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Growing Oaks from Seeds

  
  
  

 

A guest post by Doug Milne, M.Div. ‘11, youth pastor, Grace Church of the Nazarene. Rochester, N.Y. and Mike Kuhlkin, D.Min. youth pastor, Pearce Church, Rochester, N.Y., about the value of youth ministry in a church context.

 

There has been some recent discussion in ministerial circles about the value of youth ministry in the church. In fact, there is a new film documenting youth ministry as a “failure” because of the results of specific, carried-out philosophies by churches and their youth pastors.

Despite this suggestion, there is tremendous value in incorporating youth ministry into the church context if done in a biblical and communal way. There are four basic values of youth ministry in the church context.

youth ministry group playing table tennisEnergy and Excitement – There is no doubt that teenagers bring energy wherever they go. Churches can quickly become stagnant, but youth ministry seldom allows this to happen. Although we often hear of the stereotypical lazy and bored adolescent, it could not be further from the truth. Students are often the catalyst for mission trips, social action, and “outside the box” thinking. This generation is excited and passionate and they are looking to put that energy into something. Most of our teens are not satisfied with simply talking about today’s problems—they want to participate in opportunities for change. This excitement and energy is infectious and is needed to move a congregation from a state of observation to a state of motion.

Leadership – Youth ministry is training leaders for today and the future, but we have to keep in mind we are training them for the Kingdom not just for our congregations. Fostering leadership through youth ministry is two-fold. First, it builds young leaders. Our churches are filled with plenty of places for leadership development—worship leading, teaching, preaching, service, and so on. Second, youth ministry provides training for lay leaders. They have opportunities to serve, to work directly with a trained pastor, and it allows them to hone their ministry skills.

Builds Healthy Community – Mission and community are close kin. Without mission, community suffers and the reverse is just as true. The church is diverse, filled with all sorts of people from various backgrounds—that is the beauty of it. Multi-generational congregations with families worshipping together are part of a healthy church community. Students who learn the value of community at a young age become adults who value community. Knowing that teenagers are part of the current church and empowering them to participate as such, helps defend against the old adage that they are the church of tomorrow.

Seeds Become Trees – Churches have “Sunday School” classes and discipleship groups for younger generations because there is the strong belief that we must train children in the way they should go. It is most beneficial to start early with biblical and theological training. Children’s ministry and youth ministry supplement parental guidance and teaching. These ministries work at getting the attention of younger parishioners to help raise them in the Christian life. The process of individuation, often seen during the college years, can cause students to stray from “Christian principals.” Although seen as unfortunate or negative, this period can be navigated successfully if the seeds that have been planted in youth ministry are nurtured. The “oaks” of the faith often grow from the seeds planted in youth ministry.

 

Read more Northeastern Seminary ministry leaders' thoughts around serving teens and young adults in the latest issue of ResOund, the Seminary's enewsletter.

Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional (Part II)

  
  
  

Part II of a series by guest blogger and Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders. Read part I here.

Friendship Evangelism (FE) is a form of Christian mission where a believer purposes to win people to Christ by relating to them in the everyday world of work, neighborliness, hobbies, and other activities that happen with regularity and become a platform for genuine friendship. The Christian is sincere in the expression of friendship, but carries within an additional desire to use the relationship as a bridge to eternal things. As the friendship grows, trust is formed, compassion and concern run deeper, and the opportunity for lasting influence upon one another becomes a reality. When this kind of friendship happens, all manner of God-themed conversations and encounters are possible! Few things in my life and ministry have been as satisfying as witnessing evidences of the Holy Spirit using a friendship of mine for his purposes, opening up their hearts, even moving upon them in dreams in the night or in a sudden moment of conviction and revelation.

When I became a pastor I was thrilled about the idea of equipping people to participate in FE, but soon realized that this method did not quickly translate into new attenders. Our amped-up Sunday programs were attracting new attenders regularly, but nearly all of them were already “churched” people, if even only slightly. Many of the people being reached through FE were not interested in attending church, or even worse, dead-set against it. After a while this missional thrust that I call FE began to take a back seat in my ministry. What a loss that was, and still is, in churches today. The pressure to make church “successful” is sky-high in our culture, and it can seem easier to just rely on church programs and services to attract people. But stark reality is that at least 50 percent of the U.S. population will not set foot in a church, no matter how attractive it is. [1]  The other 50 percent of the population, an ocean of humanity of inestimable worth, can and should be reached by friends. Consider the following suggestions for equipping believers to become one of these invaluable agents of eternal grace:

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1. Prayerfully select the top three non-believing individuals you are most closely connected to at work, in your neighborhood, or through any shared activity or group. Keep these names in your Bible and pray for them regularly, that they would come to Christ and be saved, and eventually be transformed into the fullness of life available in Christ.

2. Become a real friend. Take time out to connect in conversation. Show genuine interest and concern for their life situations. Find out what might be an appropriate leisure activity or shared interest that you can connect in. I recently befriended someone over a shared interest in extreme weather!

3. Bring your Christian spirituality into the friendship. With care and sensitivity, be watchful for prime (and sometimes fleeting) moments when you can offer to pray for your friend, or when they might be open to receiving a Scriptural encouragement. Prepare yourself to be ready to act. Watch for their openness to hearing more about your “life story” or some other way of sharing your testimony. Commit to being bold enough to bring up your faith when the time is right.

4. Have fun! Invite them to relaxed gatherings and parties you or another believing friend is hosting, and let them experience the joy and beauty of Christian community.

 

[1] Dave & Jon Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 104. The Ferguson brothers started a highly successful church planting movement based upon networks, but still aimed at establishing corporate-style churches centered in worship facilities and located in more affluent neighborhoods. In their study they acknowledge that half of westerners will not come to any church, and need to be reached by active believers outside of the Church.

 

Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional (Part I)

  
  
  

A guest post by Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders:

20110616  MG 5221 croppedIn recent years I have started to recognize that modern Protestantism has largely reduced "evangelism" to a narrow aim of winning converts to the faith. But even as those of us in Christian leadership go about the necessary task of re-evaluating the fuller aim of what it means to "evangelize" people, we run the risk of overcomplicating, and possibly even losing hold of, one of the clearest ministry callings from our Savior to bring people to him. [1] Most of us acknowledge that we are to be involved at some level in compelling people, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, to become followers for Christ. [2] How quickly we forget the alternative for those who do not believe! [3] We must endeavor to retain a burning passion to encourage people out from the kingdom of darkness. Most churches are looking to large-scale events (like festivals, concerts, "revivals," etc.) to accomplish this task. This can be a big mistake! The evangelistic mission of the church is best accomplished by believers who are not on the stage, through something often called "Friendship Evangelism" (FE). This method of fulfilling Christian mission is far less expensive, more holistic, and much more fun than traditional approaches to bringing people into the faith. In part II of "Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional" I will share insights on why FE is often forgotten in churches, as well as practical ways to implement it in everyday life.


Nathan Sanders has been involved in Christian leadership and ministry since 1993 and has served as a university campus evangelism leader, inner-city ministry coordinator, conference speaker, associate pastor, and nearly 8 years as a senior pastor. He is presently teaching New Testament Literature at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, NY. He earned a Ministry Diploma from Elim Bible Institute in 1996, a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Regent University in 2001, and is currently beginning work toward a Doctor of Ministry degree from Northeastern Seminary. Click here to find Nathan on Facebook.

Read part II here.

 

[1] Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

[2] Acts 16:30-32 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

[3] John 5:28-29 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
Revelation 20:15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

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