Should My Preteen Have A Smart Phone

NO!!

While I certain feel that I could end this post right there, I won’t. For me this is an easy decision. However, I understand that for others it is not so easy. Let’s look at some reasons why you shouldn’t let your preteen have one and then some reasons why many of them do.

Free Porn, Come and Get It!! My friend in ministry, Sam Luce did a post on his blog titled, “Would you take your kids to a porn shop?” Certainly you would never do that, but you give your child unmonitored access to the internet. You can read Sam’s Post HERE. Let’s face it your preteen (or teenager for that matter) is not ready to self-censor. They lack the maturity, in most cases, to recognize something that something is bad and then turn away from it. They may even recognize that it is wrong and do it anyway. A smart phone gives your preteen complete, unmonitored access to the internet and all the evils that are available out there.

But, we use parental controls. Great! I think you should. But, do you really think that you know that device better than your kids? Maybe you do, but chances are you don’t. There are ways around parental controls and monitoring software. The only way to really monitor what their viewing is to BE THERE.

It’s just for Facebook and Instagram and stuff like that. Last year In the county I just moved from a 12 year old girl committed suicide after being bullied relentlessly by as many as 15 girls via social media. As an adult it is easy for me to say “just ignore it” or “just block those people. They are not your friends anyway.” But, when your 12 years old it’s not that simple. Giving your child a smart phone puts them in a position to experience this type of treatment, without you there to monitor it or to support them through it. Certainly this represents an extreme case, but it illustrates the dangers that exist.

Your baby the porn star. That may sound extreme, but read this story HERE about a young woman who has some nude pictures of herself taken. She shared them with her boyfriend at the time. When they broke up he posted them on the internet for all the world to see. While this is, again, an extreme example, check these statistics: (you can see the original article HERE)

  • 22% of teen girls have shared nude or semi-nude pictures
  • 18% of teen boys have done the same
  • 36% of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos or videos to be shared with people other than the intended recipient.

If these states are even close to right they are appalling. Would you want your little boy or your baby girl sending nude pictures? This can happen on any phone, but smart phones make it even easier.

Some apps are just evil. Snapchat is an app that I think should be avoided by all people. Certainly there are harmless uses for it, but it also can be very harmful. Snapchat allows you to send pictures to people that then disappear a short time after being viewed. This is just one example of the type of apps that are out there.

So, why SHOULD we give them a smart phone? Well, if we are completely honest the reason most of us would give our preteen a smart phone is BECAUSE THEY WANT ONE. Or, BECAUSE ALL THEIR FRIENDS HAVE ONE. Neither one of theses is a good reason to do anything. Our kids often want things that are bad for them and it is our job to filter these kinds of things and protect them from them until they are mature enough to filter them for themselves.

As for their friends having one. First, while many of their friends may have one, there are many more that don’t have a smart phone and many that have no phone at all. But, even if they do have smart phones let me ask the Christian parents a question, “Do you want your kids to grow up to be like the people around him/her OR to be like Christ.” As Christians we are called to be set apart, to be different. I know that this can be very difficult when we are young, especially in the preteen years. But, it is what we are called to. This will often mean making choices that are different than what the people around us are doing.

So, should my preteen have a smart phone? I still say NO. At the end of the day, however, the decision has to be yours. But, as you consider it, keep these things in mind.


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Kids Worship Differently

I have seen kids worship and it’s beautiful. I’ve seen in camps. I’ve seen it in children’s church. I’ve seen in it VBS. I’ve even seen it, occasionally, in adult worship services. If you watch a child worship you’ll see that it looks a lot like when adults worship. But, there is something different, the ENVIRONMENT that kids worship in.

Is this ok? Is it ok that then environment that typically leads a kid to a place of worship is different than that for adults or even teens? I say yes. Next time you’re in church look around at the people that are there. Are they all the same? Do they all have the same taste in music? Do they all worship God in the same way? Is it ok for the different adults in an adult service to worship differently? I’d say yes. In that case, I’d say it’s ok for kids to worship differently as well.

Can kids worship in an adult service? The answer to this is YES. But, I would argue that it is not as natural for them. A couple weeks ago my church did a musical based on the book of Revelation. It was a series of scripture readings followed by a song that talked about the passage that had just been read. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. It was such a great time of worship. The adults in attendance were blown away. In the midst of this amazing time of worship I saw kids all over the room that were completely checked out. How could the adults be so worshipful and the kids checked out?

Kids need to learn to worship in ANY environment. Many would make this argument, and I agree. The same should be true for teens and adults as well. Worship should not be about a specific place or style of music. Rather worship should be about connecting with God in a way that is meaningful. With this in mind, do we even need to set up special environments for children to worship in? While the eventual goal would be for kids to learn to worship in any environment, most of them simply aren’t there yet. Remember that many of these kids are unsaved, or at the very least young Christians. If they have never experienced worship, how can they learn to worship in other environments.

What does it look like when kids worship. As I have said above it often looks a lot like when adults worship. In a given adult service you will have some people that sing and some that don’t. Some people will close their eyes as they sing. Some people will raise their hands or even clap. We’re all different and so is our way of worshiping. The same is true with kids. But, I have found that many kids are more active in their worship. Kids like to do motions and even dance a little, but at the same time some don’t. I remember on child that was in children’s church with me. He spent almost every Sunday standing still, not singing and with his hands in his pockets. He wasn’t being rude, it’s just that singing and doing motions were not his way of worshipping. I also remember when this same child, who always seemed to be kinda unplugged, accepted Christ. I remember when I baptized him. He may not have worshipped like many of the other kids, but he was connecting with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit was working on him.

Teaching kids to worship anytime, anywhere starts with setting up environments that help kids to experience worship. It is only after they have experienced the wonder of authentic worship that they can begin to learn to take that worship to other environments. So, don’t be afraid to let kids worship their way, even if it doesn’t look like what your used to.


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Why Children’s Ministry Environments Matter

Recently I have written posts on the idea of creating environments that are inviting to kids. Here are links to those posts:

So, What’s the big deal. Why does it matter where we put kids, or how we plan for ministering to them? What difference does it make if we give them their own space or just put them wherever the is room? Why do children’s ministry environments matter?

Because they mattered to Jesus!

People brought children to Jesus. Mark 10:13 says, “Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them…” These people understood that children needed Jesus. They wanted their children to be close to Jesus, to have an encounter with Jesus cause they understood that they would never be the same. Parents that bring their kids to church are hoping for the same thing. They are hoping that their kids will have an encounter with Jesus and be forever changed because of it.

The disciples REBUKED them. The above verse goes on to say, “…but the disciples rebuked them.” The disciples failed to see the value of the kids or of them spending time with Jesus. They felt that the kids should sit down, be quiet, and listen to Jesus. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t this what we often do with kids in church. We force them into adult worship services and expect them to sit down, be quiet and listen to the preacher. We may even call it a “family service”, but in most cases this “family service” was never designed with kids in mind. It is really an adult service that we force kids to attend. Please understand I am not against Family Worship services. When they are actually planned in such a way that adults AND children are considered, then they cane beautiful. But, that is seldom the case.

Jesus was INDIGNANT! This passage is one very familiar to many people in church, especially in children’s ministry. But, only once have I ever heard it taught from the book of Mark. Every other time it was taught from the book of Matthew. Why? I can’t say for certain, but I think it is because it make a prettier picture. But, in Mark’s recording of the event he adds something that Matthew leaves out. He records that Jesus was INDIGNANT. Not just upset, a little perturbed, or a teensy bit angry. He was indignant. Jesus was very upset. The only other time I can remember when he became angry he was turning over tables in the temple court. Clearly these children mattered to Jesus.

What did the disciples do wrong? The disciples were creating an environment that was unwelcoming, even hostile towards children. I understand that most churches are not hostile toward children,but I have seen some. I have seen churches where children were strictly not allowed in their worship center. I remember when my son was very young, like less that 2, we went for the graduation ceremony of a close family friend. The ceremony was being held in a local church. As we approached the doors to their worship center there was a sign stating that children under a certain age WERE NOT ALLOWED in the worship center. These children HAD to go to the nursery. We gave out apologies to this family friend and we left. Most churches are not this extreme, but if we are honest many churches are not welcoming to children.

What did Jesus do differently? Jesus understood the value of children and wanted them to be unhindered in coming to Him. Jesus created an environment that was welcoming to these children. Jesus took them in His arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them. Psalm 55:19 says, “God, who is enthroned from of old, who DOES NOT CHANGE…” Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the Lord, do not change…” Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Bible is clear that God does not change. So, the Jesus that was indignant over the disciples treatment of these children is the same today. The Jesus that welcomed this little ones, took them in his arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them is the same today.

What does this mean for us? In this passage Jesus physically took these kids into his arms. Jesus is not here in a physical form. Rather he has called us to be his hands and feet. He has called us to “take them in our arms” to “lay our hands on them” to “bless them. Disciples carted an environment that bordered on hostile towards children, but Jesus desired and created an environment that was welcoming to children. If this is what Jesus did and we have been commissioned to represent him in the world today, then we should do the same thing.

What does this look like? Well, that is a bigger question than I an answer in a couple sentences. The truth is it is different for every church and every town. BUT, it all starts with being aware of importance of creating such environments. It is not simply about cool paint, props, scenes or other such things. It is about things like calling kids by their name, kneeling down to get on their level. It’s about teaching in a manner that does not dumb down the truth of Scripture, but breaks it down so they can understand it.

Check out the posts I mentioned above for more on how to create environments that are welcoming to children.


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The “F” Word in Children’s Ministry

I think that today is a great time to be in children’s ministry. In many ways we are laying the foundations for what children’s ministry is. To me this is exciting. Unfortunately it means there are issues that we are struggling with as we try to figure this out. Ultimately, what children’s ministry should look like depends on the individual culture of a church and community along with the unique gifts, talents, and calling of the leaders God sends. But, I think there are some things that are foundational to reaching kids for Christ.

Most of us are familiar with what is commonly known as “the F word” or the “F bomb”. Even though it has become fairly commonplace in the language of man Americans, it is still considered to be among the most offensive of cuss words to many others. In the struggle to determine what children’s ministry should look like, some have developed a new “F word” in relation to children’s ministry.

FUN!!!

That’s right, FUN has become a bad word for many leaders in children’s ministry. Certainly they would not say that the word itself is offensive, but many have vilified the idea of having fun when reaching or ministering to kids. I would argue that fun is our greatest tool in reaching, teaching and discipling children.

Fun free zones. Recently I spoke with a woman in my church who works at a local elementary school. She talked about how the kids are told all day to sit down, sit still, and be quiet. Is it any wonder that kids have trouble doing the same when they come to church. Is it any wonder that we have trouble getting new kids to WANT to come to church. If we are doing the same thing they are doing at school, but with a different text book, don’t be surprised if kids misbehave, check out mentally, or stop coming.

It’s not ABOUT the fun. In fairness, there are some churches who have gone too far in the other direction. In attempt to get and keep the kids attention, they have become more about the fun and entertainment and are failing to teach the Bible in a serious and effective manor. I know that this is a tough balance, but our programs can’t simply be about having fun. Now, this is not to say that we should never have any events that are simply for the fun of it. I’m all for the occasional fun event. But, even with these the ultimate purpose is to provide an opportunity for the kids to fellowship and grow closer together and for them to have something to invite their friends to.

Fun is a TOOL. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what my pastor at a past church told me about fun. It was at the youth camp that my last church puts on every year. I was leading the team that did much of the cooking. In a lull between meals we were talking about camp and how much FUN the kids seemed to be having. He explained that if we could help them to have FUN and feed them well, then he could get in front of them that night and speak on whatever God was leading him to say and they would listen. You see, it wasn’t about the fun. Fun is a tool that gives us an opportunity to speak into the lives of children. This is, after all, what we really want.

Have Fun WITH THEM. Let’s face it most adults are way to serious. Some may even say that most adults are too boring. If we, as adults, feel that way imagine how kids feel. Something really powerful happens when we take time to actually have fun with them. Some of my greatest connections with kids have come as I was hurling a dodgeball at them or as I was dumping slime on their head, or letting them dump slime on  my head. If you truly want to speak into the lives of children, play games WITH them. Certainly there are times when you can lead a game and not participate. There are times when you might set up a game and let the kids play amongst themselves. But, there have to be times when you are having fun with them if you ever want to connect with them.

Fun Factories. Kids are all about fun. It’s almost like food for a kids soul. Don’t believe it? Try this, put some kids in a room. Place a few objects in the middle of the room. The objects can be just about anything. Then watch them for a little bit. It may be awkward at first, but it before long the kids will take those objects and create some sort of game with them.

Play comes naturally for kids. It is simply part of who they are. If we want to reach them, it has to be part of who we are too. Besides, when they are having fun (in most cases) so are we. I can’t speak for every children’s ministry leader, but I LOVE TO HVE FUN. So, it’s a win, win, win – I have fun, the kids have fun, and I get to speak into their lives, – win, win, win.


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Why Disney Does Better Than Us.

As I look around in the children’s ministry community I see two disparate trends. On the one hand there is a trend towards more interactive, lively, kid-friendly environments. On the other side is a group of people that think this is the wrong way to go. This had me really thinking recently which way is better. Should be hype up our environments, amping up the color and the energy level. Or should we go for something more calm and cool? I believe that our environments should be fun and full of color and wonder. Here’s why:

Disney does it. Ok, I know that in and of itself this is not a good reason to do anything. I can almost hear my mother now, “If they were jumping off a bridge would you do that too?” Stay with me. Disney has a long history of reaching and teaching kids. There may have been a time that their message was more wholesome and pure. That day has long gone, but still still they are reaching kids. I would go so far as to say that they are the best in the world at reaching kids and families. They have worked hard to become experts on kids; what they like, what they enjoy, how they learn; how to entertain them. Guess what… IT WORKS. They are reaching more and teaching more kids than any other organization on the planet. Reaching and teaching kids is what we want to do too. So, if they are doing is so well, maybe we should take a look at what they are doing.

Kids are listening and learning. I remember when my son, Trey, was younger he really loved a Disney show called, “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody.” The main characters were the twins sons of a single mom. They lived in a large, fancy apartment building in some large city. They basically had free run of the building. They could go where they wanted and, pretty much, do what they wanted. The mother was seldom around and the father was almost nonexistent. The kids showed very little discipline and were extraordinarily disrespectful to adults and authority. Some time later I remember Trey becoming increasingly disrespectful to me and his mother. I quickly made the link between this show and his behavior. He was emulating what the behavior of the characters in this show. I sat him down and firmly explained that the show was make believe and that the kind of behavior he saw on that show WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED in our home. His behavior improved, but I realized in that moment that kids are learning from what many might see as harmless entertainment.

Stop complaining, start changing. It is an interesting dichotomy where some of the same people that complain about what they view as “entertainment focused children’s ministry” also complain about the effect that mainstream media is having on our kids. Hmm. The very same methods that these people are criticizing in church are clearly working outside the church. In their very complaints they acknowledge the effectiveness of their methods. Clearly the message we have is far better than theres. Clearly our message can not be compromised. But, if their methods are working (and often having a greater impact than our methods) maybe we should examine them more closely. Maybe, instead of squashing the creativity of God’s people we should applaud it.

Holy Spirit + the image of God = ultimate creativity. It can be difficult and overwhelming to look at Disney and even begin to try to compare what we do to what they do. Clearly there are some of the most creative people on the earth working for them. But, we have an advantage. They, like us, are created in the image of God. Genesis tells us that this is true of all people. But, we also have the influence of the Holy Spirit. Disney has nearly unlimited funds. This is seldom true in the church, but we have something better, UNLIMITED POWER (in my best super hero voice). We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the innate creativity that comes from being made in the image of the creator. Stop wasting time lamenting the resources and creativity that Disney and other mainstream media outlets have and start tapping into the creativity that is waiting within you.

Holy Spirit is the key. Let’s face it, we can never be Disney. We can never do things the way they do. But, we can have an impact that is even greater. Connecting with the Holy Spirit is the key to this. Planning is great, but we must take time to connect with God, to connect with the Holy Spirit. If you find you are struggling creatively take time to evaluate your daily walk with God. Are you taking time EVERY DAY to be in the presence of God? Are you reading your Bible EVERY DAY? Are you praying EVERY DAY?

Let’s take our kids back. I think it is time that we stopped complaining about the impact Disney and other mainstream media outlets are having on our kids and take them back. Let’s stop lamenting what the others have and relish in what we have. Let’s celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit and then be guided by Him as we reach out to kids. Let’s take them back from the world that has such a grasp on even the kids that are in the church. Let’s rescue kids that are not in the church and drown in the worlds influence. Let’s stand up and take on the Great Commission as never before.


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