The following are my speaking notes from a one-day conference we hold at The Peoples Church called Reaching High. This past year we broke up the main session and split it into three and covered the life of a child that would go through a ministry from birth to college. The goal was to equip and encourage the Life Group leaders by teaching them that what they do matters in the life of our kids and families. We tracked the child from children’s ministry and into a jr. High ministry and finally into youth ministry. We as presenters focused on three main questions:
- Children’s Ministry – What do I believe?
- Jr. High Ministry – Who do I believe I am?
- Youth Ministry – Why do I believe what I believe? and How do I show it?
Each child asks these questions in their respected ministries, but the interesting thing about kids in ministry is that each child is at a different place in their spiritual understanding. You could have a new believer in youth ministry that is asking the basic question “What do I believe to be true?” We placed that question as the defining question in children’s ministry because we would like our grade 6 students that leave our ministry to know what the Bible says is true and to understand God’s plan of restoration. However any new believer will start by asking the same question, “What do I believe?” We decided that if we looked at the progression of ministries as a straight line it would mean that without knowing it we saw spiritual growth as having an end point. A line eventually has to end.
Children’s ministry has a child for about 11-12 years followed by two years of jr. high and another 4-5 years of high school and then they are done. When we look at ministry as a linear progression it speaks to the reality that the leaders in each of these areas is finished mentoring that child when the child passes into the next ministry. This leadership is what causes students to fall through the cracks.
We proposed a different type of ministry model. A more circular look at a child’s life from beginning to end. This is where I will let me notes take over. Enjoy!
Let’s start with how many church’s view birth to college ministries. One linear line and you are lucky if the children’s pastor and the youth pastor even agree with 80% of what they do. What is even more dangerous is that if we view spiritual progression as one straight line from birth to college we are doing our students a huge injustice.
So let’s talk about how we want to move forward.
I don’t think that all of the circles are ever entirely separated. They all lead in and out of each other. However, our focus changes. For example when a child is heading out of children’s ministry and heading into Jr. High the question shifts to what does the gospel teach us about Jesus to what does the gospel tell me about my role in God’s plan.
The key question for Jr. High will be that of identity.
How do I identify my life within God’s ultimate plan of restoration. We need to give these kids the opportunity to experience a God that is huge while they feel super small.
Part of the Jr. High dilemma is that these students need to be told what God sees in them. What God sees in them becomes visible when we take the time to use affirming words that showcase God given talent within them.
As students begin to navigate out of the What do I believe phase we need to capture their attention through a compelling story of a God that is present in their lives. If a student enters Jr. High looking at who they are without knowing who God is our world is way to loud for them to make clear and correct decisions.
In Jr. High social media has produced a mentality that they have to create moments in their lives to generate likes on their social media sites. There is a pressure to perform and out do peers in those moments. (We will talk more about that in my session)
When we have done our job in Jr. High and showed the students how to experience a God that is alive in their life through engaging stories we can start to move them towards the next question – How do I use these gifts to live out the gospel message in my life outside these walls. I am not saying that students don’t ask this question earlier, I am simply saying that as they round out their Jr. High years they will enter into this. Faith becomes their responsibility.
The end goal of this model was that the child would work their way through our ministries asking the questions that are relevant to their exact needs. Our goal as leaders would be to allow these students the opportunity to ask these questions and we would help guide them to the sweet spot where all our ministries intersect. That would be the home. Our goal is that the students begin to act out their faith at home, in their school and into their adult years.