Whether you are a parent or a ministry practitioner, I hope you will find on this page an idea to inspire you or a word to encourage you. These are the ideas and approaches that frame my ministry and inform this blog, whether we’re talking my ministry as mother or my ministry as pastor.
My approach to work & parenting:
Do the best that you can, with the time that you have, with the resources you have: then offer it all to God.
Parenting is one of the most joyful and challenging things I’ve ever taken on. And as much as I’ve always naturally taken to young people and always longed to be a mother, I spend much of my time feeling inadequate to the job. Do you want to know one of the reasons why I’ve become so well-read in this field? Because every time I hit a parenting roadblock, where I’m not sure how to respond to a situation with a particular child, I read a book.
I have read a ton of books, which represents a whole bookshelf of “I don’t know what I’m doing” parenting moments in my life. Much of my parenting involves me doing the best I can, even while I’m fumbling around in the dark.
I have also, as with every human being, been dealing with my own personal challenges (at work, with my health etc.) while doing this parenting gig. I don’t always bring my best self, every day, to the parenting game. My resources and time are limited.
I want to be the best Mum I can be, out of gratitude to God for our kids, and out of love for my family. But the experience of my weakness, in my parenting, reminds me that not only must it not all be up to me, thank God it is not all up to me. My children belong to God, and as much as God entrusts them to me and my husband, so I constantly entrust them back to God. In my parenting, I do the best that I can, with the resources and time that I have, and offer it all back to God.
Church ministry is also one of the most joyful and challenging things I’ve ever taken on. I love the variety of my work, and the mix of time with people and time alone. There is never a dull moment! I find ministry personally very fulfilling.
There is also a never-ending
load gift of work that must be done, that could be done…of ministry I would love to see happen…if only. I find ministry personally very taxing.
A wise friend of mine told me once to avoid racing ahead of the Holy Spirit. Whether you are a youth pastor or Family ministry coordinator or clergy, it is simply not possible to do everything. We have to work within the realities of our local context, which includes the realities of the people and financial resources available to us.
I want to be the best pastor I can be, out of gratitude to God for this calling and out of love for the Church. But the experience of my weakness, in my ministry, reminds me that not only must it not all be up to me, thank God it is not all up to me. The Church belongs to Christ, as as much as God has entrusted this role to me, so I constantly entrust the church and its ministries back to God. In my work, I do the best that I can, with the resources that we have, and offer it all back to God.
Recognizing the challenges of ministry, I created a category on this blog called “Busy Pastor,” which links to entries that offer simplified materials (and shortcuts, frankly) for youth pastors and clergy whose time and resources are slim.
My approach to ministry to children (0-11)
Goals of Christian Formation of Children
Broadly speaking, this is my hoped for outcome of our church’s ministry to children. It’s from Ivy Beckwith, who I think says it best in her book, Formational Children’s Ministry:
“[The goal of ministry to children is to] develop these children into Christians with intellectual knowledge of the Bible and theology, with an emotional attachment to God and the faith community, and a desire to act and make personal choices that reflect an ethic of the values of the Kingdom of God.” (17)
Nice, eh? It’s a good expression of Jesus’ command that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind.
Yup. I’m on this bandwagon.
I’ve first come at this approach to ministry through Mark DeVries seminal youth ministry manual, Family-Based Youth Ministry, through Mark Holmen’s popular writing on Church + Home, through Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio and Catholic bloggers on the Domestic Church, and through research in the social sciences on the importance of the family in the faith formation of children (so, books on research, like Sticky Faith, Soul Searching, Souls in Transitions, Almost Christian and Hemorrhaging Faith).
It’s all the rage right now, this family-based ministry, and I don’t think it is fad.
Instead, I believe this is a recovery of a right balance between the role of the Church institution in supporting the spiritual formation of children, and the role of parents of raising their children in the Christian faith. Family-Based Ministry aims to restore the dignity of the parent as spiritual leader in the home, and equipping parents for that role. So this is an institutional approach that continues to see the Church as providing good Church-based programming for children (think VBS, Sunday school etc), even while continually looking to for ways to equip parents for their role as spiritual nurturers in the home.
Family-Based Ministry honours the Church as the Kingdom family, and the importance of children belonging to and participating in its common life. It also honours the biblical reality that our biological families have a unique and God-given role in the transmission of faith to the next generation.
This is why this blog has as a category like Church at Home, and Small group resources and so on. I’m sharing resources I’ve discovered that help equip parents for their role as spiritual leaders in the home.
Faith Parenting: Loving Exemplars, Faithful Storytellers
That slogan – Loving Exemplars, Faithful Storytellers – is my summary of the research from the social sciences around the features of effective Christian parenting. Although I will be writing a series of articles on this in the fall in my denominational journal [and will link those articles here] for now I would explain the slogan this way:
Modelling of Christian character and practices (worship, reading of scripture, prayer etc.) and the cultivation of affectionate relationships with children are key components in effective faith parenting
Although this is my summary of the research, these findings only confirm what we already knew from biblical theology. Namely: of the importance of witness, of the value of the spiritual disciplines, and of the call to love our neighbour as ourselves, including our nearest neighbours, our family.
In this blog, I will make mention of this slogan from time to time when I am explaining why I am recommending to you a particular resource.
My approach to ministry to teens