Jan 30, 2015

Marriage & Family in America...11 Things You Need to Know

Recent reports give us an inside look at the latest trends in marriage and family in America.
Americans Still Like Marriage
  • 67 percent of Americans disagree with the idea that marriage is outdated.
  • 75 percent of Americans are either married or would like to get married.
Marriage Boosts Social Mobility  
  • Marriage culture around a child is the greatest factor for his or her social mobility. 
  • The strongest predictor is the percentage of children with single parents in a community.
Unwed Childbearing Remains High
  • The unwed birth rate remains high at over 40 percent of all births.
Marriage Continues to Protect Against Child Poverty
  • Children in single-parent homes are five times as likely to be poor compared to children in married-parent homes.
Married Households Make More Money
  • Married men earn significantly more than single men.
  • 32% of the growth in family income inequality since 1979 can be linked to the decline in the marriage rate.
Fertility Rate is at an All-Time Low
  • For the past 10 years, America’s fertility rate has been trending downward.
Proportion of Single Americans is at an All-Time High
  • In 2014, the number of single Americans hit an all-time high, now at 50.2%.  In the mid-1970s, the percentage was 37.4%.
Cohabitation is Common But Not Beneficial
  • Most couples live together before they wed.
  • 44% of Americans think that cohabitation before marriage is a good idea.  However, research suggests the opposite: cohabitation is linked to poorer marital quality.
Most Americans Report Multiple Sexual Partners
  • Americans report having between 4 and 6 sexual partners over their lifetime. 
  • Research indicates that those who only have sex with the person they marry report higher marital quality.
The Marriage Divide Continues
  • 63% of births are outside of marriage.
  • Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.  This leaves children in lower-income, and increasingly more so in working-class communities, without the multiple benefits of marriage.
Fathers Are Spending More Time with Their Children
  • Fathers today spend significantly more time with their children than they did just two decades ago.
  • Children with involved fathers on average have better outcomes, including an increased likelihood of graduating from college.
  • However, fewer youth live with their fathers today than in past decades.
Though many of these trends are going in the wrong direction, it can be changed.  As we minister in a post-modern culture, we are seeing more and more families who simply don't know about God's plan for the home.  As we reach out to hurting, broken people and share the hope and forgiveness that is found in Christ, we can help them discover all that God wants for them.

Jan 29, 2015

10 Reason Kids Should Play Games at Church

Should you use games at church?  I've heard some children's ministry leaders say "no."

I understand why they say this, but with all due respect, I have to disagree.  I believe kids should play games at church.  Why?  Glad you asked.  Here's 10 reasons.

Games make church fun.  
I believe kids should have fun at church.  By "fun" I mean church should be something they enjoy and connect with.  Kids were made to play games and have fun.  Games = fun for a kid.

Games reinforce the lesson.  
For those who don't believe you should play games at church, I do agree with them on one thing.  You shouldn't play games at church just to play games.  I believe games should be carefully planned to tie into the truth you are teaching for the day.  It should be an element of the service that intentionally reinforces the lesson.

Games motivate kids to learn.
Games motivate kids to learn by presenting challenges, tasks and competition.

Games provide opportunities for hands on, participatory, interactive learning.
Games move kids from just listening to participating.  When kids participate, they learn more.
Games teach teamwork.
When you play group games, kids can learn that the body of Christ works together as each member does it's part.

Games increase student engagement.
Since more learning styles are being used in games, student engagement increases.

Games are a great way to review the lesson.
Repetition is a key to learning.  Review games repeat what you taught.

Games help kids practice living out what was taught.
Games with decision making techniques can be used to help kids practice living out what they learned.

Games increases retention rates.
Games have an emotional impact.  Emotions is one of the cements of learning and one of the keys to long-term memory.

Games create a base for deeper questions.
Games are a great way to set up discussions and lead to deeper questions about what you've taught.

The floor is yours.  Do you believe kids should play games at church?  Why or why not?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Jan 28, 2015

10 Qualities of a Great Children's Ministry Volunteer

Who are the top volunteers in your ministry?  You know, the ones you'd like to clone.  The ones you've told, "If I had 100 more volunteers like you, we could reach all the kids in this city." 

What are the qualities that make these volunteers seem to have an "S" on their shirt? 

They are always in their spot.  You can always count on them.  Week in and week out, they show up and make a difference.  They are long-termers. 

They don't fight change, they embrace it.  If there is a mix-up and they don't get all of their supplies, they roll with it.  If there is a last minute change, they adjust with a smile. 

Team Player
They don't have their own agenda.  They see the big picture.  They get along well with other volunteers. 

They are an encourager.  You look forward to seeing them each week.  They have a "let's take the mountain" attitude. 

When they say they will do something, they follow through.  They are known for their character.   They have a solid reputation at work and in the community. 

Provide Good Feedback
They provide good feedback and give you ideas that help improve the ministry. 

Care About Kids
They love working with kids.  Kids are drawn to them.  Parents request for their child to be in the person's group.

They are all in.  They go the second mile.  When an event is over, they stay and clean up with you to the end.  You have to tell them to go home at times.  

They are always looking for ways to improve.  They are on the front row at volunteer training.  They take notes during the pastor's message.  

Serve From the Overflow
They have a growing faith.  They are a spiritual leader to other volunteers.  They keep themselves spiritually healthy.

Who is one of your great volunteers?  Share the person's name and why they are such a great volunteer in the comment section below.  Next Wednesday, I will honor your volunteer here in a special post on the front page.  If you send me their email address as well, I will send them a personal email thanking them for serving on your team and share what you wrote with them.

Jan 27, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Have a Vision For Your Children's Ministry

If you serve as a children's ministry leader in a local church, you are not called to build your "own kingdom" inside the church.  You are called to help the Lead Pastor build the entire church.  This also means it's not your job to create your own "vision" for the children's ministry.When a church has ministries going their own direction, the result is misalignment.  But when the entire ministry is headed in the same direction, speaking the same language and pursuing one vision...the result is unity.  And where there is unity, the Spirit of God brings His blessings.

What if I don't know what my Pastor's vision for the church is?  Sit down and have a conversation with him.  Find out what his vision is.  Then ask how he sees that vision translating into children's ministry.

Should I create my own vision statement for our children's ministry?  I would encourage you to align your children's ministry vision statement as close as possible with the church's overall vision statement.

Here's an example.  Our church's vision statement is - We are called to impact our world with love and message of Jesus Christ...everyone...everyday...everywhere.  For the children's ministry, we translated this into - We are called to impact kids and families with the love and message of Jesus Christ...everyone...everyday...everywhere.

What if I can't align with the Pastor's vision for children's ministry?  When we operate under the authority of the vision of those who lead us, we will be blessed.  If you find yourself in a place where you cannot wholeheartedly align with the Pastor's vision, then it is best to leave quietly and find another church where you can.  It is vital that you be aligned with the vision for the entire church.

Jan 26, 2015

Why Children's Ministry Influences Kids for a Lifetime

A study was done involving over 140 elementary students.  Their personality traits were evaluated and documented.

40 years later, they were evaluated again.  The traits they exhibited as adults mirrored the traits they had exhibited as children.

The most interesting thing to me...the researchers said though personality plays a big role in how kids turn out as adults...they also documented that life events are also a major determining factor.

The first five years of a child's life are the most formative.  Much of what a person becomes is developed during this time with the first three years being the most critical.

As a children's ministry leader, you have the unique privilege of influencing children at the most important time in their life.  What you teach them will not only make a difference in their lives now, but will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  You are helping shape their future.

John 15:16 says you will bear fruit and your fruit will remain.  The awesome thing about serving in children's ministry...you will bear fruit now and later.  You get to see the kids you invested in grow up and become adults who are serving God and making a difference. 

Be encouraged.  The fruit you see now is just the beginning.  When you influence a child...you influence them for a lifetime.  Now that is fruit that remains!

If you haven't seen the video "Now and Later" check it out and share it with your team.

Jan 24, 2015

2014...A Devastating Year for Children

2014 was a year of heartbreak for many children around the world.

UNICEF called it a "devastating year for children" with as many as 15 million caught in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and the Palestinian territories.  230 million children currently live in countries and regions affected by armed conflict.

Executive Director, Anthony Lake, said, "Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves.  Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality."
  • In Central African Republic, some 2.3 million children are affected by the conflict with up to 10,000 believed to have been recruited by armed groups during the past year and more than 430 killed or maimed.
  • Some 538 children were killed and 3,370 injured in the Palestinian Gaza Strip during a 50-day war between Israeli troops and Hamas militants.
  • In Syria, more than 7.3 million children have been affected by the civil war, including 1.7 million who fled the country.  
  • In Iraq, an estimated 2.7 million children have been affected by conflict, with at least 700 believed to have been maimed or killed this year.
  • Some 750,000 children have been displaced in South Sudan with 320,000 living as refugees. More than 600 children have been killed and more than 200 maimed this year, while some 12,000 are being used by armed groups. 
Sickness and disease also attacked children's health and well-being like the deadly outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which has left thousands orphaned and some 5 million out of school.

What can we do as believers?

Pray.  Pray for the safety and well-being of children around the world.  Pray Psalm 91 for these children.

Give.  There are many great organizations such as Compassion International that help children around the world.  Consider sponsoring a child.

Go.  Is your church taking any mission trips this year?  Pray about going and personally ministering to children.

Encourage kids to get involved.  Encourage your kids and the kids in your ministry to pray and give.  Christmas is a great time to do this.  In this post, I share more about how our ministry gives kids the opportunity to help kids in other countries around the world.

Let's pray that this year these precious kids' lives will be full of smiles instead of sorrow