"Christian Service Brigade is the men of the local church reaching out to the boys in their neighbourhood for Christ."

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

A Battalion’s Secret Sauce - EB by Rob Niewoehner

My first Battalion trip, I watched the leaders drop two teams on the Tuscarora Trail, in a light rain, well after sunset, their destination seven miles south. When the teams entered camp, after midnight, a 16-year-old squad-leader was carrying my 12-year-old son’s pack on his chest. My son was exhausted but cheerful, under his squad-leader’s care.
His squad leader retrieved the boots, and removed his own socks for his young charge to wear.
The following year, we launched four teams of Brigadiers into George Washington National Forest on Friday night charged with navigating independently to a Saturday evening rendezvous. That Sunday for breakfast, another 16-year-old squad-leader pulled a 20-lb. watermelon from his pack that he had carried since Friday night, through 15 miles of mountainous bushwhacking. All dads’ jaws dropped. This was his expression of care for his guys.
    Some years later, in that same forest, a 12-year-old was at the brink of tears when his boots came off while slogging through a thick patch of muddy trail, trashing his only dry socks. His squad leader retrieved the boots, and removed his own socks for his young charge to wear. That youngster’s mom still tells other moms that vignette, 8 years later.
On one March trip, a freak storm caught many unprepared. We woke on Sunday surprised to find snow on our tents and a howling wind across the ridge. A 15-year-old squad leader hiked out in shorts and a t-shirt because he’d given his only warm layers to a novice hiker under his care.
    In the fifteen years since, I’ve seen this played out innumerable times, older teens - Nomcoms - carrying some little-boy’s pack out of the woods on Sunday. In fact, each of my four sons had some older boy carry their pack or gear at some point on one of their early trips, when the mountains or weather had beat them. They then longed for the day when they’d be privileged to carry some younger boy’s gear, having been imprinted with this image of what it means to be a Christian teen. The behaviors above were expressions of what this group of teen leaders had learned from their teen leaders 5-6 years earlier. And the behaviors modeled by the Noncoms become the routine behaviors of those they lead.
Culture eats programs for breakfast. 
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” claimed Peter Drucker, the 20th Century’s most prominent leadership theorist.* The ministry analog would be “culture eats programs for breakfast.” Drucker insisted that culture overwhelmed all else in an organization’s success, and I’ve seen nothing in 40 years as a naval officer, coach, leadership educator, or church elder to refute his claim.
    Culture instantiates belief. An organization’s culture is defined by its instantiated assumptions and beliefs. And a key source of organizational stress resides in the distance between espoused values and values-in-fact, those values instantiated by behavior.
Surely, your ministry’s espoused values are evident: “Greater love has no one than this, than one lay down his life for his friends.” “All men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” But are they your ministry’s values-in-fact? Closing any gap between the two is our primary challenge as leaders.
    I’ve found that while teen boys easily visualize what their mother’s love for them means, they have a much more difficult time conceptualizing what it means for them to love one another as Brigadiers at a meeting or on the trail. While the most powerful learning will come from the demonstrated love they experienced as young campers from older boys, Expedition Behavior (“EB”) has proven a valuable concept in translating Scripture’s lofty exhortation to a conception of concrete behavior in the church gym or on the trail.
    Expedition Behavior captures not simply the grand gestures above of carrying packs and watermelons, but the little behaviors that signal, “I’m glad you’re here with me,” and “I’m here for you,” regardless of the weather or terrain. It’s sharing a snack, or extending a hand across a stream. It’s fetching water for someone else, or the team. It’s showing up ready to serve, rather than expecting to be served. EB spans how we treat one another, how we treat our group, how the group treats each member, and how the group treats those other groups we meet afield (waking other groups with your noise or leaving your trash for others is not good EB). And, per my stories above, good EB begets good EB. 
It’s the character-forming culture that will determine more emphatically the kind of fathers and elders these young men will become 
Here’s some suggestions to build a deeper conception of good EB with your Noncoms, where it must begin.
    First, have them do a search for the New Testament’s “One Anothers.” Some will come to mind immediately. “Love one another.” “Bear one another’s burdens.” “Forgive each other.” “Pray for one another.” But don’t let them quit there. There’s over thirty, and when you catalog them on a chalk-board, taking in the whole, you get a richer sense of what your ministry can aspire to in great EB. (Teens invariably get a chuckle out of “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” which appears three times.)
    Second, you and your Noncoms can call out great EB when you see it. And, not just the big things, but great EB cultures arise from the little behaviors reinforced into habit. A young boy or older teen will recall you telling them, “That was great EB.”
It’s the character-forming culture that will determine more emphatically the kind of fathers and elders these young men will become than their awards or achievements. Their character as fathers and church elders will prove the real measure of our ministries’ success.
*Peter Drucker came to faith in Christ late in life, claiming it was an economics decision: “No where but the gospel do you receive everything of value for nothing.”

Apprenticing Leaders by Dr Steve Grove, CSB Canada

"As we know it today, discipleship is mostly about that first kind of learning: the classroom experience. And really, that’s about it. We learn from the pastor’s teaching on Sunday. We learn from Bible studies. We go to Sunday School. We learn from small group discussion guides and DVDs. We learn from reading books. We learn from taking classes at church. Notice that all of this is completely information driven, in some sort of classroom-esque experience. There is virtually no apprenticing happening in our churches."

Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen

I have been a student of discipleship for most of my life. My interest started in Brigade as a Stockader, continued on in Bible college and a youth major in my master’s degree. Even my doctoral project focused on helping a father disciple his son. I have seen the divide that Mike Breen talks about. In the church, we are so good at information transfer. We often think if we have said the right words, that we have accomplished the work God has given us, but often there is a next step God wants us, challenges us, to take.

The next step is to live out what we talk about in front of our boys and young men, what Breen calls “apprenticing”. As men, and fathers, we can do that in the family. We play with our kids, our children see us as we relate to our spouse, they see us as we fix things around the house or apartment. They watch us as we drive and interact with the occasional bad driver. But there are a surprising number of men are largely absent from their family for work and other activities, and many single parent homes that lack a mature male presence altogether. To do this in the church is a further challenge - how do we live what we say when our context is mostly just speaking? Where do the boys and young men see our behaviour, our life?

Consider how we can be more intentional in establishing apprenticeships its mission of making disciples. Let’s find a way to make our programs and ministries lean more to action and life than just pushing information. I grew up in a great church, with a great youth group. I did 3 Bible studies on Sundays (Sunday School, morning service (sermon), evening service (sermon)). Then we had youth group, youth choir and youth events, two of those with Bible studies or devotionals. Five studies a week (two nights on top of Sundays). I was also out one night for Brigade, and another for Evangelism Explosion, and so those five studies were balanced “faith in action”. I would be happy today if my children had one good weekly study with solid “apprentice-style” application.

Do we balance our programs today with apprenticeship style events? We are busy people - families have so many choices to make in terms of time and relationships: school and extracurricular activities, church services and programs, time spent with extended family, neighbours and peers, hobbies and sports. Perhaps we need to do less things, but be more intentional about what we are doing with whom. 

President's Connection - November 2019

And so we begin a new season of personal, intergenerational, and peer to peer discipleship with Brigade. Did you realize that there are three kinds of discipleship in play when you run a Brigade program?

Personal Discipleship - the boys and young men, as they pass Achievements, are working through a Personal discipleship track. It is something they work on outside of the meeting, with help and guidance by a leader or parent, but largely on their own. I remember writing verses out on index cards, words on one side, the Scripture address on the other. I still do that, actually. I remember building a wooden shelf thing in Stockade that I used through my college days and beyond, the piece currently in my basement screwed to a wall holding bottles of glue. I remember the Bible stories, reciting them to my Ranger. These were things I did intentionally to get an initial in my book, to get a badge or pin on my shirt. It was formational for my young faith.

Intergenerational - I remember some of my leaders had hard hips. I cam to love floor hockey, and while it was far from a "contact" sport, some of the leaders seemed to love to give an extra bump or push me off the ball. They raised the bar for me, and while my wife thinks I am pretty competitive today, I learned to play hard and work hard, and find enjoyment in those things being hard. I caught the prayers of these men, and listened as they told stories of faith, their own and others. These men, these relationships were foundational for my growing faith.

Peer to Peer - I didn't get this until I got older, but as a man, working with other men in Brigade, I found my faith sharpened by my colleagues. We had come together to help the boys and young men be more like Christ in their thoughts, words, and actions, but in doing so, I became more like Christ. By discipling others I was discipled, and as I rubbed shoulders with men of the same purpose, even though some were quite different than me, pieces of their faith rubbed off on me. This continues to be formational for my older faith.

I have been involved with Brigade for almost 50 years because I was discipled, and it gave and continues to give me opportunities to disciple others. May you find encouragement and success in your Brigades this year as you disciple boys and young men, as you win and train them for Christ.



Friday, 18 October 2019

Being a Biblical Patriarch: Loving and leading your family, by Brian Doyle

Masculinity has been in crisis for some time now. What used to be commonplace has become radical and what was radical is aggressively being normalized. Sadly, even some of the language of the Bible is now recognized by our culture as hate language. One Biblical idea that has taken quite a hit is the idea of a husband and father as a patriarch (defined in the dictionary as the male head of a family or a tribe). 

But in the face of growing opposition, as our team at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference Network comes alongside church leaders across the nation, we believe it is vital to start by reinforcing God’s design that men are called to spiritual leadership. This leadership starts in the home and expands outward from there. It starts in the home because the most important relationships in a man’s life are in the home. This is what we mean by a patriarch.

In fact, a primary descriptive qualification for spiritual leadership in the church is spiritual leadership in the family. Look what Paul writes to his church planting protégé, Timothy, as he coaches him in the qualities necessary for those he is recruiting to be part of his church leadership team in Ephesus:

“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? –1 Timothy 3:4-5

He writes something very similar to Titus as he mentors him in pulling together his new team of leaders at the growing church in Crete. Paul likely considered it impossible for a man to be an effective spiritual leader outside the home if he is not first an effective spiritual leader inside the home. Paul seems to believe that the church and community will greatly benefit from “patriarchs” who are the spiritual leaders of their family.

The authority that God has given to husbands and fathers and that is also necessary for any leaders to do their work has often been abused. But God does not simply call men to be "patriarchs." He calls us to be a particular kind of patriarch. What are some of the most important qualities of a godly patriarch? Below is a short start-up list.

Imagine a local church filled with men who are godly patriarchs! Let us join with Joshua in declaring "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" by recovering what it means to be a Biblical patriarch as we learn how to shepherd our family tribe. As you review the list, I hope you catch the vision for local churches.

The List…

He doesn't simply lead; he shows how and who to follow
A godly patriarch is not an independent and isolated leader. He is first a follower. In this case a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he calls the members of his family to this same pursuit.
"Follow me, as I follow Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15)
Question to consider: "Who would your family say you are following? Where are you leading them?”

He loves sacrificially
A godly patriarch is not dictatorial but rather a loving servant who sacrificially puts the needs of his wife and family first.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25
Question to consider: "What can I do to love my wife and children sacrificially today?"

His voice is heard as affirming
A godly patriarch communicates time and again both verbally and nonverbally to each family member their identity, how he cares for them, and what he thinks about them.
"And a voice from heaven, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:17
Question to consider: "How often do my wife and children hear me tell them, 'I love you'? What can I do to better articulate their strengths and gifts?"

He shepherds
A godly patriarch watches over those entrusted to his direct care. He does not delegate away this responsibility to "professionals" but rather embraces it. This personal ministry prepares him for the opportunity to watch over others.
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be." I Peter 5:2
Question to consider: "Who is shepherding my flock?"

He teaches and therefore he learns
A godly patriarch teaches the Scriptures to his family. He is as creative as he needs to be so that every member learns under his care what it means to follow the Lord.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Question to consider: "Do I feel equipped to teach my family? If not, am I willing to simply invest time to read the Bible with my family so we can learn together?"

He prays
A godly patriarch intercedes and speaks to Almighty God for every family member. He is familiar with their needs and talks to God on their behalf. He walks by faith and trusts in the Lord.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Question to consider: "When was the last time I prayed for each of my family members? What can I do to be praying more consistently?"

About the Author: Brian Doyle serves as Founder and President of Iron Sharpens Iron, a national conference network serving churches across the nation. His passion is to see the local church become effective in reaching and discipling men of all ages. Brian has served with The Navigators in New England in various capacities, as the New England Area Manager for Promise Keepers and as the Director of Men’s Ministries for Vision New England. He is a recent widower with five children and resides in Winter Springs, FL.