Good news. Challenging News. Great News.
Earlier this fall the youth group kicked off a new weekly program with high aspirations and minimal fuel to make the engine “go”. Long story short, after a couple of weeks of experimentation, it became pretty clear the most recent reboot of our youth program isn’t sufficient.
God is doing something exciting in our experimentation and intentionality. We’re feeling encouraged to see our students integrating into the specific spaces of belonging we’re building for intergenerational Discipleship. We’re seeing God at work in and through the lives of those participating in Community Ministry (Saturdays), Dinner Church (Wednesday evenings), and Woven (Sunday mornings). God is bearing fruit in the deliberateness of our relationship building, through the continuity and deliberateness in our holy conversations.
1) The identified need and desires we’re seeing in our younger youth are radically different from what we’re seeing and hearing from our older youth. This has always been true AND there is a palpable and definitive tension unique to the moment.
2) The vast majority of the adults in our congregation, including many parents of our children and youth, do not express feeling called or remotely equipped to disciple children, youth, or adults.
3) We have not been able to identify a core group of adults to make a weekly investment in the intentional discipleship of children and youth. Yes, there are individuals but no core groups of adults. We have no reason to believe this will change anytime soon.
4) Families with children/youth are in constant motion. It was true long before the pandemic began and it’s even more true now. We have no reason to believe the pace of life is going to slow down anytime soon. We have no reason to believe that “church” will ever be the center of family life again nor should we assume the church should be the center of family life again. The road ahead doesn’t resemble the place we’ve come from.
5) We can’t seem to put down the baggage of the past (discipleship as a program) which gives us little or no capacity in the embracing of discipleship as a deliberate form of relationship building with Christ at the center.
6) The Church is adrift. We have not come together to identify our priorities and we can’t make critical decisions together until we discern our priorities together.
None of us, myself included, saw the missional drifting when it first began; we can’t identify when it actually began. We certainly didn’t make a conscious decision to drift. Let’s be clear, no parent, leader, partner, community or organization drifts away from purpose….. on purpose. When we drift, and all of us do, we don’t usually know it’s happening. Maybe it begins when we get ahead of ourselves or a little full of ourselves? Maybe it happens when the tired sets in? Maybe it happens when we get scared or overwhelmed? Maybe it happens when grief claims our focus? For whatever reason, we’re all prone to gently drift asleep at the wheel. If only the awakening would be so gentle.
For the record, we have not come together to make a collective decision to radically change course and nobody has deliberately sabotaged our vessel. We fell asleep at the helm and we’ve been awakened by a crisis.
1) We didn’t see the need to recommit to our priorities, or discern new priorities during our chapters of thriving.
2) The lack of seeing the need to clarify our priorities gave each of us, individually and as little groups, silent permission to determine our own priorities.
3) A church full of individuals, boards, official and unofficial committees, each determining their own priorities, is a church adrift.
4) The wake-up call continues to be painful.
The most obvious proof of our missional drift is our lack deliberate walking with children, youth, and their families. Judy, April, a couple of lay leaders, and myself are not able to do this on the church’s behalf. As it relates to ministry with children, youth, and their families, we must clarify what we’re trying to accomplish. We must receive the resources God is providing for the purpose of equipping. We must embrace our commission to make Disciples.
1) The leaders of the church are actively creating a plan to bring all of us together so that we can actively discern what God wants us to prioritize. Your voice is needed. More importantly, your listening heart and ears are needed! Mark your calendars for a church-wide spiritual renewal weekend, January 13-15, 2023 and pray for our leaders as they help prepare the soil.
2) In the meantime, as it relates to children, youth, and their families, we’re creating new spaces for you to make an immediate investment. The table you choose to sit at, the attitude you arrive with, your motive for participating, the risk you take in sharing, your gentle listening, makes more difference than you know.
3) We don’t have to succumb to either/or thinking. It is entirely possible to remain a committed member of a class/group AND also participate in intergenerational spaces of belonging. Venturing out of your regular class/group, once a month, is healthy and undergirds the priesthood of all believers. What a gift it will be to return to your group the following week, to testify in what God is doing in the life of your church. We urge you to carve out time, at least once a month, to participate in in one of our new spaces of belonging (Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, and/or Saturdays)
3) Whoever said that what God wants is for any of us to put church at the center of our lives? Jesus certainly never said that. He speaks of himself as God’s Temple, continually moving in the neighborhood. God wants us to put Christ at the center of our the totality of our lives. What a tremendous opportunity we’ve been given to help families learn to disciple one another so they might share God’s love with those they are actually “doing life with”… on the sidelines of sports fields, on field trips, at work, and all of the gazillion places they find themselves on any given day.
5) And then there’s this…… best news ever…..God is with us AND for us. Drift is inevitable AND God is faithful. We may have wandered but the Spirit guides. The crisis we’ve brought on ourselves in missional drift brings opportunity for Jesus to help us find our way again. Our intentional walking in these last two months of the calendar year could very well determine whether or not we thrive in the year that follows.
We have some amazing kids in the life of this church. Their parents, surrogate parents, and grandparents are also pretty amazing. Don’t even get me started on the newcomers that have only recently found an home in our little corner of the world. Each and every one of us, a child of God, full of holy potential, yet-to-be-discovered wonder, and renewed purpose. Each and every one of us with a part to play.
We make the road by walking.
Yours in Christ,
Sterling W. Severns, Pastor