Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Questions

"Enough already--I get the importance of Intergenerational Student Ministry!" Is a response I hear a lot of lately.  Honestly, I am thrilled to hear such statements because it indicates the message is out and people are listening. (NOTE:  If  "Intergenerational Student Ministry" is a new term for you, go to www.stickyfaith.org and/or www.fulleryouthinstitute.com, and dig around on the Youth Worker Articles and Intergenerational tabs).

And then comes the next, logical and expected request, "Give me a list of  ideas (tangible programs that fill a ministry calendar) that will be a hit (an event that produce positive response) with my students, parents, pastor, leadership team, board or anyone else who could make my job miserable and/or get me fired for changing up our usual programming (programming that is a "hit" and often involves keeping adults and students happy in their own church silos)."  I admit there is a bit of sarcasm in my response.  However, within all sarcasm is a degree of truth.  The truth is, student leaders, and many pastors (I know, I have talked with them), realize the need for crossing generational silos but are fearful of repercussions.

There are a number of great books, articles, seminars and blogs (hopefully this one) that can give you some great programming ideas and help you think critically.  Even so, this is going to release a lot of that repercussion pressure and fear, at it's core, intergenerational ministry is a mindset not another program for student ministry.   

"What?"  "I can't buy a book with a step by step, this is the Intergen Model of Student Ministry?"
"No!"  It is my opinion that you can take any model of student ministry (Purpose Driven--church  to Young Life--para church) and begin to make intergenerational moves by asking the following two questions:
  • How can we create opportunities for relationship building across generational lines?  (You may be surprised how this one question  will prompt creativity into ministry programming discussion)
  • What current programs in your ministry provide natural space for student and adult interaction? (You will discover existing programs that  need only a little tweaking to be intentionally intergenerational.  e.g. Worship assemblies, special prayer services, seasonal celebrations--check your church/school calendars with an eye towards relationship building opportunities) (BTW:  "Tweaked programs" provide the easiest opportunities for the wins we desire).
I realize I have given only two questions--it is good to keep it simple. These are intended to provide a beginning  point for your ministry.  These two questions will open up a whole new world for you and your ministry.  Good luck storming the castle that is today's silo-ed church community (yes, that was a Princess Bride reference--I am a student minister).

Question:    Do you agree with this statement, "At it's core, intergenerational ministry is a mindset not another program for student ministry" ?  Why or why not? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


One of my memories of middle school science, other than dissecting frogs (really cool), was the whole Pavlov's Dog, trained response stuff.  I often think of the "salivating dog" when I am in a crowd, a cell phone rings and people reach for their phones because the sound is similar to their current or last ringtone--we have to check because we can't risk missing a text, alert and/or call.  We have become--be honest--"salivating" consumers of connectivity.  Don't get me wrong, I love my phone and appreciate the instant connection it gives with family, friends, job, etc.  But if you ask my kids, even my middle school son, who loves being connected himself, they sometimes hate my phone because I struggle to put it down when in the car or sitting around the house.  Sound familiar to any of you "salivating" consumers?

This is going to be a crazy idea for some of us because we are battling C. C. N. Addiction (Constant Connection Noise (Yes, I admit I just made that up and it's cheesy).  This addiction is marked by an inability to turn off computers, phones, and other types of  i______ (fill in the blank) products for an extended period of time.  C. C.N. can keep relationships at a shallow level and create distance with the people you are sitting/standing next to while reading this blog--especially if the relationship is with your kid.  So here is the idea:  Have an unplugged Thanksgiving Day (and weekend if possible).

"But David, I will die.  I can't go cold turkey." 
Then...go unplugged when the kids are around (or parents teenagers) and give those you love your undivided attention.  You will be so glad you did!  

"But David, how do you know I will be glad?" you say with a snappy return. 

"Because I turned my phone off and it has been great!" I say with loving encouragement. 
You know what?
The world is still spinning.
The economy remains, well...um... it remains.
The plates I spin are still spinning.
And, God is still God and I am being reminded that I am not Him.

So, this will be my last Blog until Thanksgiving Weekend is complete so I can focus on those I am most thankful (one of them is trying to jump into my lap now). 

"Now, where is this that off switch?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We are not alone!

Excuse the "alien-space" reference again, but it was fitting for what I want to share.

Last week I had the honor of speaking at a 50+ conference.  A student ministry guy at a conference designed for 50+ year old participants?  Yep--it was awesome!  I was asked to present some material related to Intergenerational Student Ministry published with the Fuller Youth Institute, www.stickyfaith.org  (check it out).  I had such a great time with these wonderful and visionary church leaders who are part of the CASA Networkwww.gocasa.org (Christian Association Serving Adult Ministries Network). Did I say it was awesome? 

I knew only one person at the event (hey Bob) and had not even made connection with the director of the conference when I sat down to listen to the first session--this is where the "alien-space" reference comes into play.  I was drinking my coffee (as usual), getting comfortable with my surroundings and then it happened. The message being spoken was the same message being delivered at today's top student ministry conferences--students and young families need meaningful interaction with and mentoring from adult followers of Jesus--Intergenerational programming speak!  I was thrilled at the synergistic (fancy way to say synergy) message I was privileged to be a part. We (student ministers) are not alone!

Here are a few of the things I kept hearing, in no particular order, from various speakers, teachers and panel participants (again, you can hear any of these things at the student ministry conference of your choice):
  • The church "family," not just mom and dad, share a responsibility in the spiritual formation of children.
  • Mature followers of Jesus have a responsibility to proactively seek ways to build relationships with today's students and young families.
  • Intergenerational programming does not mean sacrificing age specific ministry but rather asking the question, "How can our existing programs be morphed to build relationships across generational boundaries?"
  • Intergenerational ministry is NOT another program.  It is a mindset.
I could continue to list the synergistic (I had to use the word again) messages but I mention these as a backdrop for the following comments.  Caution, these comments are going to be a bit preachy.  First, student ministry "experts" and "conferences" are not the only ones speaking prophetic words and predicting future programmatic trends for the Church.  To be clear, I am not one of these, but I run across a few student ministers that give little value or attention to the voice of older leaders and members of  our church communities--this is an arrogant and grave error in my opinion.  Second, I was thrilled to hear those who have me beat by more than a few decades of ministry say to their peers that they need to be "sages" for the Church and stop being "rigid" keepers of the statuesque--because statuesque is not working (all age groups and ministries grieve the fact that large numbers of our students walk away from Christianity after graduation from High School).  To the 50+ saints reading this blog, we "young-in's" need your help in casting an informed (historically, theologically, socially responsible, etc.) future for our church communities and not have dark shadows of "the way it use to be" cast over our attempts to effectively minister to our generation--we really want to listen and dialogue with you!  And third, this experience strengthened my belief that Intergenerational ministry programming talk is much more than a fad used to start up the next national conference option, book deal and/or speaking circuit on ramp opportunity.  I believe it is a movement of the Spirit that is working to correct a programming methodology that has divided the church into age segregated silos (No, I am not going to unpack this here, but feel free to weigh in with your opinions below--the conversation will be fun).

I have spent a large portion of the last four years researching, rethinking, regrouping and re envisioning student ministry so that the flow of students exiting the Faith after graduation could be slowed and/or stopped.  Some of the corresponding programmatic changes have been easy, others not so much.  Still, through it all, the Intergenerational piece remains a part of all my programmatic discussions.  Personally, I am so fortunate to work with a church family, leadership, peers, families and students that want to break down the generational silos.  Even so, it was good to know we are not alone!

Question:  Understanding that every age group needs "their time" together, what are some of the obstacles faced when attempting to program over generational lines?  How have you worked through these obstacles?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Call For Prayer

Last Friday afternoon a group of Abilene Christian University agriculture students were on their way to Medina Boys Ranch to participate in a weekend mission effort.  Sadly, the group never made it to their destination.  The bus was involved in a tragic accident injuring many and taking the life of Anabel Reid.  Anabel was a wonderful young lady who loved her Lord, family and friends.  She lived life with a contagious passion and purpose.  Please join me in prayer for Anabel's family, those injured, the driver and the entire ACU and Broadway Church of Christ families. 

Check out these two pics that were shared with me by one of Anabel's best friends, Emily Howard.

The girls in the Broadway youth group decided to create a fan club to support our summer softball team (Anabel is the Gattis Girl).  Just an example of the way Anabel lived life with a unique flare for fun.

There will be many memories shared over the next few days, weeks and months of life lived with Anabel by family and friends.  The days will also mark the beginning of a journey through grief.  Through it all this truth and expectation is certain:  Anabel is with the Lord and we will see her again.
                              See ya later Anabel!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A 35 Year Old Memory--My Dad was Cool!

"Dad, can we go fishing?"  I asked impatiently as my dad stepped out of his car door. 

"Sure, we have time to go wet a hook!"  My dad responded as patted my shoulder, walked past me through the front door, into the kitchen and kissed my mom. By the time supper was over, I already had our tackle packed and we were on our way to the lake to wet a hook!

My dad and I rarely caught anything on those wet a hook trips to the lake.  However, 35 years later, I realize we caught much more than fish.  We caught memories of talking, listening and doing nothing more than being together.  My dad (a wonderful fisherman by the way) knew exactly what he was doing on these evening outings and used the right bait for the catch--fishing, cokes at the gas station and no pressure time alone with his son.  Yes, my dad caught me and I am eternally blessed that he did! 

As an adult, I look back on those "Dad, can we go fishing?" ambushes I made on my dad and am even more impressed with his answer of "Yes!"  My dad woke up early, drove to Dallas (when I35 was two lanes), worked hard and got home (like clockwork) exhausted each day--still, he made time for me when I am sure he would have rather talked with mom or taken a nap. My dad gave me his time!  That is why he remains one of my heroes and a model of the type of dad I strive to be for my two wonderful children.

So today, as I went back to my home town for lunch with a friend, I stopped by the lake and took the above picture of one of the spots my Dad and I would often go to wet a hook. It has been 19 years since my dad went home to be with my Father in Heaven and, almost weekly, realize how blessed I am to have had a dad who knew how to fish...for a strong relationship with his son.  Yes, my dad was cool!

Thanks Dad!  I pray my "fishing" produces the same results in my own children! 

Question:  What are some of the simple (but great) things your parent(s) and/or significant adult(s) did with you that sowed the seeds of a strong, caring and loving relationship? (BTW:  I purposefully used the words "did with you.")