“Daddy,” my six-year-old leaned over and whispered in my ear, “should I change it to baseball? Because that’s what our family does”— and I was reminded that family discipleship can be far simpler than we sometimes think.
“The captain has turned off the seat belt sign.”
My wife and children are at home, but I am not. The conference has been long, the flight has been delayed, it is late, and I am longing to see the lights of Louisville.
Sparkling crystals of light unfurl beneath me, not evenly scattered across the midwestern plains but clumped and clustered like the time when I let my seven-year-old sprinkle the colored sugar on a cake. Each of these clusters is a place with a story and a gathering of people I will probably never meet. Beneath the belly of this aircraft, hospital patients are taking their first steps down the dark hallway of death; a new life is taking root in the warmth of a mother’s womb; people are marrying and burying, dreaming and despairing, making money and making love. Some of the souls in these clusters below me can hardly wait for the moment when they will be able to find a path to some other place; others have lived lives so entwined in one location that they could never dream of spending their lives anywhere else.
There are story lines that have uniquely formed each of these sprinklings of light, and each of these stories frames the lives of those who live there.Continue reading.
Once upon a time, there was a season in the church year known as “Advent.” The word comes to us from the Latin for “coming.” The purpose of the season was to anticipate; the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting.
This research into the history of age-organized catechetical classes in the church is based on an academic paper that I presented to the practical theology section of the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island, on November 16, 2017.
This post is the third in a three-part series.
“The Church of God Will Never Preserve Itself Without a Catechism”: Confirmation and Catechetical Instruction in the English Reformation
Following the death of King Henry VIII in 1547, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer grew a beard that suggested solidarity with the continental Reformers—but it was not merely in his pogonotrophic proclivities that the Archbishop of Canterbury imitated what was happening on the other side of the English Channel. Cranmer—not unlike Calvin—required catechesis of children in the context of the church.
This research into the history of age-organized ministries in the church is based on an academic paper that I presented to the practical theology section of the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island, on November 16, 2017.
This post is the second in a three-part series.
“At Midday, There Is to Be Catechism”: Weekly Classes for Children in Sixteenth-Century Geneva
John Calvin provided instructions for catechesis in the same section of the ecclesiastical ordinances in which he described the frequency and locations for weekly pastoral proclamations of Scripture. He directed that each Sunday “at midday, there is to be catechism, that is, instruction of little children, in all the three churches.” The individual responsible for this instruction in each congregation was to be the pastor.
These weekly catechetical classes were designed as a distinct and separate gathering for children, and children’s attendance was not optional. Continue reading.
This research into the history of age-organized ministries in the church is based on an academic paper that I presented to the practical theology section of the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island, on November 16, 2017. This post is the first in a three-part series.
In recent years, a small but vocal cluster of church leaders has contended that age-organized programs and ministries in the church should be eliminated. These proponents of “family-integrated church” have called for churches to dismantle programs that practice systematic “age-segregated discipleship.” In churches that follow this model, the congregation has no youth ministers, children’s ministers, or nursery. “We do not divide families into component parts,” writes one proponent of family-integrated churches. “We don’t even do it in Bible study.” The support claimed for family-integrated ministry is typically twofold, contending both that age-organized ministries are unwarranted by Scripture and that ministries for children and youth are a recent innovation that represents the imposition of “individualistic philosophies” in the church.
Interested in apologetics and family ministry?
If so, then you’re likely to be interested in this upcoming conference.
God willing, I will be part of an experience in January 2018 that will bring together apologetics and family ministry in a way that will equip you and your church’s staff for far more effective future ministry. Continue reading.
This post on intergenerational diversity in the church is the second part of a two-part series. Click here for the first post in the series.
A Model for Movement toward the Discipline of Generational Diversity
If you look at your church and glimpse a lack of intergenerational ministry, it may seem at first as if the right response is to add a stack of new activities to your church’s calendar. Consider, however, that—according to recent research into the perceptions of pastoral ministers—nearly half of all ministers already feel as if they do not have sufficient time to accomplish all that their ministries demand. Furthermore, when ministry calendars become too crowded, church members can become so busy doing church that no time remains for them to be the church in their homes and communities.
With that in mind, I wish to propose an alternative possibility for the pursuit of intergenerational ministry—one that metamorphoses existing activities instead of adding additional programs. I have colloquially dubbed this alternative “the TIE Model.” Continue reading.
The Function of the Family in the Storyline of God
At the center of God’s story stands this singular act: In Jesus Christ, God personally intersected human history and redeemed humanity at a particular time in a particular place. Yet this central act of redemption does not stand alone. It is bordered by God’s good creation and humanity’s fall into sin on the one hand and by the consummation of God’s kingdom on the other. This story of (1) creation, (2) fall and law, (3) redemption, and (4) consummation is the story that Christians have repeated to one another and to the world ever since Jesus ascended and sent his Spirit to dwell in his first followers’ lives. This age-old plot-line should frame every aspect of our lives—including our ministries to families. Seen from the perspective of this fourfold storyline, here’s what becomes clear about family, family ministries, and diversity: From the beginning, the family has been a God-ordained means for the fulfillment of God’s purposes, but God’s plan for the family has always been to reach beyond the family to form a diverse community.Continue reading.
The first family ministry book I ever read was Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. My first response was to reject family ministry as a preposterous idea in my particular context.
It took two years for the struggles of ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit to change my mind.
I delivered this paper on an expanded definition for family ministry in May 2017 at the HOUSE Conference in Australia, a conference sponsored by YouthWorks and themed around the intersection between family ministry and ecclesiology. This post is the third part of a three-part series.
A RENEWAL OF INTEREST IN INTERGENERATIONAL MINISTRY? YES AND NO
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, church leaders from a broad range of ecclesial backgrounds began to question the assumption that discipleship occurs most effectively when it is segmented generationally. In 1988, Roman Catholic educator James William White published an influential text calling for intergenerational religious education. Lutheran educator Ben Freudenburg called for youth ministries to provide three types of programming: home-centered, peer-centered, and intergenerational. Presbyterian youth minister Mark DeVries presented a “smorgasbord of ideas to equip parents and to create intentional intergenerational connections between youth and adults” in his book Family-Based Youth Ministry. The Search Institute even developed a survey to assess the intergenerational health of congregations. And yet, as the family ministry movement has grown, the parent-equipping component has tended to eclipse the forging of intergenerational connections, particularly in evangelical contexts. The intergenerational aspect of church-as-family has been overshadowed in practice by the dynamic of family-as-church.
Why is it that parent-equipping tends to eclipse intergenerational ministry in churches? Continue reading.
I delivered this paper proposing a revised definition for family ministry in May 2017 at the HOUSE Conference in Australia, a gathering sponsored by YouthWorks and themed around the intersection between family ministry and ecclesiology. This post is the second part of a three-part series articulating the need for a revised definition for family ministry.
3. HISTORICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR AN EXPANDED DEFINITION FOR FAMILY MINISTRY
If church-as-family ministry is so vital, why is it so difficult? Resistance to diversity in the body of Christ may be attributed in part to dynamics of sin and spiritual powers. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against … cosmic powers” (Ephesians 6:12). At the same time, spiritual powers work in the context of historical realities. Furthermore, resistance to the implementation of church-as-family ministry frequently develops not because of sin but because of unrecognized assumptions and sincere differences about how best to form people in the image of Christ.
When it comes to church-as-family ministry, many of these differing assumptions and opinions find their origins in attempts to engage in faithful discipleship in social contexts that had been reshaped by the Industrial Revolution. Continue reading.
I delivered this paper proposing a revised definition for family ministry in May 2017 at the HOUSE Conference in Australia, a gathering sponsored by YouthWorks College and themed around the intersection between family ministry and ecclesiology. This post on a revised definition for family ministry is the first part of a three-part series.
1. A DEFINITION FOR FAMILY MINISTRY
In 2009, I developed a definition of “family ministry.” A few years later, I recognized that my definition for family ministry was incomplete. This paper serves as my retractatio of that original definition—not in the sense of a “retraction” or “rejection” but in the sense that Augustine of Hippo once used the term, a “re-treatment” in light of later reflection.
Childhood identity theft.
It’s a real thing.
Thieves steal children’s Social Security numbers and then appropriate their financial identities for personal profit. “Children represent an emerging market for identity thieves who steal their Social Security numbers because they offer clean slates that can be used to commit fraud for years without detection,” one CPA has observed. “Many victims don’t learn about the crime until they are young adults and find their credit in tatters as they are rejected for student loans, jobs, and places to live.”
(If you happen to have run across this post because you need information about that type of identity theft, here’s a helpful and free tool: Child Identity Theft Education Kit.)
Childhood identity theft is also, however, a real phenomenon in a far longer-lasting aspect of a child’s life.Continue reading.
On November 17, 2017, the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible will be opening in Washington, D.C. with more than 40,000 objects on display in a 430,000-square-foot structure, three blocks from the Capitol Building. The collection includes artifacts from the time of Abraham, fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as biblical papyri and manuscripts, Torah scrolls, and rare printed Bibles.
Around twenty-seven thousand people racked up nearly one hundred thousand views of this blog in 2016. If you were one of them, thank you! Since there are no advertisements on my site, I don’t profit from any of the content. And so, if you’ve profited from what I’ve written, please consider purchasing a book (or two or three!) that I’ve written.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what happened on my blog this year:Continue reading.
Thirteen years ago this week, we finalized the adoption of our first child.
In the spring of 2003, a seven-year-old girl had struggled up the front steps of our home in Oklahoma, tattered vinyl suitcase clutched to her chest. In the room where we had wept so often for the baby that never came, I worked with this child to arrange her meager possessions in dresser drawers and toy chests.
I remember vividly this child’s first morning in our home.
“We are fast becoming a pornographic society. Over the course of the last decade, explicitly sexual images have crept into…virtually every niche of American life,” R. Albert Mohler writes. “By some estimations, the production and sale of explicit pornography now represents the seventh-largest industry in America.” Pornography has become—as William Struthers has pointed out in his book Wired for Intimacy—“a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.”
Pornography as “A Harem of Imaginary Brides”
A few months ago, I sat down with my colleagues Kevin Smith and Kevin Jones to discuss the dynamics of discipleship and family ministry in African-American communities. Rev. Smith is the executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware. Dr. Jones is a scholar of the history of education and coauthor of the forthcoming book Removing the Stain of Racism. The resulting conversation with these men was fascinating, instructive, and challenging. If multiethnic ministry and racial reconciliation matter to you, these videos will help you to understand the unique opportunities and challenges that have resulted from the broken and beautiful story of enslavement and oppression, tenacity and triumph, that is woven through African-American history.Continue reading.
Do you want to cultivate your older children’s curiosity and shape their souls at the same time? Here’s a new book that will help you to fulfill both of those goals. As I flipped through page after colorful page in The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith, one thought kept recurring in my mind: When I was around ten, this would have been one of my favorite books.
The Radical Book for Kids is not exactly a devotional or a discipleship guide. Many chapters focus on possibilities and curiosities in the created order while others look at events in Scripture or church history. And yet, the text clearly intended to shape a child’s soul by combining an appreciation for history, for creation, for the Word of God, and for the works of God.Continue reading.