If you haven’t read the first or second part of this series, it might be helpful to review to give you some context of this series.  This is a continuation diving into the E.P.I.C. acronym.  (Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, Connected).  The goal is to be intentional with the time we spend with students so we can maximize the impact we have in their lives.  How we spend our time with emerging adults is critical; we can’t “wing it” and hope for the best or repeat ineffective methods just because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”  Jesus was an EPIC teacher and highly intentional, maybe as you read this you’ll spot some ways He engaged His disciples in participation.

P – Participatory

This is different from just partaking in activity.  This is specifically alluding to participation in decision making.  Students of today have had a say in almost all family decisions as far back as they can remember – vacations, restaurants, which movies to watch, you name it!  Many TV shows they’ve grown up on also illicit online or text to vote processes so they’ve participated in electing a winner of “The Voice”, “American Idol,” and even rated or commented on every YouTube video they’ve watched, app they’ve used, etc.  Students today expect to be involved in the process. Typically, we support what we help create, so we have an opportunity to capitalize on this trend and invite them in at appropriate levels that grow them as disciples.

Implementation Example

Invite feedback into decisions but also ask for commitments to what they’ve requested.  Accountability alongside participation is critical.  So if the student wants to eat at a specific restaurant use the opportunity after dinner is over to explain if it was a good call or not and why they gave the review they gave.  When reviewing life progress and decision making with students it can be helpful to use the W.I.N. acronym for safe feedback.  W.I.N. stands for (What went Well?  What can you Improve on?  What could you do different Next time?   These touch on the kinesthetic learning aspect of the education retention pyramid.)

Opportunities for parents

Invite students into the mundane family affairs to broaden their appreciation for “behind the scenes” of family matters like paying bills (watching you log in online and see the amount of the bills, etc.) and give them a fuller appreciation for what their “votes” impact.

Opportunities for missional communities

Invite the younger generation into decision making in the missional community’s rhythms i.e. where to host, where to serve, what kind of food to serve, what would make it fun, what would make it meaningful time for them and others.  Again, build in accountability to take action on those ideas as well as circle back with a review (W.I.N.).

Opportunities for gospel & mission

As you get in the habit of inviting the younger generations into these decision-making processes the “Why?” questions start to emerge.  Not only with your children but those whom you influence and the other parents watching.  Why do we spend money that way?  Why are you asking me for my ideas I’m only a teenager?  Why are we spending time with ______?   Your decision making reveals your beliefs.  Becoming clear and communicating your beliefs to your students can be an incredible gift; wisdom that you can offer will help them organize and make sense of life.  When beliefs are shared in the natural rhythms of life it is an amazing opportunity to shape the next generation of disciples towards Gospel motivated living.  You’re also equipping them on how to answer “Why?” questions when they’re faced with them at school and in society.

The list could go on but the opportunities to explain your Gospel motivations are all over the place as you seek to disciple this generation.

In Real Life

Let’s get this out of theory and into real life with some reflection and action-oriented questions:

(Answer to your context of students you oversee: as a parent, mentor, or youth group leader)

  1. What could you invite your students to participate in as it relates to your times with them?
  2. Why would participating in your idea above be important to discipling them?
  3. How could you implement accountability to the decision making you’ve invited them into?
  4. If you’re a group leader: How could you invite some students to participate in decision making towards students growing as a family and community together?
  5. How could you invite students to participate in decisions focused on their identity as missionaries?

You may experience some growing pains as you loosen the reigns on how things go. Allow students to make decisions that flop and remember that those are all gospel opportunities for growth. You now have more opportunities to help them grow through failure, mismanagement, biting off more than they can chew, resistance to constructive criticism, all of which they need to step into mature adulthood.

In what ways can you invite young people in your community to participate in decision-making?

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