Friday, January 29, 2016

From One Generation to the Next

Many of us were involved in Children's Ministry when it began to become something more than just Sunday school and mid week, typically overseen by a CE director or youth pastor. I remember when the attitude was; "give a volunteer a teachers book and we are good to go". But then, slowly it changed as people began to realize it really did matter what we did with children and it was important for churches to have people who focused on being intentional in their ministry to children.

Over the years, churches began to actually pay people to lead their Children's Ministry - part time at first and eventually full-time children's pastors/directors. I remember attending a Sunday school conference in Sacramento in the late 80's, and in one workshop the speaker asked us, in a packed class, to raise our hands if we were paid by our church to lead the Children's Ministry - even if it was only part-time. I was one of the only ones who raised my hand. Today there are conferences specifically for Children's Ministry leaders and many who attend are full-time staff at their churches. Times have changed!

In the recent past, people began to notice how while churches offered Children's Ministry and Youth ministry, there was not really a focus on Family Ministry. Over time, many churches now offer this to the families in their churches and more and more churches are hiring Family Pastors to oversee this important area of ministry.

As has happened in the past, there is a move which is starting to take hold in churches across the country . . . Intergenerational Ministry. This is a very important "step" for churches to take, because while Family Ministry can - and should - focus on the entire family, it tends to just focus on equipping, engaging and encouraging parents (not that this isn't an important thing for churches to do). But, families are made up of more than just parents and children. Families also tend to have grandparents and when the church brings all these generations together, and is serious about engaging, equipping and encouraging both parents and grandparents, the impact upon children is multiplied and is significantly more effective.

Why does this matter? Why isn't what we are already doing with compartmentalizing ministry - ministry to children, ministry to youth and ministry to families - enough? We can find the answer in the Old Testament. I have always found a reading of the Old Testament to be exciting . . . and heartbreaking. You find real people and how their real lives were impacted and changed when they came to know and walk with God; such as David. He went from being a lowly shepherd boy to being the King of Israel. Yes, there were a lot of years between the two, but he knew and walked with God; even as a young teen . . . so much so he was able to trust God to fight for him when facing a real giant none of the older soldiers in the army were willing to fight . . . they just ran and hid! He knew, walked with and trusted God to keep him through the years when he was being chased by Saul. Yes, he made some really horrible choices over the years, but when faced with his sin he turned from it and asked God for forgiveness and grace. He wrote the Psalms and modeled for us, even today - how to talk with God, as well as how to worship and praise Him!

Yet, in spite of the amazing way David knew and walked with God, his children did not follow and share in his love for God. This is the heartbreaking part. If you spend time looking at the kings of Israel and Judah, you will see how some followed God, and then in a generation or two they turned their backs on God. If you read Psalm 78 you will see how over and over the people of Israel walked with God, and then forgot Him. Something bad happened, so they turned back to God, but then in a generation or two they forgot Him again.

I find this frightening. I love God! I want to know and walk with Him  I want my children and grandchildren and future generations, should Jesus tarry, to continue to know, love and walk with God. I do not want them to forget Him. It only takes a casual glance at the evening news to know our world is broken, because it has forgotten God. It is heartbreaking.

So how can we make a difference? I think part of the answer - because clearly it is not a simple answer - is to look at the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had everything; and it was perfect! They actually walked physically with God in the cool of the evening, every evening. Yet, they were still deceived. They had to know God loved them and yet they were willing to consider the question Satan asked; was God keeping something good from them? Did God really love them? 

When we doubt God's love for us we are much more likely to question what He has clearly told us, and try to make it "fit" in the "world-view" of the day in which we live. No matter how much Satan tells us doubting and disobeying God will bring us freedom and happiness, the truth is it only brings pain, sorrow, death and brokenness

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He chose to hold on to God's Word. I think this is where the answer is found. We need to hold on to what God has said. We need to help our children and grandchildren do this as well. We need to equip the children and families in our ministries; including the grandparents, to do the same. 

So, what has God said? Clearly a lot of things, but for me I will hold on to the following:
  • I John 4:19 - We love because God loved us first.
  • Romans 8:35-39 - Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? 36 It is exactly as the Scriptures say, “For you we face death all day long. We are like sheep on their way to be butchered.” 37 In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. 38 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, 39 and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!
  • I John 1:9 - But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.
As we focus on passing on a heritage and legacy of faith to our children, grandchildren and the children in our ministries let's get on-board with Intergenerational Ministry, and then hold on to God's Word; not what we think, not what our culture thinks, not what people around us might think. Let's hold on to what God has clearly said in His Word!

No comments:

Post a Comment