Jul 28, 2016

How to Shepherd Well in Kid's Ministry During Tough Times

Children's ministry is normally full of smiles, giggles, laughter and fun times.  You have the privilege of celebrating with kids and families at some of the most joyful times in their lives.  Times like the birth of a child, a child making a faith commitment, a child being baptized, birthdays, graduations and more.

It's easy to shepherd well during those times, isn't it?  But stay in children's ministry long enough and you'll be called upon to shepherd in tough times as well.

Tough times like...

...a phone call from a parent whose child has been diagnosed with cancer

...a late night request to come to the emergency room for a family who's been in a serious car wreck

...a request to lead the funeral service for a mother who passed away suddenly

...a frantic phone call about a father who has committed suicide

...a child who is in turmoil because her parents are going through a bitter divorce

...a father who has lost his job and doesn't know how his family will survive financially

...a mother who is asking for advice about how to tell her children she only has a few months to live

...a single mom who is struggling to raise her children alone and doesn't know what to do

...a young couple who are heartbroken because their baby was stillborn

...a volunteer whose wife walked out on him and the kids

...a volunteer who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease

...a volunteer whose child has turned his back on God

....a phone call from a volunteer whose teenage child was just in a serious accident.

Sound familiar?  These are just a few of the tough times that you may be called upon to walk through with kids and families.  Shepherding during these times is not easy...to say the least.  I have walked through many of these situations with people over the years.  Through these experiences and through watching older, wiser leaders in these situations, I have gained a few insights about shepherding well in kid's ministry during tough times.  I'd like to share a few of these insights with you.

Shepherd well by simply being there.  There are times when your words will seem hollow to someone who is in so much pain they can't think straight.  During these times, they probably won't remember what you said, but they will remember that you were there.

Jesus has promised two things when we go through tough times in life.  He will be near and He will never leave us nor forsake us.  And He shows that in the flesh through you.  Be Jesus for that child.  Be Jesus for that parent.  Be Jesus for that family.  Show you love them and care for them by simply showing up and being there.  Sit with them.  Wait in the emergency room with them.  Hold their hand.  Cry with them.  Stand beside them.  Walk with them to the grave site. 

Shepherd well by listening.  During tough times listening is often more important than talking.  Listen with empathy.  Listen with compassion.  Listen with focus.  Listen as they pour their heart out.

Shepherd well by providing spiritual support.  Pray with them.  Share God's Word with them.  Point them to God and the hope that is found in Him.

Shepherd well by what you don't say.  When you are helping someone who is going through a tough time, what you DON'T SAY is just as important as what you do say.  If you are not prepared, you will revert to cliche' statements like "I know how you feel" or "God took Him home" or "You'll get over it" or "Time heals wounds" or "She's in a better place."

There will be a lot of "why's."  It's okay if you can't answer all the "why's."  By the way...you can't.

The book "Comforting Children in Crisis" is a must for every person who serves in children's ministry.  It will prepare you to know what to say and what not to say to kids and families who are going through things like death, divorce, financial crisis, depression and more.  I keep it close by and reference it often.  

Shepherd well by providing practical help and support.  Ask and find out what you can do to help.  It may mean assisting with practical things like arranging meals, helping with funeral preparations, helping find temporary shelter, etc.  This may often mean connecting them with other people in your church who can come alongside them as well.

One important note.  Don't try to help with areas you are not qualified to help in.  Here's an example.  If professional counseling is needed and you are not qualified, then connect them with someone who can provide this. 

When faced situations like this, are you like me?  You feel so inadequate because the need is so great and situation is so desperate?  In times like this, lean upon God and go into the situation with Godfidence...knowing He is with you and will work through you to shepherd well in tough times.

Jul 27, 2016

Billy Graham and Why We Must Reach Kids for Christ

In a recent interview, Billy Graham emphasized that it's never too soon to talk with children about God.  Graham explained that just as parents don't hesitate to tell their children they love them, so they should not wait to tell them of Christ's love as well.

Graham went on to say that the best way to teach young children about Christ's love is through our actions.  Through our genuine faith being lived out, children will witness the love of Christ first-hand.  He explained that our example often speaks far louder than our words.

From birth, parents can begin telling their children about Christ by telling them about His life, reading the Bible to them and praying with them.  Graham says, "What will your children remember about you?  Will they remember only the good times (as well as the hard times) or will they also remember your love for Christ?"

He also emphasizes the importance of taking children to church.  He says it helps them understand that God is real and that we come together to learn about Him.  Taking children to church also helps kids witness the importance of Christ in their parents' life.

Graham says even if your children turn away from the faith to not give up on them, but to continue to love them unconditionally.  Through your unconditional love, they will see the unconditional love of Christ and return to Him.

Amen.  Mr. Graham.  Amen.

Jul 26, 2016

10 Keys to Protecting Your Children's Ministry from Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat to your children's ministry.  Don't think that churches are exempt from this real and present danger.  It's not something we can ignore.

Yes.  Safety is of the Lord, but the Bible also says we should be wise and protect ourselves.

Now is the time to take precautions to protect your children's ministry against terrorism.

Here are 10 keys to help keep your ministry as safe as possible.

#1 - Partner with local law enforcement.  Contact your local law enforcement agencies and ask to be notified of any potential threats or security alerts.  Provide them with a layout of your building as well so they are familiar with it in case of an emergency.   

#2 - Train your staff and volunteers.  They should know the procedures and guidelines for crisis situations.  Have an emergency plan that includes lock down and evacuation procedures.

#3 - Have a heightened sense of awareness.  Be aware of suspicious people, vehicles and containers.  Approach and assist people approaching the children's ministry area that look out of place and be aware of people taking pictures.

#4 - Control access to children's ministry areas.  Have a strict drop-off and pick-up security system.  Only allow people with an approved security tag into your children's areas. 

#5 - Lock all classroom doors once service starts.  Once service starts, secure and lock all hallway and classroom doors.  In addition, have an alarm set on any doors that are not supposed to be opened.

#6 - Thoroughly screen all potential volunteers.  This should include a background check, personal interview and reference calls.

#7 - Build a volunteer safety and security team.  This is a team that monitors the hallways and assists with safety and security matters.  They should be trained thoroughly in emergency procedures.  When possible, enlist people with law enforcement experience for this team.

#8 - Have a police officer present.  Hire a police officer to be stationed in your children's area.  The officer should be in uniform and armed.  If your budget does not allow for this, ask if there are any officers in your church who will volunteer their time off-duty to do this.

#9 - Keep a detailed list of kids who are in the classrooms with emergency contact information.  It is critical that every classroom has a list of the kids who are in the room and be able to reach their parents.

#10 - Have clear means of communication.  Make sure each classroom has the ability to contact by radio or phone a central security area.  Staff and volunteers should know who to contact in case of an emergency.

This is the world in which we find ourselves ministering.  Let's be prepared. 

Jul 25, 2016

When a Church Lets Kids Lead...Amazing Things Happen

I believe that God will pour out His blessings on the church that makes children's ministry a priority.  This has been demonstrated time and time again in churches across the country and around the world.

I also believe when a church realizes that children are not only the church of tomorrow...but also the church of today...and lets them lead now...that amazing things happen.

Each week our church gives kids opportunities to serve and lead throughout the church.  And several times a year, they lead the adult worship service.  This past weekend was one of those weeks.  The entire church turned our focus to children's ministry and watched as they led.  And God did amazing things.

God's Spirit rested upon the services as the kids led the church in worship.

Kids led in prayer during the service.  One of the most powerful moments was when one of our kids spontaneously dropped to his knees and begin to pray for our church and nation.

If you want to reach families...make children's ministry a priority.  The key to a parent's heart is their child.  When you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart.  Countless stories could be told of kids who brought their parents to church and the entire family was reached.

We also had lots of fun activities for kids and their parents after each service across our campuses.  Here are a few pictures.

My prayer is this will inspire you and your church to go all out to reach kids and give them opportunities to serve and lead.  Consider taking several weekends a year and having a church-wide emphasis on children's ministry.  On these weekends, give the kids the opportunity to lead the entire church in worship.

The next generation is hungry for God and are ready to serve Him.  They are just waiting for you to believe in them and give them the opportunity to lead.