Jumpstart Your Bible Reading In 2016 (FREE WEBINAR)

Jumpstart 2016

Happy New Year!

Lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions (or goals…or plan-of-attack…or fresh start). Whatever you call it, for Christians at least, Bible reading is typically somewhere on the list.

Is time in God’s Word on your list? Do you have a plan? (Hint: You need one.)

I want you to start well…so you can sustain a vibrant time with God all year long (ahem…and longer). That’s why I’m hosting a brand-new, FREE webinar This Friday at noon (CST).  I will be interviewing one of the foremost experts in this area, Keith Ferrin.  Keith is an author of several books and has developed many tools that will help you in your pursuit to make God’s Word a PRIORITY in your life this year. 

These are some of the questions Keith will answer…

  1. Is it really possible to enjoy the Bible?
  2. How do I keep my mind from wandering?
  3. Where do I start if I’m new to the Bible?
  4. What do you recommend for people who have been around the Bible a long time?
  5. What translation do you recommend?
  6. How do I remember what I read?

Are you in? Register today!

Can I ask one small 30-second favor?  Will you help me spread the word over the next few days? (I want heaps of people to hear this!)

You can also simply copy/paste this link – – into an email/text/etc. and that will send people directly to the registration page…or you can share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+. 

Thanks! I am so excited I can hardly wait for this FRIDAY!

 

Most Popular Posts Of 2015

2015 leaving

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 is almost over.  What a year it has been.  I am so honored that you choose to share some of your precious time with me as we journey together.  Each person who reads this blog is committed to reaching the next generation with the message of Jesus in the most powerful and effective way we can.

I took some time to check out which of my posts were the most popular in 2015.  It was a banner year for this blog as we added thousands of new followers (and closing in on 30,000 total – crazy!).  Here are the TOP FIVE posts from 2015.

#1 Post of 2015:  “Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?”

#2 Post of 2015:  “A Children’s Pastor’s Response To The Supreme Court Ruling”

#3 Post of 2015:  “Parents Allow Four Year Old Boy To Become A Girl”

#4 Post of 2015:  “All About Time Change (Parody of ‘All About That Bass’)”

#5 Post of 2015:  “T.H.I.N.K. Before You Tweet”

Thanks to YOU!  You are the ones who “voted” by visiting and sharing these posts.  Continue to help spread the word.  Feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you can!  God bless, and Happy New Year!  I can’t wait to see what God does in 2016!

I would love to hear from you!  What topics would YOU like me to cover in 2016?  Leave a comment here!  I will choose one comment at random to win a $100 Shopping Spree on our High Voltage Kids Ministry store (deadline is January 2, 2016)!

4 Dangerously Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children (And What You Can Do About It)

DIVORCE

As I’ve worked with children for over twenty years, I’ve repeatedly seen how news of their parents’ divorce shatters their world.  I wasn’t ready to deal with it as an adult (my parents divorced when I was 25), and I’m sure it’s even more difficult for a child to process this world-changing information.  Everything they know, everything they depend on for emotional stability, is lost in an instant.  They may have detected major issues in the parents’ relationship for years, or perhaps one parent was suddenly shocked to discover a history of infidelity for the other.  Whether the decision to divorce is immediate or drawn out, it devastates everyone involved.  Quite often the parents are so traumatized they don’t know how to help their children cope.  It’s always a tragedy, no matter how amicably the split happens.

A recent study shows that in the broader American culture, 43 percent of marriages end in divorce, and depending on the state, between 26 and 47 percent of children live in single-parent homes.[1] More than 2,000 blended families are formed every day, but more than two-thirds of those fail within six years.[2]

By studying God’s Word, we can all agree that divorce is never God’s plan. I don’t think it’s ever anyone’s plan. Nobody gets married thinking, “I sure can’t wait to divorce this person one day.” God’s desire is that marriages thrive and last “until death do us part.” Unfortunately, divorce happens. When it does, it affects everyone involved. Often, it disproportionately affects the children in an extremely negative way.

I’ve seen the devastation of divorce in the faces of parents and their kids.  Confusion, resentment, discouragement, and depression are common results.  If those emotions aren’t resolved with love, honesty, and time, it deeply affects future relationships.  Hurt people hurt people, and they often don’t even know why they have difficulties in relationships.  In the lives of children, a few of the most common results of divorce include:

1) Increased stress

No matter what age children are when their parents announce the breakup of their home, kids are never emotionally prepared for the shock. Stress shows up in many different ways. Relationally, kids may become defiant, or they may withdraw. Emotionally, they may become hardened and defiant, or they may regularly burst into tears. Physically, the stress often finds the weakest part of the person’s body; headaches, stomachaches, and other gastrointestinal problems are common. Even the most mundane, everyday decisions can become difficult.

2) Lack of stability

When parents split up, the most secure point in the child’s universe is shaken and destroyed.  God has made us to be relational beings, and the home is the first and foremost place of rest, comfort, and security.  When that’s disrupted, the child naturally questions the validity and reliability of everything and everyone.  In addition, the child is suddenly forced to move back and forth from mom’s house to dad’s house, finding it difficult to ever feel settled and often feeling like a pawn in their blame game.

3) Eroded or shattered trust

When their security crumbles, children may put up walls and refuse to trust anyone, even those who are the most stable, loving people in their lives.  Or in contrast, they may trust too much, putting their faith in untrustworthy people in the hope that trusting someone will make them feel safe again.

4) Irresponsibility or hyper-responsibility

Everything the kids have known has been turned upside down.  The parents have been trying to teach their kids to be responsible, but now the children wonder, What’s the use?  They may neglect homework, cleaning their rooms, taking showers, and doing the normal things they’ve been doing for years.  Or they may react in the opposite way, trying to earn their parents’ love by being overly responsible.  Some kids use their exemplary behavior as a bargaining chip in an attempt to get their parents to reconcile.  It’s magical thinking, but it shows the desperation of the child to restore a happy home.

Grandparents and other extended family members can provide much-needed stability and support during the confusing and painful time before, during, and after the divorce, but be careful.  Some extended family members become furious at “that man” or “that woman” for hurting their beloved son or daughter, sister or brother.  Extended family members may be a great source of wisdom, insight, and hope, or they can throw more gasoline on the fire of resentment!

So, as Kids Pastors, what can WE do?  

  • PRAY!  Pray that God will be the Lord of every home.  Pray that parents will see Divorce as an absolute LAST resort.
  • TRAIN!  Train parents what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family.  Help them see the effects of a future divorce on their children.
  • ENCOURAGE!  Encourage parens to seek wise counsel when dealing with marital issues.  Encourage them to see a Christian marriage counselor.  Normalize counseling as a means to “allow someone else to speak into the issues from a fresh perspective.”  Marriage and Family Counseling have received an unfair stigma. Counselors are there to help lead through life’s toughest issues when our emotions and judgement are cloudy.

For more on this subject, you can pick up a copy of my book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics.”  There is an entire chapter on “How To Talk To Kids About Divorce.”  I believe every parent should read this chapter.  Whether it is YOUR family or one that is close to you, Divorce hits us all.  We must be prepared to help mitigate these negative effects that Divorce has on our children.

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[1] Statistics: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrosstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=100

[2] American Blended Family Association, www.usabfa.org/Default.aspx?pageld=188238

 

An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season

advent
Today’s post is a guest post by my friend, Adam Walker Cleaveland.  Adam is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

After working with children and youth for over twelves years in four different churches, I was beginning to feel called out of parish ministry and into something new – something different. Around that same time, I began to rediscover my childhood love of art, drawing and watercolors. It had been probably twenty years since I’d sat down with pen and paper and spent time drawing.

Illustrated Children’s Moments began when I started drawing illustrations to give kids during children’s sermons/moments at the church I was serving as associate pastor. Kids really connected with the style of my sketches, and parents told me that their kids were bringing up the stories throughout the week – more than they normally would. You can see some examples of the types of illustrations I create for this use here, or check out the images below:

EXAMPLES

A few months ago, I began to wonder how I could create something for churches and families to use during Advent, that would help bridge the gap between church and home. Everyone who does done work in children or youth ministry know that the bulk of spiritual formation that happens for kids really happens at home. Parents obviously spend much more time with their kids than children’s ministry volunteers, and so however pastors and churches can support families in that role is crucial.

On November 16, I’m going to be launching An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season. There will be two editions: the Church Edition and the Family Edition. There will be some overlap between content, but they are meant to be used together. A church might use some of the activities during worship or their Sunday School programs, and then kids would have other activities throughout the week at home to do with their families.

I’ve also created a series of Advent coloring sheets that are designed to be used for each of the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Joy, Peace and Love). I decided to enlarge one to 4’ x 3’ and my 4 year old son took it to his preschool Sunday School class at church a few weeks ago, and the kids all had a blast coloring on it.

Coloring

 

Sheets

My hope is that through this new venture, I can create original and fun artwork that will appeal to young children, and provide ways to support parents trying to find ways to continue the spiritual formation in their homes.

The best way to stay updated with everything is to join the email newsletter list at Illustrated Children’s Ministry. If you sign up – you will receive five free illustrations so you can get a sense of the style and how you might use them at church, home or school. You can sign up here.

Adam Walker Cleaveland is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

One Of The Best Stewardship Decisions A Church Can Make

 

child stewardshi

God has entrusted to each of us a certain amount of time, money, and talent.  What we do with these resources is called stewardship, which is the “wise investment of resources in order to reach the maximum amount of return.”  George Barna, the nation’s leading church demographer, found an astonishing fact while doing research on evangelism.  He wrote:

“We discovered that the probability of someone embracing Jesus as his or her Savior was 32 percent for those between the ages of 5 and 12; 4 percent for those in the 13- to 18-age range; and 6 percent for people 19 and older. In other words, if people do not embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reach their teenage years, the chance of their do so at all is slim.”[1]

This means children are one of the largest, most strategic, and responsive mission fields in America today.  Many churches are investing far more time and money in trying to reach adults and teens than they are children.  This plan doesn’t seem like good stewardship.

Imagine having $1000 to invest in mutual funds.  Your financial advisor does his research and tells you that if you put your money in Fund A, you’ll get a 32% return.  But if you put your money into Fund B, you’ll get a 4% return.  And if you put your money into Fund C, you will get a 6% return on your investment.  Which fund would you choose?  Only a fool would put his money into the fund that was going to yield the smallest return.  This, though, is the spiritual investment strategy of many churches in America.  They put their time, money, and resources into the adults and teens, while giving the kids’ ministry only token resources.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying, “Forget about teens and adults.”  Those ministries are vitally important.  I was saved as a fifteen year-old kid.  I have a daughter, Ashton, who is 15 and a son, Jordan, who is almost 14.  I understand the importance of a strong student ministry.  From a standpoint of wise stewardship, however, the largest harvest of souls for our investment is going to come from investing in children.

I pray that more churches would be wise in their investment into the kingdom.  I pray they give their kids’ ministries the focus, attention, and resources they need to do an effective job of communicating the gospel to the largest and most fertile mission field in the world!


[1] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (Regal Books, 2003), 34.

Can You Really Fall In Love With Reading The Bible?

Bible Dust

I didn’t always enjoy reading the Bible.  I know – it’s really BAD for a pastor to admit this.  Just to clarify, it’s not that I disliked the Bible.  It’s just that I saw it as more of something I NEEDED to do rather than something I WANTED to do.

We’ve all been there.  Our Western mindset causes us to make reading the Bible something to be achieved and knocked off the list.  We make a grand goal of “reading the Bible through in a year,” but barely get through the book of Numbers before we abandon that and skip to Proverbs.  We look at the best-selling book of all time and treat it like an owner’s manual rather than a treasure map (which it  most definitely is).

My good friend, Keith Ferrin, is one of the most passionate people I have ever met about the Bible!  I had the opportunity to interview Keith a short time ago.  I asked him how his journey into “falling in love with the Bible” began.  His story is inspiring.  I think you will be challenged by his commitment to God’s Word, but you will also say, “I can do that.”  It’s an incredible interview and VERY practical.  Keith’s goal is simple:  “To help you ENJOY the Bible.  If you enjoy it, you will read it more.  If you enjoy it, you will talk about it.  If you enjoy it, you will be more consistent in your time with God.  If you enjoy it, you will apply it!”

Keith has just launched something that I think you need to check out!  He has launched an 8-part video “Relational Bible Study” course.  It is such a revolutionary idea that many of you can benefit from.  You can check it out here!  Don’t delay!  This opportunity is only available for a few days!  The deadline to register for this incredible online course is Wednesday, September 30th!

A Church That’s Not Afraid To Talk About Racism In America

racism panel

This past weekend, my church (First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas) hosted a panel discussion on one of the hot button issues of our day: RACISM. What followed was an hour filled with open conversation, shocking statements, raw feelings, surprising confessions – ALL done with the most incredible grace, mercy, and love that only followers of Christ can do.

If you think anyone chose to shy from the difficult facts, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Sit down, watch, and prepare to be challenged and encouraged.  God is at work in HIS Church!

Watch the entire video here:

video - racism panel

 

3 Practical Keys That Will Transform Your Kids Church Experience

SLAM Stage

As Kids Ministry leaders, it’s our passion to help children become life-long followers of Jesus.  It’s about getting kids excited about the Word of God.  After being in kids ministry for over 23 years, I’ve also developed a passion to equip other teachers to present God’s word with excellence so that it leaves a lasting imprint on the minds and spirits of the children we minister to.  In order to do so, we need to work with a curriculum that holds keys to unlock doors of opportunity to create a transformational kids church experience.

The big question is: What makes kids church curriculum effective?

As the creator of High Voltage Kids Curriculum I have discovered 3 incredible keys which create that irresistible environment for children.  Over 5000 churches are already experiencing the impact of the principles that I am about to share with you:

Key 1:  Have an interactive approach to teaching

Over the years I have discovered that that number one thing that will help to effectively communicate the Gospel to kids, and to get them really engaged, is to have an interactive approach to teaching.  Many times we have the “lecture thing” going on where we have a teacher stand in front of the class simply “sharing stuff.”  The kids are simply “watching” the teacher and lack real engagement with the content that is being shared.  They often seem disconnected at best.

Studies show that if you just “watch,” you retain 10% of what is being communicated.  If you hear and see at the same time, that number can rise all the way up to 40% retention.  However, if we are able to get the child physically involved in action, they are going to remember 90% of what is being communicated.  Now, there are various ways to accomplish that level of engagement.  At High Voltage Kids we’ve added several components in our curriculum that stimulate this type of interaction.  From the “Watt’s Up?” segment to the “Power Verse” segment to the “Brain Drain” game, we have purposefully incorporated interactive elements to keep your kids engaged.

Key 2:  Never let “media” take your place as the minister in the room

Technology is great.  It’s all around us.  It’s the language that is spoken by our kids.  It’s the environment that they are growing up in.  So, obviously you’re going to need to have media integrated into your lesson plan.  Whether through video, games, or interactive online environments, it doesn’t matter.  Media is an important aspect that will contribute to effectively communicating the subject matter.  However media should NEVER overtake the role of the kids pastor or class teacher.  I know it’s never our intention to have that happen, however there is a real danger of that happening anyway.

Many times, because it the current thing to do, media is the dominant driver of kids church.  I personally believe that’s a wrong approach.  Nothing can take your place as the leader and minister in the room.  Whatever you do through media should enhance what you as a leader and minister are doing, not replace what you are doing.

Key 3: Always take the lesson beyond the Sunday experience

Taking the lesson outside of the classroom and beyond the Sunday morning experience is crucial.  As Kids Ministry Leaders, we have most kids for about one hour a week.  If a kid has perfect attendance, throughout the year, you’ll have them for a total of 52 hours in one year.  We all know that perfect attendance is really an illusion.  It simply doesn’t happen. So, the reality is that you are only having your kids in your classroom for a very limited time.  When you add up those hours, you are lucky to maybe have the ability to minister and impact a kid for only 2 full days (48 hrs) of the 365 days that a year has to offer.  Understanding this limitation forces us to think bigger and bolder.  It’s crucial that we integrate tools that allow kids to take the Sunday experience with them, into the week and into their homes, so they can experience the impact as part of their everyday family life.

At High Voltage Kids we’ve developed curriculum based on these discovered keys.

Because of that, we can facilitate an environment that creates transformational experiences for our kids.  Whether you choose to use High Voltage Kids Curriculum or materials from another publisher, it really doesn’t matter.  As long as we understand these important keys, we can unlock the hearts of the children that we’ve been entrusted with and give them the experience they need to develop a strong relationship with their Father.

If you are interested in learning more about High Voltage Kids Digital, I’ve created a promo video that will explain some of the incredible value that our online membership has to offer.  It explains how you can experience the power of High Voltage Kids year around for one amazing low price.  HURRY though!  The enrollment window into this membership closes September 15th and won’t open up again until February 2016.  Check it out:

How To Talk To Kids About Life’s Toughest Topics

talking-to-kids

Children today are being bombarded by messages that are contrary to what the Bible teaches.  As I talk to parents and grandparents, they feel completely overwhelmed as they try to navigate the difficult waters of conversation with their kids about very difficult topics like:

  • God & Spirituality
  • SEX
  • Self-Image
  • Bullying
  • Divorce
  • Death & Tragedy
  • Money
  • Making Wise Choices
  • Friendships
  • Forgiveness

That’s why I am so excited about my brand new book, “Talk Now And Later: How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics.”  You don’t have to GUESS how to communicate with your kids about these subjects.  I have taken my 23 years as a Children’s Pastor and my experience as a Father of two and put it in this book to help you.  I firmly believe it is going to be a GAME-CHANGER for Christian Parents.

The book already reached #1 on Amazon in the New Releases Christian Family category.  I think every Christian Parent, Grandparent, Kids Pastor, and Children’s Ministry Leader needs to have this book as a resource for the many difficult conversations that are going to happen among the children that God has blessed you with.  The question is not WILL these difficult topics come up.  The question is will you be PREPARED when they do come up?

So, get your copy of “Talk Now And Later” HERE and start learning how to lead the kids in your life in meaningful spiritual conversations about life’s toughest topics. You’ll be glad you did.

Want a FREE sample chapter from “Talk Now And Later” – well just visit this link:  briandollar.com/talknowandlater

Are you a church or group that wants to purchase a BULK amount of books at a steep discount?  Visit this link to receive a 40% discount on ALL orders of 10 or more books.

I can’t wait to hear the stories of what God is going to do as you “Talk Now AND Later!”

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Incredible Innovation In Kids Ministry Staging And Sets

inflateaset

Sharing space with Youth Ministry or a School?  Tired of the grind of having to spend hours setting up and tearing down your Kidmin set pieces?  My great friend, Steve Hogue, has patented an UNBELIEVABLE and life-changing idea just for YOU!

It’s called the “Inflate-A-Set”, and it is incredible!  The idea was born out of Steve’s own plight of having to share space with other ministries within the church and taking too much time to set up and tear down.  He began with children’s church in the school’s gymnasium, which is also the chapel room, which is also where youth church meets on Wed. nights.  Set up and tear down, setup and tear down…maybe you can relate!

Steve’s challenge turned into an inspiration…a true God-design!  God literally downloaded plans for a children’s church set that could “blow up” (ok, so “inflate” is probably a better word).   Simply attach a 1 horse blower and you have a cool backdrop, with a puppet stage or doorway and a place for a rear-projection screen!  Set up and break down is less than 10 minutes! 

This innovative, patented design has not only helped his ministry, but is saving time, energy and money for many churches across America!  Inflate-A-Set officially went on the market in August 2009 and is creating a  lot of buzz.   Inflatable sets are durable, versatile, affordable, and portable!

Check out this video which shows how easy it is to set up:

When I personally saw the Inflate-a-set for the first time, I KNEW it was perfect for Church Plants.  So, my church bought one for a church plant that we wanted to invest in.  They have used it for years and are THRILLED with it.  Want more info?  CLICK HERE to visit Steve’s website and find out how amazing Inflate-A-Set really is.  I have seen it in action and was BLOWN AWAY!