Within five minutes of arriving at Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean’s workshop on innovation and ministry, I had shared one of my most recent parenting fails, where an uneaten cake mocked me for an entire week. Which is to say, Kenda is one of those wonderful people you immediately want to open up to. During the two day workshop, she provided inspiring and practical ways to use innovation & design thinking in churches. As coincidence would have it, I was also able to share an innovative parenting success moment with her before the workshop was over. (phew!)
Dean began with this powerful premise: “Love makes us inventors.” As Christians our love for God and love for neighbor prompts us into action when we empathize with those who are hurting around us. According to Dean, developing ministries that effectively respond to the hurts of the world draws upon three ministry skills for the 20th century:
- Hacking (re purposing or revising something that already exists)
- Community development
- Missional entrepreneurship
I realized that my parenting success story involved using these skills to help my daughter connect with faith. When she arrived home from confirmation recently, I asked her what the class was about. Being a typical 13 year old, she responded, “stuff about the Bible.” Not one to back down from a challenge (and because I take youth ministry very seriously) I probed further. The lesson was about the importance of the Bible. I know that she paid attention in class. I know that the teacher provided good information. I know this is something we have talked about at dinner, multiple times. But, still, silence. Well, silent except for the sound of her youth minister mother’s heart breaking just a tiny bit.
I decided to change tactics. A couple of days later I showed her two handouts I had picked up at the school open house for discussing fiction and non-fiction books. I invited her to help me adapt (or “hack” in innovation speak) these tools for use on my blog. Together we developed a Bible Chatterbox discussion tool.. For an hour, we brainstormed important questions to ask when reading Bible texts. We created question categories (meaning, transform, connect, theme) and wrote a prayer together. Through creating and discussing, she discovered at least one reason why the Bible is important. When thoughtfully read and interpreted, the Bible helps us to understand who God is and what God is like. The evidence of her understanding doesn’t come from her ability to answer a question out loud, but through the prayer she wrote:
Loving God, as I read my Bible, fill me with wonder so that I might discover who you are. Amen.
When we were through, I asked her what she enjoyed about this project. Her responses were telling: she liked working with me, she enjoyed creating something, she felt it was important. This is an outstanding recipe for youth ministry with one kid or with many. My love for her, for faith formation, and for God, made me an inventor this week. I am thankful for Dr. Dean’s workshop which has inspired me to think beyond my own child to apply innovation to my ministry with youth, children and fellow educators. I’m excited to begin!