Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Relational Revolution

There seems to be a movement that is taking place in the realm of youth ministry that is also beginning to shake the foundations of the church at large. It's an old idea with a new flavor, something I lovingly call the Relational Revolution.

This is a movement not for the sake of change, but one that is deeply rooted in the oldest tradition in time: the relationship. At the creation of the world, God chose to create human beings in order to be relationally connected with a piece of His creation. Adam was the first human being created; his body formed out of the dust of the earth and the very breath of God breathed into his nostrils to bring him to life. Interestingly enough, this is the only part of creation where God takes a hands on approach while creating. Every other account in the creation story is a result of God having spoken it into existence.

After the creation of Adam, God sees that it is not good for man to be alone, and so creates Eve through a similar hands on approach. This is the very first and oldest human relationship recorded in the Bible. The foundation of creation can be traced back to this underlying desire for relationship.

Youth ministry is rediscovering this ancient practice. Authors such as Andrew Root have written many books and articles discussing this matter. My goal in this brief post is not to reshape their thoughts, but to share a few of my own in hopes of creating a conversation point for you in your own life, whether that happens to be in your ministry, church or even your own family.

There are two basic observations I would like to make about the relational revolution. The first is that you cannot program relationship. Relationships don't happen because they've been scripted to do so. Take arranged marriages for example. Born out of necessity at times, and rooted in the political and financial aspirations of a few at others, these relationships were strategic for the purpose of survival. But when examining the heart of what a true relationship is all about, the basic elements for this type of connection are void in this type of programmed setting. The basic element that underpins every relationship is choice. Yes, we can be biologically connected to one another, but we must choose to be in relationship with one another, we cannot program this connection. My son Cannon is adopted. He is not biologically connected to my wife or I, or his sister Saydie. Cannon is, however, relationally connected to us because of the choice we have made together as a family to be in relationship with one another. Without the element of choice, a relationship does not exist. Can these arranged marriages turn into fruitful relationships? Absolutely, but only when the participants actively choose to dwell in relationship with one another. In youth ministry and in all relationships, the element of choice must be present.

The second observation I'd like to share about the relational revolution is that we can only control two variables in the relational equation: the environment & the experience. What I'm saying here is that although we cannot program a relationship to happen, we can make a conscious choice to cultivate a relational dynamic or approach to all that we do. In our family we've created two such experiences that we celebrate together on a weekly basis. The first is Family Date night where we spend an entire evening together doing things that we enjoy doing with each other (which consists of ultimate dance parties at this point due to the age of our young children!). The second is Daddy Date night where I spend an entire evening with my two children working on developing our relationships with each other. I work away from our home most days during the week, so having these moments of time where the environment and the experience are focused on developing relationships lends itself to strengthening our family connection as a whole. What sort of elements accompany a relationally charged environment and experience? The few things that we focus on as a family include spontaneity, diversity, intentionality and authenticity. These times together share the common purpose of building relationship, but they can look very different each time we gather together simply because of the elements we bring to the table. The ultimate goal for us is to experience growth in our relational connections.

A relational revolution begins when we become discontent with the status quo and desire to see the life that we are living change for the greater good of all. Life to the full, the kind of life Jesus talks about in the gospel, is one that is steeped in relationship; valuing our intentional & authentic connections with others through compassion, joy, celebration, hope, desire, passion, truth, love, grace and mercy among other things. True relationship is built on Christ and is lived through Christ. May you wrestle with the realty of a relational revolution in your own life today!

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A Little Something from Psalm 8

 Had a lot of fun with this one.