Every so often we have the opportunity to feature guest voices on the Wayfarer Blog. Today we get the pleasure of hearing from a great friend, Chris Norman. Chris lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his wife Kathy and their four children. He leads Grace Gathering, a church that is becoming a regional hub for 3DM. Grace Gathering has been implementing a culture of discipleship and mission for several years now, seeking to catalyze a movement in their church and across their region.
Click here to read more and watch a video about the journey that Chris and his community at Grace Gathering have been on for the last few years.
Why Your Youth Ministry Needs to Align with Your Church’s Vision
Several years ago a book was written called, “The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things” by Labovitz and Rosansky. The premise is that sustained breakthrough happens when major departments of an organization work together toward one “main thing” over the course of the long haul. We all know the frustrations faced when our jobs, families, churches, or other venues function in a disjointed way.
What is the main thing for the church?
At Grace Gathering, the main thing for us is allowing God to use us to bring heaven (his kingdom) to earth. We want to see everything true about heaven experienced in some way here on earth: people restored back to God, the sick healed, darkness thwarted, the marginalized protected, etc. Our strategy for accomplishing this mission is discipling people to have the character and competency of Jesus. As this happens, we eventually create extended families on mission together. We have integrated our vision, values, vehicles, valuations, and even our vocabulary to accomplish this “main thing.”
In the 18 years I have helped lead our church we have never had a cohesive vision and discipleship strategy that permeated all the major ministries of our church. For example, our children’s ministry, youth ministry, and adult ministry have functioned independently of each other for years. Each department makes their own decisions on ministry philosophy, discipleship strategy, spiritual vocabulary, etc. All three have pursued God, but they have all done it very differently and independently of each other.
Aligning children, youth, and adult ministry
Over the last few years we have started to realize the power of ministry alignment. 3DM has helped us develop a solid strategy for developing disciples, and they have created applications of this strategy to all three contexts of children, youth, and adults. To see the children and adults of all these ministries learn the tool of the Learning Circle to hear and follow God, practice the reproducibility of the Leadership Square, balance invitation and challenge in discipling relationships, and experience the power of family on mission (just to mention a few) have been incredible. Many people in our church are now moving in the same direction with common tools, language, and strategy contextualized for each area of ministry where they serve.
3DM Wayfarer Camp
Let me give you a recent illustration of this alignment. Over the last two years we have sent a group of our teens and adult leaders to Wayfarer Camp. At this camp our teens spend a week experiencing discipleship huddles to develop the character and competency of Jesus. They learn the common language of Lifeshapes so that they can have tools to help them access and remember biblical principles. They experience mission together as a family. They have come back from this camp both years with immense passion to follow Jesus, to see his kingdom established on the earth, and they are getting injected with the same DNA as the overall direction of our church.
Likewise, the adult youth leaders receive investment in this same DNA as well and also come back desiring to pursue these same things. Many of these youth leaders return from this camp saying things like, “I kind of understood the vision and direction of our church, but after spending a week with those 3DM Wayfarer camp leaders, I know exactly where we are heading, and I could not be more excited.” The leverage has been significant!
Shifting a church to a missional discipleship focus is extremely hard. We need all the alignment and integration possible in order to fully maximize our focus and energy. For the very first time in our church our major ministries are moving in the same direction. It is like compounding interest; they are building off one another exponentially. Adults are pouring into teens, teens are pouring into kids, and most are using the same language, strategy, and tools to do it.
There are many great youth camps our teens could attend. If there is a youth camp that helps our teens grow in Christ and at the same time infuses the same vision and strategy of our overall church to both these teens and adult leaders, choosing another camp is simply a lost opportunity. Sometimes we can allow good choices to undermine the best choices.
Our teens and adults say this camp is one of the most life-changing weeks of their lives. For this reason, and for the power of ministry alignment, we will send our growing youth group to Wayfarer Camp every year!