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deep wide andy stanleyThe church leaders who are seemingly most concerned about the dropout rate of that demographic are the very ones who create the weekend experiences that this demographic finds entirely uncompelling.  To say it another way, the group responsible for connecting eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds to local congregations are the catalysts for driving them away.

. . . somebody’s kids are attending your church. If you have kids, they are attending your church.  Every Sunday you are either instilling a deeper love and appreciation for the church or you are doing what most pastors do and providing them with one more reason not to attend when they no longer have to.  That’s a big deal.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

That is a big deal.  According to Thom Rainer in a research project initiated by Lifeway, the number of kids walking away from faith and the church outnumber the adults who are coming to faith each year.  I think it is because we have missed an opportunity.  We have treated the youngest ones as though they are not important until they become adults. Then we follow that up by doing church the way we like it rather than the way we can reach the next generation.

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    

If we save every adult on the planet, but lose the next generation, what’s the point?  The church is always one generation away from extinction. Not on my watch!

deep wide andy stanleyYou’ve got a bunch of teachers in your church.  The last thing they want to do is sit in circles with eight children for an hour on Sundays.  But they know curriculum. They know how to organize content. And some of them would love to present the bible story in a large group setting as long as they don’t have to take ownership of a small group. You also have some folks who aren’t afraid of middle school boys, but they don’t know jack about the Bible . . . yet.  They are scared to death you are going to give them Bible lessons to teach. But if they knew their only responsibility was to sit with their kids while a really good presenter did a really good presentation, and then discuss three specific questions from that really good presentation, they would be all over that.  You get the point. If you create a system that divides these disciplines, you are going to recruit a different kind of volunteer. But more to the point, you will have a system that frees your engaging presenters to make engaging presentations.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

In I Corinthians the Apostle Paul compared the church to the human body where every member has a role and altogether make one body.  He said,

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

I Corinthians 12:12

I think we readily get this in some areas of the church.  It’s not unusual for us to have people who are worship leaders and we let them worship, and people who are communicators and we let them preach, and people who lead small groups and we let them lead small groups, and people who are great organizers and we let them administrate.  But somehow when it comes to kidmin we have models of ministry that expect one person to be every part of the body.  Generally we call them Sunday School teachers, but “teachers” is really a misnomer, because they are often expected to do lots of things in addition to teaching.  Things like collecting supplies, to crowd control, to storytelling, to singing, to connecting with kids and connecting with parents and wiping noses, to playing an instrument (which is why I think the autoharp was invented—so the musically disinclined could lead a group of kids in singing.).

I admit, that on some planet somewhere there are a rare few who can do all of these things well.  But. . .

Wouldn’t it be better if we simply divided up responsibilities according to gifting, or talents, or skills or desire?

This is one of the main reasons why we do large groups for some things and small groups for others.  We do small groups so we can leverage the gifts of those who are great at connecting, who have consistent spiritual journeys and who have a faith that we want our children to model and embrace. But we don’t expect our small group leaders to be great singers or great storytellers.  We let our great singers and storytellers to do that in large group.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

I Corinthians 12:27


deep wide andy stanleyI warn people in our community not to bring their kids to our church until they’re sure they want to attend on a regular basis. When they ask why, I tell them that once their kids “come and see” the environment we’ve created for them, they’ll never be satisfied anywhere else.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

Wouldn’t it be great, before a child even interacted with a small group leader or heard a Bible story that they were hooked on the environment?  Or wouldn’t it be great if the environment paved the way, or set the stage, for what the child was going to experience on Sunday Morning at church?  What if the environment prepared the way for the small group leader or the storyteller to create a life changing encounter with the Bible and a relationship with Jesus?

Sadly, our environments in many churches do the opposite.  For skeptical 5th graders our environments are the first obstacle they see when coming to our churches. Worse, they become further evidence in a long list of experiences that reinforce most modern kids’ perspectives that church is not relevant.

I’m not suggesting that we replace the Gospel with entertainment or flashy environments.  What I’m suggesting is that we leverage our environments to surprise and delight, to create the unexpected, and ultimately disarm the kids who come to church.  In so doing, we set up what we really want to do, lead kids in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a new problem. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Henrietta Mears from the early 50’s.

The Church must be prepared to reach out and get the many millions of boys and girls who are still without religious instruction of any sort.  Compare the marble halls of our modern school buildings with the worn out carpets of the Sunday school department, and the up-to-date books, well bound, on every school desk with the ragged songbooks and Bibles, the fine hardwood desks with the dilapidated chairs relegated to most Sunday school departments.  No wonder youth thinks that the three R’s are more important than the fourth–Religion, when he goes on Sunday to a room poorly lighted and miserably furnished.

Henrietta Mears, Sunday School Changes Everything


What do you do in your environments to surprise, delight, or disarm kids when they walk through the doors of your church for the first time?

deep wide andy stanley

I agree with Howard Hendricks, who was fond of saying, “It is a sin to bore a child with the Word of God.” To present the Scripture to a child or a teenager in an unengaging manner is to teach the very opposite of what is intended:

Lesson #1 The Bible is boring.

Lesson #2 The Bible is irrelevant

Lesson #3: Church is irrelevant

from Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

For the most part, the Bible isn’t boring.  Which just means the Bible isn’t the problem.  For my piece, here are some common ways we make the Bible boring and its results.

  • We teach in a way that ignores basic age-characteristics of children (We use words like “mortification” with High schoolers) They think the Bible is confusing.
  •  We teach Bible content that is inappropriate (Maybe because we want to teach the same things everyone else is learning at the same time.) They think the Bible isn’t written for them.
  • We don’t leverage a child’s felt needs to lead them to their real needs. They think the Bible isn’t relevant.
  •  We don’t teach from a context of deep, meaningful or consistent relationships that model a life under Biblical authority. They don’t think the Bible intersects with their lives outside of Sunday morning.
  •  We don’t build common ground when teaching. They think the Bible is moralistic and feel preached at.
  •  We teach the facts of the Word, but don’t introduce them to Jesus who is the Word. They think Christianity is a religion and not a relationship.

I wonder what would happen if we took the time we spend bemoaning the entertainment industry’s affects on attention-spans and behavior and spent that time more introspectively examining the role we play in engaging or boring children.  What if we invested our time in communicating in a way that captures the imagination of child with the radical truths of the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ? We might see the church drop-out rate decline. We might see unchurched people come to our churches and the de-churched, burned-by-church or anti-church people return.

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?

About a year ago, I saw a guy on a street corner in our community holding a sign with the words: Marijuana is the Answer. At the time, I thought, “An answer to what?” Is it an answer to the AIDS pandemic in Africa? Ugandan orphans? Poverty in Ethiopia? Sex slaves in asia? The Middle East Crisis? I just don’t think you would see anyone holding a sign that read “Marijauna is the Answer” on a street corner in Rhodesia.

Maybe because when you are struggling to put food on the table you just don’t have the luxury to discuss the merits of medicinal marijuana. Or the existence of Heaven or Hell, for that matter. (Sorry Rob Bell.) While I know that this is a rather provocative intro. I think it illustrates the fact that we are so far removed from pre-Christian paganism (the paganism of the 1st century and before) that we think democracy, freedom of speech, arm chair philosophy, equality of all people, male and female, young and old is the natural state of human beings and that unaided and unimpeded, people will just naturally organize themselves around the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. While we say that there are certain unalienable rights that are self-evident, history has proven that while they may be unalienable they are not self-evident and certainly not inviolate. We are entering an era of Post-Christian Paganism. And while many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence may have been deists, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” took 1700 years of Christian influence in the West to become self-evident. After you read Herodotus, it is very clear that such things were not self-evident in the pre-Christian pagan world.

In the first session at the Orange Conference, Andy Stanley made a simple statement: We are stewards of the message of eternal life, but we are also stewards of the message of a better life. (BTW if you are looking for a great summary of Andy’s talk check out these bloggers: Nick Blevins, or Steve Cullum or Dan Scott. ) I don’t think we often realize how important it is to communicate both messages. Of course it probably isn’t two messages. Both messages are communicated when a person comes to Jesus and then commits themselves to a life of service in His Kingdom.

It is our great heritage for wherever the church spire rises in the community, the culture of that community is changed, the status of womanhood is raised, hospitals are built, the aged are cared for, the orphans are ministered to. Education in all its phases follows quickly. Young people should understand what the church has done through the centuries. –Henrietta Mears

People don’t just need Jesus in order to get to heaven, people need Jesus for today.

5 Priorities

July 28, 2008 — Leave a comment

While our core team was in Georgia for n*Rich, we had an opportunity to list the top five priorities of each or our positions.

We have a unique staff structure at River Park Community Church. We are trying to pry off the lid for growth by separating the talker from the leader. Most churches expect the Senior Pastor to be an excellent weekly communicator and an excellent leader of people. We have all experienced senior pastors that are good talkers and poor leaders. We have experienced senior pastors who are great leaders but can’t keep an audience awake for thirty minutes in a row.

I think not only is this gift mix rare, the reality is that even where both gifts exist in one person, one person simply doesn’t have the time to do both. Something gets cheated–usually it isn’t weekly communication. We are prying the lid off of the church in this area–more on this later.

We have five staff members: Lead Pastor, Lead Communicator, Executive Pastor (Admin/Groups), Service Programming Director and Kidstuf Director.

As a team we defined the five priorities of each position. Maybe I will spend some time fleshing out each of the priorities later. Here is the short list though:

Lead Pastor:
1. Vision Casting
2. Staff Development
3. Fundraising
4. Key Leader Recruitment/Development
5. Strategic Planning

Lead Communicator:
1. Series Planning, Sermon Prep. and Delivery
2. Managing alternate communication channels
3. Fundraising
4. Communicating Vision and Strategy
5. Married Life Live/Parent Matters

Executive Pastor:
1. Dashboard
2. Groups vision and leader training
3. Group tracking
4. Records and Legal documents
5. Cultivate a culture of giving

Service Programming Director:
1. Guest Services
2. Recruitment and management of SPD team
3. Oversee, design and maintain Worship Experience environment/context
4. Pre-production, creative planning and evaluation
5. Implementing vision of worship experience/big picture

Kidstuf Director:
1. KS Stage production
2. Recruitment and training of cast and crew
3. Oversee, design, maintain KS environment/context
4. Pre-production, Creative planning & evaluation
5. Graphic design

More on the details later . . . Our next step is to fill in these priorities. I plan to assign a one line “win” to each position. Then we create an organizational chart for a church of 750 and put our names in each of the slots.

Drive Conference 2006

November 9, 2006 — Leave a comment

Session 1: Replacing the Filters

Bottomline: If you make it difficult for unchurched people to get to God, you are testing God. Acts 15:20

Session 2: Repairing the Transmission–Liberating Your Organization

Bottomline: Systems creat behaviors.

Components of a system: Expectations/rules, Rewards or lack thereof, Consequences or lack thereof, Communication (content and style), Behavior of those in charge.

The systems of a church will always trump teaching, communication, vision & mission. A mission is meaningless unless you change the system.

Session 3: Changing the Plugs–Recruiting and Retaining Great Volunteers

1. Connect the dots: make volunteers feel that they fulfill a vital role that is connected to the overall mission and strategy of the organization.

2. Start and Stop: Clearly define the beginning and of a volunteers role.

3. Eliminate the Competition: Eliminate competing systems within your organization.

4. Bring them along: apprentice volunteers; don’t parachute them into a role.

5. Recognize and reward: Positively reinforce actions that reflect the core values—celebrate the win

6. Make them proud: Create an environment that volunteers would be proud to be a part of. Captivate their imaginations.

7. Staff for stars: Leadership attracts leadership. Hold out for the best leaders.

Session 4: Recharging the Battery–

Bottomline: In conflict, obey God and trust Him with the consequences.

Session 5: Cleaning the Fuel Injectors–Building High Performance Teams

Bottomline: A high performance team is a small group of competent (interdependent) individuals passionately engaged in the execution of a plan designed to solve a specific problem.

1. Most families believe in the potential of the church to impact their kids.

2. Most churches believe in the potential of the family to impact their kids.

3. But most kids are growing up in Christian homes and churches and abandoning their faith. 60-80% of kids abandon the church between high school and college.

4. What if the solution for this generation of kids and students is neither the church nor the family? What if it is both/and?

5. What if both started believing in the potential of combining their influence as a force?—not the Emergent Church but the Convergent Church—the convergence of church and family.

6. They would both have to buy into the idea that . . . Two combined influences can make a greater impact than just two influences—Think Orange

7. Statistics indicate that the majority of parents recognize they need the church for help with the spiritual and moral development of their kids.

There are at least three things that most parents want to say to the church: Give us a better plan; Tell us what to say; Show us what to do.

8. But the majority of churches seem to fail in recognizing the need to establish an effective family ministry mindset.

They keep doing business as usual for a number of reasons:

Their key leaders don’t know what a family ministry looks like;

Their current programs require all of their resources and calendar;

Their existing structure will not support a different approach to ministry.

Suggestion: put a yellow dot on the church calendar for everything your church does for kids. Put a red dot on all of the things your church does for families. Put an orange dot on all of the things it does for families together.

9. If any church hopes to genuinely partner with parents it will have to radically shift in its thinking about how it interacts with parents.

THERE ARE FIVE PRIMARY CHARACTERISTICS of a CHURCH that effectively partners with parents.—They have a strategy: a plan with an end in mind.

Churches that think orange . . .
1. Integrate strategies.
If you think YELLOW you create relevant environments to connect different age groups.

If you think ORANGE you connect leaders and parents to create life-changing experiences through every age group.

4 Words
Preschool—EMBRACE—give preschoolers a first look at who God is.

Children—TRUST—most people receive Christ as a child; teach what it means to trust Christ

Middle School—PERSONALIZE—M.S. is a critical time for a person to own their own faith

High School—EXPERIENCE—H.S. kids want to know what God want to do in them and through them; involve students doing ministry.

Churches that think orange . . .
2. Elevate Community
– Create a church culture that says: I cannot survive outside the context of community.

If you think YELLOW, you challenge small group leaders to assume total responsibility to influence a child’s relationship with Christ.

If you think ORANGE, you challenge small group leaders to partner with parents to influence a child’s relationship with Christ.

Churches that think orange . . .
3. Synchronize Content

If you think YELLOW you are consumed with asking the question, “What are we going to teach kids?”

If you think ORANGE you’re asking, “How can we get parents to teach the same things that we are teaching kids?”

Churches that think orange . . .
4. Create family experiences
—something for the family to experience together.

If you think YELLOW you do more programs for kids.

If you think ORANGE you do less programs for kids so you can do more for the family.

Learn to speak “family”

Churches that think orange . . .
5. Reactivate the home
—the best you can hope for is temporary influence as a church; parents have lifetime influence by default.

If you think YELLOW you act like what happens at church is more important than what happens at home.

If you think ORANGE you act like what happens at home is more important than what happens at church.

1. We are not called to simply exist, but we are wired to experience what God has designed us to be; we feel like we were designed to accomplish or create something of eternal value—something God designed us to accomplish. As leaders we want to be part of something that is bigger than anything we can do individually.

The best thing leaders can do for their church is to get crystal clear about the mission: a church that understands who it is, why it exists & what its role is.

Just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that you’re alive.

2. We are not designed to just do church and to simply get other people to just do church.
We are designed to be the church, and to compel others to be the church!—It’s the difference between religious activity and a relationship with deity.

3. The church’s role is symbolized in Scripture by a lampstand.
It was located in a strategic place—next to the “showbread” to remind people of God’s presence and His provision for the people of Israel—Christ is the ultimate provision of which the showbread was a foreshadowing.

It was designed to fulfill a specific purpose—to be an entity to illuminate—to spotlight Christ, God’s provision.

4. This suggests that the church exists for one primary purpose—to illuminate.

5. More specifically, the church is called to highlight who God is and what He has done.
Not only are your programs not sacred, your church is not sacred—only the mission is.

6. The church’s potential to influence is directly related to how it is positioned and what it illuminates. The church should capture the world’s imagination with God.

The church has a tendency to drift from what it was originally designed to do.

Every leader has to be intentional about realigning the church to its core purpose.

7. Regardless of how you define the church, it is a critical part of God’s divine strategy to demonstrate God’s redemptive story to the world.

8. Every church should be organized around a clear strategy: to reveal Jesus to every generation.

9. Your calling to care for the lampstand (church) has: a strategic implication, a social implication, a personal implication.

Is your church helping to turn on a light in the community?

If your church ceased to exist would anyone in your community know or miss it?