Overview:

 

At Renew we’ve been going through some ministry values, and the third says this:

“We are called to offer genuine family support built on trust and vulnerability. Doing life together allows us to experience God’s healing presence through difficulty, and at the same time celebrating the joyful life he intended.”

Romans 12:5 says something that is easy to ignore in our culture: “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” How about that for a picture of what the church is called to be? If you read this passage in the Message translation, it helps us get a better idea of what Paul means.

In vs 1-2 he says, “Embrace what God does…Don’t just get comfy in this culture…The result: You’ll be changed/mature.”

That sounds difficult, but there’s something else to ponder here about how we do this. In vs 3 he says, “…it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” So he says that God does this good stuff in us; it doesn’t come from ourselves. And it’s important, he says. What does that even mean? How do we understand ourselves through God?

This is hard to grasp so he gives an example in human terms, which gets us back to our ministry value:

vs 4-6 “In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?”

We get the idea here. An arm by itself is useless and really has no purpose. But an arm is quite helpful when connected to the body. Think of this concept within a family system: a child needs a parent in order to survive. Or a sports team: each person has a different and important role. Paul is saying in Romans that we find our meaning and function when we work together. We find our true value as part of God’s family. And we come to understand that when we embrace what HE does. It’s not about what WE do.

Picture the vastness of the universe. Scale that down to just our little earth. And now imagine yourself as just a speck of dust in comparison. My life (my meaning and function) is a tiny part of this whole thing. There’s something so much bigger than me. We understand this concept as a member of a team. If you win a championship, you feel that you’ve contributed to something so much bigger than just your individual role. It has very little to do with you, but life feels great in that moment.

Knowing God is like that, and knowing ourselves lies somewhere in there too. We need this church system to truly find our meaning and function. We are family. We belong to each other. So let’s support each other, which requires trust and vulnerability. This is our ministry value. Are you willing to open up?

Resources:

Renewcast 12: Ministry Value #3 – ft. Jill & Hunter M

Overview:

Ministry Value #2: “Youth need significant friendships that add value, encourage growth, and validate each person’s worth. The church provides a place for youth to support one another in a way that they might not experience anywhere else. These types of relationships can be life changing.”

A few questions to get started:

  • Who is someone in your life you’d consider a significant friend? Why? (they “add value, encourage growth”?) Can a significant friendship exist without these things?
  • Think about everyone else (those not considered your significant friends). How do you validate their worth as a human being?
  • Now think about the church. How might it offer something not found anywhere else?

In John 15, Jesus tells the disciples that being connected to God is like fruit being connected to a tree. A branch can’t produce fruit on it’s own; neither can we. And then Jesus says a couple of interesting things:

“This is how my Father shows who he is–when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” (v 8, The Message translation)

“If you keep my commands, you’ll remain…in my love…This is my command: Love one another the way I have loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” (v 9-13)

There are a lot of commands in the bible. We tend to complicate it and the church gets a bad rap for doing so. And while there is more to this train of thought, one thing is pretty clear in this passage: When we love our friends to the point of death, we are like a tree producing fruit. For those of us in the church, this is our calling.

  • Do you experience this type of love in the church?
  • Do you contribute to it or detract from it?
  • What could happen in the church if it was known for creating these types of friendships?
  • Does that really exist elsewhere? Why or why not?

This kind of love can exist outside the church, but there’s a bigger potential for it here because we have these words from Jesus. We have a calling to it despite our differences.

See more explanation of these ideas in the message below.

Resources:

Middle School & High School Renew Message

Renewcast 10: Ministry Value #2 – ft. Mark F & Jenna L

Renewcast 11: Ministry Value #2 (Part 2) – ft. Jeffrey R & Carina M

Last month I shared that we’re going through our “ministry values” at Renew. And we’re just beginning, so it’s on to the second:

Ministry Value #2: “Youth need significant friendships that add value, encourage growth, and validate each person’s worth. The church provides a place for youth to support one another in a way that they might not experience anywhere else. These types of relationships can be life changing.”

So basically, we’re talking about growing valuable friendships.

I have a friend (I know, shocking). His name is Kevin. 11 years ago when I was youth director at a church in Phoenix, Kevin was a little punk high schooler. We started talking about real life issues and he was asking difficult questions about God and the point of the church. I remember standing in the parking lot after youth group having these deep conversations about life. That was then.

Today, when I go back to Phoenix we hang out, we talk on the phone regularly, he visited me here and spoke at Renew one night, I was a groomsman in his wedding (and he was in mine), and Kevin is now finishing seminary at a school near San Francisco to become a pastor. Kevin is a friend that will always be in my life no matter what.

His friendship is the type of friendship we’re talking about with Ministry Value #2.

Three things about friendships in this statement:

1) Significant friendships add value.

If something has value, we spend money to get it. So we buy something like a nice pair of shoes or a video game. Why does that particular thing have value to us? Maybe because it gives us satisfaction in some way. Do our friendships have this kind of value? Maybe we spend time together, or buy each other presents. How else do you know? But notice this statement doesn’t just say that significant friendships have value, but that they add value. How do we know if we actually add value to our friendships (because let’s be honest, it’s easy to just think we do)? Well, look at the next point:

2) Significant friendships that add value, encourage growth.

If something has value to you, you spend time to work on it or enjoy it. You spend time playing video games or practicing a sport because you enjoy doing that activity, or maybe you want to get better at it. This value is what causes you to invest, and leads to growth. Growing relationships, then, also reveal that we value them. Without growth, there is probably a lack of value.

3) Significant friendships validate each person’s worth.

Not every relationship will reflect this kind of value. We just don’t have the capacity for it. That’s why some people are friends, some are acquaintances, and some are strangers. But that doesn’t mean we only focus on our friends. In the church especially. We can value others without a lot of effort by simply acknowledging that they matter. We treat them with respect and care, even if they are different than us.

The last part of the ministry value says: “The church provides a place for youth to support one another in a way that they might not experience anywhere else.” So what makes the church different?

In life, so much of what we do is based on temporary significance. In a sport or a club you are required to work so you can win. At the end of that you’re left with either a trophy or a loss, and then you either start all over again or move on to something else. This isn’t to say it isn’t valuable or important, but it serves a purpose and then you move on. Or think of your different friend groups over the years. They’re constantly changing based on your age and interests, etc. The friendships that last are the ones with a deeper connection.

This is what makes the church different, I think.

In John 15, Jesus tells the disciples that being connected to God is like fruit being connected to a tree. A branch can’t produce fruit on it’s own; neither can we. And then Jesus says, “This is how my Father shows who he is–when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” (v 8, MSG)

So then, as we mature, our actions reveal God. So what does it mean to “mature?” The next part explains more detail.

Jesus says, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain…in my love.” (v 9-10) Maybe Jesus’ statements like these are why the church get s a bad rap. If we keep his commands, we are loved by God??? Why do we have to keep his commands in order to receive God’s love? That seems restricting. Shouldn’t God just love me regardless of what I do?

Yes, he does. The Christian guilt trip is not from God (but that’s a conversation for another time). I don’t think Jesus here is talking about how to receive God’s love. I think he’s telling us how to give God’s love. Because look what he says next:

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.This is my command: Love one another the way I have loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” (v 11-13)

There’s a reason we’re called to be “mature.”

There are a lot of commands in the bible. We tend to complicate it and the church gets a bad rap for doing so. But this passage simplifies it. Jesus says that being connected to God will result in us maturing as disciples, and as disciples we are called to keep his command, which is to love each other the way he has loved us. Tie it all together and one thing is pretty clear: When we love our friends to the point of death, we are like a tree producing fruit. For those of us in the church, this is our calling.

This kind of love can exist outside the church, but there’s a bigger potential for it here because we have these words from Jesus. We have a calling to it despite our differences. So this is why significant friendships are a ministry value.

This school year for our curriculum, we are going through some newly created ministry values specific for our Renew youth ministry program. What are ministry values, you ask?

Well, what is something you value? You’d probably say things like, “family time,” “friendship,” “athletic or arts performance,” “good grades,” etc. If you really value these things, then you add activities to your schedule to make them happen.

In a similar way, as a youth ministry (and as a church) desiring to accomplish something specific (growing disciples, for example), we want to communicate the things we value in order to help accomplish them. In other words, what we do here should line up with these values.

So the first is this, “We believe the church needs to be a place where all youth are welcome and find belonging. This happens through authentic, meaningful relationships between adults and youth.”

All month long we’ve been discussing this at Renew. If you’d like to hear more about it, in the next couple weeks we’ll have a new month-long podcast series up. We’d love for you to listen and join the conversation. Search for the “Renewcast” on iTunes, SoundCloud or in the MPC Life app.

Stayed tuned for more to come!

Overview:

Ministry Value #1: “We believe the church needs to be a place where all youth are welcome and find belonging. This happens through authentic, meaningful relationships between adults and youth.”

Genesis 2:18 – God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

It’s no question from a quick read in Genesis that humanity makes choices over and over again that lead to death. But God, he creates and sees that “it is good.” And verse 18 shows us that God also knows what is “not good.” So then since humanity chooses actions that lead to death, we could say that only God knows what is good, and what is not good. And here we see that God desires for us to be in relationship with one another.

Relationships in the church, then, have potential to offer what God is referring to when he says, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

  • What are some ways that relationships have helped you? (write out some thoughts)
  • After doing that, now think about the different things that have helped connect you to the church (people, experiences, etc). Which is the most significant of these things?

Your answer to that second question might suggest that relationships are most important. This is why we believe that youth need “authentic, meaningful” relationships with adults. This is why God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Resources:

October 2017 Newsletter: Ministry Values Curriculum

HS Only Night – Genesis 2 Study Guide

Renewcast 08: Ministry Value #1 – ft. Jack B & Dave H

Renewcast 09: Ministry Value #1 (Part 2) – ft. Amber D & Brennan C