Jul 28, 2017

Courageous

Moses is at the end of his life.  He has led the children of Israel up to this point.  Through the Red Sea and across the wilderness.  But he will not be taking the people into the promised land.  Why?  In the wilderness, he had disobeyed God by striking the rock for water rather than speaking to it as God had commanded him to do.  Since it was very public disobedience, God had to publicly punish his sin.  He is commanded Moses to turn over leadership to his assistant, Joshua.

Put yourself in Joshua's place.  You are being asked to lead in a very precarious situation.  You're following an incredible leader in Moses.  You're bound to be compared to him.  How do you fill those shoes?  You're being ask to lead a group of over 600,000 grumbling, complaining people.  You're being ask to lead these people to conquer a land that is filled with walled, fortified cities and ferocious warriors.  Think you'd be nervous?  Think you'd be wondering if you had what it takes to do this?  I know I would. 

But Moses has a special message for Joshua.  Look what he says to him.

"Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all of Israel watched, he said to him, 'Be strong and courageous!  For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors He would give them.  You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you: He will neither fail you nor abandon you'."  Deuteronomy 31:7-8 

We all have times when we face situations that cause us to be afraid, full of self-doubt and hesitant to move forward.  Perhaps you even find yourself in that situation now.  Perhaps you've been asked to take on a new role.  Perhaps you're facing sickness.  Perhaps you know you need to have a hard conversation.  Perhaps you are being challenged to step outside your comfort zone.  Perhaps you're pondering starting a new business.  And you seem frozen.  Unable to take the step forward.

God has a word for you.  It's the same word He delivered to Joshua.  Be courageous!  In I Corinthians 16:13,  He echoes this by saying this.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

In the charge to Joshua, we find three reasons why we can be courageous.

#1 - You can be courageous because of the PRESENCE of God.  Look what Moses says.

"The Lord will personally go ahead of you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you."

You can be courageous because you are not going to do this alone.  God will be with you.  The Holy Spirit indwells you and will fill you with His power.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  You don't have to walk in your own confidence.  You can walk in Godfidence...knowing He has your back.  He will win the victory through you.  The battle is His.  Where He guides, He always provides. 

Life is uncertain at times, but you can be certain that God is with you.  Even in the tough times.  When the sea is not calm, He can calm you.  You see, courage is not the absence of pain.  It is the presence of God.  Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with you.

#2 - You can be courageous because of the PROMISES of God.  Look at what else Joshua is told.

"After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant.  He said, 'Moses my servant is dead.  Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.   I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you'."

You can be courageous because you can stand on the promises of God.  Your knees may be knocking, but take the step anyways.  God's promises will sustain you.  Is there a new path God is calling you to?  Don't hesitate.  Paths are made for walking, not waiting.  You can't be comfortable and courageous at the same time.  It's not about getting a chance, it's about taking a chance.  And with God's promises, you can move forward with courage. 

#3 - You can be courageous because of the PEOPLE of God.  You can see this stated in verse 2.

"When Moses had finished giving these instructions to all the people of Israel, he said, 'I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you.'  The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.  But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you.  He will destroy the nations living there, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised'."

Joshua could be courageous because he wasn't going to be doing this alone.  He had the people of God to help him.  Together they would march around the walls of Jericho and see them come crashing down.  Together they would win victories.  Together they would claim the land.

You are not alone as well.  Surround yourself with the people of God.  They can stand with you.  They can pray for you.  They can encourage you.  They can have faith for you when your faith is running low.  They can infuse you with courage when you're nervous about taking that next step.

What are you facing?  Be courageous.

What is the challenge ahead of you?  Be courageous.

Has past failures caused you to hesitate?  Be courageous.

Sometimes the smallest step of courage ends up being the biggest step of your life. 

Jul 27, 2017

Gen Z...the Latest Need-to-Knows

Today's kids, Gen Z, are not the kids of a decade ago.  Let's take a look at some of the latest information about them.

Gen Z is a large demographic.  They make up 20% of the U.S. population.  Churches that want to make a difference in their community, must make children's ministry a priority.

They are the most diverse group in U.S. history.  They will be the last Caucasian majority.  Ministries that reach them will be places where racial diversity is championed.

They are a fluid generation.  20% of 13 to 15-year-olds say they are something other than heterosexual.  You can see how fluid they are through their social media use.  They want to self-identity on their own terms.  Ministries that reach them will need to balance speaking the truth in love. 

They are cultural influencers.  They control more than $44 billion in spending power.  They also influence the culture through social media through outlets like YouTube, where they have millions of followers.  80% believe they are empowered and want to be heard and 91% believe it's important to voice your opinions.  Ministries that reach them will give them opportunities to serve and make a difference.  They will let Gen Z be the church of not only tomorrow, but the church of today as well.

Gen Z cares about political and cultural issues.  They are passionate about animal rights, the environment, civil rights, LGBTQ rights and pro-life. 71% say they want to engage and consume brands that are not only cool, make them feel in control and listen to them, but also brands that take a stand on political and cultural issues.  Ministries must be diligent to help kids develop a Biblical worldview through which they view these issues.

They are the mobile generation.  They are the best at using their phones and tablets to watch, play, buy and learn.  Ministries that reach them will bring the Gospel and discipleship to them through these devices.

Social media is as natural as breathing.  
  • 62% visit Facebook daily. 
  • 81% visit YouTube daily.
  • 80% use Snapchat daily. 
Ministries that reach and disciple them will have a strategy for using these platforms to connect with them.

Here's who they look up to and admire. 
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy
  • Rihanna
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Elon Musk
  • Beyonce
  • Dwayne Johnson
  • Kylie Jenner
  • Selena Gomez
  • Pew Die Pie
Just like every generation, they have people they admire.  We must enlist and equip adults who will be godly role models for them.  Role models who will invest in Gen Z and spend time building relationships with them.  Role models who will live the kind of life that impacts Gen Z.

Gen Z.  They are our mission field.  Just as we would study the culture of a foreign mission field we are going to, we must continue to study the culture of the next generation and ask God for wisdom to reach them. 

Jul 26, 2017

Here's How Many Volunteers Your Ministry Should Have

Children's ministry is made possible by volunteers.   The success of your children's ministry rises and falls on the strength of your volunteer team. 

I am often asked how many volunteers should a ministry have?  To operate at the optimal level, here's how many volunteers you should have in the rooms or environments.  This does not include greeters, check-in team, etc.

Infants - 1 volunteer for every 2 children (minimum - ideally 1 volunteer for every 1 child

Crawlers - 1 volunteer for every 3 children

Toddlers - 1 volunteer for every 4 children

2-year-olds - 1 volunteer for every 4 children

3-year-olds - 1 volunteer for every 8 children

4-year-olds - 1 volunteer for every 8 children

5-year-olds thru 5th grade - 1 volunteer for every 10 children (minimum - ideally 1 volunteer for every 8 children)

Monitor your numbers carefully and strive to reach these ratios.  The younger the children are, the more critical it is to meet these ratios for safety reasons.  This should be a top priority.  Parents who walk into a nursery that is not meeting these ratios are far less likely to return. Some churches even hire people to work in their nurseries to ensure ratios are met.  I have never done this, but if you choose to do so, it is definitely money well invested.

The primary reason you want to have these ratios for older children is because of the relationship factor.  These ratios help ensure that kids are personally known by a caring volunteer.  When you get above these ratios it can turn into crowd control rather than discipleship happening. 

If you aren't currently at these ratios, don't be discouraged.  Keep building your team.  You will always needs more volunteers, especially if you are growing and reaching new families.  You can also get key insight about building a dynamic volunteer team in my book - "The Formula for Building a Great Volunteer Team."  In this book, I share the steps I took to build a volunteer of over 2,600 in a local church.  You can get the book in paperback or ebook formats at this link

Volunteers is one of, if not the most important, aspects of your ministry.  Focus on it and you'll see your ministry flourish.

Jul 25, 2017

4 Big Questions Children's Ministries Must Answer About Same Sex Relationships

Acceptance of same-sex relationships continues to grow in our country.  Support for same-sex marriage is at its highest point in over 20 years.  62% of Americans say they favor same-sex marriage.  In 2010, 48% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage.  Today, only 37% oppose it.

Much of the change in this area is being driven by the Millennials.  They are the young parents and young adults in your ministry.
  • 41% of the Silent Generation favors same-sex relationships
  • 46% of Boomers favor same sex relationships
  • 65% of Gen Xer's favor same-sex relationships
  • 74% of  Millennials favor same-sex relationship.
As you can see, with each successive generation, people are more accepting of same-sex relationships.  This is true even among believers.  While overall, evangelicals continue to oppose same-sex marriage at 59%, support is growing.  47% of evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers favor same-sex marriage.  This is up from only 29% in March of 2016.  

Question 1 -Will we approve of same-sex relationships?  This moves beyond just accepting people in a same-sex relationship.  Of course, every church should be a place where anyone is welcome to attend.  But the question is, will you put your stamp of approval and blessing on same-sex relationships?  Will you acknowledge it as being acceptable in the eyes of God?  What will you tell the kids in a pre-teen small group who ask if the church thinks it is okay to be in a same-sex relationship?

Question 2 - Will we baptize a person who is actively involved in a same-sex relationship?  What will we do when a gay parent wants to be baptized with their 3rd grader? 

Question 3 - Will we allow a person in a same-sex relationship to serve in our children's ministry?  Will we only allow them to serve in a behind-the-scenes roll and not in a highly visible roll like a large group teacher?  Or will we say no to them serving in any capacity?

Question 4 - Will we perform a child dedication for a same-sex couple?  What will we do when same-sex couple inquires about participating in child dedication?  Will we only take into consideration the child or will the parent's situation be considered as well?

These are big questions that each ministry needs to work through.  The purpose of this article is not to tell you what to do.  Each ministry must decide this for themselves.  And it is best to decide what you will do before you are faced with one of these situations..  The pastor and senior leaders should obviously help take the lead on decisions like this.

We are faced with a new day in our culture.  A culture that not only accepts, but celebrates same-sex relationships.  The church must navigate this with wisdom.  How we answer these questions will be a major factor in the days ahead.

The floor is yours.  Has your children's ministry answered these questions yet?  If so, how did you answer?   If not, are you working through them?  Share your thoughts,  comments and suggestions in the comment section below.