Recently our Leadership for Holy Innovation (LFI) cohort met at Briarwood to continue their conversations and learning. The pastors of this cohort of 4 congregations (Advent/Adviento, Arlington; St. Luke’s, Richardson; New Life in Christ, Duncanville; Emanuel, Dallas) have been meeting together as leaders for 2 years. In this third year they now include lay guiding teams who work together with the pastor and a coach (provided through our NT-NL Coaching network) to listen and then create learning experiments. These experiments are intended to help them learn and process what opportunities there are for participating in what God is doing in the world. To be innovative in trying things out understanding that the goal is to learn and in that learning create future experiments and priorities for mission.
This focus on innovation is critical for our mission in NT-NL’s territory. There is no one set of instructions for congregations to utilize to be vital in their context. Each of our congregations is planted in a unique context that requires the community to discern how best it can respond and participate in God’s work in the world.
Recently this article from Fuller Seminary was brought to my attention that also highlights innovation in youth ministry. Rather than simply trying to find new and exciting events that might attract youth, the learner in this article realized there was something bigger going on in ministry that required rethinking of what the focus should be. As a result she wound up centering her learning on five key questions…
1. Who are the people entrusted to your care?
2. How do those people experience the longings and losses that make up the human condition?
3. What Big Lie do your people believe that prevents them from hearing the gospel?
4. How do you make spiritual sense of those longings and losses?
5. How do you express that spiritual meaning as a shared story of future hope?
As we begin Lent (today is Ash Wednesday) I think these are worthy questions to consider and ponder. Who are the people God has entrusted to us both within our congregations and outside the walls of our communities? How do we listen and learn to what they are experiencing so that when we proclaim the gospel to them we do so in a way that they can hear as good news. For the learner in this story she realized the Big Lie that her middle school youth had come to believe was that love is conditional. That they were only valuable for what they could do or produce. Recognizing this lie she then could structure conversations and community to help them hear of God’s unconditional love and value for them.
On Ash Wednesday we are told we are dust. We are reminded we are mortal. This grounding then centers us for the 40 days of Lent in which we hear that even though we are dust, God loves us enough to become that dust for us in Jesus. To die our death so that we might live and in that living tell others of this love.
The story the church tells is thousands of years old. We aren’t going to change that story. But we can innovate and learn in how we tell that story so others can hear it today. Ultimately we must care enough about the people God has entrusted to us to care for that we are willing to experiment and learn.