Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Church Revitalization, Student Ministry, and Missions

In continuation of the Revitalize series, I want to discuss the next subject from Thom Rainer's blog 9 Questions You Should Ask Before Leading A Church Revitalization. In my last blog from this series we discussed prayer and its necessity to church revitalization. The subject of prayer seems trite, but many ministers take prayer for granted. Instead, I argued for strategic prayers. Furthermore, I would remind my readers, that I am a student minister not a senior pastor. All of my arguments come from the perspective of a second chair youth and college minister who is attempting to aid in the church's revitalization.

The question for discussion today is #2 "Will I see this opportunity as a mission field?"

Far too many ministers view local church work and missions work either domestic or international as too separate of concepts. This is foolish, because all Christians are missionaries. The change from one person to the next is the specific mission field and spirituals gifts given by God to the individual.  In his book Breaking the Missional Code, Ed Stetzer argued that the first step of a church to become mission minded is to have a burden for its immediate community to share the gospel with them. IN response to this mindset, the Christian should adapt the mentality of a missionary, meaning that he or she will adjust his mannerisms and methods to reach the surrounding culture while not losing the essential gospel. Missionaries have called this process contextualization for many years.

The question remains, how does being mission minded relate to church revitalization? As a student minister, it is important to note that many ministers do not know what goals they want to accomplish in ministry. I believe to properly answer the question of revitalization and missions, one must answer the more important questions of what we want to accomplish in the first place. I believe that the purpose of student ministry is to prepare teenagers to be mature, spiritual adults. I do this through a 3part discipleship strategy over a 7 year progression: spiritual maturity, personal mission, and multiplied influence from Ephesians 4:11-13. Each of the three areas have measurable indicators to understand and develop students into spiritual adults and leaders.

The second mark of my ministry is personal mission, and this is where the purpose of youth ministry correlates to church revitalization. There are three phases to personal mission: service, evangelism, and missions. Each one builds upon the prior. Service is the simplest, takes little training, and can be accomplished simply with a rake and trash bag at elderly person's back yard. Evangelism is the act of a student sharing her faith with another student in a personal manner. Mission is the use of both service and evangelism in the aid of planting churches and ministries. Thabiti M. Anyabwile confirmed these principles in his book What is a Healthy Church Member. The notion that Anyabwile supported is that a church can only be healthy when its members are healthy. This is further developed by the sister book What is a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Church revitalization is then directly tied to the health and activity of the Church in the community to reach people for Christ. Stetzer returned to this topic later in the afore mentioned book to argue that a mission minded church leads to healthy church growth both numerically and spiritually.

Perhaps there are still some wondering why a youth minister is asking this question or even cares to discuss it. May I remind my readers that revitalization is a slow process that can take years to secure and more years to develop into a strong part of the church worldview. If the church would like to change its worldview, the best way to accomplish this goal is to develop its future leaders. Many churches focus on the median and senior adults for the leadership and leadership development, but this is often too little and too late. Change the mentality of the students and church will change the mentality of the church for long term results. If a student makes missional students, the church will be in a much healthier state. However, as a warning, if the church does not offer anything for students once they reach college and young adult ages, they will go to another church where they can work out their faith. Student ministry is to prepare leaders; adult ministry is the best platform to utilize those leaders.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Where's Dad? Effects of Fatherlessness on Teens

I grew up in what was once considered the stereotypical home. I grew up with both my parents in my life, married, in the same house, and still are that way. I have two brothers, and not one of us ever doubted or wondered if mom and dad were going to be there tomorrow. We knew that our parents loved each other and were committed to their marriage and to us. Now, this notion is becoming old fashioned and antiquated. As far back as 1992 this debate began to come to the front of people's minds. LA Times noticed the trend that due to the rise in divorces, the nuclear family was being redefined in an article they posted called "Parenting: Breaking the Mold." This trend has escalated with the growing trend of single parenthood, births outside of marriage, teen pregnancies, and homosexual parents adopting. Recent movies have begun to push the traditional family concept away such as the Box Trolls. As a student minister, I can confirm the statistics and trends that this really is happening and at an increasing rate. As time goes by more and more students come from homes other than the traditional model.

This has further given rise to a particular phenomenon: fatherlessness. Due to a lack of fidelity between partners, a woman will have a child or two with one man, but they move on and separate. The woman may choose to have more children from other men, and so may the man. However, what is interesting is the men seem to move on from both the woman and his offspring, while the children tend to stay with the woman. Technically, this trend has given rise to two phenomena: fatherlessness and single motherhood.

According to the National Center for Fathering, the extent of fatherlessness in America is of epidemic proportions, citing that as many as 24 million children in America live without "a" father figure present. The further noted that of children in grade school 39% do not live at home with their biological father. The problem with these statistics are the results. To list a few: 71% of all high school dropouts, 71% of all teenage pregnancies, 85% of children with behavior disorders, 63% of youth suicides, and 85% of youth in prison: all these are from fatherless homes. Good or bad philosophically or metaphysically, the statistics show there is a relationship that should be heeded.

Many Christian leaders have offered solutions to such a problem. One school of thought is student ministry, and the other is family ministry. I believe that it takes both. Yes, the youth ministry should engage students by the means of other students, but I see a very distinct model in Joshua and Judges for Christians to follow.

In Numbers 26:65 God decreed that an entire generation would pass away over the next 40 years because of their disobedience. The only two to be left would be Joshua and Caleb, the men who trusted God. This means that these two men would be the oldest men in the nation. They would be the only father and grandfather figures to many people. This gap would have been an enormous role to fill, but they did. In Joshua 24:31 it says that the next generation served God throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders he raised up. In Judges Othniel became Israel's next leader of Israel. He was Caleb's son-in-law. These men stood in the gap and assumed the role of father figures.

Yes, I believe that as churches we need to try and reach the whole family, but I believe this is best accomplished by presenting our own families and desirable. We do family ministry best leading our own families with godly wisdom and inviting others into our family. We encourage other fathers to do the same. There is no real in depth complex method to accomplish this, because each family is different, and each father is different. We must father the fatherless.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Last Class of my Masters

Yesterday I completed my last official class for my Master of Arts in Christian Studies Degree. It has been a long and arduous struggle for me, and especially for my family. I begun at one school in one degree program, but moved after two years of not enjoying my education. I transferred to another school and a different degree. I have loved this program but in the midst of changing jobs, two children, demands of full-time ministry, and two moves, I had to take a break from my studies. Now, I have come to the end of my classes. All that lies before me is my thesis.

What is designed to be a three year degree has taken me five, but in that time I have learned many lessons along the way. I would like to share my lessons with you from my Graduate studies.

1. No Excuse is Good Enough:
People understand that everyone has a busy life, but the successful people in life get things accomplished. Half-hearted papers turned in late are simply no longer acceptable.

2. Good Research is Good Research:
Some students attempt to cut corners and simplify their research. They choose shoddy sources with questionable logic to support the argument they want to make. Many researchers will make a source support their argument, even if the source does not lend itself to such.

3. Do the Work:
Successful people work hard! Last minute cleverness does not replace good work.

4. Logic is Supreme:
Many people do not know the basics of logic and argumentation. As such their arguments will have holes or weak premises. However, good thinkers must use logic to their advantage.

5. Be on Time:
Late is no longer acceptable. Neither is last minute. A person must learn to manage his or her time.

6. Be Humble:
There is nothing new under the sun. Many other scholars and thinkers have been studying the same material as you for much longer. Be wary if you believe you discover something new in philosophy or theology. Many students are arrogant and do not stop to understand their inadequacy.

I have enjoyed my degree, and yes I have learned a few other things along the way, particularly pertaining to my degree. Nonetheless, the life lessons I learned are of equal value of the content I learned. Thank you to my professors for not giving up on me during my break. I intend to finish strong.