Connected Families in Ferguson, MO

Today we’d like to share with you a story we received from a dad who has been impacted by Connected Families and seen change not only in his parenting, but also in his urban ministry in Ferguson, MO.

Brycen Marner is the founder of the Kulture, an urban ministry in North County Missouri. The Kulture exists to nurture lasting hope in all areas of life for youth and young adults through transformative relationships with peers, mentors and Jesus Christ.

brycen the kulture

Brycen (back center) and some kids from the Kulture

During the spring of 2015, Brycen and his wife Kacey took part in our Discipline that Connects online course. Their goal was to gain skills and wisdom in raising their young family. Brycen wasn’t expecting that what he learned would impact the work that he’s doing with youth of Ferguson through the Kulture. We sat down with him to learn more.

Connected Families: Tell us a little more about the Kulture.

Bryce Marner: The Kulture is the product of living in a transitional community with a missed mission field. The Kulture began prior to the death of Michael Brown and subsequent discussions, when few people saw the need for vibrant, Gospel-centered ministry to urban culture youth in the area. God laid it on our heart to begin reaching this group not from a position of fixing kids, but approaching young people in relationship, showing them where the image of God is already reflected in their lives, still addressing areas of brokenness along the way and using all this to point to Jesus Christ.

CF: How and when did you realize that what you were learning for your family was transferrable to the work you are doing in your ministry?

BM: As my wife and I interacted with the four messages, we hoped to better shape our parenting of our three children under 3-years-old (the 4th is coming in March). As we continued watching and working through the material, the connections to the Kulture became extremely obvious.

Reaching students with little structure in their lives and trying to do so in a way that actually works can prove difficult. We run into many of the same discipline issues a parent does. Often times we felt at a loss for how to bring students to a place that they could receive direction from our leaders without the defiance and rejection that sucked much of the joy from our ministry nights.

Each of the four Connected Families messages met an essential need in our discipline structure. “You are safe” may be one of the most important.

Life is often unstable for some of our students. They can’t focus on succeeding in school because they are hungry and aren’t even sure if they will have a home after rent comes due. Many of the people in their lives they are supposed to trust never follow through on what they say they will do or the care they should provide. We ran into discipline issues and thought it crazy that after 3 months of consistent love and care they wouldn’t respect us. However our students were still thinking, “Okay, you were kind of nice last week, but I bet this will be the week you give up on me.”

Once we thought through the “you are safe” message I knew this was going to be something we would have to verbalize. Now we emphasize in discipline, “I care for you and although what you are doing won’t work here, I’m confident that we will work through it together. I’m not giving up.

Of course with this we must express love for them as a big motivator. From there we began to include the redirecting messages of finding the “twisted gift” in misbehavior. Though we are still trying to figure out how to best implement this in conversations with students, they are more responsive to this encouraging, gift finding approach. Finally, we still hold students responsible for their decisions so that they might grow in wisdom and maturity.

Applying the four messages hasn’t made our ministry a perfect family, but it shortens the period of mistrust that new students have. Our most hurt students push hard to get us to quit on them. When we apply Connected Families parenting, not only do we not quit, but we send a message of love through the process that inherently reveals the true nature of Jesus’ love to students desperate for a love that never fails.

CF: Wow! Thank you, Brycen, for your incredible heart and the work you are doing in Ferguson and for sharing your story with us.

We’re so grateful for people like Brycen who are taking what they learn about how to embody God’s grace and truth and sharing it not just with their kids but with their whole communities!

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