One, the foundation must always be Jesus Christ
"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." – 1 Corinthians 3:10-11
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a strong trend in teen ministries, both inside and outside of the ICOC, to build on culture, adventure, and fun. Although the scriptures were used and taught, teen ministers rarely had a plan for the four years that they influenced the spiritual development of the teens.
Can you imagine a teen showing up to high school and the teachers having no curriculum, no plan? What would they learn? I suppose whatever was on the teacher's heart for the day. Unfortunately, far too many teen ministers do that precisely. They teach what is on their heart that week. Many do not have a four-year plan to educate the teens. Some do, and bravo to them!
But the question we have to ask ourselves is, "Are teenagers across the ICOC getting the same opportunity to know God and his word?" We also have many churches that cannot afford to have a full-time teen minister. It is very challenging for a volunteer, after a 40-hours-a-week job, to develop curriculum for teenagers. And, why should they? What if we had a curriculum that was user-friendly, modern, and held to the vital truths of Jesus Christ and his word? We plan to provide that for you.
Two, the family is by far the greatest influence on the development of a teen's life
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." --Deuteronomy 6:5-9
A significant shift began in the early 2000s in the ICOC. Leaders around the world woke up to the fact that Deuteronomy 6 had not been our primary approach to building teen ministry. Too much responsibility was taken away from the parents and given to great-hearted and young teen volunteers. Our retention rate was around a 20% in the churches we polled.
That meant that by the time most of the children that had grown up in the church were in their mid-20s, only one in five was even coming to church anymore. Incredibly, as the ship was right-sized and family became the center of spiritual development, many churches began seeing their retention rates climb to 80 and 90%. In other words, focusing on the development of the family is putting into practice a biblical truth that God richly blesses.
How do we help families to be spiritual? Train them. Beth and I began meeting with the teens and their parents in the early 2000s in Chicago. Although there was resistance at first, having the families sit together, learn together, and discuss their family dynamics enabled them to grow closer and overcome obstacles at home.
We have continued the practice of a monthly meeting with teens and their parents together since that time in both Johannesburg and San Antonio. In our opinion, this time together is one of the most important events that take place on our calendar. Not only does it provide training for the families, but it also helps to build a village, which I will discuss next. We will be regularly furnishing you with devotionals to do, both with your teens and parents together, and family devotionals for the families to take home.
Three, the youth & family ministry is only as strong as the village
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." --Acts 2:44–47
This passage in Acts 2 has always been a fundamental vision of the relationships we desire in our churches. Unity, sacrifice for one another, and sharing life together brought about the fulfillment of Jesus' teaching in John 13:35, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Outsiders flocked to the faith because of the village community of the early church. The Christians' joy radiated as they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Teen families build community by regularly meeting together. Have fun, laugh together, eat together, celebrate birthdays together, and learn together! The village gives teens multiple "aunties" and "uncles." We will help you to facilitate this community.
And the like ...
Young Teen/Middle School – For years we have had people ask us for materials for teens that are not ready to study conversion. What do you do with a 12-year-old that wants to study the Bible? Of course, you always say, "Absolutely, we can study the Bible!" The problem is, many teen leaders and parents do not know WHAT to study with younger teens and pre-teens. We will be releasing Bible studies to address this need and are starting with a series called "Heroes." The Leader's Guide and the first lesson, "Blind Bartimaeus" are included in the February content.
Teen Leader Training – We have incredible full-time ministers and volunteers that serve our families in the youth and family ministry. As they rotate in, it is easy to take for granted that working with teenagers may be entirely new to them. Training empowers and builds teen leader competence. We will be offering training for your teen leaders that will benefit full-time and volunteer teen leaders.
Teen Quiet Times – The teen curriculum covers eight of the twelve months during the year. For June, July, August, and December, we will be releasing other content for your teens. We plan to create Quiet Times and devotionals to strengthen your ministry, especially when they are not in school.
We have already posted a page of introductory articles and materials for January for free! When you create a free account at www.GetGroundedForLife.com, you will immediately have access to everything for January, including four teen curriculum lessons, a teen and parent devotional (including teaching notes and PowerPoint slides), and a family devotional. Use them! If you are interested in subscribing, February's content is also available. At the beginning of each month, subscribers will have access to the next month's material. You have plenty of time to learn the stuff before you teach it.
Beth and I are devoting ourselves to a future of learning, writing, and teaching. As of December 31, 2017, we will not be working for the church in San Antonio. I believe God has called me back to school. I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Spirituality over the next five years. It has already shown itself to be a productive and challenging pursuit. Beth and I will be working together to write material for GROUNDED and will be speaking in churches. We have done many weekend workshops for churches that wanted to gain some traction with their youth and family ministries. I am also continuing to teach in Ministry Training Academies and for churches that wish for more in-depth teaching.
Please visit us at www.GetGroundedForLife.com for your free content and more information.