Part 4: “The Pragmatic” The Great Emergence & Youth Ministry

Posted: June 11, 2009 in Thesis
Tags: , , , , , ,

Life Teams are one example of practicing the narrative of Samuel’s life in our world today. Whenever the greek word for life zoe is used in the New Testament it’s always referring to life in Christ. Given what we’ve seen in this hermeneutic of our world today its easy to see we need a praxis that involves the longevity of living together, the partnership with our first circle partner the family, and the fidelity of the only way to life itself in Christ. in our context in Plano, TX instead of confirming youth into the cultural concept of ‘now you go do it’ we say those who confirm their faith also commit to an intentional LIFE together. Through that partnership youth hear their calling and engage them into the missio dei as full participants in the great commission. Life Teams create open systems that “bridge” the secular world and the kingdom of God. Though these systems include programs, the bridge will not be a program but will be a part of the way we equip our youth for the sake of the Gospel with tools like Peer Ministry for youth in relationship not for themselves but for the ‘other.’

The first goal will be to create a mentoring ministry. We’ll call life teams which will be adults like Eli with the blessing of Hannah to guide youth into their vocation (which includes mission) and recognize the Word of God still speaking into their lives today. To measure our goals we will use the research from the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study as a guide for that evaluation. It could look like this:

1. Youth participants will Exhibit 1 characteristic from each category of the Exemplary Youth Ministry “Characteristic of Mature Christian Youth” by the end of their Life Team lifecycle. The categories are: Seeking Spiritual Growth, Both Alone and With Others; Believe God is Present in the World;, Act Out of a Commitment of Faith;, Are Active With God’s People; Possess a Positive; Hopeful Spirit; Live Out of a Life of Service; Live a Christian Moral Life.

2. These characteristics begin to be reflected (as reported by youth & parents) in the home relationship between parent & child.

3. PMLC understands this as the primary source of faith formation in our youth ministry with 100 adults engaged in the lives of youth after 3 years.

These Life teams for each youth will include their parents, their confirmation mentor, another caring adult in the congregation, and one youth. The vision is for intentional relationship that is built around a long term commitment (from confirmation through college), includes conversation around the EYM marks of a mature Christian, and is evaluated together through conversations with their parents. It’s not a group that will meet with youth, it is members of the body of Christ who have committed to invest in that youth. Youth ministry fellowship activities shift to become venues for nurturing those relationships. Outreach activities & Mission trips become opportunities for youth to practice their vocation and participate in creating that bridge to the world.

Mission then gets lived out not just in a program but in the lives of youth where they live. And when it happens formally as church it’s about the body of Christ living out it’s vocation together whether on a mission trip or on an event aimed at welcoming youth in our community. Outreach that once attempted to be flashy enough events to get busy AP students to carve out a few hours from their busy AP schedule now are more dependent on Peer Ministry trained youth who have naturally fostered a relationship.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Eli equipped Samuel to listen. The greatest gift the congregation can teach its partners today is to know how to truly listen to God’s word. Mentors and parents alike must be taught the gift of discernment. Mark Yaconelli author of Contemplative Youth Ministry suggests that this foundational skill is taught when the church practices spirituals disciplines of contemplative prayer and Holy listening and offered the church a “Liturgy of Discernment” to be done in community to accomplish this task in our crowded and noisy world today. Listening together, living together, praying together, forgiving together as the zoe life in Christ. These are the gifts Eli (representative of the church today) provided Samuel and these are gifts youth workers can gift parents, teens, families, and long term mentors with to help youth like Samuel respond to God’s Word and transform the world.
May all of us emerge as cruciform people in this Great Emergence in Youth Ministry. Clinging closely to God’s Word venturing out of that dwelling place only to pray for wisdom in a 500-year shift that has ramifications for generations to come. Reformed then by God’s Word may we rediscover what it means to be the community of faith in the ecclesia. Having heard God’s voice there, feeling the presence of Spirit, knowing the grace of an incarnate Emmanuel who suffered, may we recognize the call to participate in the vocation of God’s redemptive work and unleash scores of Samuels out into the world.

  1. jim says:

    It is difficult these days to find parents who are faithful in growing their children in the Lord. And here you are trying to get parents to sit down with their children and discuss spiritual issues. Challenging concept.
    I find sometimes that the adult mentors can become the spiritual parent to a youth who’s parents are not interested in following through in their Baptismal covenant. Are these things right or wrong or just reality of a fallen world?

  2. Jerry Watts says:

    Good point Jim. The reality of what is, is rarely how it should be. Trying to implement Life Teams in my own congregation has been a challenge. But not just because of parents being unwilling to change but because we’ve reduced relationships to roles. Learning how to put relationships first is hard for us, when we just want a check list. You are also right about adult mentors being spiritual parents. My hope is that they can be spiritual parents and partners with the teen’s parents. I think we go for both realizing that it won’t be perfect. Great thoughts Jim and good reality check. Thanks!

  3. Adam Lehman says:

    @jim and Jerry:

    i agree. In my first year, I spend the first half hour of our weekly program by doing nothing. Students show up, leaders talk to them. We hang out. I might throw a ball around with dudes or hang with girls, but we don’t do a lot of games/programatic things.

    my sr. pastor doesn’t really like this, but students are hungry as heck for this relationship time. they don’t want games. they don’t crave activities. they crave people. they’re human. they’re just like me in that sense.

    (sadly, my sr. pastor got over it when i show him how our ministry numbers have grown….)

    • Jerry Watts says:

      Thanks Adam. I’d love to hear more about how you have worked to sustain those meaningful relationships youth crave. I think your point about the Senior pastor acknowledging the importance when numbers bore it out is Sad, but folks who are passionate about counting heads have a point too. Those heads are people. It’s just are they there to be counted or to be in a relationship in. I struggle with balancing the need to remember both. Your story gives a vision that says when we focus on the right things first the numbers will follow. Though we need to be weary of the if… then… thinking I think the blessing you sharing is huge. thanks for sharing!

  4. Adam Lehman says:

    @jerry. Yeah. numbers are people. But i get so so so tired of people rationalizing ministry strategies and structures based on numbers.

    If your ministry looks nothing like the Jesus you’re trying to lead people to, who are you kidding? If your ministry doesn’t live out Acts 2 in such a way that no sermon ever needs to be taught on the passage, then what are you doing? You’re putting the cart before the horse…..

    • Jerry Watts says:

      Amen. In so many ways your comment gets at the heart of my thesis. It seems like so many of the major shifts in society and church dealt with what is the cart and what is the horse. And those are fighting words for people. I think we feel that push back as you did in ministry today. On the grander scale its why Phyliss Tickle talks about the issue of authority being huge…and in history led to bloodshed. Numbers have had a huge history of authority in YM…no blood shed but definitely job losses have ensued. Thanks Adam.

  5. emergingyouth says:

    Again, really great stuff. keep the thoughts coming and the discussion active and alive.

  6. […] ministries? What does it mean in light of the Great Emergence? (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 where I’ve written about the Great […]

  7. […] about our development of Life Teams in our congregation. It’s the pragmatic part 4 of my thesis, but more than that it’s a critical way we are striving to pass on faith to our […]

  8. […] March 20, 2010 · Leave a Comment NOTE: I first wrote this in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 […]

  9. […] January 6, 2010 · 3 Comments Here is a video introduction to my thesis posted in four parts in earlier blogs. If the video catches your attention please check out my earlier blog posts. Part One is called the Descriptive, Part Two is Empirical, Part Three is the Normative, and Part Four is the Pragmatic. part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 […]

  10. […] NOTE: I first wrote this (along with part 1) in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 […]

  11. […] NOTE: I first wrote this (along with part 1, part 2) in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 […]

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