“Church can’t be a place where we feel like a visitor, or somewhere we’re afraid to allow others to see our messes,” says Ross Parsley in Messy Church: A Multigenerational Mission for God's Family. “It’s got to feel like home.
“The family analogy is the best picture of what a healthy and vibrant church community is supposed to look like,” continues Ross, lead pastor of ONEchapel, a church in Austin, Texas. “If you think about it, families are perfectly designed for discipleship: constant access, consistent modeling, demonstration, teaching and training, conflict management and resolution, failure, follow-up and feedback. And this should all happen in an attitude and atmosphere of love. Children are raised, parents are matured, and grandparents are valued all at the same time.”
With all this in mind, Ross makes a case for a multigenerational ministry model—one in which the more seasoned believers of a church take younger people under their wings, mature Christ followers who know from experience that God can use anyone, even “flawed, failed, or foolish young men and women.” They need someone who believes in them. They need mentors, even “fathers and mothers.”
I selected Ross’ book because of the title. It’s only after I got into it that I realized he had started out in ministry as a worship pastor at New Life Church here in Colorado Springs. We’ve seen this church grow and serve our community through the years, despite some huge challenges that Ross touches on in his book. Though this wasn’t our home church, our kids benefited from its youth programs they went to with friends from time to time, and some of our best friends in the Springs call it home.
I’m encouraged and inspired by Ross’ challenge to take more of a multigenerational approach to carry out the mission of God’s family—that is, advancing the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom. Isn’t that how Jesus set out to fulfill the Great Commission? He envisioned big—the entire world reached with the Gospel (Matthew 24:14)—yet He began with a small band of young men. Along the way, things got messy.
Among many stories to illustrate the value of mixing it up ministry-wise despite any messiness, Ross shares about the ups and downs of when New Life launched this concept with the worship team—a group of seasoned musicians as well as up-and-coming worship leaders all came to the “family table.” He says with such a diverse assortment of musicians as well as worship songs and styles it did indeed get messy at times. Yet they modeled the multigenerational approach to ministry and basked in the blessings thereof. Among the many young leaders touched and trained through Ross’ multigenerational ministry approach is Glenn Packiam, one of the founding members of the Desperation Band, noted author, and senior pastor of New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs.
Consider the benefits of ministry both to and through the body of Christ as we think multigenerational ministry and are willing to put up with a bit of messiness in the process. We pass along the faith to future generations. We raise up leaders who raise up leaders (in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2). We better reflect the diversity of Christ’s body. We make a difference for eternity among the helpless, hopeless, hurting, and lost around us.
Here’s how we’re putting this into practice—and seeing a growing team that better reflects this multigenerational approach to ministry—in our service with Navigators in the Rocky Mountain Region:
We recently welcomed a gifted young couple to our Rocky Mountain regional team, Philip and Anna Baran, and we’re excited about what these new teammates bring to the table.
This summer we took part in a Lifelong Laborers Strategic Thinking Gathering, serving as observers to a group of about a dozen participants from across the nation of a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, gifts, talents, and abilities—all designed to help us figure out how we in NCM can more effectively be a part of raising up “harvest workers” just like them to multiply ministry.
We’re seeking as a team to recruit more NCM Ministry Partners, those who share our heartbeat for ministry but have their “day jobs,” like the software engineer and pastor who recently joined us for training.
Yes, shaking up ministry like this can get a bit messy. But as Ross reminds Jesus’ modern-day followers in Messy Church,
“The truth is, we are part of something greater than our own personal preferences or felt needs. We are part of a worldwide family of believers who belong to each other with a history and a heritage defined by a loving heavenly Father.” We’re a part of something big, and when it comes to the advance of the Gospel, we’re definitely better together.
Bottom line, let’s be willing to get a bit messy in our disciplemaking toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)!
How about you? Are you willing to get a bit messy—for the Gospel and generations? What’s an appropriate next step for you in your ministry context?
Dean Ridings is a Representative of Navigator Church Ministries. To contact Dean or to learn more about the Ridings’ Navigator ministry in the Rocky Mountain Region, please click here.