Jun 18, 2018

Tips for Talking to Kids from Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers aka "Mister Rogers" was a children's television actor, producer, musician, puppeteer and ordained Presbyterian minister.

His show "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" was watched by millions of kids.  At its' peak, 8% of television sets were tuned into his show each week. He became an icon of children's entertainment and education.

Mister Rogers was an expert at talking with kids...
especially with preschoolers.  Nothing was said without purpose.  He carefully honed every word of his shows.

Let look at the strategy Mister Rogers used to talk with kids.

Anticipate the ways children might misinterpret what is being said.  Here's an example.  In one scene,  they go to the hospital to watch a patient get his blood pressure checked.  They were going to say the nurse, who was taking someone's blood pressure, was blowing up the blood-pressure cuff.  Fred had them change the line to "I'm going to puff this up with some air."  He didn't want children to hear "blowing up" and be afraid of the cuff.

Younger children take things literally.  Remember this when your talking with them and avoid using words they will take literally.  Words or phrases like "give your heart to Jesus" and "Jesus is the door" will be taken literally by younger chidren.  If you do use abstract words and concepts, take the time to explain the meaning to the kids.

State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.  An example - It is dangerous to ride your bike into the street.

Rephrase the words in a positive manner.  An example - "It is good to play where it is safe."

Connect them with authority figures.  First and foremost, this should be their parents or legal guardian.  An example - "Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play and ride your bike."

Add a motivational idea that gives children a reason to follow your words.  Here's an example. "Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing."

If you watch an episode of the show, you might say it is laid back and slow compared to today's high-energy, fast-paced kids' shows.

But a look behind the scenes will reveal an incredible commitment to connecting with kids in a way they can understand.  Rogers collaborated with several academic researchers and child psychologists to help the show make great connections with kids.  Rogers would spend hours talking with child-development experts before finalizing shows. 

He wanted every episode to be the result of a careful, academically-informed process.  Connecting his message with children in a way they can have a clear understanding of what he was saying, was a big deal with Fred.

Fred also addressed common childhood fears.  He helped kids overcome fears like going to the hospital, going down the drain in their tub, the first day of school,  parent's divorcing, and being cared for during times of trouble or uncertainty like during a war.

Fred had a way of bringing comfort and hope to children even in the darkest of times and most disturbing events.  During times of war, he was often called upon by the President to bring hope and comfort to children.

He listened to feedback from his audience and made adjustments based on it.  An example - a viewer who was blind called in and said she was worried about the fish being fed when Mr. Rogers didn't specifically say he was feeding them.  He was feeding them during every show, but didn't always announce it verbally.  But after receiving the blind lady's note, he began announcing the feeding every week.

Attention to detail.  Fred's attention went all the way the simple things he did every episode like putting on his sneakers and cardigan sweater which gave him a more fatherly image.  The image he portrayed made children relaxed and trusting.

Here's some takeaways for us based on Mr. Roger's success with children.
  • When working with preschoolers,  try to use concrete words rather than abstract terms.  Think through any words that might confuse children or make it be hard for them to understand the concept you are trying to communicate.
  • Use positive, proactive words and phrases rather than negative ones. 
  • Reinforce to kids the importance of listening to and obeying their parents.  Partnering with parents by sharing with children how important their parents are, is a big deal. 
  • Show or explain the benefits that will come from following what you are teaching.  
  • Talk about fears kids face and how to overcome those fears through Christ.
  • Point kids to the comfort and peace that is found in Christ.
  • Listen to feedback about your teaching.  Better yet, seek it out and ask for it.  Listening to feedback with an open mind will help you become a better communicator for kids. 
  • Pay fantastic attention to detail.  Excellence is the little details done well.
If you've never watched an episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, head over to YouTube and find one.  Watching him interact with kids will inspire you and give you more valuable tips on communicating with kids.

Your turn.  Did you watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood growing up?  Did your kids or grandkids watch his show?  What other ideas and tips did you pick up from him?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Jun 15, 2018

10 Apps Every Children's Ministry Leader Needs on Their Phone

I remember the first mobile phone I owned way back in the day.  It was the size of a brick.  It was cutting-edge technology at the time.

There were no apps on the phone.  Unless you count being able to call and talk with someone as an app. 

Fast forward to today and our phones have gotten "smart."  It's like having a computer in your hands.  And if you have the right apps on your phone, it can make a big difference in your productivity as a leader.

Here are 10 apps that I'm a fan of and like to use for ministry purposes.

I'm sure you're familiar with Instagram and probably use it.  I like to use it to post not only family updates, but ministry updates as well.  It's a great way to interact with and encourage your volunteers.  An example is posting a picture of one of your volunteers serving and brag on them in the comments.

It's also great for sharing upcoming events or programs.
It can also be used to share with parents what you talked about on Sunday and giving them conversation starters/questions to discuss at home.

This app helps you create great backgrounds and text for sharing quotes or key truths.

If you use Pro Presenter for your media presentations, you can use this app to control your own slides during your talk or lesson.

This app lets you send files, images, videos, etc. directly to someone else's phone, tablet or computer.

Bible (YouVersion)
I use this to look up verses, read scripture, share Scripture, etc.  It has reading plans, a choice of which version you want to read from, the verse of the day, etc.

Bible App for Kids
I love to use this app to share Bible stories with kids.  It is interactive and captures kids' attention.  It's a great tool to teach kids key Bible stories.  They add new stories on a regular basis.

I use this app to listen to podcasts, songs, etc.

Google Calendar
I sync this with the calendar on my laptop and it keeps me on track with appointments, phone calls, deadlines, etc.

Photoshop Express
Gives you lots of creative and editing options for pictures you take with your phone.

Buffer allows you to schedule your social media posts for a specific time.  I put my quotes, posts, etc. in early in the morning and then buffer sends them out at the time(s) I have specified.

Wow! Can't believe I got to 10 that quickly.  Here are some honorable mentions.

Video teleprompter - turns your phone, tablet, or laptop into a teleprompter.

Share Your Faith - a simple, yet powerful way to share your faith with someone else.  Great illustrations and verses help you share a clear Gospel presentation.

Magisto - you can use this to make cool videos with lots of editing and creative options.

Evernote - great app to organize your notes, to-do-lists, etc.  Can be synced across all your devices as well as the ability to collaborate with other people on projects.

Filemanger - I often use this app to organize and store my notes for talks / messages I give.  You can use it across devices.  I have it on my iPad and iPhone and use it for my notes when speaking.

Okay.  Your turn to share.  What are some of your favorite apps that you use for ministry?  Many of you are a lot more techie than me and you've got some great ones I've never even heard of.  We'd love to see what you're using.  You can share in the comment section below.

Jun 14, 2018

Why Millennial Parents Are Exiting the Church

If you're trying to reach young families with children, then the demographic you're trying to connect with are the Millennials.

Look closely at the average church and you won't find an abundance of Millennials.  The nursery is quiet due to lack of parents bringing their children.  The preschool area, that should be full, has a shrinking attendance.

Look around during worship and you'll see a lot more gray hair than you do young couples.

Why is this?  Obviously, it's because more and more Millennials are leaving the church.  Which leads to the bigger question.  Why are Millennial parents exiting the church?

Studies show that church attendance among 22-to-35-year-olds is the lowest in recent history.  Look at these sobering stats:
  • Only 2 in 10 people under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59% of Millennials raised in the church have dropped out.
  • 35% of Millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church.
Why is this happening?  Let's address some of the big reasons Millennials are leaving the church.

We aren't including them in planning the future of the church.  Millennials want the opportunity to speak into the direction, strategies and vision of the church.  They highly value this and refuse to be a part of a church that ignores their input.

If we are going to see Millennial parents become part of and help lead the future church, then we must give them a voice in planning that future.

Practical steps to take:
  • Give them a seat at your church's leadership table.
  • Host focus groups for Millennial parents.  Listen to their feedback and ideas.  
  • Have special events and classes that are geared for young couples.
We're talking it, but not walking it.  We talk about changing the world, but we don't get involved in things that can change the world.  Millennial parents want to change the world.  They are drawn to churches that are focused on changing the world.  They also want their kids involved in this.  A cool mission statement that talks about changing the world, but does very little about it, turns Millennials off.

Practical steps to take:
  • Provide Millennials with opportunities to make a difference. 
  • Provide Millennials with opportunities to serve and make a difference with their child. 
  • Show Millennials how their involvement is making a difference.
We're not getting outside the 4 walls.  If we want Millennial parents to come inside the 4 walls, then we must first give them opportunities to get outside the walls.  Occcasionly taking up an offering for kids in a needy country is not enough.  They want to go visit the child and help him /her in person.

Practical steps to take:
  • Get small groups involved in serving together outside the 4 walls.
  • Help supplement and sponsor young Millennials to go on mission trips.
  • Share stories of young adults who went on a mission trip and the fruit that's resulted from it.
    Church politics.  If you look behind the curtain, you will see most churches have politics going on.  Power struggles over decisions.  Arguing over petty things like the color of the carpet.  Starting "new churches" due to church splits.  A few families, that have been at the church for generations, controlling the church and turning it into a country club where only people like them are accepted.

    Millennials can see right through the curtain.  They see the politics, power struggles and lack of unity, and they want no part of it.

    Practical steps to take:
    • Create a culture of unity that is based on the church's vision.
    • The less red tape, the better.  Realize you don't need a committee for getting permission to buy some more toilet paper for the bathrooms.  Empower the staff team to be able to make decisions while balancing it with accountability.
    • Make decisions not based on the preference of the few, but on what's best for the future of the church.
    Show them the money.  Millennials want to know where the money they are giving is going.  They don't trust institutions in general and that includes churches.  They are turned off when they hear about a pastor building a multi-million dollar house or driving a Rolls Royce, while kids in other countries are dying of starvation.  They are also not big on building grand facilities that are used for an hour a week on Sunday morning.

    Practical steps to take:
    • Be totally transparent about where funds are being spent. 
    • Show how the money is being used to help others with a special emphasis on helping the poor and needy.
    • Church staff salaries should be in line with what the average family in the congregation makes.  In other words, they should live comfortably, but not exorbitantly. 
      Move from the yelling head to a conversation.  Millennials are not interested in having someone stand behind a pulpit and yell at them.  They can sit home and watch the best preachers on the planet on demand. Instead, they long for stimulating conversation in a community of people who are facing the same challenges and struggles.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Move from rows of chairs to round tables as much as possible.  This naturally causes more conversations to happen.
      • Make sure classes for both parents and children incorporate open-ended questions that can spark deeper conversations. 
      • Equip small group leaders to be excellent facilitators rather than lecturers.

      Lack of community.  Millennials long to be in community and they want their children to be in community as well.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Create small groups that address the felt needs of Millennials.

      • Have small groups for their children.  Whether it's a traditional classroom setting or a small group time after large group time, get their kids in a group where they can be known, cared for and prayed for by a caring small group leader.

      • Set up serving opportunities where small groups can serve together.
      Provide them with a safe place to discuss controversial issues.  Our culture is engulfed in issues like gay marriage, transgender, abortion, etc.  Millennials need a safe place where they can talk through these issues.

      Practical steps to take:
      • Create environments where Millennials can ask questions about these issues. 
      • Provide mentors for Millennials who can bring wisdom and guidance to the table.
      • Remember tolerance is a big value of Millennials. Talk with them, but don't argue with them, about controversial issues.  Relationship is how you will influence them.
      It's time churches face the fact that, for the most part, we're not keeping Millennials and their children engaged in our churches.  Unless we make changes, there is going to be lots of empty seats in our churches where Millennials should be sitting.   Unless we adjust what we're doing, our nursery, preschool and elementary ministries at our churches will continue to plateau and even shrink. Wake up!  Look around!  We have to reach the Millennial parents in our communities or we will face extinction.

      I want to encourage you to talk through the points listed above with your team.  Have some honest, no-holds-barred conversations about this.  Be willing to let go of the past and change what is not working.  It can be done.  I was at a church a few weeks ago that was brimming with Millennial parents and their children.  It can still be done, if you're willing to adjust as needed.

      The hope for the world is the church.  And the hope for the church is to pass along our faith to the generations following us.

      Your turn. The floor is yours.  Are you seeing fewer Millennials and their children in your church? Share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.

      Jun 13, 2018

      Grow You...Grow Your Ministry

      Do you want your ministry to grow?  Of course, we all do.

      But for the ministry to grow, you're going to have to grow as a leader.  If you don't continue growing as a leader, you can become the lid that hinders growth.

      Rick Warren said this:

      "Years ago I stopped worrying about how to grow our church and instead focused on growing me.  As I grew, our church grew.

      Abraham Lincoln said this:

      "If I have 6 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first 4 sharpening my ax." 

      I believe this - if you'll grow you, the ministry will grow with you.  Growing isn't over when you graduate college or have been in ministry for 20 years.  No, personal growth has to be a lifelong journey.  We must continue to read, learn, collaborate and stretch ourselves.

      That's why I started Advance Children's Ministry Coaching.  It's a 6-month coaching experience for children's ministry leaders who want to grow to the next level in their leadership.  With 29 years of ministry experience, I have helped build some of the largest and fastest growing children's ministries in the country.  I can help you achieve your ministry and personal growth goals.

      Here is what 2 leaders who have been through the coaching, have to say about it.

      "Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Dale did!  Having worked in children's ministry for almost two decades, I have a lot of experience.  Basically, that means I am good at somethings and avoid the rest.  If you are willing to learn, Dale can help you with the rest."
      Joel Smith, First Colony Church, Richmond, Texas

      "I am so thankful for the coaching experience I was able to have with Dale Hudson.  I have learned tools that will leadership, growth and structure.  I know that this information will help me today, tomorrow and for years to come.  I would highly recommend anyone in children's ministry to take part in this amazing coaching experience."
      Michelle Clary, 5 Points Church, Easley, South Carolina

      Advance coaching will help you...
      • Have more leadership influence with the team you lead.
      • See your ministry grow and expand.
      • Go to the next level as a leader.
      • Receive a personal investment in you and your ministry.
      • Navigate the challenges and struggles you are facing.
       The 6-month program includes...
      • Monthly group coaching call.  Live, one hour sessions on the important topics listed below.  Each session includes teaching and group discussions.  You will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the topics with Dale and the other leaders in the group.  Sessions are also recorded so you have on-demand access afterward.
        •  July - self-leadership
        • August - leading staff and volunteers
        • September - leading through change and challenges
        • October - keys to a growing ministry and multi-site
        • November - creating a dynamic children's ministry culture in your church
        • December - staying relevant in ministry
      • Personalized growth plan.  Dale will help you identify your blind spots and work with you to create growth steps.
      • Copy of Dale's books.
      • Inside access to the notes from the Kidmin Gig.  3  years ago, Dale started a roundtable for the 30 largest children's ministry in the country.  You will get the latest notes from this gathering.
       The deadline to apply is June 22.  Go to this link for more information and to apply.

      Come join us.  I promise you will grow and become a better leader for your ministry.