A shout out to Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like is in order. I ran across this advertisement for the Good News Glove. A tool for children to use in witnessing to their friends. For those of you who are familiar with the “Wordless book” presentations popularized by Child Evangelism Fellowship you get the general idea. The color “black” represents sin. When it’s translated into a finger–anyone want to guess which finger is sin? You might think twice about presenting the gospel finger by finger. Just saying. I guess this was a good idea once upon a time. BTW: they are still available through Campus Crusade. You can check them out here. Just so you know: they cost a little bit more than they did in 1971 (this ad appeared in Gospel Light’s Teach Magazine, Fall 1971). I think I may need to order some! After all there are millions already in print!
Archives For evangelism
It’s hard to say that any age group is more important than the next. Spiritual growth builds upon itself–we crawl before we walk; we walk before we run. God does something unique at each age level which makes every age level important. When we miss something at one level we handicap the next. The things we miss along the way are typically the things that become “the hurts, habits and hangups” of adulthood. Maybe a better way of saying it is, “The stage we miss is the most important.”
The reason why I singled-out childhood is because it represents the beginning of the spiritual journey for most people. We know that most people will decide to follow Jesus in childhood (sometime between the ages of 4-14). In fact, it becomes exponentially harder after age 18.
Leading kids to a relationship with Jesus is the number one task of the church and family.
We cannot stop with leading kids to a relationship with Jesus. We must lead them in a continually growing relationship with Jesus that results in a life fully committed to Him and service in the Kingdom of God. Ultimately we want all people to come to a place where they say, “Jesus, what will you have me do?”
Many people get to the place where they say “Jesus, save me!” but few reach the place where they say, “Here I am, send me.”
How do you help people get to a place where they say: “Jesus, what will you have me do?”
Most people decide to follow Jesus between the ages of 4-14. This has been called the 4-14 Window. And if you are in church ministry being mindful of this window could be the most important thing you do. It is certainly why I believe that kidmin is the most important ministry of the church.
Kidmin is the most important ministry of the church.
I think that the 14-24 Window may be the next most important. While many decide to follow Jesus between 4-14, what their lives will look like, whether they will be fully devoted followers of Christ or just church attenders, whether they will be spiritual champions or spiritual second-handers is largely shaped by the decisions they make between ages 14-24. This is a monumental time in a person’s life that we cannot afford to neglect.
The evidence seems to bear out—that the church at large is not doing a very good job at this. In fact it was suggested in a recent article that we shouldn’t really be concerned with this age group at all. Instead, we should just chalk it up to stage of life and wait until they come back to the church in their mid-thirties. The short sightedness of this article made my toes curl. Most of the people I know who are in ministry today made decisions to commit their lives to service between 14-24. We are seriously impacting the future leaders of the Kingdom of God by neglecting this age group.
The most important aim we can have for 14-24 year olds is helping them find their place in God’s Story—helping them commit their lives to meaningful service in the Kingdom of God.
Here are just a few foundational things churches can do to leverage this spiritual window.
1. Connect youth with mature Christian adults. The more the better. Check out Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark Devries.
2. Get 14-24 year olds in circles. Real small groups where a mature Christian adult is investing in a small group of students every week. Better yet, have this person travel with them through high school and college. Yes, even through college.
3. Don’t let ministry end at graduation. The average 18 year old will be making most of their most life altering decisions in the first few years of college. Most youth are virtually abandoned on graduation day.
4. Incorporate 20somethings into a total ministry strategy from birth through 25. So much is wasted because Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry and College Ministry leaders don’t play well together. The bodies left in the gaps between these silos is staggering. We must come together and develop a unified strategy.
5. Think beyond your curriculum. The destination of a series of classes or a curriculum is more knowledge. More knowledge and more classes cannot be a substitute for people doing life together.
6. Youth and 20somethings must have a sense of belonging in the church not just the youth ministry. Check out this interview with Chuck Bomar.
7. Help youth find their place in God’s Story.
8. Connect the Church and home. What happens at home always trumps what happens at church.
I came to know Jesus when I was 6 years old at a Vacation Bible School. To me Children’s Ministry is personal. I’m just one of the many people who decided to follow Jesus as a child. (75% of Christ Followers made the decision to follow him between the ages of 4-14.) This doesn’t surprise me because Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus wasn’t just commenting on what adults need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or even insight into what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about; Jesus was telling us something fundamental about childhood. There is a season in a person’s life—sometime between 4–14—when people are most open to learning what it means to trust God. It is during this season we need to focus our efforts on helping people place their trust in Jesus.
God intends that we should win people in the days of their youth while their hearts are young and sensitive. But we are apt to let the springtime pass and then with great effort create a religious fervor by our own efforts and win men to Christ. We work hard, spend thousands of dollars and at the best get disappointingly small returns. We have waited too long. That which we should do is to work with God in His seasons. Henrietta Mears
What we do during this window may be the most important thing we do.
In my last post I promised some best practices for charging a registration fee for Vacation Bible School.
Here are my TOP 6:
1. Make sure that paying is not an obstacle for anyone by offering scholarships.
2. Make it a policy that no one will ever be turned away because they can’t afford it.
3. Alert your church and volunteers to listen for people that cannot afford VBS, but might not tell you. In other words employ several “narks with love” who will rat out the people who may really be considering not attending for financial reasons. Then let those families know, in a discreet, honoring way that they don’t need to pay the registration fee.
4. Make the fee nominal. Our fees never covered the total expense. And you certainly don’t want people to feel that the church is making money off of VBS–unless you are supporting a worthy cause–like sending supplies to children in Haiti. I wouldn’t recommend making VBS a fundraiser for a church building, or even your own children’s ministry, make it outsider focused. Support the local rescue mission or crisis pregnancy center.
5. Have a family rate in addition to individual rates (i.e. $10 per kid, $30 for family of 3 or more)
6. Use charging as a way to incentivize outreach. We all talk about VBS as an outreach, but do we really know how many unchurched kids we are really reaching? Incentivize reaching out. (Yes, I know that incentivize sounds . . . well like . . . marketing language–but do it any way.) Put some teeth in your systems. I feel another post coming on. Here are a few ways to put some teeth in your systems: Consider discounting or “free admission” for the unchurched friend who is invited by a church member. Or, only allow church members register for VBS if they co-register a friend they invited. I think Craig Jutila implemented this during their summer camps(VBS) at Saddleback.
Anyone else have some best practices?
Kidmin today is less about what curriculum you use or what program you do, but how you view the family and the overall priority the church places on reaching kids and parents. I’m not talking about the “we’re a family church” crowd. Every church is a family church and virtually every church is “committed” to reaching families categorically. The church at any moment is one generation from the grave. So we all know we need to reach the next generation or the church doesn’t move into the future.
But how many church leaders, outside of the Children’s Pastor, have an emotional burden for a real kid, or a real family? We’re talking, “I know a kid and I am torn up inside when I see him making decisions and spending his life without Jesus.” Or, “I am connecting with a family on a regular basis outside the walls or the church. And I lie awake thinking about the struggles they have and how their lives would be different if Jesus was in the center of that home.” It’s the difference between: “We are committed to reaching the next generation.” And “I am committed to reaching Aaron who is eight years old, and Joe who is the father of three.”
You know you are a family church that is committed to reaching the next generation when you can go up to any leader in your church and they can give you the names of people they are trying to reach—without hesitation. When you have leaders like that, you will have people in the church like that.
Who has God placed in your life that you connect with on a regular basis outside the walls of the church? Maybe God has placed them in your life because He wants to use you to reach them. Could be the checker at the grocery store, your kid’s soccer coach, the person across the counter you pass your dry cleaning to.
I have been reading through the historical books of the Bible (Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles . . .) I’m doing my own version of reading the parallel accounts simultaneously. That just means while I am reading the account of David in II Samuel, I am reading the parallel account in I Chronicles. If you want to try it yourself, it is quite easy to figure out by using the timelines in the back of a good study Bible. There are actual Bibles that have been organized by the chronology of the narrative, however I like to know what book of the Bible I am reading out of in order to not miss the themes unique to the book.
Sometimes I think that as long-time insiders of this thing called Christianity we come to believe that we have to do deep Bible study–I’m all for deep learning that leads to deep application. However, I think we often equate deep Bible study with lots of research, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, Bible dictionaries and a wide array of Bible commentaries. All helpful in their own right. I think we also equate deep Bible study with learning something new rather than applying something well.
So . . . my goal has been to read the historical books as story. There is a lot of meaning that can be gained from reading as much of the story in one sitting as possible. We get the big picture of what is happening versus trying to draw meaning out of an isolated account.
Remember the first three Stars Wars movies? If you hadn’t read the books and only seen the movies, could you have guessed that the main character was Anakin Skywalker and not his son Luke? It is not until the first three episodes were finished that we are able to see that the main plot line is the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. It is amazing that the first movies did so well without developing that meta-story.
The Bible is a lot like that. There are several levels of story. Right now I am currently reading II Samuel and I Chronicles. In the two books there are individual accounts of the kingship of David. But read together with I Samuel there is a meta-story that is really the story of the leadership of two kings. Side-by-side the books show two leaders, King Saul and King David. In one you see a failure of nerve and the loss of integrity, in the other you see well differentiated leadership and redemption from moral failure. (Maybe that is why they are called I & II Samuel) Then there is a meta-story that ties all the books of the Bible together . . . the story of God’s relationship with mankind, mankind’s fall and then redemption through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Try reading the entire Bible in one or two sittings. I wonder what we would discover.
How do you like to read the Bible?
People believe that church is for church people not for them. This is an issue of relevance. Less than 10% of our local population finds an evangelical church relevant enough to make attending it regularly a priority. As Jesus walked the streets of ancient Palestine, he demonstrated the imminent relevance of God’s voice in the world. To the woman at the well, four times divorced and in her fifth romantic relationship, Jesus demonstrated the relevance of God’s voice. She walked away exclaiming to her neighbors, “Come see the man who told me everything about my life.” Men, women and children gathered to hear Jesus demonstrate the relevance of God’s voice in marriage, relationships, anger, murder, adultery, spiritual practices . . . One day thousands followed Him without food. Some thought He was the son of God, others thought he was a lunatic, some thought he was a threat to the social order of His time and had Him killed. I don’t think anyone thought He was irrelevant or boring.
While church, for many, is considered irrelevant, my relationship with my wife, my role as husband and parent, how I am raising my children, my job and my monthly mortgage are all relevant. That is why we believe we must do what Jesus did. We must demonstrate the relevance of God’s voice in addressing the everyday needs that demand the attention of the everyday person. We believe that as a church we are on the same mission as Jesus—to demonstrate the imminent relevance of God’s voice in peoples’ lives. If the church is the hope of the world we must be about the business of demonstrating the relevance of that hope to a hopeless world.
We believe that faith is more than two hours on Sunday. While Sunday may be pivotal, what happens in the home the rest of week determines the course of a person’s life. Our goal is to inspire, empower and equip the family. A growing relationship with Jesus Christ isn’t a one time decision, but a series of decisions about relationships. First of all, it is the everyday choice to grow more and more intimately connected to the Creator. It is about organizing the universe of our everyday decisions around our relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, it is intentionally nurturing everyday God-centered decisions which impact our relationships with everyone else—people inside the church and people outside the church. Relationships are relevant. God has spoken into relationships and His voice is relevant.
While people don’t seem to have a problem with God, they have a problem with church. That is why we believe it is imperative that the church marshal all it resources to rescue relationships: relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, employee and boss and neighbor and neighbor. We want to so penetrate the landscape of our community that when people seek help for the most important relationships in their lives, River Park Community Church would be the top of mind response. “River Park Community Church is the place where I can find help for the most important things in life.”