Photo by Nikky Stephen.
Today’s guest post is from Chad Inman, Director of Christian Education at Rockford United Methodist Church in Rockford, Michigan. Chad and his team were part of the 2013 Sticky Faith Cohort.
We were looking for a way to get our volunteers to jump into Sticky Faith with both feet. Our ministry context is a medium-sized congregation (400-600), meaning that we rely on volunteers to do things that larger churches might assign to staff. We realized that volunteer ownership was the crucial starting point for becoming a Sticky Faith Church.
It only takes a few moments looking into the Sticky Faith Launch Kit to discover that it is jammed packed with resources for equipping volunteers. In our context, we found this material incredibly helpful. Using the Launch Kit, we set out to help our volunteers discover their personal roles in bringing about the big three Sticky Faith shifts of partnering with parents, teaching a grace-based gospel, and integrating teenagers into the life of the church.
Perhaps some of the below suggestions we gave to our team will also be helpful to yours:
Partnering with Parents
We began by encouraging our volunteers to find concrete ways they could invite parents into the process of discipling their children. As a church, we try to make sweeping attempts to do this with all of our children’s and youth programs, but we know that such broad attempts will often fall short. Volunteers have to fill in the gaps. We encourage them to give any information about the content of a gathering to parents that can be used to have real faith conversations with their kids at home. This could mean a text, email, or even a more formalized “take home sheet.” We also ask leaders to look for opportunities to share age-specific“tips with parents, or perhaps personal observations about their student to specific parents. For example, that their son made a great observation that week during the group discussion.
Much of the available curriculum we find (especially for elementary ministry) often flirts dangerously with “the gospel of sin management.” We encourage our volunteers to find concrete ways to point children to God’s grace, exemplified in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Whenever a lesson focuses on right actions, we ask our volunteers to ask, “What happens when we mess this up?” in order to bring the focus back to grace.
Our volunteer staff knows the importance of communicating that trust, not performance, is the key to a relationship with Christ. We also ask our leaders to make it a point to help their students memorize and take to heart the grace-focused phrases “Jesus is bigger than any mistake,” and “There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less.” Essentially, we have given our volunteers permission to take the lesson we have given them, and make it more “sticky.”
Integrating Young People
Our team has made a point to instill the importance of helping young people become comfortable with worshiping with the whole congregation. We ask our volunteer staff to look for opportunities to discuss aspects of worship, as well as to communicate the importance of worship. Volunteers are also instructed to help their students find ways to serve, whether it is together as a group, or individually outside of the ministry, as a way to help build a 5:1 web of support around every student. We ask volunteers to: 1) intentionally connect with their students outside of their ministry setting – especially in worship, and 2) make it a point to introduce students to other adults in the church.
Fostering Sticky Faith is a huge undertaking, and a slow process. This transition takes a personal touch. By asking our volunteers to jump in with both feet and make a personal investment in these three shifts, our effectiveness increases exponentially. Maybe it’s time for you to ask your volunteers to jump into Sticky Faith.