The Unmistakable Benefits Of Longevity In Ministry

Brian 1999

Me and my daughter, Ashton, in my office at church circa April 2000

Today is October 31, 2014.  It was exactly 15 years ago that my wife, Cherith, and I came to Arkansas to be the Kids Pastors at First NLR.  What a ride it has been!  We have been blessed to serve under two incredible pastors, Dr. Alton Garrison (the first 18 months) and Rod Loy (the past 13.5 years).  To serve on such an incredible team (many of whom have been along for MOST of the ride as well) is more of a blessing than I could describe.

There’s something to be said about longevity in ministry – especially longevity in ONE place.  I am so thankful to have been able to remain in one place for this long.  Sadly, this is not the norm.

Probably all of us in ministry have heard the stats, and they are troubling.  The average Children/Youth Minister only stays at his current church for about 18 – 24 months.  Some studies have stated that it may be more like 3 years, and others I have seen say it’s more like 9-11 months.  But suffice it to say, the tenure of the average Children/Youth Minister is way too short.

When you move on too quickly, you miss out on the incredible benefits of longevity in ministry:

  • Improved Perspective – the longer you stay in one place, the greater perspective you have.  You know the history of the ministry – what worked and what didn’t work.  You know the struggles and victories of the people in your ministry.  You are able to minister from an increased awareness of their needs.
  • Deeper Relationships – it takes time to get “beyond the surface” in relationships.  The longer you stay, the more highs and lows you experience with people.  The longer you stay, the more they trust you to “stick it out” and be there for the long haul.  When they trust you, relationships go deeper.
  • Increased Wisdom – the longer you stay, the more mistakes you will make.  Hopefully, you will learn from those mistakes and grow.  Then, you will gain wisdom and not make those same mistakes again.  In addition, it seems that around the 6th or 7th year of being at a place, suddenly people begin to see you as smarter.  You may not be that much smarter, but their perception of you begins to become more of a wise mentor than a “new pastor on staff.”
  • Sharper Skills – many people claim to have “ten years of Children’s Ministry experience” when in actuality they have “2 years of Children’s Ministry experience in five different churches.”  Too many leave a church and move to the next one once they have run out of ideas.  Then, they move to the next church and put the same two years worth of ideas into that church – and so on.  When you commit to be at the same spot for the long haul, it FORCES you to develop your skills beyond your comfort zone.  Your communication skills, leadership skills, and relational skills are stretched when you choose to stay beyond the “itch” for something new.  Don’t go looking for that “something new” elsewhere, develop that “something new” right where you are!
  • Unparalleled Fulfillment - there is nothing that compares to being able to watch the children you minister to grow up and become strong leaders in the church.  I now have had the privilege to perform marriages of kids who grew up in my Kids Ministry.  My right-hand man, our other Kids Pastor here at First NLR, was a 3rd Grader when I came to the church.  In fact, three members of our Pastoral Staff were once kids in my Kids Ministry.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your ministry come full-circle.

Longevity in ministry may be rare, but I believe that is slowly changing.  As Kids Ministry Leaders begin to recognize the benefits of longevity, this will begin to become the norm instead of the exception.  I am so thankful to God that I have had the opportunity to serve First NLR for the past 15 years, and I pray that I have another 15 (or more) left in me!

What about you?  What are some benefits to longevity that I may have missed?

Take This Short Survey – Be Registered For $100 Gift Card

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I am working on a project that I hope will be a blessing to you!  I need your help, though.  I have a SHORT 3 Question survey for you.  If you take the time to take this survey, I will enter you into a drawing for a $100 Chick-Fil-A gift card (think of how many orders of waffle fries and nuggets you could get)!

Look for the results of the survey in an upcoming blog post!  CLICK HERE to take the short survey!

Also, check out the amazing deal I am offering on Only144.com ($1400+ worth of curriculum for only $97 – deal ends this Thursday)

Why Friday, October 17 Is So Important If You Serve in Children’s Ministry

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Mark your calendar for Friday, October 17 at 12:00 p.m. (Noon, Eastern time)

Okay, so this is big news.  I’ve been waiting to share this for over six months now, and the time has finally arrived.  As most of you know, I am the founder of High Voltage Kids Ministry Resources.  This Friday, we are launching the biggest deal in the history of Children’s Ministry curriculum on www.only144.com.  It’s going to be amazing.  You can read more about the deal by clicking here.

Only144 Deal2

In a nutshell, it’s $97 for $1,454+ worth of Children’s Ministry Curriculum from High Voltage Kids Ministry.  That’s 97 lessons for $97…that is unheard of and has never happened before in the history of Children’s Ministry.  We’re only offering this one time for 144 hours.  When it’s over, it’s over forever.  So many churches are on limited budgets, that we wanted to make this something that will bless everyone serving in Children’s Ministry on a limited budget.  Plus, there’s big prizes for the first 100 people who order.  Like a $1,000 gift card from Children’s Ministry Deals for the first person who orders and $100 gift cards from Children’s Ministry Deals for the first 100 people who order.  That’s why Friday, October 17, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. (Noon, Eastern time) is so important if you serve in Children’s Ministry.  Do not miss this.  You will kick yourself if you do.

Do me a favor, and share this blog post with anyone you know who serves in Children’s Ministry.  I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday, October 17!

10 Principles To Help Kids Make WISE Choices

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We all want our kids to be wise.  We train them, talk to them, model for them, do everything we can to instill Godly wisdom and practical intelligence in their minds.  We spend eighteen years (sometimes more) monitoring their every move, correcting when necessary, and preparing for the day we will set them free to go out into the world and make a life of their own.

We hope and trust that the scripture we have quoted numerous times throughout our trials and tribulations of parenthood will come true:

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

But, the question still remains…how do you GUARANTEE that your child will walk in the way they should go?  How do you GUARANTEE that all of the principles, lessons, and wisdom you have poured into them will actually stick with them when they launch out into the world?

After all, we have all seen children who grew up in godly homes, had amazing parents, went to church every single Sunday – and when they left the nest, they ended up walking away from it all – into a lifestyle of sin.

How do you make sure your child doesn’t end up that way?  The truth is – there is no guarantee.  I don’t mean to be a pessimist or to rain on your parade, but it’s true.  There is no guarantee that every child will choose to follow the way that is set before them.  They are individuals.  They make their own decisions.  There is no guarantee in the Scriptures that your child will become a life-long follower of Jesus if only you follow steps 1 thru 3.  It just isn’t in the Bible.

We are a culture obsessed with getting ahead and ensuring a win. We have little tolerance for failure.  We want guarantees on everything – purchases, programs, etc.  We want a 100% money-back guarantee that this will work.  “If you can’t guarantee the weight-loss program, I’m not trying it.”  “If you can’t guarantee that I will get a job on the first interview by using your training program, I am not even giving it an attempt.”  We want guarantees on EVERYTHING – including raising our children to follow Christ and make wise decisions.

It really breaks my heart when I see children raised in Christian families by parents who were desperately trying to raise them the right way – those children walk away from their faith.  In many cases, (though not all) it was the actions and attitudes of the parents that drove their children away from Christ.  The parents’ micromanagement and attempt to control their kid pushed the kid away. In trying to guarantee their child love the Lord and grow up to think exactly like them, the parents became the biggest obstacle in their kids’ spiritual development.

So, now that I have thoroughly depressed you – let me share some things that I have learned.  I want to again remind you that I am NOT an expert.  My children are 14 and 12.  I have SO MUCH still to learn and experience when it comes to parenting.

However, having been a Kids Pastor for 22 years, I have seen a LOT of kids grow up.  I have watched parents train their kids.  I’ve seen kids who have grown into amazing leaders and exemplary Christ followers.  I have also seen many who have fallen away, never to return to faith (not yet anyway).

So, although I cannot make any kind of overarching guarantee about whether or not your child will become the next Billy Graham or Joel Osteen – I do believe there are some basic principles to learn about how to train your children to make wise decisions that will draw them closer to God and help them become life-long followers of Jesus Christ.

In this video, I share 10 principles that will help guide the conversation with our kids when it comes to making decisions that are “in agreement with the Bible, influenced by the Holy Spirit, and promote the spiritual growth of the individual and those they influence.”  

I have included a fill-in-the-blank outline PDF for you – in case you want to play this video for your parents and use it as teaching tool.  How To Talk To Your Kids About Making Wise Choices (OUTLINE)

4 Proven Ways To Get On Your Boss’ Good Side

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Everybody wants to be “in” with the boss.  Nobody wants to be on the outside looking into the boss’ inner-circle.  You want to be someone he trusts.  You want to be someone your boss will call on when he needs feedback, when he has a new initiative he wants to start, or when he wants to bounce off a new idea.

As a Children’s Pastor, it is so important to me that I have a strong personal relationship with my boss – my Senior Pastor.  I think that is something that every staff pastor would want.  The problem is, we often behave as if it is “the boss’ job” to make sure our relationship is strong and healthy.  We don’t always look at what WE need to do in order to make that happen.  For years, I depended on my pastor to be the one to initiate contact and to feed our working and personal relationship.  That was a huge mistake.

As I travel around the country, speaking to kids’ pastors and volunteers, I hear some of them say, “My senior pastor doesn’t get me,” “I’d love to do some big things for our kids’ ministry, but my pastor doesn’t share my vision,” or “If it weren’t for my senior pastor, I’d love serving at my church.” These statements concern me and break my heart, but they also make me wonder if these kids’ ministry leaders are making the same mistake I made.

Senior Pastors don’t come in “one size fits all.”  They have different life experiences, different gifts, different personalities, and different visions for their churches.  But in regards to their relationships with kids’ ministry leaders, some principles apply in virtually all cases.  Here are some commitments I’ve made, and I recommend every kids’ leader make them in this important relationship:

1)  LOOK for opportunities to serve

It’s a mistake to sit on the sidelines and demand that your pastor take the initiative to get you involved in other aspects of church life.  If your pastor is anything like mine, he’ll seldom ask for your help because he doesn’t want to burden you.  There are, however, plenty of needs in the church that could use your expertise and help.  He would appreciate you volunteering to help, especially if it’s in an area that has nothing to do with kids’ ministry.

When I travel with my pastor, I listen and watch to see if I can help in any way.  I can carry some of his bags, make a quick call to check on our next meeting, or help with travel arrangements.  I’m not “brown-nosing” to earn points.  I do these things so that he can focus on more important things.

2)  OFFER accountability instead of forcing him to require it

I don’t know of any senior pastor who enjoys tracking down any member of his staff to check on him or confront him when there’s a problem. In my relationship with Pastor Rod, I was determined to offer accountability instead of forcing him to demand it from me.

When I came to First Assembly, Pastor Rod asked me to email him any time I had a problem of any kind that needed his attention.  In my pride and self-protection, I didn’t want to admit that I had any problems (at all), so I didn’t send him any emails about needs or difficulties.  One day, he found out about an incident in the Kids Ministry.  He was perplexed to hear about it from someone besides me.  When he called me into his office, he had to be an investigator, trying to find out what happened, instead of a partner, helping to resolve it.  My silence had forced him into this role.

Don’t make your pastor play CSI.  Take the initiative to tell him anytime there’s a problem he needs to know about.  When you’re going to be late, call.  When something goes wrong, tell him.  When there’s a problem that’s going to affect other ministries, give him a heads up.

3)  Disagree in private, but never in public

In any working relationship, people have different opinions and plans.  It’s happened plenty of times in my relationship with Pastor Rod.  At one point, we talked about a problem in our Girls Club Ministry.  I believed we needed to do one thing, but he saw it a different way.  He patiently listened to my point of view, but it was his decision, and he didn’t pick my solution.  When I walked out the door and into the meeting with the Girls Club Coordinator, I didn’t say, “Hey, here’s the decision, but it’s Pastor Rod’s, not mine.  Actually, I was on your side.  I wanted to help you, but Pastor Rod insisted we do it his way.” Instead, I represented the decision as ours.  I said, “This is what we decided is the best course of action.”  

Don’t throw your senior pastor under the bus just to earn points with others.

4)  Express heartfelt appreciation

Some kids’ ministry leaders tell me they really enjoy working in their church with their pastor.  I ask, “When was the last time you told him?”  For some, it’s very recent, but others admit it’s been a long time.

Don’t just be thankful—express it in a way that communicates your heart.

For appreciation to be received, it must be sincere.  Don’t just go through the motions and hope it works out okay.  If you’re not feeling thankful, take time to pray.  Ask God for eyes to see what He sees so you can overlook some of the difficulties and really appreciate the phenomenal opportunity to reach kids for Christ in your church.

In the past few years, I’ve tried to make gratitude a normal part of my communication.  I send Pastor Rod thank you notes for all kinds of things and, even more, for being a terrific leader and friend.  Sometimes, I give him small gifts to show my appreciation.  I want him to know that I don’t take him for granted. Notes, words, and gifts let him know I’m very thankful for him, and these things help keep our relationship strong.

How about you?  Which of these four practices do you need to do better?  Which do you do really well?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section of this post.

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

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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?

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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