The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He will return in glory

Here are my notes from Mike Cain’s exposition on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This fourth session focused on Jesus, He will return in glory.

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Knowing the future means that I know what to give myself to now.  Paul sums up the Christian life as waiting for the King to come back in 2 Thessalonians, getting ready for Him.  For some this meant persecution (v4).  But if Jesus isn’t coming back there is no point in getting ready. 

If we’re not waiting for the King to return we will not be able to live the Christian life at all.  

Four reasons to stand firm on the conviction that Jesus will return: 

1) God is Just (v5-6) 

Day of Judgment is real because of what God is like.  God is just so will judge.  Persecution is evidence that God’s judgment is right.  The story of the Bible is how the Creator of the world will bring justice to the world in the light of the injustice of sin.  The Thessalonians were wobbling because it looked like God won’t judge.  We are wobbling because it looks like He will. 

2) Jesus will be revealed (v7) 

When He came as a baby He was hidden in a stable.  When He comes again the whole world will see Him.  Jesus said the Father has entrusted judgment to Him.  The Jesus we need to be ready for is the judge.  Jesus when He comes will burn up the impurity in front of Him.  Look at this Jesus; He will come again in history in a blazing fire of judgment. 

3) Jesus will shut his enemies out (v8-9) 

Enemies don’t know God because they don’t obey the Gospel.  Gospel is God calling us back to know Him.  Those who don’t know Him are punished with everlasting destruction.  As the whale was made for the ocean, so we were made for God.  In His presence we enjoy life as it was meant to be.  The further away from God, the more destroyed we are. 

On the Day of Judgment those who haven’t turned back to God will be shut out from His presence forever and eternal destruction.  The punishment fits the crime.  I say I want nothing to do with God and that’s what He gives me.  This is not to frighten us but save us. 

There is a place where fire of God’s judgment has already burned out at the cross of Calvary where the judge experienced the fire of God’s judgment so we can be let into God’s presence.  Before He comes as judge, He came as Saviour. 

4) Jesus will be glorified in His people (v10) 

The life to come is the main event.  It’s where all God’s plans are heading.  The world restored to the glory He created it.  People restored to the glory He created them.  Salvation is all about being in God’s presence. 

God’s glory is God in all His brilliance.  We will see that, but we will also see His brilliance in us.  We were created to glorify Him, to reflect His brilliance.  That’s what will happen when we are re-created.  It’s in the world made new we will taste life in its fullness.  We will see how worth waiting for He is.  Look at what is coming, don’t you want to be part of that.  Stand firm in the gospel. 

Glorify Jesus today (v11-12) 

If we’re not ready for Jesus what would we say to Him?  Paul prays we’ll be counted worthy of His calling; we’d suffer for His kingdom.  What will it cost for you to get ready?  Do what it takes! 

For 4½ months, 22 men waited on Elephant Island for Ernest Shackleton to return to rescue them after their ship the Endurance sank.  Frank Wild each day encouraged the men on the island with the words: “Roll up the sleeping bags, the boss may come today”.  That’s what Paul is saying to us.  Keep going, get ready the King may come today!

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.

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The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

“Forgive us our sins”

“Forgive us our sins”

6 things this petition teaches us: 

  • It teaches us that we still sin every day.
  • It teaches us that we still need forgiveness every day.
  • It teaches us that we must confess our sins.
  • It teaches us that God is holy.
  • It teaches us that God is ready to forgive us every day.
  • It teaches us that God our Father wants a close walk with his children. 

(Hugh Collier, ‘Forgive us our sins’)

An incredible story – John Harper

Mark Dever tells this incredible story about John Harper in the opening chapter of ‘The Gospel and Personal Evangelism’:

“John Harper was born in a Christian home in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872. When he was about fourteen years old, he became a Christian himself, and from that time on, he began to tell others about Christ. At seventeen years of age, he began to preach, going down the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in passionate pleading for men to be reconciled to God. 

After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by the Reverend E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London. This set Harper free to devote his whole time and energy to the work so dear to his heart-evangelism. 

Soon, in September 1896, Harper started his own church.  This church, which he began with just twenty-five members, numbered over five hundred by the time he left thirteen years later. During this time he had been both married and widowed. Before he lost his wife, God blessed Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.  

Harper’s life was an eventful one. He almost drowned several times. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived. And at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. If anything, these brushes with death simply seemed to confirm John Harper in his zeal for evangelism, which marked him out for the rest of the days of his life. 

While pastoring his church in London, Harper continued his fervent and faithful evangelism. In fact, he was such a zealous evangelist that the Moody Church in Chicago asked him to come over to America for a series of meetings. He did, and they went well. A few years later, Moody Church asked him if he would come back again. And so it was that Harper boarded a ship one day with a second-class ticket at Southampton, England, for the voyage to America. 

Harper’s wife had died just a few years before, and he had with him his only child, Nana, age six. What happened after this we know mainly from two sources. One is Nana, who died in 1986 at the age of eighty. She remembered being woken up by her father a few nights into their journey. It was about midnight, and he said that the ship they were on had struck an iceberg. Harper told Nana that another ship was

just about there to rescue them, but, as a precaution, he was going to put her in a lifeboat with an older cousin, who had accompanied them. As for Harper, he would wait until the other ship arrived. 

The rest of the story is a tragedy well known. Little Nana and her cousin were saved. But the ship they were on was the Titanic. The only way we know what happened to John Harper after is because, in a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, some months later, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He explained that he had been on the Titanic the night it struck the iceberg. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. “Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near, John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.  “He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’ “‘No, I am not,’ I replied.

“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ 

“The waves bore [Harper] away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again. ‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.  “‘No,’ I answered. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ “Then losing his hold on the wood, [Harper] sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”1 

1 Moody Adams, The Titanic’s Last Hero: Story About John Harper(Columbia, SC: Olive Press, 1997), 24-25.