Make Ministry Simple, Not Easy

Simple

Today’s post is written by Jeffrey Kranz and sponsored by Disciplr, a new interactive curriculum platform for KidMin leaders. Check out their free ebook for Sunday school teachers!

It’s a blessing and a curse to be a leader in this day and age, isn’t it?

It’s a blessing because it seems like almost every area of life is getting easier. It’s a curse because you’re expected to make things exponentially easier for your volunteers, too!

That makes sense, though. Almost everything is getting easier.

  • I can’t remember the last time I had to ask for directions. (Thanks, Google!)
  • I can keep in contact with all my old friends and make new ones around the world. (Thanks, Twitter!)
  • I’m automatically reminded of my next appointment. (Thanks, Siri!)

 

But ministry? I don’t think ministry is getting easier—for leaders or volunteers.

It seems like no matter how advanced the technology gets for the local church, ministry is still tough work. (And this is coming for a guy who has worked for two software companies that specialize in ministry tools!)

But that begs the question: Should ministry be easy in the first place?

Ministry isn’t easy in the Bible

I suppose it makes sense that ministry isn’t necessarily easy. “Ministry” literally means “service,” and service usually involves some work!

Plus, when I look at what some of the characters in the Bible experienced while they did ministry, “easy” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind.

  • Ministry wasn’t easy for the prophets. The Israelites planned to kill Moses a few times. Jeremiah was thrown in a pit. Daniel was thrown to the lions. Elijah was considered an enemy of the state.
  • Ministry wasn’t easy for the apostles, either. James was beheaded. John was exiled. Peter was crucified. Paul had quite the list of hardships (2 Corinthians 11:23–29).
  • Ministry definitely wasn’t easy for Jesus!
  • Paul doesn’t think ministry will be easy for the people he taught, either. He tells Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

 

Ministry isn’t easy. It probably never will be.

So what can leaders do?

Your volunteers see everything getting easier around them, and they’re going to expect ministry to keep pace. How can you, as a leader, help them out—even though ministry will never be easy?

I can think of one huge way you can help them:

If you can’t make it easier, make it simpler.

 

Easy vs simple

“Easy” and “simple” are often thrown around as synonyms. However, when it comes to ministry, there’s a difference.

“Easy” means something takes less work.

“Simple” means something is less complex or convoluted.

You can make lots of things easier. But for the stuff that’s irreducibly hard work (like ministry!), you can always look for ways to make the process less complex.

For example: many people are afraid of public speaking—it’s been said that people are more afraid of public speaking than death and spiders! You won’t make that easier for the brave volunteers who agree to teach large group.

But you can make the process simpler for them. You can get them a script ahead of time. You can have all the props ready to go backstage (or onstage). You can do a mic check before the session begins. You can put a clock in the back of the room so they know how they’re doing on time!

You see the difference? You’re not making it easier for the volunteer to speak in public. But you are making the whole process surrounding the hard work a lot less complex. There’s less that the volunteer needs to think about—they’re free to focus on what they need to do.

It’s simpler.

You won’t make ministry easier. But you can definitely make it simple.

3 ways to simplify your children’s ministry

There are many ways you can start making your children’s ministry simpler. Here are a few to consider as you gear up for the beginning of the school year.

Consider fewer programs

Church consultant Tony Morgan recently warned churches not to launch too many programs this fall. Consider how many programs you have going on—and how your volunteers are spread across them. Is there a way for you to consolidate your programs? Can you cut some of the good programs to make the others great?

Make an internal communication strategy

Take an afternoon and plan out when you will send messages to your team. The more consistent you are in your messaging, the more consistent your volunteers can be in reading and responding to your messages! Some messages you will want to strategize may include:

  • Weekly reminder of Sunday morning’s agenda
  • Monthly lesson assignments
  • Encouraging notes for the team

Take an afternoon to determine when the best times might be to send these (and other) to your volunteers. By being consistent, you make the whole ministry experience simpler for your volunteers—they know when they’ll hear from you!

Consolidate your systems and services

It’s easier for volunteers to buy into one platform than many! While some of your volunteers will be quicker to pick up on digital tools than others, even the tech-savviest of them don’t want to get bogged down with too many platforms and services.

(This is one of the reasons we made Disciplr. It’s a single platform that handles all the shopping for Sunday school lessons, managing volunteers, and even your shopping lists for classroom materials. Plus, the lessons are cloud-based, so your volunteers don’t need to think about hunting down attachments in their inboxes.)

If you consolidate the tools you use, your volunteers will have less of a hassle learning the ropes—and you won’t find it as difficult to retain them! Again, this doesn’t make the ministry itself easier, but it sure does make it simpler!

Conclusion

Volunteers want to serve. And though you can’t make ministry easy, there are plenty of ways you can make it simpler for them!

And if you’re interested in getting some more tips for growing as a KidMin leader, I recommend you check out Greg Baird’s free guide: 8 Qualities of a Great Sunday School Teacher.

8-Qualities-Cover

4 Reasons The Kids In Your Ministry Are Misbehaving

child misbehavior

We’ve all been there.  It’s Sunday Morning, and you are ready for an awesome day of ministry to the kids in your church.  But, things just didn’t go according to plan.  Johnny wouldn’t stop throwing paper airplanes, Suzi wouldn’t stop talking to her neighbor, and the Jones kid decided to bring a laser pointer and virtually blind you while you were teaching.  It seemed like the entire class had obviously eaten a dozen powdered donuts for breakfast and were on a major sugar high.

Now, when this happens you have a choice to make.  You can get angry, threaten to quit, or bury your head in your pillow for the rest of the day.  OR, you could ask yourself – “Why were the kids acting this way?”  The truth is, there are several common reasons why kids misbehave in class…

Common Reasons For Misbehavior

1) A Desire to Belong

One of kids’ greatest desires is to connect with their peers.  Sometimes a child’s misbehavior results from a mistaken assumption that an inappropriate action will help gain peer recognition. When kids feel disconnected from a group, misbehavior is often actually a misguided tactic to belong: “If I refuse to participate, others will think I’m cool, and I’ll fit in with the group.”

2) Lack of Direction

Unclear rules, inconsistent enforcement, and lack of consequences can ignite misbehavior.  If kids believe they’ll get away with inappropriate behavior, and there’s a history of tolerance without repercussions, the spark of misbehavior can spread like a wildfire.

3) Environment

Sometimes the room arrangement encourages kids to act out.  Seating arrangements, physical distractions, and space issues can lead to a child’s poor behavior choice.  One church had kids who constantly goofed off in chairs during class time.  Their leader removed the chairs and had kids sit on the floor.  This simple change eliminated the distraction and kids were instantly more engaged in the teaching.  Group chemistry and personal circumstances may also create a hostile environment.

4) Boredom

If kids aren’t engaged in learning, they’ll engage in something else.  And an unprepared leader is a doormat just waiting to be stepped on.

Successful Discipline comes down to two words: Clear Expectations

There is no way that kids can be expected to be held accountable to follow rules that are never clearly communicated to them.

Keep It SIMPLE

Don’t develop so many rules that kids can’t remember them from week to week. The rules I have used my entire ministry are the C.O.O.L. Rules

Care about your neighbor – don’t be a space invader

Only get out of your seat when you have permission

Obey the leader and don’t interrupt

Let’s work together – and be WINNERS!

To help kids understand, ask them what it looks like to follow the stated rules.  For example, “Care about your neighbor and don’t be a space invader.”  Ask kids, “What does this rule look like?”

Keep It CONSISTENT

Wavering in your discipline approach weekly causes confusion with the kids. Being extra sensitive and calling down everyone one week, then being extra care-free and allowing all kinds of disruptions will NOT help your kids at all. Be consistent.

Keep It FAIR

Many of our kids face life with a list of personalities, disorders, and issues attached to them. Each week may bring a different set of behavioral problems and challenges in your class. In the heat of the moment it can be easy to label the child instead of the inappropriate behavior.

Take care when confronting a child about his or her misbehavior.  Announcing to the class that Sally’s a chatterbox when she constantly talks out of turn doesn’t model respect and may inflict damage to her developing sense of self.  Instead, remind Sally that one of the class rules is to be respectful and when she talks out of turn, her behavior is disrespectful.

Consequences

If you want kids to follow your policy, follow through with established consequences. Consequences help kids own their behavior and teach them to make better choices. Here are the established steps to follow when applying consequences.

  • Remind the child of the rule they have broken.
  • Official Warning
  • Move the child to a different seat
  • Remove the child from the room (bring them to office)
  • Pastor discussion
  • Parent meeting
  • Suspension for one week
  • Suspension for three weeks
  • Permanent suspension

Above all, let’s take a POSITIVE approach.

You get what you celebrate!  So, don’t blame the kids when they misbehave.  Take a step back, evaluate your approach, and modify it accordingly.  Good luck out there!

Brain Science & The Bible: Are They Enemies?

Brain vs Bible

 

I will never forget sitting in the company of a preacher while I was in Bible College.  This preacher railed against Science and technology.  He viewed them as vehement enemies of the Kingdom of God.  He firmly believed that any sort of connection between Science and The Bible was a lie.

Growing up in a Spirit-led church community, I often heard arguments against “those churches who plan and prepare their services.”  It was believed that those who use their human minds to plan Church services were “not allowing God’s Spirit to lead them.”  The assumption, of course, was that God is not interested in the human brain and any suggestion that God would speak ahead of time to lead a pastor as to what He wanted to do in a particular service was just not probable.

Although I am a FULL believer in the commands of God to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) and to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), I think to dismiss any value of our human brain which was created by God in all of its complexity – would be a huge mistake.  God created us with a brain for a reason.  It was not to rely on human wisdom alone.  But, it was to be led by the Spirit to use the brain and all of its catecholamines, action potentials, and neuroplasticity for HIS glory!

Throughout history, there have been incredible minds that have intersected the study of God’s creation with the study of the scriptures:

  • St. Thomas Aquinas and his work regarding Aristotle and the formulation of natural law
  • Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method
  • Albert Einstein (though not a Christian, stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

The fact is, “God gave us a brain not just because our body needed a command and control center to direct it but because God enjoys seeing us steward our brains for his glory.” (Dr. Charles Stone, Brain Savvy Leaders).

Why is understanding the human brain so important?

1.  What goes on in our minds can cause us to stumble.

“But he turned to Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan.  You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.'”Matthew 16:23

2.  We are to love God with our minds.

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” – Matthew 23:37

3.  Our spiritual battle largely occurs in our minds.

“But I see a different law at work in my body.  It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body.” – Romans 7:23

4.  Spirituality engages the mind.

“If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind isn’t productive.  What should I do?  I’ll pray in the Spirit, but I’ll pray with my mind too; I’ll sing a psalm in the Spirit, but I’ll sing the psalm with my mind too.” – 1 Corinthians 14:14-15

5.  We’re to purposefully focus our minds’ attention on certain things, and attention is a core component of learning.  In other words, thinking affects behavior.

“Think about the things above and not the things on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things:  all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.”  – Philippians 4:8

This is why I have enjoyed reading the book, “Brain Savvy Leaders:  The Science of Significant Ministry.”  Dr. Stone began his interest in the human brain when his daughter, Tiffany, developed a brain tumor.  As he began to see the human brain for what it is – a fantastic creation by our Heavenly Father that is to be used by human beings for His glory – he embarked on a journey of deeper understanding of what it means to be a good steward of this powerful human organ.

Here is what several leading voices are saying about this book:

“Brain Savvy Leaders is the best book I have read on the brain science of healthy thinking and effective leadership.  Dr. Stone has done an incredible job of balancing modern brain science with biblical truth, making complex ideas simple to understand, and providing practical tools to enhance mental performance.” – Dr. Timothy R. Jennings, President, Tennessee Psychiatric Association

“This book will help you with emotional regulation, personal productivity, team collaboration, and change management.  It’s a winner!” – Dan Reiland, Author of Amplified Leadership

“Brain Savvy Leaders shares helpful tips on how to master leadership in the church.  I needed this book.” – Ron Edmondson, Senior Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Lexington, KY

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for those who want to gain a better understanding between the Science of the human brain and its Divine purpose!

Purchase your copy of Brain Savvy Leaders by Dr. Charles Stone HERE!

Brain Savvy Leaders

 

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT About My New Book

I have been working the last two years on my new book, Talk Now And Later: How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics.”  I firmly believe this book is going to be a GAME CHANGER for all Christian Parents!

Children today are being bombarded by messages that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Parents (and grandparents who are now parenting their grandkids) feel completely overwhelmed as they try to navigate the difficult waters of conversation with their kids about very difficult topics.  That’s why I wrote this book!  To help parents and grandparents lead kids through topics like SEX, self-Image, death, bullying, divorce, and more.  You don’t have to GUESS how to communicate with your kids about these subjects.  I have taken my 23 years of Children’s Pastoring experience (and my experience as a father of two children) and put it in this book to help you.

Here is the basic message of the book:

  1. Parents need to understand that it is far better to be PROactive in having conversations about these tough topics than to simply be REactive when a crisis hits their family.
  2. The way to pave the way for those BIG conversations in the future is to have many many small conversations as your child grows (about these tough topics), giving them a little at a time and building the foundation for meaningful conversation later.
  3. Parents must have their radar on all the time, looking for open doors and cues that their children will give them that “now is the time to enter through the door and have a small, meaningful conversation.”  Seize that moment!
  4. Parents should realize that EVERY conversation can be a Spiritual conversation.  God can use every conversation to shape their child’s future.

I am so honored that Dr. Michelle Anthony wrote the Foreword for my book.  She is the best-selling author of “Spiritual Parenting” and “Becoming A Spiritually Healthy Family.”  I am very excited about this book becoming a resource for every Christian parent.

The book officially releases to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Retailers on September 1st. However, YOU get a chance to get it RIGHT NOW!  For a limited time, you can get an autographed copy of the book for only $15!  PLUS, you’ll receive it within the next couple of weeks…WAY before the rest of the world!

Want to download a FREE chapter of the book?  Click here!

You can order your copy HERE and have it before anyone else!

So, get your copy of “Talk Now And Later” today 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.  I can’t wait to hear the stories of what God is going to do as you “Talk Now AND Later!”

Here’s a quick video to tell you more:

 

A Children’s Pastor’s Response To The Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

gay marriage

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that marriage between homosexual couples would be legally recognized in all fifty states. No doubt, our kids are hearing all about this topic both on the TV and, many times, on the playground.  It’s hard for any parent to control the context in which their child may have conversations regarding this important topic.

Many Christian parents have struggled with the question, “How do I talk to my kids about this?” Likewise, many Children’s Pastors have struggled with the question, “What is my responsibility in this? Should I discuss ‘Gay Marriage’ with the children in my Kids Church?”

Some thoughts for Children’s Pastors:

I think you have to be careful what issues you are addressing in Children’s Church “as a group.”  So many children are at different points in the journey regarding both mental and emotional maturity.  When you address something as weighty and serious as homosexuality and gay marriage to a large group of kids, it is very difficult to do so in a way that is appropriate for EVERY child.

In addition, many parents (as they should) want to be THE ones to discuss topics such as this with their kids.  I understand, many parents DON’T ever discuss it with their kids.  That’s unfortunate.  However, you don’t want to undercut parents by addressing it publicly in a large group of kids.  This should be something that parents include in their general talks about “Biblical Sexuality” with their kids.

Of course, if a child asks you a direct question about it – treat that just like you do any other question about sex or sexuality.  Answer with, “I would be happy to share my thoughts with you about this subject.  Let’s talk to Mom or Dad when they come to pick you up.  Perhaps together, we can answer your questions in a healthy way.”  Then, follow the cues of the parent.  If they do not wish to discuss it right then and there, follow their lead.  Allow them to do so on their own terms and in their own timing.

An alternative to discussing this with the large group is to offer a special class or “discussion” in which you allow parents to sign their kids up to attend.  Encourage parents to attend with their children.  Rather than coming at the topic in a negative manner (i.e. “We are AGAINST gay marriage”, etc.), discuss the topic within the overall umbrella of God’s plan for our sexuality (“God created male and female to complement one another.  Marriage is the life-long commitment between one man and one woman.”).

The topic of “gay marriage” and “homosexuality” is a difficult one for kids.  Yes, it is becoming much more commonplace and a topic that they are hearing more and more about, but it is also very polarizing.  While we don’t ever shy away from the Truth, we also must be wise and careful when dealing with the youngest among us.  We want clarity, not confusion.

Some thoughts for Christian Parents:

Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not be aware of the Supreme Court decision. They may or may not be aware of the subject of “Gay Marriage” at all.  Don’t feel pressure to bring the topic up to your child simply because it is in the news, all over Social Media, etc.  Your child may be too young to even consider the conversation.

If your child asks you a question about it, address it. However, if your child is in the 4th Grade or above – they are GOING to hear about it. Kids love to talk about things that seem “taboo,” so it is better for you to be the FIRST one to speak with your children about this issue. It’s a lot harder to deal with when you are having to UNDO the misinformation your child may have already received from friends or the media.

As you have this conversation, remember:

  • Don’t freak out! – Don’t overreact and freak out! I see too many parents flip out over things like this. Don’t go on a diatribe about the “liberal agenda” and the “LGBT Conspiracy.” Just calmly share with them how, although some people choose to live their lives in contradiction to what God planned and the Bible teaches – our goal should be to pray for them, show them God’s love, and display God’s character in everything we do. Don’t flip out! Children take their emotional cues from you, the parent. Although there is reason to be concerned about our nation and community regarding this issue, God is STILL on the throne. There is no need to panic!
  • Don’t only give PART of the story! – Don’t simply say, “We believe that Homosexuality is a sin.” Explain to them what “sin” really is – “CHOOSING to live outside of God’s plan and purpose for your life.” Sin is the willful choice to disobey God’s commands. Revisit the story of Adam and Eve and how sin and temptation has been a problem for human beings since the beginning of time. Remind them that, although people make choices that are the opposite of what God has commanded, Jesus came to die on the cross so that ALL sin can be forgiven. All we must do is admit our sin, receive forgiveness, and CHOOSE to follow Jesus every day!
  • Don’t focus on the DON’T! – More important than the fact that “We DON’T believe that ‘Gay Marriage’ is right,” children need to hear what we DO believe. They need to hear that God has a plan for marriage. He created male and female and desires that they come together for a life-long partnership with God as the Head. God wants to bless the family unit with His presence on a daily basis. It is a sacred institution, and no law, decree, or court can change what God has planned since the Creation of the human race.

A reminder for us all:

Children are watching you during this critical time. In fact, THE WORLD is watching Christians during this time.  If they see you addressing this issue with anger, bitterness, or (God forbid) hatred in your words or tone of voice, that will send a confusing message to them.  After all, God is Love.  He created EVERY man, woman, boy, and girl.  He loves them ALL!

Remember that Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT) states, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

That is our mandate as the Church….to speak God’s truth with love.  Just because the truth of God’s word is different from the beliefs of others or the ruling of a court doesn’t mean we should join with others who choose to resort to name-calling, picketing, belittling and hate. As children of God, we need to be careful that our speech, tweets and posts are speaking the truth in love. We need to T.H.I.N.K. before we tweet.

The Church should respond in the same way that God instructed the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We can’t force others to be humble – but we can be humble.

We can’t make people pray and seek His face – but we can.

We can’t force people to turn from their wicked ways, but we can and should clean up our own lives.

When we do, God promises, He will hear from Heaven and heal our land.

The answer to this world’s problems and America’s problems is Jesus. Share Jesus. Share His love. Share the difference He has made in your life. Trust that when people encounter His grace – they, too, will be changed!

T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post/Tweet

THINK Before Post

Rarely does a day go by when I don’t open Social Media and see tweets and posts from Christians that I read and wonder, “Did they even take a nanosecond to think what those who see or read this will think?”  Posts like:

“I’ve never met such a hateful & cold-hearted person in my life.”

“You know how to put me in the worst mood possible.”

“I’ve put up with this [stuff] for too long. I’m tired of it.”

“The more you talk, the more convinced I become that pushing you down a set of stairs would solve a lot of problems.”

“I swear I want to choke slam some [people] sometimes.”

Now, before you start in on “What’s wrong with teenagers these days…” EVERY one of those posts were taken from Christian ADULTS Facebook and Twitter feeds – not kids.  In fact, I even shudder sometimes when I read Facebook posts by PASTORS and Leaders.

I don’t know why it is this way – but, when something happens in life that irritates you or bothers you – you immediately take to Social Media and vent your frustration.  Years ago people would use a diary for that.  With a diary, you were able to write down your feelings, frustrations, and thoughts – but then you locked it and put it away where no one else would read.  Now, many people take ZERO time to think before they post.   Something happens, and they immediately pull out their phone and fire off their angry rant about their coworker, family member, or the government!

The sad thing is, I don’t think some Christians understand that when you post on social media – people form their perception of you (and often, their perception of Jesus Christ) from that post.  You may have two or three of your close friends in mind when you post that rude statement, but there are hundreds of people who see it.  Not only your friends, but friends of your friends who don’t know much about you – other than what you post.  Some people need to cancel their Social Media accounts and just go buy a diary.  

Here’s the sad truth – one of the biggest reasons the unchurched stay away from church is Christians who don’t talk (or post) like Christians – Christians whose faith hasn’t made it to their mouth – or their keyboard.  A follower of Jesus Christ should sound different from the person who has no relationship with Jesus.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you should sound different:

  • When you are angry
  • When you are disappointed
  • When you are treated unfairly
  • When someone makes a mistake
  • When someone sins or fails
  • When you are talking about others
  • When you respond to someone who is hurting

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, others should hear it in your words in any situation.  If your relationship with Jesus Christ is genuine, it should affect your speech – and your posts.  You should put much more thought into every word you speak and every word you type.  Your words have power.  When you open your mouth before you engage your brain, it leads to disaster.  It can ruin your life – and the person who is the object of your words.

The Bible has a term for “Speaking Without Thinking.”  It’s called “Careless Words.”  Jesus addressed the subject of “careless words” in Matthew 12:36-37

Matt.12:36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Your words are not “just words.”  One day, you will stand before the Heavenly Father and give account for every word – even your careless words.  On that day, what will your words reveal?  Jesus said your words will either acquit you or condemn you.  Which will it be? 

James picked up where Jesus left off…

Jam.1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Your unfiltered, careless words invalidate your faith.  Those who listen to your unfiltered words and read what you post look at you and think, “Is that what it is to be a Christian? I don’t think so.”  If we really understood this, how differently would we approach the words we type into that space and hit “post.”

I want to share with you some questions to ask yourself before you speak.  It will serve as your filter for your words and help you to stop speaking before you THINK.  If you stop, think, and run everything you are about to say, tweet, or post through this grid BEFORE you do it – it could save you and others a lot of harm.  I must be honest with you.  These questions are hanging in just about every Elementary School in America.  There are posters to help your kids learn this concept.  The schools may not realize it, but every single aspect of this grid is rooted in scripture.  So, let’s use the word “T.H.I.N.K.” to help you install a filter on your words.

Here are several questions to ask before you post something on Social Media:

Is what I am about to post…

True?

  • If it isn’t true – don’t say it.
  • If it’s only partially true, but it’s embellished so as to make you look good or important – don’t say it.
  • If it is a technical truth, but the major portion of facts are left out so as not to incriminate you – don’t say it.

Helpful?

  • Is what you are planning to say helpful to the listener?  It may be true, but is it helpful?
  • Some people make excuses for their gossip simply because it is true. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it is helpful.

Inspiring?

  • Your words can either build up or tear down.
  • There are a lot of unfiltered words being spoken that are focused on tearing others down.  Followers of Jesus should thoughtfully speak words that inspire others and build them up according to their needs.
  • Imagine the perspectives you could change – the lives you could change – if you put more thought into the words you speak and tried to inspire those who would hear it.

Necessary?

  • This might just be the first question you need to ask.  Is it necessary?  If not, it most likely would be best left unsaid.Prov. 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
  • Ask, “Lord, do I need to keep quiet and not say anything?”  If you aren’t sure whether what you are about to say is necessary, don’t say anything.  Just be quiet.  Hold your tongue.  That makes you wise!

Kind?

  • Is what I am about to say harsh? Or, is it gentle and kind?
  • Harsh, unfiltered words are always better left unsaid.

Listen, this is hard stuff.  I understand.  It’s been a life-long struggle for me.  On my own, I can’t do it.  On your own, you can’t do it.

Jam.3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

“No man can tame the tongue”.  Do you know what that means?  It means, “No man can tame the tongue.”  This is not easy.  You can’t do this by yourself.  This is not an “I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution and never speak negatively again” kind of thing.  This is not a “Pick up a tip from Dr. Phil or Oprah kind of thing.”

The Truth is: You need God’s help to filter your words – to help you THINK before you speak/post.

 My prayer is – that my words – and your words will reveal a follower of Jesus Christ – one that others would hear and say, “I want to be a part of that.”  This week, don’t let any unfiltered words come out of your mouth – or on your Facebook wall.  In fact, T.H.I.N.K. hard this week.  Use every conversation, every post, to “build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Book Review: “How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible”

Keith Ferrin

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!  He just released a brand new book this week titled “How To Enjoy Reading The Bible.”  It’s an incredible read 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!”

You will LOVE this book.  It will cause you to fall in love with an even BETTER book – The Bible!

Here’s the cool thing – Keith is so convinced you will love this book he is giving away a TON of FREE stuff if you purchase it this week!  All you have to do is visit Keith’s blog HERE to find out how you can get 8 FREE gifts just for purchasing the book this week.  I highly recommend this book!  It will revolutionize your Bible reading!

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Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?

Phil Vischer - Vantage

I am at Awana’s “Vantage Conference” and had the privilege of listening to a legend of Children’s Ministry, Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible?).  Phil told a story that gripped my heart.

Ted Turner (media mogul and founder of CNN & TBS) is an outspoken critic of Christianity.  Most people know this.  In 1990, speaking before the American Humanist Association, Turner proclaimed that “Christianity is for losers”…and this isn’t nearly the most provocative thing he has said about Christians.  Many know this about Turner, but not many know the story behind his anti-religous sentiment.

Ted Turner dreamed of being a missionary when he was a child.  His sister suffered from Lupus. When she died, it shook his faith profoundly. He couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow an innocent person to suffer. “What had she done wrong? Why did this happen to her? Christianity didn’t give me any answers to that.”

Ted Turner had been taught a simple form of the Gospel that many of us have been guilty of teaching our kids.  “We serve a gentle, loving God. If we act right and do what pleases Him, He will take care of us and prevent us from suffering.”  That is it.  End of story.  But, that’s NOT the real Gospel.

Phil Vischer spoke to each of us plainly and directly.  He said that we have to ask ourselves the same question he had to ask HIMSELF after ten years of making Veggie Tales.  “Did I just spend ten years trying to persuade kids to behave “Christian-ly” without teaching the kids Christianity?”

Phil walked through the three things that we SHOULD be doing a better job with our children:

  • Understanding the Story they are in
  • Understanding the Bad News of that Story
  • Understanding the Good News of that Story

Phil understands that the large concepts of sin, redemption, sanctification, and judgement are difficult to explain to children.  But, kids understand STORY.  “Narrative structure is what we build to find meaning to the events of our lives. Kids instinctively ‘connect the dots’ in their lives.”  So, he came up with an overarching narrative to help explain kids the story of Christianity…

The Story They Are In:  THE BROKEN AMUSEMENT PARK

The world is a broken amusement park.  God created this amazing world with all of its wonders.  He created it to be a wonderful place of enjoyment for mankind and all of the creatures.  It’s a giant amusement park.  Now, modern amusement parks are run by computers.  The computers tell the rides what to do, the lights when to come on and go off, etc.

Imagine a virus in the operating system of the computers that run all of the rides and attractions. It now isn’t functioning as it was intended to function.  The “Dumbo ride” dumps kids on the ground, the lights go off in the middle of a show.  The virus is wreaking havoc on the systems of the amusement park.  Sin is the virus. It has infected ALL of us.  It has infected the world itself – and the world is SICK.

The Bible is the story of why the world is the way it is and what God is doing to fix it.  Our role is – “We are the Red Cross. We are the ones who can explain why things are the way we are.”  When someone gets dumped out of the Dumbo ride, we should be the first ones there to help them, explain to them WHY, and help point them in the right direction.  This is a story that kids can relate to – and helps them understand the overarching story they are in.

The Bad News Of That Story:

Sin is hard to explain.  But, that doesn’t mean we ignore that part of the story.  It is CRUCIAL.  If kids don’t understand what Sin is, they will NEVER understand who Jesus is or why He came.

Now, Phil isn’t suggesting that we walk into the 3 year old class and proclaim the dangers of SIN.  The topic of sin and judgement is not EVERY age appropriate.  Before they hear about a God that is a judge who is angry and wrathful, kids need to hear about a God who is loving and forgiving.

That’s why Phil makes sin visual.  It’s a virus.  Adam and Eve can’t be with God because SIN can’t be with God.  Suddenly, the world is not perfect anymore. Thus, the BROKEN amusement park.

We can’t shy away from the BAD NEWS.  Until you understand the problem, none of the rest of the Bible makes any sense!!!

The Good News Of That Story:

God doesn’t want to leave us like this.  He wants to save us. He wants to save us from:

  • The STAIN of sinkeeps us from God (God wants to clean us)
  • The POWER of sinkeeps us doing the same thing over and over again (the more we listen to the whispers, the louder it gets) this is remedied by Sanctification
  • The PRESENCE of sinwe still live in a world that is drowning in sin.  The effects of sin on our world is seen every day.  (when God returns to JUDGE the world, He will rescue us from this with a New Heaven and New Earth)  

“Judgment” has become a bad word in our culture. It represents “looking down on people.”  In truth, Judgement means “setting things right!” If there is a bully picking on a small child, it is right for an adult to step in and say, “NO, you are NOT going to do that!”

Judgement is when God steps in and sets everything right.  He fixes everything.  Makes the bullies pay for everything they have done wrong.

Why did Jesus need to die?  Because we have ALL been bullies at one point or another.  We have ALL done mean things and broken God’s laws.  God didn’t want us to have to pay for our sin, so He became human like us and paid the price for our sin.  That’s what God has done for us.

Finally, Phil challenged us all to teach our kids:  “Once we are saved, what is NEXT?”  What is NEXT for us is NEW LIFE!  We become a part of the Kingdom of God.  We live supernatural lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing God through US!

The Apostle Paul described the Christian life as, “We proclaim good news, we live good lives, we do good works!”

  • Proclaim good newssharing the WHOLE story of the Gospel
  • Live good liveslives marked by the absence of fear, full of peace and love
  • Do good workswe help, we love, we are the Red Cross in a broken world

We aren’t just sitting around waiting on Heaven…we become superheroes –  helping others to experience God’s best for their lives.

Teaching this to our kids is done best by SHOWING them with your own life. They will learn much more of what we show than what we say. We need to be the example that they can follow.

So, are you teaching your kids the WHOLE Gospel?  Or are you teaching them a rosey, pristine, in-a-nice-little-box gospel that is not preparing them to become the Christians God has intended them to be?

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FREE Family Ministry Conference? Yep, It’s True!

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FREE stuff is great!  Everybody loves FREE!  Free coffee, free candy, free toenail clippers with your neighbor’s company logo on it – you don’t care…because it’s FREE!  We love FREE!

Every once in a while, something comes along that is FREE, but is also something you would be willing to pay for…and pay a LOT!  That something – is the D6 Days Family Conference!

It’s a new online event that you don’t want to miss out on.  Rally up your team and inspire them with over 23 sessions from some of the best speakers in the world.  This is perfect for Children’s workers, youth workers, youth pastors, volunteers in ministry, pastors, etc.  

Watch the video below to prepare yourself for the upcoming awesomeness!

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As you know, partnering with parents is one of the most important things you can do as a Children’s Ministry Leader.  This FREE online conference from D6 will help you do that. 

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How Do You Know If You Are Called To Full-Time Ministry?

God-calling

Several weeks ago I received an email from a fellow Kids Ministry leader.  He asked, “Can you help me as far as my calling?  How did you know you were called?  How can I affirm my calling?”  Such great questions – and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated.  I wanted so hard to give the “right” answers to his questions – so I kept thinking and thinking (and putting off writing about it).

I finally realized that there really isn’t a “right” answer.  However, I can share from my experience and the experiences of others to share with you some key factors that are definitely in the equation.  Here goes:

1)  The Desires Of Your Heart

From the time I became a Christian on February 26, 1989 I began sensing in my heart that God wanted me to become a full-time pastor one day.  Every time I prayed I sensed this.  However, I continued to talk myself out of it.  I told myself, “God hasn’t called you.  You just WANT to become a pastor because you love God and you love your own pastor.  This is all in your head.  This isn’t God.”  Somehow, I had convinced myself that God wouldn’t call me to do something that I WANTED to do.  I believed that God only calls people to do things that they would never want to do (like go to Africa).  That was the true test of obedience, right?  Wrong!

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. – Psalm 37:4

If you focus your heart and your attention on God, seeking His will, He will form and mold your heart’s desires into conformity to His will.  The reason I wanted to become a pastor was because I was seeking God with all my heart, and He was leading me in that direction.  Still, I struggled as to whether this “was just me” or if this was God.

2)  The “Call” Of God

After two years of struggling with whether or not I was supposed to pursue the path to become a full-time pastor, I went to Youth Camp with the expressed purpose of gaining clarity on this issue.  I told God, “Every other year, I came to Youth Camp for the girls and the fun.  This year, I just want to hear from You.  I need to hear from You.  I need to know whether or not this is your will for me to be a pastor.”  I prayed all week and never really felt a peace about the situation.

Finally, on the final night of Camp I knelt at the altar and said, “God, I am not leaving until I hear from You.”  And, I didn’t.  It got to the point that EVERY person had left the Sanctuary and gone outside for the festivities, but I was still praying.  Finally, after nearly an hour and a half of prayer – I distinctly heard God’s voice.  It wasn’t audible, but it was clear.  God showed me that it was most definitely His desire for me to pursue full-time ministry as a pastor and that He would equip me to do what He was calling me to do.”  I was so relieved and energized.

God speaks in many different ways.  It is rarely audible.  He sometimes speaks through gentle whispers in prayer, through His Word, or through circumstances.  But, if you feel like you are called to be in ministry full-time, you had better know that you know you have been called by God to do so.  Ministry is tough.  Often, it is stressful and unrewarding.  There will be moments when the only thing that keeps you going is that knowing deep down that God CALLED you to do this.

Don’t pursue full-time ministry merely because your parent or mentor wants you to, because it sounds interesting, or simply because you care about people. There is something that must be more powerful and purposeful within you as you are moved by the Spirit to teach the Word of God, to defend the truth, and to shepherd the people of God.  Ministry is not a profession, or a job. It is a calling of God.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”Ephesians 4:11,12

Understand, ALL Christians (saints) are called to do “the work of the ministry.”  We are all called to spread the love of God and share the gospel with the dying world around us.  But, there is a definite calling that MUST come from God to pursue one of the five roles mentioned in this passage.

My pastor, Rod Loy, often says, “If you can imagine doing anything else, you need to do it.”  If you are called, ministry is not AN option, it is THE mandate.  Even on the difficult days, when ministry isn’t fun or rewarding, you have a sense of rightness and purpose – doing what you are supposed to.  If you find yourself daydreaming on a regular basis about being a finance manager, you should probably be doing that.

3)  Affirmation By Spiritual Leaders

Once you feel that you are called by God to pursue full-time ministry, set up a time to talk with your pastor, mentor, spiritual leaders.  Ask them their thoughts about you pursuing a life dedicated to full-time ministry.  Those who work closest with you will no doubt sense God’s hand on your life and can affirm the calling you feel you’ve received.  If your pastor or spiritual leaders do not feel this is a path you should pursue, spend more time in prayer.  It very well may be that you are called to minister to children (or youth or adults, etc.), but just not as your life’s sole purpose.  There are many volunteer (meaning, unpaid) pastors, evangelists, teachers who are just as much called, but they don’t necessarily “make a living” from ministry work.  The Apostle Paul is a great example:

“…and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.”Acts 18:3

If you feel called to full-time ministry, then you should be presently serving in ministry in the local church.  Ministry flows out of who you are.  If you have the heart of a servant, you will begin serving God’s church in whatever capacity you are able.  Don’t wait to go to Bible College, receive a diploma or credentials, and then start ministering.  Ministry is not a destination.  Ministry is a calling.  Flesh that calling out every day in every way.  Remember…

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” – 1 Peter 5:6