30 May 2017

Four reflections from Growing Faith Week

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It's fascinating to walk out of the cinema and listen to people’s reflections. Some will quote their favourite line. Others will re-enact their favourite scene. A few will wrestle with questions of logic or ethics. 

Throughout Growing Faith Week, over 300 Senior Ministers, Children’s and Youth Ministers and invested families gathered to wrestle with how the generations of our churches can help each other cherish and follow Jesus Christ. People’s reflections have been insightful. Here are four that I found particularly helpful:

1. “Everyone needs a place in the body”

This Youth Minister was struck by the need to help his young people know and experience their place in the body of Christ.  His age-specific youth ministries were effective for discipleship and fellowship. The youth knew their place in the youth group. However he wanted his young people to know their place in the wider body. He was convicted to give his youth many opportunities to serve the wider body, not only for their sake but for the sake of older generations. He identified that knowing their place in the wider body was essential for reversing the trend of young adults walking away from their faith. His comments made me wonder whether other generations in our churches need help finding their place in our churches.

2. “Intergenerational Ministry is not the end goal”

This Senior Minister was struck that Intergenerational Ministry was not a church program or the latest solution to a problem. Intergenerational Ministry is the discipline of diversity that enacts and celebrates the unity that Christ purchased through his sacrificial death (Ephesians 2:14-22) and looks forward in wonder to the eschatological diversity of God’s people in heaven (Revelation 7:9-12). This diversity is ethnic, socio-economic and generational. This Senior Minister reflected that leading his church to become a “fellowship of differents” was not simple or automatic. It was a discipline that he and his team needed to approach carefully, prayerfully and with clear goals. His comments made me wonder what a discipline of diversity would look like in my church.

3. “I want to hear more from them”

Throughout Growing Faith Day, I heard this phrase over and over again. Parents wanted to hear the joys and struggles of single adults. Children wanted to hear the faith stories of grandparents. Adults wanted to pray more with children. There was a constant realisation that God could use the testimonies, Biblical reflections and prayers of different people to grow faith in adults and children. People were challenged not to rely on programs but to take the opportunities at church and in life to foster faith conversations.  

4. “We can do this”

This was by far the most common reflection I heard all week. Conferences can cause paralysis, overwhelming people with information and ideas. Growing Faith Week was full of teaching, wisdom and ideas, yet by God’s grace, leaders and adults were inspired to try one thing to bridge the gap between the generations and express our unity in Christ. During the intergenerational service at the Growing Faith Conference I heard a 10 year old boy said to his Dad, “we could do this at our church dad and I would love that”. Leaders were inspired to add elements to their age-specific ministries that connect generations. Parents were equipped to serve as a family in their local churches. Many fears and challenges were dispelled by leaders sharing their joys and fails with each other. 

Final thoughts

As I reflected on Growing Faith Week, it struck me that many of the participants had a moment like C.S.Lewis.

"When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches; ... I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit ." *

If you know someone who went to Growing Faith Week, why don’t you ask them what struck them?

*  C.S. Lewis, "Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 61-62.  

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