I've recently had the chance to meet Dr. Timothy Paul Jones. We live in the same city, St. Matthew's, KY (one of Louisville's neighborhoods and the home of Sojourn's newest campus), and we had a chance to sit down for coffee while we were in another city, Minneapolis, for the Children Desiring God conference. Dr. Jones currently serves with the children's and family ministry at Highview Baptist Church's campus in southern Inidana--which sort of makes Tim into Dr. "Indiana" Jones. He also serves as Associate Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry at Southern Seminary. Dr. Jones has recently edited a book entitled Perspectives on Family Ministry. It is slated to be published by B & H Academic this October, but Tim was kind enough to send me a preview copy. I'll be blogging through it for the "book club" over the next few weeks. This first section, "Why Every Church Needs a Family Ministry," chapters 1-4, gives Dr. Jones' reflections on family ministry. The second section, outlines and contrasts three contemporary views of family ministry from the perspectives of their advocates.
In his first chapter, Dr. Jones writes from his own experience as a youth minister, and he speaks to several major questions facing church's today Here are some of the key questions that he asks:
(1) Should "fun" be a priority in youth and children's ministry? Jones quotes the mantra, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel." Then he asks, "Is this statement true? How has this statement been applied in youth and children’s ministries? How have these attitudes affected ministries to children and youth?" Mark DeVries has responded, "It might be more of a sin to suggest to young people that the Christian life is always fun and never boring. Keeping teenagers from ever being bored in their faith can actually deprive them of opportunities to develop the discipline and perseverance needed to live the Christian life. It is precisely in those experiences that teenagers might describe as ‘boring’ that Christian character is often formed” (DeVries, Family Based Youth Ministry)
(2) What causes so many youth ministers to quit? Jones observes, "For many years, youth ministers tended to remain only a year or two in the same congregation. In the twenty-first century, youth ministers are staying longer." A 2002 Journal of Youth Ministry survey revealed an average tenure for full-time youth ministers in each congregation of four years, seven months. The most frequent reasons given for leaving a church included inadequate salaries and conflicts with a senior pastor. Why do you think so many youth ministers burn out and leave their posts?
(3) Is your youth or children's ministry a one-eared Mickey Mouse? Like Mickey's ear, is it only barely connected to the rest of the body? Does it operate on its own--pursuing its own vision and philosophy apart from the vision and values of the church as a whole? If so, what assumptions led your church to this point. Jones suggests that one result of this ministry model is that "parents are not perceived as having primary responsibility for the spiritual growth of their offspring." How can we work together to correct this false assumption in our churches? Jones asks, "Do your church’s programs and structures contribute more to coordination or to separation within each family in your church? How could your church do a better job of bringing families together?"
Before exploring Jones' conclusions, how would you answer these questions?