Every once in a while you stumble into a God thing. The Journey Parenting Summit this last Saturday was one of those. We were praying for a game changer- a literal shift in what is "normal" for all parents at JCC and the essential ethos of our culture to change in 3 key ways.
With my new job change last January, job number one for me was to try and get infants through twenty-something adults all operating under the same vision. The chief way to do that outside of my staff team was to expand our annual student ministry parent's day into a Generation Ministries Parenting Summit. Last Saturday was the culmination of months of planning and dreaming.
I was going to pump the 4 hours of material into one brief blog post, but I decided I'll do 3 instead: one for each of 3 sessions we had during the day. Each session was taught by a team and served to build upon the last. Each one tried to get us to stack hands on one of 3 values we were trying to champion.
We spent the first session driving home what is our generation ministries banner cry which over the last 3 years since we wrote it, has become my own personal motto. This is not only what I try and do as a pastor, but it is the essential core of all of my parenting. If you asked me what I'm trying to do as a Dad, I'd tell you this vision. I believe it to the core of my being. If you cut me, I bleed this.
I believe we are called as a ministry and as parents in this: "inviting a generation to understand, own, and live out a life-changing faith in Jesus." Here's how this breaks down.
- INVITING: not challenging, not pushing, not demanding, not calling, not urging. As parents, we are inviting our kids to go on a faith journey with us.
- GENERATION: this is not a kid thing. this is not a teen thing. this is not a part time thing. this is a long haul, big time, massively epic calling as parents. We're passing a baton onto the next Generation and if we screw that up, we screw up our kids and our kid's kids and beyond. I have no other higher calling in life than to entrust my faith to my kids. (ie: 2 Timothy 2:2 vs. Judges 2:10)
- UNDERSTAND: in a largely Biblically illiterate society, it is of critical importance that we stop simply teaching kids what to think and we start teaching them how to think. To this end, we must become masters at the craft of asking and responding to questions. Too much parenting is essentially about behavior modification, which is NOT understanding, it is compliance... and it is a short term win and a long term loss I simply cannot afford.
- OWN: nothing. I repeat. nothing changes between 17 as a senior in high school and 18 as an "official adult". If we expect to raise young adults that honor God for the long haul, we must give them the reigns of their own life and faith long before they "become adults". We must steadily shift from a control mindset to an empowerment one.
- LIVE OUT A LIFE-CHANGING FAITH: talk is cheap. I want my kids to make wise choices with how they live and implement their faith into their daily lives. I want to model that for them and live it out with them.
- IN JESUS: if I help students or even my own kids place faith in me, then this ain't gonna work. Our lead pastor put it like this, "We must be very careful that we don't lead our kids to a Jesus we're going to have to unlead them to later." As parents, we are sometimes the Jesus we have to unlead them to later. I'm not called to be Jesus. I am called to be like Jesus and lead my kids to Him. There is a massive difference between the two.
If we are to accomplish this vision, we must acknowledge two things about this massive task.
- THIS MUST BE A ME THING: This mission must become MY mission. I cannot expect the church to do this while I'm doing something else. There's NO WAY that an hour on Sunday is gonna cut it! We all must bleed this in our homes and daily lives.
- THIS MUST BE A CORPORATE US THING: We must help each other do this. My kids need other voices. We cannot do this by merely providing childcare to kids on the weekend. We cannot do this in our kids ministry when we only have enough volunteers to keep the kids "safe". Safe is not my goal. Safe is the lowest bar I have available. If we're going to see our kids, our students, and our young adults embrace these values, then we need an all in, all hands on deck mindset. We need help!