By Rachel Mohr Frugé
I have to confess I find knowing God and being fully known by Him at times hard to grasp. I wonder what Enoch’s life looked like on a daily basis (Gen 5:23-4, Heb 11:5). I struggle to understand true intimacy with people not to mention intimacy with the perfect King of the universe.
Yet, we have a Father who fully knows us and cultivates intimacy with his creation. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt 10:29-31).
We have a Savior who understands our experiences. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:15-16).
About six weeks ago now, I was finished working for the day. My two-year old daughter invited me to sit on the couch with her. She asked me to take off my glasses and remove my pony tail holder. She took off my shoes and went and got a blanket to put over me and snuggled under it beside me as we faced each other. She looked into my eyes while touching my hair and face and kissed me as only a two-year old can. We were so close we shared the same breath. She breathed in and sighed. Her face was the only thing I was focused on. I looked away. She reached up, grabbed my chin, and pulled my face back to hers. She began conversing with me in her own way, talking with me about my day and saying from time to time, “mommy, I love you.” And every time I looked away, she reached up and pulled me back to that space again. I’m not certain how long we sat like this. It both felt like time stopped and also passed too quickly. That still, small voice I have come to know as the Lord’s said something I have been thinking about since, He whispered, “intimacy with me is like this moment, it’s about what I do.” My eyes filled with tears and do again as I remember.
I’ve held both this experience with my daughter and those words from my Father like Mary, pondering them in my heart, thinking of them often and asking the Lord to bring clarity and change to my heart and mind. Here are a few things that I have reflected on that I invite you to think about too.
Rachel serves as the Minister to Family Life at The Vine Lutheran Church in Grapevine, Texas and as Interim Executive Director at LINC North Texas. She and her husband Brennan, their two children, and two dogs live in the home with a yellow door. Email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe youth ministry as we know it is dying. The church in America is slowly waking up to this fact – youth culture is shifting; students are valuing peer input more and trusting institutions less. Extended socially-related families are forming in the wake of the failure of biological families. The church in America is dying, change is occurring, and ministry resources are dwindling. This means a number of things for youth ministry. Among these changes is the reality that youth ministry budgets are shrinking and more churches are moving toward hiring part-time or bi-vocational youth pastors (if they hire youth pastors at all).
I believe it’s time for youth ministry culture to recognize the need for a shift. We need to shift to a method of ministry that looks at our current cultural realities. I believe in light of these cultural realities, missional communities come to the forefront as an answer. They are simple, lightweight, and highly contextualized. Here are four reasons for a missional community approach:
REASON #1: They Provide Family
In missional communities, students tend to come from broken families to join a spiritual family around a dinner table once a week (or at least this is one way of approaching missional communities of students). These students know that once a week, they will have a family that will sit at a table and eat with them. For some, it is the first time they have ever experienced this type of family. For others, it is stability they don’t experience in their own biological family. Students understand the inherent need for a family. In a world of broken relationships, missional communities provide a place to see how a family centered on Christ lives. When you invite unchurched kids into a Christ-loving extended family, amazing things can happen.
REASON #2: They are Lightweight and Low Maintenance
Ministry programming can take a lot of time and resources. Sometimes it can feel like your whole week is spent in preparation of one or two hours of ministry. In some cases, an entire team is giving up time to perpetuate a program we HOPE will give us opportunity for relationship with students. What would it feel like to pursue ministry that is more simple? Missional communities are simple. The focus is on being together, sharing what God is doing in each person’s life and praying for one another. It isn’t about preparing something attractive, it’s understanding that your life, and your family pursuing Jesus, is attractive. Because of the nature of missional communities, they can go anywhere, be held anywhere, and enter into any context.
REASON #3: They are Easily Led With Limited Availability
Missional Communities absolutely take conviction and time, but they are simple enough that anyone can have time to lead one. Since a missional community is about inviting people into your family to follow you as you follow Christ, people step in to what you are already doing. Because of the lightweight nature of a missional community, anyone with the passion and heart for mission can pursue it without the weight of a heavy program. This opens the playing field up to literally anyone, whether it be over-committed youth workers, bi-vocational pastors, volunteer youth leaders, or a retired grandparent who loves kids!
REASON #4: They are Highly Missional
The Church in America is in decline, right? The only answer to a declining population of Christ followers is for those who do follow Jesus to pursue Jesus into His mission: expanding the family of God. Missional Communities at their heart are exactly what they claim to be: missional. Their concern is with being a core group of missional living followers of Jesus welcoming in unchurched and not-yet-Christians. I have talked to many students that don’t want to step into church for any reason, but they will step into a home. They will step into a family. They want what is real and what is lived out and what can be seen. They don’t want lessons or ideals or even well thought out and clever object lessons. They want the real deal. It is in the midst of mission that our faith is lived out and what we do is forced to line up with who we say we are. That’s where we invite the unchurched, dechurched, and volatile toward Jesus.
I believe that Missional Communities offer a well – timed answer to a shifting cultural reality. It’s what I am pouring my heart into and reorganizing the way I do ministry. It’s they way I believe God is moving today. I believe this is how a movement of people becoming like Jesus happens and we will get to see revival. Revival doesn’t just happen on its own – it happens when we hear and act on what the Father is saying. It happens when we model our lives and our mission after Jesus.
How do you choose training for your leaders that actually works? There are approximately one thousand and one different training materials you can purchase out there, and each one promises to build the team you need. Most trainings are similar in how they approach things. They give information on how to lead, nice anecdotes to connect the dots for you and your leaders, and they end with reflection questions. Honestly, any training you use or buy is probably giving good subject matter. They probably have worth-while subjects and topics that are essential for you and you leaders.
So why do you find that you’ve spent $400 on a training seminar or convention, only to realize that the breakout session you were so passionate about left no impact on your ministry in the long run? Let me tell you why –
Information will never be enough.
We won’t get better leaders through more information alone. Information certainly has a place, but only as a first step. Information is only good so far as it helps leaders understand the goal or intended outcome as well as the pathway to get there. Once this information has been conveyed, the most important part of the training can begin – actually putting it into action. In order to put information into action, leaders need 3 things: an example of what the expected action looks like, achievable, measurable steps, and debrief after those steps are taken. Let’s start with understanding the example.
Notice the progression. One thing we’ve learned is that people rarely have the ability to go from information straight to innovation. People need the imitatable example in their lives so they can see what the expected behavior or change is supposed to look like. That comes from you, the leader. Once leaders begin to practice the example they’ve seen, they will grow in competency. Once competency grows, they start to make it their own. They innovate.
We can’t expect people to go from knowing to doing. We have to help them know how to do what is expected and know how to tweak it for next time they give it a try. I think you’ll find that we are an over-informed culture that is in need of guides to reach our goals. Leaders need people to walk before them and show them the way. Information can only get us so far – it is the modeling and action that will actually make a difference in our ministry.