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As I write this, there is a lot of transition going on in my life.  My fingernails have been bitten down to the bone because so much is going on and it just doesn’t seem like there is enough time or energy to manage it all.  I’m taking on the full leadership of preteen ministry at Fellowship, which involves about 60 volunteers and 300 fifth and sixth graders.  I’m in and out of town all summer with children’s camps and other trips. Our daughter is now crawling, so nothing is in a safe distance from her grasp.  And my wife, Dana, and I just this morning bought a house that needs its share of TLC.  A lot is changing.  It is fun, but it is also daunting.

This has just further reminded me of the pains in transitioning preteens from elementary to middle school/jr. high.  This is such a taxing time emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.  For those of us in children’s ministry, this is one of the most critical parts of our job.  And yet, it is often overlooked. This takes some attention and planning to be successful.  It also takes a partnership between the children’s and student ministries.  If you haven’t done so already, let me encourage you to sit down with key leaders and staff from children’s ministry and student ministry at your church and ask these questions:

What is your strategy for helping a preteen to successfully manage the transition from elementary to Jr. High?
How do you prepare them for this transition to a new ministry before they reach this point?
What do you do to celebrate/commemorate this passage between stages of life?
How do you equip the parents to lead their kids during this process?
How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy?

These questions are great to ask about every transition between life stages, such as between preschool and elementary or high school and college.

I posted a few weeks ago about the strategy that we used this year to help preteens navigate this transition.  You can read about that HERE.
If you have any questions about events that we do for preteens, you can contact me via TWITTER or EMAIL. 

I posted a question yesterday that has been on my heart lately.  You can read the question HERE.

My struggle with this question has prompted me to really study the lives of some great pastors and evangelists. I want to see how their lives reflect the answer to that question.  I recently read of a study on the Gospel accounts done by Pastor/Evangelist John Wilbur Chapman.  Chapman is probably lesser known for penning the lyrics to the hymn “Oh, Glorious Day!” which has been made popular recently by the group Casting Crowns.  But as a Pastor/Evangelist from the 1880s to 1918, it was estimated that he had preached 50,000 sermons to some 60 million people.  Learning about his life and ministry has been some help to me in processing the question that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.    

Back to his study of the Gospel account… Chapman found that there were 40 individuals mentioned in the Gospels, each suffering from the same disease, who were healed by Jesus.  Of the forty, thirty-four of them were brought to Jesus by friends, or He was taken to the individual.  Only six of the forty sufferers found a way to Jesus without assistance.  The majority (85%) of them found Jesus Christ because a friend was concerned with their health and well-being.

I haven’t done a case study to prove this, but I would say that the vast number of people who find their way to salvation in Jesus today, most of them reach Him because a friend took the time to be concerned about the welfare of their soul.  I know that there are amazing testimonies of people who came to Jesus without the direct involvement of others, but the majority of salvation testimonies I’ve heard involve a friend, teacher, pastor, or parent that spent a lot of time praying for and witnessing to the person.

This thought draws me back to the question that I started with…
What if the purpose of every relationship you have was to lead the other person closer to Christ?

It also raises some questions for me as a Preteen Pastor…
How are we teaching preteens to have a concern for the spiritual condition of their friends?
How are we preparing/discipling them to be the hands and feet that carry the Good News?
How are we unleashing them to do this?
When we share testimonies or baptism, how do we celebrate the “friends” that invested in the life that has come to Jesus?

As a parent, pastor, individual, how do you answer these questions?
What’s your thoughts on the premise of the study by Chapman?

I’ve been living in two worlds lately.  On one hand, I’m establishing a lot of new relationships in my new ministry role.  On the other hand, I’m back living in my home town and so I’m reconnecting with a lot of old relationships that I’ve had for many years.  With this resurgence of my social life, God has really been speaking to me about the purpose of those relationships.  And in those conversations, He has really challenged my heart with one gripping question.

The questions is this…
What if the purpose of every relationship you have was to lead the other person closer to Jesus Christ?

What if I was intentional enough so that every person that I met, talked to, worked with, played softball with, or had a meal with was encouraged to move to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?  What if I took the focus off of me and placed it on Him?  I don’t fully know what this would look like if it were played out in my life, but I’m dying to discover what God can do if I will submit to it.  I know that to do so, I need to be walking much closer to Him.  I need to be much more obedient to his calling when he says go or when he says speak.  And I need to have much more boldness and confidence in sharing my faith with every contact I make.  This questions has really stretched me and continues to do so.  My prayer is that God would show me what it looks like to use every relationship to point the other person closer to Jesus Christ.

I’m interested in hearing others thoughts and insight into how to live a life that could answer this question.  What does it look like in action?  What does it take? What would the end result be?

 

When my wife sees an expensive piece of furniture or decorative item for our house, I have a humorous response that always pops out.  I look over the object and quickly reply, “They want $_____ for that?  I could make that!”  This always draws a laugh from my wife because she knows my lack of skills in the craftsman department.  But in the discussion, I always bring up the fact that I could do it if I just had the right tools.  I’m not sure that I wouldn’t fail, but I would definitely have the confidence to try if I just had the right tools.

Parents are looking to the church for the right tools to do their job with confidence.

I’ve never met a parent who didn’t care about the spiritual condition of their child.  But I have met parents who do not feel equipped for the job as spiritual leader.  There is a great opportunity for the church to partner with parents in developing a plan for the spiritual upbringing of children.  But that’s harder than it seems.

According to the 2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report (Barna & Rethink Group) 72% of churched and 46% of unchurched parents said that the church would be a good helper in developing a plan for raising their child.  This statistic shows great opportunity for the church.  Parents are looking to the church for the right tools.  However, less than half (45%) of parents said that they received “very clear” expectations on parenting from the church.  Only 27% of unchurched parents with recent church experience said that the church clearly communicated its expectations of parents.  We have a great opportunity to equip parents as spiritual leaders, but we are failing to clearly communicate the essentials of Biblical parenting.

It’s time to stop talking about the importance of leading a child’s spiritual development, and start equipping parents with resources that will help them meet that goal.  I’ve been guilty of thinking that I just needed to convince the parents of the importance of their role.  But they already understand the importance.  They are screaming at the top of their lungs, “We understand the importance of our role.  We want to be the spiritual leader for our child.  We want to do it, but we need the right tools for the job.”

The 2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report says it like this:

Almost half of all parents say they have no plan in raising their kids; they simply do the best they can. And even among the parents who say they have a plan in mind to help their child become what they desire, you might wonder whether their plan is well thought out or cohesive.  This is a great opportunity for leaders to speak into the lives of parents.  If we actually have a clear and compelling approach to helping families, this is a chance to help families realize more is possible. (p. 34)

Some great ways to equip parents with tools might be:

  • sermon series on parenting that highlights the methods/tools your church uses to create a partnership between church and home
  • small groups or discipleship classes for parents that focus on parenting for each stage of development (preschool, elementary, preteen, jr. high, high school, college)
  • regular scheduled meetings for all staff/volunteer leadership of family ministry (preschool—college) to talk about integrated strategy
  • compile a list of books, articles, blogs, sermons, etc that would be helpful for parents
  • shared experiences for parents and children/teens

This list is by no means exhaustive.  It will be different for every church, but it is always better to do something rather than nothing.

What is your strategy for equipping parents with the right tools to be spiritual leaders?

(2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report is available at The Rethink Group Store.)