Apr 17, 2015

20 Hilarious Church Signs


Apr 16, 2015

20 Parenting Tips from an Empty Nester

I was 22 and my wife was 21 when we got married.  A year later, our first son was born.  Four years later our second son was born.  For most of our marriage, we've had kids in the house.

But now...25 years later we find ourselves in a new season of life.  We're empty nesters.   

It's a lot quieter around our house.  The wonderful sounds that accompany the world of kids have faded away. 

I once heard of a couple that had a grandfather clock.  Soon after becoming empty nesters, they sold it.  The constant ticking...which they never noticed when they had kids at home...now echoed through the rooms and annoyed them.

The empty nester season of life brings mixed emotions.  I sometimes walk by my kids' empty bedrooms and wish time had stood still and they were still home.  At other times, I enjoy the increased flexibility I have with my schedule. 

Looking back, there are a lot of things I would do differently if there were such a thing as a "do-over" in parenting.  But that's the way it is with everything, isn't it?  Hindsight is such a great teacher.

As a children's ministry director, I often have the opportunity to speak into the lives of young parents.  Here's some of the tips I share with them from an empty nester perspective.

Use your camera...a lot. 
If you don't...one day you'll wish you had. 

Unplug from technology when you're with them. 
Don't let Facebook distract you from looking into your child's face when you're talking with them.  

Realize time is precious. 
Parenting keeps you so busy that you don't realize just how fast time is flying.  One day you'll look back and it will have all been a blur.  I was reminded of this when I was officiating my oldest son's wedding a few years ago.  As I watched him stand at the altar,  the memories came flooding back.  Wasn't I just holding him in my arms at the hospital?  

Eat dinner together. 
Don't let the drive through at McDonald's on the way to soccer practice become your dinner table.  Studies show that kids who have a daily sit down dinner with their family are much healthy emotionally and spiritually.

Know their friends. 
Your kids' friends are a snapshot of who they are.  Know who they are spending time with.

Write down the memories. 
If you don't, you'll forget a lot of the little things that are the source of great memories.

Keep some of their stuff.
You'll look back and cherish that little cap they wore home from the hospital...that drawing they gave you when they were four...that flower pedal from their prom.

Pray for them.
Pray the promises of God over their lives.  Pray for their future spouse.  Pray they will make wise choices.  Pray they will follow God's direction.

Let them fail.
Failure can be a great teacher when you learn from it.  Don't deprive your child from these lessons by always rushing to their rescue or making sure they never experience disappointment.

Go to as many events as possible. 
Be there for the play.  Be in the stands.  Be there for the recital.  They know if you're there or not.

Listen...really listen to them. 
You want them coming to you when they have questions.  If you don't really listen to them, they'll take those questions somewhere else...to people who may not give them the right answers.
Express your love. 
Hug them.  Kiss them.  Tell them you love them...even when they are teenagers.  At times, they may not show it...but they need this and cherish every moment of it.

Teach them about money. 
How to earn it.  How to give it to God and others.  How to save it.  How to spend it wisely.

Take your day off. 
There's nothing at work that's more important than being home with your kids on your day off.

Use your vacation time and spend it with them. 
Some of your greatest bonding times and memories with your kids will be from vacations.  Don't look back on December 31 at unused vacation time.

Do some big, memorable things with them.
Save up money and do something big with your kids at least a few times.  Make it a trip or event they will never forget.  Yes, it will cost you...but the return is priceless.

Love your spouse and show it.
One of the best things you can do for your kids is to love your spouse.  They will say, "gross" when you kiss or hug in front of them, but inside it helps bring the security and stability that they long for.

Read the Bible with them.
Anytime of the day is great...but there is something special about reading God's Word with your kids as you're tucking them in for the night.  Those few moments together will lay a spiritual foundation that will last for a lifetime.

Don't over schedule their lives. 
Organized sports and activities are great...but leave your kids time to just "play" and be at home with you as well.  No agenda to fulfill.  No practice to be at.  No skill to hone.  Just you and them spending free time together.

Realize your responsibility is to make them independent of you.
Someone I know came up with this strategy and it's brilliant. 

When your child is young (ages newborn to 5) you are their caretaker.  Your job at this stage is to nurture and care for them. 

When your child reaches their elementary years (ages 6-11) you are their cop.  Your job is to keep out of situations and scenarios that can harm them.

When your child reaches their teenage years (ages 12-17) you are their coach.  Your job is to train them and guide them.  You begin to give them more and more freedom directly correlated with how they steward the responsibilities you are giving them.

When you child reaches their adult years (18+) you are their consultant.  You offer them advice and help when they ask for it.

The day will come when your kids will leave home.  It will be difficult.  But if you've done your job as a parent, they will be prepared to leave the nest and soar. 

The floor is yours.  What are some other parenting tips for young parents.  Share them in the comment section below.

Apr 15, 2015

7 Keys to Influencing Your Volunteers

You've heard the statement...leadership is influence.

It's true and that means if you want to become a better leader for your volunteers, you've got to increase your influence with them.

Here's 7 keys to raising your level of influence with your volunteers.

1. Talk less and listen more.  That might sound counterproductive...after all...don't influencers have all the answers?

Actually no.  Great influencers are great listeners.  They ask great questions and find great answers.  If you really want to influence volunteers, then listen...really listen to them.  When volunteers know you value their ideas and input, you will gain influence with them.

2. Praise often and criticize rarely.  You won't gain influence with your volunteers if you are constantly criticizing them.  People don't follow criticism.  They follow encouragement and positive feedback.

3. Be a giver instead of a taker.  The motive behind godly influence is not selfish gain.  It's to help others.  Generosity leads to influence. 

4. Be positive instead of negative.  Negative people can be influencers...but they influence volunteers in the wrong direction.  If you want to influence volunteers in the right direction, then be a positive person.

5. Be quick to take blame and slow to take credit.  This is another one that might sound counterproductive...but it's not.  When you admit your mistakes instead of hiding them or shifting the blame, you will gain the respect of your volunteers...and respect leads to influence.  And when you empower your volunteers and give them the credit for wins, you also gain influence.  Empowerment leads to influence.

6. Keep your word.  Integrity leads to influence.  Follow through when you tell your volunteers you are going to do something.  They notice. 

7.  Care...really care about your volunteers.  When your volunteers know you really care about them, it opens their hearts to your influence. 

Apr 14, 2015

Teaching Kids to Worship the Sports Gods

Did you know the average child that attends church only comes once a month?

One of the major reasons for this is parents teaching their children to worship the sports gods on Sunday instead of being at church worshiping God.

They probably wouldn't agree with this assessment, but actions speak louder than words.  What you put first in your life is what you worship.  And what you put first in your life is what your kids will put first in their lives.

I'm not anti-sports.  I played Little League as a kid and other sports all the way through school...but not during church.  My parents taught me that sports were beneficial, but not something to put before my commitment to God's house.

And it seemed that the leagues I played in agreed as well.  Games were not scheduled on Sundays.  Fast forward to today and that's often not the case.  Sunday is just another day to fill with games.  And parents, who want to make sure their kids don't miss out on anything, make the choice to skip church and head to the sport's field.

For many it becomes a slippery slope, enrolling their kids in 2 to 3 sports at a time.  Before they know it, sports has taken over their entire life and they are spending every Saturday and Sunday at the field.

Each year, parents are spending an average of $671 per child on youth sports with 20% spending $1000 or more.

And then there are the elite teams...aka...traveling teams which are the ultimate example of misplaced priorities.  Kids are pulled out of church for weeks on end as they travel out of town and many times out of state.  You'd think it was the NFL.

My fear is that we are teaching an entire generation of kids that church is somewhere you just go when there's not a sport's game or other priority standing in the way.

So what can we do as church leaders to encourage families to put God first on weekends?

Realize it's the misplaced priorities of parents more than it's the misplaced priorities of kids.  Many parents feel the pressure to help their child excel in sports and in some cases... are even living out their own sport's dreams vicariously through their child.

Kids don't drive themselves to the sport's field and they don't drive themselves to church.  We must speak into the lives of parents and help them see how important it is to put Christ first on weekends.  We must help them see that the choices they are making at the most critical time in their child's life will set in motion a life-long pattern of church attendance.

Teach kids the importance of attending church faithfully.  As we teach kids about the Lordship of Christ in every area of their lives, we can help them see the importance of putting Him first in their church attendance.  As God works in their hearts, they can develop a faith that will say "no" when asked if they want to skip church for the sport's field.

Make church more attractive than sports.  The truth is...the church has to shoulder some of the blame for this pattern.  Can you blame kids for trading in an hour of "Biblical boredom" for an exciting game of soccer?

It's time we make church a place that's more exciting than any ballgame.  It's time we make church so engaging and relevant to kid's lives, that they wouldn't think of skipping.  It's time we make church a place that kids drag their parents to. 

Get kids connected and known.  As I mentioned above, it's vital that we create irresistible environments for kids.  But engaging and relevant alone are not enough.  Kids must also feel known and connected.  When Jill knows that Mrs. Burns is waiting to see her,  she will want to be there.  And when Terrance knows Mr. Callagan is going to ask how his week went and really listen to him, he won't want to miss church.

When we combine exciting, engaging environments and real relationships...we will see kids make the choice to worship God over the sports gods. 

The floor is yours...
Do you see kids missing church for sports in your ministry?  What are you doing to encourage kids and parents to put God first on weekends?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Apr 13, 2015

KidMin Conference Registration Giveaway

Are you ready to take your kid's ministry to the next level?  If the answer is "yes," then I'd like to invite you to join us for the KidMin Conference this fall.

The KidMin Conference is a gathering of children's ministry leaders from across the country and around the world.

Here are a few of the things that make this conference unique...
  • Dynamic, interactive training.
  • Lots of opportunities to have authentic conversations with other children's ministry leaders.
  • Real ideas that you can take home and use immediately.
  • Energizing general sessions that will re-charge you spiritually and deepen your walk with Christ. 
I've had the joy of being part of this conference since it's inception and I'd like to invite you to join us this year.  I'll be teaching a deeper learning track about how to build a thriving volunteer team.  In this track, I'll share the principles we've used in our church to enlist, equip, and empower a children's ministry team of over 2,600 volunteers.

I'm giving away a free conference registration ($365 value) to one of our readers.  You can enter by emailing me at daleh@cftoday.org.  I'll announce the winner next Monday, April 20.

The conference will be held Sept. 25-27 in Chicago.  You can get more information at the KidMin site.  You can also get the latest updates on Twitter (@groupkidminconf) and Instagram (kidminconference).

Apr 10, 2015

The Religious Landscape of the Next 35 Years

A recent report from Pew Research shows what the religious landscape will look like for the next 35 years if current trends continue.

There are some rapid changes taking place that should be noted.
  • Christians will remain the largest group.
  • Islam is the fastest growing.
  • By 2050,  the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050.
  • Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The bottom line...there are billions of kids and families who don't know Jesus.  Jesus loves each of them and has called us to take His message of forgiveness to them.