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?

Phil Vischer quote vantage

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

Are You A Secure Or Insecure Leader?

insecurity

Security is the main ingredient of healthy relationships.  You need healthy relationships with others in order to fulfill the call God has placed on your life.  As a Kids Ministry Leader, your goal is to raise up others to join you in the vision of raising the next generation of life-long followers of Christ.  If you are not secure in who you are and who God has created you to be, you will (consciously or not) poison your relationships with the people God puts around you. 

My pastor, Rod Loy, challenges our entire team to evaluate whether or not we are Secure or Insecure Leaders.  Here is part of a grid he provided for us:

Insecure Leader – when someone else succeeds, they divert credit to themselves

Secure Leader – gives credit away to others.

Insecure Leader – surrounds themselves with weaker people because they have an inner need to be adored

Secure Leader – is comfortable with the strengths of others and surround themselves with strong leaders

Insecure Leader – when evaluating themselves, they only see weaknesses

Secure Leader – they know their weaknesses exist, but they are not crippled by them

Insecure Leader – evaluate by “how do I compare to others?”

Secure Leader – evaluate themselves by “how am I doing right now?”

Insecure Leader – can’t laugh at themselves

Secure Leader – laugh at their mistakes, seeing them as another opportunity to learn

Insecure Leader – resists evaluation (they have inextricably connected their performance with their self-worth)

Secure Leader – embraces evaluation as an opportunity to grow

Insecure Leader – they are very hard on others who make mistakes

Secure Leader – more patient with other people and with their growth process

Insecure Leader – may enjoy success for a season

Secure Leader – will enjoy success for a lifetime

Insecure Leader – says “Blessings are to be enjoyed by me!”

Secure Leader – asks “How many blessings can I share?”

Insecure Leader – produces insecure followers

Secure Leader – produces other secure leaders

So, are you a Secure Leader or an Insecure Leader?  It’s not too late to change course:

1)  Learn to see yourself the way God sees you.

2)  Hang around secure leaders and friends.

3)  Recognize when reactions are based on insecurity.  Retrain yourself away from those reactions.

4)  Ask God to help you become more secure in Him so that you can build a team of Secure Leaders to help you reach this generation and advance the cause of Christ!

The more secure you are, the better leader you will be.

3 Reasons Your Lead Pastor Just Doesn’t Get It

Lead Pastor Get It

I hear one statement a LOT as I travel and speak to Kids Ministry Leaders all over the country: “My Lead Pastor just doesn’t get it!”  In some churches, there seems to be a real divide between the senior leadership and the Kids Ministry Pastor/Director.

Most Kidmin Leaders I talk to feel that the reason for the strain on this relationship is almost entirely the fault of the Lead Pastor. They forget that every relationship is a two-way street and haven’t considered the following three reasons why the Lead Pastor doesn’t “get” Kids Ministry.

1.  He doesn’t know what’s going on in Kids Ministry.

Often, the Lead Pastor is not aware of all the great things happening in Kids Ministry. He doesn’t know about the salvations that are taking place every Sunday. He doesn’t know about how God is using the children at their schools to start Bible Clubs and reach their friends for Jesus Christ.

Why doesn’t he know? The reason he doesn’t know is usually because the Kids Ministry Leader isn’t communicating with him.   They don’t tell him about everything going on. They are WAITING for him to ask.

I have news for you. Your pastor has an entire church to lead and keep track of. It is not his responsibility alone to probe and ask about everything going on in every area of Ministry. It is YOUR job to keep him informed. Believe me, he WANTS to know.

So, instead of assuming, “He doesn’t care.” Instead of thinking, “I don’t want to bother him with all the details.” TELL him when something great happens. Email him when a child is saved. Leave him a note about what God is doing in the lives of the kids.

I send my pastor email updates on meetings I have, the first time I hear of an issue or problem he needs to be aware of, and the moment I know of a possible hitch in his plans. He doesn’t have to respond, but he wants to be informed. The last thing he needs is to be blindsided by a situation he SHOULD have known about. Don’t say, “I didn’t want to bother you.” Let HIM decide what “bothers him.” The worst thing that could happen is he hits delete.

Communicate with your pastor, then watch how much he starts to “get it.” He can’t “get” what you aren’t making him aware of.

2.  He’s not in your “Kids Ministry World.”

It’s a simple fact. The Lead Pastor is in the Sanctuary and the Kids Ministry takes place elsewhere. But, much of the time, that is not the reason the Lead Pastor is not in your “Kids Ministry World.”

Kids Ministry Leaders are sometimes guilty of creating their own “world” unto themselves. They are passionate about their ministry (and rightly so), but they allow that passion to lead to a single-focus. They get so wrapped up in their own ministry area, they begin to isolate themselves from the other staff and ministries.

This is what I call “Kidmin Tunnel Vision”, and I write about it more extensively in this post. Don’t create a ministry silo. A silo occurs when each part of an organization becomes self-contained, is 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.

Instead of creating a “world” of Kids Ministry, look for ways to stay connected to your pastor’s vision, relationships with other staff, and what God is doing in the church as a whole.

3.  He has the wrong motives.

Or at least, that is what we choose to believe. When we disagree with a pastor’s decisions, it’s easy to ascribe sinister motives to him. We think he’s stupid, or selfish, or manipulative. We see signs of pride or fear. Sometimes, we’re assigning our own hidden motives to him. Psychologists call it projection.

We need to nix that. Our pastors are doing their very best. Certainly, they make bad choices from time to time, but we can assume they’re doing all they can to honor God and lead with integrity. If we’re going to make assumptions, let’s assume our pastor has the very best motives.

Is your relationship with your Lead Pastor strained at the moment? Perhaps you need to stop pointing the finger at him – and turn it on yourself. Be open and honest with yourself…are you guilty of the three situations I have listed here? If so, it’s not too late to change.

Spend some time praying for your relationship with your pastor this week. Pray that God will help YOU do what is necessary to have a vibrant, growing relationship with your Lead Pastor. Watch how God changes you and your relationship. It’s amazing when Kids Pastors and Lead Pastors can work together in a thriving, growing way!

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!”

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.

3 Things I Tell EVERY Volunteer

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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!

How To Kill An Invisible Gorilla

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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.

The Most Rewarding Ministry Program I Have Ever Started

CIA 2001

I was looking through some old photos this weekend and came across the picture above.  It’s a shot from thirteen years ago that features our 2001 C.I.A. team.  C.I.A. stands for “Christians In Action.”  C.I.A. is our Summer Discipleship/Leadership Program for 4th & 5th graders.  As I looked at it, I realized that two of the eight members of that team are on our Pastoral Staff here at First NLR.

C.I.A. has been one of the most effective programs I have ever started in my 23 years of Kids Ministry!  We just celebrated our 15th graduating class.  The graduates of CIA go on to be some of the TOP leaders in the Youth Ministry. In fact, we have THREE pastors on our staff currently who are graduates of our CIA program.  We also just launched a full-time Missionary to East Africa who was a graduate of our very FIRST C.I.A. class at my current church.

“So, what does the C.I.A. program consist of?”  It’s a hand-chosen team of 4th & 5th graders who have shown an aptitude for leadership.  There is a stringent application process.  They meet every Thursday for 6 weeks during the Summer.   They commit to spending time with God in prayer and Bible study EVERY DAY for the six weeks.  They fast something each week (candy, desserts, cokes, video games, secular music, etc.)  On the Thursday meeting days, they pray for one hour, study/memorize God’s Word for one hour (tested on 2 memorized scriptures per week), learn a leadership lesson from one of our pastoral staff, and then spend the afternoon doing “ministry projects.”  These projects vary from working with the homeless, stuffing the church bulletins, cleaning the church vehicles, visiting and praying with shut-ins and Nursing Homes, etc.

It is a powerful ministry experience and leadership training! It has been THE most strategic and beneficial ministry I have ever started in Children’s Ministry.

What about you?  Do you have a Discipleship Ministry like C.I.A.?  Are you raising up the next generation of leaders?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section!