Are Church “Fall Festivals” Actually Counter-Productive?

harvest party

Two years ago, I wrote a post that caused a lot of discussion.  I thought I would revisit the subject since this blog has grown by well over 10,000 monthly readers since then, and many of you were not able to be a part of the discussion.

For my first twenty years in Children’s Ministry, I planned and hosted a “Fall Festival” (a.k.a. “Harvest Party”, “Hallelujah Night”, “Fall Fest”, “Family Fun Fest”, “Trunk or Treat”, etc.) at the church where I was serving.  These events generally were seen as a fun Family Event that served as an “alternative to trick-or-treating and Halloween.”

The typical “Fall Festival” usually looks a bit like this:

  • It is a family-oriented celebration/party.
  • It may have costumes.
  • Games are played.
  • Contests are held.
  • Food abounds.
  • Music blares.
  • Everyone enjoys themselves.

Certainly there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Fall Festival on its face.  I love dressing up in funny costumes.  I love seeing what crazy costumes the kids will come up with.  I love games, fun, and candy.  All of that is awesome!!!

However, several years ago, I began to ask the question:  “Is our Fall Festival actually counter productive?” Could it be that this event actually works against what our mission is as the church:  “to know Christ, make Him known, and reach the lost people in our city and around the world?”

Now, before I go any further – I want to assure you that I am not indicting anyone who does Fall Festivals.  As I said, I did one for twenty years.  But, as I and our pastoral team put more thought into it – we had several questions come up.

1)  Why do we feel the need to do an “alternative event” for our families on Halloween?  We don’t do an “alternative event” for Mardis Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, or other random holidays.

2)  Are we really “connecting” with the lost people who come?  We consider it a “bridge event” (connecting the lost of our community to the church in a non-threatening way).    Do they end up just stopping by to play a game, win a bag of candy, and move right along to the next church that’s throwing a Harvest Party?  Are there really strong opportunities to connect to the people who are “dropping in?”

3)  What about the people in our neighborhoods?  I have been most frustrated by the fact that on the darkest night of the year, it seems the Church has gathered all of the “light” together in one place (the church) in order to “escape the darkness” – and there is absolutely no light represented in our neighborhoods.  For the last twenty years, the very people I MOST want to reach, my neighbors, have been out on Halloween going door-to-door.  On a night when they are voluntarily coming to MY house, giving me an opportunity to speak to them and show God’s love – my house is dark with no light on because…the pastor is at his church throwing an alternative party, mostly for other Christians.

It seems that on a night that is completely devoted to things that are “dark” (Halloween), that would be the time that the church would want to be OUT in the world spreading the light.  Why do we, instead, feel the need to bring all of the LIGHT into one place and have a party for ourselves?  It’s worth asking…

I welcome your thoughts in the Comments Section.  I posted this as a means to initiate discussion and provoke thought on this subject.  I invite disagreement and diversity of opinion.  Would love to hear what you think.

WINNER of the “God Created” book giveaway is…

Congratulations to Susan Cantrell!  She won the FREE copy of “God Created” by Sarah Evelyn Hodson.  A special “THANK YOU” to Sarah Hodson for providing the book for the giveaway!  Remember, you can grab your copy at this link!  If you want to read the review I gave for this book, you can find it HERE!

A Helpful Resource To Help Teach Young Children About Creation

God-Created

 

Throughout their academic life, children will have to face the onslaught of scientific theories, teachers, professors, and peers who will pressure them into leaving behind the “primitive and uneducated” belief that Earth was created by Almighty God.  A recent Gallup poll reveals that over 60% of Americans believe in the theory of evolution – many of them believing that it is the PRIMARY explanation for where life on Earth comes from.  

Earlier this year, Ken Ham, a well-known Christian apologist debated the outspoken evolutionist, Bill Nye (the Science Guy).  It was a classic  (and public) Creation-versus-Evolution debate.  Nye is more than just a former TV personality.  He was also featured in a YouTube video last year titled “Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children.”  Click this link to watch the video.

Nye says, “in another couple centuries,” the creationist worldview “just won’t exist,” saying “there’s no evidence for it.”

The battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation begins long before kids enter a high school or college biology class.

Remember the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes?  It was a small child who saw and pointed out that the king had no clothes on at all.   Kids are not dumb.  Even if parents choose not to discuss it, children will soon recognize that the theory of evolution does contradict the Bible.  So, what can Christian parents do to counteract the push and pull of society to walk away from the Bible and embrace something else as the ultimate authority on the origin of life?

I don’t think it is a simple answer.  It all starts with teaching your children clearly what the Bible says about Creation.  Every once in a while, a tool comes along that helps to aid in that pursuit.  I came across such a tool recently, and wanted to share it with you.

God Created is a short picture book that is aimed at ages 3-8 years old.  It is well done with incredibly vivid illustrations.  It is written by Sarah Evelyn Hodson and illustrated by Jason Platt.  Sarah works as an early intervention speech-language pathologist in addition to writing children’s books.  She is a mom of two children.

You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking here!   Also, Sarah was kind enough to send me a copy to GIVE AWAY for free!  If you would like to be entered into the drawing, please email me at brian@highvoltage-kids.com.  I will announce the winner next week!

How To Handle Parents Who Don’t Attend Your Church

parents-angry

Some time ago, one of the children who attends our church (but his parents do not) told me, “I didn’t come last week because my dad doesn’t think it’s important.”

I recognized what he was doing.  I asked him, “Did your dad actually say that he doesn’t think church is important?”

The boy said, “Well, no, but since he didn’t bring me, he must have something against me coming.”

I quickly responded, “Wait a minute.  We can’t draw that conclusion.  Give your dad a break.  I’m sure he was just busy and couldn’t make his schedule work out.  After all, you’re here today.”  I’m very careful to avoid relational triangles where two people gang up on another.  In this case, I was not (and AM not) willing to join the child in accusing his dad of wrong motives.  It may seem like a small commitment, but I assure you, it’s huge.

I have made a commitment to ALWAYS honor the parents of every child who comes through our doors.  I tell the kids that our ministry is here to support their parents, and I tell the parents we’re here to serve them in every possible way.  I don’t want there to be any suspicion that we’re trying to take the parents’ role away from them.  The parents who have been part of our church for a long time sometimes take this for granted, but those who are coming for the first time—and especially those who haven’t been part of a church—need to be reassured that we’re committed to serve them.  In a dozen different ways, I tell the kids and the parents, “We’re on the same team and are committed to the same purpose: to support your role as parents and encourage your child’s spiritual growth.”

Just the other day, I got an email from a fellow Kids Minister.  She asked, “How should we specifically minister to those children who come to our church, but whose parents are unbelievers or who do not welcome the teachings promoted through Christian Education?”

If a child’s parents don’t attend our church, come only occasionally, or aren’t believers, we want to accomplish these objectives:

1)  Honor the parents – I always speak worth and honor regarding the parents to the kids.  I will NEVER let them talk their parents down simply because they do not share the faith of the child.  Every time I encounter the parents, I honor them and remind them that we are on the same team.

2)  Remind the child of their duty to be a soul-winner in their home – Our message to the child is clear, intentional, and direct.  I tell the kids, “God has put you in your family for a purpose.  If you want your parents, brothers, and sisters to come to Christ, you have to show them the love of God in your actions as well as your words.  You can’t expect to win them to Jesus if you act like a selfish punk.”  They seem to understand this concept.  Even first graders get the picture that they can be lights in their families.  They can let their light shine so their parents and siblings see Jesus in them.  We never want the kids to use church as leverage to blame and control their parents.  Instead, we want to turn that upside down so they become loving, obedient, joyful lights that show their family members the grace of Christ.

3)  Communicate with the parents – send them emails, letters, Facebook messages, etc.  No, I don’t mean STALK them.  I mean let them know what is going on in your church and ministry.  When their child does something incredible, let them know.  When their child does something that demonstrates the character of Christ, let them know.  When there is a special training for parents at your church, let them know.  As you communicate to them, pray that God will use every communication to help them get closer to crossing that line of faith.

How about you?  How do YOU deal with parents of kids in your ministry but they don’t attend your church?  What approaches have you found to be extremely effective?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the Kidmin Community.

 

Do You Struggle Getting Volunteers For Your Ministry?

volunteer-breakthrough
Do you struggle getting volunteers for your ministry?  If you do, you are NOT alone!  Survey after survey tells us that recruiting and keeping volunteers is one of the biggest struggles for EVERY Kids Ministry Leader.  Well, I have an incredible opportunity for you that will help change that statistic.

My friend, Ryan Frank, was a Children’s Pastor for 15 years and is currently the CEO/Publisher at KidzMatter.  He has created a FREE 4-part video series on how to recruit and keep amazing volunteers.  The video series is called “Volunteer Breakthrough.”  In this video series, Ryan unpacks 10 Laws he has discovered that help create dynamic volunteer teams!  You’re going to love it.

You can get this video series for FREE just by clicking the image at the top of this post.  You don’t want to hesitate!  Why am I so passionate about this?  It’s because I have known Ryan for over ten years.  He and I have done trainings together, traveled together, ministered together, and he is one of my best friends in ministry.  I have seen the fruit of what God is doing through Ryan’s life – and it is changing the world!

You are VERY lucky to be able to get some of this RICH content for free.  I am thankful that Ryan has offered this to my blog readers.  Take advantage of it, because I don’t know how long it will last!

Ryan Frank, CEO/Publisher at Kidzmatter

 

How To Have A High-Tech Bible Gameshow

Gameshow Mania

 

Several weeks ago, we had a fun event called the “Bible Trivia Showdown!”  On a Sunday Night, we invited the families of our church to partner up and challenge one another on their knowledge of the Bible.  It was a hilarious event!  Everyone had a great time trying to see if they could answer the questions faster than the other family they had challenged.  We gave out a bunch of Sonic gift cards!  It was a blast!

Ever since I posted the above pic on Facebook, I have had several people contact me asking how THEY could get an incredible Gameshow set like this.  I don’t blame them for asking.  This gameshow set has been AMAZING!  In fact, we didn’t just use it that night.  We use it EVERY WEEK during our “Brain Drain” game of review questions at the end of our Kids Church lesson.

This Gameshow set is made by a company called Gameshow Mania and is amazing!  They have MANY different models at various levels of pricing.  This particular model is called the GSS-3000. It comes with 2 – 2 player podiums for either 2 player fun or 4 player excitement!  It is VERY easy to operate, allows you to keep LED scoring up to 95 points, scores by 5 points, fun sound effects and much, much, more.

Here’s what’s cool!  If you contact Gameshow Mania and talk to the President, Jeff O’Lear, he will make a SUPER deal for you.  BUT, you have to tell him that you heard about them on BRIANDOLLAR.COM.  email:  jeff@gameshowmania.com   Telephone:  1-570-676-9400

Just wanted to share this with you all because I KNOW you will love having one of these in your Kids Ministry!  They are TONS of FUN!!!!!

5 Things Every Ministry Leader Should Be Doing With Their Family

Family

This week I got an email from a fellow Kids Pastor.  It said, How hard do you push your children? On those days when someone from the church has been extremely rude, or when a party took place on a Saturday night and Sunday morning my kids show up and have to clean before worship service can even begin, or when they are just plain TIRED. Everyone gets frustrated from time to time because we are dealing with humans.  How do I, as a mother, know when I’m pushing them too hard.  The LAST thing I want is for them to look back one day and resent the time and energy that the Children’s Ministry takes.”

I totally understand the difficulty of this delicate balance.  My wife and both of my kids (12 and 14) are VERY involved in our Kids Ministry.  They LOVE it!  But, I don’t ever want to take that for granted.  I want to be proactively working to preserve that spirit and excitement for God, the church, and the ministry.  Here are 5 things I do to help make that happen.  Perhaps you can apply these to your family situation…

1)  Always talk positively about the church, the leadership, and the ministry.

I don’t mean wear rose-colored glasses and act like there are never any challenges.  I think if you act like nothing is ever wrong or difficult, then your kids are not fooled and they start to see you as “fake.”  Acknowledge the difficulties (cleaning up after a party when you didn’t plan on it, having to get up early to set up, etc.), but remind them that God has called your family to do an incredible task – lead kids to Christ.  Remind them what a privilege it is – and always make sure your tone and verbage communicate that YOU count it as a privilege.

2)  Guard them from “church drama.”

I know too many pastors and church leaders that come home speaking negatively and “dissing” the pastor and other leadership when there is a disagreement at church.  They do this to their spouse and in front of their kids.  Listen – your kids pick up on that.  When they see you hurting because of what church leaders or other pastors have done and said, it clouds their emotions and it is difficult for them to let go.  Don’t bring your “offense” home to your family.  They may end up carrying that bitterness LONG after you have already “made up” with the person you were feuding with.  Most of the time you don’t go back and tell your kids about the restoration of that relationship.  They are left feeling the effects of the bitterness that you ended up seeding in them (however unwittingly).

3)  Treat your kids just like everyone else.

 Although obviously they have to get up earlier than most and also tag along with me at times – other than that, I treat my kids just like any other worker on my team.  I expect the same out of them (not more, not less) than anyone else on the team.  I NEVER say to them, “You are my kid, so I expect you to do more than the rest of the team.”  Instead, I say, “Remember, you are a leader on this team – others are watching your example.  Let’s set the best example possible and lead people in the right direction.”  When you apply additional pressure to them simply because they are your kid, they will soon begin to resent the reason for that pressure.

4)  Pray as a family – for your pastor, your church, and the ministry.

It is very difficult to pray for someone or something regularly and be angry or discontented with them.  My family and I pray for my pastor and his family regularly.  We pray God’s blessings on him, the leadership, and the church as a whole.  This endears my pastor and the church to my kids.  Rather than driving them further from the church, it does the opposite.  There’s an old saying, “If you talk about someone to others, you will grow to hate them.  But, if you talk about someone to God, you grow to love them.”

5)  Serve with joy.

Let them see you smile as you pick up after the party from the night before.  Let them hear you rejoice about the opportunities to serve the Kids Ministry.  Talk about it as a FAMILY ministry.  Don’t let them feel like they are just “helping Mom” or “helping Dad.”  Instead, talk about the difference WE are making.  Include them in the joy that comes from serving God and His church.

It’s a blessing to have your family serving with you in the work of the ministry.  But, never leave the health of your family to chance.  Be PROACTIVE and PURPOSEFUL in planting the seeds of a healthy spirit of gratitude and love for God and the ministry.  It won’t happen by accident!

So, how about you?  What are some of the things YOU do to help your family stay healthy in their spirit and their attitude toward the ministry?  Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post!

What If Your Family Were Shot With 3,192 Paintballs In 5.3 Seconds?

paintball family

This would be a ludicrous question – if it hadn’t actually happened to this family!  It was all done to prove a point – a POWERFUL point!  Watch below and you will understand what I mean…

Movies these days are often filled with gratuitous language, violence, nudity, and suggestive material.  It can be almost impossible for the family to sit down and watch a movie together without being subjected to all of this content.  Well, the people over at VidAngel have innovated the Family Movie Night.  They have introduced a streaming service that allows YOU to be in control of what you watch, see, and hear.  You can “turn on” and “turn off” language, violence, and more.  Just head on over to VidAngel.com to see what I am talking about.

**THIS IS NOT A PAID ADVERTISEMENT!  I JUST REALLY BELIEVE IN WHAT VIDANGEL.COM IS TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH!**

If you would like to check out the “Behind The Scenes” video, check this out:

 

 

10 Common Mistakes Church Staff Members Make

staff-mistakes

If you work (or have worked) on a multiple member staff at a local church, you know that it is not always easy to maintain unity and cohesion among the team.  Much of the reason for that are some of these common mistakes made by church staff members.  Browse the list and give yourself a check-up…

1)  Competing with other staff members.

In staff meeting, they look for opportunities to shoot each other down.  They make the mistake of thinking that to make yourself look good, you have to make them look bad.  That’s not a team.

2)  Using “cut-down” humor – in a public setting

Even when it’s truly a joke between staff members, cut-down humor has no place in a public setting.  Those you lead are watching you.  If you don’t honor each other, they won’t honor you either.  Model the behavior you want them to follow.

3)  Using E-mail for conflict resolution

Bad idea.  E-mail doesn’t communicate emotion well (that’s why they invented those stupid emoticons).  When you may have been trying to say something one way, it can come across totally differently.  The best way to apologize or confront an issue is “Face to Face”; then, you can clear up a misunderstanding quickly without losing friendship

4)  Assuming motives of others

Staff members should always give each other the benefit of the doubt.  When someone wrongs you, assume it was an accident unless proven otherwise.  If you are going to assume a motive, assume the BEST motive.  When the youth pastor takes the van when you had it reserved for your event, don’t immediately assume he “didn’t care about my event or think it was important.”  Assume he just forgot to check the calendar.

5)  Being Defensive

Often we are not very receptive to correction or input from other staff members.

6)  Seeing a weakness and not telling them

If done in the spirit of love and teamwork, it’s not “mean” to help other team members succeed by helping them see their weaknesses.  It is actually CRUEL to allow them to continue to sink in leadership because of a glaring weakness you see but refuse to point out.

7)  Not using the strengths of other staff members

When you are weak in an area, ask for help from a fellow staff member who is strong in that area.  The worst thing you could do is try to fix it yourself simply because you are too proud to admit you need help.

8)  Taking another staff member’s side against the senior pastor or other staff members

9)  Over-promising and under-delivering instead of under-promising and over-delivering

It’s great to be willing to help your fellow team members, but promising to do something and not coming through is worse than not being available in the first place

10)  Not taking the cues that it’s the right time to leave

It’s a tough truth, but chances are you won’t serve the church you are currently serving for the rest of your ministry life.  Often one of the biggest mistakes staff members make is staying beyond the time that they should.  How do you know when it is time?  That’s another post altogether (find it right here).

How’d you do?  Have you made some of these mistakes lately?  It’s time to fix it.  Are there other common mistakes that I missed?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

NEW SPEAKING DATE ADDED: “Georgia Children’s Pastors & Leaders Retreat”

I am excited to be speaking at the Georgia Children’s Pastors & Leaders Retreat; February 12-14, 2015; The King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort, St. Simon’s Island, GA

For More Info:  CLICK HERE