Do You Suffer From #Kidmin Tunnel Vision?

tunnel vision

I will never forget the Staff Meeting where I confronted my Pastor about why I wasn’t made aware of the big Missions opportunity that the rest of the staff seemed to already know about.  I let him know how upset I was that “those of us who are in Children’s Ministry and aren’t able to be in the Sanctuary on Sundays shouldn’t be kept in the dark.

My pastor kindly asked me, “Brian, did you not read the bulletin the last few weeks?”  I had not.  “Did you read the letter I sent home to every household in our church?”  I did not.  “Have you paid attention in Staff Meeting the last few weeks as we have been talking about it?”  I had not.  I had made the mistake of deciding, “If it isn’t directly related to Kids Ministry, I don’t really need to pay attention to it.”

I made a classic blunder:  Having Tunnel Vision and Missing The BIG Picture.

Turns out it wasn’t my pastors fault I didn’t know about the opportunity.  It was my own.

Every children’s ministry pastor and volunteer has to overcome the obstacle of being isolated to some degree from the mainstream of church life.  We’re passionate about kids and excited about our roles, but it’s easy for us to develop a “silo mentality.”  A silo occurs when each part of an organization becomes self-contained, independent from the others, and fails to coordinate vision, philosophy, and practices.  It can happen in divisions of companies, and it can happen in churches—especially in kids’ ministries.

The leadership term “tunnel vision” is borrowed from the physical condition, which occurs when an individual loses peripheral vision (the ability to see objects on the top, bottom, and sides).  The result is a very constricted field of vision. In organizations, a manager with tunnel vision is zoned-in on his single priority, and he doesn’t see much else.  Being focused is good and helpful, but not in the extreme.

In kids’ ministries, we need to recognize the symptoms of tunnel vision.  If we don’t, we may suffer severe consequences.  Here are some dangers for kids’ pastors and other leaders:

Dangers Of  Tunnel Vision:

  1. We develop a territorial spirit.
  2. We develop a “poor me” mentality
  3. We infect the rest of our Kidmin team.
  4. We fail to support (and may even compete with) the pastor’s vision.
  5. We fail to communicate key information to parents and team members.

Tunnel vision isn’t just an inconvenience.  It’s an acid that eats away at everything good, right, noble, and pure in a leader’s heart, a team’s life, and a ministry’s impact.   Want to beat it?  Want to avoid Kidmin Tunnel Vision?  It’s not enough to sit back and expect your pastor or other staff members to make sure you’re vitally connected with the entire scope of the church’s life.  That’s your responsibility.

Here are some steps you can take to Avoid #Kidmin Tunnel Vision:

1)  Read every available piece of information. – Make it a weekly practice to read the bulletin, newsletters, articles on the website, and anything else that tells what the church is doing.

2)  Ask questions. – If you’re unsure about an upcoming event, a strategy, or any other plan, take the initiative to get an answer to your questions.

3)  Watch or listen to the Sunday morning service. – Most churches record the pastor’s sermon each week. If you can’t attend the service (and most of the time you can’t), make it a priority to listen to the message sometime during the week.  It will keep you connected to the pastor and to the heartbeat of the church.

4)  Pay attention in staff meetings. – Shut down Twitter, Facebook, and your web browser.  You are getting the info you need if you will just LISTEN and document it.

5)  Regularly pray for your pastor and other department leaders. – This choice has made a huge difference in my perspective, my attitude, and my relationships with each person on the team.  They’ve told me the greatest challenges they face in their ministries, and I found out their joys and struggles in their families.  My commitment to pray for them has kept me connected and prevented me from becoming focused only on Kids Ministry.

So, don’t hesitate.  Choose NOW to start these five habits.  They will keep you from falling into the trap of #Kidmin Tunnel Vision, and you will stay vitally connected to your pastor and entire team.

For more on this subject, read my book, “I Blew It!”

Combining Faith With Fun: The Key To Making It Stick

Hey everyone!  Since I am at CPC (Children’s Pastors Conference) in TN this week, I have a guest blog post from a good friend in #Kidmin, Andrew Linder.  Andrew is a husband, a father of four, and a children’s pastor at a thriving church.  Andrew is passionate about intentional parenting and effective children’s ministry.  He blogs about Kids, Family, and Ministry at AndrewScottLinder.com, and he creates children’s ministry resources that combine faith with fun that can be found at KidzBlast.com. 

Andrew-Linder

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned in children’s ministry over the last 13 years is this:

  • Kids engage in what is FUN
  • Kids get excited over what is FUN
  • Kids are greatly influenced by what is FUN
  • Kids remember what is FUN

You may not have caught it, but there is a key to successful children’s ministry, that if we overlook, we miss the boat to effectiveness. You probably guessed it :-)…  FUN!

At our church, our children’s ministry is called KidzBlast – “Combining Faith with Fun!” Kids love to have fun, and what better way to use fun for good than to combine it with faith to make a lasting and memorable impact?

Think about it.

Have you ever noticed how Disney/Pixar/etc. have a “fun” character in nearly every kids’ movie they make, regardless of whether the character’s role is significant in the storyline or not?

  • My kids loved the movie Shrek. And do you know why? It really wasn’t because of Shrek. It was because of, you guessed it, Donkey!
  • My kids went crazy over Despicable Me. Why? One word – Minions!
  • And who doesn’t love the movie Frozen? Why? Another obvious – Olaf!

What it is that makes you want to watch those movies over and over again? I’m going to guess that it’s probably not the great storyline that draws you back in time after time.

It’s those fun characters that make our kids (and us) want to watch those movies over and over again. Without them, the movie, although having the same storyline, would be far less appealing and attention grabbing, and certainly less memorable. As much as you love Frozen, you probably wouldn’t be drawn to watching it over and over again with your kids if it weren’t for the fun that Olaf brings to the entire story.

So my question for you today is this – Why aren’t we making faith fun for our kids? I understand that fun is not the reason we exist as a church or a ministry, and we could teach the same stories every week without it. However, it will be far less appealing and attention grabbing, and certainly less memorable.

Whether we like it or not, we are in a sense competing with the entertainment industry for the hearts and minds of our children today. Just like a kid goes to school the next day after watching a movie and can’t be muzzled for talking so much about it nonstop… that ought to be our desire in ministry as well.

The kids in our classes on Sunday morning ought not be able to keep quiet on Monday morning about what they did and learned and how much fun they had in church the day before. Fun makes faith sticky! And isn’t that what we really want? We want our influence to stick.

A few months ago, when one of our first time bus riders was dropped of at her door, her father asked her, “So, how’d it go?” Her response, “BEST DAY EVER!!!” That’s the way it should be when we combine faith with fun in our ministry.

So, what will you do this Sunday to combine faith with fun? It might just be the one thing more than any other that makes your message stick.

I’d love to hear your input by you leaving a comment. What are some ways you’ve successfully combined faith with fun in your ministry?

Most Popular Posts Of 2014

2014-2015

It’s hard to believe, but 2014 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 2014.  It was a banner year for this blog as we added thousands of new followers.  Here are the TOP FIVE posts from 2014.

#1 Post of 2014:  “Should Kids Ministry Leaders Drink Alcohol?”

#2 Post of 2014:  “Disney Channel Introduces First Lesbian Couple On A Kids Show”

#3 Post of 2014:  “Are Church Fall Festivals Actually Counter-Productive”

#4 Post of 2014:  “Talking To Kids About SEX”

#5 Post of 2014:  “3 Reasons You Need To Stop Telling Everyone You Need Help”

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 2015!

I would love to hear from you!  What topics would YOU like me to cover in 2015?  Leave a comment here!  I will choose one comment at random to win a $100 Shopping Spree on our High Voltage Kids Ministry store!

Too Many Pastors Are Overweight

Pastors Overweight

I figured that headline would get your attention.  But, sadly it is true.  Certainly not all, but an overwhelming majority (76%) of pastors (male and female) answered a recent poll that they would call themselves “obese.”  In addition, many of them don’t feel confident behind the pulpit, don’t feel attractive to their spouse, aren’t taking a day off, have trouble sleeping, are lacking exercise regularly, and have minimal know-how to fueling their bodies.

I can certainly say that not too long ago – I was in the same boat.  I finally came to the realization that change was never going to happen to me – I had to MAKE change happen.  With God’s help, I was able to make some drastic changes in my life, exercise and eating habits.  This past year, I lost nearly 20 pounds and completed my first 26.2 mile marathon.

For those of you that say, “I just don’t know where to start!”  I totally understand.  I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Ricky Van Pay.  He is a personal fitness coach and chaplain that launched fitpastors.com to specifically help pastors achieve their health and fitness goals.

I highly recommend you check it out!  Ricky has a coaching huddle starting in January designed to a LIMITED number (only 100) of pastors and ministers.  To check it out CLICK HERE!

I know that many of you are planning to get in shape in 2015.  I am believing that you WILL achieve your health and fitness goals so that you can build a sustainable life pace and be effective long-term for the Kingdom.  If you want a coach, Ricky and fitpastors.com may very well be a good fit for you.

FREE Christmas Resources From OneHope

OneHope Christmas

Hey everybody!  Christmas is only one week away!  Can you believe it?  I know that many of you are working hard at putting the fine touches on your Christmas service this Sunday!  My friends at OneHope.net want to help you out by providing FREE resources for you.  Just go to http://onehope.net/feature/christmas-resources/ and check out what they have provided.  There is everything from coloring pages to parent resources.  Merry Christmas, everybody!

What Does God Think About Your Child?

god-think-about-your-child

In each of the gospels, we find Jesus pouring himself into the lives of children.  Many times, the disciples and religious leaders tried to chase the kids away and pull Jesus back into “real” ministry.  But Jesus corrected them: “Let the children come to me, do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  Even when crowds of people gathered around Jesus to be touched and healed, He stopped to lay hands on children, hold them in His arms, and bless them.

We sing “Jesus Loves The Little Children” for a reason.  Throughout Scripture, it’s very clear that God values children much more than the adults do—especially the religious leaders, but also the disciples.  Jesus warned them, “If one of these little children believes in me, and someone causes that child to sin, it would be better for that person to have a large stone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea” (Mark 9:42).  Jesus was serious about protecting, loving, and nurturing children.

In the culture of first century Palestine, people considered children to be a nuisance, but Jesus recognized the value of each child.  He knows that there is more to children than just their playful nature and innocence.  Inside each one is the soul that’s precious to the Father.  When I speak to parents and other adults, I often challenge them with these words: “Whatever is important to God should be important to you.  Do your actions demonstrate that you believe children are important to God?”  I encourage adults to ask themselves:

— Is my schedule too full to take time to show love to a child?

— Am I too busy with “real” ministry to get involved in training children in God’s Word and ways?

— When I see a hurting child in the hallway, do I stop and put my arm around him or her, or do I just keep going?

It doesn’t take a “special calling” to demonstrate God’s love to a child.  If we’re truly Christ’s followers, His priorities become our priorities, and the things that break His heart break ours.  Children are important to God, and they should be important to each of us.

3 Things I Tell EVERY Volunteer

3-things-post

Part of the process for joining our Kids Ministry team is a personal sit-down interview with me, the Kids Pastor.  I want to personally know every person who serves on our team – whether that is in an up-front or behind-the-scenes capacity.  During this interview, I always stress three important principles that I hope will guide their decisions while serving in ministry:

1)  Always Strive For Excellence

We try to live Colossians 3:23 on a daily basis:  “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.”  In every part of Kids Ministry, our goal is EXCELLENCE.  That means we arrive early, we give 110% energy during service, and we go above and beyond what would be “expected of us.”  When you have a lesson to teach, skit to perform, or song to sing – you are expected to practice and be well-prepared.  No “winging it!”  God deserves our best, and so do the children.

2)  Never forget:  “The little eyes are always watching.”

We have over 800 kids that attend our church regularly.  It’s impossible to go ANYWHERE in our city without running into one of them.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:6: “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  We have to be conscious of every word, action, reaction, and attitude we display whether we are at church, in the grocery story, or at the movies.  You never know when one of these kids’ eyes are on you.  You want to set the RIGHT example for them – whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This goes for Social Media posts as well.  I remind our leaders that the parents of the children in our church (and, sadly some of the kids themselves) are on Social Media.  I want my leaders to make sure that EVERY post reflects the character of Christ.  I ask them to refrain from “rants,” pictures, jokes, etc. that may seem to be the norm on Social Media.  As a leader of children, I want them to realize the impact that a seemingly “harmless” (yet inappropriate) post can cause.  I don’t want them to do anything that would damage their reputation, their leadership, or the Kingdom.

3)  Ministry Moments Can Happen At ANY Time

Don’t think that ministry can only happen in the Kids’ Ministry Service Time.  You never know when God will open a door for you to minister to a child.  You might see the child in the Party Zone sitting by themselves, and you can go over and talk to them and cheer them up.  You might see the child walking through the church halls and can tell they need encouragement.  You might even feel like God is leading you to send the child a card during the week to let them know you are praying for them.  There are MANY opportunities to make a difference in a child’s life.  Look for those ministry moments, both inside and outside the service.

I share these three things with EVERY person who serves in Kids Ministry.  How about you?  What are the principles that you hope will guide the decisions of your team as they minister to His children?  Please SHARE those in the comments section of this post!

Family Advent Project: “Christmas Prayer Chain”

Christmas Prayer Chain

Looking for a great and easy-to-do project for your family this Christmas?  My wife, Cherith, started this Christmas tradition in our family when my kids were just babies.  It has meant a lot to our family, and I hope you will find it meaningful as well.  I have had several requests to post this again, so here you go:

“CHRISTMAS PRAYER CHAIN”

What you need:

25 strips of construction paper (approx 2 inches wide and six inches long); a sharpie marker; glue

What to do:

1)  Prior to Dec. 1st, gather your kids together and take turns naming the name of someone the family will pray for (friends, family, pastors, teachers, and others)

2)  Write one name on each strip of construction paper, then glue each strip together end-to-end, linking each to make a long paper chain (see graphic above).

3)  Place the Christmas Prayer Chain on the mantle or on the Christmas Tree

4)  Starting Dec. 1st, gather the family together to remove one link of the chain and pray together for the person listed on that link.

5)  This is a wonderful way to countdown the days until Christmas and have meaningful family prayer time.

May you and your family enjoy your Christmas holiday!

How To Kill An Invisible Gorilla

gorilla

OK, now before the folks at PETA start picketing my blog – let me explain.

Ever heard the expression “monkey on my back”?  It refers to a problem or irritation that just won’t seem to go away.  A looming deadline, a staffing issue, a recurring problem.  These “monkeys” can be irritating.

However, I am not talking about those little “monkeys” in this blog.  Have you ever woke up with such heaviness, such a weight bearing down on you it’s like a 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  You know that you have something huge to face today – a huge interview, a confrontational conversation, a major report or writing project.  It is such a BIG DEAL that you almost have to give yourself a pep talk just to get out of bed and face the day.

Those “invisible gorillas” can steal your joy, distract your thinking, and zap your motivation.  The obvious answer to kill this gorilla is prayer.  When I hit my knees and “cast my cares upon Him” (Psalm 55:22), I feel that load lift.  God will take the weight of that “invisible gorilla” and replace it with His comfort and peace.  After all, Jesus promised us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Another secret weapon I have for killing those “invisible gorillas” is music.  There’s something liberating and joyous about music that gets me fired up.  I have one song in particular that has been a “gorilla killer” for many years.  It is Donnie McClurkin’s “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” (click on the link to find it i-Tunes).  Although I am definitely a ROCKER at heart, this black gospel song just gets me revved up – and the invisible gorilla just disappears as I remember that God is in control!!!

What about you?  What do you do to kill the invisible 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  What song do you play that just instantly changes the mood and gets you motivated to slay the gorilla?  Share your comments below.