each year, for the past 8 or so, about 20 middle school ministry specialists from around north america have gathered for a few days of fun and discussion. this year’s participants were: myself, Corrie Boyle (Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, MI), Kurt Brandemihl (Sunset Presbyterian Church, Portland OR), Jeff Buell (McKinney Memorial Bible Church, Fort Worth, TX), April Diaz (NewSong Church, Irvine, CA), Ken Elben (Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis TN), Heather Flies (Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN), Andy Jack (Christ Church of Oak Brook, Oak Brook, IL), Mark Janzen (Willingdon Church, Burnaby, BC), Kurt Johnston (Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA), Brooklyn Lindsey (Highland Park Church, Lakeland, FL), Sean Meade (Stuck in the Middle, Andover, KS), Alan Mercer (Christ Community Church, Leawood, KS), Jason Raitz (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL), Alan Ramsey (Fellowship Evangelical Free Church, Knoxville, TN), Ken Rawson (First United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS), Nate Rice (Forest Home Ministries, Forest Falls, CA), Christina Robertson (Journey Community Church, La Mesa, CA), Johnny Scott (Jr High Believe, Oronogo, MO), Nate Severson (Hillcrest Covenant Church, Prairie Village, KS), Phil Shinners (Mariners Church, Irvine, CA), and Scott Rubin (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL).
for the past few years, we’ve invited a guest to join us for a half day, to present some stuff that would become discussion fodder for the rest of our time. we’ve had chap clark, scot mcknight, an adolescent brain specialist, and christian smith.
this year, our guest was dave gibbons, pastor of newsong church in irvine, CA, and author of the monkey and the fish. we talked about third culture, adaptability, leadership, fringes and vortexes, and a variety of other stuff.
i’ll be posting edited notes from our discussions here in a series of posts. our hope is that these discussions will be helpful to others also…
part 5 is a loose and rambly discussion of what “education and exposure” to third-culture might look like in middle school ministry:
Education and exposure – what does this look like?
Define and clarify: Dave talked about this being the first step we can take to be more aware and sensitive (or help our students) to third-culture.
Part 1: How can we help expand our kids’ world view and see themselves as citizens of the world and the cultures that are right around them as well as those that are across the globe?
April: We do this with a lot of storytelling. What is happening in other places and what God is doing in other parts of the world? Email blasts, website articles, etc… That’s what the church is doing, but in MS we don’t really do a good job at this. It is hard work in the MS ministry. However, bringing people in and storytelling is still a big part of it. We’ll use our offering for mission and social justice type projects (things like sponsoring kids in Africa, praying for the kids we sponsor etc…. We just bought a cow in Africa). Our programs are regularly showing things that are happening in other parts of the world. At least one time a year we do a lesson series on third-culture topics.
Nate S: We support a missionary and we do mission trips with him and bring him in to talk with our students.
Scott: I wonder what lingo I would use with my students. At Newsong you might use the term third-culture because it’s part of the culture of the church. It might be really hard to communicate that concept with our students.
Alan R: Reach Global, Reach local
Phil: The best example we’ve heard of all this is Alan R’s adoption story and the integration of that process with the students and how much they have taken hold of and come around that story and project. My question is “where am I, outside of my responsibilities in the church, connecting with people very different from me?” If I am not doing this, how can what I teach be sustainable.
Alan M: We talk more about living the missional life and how our students and be thinking and living a life of mission that would include loving our neighbor. We just don’t do a good job of including the fact that our neighbor might be someone who is not like us or someone we don’t like, so it’s not really third-culture as we’ve talked about it today.
Phil: I just don’t like the fact that we tend to approach this as a program. That does not seem very real.
Christina: We have two guys come in from an African American church and talk about a rally that they were doing and invited our band to participate. They were the only white people at the event, but it was really cool.
Andy J: We’ve been doing all these things like the 30 hour famine and yet our kids wanted to know the people they were raising funds for, so we scrapped the projects that we were doing that were not relational and connected to us and we started focusing on the things that are right around us that our kids could really know.
Alan M: I’m not sure it can be a program because the program is so hard.
MarkO: One of the things I am hearing is when we consider junior high students and where they are developmentally there has to be a tangible or an ongoing reminder of what their involvement or money will bring. When we were doing 1Life Revolution stuff it was so-so, but when I came home with pictures and told them stories etc…We raised a ton more money than we anticipated because the kids were more involved and we put a real tangible face on it. We need to concretize these concepts with our students.
April: The practical stuff comes more naturally. We teach the theology of the practical and then give them a lot of examples that they can understand where they can apply this.
Ken R: Yet this is hard because most will not do the hard things that this might require.
MarkO: Remember that developmentally they are self-centered
Brook: A lot of this can be done in small groups and helping our small group leaders live this as well so that in smaller groups we can get the encouragement we need and challenge we need to get this done.
Corrie: The small group is a much better place for this because they can really get behind something together and really talk about it together. Each of our small groups have done projects that they came up with and have talked about and processed. The education of third-culture and the application can happen in a small group. They can walk together and learn together and experience it in a different way than the large group.
April: Margin has got to be a part of your life as well as the walking slowly so you have time and energy to put into the messiness of all this.
Alan R: Sometimes it seems like our girls and our female leaders get this better or are better prepared and equipped to do this more naturally. I struggle with how much we do this with our boys and why we don’t do this more often. Not sure why this is, if it’s a reflection of my personality or if it’s really a gender issue.
Brook: Even thinking about our volunteer team and the fact that we have so many more women than men on our team.
Kurt J: Going back to the program side. Just because something does not leak out of us does not mean it’s not valuable and/or I shouldn’t expose my kids to it. I may not be good at it, but I can still present a program opportunity to our kids even if I am not really excited about it. Programs can help us care when we can’t care on our own. For example, when we write a note to a kid who has not been at church, does the kid care how we know they were not at church, or do they only really care that we knew they were not there? How we know is a program, but they benefit from that program in a real way.
When kids hear about an opportunity in a large group, experience it in a small group, maybe one will grab onto it and do it without me. If that happens, it’s a win.
MarkO: Even for all the kids who don’t go back, there is still education and exposure and there might be a substantially greater chance for a student to see and meet needs in other contexts because they went to and were exposed to a place where they saw needs in other people.
Kurt J: If I were to quantify this a bit, I would say a LOT of exposure and a little bit of education. This stuff is caught.
Johnny: I think a part we need to consider is the follow up and the processing of these experiences after the event.
MarkO: One thing to think about is how we often times are very much stuck on the same experiences. Do we not really want to expose our kids to a whole bunch of different issues because our kids are different? Why do we constantly go to the same place every month when it might not connect with a bunch of our students?
Ken E: Racism in Memphis: People are seen as projects. Our church has this thing called SOS and it’s fantastic, but our kids come in and then forget about the people they serve for the rest of the year. This is a church, family, and personal issue. We need to befriend these people through the rest of the year so we can really know how to better serve. Our youth staff is now going downtown to tutor so we can get to know them.
We are tired of the project mentality. People are people, not projects. There are a lot of cool things happening and our church is doing a lot of great things. Just this last month we had a network meeting with people from all over the area and all different races. It’s a start.
MarkO: One thing I’ve tried to do is to try and develop a friendship with people that we are different from. It feels like we are developing a friendship that is not based on the goals or agendas of either of us, but rather just a friendship.
Scott: I’m wondering if there is some way to get this done other than what we are currently describing. How/why are we doing something or educating something that we are not doing ourselves?
MarkO: I guess I push back on the thought that this may not need to be something we need to do. If we don’t value third-culture how can we ask students to do it?
Kurt J: I think you can value something without it flowing out of you. It does not have to flow, but it is way more effective and genuine when it does flow from within us.
MarkO: Am I willing to minister to people that are not like me? Am I doing things outside of my role as a MS pastor that helps me to do this more effectively as a MS pastor? Does the flow of my ministry come from my life, or is the only thing I am doing because of my role as a MS pastor?
When I do things outside of the MS ministry, it impacts my ministry with the student and how I talk about the Gospel and how I talk about difficult ministry opportunities.
If my heart is not formed toward that through trial and error, I don’t have a lot of ground to stand on in challenging them to live that way.
Nate R: We are leaders and when we are passionate about something, because we are leaders we impact people when we talk about what we are passionate about.
Jason R: The guys in my small group are ready to hear, but they are not ready to jump in partly because parents are not talking about this at home either, so how can we help parents learn this stuff too?
Jeff B: We’ve seen an increase in getting kids involved outside our ministry because we have invited parents to join our small groups in serving. When a parent serves alongside a student, sometimes it’s easier for the kids to get involved.
Ken E: We are doing a parent/child mission trip this summer.
next up (in the last of this series): R&D, and ministry on/to the fringe…