Next Gen Spiritual Growth, or… the lesson I learned from mowing my lawn.

So, it’s no secret that one of my big passions in life is to pass on healthy faith to the next generation.  I mean, I’ve invested the past 16 years of my life professionally in it… and just about the last 12 years with my own children.  No secret… right?  Well, if that wasn’t a secret, this next one might be unless you know me well.  Another one of my big passions is having my yard look great.  I mow my lawn like clockwork.  I water my plants on schedule.  I weed-eat like it was my second job.  I’m passionate about it… but… I’m not very good at it. 😦  Earlier this summer I took a look around my neighborhood as I was on a bike-ride… and I noticed that the other lawns in my neighborhood looked nothing like mine.  Theirs was all grass, for one.  My lawn is a mix of about 20% grass… and 80% weeds that look like grass.  We rent our house… so I figured I wasn’t going to pour hundreds of dollars into lawn services or turf-builders… so the weeds are going to have to do.  And if I keep the lawn cut short… no one can tell, right?  The other benefit is that weeds stay green even in the midst of a drought.  So when everyone else’s grass is brown because of how dry it is out… ours is bright green still!!! (I knew I could turn this thing into a positive!!) .  This post, however, is not about my lawn.  It’s about what I discovered this past week while mowing my lawn and how it correlates metaphorically with nurturing spiritual growth in the next generation.

As I was mowing my lawn, I took a long and disappointing look at my rock bed next to my porch.  Well, it used to be a rock bed… now, it was more like a weed bed.  Covering 90% of the rocks were these:

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I’m not quite sure what kind of weeds these are or what to call them… so I call them Weedis Michiganis because, translated from the latin… it means “a weed that annoyingly grows all over the place in my front yard.”  I hate this stuff.  It grows and grows and grows and grows.  No matter how many times I pull it, kill it, curse it, spray it… it always grows.  And when I pull it out (for the 2 billionth time) the roots are this stringy, rubber-bandy substance that is longer than the actual weed itself.  Have I mentioned that I hate this stuff?  I think I end up pulling these every week.  EVERY WEEK!

SO… what does this have to do with nurturing faith in the next generation?

EVERYTHING.

Weeds are alive and growing rapidly in the spiritual lives of our kids and students.  And they are growing right alongside the healthy faith.  And here is the dangerous part… the weeds grow BENEATH the surface for a long time before anyone can see them.  By the time they sprout above the surface… it is going to take a long time to get rid of them.  And sometimes… no matter how many times you pull them, kill them, spray them… some will always come back.  And the weeds are not what you might think.  They are not things like doubt, etc…  They are things that don’t make sense about our faith.  They are times where they look at the life of Jesus and then look at the church and they couldn’t look any further from each other.  They are times where we can only give faith-based answers when presented with fact-based questions.  So, what do we do?

1. Learn to recognize the weeds.

If you are a pastor or leader over next gen kids and students… your job is to learn to recognize what the weeds that grow in their lives are.  If you are a parent… learn to do the same thing.  You won’t know how to help them grow if you can’t recognize what is healthy spirituality and what is an invasive weed that will eventually choke out faith.

2. Train them to recognize the weeds.

The secret to life-long faith is ownership of your own faith.  If kids and students are always relying on us to pull the weeds in their life, then it isn’t their faith at all… It’s ours.  We need to help them recognize the weeds growing in their life and how they can uproot those to maintain a healthy faith.

3. Plant more seeds of faith.

One major way to treat weeds is to grow healthy grass or plants in their place.  The same can be true of our faith.  The more we point out faith stories… the more we recognize God’s work in our lives and in the lives of our kids and students… the more we call those out and remember them… the more we offer significant faith experiences where they are called to live out a bigger story… the more we will replace weeds with faith experiences.  We also need to help our kids and students know how to do this on their own so, when they get out on their own, they won’t fall flat on their face and allow the weeds to choke out the faith they have.

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Next Gen Pastor Webcast: Show #15

In this two part episode, I talk about the behind-the-scenes of transitioning kids and students through the phases of ministry (elementary/Middle School/ High School), and then how our church has practically done that.

 

Goal Setting – are your goals worth pursuing?

I am a goal setter.  I take some time at the beginning of each year and write out both personal and professional goals.  I have been doing this exercise for quite a few years now, and it dawned on me last year, “how do I know if the goals that I am going after are WORTH PURSUING?”  I had no litmus test that would help me evaluate if these goals  were even the right goals to be setting and achieving.  So I developed one.  Here is the chart that I use with 5 tests to see if my goals are worth pursuing:

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I ask myself these 5 questions about my goals before I put them down as goals I want to pursue.

are they…

1.] CHALLENGING

Are these goals going to push me?  Are they going to take me out of my comfort zone?  I can’t just write my routine down on a piece of paper and call it a goal.  I want goals that are going to stretch me and make me work to attain them.

2.] ATTAINABLE

My goals need to be challenging… but they need to be reachable as well.  The difference between a goal and a dream is attainability.

Your dream may be to play baseball professionally… but what makes that a goal is the likelihood of you attaining it.  For a very small percentage of people, that would be a goal.  For the rest of us… it’s just a dream.  What would be a goal, if you played baseball for a season, is to hit a certain average, steal a certain amount of bases, increase your on-base percentage, make fewer than 5 errors, etc…

I work in a church.  In a church setting, the difference between a dream and a goal might look something like this:  DREAM: we want to triple our attendance this year!  (now, if you have 3 people… that might be attainable.  But if you have 100… going to 300 in a year might be unreachable.  GOAL: we want to increase attendance by 30% this year.  A 30% increase is definitely challenging, but it is reachable.

A goal is not only challenging… it has to be attainable.

3.] MEASURABLE

If a goal is worth pursuing, there needs to be a way that you can evaluate whether or not you are accomplishing it.  Goals that can’t be measured can’t be managed.  Whenever I set a goal, I also ask myself, “How am I going to know if I am succeeding in this goal?”  Some goals are easy to measure [finish this project, plan this event, etc…] but others will take some time and brainpower to figure out.  But any goal that is worth pursuing has to be worth measuring.

4.] SUSTAINABLE

I find that goals that are worth pursuing are the ones that I can successfully repeat more than once.  This may be a personal preference, but I’m not a fan (unless it is a building project or something to that equivalent] of goals that are one-and-done type of goals.  I want my goals to grow me, so I ask myself, “Is this something that I will be able to repeat over the long haul?”

5.] INSPIRING

There needs to be something about the goal that will make you want to accomplish it.  Does the outcome of the goal inspire you to keep going even when it gets very trying and difficult to do so?  A great way to see if your goal is inspiring is to ask yourself, “What about this goal made me want to pursue it in the first place?”  It will be THAT THING that will inspire you to keep on going after your goal.

your goals… are they challenging, attainable, measurable, sustainable, & inspiring?