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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to co-author a book with two of the smartest people I know: Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy.
And it’s about small groups.
How to structure small groups.
How to empower your small group leaders.
How to create the ideal small group experience.
But, most of all, this book is about belonging. It’s about this idea that, maybe, before a kid can ever believe in a God she can’t see, she needs a person, who she can see, to give her a place to belong.
So today, as we really begin introducing this book to the world, I wanted to give you a peek at one of my favorite parts. It’s adapted from the chapter, “Give Them Someone.”
GIVE THEM SOMEONE
You can’t see God.
I have never seen God, and neither have you.
Okay. Maybe you think you have. But I’m going to bet it wasn’t actually God. More than likely you were staring too long at a cloud formation, or you drank too much Nyquil. The point is there are no tangible, verifiable images you can hold up and say, “This is God.”
It’s too bad social media didn’t exist thousands of years ago. It would have settled a lot of issues for skeptics.
Imagine if . . .
Moses sent a pic of God writing the Ten Commandments.
Peter uploaded images of Jesus walking on the water.
John posted video of Jesus ascending into heaven on YouTube.
(If social media had been around, it could have settled that whole dinosaur debate, too.)
Your job as a pastor or Christian leader would be a lot easier if those moments had been captured with some actual digital images.
Instead, you probably spend a lot of time trying to convince kids or teenagers to pursue a God they have never seen. It’s tricky. God doesn’t have a Twitter account or a Facebook page. So, how do you invite people to follow someone they can’t touch, or see, or hear? And how do you move them toward an authentic and personal faith in a God who may seem distant, vague, and unpredictable?
We have watched hundreds of churches debate which strategy is best for children and teenagers. We have listened to confident leaders promote their interpretation of biblical truth and advocate their version of church as the solution for the dying faith of a generation. And while ministry leaders may not agree on every detail, we are connected by a common mission to help kids and adults grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, back to the question.
How do you build authentic faith in kids and teenagers?
We think we have finally discovered the answer.
And it’s really simple.
The truth is, it will never be simple. That’s the nature of faith and pursuing a relationship with a mysterious and majestic Creator. We aren’t writing this book because we think we have the answer, but because we have made a number of key observations through the years about kids and faith. Here are a few:
You don’t shape a kid’s faith by teaching them doctrine. (Whatever you talk them into, someone else can talk them out of.)
You don’t shape a kid’s faith by persuading them to have better standards. (They may ultimately give up if they feel like they can’t measure up.)
You don’t shape a kid’s faith by getting them to attend your events. (At some point, they will compare the quality of your production to what culture produces, and you will probably lose.)
BUT YOU CAN SHAPE A KID’S FAITH BY CONNECTING THEM TO CARING ADULTS WHO WILL BE PRESENT IN THEIR LIFE.
Please don’t miss this.
PEOPLE CAN’T SEE GOD.
PEOPLE CAN’T SEE JESUS.
PEOPLE CAN’T SEE THE HOLY SPIRIT.
BUT PEOPLE CAN SEE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW GOD.
PEOPLE CAN SEE THE CHURCH.
That’s why what you do, as a pastor or leader, is so important. The church has been part of God’s strategy for a long time.
Regardless of the size or style of your church, your greatest asset to building faith in the next generation is not your Bible study, worship band, facilities, or budget. The most valuable resources you have to help people see God are the people in your church who know God.
And if you hope to help a generation of kids and teenagers know God, then you have to be strategic about how you connect them to small group leaders who believe in God and who believe in them.
So if you want kids to know God, maybe one of the most important things you can do is to give them someone who will talk with them, hang out with them, and do life with them.
The best way to help kids know God is to connect them with someone who knows God.
This excerpt is adapted from the book Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong, by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, and Elle Campbell. Copyright © 2014 by Orange.