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Paper People Family BWAbout a year ago I was talking with a kidmin ministry leader and mentioned something about “family ministry.”  His response to me was, “Well, there are a lot of different opinions of what family ministry is, so I just don’t pay much attention to it.”  He spoke this as if that was all there was to say about that . . . end of topic. As I was thinking about his response, I began to realize that there has been so much talk about how to do family ministry (i.e. whether kids should be a part of corporate worship, whether there should be children’s church or Sunday school or not, whether family ministry means family events, or just having programs for every individual in the family) that most outsiders have confused how family ministry is implemented with what family ministry really is. This is not so surprising when most pastors think of ministry in general as a program–and, most kidmin pastors present a particular program as family ministry.

We are all guilty of confusing our models with our mission and our programs with ministry.

So, here is what I believe is true north as a family ministry leader:

Family ministry means that I spend equal amounts of time on two things:

  1. Creating a system that ensures that every child, teenager, college student and parent is connected with someone who feels responsible for knowing their next spiritual step and encouraging them to take it.
  2. Helping parents become active participants in their child or teenager’s spiritual formation.

That’s it. I run everything we do through that grid.  How are we helping parents become active participants in their child’s spiritual formation? How are we ensuring that everyone who walks through the door of the church is getting connected in a close personal relationship with someone who feels responsible for knowing their next spiritual step and encouraging them to take it?

 

Parent LeadersWe often ask parents to be the spiritual leaders in their homes.  It’s a daunting task–even for a family ministry pastor! I lie awake at night wondering whether I’m doing a good job at this–and I’m a professional church person! I wonder what the average parent thinks about it. “Is spiritual leadership just one more of the things everyone says I should do that I’m will forever feel inadequate at?”

I recently ran across a blog post listing the requirements of a godly parent.  Here’s a short list:

  • Parents must live a life which is above reproach, that is, be blameless, and have a good reputation with nonbelievers (1 Tim. 3:2); They must be faithful to their spouses (1 Tim. 3:2).  As parents display before the community and before their families behavior that is becoming of a Christian, they can truly be salt and light to the lost.
  • They must be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle, upright, holy, and disciplined, and those who love what is good (1 Tim. 3:2); As parents display the fruit of the spirit to the lost and to their children, the lost will be won and their children will gain from being discipled like Jesus.
  • They must not be given to drunkenness, or be violent, overbearing, quick–tempered, quarrelsome, pursuers of dishonest gain, or a lovers of money (1 Tim. 3:3); As parents exhibit godly priorities and character qualities their children will receive a clear idea of what Jesus is all about.
  • They must manage their own families well, and see that their children obey them with proper respect and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (1 Tim. 3:4). As parents do these things, along with loving correction, discipline, and training, their children will be respectful and obedient.

If you grew up in church world, you know that this is a list of qualifications for a church elder found in I Timothy.  I’m all for being and doing all of those things, but I think my kids will probably be grown up before I get all of this right.

How do you define spiritual leadership?

 

deep wide andy stanleyOn the family ministry side of the aisle, our commitment to create environments conducive to providential relationships caused us to make several strategic decisions.  The most significant was our decision to keep group leaders with their small groups as long as possible.  The longer a group leader was with a group of kids, the more likely it was that a relationship would develop–and thus the greater chance of God using a group leader in a significant way in the life of one of the kids in his or her group.  So when adults volunteer to lead a group of first graders, they stay with the group of children (and their parents) all the way through fifth grade.  Not only does this create the potential for long-term relationships, it creates a degree of accountability that goes way beyond the weekend experience. It’s not unusual for group leaders to stay with their groups as they transition into our middle school ministry.  That provides them with eight years of influence during what is arguably the most important time for a child developmentally, spiritually, and relationally.

from Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

Providential Relationship: “Two things make a relationship providential: when we hear from God through someone and when we see God in someone.  When either of those things happens, our faith gets bigger.” (Deep & Wide p. 132)

8 Years ago I would have believed the idea of finding small group leaders who would invest in the lives of a group of kids week in and week out even for a school year was impossible, much less several years.  Then I met Craig Jutila at a Purpose Driven Children’s Conference.  He talked about elevating the commitment of volunteers–moving off of rotation to getting people who were willing to invest in the lives of a small group of kids on a weekly basis.  Since then I have led two kidmin environments in two churches and coached several others to transition from large rotations of volunteers to a core group of small group leaders deeply investing in the lives of kids on a weekly basis.

Here’s a few things that I think only invested leaders can do:

  • Only invested leaders can help connect a child’s faith to community.  There is more childcare than community when volunteers are on rotation.
  • Only invested leaders are able to show how God’s truth intersects with real life because they invite kids into their own lives and inspire their faith by example.
  • Only invested leaders can create a place where kids can be known and belong.
  • Only invested leaders know enough about a child’s spiritual journey to know their next spiritual step.
  • Only invested leaders know about what’s going on in a child’s life to layer God’s truth into their lives in a relevant way.
  • Only invested leaders can effectively partner with parents.
  • Only invested leaders can create environments that supply the relational ingredients of spiritual growth: care, accountability and belonging.

Keeping children and students with the same small group leader for several years creates a healthy relational dynamic. Children and students are particularly susceptible to misinterpreting negative events. Having a mature adult in their lives in addition to their parents can make all the difference when grappling with challenging circumstances.

from Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

At the end of the day without invested leaders what’s left on the table is life transformation. That’s unacceptable to me.

Aero Vodochody L 29 Delfin Jet CockpitThe average airplane can have over 40 gauges.  But only a few of those gauges are critically important at any given time.  And maybe the most important is the one right in the center.  Like the speedometer on a car, the attitude indicator may be one of the more important flight instruments on a plane because it shows the aircraft’s “attitude” to the horizon.  In other words, it will tell you whether you are flying upside down or not.  Kind of important.

Kidmin, like the cockpit of a plane, has lots of dials and gauges—lots of things that demand our attention like scheduling, team training and curriculum to how many popsicle sticks we need for VBS.  It can be overwhelming.  But what if some things are more important than others?  What if there are some systems that require our attention more than others?  What would be the attitude indicator for kidmin?

Apart from the basics like Jesus and the Bible—we know we need to point kids to Jesus and we do that through the Bible—, what would be the top five gauges we should give our attention to?  What systems are really critical to the effectiveness of kidmin?

Here is a great top five from The Orange Leader Handbook also known as the Orange Essentials:

System #1: How we integrate leaders.

We can’t expect people to follow us if we are not on the same page going in the same direction.  This is especially true when working with children and students.  We are laying the foundation of a person’s life so we must all be working with the same end in mind.  Having the same strategy to get there is a good place to start.

 

System #2: How we communicate truth.

How we say what we say is as important as what we say. Maybe we should communicate as if what we have to say is the most important thing that can be said.  Since it is.

 

System #3: How we connect people.

Spiritual growth happens best in the context of close personal relationships.

 

System #4: How our church partners with families.

Parents have the greatest potential to influence the life of the child.  Lasting impact begins with a system to effectively partner with parents to help them leverage their influence during the week.

 

System #5: How we mobilize every generation to be the church.

We have a lot of people doing church, but not a lot of people being the church.  If kids are not being the church while they with us, how can we expect them to be the church when they are not with us?

 

You are in the cockpit of your ministry at your church.  The gauges you give your attention to will determine the effectiveness of your ministry.

What do you think are the top five gauges we should be looking at?

Pete FecteauAt any given moment I’m asked to solve a problem.

Right now some of those problems are:

  • How do we create a compelling environment for older elementary in a preschool space? (We use a daycare center for Children’s space.) How do we do this portably? (We also load in and out each Sunday.)
  • How do we engage 5th graders when our groups are too small to divide them from the younger kids?
  • How do we create consistent relationships with a rotation of small group leaders?

Leaders are in the business of solving problems. In fact, if there weren’t any problems there probably wouldn’t be a need for any leaders. But as a leader, ever feel like there are more problems than solutions? Or that your reservoir of solutions is pretty much depleted?

According to Todd Henry (author of Accidental Creative)—our ability to solve problems are tied to managing five things:

  •  Focus: Identifying what’s critical and eliminating distractions
  • Relationships: Working with others who understand the problem and committed to finding solutions. We are truly better together.
  • Energy: Managing the things that deplete our energy
  • Stimuli: Exposing ourselves to a variety of sources of information. You never know where a solution could come from, but it helps to have a plan.
  • Hours: Scheduling time to focus on solutions. Placing yourself in the path of a solution, rather than just waiting for a solution to drive by.

Your ability to create new solutions to existing problems is “largely influenced by your depth and breadth of knowledge in diverse domains of expertise.” (Todd Henry, Accidental Creative).

Our problems often demand taking the various things we have and combining them in new ways. Some call this creativity, I like to call it resourcefulness. It’s using what you have to get the job done. We do that by bringing all of the relevant information that we have at the moment to bear on whatever issue we are dealing with at the time.

A great way of ensuring that you get the job done is to constantly be adding to what you have to get the job done. Todd Henry recommends keeping a stimulus queue. Part of that is a reading plan. Here’s mine.

What do you do to ensure you have what you need to get the job done?

 

I’ve had several people ask about getting information on the breakout I did at San Diego called Why Children Are the Most Important People in the Church–Everything you wish your senior pastor knew about Children’s Ministry.

So here is the information you are looking for.

Why Children are the Most Important People in the Children

Breakout Audio (MP3–I fixed the audio so that it is a littler clearer than what you may have bought at CPC)

Seasons of the Soul

Thanks for coming to my breakout.

Measured on the dial, an hour a week to prepare a life for eternity is too brief a time to allow one wasted moment or one careless touch upon a soul.  Henrietta Mears

Let’s face it, the amount of time we have with a kid is not growing.  Once you take away vacation and sick days we probably only have 40 hours a year with our most faithful kids.  And, when I look at all of the non-purposeful unstructured time in many Sunday kidmin programs, we could have much less than that.  One estimate puts actual teaching time at only 17 minutes on an average Sunday.  That would be less than 12 hours per year.   The mission of leading kids to Jesus and the limited amount of time we have to do so each week, demands that we become intentional about every minute we have with our kids.

When “Sunday’s coming” it is easy to get into thinking “How am I going to fill the time?” versus “How am I going to leverage the limited time I have?”  If leveraging the limited time you have with kids each week is important, I think the best thing we can do to make every minute count is to clarify what a win looks like at every level.  A win is what are we aiming for in everything that we do.

Clarify the Win

In baseball, there may be all kinds of “wins” like strike outs, catching fly balls, tagging a runner out etc. .  . but the difference between a winning team and a losing team boils down to one thing: how many runners cross home plate.  The ultimate goal is to get as many people to cross home plate as possible. That’s it.

Define the “win” of your kidmin:  If you only accomplished one thing what would it be? 

Just like baseball, kidmin has wins. If you only accomplished one thing what would it be? You can define the win for kidmin itself, every program, every part of that program, every event, every volunteer role, every department.  A good place to start is defining the win for all of kidman.

A “win” is not a mission statement.

A “win” is more than a mission statement.  Mission statements tend to be broad and all encompassing: “We exist to magnify God by loving others the way Christ loved us to develop every person’s gifts to fulfill the great commission to reach the lost in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth . . .”  That may be a great mission statement.  It says a lot of things.  A “win” is an irreducible minimum.  If we could only do one thing what would it be?

Here’s a great kidmin win: when a kid takes the next step in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s a win.

What it might look like: It could be the first time an unchurched kid comes to your church.  That’s a win. When a kid expresses an interest in following Christ.  That’s a win.  When a kid is open and transparent for the first time in a small group and a small group leader is able to speak God’s truth into that child’s life in a deeply personal and life transforming way.  That’s a win.  All of those are steps in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Defining the win at this level will help you prioritize your ministry.  If you can’t clearly define how something you are doing, whether it’s a program, an event, or a part of a program helps a child take the next step in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, it might just be something that you should stop doing.  Here’s where you can begin making a list of things not to do.

A great resource for more on this topic is 7 Practices of Effective Ministry

In my next post, I will talk about what wins might look like for a Sunday Morning program.

What’s your ministry win?

The 4-14 Window

September 30, 2011 — 2 Comments

What we do during this window may be the most important thing we do.

Back in the day, there was a famous preacher story that circulated amongst what were then known as “Christian Education Directors”–our modern day family pastors. It was said that D.L. Moody had come back from a tent revival meeting where he reported that 2 1/2 people were saved. Whoever he was talking to replied, “You mean, two adults and one child?” D.L. Moody responded, “No, two children and one adult.” Because when you save a child you save a life.

Sounds like philosophy 101. Imagine two people are tied to a railroad track. One is a 45-year-old adult. One is a 2-year-old child. You only have time to save one before they are killed by an oncoming train. Do you save the 45-year-old adult or the 2-year-old child? (It depends on if the adult is a choir member or a children’s small group leader ☺)

While I don’t think this is D.L. Moody’s commentary on innate human value, the point is pretty obvious: Children should be the center of the church because they have their whole lives ahead of them. As Gordon MacDonald said during the Orange Conference two weeks ago:

The most important person in a church is the baby.

I wish he had had the opportunity to elaborate on this thought. Since he didn’t, I will. The baby is forming their first impressions of the world and most importantly the first impressions of who God is. And, they are going to form this foundation largely upon their interactions with adults and more specifically the adults that spoon food into their mouths: Mom and Dad. It won’t be what is taught, but what is caught as they observe the behavior of the most important people in their lives. With a baby we are helping them form the foundation of their view of God. Someone really famous I can’t remember said, “The child is the father of the man.”

Research shows that children as early as age two are stitching together the big pieces of their worldview, beliefs and behavior and by age nine most children have settled upon the spiritual beliefs they will carry with them through adulthood. Which means, children are impressionable, adults are not. It means, with children we are partners in forming the foundation of their belief system; with adults we are only tinkering with the foundation that has already been laid. Try working on the foundation after the house is built.

However, we didn’t need modern research to tell us this. Around 400BC, Socrates in Plato’s Republic believed the best way to ensure the prosperity of the “polis” was to take all the boys away from their mothers at an early age and “educate” them. Thus, they could be sure that all of the foundational principles of the Republic would become part of a person’s identity at a young age. If it sounds a little like brainwashing, it kind of was. Just in case you are on Who Wants to Be a Millionare: this was what John Dewey—the Dewey decimal system guy—had in mind in his vision of the public school system; a place where the government would take children from their homes to ensure that they were being properly educated with only the “right thoughts” appropriate for a liberal citizen of the American Republic. BTW: Mortimer Adler fought against this and suggested that the answer was not teaching children only the “right thoughts,” but how to think critically. There are very few schools based upon his model. Maybe he should have come up with a library index system also.

So that is the historical and social science view. However, our own tradition goes back at least 1000 years earlier than Socrates to Moses at about 1400BC. So here I’m going to leave this post hanging—because I’d like to develop the historical view in a little more detail.

What are you doing at your church with the babies to give them a first impression of who God is?

Legos on the floor

April 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

When we had a baby we made sure that everything revolved around “the baby”—wipes were always within arms reach; we had baby toys, baby gates, baby furniture, baby food, baby everything. Now we have five kids and there are legos on the floor. And, the cat that I brought into the marriage has since been replaced with animals I had never thought of owning: 3 guinea pigs, 5 chickens, 1 one white fluffy sorry excuse for a dog and three rabbits, two of which are pregnant. (Don’t tell my HOA. We exceeded the domestic animal limit long before the rabbits were pregnant.) When you have kids, the environment, the rhythms, the grocery list, that smell in the car, are all fundamentally impacted by kids.

I think there are several reasons why:

  • Children are the most vulnerable—and the youngest are more so. I’m not really concerned that my ten year old is going to put guinea pig poop in her mouth, but that is a real possibility with our 10 month old. (Not that I have any experience with this!)
  • Children will learn more by the time they are five, than they will learn in the rest of their lives. So, we ensure that they have all of the latest learning toys and we get paranoid if they are not speaking in full sentences by their first birthday.
  • Children are more moldable than they will ever be in their lifetime. What is rooted in the heart of a child is almost impossible to uproot in the life of an adult. All the more reason why parents and children’s ministry need to focus on placing an anchor of faith in the heart of a child.
  • Children are forming their understanding of the world, of relationships, of love, of God, in short they are impressionable. We should be intentional as parents about ensuring that they get the right impression about these things. Especially when most of those impressions are made when interacting with the people closest to them—the parents.

We easily get hyperfocused on the first two: safety and education. Partly because safety is pretty easy to quantify. I know when something is safe and know when something is not. So I lock the gate to the pool, I make sure there are no choking hazards on the floor, and I make my kids wash their hands after they play with the guinea pigs. Education is about information and experience. I’m pretty certain I have satisfied that one by getting my kid the right books, into the right school and on the right soccer team.

And quite honestly—we are hyperfocused on this because our culture has promoted a lot of fear around the first two. (If my kid doesn’t crawl before they walk, they might have a hard time learning to read. If I immunize them, they might become autistic. If I don’t give my kids enough experiences they will fail, so I make sure they learn to play the piano, to speak Japanese, to play soccer, and t-ball, take swim lessons etc. . . We can sell magazines and write news stories with this kind of stuff.

But the last two are probably more important. They are also harder to accomplish because they are developed in the context of relationship. And here is where this post will leave you hanging.

How do you develop the last two? Also, what would a church look like that became intentional about developing the last two?