Growing a vision helps
Vision, hopes and dreams are important but it’s not enough if it’s all you have.
One can aspire to be the tall, straight-kicking, muscled forward of a championship team but without passion and skill you can dream all you want but it won’t get you there. But it does begin with vision!
ARTICLE: Series: First 20 minutes 02
The metaphor breaks down a little at the point that genetics plays a part in the role one might play on a sports team … and sport isn’t everyone’s cup of tea … I mean coffee … I mean …
Overlaying any metaphor we might use to introduce our dreams and vision for children are two things. The first is the grace of God. The grace in the matter is that God partners with us and with the Church to raise a faith-filled present and next generation. Indeed, the grace of God is such that children in our midst are a joy to us as we learn, pray, grow, sing, worship WITH children and sometimes they turn out despite our ignorance or failings. The second is about truth. The truth is that raising children is and should be hard work but that it’s worth it. The truth is that it does take vision and a knowledge base to inform us of the range of possibilities in raising children of faith. It takes passion which is hard to maintain at times. It requires a whole new skill set which doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
I am reminded constantly by Robbie Castleman’s book, ‘Raising Children in the Pew’. This book is founded on the premise that, as a minister’s wife, Robbie needed new information and learning to fuel her passion and motivation to find and grow new skills the area of what to do with her two boys in church. There was no Sunday School. She explored the idea of ‘vision’. Robbie’s starting point was to gain a clear image of her 2 year and 4 year old sons standing in the pews with her and her minister-husband in 20 years time, not as only their sons but also as brothers in Christ. A strong picture. A strong vision. A tough ask given that the conservative congregation had all the love in the world but none of the skills for raising typical boys. The task began with a clear vision and the realisation that it just wouldn’t just happen by doing nothing.
Statistics today are showing that four out of five 11 & 12 year olds who have started in the church have left it by that age. In a family of 5 children, only one would be standing as a family group in 20 years time as an active disciple of Christ, playing a part in the Body of Christ. Only one would remain to continue that expression of what it means to be Jesus to one another and to together to community and the world around them. Only one!
The sad truth is, as we read these words, our grief is for those siblings or children of our own who have made choices to face away from God in their journey. Our prayers are for them right now that we can partner with God to continue to help them to find a way to continue to explore and grow their faith; to regain what has been lost.
Never the less, the task at hand and the focus of this series of articles is to attend to those who are still numbered in our midst. From a strictly marketing metaphor, it is easier to keep one customer than it is to gain a new one. On this principle alone, the church would be in growth mode just keeping the children it is losing each year out the back door.
If the first step is to take hold of this information and begin to shape or regain a vision for what church looks like with children, the second is to find a passion to pursue it. This has to do with heart. A deep, heart’s desire to see children and families to become followers of and committed The Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. If this isn’t the source of passion then any of this probably won’t be worth pursuing. Walls may crumble, pastors come and go and eyes will dim but what it is we are building here is the possibility to nurture and disciple people to live in and express the sovereign reign together and in households for the sake of God’s love for the world. Express this vision in any way you like with any slogan, but from the heart of it a passion will flow. Out of this will come a commitment to partner with God in what God wants you to be doing in this area. This is real. God shows up and enspirits us with Holy Spirit further grow and fan this passion.
Many churches without children feel the loss. Enough people, even in an aging church, who have a vision and this sort passion to regain a ministry with children and families can learn the skills needed.
The skills can be relearnt. Much of the website: midst.com.au is about the sorts of skills required. That’s not to say that an aging church needs to become a clown ministry troupe (Hmmm, wouldn’t that be fun! No, wait … ) If a vision and passion start with the skills of connecting well with everyone, not just children, then that’s where to start. Change the way we do morning tea for example. Attend to the safety issues. Learn the skills of climbing into a child’s world. Make conversations with new people and children even more possible than it already is.
There’s always somewhere to start. The vision and passion will help to determine where.
What have you seen or heard of or experienced that relates to this?
• Are you related in some way or do you have a connection with children who are part of your gatherings for celebrating worship? If so, what do you see for them in the worship space in 5, 10 or 15 years time?
• How can you continue to pray for those already starting the process of leaving or who have left?
• Author: phildup55 • Date: 05/11/2014
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