How to Maximise the Missional Potential of Family Ministry Connecting To Your Community Through Music Movement, Mission and naturally, Mess. Righteous Brood Book Review
Creating Lifelong Disciples
In this issue
From the Director This edition of PRAC we have focused on families and intergenerational ministry, and particularly evangelism and discipleship. We recognise that many of our Baptist Churches around Australia have their primary connection to the local community through children or family based activities. For those who are not situated in a family community area, it’s likely that your congregations will still span a few generations, and are still made up of people who are part of families; families who might not all know Jesus. The articles are written by some of our family based ministry practioners reflecting on their experiences providing services to the local community, and how to then bring Jesus into the relationships they’re building. They reflect particularly on the ideas of helping to build belonging to the church, and discipling people’s spiritual journey before they’ve necessarily made the decision to follow Christ, or come to a church service on Sunday. They ask questions about how we view children in our churches, how involved in mission they are, what presumptions we make about mission and church kids, and how we can include all ages – young and old – in our church communities. While these principles are discussed in the context of many children’s activities, if your church doesn’t have many children there might be space for considering how these principles can similarly be applied across the generations your congregation interact with every day. We pray this issue of PRAC will both challenge and encourage, inspire and equip you as you reflect on the questions asked, and continue to seek out how best your church is joining God’s mission in your local context.
Keith Jobberns Director Crossover
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Creating Lifelong Disciples How to Stop the Exodus of the Young From Our Churches By Sally Smith
When Jesus and his disciples were debriefing at Capernaum after an intense time of ministry, who do you think Jesus intentionally brought into their midst? It was a child, a little child. Jesus picked the child up in his arms and told the future church leaders around him, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf, welcomes me.’ (Mark 9: 30-36) Do our churches put children ‘in the midst’ like Jesus did, or do children tend to be overlooked, or provided for separately, but not at the heart of things? Jesus’ example should perhaps be enough, but there are other good missional reasons for keeping the children of our church at the forefront of our thinking. Research compiled by the Barna Group shows that children in churches between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32 percent probability of accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour. That likelihood drops to 4 percent for teenagers between 14 and 18. For over 18s it is 6%. Children are more likely to decide to follow Jesus in their preteen years than at any other time. ‘But that’s not mission!’ someone says. ‘These church kids are already here.’ Theology aside, the fact remains that just because they are part of the church now, doesn’t mean they
will stay. According to Phillip Hughes, senior researcher with the Christian Research Association ‘50,000 young Australians a year are leaving the Christian faith and deciding that they have “no religion”’. The National Church Life Survey reveals that 30% of those who are in Baptist churches as children leave after age 15. Thirty percent!
experiences’. It is now well established that opportunities for kids to worship, learn, serve, play and question with teens and adults of faith, is a factor in making their young faith stick. Since we know this to be the case, how helpful is it to regularly separate the ages when we serve in mission or during worship?
That’s a challenging statistic assuming that each of these kids should not only have a fair knowledge of the Bible, but should have had every opportunity to experience God’s love and power and call on their life. While acknowledging that there are multiple reasons that young people leave the church and the faith, we have to face the fact that something is not working for kids in our churches, or at least for 30% of them.
When it comes to deciding what happens in church, does it make sense for the preferences of older people (who are ‘here to stay’) to take priority over the preferences of younger ones who are currently deciding whether or not the faith is for them? Let’s look to the children in church and fold them in with all the love we can muster from the time they are born until they become lifelong disciples of Jesus. For this to happen they need to be ‘in the midst’ as often as practical.
A large part of the average church’s discipleship strategy revolves around imparting information. While information is important, it cannot, on its own, produce disciples. The Apostle Paul spoke of labouring for the Galatians ‘until Christ is formed in you’. Galatians 4:19 What are churches doing about Christian formation?
Let’s be deliberate about making sure that we share experiences of worship, service, learning and play so that children come to understand that God is active in his church. We must not continue to lose 30% of ourselves. It might seem crass in this context, but any salesperson will tell you, it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new one.
In the last few years, children and families ministry leaders across Australia have been working together on strategies to help kids become lifelong disciples of Jesus. The resulting Here2stay website www.here2stay.org.au identifies ten pillars of formation that can help churches identify what their church is doing well and what needs intentional work if children (and potentially new Christians of any age) are to become lifelong followers of Jesus. For example, one pillar is ‘intergenerational
Sally is a mum, grandmother, primary school teacher and volunteer SRE teacher, with a passion for kids to know and love the Bible and the one whose story it is. Sally has extensive experience in children’s ministry, as well as developing and publishing Bible resources for kids and their leaders in many languages; particularly the GodSpace training program.
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How to Maximise the Missional Potential of Family Ministry By Sally Smith
Baptists have a missional heart, there’s no question about that. We reach out to the wider nonchurch community. We take seriously Jesus’ commission to ‘Go and make disciples.’ Let’s take a few minutes to explore the way we’re doing this. Most of our churches’ missional activity involves children and families, ministries like mainly music, playtime, kids clubs, brigades, holiday clubs and so on. Why do we invest so much missional energy into this area? The reasons are many, but a strong factor is that it’s easy to make and sustain contact. Carers of young children are often looking for others like them who understand their unique challenges. Playtime and mainly music groups provide this, together with sympathetic church folk who love their family and provide a program, all for very little money. Adults enjoy the community that’s present in these groups even if they are not churchgoers. School aged children are also catered for in groups that offer social and spiritual teaching, holiday care and more. Churches see the value of providing a community service while having regular contact with families who might be open to exploring values and ideas that could possibly benefit their families and lead to them finding faith. Pastor Chris McRae from Overflow Church in Medowie says “Bringing the Father’s love to children and young people is a brilliant way to invite their whole family to discover His love.” Most church leaders would agree, but maybe it’s time to ask ourselves some 03 | PRAC SPRING 2016
questions about the considerable missional energy we’re expending in this area. Questions like: How far has this investment taken us? How many whole families are discovering the way of Jesus through the children and families ministries of our churches? There’s no doubt there are success stories that we can rejoice in: •
The playtime mum who started attending services at the welcoming host church, discovered a spiritual dimension to her life, was baptised and now, is reaching out to others. The couple whose kids went to holiday club, who were invited to an Alpha course, got to know church folk, and now the whole family is part of the church. The single dad who began helping at boys brigade when his son started, joined a life group and found faith.
Chances are these families and others like them would still be outside the kingdom if it weren’t for those outreach activities. But are we brave enough to question further? Churches have contacted hundreds, no thousands of families, over decades. Where are those people now? Did they ever really experience the good news of Jesus in the time they spent with his people? Were they invited to explore further, to see if the message the church stands for intersected with their life in any way that might appeal? Was the life of a Jesus follower on display as a viable alternative to their life? Did they have engaging spiritual conversations with those who had the abundant life, or did they just attend a program that they enjoyed, and perhaps not even know that an abundant life was on offer?
Yvette Wynne, missional Consultant for Family Ministry with Baptist Churches NSW and ACT says, “Most churches are very good at connecting with people who come to their outreach groups. Playtime leaders visit families with a new baby, and those in crisis. They give gifts; they care in many practical ways. They love in the name of Jesus and are very good at it... But they don’t offer those people new life because they don’t bring Jesus into their conversations. They make love, but they don’t make babies!” Is it true that we are very good at being kind and generous to people but not as good at giving them a reason for the hope we have in us? (1 Peter 3:15) Have we displayed what nice people we are, without telling the source of the love we show? Maybe we’re just not being intentional about introducing people to Jesus. If only 25% of the families who have been positively impacted by our churches found themselves making faith decisions and joining our faith communities, after all these years Baptist churches would be exploding, rather than just keeping pace with population growth! Of course coming to faith has to be their decision, not ours, but what if everyone who was in regular contact with a church program was certain to experience an appropriate expression of Jesus and be invited to respond? If we expect that people who experience and understand the good news will embrace it (because it really is good news!) then we would expect that very many of those who are in our outreach ministries would choose Jesus when they are given the chance. Perhaps one way to ensure more fruit would be to make sure we are intentional about
introducing people to Jesus. But I wonder if there are other ways we can maximise our investment in this area?
Might we be more effective if we took a ‘ministry with people’ rather than a ‘ministry to people’ approach?
I wonder if our serving skills are better developed than our evangelism skills. Jesus said ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’ and we have been rightly keen to take our lead from him, but perhaps it has led to a mindset of ‘ministry to’ people. The tendency is for the church to think of ourselves as having it all and to think of others as having nothing to offer us. It’s this tendency that gives rise to things like playtime leaders asking church members who don’t know the playtime families to goon a roster to provide meals when a playtime family is in crisis, but not asking the non-church playtime families. The church serves and gives, but might the way we sometimes do this confirm a ‘them and us’ mentality rather than encouraging a sense of belonging? Might giving those involved in our outreach ministries chances to serve with us help them understand faith in a new way? Might we be more effective if we took a ‘ministry with people’ rather than a ‘ministry to people’ approach? That is, what if we saw all our ministries in terms of journeying with people, rather than running programs for them? What if we saw those journeys as helping people take faith steps towards
Jesus and providing opportunities for them to try out that faith? Church outreach ministries connect with families where there is a spectrum of attitudes towards Jesus, from antagonistic and apathetic, to curious and wildly excited. What if the bulk of the planning and preparation for each session went into working out how to appropriately engage those people and bring them closer to Jesus? What if we were more intentional about the spiritual and left things like designing appropriate crafts, choosing songs and doing the morning tea roster to chance instead? A ministry planning session might then involve brainstorming events in which we could include our community families. It might be working out who could make time to have a coffee with someone who indicated they have no time for God, just to find out why. It may be working out how to offer a parenting course that would enable some to consider drawing on spiritual resources that life with Jesus brings. Or deciding on which families to invite to the church camp. What if we intentionally made these things primary, rather than secondary in our session planning? Our programs may not look as good, but perhaps we’d be more successful at making disciples. While we’re musing about these things, here are a few more questions… What if we thought of discipleship as starting as soon as we start journeying with another person? What if we saw our life as taking steps towards Jesus and our mission as encouraging others to explore what taking steps towards Jesus might mean for them? That way everyone is in the same space, ourselves included. Then we might be as eager to share with those in our outreach groups some of the things we enthusiastically share in our Christian small groups.
How might those not usually in church respond to stories of God changing our teen’s attitude when we prayed, or an ambulance being inexplicably there when someone would have died otherwise, or the strength we feel during a tough week when we know God is sustaining us? There surely is more integrity in this approach. When it comes to those in our outreach groups many of us are so careful about ‘not putting them off’ that we end up hiding from them the very parts of our life that might cause them to be curious, to question and explore faith for themselves. Of course some churches already have this sorted, but for the rest, these are just some of the questions I believe we need to ask. The answers, no doubt, will be as diverse as the people God has placed us among. But might wrestling with these questions, together, make us better disciple-making disciples? And might it result in many more who are currently in our outreach ministries joining us on that journey? I challenge you to ask those questions and have an honest conversation with your key leaders. Sally is a mum, grandmother and primary school teacher, with a passion for kids to know and love the Bible and the one whose story it is. Sally has extensive experience and has developed and published Bible resources for kids and their leaders in many languages. She has contributed greatly to the development of the GodSpace training program, equipping teachers and encouraging them to communicate well with today’s kids; and has been a volunteer SRE Teacher for 35+ years.
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Connecting to your Community Through Music By Jo Hood
It started with a two year theme, ‘belong’. How easy could that be to present? Surely everyone knows how to help people from the community find a sense of belonging. The further we travelled, the more we realised that some had no idea. We uncovered that ‘to belong’ was to ask someone if they’d like to help or be on a roster. ‘To belong’ is actually a place where, at any level, you find connection. In his book, The Search to Belong, Joseph Myers outlines four places where belonging can occur. The public, social, personal and intimate space. In all four, we can make significant connection and feel like we belong. Within a mainly music session, belonging in the public space occurs as grownups and children enjoy participating in a collaborative activity, sharing common experiences within the session. Attending mainly music for the first time, people are required to give their details. Each week they’re acknowledged as being part of this public space. A mum and young child arrived. The new team, wanting to do the right thing, asked for her details. Mum flatly refused saying it was unnecessary. She would only give her first name and her child’s first name. Unsure of what to do, the team did not push. Over the weeks, the child, no longer withdrawn, greeted the team with a high five. Mum’s eyes lit up as she entered and greeted with a hug. She delights in being at mainly music and is slowly opening to the team. For safety it’s hoped those details will come, but in the meantime, they have extended trust, love and friendship. The team pray that she will come to recognise God and be drawn into relationship with Him. One mainly music made it a tradition to ‘march’ through the church during each marching song to help families feel safe in the area rather than thinking it was a ‘no go‘ space. 05 | PRAC SPRING 2016
What is mainly music? mainly music invests in local Christian churches through the provision of quality, sustainable ministry initiatives that enable them to build supportive relationships with families and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. In order to keep pace, we’re in the midst of a logo upgrade... a nurturing relationship, filled with fun and faith, is what the local church provides to young families from the community. For more information about starting mainly music in your church as a connection point into your community, please call 03 9720 3310 or email email@example.com and ask for more information. In the social space, we connect through sharing snapshots of who we are. It provides a safe selection space for us to decide whether we go deeper in these relationships. The team of Epping mainly music has learned one Mandarin phrase a week so as to better connect with the families who come to mainly music. Abbotsford mainly music ran a ‘Welcome BBQ’ for the families at the start of the year. It was a family invitation run on a Saturday. The team husbands went along so that dads could connect. Come along, nothing will be required of you. Here is a space to connect. In the personal space, we connect through private experiences, feelings and thoughts. We know more about these people than an acquaintance would know but not so much that they feel uncomfortable. One mainly music reported, ‘One of our mums asked for a Bible so she could read with her nine year old son. An encouraging and exciting God-given opportunity for further conversation.’ Another mainly music experienced disruptions from church renovations. Sessions were relocated to the leader’s backyard. Despite hutches being opened and animals escaping, it was a great place for developing relationships. People seemed to talk more! Going into the leader’s personal space seemed to provide an improved space for connection. Another team member wrote: I got an email from a friend I met 10 years ago. I had invited her to the mainly music I led. She enjoyed
mainly music and invited two friends to a Bible study group we ran. She decided a few years ago to get to know God more, and now she and her son have been attending church for two years and love their home group. The two friends have come to faith too. Ten years on and four people from my past ministry are moving forward with God. Myers writes: Often we think of the intimate space as the ‘Mecca’ of relationships. BUT what if all relationships were intimate? Do you want to tell your shop assistant, co-worker and spouse all the same piece of information? Intimate space is where we connect with God and as a result of our spiritual growth, the development of our intimacy with Him, we gain confidence to be a Jesus Freak across all four belonging spaces. This is where we petition God for the restoration of families. A mainly music mum has come to faith! Last year, she spotted an Alpha poster up in the church hall when she was at mainly music and asked if she could go. She was baptised in March and last Sunday did the sermon at church because the church leader was away! Whatever the space, remember that every connection is significant. Jo leads the mainly music organisation worldwide. She attends NewHope Baptist Church in Blackburn, VIC. Her nationality can be stated in two words, ‘All Blacks’.
Movement, Mission and naturally, Mess Messy Church in Australia Messy Churches is a movement of congregational planting that began in Hampshire, UK, in 2004. The Messy Church movement was born through an experiment by a vicar’s wife, Lucy Moore. Lucy drew together a team of lay volunteers to initiate a gathering for connecting with community families – as families – and engaging them in the two core modes of early church gathering: word and table. This ‘experiment’ has produced: published practical resources enabling others to adopt the idea, research into the growth and reach of Messy Churches, and robust theological reflection and evaluation bringing a healthy, welcomed, self-critique in the Messy Church family; which has grown to 3354 new church congregations world wide. If you examined the surface appearance of a Messy Church through the lens of the conventional model of ‘church’ (where the visible gathered expression takes the form of age-segregated, weekly gatherings including musical worship, preacher generated content, and some form of led prayer) you might see children and families around tables of craft activities, a short gathering focused on bible engagement and corporate prayer, and a community meal. But both of these ‘surface’ descriptions of church are unsatisfactory – more is going on than meets the eye. The Messy Church movement has centred its emerging, innovative and contextualized practice on five core values: •
Messy Church and BRF, the organization that has championed its spread across the UK and the world, strongly encourage each Messy Church context to shape its
By Beth Barnett
practice around the needs and gifts of its own community. We are not so concerned to generate a replicating model, as to let the core values and pioneering experience in other places inspire, guide and inform the missional and discipling imagination in new places in fresh ways. One of the great gifts of Messy Church to the wider church is not just in developing a fresh way for families, who are otherwise disengaged from church, to access a missioning, discipling community. It’s not just in finding a way of refocusing congregational planting on the holistic growth of the whole community – leaders, volunteers, participants – in the challenge of gospel discipleship. It’s not just in establishing an innovative template for strong new- believer numerical growth – although the Messy Church movement has brought all of these gifts. The chief contribution of the Messy Church movement is the clarity of its values. Many church planting movements begin with a strategy, a sociological vision or a theological imperative. These are great things, but are often either too general or too context specific to provide impetus (other than inspiration) to other planters or pastors. Christian publishing is awash with anecdotal books in which pioneer pastors tell of their journeys in church planting. The questions that are typically asked of Messy Church – like ‘why only once a month?’ and ‘ isn’t it all very labour intensive; how sustainable is it?’ or ‘is it really church?’ or ‘how is the gospel faithfully proclaimed?’ and ‘why do you insist on a sit down meal every time?’ are great questions to ask and vigorously welcomed. This commitment to theological reflection and evaluation, measuring Messy Church practice against the best parameters of Ecclesiology, Missiology and especially Christology, (keeping in clearest focus who we understand Jesus to be) is an essential process in planting and growing healthy new congregations. New initiatives like Messy Church can remind conventional expressions of church to re-examine their practice and reflect on how their culture, forms and activities of
gathering embody and proclaim the faith and gospel to which they subscribe. How does the 30 minute monologue align with a bodily resurrection centred faith? How does a 5 minute children’s story align with the actions of Jesus placing a child in the midst as a sign of entry into the kingdom? Often we have lost track of how to join the dots in our observance of ecclesial conventions, and much of their meaning is assumed. To approach the congregational planting praxis of Messy Church, we have to ask afresh: What are the values of the kingdom of God which we are seeking to embody? Is this our best shot at doing that? The identity of ‘congregational planting’ is an important identity to recognise, and reframes many of the questions raised around Messy Church practice and purpose. Churches that wish to connect with unchurched families through Messy Church are clear that they are planting a new congregation for this purpose – and should weigh up the cost in those terms. While Messy Church congregations are typically (and in view biblically) led by teams with a varied gift mix, rather than a single ordained leader, this practice ought not be underestimated in terms of the time and intention given to leading a congregation. As some of the activities of Messy Church bear a resemblance to an afterschool club, or a community meal, churches can mistakenly think of Messy Church as another activity of the existing church congregation; rather than recognizing that a healthy Messy Church congregation will embody all of the aspects of discipling, worshipping, missioning, serving life together that any other congregation will. Those who wish to evaluate Messy Church must do so on these terms – that, like all congregations, the community must form an authentic way of being disciples of Jesus and witnessing to the gospel. They must recognize that, like all church congregations, the church is both gathered and scattered in form – they are the church on all days of the week, in their ‘sent’ and ‘scattered’ life between gatherings. Article continues on Page 07 > PRAC SPRING 2016 | 06
A Righteous Brood by Hugh Halter
Making your family the front line of mission Book Review by Louise Bartlett. Hugh Halter is author of 8 books including Flesh and Bivo, the founder of Missio and the Director of Forge America. He is often invited to speak in the area of incarnational ministry and missional leadership. Halter is a husband and father who is a Jesus follower in his own community first, an author and speaker second. He writes out of the desire of wanting every day to have sacred moments where God works through weakness.
story comes a plea to parents to step “away from risk management, safe environments and a small vision for your kids”. Halter paints the vision of seeing not only the character and heart of Jesus developed in children but also His mission. Each of the four chapters ends with questions that, when answered honestly, make this a challenging and potentially life changing book to read.
A Righteous Brood is an invitation to mission with our everyday lives for the sake of the world and for the sake of our own families, peppered with Halter’s personal story.
Halter explores the idea that when it comes to living life on mission, many of us are waiting until the kids grow up or we aren’t SO busy or wounds or brokenness are fully dealt with. This misses the point that a life of mission is just that - the life we live (with all its complexities), pointing others to Jesus.
Written for families rather than an academic treatise, A Righteous Brood gives a prophetic inspiring call to being missional, now - as a whole family. Halter asks the question, “How can the church be missional unless the families are?” Sometimes books written for families on this theme talk about how the individual adults in the family can still be missional despite the fact they have kids. That is not Halter’s approach. Halter invites the reader to seriously consider actually living a missional life with their kids. With reference to the movie The Incredibles, Joan of Arc, the biblical narrative, missional theory, western culture and Halter’s own
Movement, Mission and naturally, Mess - Continued I wonder if while reading this you have been thinking ‘there’s not much here about the role of the ordained minister or pastor’. You’re right. Messy Church by no means excludes ordained clergy, and many testify to finding their Messy Church congregations vibrant, challenging and enjoyable pastorally. But it is also true that Messy Church consciously reconfigures the roles of leadership, engaging teams and releasing the people of God into the exercise of their gifts. This is also true of ordained ministers – who in other aspects of church life are drawn into roles of administration, chairing 07 | PRAC SPRING 2016
The risk of waiting until the time is right or just making space for one parent to get involved in some sort of initiative that connects the world with Jesus is that the kids don’t get to see that Jesus changes lives. It’s all just talk - and perhaps as Halter wonders this is one of the key reasons why young people leave the church. This book is an engaging, at times humorous, short (62 pages) and powerful appeal to live sent lives. It is in many ways a simple read – yet not necessarily an easy one.
and anchoring gatherings – which can limit their freedom to release the theological and pastoral gifts they are most called and equipped to bring. Leadership then is expressed in diverse, but gift oriented teams, answering the questions of sustainability. Those who work in the area of their gifting are refreshed and energized by their contribution, not drained. For those leading Messy Church expressions, the resources of creative practical ideas, challenging and thought provoking theological material, and networks of practitioner wisdom sharing are abundant. More than this, the encouragement, inspiration, and empowering of the Spirit that sends us beyond our walls, our traditions and ourselves is never-ending.
Halter presents a clear challenge to leave the cocoon of insulated, already busy, sometimes messy and difficult lives in order to be on God’s mission. The ending comes quite suddenly; an additional chapter that explored some of the ways families might move forward in their choice to be on mission together would have been helpful. Perhaps that is why the conclusion suggests reading several of Halter’s other works. Given that I found this book to be well and truly on point I would encourage you to do just that. I would also encourage you to read this book with a couple of other leaders, or people in your church and talk about where it might lead you. Published in 2012 by Missio Publishing. Available as an e-book through www.missiopublishing.com Louise is the Co-ordinator for Children and Family Ministries for NSW & ACT Baptist Churches. Helping people tell the next generation about the great things God has done sees Louise involved in supporting local churches, facilitating parenting courses and being involved in ministry with children in her own local faith community in Sydney. Louise is married to Steve and together they have 3 kids in those fun and fabulous middle years.
Further information about Messy Church can be found at messychurchaustralia.com.au www.facebook.com/messychurchaustralia Or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org (Messy Church Australia NationalTeam) to find out about Messy church in a region near you, or Beth.email@example.com for further resourcing. Beth Barnett leads the VCCE in Learning and Theological engagement, providing ministry formation, resourcing and collegial networks of support for people in children and families ministry roles, through a communities of practice model. The VCCE holds the license agreement with BRF (UK) for Messy Church in Australia.
In this edition of PRAC we have focused on families and intergenerational ministry, and particularly evangelism and discipleship. We recogni...
Published on Sep 12, 2016
In this edition of PRAC we have focused on families and intergenerational ministry, and particularly evangelism and discipleship. We recogni...