The putting-into-effect process
Most churches have a deacon or a committee in charge of missions. Usually there’s an elder with oversight of that ministry or who just has a heart for missions. (Not many churches do missions without such an elder.) Bring them into the planning. After all, the teens can’t participate in an adult mission effort unless there is an effort that does things where teens can help and where the travel isn’t too expensive.
You may already have such a mission effort. If not, the missions deacon/team/elder will have to be sold on the idea and cooperate — and make sure the program remains true to the idea.
Of course, the idea is broader than missions. To incorporate the teen program into the adult ministries as much as possible, there have to be some common events where the teens can be full participants.
You might ask the elders to form a committee of the teen minister, children’s minister, missions head, and some key adults to plan and oversee the transition. If you do, insist that an elder be present at all meetings, preferable the same elder each time. This does two things for you.
First, if you head in a direction that the elders are unwilling to go, you’ll know. If the elders know of conflicting plans, they can warn you. If the elder has misgivings, you can ask to meet with the entire eldership, make them fully aware of what you’d like to do, and either get their blessing or know that you can’t do it. (No surprises!)
Second, when someone later second guesses what you did, you had an elder bless it.
You see, having an elder participate in the process is both submissive and effects a buy in from the elders as you go. I’ve done it (in my pre-elder years). It works.
At some time, the idea has to be presented to the congregation — or at least to the parents of the children. Again, be sure you’ve gotten full elder buy in, and then make your presentation, carefully explain the advantages, and try not to speak harshly of the old way of doing things, as many parents and teens will be heavily invested in some of the old programs.
And plan a gentle transition. Don’t be too radical too fast, but effect a transition. Get ‘r done.
More details on the transition
Begin the first committee meeting with these questions from a prior post in this series —
Imagine that you’re a minister founding a congregation’s first youth ministry. If the teens really are maturing into the image of Christ, what effects would we see? What are the indicators we should look for?
* Do the teens remain loyal to Jesus after they graduate? This is more than loyalty to the church or the denomination.
* Are they an active part of a missional community? Not — do they attend church regularly? — but are they active in the mission of God in community?
* How many of our teens choose to go into ministry, into missions, or into church planting? I wouldn’t expect they all would, but some should decide to make that kind of commitment.
* Do our teens have a passion for the mission of God?
* Do our teens take intentional steps to mature in Jesus? Do they study their Bibles on their own? Do they have an active prayer life? Do they look for opportunities to be with older, more mature Christians to learn how to grow in their faith?
* Do our teens consider spirituality in deciding whom to date and whom to marry?
Then ask whether the same questions regarding the adults. If the answers aren’t good, think about a plan for changing not just the teens but the entire congregation — adults and teens together. You see, this is really big stuff.
Now, what to do next depends on the answers. Maybe the adult ed program and preaching need to focus on missional living and being a faithful presence of Jesus in the world. I don’t know.
If the adults are already active in ministry to the community, try to find ways for the teens to participate.
If the teens already have some good programs, look for ways to expand them to include the adults — not just the parents. If the teens go to paint houses in Memphis each summer, either take the adults, too — or better yet, plan your own house painting program in your home town with the adults in the lead, helped by the teens.
Now for younger children, I’m at something of a loss. I’ve never been good at children’s programs. My wife is the pro, and I’m clueless. And she’s out of town for a week. But I have one idea.
When missionaries come stateside to visit their supporting congregations, have them visit with the children and teens. Have a Q&A session where the kids can learn about what it’s like in Brazil or Kenya. Show pictures. Bring the children into the story of the missionaries.
Have the missionaries talk about how they decided to become missionaries, about how happy they are, how it affects their children. Make your children feel significant — and give them real spiritual heroes to emulate.
My youth minister one summer was a missionary to Brazil, and we talked about all that stuff. I didn’t go into missions, but I’ve had a heart for it ever since.
Then maybe you invite the leaders of other adult ministries — the inner city work, the disaster relief program — to talk to the kids, to tell stories, to explain why they do it, and to show pictures. These are the kinds of things that dramatically impact children, I think.
Finally, insist that the parents of your kids — the ones who attend church — be active in church in areas where the kids can see their parents (fathers especially) active in God’s kingdom. Teach them these principles —
* Kids follow examples not words.
* The father’s level of involvement is a huge predictor of the future spirituality of the children — especially boys but not just boys.
* “Involvement” means involvement entailing significant commitment. Passing the Lord’s Supper or saying the “main prayer” does not count. Cutting the grass for free counts some, but taking a kid with you to Mexico to dig a well counts even more. Decide what kind of Christian you want your children to be and be that kind of Christian — and let them see it in you.