Archives For discipleship

A few weeks back, I raised the idea of having a “summer reading” with our small group leaders.  It’s been a busy month of wrapping up the school year, but we are finally at a point that we’re ready to launch that idea.

Today, our leaders will receive an email invitation to take part in reading D.A. Carson’s book, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.  The book does a great job of explaining Scripture and the foundations of Christian faith. My hope is that it will make our leaders hunger even more for the Word of God as they discover how God has called them to play a part in the story. We have an amazing team of leaders, and I’m really looking forward to this time with them.

As we prepare week to week to minister to preteens, we want our leaders to know why they believe what they believe and why they teach what we’ve asked them to teach.  This knowledge of how we fit into God’s story is what makes their teaching and the Scriptures come alive to the students.  My hope is that walking through this book with them will allow us all to grow in our faith as well as help us to encourage the faith of our students.

Here are some of the things that I want our leaders to contemplate and discuss:

How do we encourage preteens to discover who God is?

How do we lead preteens to discover who God has made them to be?

How does knowing our role in God’s “Big Story” help us to BE the church?

How do we empower preteens to share God’s “Big Story” with the world around them?

I can’t wait to see what God teaches me from this book and the discussions with our leaders.  I’ll definitely be sharing more in the weeks to come.

 

Today was bittersweet because it was 6th Grade graduation.  I’m sad to see them moving on, but I feel a sense of excitement for how God is going to use this group for His purpose.  So on this Sunday, here is what I’m celebrating:

1. Graduation
We had an awesome time tonight celebrating the accomplishment of our 6th graders. The best part was the closing when parents had the opportunity to pray over their student and their passage into adolescence.  It was amazing to see families huddled together all over the auditorium and praying together.  It was a powerful moment that highlighted the importance of partnering with parents.

2. Conversations with Small Group Leaders
I had a short but amazing conversation with a small group leader this morning that really moved me.  We’re in the middle of organizing our leaders for next fall, and this leader wanted to talk to me about her role.  She approached me in the hall and began to tell me how God was moving in her life.  She spoke of how she felt unworthy of what God is doing.  The conversation moved her to tears.  She is 60+ years of age, and I’m only in my 20s.  That point made the conversation even more amazing to me.  I admired her desire to continuing growing closer to Christ.  I admired her willingness to open to me.  And I was honored to be able to speak encouragement to her.   I’m not sure what God is doing in her, but I’m really excited to see the amazing ways that He is going to use her in the coming year!

3. Amazing Message to Our Church
Our church was so blessed today by the guest speaker, Christopher Coleman.  Christopher has a powerful testimony of how God has moved in his life and used him in powerful ways to share the Gospel.  Christopher’s website begins his testimony with these words,

He was pronounced dead at birth, but miraculously survived. Though he struggles with cerebral palsy, Christopher Coleman knows his disability was a gift from God.

I can’t do justice to the message.  You just have to take time to watch the sermon.  You can see it HERE.  Get your Kleenex and get ready to move for God!

There were so many other things that were great today.  But as I sit and think back over the day, these three are the largest on my mind and heart.  It’s Sundays like this that remind me how blessed I am and how awesome God is. 

What did you see God do today?

 

A lot happens in my world on Sundays, and I usually don’t sit down and evaluate it all until Monday.  But the problem with that is that I tend to only recall the things that didn’t go well and need to be changed.  I see and hear powerful stories on Sundays–stories of celebration and life-change.  So I’m starting the tradition of Sunday Celebrations so that I can record to things God is doing each week in our services at Fellowship Bible Church

Today’s celebration was a powerful testimony from an awesome guy.  We’ve been talking about the how to’s of sharing a personal testimony with our 6th graders, and it’s been awesome to see them working through that.  And as a part of those lessons, we had one of the mentors stand before the group and share his testimony.

A little background…this mentor is a very successful business leader.  He has made a name for himself in several venues of business across our state, and he is looked up to as a leader in all of those fields.  He manages thousands of employees and deals will millions of customers. I won’t speak for him, but I will say that I think he has a great life!

This highly successful man stands before 70+ 6th graders and says “I don’t know much else, but I do know that God is changing me.”  It was such a powerful statement.  He explained the feeling of brokenness and lostness that he could not escape.  He talked about how he thought that God was something he could use when he wanted and then walk away from and still be okay.  Even with the success and the name that he had built, he realized that he needed something more.  Through a mentoring program in our church, he was discipled and loved on until he realized his need for Christ.  He shared how that point in his life, when someone shared Christ with him, changed his eternity, and he told how our story can do the same for someone else. 

I just stood in the back of the room watching the students and other adults.  Their attention never left this man has he shared.  It was a powerful moment to think that our story could lead someone to salvation through Jesus Christ.  It was even cooler to think that that person might have the influence and ability to witness to literally millions of other people!

I don’t know if he’ll read this, but if he does…thank you for sharing your testimony.  It is definitely worth celebrating!

What did God do in and around you today that you should be celebrating?

 

Let me start by saying that I am no expert.  I fail more times than I succeed, in ministry and in life.  The only thing I can say for certain is that God has laid a great passion for preteens on my heart, and I’m doing my best to find ways to connect with them and share God’s Big Story with them.

I have learned from much wiser people that if you want to connect with preteens, you need to… 

1.  Be Authentic
Increases in technology and social networking means that preteens are “always on”.  They share everything that goes on in their lives—good and bad.  They value this sort of transparency in others.  In ministry, it’s important that we not try to hide our failures from this generation.  Rather, we should be teaching through those experiences and sharing how Scripture is leading us.  Sharing about experiences—good and bad—from a Biblical perspective is a great way to connect with preteens.
How do you share with preteens what God is doing in your personal life?
 

2.  Be Engaging
Let’s face it; if we try as the church to entertain preteens then we will fail miserably.  Technology is advancing at such a rate that even the top Fortune companies can’t stay relevant.  So if we can’t be entertaining, then what do we do?  We become engaging. Preteens want to be heard.  They want to share their thoughts and ask their questions.  To be engaging means that we will commit time to listen to them and relate to them.   This commitment furnishes us the credibility and opportunity to share what Scriptures says on the subject.  If we want to connect with preteens, we have to go to a deeper level and engage them in these types of conversations.
How do you engage preteens in Scripture-centered conversations?
 

3.  Be Productive
The scarcest of resources for everyone is TIME.  Preteens are no different.  They are as over-committed and over-involved as any generation in history.  The question for the church is: how do we package the message of the Gospel to be as important as we know it actually is?  I’m admittedly a “fly-by” kind of guy.  This has been a challenge for me.  The reality is that we need to have a strategy for every second we spend with preteens so that we can communicate the truth of Scripture.  If you’re planning an event for preteens or your weekly service for preteens—ask what makes it worth attending and be sure to communicate that to preteens.  The Gospel is powerful and effective, and the message doesn’t need to change.  However, our methods must always be changing to assure that the time we are asking preteens to give us is filled with life-changing dialogue.
What is your strategy to keep your ministry time as productive for preteens as possible?
 

4.  Be Available
But don’t smother.  One of the reasons that I sensed God pulling my heart towards this season of life is because of their awkward position of wanting space and needing guidance.  Up to this point, faith has been based mostly upon parental influence.  As a preschooler and even early elementary years, kids model and follow the faith of their parents.  For some reason and at some point, kids begin to question everything—including faith.  It is imperative that we establish lines of communication with preteens so that they can feel safe to ask these questions. It is also imperative that we provide opportunities for them to wonder and discover faith for themselves.  A great method is through service.  By serving, preteens develop an understanding of what it means to BE the church and not just go to church.  Will they make mistakes?  Will they think they have answers and be totally wrong?  Yes, probably.  That is why we need to be available to step in and provide guidance.  One of the greatest things we can do for preteens is to provide them with space to take ownership of their faith.
How are you encouraging preteens to take ownership of their faith?
 

5.  Be an Example
This just goes without saying.  Other than the early years of a child’s life (0-3 years), the preteen years are the most foundational years for personality and faith.  All of the other four points really boil down to this one.  Preteens need to see how Jesus Christ can change their lives.  The best way to communicate this is not with our words, but with our actions.  We need to model spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, Scripture study, and service.  Mark Matlock (@markmatlock) spoke at Orange ‘11 on this same subject and he shared a great line.  He said, “We summarize Scripture more than we read Scripture. And when kids tell us about an issue in their life, we tell them that we will pray for them instead of stopping right then and actually praying with them.”
In what ways are you providing opportunities for examples in your ministry environments?
 
I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences.  Leave comments or questions on the blog. You can also follow the RSS feed for this blog and/or follow me on twitter @Pastor_MattMo