Jun 22, 2018

What the Church Can Learn from IHOP's Change to IHOB

A few weeks ago, IHOP made a bold move.  They changed their name from IHOP to IHOB (international house of burgers).

It takes guts to make that big of a change.  But the leaders at IHOP were willing to take the risk.  You have to admire them for their courage to change and emphasize something different through this new name. 

IHOP was founded in 1958 and opened its first restaurant in Burbank, California.  This means they changed something that has been in place for the past 60 years.

What caused them to pursue this new direction?  CEO Stephen Joyce says, "Casual dining and family dining categories are big, but they are not growing.  We need to take share from other brands."

Traffic into the restaurant has been declining for the past two years.  Rather than ignoring this trend, the company is making big changes to turn that trend around.

There are some key lessons ministries can learn from this.  Let's talk about a few of them.

Honor the past, but don't worship the past.  IHOB has six decades of history.  They will continue to offer their breakfast menu, but will now emphasize burgers more than pancakes.  They will stay connected to their past, while working for the future. 

All across our country, there are churches that are plateaued or declining.  In many of these churches, they are unwilling to let go of the past.  They are still singing the same songs they sang 60 years ago.  They are doing ministry the same way they've done it for the past 60 years.  Their inclination to "do what we've always done" is signing their death certificate.

We should honor the past, but not worship the past.

What worked yesterday may not work today.  Emphasizing that you serve breakfast food has been profitable for them in the past.  But they have realized that it's not working as well today.  Foot traffic into their stores has declined.  They could continue to stick it out and hope for an upswing.  But that probably would not have happened.  

Churches across the country are declining.  Why?  Because they continue to do ministry the same way they did 60 years ago.  They watch as the congregation grows smaller and smaller with each passing year.  But they are not willing to make the necessary changes that are needed to bring life back into their church.  Instead, they just keep plugging away, doing the same old same old...with the same old results.   

Sometimes you have to take a risk if you want to grow.  Changing their name to IHOB was a risk.  But they were brave enough to take that risk for the opportunity to grow and expand.  When was the last time your ministry took a risk?  When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

Years ago,  I took a position as children's pastor at a church.  The church had a great history, but the children's ministry was tired and not growing.  This was reflected in the facilities and especially in the logo.  The ministry had a logo that had obviously been created on someone's desktop computer and the name they had chosen for the ministry was outdated and not relevant.

When I brought up the idea to update the name of the children's ministry and the logo, I was met with some opposition.  Some of the executive leaders felt it would hinder the "brand" the children's ministry had established in the community. 

It took awhile, but I was finally able to convince them it was a necessary change for the sake of the future of the ministry.  Yes, it was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.  The change not only helped us breathe new life into a tired ministry, but it also got people excited about the future.  The ministry took off and started growing again.

A crazy idea can sometimes be the best idea.  Think about it.  Someone around the IHOB leadership table threw out a "crazy" idea.

"What if we changed our emphasis to burgers and changed the name to IHOB instead of IHOP?

I'm sure there were some gasps and smirks around the table at first.

"You are saying we should do what?"  

"We have a long history with our name.  I think it's too radical of an idea to change it."

I'm sure there was lots of debate and push back around their leadership table. But finally, someone agreed that they should try it.   Momentum began to build around the "crazy idea" and now it's becoming a reality. 

If churches want to grow, they are going to have to start thinking outside the box.  They are going to have to try some things that, at first, seem crazy.

This will happen when you create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas...even the ones that seem crazy when first mentioned.

Bottom line...if you want to experience crazy growth then you're going to have to try some crazy, new ideas. 

Past success doesn't guarantee future success.  Just because something worked well in 1970 doesn't mean it will work today.  When a church talks more about the "good old days" than about what God is doing now, it's not a good sign.

Churches must be willing to take a hard, honest look at what they are doing.  Are we growing?  What programs are on life support?  If people vote with their feet, what are they saying by their actions?

Expect opposition when you make a change.  I have noticed on Twitter, that they've already had some negative feedback.  That is to be expected.  Anytime you change something, there will be some opposition.  Change is hard for people.  It should be a process rather than a surprise.

Hold the ministry with open hands.  I have found out something about myself over the years.  I'm fine with changing something that someone else originated.  But I'm not as enthusiastic about changing something that I created or started.  And I have a feeling you are the same way.

But for the ministry to move forward and grow, I must hold it with open hands.  Realizing that it's really not my ministry, but God's.  I must stay in tune with His guidance.  The ministry should never be about our preferred way of doing things or our personality.  It should be about doing whatever is necessary to reach and disciple kids and families.  Even if it means changing a long-standing method of doing things. 

You can't grasp the future if you're occupied with hanging onto the past.  Remember...change is your friend.

Jun 21, 2018

What to Do When a Child Has Been Exposed to Pornography

A father asked if he and his 10-year-old son could meet with me.

We sat down in a private place and the father became emotional as he said to me, "I wanted to ask for help.  This past week, I walked into my son's room and found him looking at pornography on his iPad.

The son admitted that it was true.  He had been looking at pornography on a regular basis for several months.  Another child at school had told him about some porn sites to check out.

The father and son looked at me with tears in their eyes.  The father aked what they should do? 

If the truth were known, this same story could be told thousands, if not millions of times.  Some children look up pornography, others accidentally stumble upon it through pop up ads or clicking on a link they didn't know about.

Today's kids are facing an onslaught of pornography.  In previous generations, people had to go out of their way to view porn.  But now with tablets, smart phones, smart tv's and other devices, porn is just one click away.  Even with safety measures in place, there is such a tsunami of porn, that most kids will see it at some point.

The average age children are exposed to porn is 8-years-old.  Another study found that 47% of children with email addresses receive porn spam every day.  The largest and fastest growing group of internet porn consumers is youth age 12-17.  By the time they graduate high school, nearly 100% of kids will have viewed some type of porn.

I guarantee you there are families struggling with this in your church and community.  What can you do to help parents put preventative measures in place?  What should you do when parents come to you because their child has viewed porn?  What should you tell parents to do?

Your role in this is to be a resource for the parent and advise them on what to do.  The steps below are for parents.  Let's talk about these steps you can encourage parents to take.

Don't freak out. When you find out your child has been viewing porn, you will feel shock, disappointment, personal guilt, anxiety and grief.  But you want to act, not react.  Stay calm.  If you blow up, it will only make the situation worse.

Ask questions and find out what they saw.
  • Was this the first time you have seen this kind of thing?
  • Have you looked at this with anyone else?
  • How often have you been viewing this? 
  • What exactly did you see?  Was it heterosexual?  Homosexual?  Did they see body parts only?  Sexual acts?  Did it involve sexual violence? 
  • What questions do you have? (they may be too embarrassed to ask)
  • Do you understand why I am taking this so seriously?
Share God's plan for sex and help them gain a healthy, Biblical view of sex.  A discussion about pornography may not have been in your immediate plans, but even accidental exposure to this kind of content demands action.  In todays culture, it is necessary for parents to start having "the talk" earlier in life.  Especially if the child has viewed porn.  Of course, the conversations should be age-appropriate and how much you share should be based on the child's age.

It is our job, as parents, to help our kids gain a healthy, Biblical view of God's design for sex.  We should create an environment where kids will not feel embarrassed to ask questions about sex.  You want them to come to you, as the parent, with their questions, so you can help them find the right answers and establish a Christian world view of God's plan for sex.

Put preventative measures in place.  While there is no full proof plan to keep children from viewing porn, there are safety measures you can put in place.  Safety filters can be placed on devices that help block pornographic pop-ups and websites.  You should also monitor your child's online activity.  

Another practical thing is to have a rule that all online activity must happen in a common room like the living room.  You can establish a rule that no one is allowed on the internet without someone else being in the room with them.  Obviously, this means not allowing internet access in children's bedrooms.

Warn your child about online sexual predators.  One of the biggest ways predators find children to abuse is through the internet.  Use this as an opportunity to reinforce with your child about never communicating with someone they don't know online.

Get professional counseling if needed.  Sometimes this situation can trigger parents struggles as well.  Dad may be looking at porn as well and this conversation triggers him to confess.  Perhaps mom was abused as a child and this brings out painful memories.  Unless you are a licensed, professional counselor, it may be time to point them to a therapist, so they can work on these issues at a professional level.

Your job in this situation is to provide them contacts of liscensed counselors they can connect with.  You should also be a prayer partner with them and bring hope, peace and comfort during the process.

Your turn.  How do you help families who are strugging with pornography?  What safety filters or programs do you recommend?  How do you equip parents to know what to do about pornography? Share your thoughts and insight with everyone in the comment section below.

Jun 20, 2018

3 Ways Nursery Volunteers Can Make a Huge Impact in Babies' Lives

Volunteers who work in the nursery, sometimes wonder if what they do matters.  The people they serve can't recite Bible verses they've taught them.  They can't tell their parents about the Bible story you shared with them.  They can't pray with you.  If you want to make a big difference in the lives of kids and parents, the last place you'd think about serving is the nursery.

In spite of that, many people do choose to serve in the nursery.  The reasons?  They may like babies and enjoy holding them, rocking them and caring for them.  Perhaps, their grandchild is in the nursery and it's a way to spend more time with them.  Or they may be in the nursery simply because that's where they were asked to serve when they signed up as a volunteer.

Ask a nursery volunteer if they believe they are making an impact in the babies' lives and you will get mixed responses.  If the volunteer says they feel like they are just babysitting cute little babies so dad and mom can enjoy the service, then it's probably because no one has shared with them the huge impact they can make in the lives of the babies in the nursery.

Some new research reveals that the nursery is one of the best places to serve if you want to make a difference in other people's lives.

Let's look at 3 reasons volunteers can make a huge impact on babies' lives.

The spoken word.  Babies usually start speaking their first words when they are 12 months old.  But new research shows that they understand a lot more than they say.  The University of Rochester ran tests that reveal that even at 6 months old, babies can recognize words that are spoken.

Volunteers in the nursery should understand that though babies may not be able to communicate back which words they understand, they understand much of what you are saying.

Help nursery volunteers see that the words of love, encouragement and validation they speak to the babies in the nursery, are heard and received.  Nursery volunteers can make a huge impact in babies's lives by...
  • Reading Bible verses to babies.
  • Sharing Bible stories with babies.
  • Speaking words of life and encouragement to babies. 
  • Singing songs to babies.
Make eye contact.  Research shows that when you are holding a baby, making eye contact helps the child sync up with what you are saying.  Looking into a baby's eyes translates into enhanced bonding and learning.
  • When you are quoting a Bible verse to a baby, make sure you look into their eyes as much as possible.  It will deepen the impact it has on the child.
  • Have a goal each weekend that every baby in your nursery will be held by a volunteer who looks into their eyes and tells them that Jesus loves them. 
Nurture the babies in your nursery.  A new study at Washington University in St. Louis says that nurturing babies can have a big impact on their brain growth.  Babies who were nurtured in their early years, ended up having better brain growth. You can nurture babies by...
  • Having a good ratio of volunteers to babies.  Ideally, you want to have 1-on-1 care in the nursery...2 to 1 at the most.  Without a good ratio, volunteers will not have the time and ability to nurture the babies. 
  • Providing training and insight for volunteers about nurturing the babies.
  • Only placing people in the nursery who feel called to be there.  Nursery is one of the volunteer roles you might be tempted to fill with anyone who is breathing.  You might also have a policy that says if you have children in the nursery, then you need to sign up to serve there.  I don't believe that is the best way to impact babies.  Rather,  I believe the best way to staff your nursery is to find people who have a clear calling to invest in people at the most critical time of their life. 
  • Pray Bible verse promises over the babies.  You can put the verses on the wall as a reminder for volunteers to pray the prayer promises over the babies. 
  • Partner with parents.  Invite parents to join you in praying Bible verse promises over their child.  Give them a list of verses they can pray over their baby.  Make parents aware of the impact they can make in their child's life if they will be intentional about nurturing them, reading Gods Word to their baby, having faith conversations with their child and singing Bible songs with their child.
I love the truth found in 2 Timothy 3:15.
"and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
It's time we see the nursery for what it really is.  A critical time in a person's life that will mold and shape them for life.

If we will do what Timothy's mother and grandmother did for him, we will see more of the babies in our nursery grow up to love and serve Jesus.

Jun 19, 2018

3 People You Should Be Listening to in Ministry

It is important to have people you can ask for advice, learn from and discuss questions with.

Normally, when you think about listening to someone for advice, it's someone older than you.

And that is true.  But if you're only listening to people that are older and wiser than you, you are missing out on some great advice.

I believe we should be listening to 3 people.  Each of these 3 people can offer you advice that the other two cannot.  Let's see who the 3 people are. 

Person 1 - Someone who has been in ministry longer than you have.  This person should be older and wiser and have a proven track record.  An example of this is found in Scripture with Timothy and Paul.  Timothy looked to Paul for advice and insight.

Do you have that person in your life?  If not, look for some older, godly men/women in your church that you can ask to be your Paul.  They have been down the road farther than you and can help you avoid some of the mistakes they made at your age.

Person 2 - Someone who is at the same stage of ministry and life as you.  This person should be about your same age and have ministry experience that is comparative to yours.  They are walking through some of the same things you are.  You can bounce ideas and questions off this person and find out what they are doing in some of the same situations.

Person 3 - Someone who is younger than you in ministry and age.  I guess you could call this reverse mentoring.  It's important to stay up-to-date with current trends, worldviews and generational rhythms.  Your connection with a person who is younger than you can give you a fresh perspective. Ask them to challenge you and question what you're doing and why.

If you can gather these 3 people into your inner circle, you'll be able to make some great, balanced decisions.  You'll have the zeal of youth blended with the wisdom of experience.

These three people could be someone you respect, but don't live near you now.  You could connect with them online, but I believe the best scenario is someone you can look in the eyes, meet for lunch, sit down and talk with in person, etc.

Do you have these 3 people in your life?  If not, this is a great time to bring them in.  Of course, they should be someone you know and trust.  And they should be motivated to help you.  You don't want to have people you have to drag help out of.  They should be enthusiastic about investing in you.

Person 1 (younger in age and ministry) - __________

Person 2 (about the same age and same time serving in ministry) - __________________

Person 3 (older and serving in ministry longer) - _________________

Once you've got your names. Contact them and ask if they would be someone you can look to for advice and insight.

The Bible tells us this in Proverbs 15:22.

"Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success."

When you get your 3 people in place, you'll be set up for success.