The research on church planting is often not very encouraging to those of us serving in established churches. For a good primer on the absolute importance of church planting, I would recommend Why Plant Churches by Tim Keller, published in 2002.
The fact we all must reckon with is that church planting is a crucial strategy. “Nothing else – not Crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes – will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.” (Keller, 2002.) Many of us would like to believe that we should spend our effort revitalizing established churches rather than planting new ones. After all, they have plenty of seats, already have buildings, and it would put more Christians together with each other in unity.
Many of you know about my vision to make High Point a “teaching church” – much like some hospitals are teaching hospitals. In other words, my hope is to build a robust in vibrant church in which some of our top young people can cut their teeth in ministry and be prepared for whatever ministry God is calling them to. Some of these people will be church planters. Some will lead in established churches, seeking to revitalize them. Others will work in parachurch ministries. And others may not go on to work in vocational ministry, but will be lifelong major contributors to a local church.
Throughout the interview process, Derick wrote responses to several questions. Get to know his outlook on ministry through some of his responses below:
The primary reason Derick wants to work with youth is because he wants to impact them. He sees the mistakes that teens make as significant, given where they’re at in their brain development, and helping them through the choices they need to make and guiding them to prevent harm is invaluable.
Derick is excited to work with all the middle and high school students. Here is a response to what his favorite thing is about each age group and what he thinks is the most important thing they need:
Grades 7 & 8
Favorite Thing: They’re not to cool for school and they’re crazy and fun. For most of them they’re willing to be energetic.
What They Need:They’re beginning to think abstractly and they can learn skills and core truths of the gospel. Then, they can begin to figure out how to apply that. They need to be given some freedom to search and investigative these things.
Grades 9 & 10
Favorite Thing: They are well into their teen years now and they’re “beyond” the craziness. They are trying to find their identity and who they are and who their friends are. There’s an openness and vulnerability during this age group because the walls aren’t built yet. It is important to build relationships with them at this age so they trust you and you can mold them.
What They Need: They need lessons tied into who they are in Christ to help them find their identity in Christ. And explore what the scriptures say.
Grades 11 & 12
Favorite Thing: This is the tail end of the teen age and they are more adult-ish than childlike. Their ability to think abstractly and grasp bigger concepts is increasing and they’ve become more mature. You can begin to have a genuine and deep relationship with this age group. Another great thing is as they are thinking about life outside of high school, they have optimism and are not jaded by the world.
What They Need: They need to continue to learn truths of scripture and teach them the deeper concepts. We need to make sure they have a firm foundation of faith laid to protect them from the ideologies of the world.
Tell us how you have built and maintained strong relationships with the parents of the youth you have served in ministry.
This has been my biggest struggle in my current ministry context. Most of the teens involved in the youth ministry of Catawissa Christian Church have absentee parents at best. The teens walk to youth group on their own. One night early on in the ministry we actually had an angry mom walk into the building and loudly grab her child to bring him home! Over time I began to see which parents were just getting rid of their kids for a while and which ones were involved. I decided to spent my time on working to build relationships with the parents who were involved. I live in a small town, so it is easy to have people over for get togethers regularly. I also find it very effective if my wife and I “just happened” to be going for a walk by the students’ house when they were outside. Unfortunately, even though we were able to begin to build relationships with the more involved parents most of them were not Christians and not committed to a church. As responsibilities grew with the church plant and my time became stretched I had to focus on the few parents who had teens in the church.
Share an example of how you have successfully discipled a young person? How did you get to know them? What were the specific things you did to develop them in Christ?
When I first met Danny G. he came to a youth gathering with a friend and made it a point to tell me he was only there for the food. He kept coming back though and sometimes even when his friend didn’t. He reminded me every week (during the lesson) that he was only there for the food and games and didn’t even think Jesus was real, but he kept coming back. The biggest reason was because I let him voice his opinion and then challenged him to simply listen to mine. He respected that I didn’t force anything on him and over time began to trust me. He has a strong personality so I knew that I had to give him facts in a challenging way, then let him process it on his own so he felt in control. I also began to give him small amounts of responsibility in different areas which he appreciated greatly. He has come a long way in the last few years. In the past few months, I worked with him to let him know that I am heading out of the area. He has accepted this and has allowed another leader to take the reins of discipling him.
A couple of weeks ago I ended my two vision sermons with nine challenges about how we can personally and practically seek to be a church that glorifies God through making disciples by engaging and equipping people with the gospel. We are planning on going back to these 9 things again and again over the next year- but I wanted to simplify them a little bit.
Here are the 9 parts of the vision and plan challenge narrowed down into 6categories:
1. Am I in out of emotion, out of conviction, or not at all?
The contrast we used was in relationship to cardiac Christianity and adrenaline Christianity. Is your commitment to glorifying God by living the gospel in this specific local church a burst of emotion or a bedrock conviction? Do you have be motivated every time a choice needs to be made or something needs to be done? Or is there an internal motivation that drives you so that you don’t have to be re-motivated and re-asked every time we need to take ground?
2. Who are the two people I’m praying for?
Evangelism doesn’t just happen. Most dynamics are against it happening naturally. We have to be praying for opportunities to share with people. Our relationships have to be intentional while not manipulating people or trying to make them our projects. Leading people to Christ has to become part of the pattern and rhythm of our lives, not dependent on specific church programs. Church programs, like worship services or small groups, can be effective places to invite people you’re already friends with, and already praying for, and already talking to. Do you have two people you’re praying for?
3. In what environment or ministry do you have a gifting that can make a contribution? An environment is any place people go where we can teach them, serve them or relate to them. It could be a big venue like Sunday worship services. It could be a small venue like small groups. Or it could be in an age focused ministry like children’s. Are you explicitly asking yourself:
How do my passions and gifts come together to point me to where I can make a contribution?
Then: Who do I talk to to get involved?
4. What is sacrificial generosity for me?
Generosity is something that has to be visited and revisited. It’s not about giving to charity. The church is not a charity; it’s a cosmic-redemptive movement created by God, empowered by God, authorized by God, and sent into the world by God. Therefore, Christian generosity is a measure of how generous we are towards God, how much Christ’s generosity towards us has affected us, and whether or not we want to be participants in God’s global mission. Have you ever visited what that would look like for you if you really believe the gospel about Jesus? If you have visited generosity, how long is it before you should revisit it again? If you are a growing Christian, making adjustments is normal and should be deliberate. Those adjustments won’t always mean giving more, but sometimes they will.
5. How can I make people my business?
The organization of the church can obscure its true purpose: people. It’s very easy to think in terms of organization or ministries. But the organization of the church, as well as the ministries of the church, exist to minister to and to organize people.
A. How can I include, encounter or host people – rather than just say hi and be friendly?
B. How can I include disciple making in the normal pattern and rhythm of my daily life? How can I do more discipleship without doing more things?
C. How can I use one of my hobbies, passions or areas of skill to make disciples and share Christ?
6. How can I escape diversion and embrace discipline?
What diversion is inhibiting me from doing what God has for me? What is taking the time, emotional energy or resources that I should invest somewhere else? Remember, the thing that is keeping us from what we are meant to be is the thing we are doing instead.
What discipline must I embrace in order to become the disciple I want to become and God has made me to be? Human transformation is almost always linked to disciplines, practices and structures. Some of these disciplines and practices are solitary. For people who struggle with discipline – is often good to do these disciplines in community. Many of them can be done in small groups or in one-on-one discipleship relationships. If you’re having trouble embracing discipline, ask yourself these two questions:
Should I join a small group so that I have a time and structure built into my schedule to pursue these disciplines?
Should I seek out a mentor who can walk me through these disciplines and practices?
My hope is to return to these six areas again and again over the course of the next year. If more and more people are personally engaging with these six questions, you’ll see constant and real progress in growing into the church Christ has called us to be and Madison needs us to be.