DevotionalYouth and Family Blog

Justice & Our Kids Faith: A Youth & Family Perspective

Every Saturday morning for just one hour, the parents of our congregation get on zoom to go over a chapter from the book “Sticky Faith” by Dr. Kara E. Powell & Dr. Chap Clark. What we do is essentially a Bible Discussion type format based on each chapter week to week and without a doubt, it has been one of the greatest gifts that could have ever come out of this pandemic. We have incredible conversations and we are real and vulnerable. We are able to meet every week because of where we are with technology now. (Our last book was “Owning Faith” who are very own Dave Pocta was a contributor)

Before we get into it, think about what the attitude toward serving in your home growing up: How did you learn the importance of giving back or serving? Do you have any memorable or formative moments? 

Hold onto those memories.

“Sticky Justice”

This week’s chapter in our book was titled, “Sticky Justice”. This struck me because this book was written prior to everything that happened this year in terms of injustice, yet the authors still had this to say:

“Justice seems to trigger one of two images in his church members’ minds: radical druggie hippies from the 1960s or “liberal” believers who talk more about freedom and rights than Jesus or salvation.”

After a lot of great/heated/hard/incredible conversations in our family of churches, I believe many of us now know (or are on our way to knowing) that “justice” is not just some bad word used by radical liberals and is in fact a topic that the Bible talks a lot about. (Disciples Today has some incredible resources)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40

This chapter in the book talks about how much God cares about Justice (Deut 16:20, Deut 27:10, Ps 103:6, Isa 28:17, Jer 9:24. Amos 5:24, Luke 18:7, Rom 3:25) and how important our sense of justice is tied to our kids developing faith that will last. According to the authors, the term justice in the Bible is closely linked to the term “shalom” or peace. Peace with self, peace with others, peace with God, peace with creation. (Check out this Bible Project video on the word Shalom).

They (the authors) talk about the difference between serving and justice. Serving is giving a thirsty person a drink (which at times this is all we can do), but justice goes a bit deeper. Justice is trying to understand why this thirsty person doesn’t have or can’t get a drink in the first place and working to help them be in a position to give a drink to other thirsty people. Justice absolutely takes work, but practicing it can really lead to some deep transformation in the lives of our kids.

When a concern for justice sticks (sticky justice) it can lead to “sticky faith”.

The Research, Practicals, and Inspiration

According to the research from this book, when graduated teens were asked: “What do you wish you did more of in your Youth Ministry?” There top 3 answers were:

  1. Deeper Conversations
  2. Mission Trips
  3. Service Projects

You know what was last on the list of 16 options? ‘

GAMES! 

(I would like to add here that the research from “Owning Faith” also points to many Teens wishing they could better explain and defend their faith – another article for another day)

This chapter also talks about how we can best harness the power of a mission trip or service project with our kids and it consists of three steps:

  1. Before – Talk about the event (Why are we doing it, What do we hope to get out of it?)
  2. During – Check in during the event (What do you think? What are you learning? How are you seeing God move? what new questions is this raising?)
  3. After – Debrief immediately after but also find ways to continue the transformation (How did God work through you? How do you think God might want to work through you now that you are home? How has your experience shaped your view of service and justice? What ideas do you have to make this more than a one time thing?)

My wife and I have a son who is now 2 years old and I want him to be someone that cares about God’s justice and bringing shalom to a hurting world because I think that is essential to being a Christian (Matthew 25:31-36). To care about the poor, the marginalized, the needy, the kid who sits alone at school, the kid who is picked on at school, the “least of these”. 

I was so moved reading about how one Father went with his son on a mission trip to Haiti where each day at the end everyone shares about the best part of their day.” The Dad’s best part of the day was always hearing what his son’s best part was! I started crying as I was reading. I long for moments like that with my son when he grows up, to hear him talk about the best part of his day being when he saw someone hurting crack a smile, giving someone who is hungry food to eat, seeing someone thirsty drinking. 

As a Youth Minister, I want to caution parents against fearing the word justice or resisting completely the use of it. Alternatively, we can explain what Biblical Justice is and what it will look like for your family. 

According to the research, Kids after leaving the teen ministry, often wish they served more during their time in the teen ministry. As a Youth Minister I can tell you that while they are in the Teen Ministry they would answer very differently. What does that tell us? We have to be intentional to make it happen.

Often teens do not want to practice justice or bringing shalom to this world because they can developmentally be very self absorbed, but here are 2 suggestions from our authors:

  1. Do Justice with their friends
  2. Find some convenient service projects

More helpful information can be found at: www.stickyfaith.org (Although they are not part of our fellowship they have some very insightful research)

Reflections as a Youth & Family Minister

It’s been four years since my wife and I have started serving in the Youth & Family ministry here in Southern CT Church of Christ and I am blown away by the loving, serving, committed parents we have in our fellowship here in CT, throughout New England, and the world. I benefit greatly from all of the awesome resources in our fellowship and you can find those in the “parents” tile of our “ICOC NE” App

Many of our churches have incredible Hope service projects and local opportunities. We can use these projects as a springboard for our kids to develop the heart of Christ. Talk with your kids before, during, and after the event and work together on some long term justice or shalom.

There are so many opportunities for us to be creative about the way we bring shalom to to our hurting communities and beyond. 

A few examples:

  • Make your home a safe place for your kids’ friends – be willing to talk to them and coach them a bit.
  • Service trips and projects through Hope Worldwide – engaging with those you are helping and even following up and building an ongoing relationship if appropriate.
  • Keep an envelope with some cash in it specifically for when you run into people that might need it (or food).
  • Find causes that hit close to home for you and your community
  • Helping a local school with a “face lift” so the kids can have a sense of pride and continue to partner with the school
  • Equip your kids to help their friends and even those that they wouldn’t consider friends to see how much Jesus loves them and values them

I am no expert and after reading this chapter, I realize how much growing I have to do! I am grateful Hope Worldwide has some incredible teaching and resources on the topic. I am just here to say, our kids really need to develop this heart. Church has to be more than just something they grew up going to. It has to have a meaningful impact in the real problems around them, whatever those may be. This is an incredibly powerful way for them to see God. So often, as we seek to help others, we ourselves are in fact the ones getting the most help.

One time, our Youth and Family ministry was serving locally here in Bridgeport, CT and one of the Teens, in the middle of serving, said to me, “I just realized how much I have”. I really couldn’t believe it, this was only God (cue tears).

So many Christians have a deep conviction about this kind of engagement and I am humbled as I reflect on how much growing I have to do. “Not enough time” is a common refrain, right? There are many great books about living our life with more margin. Essentially not packing our schedules so full that we have no time to meet spontaneous “inconvenient” needs. “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer and “The Best Yes” by Lysa TerKeurst are some great books.

(Through our Southern CT Chapter of Hope Worldwide, we have our virtual 5K to raise money for early childhood development in South Africa on May 29th. Make a profile/donate here)

Reflections as a Dad

My Mom & Dad always wanted our house growing up to be a safe place for me and my friends. Everyone was allowed over and they would be taken care of. I never saw my parents draw any arbitrary lines with my friends and I have carried that lesson with me to today.

Now that I am a Dad, I want my son to have a heart for the “least.” What I am saying is I want my son to have a sense of justice and to be an agent to bring peace to a hurting world in many different ways (temporally and spiritually). I long for moments where he says the best part of his day was when he saw someone hurting smile, giving someone who is hungry food to eat, or seeing someone thirsty drinking. By faith, I can’t wait to see him grow older and commit himself to bringing shalom to people temporally through compassion and bringing shalom to people’s souls through reconciling them to Christ

I never feel I am equipped enough to do this and I too often feel like, “there is not enough time”. My deepest fear is that time will fly by and in no time he will be a grown man and I will have missed the moments. I (and maybe we) have to remind myself that although these are some tall tasks and I will blow it, God’s grace will continue to transform my life and the life of my son because of me and in spite of me. I must remember that there is no exact formula for raising a kid to be someone that loves and devotes themselves to God. The best I can do is trust God when it’s hard, rely on the village (church) when I need support, and love people even if they “don’t deserve it”. 

I imagine really going after this will be a journey. I will have to grow my “justice muscles” and indeed at times I may try to lift too much “injustice weight” or not enough. However, I don’t want to give up on it because I don’t always get it right.

Please God, remind me of all of this when I forget!

Questions to reflect on: 

  • Do you want to be a family that bring God’s shalom to your community?
  • What is getting in the way of you and your family serving together? What decision can you make to change that?
  • Are there any needs you see in your community right now that hit close to home? What are creative ways to meet those needs?
  • What are upcoming Church or Hope activities where you can get your family involved? 

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