Theological Proposition for #youthministry PART 3

Posted: March 31, 2010 in Uncategorized
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“The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us….Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Acts 16

It should come as no surprise that the type of relational didache or teaching that the Great Commission demands of us happens in our most fundamental relationships – our families. The apostle Paul recognizes the intimacy of family so much that he often uses marriage as the closest human imagery of what our relationship with God is like. I think Kenda Creasy Dean in Practicing Passion puts it best when she says, “Belonging precedes Believing.” Her example is poignant, “For teenagers, true love is bound to the promise that they are “to die for,” whether that promise enacted by the Crips or the Bloods or their parents.” (Dean, pg. 178) Therefore any practical theology of Youth & Family ministry but be live and breath in the heart of the relationships where teenagers find their most significant belonging.

Acts 16 give us two examples (representative of many in the New Testament) of evangelism, the power of family ministry, and what I think is a theological foundation for the dynamic of nurture vs. evangelism in faith formation. These texts and others like it outline how we are called to share the Gospel with those who have yet to hear the story and how that message quickly infects the whole household. They eliminate the dichotomy between nurture and evangelism and remind us that both are needed. They affirm the household as faith formative, or as Luther points out in the Large Catechism, “Surely Parents are the apostles, priests, bishops and teachers for their children.” These texts prioritize the role of the household in the Pastoral Epistles in places like Titus 1:6 we are told that the criteria for an elder include passing on the faith to their own children. Deuteronomy gives us the clearest command to pass on our faith through our families and it provides a long history to remind us to remember this essential discipline of faith.

Andrew Root noted that “Education often happens in community of faith and not in class rooms” and at its best family is our first and most frequent experience of community.. So if ministry precedes theology like Root suggests and belonging precedes belief then the family sits at the center of the theological formation of the Church as affirmed by both the Scriptures and our Confessions.

HOWEVER, as I re-read what I wrote 3 years ago in a coffee shop on the last day of March…maybe you are asking what I’m think…yeah that’s all true…but…so what?!! Remember when Josiah rediscovered the book of Deuteronomy and realized how off the mark Israel was from God’s vision? After generations of asking families to drop them off with us instead being the central location for faith formation we are asking them to make the same kind of radical shift that Josiah led. God’s Word just like Josiah certainly provides the blueprints but it seems to me we also need to equip folks how to understand. Holy Spirit help us answer the so what questions for our ministries, for our families, our churches, and for your glory!

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

  1. Allen says:

    We have been in a 16-18 month journey of what it means to be intentional in equipping families as the primary spiritual source, and in trying to shut the door to students who are leaving our church after high school graduation.
    If there is one criticism of what I (and you, although I am sure that you listened better than I did because I was always distracted by Neil) was taught is the lack of the practice, or how to teach the practice. Also, (my evangelical bent showing here) we must prepare for evangelism to be outside of the home when necessary, and intentional as well.
    What do you think?

  2. Jerry Watts says:

    Great thoughts Allen. The “so what” of my post was about wrestling with that. I still think the home is designed by God to be fertile grounds for discipleship. But the dangers of family ministry is that we forget the Great Commission and think all of our work is to just tend to our families. Or forget that we need to provide community for youth and others whose homes aren’t Christians. I think your evangelical bent as you put is critical and needed for us to teach discipleship in the home without being insider focused.

    Another area of my own proposition that I struggle with is realizing how wide spread it is throughout the church at large parents are ill equipped to led discipleship when they themselves are not engaged in being discipled.

    Lots of challenges to be sure, but somehow we have to encourage home discipleship link that to the call for evangelism all while still providing community for folks whose homes are not Christian. Time to go to work and pray…

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