The recent attention given to intergenerational ministry, Orange, Sticky Faith, and family-based youth ministry has prompted me to look at what we do in ministry through a new lens. If you stop to examine how often we youth and children’s workers work (often unaware we’re doing so) to become surrogate authorities/parents to children & teens, you’ll be surprised at what you may discover. I recently talked with parents of a teen who had scheduled a special family celebration for him and his grandparents on the same night as his youth ministry’s small group. When the teen texted his small group leader, the response was emotionally charged and questioned the boy’s ‘commitment’ level. Commitment to what? (small group) Over what? (parents and grandparents) And who will be committed to this boy four years later?
So, I’ve been looking at common practices in a new light. I wonder if we trust parents and families. I wonder if we want families to be a primary source of faith development (see Deuteronomy 6 for more on that, though). Not sure I have it all figured out yet, but I’ve run across some cool ideas like this one:
Most churches give a Bible to their children, often at grade 3, 5, or at confirmation. Usually the pastor or church director hands out the Bibles to the children in front of the congregation, each with their name embossed on the front. And the congregation politely claps as the kids make their way back to the seats/pews.
I came across a powerful adaptation of this common practice that made it more family-friendly and championed the integral and necessary role of parents in the faith development of their children. Karen Grant, the gifted Director of Children’s Ministry (who has also written for K! Magazine) at Clay Church in South Bend, Indiana, has parents come up front with their kids and present the Bibles to their own children.
But, it gets better: Before that day, she has each parent write a note to their child in the front of the Bibles, of course without the kids’ awareness. This recognizes the spiritual role of the parents in the children’s lives and it creates another community practice where parents are recognized as authoritative and responsible to their child’s faith development. For those looking for some ideas that help develop an Orange or Sticky Faith philosophy of ministry, this idea would be an easy one to adapt.
What other family-friendly ideas have you made in the past year that have been successful?