How Many Hours Does the Church Get With Kids and Students?
I know that this video clip talks about children's ministry and sunday mornings, but the message is just as clear for those who work with students. In children's ministry the church is luck to have kids for 40 hours a year. For those of us working with students the numbers at best double.
If you include youth group, sunday school, and big church there is still no way that we are even close to having 100 hours a year of ministry with our students. And this 100 hour figure is being generous with our most committed students. No matter how you slice it, the church is lacking in the amount of face time we get with children and students. This necessarily isn't a bad thing, unless those of us in vocational ministry think that our time with children and students is the most important and most valuable spiritual formation that happens in the life of kids.
Who Passes Down Faith:
Depending on the tradition you find yourself in, the pendulum is always swinging between the church and the parents as the primary person passing on the christian faith from one generation to the next.
For a long time the church held the distinct role of teaching children the tenets of Christianity and shaping the spiritual lives of its kids. Traditions like confirmation and CCD (catholic catechisms) were seen an invaluable classes for making sure the christian faith was communicated correctly from one generation to the next. It was the church who passed on faith, and the family played a supporting role.
Some traditions have completely inverted this concept. The family plays the main role of passing on faith from generation to generation. There is a lack of trust in institutions and the institution of the church is no different. Parents are the ones who will disciple and shape their children and the children's and youth ministry role of the church simply support these endeavors.
No matter what tradition you find yourself in, both are inadequate. At least in our context families don't trust the institution of the church. But at the same time, many of the families in our context don't feel equipped to provide the main diet of spiritual formation for their kids as well. This is the worst of both worlds, no one is leading strongly and the children are missing out solid christian formation.
Instead of Competitors, We Should Be Partners:
It is too bad that there were and still are seasons where the church and the family are pitted against each other for the spiritual formation of their kids. It doesn't and shouldn't have to be this way. The church and the family are at their best when they cooperate and work together to combine their influences so that children and students will be able to have the best shot of developing a faith of their own.
It is for this reason that our church has jumped into a unique curriculum and strategy called "orange." The basic idea behind this strategy is that you combine the two primary influences that impact a kid's life. Orange synchronizes the light of the church with the love of the family to connect parents and leaders with the same strategy toward the same end.
If church leaders continue to see parents as the problem for all the lack of commitment and faith development that is happening with our kids then we have already established a hostile relationship. If parents continue to see the church as glorified child care while they encounter Jesus and try to come up with a curriculum and plan for their children they will quickly run out of steam as the issues become more and more complex.
With orange, we have an opportunity to partner fully with parents, to see them as the primary care givers and faith developers of their children. Parents have 3000 hours. But the church does have a role. Those 40-100 hours are incredibly important as well. But when the church combines with the parents, many more of those hours get to be redeemed so that kids can grow in their faith and be excited for what a life connected to Jesus is all about.
Consider Coming to Atlanta and See For Yourself:
Because we are still new to the Orange family, our entire children's and student ministry team is heading out to Atlanta for their annual conference. If you register early you save $80. It might seem pricy, but of all the curriculum that is available to those of us in the church, there is none better in taking the partnership between parent and church worker more seriously.
Being orange is a value for our church, for our team, and for our parents. As church leaders it is foolish to put too much stock in our 40 hours. The more we maximize our time, equip our leaders, and partner with parents, the more likely that the children and students coming through the doors of the church will actually stick around long into adulthood.
Hope to see you at Orange 2014!