Thursday, May 5, 2011

9 Things – Just how important is family ministry?

This is the 2nd post in the series 9 Things I’ve learned about Family Ministry – but will cover more than just 1 thing in this particular entry.  There is a debate going on between Family Ministry and Children’s Ministry that raises a host of critical questions:
  • Is Children’s ministry Biblical?
  • Does age-segregated programming make sense?
  • How much effort should be invested in equipping parents?
  • Can the church do both Children’s ministry and Family ministry effectively?
  • Is the role of the Children’s pastor different now because of Family ministry?
9 Things I've Learned About Family Ministry
These really are questions that should be considered and pondered because we seem to be coming upon cross-roads which will define the future of the church – not just in Children’s & Family Ministry, but in many other areas as well.  So, let’s take a look at God’s word to see what it has to say…assuming we agree that the Bible has something to say about this topic??? :)
Most of you reading this know the passages that reference how important family ministry is – Deuteronomy 6 & Psalm 78 in particular – but let me take a big picture approach to this.
In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) we are called to “Go and make Disciples,” a clear command from Jesus before he ascends into Heaven.  But that call did not just start after Jesus lived, died and rose again; it existed since the Creation.  Check out the comparison between the Great Commission and the First Commandment (Gen 1:28) where we are called to fill the earth with worshippers:
There is a definitive link between the call of the Church to make disciples and the call of the Family to bear and raise their children to be Godly disciples.  This is also echoed in what Peter preaches at the end of Acts 2:
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39 – italics mine).
Did you catch it?  The promise (referring to the Covenant Promise of God) is given to you, your kids, and the world!  The problem is that we often forget our kids as part of this equation and just focus on the 1) getting right with God and 2) going to make a difference in the world.  But, God seems to be telling us get right with God, get right with your spouse, get right with your kids, & get right with your church and that’s when together you can go make a difference in the world. [1]
So, just how important is family ministry?  Well according to this line of reasoning, it seems like it should be the main focus of what the church should be doing!  Instead, we focus on so many other things with in the church that seem to be secondary: small groups, community groups, Sunday services, youth ministry, children’s ministry, worship ministry and so on.  And while all of these are connected – and VERY important in and of themselves – we are missing the boat on what I believe is the key issue for the church today: a prophetic call for parents, especially fathers, to turn their hearts back to their children.  It’s that important!

[1]For further development of this work see Dr. Rob Rienow’s “The Role of the Family in God’s Plan for the World”

Saturday, April 30, 2011

9 Things - A Little Bit of My Story

This is a post I wrote for the Cory Center website, but thought it to be apropos for the Anchor Children's Ministry blog as well....
So, over the next 9 weeks or so I’ll be blogging about “9 Things I’ve Learned about Family Ministry” as a way to piggy back off of Ryan Frank’s new book, 9 Things They Didn’t Teach Me in College About Children’s Ministry.  I plan on focusing on various issues within the family ministry paradigm; things that I’ve along the way through my education at Bethel Seminary, reading of various family ministry resources and some of my own thoughts.  But, I’ll first start off with a little bit of my story…
9 Things I've Learned about Family Ministry
I grew up a pretty normal kid, going to church every week, going to public school from K through 12th grade, went away to a private Christian college, got a job in the field of social work, got married, had a couple of kids, answered the call to ministry, started attending Seminary, had a few more kids and continued to expand from there.
So, why do I mention all that?  Well, to show that I’m just an average guy who’s trying to figure out how this whole family ministry idea fits within the framework we are to follow as Bible-believing Christians.  Our concern should not just be what the Bible says about it (though that certainly is MOST important) but also how do we encourage others to see what we see and follow what we follow – assuming we are striving to see and follow the right things – within God’s Word.  That’s what being a leader is all about…
So, as a leader, I take what I am learning and what God is teaching me, and attempt to share that with others in hopes to improve the current state of the church and it’s discipleship process.  And make no mistake, children’s & family ministry is certainly about discipleship; because parenting is about discipleship,  everything I do (or don’t do) with my kids should be aimed at teaching them to Love God and Love Others.  And because that responsibility falls on parents, everything we do as CFM leaders should be aimed at equipping THEM to fulfill that responsibility.
So over the next two months, here are the topics I’m going to cover:
  • Just how important is it?
  • Styles or Methods of Family Ministry
  • List of resources, websites and leaders
  • Should children worship with their parents?
  • A picture of inter-generational faithfulness
  • The Primary Plan for Evangelism & Discipleship
  • The link between church & family
  • Where will we go from here?
We would love to have you share your thoughts as we seek to delve into this topic of family ministry – hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tale of the Times?

I recently received this cartoon clipping in the mail:

Of course, this does send a message about the modern understanding of church and Christianity - that God resides inside the four walls of the church and we don't have to worry about having to interact with Him throughout the week.

And I wonder if the looks like the faces of other people are sending a message ?  "Wait, we have children who attend here?"...or..."Doesn't he know we don't shout in church?"  But, maybe it's just me reading too much into Sunday morning comics...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Relevance Important?

If you run in any ministry leadership circles (which many of you do), you've likely heard the phrase or idea that the church must strive to be relevant to the world / community around it.  I wonder just how true that is....

On the one hand it seems to make sense Biblically:  "I have become all things to all people, that  by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings" (1 Cor. 9:22-23).  It also makes sense logically:  If we cannot relate to those around us, how do we expect to have a voice to speak into their lives?

However, here are some elements we should keep in mind:

  1. What's relevant in one community is not relevant in another.  Think of ministering in rural Michigan vs. inner city Detroit...
  2. How easy is it to compromise on elements of the gospel as we seek to be relevant?  Granted, a lot of church don't compromise, but many have and continue to do so.
  3. The gospel - more specifically being the 'good news' to others - is ALWAYS relevant.  Let's focus on being the gospel in the flesh rather than figuring out how to make the message fit.
  4. The idea of relevancy only entrenches the consumerist mentality within the church.  That is, "We need to meet the needs of everyone."  
I'm sure there are other points to make, but these are just intended to start the conversation...we need to strike a balance between the issues of being relevant, being real, being loving and seeking Christ in every aspect of life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What does community with believers look like?  How do or should our families live life with other families? We were discussing this topic at our Colonial Woods Community Group last week using Acts 2:42-46 and 4:32-35 as jumping off points.  There are four main purposes that the apostles and the early church had for themselves:  teaching, fellowship, eating & prayer.  And what was the result of all this:  "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (2:46).

A couple of notes that I find interesting:
  • They met daily, not just once a week.
  • To meet with that many people likely meant they would have been outside - thus drawing a lot of attention to themselves and causing an almost infectious presence of the Kingdom.
  • The Lord is the one who was adding people to their number, it wasn't based on the works of the people.
  • They had "Great Power" in their sharing about the resurrection of Jesus and in the provision of their needs.
I'm struck how 'unlike' the American Church is to this model.  While teaching is central to the church - eating, fellowship and even prayer are seemingly given cursory glances.  It's certainly not out of lack of trying!  Pastors today run themselves into the ground trying to make fellowship and prayer a priority of the Church.  The issue is not lack of effort or lack of knowledge, but of vision...

I think we often think, "Hey, I'm a good person: I go to church, give my money, send my kids to children's church, pray as a family a little bit.  What else does God want?"  Well, that particular question would take quite some time to answer - which I may throw some insights towards that in the future - but God asks, demands, and deserves everything.  Check this passage out:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
For the folks listening to this passage back then, the cross was a device of torture and death - not one of glory and hope like we think of it today.  Jesus was basically saying, "If you want to be my disciple, you have to deny any rights you have - even your right to life - and do everything I ask." [I love the rest of that passage also, but don't have time to discuss it here.] That doesn't sit to well with my "American Cultur-ed" ears!!  What may God be telling us we need to give up in order to follow Him?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Church, It's Time to Get Radical

I was prompted to read through the book of Malachi this morning - and boy did I ever need it.  This short little minor prophet packs quite the wallop - calling out the people of Israel for their half-hearted, short-sighted, short-handed and lukewarm sacrifices.  Just read these passages:
"When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. (1:8)
"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. (1:10)
He even is talking about the priests:
Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. (3:3)
"But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty.  (2:8)
He even takes on the topic of money:
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (3:8-10)
I was blown away how I have been bringing incomplete sacrifices to Him!  I have been offering him only partial offerings.  He demands - he deserves - our ALL!  I especially like that last verse: "Test me in this,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it'."  You see, when we serve God - we are not the ones giving!  We are receiving!!  Here's an illustration:  What if your pastor asked you to serve by coming to wash his car twice a week?  You may say, "Well, OK: you're the pastor."  But then he says, "Oh yeah, I'll pay you $1000 a week to do it!"  Would you do it?  You bet your sweet little hiney you would!!

You see, God is the giver!  We are not the giver!  God gives us blessings and rewards.  I don't know about you, but I want that!!  You can take all of these things I posses and simply give me Jesus - they belong to Him anyway.  Church - it's time to get radical!  Are you willing to give Him everything and see what he will do?

Monday, March 14, 2011

A repost: Because of March Madness

I wrote this blog entry four years ago (wow, I'm getting old), but thought I would repost it because of the start of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.  Also, because I am a HUGE Ohio State fan!!

I realize I may be going out on a limb talking about basketball (given that most of you who volunteer in CM are probably don't care much about sports), but this is worth reading. We are coming into Championship weekend of the NCAA Tournament for 2007 and, in case you did not realize it, my Ohio State Buckeyes are still in it. (By the way....where is Michigan this year?) :) The real reason I am posting about this is not necessarily about this:

When UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden introduced the fast break to college basketball, his team committed the highest number of turnovers and fouls in memory. But Wooden knew “mistakes were part of learning.” He expected them, and he knew that “every opportunity for failure was equally an opportunity for success.” Wooden’s teams went on to perfect the fast-break offense, and today it is used by nearly every team in the nation. His teams went on to win ten national collegiate championships in twelve years, one of the most remarkable team achievements in all of sports history. ( If It Ain’t Broke, Break It! pgs. 193-194.)

There is much that God can do through you as you allow Him to show you what could happen. I am convinced God has great things in store for you and the Children's Ministry of "The Woods" if we will release it to Him. Mistakes may be made along the way, but God will be in control. you have any thoughts or insights. I want you guys to be comfortable commenting on here. Remember you can do it anonymously, so do not fear! 
Go Bux!!!  O-H ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake: A Review Post

I wrote this post originally back in August, 2007 after the Interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN.  It may help you process with your teens and children regarding today's events in Japan.

As you may have heard, in Minneapolis yesterday a bridge of Interstate 35W fell killing several people and injuring many others. By now, some of your kids have likely seen images or heard stories from this tragedy and are wondering why this happened. There are some general guidelines that you can follow as Christian parents in helping your kids answer their questions:
1) Don't ignore the questions or feelings they have! Talk about them; better yet, let them talk and you listen.
2) Seek out answers together as a family through prayer and reading God's Word.
3) Use them as a teaching time to instill Godly character and teach them about God Himself.
4) Look for ways to help someone personally affected by the tragedy. In this case, contact the Red Cross and see how to best help.
"Faith is more often caught, not taught."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let the Fire Fall!

In case you haven't heard, Colonial Woods is having an on-going series by Pastor Phil entitled "Let the Fire Fall!"  Our hope and prayer is that revival will take place in the hearts and lives of those who call CWMC their home church.  Please be in prayer as we seek God's heart and will.

Here is a note from Pastor Phil:
"We’ve been on an interesting journey over these past few weeks at C.W.  I believe God is moving, and I believe he is doing a new work.   We never know exactly how much, but just like the Lord is faithful to thaw the winter’s ice and snow to bring in the warmth of spring…there need to be times of thawing for the warmth of God’s Spirit to move."
You can listen to the messages (about 1 week after they are originally preached) by clicking HERE.  
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”    - 1 Kings 18:36-37

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Open Apology

Over the last few weeks the Lord has continued to reveal things in my life that are not honoring or glorifying Him.  Some of these has been family related, but some of this has been ministry related.  I balance many roles in my life: Husband, father, Children's Ministry Pastor, leader, follower, servant, and so on...  There are certain areas that I am better at than others and the Lord is bringing me along in the areas in which I fall short.

This may came as no shock to you, but at times my personality can come on pretty strong.  There are times when I want people to value the same things I value; to believe the same things I believe; to think the same way I think.  Of course, I think we all have similar thoughts within us - namely when it comes to our kids - and we do a lot of things to strive to make that happen.  But....

I owe you an apology!  Because no matter how we qualify our actions, there are times where we have acted unjustly and sinfully.  I'm intentionally leaving this vague as details are not the issue.  The issue is the heart, a love of God's people, and my desire to live out God's Word in Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  So, for what it's worth...I have offended some of you - I was wrong - and I am sorry.

His, Dean

PS - Feel free to leave a comment if you've ever been in a position where you needed to apologize.  I'm sure we've all been there.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A breakthrough I Didn't Know Was Needed

Ever have one of those moments that you didn't see coming at ya?  Tonight was one of those nights for me...

We recently started having intentional Family Worship times as a way to pass on faith to our kids.  Tonight, we used the Family Reading Bible and read through the story of Cain and Abel.  We talked about why Cain's offering wasn't acceptable and why Cain killed his brother.  I noticed my oldest, Isaac, was a little red eyed the entire time - something I attributed to the fact he had gotten into trouble before worship time for talking back.  I even asked him if he was all right...

When I mentioned that Jesus said even if we think hateful things in our head / heart it's the same thing as actually committed the act, Isaac said, "OK, I'm sorry - I have thought that about you.  I hated you."  He was talking to me!!  He told me that he has "wanted me gone" for a little more than two years now.  I did not see that coming - AND IT BROKE MY HEART!!

I gave him a hug, told him I love him - and confessed my own sin.  I had often been angry and shown that to him. While I've never gone off the deep end with my kids, I was most certainly being too hard on my kids.  I had NO idea Isaac thought this of me; moreover, I'm the Children's Pastor and yet one of my own children hated me (at least according to what he told me tonight).

Fathers, it's time to figure out just what our kids think of us!  It is not enough to just discipline our kids, we must show them they are LOVED above all us first.   The good news:  it's never too late!  Fathers, don't go another day without knowing for sure your kids are willing to hear your instruction.  Fast forward 30 years from now: what do you hope your son will say about his relationship with you?  Will he make it a priority?

This is the just the beginning for Isaac and I...