at our new Connexus Community Church in Barrie. Your commitment that you mentioned above — about wanting to be a "contributor", instead of just remaining a "consumer" really showed through as I saw you working. Glad to see you on the volunteer team! It was nice to chat with you and hope to meet the rest of the family soon in our Youth Ministry "Extreme" or "Inside Out" environments!
    Till next week!

  2. Tim L. Walker on November 18, 2007 at 5:03 am

    Great thoughts, Terra!

  3. Terra Fehrman on November 17, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I love the recent comments on the blog (Carey, Tim, Pat, and Michael's). We have a great discussion going here.

    Yes, walking away from transformation as a contributor would be much harder than walking away from duties or being a consumer. Faith in action is the goal.

    I think the transition from classroom-based to group-based is a great one. I think with a group setting there is more time for fellowship, which builds a stronger sense of belonging in group members. As Christians, WE ARE the body of Christ and we need to act like it.

    Huge changes were needed with the way family ministry was done. In some places, it wasn't even attempted. For years, parents and traditional churches have been doing the best they can with what they have, but in a lot of cases that just isn't good enough to keep congregations alive and well.

    I am not familiar with the current student ministry, so please forgive me if I step on any toes here. Kids definitely need a good, strong foundation for their faith. We also need to think of ways to continue the construction on that "house of faith". Work orders and contracts (i.e. connections with another Christian community) need to be put into place, so that young adults do not get lost in the chaos of construction (like Tim mentioned). We don't want an abandoned building, we want a designer home with all the trimmings (i.e. a mature Christian).

    For young adults moving away from home, are small group leaders at Connexus developing a plan with them? Are they making connections with a Christian community where they will be attending school? I think students need to go through that thought process before they leave their home church. I think it would have helped me.

    Wouldn't it be great if there was a website where you could do a search for another Christian community? Just select a few things like: location, the type of ministry (missionary work, family ministry, etc), worship style (traditional, contemporary), and age category. Then, PRESTO you are matched with some options and given a little bio on each one. Then once you make your selection, you are provided with directions (where and when to show up).

    For young adults coming to or staying in the area, is a small group enough? I think it could be with the right structure (Tim has some valid points). It could have them involved in topics of interest (see Pat's comments) and access to a mature Christian (mentioned by soneone else last week). Like Carey said in a recent blog – EVERYONE needs encouragement. We also need guidance in the 20 something years.

    I know there are some adventures in marketing coming up. Is Connexus planning to make connections with local colleges/schools and other places where young families frequent eg. Early Years Centres?

    Those are my thoughts.


  4. Tim L. Walker on November 16, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I don't think we're disagreeing. There doesn't need to be a specific "event," but rather a group. We need to facilitate, not entertain. It's great if today's youth want to be a part of something big – make a difference, but today's youth are still leaving the church when they hit their late teens/early 20's, and that's something we should be addressing in one way or another.

  5. Pat on November 16, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Hey Tim,

    I'm not 100% sure I agree. I am a 20.something, and I really have no desire to sit at an event that is tailored to me. I personally believe that what someone in the mosaic generation needs is to be part of something big. Something that they would rather do than just about anything else. They need to be part of something where they can see their efforts making a difference.

    I think what should be on the forefront of the church's mind is what people my age are into right now. We are into hanging out with friends (community) and being part of causes that have global impact (Darfur, AIDS in Africa, Make Poverty History, Blood Water Mission, etc). It is so interesting to me that the causes I believe Jesus would be for are what are engaging today's youth culture.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. Tim L. Walker on November 16, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Servant leadership instilled in teens at church certainly is very important, as you mentioned. Teaching kids to be involved in what they are doing will help keep them around when they leave high-school. It's important to remember that we need to keep providing a "place" for them during that transition period in their life, however. Looking back at myself and my friends, we were all very involved at church, and serving in a variety of ways while still in our teens. But when we hit our 20's, all of a sudden, the church stopped giving back to us – no more events, no more youth group, etc. Just like the rest of the world, we were expected to have been fully "grown up" by the time we were done high school.

    I think we have a great start at Connexus, both feeding and training our young people, but we still have that 20-something gap that needs to be addressed when people actually hit that age group, in addition to before they get there. The world is tough enough for those just leaving high school for the real world.

    At the church I attended growing up, once we hit late teens/early 20's, that was it. We were serving in the church, but there was no age-specific events for us anymore. At one of the most critical times in our lives, we needed a group like that to exist, but, just like the rest of society, the church figured they had trained us well, and it was time for us to grow up and be a part of the "real world." We don't need to coddle the 20-somethings, but I do think that a lot of churches drop the ball with regards to that age group. When you get to your late teens/early 20's, your life changes. You go from complete structure, to complete freedom and chaos – from knowing your schedule, to making your schedule. Even with a "teen transformation," with all the changes going on, and the various pulls of society, we need to make it easier for them to stay involved and stay a part of the church community, not more difficult and less inviting.

  7. Michael Creasor on November 16, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Wow … I couldn't agree more! With the transition to Connexus I felt a real call on my life to stop being a consumer and really get involved. I am so excited about being part of the E-team in Barrie and I am thankful for the opportunity to do a very small part in setting up environments so that people can come and develop a real relationship with God.

    I am thankful also for the vision that Connexus is developing in our children and young adults. My daughter volunteered last spring to be a dancer for KidStuff and this opportunity has already inspired real changes which are evident in her life. She is more involved in things that can help others, she says she wants to work towards making the world a better place. She told me recently that she has decided that even if people think she is silly or not cool, she doesn't care because she wants to continue following Jesus and understanding what that means.

    She is excited about the opportunities that Connexus is bringing, she can't wait to bring her friends, and she will be delighted to find out that the Hip Hop Team is starting to practice and get ready to serve.

    Connexus is not just providing irresistible environments for people to come to, it's providing irresistible opportunities to serve. Can't wait, see you E-teamers at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

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