Apr 24, 2018

People Before Policy (a Biblical example)

Ministry is about people.  Yes, we must have policies, but our policies should be in place to serve and help people, not bind and limit people. 

"It's about using policies to serve people, not making people subservient to policies."

I was reading in the book of Matthew the other day and was reminded of this.  

Here's what happened.  Jesus and His disciples were walking through grain fields on the sabbath.  

The disciples were hungry.  And so they plucked some of the grain to eat.  

The Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, had a hissy-fit.  They strictly followed the policies of the day, one of which was to not "work" on the sabbath day (plucking grain to eat was considered work).  When they saw the disciples put their hunger needs before the "official policies," here is what they said to Jesus.

"Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath."  Matthew 12:2

They cared more about policies than they did about people.  

How did Jesus respond to their legalistic way of thinking?  Here's what He said. 

"The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath."  

Jesus was saying people are more important than petty policies.  

In your ministry, do you put people before policies?  

When I talk about putting people before policies - one thing to keep in mind is this.  Policies that are in place to protect and keep kids safe should always be followed.  This includes policies like background checks for volunteers, no one being alone with a child, showing a pick-up tag before a child is released, etc. 

Besides these type of policies, you have other policies that are in place, that can be by-passed at times if it means helping people.  

Here's an example.  

Let's say you have a policy that doesn't allow people to check-in their kids after 20 minutes into the service.  Nothing wrong with having that policy in place.  

But what if a first-time family walks through the door 30 minutes after service has started and there is no other service they can attend that day?

If you are a "policy before people" ministry, then you would tell them, "Sorry, we have a policy that says we don't allow kids to check in after 20 minutes into the service.  You are welcome to sit in the lobby though and watch on the tv screen."  

But if you put people before policy, this is a situation where you make an exception to the policy and you let them check their kids into the room.  

To navigate this effectively, it's crucial that you train your volunteers on which policies are rigid and which policies can be bent when needed to help people.  Then you can empower them to make the decision of people vs. policy when a situation arises.

Churches that put policies first focus on rules.  Churches that put people first focus on relationships

Churches that put policies first say "we don't do that."  Churches that put people first say "let me find a way to make it happen."

Churches that put policies first are all about guidelines.  Churches that put people first are all about grace

Churches that put policies first stop at the first mile.  Churches that put people first go past the guidelines of the first mile and to the second mile to help people.

Churches that put policies first look for ways to shut people down.  Churches that put people first look for ways to build people up.  

Churches that put policies first inhibit.  Churches that put people first inspire

Churches that put policies first bind.  Churches that put people first bless.  

Churches that put policies first reflect the heart of the Pharisees.  Churches that put people first reflect the heart of Jesus.  

The story of Jesus and the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath is a great reminder of what really matters.  Meeting the needs of people.  

Just as the disciples were physically hungry, there will be families walk in the doors of your church this week that are spiritually hungry.  More than anything, they need to encounter the love and grace of Jesus.  Let this overshadow everything else.

Apr 23, 2018

How to Get More Men Involved in Children's Ministry

Look at 99% (maybe a 100%) of children's ministries and you will notice something.

Attend a children's ministry conference and you will notice the same thing.

There are significantly fewer men involved in children's ministry than women.

And to make it even more real...take a close look at the children's ministry you serve in.  There are probably more women serving than men. 

Why?  There are several reasons.

Women are generally more religious than men.  A survey by Pew Research revealed that 60% of women say religion is very important in their lives, compared to just 47% of men.

Women are the spiritual leaders in many homes.  Many women have to set the spiritual pace in their home because their husband won't step up to be the spiritual leader.  This is manifest at church as well.

More women than men attend church.  Similar percentages are true in the number who are part of a church.  40% of women say they attend religious services at least once a week vs. 32% of men.

Men are sometimes more hindered by work.  70% of men work full time vs. a little over 50% of women.  This causes men to not have as much available time to serve.

Women are generally more nurturing than men.  Women give birth, usually play a primary role in child-rearing, care for children, etc.  They are "mom."  Enough said.  Nurturing is a big part of children's ministry and thus appeals to women more than men.

Leadership roles in children's ministry are occupied more often by women.  Reference back to the fact that more women attend children's ministry conferences.  This is because there are more women leading in children's ministry.  And female leadership naturally results in more female volunteers than male volunteers.

When it comes to working with children, this is mirrored in the culture as a whole.  An example is teachers in schools.  Teaching is an overwhelmingly female profession.  More than 75% of all teachers in kindergarten through high school are women.  In elementary and middle schools, over 80% of the teachers are women.

I am so thankful for all the women who serve in children's ministry.  They are the driving force that makes it happen.  We couldn't do children's ministry without them.  They bring so many unique talents and gifts to the ministry.  No one could take their place.

But we also need more men in children's ministry.  Just like women bring unique gifts and talents to the ministry, so do men.  And we need both to have a balanced volunteer team that impacts kids and families for Christ.

The big question...how do we get more men involved in children's ministry?  Here are some ways you can see more men serving in your children's ministry.

Share the vision of the impact men can make.  Men are wired just like everyone else.  They want to make a difference.  They want to know their time on earth mattered.  They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Rather than begging men to serve, which is counterproductive, invite them to an opportunity to make an impact in the lives of kids.

Here's an example.  You have a lot of boys that come from single parent homes who need a good male role model in their life, so you'd like to find a man to be a boys' small group leader.  Make the ask to not just a position (boys' small group leader), but to the opportunity to change the lives of a group of boys. 
Make the ask not to just leading a group, but to leaving a legacy. 
Make your ministry men-friendly.  Is men-friendly a word?  Not sure, but you know what I mean.  In most people's minds, children's ministry is already considered to be more of a place for women to serve than for men.

And we add to this pre-conceived idea by making children's ministry appear too feminine for men.  We give away tote bags, decorate tables with pretty flowers and use pink stationary.  And then we wonder why men are hesitant to join our team.

Think about it like this.  The average guy hates going to a baby shower or wedding shower.  And normally they don't.  When you make your ministry too feminine, it's like inviting a man to come to a baby shower or wedding shower.  Probably not going to happen.

Consider using colors, words, decorations, etc. that are neutral and not overtly feminine.  It will make a difference in getting men involved in your ministry. 

Have the men who are currently serving invite other men to serve.  Men can bring other men onto your team.  They are the best recruiters to get other men serving in your children's ministry.

Challenge the men currently serving to invite other men to serve with them.  Share video testimonies of men who are serving and the impact they are making.

Just think, if every man who is currently serving brought one more man to serve, it would double the number of men you have serving. 

Place some men in leadership roles.  Look at your key volunteer roles.  Do you have men in any of these roles?  If you want to attract more men to your ministry, then you need some men serving in roles that are highly visible.  

The same is true if you have a children's ministry staff.  Are there any men on your team?  If you want to have a good number of male volunteers, then having some male staff members makes it easier to recruit them.

Create serving roles that men will be drawn to.  Look at the serving roles you currently offer.  Do any of them appeal to men?  Most men are not going to want to serve in the nursery (fyi - most young couples would prefer to have females watching their baby in the nursery anyways).

Men like computers.  Do you have any tech roles for men?  Men like coaching.  Do you have any small group roles for men?  Men like safety and security.  Do you have any safety and security roles for men?  Men like gadgets.  Do you have any roles for men operating the sound board?  Men like to build things.  Do you have any roles for men constructing props, stage sets, etc.?

The more serving roles you have that appeal to men, the more men you will see join your team.

Build bridges to your church's men's ministry.  If you want to find men to serve in your children's ministry, then you must go where they are. 

Think about how you can partner with the men's ministry.  Can you serve at a men's event and have an info. table set up about children's ministry?  Can you provide donuts for the men's Bible study class with invites to join you in children's ministry?  Can you host a cookout for the men in your church and share with them the vision of impacting kids?

More than ever, we need men to serve in children's ministry.  We need men to step up and make a difference in the lives of kids.  We need men to be positive, godly role models for the fatherless boys who attend our churches.  We need men to teach God's Word to boys.  We need men to lead boys' small groups.  We need men to lead worship and help 5th grade boys see it's cool to sing to God.

There are men sitting in your church.  Some have beards and some do not.  Some are grandfathers and some are college students.  Some work in offices and some work in factories.  Some drive pick-up trucks and some drive vans.  Some like to golf and some like to fish.  Some are outgoing and some are introverts.  Some like to cook out and some like to eat out.  Some watch ESPN and some watch shows about flipping houses.

As diverse and varied as they are, they all have one thing in common.  They are men and they need to be serving in children's ministry.  They are just waiting for you to ask them.  

p.s. You can get more great ideas and proven insight into building a volunteer team in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."  You can get it now at this link

Apr 20, 2018

Gen Z's Stare into the Phone

A few days ago, I was at the airport, waiting to board a plane.  As I looked around, I noticed something.  Out of the dozens of people around me, nearly all of them were staring into their cell phone.

Take a look around next time you're in a public place and you'll see the same thing.  We spend nearly every free, waking moment staring into our phones, don't we? 

Seems we just can't stop checking our social media posts, scrolling through apps, playing games, responding to text messages, shopping and surfing the web.  Our phone is the first thing we see when we wake up and the last thing we check before going to sleep.

Designers of these apps and programs are smart.  They know we're all wired to not want to miss out and so they use constant updates and interaction to keep us glued to our phones.  Unlimited information and social media is just a quick tap away.

We must consider how this will affect Gen Z.  While Millennials were mobile pioneers, Gen Zer's are mobile natives.  They are the first generation that will spend their entire adolescence with the smartphone.  98% say they own one.  Gen Z spends more time on their smartphones than all other technology devices combined.  Whereas previous generations considered a mobile phone a luxury, Gen Z consider mobile phones as indispensable.

Gen Z kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages.  Parents feel pressured to get their child a smartphone when they hear "all my friends have one."

As Gen Z spends the majority of their time interacting with their smartphones, they will spend less time interacting directly with friends and family.  Face-to-face discussions are being replaced with digital talk. 

This will have many effects on how they interact, think and engage with the world.
"Our generation is taking way too many selfies and staying up all night watching videos.  Some of my friends only sleep for three hours and still go to school the next day.  I kind of think it's normal because I do that too sometimes."  - Andrea, a Gen Z student
A study was done on how smartphones affects the social skills of pre-teens.  Those who spent more time away from their smartphones showed improved social skills. 

Studies also show that 50% more teens suffer from depression versus six years ago.  What's the difference?  Many point toward constant smartphone usage.  The pressure to keep up with notifications, updates and online "drama" can be overwhelming.  It has also made bullying much more prevalent.

And then there is pornography.  Smartphones have made accessing pornography very easy.  Hardcore images and videos available anytime.  A recent survey revealed that 73% of kids will view pornography before the age of 18.   The destructive effects of this will be seen now and later in life.

Add to that the danger of online predators that is opened through the gateway of mobile phones.  It is crucial that we protect kids.  

The stare into the phone is not going away.  As ministry leaders, the key is equipping parents to help their children navigate the world of technology they are immersed in.  Consider providing parents with tips and training for this.  There are also apps and programs that can be made available to monitor and control usage. 

Here are a few tips you can pass along to parents.
  • Remember a child having a smartphone is a privilege not a right. 
  • Place appropriate controls and filters on your child's smartphone. 
  • Have regular conversations with your child about social media use.
  • Turn off phones an hour before bed time. 
  • Place smartphone chargers outside your child's bedroom.
  • Have phone usage curfews.
Your turn.  What other tips or insight do you have regarding the stare into the phone?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. 

Apr 19, 2018

Why KidMin Leaders Should Think Inside the Box

We are always talking about "thinking outside the box."  But perhaps it's time we start thinking "inside the box." 

The beginnings of the cardboard box dates back to China during the first and second century B.C.  The Chinese would use sheets of tree bark to wrap and preserve foods.  
From there, cardboard made its way west through the trade routes. 

The first documented use of a paper box was in 1817.  It was created to hold a German board game called "The Game of Besieging," which was a popular war strategy game.

Fast forward to 1856.  Edward Allen and Edward Hearley were hat sellers.  They were looking for a material the hats could be placed in and still keep their shape.  They invented corrugated paper for this. 

"Cardboard" continued to advance in 1871.  Albert Jones of New York was awarded a patent for packing with paper.  The material was corrugated paper; crimped to present an elastic surface.

And then in 1879, Robert Gair, who owned a paper bag factory in Brooklyn, found an affordable way to use the corrugated paper into mass produced, fold-able boxes...in other words, cardboard boxes.

At first, the boxes were used to pack small items like tea, tobacco, toothpaste and cosmetics.  Then he got a two million unit order from the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) to provide boxes for crackers.  From that order, sales of cardboard boxes exploded. 

Fast forward to now.  Cardboard boxes are part of our every day lives.  We use them to ship things, receive things, store things, move things, etc. 

We often joke about how kids will get a gift and then ditch the gift to play with the box that it came in.  But did you know that the cardboard box was actually inducted into the U.S. National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005.

Play that incorporates boxes is more popular than ever. 

You can see this reflected through YouTube.  Papa Jake, a popular 22-year-old YouTube star with over 4 million subscribers, shows kids how to make cardboard box creations.  He shows kids how to build space stations, cars, houses and more. 

You can also find tons of internet sites dedicated to playing with cardboard boxes.  Kids are shown how to make everything from cardboard drawers to party decorations to fishing rod racks. 

Major companies are thinking inside the box as well.  Nerf is promoting their toys showing kids how to survive box fort battles with their friends.  Pizza Hut is showing kids how to turn their pizza boxes into functional DJ turntables and solar eclipse viewing devices.

Box Play for Kids and Paper Box Pilots are companies that offer colorful, themed stickers kids and their parents can use to turn boxes into toys.   And then there's Nintendo, who has introduced Labo.  Labo offers different cardboard construction kits designed to fit on and play with the Nintendo Switch.  Kids can use Labo to build things like a motorcycle console, piano, wearable robot suite and more.  
Perhaps children's ministries should start thinking inside the cardboard box more often.  
How can you use cardboard boxes to engage kids with God's Word?  
How about letting kids use cardboard boxes to create and act out Bible stories?  
"With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his or her own, one where anything is possible."                  National Toy Hall of Fame
Noah's ark?  The disciples lowering the man through the roof of a house to be healed by Jesus?  Moses crossing the Red Sea?  Create the Tower of Babel?  Paul and Silas in jail?  There are so many possibilities. 

How about using cardboard boxes to teach kids Bible truth? 

Create the ten commandment tablets out of cardboard and use to teach kids the commandments?  Create something from each day of creation and teach kids about how God created everything?  Nehemiah building the wall and having the courage to obey God? 

Provide supplies they can use to turn the cardboard boxes into creative Bible-related items.  Supplies like...
  • string
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • glue
  • markers
  • different sizes of cardboard boxes
  • paper
  • leaves 
  • foam pieces
  • craft sticks
  • markers
  • crayons
Then watch the fun and learning begin. 

How about having a family contest to extend your teaching into the home?  Have kids and their parents work together to create Bible scenes out of cardboard boxes?  They can create the scenes at home during the week and post pictures online.  This can spark faith conversations at home.  

Your turn.  Do you use cardboard boxes in your kidmin?  Share your thoughts, ideas and insight with everyone in the comment section below.