Jul 20, 2018

Great New Book for Preteen Ministry (win a free copy)

Today we are featuring a guest post from Dan Scott.  Dan is the Director of 252 Kids & Preteen Curriculum at Orange.  He recently released a book entitled "Caught in Between...engage your preteens before they check out."

I am thankful Dan has written a book about preteen ministry.  If you serve in preteen ministry, this book is a must read.  The preteen years are such an important time in a child's spiritual journey.  In this book, Dan lays out great strategies for impacting preteens and their families.

I'm going to be giving away a free copy of the book.  I will randomly select a person from the entries and announce the winner next Friday, July 27, here on this site. You can enter by emailing me at dale@buildingchildrensministry.com.

Below is an article from Dan.  It's entitled "Five Characteristics of a Dynamic Preteen Environment."  Read it. Talk about it.  Implement the great tips into your ministry.  Share it with your ministry friends.

Preteens are everywhere. In fact, by 2020, the United States will be home to roughly 23 Million of them. Unfortunately, we’re finding that more and more of them are checking out of church.  Some of them are physically leaving, with youth groups having to re-enroll them to the database system when they enter middle school.

Others show up but disengage from the program. By the time they reach the next phase of your ministry, they’ve made up their minds as to whether or not they’ll continue to make church a priority. Preteens are falling through the cracks during the transition from childhood to adolescence.

But here’s the good news, with a few shifts in programming, you can create a preteen environment that makes sure your preteens don’t fall through the cracks, but rather, get caught in between.

Here are five characteristics of a dynamic preteen ministry that you should keep in mind:

If at all possible, create a unique environment for your preteens. Because preteens are in between childhood and adolescence, sometimes they’ll act like one or the other depending on the situation. They’ve been in children’s ministry for several years now, and they’re ready for something new because they’re starting to think like teenagers. But, they’re not ready to move on to your student ministry yet because in many ways they’re still kids. Give them a unique environment that can bridge the gap between children’s and student ministry. This doesn’t have to be huge or over-the-top, it just needs to be theirs.

Customization is a huge part of a preteens life, from the backgrounds on their mobile devices and the decorations in their bedroom or their lockers to their sense of style and how they wear their hair. Ask yourself the question, “how can our preteens personalize this space?” Create an environment where kids can put their own stamp on what they experience. If they customize the room, they will have more ownership of the room. When they feel like they own it, they’ll be more likely to keep coming back. 

This probably goes without saying, but fun should be a high priority in your preteen environment. So often we feel like we want our preteens to dive deeper into God’s Word, but by doing so we tend to make it feel like school. Kids have enough school throughout the week, give them a stress-free morning with an environment that lets them know that you not only love them, but LIKE them as well. Fun helps them realize that you understand their point of view and welcomes them as they are into your church. On top of that, fun earns kids’ attention and creates memories that they may have for years to come. 

Of course, any environment in your church should be physically safe for kids. You should run background checks on leaders, secure doors, and make sure no one can harm your kids. We also need to be sure that our ministries are emotionally safe for our kids, especially our preteens. During the preteen years, kids start to kick against the foundations they have built throughout their early childhood. Often, they’ll start to ask harder questions about their faith, their identity, and their experiences. They need consistent small group leaders who will create a safe environment where they are free to ask those questions without being scared of what others will think.

I hesitate to use this word, because it can feel trite and overused. However, being relevant is connecting God’s truth to the matter at hand. How we talk about the Bible matters. How create experiences for kids to understand their part in God’s story is important. Both help them see that God’s Word speaks to what is happening at home, school, on a sports field or even an art studio. Create a teaching strategy in your preteen ministry that invites kids to explore God’s Word on their own, while giving them the skills they need to grow in an authentic relationship with Jesus.

For more information on how you can create a dynamic preteen environment in your church, check out Caught In Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out on Amazon.

Jul 19, 2018

A Big Reason Why Many Parents Are Not at Your Church

Have you noticed a trend in families' church attendance patterns?  Families are attending church less often.  In many cases, it's once a month.  Some have stopped attending altogether.

There are several factors causing this.  We've talked about some of these in previous articles.

Why Millennial Parents Are Exiting the Church

5 Big Reasons Parents Are Attending Church Less Often

How to Get Families to Watch Church Online Less and Attend in Person  More Often

In this article, let's look at another big factor that is attributing to a decline in families attending church.

It can pretty much be summed up in one word.  Ready for it?  Here it is.

Parents are TIRED.  A recent survey from BPI network, revealed this..
  • 60% of 2,000 parents surveyed say they feel burnt out.
  • The survey also revealed that 30% of parents point to the pressure of trying to work full-time and manage a home simultaneously is too much.  
  • 40% of parents say their burnout could be described as "significant."  
  • 50% say it has affected their quality of life.
  • 50% of parents with children six months or younger, only get 1 to 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.  
Parental burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. It leaves parents feeling chronically fatigued, often experiencing sleep and concentration problems—and it can lead to depression, chronic anxiety, and illness. It can significantly impact work performance, productivity, business distraction and mindshare. Dr. Neil Brown
Think about it.  A husband and wife.  Both work full-time.  They have 3 kids.  In addition to school, the kids are involved in piano lessons, dance, soccer, girl scouts and karate lessons.  Between all of the practices, games, events, rehearsals and classes, they are gone 4-5 nights a week.  Saturday rolls around and in between trying to do chores around the house, they are at games or recitals all day.

Ahhhh...they made it through the week.  Sunday's here.  A day to rest and relax before starting the crazy schedule again tomorrow.  Mom and dad look at each other,  they know they should take the kids to church, but staying home and resting seems much more appealing

There's a lot they have to do if they are going to church that day.  Get the kids up.  Help them pick out an outfit to wear.  Get baths.  Feed them breakfast.  Load up in the car.  Drive 15 minutes.

Arrive at church.  Help the kids out of the car.  Get out the stroller.  Walk across a hot parking lot.  Check the kids in.  The printer for the check-in system is jammed.  So, walk down to guest services and write out a temporary name tag for everyone.  Walk the kids to their classrooms.  Deal with one of the children who has separation anxiety.

After service, they go back through the process in reverse.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that many families choose not to attend church.  They are already worn out when they are deciding if they want to attend or not.  Staying home for some R & R is very appealing and unfortunately, it often wins out.

So what can we do, as ministry leaders. to help parents see the value in bringing their children (and themselves) to church on a consistent basis?  Here are a few.

Make it worth their time.  If your church services are dry and boring, parents who are exhausted will choose to stay at home, unless it's a holiday service like Easter, Christmas, etc.

You must create environments for every age group that are so appealing, that families wouldn't think of missing it.  I heard someone say "The reason people don't go to church is because they've been before." 

Making it worth their time may mean you need to make some major changes in your services, programs, events, etc.

Remember, if you do what you've always done, you'll continue to get the same results.  What do you need to change, tweak, drop or add to get different results?

Get children dragging their parents to church.  Mom and dad may be tired, but if their children really want to do something, mom and dad will normally say "yes."  This is why children's ministry is one of the biggest growth factors in your church.

If you create environments and programs that are fun for kids, (and yes, you can have fun while teaching solid truths to kids) you will see them start dragging their parents to church, even on days when mom and dad are tired.

Raise the fun factor, have cliffhangers, give attendance challenges and other methods to get the kids excited about coming and you'll see families more often.

Help parents see what really matters in life.  Parents want what is best for their children.  All of the practices, games, money spent, driving to games, etc. is parents trying to invest in their children.  Most parents struggle with the pressure they feel to have their children involved in as many programs, teams and events as they possibly can.  They don't want their children to miss out or get behind.

You can free them from that pressure by helping them see that the most valuable investment they can make in their kids is a spiritual one.  This is not to say that other things can't be enjoyed, but it should be in the context putting church attendance first.

Use strategic times when you are speaking to parents to emphasize Matthew 6:33 with them.  At the end of the day, it's their relationship with Jesus that matters most in life.

Offer a shared experience for parents and their kids.  Even though they are tired, parents will generate enough energy to take their kids to an event, program or activity, if it offers them an opportunity to spend time with their child.

Think about creating some shared family experiences at your church on the weekend.  Maybe it's some activities they can do together.  Maybe it's putting together supplies for missionaries or creating care packages for families in need.

I remember a few years ago, having an event after the service where kids and their parents assembled packages that would be sent to needy families.  When we did this, attendance for parents and kids shot up that day.  It showed me that parents are looking for opportunities to spend time with their children.

Relationships are a big factor in seeing tired parents make the effort to come.  The deeper the connections they make, the more often they will be there.  The relationships can be formed around serving, a small group or a shared interest.

The relationship factor also includes the children.  When they have a caring leader who will miss them if they are not there and will send them a postcard or call their parents, it makes a big difference.  When they know they will be missed by a particular leader and a small group of friends, they will talk their tired parents into taking them to church.

Your turn.  Do you see parent, who are tired, in your ministry?  Do you think the busy culture we are in causes parents to be tired on weekends?  What are some additional steps we can take to see families attend more consistently  Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Jul 18, 2018

KIds Need Doctrine If Their Faith is Going to Survive

WHAT you teach kids matters.  The CONTENT of the discipleship tools you create for parents matters.

Why?  Because if kids do not understand the foundational doctrines of the faith, they will have a very difficult time defending the faith.

Recent research has revealed that 13% of Gen Z claim to be atheists.  This is over double the amount of adults who say they are atheists.

More than ever, kids need to know why they believe what they believe.  Their faith must be build on a solid foundation or it will crumble when they are challenged on a significant level.

Here are 6 key doctrines that are foundational.  As you look through these, I would encourage you to get the scope and sequence of the curriculum you are currently using and see if it is teaching these doctrines.   

The Bible is the Word of God - the Holy Spirit guided human authors so that what they wrote in Scripture is accurate and without error.

God - God is a Spirit, a person, life, self-existent, unchanging, unlimited by time and space, and a unity….God consistently works out His eternal plan by guiding and overseeing all things by His wise and holy purpose.

Christ - Jesus was in fact God incarnate in human form.  He is the second person in the Trinity who came to live among us, die for us, and resurrect that someday we might be able to live with Him forever.

Holy Spirit - the Holy Spirit is not merely a force, but has all the attributes of personality and is also God as the third person of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit’s work brings us to Christ and salvation, equips us for ministry, empowers us for service and produces spiritual fruit in our life.

Salvation -  The single most significant experience in life is receiving the salvation provided by Christ on the cross. When we invite Jesus to be our Forgiver, Leader and Friend, our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life.

Church -  Jesus gave us the church as a means of Christians assembling together to encourage and help one another in the Christian life and to enable them to be more effective in reaching out to others. The church exists for worship, instruction, fellowship and evangelism.

If the curriculum you are using doesn't teach the kids these and other doctrines, then it's time to get a new curriculum. 

Some people hear the word "doctrine" and assume that means you have to teach the kids these doctrines in a boring, lecture-style lesson.  Not at all, this is not about how you teach, but about what you teach.  You can teach Bible doctrine to the kids in a fun, engaging and relevant way.  In fact, if you teach the doctrines in a fun, engaging, hands on, learner-based way, kids will actually be able to remember them better. 

Others might suggest that you can wait until kids are in middle school or high school to teach them doctrine.  But stats show us that the front lines for the next generation are now in elementary school.  I believe we must start teaching doctrine in age-appropriate ways beginning as early as preschool.

When we teach kids doctrine, I believe we must also take them on a deeper dive so they can defend their beliefs when they are challenged.  And trust me, they will be challenged.  We must equip them so they don't just survive these attacks, but thrive and win others to Christ.

We must lead kids in asking the type of questions like you see below about the doctrines and help them discover the answers so they are prepared to give a defense of what they believe.

The Bible is the Word of God:
  • How do you know it's true?
  • Wasn't it just written by men?
  • The Bible contains errors, doesn't it?
  • How do you know God is real?
  • Why would a good God allow bad things to happen?
  • How do you know God created everything?
  • How do you know Jesus was the Son of God?
  • How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?
  • Why do you believe Jesus is the only way to heaven?
Holy Spirit:
  • How can the Holy Spirit be everywhere at once?
  • Why do you think the Holy Spirit is God?
  • Why doesn't the Holy Spirit stop people from being hurt?
  • Why would God send people to hell?
  • Don't all religions lead to heaven?
  • Won't I go to heaven if I do good things?
  • The church is full of hypocrites.
  • All churches want is peoples' money.
  • The church is judgmental. 
Questions like these are why we must teach kids Bible doctrine and equip them to defend their faith.  The next generation is at stake.  Every Sunday matters.  Every lesson matters.  Every person investing in the next generation matters.  You matter.  Your ministry matters.

I have developed a strategic, one-year elementary curriculum that helps kids learn solid Bible doctrine.  From salvation to spiritual leadership, they will discover 12 key truths that will give them a solid faith foundation.  You can get more info. at this link

Jul 17, 2018

What Parents Are Looking For & How You Can Provide It

As a ministry leader, I'm sure you've realized that an important goal is to connect with parents.

Like never before, ministries are seeking to influence parents.  You get it.  You understand that you influence children by influencing their parents.

That leads us to the question - How can you best resource parents and make it worth their time to engage with your strategy?

There are lots of different strategies and topics you can focus on for this.  But even better, if you can figure out what they are really interested in, then you can focus on influencing them through that avenue.

Child Trends, a research company, recently released some findings that can give us a clearer picture of what parents are looking for. 

Most young parents lack the parenting knowledge they need and want.  First-time parents of infants and toddlers especially want to know more about parenting, but have a difficult time obtaining clear and trustworthy information.

There is a limitless amount of information about parenting online.  Parents often turn to the internet for information, support and guidance.  But there is so much information available that it can be overwhelming for young parents.

Interesting enough, research confirms what we already knew, parents' knowledge-seeking occurs most often when their child is transitioning.  Parents say they are more actively seeking out information when their child is entering a new developmental stage.

During the weeks and months leading up to a transition, parents are searching for help.  They search online through sources like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.  They may also turn to their parents and grandparents as well for advice.

Equipped with this knowledge, you can create a solid parenting strategy that will allow you to meet the needs of families inside and outside of your church.
Hold general parenting classes at least 2-3 times a year.  Have a solid, Biblically-based curriculum that you share with parents.  If you'd like some suggestions, feel free to email me and I can give you some ideas.  Also be strategic, about when you place the classes on the calender.  Remember to place them near or leading up to a transition period.

Have a milestone class and celebration for the transition periods.  As I mentioned, when their child is going through a transition, parents focus on getting help and information.  You can help parents big-time by having a special class and celebration for each transition period.  I have created milestone classes for each transition. You can get more info. below.  There is also a discount shown below if you want all 5 transition kits.

What an awesome, extraordinary privilege it is to be a parent.  From the time they are infants, until they are walking across the platform to receive their degree, you have the opportunity to influence them.

And what a great opportunity you have as a ministry leader, to influence parents who will in turn influence their children.  I can tell you from experience, one of the best things you will ever do for your ministry is to implement these transition periods.  You will see incredidble fruit in the lives of kids and parents.  You will see parents come to Christ.  You will see children come to Christ.  You will see the trajectory of families lives changed through His Word.

You can get all 5 milestones at a discounted price by clicking here. (see below for more info.)

You can also purchase individual classes at this ink.