Family life and Church life

I’m reading a book that is pressing my thinking about how the church relates to families. There is a lot there that I am digesting, but here are a few central questions that are being raised within me:
What would we do differently in the church if we believe that what happens at home is as important as what happens at church?

  • Does our children’s ministry reflect a partnership with parents, or something less than that?
  • If we don’t function like we are partners with parents, what would change if we did?
  • If the church has access to kids for about 40 hours a year, and parents have access to their kids for about 3,000 hours a year, shouldn’t some of our time be spent helping parents use their time for greater spiritual impact?
  • Who has the primary duty to teach children about following Jesus, the church or the family? Does our educational plan reflect that belief?

That’s enough for now. I would be eager to hear your thoughts on these questions!

Getting The Words Out

I had two great meetings yesterday.

In the first one, Christy and I got a firm date on when our son Zach is going to get to start testing new Augmentative Communication software.  Augmentative Communication is what they call a device or software which is used to help people with speech delays communicate their thoughts.  Kids with autism (like Zach) use these tools, but so do stroke victims, or brain injuries, or other speech delays.  Many of these people have a world of thoughts going on inside their heads that they cannot express because of some problem in the linkage between thought and speech.  Augmentative Communication helps them get the words out.  In three weeks, we will get to start to see if Augmentative Communication can help Zach share what he’s thinking and feeling – I can hardly wait!

The second meeting was our More To Life group at church.  Last night, we introduced the group to a video tool that has been created to help Christians start a conversation about Jesus with other people.  The 20-minute DVD has people telling their stories of how knowing Jesus has changed their lives, and it is designed so one person can give it to someone to watch, and then follow up with that person to see if it created an opportunity to tell My story of what Jesus has done to change my life.  When I first found this material, this DVD was the single part that excited me the most.  I’ve always found it difficult to figure out how to start the conversation about Jesus with someone.  If they started the conversation, well that’s not too hard; but when I’m starting the conversation, my brain locks up.  But now, I’ve got a non-threatening, well-constructed conversation starter.  And I realized this morning that the More To Life DVD is another type of Augmentative Communication tool: it helps me get the words out, so I can share what I’m thinking and feeling about the most important person in my life.

Long live Augmentative Communication!

Like St. Patrick

I’ve been trying to get to this all day. Better late than never, especially if you might happen to live on the West Coast and reading this.

I recently read The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter III.  It’s not a new book, but I only learned of it in the last year.  The subtitle is the key: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again.  Hunter’s thesis is that the pattern of evangelism which Patrick initiated, and which the Celtic Christians used for about 200 years, offers wisdom to the modern American Church, which is living in a context much more like ancient Ireland than the America our grandparents lived in (or the America we imagine used to be).

I’m not going to rehearse all of Patrick’s story tonight (it’s a little late for history), but for an American Christian (like me) or an American church (like mine) there are enough points of contact to both discomfort and direct a better way forward.  Patrick had the option of a safe, comfortable, securely Christian life (remaining in England as a parish priest), but he set aside that comfort to lovingly engage a pagan culture that he also knew (having lived in Ireland as a slave).  He engaged that pagan culture by getting to know it intimately and living inside of it, rather than disdainfully holding it at arms length for the sake of keeping himself  “unstained” by it.  His model of engagement centered on becoming at home in a place and setting up a community there which was intentional and generous about inviting and welcoming outsiders.  He and his team expected to change the culture, rather than working to protect themselves from the corrupting influences of the culture – it would seem that they believed that the truth (both in their hearts and in their lives) would win out over false perspectives on God and life.

Patrick and his teams of community planters – not merely church planters, but people who set up shop in a place for the purpose of changing the place with a new community – thought big.  They expected something massive and powerful to happen.

In every one of these areas, I think I fall short.  I get there sometimes, but not enough.  Not nearly.  I don’t really live as though I expect God to do life-changing, community-changing things often enough.  And I don’t challenge my congregation to expect that as much as I could.

But I want to be like Saint Patrick.  Today’s as good a day as any to start.