Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Breaking The Routine (even for us)

Ten days ago we had an unusual service. Ok, so maybe all of our services are unusual, when compared to most churches. But it was unusual--and special--even for us.

We had a farewell service.

A founding family in our church is moving to another state and we decided to focus for a Sunday gathering on them. It's not a small move, either in distance or impact on their family. It's the first step in pursuing a big dream that God put on their hearts.

Rather than just add a side item in a “normal” service, we dedicated the entire day to this event.

Here's what it looked like:

First, as usual, we had a meal, including a large cake with "I know the plan I have for you…" written on it (a rich, moist chocolate cake with white icing…I love a good cake!)

We began with some worship music. Some of our musicians had chosen songs and came ready to play.

Then, we invited the couple leaving to sit in chairs and share their life stories (myself and another elder interviewed the couple). They both happen to have been born into very troubled situations, radically changed by Christ, and now are leaders in our church with two precious daughters.

After that, members of our church were invited to share how they had been blessed by them over the years. Some powerful words, verses, even songs played via iPhone, were offered and we had to pass tissue boxes around the room to dry tears several times.

Then, representing the whole church, elders washed their feet, praying blessings over them out loud while we did so.

Then more worship music and a few more verses and personal messages.

Finally, I stood, reminding the church that their story is just what Jesus came to do: to bind up the broken-hearted, set the captives free, and proclaim the Year of Jubilee (Luke ??). We cheered and clapped our praise for God's goodness.

And we closed with the farewell family standing in the middle of the room while we laid hands on them in prayer to commission them to proclaim to others the same healing, health, and freedom that God had granted them.

It was one of the best services we’ve had, full of the bittersweet emotions that mark Christian farewells. And I’m so glad we didn’t feel obligated to do a “normal” (for us) service.

What’s going on in your church that might benefit from a special service? Not just a special announcement during a normal service, but a totally different service?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Member-Driven Approach to Kids Ministry

Some have asked what crazy ministry we do with kids in a member-driven church? How have we broken free of the centuries old assumptions about children's ministry that keep typical churches stuck?

Actually, for kids 12 and under, our children's ministry is basically identical--even using the same curriculum--as typical churches.  Seriously.

We're not trying to change things just to be different. Different doesn't equal better. So, despite how passionate I am about the need to change some aspects of church, I'm only going to change an element if a clearly better approach comes along.

And let's face it, children's ministry in most churches is awesome. I don't know exactly how or when it changed (there aren't a lot of church history books dedicated to children's ministry), but the kids portion of church somehow got a free pass from medieval restrictions.

They don't teach lecture style, but are creative in how they engage the kids with interactive teaching. They have lots of dialogue, where the kids get to share what they think and apply the lesson to their life. They get to play together and build friendships. They even get to eat together every week. To this day, every time I eat a flower-shaped shortbread cookie--you know, the one with the hole in the middle you can put your finger through--I feel like I'm back in Sunday School. Especially if I can get some apple juice or fruit punch with it.

In fact, if adult services were more like kids service, we wouldn't need to talk about member-driven churches--we'd already be doing it.

I don't know why kids have enjoyed a freedom adults denied themselves. All I know is there's no biblical or strategic reason to change the typical model for kids under the age of 12. If anything, our church is working hard to keep up with typical children's ministry.

Yes, our kids do eat the meal we all eat at the beginning of our gatherings, so they are a part of the first hour with the whole church together. But once we go into either bible study or open ministry, we have a typical children's church program.

Now, our teenagers are handled differently…but that's another post.