Evangelism and Kids

By Cailey Morgan

Recently during a Sunday gathering at Southside, we were invited to share with the congregation who it was that introduced us to Jesus and when we chose to follow Him. It was a beautiful time of testimony that allowed each of us to reflect on our own faith journey and celebrate God’s goodness to others.

The thing that stuck with me most was the consistent pattern of when people came to faith. Like me and my brothers, the overwhelming majority of people in my congregation came to know Christ before the age of 20; in fact most between the ages of 4 and 10. Almost everyone cited parents, grandparents and children’s ministry leaders such as youth pastors and camp counselors as the people who had led them to faith in Jesus.

While informal, I think this survey offers two key points of encouragement that my church needs to hear, and maybe yours too:

1. We as adults need to introduce our friends to Christ. Right now at Southside, church growth mostly comes from Christian families moving from another church to ours. And while we need to celebrate the opportunity to disciple new people and be built up by the gifts they have to offer, it was convicting to me that there is not a single person in my congregation who could say, “Cailey introduced me to Jesus.” Are you in the same boat?

We’ve got to do better. I’ve got to do better.

2. We need to take more seriously the faith of our kids and the kids in our neighbourhoods. What a great opportunity to see our neighbourhood changed! Since the majority of believers come to faith before age 10, what if the majority of the church’s effort went into reaching and mentoring kids? Here’s a few ways that could happen:

  • Help parents disciple their kids. Parents, your home is your mission field and the main training ground for young disciples. You are responsible for your child’s physical and spiritual growth and for training them to bring their friends to faith. I know you don’t take that task lightly.However, you aren’t alone. We all need to participate in the growth of the kids in our congregation and neighbourhoods. What if there was teaching for parents to support them as they minister in their homes? What if every child and youth had a mentoring “big brother” or “big sister” from the family of God who took an interest in their lives and helped love them and their friends into God’s Kingdom?
  • Allocate church resources to intentionally reach young people. If the church’s job is to go and make disciples, and if most disciples are made when they are children, why are children’s pastors often part-time or non-existent? Why does children’s Sunday school happen in “the back” of our church buildings? Why are our main outreaches targeting adults? Why aren’t there Wednesday evening small groups for kids and youth? The fact is, our churches are adult-centric. Maybe we should consider what a child-centric, or at least family-centric, congregation would look like?

Maybe I’ve been overstating this, but I think we need to seriously consider the ramifications of the fact that kids aren’t just the future of the church. They’re the now.

What do you think? How can we ensure that kids are being brought up in daily discipleship? Are there opportunities to see Kingdom growth among the young people in your neighbourhood?

PS: Sherry Bennett (Director of CBWC’s Children and Families Ministries)  teaches a one-day seminar called It Takes a Village: Nurturing Children In Faith for A Lifetime which tackles some of the very issues I’ve been grappling with this week: how do parents and the faith community help children discover and grow a deep and meaningful faith? Contact Sherry at sbennett@cbwc.ca to discuss options for training in your community.

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Kids and Missional Community: A Third Place

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE VERGE FAMILY CHANNEL. THANKS TO AUTHOR JOHN MURCHISON FOR ALLOWING US TO SHARE IT HERE. 

 

We’re continuing our series on how to involve children in Missional Communities. At The Austin Stone, we encourage our Missional Communities to pursue three main practices:

Greenhills Calgary

While I know not every Missional Community follows this model, my hope is that you will be able to take some of the principles in each of these types of gatherings and apply them to your Missional Community rhythms.

We’ve already written on the first two of these practices. This week, we are focusing on the practice of gathering as missionaries in a Third Place.

What Is a Third Place?

Most small groups in churches meet in either a church building or in a home, which are great places to deepen and build relationships in Christian community. In our experiences with personal evangelism, however, we have found these two places (church and home) to be an intimidating place to invite your non-believing friends when you want to introduce them to your Christian community. That showed us the need for a Third Place – a place where your Christian community and your friends that do not believe in Jesus can connect with each other. Our prayer is that through the Third Place gatherings, relationships can be built that will open the door for personal evangelism to happen naturally.

As your Christian community demonstrates the love of Christ for each other, we pray that our unbelieving friends will be drawn to want to know more about this God that causes such sacrificial love for others. To learn more about the Third Place, check out this post by Todd Engstrom, Executive Pastor of Campuses and Communities at The Austin Stone.

The Dependable Third Place

Many Missional Communities choose to set a dependable time and place for their Third Place. Their group chooses a certain event or location that they will all try to go to at an agreed upon time, whether that is weekly, every other week, or once a month. The advantage of having a regular time and place for your Third Place gatherings is that you always have something to invite a coworker or friend to if the opportunity presents itself. In addition, your group will have the opportunity to meet and get to know other “regulars” at that location.

For groups including families, here are a few Third Place gathering locations that have worked for a dependable, regular meeting time:

  • Playgrounds on Saturdays
  • Restaurants with playgrounds during dinner on weeknights (finding a “Kids Eat Free” night is a bonus!)
  • High school football games – this is especially effective if some of the group members have children on the team
  • Grilling burgers in a group member’s front yard
  • The neighborhood donut shop on Saturday mornings
  • Swimming at the neighborhood pool on Saturdays in the summer

In short, find something you and the other families in your Missional Community would have fun doing on a regular basis, then do it, and be intentional about inviting neighbors, coworkers, and others to join!

The Spontaneous Third Place

For some groups, having the whole group meet at the same time and same place on a regular basis works great. For others, it can be hard to get everyone’s schedules aligned. For those groups, I recommend pursuing what I call “the spontaneous Third Place.”

To have a spontaneous third place, ask the following two questions about the things on your calendar:

  1. Can I include members of my Christian community in this event or task?
  2. Can I include some of my unbelieving friends in this event or task?

If the answer to both is “yes,” you have a Third Place!

Let’s look at a few different ways this could play out.

Your Kids’ Events. For families with kids in school, much of your calendar may revolve around school events, from fundraisers to festivals to performances to sports practices. Be intentional about meeting and building friendships with some of the parents there. There’s a good chance that you’ll run into them again at events in the future. In addition, invite along a member or two of your Missional Community. It will be really great for the other parents at your school to see your Missional Community coming out to support your kids, even if (or especially if) they don’t have kids of their own at the school!

Excercise. My wife loves walking the Town Lake Trail, a community trail in Austin, TX, pushing our two little girls in a double-stroller. Whenever she goes, she texts a few of the women from our church along with a few of our neighbors that she knows are not out at work. No matter where or how you exercise, you could always bring along others with you!

Home Projects. Working on your car? Painting a room? Building a deck? Whatever home project is on your “to-do” list, I guarantee it will be more enjoyable with friends. Invite people from your MC along with a few other friends who don’t attend church, and you’ve got a very productive Third Place meeting.

Fun. Everybody’s gotta have fun from time to time, right? Whether you’re having a date night, a family DVD night, or a day at the park, think intentionally about who you could bring along with you!

With a little thought and planning, almost any part of your week can be a great way to involve your friends that don’t yet know the Lord in the life of your Christian community. I encourage you to begin to think through your schedule in this way, and pray that the Lord uses these times to bring men and women to Himself!

What third place does your family visit? Where will you invite your friends to next? Email Cailey or post a comment on this blog.

If you’d like some help getting kids involved in missional life—or getting your church on board with the idea—Sherry Bennett would love to chat with you. Sherry’s the coordinator of the CBWC’s Children and Families Missional Network (CFam).

 

John Murchison

John Murchison

John Murchison is the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Austin Stone. He is husband to Sarah and father to Waverly and Lucy. He is passionate about making disciples of children rather than “mini-Pharisees,” and about teaching children the gospel over morality. He desires to help parents see themselves as missionaries on mission to and through their children. He’s also a fan of Pixar movies, all things Disney, comic books, and video games, and uses his job as an excuse to do “research” in these areas.

Kids and Missional Communities: Life Transformation Groups

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE VERGE FAMILY CHANNEL. THANKS TO AUTHOR JOHN MURCHISON FOR ALLOWING US TO SHARE IT HERE. 

 

We’re in the middle of a series on how to involve children in Missional Communities. At The Austin Stone, we encourage our Missional Communities to pursue three main practices:

  • To gather as a community in a Family Meal
  • To gather as disciples in Life Transformation Groups, or LTGs
  • To gather as missionaries in a Third Place

2014-BCY-Assembly (35)While I know not every Missional Community follows this model, my hope is that you will be able to take some of the principles in each of these types of gatherings and apply them to your Missional Community rhythms.

Last week, I posted on how to involve kids in a Family Meal gathering. This week, we are focusing on the practice of gathering in Life Transformation Groups.

What Is A Life Transformation Group?

The Life Transformation Group (LTG) is a practice where groups of two or three people of the same gender meet weekly to study the Bible deeply and to be known deeply. Each Missional Community will consist of several LTGs that meet regularly. At these meetings, participants aim to do three main things:

  1. Hear and Obey – recap what they heard from the Lord in their personal times in His Word, and share what obeying the Scriptures looks like personally
  2. Repent and Believe – confess sin to each other and remind each other of the good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection
  3. Consider and Pray – think together about opportunities to share the gospel and pray by name for unbelieving friends

If you’re not familiar with LTGs, I highly encourage you to click here and read Todd Engstrom’s very helpful post describing exactly what an an LTG is and does.

Not Kid-Friendly

An effective LTG where members are confessing sin and diving deep into the Scriptures is not an environment that is kid-friendly. Children should not be listening in as members confess their sin, and the conversation about the Bible will usually be above the age-level of our younger children. That said, the three aims of an LTG (Hear and Obey, Repent and Believe, and Consider and Pray) are great goals for conversation with your kids in your own home. A version of the LTG meeting could certainly be incorporated at a mealtime or bedtime for your family.

Helpful Tips for Parents in LTGs

Even though children are not going to be active participants in the LTGs of your Missional Community, I still have a few simple tips on how to make this practice work in your communities.

Working parents that have a stay-at-home spouse: set your alarm clocks. If you have a typical work week, and your spouse is able to stay at home, early mornings tend to be the best time to meet. Find a location with good, strong coffee to wake you up and start your day with Biblical community and encouragement. The early time also adds to the consistency of the group since very few work or social obligations will conflict.

Stay-at-home parents with kids in school: meet right after the kids leave for the school day. I know you only have a limited number of hours to run errands, work around the home, and do other things while the kids are at school, which is why I recommend meeting before the craziness of the day hits. Get the kids bundled up and off to school, then head straight to meet with your LTG. This will likely be the most stress-free part of your day, allowing you to enjoy the time and not feel hurried.

Stay-at-home parents with preschoolers : choose your location wisely, and set aside a lot of time. My wife is currently in this stage of life,  so we know first-hand how difficult it can be to have a good, quality LTG meeting for a group of two or three parents of preschoolers. Try and find a location where the kids can play, such as a restaurant with a playground, or one of the LTG members’ homes. But no matter the location, there will still be plenty of interruptions, from snack requests to diaper changes to mediating disputes. For that reason, I recommend setting aside more than the standard hour usually recommended for LTGs. Instead of trying to get “in and out” of your LTG, set aside the whole afternoon for a play date or hangout time, and work your way through the LTG over the afternoon.

Families where both parents work outside the home: plan “special times” with the kids. If both parents have a standard work week, it will be difficult to make a weekly LTG time work for both parents. I recommend planning a “special time” for one parent to spend intentional relational time with the kids while the other parent is at their LTG. For instance, a family could make Tuesday night “Dad Game Night” where Dad always plays board games with the kids while Mom is at her LTG, or Mom could take the kids to get donuts every Saturday morning while Dad is at his LTG.

Dads: serve and bless your wives. Men, if your families include preschool-aged children, and your wives’ LTGs often include taking care of the kids at the same time, be intentional about planning time for your wives to spend some “kid free” time together. Plan ahead, get the calendars out, and send your wives out to dinner, brunch, coffee, or whatever they enjoy. This will go a long way in deepening the relationships in your wives’ LTGs.

Next week, I’ll share some thoughts on the third Missional Community practice, the Third Place.

Share your thoughts by emailing Cailey or posting a comment on this blog.

If you’d like some help getting kids involved in missional life—or getting your church on board with the idea—Sherry Bennett would love to chat with you. Sherry’s the coordinator of the CBWC’s Children and Families Missional Network (CFam).

 

John Murchison

John Murchison

John Murchison is the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Austin Stone. He is husband to Sarah and father to Waverly and Lucy. He is passionate about making disciples of children rather than “mini-Pharisees,” and about teaching children the gospel over morality. He desires to help parents see themselves as missionaries on mission to and through their children. He’s also a fan of Pixar movies, all things Disney, comic books, and video games, and uses his job as an excuse to do “research” in these areas.

Kids and Missional Communities: The Family Meal

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE VERGE FAMILY CHANNEL. THANKS TO AUTHOR JOHN MURCHISON FOR ALLOWING US TO SHARE IT HERE. 

 

Last week, I wrote an introductory post to a series on how to involve children in Missional Communities. In that post, I said that my church, The Austin Stone, encourages Missional Communities to pursue three main practices:

  • To gather as a community in a Family Meal
  • To gather as disciples in Life Transformation Groups, or LTGs
  • To gather as missionaries in a Third Place

While I know not every Missional Community follows this model, my hope is that you will be able to take some of the principles in each of these types of gatherings and apply them to your Missional Community rhythms.

We’ll take each of these practices one at a time, starting today with the Family Meal.

What Is A Family Meal?

Leading by example at The Well

In short, a Family Meal is an opportunity for the community to gather together around a meal to eat, talk, share life, rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning (Romans 12:15). It’s less like a Sunday School class that happens to meet in a home and more like a gathering of extended family over food. The Bible certainly is a frequent topic of conversation, but it’s less like “Everyone open your Bibles to Philippians 3,” and more like “Earlier this week, I read this passage of Philippians that I wanted to share with you.”

To learn more about the Family Meal gathering, check out Todd Engstrom’s post here.

Here are a few best practices for gathering with children in a Family Meal setting:

Make It A True Family Affair

If we wanted to hold a Bible study, we would probably need to arrange childcare. But the purpose of this gathering is not Bible study, but for believers to connect as a family! Let go of a vision of a quiet, orderly, calm dinner and embrace a warm, lively, and sometimes loud dinner where the kids are a part of the community. You wouldn’t hire childcare for Thanksgiving dinner – you don’t need to do it for your Family Meal, either.

Earlier Is Better

If you don’t start your Family Meal until 7pm, then everyone is probably checking their watch often to see bedtimes creep up and then pass by. Start as early as possible! If a few people can’t arrive until a bit later, that’s ok.

Don’t Count Out Sunday Afternoon / Evening

Sometimes families feel like they shouldn’t hold their Family Meal on Sundays, since we’ve already done one church event that day. But there’s no such thing as too much church family on one day, and many of our Missional Communities have found great success with a Family Meal that starts at 5pm on Sundays.

Share The Parenting Load

One of the signs of a healthy Christian community is a shift from seeing the children in the community not as “their kids” or “my kids” but as “our kids.” Don’t just engage with your own children, but with others in the community, too! Ask the tired mother of a newborn if you can feed the baby her bottle instead.

Volunteer to get down on the ground and play trains with the toddlers while the other parents get a breather. And graciously receive help from others when it comes time for you to sit and talk with the other adults in your community while someone else is helping with your kids.

Next week, I’ll share some thoughts on the second Missional Community practice, Life Transformation Groups.

Share your thoughts! Email Cailey Morgan or posting a comment on this blog.

If you’d like some help getting kids involved in missional life—or getting your church on board with the idea—Sherry Bennett would love to chat with you. Sherry’s the coordinator of the CBWC’s Children and Families Missional Network (CFam).

 

John Murchison

John Murchison

John Murchison is the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Austin Stone. He is husband to Sarah and father to Waverly and Lucy. He is passionate about making disciples of children rather than “mini-Pharisees,” and about teaching children the gospel over morality. He desires to help parents see themselves as missionaries on mission to and through their children. He’s also a fan of Pixar movies, all things Disney, comic books, and video games, and uses his job as an excuse to do “research” in these areas.

The “How” of Kids and Missional Communities

This article was originally posted on the Verge Family Channel. Thanks to author John Murchison for allowing us to share it here. 

 

Being a family that is part of a Missional Community is not only possible, but in many ways helps both your internal mission to your kids and your external mission to others. In other words, being a part of a Missional Community is a great way to be on mission to and with your kids.

Garage Sale Fundraiser

In a Missional Community, you are on mission TO your kids by involving them in a Christian community where they can see the gospel on display by the way that you love each other in Christ. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 ESV

A Missional Community also gives you the opportunity to be on mission WITH your kids. Your children have the ability to open doors to talk to people that might normally be closed. In addition, the activities you do with your children often put you in close and regular contact with other parents that might not yet have heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some families are reluctant to even try to have a Missional Community because their lives are so busy with their kids. Others, however, are eager to be a part of a small group of people on mission, but don’t know what that would look like. For these families, they don’t have a “want to” problem, they have a “how to” problem.

To support and equip these families, I am starting a short series on what it might look like to include your kids in a Missional Community.

No “One Size Fits All”

I say “what it might look like” because there is no “one size fits all” model for how to do Missional Community in general, much less how to do Missional Community with kids. However, I hope that offering some thoughts on different types of group gatherings will be helpful, and that each family can take some ideas from this series and apply them to their specific community.

At The Austin Stone, we encourage our Missional Communities to pursue three main practices:

  • To gather as a community in a Family Meal
  • To gather as disciples in Life Transformation Groups, or LTGs
  • To gather as missionaries in a Third Place

If you’d like to read more about what these practices are, check out this series by Todd Engstrom. Todd is the Executive Pastor of Campuses and Communities at The Austin Stone and has written extensively on these practices and how to apply them in your group. When you get to his resources page, scroll down to the section titled “Practices of Healthy Missional Communities.”

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting on each of these practices, sharing how I have seen families be successful at being a part of each of these types of meetings.

Hold Your Expectations Loosely

Before I close the introduction to this upcoming series, I want to encourage you to keep an open hand on your expectations of kids and Missional Community. Many times, we get in our heads that a successful church meeting consists of a very calm meeting where everyone sits in a circle, takes turns speaking, shares what they are learning, and prays very solemnly before everyone goes home. If you’re hoping that your kids will fit into a meeting like that, you’re most likely going to be disappointed. I suppose God could perform a miracle and have your children sit quietly for the duration of that type of meeting – He has parted a sea and raised people from the dead, after all. However, I’ve never seen it happen.

But that may be okay. Because real life community doesn’t usually consist of people sitting in a circle and taking turns talking. For me, real life with my friends looks like a conversation that gets interrupted every five minutes by one of our children. Real life looks like taking a break from the party to change a dirty diaper. Real life looks like finding places to meet friends where our kids can play off to the side while we catch up on life. And it is in real life, not in some alternate reality, where we must live our Christian lives – in community, on mission, together.

So it’s okay if it gets a little crazy. It’s okay if it doesn’t go as expected. It’s okay because God can and will still use your community for your sanctification, for your discipleship of your children, and for your mission to others.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share John’s insights into the practices of family meals, Life Transformation Groups, and meeting in a third space. In the mean time, what are your thoughts? Share your opinions or experiences with the community by emailing Cailey Morgan or posting a comment on this blog.

If you’d like some help getting kids involved in missional life—or getting your church on board with the idea—Sherry Bennett would love to chat with you. Sherry’s the coordinator of the CBWC’s Children and Families Missional Network (CFam).

 

John Murchison

John Murchison

John Murchison is the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Austin Stone. He is husband to Sarah and father to Waverly and Lucy. He is passionate about making disciples of children rather than “mini-Pharisees,” and about teaching children the gospel over morality. He desires to help parents see themselves as missionaries on mission to and through their children. He’s also a fan of Pixar movies, all things Disney, comic books, and video games, and uses his job as an excuse to do “research” in these areas.