First, George Barna confirmed what those of us in children’s ministry have known all along – that the ripest spiritual field is children, and that the most strategic way to stop the disappearance of a biblical world view in our church is to renew our commitment to children.
Next, Larry Fowler established the biblical basis for churches not just value children, but prioritize ministry to children. Others then followed with a renewed call to broaden the scope of children’s ministry to include the entire family, the loudest voice being Reggie Joiner asking us to rethink ministry at the Orange Conference offering their virtue-based family time resources and strategy to incorporate complete families in the Sunday church experience.
Then Awana Clubs, long known for its success at reaching unchurched children and providing kids a solid biblical foundation surprised us by dramatically altering its approach and confessing its past “let us disciple your kids” attitude was insufficient and began to completely re-engineer its programs to better include parents in the process.
Soon many more, like Julia Duin in Quitting Church, began revealing stats showing just how poorly we are doing in translating Bible Quiz-Whiz kids into faithful disciples when they got old enough to choose whether to attend church or not.
While DiscipleLand has long offered a comprehensive home-based/church-supported curriculum strategy for discipling children, other companies all over the map are waking up to the need to engage the home rather than just keep adding to the programs and resources available at church. “Family Ministry” and “Partnering with Parents” are the buzz words appearing everywhere.
Then Larry Fowler was back with a strategy to build a comprehensive birth to high school strategy for preparing the next generation to be spiritually strong and healthy; to be “Modern Day Josephs” in an ever increasingly secular culture. Most recently, D6 (Deuteronomy chapter six) has splashed on the scene offering not only a family-wide church curriculum, but also devotional magazines from preschool through adulthood aiming to get the entire family in sync with what they are learning in the home.
Everywhere you look, from workshops at CPC to the newest children’s ministry leadership books, you are hearing a growing call: The spiritual formation of children must be done by parents, not for parents. The church’s role is shifting from one of serving and supporting parents to one of empowering, equipping and encouraging parents.
If you can’t feel the wave growing, you’ve either let it pass ahead of you – or should see the swell rising behind you. To best “surf” this growing ministry wave, you’ll need to carefully watch the swell growing, letting some of the smaller advance ones pass, position yourself in the best spot, start paddling in the right direction, and get ready to start pushing down at just the right moment. Soon you too can stand up and ride it in!
Perhaps you are convinced already. Children’s Ministry “as usual” isn’t cutting it. You’ve got to better partner with parents if you truly want to see children transformed into spiritual champion and modern day Josephs. But how?
Let me tell you this. The answer isn’t another curriculum, resource or program. That doesn’t mean you might not switch to DiscipleLand, send home FamilyTime CDs, encourage the use of D6 devotional magazines, or establish new programs or plan various family events. But these cannot be your solution. They can only be components of YOUR strategy. The solution for your church begins with you and your pastor.
Next, I would suggest, you’ve got to step back and ask yourself three key questions about every age level in your ministry:
1. What KNOWLEDGE do I want them to have?
2. What SKILLS do I want them to have?
3. What EXPERIENCES would I like them to have?
KNOWLEDGE: There is obviously a great need for teaching children the Bible and the truth it contains. Most ministries do this fairly well. Few can give you an overview of their strategy to ensure what their student will or should know at the various stages of growing up. A genuine strategy for forming disciples requires that the organizer of the process know what the long term goals are. As the old saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!” Now extend this to families! What knowledge do families need to be successful? Do we run the risk of filling our kids with a whole host of biblical trivia and neglect giving families the knowledge they need in order translate what the children are learning at church into real life? Perhaps it is time to get out paper and pencil and start writing out what you believe your families need to know to succeed, and then start evaluating whether they do, how they can, and how you’ll evaluate if they do?
SKILLS: My experience has been that the vast majority of church, if they focus intentionally on what their children need to know, stop there. But knowledge alone does make a disciple. (James warns that even demons know the truth about God, and shudder!) A disciple is one who lives out the knowledge of God in their daily life, and to do so requires key skills. Bible skills, while often taught to children, are only the beginning. We all learned to drive a car while young, but would all agree there is much more to driving than operating a car. Likewise, being able to navigate a Bible is useless if one doesn’t know how to study, understand and then apply what is discovered to life. Have you listed, by age range, what you want your children, youth and parents to be able to DO as a follower of Christ?
EXPERIENCE: The third aspect touches on one of the weaknesses of church programming. In the creating of programs and planning of events, we are often quick to forget the PURPOSE of programs and events. They are not the end – they are the means to the end. The goal of a church ministry is not to create programs or events, it is to create life experiences that impact the spiritual growth of the individuals enrolled in the program or attending the event. This is an important distinction because not all experiences that a disciple needs on along their spiritual journey can be programmed or created via an event. Programs and events can only create a context for life experiences. So, again, I would challenge you to invest some time in asking and answering the question, what experiences do the children, youth and families of my church need to grow as disciples of Jesus?
One of the best things you could do for your ministry is to mentally set aside all your programs, events and plans and answer the questions above. Then, after having answered them, take a look at your programs, events and plans and consider the following:
1. What is the best thing I could stop doing that doesn’t fit these objectives?
2. Does my curriculum support these objectives? (Beyond just teaching Bible knowledge)
3. How do my standing programs help or hinder these objectives?
4. What events do I need to create in order to provide the needed life experiences?
5. What events do I need to cancel because they may be good, but are no longer on target?
6. What experiences can no program or event create? How can I foster those experiences?
7. How can I help families develop the skills they need to keep growing?
In order to develop a ministry-wide strategy of making disciples, you must start to not only include parents in your considerations, but make them an essential ingredient. This will take effort, creativity, and a willingness to accept; even initiate change. “Ministry as usual” is certainly easier, but if long-term results are what we are truly after, then we must be willing to make adjustments now. If only one degree of change now can have incredible long-term results later, imagine the eternal impact of being more strategic now. Most ministries probably need more than one degree of change, but we’ll have all eternity to enjoy the results if we don’t hesitate. It all starts with asking the right questions. The answers to these questions will be different in every church. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never enjoy the results.
Because Jesus Loves Families,
Here are some helpful resources from Kidology.org to help you address this growing need to include parents in children’s minisitry.
Ladies – I know how hard you work, and how incredibly needed you are in your ministries – I’ve worked with the best of you for my entire ministry. But sometimes, you need to take care of yourself, and take a well deserved break!
When I started inviting men to Yosemite Summit in 2007, I got many e-mails from women asking me to offer the same thing for women – that they need it too – that they need it more, a few suggested! Well, obviously, I can’t personally provide a retreat for women (not sure my wife would appreciate that!) so I went to the best female children’s pastor in the country, Kim Bobb, and asked her to prayerfully consider putting together a similar event for women, and she responded to my invitation, and the need, for an event for women to disconnect from ministry, and focus on their walk with God while enjoying the fellowship of other women who share the same passion for ministry to children.
The event is called Unbridled, not because you’ll be riding wild horses, but because it it time to throw off all that is tying you down, even if only for a few days, to enjoy some fun, fellowship, laughter and meaning conversations with God and some other women who share your struggles, your joys, your frustrations, and your needs.
Let me encourage you to prayerfully consider joining Kim Bobb on this once-in-a-lifetime event. This may be the only year this is offered, so don’t miss out assuming you can go some “other” year.
Please visit YosemiteSummit.org and visit the WOMEN TAB at the top of the page. You’ll be glad you did, and it may be just what you need to get some peace and sanity back into your life. You will be glad you did, and so will your family too!
And Guys, if you are stil snooping and reading, maybe it is because you need to come join ME on the men’s retreat… it will be amazing.
As the son and son-in-law of pastors, and a book lover myself, I have inherited and collected on my own a LOT of great books. Bible commentaries, Christian living, topical, popular authors, Christian college textbooks, apologetics, Bible study tools, biographies, many ancient books from famous Christians of the past such as Moody, Ironside and Torrey, and on and on.
I’d love to get rid of a many of them, but my options are all no good when I try to think of HOW to do this:
Throw out? Would kill me to see good books trashed, I’m not a Nazi!
Thrift store? Do they really want them? Will Christians look there? (majority are Bible tools, antique text books, and popular modern books)
E-bay? Too much work to photograph, add, ship, etc. for books that won’t sell for much and many are great titles no one may ever “search” for, but I know Christian leaders would love if they saw them.
Kidology Garage Sale? I’ve thought of adding them there in bundles, as I can set a price, but again, its a lot of work for little profit for the time invested. I’ve thought of bundling sets of 10, but that might annoy shoppers.
Local Church Library? Mine doesn’t have a library, and I’ve never known of a church library that was actually used, even when our church did have one. If I knew a local church or ministry that wanted them, I’d give them away. (Though a small donation might be nice)
Mission Field? I’d love to ship to the mission field, and would happily pay the shipping, if not too much, but where? Who?
Ideas? Any of my readers want them? Missionaries? Other ideas?
I got an e-mail yesterday with a request from a senior pastor who will soon be speaking to a gathering of children’s pastors from around the country. He asked me:
If you were a denominational Christian Education Director who oversaw the children’s ministry for all the churches in a given state or region:
1. What 10 recent books would you read or tell other directors about?
2. What 10 web-sites would you share with other directors?
3. What 10 experiences, conferences or resources would you tell other directors about?
My response, “Sounds like a great blog post!” So here it is:
Rock Solid Kidsby Larry Fowler The best biblical case made for church to prioritize ministry to children and to engage parents in the process rather than trying to do it for them.
Raising a Modern Day Josephby Larry Fowler Just released, this follow up to Rock Solid lays out a very doable strategy for the entire church to intentionally focus on raising up kids who stand strong against the culture.
Parenting is Heart Workby Scott Turansky & JoAnne Miller The parenting book that finally address the heart, not behavior. For too long have books and seminars focused on helping kids behave, rather than shaping hearts. Applicable to the church as much as the home.
Building Faith at Homeby Mark Holmen One of three books by Holman that lay out a strategy for engaging parents to take the lead in raising up children in the Christian faith.
Lead the Way God Made Youby Larry Shallenberger Instead of modeling your life after a leader you admire, Larry will show you how to lead the way you were meant to lead. Larry profiles me in one chapter exposing my weaknesses to the world!
The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday Schoolby Aaron Reynolds While “reinvention” may be an overstatement, it IS a fresh presentation of creative teaching that will make a difference in kids lives. Challenges thinking and is loaded with tips and examples.
Grow, Minister and Leadby Bill Allison
Everything from Cadre Ministries is concise, on target, and loaded with practical advice and encouragement that builds the leader as much as his leadership.
The Kidology Handbookby Karl Bastian Called by many their manual for ministry, this PDF book is a blueprint for relational ministry, creative teaching and can serve as a teacher training resource as well.
Running on Empty by Fil Anderson While not directly a children’s ministry book, it is one I wish I’d read years sooner and that many other overachieving children’s pastors may find pivotal in how they approach life as well as ministry.
The Kidologist’s Top Ten Websites for CM
Kidology.org Since 1994 the leading children’s ministry website with more features than can be listed in a single sentence. If you could only have one site, this would be it. However, since you can have more:
The newest CM site, like Facebook for Children’s Ministery leaders.
BiblicalParenting.org The best place for resources for equipping and supporting parents in the church. Fantastic e-mail newsletter with parenting tips you can pass on in your own communication.
ChildrensMinistry.com – Children’s Ministry Magazine
The standard bearer of children’s ministry with a battalion of resources from its standard magazine, professional edition, books, resources, curriculum and conferences.
KidzMatter.com & K! Magazine Creative media teaching resources and the new K! Magazine provides a fresh perspective from many new voices.
HarvestBooks.orgfor books, curriculum & more
The trusted source for discounted children’s curriculum from all major publishers plus nearly any book you may be looking for. Known for the personal attention they give their customers.
JellyTelly.com& JellyBits.com The latest online video channel from Phil Vischer (Creator of VeggieTales) and a place where you can purchase videos to use in your own ministry.
ToyBoxTales.com Toys Teaching Biblical Truths
Karl never imagined this teaching tool he created for the kids of his own church would gain a cult following and end up having videos being shown in hundreds of churches across America.
HONORABLE MENTION:There has been an explosion in recent years in children’s ministry related blogs, there is simply no way to list them all, or choose just one, to put in a “Top Ten” list. (Visit mine!) Rather than merely being a place for helpful content, the Internet is now interactive as children’s ministry leaders connect and share information peer to peer. Facebook is rapidly growing as is Twitter.com were you can network in real time with others who share your passion for children’s ministry. (I’m on both!)
The Kidologist’s Top Ten Experiences for CM
Sunday Worship (See your church website for details)
There is no substitute for regular weekly worship with your local Body of Christ. You are a Christian before you are a leader. “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing…” (O.K., getting off the soap box!)
Children’s Pastors Conference
The #1 children’s ministry conference. Often imitated, never duplicated. CPC is the first major conference any children’s ministr leader should attend. No other conference offers an Exhibit Hall packed with resources like CPC.
Conspire Conference(Willow Creek)
Amazing corporate worship, “big name” speakers, and a wide variety of breakouts. Plus, it’s in Chicago!
The conference with the most “buzz” due to speaker line-up and a unified message and challenge to creatively adapt ministry to a new era. Strong focus on partnering with parents.
D6 Conference (NEW!)
A brand new conference from D6family.com championing a comprehensive approach to children and family ministry inspired by Deuteronomy chapter six.
How 2 Conference(NEW)
Group’s regional conferencing promising to help children’s ministry leaders get organized and then be prepared to train their own leaders back at their home church.
One Way Street Conferences
Puppet Festivals and creative art conferences around the country and as entertaining as they are practical.
If you can’t travel to a conference, a seasoned personal coach can guide you through helpful materials customized to your ministry at your own pace while responding your current needs and struggles.
Kidology.org Online Training Leadership Development right on your computer that also equips you to turn around and train your own leaders and volunteers. Conferences are great, but when they aren’t possible, focused training is still possible.
Yosemite Summit The UNconference for children’s ministry leaders. No workshops – Just worship; No resources – just relationships; No networking – just God working. Spend four exhilarating days hiking in the spectacular Yosemite Valley with other children’s pastors. It may be that the best thing for your ministry, is to disconnect from ministry, and reconnect with God.
Forgive me for including some of my own resources/events, but hey, it’s my blog and I think they are in the top ten, even if I am a little biased. Of course, anytime you make a list – you can’t include everything – and nothing negative is inferred by the absence of any resource, ministry or event not included. It was difficult to keep it at ten.
However, my list need not be final! PLEASE use the comments to let me know of any books, websites or events/resources not listed above that you would include in YOUR “Top Ten” list!
I thought Rick Warren did a wonderful job with the inauguration prayer. He included the English version of the Jewish Sh’ma at the start and recited the name of Jesus in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish, as well as in English at the end. I wish those who get so vile in their attacks on him and other Americans would heed his prayer. I disagree sharply with President Obama on many issues, but as an American raising a child in American, I pray for his success and that he will actually do the lofty things he states so well and perhaps be more influenced by Godly people like Rick Warren than by those who try to move the tide of culture through hate and mean-spiritedness. President Obama gets a pass on many things a Republican would be attacked on (and no, I won’t mention them) but I hope that the optimism and hope he has inspired will lead him to listen and learn and govern wisely and with restraint and with an openness that may only come because of the weight that is now upon him. It’s one thing to want the job – it’s entirely different thing to have the job. And I am committed to praying for him and our nation in the months and years ahead. I’m hoping he surprises me and lives up to at least of little of the hype.
In case you missed it, here is Rick Warren’s prayer followed by a video:
Let us pray.
Almighty God — our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.’ And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.
Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King, and a great cloud of witnesses, are shouting in heaven.
Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice-President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.
When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.
And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes — even when we differ.
Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation, and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.
We now commit our new president, and his wife Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life — Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus — who taught us to pray:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. – Amen.