5 Take-aways from Orange 2012 #OC12 #OC12SN

UncategorizedJared Kennedy3 Comments

Last week was my second time at Orange, and I really enjoyed it. Here are a few of the most important take-aways for me.

  1. The Gospel is Messy. So, I need to get into the mess. (Reggie Joiner). Reggie Joiner's opening message at Orange was really thought-provoking for me. Joiner challenged us to remember that Jesus left us here to take his gospel into a messy world. It struck me when Reggie said, "Jesus didn't live a sinless life to set a good example. He lived a sinless life so that he could die for us." Jesus couldn't have done what he did without getting messy.I'm thankful that Sojourn is a church where people take the gospel into the mess, but I was convicted that I often insulate myself from messiness. It's possible to do that even when you are part of a larger church community that regularly gets messy. Reggie's sermon reminded me of a video that the Jeff Street Baptist Center recently posted of Pastor Daniel serving alongside his family:Every family's dynamics are different. My family serving will look different from Daniel's, but, while at Orange, the Lord placed on my heart a couple of ways that I need to step out of my insulated life. Maybe I'll share more on that in the future.
  2.  What are you leading for? Speaking of conviction... Megan and I attended a workshop led by Linda Martin, Special Needs Ministry Director at The Rock Church in San Diego, CA. These two comments at the end of her session on recruiting and training volunteers for special needs ministry were really convicting to me:

    "Nothing teaches me more about trusting God than staffing our ministry with volunteers each week."

    "Don't micro-manage volunteers because ministry is about God's glory, not your vision of the perfect classroom."

  3. 2 Questions for Special Needs Team. One of the leaders of the special needs breakouts was Meaghan Wall from Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX. Megan and I were really blessed to be able to meet her and hear her teach. This video of Meaghan talking about how she recruits volunteers posted during the conference. It's super encouraging to me: (HT: Tony Kummer)
  4. Resources I brought home that I'm excited about pouring over. I saw Kenny Conley in the bookstore, so I decided that I'd better purchase a copy of the Eric Trap. I'm excited about learning from Kenny, Sam, and Jim Wideman's leadership fable. We also got Amy Fenton Lee's DVD on special needs ministry, Surviving to Thriving. And I'm excited about pouring over Zombies, Football, and the Gospel by Reggie Joiner, one of the free give-aways at the conference.
  5. We had Vietnamese food with Jon Hessel. Jon is Family Pastor at the West County campus of The Journey Church in St. Louis. I've been good friends with Jon's colleague, Jeff Hutchings, for quite a while. I am super thankful to have gotten to meet Jon, to have shared great food, and to have prayed together for one another. Churches need pastors, and Jon is the real deal. Thankful for you, bro.

Headed to the ATL! #OC12 #OC12SN

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Megan and I are heading south this morning to the ATL and Orange 2012. Here are 4 quick reasons why we're excited and thankful to be headed down to Orange.

1. Orange is the hub of the modern family ministry movement. Orange has grown out of the ministry of Northpoint Community Church and their Family Ministry champion, Reggie Joiner. Reggie defines what the family ministry movement is about with more simplicity and clarity than anyone I know. Here is how Reggie defines the Orange movement:

“If we can be more effective at engaging parents to partner in our ministries, and improve the quality of relationships in the family, we will increase the possibility of a child having a dynamic and authentic faith.”

“When we partner with ministries, we call this an ‘Orange’ way of thinking. If the color red (warm nurturing hearts) represents parents and the color yellow (bright missional lights) represents church leaders, they need to combine to make orange. Orange is the idea that two combined influences will make a greater impact than either of the two influences alone... So, family ministry is ‘synchronizing church leaders and parents around a master plan to build faith and character in their sons and daughters.’”

2. My friend Amy Fenton Lee is leading an amazing series of workshops on ministry to children with special needs... and we're going to be attending just about every one of them. Here is our itinerary for the conference breakout sessions. Pray for us that this will be a fruitful time of learning:

Wednesday, April 25th 9:30am--How to use technology for Special Needs 11:00am--How to create a multi-sensory environment for Special Needs 1:30pm--How to create a Special Needs environment 3:00pm--How to recruit, train, and retain Special Needs volunteers

Thursday, April 26th 

11:30am--Volunteer Meets Parent (with Sue Miller!) 2:00pm--Advancing the spiritual development of kids with Autism 3:45pm--Leading a Special Needs inclusion initiative 5:30pm--Family Ministry, Spiritual Formation, and Special Needs

3. My family is in Georgia. So, we're going to get to see my dad, mom, brother, and his wife, Debbie--who is going to be keeping our girls for two days! Thank you Debbie!

4. I get to spend two days hanging out with Megan learning about things we're both passionate about. I think that any conference is more fun if I get to hang with my girl.

I might blog a little about the conference after we return, but the site will probably be quiet until then. Thanks team and church family for letting us get away and learn this week!

Curriculum Wars: 2 Philosophical Shifts

UncategorizedJared Kennedy9 Comments

On Wednesday, I posted about how the recent release of new children's ministry curriculums has sparked an interesting discussion in the children's ministry community. Leaders like Jonathan Cliff have observed how vocal children's ministry leaders are waging battle over which curriculum is best. Jonathan coined the phrase "Curriculum Wars" to describe these battles. In the comments section of his post, he described them this way:

The war I see waged is waged all over the place.  You need only walk through a resource center or read any ministry magazine to see the content aimed at what "they are NOT doing" to see the dig.  It's in conversations at conferences. It's in letters and/or blog postings directed to curriculum developers. It's in the reluctance to embrace the holy convictions between curriculum providers, and it's found in slight digs and rhetoric all over the blogosphere.

The moment I read the phrase "Curriculum Wars," I thought about the "Worship Wars" that have been waged in churches over the last three decades. The phrase "Worship Wars" describes controversies that arose when contemporary worship music was first introduced into traditional churches. The worship wars got out of hand. Church staffs and entire churches split over the issues that were at stake. I pray that nothing like that happens as a result of curriculum wars, but I do think there are helpful parallels between this new conversation and the conversations worship leaders have been having since the 1980s.

Worship leaders can tell you that the "worship wars" were not just about having a drum set and an electric guitar in the sanctuary. Church leaders were having bigger conversations about relevance and contextualization. The musical shifts that were made may have sometimes been stylistic preferences, but in many cases they were related to a shift in vision--a rediscovery of Paul's missionary flexibility ("all things to all people" 1 Cor. 9:22).

The same is true with the curriculum wars.  There are larger conversations going on behind the "curriculum wars" conversation. I'd argue that there are two major philosophical shifts that are impacting the way children's ministry leaders think and talk about curriculum. These are shifts in overall theological vision, not just methodology. This is what I see:

1) A Shift Toward Partnering with Families. What I'm referring to here is a rediscovery of the Bible's emphasis on the home as the front-line of ministry to children. Children's ministry leaders have come to see that if they really want to impact the lives of kids then they must partner with families, because the Bible makes parents the primary faith trainers in the lives of their kids (Deuteronomy 6:7; Psalm 78:1-7). Reggie Joiner and the ReThink group have led the way in this movement with the mantra that "two combined influences make a greater impact than two separate influences." Churches have followed suit, and curriculum writers have followed as well. I'm thankful.

2) A Shift Toward Centering Teaching around the Gospel. Of the two shifts, I believe this one is much more important. What I'm referring to here is a rediscovery of Jesus's central place in the message of the Bible. A key passage that defines this shift is found in John 5:39, where, while speaking to the religious leaders of his day, Jesus said , "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me." The deepest concern of people who are part of the gospel-centered movement is that Christians can have biblical teaching but miss Jesus. At the beginning of the Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones describes this concern simply:

The Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne--everything--to rescue the one he loves.

Back in 2008, Dr. Russ Moore critiqued the creative minds behind Veggie Tales and other children's ministry resources. His critique is one of the harder and more straight-forward ones that I've seen in print. I appreciate Dr. Moore's boldness. He sees the same issue that has been observed by Sally Lloyd-Jones:

They take biblical stories, and biblical characters, but they mine the narrative for abstractions–timeless moral truths that can help children to be kinder, gentler, and more honest. There’s almost nothing in any episode that isn’t true. But what’s missing is Jesus... When you see through Jesus, you see the interpretive grid through which all of reality makes sense.

The young, restless, and Reformed crowd (with names like Tim Keller and Matt Chandler) has led the way in this movement with mantras like "Jesus + Nothing = Everything." But the shift in focus isn't limited to members of the Reformed movement. In the launch video for What's in the Bible? Phil Vischer explains why he's changed focus in his new project:

When I first started working on Veggie Tales, I discovered it was a really great way to re-tell key Bible stories and teach Christian values, but it wasn't such a good way to explain the entire Bible, how all the stories fit together to tell just one story--who wrote this book? How did we get it, and why do we think we can trust it? And, most importantly, what difference does it make in my life? ...The Bible tells the story of God and what he's done for us.

I don't know Phil Vischer personally, but his shift in focus from Christian values to "the story of God and what he's done for us" has made a world of difference in the depth and, I believe, the longevity of what he is teaching.

Now, I would argue that these two philosophical shifts are hugely important. But why are they causing conflict? Why has this led to digs and charged rhetoric? How can we avoid the sins and disasters of the worship wars? Recognizing that there are shifts taking place is just the beginning. How can this recognition help us lead and relate to one another with Christian love? I'll post some thoughts next week. In the mean time, join the conversation and tell me what you think.

Thinking Orange: A History of Family Ministry from the Reformation to Reggie Joiner

UncategorizedJared Kennedy3 Comments

Later this afternoon, Pastor Gary Almon and I will be taking four other Sojourn leaders to the "Orange" conference in Atlanta, GA.  "Orange" is a conference about connecting church and home.  If red represents the home (and its warm nurturing hearts) and yellow represents the church (and its bright missionary lights) then orange represents what happens when these two influences combine.  One of the most influential brains behind this strategy is Reggie Joiner, founder of the ReThink group and co-founding pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta.  In honor of Reggie's conference, I'll be blogging through the history of family ministry from  over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this little journey as much as we're going to enjoy our trip to the ATL.