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How's Your Family (part one)?

I must admit.  Three years ago, family ministry didn’t matter to me. We had a "successful" kids ministry.  In my former ministry, a couple hundred kids and students would show up every week.  Hey if you had tons of kids show up, wasn’t that enough?

But my mind is changing on that.  Thanks to my work with a good friend and incredible leader, Reggie Joiner.

I just spent a couple more days with Reggie.  If you don’t know Reggie, you should get to know him.  He’s one of the most creative people and deepest strategic thinkers I’ve ever met.

These days, Reggie leads the Rethink Group (which he also founded).  Rethink not only publishes first rate curriculum for children and student ministry in churches, but is responsible for all things Orange, including the Orange leaders community, the Orange Tour and the Orange Conference next April.  Prior to working full time with Rethink, Reggie co-founded North Point Community Church and developed its innovative and powerfully effective approach to family ministry.

What drives Reggie is a deep and abiding concern for families.  In Canada, only 11% of people attend church on a regular basis, but even among those families who do attend church in Canada and the US, a stunning 80% of kids who grew up in the church leave the church when they go to college, not to return for years…or in some cases, ever.  Reggie has an incredible desire to change that.

The idea behind the Orange movement is that church leaders and parents can partner together around a master plan to cultivate faith and character in our children.  The church can’t do it alone, and parents can’t do it alone.  God designed us to do it together.

I find it incredibly refreshing to know that Reggie and his team work day and night on better ways to equip and help church leaders and parents raise the next generation for God.  I’m so thankful that Connexus will be an orange church from the ground up, even though we are still working on exactly what that means as the orange movements get shaped in these months and years ahead.  All I can say is I want to be counted on to be one of those who helps reverse that walk-away statistic.

I want my kids to be fully alive in God when they head to college.  I want it for more than my kids or your kids…I want it for the community, the region, the continent, the planet.  If life is truly found in God, why would we wish anything but that on the next generation?

Reggie and I spent last night talking about how to raise awareness about the silent crisis happening in churches with the next generation — that so few, even among the churched, are being influenced for God.

The first step to raising awareness is to acknowledge the problem.

Three questions:

    1.  Do you see it?
    2.  Do you care?
    3.  Are you prepared to do anything about it?

It bothers me that again and again, the hardest ministry to staff in churches across North America (including Connexus) is kids’ ministry.  Maybe that’s a factor in the stat.  Maybe we can change that!

more on this soon….

7 Comments

  1. Carey Nieuwhof on November 16, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Hey everyone…just catching up after being away for a while. Great dialogue. Thanks for engaging. It makes it so much more stimulating than just hearing one guy's (my) rambling thoughts.

    Gotta say it: Terra…way to go. Sharing your faith. That's so awesome! You are bolder than most. Keep it up. God uses people like you…

  2. Carey Nieuwhof on November 16, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Brian…Great to hear from you! I haven't read the book, but have had the privilege of meeting both Gabe and David…top notch guys. I have joined a facebook group started by people on the unChristian concept.

    I'll pick it up as a Christmas read.

    Nice blog by the way Brian….

  3. Terra Fehrman on November 15, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Hi There,
    I fell into the 80% of kids that lose touch with their faith, upon entering university. I heard the statistic in one of Carey's sermons and it has stuck in my mind ever since. The traditional church of my childhood didn't have Sunday School (My brother and I went to another denomination/church for that) or a youth group. I didn't even know different types of Bibles or Christian music existed until two years ago.

    Growing up, I had exposure to three different denominations. Thinking back on it, it was very confusing for me. My parents were from two different denominations. Just a few years ago, I found out that my grandparents didn't want my parents to get married for that very reason. My grandparents made my mother promise (before they would agree to the engagement) that she would not convert to my father's denomination. Through the years, I felt the tension.

    I didn't have anyone in my family (still don't) or my church with an unbiased, nonjudgemental, listening ear to talk to about my faith. I knew that my faith wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be, but I was at a loss on how to help it grow. "Mature Christian", "Faith Journey" and "Prayer Life" were not even in my vocabulary, so they were certainly not my focus or goal.

    I shared my faith with a nonbeliever for the first time last week. I have never felt comfortable sharing my beliefs and experiences until now. I didn't even think of myself as "a Christian" until my fellowship at Trinity Community Church. How under-developed is that?! Yikes!

    I hope this gives some of you reading these comments some insight.

    Thank-you to Orange Leadership and Connexus Community Church for caring about this statistic.

    A genuine interest in youth ministry, real discussions about faith (goals!), relevant messages, and strong connections (a sense of belonging)are all needed and wanted by the under 30 age group.

    Terra

  4. Sarah Flemming on November 14, 2007 at 1:33 am

    I certainly experienced the tug to "get out" of Christianity when I came to University in my first year. Laurie, I agreed with you so much when you were talking about how important it is to have an environment where christians can express their fears, doubts and concerns when seeking God and His will. People in my life that did just that didn't let me get too far from Christ before realizing I would be making a big mistake.

    I've started to realize how important honesty and openness is in that environment. Sometimes we can put on great fronts of having it 'all under control' and that we 'get it' …at least I think I do that sometimes. It's obviously inaccurate. I'm reminded of a song called "Stained Glass Masquerade" by Casting Crowns.

    "Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feeling so small? Cuz when I take a look around everybody seems so strong, I know they'll soon discover that I dont belong…
    …But if the invitation's open to every heart that has been broken, maybe then we'll close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade."

    When we never show our weakness I think faith become an act instead of real life. Maybe young people see that? Maybe they haven't been given the sounding boards necessary to question and challenge their thoughts? When our faith is real, active and visible to children growing up in the church I think it can change lives! I know I can put on a pretty good masquerade sometimes and I am working on being more honest and real about my faith.

    Why so many young people turn away from the church makes me really curious, although sometimes the answers seem kindof obvious. Does church just not have what they want? What DO they want? Or more importantly, what do they NEED?
    I see it, I do care… and I want to help!

  5. Laurie McNair on November 13, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I agree with you Tim. There is a generation gap–the 30 something's–of which I am apart of. Out of my Sunday school class I am the only one who is currently worshiping within a church community. I have only been back for a few years after walking away and man it has been a wild journey. I have had to go back to the "school of God" and start at the beginning–no skipping grades on this journey. This has not been easy and I have wanted to turn and run so many times. It has been by the grace of God that I have returned with a burning desire to Kingdom build.

    There needs to be environments and mature Christians available that people feel safe to go to in order to explore all of the new, exciting and sometimes terrifying emotions and thought processes that come with seeking God and His will for your life. If I hadn't had that kind of sounding board available to me during those very confusing first few months and even now when I have questions I probably would have walked away–possibly for good.

    I went to CY06 and it was so cool to be apart of and witness 650 young (and not so young) people pumped for worship. They were lining up 45 min before worship…when was the last time you have seen that at church! It really felt like a community gathering to worship and praise God…and God's presence was alive. It was awesome!

  6. Tim L. Walker on November 13, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    As a college student who "walked away," and is now "exploring the possibility of coming back as an older adult," I'm looking forward to seeing how Connexus will address this issue. While family ministry is important, it's what comes after that, which will address the big gap of 20-30 somethings leaving…

  7. Brian on November 13, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Carey – have you read "UnChristian", by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons? I picked up a copy at Catalyst last month, and it addresses the "walk away" issue as well. It basically begins by stating the obvious, that Christianity has an image problem, and then suggests some ways that we can slowly change cultural perceptions of Christianity.

    I would love to see some kind of conference based on the concepts of this book, or maybe just a small group study with the college students I work with.

    Recommended reading in any event!

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