Friday, March 20, 2009

Effective Youth and Family Ministry is: Baptismal

Effective Youth and Family Ministry is: Baptismal

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 Baptismal

Statement: Effective youth and family ministry focuses on the promises of the God who calls us unconditionally into the relationship begun when we are claimed in the waters of baptism and lived out in the calling of our vocation.

Biblical Basis: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” - 1 Peter 2:9

Rationale: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is slowly beginning to look more like a melting pot of humanity, less like a weekly reunion of people with Northern European ancestry. Along with the rich diversity of people sitting in the pews of our churches and gathering as youth groups and children's ministries comes a kaleidoscope of cultures and traditions, and an increasingly eclectic theology of who we are and how we see God at work in our midst.

I enjoy the introduction and the three segments that they focus in on. In their opening statement; the sentence that I want to echo loudly to everyone is "unconditional". There are still too many people out there that believe that they must be perfect or at least have their life in order to enter into a relationship with God. We need to be shouting (not in a mean way) that God loves you and that the love is unconditional.

The scripture that they use is a very powerful scriptural verse and one that we need to be imprinting onto peoples hearts. We need to let people know about priesthood. We need to share about the calling out of the darkness and into the light. We belong to God, how powerful and how sweet is that statement.

To be honest, i am not sure how to take the rationale portion of the section. If this is occurring in other areas; that is great and fantastic. In my neck of the woods, it does not seem to be occurring. On the large scale though, I do believe that people are not so concerned about the denomination that they grew up in or are comfortable with - thus this is bringing great diversity into church communities. The great thing about this document, in my opinion, is the nuggets of truth that are sprinkled through the entire document. The sentence that does that for me in this segment is the following: a kaleidoscope of cultures and traditions, and an increasingly eclectic theology of who we are and how we see God at work in our midst. We need to keep our eyes and heart open and see where God is working at - in our midst.

While we celebrate the truth that God is at work in all Christian Churches, as Lutherans we center on the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Sacramentally, we understand that our identity is woven into the promises received and gifts given in baptism. Youth and family ministry that is effective rotates around the promises of grace, forgiveness, eternal life, identity and community, and the gifts which through the Holy Spirit bring and sustain life to all. This has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with God, with God's love, mercy, and grace. God initiates the relationship. It is effective because of God's grace in Jesus!

Not growing up in the Lutheran church this statement (in a sense) "bit" me. To me, it can come off a little snobby. I know for a fact that this is not the case but perceptions can hurt as well. It (the statement) looks like we focus on the right things and everyone else focuses on the wrong things and I do not believe this to be true. Here is the statement that I do like though: Youth and family ministry that is effective rotates around the promises of grace, forgiveness, eternal life, identity and community, and the gifts which through the Holy Spirit bring and sustain life to all Now how that would look, work, be evaluated, developed and shared would definitely be up for argument and I would love for folks who are attempting to be led in this way ... what are you experiencing?

First, as professionals and volunteers in youth and family ministry, we have the privilege of entering into the brokenness of life with young people, and to accompany them as they experience God’s grace, receive the gifts, and are restored in and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I definitely have considered it a privilege over the last decade+ to work with youth and to enter into their lives. There is definitely darkness and pain and brokenness that the students are living in the midst of. It seems to be that there is more brokenness, however I am sure that there many would argue that this simply is not the case and that we are just aware of things more now then we have been in the past. The great thing is that by journeying with them and sharing with them God's grace and light that they are moved from the brokenness. The power of the resurrection is wonderful power.

Second, we enter into relationship with the young person, their family, and their entire support system, making a covenant together to become the village that literally raises this child. And so we accompany and support the ministry of parents by walking alongside them as they experience the joys and struggles of raising their young people. We provide resources, we teach the children, and we teach the parents how to be church together.

It makes me smile and laugh a little when I see this statement. It reminds me of Hilary Clinton. Numerous individuals "crucified" her when she spoke the words "it takes a village ......" However, her words do ring true to me and I think that the above paragraph and the church community bring new light to the discussion. The paragraph once again highlights the importance of the Deuteronomy 6 principle. It is also the reason that we, at Zion, have begun to switch our focus and move to more families/parent ministry philosophy. We cannot do ministry in silos away from parents. We, as churches, must shift our focus and priorities to parents. We then MUST be the church together.

Finally, we represent the church which fully embraces and welcomes the young into the mission of God, and equips them to live out and to share the grace of the God who loves them first and foremost.

We must do this if we want to live out the calling that God has called for us.

Our call is counter cultural. Many of these youth have been conditioned to believe that their value is defined by performance in the home, at school, at church, in relationships in every arena of their lives. And we remind them that they are justified not by what they do, but through the love and grace of God. Along with the body of Christ, they are all sinners...all saints...and all justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

In the culture that we live in, this might be the most important thing that we do. Everyday, it seems like we run into students and individuals that are "identified" by what they do. They are measured in so many different areas and the parents and schools push them - they are defined. We need to give them the gift that they are children of God who loves them no matter what. Our words and our teaching MUST (in my opinion) be centered on the love and grace of God.

Our baptism as infants, children, youth, or adults makes us heirs of that promise. How important is our baptism? Jesus’ final command in the book of Matthew is to "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Equally important though is to remember that this command is wrapped inside a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)

This past week, I received The Connect magazine and the focus (theme) was on baptism which was very timely in not only the doctrinal topic and discussions going on but with this series. We need to wrap our arms around Matthew 28. When I reflect on this Scripture, I am reminded of a 6 word theme for a convention that I participated in. The theme was the following:

Committed to God
Commissioned by Christ

May we be effective in ministry.



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