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“Love matters more in the life of a kid than it does in the life of an adult.” @reggiejoiner from Playing For Keeps

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?

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?

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.

Not long ago it was popular in many Christian parenting programs to “schedule” your kids—i.e. make your child know in no uncertain terms that your life doesn’t revolve around their rhythms but yours— and you do this from the littlest age by putting them on a feeding and napping schedule—make sure that they know that life revolves around us and not them, because in doing so we would ensure that they wouldn’t become selfish (like us—I never quite understood that part.) Ironically, even if you have “scheduled” your kids—the environment, the rhythms, the grocery list, that smell in the car, are all fundamentally impacted by kids.

So much so, that the moment you walk into a house you can almost immediately tell if there are young kids living there. Funny thing is, there are thousands of churches out there who say they are family churches, that they have made children their “top” priority, but you wouldn’t know it when you walk in on Sunday—it doesn’t look like children go there—the environment isn’t different, the greeters don’t know where the kids go, the classrooms are “multi-purpose” which means capable of being used by “adults” for anything they would like to do, the schedule isn’t different, teachers are on rotation so they don’t miss too much of their Sunday school class, the grocery list hasn’t changed, space and time and budget are still largely spent on adult ministry and the foyer still smells like grandma’s closet. Sometimes I think we have “scheduled” kids and children’s ministry in our churches around the adults.

We must remember that Jesus placed the child in the midst. And just like Jesus we ought to put the child in the center of the church. Instinctively we know this in the home, but I’m not sure we have figured it out in the church. I happen to believe that the degree to which the church does this, the greater the impact it will have on the community and the world. Before I talk about why . . . what do you think?

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?

I love ideas. I could spend the rest of my life wrestling with ideas. There is a Hasidic Jewish view of heaven held by some rabbis that heaven will be a place to ponder God for all eternity. There is no end to the person of God, so it is not impossible. In any case I am sure I will have time to get back to some of these ideas in the future, but for now I wanted to share some of my experience of the last few weeks.

As a church leader I find one of the hardest things to do is being undistracted in worship on Sunday morning. The chance to be away, if only for a weekend, where I was not responsible was immeasurable. The worship leaders at GrowUp and Northpoint did a spectacular job. In the final session of the GrowUp conference the well-planned agenda was set aside and in worship we revelled at a future when all people will glorify God.

Throughout the conference we saw glimpes of family ministry in other countries overcoming incredible cultural obstacles to reach families in Brazil, Bosnia and South Africa. One day “the dancers will dance upon injustice” in those countries. My heart is broken by the obstacles churches throughout the world face and the luxury we have in North America to be self-focused.

God is moving. It is great to be part of His Big Story.

Session II–GrowUp06

May 19, 2006 — 2 Comments

Session II: Just Jump–Carey Nieuwhof

I. Critical Question: Am I afraid to jump? And if so, what am I afraid of?

II. Why Jump?
1. There is no such thing as incremental jumping. Incremental change only gets incremental results.
2. God, himself, is a jumper—Exodus
Heb. 11:3 God creates ex nihilo—out of nothing
3. Because everything is at stake—a radical problem requires a radical change.

55% of Americans will not attend church on Sunday. 80% of Canadians will not attend church on Sunday—sounds like a mission field to me.
85% of American churches are plateaued or declining.

II Cor. 5:18-20—The church is the hope of the world. No one else is going to do it: our education system is not going to do it; our social programs are not going to do it; our government programs are not going to do it. The church is the hope of the world no other institution is or can be because only the church spotlights the provision of God—Jesus Christ.

III. Three Jumps Every Leader Needs to Take
Without these three jumps all other jumps will only be incremental. These are critical and foundational jumps.

1. Jump One: From “it’s about us to it’s about others.” The North American church is one of the most self-focused institutions in the world.

A. Two factors that keep people from making the jump:

a. Loss of mission—the why question: Why do you do what you do?
b. Fear—fear of criticism, fear of losing members

2. Jump Two: From leading people to leading leaders. Exodus 18 should be the leadership model of churches. The One-leader model will wear your church out.

A. Leadership is far more influential than likeability—Moses is not remembered because he was well-liked.
B. Leading kids and students severely limits the scope and influence of your ministry.
C. Leadership, not passion, ensures alignment and momentum.

3. Jump Three: From talking about it to doing it.
Leaders are learners.

A. God rewards transformation, not information.
B. There is no success without sacrifice.
C. You will be most tempted to stop seconds before the critical breakthrough.
D. Focus not on what the jump might cost you, but on what you might miss.
The jumping never ends. Numbers 11

Some thoughts: Kudos to Carey Nieuwhof for the incredible feats of leadership he has accomplished in his church!!! It is stories like Carey’s that remind us that big jumps are not just for mega churches but what make plateaued and declining churches mega churches.

I think there is one take-away from Carey’s message that no church can afford to miss: Churches need to take the jump from “It’s about us” to “it’s about others.” Andy Stanley has put it another way: Churches need to make their decisions based upon who they are going to reach, not who they are going to keep.

The biggest obstacle to change in the church (and other private non-profits for that matter) is the fear of who will leave. The history of many of our churches, particularly their beginnings are stories of huge jumps, huge risks, taken with great faith. In my own church there is an aerial shot of the piece of property that was bought in 1954. In the early fifties FBC was rapidly growing out of a downtown church building. In 1954 the church purchased a piece of land to the east of downtown Ventura. The picture shows walnut orchards and fields; there is not a house, not a business, not a freeway or main street shown in the picture. The property was so far removed from Ventura downtown and residential areas, it was a crazy decision. FBC made that jump in 1954. 52 year’s later the church sits right across from the Pacific View Mall, centrally located in the City of Ventura. Thanks to the leadership of 1954, there is not a church better poised geographically to reach the city of Ventura than FBC.

Every leader knows where change needs to occur in order to make progress. Generally, however, we chose incremental change for fear of disrupting the system too greatly and upsetting or, worse, losing people. The idea is that we can still move toward where we need to be by taking steps imperceptible to everyone except ourselves. Like the frog in the pot we hope that the temperature changes so gradually the frog won’t know it’s boiling. We hope to arrive at the change without anyone noticing they’ve changed. I wonder about this—do we think we will arrive at a place where change isn’t.

In my experience there is no such thing as imperceptible change. People know they are changing, even incrementally. Because the benefits of incremental change are not easily seen, people generally only experience the pain of change. This is a principle: In incremental change only the pain of change is experienced not its benefits. We might be able to learn something from drug-rehabs here.

GrowUp Session III

May 17, 2006 — 2 Comments

I just came back from a week at Northpoint Community Church. We attended the GrowUp Conference during the week, the Alpharetta Campus on Sunday morning and the Buckhead Campus on Sunday evening. For those not familiar with Northpoint Community Church—Andy Stanley is the Senior Pastor, Reggie Joiner is the Director of Family Ministry. Northpoint meets at two campuses (Alpharetta & Buckhead) and is currently building a third (Browns Bridge). All three campuses are located within a 20 mile radius of Atlanta, Georgia. Between the two campuses the church sees an average attendance of over 15,000 people. On Sunday morning at the second and third services they were turning people away. Hosts stood outside of the two auditoriums at the Alpharetta Campus letting people know that the auditorium was full. People stood in the hallways and watched the services on monitors. And for those of us from Southern California, this all happened on a rainy day. Apparently the rain doesn’t deter Georgians.

At the Drive Conference in a message called “Communicating for Change” Andy Stanley emphasized the need to preach one-point sermons. This message is outstanding and can be heard at www.driveconference.com. Of the three messages we heard by Andy Stanley this last week he remained true to the one point sermon.

Sunday morning: Jealously is not a problem we have with other people, it is a problem we have with God.

Sunday evening at Buckhead: Confession breaks the power of guilt.

GrowUp Conference: “There is no progress without change; there is no change without challenge and if God has gifted you to lead, He’s gifted you to challenge the things that need to be changed.”—Defy Gravity, General Session III

Below is a brief summary of my notes from the message by Andy Stanley: Defy Gravity, Session III

1. Leaders love progress because the role of a leader is to take us on journeys.
2. Leaders hate the status quo—preach it!
3. Nothing strikes terror in our hearts more than the prospect of being stuck.
4. Progress is always preceded by change.
5. Change is always preceded by challenge.
6. Change is always preceded by challenge.
7. Change is always preceded by challenge.
8. Change is always preceded by challenge.

Andy camped on this point for a while. Among my notes: There is no change without a challenge. Friction is not a sign of ungodliness. When keeping the peace becomes the ultimate value then leaders will leave.

I. Challenging the status quo is where leadership begins.
Every organization conspires to stagnate, to progress toward stability; this is why leadership is so important in creating progress in an organization.

A. Leaders instinctively evaluate and critique everything.
B. It is in you to challenge the process.
C. Deep in your heart you feel that if you were in charge things would not only be different, they would be better.
D. This propensity explains why . . .
…you ask “Why?” about everything.
…you have an opinion about everything.
…you are always offering unsolicited suggestions  (Janna and I caught ourselves here the rest of the day)
…you are constantly pointing to other models.

Andy challenged people who may be giving push back to these characteristics that they may not possess the gift of leadership. Their gifts are certainly valuable to the organization, but not as leaders. They are moving at 20 miles per hour, while the leaders in the organization are trying to move at 80 miles per hour. If you are moving at 20 you need to step out of the way and follow the “rabble rousers.”

But this propensity is generally problematic . . .

II Challenging the process is often interpreted as a challenge to someone’s leadership and authority.

A. Your supervisor may confuse this tendency as arrogance or a lack of respect.

B. Keep in mind . . .

1. Everything that is in place was originally considered a good idea.
…like those thrones on the platform in Baptist churches, large one for the pastor and music person, the small ones for mamma and baby bear.
2. Everything that is in place was originally somebody’s good idea.
3. Everything that is in place was once viewed as revolutionary.
4. Everything that is in place began as a challenge to the status quo.

III. Application
A. Develop the art of challenging the process without challenging the authority of your leader.—cf. the section on “Leading Up” in John Maxwell’s, 360 Degree Leader.

1. When an instruction is given—follow through. Debrief later.
2. Never verbalize your frustration with the process in front of other team members
Principle: Loyalty publicly results in leverage privately.
3. Don’t confuse your insights with moral imperatives
4. When you can’t follow, get off the team.

B. Create a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the process.
You don’t recruit leaders by making an announcement; you recruit leaders by creating a culture that is safe for leaders to challenge the process.

1. You don’t gain anything by not knowing what they are already thinking.—gain their insight. Leaders are already thinking that they can do your job better than you, so gain their insight.
2. Don’t confuse an expression of leadership with rebellion.
3. If our leaders have permission to challenge the process:

Everybody wins
The organization remains relevant
We create an environment that attracts leaders.
Nothing goes underground.

Suggestions for creating a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the process:

1. Have new leaders evaluate the organization after 3 months & after 1 year.
Ask questions like: What surprised you about this job? Does anything seem off purpose? What improvements in staff & department need to be made? How are your opinions received?

2. Have leaders brainstorm the following scenario: Something tragic has happened to the Senior Pastor. The whole organization has been turned over to you. What changes would you make? There are no sacred cows.

Some thoughts: I might add that everything that is in place now and everything that will be in place in the future began as a challenge. There is no way out of the challenge factor. A good place for self evaluation for many churches would be to ask the question: “Who in our organization is allowed to make a challenge?” This sort of question may get to what is impeding a culture where it is safe for leaders to challenge the status quo. I suspect that for many churches that there is a bottleneck on change and progress because of one or more of the following factors:

The “they” factor: leaders, including the senior leader, are afraid to make challenges because of what “they” might think. “They” could be people who hold political power, but may not hold actual leadership positions in the organization. In this case only “they” are able to make challenges and since no body knows who “they” are, no challenges are made because “they” might get upset.

Unclear governance structure: This would be the organization where power and the ability to make decisions is constantly shifting. Decision making power is typically “shared” between several leadership bodies. I.e. board of directors, senior leader, staff, committees etc. . . In the climate of unclear governing structures it may be safe to challenge the status quo, but change dies on the operating table as it is passed from governing body to governing body. One doesn’t know who to address a challenge to. Each governing body acts in fear of getting their fingers caught in an area that they may have no authority.

One leader only factor: only one person is allowed to challenge. In this environment you can expect stagnation in two forms: If the leadership structure of a church only allows challenges from one person and that person is not a leader you can expect stagnation because few or no challenges will be made. Secondly, no problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. When there is only one person allowed to challenge the status quo that person can’t know what they don’t know. This structure needs to empower a team of leaders that is allowed to make challenges.

The key to preventing stagnation in an organization is to expect your gifted leaders to challenge the status quo and have a plan to garner those challenges, have clear governance structures and have a team of leaders who are allowed to challenge and act upon challenges to the status quo.