Archives For Ministry

The Legacy Path

Jonathan Cliff  —  July 13, 2011 — 1 Comment

I’m a big fan of Brian Haynes and loved his book from a few years ago,  Shift: What it Takes to Reach Families Today.   Brian Haynes is a leading voice when it comes demonstrating to churches, families, student ministries, and children’s ministries that they can work together to make the greatest impact on those growing up both physically and spiritually all around us.

In the promotion of Brian’s newest book, The Legacy Path: Discover Intentional Spiritual Parenting  I’ve been able to submit a few questions that he has graciously offered to answer for us.

Your first book, Shift, was helpful in  getting children s ministers and student ministers to reconsider how they  should spend their energy in their ministries. How is The Legacy Path different than Shift?

As you know, Shift is written to help ministry leaders understand the role the church can play in equipping parents to lead their children spiritually. Shift addresses the issue from the church side of the coin. The Legacy Path is written to the parent. I wrote it with the parents of my church in mind and from a parent s perspective. I needed a tool to help my parents quickly understand their role in the faith training of the next generation. I think church leaders who have read and implemented Shift principles or the milestones strategy will find this to be an excellent tool to help families take steps toward intentional spiritual training at home.

I love what you’ve written about talking to your kids about spiritual things. Could you describe further how you define   Faith Talks in your book?

Sure. Faith Talks are an important part of training our children spiritually. I think there are two kinds of Faith Talks. There is the informal Faith Talk that could take place any time, any place, anywhere. This is natural conversation that explores life from a biblical perspective. We should go a step farther though. There is also a more formal Faith Talk. This kind of Faith Talk is planned, scheduled, and intentional. It is a time set aside for a family to gather around the worship of God and to learn from the words of the Bible. There is something forming about this kind of Faith Talk. In The Legacy Path parenting strategy, it is important to use these Faith Talks to help our children progress in their Christian development. The milestones path is just a map that teaches us what issues we need to focus on to help our children grow in their faith. My experience both at home and at church proves that leading intentional Faith Talks is the most difficult aspect of the strategy for parents to consistently practice. It is also crucial to our efforts as the primary faith trainers of our children.

What  would you say to a parent who is uncomfortable talking about spiritual things with their children? How can they start?

Most parents I know are initially uncomfortable talking with their children about spiritual things. The question is Why? I think this has a lot to do with our feelings of inadequacy around the contents of the Bible. Often we are afraid kids will ask questions we cannot answer or that we will say something that is wrong. If we are just starting this with our teenagers we feel like they will think we are corny or stupid or something. These are obstacles that have to be overcome. I encourage parents to begin consistent personal and group Bible study so that they are growing in their personal understanding of the Scripture. Then I encourage them to use tools that their churches are already providing to lead age appropriate Faith Talks. Many Kids Ministries and Student Ministries are offering take home tools for parents to help them lead Faith Talks. Also, many pastors are now writing Faith Talks based on the Sunday morning sermon. These tools are helpful in getting started because they give you a simple plan for your conversation.

This next question is a big one for parents at all of our churches who are heartbroken about the decisions their sons and daughters are making. What  happens if the child doesn t choose to walk the path their parents are leading  them on?

There will be times for all us when our children choose not to follow well. Some will experience this to a relative small degree and others will experience full-blown prodigals. I wrote a chapter in The Legacy Path called What if It Doesn t Work? I wrote that chapter because I have ministered to many families in pain because their child is growing up and choosing to walk off the path. When you have tried to do everything right and they choose wrong it rips your heart out. I encourage parents to continually pursue their child in love, pray like crazy, and depending on the situation build healthy boundaries to protect your heart, your family, and to allow the prodigal to experience the consequences of sin. Remember God, the Father, loves that prodigal and He will discipline them to bring them to repentance. It s more complicated than this short answer but the wisdom of Proverbs 22:7 gives us hope. Early in their lives, invest the truth in them intentionally and authentically. Pray that if they ever walk away that these truths you planted in their heart will lead them back.

Starting to lead your children for the first time late in their teenagers years is certainly a challenge. This is cliché but, Better late than never. You have to just jump in where your kids are on the legacy path. This might need to begin with an honest conversation. Something like this. I just realized a large part of my responsibility in being your parent is to lead you spiritually. I really am just only beginning to understand what that means and I want to become intentional about it. I crave time with you and I want to teach you some things about God, the Bible, and life before you grow up and leave home. So, we are going to start doing some things like having a Faith Talks.

What if your kids are teenagers, and you want to start leading on this path so late in the game?

A big part of this is heart connection. If the heart connection is weak then the parent has to work to mend that connection in order to be heard and followed. I discuss this aspect thoroughly in The Legacy Path.

What  is the church s responsibility in all of this? Are parents supposed to do it  alone?

I would point back to my book Shift as an important answer to this question. I think the church has a massive responsibility to connect the discipleship strategy of the church with the strategy at home. So, churches need to consider their holistic discipleship strategy. What is the plan or the path for growth? We use milestones. How do you progress from one to another? How does children, student, and adult ministry align along the path? The church has to equip mom and dad for the task. The church also has to partner with parents in the faith development of children and students. I just spent a week at youth camp. I often thought how grateful I am for the investment our student ministry staff and volunteer leaders are making in our children. Our ministry at church can lock arms with the family so that parents are never alone in the process. Also, the church needs to make adult disciples. How can parents disciple their kids if they are not disciples themselves? Finally, the church becomes the primary faith influence for kids whose parents are spiritually AWOL. Discipleship is a two-sided coin: Church and home.

What is one thing that the Children’s Ministers who are reading this could be doing to take some next steps towards helping parents lead in this Legacy Path?

I think a simple step for Children s Ministers to take is to actually lead some small groups of parents through this book. That s what we are going to do at my church. As you might know, I see a Children s minister as a minister to kids and their families. So I think kids pastors should be spending time with adults. I wrote The Legacy Path thinking that parents could gather in small groups, read a chapter a week, and use the discussion question at the end of each chapter as a catalyst for discussion in small groups. This is a great next step because it allows you to explain the principles in the context of your church s unique version of the strategy.

 

Brian considers his most important ministry as loving and serving his wife Angela and together parenting their children, Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden. He is the creator of the Legacy milestones strategy designed to help the church and family work together to equip the next generation. Brian is the author of the book SHIFT: What It Takes to Finally Reach Families Today as well as a contributor to several other books and resources. Brian served for 15 years in three churches as a student pastor and associate pastor including Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. He now serves as Lead Pastor at Bay Area First Baptist Church in League City, Texas. Brian holds an undergraduate degree from Baylor University, a master s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary for his work in family ministry and discipleship.

I’ve spoken about our experiences at Dry Gulch USA earlier this week, and I hope you’ll take the time to visit that post and see my thoughts on what is really a stellar Summer Camp.  In this post I would like to share many of my Summer Camp secrets from many  years of leading kids and volunteers to Summer Camp.

  • Google Voice -> This is a great tool for Summer Camp.  You can setup one local number that will ring through to as many numbers as you want.  It’s a cool way to avoid giving out 10 emergency numbers, and at the same time have 10 different people on your emergency contact list.
  • Directions -> I always give parents the physical location of where we will be.  Even though I know that parents will most likely not be making the 9 hour drive to our Summer Camp destination, it comforts them when I show them on a map where we will be with their children all week.
  • Online Updates -> I’m not sure how I ever avoided doing this in the past, but for the past few years I’ve posted nightly updates of our days activities and photos.  I avoid video’s because they take too long, and when I talk to parents they dont’ want the videos; they want to see their kids!  So I update about 100-150 pictures each night, with minimal editing, and then throw them into a Picasa slideshow that I embed on our Parents Blog.
  • Facebook -> I also make all our camp adult sponsors administrators on our Facebook Page, and ask that they periodically update the page with pictures and updates.
  • Make it Personal -> I send occasional individual image text of kids to their parents, thanking them for allowing us to spend a week with their kids.  This year, I posted a ton of individual images on parents Facebook pages thanking them for sending their kids, and bragging on what great kids they have.
  • Parents Blog -> I put all these updates on our normal church Parent’s Blog, so that after camp I still have 50+ families familiar with the online presence.  I encourage email subscriptions to the blog, and this helps us add to our list for the rest of the  year.
  • Do What I Say I’ll Do -> The policies on our camp packet are things we actually enforce.  If you register for camp with us, you will have paid 100% of your money and turned in 100% of your paperwork weeks prior to us leaving.  If I have a parent that will not return phone calls, won’t pay in full, or refuses to take ownership of meeting our deadlines; then I drop that kid from our camp roster.
  • Leave When I Say I’ll Leave -> If the bus pulls out at 8:00am, and I’ve told parents for weeks that it leaves at 8:00am…then we leave at 8:00am.  This year we actually left two kids that didn’t wake up in time.  Their mother drove them the 9 hours and met us within an hour of arriving at camp.  Amazingly, the mother wasn’t upset me.  She knew I’d keep my word, and I did.
  • Much, Much, Much More -> I have many more little things I do each year, but for the sake of time and words…I’ll end here!  For more then take me to lunch sometime, and buy me a hamburger and I’ll share more!
Calling all Summer Camp Professionals…what are your secrets?  Any travel tips for making it in a bus with 100 kids to Summer Camp?  Let’s here it in the comment section!

I’m a big believer in creating experiences outside of our weekend environments for kids (and teenagers) to connect with God, and for those of us in children’s (and student) ministry there is not greater connection place to do this than Summer Camp.  Think about it, you’re away from the normal; and kids are thrust into a new unique environment where they are encouraged daily to be introspective about their own faith.  At Summer Camp you can spend 4 and 5 days talking about variations of the same thing, and do it in a safe, fun, friendly environment.

I have many friends that love to plan every detail of their Summer Camp Experience, from the location, to volunteers, to food menus, to chapel services, to swim schedules…but I am not one of those people.  At Trinity Lubbock I did not inherit a system where planning summer camp was built-in, and instead the Summer Camp Experience has been delegated out to more capable leaders.  I’m sure I could be the person that plans 100% of Summer Camp some day, but for now we’ve chosen a different way to do Summer Camp at Trinity Lubbock.

Enter the greatest Christian Summer Camp destination in the entire world: Dry Gulch U.S.A.

I’ve spent the past 5 summers in Adair, OK at Dry Gulch; and it has continued and continued to get better and better every year.  The team at COTM has taken over all chapel services and programming, and they really bring a level of excellence that exceeds any Summer Camp I’ve ever been a part of.  It’s traditional in that there are lake activities, swimming pools, and horse riding; and it’s untraditional in that it has large arcade rooms, really good camp food, excellent playground equipment, state-of-the art  theaters, a steam engine locomotive train, and overall the place looks like a DisneyLand vacation spot.

If you’ve not taken the time to see what the team at Dry Gulch U.S.A. is creating for Summer Camp, then go visit their website today.  I’m going to include a video here from the 2010 chapel services that was filmed in it’s entirety to show you a small sample of what makes Dry Gulch so great.

When I was back in college I was very involved in College Ministry.  As a 19-23 year old, I cut my teeth in ministry by working with college aged students; and to this day students in this life stage hold a dear place in my heart.  I feel like those between the ages of 18-25 are in such a unique place, and we’re missing it as a church if we don’t reach out to them in a real way.  In Lubbock, we are home to Texas Tech University and therefore have always had College Ministry at Trinity.

I’d like to share the core values and truths that I truly believe about College and Young Adults Ministry as it relates to Trinity Church.

  • I Believe that College Ministry should step outsides the walls of the church to find students where they are living.
  • I Believe that introducing college students to World Missions is imperative to their spiritual development.
  • I Believe that College Ministry should be flexible enough to find ministry to students in the most unlikely of places.
  • I Believe that success in College Ministry is not counted in attendance numbers to our events, but in the long-term passion students learn to fulfill in their own lives.
  • I Believe that it is our duty to college students to encourage them to invest in the local church they attend by serving.
  • I Believe that it is NOT a waste of resources to invest in a student that will graduate and move away from the local church.
  • I Believe that what college students really need to grow are mentor relationships with mature Christians, and I Believe that they need this more than another weekly College Ministry worship service.
  • I Believe that adults willing to invest time and offer thoughtful advice to college students within a trusting relationship are making the most important investment in that college students life.
  • I Believe that it s allright to  criticize  our methods, programming, and systems in order to improve and upgrade what we do to reach college students in a more relevant way.
  • I Believe that College Ministry can work within the Family Ministry team dynamic in the local church, and is most effective when they are supported by both Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry.
  • I Believe that parents carry the primary spiritual burden to disciple their own children, and that we help parents with out-of-town children by investing in their college student while they live in our town.
  • I Believe that every College Ministry experience holds within it the opportunity for life change in the heart of a college student.

 

Since January, I’ve been leading the team that leads our Student Ministry at Trinity.  It’s been a time of discovery for myself, and I’m sure the team that leads them would say the same thing about me.  I’m a guy that has worked in Children’s Ministry for a while, but I have done my share of Youth Ministry over the years.  I believe my Youth Ministry experience has  definitely  colored the way I’ve led our Kidmin areas over the years, and it’s because I have a passion for reaching students in such a pivotal time of their lives.

I’d like to share the core values and truths that I truly believe about Student Ministry as it relates to Trinity Church.

  • I Believe that Student Ministry should strategically teach teenagers towards their life stage.
  • I Believe that launching teenagers into adulthood without helping them discover their life passion is a disservice to them as individuals in the Body of Christ.
  • I Believe that what happens at an altar, at a coffee shop, in a living room, or in a school  cafeteria  can change the spiritual direction of a teenagers life.
  • I Believe that teenagers are as relevant a part of our local church as anyone in their 20′s, 30′s, or older.
  • I Believe that  those that serve and lead and invest in our students each week are in a better place to be blessed by God than those that do not.
  • I Believe that teenagers willing to serve are developing a compassionate heart, and I’m willing to provide any opportunity for them to serve in our local church.
  • I Believe that it s allright to  criticize  our methods, programming, and systems in order to improve and upgrade what we do to reach teenagers in a more relevant way.
  • I Believe that adults should be intimately involved in the life of our teenagers, and that relationship matters.
  • I Believe that Student Ministry can be structured, organized, and maintianed in a way that brings Glory to God and empowers teenagers at the same time.
  • I Believe that teenagers should be given the opportunity to accept Christ at church, but that parents should be involved in the process and supported to continue the  spiritual  conversation.
  • I Believe that parents carry the primary spiritual burden to disciple their own teenagers, and that it s our job as a church to encourage the necessary steps to lead their families at home.
  • I Believe that Student Ministry  brings about change in the world in the here and now, and not only in the future.  Teenagers are not the “church of the future”, but are the “church of the right now.”
  • I Believe that every student ministry experience holds within it the opportunity for life change in the heart of a teenager.