The Neglected Necessities

I have noticed recently that across the children’s ministry circles I am involved in that a huge area of concentration for most ministries is CREATIVITY. As children’s pastors I think we try as hard as we can to find ways to make the message of the gospel penetrate kids minds. I think the dream of EVERY children’s leader is that their message each week would STICK and that kids would remember it!

A few months ago I began a journey that has slightly distanced me from this though. Don’t get me wrong, I highly value creativity in children’s ministry. We have to work hard to be relatable and relevant to the kids in our ministries. However, I’m fed up of trying to penetrate a kids mind when they primarily need the message of the Gospel to hit their heart.

I strongly believe that kids need to find wholeness through Jesus. They need to experience God in a way that will stick with them forever, but I don’t think that comes through just information but through relationship.

I grew up in a small church Sunday school…every week I learned more about God…I knew of God…but I never KNEW him…until he penetrated my heart with his love. You see we can try hard and work with incredible creativity to help capture kids attention…but if it ends up in their heads and not in their hearts then it’s all pointless.

I believe there are two things, that we often overlook and neglect, that can help move the message of the Gospel beyond the head and to the heart…

  1. Pastoral Ministry

When kids enter our ministry often they come guarding their heart. Especially kids who had been bruised a little by life. God can work through any barrier but I believe that there is something powerful about pastoral care that enables kids to open their hearts for us to speak life into. Too often this falls into the background…but don’t forget we are called to be ‘CHILDREN’S PASTORS!’

  1. The Work of the Holy Spirit

I finally realized a few months ago that I can’t change a child with my words. I can’t teach them to be a better Christian and then just watch them magically do it. It never worked like that for me and it won’t for them. Instead the Holy Spirit is the true teacher and the one who enables us to do that which we couldn’t do on our own. Sometimes I think we ‘save’ the Holy Spirit for camp or special times of the year but I think its imperative that we make space for him to minister to our kids each week in our services.

How do you incorporate these important elements to your children’s ministry?

Summer Outreach Ideas

Children’s pastors today have more resources than ever before to reach children who live in the shadows of the steeple. However, based on the stories I hear children’s pastors tell about their summer outreach, I get the feeling we are missing the mark by only reaching kids who are already attending another church.

There are 22.7 million[1] elementary children within the US. Certainly there are more children to reach than those who are already churched.

Since there is no shortage of “outreach” resources available at the local Christian bookstore, what’s missing? I’m glad you asked… It’s strategy.

Even the best outreach resources will fail at truly reaching the lost if a few key strategic questions are not answered.

 

  1. WHO do you want to reach?

If you want to do outreach, you need to know who you want to reach. Different events will attract different people. For instance, if you’re interested in attracting the local Muslim population, you’re best not hosting a pig roast. Just saying!

We are located in a university town, which means a huge percentage of our parent population is drooling at the thought of their 5 year old child one day receiving a sports scholarship…so in the past we have hosted a sports camp VBS and saw 350 kids attend.

Figure out WHO in your community you want to reach and decide where exactly those people are located. The more specific you are about who you want to reach, the more effective you can be at reaching them!

Keep in mind, that sometimes to reach the WHO in your strategy may mean you need to go to them instead of trying to get them to come to you.

 

  1. What are their NEEDS?

Once you identify your target, you need to get to know your target. Learn their population makeup, their routine, their likes, dislikes, wants and most importantly their NEEDS.

The greatest outreach you can do is one that meets a need. This past summer our church began a summer long kids feeding program in an especially under privileged part of town. Why? It was birthed out of a need. The local school has an extremely high percentage of kids on the free lunch program, so when summer hit the parents of those kids didn’t buy more food for their kids to eat lunch at home. Through that summer we would feed up to 60 kids a day.

By getting to know the people you want to reach, you can decipher what you can do to reach them effectively.

 

  1. What is being MISSED?

A good question to ask yourself in prayer is “What are the needs of kids in my community who are most overlooked?” Consider crafting a special outreach just for them. Find creative ways to show them the love of Jesus and build a relationship.

Sometimes I get the feeling that churches are in a bubble & are blinded to what is around them! It is important to understand what is already being offered for families when strategizing your summer outreach.

VBS is the most commonly used summer activity. While there is nothing wrong with a church doing a VBS, we often fall into a rut of doing the same activity each year simply because it’s known and easy.

I would challenge you to think about where the children are who truly need Jesus this summer and find ways to go to them, throw a party in their honor, and let them see just how much Jesus loves them.

 

  1. What comes NEXT?

If your outreach has been a success and children have made a profession of faith in Christ you will need to be ready for the next step — integration into your church family.

Don’t forget to think about what the child/family’s first service experience will be like. Will their outreach leader be there to greet them at the door? Will they need a ride? Who will go out of their way to ensure each and every child continues to feel special? What if they do not have a Bible, or a friend?

 

I could of written a blog full of ideas for you and your ministry, BUT without a strategy you won’t find your niche and you will never be truly effective at reaching the people your church are called to reach.

 

Now it’s your turn…what do you think? What have I missed? What has worked for you?

[1] http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop1.asp

Lessons from a Karate Kid

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One of my FAVOURITE hobbies is to watch some of the classic movies of the 80’s and 90’s. Born in 1990 I missed out on being an 80’s kid BUT having 3 older sisters definitely meant I was forever enchanted by movies from that era.

Last night I had a lazy night at home and as I scrolled through netflix one movie stood above the rest…The Karate Kid…the original of course!

There is so much depth to that movie…and Mr. Miyagi is just so freaking cool…although sadly I only just realized the actor who played him died in 2005!

I want to look at 3 key lessons that we can learn from that film:-

 

  1. Never take ‘disciplines’ for granted

Clearly Mr. Miyagi was a man of focus. At times in the movie he is seen praying, meditating, balancing and even trying to catch flies with chop sticks. Mr Miyagi knew it wasn’t about being the greatest fighter but the best person he could be.

Too often I think Kidmin can take ‘disciplines’ for granted. Prayer, reading our bibles and fasting are KEY to the Christian life. We must remember its NOT about being the greatest children’s ministry but about being the greatest Christian we can be. This is most important.

 

  1. Real lessons are learnt out of the classroom

I love how Mr. Miyagi uses the sanding of the floor, the waxing of the car and the painting of the fence and house as training for fighting.

Anyone can pass a degree in a classroom but the most important and deep rooted lessons and skills can never really be taught in a ‘classroom’ setting. Character is forged through discipline and unfortunately the struggles of every day life. You can’t shortcut God’s growth plan for your life by going to seminary….just saying!

 

  1. Don’t ever assume your Leaders intentions

In the movie Daniel was instructed to do some pretty crumby jobs…from his perspective it probably felt like he was being marginalized and used as a slave to get Mr. Miyagi’s odd jobs done. There is a turning point in the movie (probably my favorite part!) where he challenges Mr. Miyagi about the things he is making him do. At that point Mr. Miyagi reveals his full intentions/motivations behind getting him to do those things…and all of a sudden the tables are turned and Daniel is shocked that he has the makings of being a great Karate fighter.

Sometimes as Kidmin we can feel marginalized by our senior pastors. We feel like we are given the difficult jobs or are treated unfairly by our pastors. Sometimes we may just feel their expectations/critiques are too intense. However, its important we don’t make assumptions about their intentions, because often they are working for you rather than against you! Speaking to your pastor about your struggles will always bring more clarity.

 

So….what lessons have you learned from Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid!?

The Art of Simplicity

This Saturday our Church rocked an incredible outreach block party in the roughest area of our neighborhood. It was our third year doing this and by far our best year, especially as far as our kid’s activities!

The outreach was a huge success reaching at least a 1000 people in the neighborhood. We handed out 300 backpacks with school supplies and we had hotdogs, chips and drinks for everyone. However, my favorite part was seeing the CROWDS of people hoarding around the kids activities. Everything we did was a HUGE success and it was all incredibly SIMPLE.

So here is a list of what we did:-

  • Face Painting (ONLY small & simple cheek designs though!)
  • Colored hairspray
  • Removable Tattoos
  • Balloon twisting
  • Old kids Craft – DUCT tape art – Decorating composition notebooks
  • Younger kids craft: chalk & black paper, bubbles & play dough
  • Obstacle races
  • Free play (hula hoops, ropes, balls)
  • Kids fun run

As you can see there was NOTHING groundbreaking! Everything I needed fit into a car and really once you have a base of supplies the cost of maintenance is pretty minimal.

With just a 10 volunteers we were able to bring TONS of smiles to kids faces! I’m learning more and more that Children’s ministry isn’t rocket science and that simplicity carried out with a high standard is often the key to success.

I believe without the free meals or the free backpacks I could still go out with gazeboes, tables and all these activities to any local busy park and draw a crowd!

After all what parent would deny their child free face painting or a free balloon animal?

 

So what simple things do you do to reach out to your neighborhood?

 

Check out our awesome recap video from our days events!

The Gathering 14 Review (Chicago)

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As The Gathering 2014 (Chicago) is drawing to a close I can’t but help ponder over the time we have been privileged to journey through family ministry these past two days.

In many ways it has been a fantastic experience for myself. My time in America has only been short, 19 months to be exact, and in many ways I am still adjusting to the American way! However, my journey has been full of great experiences…including this, my first major family ministry conference.

This experience was filled with TONS of great speakers who each brought great knowledge from their fields but also brought something of the heart of God to the sessions.

So…with that said I want to run through about some of things I thought were real highlights of the conference!

  1. The philosophy of TRU ran clearly throughout! – I loved the little things, like how every speaker INTENTIONALLY provided at time for reflection and response after their talk. After every session WORSHIP was a RESPONSE. When leaders see the Holy Spirit at work in their life through this model they can’t help but be drawn to see the need for the Holy Spirit to be at work in their kids!
  2. The Sessions/Breakouts sought to train people the TRU way! – One of the hardest parts about being a TRU outsider is that looking in its easy to buy into the philosophy….but often its difficult to know how to carry out the philosophy in the every Sunday context. The practical breakouts bring lots of clarity to how to make what you do truly transformational the TRU way (eg. Small groups & worship as response).
  3. There is a place for FUN and Laughter – If there is one thing I was worried about concerning TRU it was that it wasn’t as fun as other curriculums. I wasn’t sure if it would work in Urban/Inner City areas….largely because it seems so serious with the Holy Spirit response and drive towards discipleship. HOWEVER, The Gathering helped me to see that although TRU is serious about Discipleship that doesn’t mean Children’s ministry always has to be serious! I love how they included Jeff and Bryan to lighten the mood, make jokes and simply entertain. It was great for me to see that TRU values laughter and fun! J
  4. The resources showed a new side to David C Cook – In exploring Tru I heard a few complaints about how David C Cook was outdated and irrelevant. I can only assume that old curriculums had left a stain on peoples memories. HOWEVER, my experience was that David C Cook along with TRU & Integrity music is taking real ground with its resources for Churches. I encountered some of the best, most relevant music for kids ministry (action bible remixed), a great tool in the action bible and revolutionary resources like spiritual parenting. This was VERY encouraging to see David C Cook now leading the way!

 

My time at the Gathering was truly valuable for my TRU journey. And through it all I only have one major concern with what I experienced….The EXTREME LACK OF DIVERSITY on all levels. In heading towards the conference in one of the most diverse Cities in America I expected to find a gathering of DIVERSE churches….but what I found was a collection of white middle-class churches!

 

From the platform there was one black guy and throughout the whole two days that was it. On top of that I couldn’t see or find a single person of color on the TRU staff. As a white guy from an extremely diverse Church community…it really made me question if I really wanted to be apart of a community that didn’t seem to value diversity at all. After all if the curriculum and Homefront is produced by white middle class people…then will it relate to the full diversity of the families in my church or to the huge diversity of the American public.

 

I say all that to challenge the system. We become so content with the status quo that most people wouldn’t have seen the lack of diversity. FOR me, I can’t take my mind off it! I will still pursue and try TRU but I would love to see them reach WAY beyond where they are at to embrace the fullness of the American community! The Church is SO VAST and TRU’s philosophy is revolutionary…it needs to be exposed to ALL cultures.

Prepare above Protect

 

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It is no surprise to most people that our children are entering the World to face increasing challenges. It is becoming increasingly difficult to raise our kids with a faith that really sticks because of the external influences at play in their lives. These challenges are all to easily spotted by many conscientious parents; the internet, video games, music, movies, tv shows, school friends…and at times EVEN BOOKS!

 

In my experiences over the past few years I have observed how parents react to the pressures/challenges their children faced and have seen numerous actions. The response I find most prevalent in the Western Church is that of PROTECTION. Not a surprising result given that the natural response when under attack is to DEFEND. However, I often query whether trying to simply protect our children is enough to ensure a solid future.

 

For the majority of my life I have lived in England and consequently there is room for only one sport in my life…Football…or should I say Soccer? Either way, from years of watching soccer I have learned one thing for sure… ‘The best form of defense is a GOOD offense!’ In a fast moving game like soccer it is unthinkable to just sit back and defend for 90 minutes… from time to time a team will try to do this…but it almost always ends in their demise. You see as the game progresses the opposition’s attack grows in momentum and before the end of the match they always manage to find a hole or two in the team’s defense.

 

Life is a little like a soccer match. Our lives move quickly but they aren’t over in just 10 minutes. To last the distance and be successful in life you can’t just spend all your time in defense, protecting your child. There is an immoral and illogical Worldview at the core of our culture; it is always present and in many different forms. It is the opposing teams attack, it comes closer to its goal the longer the game goes on or the older your child grows! A solid defense is vital to a successful team but often when this is our primary tactic we set ourselves up for failure.

 

I’m offering a different tactic for raising our kids. I believe in preparing our kids for the World instead of solely protecting them from it! I’m not saying that we unload on our child the complete A-Z of Evil in the World…but does keeping them oblivious to it really work?

 

Imagine you were raising your kids and were worried about your kids walking into water and drowning. So you spend your life making sure your children never goes into the water. You plan their week around keeping them out of the water and you even put systems in place so they stay away from the water. This is a great idea to keep you child protected from the danger that they face…there is one problem though…What if your child stays over at a friends house? Or what if he grows old enough to go out with his friends for the day? I mean there is going to be a time when he comes in contact with WATER…only the problem now is…Will he be ready for it? The truth is he will sink rather than swim.

 

I’m not suggesting that we throw our kids into the deep end and see if they sink or swim from a young age but I am arguing that if we raise our kids away from the water then one day they will find themselves in it and most likely drowning in it.

 

It’s a principle for all of life, we should prepare our kids for what they will face by laying truth at the foundation of their life. We can’t hide our kids forever and one day the enemy will break through our defenses. We can’t monitor our kids Internet use forever, who they become friends with or what movies we watch…but we can instill principles in their lives that will prepare them to make good choices for the future. Protection is important to our children’s lives, but if we fail to prepare them for the future we have simply wasted our energy!

 

So when we put off conversations about topics our children raise… in order to maintain their innocence…we make a choice to let them be educated by others. It is important to remember that our defensive tactics often play into the hands of the enemy’s offense.