At EBC’s Annual Meeting last week I was approved to go on Sabbatical from Mid-June through August 2013 in order to work on my doctoral thesis. My classwork is complete, but the big task of writing the thesis usually takes people significant time, so I’m very excited to have this gracious opportunity to focus on writing during the Summer of 2013.
What will happen to the Youth Ministry while I’m gone?
I’m blessed to have an amazing group of volunteers who form the Youth Leadership Team (YLT). The YLT and I meet every month in order to plan and lead the youth ministry, and we will continue to plan the Summer’s ministry calendar together. There will still be weekly youth group, a missions trip, and other activities… I just won’t be there. The YLT will be coordinating the different ministry needs as they arise and will be looking for more parental support than usual, so please reach out to any of the youth leaders to let them know how you would like to serve.
What is a Sabbatical?
A Sabbatical is a period of time granted to a pastor in order to focus on personal rest, spiritual renewal, and some form of sharpening of ministry skills (sabbaticals are frequently granted to college and grad school professors as well). EBC recently adopted a Sabbatical Policy where pastors are considered eligible for a 2-3 month sabbatical after completing seven years of full-time service. Just as God ordained the Sabbath to fall on the seventh day in order to bring rest and renewal, many churches adopt a sabbatical policy in order to bless their pastors with a similar season of rest and renewal in order to prevent burn-out and reenergize their pastors in their ministry.
What Will I be Doing?
During my Sabbatical, I’ll be focusing on resting (“Sabbath” is at the core of the word “Sabbatical,” afterall) and writing the Thesis for my D.Min. Tracy and I hope to take a week away with the kids towards the beginning and again towards the end of the Summer. For most of the Summer, I plan on getting to know the Norton Public Library and surrounding coffee shops very very well while typing away on my computer with a bag full of books. I’m also making plans to spend a week at Gordon-Conwell Seminary for their “Writer’s Workshop” where I’ll work with an editor to help make my Thesis as strong as possible.
What is my Thesis About?
My Thesis is focused on “Youth Ministry as Bridge Between Church & Home.” I hope to explore how youth ministry can function as the bridge that connects the local church with what happens in the home. Traditionally, youth ministry has often been the arm of the church which has reached out to teenagers to ground them in the Gospel and equip them for life-long discipleship. Most youth ministers understand their role is to “coming alongside” parents, and yet this is a great oversight in most youth ministries. Youth ministries must be seen as the bridge between the local church and the home. Teenagers ought to be seen as young men and women whom Christ loves and has adopted into his family. When teens are committed more to the youth ministry than to the church it should not be a surprise when many of those teens eventually walk away from their faith after their teen years.
We must remember that the Church is eternal and the family is a mirror of Christ and the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not the family. Whenever someone “becomes” a Christian, they become a member in the Church. Christian parents deeply yearn for their children to not only grow into healthy and fully-functioning adults, they prayerfully raise their children in order that they would be adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. I believe there is a pattern of youth ministry throughout Church History that is very relevant and helpful to the Church today in reaching the next generation for Christ. With this in mind, I will explore how the practice of catechesis can provide a helpful framework for re-envisioning youth ministry as the bridge between the local church and the home.
My Thesis will explore the various facets of how the local church has built these bridges in previous generations and what this bridge-building can look like today. As the Pastor of Youth and Families at EBC I have begun to work through a transition towards this philosophy of youth ministry. This transition has begun through opportunities for parents to be equipped to lead in discipleship and will continue through intentional partnerships between the church, the youth ministry, and the home. These efforts will be evaluated through ongoing long-term relationships, conversations, and online surveys. My Thesis will explore the Biblical & Theological foundations which support this approach to youth ministry while also evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of other resources which address this same issue. I will outline how I have applied this to EBC and evaluate how those efforts were received. Ultimately, I think I could write this Thesis forever, since I doubt I’ll ever “figure it out,” but I hope to propose my conclusions about how this approach to youth ministry might be applied fruitfully in the local church.