Jim Brown: Take a ‘Farm Walk’

Farmers in the West of Ireland meet regularly to learn from each other through ‘Farm Discussions’. These discussions birth ‘Farm Walks’ where farmers arrange to spend half a day or more on another farm where they can experience the new and the unpredictable; where they can smell, touch, see, hear and taste. They inhale good air, observe another farmer at work, enjoy chats about machines of all shapes and sizes and share stories of success and failure; all with a view to becoming better farmers. In short they are discipled in the art of the agricultural.

As I look at the ministry of Jesus I could imagine Him writing an endorsement for the concept of a ‘Farm Walk’. He was committed to the development and impact of His disciples through exposing them to methods and environments well beyond the predictability of the ‘classroom’ setting. Mountain walks, barbeques, boat trips, dining table discussions, drawing water from a well and visits to orchards, vineyards and gardens, were all possibilities for anchoring truth and aiding transformation.

In recent years I have dipped my toe into experiential learning opportunities in unlikely environments. These have included encounters on hillsides with shepherds, building and living in refugee shelters, rambling through orchards with a passionate farmer, exploring John 15 under the shade of a vine and enjoying the hospitality of both rich and poor. As I have explored the contribution of these growth opportunities I have seen the richness gained by the unpredictable, the space created for deep relationships, the potential for different learning styles to be accommodated, the emergence of unlikely teachers and the increased space for fun and freshness.

Looking towards the year 2030 I ask myself what might an everyday youth ministry programme need to look like if it is to be effective in making disciples? Part of the answer I believe is found in taking more ‘Farm Walks’; taking youth ministry ‘on the road’. Ministry anchored in Scripture, mission and soaked in intentionality. My 30 years of youth ministry experience would encourage leaders who will shape youth ministry in 2030 to embrace the approach of Jesus and the farmers in the West of Ireland. “Take young people on a whole new range of ‘Farm Walks’ breathing depth, freshness and life into disciple making youth ministry.”

 

 

 

Ricky Linton: Gospel Partnerships are changing our town

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

 

In 2014, in our town, Coleraine, the local churches and para-church organisations held a series of events together under the banner of “Passion for Life”. Birthed from this was a deep desire for this unity to continue. But what would this look like? After meeting and praying together for months, the Coleraine Gospel Partnership was formed in January 2015. It is early days but there’s a sense of being at the pioneering stage of something really special.

 

Ministers and youth workers are meeting together, praying together, planning together, and building trust with each other. Churches are beginning to break down the denomination boundaries that has built up over the generations; all with the united focus of carrying out God’s mission in our town. We want to see a unity between the believers of values and purpose so that we can reach out together into the community with God’s message of hope. We have held a number of shared events and this Easter young people from the town will join together on various community based projects leading into a weekend of intergenerational and interdenominational Bible teaching. We are excited. Even though the partnership is in the infantile stage, everyone involved really feels the sense of blessing from God upon what is happening.

 

No one is perfect. There are always going to differences and little things that people disagree about. That’s why it’s so important to get on our knees together and seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:3. We should all seek these things in our lives and the lives of our churches. That is, after all, God’s will for us.

Chris Agnew: Partnership

Gospel Partnerships

I currently serve as Church Development Coordinator for Exodus, an organisation passionate about serving the church in disciple making youth ministry. This involves building partnerships between Exodus and local churches; mobilising and training leaders for disciple making youth ministry through small groups, mentoring and mission opportunities. It also involves serving on steering teams for a couple of wider church events involving a number of churches and organisations.

CS Lewis said “in each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not enough to call the whole man into being; I need other lights than my own to show all his facets1.

This points to a fundamental truth about relationship; the need for others, not only to engage with, but actually to draw out the gold sometimes concealed within us. This is true of gospel partnerships as well. We need each other to draw out the gold within our own niches and in doing so embody unity to a fractured world “so that they might believe” (cf John 17:21). Disciple Making is all the richer with partnership at its core. It takes the focus from adding numbers to a denomination or organisation, to striving together for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

Partnership broadens our horizons, helps us as specialists in our particular fields to be humble, recognise the limitations of our competence and in doing so fosters dependence on each other, and on the Spirit of God. Ultimately it pushes to dream bigger and bolder and to attempt great things for the Kingdom.

How does this happen? It must begin with values as opposed to veins. Shared values are more important than denominational/family (blood) ties. Values shape direction, and therefore if values are not shared, direction will be very difficult to come to agreement on in partnership. Start with shared values and the rest will flow.

Here are some key questions to ask when considering entering into a partnership:

  • What is the vision for this project (do values match up)?
  • What is the fruit that is hoped for (does direction match up)?
  • What is the relationship that key leaders have? Is there established trust?
  • What are each party willing to sacrifice in their current ministry to enable this to flourish?
  • What is the financial investment each party is willing to make?

Dale Bruner comments (and I’m paraphrasing) that the Trinity itself exists as a beautiful partnership, where each member defers to the other in a symbiotic, sacrificial relationship, each seeking to glorify the other and in doing so bring glory to the Godhead2. Therefore real relationship and love at the heart is crucial. We must seek the good of each other from a place of love. What would our country look like, what would our world look like if we made it a priority to defer to others and serve one another in the cause of the gospel?

Read Ricky Linton’s example of how ‘Gospel Partnerships are transforming our town.’

 

  1. CS Lewis, The Four Loves.
  2. Dale Bruner & William Hordern, The Holy Spirit: Shy Member of the Trinity.

Harry Bryans: Disciple Making in the Family

God gave us family and church as bodies of people to belong to; to live life with, for support, comfort, protection and teaching. These are the main environments in which disciple making can and should take place.

Children may be in church activities for 1-5 hours each week and this has a huge opportunity to impact them. However this is only a few hours in their 168 hour week. In their home however, after you take away time for sleep, school and play, they can still have 20-40 hours of inter-relational everyday-life teaching opportunities. If we consider the family as the primary environment for disciple making then churches and youth ministries must work to equip parents and partner with them as they disciple their children.

The family has always been God’s privileged choice, as Deuteronomy 6 clearly indicates, as the best place for children and youth to be nurtured, discipled and mentored in their faith.

Deuteronomy 6: 7 commands families:

You shall teach them [the commands of the Lord] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when lie down and when you rise. (ESV)

This passage emphasises the day to day routines and ordinary-ness of the parent’s role in this disciple making process. The focus of this command is on the parents as role models and the parents as daily teachers who regularly speak of God. Sadly this key role is often delegated to the church family. Many parents let the best, natural disciple making moments slip by. This has led to an increased emphasis of responsibility placed on youth leaders.

As youth leaders we need to partner with parents! Here are 7 key questions you should be asking about how you can serve parents as disciple makers.

Parents are the largest role models in children’s lives. Christian parents have a huge weight of responsibility to; “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22: 6 (NKJV) Put simply, a parent’s most important task is to raise children who will be followers of Christ.

 

Resources and Tools for Parents

EYMN ‘Dreams Group’ considered the kinds of special family moments that they enjoyed as parents or children, they came up with a list of 31 simple activities which will help strengthen family bonds. Receive a free copy of this helpful calendar and links to other helpful resources here!

 

Jim Brown: Innovation

Disciple Making – Our Calling
It is always a privilege to spend time exploring disciple making youth ministry and even more so when the room has disciple makers from England to Russia, from Holland to Hungary; such was our opportunity in Barcelona.

As we spent time together I was struck by the following:

  1. The needs of young people across the continent are similar – I highlight 3.
    1. There is a thirst for deep relationship where life is shared – proximity is vital.
    2. There is a desire to impact – young people want to make a significant difference.
    3. There is a pursuit for personal growth shaped by substance and depth.

 

  1. Discipleship is no longer seen as a 10 week follow up programme launched when we become a follower of Jesus but rather a lifelong adventure of transformation beginning before becoming a disciple and continuing until He presents us faultless before the Father.

 

  1. We should avoid unnecessarily complicating the journey of discipleship. We need to get back to the vision, values and practices of Jesus. This will help us to embody His vision (not just talk about it), simplify our practice, and be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices for the generations which follow us.

Yes, it is always a privilege to explore our mission but an even greater blessing to now go and see His vision realised as we make disciples who will make disciples.

Developing Younger Leaders

Jesus focused much of His ministry on developing a generation of young disciple makers who had passion, energy and potential and gave them the vision and space to pass on to another generation. This no doubt contributed to the early Church being effective after Jesus’ ascension. Today we must continue to follow His example as we invest in growing younger leaders, giving them the opportunity to make a full contribution to the life of the Church in the 21st Century.

The Balancing Act

A key to unlock the growth and potential of younger leaders is to follow the example of Jesus and stay close to those we disciple but give them room to take on real responsibility. As an older leader it is essential to give younger leaders both direction and ownership; room to succeed but also to fail; removed enough to let them shape ministry but close enough to step in and pick up the pieces should that be required. Finding this balance is a key skill in a leader who is a developer of others. However, so often a leader’s development is stunted by over management; telling a leader what to do rather than envisioning them with the ‘why?’ and letting them own the specifics of the ‘how?’ Or, on the flip side, a leader’s development is also stunted if a younger leader is thrown into responsibility without enough accountability, support and direction.

Commitment but no Guarantee

As I speak to senior leaders who have been in ministry for 20+ years, many tell stories of disciple makers who they have seen developed and now equip others to be disciple makers. This process took years of finding ‘the balance’ through ups and downs as they stood with these younger disciples but also released them. But alongside celebrations there are stories of disappointment; younger leader’s whose potential was never realised, younger disciples who walked away from faith or who became proud and unteachable and consequently stumbled. Even within Jesus’ closest followers, we see that Judas didn’t develop to become a leader to take the Church on after Jesus’ departure (a bit of an understatement!) Perhaps this example is there to show us that even the perfect disciple maker didn’t have a 100% harvest.

Developing disciple makers who in turn have a vision to pass on to another generation is not guaranteed by our faithfulness, hard work and perseverance. Setbacks and disappointments will come our way. However, if we continue to follow the example of Jesus and invest in younger leaders, finding the balance between being with and sending (Mark 3:14), we will have much to celebrate in youth ministry in Europe in the years ahead.

Resources, Tools and Inspiration

Exodus has a flexible, interactive, 30 hour ‘Disciple Makers Academy’ training designed to develop young disciple makers across Europe. If you would be interested in running a Disciple Makers Academy in your context from September 2016 please contact davidg@exodusonline.org.uk

For further inspiration in developing younger leaders take a look at John Maxwell’s resources including free videos and podcast at: http://www.johnmaxwell.com

Rick Hill: From authority to influence

It was obvious to me what I should do. It seemed like a sensible thing to do at the time and appeared the most natural response to receiving such great news.

I had just been made captain of my Primary School football team and the night before the big game I made my way to a local Sports Store in search of the now essential piece of kit – a captain’s armband! For me it wasn’t enough that my team mates quietly knew who the captain was. Instead I had to make it clear to the opposition and the 3 watching parents who was really in control of our team. I was in charge and I loved it!

My team lost. I played badly. We were heavily beaten and I made a mistake for the 5th goal.

But I wore that black elasticated band on my arm with pride and made sure to turn it outwards at all times to best display the large white ‘C’ printed in size 144 font.

I was so obsessed with leading that I forgot to play well.

As the church grew rapidly in Acts we are told this:

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number…became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

I don’t think that means they were all leaders who were given authority in the church. But it does seem that many people grasped their opportunity to influence others for Jesus.

I sometimes wonder if we spend so much time getting our badges right, our programmes in place, the information correct and our church in order, but forget what our primary role is.

I sometimes wonder if we could give 10 different answers to the question ‘what is the church for?’, but forget the final command Jesus left his followers with.

I sometimes wonder if we too often succumb to the temptation to only truly lead when we have a badge on.

I sometimes wonder if we have made discipleship an inward process rather than an outward focus.

I would love the church to better grasp the simple call of Jesus to make disciples. I would love the church to not see disciple making as one extra thing to do, but rather a lens through which to view everything they already do. I would love the church to push for influence rather than merely desiring authority.

And it doesn’t need a church to do any more new stuff. It won’t mean a whole bunch of extra programmes. It just requires having a disciple-making focus on everything you do. If your discipleship doesn’t have a missional edge then it has become self-serving.

As you play your part in the body of Christ, how can ensure that the disciple making mandate of Jesus is at the core of your church? You might not be in charge, or even be a leader, but you will have opportunities to influence. Whether we wear the armband or are given a role, we all have a chance to be an influence on others.

Could you end the conversation over coffee after a church service by praying together? Who is on the fringes of your church community that you could drawing alongside? What questions could you ask in that meeting that ensure making disciples stays a priority? Who could you be opening the Bible with? Who could you be sharing the responsibilities of leadership with? Who could you be inviting to your dinner table?

Let’s not make disciple-making become a badge we wear, but a heart we carry. Forget the armband and just play well!