Sunday School and Generational Challenges Revisited

One of the Six Marketplace Realities that has changed in the past 25 years is a Generational issue. This is the first time in history in which there are 5 living generations, 4 of them working together with growing differences in needs, preferences, values and types of organizations they associate with. A question to consider: Are we sufficiently attentive to the needs defined by the generational differences among our churches?

Let me share an example I often use in training sessions for teachers. It was used by Leonard Sweet fifteen years ago about the challenges churches will face, but I personalized it this way: When I was a child, the first chocolate candy bar I enjoyed was Hershey’s. Later I delved into Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, many others and my favorite, Almond Joy. These were all about the taste. (I love chocolate!) When I was about eight or so, mom gave us all permission to buy one candy at the grocery store. I did not choose chocolate to her amazement. I chose a superhero Pez dispenser! Suddenly it was not about the taste. It was about using your imagination, and having an experience! People want an experience of the Risen Savior!

People my age and younger (end of Baby Boomers and younger) enjoy experiences even in our candy choice. Ten years ago the favorite candy/bubble gum was dispensed in a toy cell phone that made all the noises of a cell phone. Today you can’t find it…everyone has a cell phone!

What I am saying is; Bible study must focus on imagination and be experiential for people my age and younger. If I was teaching elementary age children and the lesson was on Zacchaeus, I would take the children outside and have a teenager or young adult dressed as Zacchaeus in a tree and telling his story about being isolated and rejected until Jesus came to town.

If I was doing a lesson from Jeremiah about the Potter’s House, I would have Play Doh for everyone. I would want them to experience God creating something beautiful out of our frailties. Sunday School for younger generations must be experiential in nature and focused on a learning model, not a teaching model. (See my blog on Learning Model versus Teaching Model)

The younger generation (Millennials) want older adults to be their mentor. I actually got this idea from Bo Prosser. He had a young adult class go to an older men’s class one Sunday to hear their story about what it means for them to be a part of their church. These men inspired the younger generation and vice versa. A few weeks later the older men’s class wanted to hear the young adult’s story. Take a Sunday to try this and see what happens. Understanding between generations is the beginning of becoming a community of faith.

Challenge the older classes to share their passion with the younger generation. What do I mean? If your folks had a free day without a “honey do list”, and could do anything, what would they want to do? Get people to turn their passions into a ministry. The younger generation may want one of them to be a mentor in that passion.

Considering how mobile we have become, many young parents do not have grandparents nearby. Get older persons to adopt children in the church. In the meantime these older adults will connect with the parents and develop a friendship that leads to a spiritual family. I had two such families for our children, and they are still considered grandparents to this day. (My children are twenty and twenty-two.)

Added: Consider intergenerational Bible studies. One of the growing needs is for some intergenerational Bible study times. Consider the blog: Children/Parent Event and Sunday School in the archives for an example. Grandparents, adoptive grandparents great grandparents could join in.

Yes…there are challenges as we consider worship and the needs of each generation, but Sunday School can become a bridge between the generations!

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The Miracle in the Small

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Eph. 3:20, MSG)

It’s best to imagine what God can do through the Spirit in you at work. A God-sized vision emerges from your creative imagination, beyond your wildest dreams, as the Spirit moves you to the best moment and resources, ready to achieve your spiritual dream on the job.

These spiritual dreams of how God wants to increase your faith with greater joy at work so you love God and others more often start small and grow large. You have picked up an acorn before. It’s about the size of a dime. I picked up one under a 150-year-old oak tree on my farm. I stood there looking at the acorn, up at the tremendous oak, and wondered, “How did such a huge tree start as such a little acorn?” It defies all senses to understand or explain. You can only imagine.

Have you ever held a mustard seed in the palm of your hand? It’s about the size of a pencil point. You plant that pencil-point seed, and it grows into a six-foot-high bush. Who would have thought that was possible?

Jesus said that’s all the faith you need, about the size of a mustard seed, to move mountains. There are all kinds of mountains at work—disgruntled customers, slow cash flow, gossiping team members.

When you believe the positive in faith at work, all the imagination you need to do the impossible is about the size of a mustard seed. Your faith increases. Your joy at work soars. You love God and others more.

Rather than judging from appearances, Jesus sees the miracle in the small.

I remember my Great-Grandmother Frazier making yeast rolls. She would sift the flour and add the liquid and other ingredients, open a small packet of something magical—yeast—and fold in just a pinch or so. An extremely small amount when compared with the flour. Then she mixed all of this, grabbed a handful of it, pat it out and put it down on the pan.

“Grandma, what’s it doing?” I asked.

“It’s rising, son,” she said.

“How?” I said.

“The magic of yeast,” she said.

How in the world does such a tiny amount of yeast make all that dough rise?

It’s best to imagine what God can do through the Spirit in you at work, even though your efforts to be Christ in the workplace seem small like yeast. When you work Faith Positive, believing that your work will share God’s love with others in ways that defy your understanding, your marketplace ministry grows tall from acorn efforts, moves mountains, and rises like yeast.

God can do anything, you know—which is the miracle in the small.

Dr. Joey Faucette, co-author of the #1 bestseller, Faith Positive in a Negative World, leads two webinars to equip churches to disciple business leaders to increase faith with greater joy at work so they love God and others more.

We have a free webinar for lay persons on Tuesday, March 31st at 7 p.m. and coaches you in living out your faith through your work. Click here to register http://bgav.org/events/leadership-gathering-webinar-joey-faucette2

Dr. Joey leads our Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie on May 1-2. Register for this event when you click here http://bgav.org/events/the-leadership-gathering/
Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at http://www.GetPositive.Today and the Faith Positive Radio podcast at iTunes.
http://www.getpositive.today/faith-positive-radio-thom-shultz/

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Sunday School and the Lenten Journey

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Lent is the religious season beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 18th this year), lasting 40 days, excluding Sundays, and ending on Easter Sunday. The word Lent originates from the Old English lencten, meaning springtime. In early days, it was a 36-day period, but during the reign of Charlemagne, around A.D. 800, four days were added making it 40 days to symbolize Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

Christians worldwide observe Lent by fasting, giving alms, abstaining from amusements, and spending time in reflection and confession. The period was intended as a time of spiritual preparation for Easter in remembrance of the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a time to discover more about what it means to be a disciple, to deny self, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

As teachers we need to be aware of the church calendar and opportunities to share these specific periods of time with our students. The Lenten journey gives us opportunity to consider the sacrifices and costs of being a follower of Christ as we deepen our faith along the way. In some churches fasting from something is encouraged; giving up something that we over-focus upon and using that time to grow deeper in relationship with Christ. I know of some who gave up certain foods or drinks that they like. Some give up television, technology or other things and spend that time reading their Bibles, praying and serving others.

There are some who recognize the need not just to give up something, but to do something more for God. Take up a cause, serve more and find ways to bring God’s kingdom to earth. As Christians, we need to take up our cross daily and follow, not just talk about it. Spend time talking to your class about ways to take up their cross and follow Jesus during this season of Lent.

Richard Foster would say, The Disciplines of the faith allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. The Lenten journey gives us more opportunity for transformation to take place and moves us from an admirer of Jesus to a follower of Jesus!

“The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.”
― from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

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You Were Born for This

We take our lead from Christ. . . . He keeps us in step with each other.
(Eph. 4:15, MSG)

You literally were born into relationships, created to cooperate both with the God-created universe and those in it. Living into these positive relationships is how you conceive your Faith Positive lifestyle at work as a disciple of Christ.

The key to leveraging these relationships is to become the kind of person you want to do business with as customers or clients, employees or employers, and vendors or suppliers.

Use these questions to shape yourself to increase faith with greater joy at work with positive partners whom you love:
1. What are my core values? That is, those character traits you want to exhibit in your business relationships?
Think of your core values as the spiritual drivers for how you do what you do at work. Such qualities as honesty, integrity, faith, joy, and love motivate you.
Paul sees these as the stimulus for staying in step with others at work. Others serve from their gifts, which are different than yours. The shared core values unify you in the midst of these diverse expressions of service, creating a cooperative purpose in Christ for the team.

2. What are my priorities? That is, those matters you consider most important in word and in work behavior.

Think of your priorities as the spiritual drivers for the “why” of what you do. Priorities determine who gets your attention and other resources and when. They are your strategic metrics for why you invest yourself. For example, faith is a priority for you so you invest attention in worship and small groups weekly. You attract relationships at work with others who have a similar emphasis.

By investing yourself in others according to your priorities, you encourage them. They sense the high value you place on your relationship with them and are attracted to you. Such encouragement is the relational glue that bonds you together as a team.

3. What is my unique contribution to make in the world through my work, and how do I live into it daily?
Core values are the “how” that equip. Priorities are “why” that encourage. Think of your unique contribution as “what” you do that edifies. It is driven by your core values and priorities and the manifestation of what you understand to be your created purpose.

As you work Faith Positive, you act to deliver your unique contribution and edify others. Paul sees your positive results at work serving to help others see, learn, and grow into Christ-likeness. Such edification is the spiritual wind beneath the wings of your work, creating a lift and leverage that glorifies God and drives your work with a fresh breeze of meaning and satisfaction.
You were born to work this way. Take your lead from Christ and step out in faith, joy and love with those around you.

Dr. Joey Faucette, co-author of the #1 bestseller, Faith Positive in a Negative World, leads two webinars to equip churches to disciple business leaders to increase faith with greater joy at work so they love God and others more. The Empowering Leaders Team of the BGAV provides these webinars at no cost to you.

The first webinar is for clergy on Tuesday, March 10th at 10:30 a.m. and coaches you to develop a ministry that disciples your business leaders for marketplace ministry. Click here to register http://bgav.org/events/leadership-gathering-webinar-joey-faucette-031015/

The second webinar is for lay persons on Thursday, March 12th at 7 p.m. and coaches you in living out your faith through your work. Click here to register http://bgav.org/events/leadership-gathering-webinar-joey-faucette-031215/

Dr. Joey leads our Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie on May 1-2. Register for this event when you click here http://bgav.org/events/the-leadership-gathering/
Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at http://www.GetPositive.Today and the Faith Positive Radio podcast at iTunes.

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Wear God’s Silk Scarf to Work

No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes (Luke 5:36, MSG)

When you read the Gospels, you discover that the Pharisees and religious scholars favored the familiar. They kept things kosher. The way we’ve always done it.

So when Jesus invited Levi, a hated tax collector, to “come, follow me” and the moral reprobate dropped his coin purse and walked with Jesus, you could have bought the Status Quo Border Patrol for a nickel.

To make matters worse, Levi threw a dinner party with the finest china, crystal wine goblets, and gold-plated utensils stolen tax money could buy and invited every tax-collecting friend and other “despicable me’” he knew . . . plus Jesus! This Jesus, who increased faith so radically with an unfamiliar joy in his work that showed more love for God and others, could perhaps help save his friends from themselves, too, he thought.

The Champions of Correctness couldn’t stand idly by while this defiant assault of their familiar by the new went on. From Levi’s front yard, they said loud enough to be overheard by those in the big house, “What is he [Jesus] doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?” (Luke 5:30).

Do you hear the “we’ve never done it this way before” in their voices?

Jesus stuck his head out the door and said, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders . . . to a changed life, changed inside and out” (Luke 5:31–32).

Can you imagine how quiet things got around the dinner table about then? Surely Levi smiled. He got it. Faith, joy, and love are required to reverse the effects of the negative world at work.

Surely his reprobate friends got it, too. Jesus was talking about them. They knew they were sick and needed a doctor. But not just any doctor. One whose faith, joy, and love for his work were accessible to them.

Realizing they were losing, a scholar said, “John’s disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?” (Luke 5:33).

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes,” Jesus said (Luke 5:36).

Jesus says change is frightening because you prefer the old work clothes of the way you’ve always done it. Change gives you a headache because you have to repeatedly perceive the unfamiliar, intentionally choosing to suspend your judgment in pursuit of God’s positive way in the world.

The reality is what you’ve been doing no longer works. Put on the fine silk scarf, the new fabric that matches what God is doing in the world.

Wear God’s new fine silk scarf to work and increase your faith with greater joy so you love God and others more. Then watch who gets changed, inside and out.

Work Faith Positive in this negative world.

Dr. Joey Faucette is the #1 best-selling author of two books, the latest of which is Faith Positive in a Negative World with co-author, Mike Van Vranken. He is our keynote speaker at the May 1-2 Leadership Gathering at Eagle Eyrie. Register for this experience at http://eagleeyrie.org/events/leadership-gathering-2015/ Subscribe to the Faith Positive blog at www.GetPositive.Today

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The Child & Discipline Issues in Sunday School

While I was thinking about discipline in the church setting, I was struck by how often we focus on “the problem” instead of “the child.” Every teacher I have ever known (including me!) had a student that makes the time we spend teaching more of a challenge. Challenge or not, each child is a PERSON first, and should be treated as such – not as a problem to deal with or work around. Remember the end goal for any preschool or children’s teacher at church is helping shape a person who loves God and follows Jesus, not producing perfectly behaved robots or chalking up another completed lesson! An example from my own classroom:

I teach a class of 3rd graders, most of whom are active and energetic (read here, rowdy and loud!). On this particular day, one of my regular attenders was having a particularly difficult time, being even more active and energetic than usual. Not openly defiant, but slow to quiet (LOTS of talking and noise making) and unable at all to be still (running around, touching everything, poking people). When I asked the child to be still or quiet, it seemed to exacerbate the behavior. This back and forth continued for the entire class time. And I was irritated because I had a great lesson planned and I couldn’t get to all of it if this kept up. We made it to the end of the hour, but I was still irritated and curious about this child’s behavior – why so much more disruptive all of a sudden?

After class, I asked if the child could stay to help me clean up the classroom. While we (and the other teacher – 2 person rule!) worked, I asked how school was that week. The answer? “I wasn’t there much.” My response? (raised eyebrows!) “Really? Why not?” “Well, my mom and dad had a big fight and my mom and me went to stay at my grandma’s for a few days. It’s too far to get to school on time, ‘cause Mom had to work. But Mom said it’s okay to miss a few days. And I was feeling kind of sick.”

Me, too.

The morals of this story are kind of the same as so many others when you work with children — or anyone, really: The lesson isn’t always the most important thing, you “winning” the behavior battle isn’t the primary focus, everybody has stuff they bring with them, and each person has value. The big question is, What am I going to do about all that, especially when behavior IS an issue?

The best advice I have for you is this: Always evaluate what might be going on OUTSIDE the classroom that could be having an impact INSIDE the classroom. Keep the end goal in mind. Ask questions. Listen. And pray. Pray that you will be a conduit of God’s grace. Pray that you can look past the behavior to the child as a person. Pray that you will be able to tell the difference between “bad behavior” and “needy behavior” (like with my little friend). Pray that you will be able to balance the needs of the larger group with the needs of one child. Pray that somewhere along the line, in the midst of what you may feel is chaos, the truth of God’s presence is very real to all the children in your care, whether that truth came from a perfect lesson or from a quiet conversation in the wake of the chaos.

My prayers continue for you as you shape and guide the little people in your care!

This is installment 2 of probably 3 in a series of teacher helps. I failed to mention in last week’s email that what I sent was, like all the others that will follow, based on a compilation of experiences over the course of 20+ years of work with children and families. All of us have times we need to hear from the experiences of others, and story is an easy way to convey ideas and examine self. The rest of the series focuses on different aspects of the idea of discipline: the child as “person” (not “problem”) and the partnership between the teacher and the parents/family. This week: the child.

Our guest writer is Amanda Lott, Associate Pastor for Children’s Ministry at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond.

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Growing Mature Leaders By Bob Dale

Recently, I’ve been thinking and writing about how leaders grow in faith and maturity across their entire lifespans. How does your church prepare members for lifelong growth in faith? How does it develop rich age-specific resources, structures, and ministries to encourage maturity in leaders? How does your church provide catch-up opportunities for leaders who have fallen behind their life stage growth arcs on the faith-and-maturity curve?
Launch Decades (teens and 20s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their exploratory try-and-fly life stage?
o Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 1, how are you providing settings and structures for younger leaders to evaluate their callings, relationships, and career options?
o How are you guiding the transitions into “junior” adulthood and creating faith updates for launching leaders?

Hustle Decades (30s and 40s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their productive burning-and-turning life stage?
o Like Moses at the burning bush, how are you creating anchors and harbors for adult leaders to put down roots, choose life directions wisely, and deal with generational dynamics?
o How are you easing the entrances to full adulthood and mid-life and facilitating faith updates for hustling leaders?

Legacy Decades (50s and 60s): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their contributory living-and-giving life stage?
o Like the heroes and heroines of Hebrews 11, how are you inviting legacy explorations about being sandwiched between generations, facing life and career deadlines, and paying back emotional and spiritual debts?
o How are you bridging empty nest and retirement transitions for leaders and guiding faith updates for legacy-stage leaders?

Wisdom Decades (70s and beyond): How are you cultivating faith and maturity in leaders during their supportive caring-and-sharing life stage?
o Like Jethro in Exodus 18, how are you using resources to expand “pay it forward” attitudes, wider-angle perspectives, and gifts of guidance from older leaders?
o How are you preparing leaders for life’s limits and offering faith updates for your church’s oldest leaders?
Leaders for Every Age and Stage
Faith and maturity are two sides of the leadership coin. How are you growing personally over your entire life? How well are you helping leaders prepare to succeed? Ready?
Bob Dale and Bill Wilson are currently finishing a book on Weaving Strong Leaders. It explores practical growth processes for developing clear theology and sturdy maturity in leaders and leadership teams. This book is due out in 2015.

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