A few months back, I was asked to take a look at Michelle Anthony’s newly released book, Dreaming of More for the Next Generation. A little skeptical about yet another “family ministry” book, it took me a while to pick it up and start reading. When I did, it was hard to put down.
Dr. Michelle Anthony, drawing from more than 25 years of family ministry experience, helps ministry leaders understand the “why” behind their ministry model and encourages them to focus on generational outcomes, reminding them that each person’s story is a part of a grand story that God is telling throughout history, providing practical examples of how to create space within a program to nurture individual faith and how to effectively partner with parents, supporting them as family spiritual leaders.
Dreaming of More for the Next Generation is not program driven. It encourages leaders to be Holy Spirit driven and both leaders and parents to aim for more than moral formation and good behavior, but actual transformation and lifetime faith. Anthony provides valuable perspective as well as practical advice, such as how to motivate children and teenagers to step out of their comfort zones and rely on the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, her ideas, wisdom and fresh thinking will encourage readers as they find new ways to create an intentional plan to come alongside of every child’s spiritual journey.
Anthony inspires ministry leaders that they can make an eternal difference and teaches biblical principles that will facilitate their future confidence. She also provides them with fresh approaches and inspirational stories toward spiritual formation and family engagement — approaches that will awaken their original passion for ministry and provide insight into what is most important in the lives of those they shepherd.
I usually try to do reviews with a “The good, The bad, and The ugly” format, but I have to admit there’s not much bad (and certainly no “ugly”) about this book. There were many things that I underlined and starred, even within the first few chapters. Michelle is a great way of engaging to the reader and getting right to the heart of true ministry.
She introduces new methods to help parents engage as the primary spiritual leaders. Ideas such as inverting the take-home pape process, inspiring parents to give the daily blessing to their child and using a spiritual parenting class to give a common language to the parent community. She spoke of family traditions and the importance of weaving the sacred into everyday living. She explains our mission is ministry workers is to help families engage in kingdom work together such as doing VBS side-by-side. She reminds readers that it is usually a person, not a program or event, that acts as a powerful catalyst moving us towards Christ. As a result, we need to be in the business of developing people instead of using all our time developing new programs.
These Three Things
Michelle spoke of three things over and over again. In our ministries, we want to create an environment in which children and families:
- Will learn to hear God’s voice and will know that it is His
- Will hear God’s voice and the desire to obey it
- Know how to obey the power of God’s Spirit
I know I have OFTEN fallen into this trap in Children’s Ministry. I want the kids to be good. I want them to behave. I might even settle for them saying the right thing, hoping that it will lead to real transformation somewhere down the line. I can’t be content with that any longer. Like Michelle, I’m longing for something more. Something with eternal transformation power.
I have not been creating the type of environments Michelle writes about in her book. she explains,”Meeting God to help us create environments in which people feel safe. Safe enough to be honest and confess their sins and shortcomings. Instead I’ve been relying on guilt to motivate people. Michelle writes, “When you guilt someone into doing something right, you get immediate results. But that’s not transformation. Too often. Ministry we use the tactics of guilt and manipulation, because they’re available to us without the Spirit. In that sense, they seem easier. But if we fall upon Him who is inside us, then He is the one who brings about conviction. If we want a generation that is transformed, then only the Holy Spirit in us can do that work. Only the Holy Spirit.”
I know I’ve been inspired to make some changes in our ministry. For one, I am building in time for silent (or quiet) prayer during our song time. I’m encouraging kids to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m turning my formerly disastrous office into a prayer closet for small group time. I’m hoping to incorporate a mission trip or service project once or twice a year so kids (and families) can strengthen their faith muscles. I introduced the concept of “The Big God Story” at our last Family Night. I’m hoping to incorporate more Jewish holidays in our kids program in order to Remember and Celebrate what God has done in our lives.
We need a community where we all hold each other accountable to these things: parents are the primary nurturers of the children’s faith; the faith community plays a supportive role in this endeavor; and the Holy Spirit is the one who works when and as He chooses the life of a child (p27).
We need to make Christ central, the focus of all we do. We need to resist getting distracted by doing things about him and instead create an environment where children encounter Him. How do we create an environment for kids to hear God’s voice and just be with him? What might possibly happen in our midst when we commit ourselves to do that? (p47
We have the opportunity to allow a new generation to think differently— to think, yes, I’m sinful, I’m broken, but I can’t fix myself. Only the Holy Spirit can. This would require our children to have an intimate relationship with him, to know him, to hear his voice, to depend on him, and not to get up tomorrow to simply try harder (p64)
*My page numbers are taken from the advanced reading copy of Dreaming for More and may not be correct for the final copy book. Sorry!! *
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Resources to Check Out:
Be Still (Psalm 46:10) Song from Seeds Worship
Spiritual Parenting DVD Kit (Curriculum by Michelle Anthony)