Thursday, October 22, 2009

God, Families, Church, and Youth Ministry

I am visiting a congregation this weekend and I am going to preach to them on Sunday about families and youth ministry. God has a lot to say about it and I thought it would be worth with sharing it with everyone. So I decided to post the manuscript of my sermon on my blog.

Please leave comments on what you think about the issue. Hope you enjoy:

Youth Ministry:

  • History and Benefits of
- Youth ministry in the USA, in the churches of Christ, began in 1965. Before then some had been training youth voluntarily, but you ministry as we know it today (with hired Ministers) began in 1965. I don’t know much about what was going on in the minds of people back then, but it seems like it would have been a pretty radical change. It was the perfect time for such a ministry to begin and conditions were perfect. Economically America was prosperous, some call those times the “golden age of economic growth.” The church was in need of sound men to teach their adolescents how to face a changing culture since the parents were so busy pursuing the American Dream, which, because of the prospering economy, was more achievable than ever. This was the time of the emerging of the women’s movement, the counterculture revolution, the hippie movement, and many other movements that were dangerous to young Christian minds. Another great thing that youth ministry was created to do, and did very well throughout the years, is to create a good image of the church to teenagers. After all these movements began to appear, the church didn’t seem as attractive as it did in more traditional years. Youth ministry helped bring teenagers to church during those times.

  • The problem with youth ministry as we know it
- However good youth ministry might have brought into the churches of Christ, there is one problem that has existed from the beginning and that lasts to this day. Steven Joiner, in writing about the history of youth ministry in the churches of Christ, points out that since the beginning of youth ministry the ministry (and the minister) hasn’t been in tune with family and parents. However much good traditional youth ministry has done in the brotherhood, it has been an enemy to the most important institution created by God: The family. Another major problem with traditional youth ministry is that no matter how much it does for our children in their youth years, it rarely creates a solid foundation for a mature Christian adulthood. What I mean is that it rarely helps our children to continue strong in their early adult years, their college years, and adult life beyond that. Average church drop out for youth group children who leave to college is 70%. That means that if we continue to do youth ministry as it’s been done in the past, 7 of every 10 of our kids will drop out of church and forget about Christ two years after graduating high school. That tells us that, even though, what we’ve been doing has brought good into people’s lives, that it is temporary and doesn’t give a strong foundation for a teenager to become a mature Christian adult. It doesn’t have a lasting result.

- Some of the other major problems with current youth ministry is that it has followed modern culture a little too far. It isolates the youth from the body, and without the youth (the children) there can’t be a real family. It is often attraction and event oriented. It steals the parents’ role of their God-given roles (we’ll talk more about that in just a moment). It embraces the public school model of segregation by age instead of God’s model of a family.


  • Good News
- I’m not here to give you a bad image of youth ministry. If that’s what I have done so far, I hope that what I say next changes that. I want to present to you a Biblical idea of youth ministry, and family ministry or family-based youth ministry. After all, we want the word of God to give us the method and not make up our own method and then look at the scriptures to see if it is Biblically sound (which is exactly what the creators of youth ministry as we know it did). This method is one that is all over the Holy Scriptures. This Biblical method invests in family and Godly households. I truly believe that going back to the scriptures and utilizing its idea of the family as the true base for ministry will be the solution to youth ministry and to family spirituality. And I can even dare to say it might just be the solution to the dying church in America.

  • family matters to God and he has something to say about them
- Do you know the most often used metaphor for the church in the New Testament? A Family. Paul alone Mentions the idea of family 130 times. This shows us how much God loves the idea of family and how much he desires for our relationship with one another and with him to imitate that of a healthy family.

- God’s invention of family Genesis 2:18-25. God was the creator of family. He, better than anyone else, knows what a family is supposed to look like and we should look to his word for the model of family.

Family and Youth Ministry:

  • Parent’s are life examples
- Children learn how to be adults from their parents. Most of you, whether you like to admit it or not, learned most your adult life habits from your parents. The way our parents are, generally, dictate to some extent the way we are going to be as adults. Our manners, the way we dress, the way we speak and act in public and at home. When I was a child my dad was a very aggressive driver and would often get into little races and “driving wars with people.” I used to tell myself I never wanted to be like that because it always used to scare me. You know what one of my greatest struggles is today? Being an angry driver, road rage. So I inherited habits from my father that I had even told myself I wasn’t going to.

  • It’s not any different with spirituality
- When it comes to our children’s spirituality we also are going to be the examples for when they become adults. The way we behave in front of our children when it comes to spirituality is most likely going to influence their spirituality when they become adults. If we leave the spirituality in the hands of youth ministers alone the chain of youth dropping out of church after leaving home is only going to grow. No minister or preacher will have the ability to influence our children’s spirituality as we do! Not that they don’t influence them at all, but they don’t have nearly the same amount of power to influence as you. I really believe that this is why the church in America is in Crisis and is dying today, because we aren’t teaching our children, we’re expecting others to do that for us. In the Old Testament, over and over again, we watch the people abandoning God because they were not taught by their parents. Generations would go by before the word of God began being obeyed again. If we continue this way I really believe that the church in America is going to reach a point where a whole generation forgets the Lord and his ways. We aren’t too far from it.

  • God gave parents the responsibility
- This isn’t without warning though. God clearly assigned parents with the responsibility of teaching his ways to their children.

- Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Watch how the word of God says “you shall teach them diligently.” What does doing something diligently look like? Is it something we just pay for someone else to do, or is it something we value and care so much about having it done right that we want to do it ourselves? My grandfather was a farmer and before he passed away he would always say that “the cattle only fattens under the eyes of its owner.” He was trying to say that things only get done right when it’s done by those who care about getting it done. Not only are we to teach them in a class setting, by as we go by life we need to teach these things to our children, we’re supposed to make it a part of our lives! When you sit at home talk to your children about God when something ungodly comes up on TV. When you walk (drive) by the way talk to your children about God’s creation: “Isn’t God great for creating all these trees and plants?” When you lie down to sleep pray with them and talk to the father with them. When you rise up in the morning, praise God for another day at the breakfast table in front of your kids.

- Ephesians 6:4: Most of the times when we look at this passage (when we do) we tend to only take in the first part of it. We think that by not causing our children to be angry that we’ve become Godly parents. But not brining our children to anger, by itself, is meaningless. Unless we fulfill the second part of the passage we’ve done very little (maybe nothing) in becoming Godly parents. Brining up a Child in the Lord is what makes Godly parents and consequently Godly children. God, through his inspired word, give parents the responsibility to raise-up their children in the Lord.

- Though we have these very clear commands in the Bible, since 1965 we’ve thought it would be a good idea to pay someone to do it for us rather than doing it ourselves. In fact, most of the things that originally were responsibilities of the family have been handed over to other institutions. We’ve given education to schools, we’ve given welfare and financial security to the government, we’ve given health to doctors, and we’ve given the spiritual well being to ministers. We’ve even tried calling it “family-based” youth ministry, but the family has never been the base. In some cases the family might even be an aid to the ministry, but never the base. We’ve separated family from church in our lives, family life is one thing and church life is another. When in reality God created both to work together. One can’t be complete without the other being a direct part of it I pray we can all catch on to God’s vision of a youth and family ministry truly based on families and its relationships.

The results of true family-based ministry:

  • Healthy families at home
- Once we decide to diligently teach our children and transform our family life into a ministry to our children, family life becomes some much richer and full of precious, teachable moments. When spiritual conversations freely flow in the home, God is glorified and the family grows closer together and closer to God, as he desires.

- Once our children receive the impact of spiritual parents their lives will be drawn closer to God and we can win our children’s hearts to God much easier. When Sally and Jonny watch mom and dad love each other with the love of Christ and talk about it, when they see mom and dad serving their neighbors, when they see mom and dad praying with them and talking to them about God, their hearts are going to be drawn to God and they are most likely going to carry those practices and values into their adult lives.

- Just imagine the families of Noah and Joshua. Imagine the impact their fathers had on their children when the children saw their dad being so faithful to God. Imagine the impact Joshua made on his children when he stood up and said “if serving God is too hard for you, fine, but me and my house will serve the lord!”

- These are life lasting spiritual lessons that can only be taught by mommy and daddy.

  • Healthy churches
- Don’t you think that if we surrender to God’s model we’ll have healthier churches? If we go back to the heart of God and unite our families and the church in one? After all, if our children leave home with a firm idea of God and established beliefs don’t you think they are going to practice Christianity with the passion that their parents taught them? And don’t you think that they are going to be as active in the church as mom and dad? After all they will have been taught these spiritual habits by the most influential people of their lives: mom and dad. This will lead them to be strong Christians as adults who will form strong churches.

- I believe we can bring the church back to life in America if we decide to value our families and if we take the spiritual growth of our children into our hands with the leadership and authority of God’s word by uniting church and family.

  • A healthier Bride when Christ returns
- How do you want Christ’s bride, the church, to look like when Christ comes back to get her? If we follow God’s dream for families to be a part of his church, the church will grow healthier, and when Christ returns he will find his bride beautiful and charming. I pray that we don’t wait another generation to start caring for the spirituality of our children and our families, it might be too late.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Concrete Farms

I confess I am not the best at keeping up with blogs. "The Harvester's Field" is my second attempt to create and maintain a blog. I mostly feel discouraged to write because I feel I have no readers besides my mother and my wife. Now I understand that this is probably due to my lack of marketing, so I'll try to improve in this area.

I'll start off by catching up with this past summer. I was invited to go work in Miami, FL (pictured above), with a youth group called J4L ("Jesus For Life"). I enjoyed the experience thoroughly and I was convinced that God had called Tiffany and I to live and work in Miami. Now this wasn't the first time this had happened. It seems like every time I visit a large metropolis, I feel like God is calling me to live there and work with the lost of that area. It happened when I visited in Denver, CO, last spring, and it happened when Tiffany and I went to Atlanta, GA, after leaving Miami.

In Acts 16, Luke is talking about all the places to which they had been traveling and what they had been doing in those places. When, then, he says in verses 9-10:

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them.

I believe God speaks to us today, and I believe he speaks to me and to you. I believe God is stirring up his spirit within me every time I visit a city and feel the desire to move there. I believe God recognizes those cities as "great cities." In Jonah 1:2 God calls Nineveh a "great city." At the end of the same book (Jonah 4:11) we learn that God thinks that the city is not only great because of the amount of people there but because of the sin in that city. Large cities are fields ripe for harvest, farms made of concrete where God has planted his seed throughout time and now workers are needed to come harvest the fields. There is so much work to be done, yet very few workers decide to go to them. I feel blessed to understand God's calling for me. Surrendering myself to be led by the Spirit of God himself has brought me insight into God and his mission in my life.

My prayer is that you may surrender to the Spirit of God within you to guide and lead you. Listen to where it leads your heart. Whether it be large "concrete farms" or small country towns with real farms, may you listen to who God wants you to preach the Gospel to. The "farm" God might need you to work in might not be a "concrete farm," but God has a field somewhere that needs to be harvested, and he needs you there to harvest it. The fields are ripe, ready for harvest.


Daniel Coutinho

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Have you ever lived in an apartment complex where the landscaping is well done, and the trees, flowers, and grass just seem so gracious and peaceful? And if you haven't I'm sure you've been to a park where the same is true, luscious trees, smooth grass, a body of water with ducks and other birds... you get it, "you've been there, done that". Now as you walk through the well-planned out landscaping you feel comfortable, maybe even refreshed. I felt this this morning, my apartment complex doesn't have that great of a landscape, but the feeling still came to me. But while you are admiring this beauty, these parts of nature created by God (planted and arranged in position by man, but created by God) you like it and you feel comfortable, but you don't own it. You know and feel it doesn't belong to you. It's not your garden, not your yard, not your trees, not your grass. Keep that thought in mind, you're going to need it in a few paragraphs. 

I'm sure most of you own something of value, a house, an apartment, a car. And even if you don't own one, you rent one out and consider it home. Now think about the feeling of possession you have over those things. You know it's yours, you feel ownership over it, you feel free in it. You might even be protective of it, and not want people to use it when they need it (at least not without asking). Keep this feeling of ownership in your mind as well. 

Now in the book of Matthew, the Bible tells us that we aren't to be attached to things here on earth (Matthew 6:19). I don't believe Jesus is condemning  those who own houses or cars, I believe that he means what he is telling us. Thank you for reading... joking. I believe he is telling us to not make treasures out of them, to not give them a value that they don't have. To consider it not as our own but consider all we own to be God's. When Jesus came to earth he had the right to claim it all as his own, he could actually tell everyone to not step on the grass, and to only use the earth with his permission. But Jesus decided to consider all that was his not his own, but God's. He considered himself to own nothing, and have nowhere to live. He lived in hills and camped from place to place (Luke 21:37-38). 

Now back to the park and to your possessions. I believe that in Matthew, Jesus is telling us to feel about our property the same we feel about the park and/or the landscape. To recognize is not as our own, but belonging to God. To share with others what God has given us. To not make treasures out of them, but make treasures out of our passions for God.   


Daniel Coutinho

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Have you noticed how every one has a negative comment to make about their Jobs? It’s hard for me to go by a whole day without listening to a handful of complaints of how stressing and time-consuming people’s jobs are.

A few times I’ve had people ask me to pray to God, and ask Him to give them easier jobs.  

What does the Bible say about work? That it is supposed to be a comfortable, 9-5 well-paying sit-in-an-office-and-don’t-sweat experience, right? NO! But for some reason that is what we picture work should be like, stress-free and easy.

In the book of Genesis God gives Adam the garden to live and work in, the first man on earth was God’s personal gardener. This must have been an easy job and the advantages were immense! I mean just look at some of the benefits: Eternal life, free meals, a place to sleep, and freedom to walk with God… It isn’t until the events stated in chapter 3 that God curses man for sin and decides to make work a hard thing.

“ By the Sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17 ESV).

God just told man (and this applies to his descendants, mankind) that he will toil until he died (you begin to wonder if retirement is ungodly… just kidding).  God didn’t tell man that since he has sinned he would give him a nice job for the rest of his life, the perfect job all of us pray for. He said that since he had sinned he would have to work hard to survive.

So God blessed work and told man to rejoice as he wipes the sweat off is face trying to put some bread on the table at home, right? Unfortunately some readers would say “yes”. God gave work to man as a curse; he was to sweat if he wanted to eat. Until the day he returned to the ground. Next time you complain about your job and you want to pray for a “good job” really think about why God gave work to man.


Daniel Coutinho 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Right now I am reading a book on parenting called Romancing Your Child’s Heart (Swan, M.), don’t worry, I’m not thinking about being a parent any time soon! It’s actually for my Family and Youth Ministry class. Something in it struck me concerning the way we might be treating our children, not only the parents but people like me who, to a considerable extent, have an influence on children in our churches today.

The book talks about living out the story God writes for us, and God sure is a good story teller. In the Bible we have the best action stories, dramas, suspense, and above all the all time best-selling love story of the cross. Today we are still living that story out to the world around us, or at least we should be. Stories aren’t lived in the past or in the future, but in the present and the now. The problem is that “our human nature is distracted by the hustle and bustle, the responsibilities, and the self-imposed goals that fill our lives, so that often we become too occupied with what has happened or may happen to focus on what is actually happening” (p. 48). The repercussions with that is that  we as adults (parents and young adults) don’t spend time living out the love story of the cross in the present, we don’t serve others enough, we don’t read our Bibles enough, we don’t reach out to those around us enough. Our children are watching us as supreme models to what they should be like when they grow up, and if we aren’t taking the time to live the love story of the cross in the present by serving, reading, teaching, etc. our children will have no motivation to do so as well. Living in the now and inviting our children to come with us will give them the best Christian formation you can imagine.   

No youth minister, preacher, evangelist, elder, etc. will ever have the same power to influence your children as you do. If you care at all about your child don’t trust their spiritual formation to hands of us youth ministers (no offence youth ministers, even because I am one), you and only you will be able to make the largest impact for the long-haul on your child’s faith. When your child sees you reading your Bible, serving and reaching out to your neighbors, being truthful, they will want to be just like mommy and daddy.

For more information read Romancing Your Child's Heart, by Monte Swan.

Friday, October 31, 2008

With arms wide open

Looking at this picture of the famous Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was reminded of the young years of my life when I was under my parent's wings. Growing up my family and I, despite all the busy schedules and work, always managed to find time to be together. Even if it was just goofing around the house listening and dancing to my favorite track of the Grease sound track (Grease lightening), or if we were just cleaning the house together. Those were good years of my life that I wouldn't trade for anything else in this world. 

I remember I would come up to my parents and say "mom! dad! Guess how much I love you guys!", and sarcastically they would say "just a little bit? this much?" putting their thumb and index fingers about an inch from each other. And smiling as if this was the biggest secret in the world I was about to reveal, I would open my arms as far as I could. Revealing my full 2 feet of wing span, I would say very proud of my self "THIS MUCH! The size of the whole universe!". Yeah, I hadn't taken any science classes yet, I had no clue how big the universe was. Not that I do now. 

Only now, some 15 years latter, have I come to understand that true love, as big as the whole universe, came through a man hanging on a cross with his arms wide open. The image of Jesus hanging on the cross reminds me of my childhood and me trying to express to my parents how much I love them. Christ Loved us in such a way that he gave up his own life, hanging with arms wide open on the cross, the size of the whole universe. 


I've come to meet a kid that lives on my block and always seems to be around the young people of a missions program ( that live in my apartment complex. He is 14 and I've slowly come to notice how he never wants to go home and gets sad when his mom calls telling him to come home. For those who live near by and might be wondering, it isn't Dylon I am talking about. 

In the family and youth class I am taking right now at the Bible school I attend (, I've been learning so much about families and the interaction with their kids. I've learned how important the family relationship is, and them spending time together. That being a youth worker and separating kids from the best avenue through which their adult formation comes (the family) is a rather foolish thing to do. 

Today the kid approached me asking to use my phone claiming he had an emergency, so I let him use my cell phone. Though I couldn't hear who he was talking to or what about, I couldn't help but notice the stress and "lostness" on his face as I watched him speak on the phone in the distance. Handing me the phone that deep, lost look remained on his face, I guess the phone call hadn't been as helpful as he had wished it would have been. I asked him if everything was ok and without thinking twice or elaborating he gave me a quick "no". I thought for a few seconds before I could say anything else, simply for the fact that most people just say everything is fine even though their life might be a wreck. But with him it was different, he wanted someone to talk to, he had been longing for someone to look him in the eyes and ask him if everything was ok. As I spoke with him a little longer I came to find out that his relationship with his mother wasn't going so well and about how much he dislikes his new school. Suddenly I realized I wasn't listening as close as I should have been when he began to tell me about how depressed he has been, and that he has reached the point of contemplating suicide. 

My heart shrunk when I heard this and I began to regret every single moment I invited him to come over and "chill" with us and "get out of the house". I had been doing the very opposite of what I am learning, I was inviting him to get away from his family, the very thing he needed the most. We were talking while I was slowly trying to shift our conversation into a Bible study, when he told me he needed to be home because he had gotten into trouble and his mom had grounded him from hanging out with "the Christians across the street". Yeah, I thought it was pretty ironic too. I walked him to his door and talked as much as I could. When I meet his mother she didn't seem very happy or welcoming towards me. I tried talking to her but she "kicked me out" as politely as she knew how to at the moment. As the door was closing pretty much in my face I, glanced for a couple seconds into a home where love and peace between parent and child are inexistent, a broken home, a home that needs the love of Christ. The place was dark, but not because of the absence of light, rather the absence of love. A chill went down my spine as the door finally shut and I heard some slight yelling inside that couldn't be understood. 

I regret every time I encouraged him to leave the house. If you know of any child that doesn't like being at home and "chilling" with their parents, don't make things worse by inviting them closer to their problem (the lack of relationship with their parents). I might have lost the battle, but I haven't lost the war. I am going to persevere and try to aid this family to better their relationship with each other through Christ. My father once told me that "Fools never learn from their mistakes, but smart people learn from their past mistakes. However, wise people learn from others' mistakes". I pray you take this mistake of mine as an example of what not to do to our youth, I pray you may strive to bring our youth closer to their families and closer to Christ.