by Daniel McKee
(Part five of a five-part series)
What is our goal within ministry? Why do we do all of this? Jesus called us to one main thing as He left earth and ascended into heaven – making disciples. Our ultimate aim and calling is to produce genuine followers of Jesus Christ. A statistic that has always resounded in my mind is eight out of ten people who come to know Christ do so before they turn eighteen years old.
I believe the reason for this is that children and teenagers are like wet cement, just waiting for someone to leave a lasting impression on their lives. After graduation the cement begins to harden and whatever impression was made in these important, fundamental years is what will last for a lifetime. It takes an incredibly hard life situation or jackhammer to change the course of that life in adulthood. I pray we can save people the jackhammers of divorce, addictions and losing everything by setting a new course with the investment we make now.
I am so grateful to be a part of our Next Gen team. I joined staff shortly after the restructuring into Next Gen, so I know little of what ministry at Montgomery Community Church was like before the Next Gen shift. Previously I was on staff with Student Venture, the junior high and high school ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. My years with Student Venture were awesome and I learned so much about ministry and reaching campuses. One thing I lacked at times was a sense of team and often I felt like a lone ranger trying to save the world. The benefit was I did not have many meetings and I was able to focus fully on students, but that was also the struggle in many situations. I love being on a team that cares about me and what God is doing in ministry and my family. I do have a lot more meetings now, but our team has so much fun together it hardly feels like work most of the time. I have been on staff with Montgomery Community Church for eight months now and I am so grateful the Lord called me here to serve alongside my Next Gen team.
We are still working to develop a model that truly cares for the student and the family from birth through to graduation. Of course the most important part of developing this strategy is communication. We talk regularly about caring for the family and our offices are close enough to drop in on each other regularly. My team is my greatest resource in helping me connect with families and know the story that makes up each of these families. If we did not have a Next Gen team I would feel as if I was starting over again every year with the freshmen, but instead I feel like we are developing a pipeline that will fuel me with solid students who want to make an impact.
I am still learning a lot about church ministry and I feel a little overwhelmed by the busyness of our culture sometimes. The benefit is we are reaching a lot of people, but the struggle is high school ministry is intensely relational. I am still trying to figure out a schedule that builds margin into it so that I can effectively reach the schools in our area while also building into our team relationally. I still do not have a perfect balance, but I love what I do and I love the people I work with. It has been incredible to link arms with partners in ministry and develop strategies that will develop strong men and women who are committed to greatness – the great commandment and the great commission.
I have learned so much from my team about children and it is such a blessing since I am a father to a four-year-old boy (Caedmon) and a two-year-old girl (Chloe). Caedmon and Chloe love our church and the friends they make. Most importantly though, they love Jesus and they love to learn bible stories at a young age. Due to our Next Gen reorganization I have nothing but confidence in our team to help train and challenge my kids to know and love Jesus. It is so fun to hear stories about my kids interacting with others and responding to the teaching. I feel more equipped as a father through my frequent interaction with our children’s ministry team. It is so important that my kids know that I am the spiritual leader in our family, but it is so valuable that they hear it from their children’s pastor and other leaders too. As a Dad I am so thankful for our increased partnership.
Manhood and Womanhood Strategies
We live in such a confused culture about gender and our roles within society that we have to defend marriage. Boys do not have a clear picture of biblical manhood and girls do not know what a godly woman looks like in real life. We are committed as a Next Gen team to train and teach God’s specific design for each of our students. We have developed strategies starting in the fifth grade to develop boys into manhood through a rite of passage event that has been executed remarkably well, which is called “Passed Thru Fire.” Our Elementary Pastor, leads students through classes to prepare them and launch them into manhood and into Brotherhood, which leads boys to lock arms together through accountability and sharpening one another in bible studies. A core verse for Brotherhood is Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Throughout Brotherhood guys are given a clear definition of biblical manhood. They learn that they were created with a will to obey, a work to do and a woman to love. With this clear vision of manhood they are challenged to stand strong on the four pillars of manhood – king, warrior, mentor and friend. This transitional strategy is also implemented with all of the girls that go through our ministries. Daughters of the King begins this process in fifth and sixth grade and they later transition into Est.Her throughout junior and senior high. Est.Her stands for Establish Her. My wife and other volunteers lead this valuable ministry to help girls build deep relationships with one another and learn the principles of being a godly women.
High School Reaps the Harvest
The vision of Next Gen is to care for students from birth through graduation and the greatest benefactor of the whole idea is the Senior High Pastor, which is me in this situation. Our vision is that students would pass through our children’s ministry and junior high ministry developing strong biblical foundations along the way. Then, when they come into high school ministry, they are prepared and equipped to be a part of the most strategic mission field in all of our society – the public high school. This is it, the most diverse socioeconomic and ethnic melting pot most people experience in a lifetime. But more than a cultural center, junior and senior high schools serve as magnets in a community, gathering people together as no other institution in our society. After high school they scatter throughout society, making it much more difficult to reach them personally. As thirteen to eighteen-year-olds, they are at an age of responsiveness to the gospel and they are gaining maturity to make life-long commitments to Jesus Christ. The most effective student ministers are students and through the Next Gen strategy students are ready to make an impact in their local school. Students are trained and passed off well between the ministries so that we do not have to start over at each phase. Instead we can help students be a part of the great commission for “such a time as this.”
“Reach the campus and you will reach the world. There is not a more strategic ministry in all of society.” -Chuck Klein
In student ministry it is so important that we call them into the mission field now and for the rest of their lives. For the most part, teenagers are under-challenged and over-entertained. I cannot imagine a more strategic way to launch them into fulfilling the great commission than the systematic, team approach of Next Gen.
Sr. High Pastor (9th – 12th Grades)
Montgomery Community Church