Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

31 Dec

Family Ministry

Posted in Uncategorized on 31.12.10 by Merlyn

I have been thinking a lot over the past several years about the concept of family ministry in the church. It has certainly been one of the hot topics in youth ministry discussion over the past decade and in recent years it has become a topic of discussion within children’s ministry. This next year I am moving into more of a family ministry role and while my primary work will still be youth ministry, I will continue to be a part of various aspects of the larger church as well as leading a ‘young adult’ ministry which is another ministry that has a variety of definitions. I will also oversee children’s ministry so that we can build a more comprehensive ministry to all families. I see this as programatic and organizational, but also primarily relational in nature. As I begin my doctorate in youth & family ministry I am sure I will have the opportunity to think, read, hear and discuss this topic a lot, but I am also struggling with what it really means to have and do family ministry. It could mean doing things to equip and strengthen families, it could mean to do actual family ministry programs, it could mean strengthening and connecting ministries to children, youth, and parents. There seems to be many, many ideas about this topic and no clear frontrunner and no specific church or ministry that is seen as a model for this kind of ministry. It could be that it is just an improvement and modification of our old and flawed youth and children’s ministry models, but for me I think and hope it is more than that because I have already really tried to move past this in my own career. I would be interested in others thoughts on this topic….

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21 Dec

Published Article-Christ’s Village

Posted in Uncategorized on 21.12.10 by Merlyn

Published in Connections Magazine (Jan/Feb 2011)

Learn about Connections here

Christ’s Village

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

I wish I were a better parent. I have found myself thinking and saying this far more often than I would like. As I spend time working with children, youth and parents while raising my own children, I continue to grow far too aware of how difficult parenting is. The challenges of raising a healthy child physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually in our complicated world today can be overwhelming at times.

The quote “it takes a village to raise a child” has been used in many settings and in many books to discuss the challenges of caring for our children. This quote rings true today in every arena of the lives of children and their families. While this quote is not found in the Bible, it is a Biblical principle. Christianity is a communal faith, and the church is to be an expression of our faith in community. We were never meant to follow Christ alone. Even though our highly individualistic culture might tell us otherwise, our faith is meant to be lived out individually, in community and in the world. Perhaps a modern Biblical proverb might read “it takes a community of faith to raise a child who will follow Christ.”

Parents are looking to the church to help them raise their children, and not just spiritually. Many parents feel overwhelmed by the task of caring for and raising their children to be healthy in a world that can be very unsafe. One of the greatest sources of new members in many churches are young families who have children. These families are coming back to church again—or coming for the first time— because they want their children to grow up in the church, to learn about the Christian faith or to be raised as Christians. A survey three years ago in our church indicated that 35% of those who came to our church for the first time came so their children would be “exposed to Christianity.” It is my own personal belief that two parents are not enough in today’s world to raise a physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually healthy child. Many families do not even have the luxury of having two parents in the picture, often to no fault of the parents or the child.

In the American Church today, we have many ministries, opportunities and programs for your children and youth. These ministries seek to care for children and youth, but often become like silos or compartments, easily disconnected from the larger church. This model is beginning to be challenged, and even changed, as our culture seeks a church that cares for the whole family and is truly intergenerational. In our world of abundant resources and many means of communication, we have become more disconnected. We crave relationships and community (which is how God created us to be), and many families feel more distant from each other than ever before.

So, what are we as the church to do with this reality? What can we as the church and as parents do for our children so they have the best possible chance in life? How can we work as a community so our children and youth might experience the abundant life Jesus promised us in the Gospel of John? The good news is that the answer is found at the core of our faith: relationships. The great news is that we have the perfect model for relationships in Jesus Christ.

The church—the community of faith or “Christ’s Village”— is called to work together in the formation of our children and youth. Our children and youth need multiple Christian adult relationships to have the best chance for a healthy, full, Christ-centered life. As a church, we need to find ways to create community, enhance relationships and build up families. We need to make sure our ministries, while serving the different needs of each age and stage of life, are connected and support the nurture of our children, youth and families.

We have tried to address this in our own church as we look at our youth and children’s ministries. We are moving more toward a family ministry model where these ministries still care for children and youth, but also seek to work together in a comprehensive way. We are seeking ways to help children, youth and families grow and achieve the full and abundant life Christ desires for us. Additionally, we are trying to be more intentional about providing our children— and especially our youth—with multiple, positive, Christian adult relationships. We are seeking to design our ministry so that by the time our youth graduate, they have had many different relationships: pastors, ministry leaders, Sunday school teachers, older youth, confirmation leaders, small group leaders, youth group leaders, confirmation mentors, parents and other adults. These adults gain as much out of their relationships with youth as they give, if not more.

As Christians, we believe in and follow a relational God. Christianity is a relational faith. We have a relationship with the God of the universe. Jesus Christ came to earth to be in relationship with us. We know this as the incarnation. God in the flesh, here on earth, moved into the neighborhood. Jesus was on location and in relationship with humanity, and continues to be through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is a relational document, telling the story of God’s relationship with the world and our relationship with God, each other and the world. Relationships are what children, youth and families will remember, more than any event or lesson we ever have to offer. It is relationships that last and have the longest and most consistent impact. In a world that continues to grow in complexity and danger, our children, youth and families continue to be and feel alone— even with all of the resources, technology and opportunities the world has to offer. Children and youth crave community and meaningful relationships with adults. To bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, we need each other.

Jesus provides the perfect model for relationships. I like to summarize the relational ministry of Jesus this way:

oJesus was in relationship with everyone and anyone. Relationships matter most.

oJesus was on location. He was with people. Presence is powerful.

oJesus was intentional. He did things on purpose and with a purpose. Process and purpose matter more than results and performance.

If we come together as the church, we will not only raise healthy Christ followers, but we will also change our families, our community. We will bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth. It takes “Christ’s Village” to raise a child. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came into our world to be in

relationship with us and to show us we can be in relationship with God, each other and the world.

May we seek to be the community of faith God has called us to be and experience the full and abundant life promised to us in every area—in our churches, families and lives.


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