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I Won’t Let You Bother Me

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A couple of years ago I spent a season visiting with a counselor in the Twin Cities.

I think it was in the third session where my counselor told me that he was going to Florida for a few weeks and would be unavailable to meet during that time. He gave me his cell phone number should I need to call.

I said to him:

“Oh, I don’t want to bother you when you’re on vacation.”

His answer back to me is something I haven’t forgotten:

“I won’t let you bother me.”

Seeing the confused look on my face, he explained a little more:

“You are welcome to call me, Jeremy, but if I am unable or don’t want to talk, then I won’t answer the phone. You can leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I am able or want to. But I won’t let you bother me.”

I don’t like bothering people, so I often won’t assert myself with another person about something I might need because I don’t want to trouble them about it. I try to prevent burdening anyone with what I need until it is convenient for them.

I had never considered this personal stance until that day. I had never thought about letting other people make those decisions for themselves instead of anticipating that I was a burden or a bother. Additionally, I had often been a willing victim of other peoples intrusions into my life instead of taking a stance against it.

What my counselor taught me that day was asserting myself in both directions.

  1. Making a personal decision to do or not do something based on what I need in the moment, rather than being a victim of other people’s needs in any given moment. If I got a phone call, and I’m at home with my family, it is my decision whether to answer it or not based on what my family needs at the moment.
  2. Refraining from holding back on making pre-emptive decisions for people based on not wanting to bother them. I needed to let people make their own assertions whether or not to take my call or have a conversation.

I learned that I needed to change how I functioned both for myself as well as for other people.

My counselor’s statement asserted his position: He said I could call him if I needed to. That was my decision whether or not I needed to. It was his decision when to answer.

My seasoned, wise counselor schooled me on how to function better and make decisions for myself as well as refraining from making other people’s decisions for them.

Photo credit: Yura Fresh on Unsplash

Life Update: New Jobs

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A few things have happened since I stepped away from full-time ministry at Hayward Wesleyan Church:

HACIL

On July 1, I started working for HACIL, a virtual charter school in the Hayward Community School District. I was hired to work with high school students and their families in the area of social studies as well as teach some enrichment classes on-site on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I get to teach Civics with high school students and a STEM class with 5th and 6th graders. Also, on October 1, I got to add technology support to the job at HACIL as well, which brings me to full-time there.

Working at HACIL has been fun and refreshing. I get to work among a group of experienced professionals who are all concentrated in the area of educating and engaging with young people, which means I get to continue to teach and have fun with students (two of my favorite things)!

Real Estate

Additionally, in August, I started studying for the WI Real Estate exam. I got licensed as a real estate licensee at the end of September and have joined Woodland Developments & Realty as a sales associate. I’m excited to join my wife, Amanda, as well as Gary and the rest of the Woodland team in a real estate adventure.

Post Ministry Reflections

It has been interesting to step out of full-time ministry and work in the marketplace (as compared with being a pastor). I’ve had numerous people ask me how we are doing. My stock answer is that we are doing well. If people have more time, or really want to know we share a little more:

What’s been interesting and different is when I was a pastor I was paid a salary. I know that’s obvious, but whenever the issue of a pastor’s pay came up in conversations with folks over the years, I typically shared that a pastor is the epitome of a salary-paid position, in which I meant that I was paid not for the hours I put in, but for who I was as a person. I wasn’t paid to be full-time, but all-time. I wasn’t “on the clock” for a full-time set of hours… you know… the typical 45-60 hours of work in a week with time off in the evenings or weekends. For sure I had time off, but I never stopped “being” a pastor when I was off. It was easier when I was at home. But a trip to Walmart or Marketplace or anywhere else out of my house? Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t negative. I loved it. I didn’t mind it. I signed up for it and I leaned into it. I loved being an all-time pastor. I loved being available and present for people. In fact, I don’t think it’s right for a pastor to be anything less.

Pastors get paid a full-time salary so they don’t have to worry about money. Their needs are met. They don’t have to do any additional income-generating activity, so the intention goes, in order to be able to focus on ministering to people. What a blessing it was to be able to be paid in such a way that I was able to be available and present for people over the years.

What has been interesting and different is now that I’m not a pastor, I don’t get paid that salary to be available and present for people in the same way. Now Jeremy Mavis hasn’t changed as a person, but my availability to love and serve people in the same way has changed. Now my availability is taken up by billable hours. Because I get paid by the hour now, I have to work and focus on my job in order to make money to provide for my family. When I was a pastor, focusing and being available for people was my job and the way I provided for my family.

This hasn’t been a subtle change for me. It’s difficult for me to flip the switch and focus on my job and not necessarily being available and present for people. It’s disequilibrating for me. It throws me off balance. I hadn’t expected this. I have to adjust my expectations of both what I want to be available to do as well as what I can actually do.

It’s been a fascinating transition to post-pastoral life.

For now, I’m focused on a few things:

  1. My family. My family has gotten the immediate benefits of this transition. They got the mental space and physical presence and availability of their husband and father back.
  2. Teaching Civics and STEM, interacting with families and students regarding social studies as well as tech support at HACIL.
  3. Real estate. I’m pretty excited about joining Amanda’s world in real estate. She is so good and experienced in the practice of real estate transactions (both on the buying and selling side). We’ve been intrigued at the idea of working in a profession together. We kinda like each other, so we’re looking forward to working hand-in-hand with one another in taking care of people both listing a home and buying property. Should be fun!

Incline My Heart, O God, to Your Ways

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In the Morning Office today, I read this refrain:

“Incline my heart, O God, to your ways. Turn my eyes from longing after vanities”

Prayers for Summertime: A Manual for Prayer (The Divine Hours), Phyllis Tickle, p. 2

The first time I read this refrain, I focused of the whole first sentence: “Incline my heart, O God, to your ways.”

In the second instance of the refrain, this part stood out: “Incline my heart, O God, to your ways.” It drew my mind to what is in my own heart, especially the self-centered nature of my heart.

The third time the refrain was mentioned, I zeroed in on the last part of the first sentence: “Incline my heart, O God, to your ways.” In light of what is often in my own heart, reflected or unreflected, I do need to be brought back to God’s ways.

“Incline my heart, O God, to your ways.”

Later in the morning, this thought occurred to me:

What if my life actually reflected this refrain? What if Jeremy Mavis inclined his heart to God’s ways, all the time?

Well that would be heaven. Or at least like the garden of Eden, prior to humans gaining the knowledge of good and evil.

What if all I knew was good and not evil?

Then my heart would continuously be inclined to God’s ways without interruption. I wouldn’t know anything different. As it is, I do know both good and evil; and both good and evil is in Jeremy’s heart.

That’s why this repetitive refrain in the Morning Office today was so powerful for me: I am invited by God the Father to incline my heart to his ways. His ways are known to me. God the Son, Jesus, is the revelation of the heart of the Father. Jesus’ spirit, God the Spirit, fills and empowers his reconciled humans to actually live out this seemingly impossible refrain: “Incline my heart, O God, to your ways.”

I am repeatedly invited by the Holy Trinity to participate in the divine life where my heart is constantly inclined to their ways (and not mine).

Oh Lord, incline my heart to your ways. Amen.

source Lili Popper on Unsplash

When is God at Work in Our Lives?

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Journal Entry Dated: October 24, 2013

I heard it said recently that:

“Problems are opportunities for God to work in your life.”

While that statement is true, it seems to limit God working in your life only when you have problems. I can assure that God is working in your life far more than just when you have problems. I wonder if the statement above could be better stated:

“Problems in our lives remind us that God is not only working when we think we need him, but all the time.

“May our faith increase beyond just our momentary need, but to acknowledge both God’s presence and activity in our lives all the time.”

Photo credit: Ali Abdul Rahman on Unsplash

10 Years. A Decade.

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Journal Entry Dated: May 20, 2013

I have lived and served in Hayward, WI for ten years!

I have an amazing wife named Amanda, two beautiful daughters, Sari and Macie, two pesky cats and one loyal dog. We all share space together in a 3-bedroom rancher in Hayward, Wisconsin where in early May of this year we had a snowstorm that shared 18-inches of the white goodness with us.

There’s swing set with a slide along with a trampoline in the backyard, a plethora of baby and Barbie dolls, random toys, and a closet full of project supplies inside, and a whole lot of love and laughter that emanate from the inhabitants within. If only the walls could talk!

10 years. A decade.

It seems like only yesterday I moved to Hayward as a 25-year old recent college graduate and a whole lot to prove. Blazing a trail in ministering with children and middle school students isn’t an exact science, and the adventure is, well, an adventure! I never aspired to be a pastor. Sure I like students and I always knew I could make them laugh and smile as well as relate to them, but never as a professional pastor. It wasn’t until the Hayward Wesleyan Church took a chance on an untested, unproven, green, fresh, and eager young man did I realize my true calling in life: to shepherd people. It’s an awkward profession because who am I? What do I know? What do I have to offer? Well I used to think it was me, and all the collective wisdom I had acquired up to this point. But now? No. It’s not me. The best I can offer is the gospel—Jesus Christ himself. I can shepherd only to the extent I allow Christ to shepherd me.

10 years. A decade.

I’ve never lived in one place this long. In fact, I passed that milestone about four and a half years ago. This is uncharted waters for me. Well, to be honest, all of life is uncharted waters. I couldn’t have scripted a better life for me. In fact, I went off script several years ago! No. I don’t think we can write our own life script. I don’t think we have that much control over our lives, although perhaps we do some. I have found—and this is me talking about me—I have found that living by faith make the best scripts in life!

I don’t know what the next 10 years or decade will bring, but I hope and pray that I’m still living by faith and enjoying the adventure script the Lord is writing.

Discipline Not Getting Through? Try Playing

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Journal Entry Date: June 24, 2012

I have no problem disciplining. I’ve written about it extensively here. I understand both the power and the difficulty inherent in correcting behavior and patterns—ultimately the heart. I’ve been doing this for a while, so I have a lot of experience with it.

I learned something new the other day, however, that I hadn’t considered before. Actually I knew “about” it, but had not thought of it in a different application.

There is a student who is transitioning from early childhood into elementary ministry at my church, which means this child is directly in my care. He’s sort of a handful. I’ve seen and interacted with this kind of behavior before, but the circumstances surrounding his situation make his case unique. My normal tactics are being exhausted and I’m running low on leverage. As I was thinking about this student, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I tried to think about how I would feel if my life was like his. This not only gave me great compassion and understanding, it moved me to try a much different approach to correction and discipline.

I realized I need to play with him.

Duh, right?!

I was pulling and withdrawing plenty from the relationship bank account (because I needed to do some justified correction), but I wasn’t putting any relationship time into his life. So I started to play with him.

The other day there was a weird airplane someone had left in our large program room and we were tossing it back and forth to each other. Then we had this great idea to try and get it through the light bar in the ceiling.

It took many tries, but we did it! He was so excited when he accomplished this otherwise meaningless goal, but when we were doing it together while laughing and going back and forth, it became super meaningful.

It was not only a relational deposit (which will help for potential future correction), but it was a momentary reprieve for a child that is usually always in trouble with adults instead of on the positive side of interaction.

It’s an easy temptation to organize events and programs, but miss the “human” beings that are present and craving positive, healthy “human” interaction. As God’s people who believe the gospel, we get to engage with the “human” need with the only true and living water that satisfies.

This young child needs that gospel that exists both in correction=discipleship and “human” relational contact.

Discipline is important. We all need it.

I pray that I will continue to engage the person and not just the behavior.

Photo credit: Adetunji Paul on Unsplash

Update on What’s Next

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Yesterday, Pastor Chad shared some more details about my impending departure at all three services at Hayward Wesleyan Church as well as how things are looking for the new positions. Sunday, June 9 will be my last day on staff, and I get the honor of preaching that morning.

This definitely hasn’t been a secret. I announced that I would be stepping away from full-time ministry at HWC back in November. Every single week (and throughout the week) we get asked this question and yesterday Amanda and I got it a lot!

“So, have you figured out what’s next yet?”

The short answer?

Nope.

The long answer?

Hayward, WI has been our established home for almost 16 years. I was single when I came to Hayward and got a position on staff, got married within the first year, bought a house a year later, and had our first child two years later and then another child almost two years later as well. Hayward has been the place where Amanda and I have started and grown our family. Contrast that with my life growing up in a military family where we moved constantly, our two girls have only known one town, one house, one backyard, one set of schools, one faith community, and many friends in this one place. We are settled in this community, in so many ways.

The thought of leaving Hayward for another community is difficult for Amanda and I (and the girls). It is not a switch that can easily be flipped; nor should it be. We didn’t hold back… we still haven’t held back. We have poured our hearts and lives into participating with the Spirit of God in seeing students and families reconciled to God and flourishing in his kingdom. Sixteen years worth of relational engagement has an embedding quality to it.

This is what has been interesting for us these last six months as we have processed and continue to process what is next for our family.

We don’t know yet.

We have held back from making any further decisions about life or location changes until after June 9th. We want to be fully present here and at Hayward Wesleyan until then.

Sure we have been thinking, wondering, imagining, and looking. We check The Wesleyan Church jobs postings every other week or so. We have scrolled through ChurchStaffing.com under Youth Pastors and other positions regularly, and have been reached out to by a handful of churches that are looking for a pastor. To be honest, while a few have peaked our interest, not once has any led us to make any moves toward further inquiry.

Both Amanda and I know without a doubt that it is the right thing for us to step away from Hayward Wesleyan Church right now. We knew it back in November and we still believe it today. There was nothing wrong, and there is nothing wrong. We just both feel that our season of time as the youth and children and family pastor in Hayward through Hayward Wesleyan Church has come to an end, and a new season both for the Mavis family as well as the HWC family is upon us.

“So, what is your plan, Jeremy? What is happening Monday, June 10th?”

In a time of uncertainty, I believe the best thing one can do is take the next right step. It doesn’t have to be the “big” next step, but just the next “right” one, no matter how big or simple. And it has to be a step. It can’t be wallowing in self-pity.

Here is Jeremy, Amanda, Sari and Macie’s next right step:

Amanda is going to work where she has worked for the past 16 years. Jeremy, Sari and Macie are going to spend the morning doing chores and “blessing the house” as Amanda calls it, and probably swimming in the pool in the afternoon or some other weather appropriate activity, then relax and reflect in the evening together as the first day of a monumental life change settles in around us.

And then we will do something similar the next day… and the next day after that…

I will be spending the summer with our girls and completing some stalled projects on our house as well as other personal business entities. We have saved prudently these six months knowing that this transition would shake our family finances a bit, so it looks like I will only have to engage in a few side projects where I can make money to contribute to our family income this summer.

The girls and I will be swimming, biking, camping, adventuring, and making some memories together! Amanda will join us at various times as we make sure when she comes home from work that she can relax and enjoy downtime with us.

That our family’s next right step.

Anything beyond this is conjecture.

It seems like we might be in Hayward for longer than the summer, though. We are not in a hurry to jump into another ministry job somewhere. A friend of mine used the analogy of a football game and the tradition of a halftime break in between the two halves of the game. He dubbed this next right step as a sort of halftime–a break between the two halves. I liked that idea.

My family, after 16 years of immersed ministry and deep relational engagement in our beloved community, needs a halftime. They need their husband and their dad’s full attention for a season.

And they are going to get it!

We are not sure how long this “halftime” will last. Could be six months, or a year, or eight years. We are just really not sure. The idea of staying in Hayward longer, even though I won’t be an employed pastor at Hayward Wesleyan, makes us smile.

If this “halftime” lasts longer than the summer, which it currently looks like it will, I will have to find a job in the Fall. We won’t be able to survive financially, if I continue to just stay at home. And that wouldn’t be a next “right” step. Which means I get to love people and exemplify the kingdom of God in some profession outside of that of an ordained clergy. That makes me smile as well.

The LORD is in this… we know this to be true. He is orchestrating this both for our family as well as the HWC family. It is in his hands that we trust and hope and rely… even when we don’t.

It’s funny, when people have asked how Amanda and I are doing in this season of transition, I have shared that in our better moments we are fully trusting the LORD, and in worse moments we are freaking out! Thankfully, so far at least, we are not on the same cycle. When I’m freaking out, Amanda is trusting. When I might be trusting, Amanda is freaking out. This is faith working itself out in real-life, which is where we all are on a regular basis. We just need to be honest about it!

Thank you for caring about us, loving us, and worrying (in a good way) about us.

We love you, too.

Last Followers

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Yesterday was the last Followers at Hayward Wesleyan Church of the school year and my last Followers.

What a fun afternoon!

We put our hand-prints on the wall, ate amazing food, played games, laughed, celebrated, and just had a good time.

It was bittersweet.

  • Sweet because I’m happy at what Followers has done in the lives and hearts of students over the years
  • Bitter because I’m sad to be stepping away from spiritual and relational leadership with the students

I have LOVED both teaching and modeling the love of Jesus and communicating the heart of the Father with hundreds of students over the last 16 years. I constantly hear from former students (some who are still involved in the church and even those who aren’t) how impactful Followers was when they were kids in elementary school. I also hear from parents how appreciative they are for Followers and its influence on their kids’ lives.

I am so thankful to have been a part of this incredible ministry for my time at Hayward Wesleyan.

Followers has indeed left its mark on the lives of many!

source YouTube

Philosophy of Children and Family Ministries

In the fall of 2007, I started a graduate program at Bethel Seminary. While I eventually finished my master’s degree at another seminary, I am so thankful for my year and a half with the faculty at Bethel and the students of Cohort K!

I recently came across this document as I was cleaning out my digital files at Hayward Wesleyan Church. Not much has changed in what I think about children and family ministry! I might add some things, but by and large, this is still true for me:

What is the rationale for children and family ministries?

To be a community of people who recognize and value the spiritual nurturing and faith development of its children and youth as vital to the ongoing rebuilding of God’s kingdom through his people.

We want to introduce children to God and his son Jesus and nurture children to follow and live the ways of Jesus, ultimately to be a transforming presence in the world. This introduction and nurturing happen best through the creative and communal transmission of biblical stories and faith experiences, relationships with children and parents (families), adults, children and other families being in relationship with one another, and other children, serving and living out the ways of Jesus, and making wise choices as a follower of Jesus in this world.

Children are a heritage that we are called as parents and the community of faith to develop and nurture. We are to pass down to those who will outlive us what it means to live as the model humanity for the world. Ministry with children means they are the church of today as well as tomorrow. We believe that children can know God and his promises and his character right now. They bring an innocence and a purity of faith and imagination that open their young hearts toward God as well as touch the heart strings of adults and remind them that faith in God is simple and intuitive. We practice specific ministry with children and youth because we believe the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these and we have a responsibility to pass on the heritage and the traditions of the faith.

What are the biblical and theological foundations of children’s and family ministries?

The people of God continue to develop and shape the world through its children. Procreation, as simple as it sounds, is God’s encouragement to us as his people to continue to create life in his image1 and grow up those young lives to love God and love others2. In ancient times, children were seen as a sign of blessing from God. A woman who was barren or childless had the stigma of the disapproval of God on her life3. It is interesting that God often chose to intervene supernaturally in barren women to further his divine rescue of humanity.

Furthermore, pursuant to the Law of Moses4, the people of God—Israel—were commanded in the Shema5 to teach and pass along the law and the oral stories of what God had done to establish a special people and also relive6 the lengths God went to rescue his people from slavery and fashion them into the intended model humanity for the world. Children were to be included in yearly rituals and traditions that retold the stories. The sights and smells of the sacrifices and offerings as well as the various monuments throughout the land of Israel were designed in part to help children ask what these traditions mean7.

Jesus shook up the first century subjugation of children. Children had an extremely low status and not much value in the first century. In a teaching setting, Jesus would bring a child into the conversation for an illustration of what the kingdom is like8 as well as a warning of what would happen if anyone caused a child to stumble9. In effect, Jesus made children very important via these illustrations, but he was also reminding the failing people of God what they were missing in showing the world what God is like by forgetting to embrace the simplicity and innocence of being like a child.

Any purveyor of Scripture would obviously attribute children in general to be of extreme value and importance to the people of faith. Likewise, our Western contemporary culture highly values children largely due to this Judeo-Christian ethic. Current culture builds on the slab of the previous laid foundation of biblical and theological tradition.

What is the goal of children and family ministry?

Children and family ministry are a piece of the faith community’s mission to bring the kingdom heart and rescue plan of God in front of children through stories, relationships, playfulness, service, and worship. This unique ministry also helps initiate and develop a love for God, faith, belief in Jesus, a kingdom ethic and heart for following Jesus, and living a life in step with the Holy Spirit.

Stories awaken our imagination. They actively inform our mind and heart of an ideal world where character, integrity, faith, wisdom, sacrifice, pain, and joy are embraced and lived. Biblical stories provide a mode of communicating the message of God through an imaginative-storied world that we get to invite children and their families into in order to live in this contemporary world the way God wants us to live.

Relationships drive the way we connect with one another. Being in relationship is modeled by the Holy Trinity. The way to be truly human in God’s ideal world is to be in authentic relationships amidst a loving and sacrificial community. Connecting people in relationships should be an over-arching goal in children and family ministry. No one is an island unto themselves. All of us are shaped and molded by those we are in relationship with whether it is intentional or not10.

Playfulness touches the heart of children. When we allow children to play and have fun, we are touching a deep part of what it means for them to be human. God wants his people to enjoy life, be filled with joy, and marvel at the world he created for us. Allowing children to play draws unique connections and fosters many conversations about what God is doing in this world around them.

When a child gets to practice the values of the kingdom of God, learning is cemented. What a child does with his or her hands, body, and language, whether it is work or a huge sacrifice on their part a child is 90-percent more likely to retain that ethic11. More is caught than taught. What a child sees adults (or even teenagers) doing, more than what is said, that is what the child remembers. As a ministry we get to help children make the connection with what is taught through the Bible and faith stories of our community and what that looks like lived out in the world. When children serve, do things, be the hands and feet of Jesus to others, God’s kingdom comes and his will is done on earth as it is in heaven12.

Children are naturally filled with wonder, awe and curiosity. Without instruction, children seek to discover how the world works through cause and effect, their five senses, and constant observation and experimentation. When we talk about God, out of all the ages, children know exactly what that means. He is the one who made everything, a child would say. Their natural wonder and awe cause them to worship magnificently. As a ministry we are called to come along side that unique, innate quality of children and continue to foster worship of God. Worship with children could look like age-specific experiences as well as corporate multi-generational worship.

What are the unique challenges of children and family ministries?

Children and family ministries is a gigantic undertaking. It is easy to grasp when you think of age divisions like nursery, preschool and elementary. However, when you think of the vast developmental differences and changes that are taking place between a 6-month old and the 2-year old toddler in the nursery area or in the elementary age range of Kindergarten through grade five, ministry with children gets a lot more complex. Furthermore, taking into account that along with each child comes a family system which includes two parents (or possibly four in the case of divorced families), grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friends, ministry with children and their families has become entirely multifaceted.

Ministry with children and their families in a church community setting is typically staffed with volunteers each with their own family history and background. These volunteers have to be trained and brought together under a corporate vision and goal for raising up children to be current and future Jesus people.

Our fast changing culture seems like a constant challenge in children and family ministry. Television programming, new toys and interactive devices, technological innovations and advances, and the creation of more and more activities to keep children busy and engaged, shape children in significant way for better or worse.

Children seem to have more and more special needs. Whether those needs are psychological, mental, physical, behavioral, relational or more related to their personal or family history, each child deserves to be reached and known. The flexibility a church’s children’s ministry needs to have to reach these varying needs continue to test and push the boundaries of ministry management and resourcing.

The way things are in a specific community also provide positive or negative challenges to reaching children and their families for Jesus. Communities exhibit unique characteristics like: suburban, rural or urban; affluent, middle-class, poor, or many varying combinations of all three; differing ethnicity and cultural values; a sense of community or lack thereof; differing religious affiliations and involvements; and a variety of athletic and other activity options or slim to none. Understanding the unique nature of the particular community that surrounds one’s attempts to minister will allow tremendous informed impact for the kingdom of God.

What is the role of the children and family minister?

The children and family minister should be modeling his or her life as a believer in Jesus and enacting the values of the kingdom in his or her personal and familial life in the faith community and beyond.

The minister should also be one who embodies a vision and a passion for ministry with children and families. This person should be known as an advocate for the faith formation of children. The minister should be an empowering force for raising the continued awareness of the spiritual development of the children and their families in their midst. Leadership is required to sustain this continual empowering and advocating.

Equipping and training should be an integral part of the role of the children and family minister. Most families in today’s world do not naturally and intentionally develop spirituality in their children. It seems like the church has become the center for spiritual instruction, interaction and learning for children. While it is easy to consolidate instruction into one locale and under one ministry heading, faith formation in the hearts of children and their families has to happen in and out of the church. Children are around their families exponentially more than they are around the church. To just focus on making the children’s ministry at the church the best hour of a child’s week, however noble that effort might be, assumes that that is all children need in their spiritual journey and development. Radical reinvention and intervention needs to happen in training and equipping families to spiritually nurture and disciple their children. It is necessary for the minister to train and equip the church’s volunteers and staff in their efforts at discipling children while in their care, but not to the neglect of equipping and training families. The church and its children’s minister should be a well researched and vast resource for families and the church’s children’s ministry efforts.

What is the relationship between church and home in the spiritual formation of children?

Family is central to a child’s world. Hours and hours are spent together in this most natural and organic of relationships. The biggest shape-r and influence-r in children’s lives are their parents. The best of parents hope to provide structure, discipline, expectations, good moral values, food, a safe and warm environment, love and affection, support and encouragement, and the chance to propel them to eventually be independent, responsible people in the world. Children owe a lot to their family, although they don’t realize it until they have their own children.

The faith community that surrounds the child and the family is also of vital importance for shaping and influencing the spiritual formation of children. Hopefully the whole family is involved in this enterprise, however, there are some children without spiritually involved parents who will need to be adopted and nurtured by the faith community. This powerful combination of familial spiritual nurturing and communal, inter-family faith forming intentionality will significantly impact the spiritual care of children.

Families should expect the church’s involvement in their lives as well as the lives of their children. Conversely, the church should expect families and their children’s involvement in the lives of other children and families in a corporate, communal setting. This relationship should be synergistic in nature, each serving the other for the ultimate benefit of the spiritual formation of their children.

What is the role of church-based volunteers in children and family ministry?

Those volunteers with a heart for children and their faith formation should use their gifts in children’s ministry to develop relationships with students, teach the stories, values and ways of God, and model a mature and authentic faith in their lives. Volunteers create, through their committed service, an environment of love and integrity that shows children there are other adults beside their parents who love God and live their lives accordingly as well as display a unique kind of world where God uses his special people to go about transforming the world.

How can your strengths be best used in children and family ministry?

My particular strengths lie in the development of an overall curricular strategy to teach children the values and ethics of the kingdom of God. This strategy includes teaching the children and youth about the big picture story of God (Genesis to Revelation), what it concretely means to be a follower of Jesus, and how to live wisely in this world that God made.

Additionally, I have the ability to roll with the way things are in a community and work in and around those obstacles to created communal traditions and programmatic momentum. I can see pretty clearly what will work and will not work. What I have had to learn is that I cannot tell people what that is merely by what I say; I have to walk them through that process relationally.

I also love to teach, tell stories, and creatively awaken children, youth and adult’s imagination to what life was really like during Bible times and hopefully, that awakened imagination informs the choices and ways they live their lives.

What are your dreams for children and family ministry?

My dream for children and family ministry at Hayward Wesleyan Church is to see all the children in the Hayward community actively being ministered to through the faith community at-large. Whether that be in a church-based program setting (through our church and through all of the other churches in town), or through spiritually minded families that are connected with children through organic, natural connections (such as coaching, parents of children, friendships, etc), it is possible for our community to be radically influenced and transformed by the ways of Jesus. Our children and family ministry outlook can be a catalyst for this movement.

As an outspoken advocate for children in our community and my unique platform as the only children’s pastor in town, I get the unique privilege of being a significant shape-r of all things children and spiritual. Through our children’s ministry we have created a few community traditions that extend goodwill and spiritual instruction and awakening to children and their families. I would like to continue our practice by making more traditions available that touch the deep need of spiritual formation in the children and families of our community.

Conclusion

Children and family ministry exist to promote the passing on of the faith traditions and values to our children and youth. As long as there is a remnant who believes that God is actively redeeming this world through Jesus’ people living out his ways and values of the kingdom of heaven, there will always be a need for ministry to children and their families to carry this unbelievable message of hope to the world around us.


Footnotes:

[1] Genesis 1:27

[2] When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment was, he replied: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus echoes the ultimate purpose of God’s redeeming action is through love from Deuteronomy, particularly in the Shema, Deut. 6:4-9.

[3] Examples of barren women include: Abraham’s wife Sarah (Gen. 18:10-15; 21:1-7), Jacob, later Israel’s, wife Rachel (Gen. 29:31; 30:22-24), Samson’s mother (Judg. 13:1-25), Hannah—Samuel’s mother (1 Sam. 1:1-28), Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).

[4] Also referred to as the Torah or the Mosaic Covenant.

[5] Deuteronomy 6:4-9

[6] This reliving comes in the form of yearly traditions designed to continually remind all of Israel (both young and old), particularly the Passover.

[7] After Joshua and the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River, they pulled 12 stones from the dry riverbed to remind each tribe and their subsequent generations of what God did for them that day. If children were to ask: “What do these stones mean?” the people could answer them and remember.  (Joshua 4:21-24)

[8] Cf. Matt. 18:1-4; 19:13-15

[9] Cf. Matt. 18:5-6

[10] Children are radically shaped by the “village” around them. Opinions to the contrary miss the highly relational and communal connections Jesus intended his people to build, maintain and foster with others. It seems to me that any family unit would agree that they could not do it on their own no matter how hard they tried.

[11] Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Cannell, Children Matter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 259.

[12] The model prayer Jesus teaches his followers in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:9-13).

Photo credit:Ben White on Unsplash

11 Passover // The Story of God for Kids

For 21 weeks in 2019, the students and teachers in Main Street at Hayward Wesleyan Church are interacting with the curriculum from Saturate the World called The Story of God for Kids.

11) Story: Passover

This is the eleventh story in the curriculum found in Exodus 5-15.

Watch the teaching video below:

source YouTube

11 Passover // The Story of God for Kids (Sam Werner)

Review Slides:

Review Slides: 01-10-Review.zip [2mb]
Powerpoint (review slides): 01-10-Review.pptx [190kb]
Powerpoint (teaching slide): 11-Passover.pptx [143kb]

10 Moses // The Story of God for Kids

For 21 weeks in 2019, the students and teachers in Main Street at Hayward Wesleyan Church are interacting with the curriculum from Saturate the World called The Story of God for Kids.

10) Story: Moses

This is the tenth story in the curriculum found in Exodus 1-4.

Watch the teaching video below:

source YouTube

Listen to the teaching audio below:

10 Moses // The Story of God for Kids (Pastor Jeremy Mavis)

Review Slides:

Review Slides: 01-09-Review.zip [2mb]
Powerpoint (review slides): 01-09-Review.pptx [185kb]
Powerpoint (teaching slide): 10-Moses.pptx [143kb]

09 Joseph // The Story of God for Kids

For 21 weeks in 2019, the students and teachers in Main Street at Hayward Wesleyan Church are interacting with the curriculum from Saturate the World called The Story of God for Kids.

9) Story: Joseph

This is the ninth story in the curriculum found in Genesis 37-39, 41-50.

Watch the teaching video below:

source YouTube

Listen to the teaching audio below:

09 Joseph // The Story of God for Kids (Pastor Jeremy Mavis)

Review Slides:

Review Slides: 01-08-Review.zip [1mb]
Powerpoint: 01-08-Review.pptx [180kb]

Powerpoint (teaching slide): 09-Joseph.pptx [143kb]