Wednesday, March 18, 2009

definition of effective youth and family ministry



As I have mentioned, I am going to be "blogging" through a document that comes out of the ELCA YM NETWORK. It is "definition of effective youth and family ministry". They have placed te document out there and are asking for feedback and discussion. I have decided to copy and paste the document. The document will be in quote block and my thoughts and reactions will be in regular text.

Effective Youth and Family Ministry in ELCA congregations is:

1. Discipleship
2. Baptismal
3. Rooted
4. Excellence
5. Welcoming
6. Cross Generational
7. Advocacy
8. Congregational
9. Connected
10. Partnership

Today, we will be looking at Discipleship

Statement: Effective Youth and Family Ministry is adults and young people walking alongside each other in relationship as both grow and mature in faith in Christ.


I am not sure if there are many that would disagree with this statement. I am sure that there are a few that would argue differently on what this would look like and how to accomplish it. There are also many that would want a clearer definition and "spiritual maturity" of the adult in the mentor and mentoree relationship.

However, what I absolutely love about the statements is that youth and adults are together and that they are walking alongside each other and making the journey together. We need to make sure that we "are together". This is an area that I am not creating "much success" at in the jr - high school level but there is TREMENDOUS amount of groundwork being laid down inthe children ministry.

Biblical Basis: “Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” - Hebrews 6:1


The Scripture that is used is a great Scripture and one that needs to be placed out in front of our students all the time. We need to make sure that we are moving forward and that we are placing steps down so the children and youth will be making strides from elementary teaching to teaching that will bring them maturity.

I know that the Lutheran church and that the children, youth and familiy ministry model is very strong and they care about that deeply. One of the things that I would love to see in addition to the Hebrews passage is the Scripture from Deuteronomy 6.

6-9 Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

Partnering with the parents and placing them as the spiritual providers for their family is vital and we (the church) need to be there giving them the strength, the encouragement and the tools to do it.

Rationale: Maturity in Christ is a journey, not a destination. The reality is, the entire life process from birth to death is a process of maturation. There is never a point when we suddenly are "complete." There is never a point when our relationship with Jesus Christ has become one of full maturity. We only achieve this point when through death in this life, by the grace of God, we are reunited with God in a new life. There, we experience this maturity.


The Journey ..... this keeps popping its head up. I love the visual imagery of The journey and it is one that I think is very vital. I think that with The Journey, we can "mark" many mileposts that will help individuals along their way in the journey that they find themselves in. I think it is also important for us to keep "emphasizing" that it is an entire life process; not a one and done event.

So what happens in the space between? How do God's people grow towards maturity in Christ as they live their life journey? This is a faith experience we call discipleship.


Discipleship is the key. It is a word that many get a little squirmy over and a number of people have a hard time grasping it. Last week, Pastor spoke to us a little about this. Here is a sample:

Well, that’s not the definition that we are going to use. Discipline actually comes from a Latin word which means “instruction or learning.” Therefore a “disciple” – one who “disciplines himself” – is a pupil or a student who learns through instruction. A “disciple” is a pupil or a student who follows and learns. A “disciple” is a pupil or a student who repeatedly practices something until he is prepared to go out and do it.

You know, I remember when I played football I use to really hate practices. We would go over and over and over certain things – angles of attacks – footwork – over and over and over again. And finally one day I asked the coach why do we go over and over and over these things. And he said, “We go over and over and over those things so that you will do them when no one is watching. You will do them without having to think about it. It will be who you are and not what you do.” “It will be who you are and not what you do.”

There is a parallel there between that and what we do here. We go over and over things here too. We talk about the love of God – over and over and over again. We talk about how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son – over and over and over again. We talk about how this should motivate us to love God in return for all that He has done for us – over and over and over again. We talk about Grace being the underserved love and kindness of God. And we do that over and over again. We talk about how being a child of God means that we should love one another – and that that love should be unconditional. And we do that over and over and over again. And why do we do that – over and over and over again? We do that so that we might be disciplined. So that these things become so much a part of who we are – how we think – what we do – that these things are who we are – not just what we were are taught to do. We love God – because that is who we are. We love one another because that is who we are. We do these things when no one is watching. We do these things without having to think about them. We do these things because that is who we are and not just what we do. We are the children of God who live out our lives as children of God. Other people will do whatever it is that they do. We, however, are the children of God and we live out each and every moment as children of God.

As Lutherans, we tend to shy away from this word. It has echoes of "works righteousness" that scare us away. To be a disciple is to take action within our faith, and anything that causes us to take action might be confused by some as action required for the grace of God. We know, however, that discipleship is
not so much about what we "do" as Christians, but who we "are" as Christians. Living out our baptismal promises, we become followers of the living God and at the same time, leaders in the world around us. We receive God's grace and share God's love.


I think that the most important line in the paragraph is the following:

We know, however, that discipleship is not so much about what we "do" as Christians, but who we "are" as Christians. I am just beginning to read a book on monastic traditions and how we can try to live it out in the 21st century and one of the key phrases is "being" in the midst of "doing". I think this is very important and will share more about that (the book) outside of the YM blog series.

In Jewish tradition, rabbis took disciples who followed the rabbi, learned from the rabbi, and modeled their lives and ministry after the rabbi. In Christian practice, Jesus Christ is our rabbi, and as Christians, we try to follow, learn from, and model ourselves after Him.


I think that this is pretty simple and straight-forward. Now, I did not say easy, I said straight forward and simple. We need to look at Christ and His example and follow Him. It is a tough challenge but a challenge that we need to accept.

Effective youth and family ministry then, is the tending of these faith journeys, on behalf of and alongside the lives and faith of young people and their families. We do not take disciples, nor do we create them. We walk alongside the called, and build relationships with, teach, and tend those who are on the discipleship journey. We do this by encouraging and teaching the disciplines of prayer, service, worship, scripture, and faith talk and traditions.


There are so many things that are "packed" into this small paragraph. It really is remarkable especially if you try to break it down and then expound on each area. But, I believe that youth and family ministry would be radically different if we truly focused on building relationships and in the midst of these relationships, we focused on: prayer, service, worship, scripture, and faith talk and traditions. What would ministry look like / What would are weekly schedules consist of if we truly did this style of ministry ?

Effective youth and family ministry addresses both the young person as an individual and the young person in the context of their family. It recognizes that their family, whatever that looks like, is the primary incubator for faith. It works to equip parents be the primary faith role models, and provides opportunities for families to “practice faith” together.


Here is the paragraph that blends perfectly into the Deuteronomy passage that I mentioned early on in this post. We have to connect with the family and we (as churches) really need to focus in on "programming" better so we do not split the family up anymore then it already is.

Discipleship is less though about what we do and more about what God is doing in the lives of people. It is about naming God's grace and work in the lives of young people. It is occasionally about "nudging" young people and families in their lives and faith. It is by continuing and encouraging the process of discipleship and faith formation that God's transformative grace can become understood in the lives of God's people.


I think the key here is highlighting what God is doing in the lives of people. Too often, we focus on the "nots". The things that the children, youth and family ARE NOT doing. We need to allow God's grace to work in their lives and we need to focus in on what God is doing in their lives.

What do you think of Discipleship ?
Where / How does it Belong in Youth Ministry ?

2 comments:

GranJan said...

I'm so excited you've started this blog!!! I am adding it to my "favorite places"! God is so good!! Thanks for sharing your gifts!
BLESSINGS! jan <><

Jeff Greathouse said...

Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.