Parent’s Are God’s People Too.

Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” (HCSB) The NIV says, “to equip his people for works of service.” As children’s ministry leaders we often work to equip the people that we lead, but we forget that parents are God’s people too.

They need to be equipped. There was a time; long ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Ok, maybe not, but there was a time in the past when parents knew how to disciple their kids. Well, I’m assuming there was. Either way the truth is that most parents today don’t know how to disciple their children. We now have a generation of parents that were not discipled by their parents. This is not a knock on their parents. When I was a child most families were becoming dual income. This helped pay the bills, but left less time for discipleship in the home. The result that we are left with now is that many parents have never seen what home discipleship looks like. So, they need our help.

It’s our job. The passage above clearly tells us that “equipping God’s people” is part of our job. I can’t think of much better “works of ministry” or a better way “to build up the body of Christ” than parents discipling their kids. This being true, it IS part of our job to equip them.

The kids will benefit. If you’re in children’s ministry I assume you love kids and want what is best for them. It cannot be argued that parents spend more time to with their children that we do. As a result they ARE the biggest influence in the lives of their children. This can be good, or bad. We can TALK about how important Bible reading or prayer is, but if the kids never SEE their parents doing it, then the impact of our words will be greatly diminished. This is not to say that our words are without value, but they will have much more impact if we will take the time to give parents tools to help them disciple the children in their home.

But most don’t use it. Many curriculums these days come with send home papers for parents. These are designed to help parents talk with their kids about what was taught in children’s church, small group, or Sunday school. I have heard many children’s ministry leaders complain that so few parents actually use them. I have experienced this as well. I have gotten so frustrated at times that I stopped sending them home. But, I think there are some things that you can do to help parents make the most of these.

  • Inform them: Do your parents know what this strange sheet you give out each week is and what it’s for? Do they know what to do with it? Take some time to teach them how to use this tool to reinforce what was taught the past Sunday.
  • Give it to the parents: I know that ANYTHING I give to the kids is going to end up on the floor, or in the trashcan in the bathroom, or in the floorboard of their parent’s car. Giving it to the parents may give the same results, but there is a little more chance that it will get used if you give it to the parents. I know that it can be tricky to find a way to get it in the hands of the parents, but it will be worth it.
  • Consider going digital: In my ministry not many of the kids are on Facebook, but most of the parents are. Consider posting your take home pages on there. If they want to print it, they can. If they want to view it on their computer, phone, or tablet they can. Be sure to check with your curriculum publisher to see if this is allowed before you do it. They may not allow you to post it publicly, but may allow you to if you created a closed Facebook group that is only available to the parents in your church.
  • Ask them: Talk to some parents and see what they need and how you can help.

At the end of the day, when I got frustrated and stopped providing take home sheets I realized that I was hurting the ones that would use it for the sake of the ones that didn’t. You will never get ALL of the parents to take advantage of the tools you provide. That’s not your problem. For the ones that do take advantage of it the value will be great. For the ones that don’t, you can work to find ways to encourage them to take advantage. It might help to have some of the parents that are using it talk to the ones that aren’t.

Just do something. If you are like me, which I hope your not, then you may have a hard time starting stuff because you want everything to be perfect. The problem with this is that it can keep you from ever starting anything. You certainly need to work and do all you can to be prepared, but there comes a point when you just have to do something. From there you can work to improve it, but you have to start somewhere. Reach out to a few families and start with them. Seek their feedback. Help them learn, and learn from them.


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The Kids in Your Church Need You to Become a Student of Pop Culture

Ok, I’ll be straight up. There are things that my kids enjoy, are into or watch that I simply am not into. In fact some of it I don’t get and am completely not interested in. But, my kids and the kids in my church need me to do what I can become a student of pop culture.

What is pop culture? Merriam-Webster, surprisingly, doesn’t show a definition for pop culture, but this is what Wikipedia.org says: “pop culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture.” (I know. It’s not a reliable source, but it’s the best I have. LOL) Basically the “pop” in pop culture is short for popular. So, it is everything that is popular in a given culture. As a parent and children’s minister that means everything that is popular in the culture of children.

Ok, but why should I care? There are a number of reasons why we should make ourselves a student of pop culture. Let’s take a look at some of them.

To connect with kids. When a missionary moves to a new area he or she seeks to learn the culture of that area. This allows them to better connect with the people they are trying to reach. The same is true when we learn the culture of children. It will allow us to better connect with them so that we can have the opportunity to speak into their lives.

To better be able to speak into the lives of children. Connecting with them gives us the opportunity to speak into their lives. Becoming a student of pop culture can help us do that even better. When you use an example from a game or show that your kids are into when teaching, you will be amazed at how quickly they plug in.

Equip parents. Parents are busy. Perhaps busier than ever before. There are also many more threats in pop culture than ever before in our society. These two facts combine to mean that many parents are painfully unaware of what these threats are and what they can or should do about them. As parents I believe we all have a responsibility to learn what we can about these potential threats. As a children’s ministry leader we can help parents by doing some of the research for them. Learn what you can and then help the parents in your church learn it to.

Pop culture changes quickly. My kids are 7 years apart. The things that my 13-year-old son was into when he was little barely even exist any more and the things that my 6-year-old daughter is into didn’t exist when my son was little. Pop culture changes quickly. For this reason we must constantly be seeking to learn about what is popular now. It’s a never-ending process, but the results of doing it are worth it. Likewise, the possible consequences of NOT doing it are more than I’m willing to risk.

 

 

 


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Are You Planning to Give Mickey Mouse Your Tithe?

Recently I was listening to Perry Noble’s leadership podcast. In this particular episode he talked about people giving their tithe to Mickey Mouse during the summer. So, I ask you;

Are you making plans to give your tithe to Mickey Mouse this summer?

Ok, I hear you. You have no plans to go to Disney this summer. The question is not specifically about Disney. Here’s the truth in nearly every church. Giving goes down during the summer months. Unfortunately many people will not give when they are not present. So, when they are traveling for vacation during the summer they don’t give to their church. If you do this you are, in essence, giving your tithe to Disney, or to the beach, or the lake house, or whatever other thing you do for vacation.

Is disobedience ok when your not there? My kids know what I expect in my home. They know that I expect them to obey me whether they are home or not. In fact, I expect and even greater degree of obedience and respect when they are NOT at home. Tithing is an act of obedience. As such, does it matter if you are physically at your home church or not? NO! Just like my kids are expected to obey me, even when they are not home, we should obey God even when we are not in his house.

Does generosity take the summer off? Some would argue that tithing is an Old Testament command and no longer applies for those of us under the new covenant through Jesus Christ. That’s a topic for another day. However, suppose for a moment that tithing is no longer EXPECTED. It would still represent an act of generosity. This being the case do we just set aside our generosity for 3 months every year? Consider these examples:

  • Fitness: Suppose you exercised regularly and were very careful with what you ate, but only for 9 months out of the year. When summer came you stopped exercising and ate whatever was available. Could you still call yourself a fit person at the end of the three months? Could you really say that fitness was important to you if you took 3 months off each year?
  • Money: Suppose for 9 months out of the year you counted every penny. You clipped coupons. You squirrelled away money in savings. You never charged anything, even paying cash for cars. But, the other 3 months you spent money as if you were a millionaire. You quickly blew through your savings and ran up large credit card bills. Would you consider yourself a financially responsible person with this pattern?
  • Attitude: Ok, one more. Suppose you were a really nice person. You helped cats out of trees. You helped old ladies cross the street. You opened doors for ladies. You worked in a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless. You played games in the park with neighborhood kids. BUT, for 3 months of the year you did none of this. Instead you treated people poorly. You threw rocks at the cat stuck in the tree. You laughed at the old lady trying to cross the street. You slammed doors in the ladies faces. You made fun of homeless people. You yelled at the kids playing in the park and popped their ball.

These examples may be extreme, but can we really consider ourselves generous if we only give to the church when we happen to be there?

Are you not grateful? The Bible tells us that God is our provider. We often think that the things we work for we have EARNED. But, it is God who gives us the ability to work. So, even what we work for was given to us by God. For this reason giving is an act of gratitude. Returning a portion of what God has given us back to Him, through the local church, shows that we are grateful for his provision. Are you only grateful when you are in that building?

It’s not about guilt. My goal with this post is not to make anyone feel guilty. That is never my intent. If this post did make you fee guilty I am sincerely sorry. Rather my goal is to make all of us reflect on why we give, when we give and how we give. We also need to reflect on why we DON’T give and when we DON’T give.


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Preacher, When Was The Last Time You Preached The Gospel?

Recently I was reading about the amazing numbers of people that came to Christ following the day of Pentecost. I couldn’t help but wonder why they saw so many come to Christ and we, by comparison, see a relatively small number. I mean they saw 3000 come to Christ in one day. Just a short time later their numbers had grown to around 5000 men. This didn’t even count women and children. Wow, from church plant to mega church in a matter of days. So, what was different about them?

They were familiar with scripture.  Many of the people that Peter preached to following Pentecost were Jews. These were people that grew up hearing the stories and teachings of what we now call the Old Testament. This was not new to them. They had a familiarity with scripture, but lacked a relationship with Jesus.

They experienced suffering. At this time the Jews were under the rule of the Romans. They may not have been slaves as they had been in Egypt, but they certainly were not free. They suffered under the rule of the Romans. They longed to be delivered. When Peter preached the gospel they heard a message of freedom.

Peter preached the gospel. He did not preach on 7 ways to grow closer to God. He preached the gospel. He did not preach on 3 steps to living life to the full. He preached the gospel. He did not preach on 27 ways to have a better marriage. He preached the gospel.

The Holy Spirit showed up. With all other things being equal these things could not have happened without the moving of the Holy Spirit. Peter himself said that. When the lame man was healed, Peter said that what was done THROUGH him was not done BY him but BY God.

So, what about us?

We are familiar. Our churches are filled with people that are familiar with scripture, but lack a relationship with Christ. Many of them have grown up in the church. They are familiar with the stories and teachings of scripture, yet have not been saved. They may even appear to have been. Some may think they have, but haven’t.

Have we experienced suffering? America is a very prosperous nation. The poor among us are rich by global standards. This can make it hard for them to receive the gospel. Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. When we feel as if all our needs are met it can be hard to feel the need for a savior. Even with this I would say that many of us have suffered more than we are willing to admit.

Is the Holy Spirit present? The same Holy Spirit that was in Peter and the others lives in us. However, in many of our churches we haven’t invited the Holy Spirit into the service.  In fact we have made it pretty clear that He is not welcome. Is it any wonder that we don’t see God working?

What can we do?

Promote familiarity with scripture. The Jews that Peter preached to had a familiarity with scripture. This was a foundation that helped them come to Chris when the gospel was presented. Programs that help people become familiar with scripture may not bring people to Christ, but they can have the same foundational effects seen among the Jews in the book of Acts.

Provide a safe place for the suffering. Part of the reason that many people will never speak of their suffering is because they don’t have a safe place to do it. I love corporate worship. There is something powerful about being in a room with a large group of people all in agreement, worshiping God. But, this is not the place to share my junk. When will I do it? During the singing? Maybe during he message? Clearly these are not times to turn to my neighbor and tell them about what I’m struggling with. This sort of authenticity happens in the context of relationship. This can be in a small group setting. This can be one on one. But, this can’t happen in a room with 400 of my closest friends.

Invite the Holy Spirit. I am born and raised Southern Baptist. In spite of us being the butt of many jokes, especially from “non-denominational” pastors and leaders, I am proud to be Southern Baptist. However, there is one thing that we have missed the boat on in many of our churches and that’s the Holy Spirit. We don’t invite Him and even go so far as to exclude Him and set up our environments in such a way that He is not welcome. Most would deny it, but consider these questions:

  • When was the last time you deviated from your usual service structure?
    • Planning is great and we should do it. After all, God is a god of order. But, if every single Sunday looks exactly the same, then the Holy Spirit probably isn’t present.
  • When was the last time you chunked the “plan” DURING A SERVICE? 
    • Again, planning is great, but some of the best things God has done in my ministry is when I trashed a plan I had spent lots of time working on and went in a direction I hadn’t planned, but felt He wanted me to go in. You have to be open to changing direction, maybe even in the middle of a message, as led by the Holy Spirit. I remember times at my last church when I could tell that the Holy Spirit was leading Pastor in a direction other than what he had prepared. But, he felt bound by the note sheet he had handed out to the congregation. Sermon notes are great. They can help certain kinds of learners, but we CANNOT be held hostage by them. There is nothing wrong with looking at your congregation and telling them to chunk the notes cause God is leading you in another direction. They might even find it refreshing.
    • I remember another time when he was in the middle of a series. I think he was preaching through Philippians. In the middle of the series there was a message that just didn’t seem to fit. He preached on the passage that followed what he had preached the week before, but it seemed clear to me that God had led him in a different direction, but he felt bound by the series he was preaching. It’s ok to take a week or two off from the series you planned to follow where God is leading. God’s leading has much more power than your planning.
  • When was the last time you did something unexpected? Do your people know exactly what to expect from week to week… all year long? If your people are never surprised then chances are your services are more a result of your planning than the Holy Spirit leading.
  • When was the last time something unexplainable happened in your church? When Peter and the others received the Holy Spirit and acted on that filling, they spoke in languages they did not know. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. People tried to explain what was happening by saying they we drunk. Hmm… In my 16 years in the ER I saw lots of drunken people. None of them were suddenly given the power to speak a different language because of the alcohol. Heck most of them could barely speak any language. If you have to think hard to remember the last time something unexplainable happened in your church, the Holy Spirit may not be present. If you can remember it but much time has passed, then the Holy Spirit may not be present. If you find yourself looking back and talking about the great things that God has done but not about the things He is doing, the Holy Spirit might not be present.

Preach the gospel. Whenever I preach or teach I always try to connect whatever I teaching to the gospel. I try to bring every lesson, sermon or message back to the gospel. This is a good thing to do. BUT, sometimes we just need to preach the gospel. I am sinner. I deserve nothing more than death and hell. Jesus offers salvation from my sins and their consequences. Sometimes people need to simply hear that. When was the last time you simply shared the gospel with your congregation? There are good church people filling your pews or chairs every week that are heading to hell. They are familiar with the scripture. They may even have some good spiritual habits. They can talk the talk and appear to walk the walk. But, THEY NEED TO HEAR THE GOSPEL. In spite of it all, some of them are still going to hell.

Preacher, preach the gospel.

Preach it clearly.

Preach it passionately.

Preach it urgently.

Preach it frequently.


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