Sunday, March 24, 2013

Raising kids in Christ

My last post talked about some church attendance stats for my community. I mentioned in that post that I had other information about my community from the research that I did, so I wanted to share some more of that here. Today's stats have to do with youth. Anna and I have been a part of churches that put enormous amounts of effort into the youth of the congregation and community, unfortunately at times to the detriment of the older generations. We have also experienced churches that have put too much emphasis on the older generations and nearly ignored youth altogether.

What about the state of youth in the church in the Fairless school district? I can't fairly say how each church factors youth into its vision, but I can say that no church that is located within the district has a youth pastor on staff. There is a church in our district that does have a pastor that is dedicated to youth, but their youth program meets outside of the district. This church isn't doing anything wrong by meeting outside the district, they are simply following the vision they have for reaching youth. Also, to be fair, there are numerous good people within my district that are volunteers who run youth programs in their churches. However, many of the pastors I have spoken with said that they don't have too many youth in their churches. In fact, the age group that makes up the majority of the congregations in my district is age 60 and up. Some of the churches are only made up of people in that age group, which unfortunately means that unless something changes, these churches will be without congregations in 15 - 20 years or less.

So my question is why are there not that many youth in the churches in my district? Well, one possibility has to do with their parents. The median age in the district's population is mid-40s and that is the age group that makes up a large portion of the district. So these folks are primarily baby boomers and many of them are not in church. Since as I said before, many of the churches are made up of parents of baby boomers. It seems that as the parents go, so go the children. There is another conversation to be had about what happened with the transfer of faith from the parents of baby boomers to the baby boomers.

This morning at church, a young man sang a song with his dad. That in and of itself is not that out of the ordinary, but what is remarkable about this young man and primarily this family is that the young man wrote the song after attending his grandfather's funeral. The young man's dad sang the song as the young man played the guitar. The song was about trusting in Christ through pain and loss. This young man is around ten years old or so. I was blown away. The really cool thing was to sit back and think how his grandfather raised his three kids, who are all faithful Christians, and that has trickled down to his grandchildren. It makes me think about what kind of legacy I will leave for Nora and any their other children God may bless Anna and I with. I pray that it is that kind of legacy.

So, bringing it back around, parents have to be in church in order for their kids to be there. Ultimately, parents will stand before Christ and give an account for how or if they raised their kids up to know Him. The youth pastors and pastors of the world will not primarily give an account for how children were brought up in Christ; it is not primarily their job. As a father, it is first my job to raise Nora to know Christ. I am just getting started as a father, so I am far from being an expert and I realize that there are a myriad of challenges for fathers and parents in general in raising children in the faith. I do know however, that the parents' faith has a significant impact.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Statistics on Fairless school district church attendance

Over a year ago, I felt that God was leading me to find out more about the community in which my wife and I live. Our community, Navarre, Ohio is a part of a school district, Fairless Local Schools, which is made up of three small towns: Navarre, Beach City and Brewster. In an effort to understand what God was already up to in the churches in the community, I set out in attempting to get in touch with each of the approximately 25 churches in the community. I asked them for a few small bits of information based on their congregations and asked if I could meet up with the pastor. I was able to meet up with quite a few of the pastors in the community and also received responses from several other churches with the information I requested. There were a few churches that I never heard back from, but I was able to get some basic info about those churches from speaking with others and from their websites or Facebook pages (if they had one or either).

The approximate total population of the school district is 5,100. Of that population, 22% or approximately 1,129 people attend church at churches within the district. I felt that was rather alarming. Of course, you may be asking, where does the rest of the population attend church? I wish I had the time, resources and manpower to find that information, because I am sure that there are other churches outside the district that people attend. However, I am fairly positive that, that would not bring the percentage of church attendance much higher. I am familiar with some of the larger churches outside of the district and know that there are not many people from my school district that attend those churches, but of course I do not have hard data. For those of you that love data and love for it to be precise, just to let you know the 1,129 represents regular attenders as was reported by the pastors of the churches. The few churches that did not respond to me are fairly small congregations and I was able to estimate their average attendance with the help of others familiar with those churches.

I have quite a bit more data that I collected that I will share, but at first glance what does this 22% mean? I feel that it means there is a need and that need is more churches that can help reach the people of my community. This is weighing heavy on my spirit. What is God up to?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Direction

Since the beginning of this blog, I have had a vision to really just share whatever has been on my heart. If you have been reading this, you probably could outline seasons of my life over the last few years of ministry efforts in which I have been involved. It really all began with my time at a homeless shelter in Canton, Ohio called the Refuge of Hope, leading what came to be called Streetlights. A friend of mine had started going down there each week to hang out with the guys. It really transformed into this wonderful night of hanging out together just as a bunch of guys and finishing the night with some Bible study and prayer. It has continued and branched out into a couple different avenues, which is now called The Bridge. You can check out more about it here.

Next came our time in Waynesburg, Ohio when my wife and I’s pastor, friend and mentor hooked us up with a group of people that stepped away from their former denomination. That group of people left due to some unfortunate decisions their particular denomination made as to their willingness to give into culture rather than being courageous enough to be faithful to God’s word. They were hurt, frustrated and attempting to discern what was next for them. Looking back, God sent us there to help them take their next step. It was not a church plant; though I thought at times when we were there that perhaps that was where it was heading. My wife and I are incredibly grateful that God sent us there to meet and be with those wonderful people. Though it was incredibly painful to leave them and come to a place where we all realized that it was best to part ways, that experience and those people remain very dear to our hearts.

When we returned to our home church, Stanwood CommunityChurch, things were different honestly. It was hard honestly stepping back into old patterns and relationships because we were still healing from Waynesburg. It was a bit like not wearing some article of clothing for 2 years and then putting it on again; it just didn’t fit the same. That has been over a year now that we have been back and during this time we have been trying to discern what God is leading us to do next. One thing that we or at least I have been convicted of is that we need to spend time focusing on our marriage and our family now that Nora is here. My wife sacrificed a ton while I was in seminary and we are realizing the impact that had now that we are almost a year past my graduation. I picked up lots of bad habits as far as time management and just how we spent our time together in general. In some ways, we forgot how to spend time together because it was so rare while I was in school. So I am focusing on that and leaning hard on God’s grace.

As far as the future, that’s where the title of this post comes in. For nearly two years now I have been thinking through, praying through and just immersed in church planting. It has taken up much of what I read, listen to and digest. So…we are praying about planting a church. There, I said it. That will be the new direction for this blog; our adventure in praying through and discerning God’s call on our lives, specifically regarding planting a church.

Stay tuned…