Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar explores ten specific practices that will serve both youth ministry and the intergenerational church in strengthening their faith formation work. 

January 20, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Check out this article to find updates on the Canadian Youth Ministry Project that was launched by Faith Formation Ministries. Exciting things are happening!

January 11, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Sometimes in youth ministry we may miss a greater point. There are students who bail on youth group for sports, yes, but the great thing is: There are kids who still come! And that's exciting!

January 10, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

When those kids come to Youth Group we need to know them on a "first name" basis only. They need a chance to be themselves and create their own persona rooted in Christ.

December 21, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

I tried to go about my business but phrases from their conversation made me think, “Ah, these are ministry people.” I wondered, are these guys listening to the students they hope to impact?

December 21, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Meaningful contact between older adults and young people in North America has become increasingly uncommon. Church seems to be the final frontier that cultivates such natural interaction. 

December 14, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Intergenerational ministry may stretch the boundaries of what is efficient to become something that is more lastingly effective. How can we get past the 4 perceived obstacles?

December 7, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

As a church member or leader, you have the privilege to step into the role of "Pastor of Congregational Culture." Your job description is short and simple: turn this ship with your tongue.

November 30, 2015 2 1 comments
Blog

Landmark events are moments in our faith so significant that we remember them forever. Many of these landmark moments happen at youth conferences, such as the All Ontario Youth Convention.

November 30, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

As leaders or parents, we have an incredible opportunity when it comes to discipleship in the times when pop culture mends (or blends) its way into our lives and the lives of our children and teens.

November 25, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Youth ministry programs and intergenerational faith formation together build sturdy discipleship. This webinar examines the many ways that a congregation blesses its teens.

November 17, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Don't misunderstand—the programs and events are good and important. But a perfect lesson simply does not have the same impact as a 10 minute faith conversation between parent and child. 

November 16, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

If you're a youth leader, I encourage you to prioritze partnerships with parents. Parents play a huge role in a child's development which directly correlates to FAITH development. 

November 9, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Looking for a conference or convention for your youth ministry team to attend? Here's a list of what's coming up this fall and spring 2016.  

October 30, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

The Sticky Faith curriculum contains tangible examples of ways to engage parents in ministry and help them understand their roles as the primary spiritual influence in their children's lives. 

October 26, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Recent findings agree that parents continue to be one of the strongest influences on a young person’s faith formation. This webinar explores how to both support and mine this most important youth ministry resource.

October 20, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Article

My experience in the past 30 years with youth-curriculum has been extremely disappointing. Many materials do not engage the students. But, good news, the “So What” Bible Study is different. 

October 13, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

The goal seems to be bigger events, louder music, farther mission trips, deeper lesson content, messier games, and more. But what if we got quieter with our kids instead of louder?

September 25, 2015 0 5 comments
Blog

With so many moving parts in the structure and culture at the CRC, everything feels a little, oh I don’t know, messy. The Youth Ministry section will be experimenting with this messiness. Join us!

September 18, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines a number of teaching resources and curriculum that many of the Canadian Youth Ministry Champions have used or are using for their youth groups. 

September 15, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

In this webinar, presenters share the top 14 ways Youth ministry people from across Canada have used to start their youth ministry seasons well.

August 18, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In hopes to narrow searches for indecisive youth workers everywhere, we decided to look through many of them to find the best of the best. Here are some of the ones we found...

August 17, 2015 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

How do we develop ministry foundations to disciple well?

August 5, 2015 0 0 comments
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He said it with such conviction: “High schoolers don’t need another reason to feel like they’re the best thing this world has to offer.” I’ll never forget the way my jaw hit the floor. Where was this coming from?

July 2, 2015 0 0 comments
Q&A

If the Faith Alive "HC and Me" material is not a good fit what are some alternative options?

June 19, 2015 0 2 comments

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Great post, Marc! I hope that the questions you're asking stir up some prayerful reflection in those who have an opportunity to shift their church culture in the right direction.

Greetings Tim:

  "In the 1969 book Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West, Benedictine monk Br. David Steindl-Rast wrote that Thomas said that he wanted "to become as good a Buddhist as I can."  [from Clark below] To me that is as close to practising as it gets.

But just for accuracy, a well balanced piece by Anthony Clark entitled "Can You Trust Thomas Merton" clearly demonstrates his move towards Eastern mysticism and Zen especially. It is here:

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/can-you-trust-thomas-merton

 

Another recent post by Justin Taylor, who does not seem to engage with former Eastern mystics, but mostly scholars is a well-balanced treatment that even looks at some of postive givens of Roman Catholic mysticism. However he waves a huge caution flag and states the following dangers about such. Sadly the above article fails to address any of them. Taylor in his "An FAQ on Mysticism and the Christian Life" states:

What are some differences between Christian mysticism and biblical spirituality?

First, Christian Mystics tend to have an optimistic understanding of human nature. As noted above, they do not believe that mystical experiences can be self-generated, and hence it would be incorrect to label them Pelagian. But it would not be inappropriate to suggest that many of them were semi-Pelagian, or at least practiced spirituality in such a way that would lead one to this conclusion. For some, this is more explicit than for others (note George Fox’s notion that all of us are born with a divine “spark”). If all of us have a principle of grace or a ray of divine light residing within us, no matter our eternal spiritual condition, it follows that the ultimate difference between those who progress toward illumination and on to union are those with whom the human will has made a self-determination. The biblical view, to the contrary, is that all of us were “dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked . . . we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Paul proceeds immediately to reveal the difference between those who remain in this state and those who change: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:1-7).

Second, there is another deficient element to the Christian Mystic’s anthropology: he does not fully recognize the healthy and holistic way in which God has created us. The Christian mystic tends to rend asunder what God has joined: doctrine and devotion, head and heart. Because the mystical experience is not open to falsification, external examination, or even rational analysis, the role of the “heart” must be elevated above the “mind.” In fact, part of the purgation process is to rid oneself of one’s thoughts that could supplying distracting data that would prevent a divine encounter. Whereas the biblical model is to fill our hearts and mind with the great and precious promises of God (2 Pet. 1:4)—meditating on his Word day and night (Josh. 1:8), such that it is compared to our daily, sustaining bread (Matt. 4:4)—the Christian Mystic seeks to not only purge himself of all that is sinful and encumbering (stage 2) but ultimately wants to purge himself of even his delights in the character and presence of God (stage 4). This is deeply and manifestly unbiblical.

Third, despite what they might profess, the Christian Mystic’s actions tend to undermine the necessity of grace. Biblically, there is grace to forgive and there is grace to empower. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), and yet Paul also regularly imparts a benediction of “grace and peace” to his readers. Paul is livid with the false teaching in Galatia that suggests that we start with grace and then move on to works as the means of spiritual sustenance, incredulously asking, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). The Christian Mystic often gives the impression that God might begin the process but it is up to us to find the right formula or set of rules to experience a deep and mystical encounter with him. Whereas the Christian Mystic is content to speak about the ascent and descent of the human soul in its question for a divine encounter, God tells us in his word that we are not to say in our hearts, “‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). Rather, it says: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:6-10).

Fourth, the previous point flow is bound up with  the Christian Mystics’ downplaying of the legal and forensic aspects of divine salvation. The work of Christ on the cross not only wipes our slates clean, but it also provides us with full, legal righteousness in the sight of God. We are not merely put back into the pre-probationary garden, where Adam was sinless but with the potential to fall; rather, we are united to Christ and adopted as his young brothers and as sons of the Most High. Everything he has, we have. Our salvation is secure not because of our works but because of his work. The Christian Mystic seems to view Christ mainly as our example, with the danger of Christ as our savior at times downplayed—and usually with Christ as substitute almost completely obscured. Only in so far as we realize that we are possessed by Christ and fully accepted by our Father can we be freed to walk with him in love, without servile fear. In so doing, our relationship to God is more like living with a loving Father whom we aim to please than it is like working for a boss whom it is difficult to visit with and where one’s job is always on the line.

Fifth, the Christian Mystic confuses the biblical order of union with Christ and communion with God. All who are spiritual—that is, all who are born again and made alive with God—are united with him. There are not some Christians who are united and some who are not. It is part of a package deal. With the legal and relational reality of union with Christ, we have communion—fellowship, participation—with the triune God. Whereas our union with Christ is immovable and secure, our communion with God can have ups and downs. There can be moments of greater and lesser closeness and relationship as we repent and return to the Lord again and again. The Christian Mystic conflates these two aspects of the divine-human relationship because he has such a small category for the forensic reality, and thus he is—in a sense—seeking that which he could already obtain from a childlike trust in his substitute and savior, and runs the serious risk of perpetuating self-righteousness in seeking to work for that which could be his as a gift. Another way of describing this is that the Christian Mystic has an under-realized soteriology.

Sixth, combined with the Christian Mystic’s under-realized soteriology, there is an over-realized eschatology. As mentioned above, we are united to Christ and seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:7). Those in Christ have already died and our life is “hidden with Christ in God.” What the Christian Mystic seems to fail to recognize is that when Christ returns, the—and only then—will we “appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4). The Christian Mystic is seeking for something good—to be in the full and final presence of God without sin or stain and to be ultimately absorbed into the life of the Trinity—but he is seeking it at the wrong time. Our focus should be on communing with God through the means of grace, through individual discipline and corporate worship, seeking to know him more and more as we love God with all that we are and seek to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Seventh, the Christian Mystic makes a fundamental misstep in seeking to have a direct and immediate experience of God that is unmediated. At first glance, this desire can be seen as commendable. Should we not want to experience the presence of the Lord apart from any barriers or intermediaries or encumbrances? The biblical answer is that we should want to experience God in the way that he has ordained. First, we return once again to the issue of the work of Christ, who was sent by the Father to have a mediatorial role. He did not come as only a teacher or as a great example, but as our substitute savior, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). The only way to the Father is through him (John 14:6), and the Spirit and the Son combine to intercede for us before the Father and interpret our inarticulate prayers (cf. Rom. 8:27). Secondly, returning to the idea of an over-realized eschatology, we must recognized that on this side of the new heavens and the new earth, God “has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2), and we have access to his Son through his written Word. So the Word of God must be an irreducibly central role in both our communication to, and our communication from, the living God. To seek to separate God from his word, and Christ from his work, are unthinkable unrealities. And to bypass both of these mediatorial aspects of divine communication is a grave mistake that opens the door to that which contradicts the word of God.

Eighth, though not all Christian Mystics have the exact same presuppositions regarding the corporate nature of fellowship, there is a troubling tendency in the tradition to practice spiritual isolationism. We noted earlier in this essay that the Christian Mystic rightly obeys Jesus’s command that there are times when we must get alone in our prayer closets to pray in secret to our Father who is in secret. But the Christian Mystic sees the height of spiritual achievement as involved the mystical process of purging all distractions and individually seeking a communion with God. Even many Mystics who have sought to live in community have done so in a way that is isolated from society at large. What seems to be a noble quest for God, involving a renunciation of earthly pleasures (from marital love to clothing that does not scratch) is not held forth in the Bible as the ideal of godliness. We are to be eager to gather with the saints in order to stir one another up to love and good works, to encourage and meet with one another instead of neglecting each other. The idea of full-time Christians withdrawing from society and banding together may seem more spiritual, but it is not biblical. Spiritual growth takes place not only in the prayer closet, but in corporate worship as the people of God gather together to hear the Word of God read, and the Word of God proclaimed, and the Word of God sung.

Ninth, the Christian Mystic may be critiqued for having an incipient Gnosticism in his theology and practice. While biblical spirituality would certainly encourage every professing believer to purge himself of sinful thoughts and behavior, the Christian Mystic tends to go beyond this. The body, and the things of this world, are frequently regarded as competitors with God rather than gifts from God to be utilized and enjoyed. When Paul tells us to “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2), he does not have in mind a fundamental spiritual-material duality. This is seen by his explanation of those earthly things we must shun just a few verses later: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . .anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (vv. 5, 8). These are contrasted with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (v. 12). The Christian Mystic must seriously reckon with Paul’s association of deceitful spirits and demonic teaching with the forbidding of things like marriage and foods under the guise of godliness (1 Tim. 4:1). Instead, Paul says, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4). If the Christian Mystic insists that some of God’s created goods must be purged, and that even his enjoyment of God’s very presence must be put away in the dark night of the soul in order to achieve union with God, then he is walking in contradiction to the very way and will of God.

Finally, although this has been touched on before in various ways, we may note again the crucial place that Scripture should play in our understanding of and practice of biblical spirituality. A bedrock principle of spirituality that is biblical is that Scripture itself plays an essential, norming role. God has spoken, and he is not silent (to use Francis Schaeffer’s memorable terminology). His word is clear, not obscure. His word is authoritative, not just advisory. His word is necessary, not optional. And his word is sufficient, not just helpful. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). At the end of the day, this is one of the clearest contrasts between Christian Mysticism and biblical spirituality. In the former, spiritual quests are made that are not informed and constrained by God’s self-revelation in holy Scripture. If we want our spirituality to be biblical, Scripture must be our norming norm.

Source:  http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2015/10/30/an-faq-on-my...

Great Treasure chest full of valuable information......Thanks Again, Leslie!!!!

I have had good experiences leading lectio with grade 9 students. I have led sessions with students as young as 12. 

I'm curious about peoples' experience with a younger group, such as grade 9.  

Merton was a practicing Buddhist? I'm no Merton scholar, but a quick glance on Wikipedia shows that isn't the case. And even if Buddhists or Hindus practiced something similar to Lectio Divina, I don't think they'd be doing it using scripture from the Bible.

I glanced at the Challies article and it seems to address pastors who might use Lectio Divina as the sole basis for their sermon-writing (rather than other hermeneutical tools, commentaries, etc). I can't imagine a pastor doing that and, even if some would, it's a very different scenario than what is described here.

 

Greetings:

      As much as I agree that more quiet is excellent, and that less rah-rah is helpful, I wonder if you have allowed the pendulum to swing too far. It is a known fact that Lectio Divina has its roots in Roman Catholic mysticism and by definition mysticism is the attempt of a person or a group of persons to have unmediated access to the divine, or simply put "union with God.". It is no secret that Thomas Merton one Roman Catholic who advanced this mystical strand and was very much popularized by Richard Foster's book, "Celebration of Discipline" was a practicing Buddhist. In Buddhist and also Hindu thought, the idea of self-emptying to be in touch with the spiritual is well known. The very description above, of quieting and centering could be just as Buddhist or Hindu as it is supposedly Christian.

I think a big buyer beware sign is needed.

Shalom

PS. Tom Challies who is a very consistent and well-balanced blogger has written a piece called "The Dangers of Lectio Divina" in which he worries about its highly subjective approach.

http://www.challies.com/articles/the-danger-of-lectio-divina

PSS. The website Lighthouse Trails features a former new-age guru who became a Christian. He often comments on mystical strains in Christianity. Here is a link to a "Lectio Divina: What it is, What it is Not, and Why It is a Dangerous Practice" on that website that documents the influence of another Catholic mystic, Thomas Keating who advocated "naked intent directed to God" through centering prayer.

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/lectiodivina.htm

 

 

   

 

Steve,

This is not a CRC resource, but it seems to be decent. It is called Re:form by Sparkhouse. It has three different studies foundational theology, youth bible study, and traditions. The traditions does have one that is geared towards the Reformed faith. It is a little bit corny at times, but kids seem to enjoy it. Here is the link http://wearesparkhouse.org/teens/reform/

HI Steve, 

Yeah, unfortunately most of what Faith Alive has available is a little dated at this point. I used the HC and Me materials earlier this year with 9th graders and if you can get over some of the dated references, it's still a great tool for discussion... but I can see the need to check out other things. There's always another Faith Alive publication, Questions Worth Asking that might fit, but again that's also going to be in need of an update and aimed more at 9th/10th graders. 

There's a few CRC youth ministry groups on Facebook that are good places for these questions too... if you email me at datkins@crcna.org I can try to get you hooked into those conversations as well. 

 

 

My kids LOVE and look forward to VBS every summer.  And, let's be honest mom's, who doesn't want a "healthy" break from their kids during the summer so we don't hear those dreaded words "I'm BORED!"  I look for a VBS that will suit all 4 of my kids who's ages range from 5-12.  I look for a VBS at a church close to home, but one that also aligns with our family's Christian foundation.  Since I work from home, I look for a VBS that meets during the day time hours (preferably mornings).  Although for working parents that can be a challenge and I have seen several churches offering VBS in the evenings.  You will notice that several churches use the same VBS curriculum too.   I noticed the VBS near my home (which is a CRC church), has a program called Weird Animals Vacation Bible School.  I also noticed that during this week the kids will also participate in a hands-on mission project, through World Renew, that will let the kids in our community show God’s love by providing farm animals for children of families struggling economically.   HOW AWESOME!!

Every year my kids walk away from their VBS week long experience fulfilled.  And as a parent I love seeing God work through them during their week long journey.  So I encourage parents to get your kids involved in a VBS this summer - most churches have all the info right on-line now have registrations available on-line too!!

Excellent. Thanks for this, Ron!

Thanks for this additional suggestion Cindy of continuing the relationship with the missionary. I especially like the idea of exchanging video greetings. We've done that in my own church where it was well received by the missionary as well as members of our congregation. This allowed relationships to be developed with a broader group of people beyond the mission team that had gone out to serve.

These are great suggestions for following up on a trip.  I would like to add one: Help the youth cultivate an ongoing relationship with the missionary or ministry they visited.  It can be discouraging to have a group come in with exciting music, colorful materials, and other things and then disappear, leaving the missionary to continue his or her work on a limited budget unable to provide the excitement the short-term group generated.  If the group keeps in touch, relationships can be cultivated.  Perhaps the group can send Christmas gifts or holiday supplies, do a fundraiser for an outreach program, exchange video greetings regularly, or adopt a project financially.  These continued contacts will show both the missionary/ministry leader and the people he/she serves that the visiting group wasn't just there to add another notch on their experience log, but to build friendships in Christ.

 

Great article, thanks!

Yes! We would love for you to share the videos. Let me know if you'd like any help or have questions! 

posted in: #Social Media

No problem, Aaron. Feel free to share a link or two. Either here in the comments or as a separate post (just click 'start a new post' button in the upper right corner). Welcome to The Network!

posted in: #Social Media

I see these as all tools. I feel like if the apostle paul were alive now he would have an account on all of those lol. more seriously is not the railing against technology but the use of it. good points! awesome information

i use social media as a way to bring the gospel to my youth kids. is it ok for me to share one of those videos here with you guys? or not allowed?

posted in: #Social Media

yeah i think its just a matter of structure and direction. everything used in the right capacity for the right reasons is good. social media was never meant to sustain friendships and never meant to maintain value. when used as a temple to yourself yeah its bad, of course. i made a short youtube video on this. is ok for me to share that here?

awesome!

i think for those of use as youth workers a summer trip is almost expected. great thoughts!

Thanks Jerry for that information. Very helpful.

www.soe.org   That's the website for the Standards of Excellence in Short Term Missions. These originated in the UK and were adapted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and now are being widely used in this SOE format.

The answer to the question at the end is both; "and" not "or". However, that doesn't take away the need for Sabbath rest and ruthlessly keeping time to be disconnected. It's so very important! Those who follow the Lord need to allow for time to hear his still small voice in the midst of the noise we live in.

Safe Church has bullying resources on our website here.

(or http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/resources-abuse-awareness/bullying)

I spoke with a veteran youth pastor in a large church in West Michigan. Currently he is full-time and salaried in his position and therefore receives no extra compensation for the annual week-long serve project or week-end youth events.  He does though get a few days off, out of the office, when he returns.

When he was employed as a part-time, hourly compensated youth coordinator this was a topic of discussion.  The negotiated decision was that he was paid for 12 hours each day for the time he was at a youth event or serve project with the youth. 

He and I agree that the key is to have these conversations upfront, even at the time of hiring, to avoid a possible issue or misunderstanding at the time of the event.  To have a policy in place, in writing, is for the benefit of both the church and the staff person.

Leslie: All of us immigrants have had similar moments, but no digital immigrant no longer has any excuse, because even the best excuses no longer connect us with the digital citizens....it only sets us further behind....which I realize is happening just in the feew minutes it takes me to respond positively to this blog : >)  have a great day!

Wow. There are a lot of social media sites out there that I had no idea about. I am one of those parents on Facebook. We all need to be so careful what we say. It is sad that there is so much negativity on Facebook. I try to use it for good. It is so easy to share your faith on there and people need encouragement.

posted in: #Social Media

A few thoughts:

In many ways social media has removed communication and geographical barriers to spreading the gospel.

I think one of the biggest dangers of 'Twitterverse' we (all social media users) is the ability to speak one's mind without the benefit of filters. It's very easy to rant about something anonymously without incurring responsibility.

In one of my recent blogs (http://yourheartsoulandmind.blogspot.ca/2015/01/chirpin-gamin-n-stuff.html)  I talked about keeping up with social media, etc. Here's the closing sentence:

"I can't quit trying to keep up! I'll have to ignore the cold, night sweats because my recent car ride with 4 teen-aged boys reaffirmed my commitment to stay current. Gotta keep up with the Jones'...or is it the iMacs and Samsungs? Otherwise, I'll be like my Dad who had a hard time hooking up the rabbit ears on our B&W TV back in the day. (Sorry Dad - yokes! LOL!)

Game hard boyz n girlz, game hard! #Justsayin."

posted in: #Social Media

Annika, I am adding the cuddlr app. 

Cuddlr is a location-based social-meeting app for cuddling. 
Find people near you who are up for a cuddle. 
Have a cuddle with them. 
No pressure.

 

 

posted in: #Social Media

Great Kick-off, informative, conversation-starting article Annika!

posted in: #Social Media

This is not only true for young Christians but all Christians. We need to be constantly on a road of being discipled and discipling  others. All believers must continue to grow in Christ and in living the way that Jesus led. It is a life long endeavor that for too long many churches have neglected.

Thanks for your sensitive and out-of-the-box thinking on this, Lesli. And thanks for encouraging us to do the same.  

posted in: Transitions

Thanks for sharing about what you are doing in your ministry, Albert.  It shows a sensitivity to your students.

posted in: Transitions

Lesli: GREAT Topic to post about.....some churches - those that tend to be smaller - transitioning is not as big an issue, I believe. And, yes, although "connecting to Jesus" is the underlying focus, there are other goals, as well; good transitioning is just a tool to not leave behind those who who have difficulty stepping out of their comfort zone.....What WE do in our church is after cadets/GEMs there is a group - TEEN Club - that meets for one year. Throughout that year and specifically during the Summer prior to Yth Grp entrance, we invite the TEEN Club yth to attend some of the yth group activities, so that they become more familar with the others in the group and more comfortable with taking that - for some - scary first step into Youth Group the following year. Many churches don't have the manpower for a Teen Club but it's just knowing which students will be moving up to YG and then intentionally inviting them to some events....maybe even bring a friend! Also, because our Teen Club is made up of community (non-CRC but attended cadets/GEMs) youth, we have a mixture/percentage of students in YG that don't necessarily attend our church. Great Outreach tool, as well.

posted in: Transitions

Before the Boy Scouts were ruined by political correctness, I don't think anyone worried about Cub Scouts transitioning to Boy Scouts  or Boy Scouts to Explorers. Maybe the Church's problem is also political correctness.  

posted in: Transitions

I don't mean to sound too simplistic about this, and it's good to consider how to handle points of transition and not limit ourselves to programmatic models. Yet, it seems to me that our main focus needs to be connecting our children to Jesus, who is an ever-present help in navigating all of life's transitions (transitions are not limited to youth, school, and career). It's a strong connection to Jesus that will help our youth stay connected to his people, the Church.

posted in: Transitions

We had one, but I'm somewhat removed from that process now and unsure about where to find it or even if it's up to date. Maybe I could find out for you later today.

It might be a good idea to advise the group that there are some inherent risks in getting someone under 18 to sign something without parental consent. They aren't severe risks, I don't believe, but if, for example, you kicked someone out for breaking a rule they signed to without parental co-signing, they could make a legal stink.

I know it sucks, but I really do believe we as churches should show we are responsible/respectful to our tithing members by taking these steps in risk mitigation... no matter how unlikely anything would ever come from it.

Fish...I was commissioned to go to the store to buy a small fish bowl with a couple of gold fish, likely to teach my kids about life (and death).  I came back with a rather large salt water aquarium with aspirations of have the great barrier reef in our living room.  It never really happened...and Mark's illustration seemed to resonate with my own youth ministry.  It never really goes as planned.  It might be good, things going well but I would be lying if I thought things always went as planned.  Usually God tends to push things in a direction I wasn't even thinking about.  So I am not sure if it matters about direction, about returning to the status quo or trying out something new - it likely will not go as planned, God will continue to work and do things that we never even thought about and we will likely evaluate our own plans for ministry, reevaluate and try again.  By the way - I sold the fish tank and bought a dog!  Maybe new directions are what is needed...

Good thoughts John.  The only hesitation I would have would be making mandatory a public testimony of faith for a new professing member.  A written testimony, as you suggest, could be a step up for some people, in lieu of a spoken testimony.  Some have a heightened fear of talking, even reading, in front of people.  The fear is no different for some people as telling a person who is afraid of heights that they have to dive head first off the high dive into a swimming pool.  Getting in front of people, other than a few friends, creates real panic for some people.  It has nothing with their sincerity and dedication to God.  Otherwise, good suggestions.

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Someone else will have to take this to Synod.  But individual churches can implement this even without synod.  Local councils can make this decision if they want to.  At least they can make the decision for individual witness and testimony by new christians, or renewed christians, when a non-membership profession of faith is made.    However, perhaps it would be advantageous for synod to recommend that councils do not just read the form for profession of membership, but instead, have a spoken or written testimony from the new members read or said for the church by the new member as their witness of their faith.   I have seen a member with Down's syndrome do this... which would seem to make it clear that there is no reason or excuse for anyone not to be able to , and in fact, not to want to do this, if they are really sincere in their dedication to God.   If they are unwilling or unable, then there is probably a spiritual illness that needs to be healed first, that is every bit as serious as a lack of understanding of the confessions, or a lack of willingness to live a christian lifestyle.

But the big advantage of a non-membership profession of faith,is that it can be encouraging, without being judgemental.   We can rejoice in that.

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Roger...no insult taken, and for a good portion of Canada, your generalities are correct. My situation, however, is unique since I grew up and spent 45 years in the CRC just outside New York City, with a tremendous amount of multicultural integration within church environments, and was transplanted to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which is practically the Mecca of multi-cultural integration in all of Canada. So our church sees a huge amount of multicultural visitors (Africa, India, Korea, Japanese & Chinese - amongst the most); that, and we are situated right next door to the only University on the Island. :>).....so that leap of change is not quite as impossible as what you may think for us.....but it still has some of the struggles that you mention....

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Hi John and Albert.  I think John is on to something.  I like what you have to say about the Christian at the individual level as well as the church at an institutional level.   I like what you have said, Albert, as well.

As to the individual level (this would be true, as well for the church), Christians need to demonstrate a more Christ like lifestyle, as you pointed out, John.  Jesus related to all kinds of people without judging them or reminding them of the law. If you ask me, Jesus’ main thrust in nearly all of his teaching and example was getting at the motive behind a person’s action, and the only motive acceptable to Jesus was a motive of love for God and neighbor.  That was the ultimate kingdom principle.  He didn’t come to do away with the law because if a person is driven by love for God and neighbor then the law is already fulfilled without even having to mention the law. The law is fulfilled in the living of Christ’s teaching. But we somehow have to keep putting the law in face of church members.  We read it nearly every Sunday (or at least, on many), as you, Albert, being from a Canadian church, know to be true.  That (the reading of the law) is really a great invitation to visitors. Not.  The Jews of Jesus’ day had all but lost this sense of motive.  Ethnicity (pride) and a legalistic keeping of law had become the Jewish ticket.  I could go on forever on this.  The law is fulfilled when a sacrificial love (Christ’s love) is demonstrated.  So I agree with you, John, at an individual level, we need to live amongst all people as Christ did.  Of course that’s not easy. But Jesus didn’t say it was impossible.  That’s how he called upon people to live.

As to the institution of the church, I also like what you suggest, John.  There certainly is no reason to restrict the Lord’s Supper to CRC members. Such a policy definitely contributes to outsiders thinking the church is judgmental and superior.  And certainly loosening the grip on the Lord’s Supper would go a long way toward young people feeling accepted and loved.  I still see problems as to the institutionalized church.   

I appreciate that you, Albert, want to see the church as a more inviting place for our own young people and for outsiders.  You have a very difficult task ahead of you.  For one thing, people are leaving the church in masses, as you say.  The direction has already been set, and has been set for many years.  It’s not easy to change a declining pattern.  It’s like pushing a boulder uphill.  People’s minds on the outside of the church have already been made up.  The church is not a place that they want to drop into or be part of.  For one thing, the formal setting of the church and church worship has little appeal to those on the outside.  It seems to outsiders a thing of the distant past.  Formal worship, to outsiders, feels archaic.  To make this feel inviting won’t be easy.  

Another thing you have to ask is, how many people are visiting your church weekly.  If you have one visitor every other week (or less), that pretty well tells you that your community already has an impression of your church.  And how will they know to change their impression unless people are already coming.  How do you even get them in the door. People on the inside may recognize the change, but not those on the outside.  Now Albert, this isn’t meant to be an insult.  But I know you are up in the distant hinter lands of Canada.  (I love Canada, eh) And you know that CRC churches are much more ethnic than in the states.  It will take a long time for the Canadian CRCs to loose their wooden shoes.  Non CRC people in Canadian towns refer to the CRC church as the Dutch church.  And many people in town think the CRC church is an ethnic church for people of Dutch background.  And, of course, this goes back to a much more recent immigration from Holland, post World War II (50s and 60s).  In the past, and still in the present for many, the church has been a safe haven away from the world.  People in your Canadian communities have felt this sheltering of the Dutch and exclusion of non Dutch for many years.  So anything you do in your churches will not change the mind set of the community overnight.  It will probably take generations.  In the meantime, the organized church is continuing to decline.  You have a difficult problem.  So you better get on the stick quickly. That cloak of judgmentalism is not going to evaporate quickly.  Of course a new church plant is a different story.  They can begin without the wooden shoes requirement and begin with a much more casual worship setting that may feel comfortable to outsiders (no weekly reading of the law), and less formal restrictions, with an emphasis on sacrificial love for God and neighbor.  Sorry about the lack of encouragement, but as John may have noted previously about me, I’m not overly encouraged by the organized church.  Blessings to all.

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John: I like very much in theory what you propose....so, when will you be creating this  Overture for Synod? :>)....A slight shift away from doctrinism to relational thinking. "to be less judgemental, while still demonstrating the value of increased commitment." Sure, a lot of details would need to be thought, talked and worked through, but I can see how this could move definitely in the direction of highlighting the joyfulness of Christianity. Once a commitment is made and the value of what Christ has done embraces the individual, then they would be more likely to understand and see value in the life-choice that they were drawn to, through the work of the holy Spirit; spurring on the desire to mke an investment with their lives that would eventually lead to sacrifice. What a great start and dream!!!

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At an individual level, as Christians we can make our attitudes that of Christ, who ate with publicans and sinners, who walked the streets and talked with the Samaritan woman, and used a Samaritan (outcast 2nd class) as an example of how to be a neighbor.  At the same time Christ said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  And it was exactly because of the requirements of the law, that Christ came to die in our place.  Grace is not tolerance, but grace is also not condemnation.  Help us God, and show us to love the sinner while detesting the sin.

But at a church level, institutional level, what can we do?  What is a practical change we could make to be less judgemental, to put in perspective what Christ has done for us, and to allow the witness of those who are growing, following imperfectly...?   My suggestion is this:  That we do not restrict Lord's supper to members, and that we do not restrict profession of faith to membership.  Profession of faith for membership is presently a very judgemental process in the way that agreement with specific confessions, teachings of the church ("this church"), and christian lifestyle,  is required.  Suppose we had a formal or semi-formal process that allowed new converts, or young christians, or any christian to witness to their faith, to proclaim their allegiance to Christ, without requiring a formal membership agreement.  A profession that did not include the use of forms, but allowed the use of personal testimony and witness.  A profession made by the person, rather than by the minister.  A profession made in the context of individual life, rather than general principles.  Would this not provide a way to reduce the appearance of judgementalism?  

And then, if christians desired to become formal members of the church, they could sign an agreement, indicating their committment to the confessions, to christian living, to authority of the elders, to church attendance, and to church charitable giving.  At that stage, some judgement would be required, both on the part of the individual, and on the part of the elders who approve the membership.  

Separate the two things, and perhaps we could find a way to be less judgemental, while still demonstrating the value of increased committment.  Just because one is not a formal member does not mean they are of less value, nor does being a formal member mean that you are closer to God.  Let's find a way to demonstrate this concretely.  

Having said this, I see difficulties also.  If you have someone who confesses Christ, but lives an obvious unrepentant unchristian lifestyle, leading a worship team or playing the drums in front of church, or teaching sunday school, there will be a bad taste in the mouths of christians, converts, and seekers alike.  

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Roger: Although the Kennedy Explosion Evangelism program is a great resource, it is outdated and only now useful to point us in a direction of solving the dilemma of pointing others towards God in the light of love. Sure we make decisions about others, based on good and bad of others, but "we" should not make that exclusion of where their lives are with the Lord. The built-in DNA as you so eloquently put it has replaced the embracing of love of ANY child of God. Our job  is not to judge and because we have taken on that role, it has changed our DNA. Sin is sin, and must not be ignored - nor downplayed -, as we agree, but embracing others into the fold with love, and nurturing their understanding of the role they play first, is paramount to then making them aware of their sin. Here is how I see it: We have not put enough emphasis on LOVING invitation and We have not put enough emphasis on building RELATIONSHIPS with those new believers of the faith - rather we think they are hooked and let them flounder by their own demise. Being courageous to step out of our comfort zones to actually do something helpful and loving. Doing  better job in just these three areas alone would have a huge impact  on the dynamics of how we arae perceived. How would this happen practically? For each church and individual, this is different; but if the denomination tackled this on a denominational-wide scope, I believe we would begin to see that cloak of judgmentalism begin to evaporate in real ways.

Thanks for all your imput.....

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Thanks John.  Is McDonald’s statement similar to what Jesus said to the teacher of law, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:34)  Sounds like a compliment to me.  Thanks.

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Roger, you have eloquently presented your case.  I agree with most of it.

I am remembering a quote that George MacDonald had in one of the characters in one of his novels, which said approximately , "your desire to do good, and your doing good, means you are on your way to knowing who Jesus is." 

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Thanks John for your response.  Thanks for trying to correct some of my thoughts.  But I think you may have fallen short.  Albert asked how those outside the church acquired an image that Christians are judgmental.  He wasn’t asking what Christians think.  Well, you pretty well answered the question yourself, John.  You said, “God's demands are high.  Very high.  Much higher than we would like them to be.  When we judge good and bad, we do it by our imperfect inadequate, barely passing grade standards.”  In fact, according to the Bible, God’s standard is not just higher than we would like it to be, but is perfection, not just relatively good, or even very good, but perfection.  That’s why the Bible teaches it is impossible to please God.  This is why Christianity and Christians come off as judgmental.  Christianity disqualifies any good a person may do or try to do in pleasing God and caring for neighbor.  As to having acceptance with God, human good works count for nothing.  If Christians are true to the Bible and the gospel message, they will tell the person on the street that nothing he does, no matter how good in his own eyes or the eyes of others, will contribute in the least toward salvation. And you think people on the street will agree with this?  This simply doesn’t correlate with the human experience.  And it doesn’t correlate with most other religions which understand God judging a person by his works. But according to the Bible, all people are deserving of eternal damnation in hell.  Do you think this doesn’t cast suspicion on Christianity and the church?

The only place good works play a role in the Christian faith, is after one has come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Then good works may count to a sense of reward.  But before salvation they count for nothing, as far as God is concerned.  As you say, John, “ every good deed was filled with selfishness or pride, even their good deeds were inadequate.”  The Bible says they are as filthy rags.  What the Bible teaches just doesn’t correlate or relate to human experience.  People do good every day for their spouses, children, or neighbors, both near and far.  But when it comes to having an acceptance with God these acts mean nothing?  You think the world outside of the church doesn’t see this as judgmental?  Most certainly, they do.  And when Christianity teaches that the only good that counts with God is the good done post conversion, you think this isn’t hypocritical in the eyes of non Christians, especially when the actions of Christians are no better than those who are not?  That’s why I said that if Christianity is perceived as judgmental, it’s because it’s part of its DNA, it’s part of what Christianity teaches.

Your illustration is also faulty, John.  The person being judged for his act of murder is only being judged for the single act of murder in his 41st year, not for the previous forty years of good he may have done.  That single act of murder was a heinous crime in itself and deserving of severe punishment.  If the crime was a lesser crime, stealing, lying, cheating on taxes, etc., then we would likely judge that person, not just in regard to the one crime but by his whole life, good and bad. When God, according to the Bible, judges people (which he will) one sin, small or large, is enough to condemn them to an eternity in hell.  The good he has done counts for nothing.  No one will escape God’s wrath.  God does not weigh both good and bad, as we do, but judges in regard to sin.  In fact the good a person may do is only filthy rags.  Again, this does not correlate to justice as most people consider justice, and makes Christianity perceived as hypocritical and judgmental.  It’s part of the Christian DNA.  At Christianity’s root it is considered faulty by most reasonable people outside the church.

You may think Christianity is reasonable, in its demands, and that’s ok.  But Albert wasn’t asking what Christians think or what may be reasonable to them, but he asked why people are leaving the church and why the world looks at Christianity as being judgmental.  I don’t know how you can change this perception that the world has, because this is just part of Christianity’s DNA.  It’s at the core of Christianity itself.

As John suggests, "if Christians are perceived as less judgmental, then they will encourage people to wallow in their sin."  So I guess Christians should continue in the tradition of Elijah in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New and preach a message of hell fire and brimstone, and reap the deserved criticism of being judgmental.  Is there really an alternative?

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I appreciate that Roger  has made these comments, because he has a reasonably good understanding of the impacts of major portions of christian thought.  (Is that a judgemental statement?...)  However, perhaps I could correct (unjudgementally) some of his ideas.  While the bible does presuppose a sinful condition, this does not mean that God disregards the good that people do.  God's demands are high.  Very high.  Much higher than we would like them to be.  When we judge good and bad, we do it by our imperfect inadequate, barely passing grade standards. 

The Israelites before captured and being exiled thought they had a passing grade.  They offered sacrifices to God to pay for their sins; they kept some of the commandments and they looked after their families.  It doesn't seem so bad, does it?  But on the way to the temple, they offered sacrifices to Baal, some sacrificed their children, and they didn't keep the sabbath, nor did they care adequately for the widow and orphan.  By human standards, they might pass... they were covering the bases so to speak.  But since every good deed was filled with selfishness or pride, even their good deeds were inadequate.  

A person who never murders anyone for 40 years... never murders his neighbors, nor even any enemies, nor even kills a dog, but then in his 41 st year, he kills his wife.  Will his 40 years of innocence excuse his one year of violent hate ending in murder?  No.  

It is humans who judge unjustly.  We make excuses where God does not.  In doing so, we reduce the value of Christ's sacrifice, because we say we didn't need Christ and his sacrifice for us... that our sins were not quite that bad... we could earn our own way.  

..................

As to the original question of being perceived as judgemental... have you ever thought that there are none so judgemental as those who call others judgemental?   The world is often more judgemental even than christians.  Think of how they judge those who condemn homosex, or pornography, or premarital sex, or premarital cohabitation.  Think of how severely they judge the church when it makes mistakes in managing finances, or seems to become greedy in property, or when a leader condemns adultery.  

However, as Christians we should be careful to put God's grace in front of every sin, even while condemning the sin.  If Christians are perceived as being less judgemental, thus encouraging people to wallow in their sin, then our lack of judgement may cause more people to fall under the judgement of God. 

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How have Christians acquired a judgmental character.  It comes naturally to Christianity.  It’s part of Christianity’s DNA.

A popular evangelism program of the recent past (and used in the CRC) asked the question, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he should ask you, “why should I let you into my heaven,” what would you say?  The expected answer is, I’m not such a bad person; I think God will let me in.  People, in general, think God will weigh both the good and bad a person may do, and probably most people will be admitted into heaven.  But then the presenter of this evangelism program will explain from the Bible, that all fall short of God’s standard of perfection.  All are sinners and fall short of God’s acceptance.  As to salvation God does not count the good a person may do, but only the sin.  This just does not correlate with natural reasoning.  When we judge the people around us, we weigh both good and bad and usually the good wins out.  Of the people we know and are close to, there are few that are serious criminals and deserving of any condemnation but in general of reward  But according to the Bible, God weighs only sin and everyone falls short and deserves eternal damnation.  This is what the Bible teaches.  So the Bible presupposes a sinful humanity in contrast to popular opinion, as well as most other religions.  Of course people will, in general, recognize that there are some terrible people in the world, but of the people they know, few fall into this category.  Beside people, in general, would rather think of God as a forgiving and gracious God rather than a God who condemns most people to an eternity of damnation.  So you see, this idea of Christians being judgmental comes naturally.  If they look at people with the mind of God, they will look at them as sinners.  That’s Christian DNA.

Sure Christianity offers an escape in Jesus Christ, but that is only if a person has heard the gospel message.  Of those not hearing of salvation in Jesus (which is the great majority of the world’s population), they are also deserving of damnation, according to the Bible.  That doesn’t put the Christian God in a very good light, and contributes to this negative and judgmental perspective of Christianity.  I’m not sure what you mean when you say, we need to see others as God sees them.

I don’t know how the gospel of Jesus can be presented without first demonstrating one’s need for a Savior.  That “need” is the fact of sin committed by all people (none is righteous and all fall short). So again Christians cannot get around the fact of sin, or pointing out that sin to others.   So Christians may not have to specifically condemn a person, but a general condemnation is enough to put Christianity in a bad light.  How do Christians choose compassion (Jesus’ challenge) without showing the need (sin) for God’s love in Christ?  So you see, it’s natural for those outside the Christian community to think Christians are judgmental.  It’s part of the Christian DNA.

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This is a great piece with some solid wisdom. Thanks for sharing, Albert!

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