Kid’s “Church” Art

I had to share some artwork with you (click on an image to see it full-size). During our December worship gathering the kids took some time to make a play-doh nativity after hearing the Christmas story. They also did some drawing.

Church
Drawing by Cameron B. (8 years) of  “the Church”

I couldn’t be more proud of the drawing above! I don’t know if we adults are getting it yet, but the church is NOT a place, it’s a people! So cool!

The next one will require a bit of explanation. Be sure to look at it full-size so you can see Jesus’ face.

Jesus Cries
Picture of baby Jesus by Calvin B (6 years). Notice that baby Jesus is crying.

I had just finished telling the Christmas story, and during the story I let the kids know that Jesus cried as a baby just like all babies cry. Now, it doesn’t say that in the Bible, but it also does not say that Jesus didn’t cry! We know Jesus cried as an adult (John 11:35), and we know that Jesus was fully human and fully God. The fully human baby Jesus surely cried! Is this important? It is important in the sense that Jesus’ full humanity is important theologically. Beyond that, there is the implication that a “perfect” baby wouldn’t cry – bad in so many ways!

You probably noticed the pig as well with the tail that stretches to the sky. I’m not sure where it came from, and my first thought was: “Of all the animals he could’ve picked, he had to pick the one that would be most repulsive to a good Jew!” After a good chuckle I put it away. Later it hit me: Of all the people God could’ve picked to visit baby Jesus he chose the unclean Gentile astrologers (magi) and the physically dirty shepherds! So perhaps a pig isn’t as out of place as I thought at first.

One more picture. This is a picture of the play-doh nativity made by all the kids. Not much I want to say about this other than I love letting kids respond creatively to the Word in our worship gatherings.

Baby Jesus Playdough
Baby Jesus Playdough

City:Base

This is an interesting “fresh expression” of church happening in the UK that sounds very similar to Tidelands in some ways (Thanks for the link Corey). Clearly the Holy Spirit is moving faithful people in similar ways around the globe! Check out the article on City:Base to read more.

I think this balance we are trying to strike between the ‘centre’ and the ‘edge’ is an interesting one; we have our gathering once a month and Simple Church throughout the week to encourage the life of these simple missional churches to grow the life of our prayer and mission base at the centre.

City:Base in Sheffield, UK

3rd Places

Over the years I’ve led and participated in a number of short-term missions to various places in the United States and beyond. Generally the trips are no more than two weeks long, and we end up spending that time living and working with missionaries that are serving in that location on a long-term basis. Being in a foreign culture, it can become tempting to insulate yourself at the home/base of the missionaries. In that place there is a sense of safety, comforts, and a bit of “home away from home.” But in doing so, it is also possible to spend all of your time in a foreign country without truly experiencing and interacting with the very people and culture that you came to serve.

Outdoor CafeIf you really want to get out and experience a new place and get to know the people and culture you need to get out and go to where people gather. You need to spend time in restaurants, cafes, markets and parks. Some of the richest and most vivid experiences from my time on these short-term trips were spent in these places. I think of the chaos of the marketplace in Senegal, the beauty of the open-air jungle cafe in Costa Rica, and the wonderful tastes and smells of the street taco stands of Mexico. These gathering spots are the “3rd Places.”

In urban planning “3rd Places” (or “3rd Spaces”) are those spots other than home or work where people gather together. For the missional church, 3rd Places are those spots other than home or church where people gather. This could be a cafe, restaurant, park, school, gym, etc. These are places where people feel comfortable and safe. Places where food, drink and conversation flow. This is where you get to know the community and the stories that form it.

As we get moving with this new missional church, we are making a point of moving ourselves into these spaces. I’m grateful right now that I don’t have a formal office, because it makes it easier for me to find “excuses” to be out in the community. In fact, I’m sitting in a gym during basketball practice right now as I write this and I’ve already met someone I’ve never talked with before. But spending intentional time in 3rd places is not limited to individuals. We can also gather as a group. That is why, as a missional community we are going to go out to eat together at least once a month to the same location so that we can get known as “regulars” and have more opportunities to interact with the lives and stories that make up this community. Our hope is that over time this will also facilitate our ability to build relationships and make contact with those in our community that have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

There are two different ways that we, as the missional church, want to be intentional about being present in these 3rd places. First, we want to go back to at least one place often enough that we get to know that place and people well and truly become part of it. The first time that I walk into the Stanwood Starbucks and the barista knows my drink order before I say it, I’ll know I’m crossing into that special zone of belonging. Second, we want to visit 3rd places that we either haven’t been to before or might not normally visit. The reason for the latter should be obvious: if we only go where we are comfortable and fit in we will in some ways be like the short term missionary that never leaves the missionary’s home and therefore never truly gets to know and experience the culture.

So the moral here: Go out more often! Seriously! But as you go, be sure to look, listen, and pray that you will have the eyes to see your community and the people around you as Jesus does.

The Story

We were sitting down to dinner last night and our youngest son (6 years old) agreed to pray and give thanks before we ate. He takes this “giving thanks” quite seriously and will often pray a long list of “Thank you for…”s. Most of the time I really enjoy hearing all of the interesting things he is thanking God for. “Wii”, “water,” and “babies” often top his list along with the usual “food” and “family.” Sometimes his list goes on and on and if the rest of us are especially hungry, and our food is sitting in front of us waiting to be eaten, we become quite charismatic and began mumbling encouraging “Amen”s hoping to wrap up the prayer!

Last night he ended with “…and thank you that boys are no longer mean. Amen!” My wife and I opened our eyes and gave each other a look that translated into “What is that about?” I was worried that there had been an incident at school or on the bus that we didn’t know about. But after questioning him we finally discovered that he was talking about The Story of God. Let me explain.

If you’re not familiar with The Story of God, this is something developed by Soma Communities in Tacoma to be used with Missional Communities. The resource is free and can be found here: Story of God Resources. We are currently working through the “Story Formed Way” version in our missional community. We weren’t sure how it was going to work with the kids since it really is not the “kids version” of the story. However, the kids have really been engaged, especially when we do the retelling! The Story of God is a form of “chronological Bible storying” that presents the overall Biblical narrative in condensed, oral story form. Another way to describe it would be a sweeping “big picture” of the story of redemption.

Back to my son’s prayer: He was apparently very disturbed (and rightly so) that in the beginning of The Story there is a repeated theme of people “doing what is right in their own eyes” and that “their every thought was evil.” Now that we are deeper into the story and have arrived at Jesus, he is experiencing relief that, in his own words, “boys are no longer mean.” What I love about this, is that even though he doesn’t have the theological or church language to talk about sin,  evil, redemption, etc., he is grasping the story! He is getting the “good news” – the Gospel! And not only that, but he is personalizing it! “Boys” and “meanness” is something that he can relate to in that he has both experienced it and he has been the mean boy at times.

I have no idea how we will look back on this later. We haven’t even finished going through The Story of God once yet, and ideally we will do it once every year in our missional community. I just have a sense that we are onto something that I have longed for since the day that my children were born: that they would know God’s Story and see themselves as an ongoing part of that story in the world!

Who do we need? The Missionary Plan

Our team worked hard to put together a detailed plan for who we think we will need in various leadership positions to get the new church off the ground. I’ll share the timeline with you soon in a separate post and save the position descriptions for another time as well. We are excited to begin searching for the people that God is leading to be a part of this new church!

MISSIONARY PLAN
STANWOOD/CAMANO ISLAND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT

 PROJECT DESCRIPTION:

Jesus is already present and working in the Stanwood/Camano Island, Washington area. God has initiated a church planting process through Mountain View Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of North Puget Sound in this community. Our task is to try and connect with where the Spirit is moving and leading us to be involved.  The purpose of starting this new church community is to share the love of Jesus and his good news by living our lives on mission: pouring ourselves out in service and love, building relationships, and providing an environment where all followers of Jesus can grow and live out their faith. The founding members believe a church community built on missional communities and regular worship gatherings is the best way to achieve these goals.

KEY LEADERSHIP POSITIONS NEEDED:

The following leadership positions have been identified in our mission plan as necessary to launch this new church (full position descriptions are available). They are listed in order by priority of which positions should be filled first.

Organizing Pastor

The primary focus of the Missional Community is to make disciples that make disciples. With this focus, the organizing pastor is called to teach and equip the missional community leaders and members. The organizing pastor will help lead the church to fulfill its vision in Christ Jesus. During regular worship services the organizing pastor will preach and teach the Word, administer the sacraments, and baptize believers. This will be a paid full-time position.

Brandon Bailey, a certified candidate under care of Mountain View Presbyterian Church has been the point person for our discernment process and has been identified as a good candidate to fill the role of organizing pastor. He is currently on staff of Mountain View Presbyterian Church and is a resident of Camano Island.

Missional Community Leaders

The primary focus of the Missional Community is to make disciples that make disciples. With this focus, the missional community leaders are called to be missionaries within their neighborhood and community, leading a group of disciples to share the good news of Jesus Christ and serve others. The missional community leaders will be responsible for organizing the missional communities and leading them in their calling in the community. They will also be responsible for training leaders to lead additional missional communities.

These will be volunteer positions that will require ongoing training in group settings with the organizing pastor. The initial leaders will likely need to attend training offered at other churches with existing missional community models in place. The organizing pastor may be a missional community leader in the beginning.

Worship Team Leader

To draw, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the gathered body of Christ into true wholehearted worship of the one true God. This will include leading a team of musicians and other leaders, in cooperation with the organizing pastor, to plan and lead the worship gatherings. This position will begin on a volunteer basis. As the position develops and the church grows appropriate compensations will be established.

Administrative Team Leader

To be responsible for the ongoing management and operations of the missional communities and church gatherings and to assist the Pastor and missional community leaders as needed. This position will begin on a volunteer basis. As the position develops and the church grows appropriate compensations will be established.

Mission Plan Complete!

Our discernment team has been steadily working to complete the discernment process by July. I am pleased to report that we have completed our “mission plan.” It is now a permanent page on this blog.

I can’t say enough about the amazing people on our discernment team and the work that they have done! All of them have given up countless hours over the past six months to go through this process with us and listen to seek out God’s leading for us – even in the midst of challenging life circumstances. Thank you Adam and Andrea Anderson, Jason and Becca Kreutz, John and Jackie Fuller, and Kristina Bailey! You are amazing!

What’s next? At our final team meeting we will create a timeline for the months ahead with some critical steps and we will post it on the blog. Some of these next steps include presenting our work to the sessions of Mountain View and the Executive Board of the Presbytery of North Puget Sound. Our team has completed their commitment and will be deciding what is next in their own lives. For some of them, stepping forward to be a part of our new church leadership will be the natural next step. For others, God called them for this particular purpose in the process and they will be moving forward with other forms of ministry and service.

Confessions of a Youth Pastor

First confession: I’m not yet an ordained “pastor,” but the title I used sounds more interesting than “Confessions of a Youth Director.” Second confession: I’m scared to death of being the parent of teenagers!

I have two boys, ages 6 and 8. By all accounts, I should not worry about being the parent of a teenager yet. However, if 14 years in youth ministry have taught me anything, it is that kids grow up faster than parents expect! When my oldest son turned 8 in December I realized that I had less than ten years left to plan for a college fund and only eight to plan for him driving on his own! Yikes!!  Scarier still: only 5 years until he is officially a “teen!” In recent years, some of the teenagers I work with have asked me if I wouldn’t like to have a girl. I have a pat response: “Yes, I would love to have a little girl, I just don’t want to have a teenage girl.” This usually gets a good laugh from the boys and indignant protests from the girls. It’s funny, but it is also totally honest! It’s not that I think boys are going to be so easy, it is just that I at least understand some of what they are going to face, and I hope (probably naïvely) that it will help me a bit.

So what does any of this have to do with this blog about our new church development? This brings me to my next confession: one of the biggest reasons that I want to be part of planting a church is that I have a desire to see my boys living and growing up in a community of faith that is deeply woven into their lives – in their school, on their sports teams, in their neighborhood, in their home, etc. I want them to “see” and “feel” what it is to be the church more than I want them to hear and talk about it.

Now please do not hear the wrong thing: I am NOT saying that Mountain View cannot be that kind of church or that there aren’t other churches in Stanwood/Camano that are like this. What I am saying is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to use our current models of being and doing church to disciple young people. This is not a radical statement – almost any book or conference on youth ministry today will be talking about this phenomenon of young people leaving the church after high school. I think that older generations in the church are finally admitting that this is not simply a repeat of previous patterns of young people leaving the church and then returning when they have a family (the statistical trends are simply too obvious for that kind of speculation now. See #5 in Five Myths by Barna). So what we need in order to disciple young families are new models. Models that can be integrated into the lives of families, equipping them to live out their faith together during the week where they work and play in order that more people may come to know and believe in Jesus Christ. 

So we need to experiment. We need to try new things. We need to fail, try again, fail, and try again. We need to embody the church as people more than place. Since I know that the church is going to have to change in order to be faithful to God’s calling in the world, I might as well get on board now! I want to be able to look my boy’s in the eye someday and tell them that I at least tried to live out what they hear me preaching from the pulpit, even if it means letting go of some of what has been comfortable for me.