Tag Archives: baptism

the whole story for the whole church, the whole time

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This week I was contemplating the prayer partner project and I was reminded of this statement we make:

“We are concerned with the wholeness of each individual and of our community. Because we value the participation of children and youth in the life of our congregation, we believe that it is the privilege and right of each child in the congregation:
1. To be in the midst of the congregation, not on the sidelines;
2. To wander among us during worship, being the responsibility of each of us;
3. To give answers during children’s time without being laughed at;
4. To be called by name by each adult;
5. To be a valued person in the congregation;
6. To be led to faith by the Christlike love, care, and model of each adult;
7. To be an active participant in worship.”

And so I wonder–how do you live out these promises? How is the prayer partner project going for you? What other ways can we pursue the goal of wholeness for each person, no matter their age, and for our community as a whole?

What does it (or might it) mean to think about our task being to engage the whole church in the whole story, all the time?

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church family–facilitating “vertical” relationships

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Our church is working hard on ways to foster community, create connections, and build intergenerational relationships. Recent research has shown that “vertical” (intergenerational) relationships are one of the crucial things a church can provide in a culture that increasingly isolates people by age….and the same research has also shown that children and youth that have these vertical relationships are more likely to continue growing in faith throughout their lives. As a church family we seek to support children, youth, families, parents, and college students as you/they grow in faith and travel their life journey, and also to remember that the older can learn from the younger just as much as the other way around. One way we plan to do this is to create a prayer partner system.

Each year (this year on October 17, the national children’s sabbath) we hope to have a sort of “reverse offering” in which people can take a piece of paper containing the name of a child, youth, or college student in our congregation. People will be invited to pray for that person, and their family, throughout the rest of the school year. They will also be encouraged, if they wish, to contact the person or family for particular prayer requests, to let them know they’re being prayed for, to send care packages, or to invite them to participate in worship or mission together. In this way we hope to build connections across generations, creating a true “family” of the church, where each person has extra grandparents or aunts and uncles or even extra parents—people who pray and encourage and help and love and challenge and serve. We also hope to further our connection to our baptismal vows–that together we will love, nurture, and challenge our young people as they grow in faith.

Each slip of paper in this reverse offering will have, inside, the name of a child, youth, or college student, as well as that person’s parents’ names. On the outside will be the person’s age. Contact information will not be listed, but prayer partners will be encouraged to look up that information in the church directory in order to let people know they are being prayed for, to ask for prayer requests or joys to celebrate, to offer encouragement or invitations or mission opportunities or other relationship building options as the partner feels comfortable. Not every person who takes a name will call regularly, not all will invite their partner to things, but hopefully all will at least let the partners know who they are so they can send particular prayer requests or joys to celebrate. We also encourage prayer partners to sit together in worship and to serve together in mission whenever possible. We don’t plan to administer this “program” in a structured way—it’s up to each partner to pray and to nurture relationship in ways they feel God calling them to.

So in two weeks’ time, you’ll be invited to take a name (or two) and become a prayer partner. We hope that everyone will participate in this important ministry opportunity, as we seek to support and nurture one another, to grow in grace, and to continue to become a family together.

being family

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There has been a lot of hype the past couple of weeks about a book called Almost Christian–a book written by one of the people who conducted the National Study of Youth and Religion.  Not having read the book yet, but having read a lot of other material about (and from) that study, and other related books and articles, this is the best summary I can give right now:

Youth and young adults coming from our religious traditions have a very shallow theology–so shallow that using the word “theology” is actually a bit of a stretch.  This “theology” consists of just one basic premise: God wants you to be happy/have good self-esteem, and will be there for you when you feel down or need a boost but otherwise is just sort of…meh.  This is an even further stretch away from the biblical understandings of God than Deism (which is the tradition most of our founding fathers belonged to), in which God is “like a clockmaker” who creates, sets in motion, and then just watches from afar without intervening or having relationships or demanding anything of the system or the workers within the system.

It seems this new book places this situation exactly in the context where it belongs: our congregations. This “theology” is not something every generation has gone through, not something that just comes with adolescent territory, not just a result of changing culture or social media or extra narcissism (which is also up for debate). It’s a new development, and it seems to be coming from US…from churches and church people–those of us who are teaching, nurturing, preaching, leading children’s sermons and youth groups…we are creating this non-theology, this vaguely Christian-sort-of floaty idea.

Which means that the answer to the problem of watered-down-theology and declining faith traditions (whatever “decline” means…)  lies not in further watering down our theology to their “level” or to be “accessible”, but in giving our kids, our youth, and our young adults something worth doing, something worth being, something worth participating in…a God worth listening to and following, in other words. If God calls us, and Jesus shows us, and the Spirit empowers us, why are so many people walking around believing that the essence of faith is that God is only around when we need a self-esteem boost?  There’s a lot of mystery involved, not a lot of answers but plenty of space for hard questions, and a significant amount of complexity to be considered…but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be exploring that complexity, probing the questions, living in the mystery, passing on the good and the hard from our centuries long theological traditions so we can continue to learn together what it means to live faithfully in the world.

Mark DeVries reminds us that “youth ministry is the church’s ministry, not just that of specialists who can relate to young people.  The mandate to be there for young people belongs to the Christian community, not to any individual or group of individuals.”  The same is true of teaching, nurturing, praying.  We all make the baptismal vows together…and hopefully, we fulfill them together as well.

What is a Church family?

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Families come in all shapes and sizes, but the main thing that has distinguished families throughout the ages is that they are made up of multiple generations and a bunch of different (yet related!) people.  A church family is no different–we are made up of many generations, many personalities, many shapes and sizes and colors, lots of interests and passions and ideas.

One thing that makes a church family unique is that we have committed ourselves to one another through God’s grace. One of the ways we do that is in baptism, when we make promises to guide and nurture, love and care, accept and challenge. We make these promises to parents, to children, to one another, to God.  Below is a reminder about the promises we’ve made and some of the ways we have committed to living those promises out.

How are you fulfilling your baptismal vows today?

What do you think are some of the characteristics of a healthy church family?

Children at RCLPC

Children are an important part of our church family, and we strive to include them as participants in our community life.  Whenever there is a baptism, we as a congregation make promises.  The question we are asked is:

Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture this child and his/her parents, by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church?

As part of this commitment to share Christ’s love with our children, you are encouraged to look over these 6 “privileges of the child” and find ways to incorporate our children and their parents more fully into our life together.

Each child has the privilege:

  • To be in the midst of the congregation, not on the sidelines.
  • To wander among us during worship (and other activities), being the responsibility of each of us.
  • To give answers during children’s time without being laughed at.
  • To be called by name by each adult.
  • To be a valued person in the congregation.
  • To be led to faith by the Christ-like love, care, and model of each adult.
  • To be an active participant in worship.

baptism, confirmation, teaching, and living

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When a child is baptized, at least in a Presbyterian church, both the parents and the congregation make promises. The parent promises to “live the Christian faith and to teach that faith to your child.” The congregation makes promises to “guide and nurture” the child “by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church.”

This past week we baptized an adorable young boy and we made these promises to him, to his family, and (most importantly!) to God. It is our responsibility to love and nurture and guide, to show Christ’s love with our lives, to teach and pray.

We have a number of young people in our congregation who are baptized members–they have had promises made on their behalf and they participate (at varying levels) in our common life. There are many in our congregation who have taken very seriously and literally the promise to guide and nurture–we celebrated many of them this past Sunday. Our Sunday School teachers and youth leaders have undertaken a huge project–teaching, building relationships with, praying for, and loving our children and youth week after week. It takes time and commitment and we are so grateful to them for their work in this important ministry.

In two weeks we will celebrate another milestone on this journey. Several of our youth have completed a nine-month confirmation class in which they have studied Scripture, our faith tradition, and ways to practice their faith. On May 18th we will, as a community, tell them that “we rejoice that you now desire to declare your faith and to share with us in our common ministry.” These teens will make a public commitment to following the way of Jesus, to joining us in worship and ministry and mission, to seeking God’s call for them. It’s a big day and I hope you’ll join us as we celebrate their journeys and re-commit ourselves to walking the road with them.

So–many thanks to those of you who have taught in the Sunday School, the confirmation class, or led in the youth program. And many congratulations and prayers to those youth preparing to publicly take up the cross and follow Christ.