Teachable Moments

January 24, 2011

I was in our local grocery store around lunch time recently and witnessed someone shoplifting. There was no doubt about it. Two young men were in the candy aisle and one lifted a bag of chocolate of some kind and then I thought I saw him tuck it into his sweatshirt but I couldn’t be sure. I watched as they walked away and at that point I knew, because there was no shopping cart and neither had anything in their hands. So I just watched them.  And the friend glanced back several times to see me watching them and he looked very nervous.

I literally froze trying to figure out what to do. I’ll honestly say that one of the options that went through my mind was to do nothing. But that sure didn’t feel right. If I had had even a shred of doubt about what I had seen I think I could have talked myself into that option. But no doubt — he had taken it off the shelf, shoved it into his sweatshirt and zipped it up. And now they were bolting…slowly and calmly but definitely not continuing to “shop.”

If I confronted them, what would I say? They were young — early high school perhaps and didn’t look the least bit dangerous or threatening. I was given the opportunity for a teachable moment and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I wish I could say I prayed about it but I didn’t. However, I think it was one of those instances where God knew what I needed before I even asked. So I truly believe that what I did was a total God-thing.

I needed to find them first. I darted down the candy aisle, turned left in the direction they had headed and looked. No boys. Flew across the back of the store looking up each aisle. Pet food aisle — no boys.  Paper goods aisle — no boys. Bottled water aisle — no boys.  On to the frozen foods!  Aha!  I saw them just starting to go up the very last aisle in the store (ice cream aisle!) and so I pushed my cart up the parallel aisle to head them off at the pass. And it worked!

The alleged perpetrator rounded the corner and I approached him full on, looked him in the eye and asked very genuinely, “Can I help you pay for that candy you have in your sweatshirt?”

Life is filled with teachable moments. They often don’t come in the classroom or the sanctuary. We have to be alert to them and grab them when we can. Besides my “do nothing” option, my other initial thought was to haul them before the store manager and turn them in. But in this situation, that just didn’t feel right either. So I’m thankful that God placed a third option on my heart and in my mouth.

Are you wondering how he answered? He would not look me in the eye and just said, “I’ll put it back.” I said, “No, really! If you want it and you need money to pay for it, I’ll help you.” He seemed mortified! Then his friend came around the corner and I was a little more pointed asking him if HE had anything. He said he didn’t. I gave him a raised eyebrow and he asked if I wanted to check his backpack.  Then I told him I believed him and let it go.

I don’t know if the young man actually did put it back because I didn’t follow him to watch. I decided to give him the space to “make amends” privately. I’m pretty hopeful that he did return it.  He looked quite remorseful after our conversation.  I’m also hopeful that they both remember what happened — and the gift they were given by GOD — and then make a better decision the next time the temptation arises.

Have you ever experienced a teachable moment?  In your home? In the church classroom? In the neighborhood? Were you on the teaching or taught end of it?

 


Sustainable Faith II

December 8, 2010

What makes the difference between a teenager staying connected to the church or straying from it? A previous article here shares several key observations by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group on the topic. His organization has been researching what makes for sustainable faith and while the organization is still in the midst of the study, he did share several key observations at the LOGOS Live Conference in San Antonio, Texas in October. This article continues the discussion.

What about those of the “next generation” who do leave the church?  Do they share any common characteristics?  And if so, does that give church leaders clues as to how we can keep our young people engaged and connected to the faith?

David described three types of young people who leave…Prodigals, Nomads, and Exiles.

Prodigals: These are the ones who have walked away from their faith. They’ve made an intentional break.  Presumably they’ve had a negative experience with the church or with Christians.  They’re feeling angry or annoyed with Christians in general now.

Nomads: These are the spiritual wanderers who have gradually disengaged.  Church is just not as important to them as it used to be.  They don’t feel that they “fit in” to church anymore and they don’t see that church matters.  This is the most common group who leave the church.

Exiles: These are the young people who now find themselves in a culture or environment that is very different than what their “growing up in” church understands or accepts. Because of their occupation or where they live or how they live, they have a need to navigate new territory and don’t see the church as being helpful or supportive.

I’m wondering if many of our nomads started as exiles as they entered college.  Unless they were very intentional in connecting with a Christian community it would be all too easy to move deeper and deeper into a place that separates them from what they experienced in their home-church environment—no matter how beloved at the time. And then that separation just becomes the norm and there’s little recognition of the importance of a church community or for practicing their faith.

What do you do to maintain the connection with the post-high school (and particularly college attending) youth from your church?  Is it important to keep them connected not only to their home church leaders but also to their home church peers?

What are some ideas to reconnect with them on a regular basis and when they come home for their natural seasonal breaks? Do you plan mission trips or on-line Bible studies?  Fellowship gatherings?  Please share your ideas and thoughts.


Sustainable Faith

November 15, 2010

What makes the difference between a teenager staying connected to the church or straying from it? If we can identify what the church can do—or do differently, can we stem the tide of those who give up or drift away from the Christian faith, and more specifically the church community? I recently heard David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, address the concept of sustainable faith—something that Barna has been researching.  The organization is still in the midst of the study but he did share several key observations at the LOGOS Live Conference in San Antonio, Texas in October.

First, he believes three things define what makes this next generation different:

The long shadow of the 60s–skepticism is greater, there is less trust, and more social change particularly in the family make up.

The digital world–kids are digital “natives” and information consumption has moved from passive to interactive.

The post Christian environment–increased cultural criticism of Christianity.

These three factors help explain why this generation is more alienated (from institutions, public schools, manufacturers), has more access (to information and the world), and has new questions about authority.

This isn’t all bad news!  It means that for this generation, relationships count (because institutions don’t), they learn how they want and when they want, they are willing to take risks and take action, and they are interested in the “common good.”  Are we “back to the future” with the early church? Sounds like it, doesn’t it? The issue for us as “the church” becomes what changes do we need to make as a community to be more inclusive of and inviting to this generation? David also observed that the central challenge to this next generation is being “in the world” but not “of the world.” He believes that challenge will be critical to how we work with this age group.

He was emphatic that church leaders need to pay attention to the reasons why even those 18-29 year olds who have grown up in the church may not be calling themselves “Christian.” Kinnaman identifies some of the things being said about the church from the surveys–noting it’s not as simple as we would hope.

Doubtless: The church doesn’t deal with doubt.

Anti-Science: The church is perceived to be this.

Shallow: Church is boring, God is not experienced in church.

Too safe:  All talk, no action.

Meaningless: Faith is not relevant to real life.

Too institutional: The church ignores the problems of the real world.

Talking heads: The church talks at rather than with youth.

Uncreative: Not interested in the ideas of young people.

Ouch!

David did offer up some hope for the church if we pay attention and make some change. Two of the areas he suggested that need addressing are:

“Age buckets”–stop segregating all we do by age group

Ministry to parents—a need to step this up

At The LOGOS Ministry, we teach an approach that allows for all generations to be in ministry together—with a focus on building up young disciples of Jesus Christ. Parents partner with other parents as well as older (and younger) adults in the church to minister to children and youth. We’re not the only organization helping churches move in this direction and we believe that when churches do it well there might be a better chance of stopping the loss of what Barna calls “spiritual engagement” of the next generation. What are the roadblocks that your church is experiencing? What makes getting past some of these barriers so difficult?


Ministry for adults and children

November 8, 2010

A great description of how one church finds common ground between children and adults through LOGOS. Excerpt from Rapid City Journal:

“I like the intergenerational feeling of it. Family is not just mom, dad and kids. People who go to church here are a sort of family, too,” she said.

“Because the parents of LOGOS ministry members are asked to contribute from time to time — teaching Bible classes, preparing the family-time meal, leading recreation activities — a flourishing LOGOS ministry seeds the church with active adults,” Sherman-Conroy said.

“When kids make friends in the church, parents get involved. When parents get involved, families get involved. When families get involved, the church is a vigorous actor in the community, sharing the love of God, generating excitement and growing. It can transform a congregation.”

The LOGOS ministry builds on itself. Westminster is able to offer not only classes for children and youth, but also for parents and adults.

“The church is for all people and all ages. While kids learn and grow in their way, adults can be encouraged and equipped for their lives, too,” said Jacobs.

An adult small-group study class that is reading “Boundaries,” a book on setting healthy boundaries, includes many people who aren’t members at Westminster.

Sherman-Conroy and Jacobs regularly eat lunch at West Middle School, across the street from the church, and invite kids to attend LOGOS.

“Kids like feeling like they’re part of something,” she said. Weekly attendance in the LOGOS youth group ranges from 16 to 20, a good turnout for a church of its size, Sherman-Conroy said.

Read the rest of the article here.


Seeking Peace in the Sunday School Classroom – Podcast

November 1, 2010

From bwcumc.org – website of The Baltimore-Washington Conference:

Listen to a discussion about peace in the Sunday School classroom with Liz Perraud, a Regional Advisor for the LOGOS Ministry. Liz supports and coaches churches and serves as a training leader on topics related to effective ministry – particularly with children.  Here, she talks with BWC webmaster Lesley Carter about building positive relationships between teachers and students and accommodating multiple learning styles.Hear the discussion here. Want to save this file to your computer? Simply right-click on the link and save it.


“What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry?”

May 17, 2010

“What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry?”

That was the epic question before them. The team (Amy Dolan of Lemon Lime Kids, Henry Zonio of Elemental Children’s Ministry, and Matt Guevara of the

What Matters most?

Cory Center) have gathered 33 perspectives from a cross section of denominations and ministry contexts to answer this question.  Every contributor was asked to answer the question with only ONE word (a couple of contributors were given some grace and allowed two words).  After they honed the one-word answer, they were allowed to support their answer with another 300 words.  Not an easy task.

Our own Liz Perraud is one of the contributors for his project.  So I invite you to take a look at this  free ebook “What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry” which was published by IMAGO.  A printed version will be available sometime in June.


Teenagers and the Church

May 5, 2010
Confirmation class

Confirmation class by Raymond Brown

It is that time of year.  Summer is just around the corner.  Colleges and High Schools are in the midst of graduation ceremonies and celebrations with all of their “pomp and circumstance”.  It is also the time of year when many churches confirm their newest, youngest members into full membership of Christ’s church.  Late last year, I heard a speaker who asked, “What do you do to make sure that confirmation is not interpreted as graduation in your church?”

Those words have stuck with me for months and I think are worth wrestling with for all of us.  He went on to talk about how we have a processional often times with them in robes, give them a certificate, make note of their achievement,  and dissolve their class (small group).  Why wouldn’t they think they have no graduated from learning in the church?

In the church I attend, twenty-two wonderful young teens were just confirmed.  I have also noticed that Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are filled with church announcements of their newly confirmed young members.  So all of that leads me to ask some questions that I believe we need to wrestle with in our churches regarding those who have just been confirmed.

1. How does your church keep these young people relationally connected with the same intensity they had during their confirmation class?

2. What processes are in place to provide leadership roles for these new young members?

3. How are they intentionally mentored into these roles of leadership?

4. How does your church purposefully offer them ways to answer God’s call on their lives, give of themselves, share their gifts and build up the body of Christ?