When church kids become church teens

When Maggie and I became part of the Converge Church family, we were coming from a youth ministry background. Both of us having a strong affection and passion for shepherding people on the verge of adulthood. At that time Converge Church had only 2 teens. However, over 50% of our regular attenders were under the age of 12. Maggie and I served in the kids ministry eagerly awaiting the day we would start to lead the kids around us into the misty woods of adolescence.

It wasn’t going to be the same as what we were used to. Converge Church has one mandate. Make disciples, who makes disciples. Keeping things simple helps us stay on task. But it also means saying no to things that some other churches enjoy. From the beginning we were determined to integrate our youth ministry seamlessly into the rest of our discipleship strategy — gospel shaped communities living on mission. (GCM) A steep curve for youth discipleship lay ahead for Converge teens and preteens.

When your church resembles a elementary school, needs are high, resources are scarce and things change quick. We had noticed our children were growing up fast. Faster than we could strategize for. We tried to keep the youth with the younger children during the sermon, but they were bored (and slightly insulted) by the play-school flavoured format. We moved them in to listen to the sermon, but they were lost in the many words and became easily distracted (and distracting!) Worst of all, they were feeling like unwanted disciples. They didn’t fit into our plans and they knew it. We hashed and rehashed our options at planning meetings to little avail. Eventually we gave the youth a sermon based worksheet each week to help them stay on track while seated with the adults. Our youth snatched the worksheets up eagerly — and made many paper airplanes.

Meanwhile, in my own (adult) GCM, I noticed that people were much more likely to participate in small group discussion, and even develop their personal spiritual growth at home, when subject matter reflected the Sunday sermon rather than a separate curriculum. The preacher had ignited something in them them on Sunday and most disciples were eager to fan it into flame during the week. Those who weren’t so keen were soon inspired by those others during discussion. It is welcome evidence that God’s Spirit is active in his people, through the Sunday sermon — I wanted to go with it. So my GCM started using sermon based worksheets.

Still anguishing over the neglected discipleship of our youth and next-to-none resources, we decided to give the youth their own GCM. Using a sermon based worksheet as the main discipleship tool meant that: 1) Youth had a little extra incentive to pay attention during the sermon, and 2) The only extra resources needed was a place to meet and a person to lead. Excitedly, I raised my hand to the task. The next Sunday our preteens and teens were told that after the service they were invited to come hang out with Maggie and I for lunch and discipleship; the first gathering of Youth GCM. It was a success!

The extra incentive was more effective than I could have imagined! Partially because the youth were thrilled to finally be included in the Converge Church ministry strategy. Partially because it was something to do together as a group of young disciples on the verge of adulthood. We used the same worksheet designed for the youth a few months before hand. It was simple; take notes and draw illustrations to put the sermon in your own words as you go. Write down your questions and answer 4 questions in sequence: Based on the sermon 1) Who is God? » 2) What has he done? » 3) Who are you? » 4) What will you do?

In 4 weeks the Youth GCM was firmly established as a healthy, growing fully functioning GCM of Converge Church. The transformation in the youth themselves is actually breathtaking! I’ll post more about that in a story on the Converge Church website titled “Our youth are real disciples.”

The worksheet we use has been slightly adapted since its launch. I’ll upload our recently revised worksheet (which is currently used for all GCMs) just incase anyone wants to use it. »» GCM Disciple Guide (Worksheet)

A picture of John Coltrane.

Nunc Dimittis

You may have heard the famous story of the legendary jazz saxophone musician John Coltrane of whom it was said, during a live performance of A Love Supreme, “every last ounce of his skill and musicianship seemed to come together in an absolutely magical performance. Just that one time, he was even better than the best. Everything about that performance was sublime, and when he’d finished, as he walked offstage, his drummer heard him breathe two words: “Nunc dimittis”.” Continue reading