Nov 17, 2017

5 Big Things You Need to Know About Millennial Parents

Born roughly between 1980 and 2000, the Millennials are growing up fast.  Many of the older Millennials are now parents.  

More than 16 million millennial women are now mothers and that number is growing by more than a million every year.  In fact, 82% of children born each year are born to millennial mothers.  That comes to 5 out of every 6 babies.

As they have in many other areas, the Millennials are challenging the norm when it comes to parenting.  Let's take a look at some of their unique characteristics.  

#1 - Google is the new grandparent.
Millennials grew up online.  When they needed an answer for something, they "Googled it."  When they needed to research a subject for high school, they searched online.  When they wanted to see the latest review of a product, they searched online.  When they were looking for a part-time job in the summer, they searched online. 

So it's only natural that now, as parents, they search online for parenting help.  Unlimited information about everything from napping schedules to teething to surviving the terrible two's to anything else you need to know about parenting is just a click away.  

Yes, they still ask their parents for advice at times, but their primary go to is the internet. 

#2 - Co-Parenting.  
About 1/3 of millennial parents follow traditional gender roles.  Another third say the spouses share chores equally.  The final third strive for shared chores, but in reality, the female does more.  But more and more fathers are wanting to step up and be more involved with sharing household responsibilities.  Unlike, previous generations, millennial fathers see being more involved with the children as a masculine trait that they want to strive for.

#3 - Gen Xer's and Boomers to the rescue.
Millennials are facing financial challenges.  They reached childbearing age during the recession and many have large college debt.  As a result, many of them rely on their Gen X and Boomer parents for financial help.  This can be anything from help for rent to asking grandparents to watch the grand-kids while they are working. 

#4 - Religious nones.  
More Millennials are "religious nones" than any previous generation.  The term "none" refers to not claiming affiliation with any religion.  Look at the trend...
  • 14% of Boomers are religious nones
  • 19% of Gen Xer's are religious nones
  • 34% of Millennials are religious nones
This obviously means Millennials are much more likely to not pass faith to their children.  It's hard to pass along something you don't believe yourself.  This is very concerning, not only for the Millennials, but for their Gen Z children as well.

#5 - Work-Life Balance.  
Millennials more than any other generation, want a good balance between work and the other areas of their life.  Part of this is because many of them saw their parents put work first and become unbalanced as they tried to "climb the ladder."  

Millennials don't want to repeat this and so they look for work opportunities that offer them flexibility in how much and where they work.  The primary deciding factor in choosing a job is not the salary being offered, but the opportunity to have a well-functioning work-life balance, recognition and purposeful work.  They are willing to take a pay cut, pass on a promotion and even relocate if it helps them achieve a greater work-life balance.

These five factors have big implications for churches who want to reach and engage Millennial parents.  Churches must know how to navigate these unique characteristics if they want to be effective.  

Here are some questions to think about...

1. How can we use the internet and social media to connect with Millennial parents?  How can we provide them with tools to invest in their children and disciple them through these avenues?

2. How can we provide Millennial parents with parenting tips and tools as they seek to co-parent?   

3. How can we provide Millennial parents with training and wisdom in managing their finances well?

4. How can we reach the Millennial parents in our communities who are "nones?"  How can we re-engage those who grew up in church and have walked away?

5. What will our strategy be to get Millennial parents involved in discipleship, faithful church attendance, serving and small groups since they are very guarded with their time?  How can we help them see the importance of making church attendance a priority for their children?

I will be sharing a session entitled "Connecting with Preschool Parents" that will answer many of these and other questions during our upcoming live webinar.  If you'd like to effectively reach and engage the Millennial parents in your community, then join us for this event.  Below is more information and you can register now at this link

Nov 16, 2017

What Children's Ministry Needs to Learn from Muslims

Recently, I met an amazing children's ministry leader who has an incredible testimony.  She was raised as a devoted Muslim.  As an adult, through a series of events, she came to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Her family turned their back on her, but she remained true to her faith in Jesus.  She got involved in children's ministry in her local church and now leads the ministry.  Her passion and commitment to reaching the next generation for Christ inspired me.

One thing she shared with me is how much Christians could learn from Muslims about passing on our faith to the next generation.  In contrast, she shared how she got frustrated at times when she saw Christian parents and churches that were lackadaisical about reaching and teaching the next generation.

You see, from an early age, Muslim children are taught to "follow Allah." And there is much we can learn from their commitment to passing on their faith to the next generation.
Muslim leaders know that parents leverage enormous leverage in what they teach their children.  They hold parents responsible for steering their children's upbringing according to the guidelines of the Quran.  Muslim parents must take an active role in guiding their children on the "path of truth."  They base this on the Quran passage that says "A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them.”

It's time for children's ministries to focus more on equipping and challenging parents to influence their children spiritually.  We must shift much of our time and attention to influencing the primary influencers of spiritual formation...parents.  Parents are the biggest factor in seeing kids stick with their faith into adulthood.  We must help parents see this and pour into them so they can pour into their children.

Muslim leaders provide in-depth teaching and training for Muslim children.  Children are taught that Allah is the one true Lord of the universe and should have complete control over their lives.  Children must understand the concepts and teachings of the Quran.  They are taught how to defend their faith.  As part of their training, they are also taught all the rituals of worship which includes the five times of prayer each day, fasting, charity, memorizing the Quran, etc.

We've all read the stats and reports of children who have walked away from the church and even their faith in many cases.  The number one reason children are walking away is because we've done a poor job of teaching them solid Bible doctrine and helped them see why we believe what we believe.  It's time the church starts taking kids deeper into God's Word and helping them understand why we believe what we believe.  We must prepare kids to defend their faith.  

I am not saying we shouldn't make learning a fun experience for kids at church.  How we teach is not the issue.  We should continue using games, activities, crafts and other effective methods to teach.  The issue is what we are teaching.

Fluff has to be replaced with solid faith-building lessons that move beyond what has been coined as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."   This consists of beliefs like "the central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself."  While we've been teaching kids that it's all about them, Muslims have been teaching their children that their purpose in life is to serve Allah.  Even if it means forfeiting their lives for the cause of Islam.  And then we wonder why our kids are walking away from their faith while Muslim children are willing to die for theirs.

Muslim children are prepared to think critically and navigate through other belief systems.  Their goal is to see their children develop elevated thinking that can enable them to "ponder critical issues that can help them reconcile the many confusing ideologies that the world will throw at them as they grow up."

As I referenced earlier, as Christians, it is critical that we teach our children what we believe and empower them to be able to defend their faith.

Muslims are committed to passing on their faith to the next generation.  They put forth their best efforts to ensure that their children become true inheritors of Islam and keep it alive.  The sad part is, it is a false belief system that teaches a works salvation and denies Jesus as the way, truth and life.   

It's time that we, as Christ-followers, become passionately committed to passing on the truth of God's Word to the next generation.  It's time we start preparing them and showing them how to live lives that are sold out to the cause of Christ.

Then and only then, will we begin to see kids walking strong in the faith rather than walking away from it.

Nov 15, 2017

Effective Preschool Ministry in the Church

Have you seen this quote?

"In the race to a child's heart, the first one there wins." - George Barna

Wow!  Let that sink in.  We are in a race to capture the hearts of the next generation.  And we can't wait until children are in high school or middle school or even elementary school. must start in the earliest years of a child's life. 

Research shows that the early years of a person's life are the most critical...especially the first 3 years.  Look what Anthony Lake says.

What children experience in the earliest days and years of life shapes and defines their futures." 
Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director

There is no other time frame that has so much potential to lay a spiritual foundation in a person's life.  Babies' brains can form over 1,000 neural connections every second.  And these connections are the building blocks of their future.  Children who are read to from the Bible, talked to about God, sung worship songs to and given personal attention at church will have a better opportunity to grow up to follow Jesus.

If we truly believe that preschoolers have the most potential of any age group in our church, then we must make preschool ministry a top priority.  We must be prepared to effectively connect with preschoolers and their parents.

That's why I am excited about the upcoming live webinar "Effective Children's Ministry in the Church."  We want to help you build a vibrant, effective preschool ministry.

I am excited to have Jean Thomason joining us as a speaker.  Jean has been effectively reaching and ministering to preschoolers and their families for over 20 years as "Miss PattyCake."  She recently released a new book called "Sharing God's Big Love with Little Lives."

Jean will be sharing a session entitled "Nursery with a Purpose."  Jean will equip you with fresh ideas and encouragement to help you guide children into all God has created them to be.  You'll discover how to nurture children's faith during the nursery and toddler years.

Darcy Wood will also be joining us.  Darcy is a dynamic leader who leads the children's ministry at Eagle Brook Church in the Minneapolis area.   Eagle Brook Church is one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation.  A big reason for their growth is their dynamic preschool and children's ministry.  Darcy and her team have built a thriving ministry.  I have personally visited their ministry and seen it in is incredible what God is doing there.  Darcy will be sharing the keys to building a vibrant preschool ministry.  Darcy and her team create great resources to reach the preschoolers and families in their community.  Here is an example.
I will be sharing a session entitled "Connecting with Preschool Parents."  If you're going to influence preschoolers, then you have to influence their parents.  I'll share key ways you can connect with and engage the Millennials...who are the parents of the preschoolers in your community.  If you haven't read the book I co-authored a few years ago entitled "100 Best Ideas to Turbo Charge Your Preschool Ministry," be sure to check it out.  I have also led the preschool and children's ministry in some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation.  I say that to let you know that what we will be sharing is not just theory, but proven principles that work.

We already have people from all over the country who are registering for this event.  Space is limited, so reserve your spot today at this link.  Registration includes a free ecopy of my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams" ($7.00 value).

As an added bonus, registration will also include access to the webinar after it is over in both downloadable and streaming formats so you can share it with the leaders in your church.

Join us and let's get equipped to reach the next generation!  Let's get there first with the love and hope that can only be found in Jesus.

Nov 14, 2017

Your Volunteers Are Either Growing or Going

The most important aspect of your children's ministry is not your building...not your curriculum...not your programs...not your big events...not your budget. 

The most important aspect is your volunteers. 
The success of your children's ministry rises and falls on the strength of the volunteer team.
And a key part of building a great volunteer team is keeping them...long-term.  It is next to impossible to build a strong volunteer team if you have constant turnover.  A great volunteer team has a balance of new volunteers and veteran volunteers. 

When it comes to keeping your volunteers long-term, here's a simple, but powerful aspect to keep in mind. 
Your volunteers are either growing or going.
Here's what that means.  If you want to keep volunteers long-term, you have to provide them with long-term growth opportunities.  Opportunities to grow in their spiritual gifts, responsibilities, leadership, personal spiritual growth and impact.  Often we think volunteers will leave if they get tired, burned out or we expect too much from them.  While this can happen, the truth is they leave just as much, if not more often, because we are not challenging and stretching them enough.

This is especially true with Millennial volunteers.  They want to make a difference.  They want to be empowered to grow as spiritual leaders.  They want opportunities that will stretch them.  If they don't see this in your ministry, they will move on.

When volunteers become disenchanted and disengaged, they leave.  To keep volunteers they must not only feel valued, but challenged as well.  They must have the opportunity to pursue the next step in their leadership.  They must have the opportunity to make a difference and growth themselves. 

Here are some keys to seeing volunteers growing rather than going...
  • Create a growth pathway for all of your volunteer roles.  Here's an example in the preschool world. 
    • General helper in a preschool classroom.
    • Assistant teacher in a preschool classroom.
    • Lead teacher in a preschool classroom, including leading the other volunteers in the room.
    • Oversee 3 classrooms and volunteers in those rooms.
    • Oversee a hallway of classrooms and volunteers during a preschool service. 
  • Show new volunteers the growth pathway for their role when they sign up to volunteer.  They need to know from the get go, that growth opportunities are in place.
  • Invest in all of your volunteers, but especially focus on the ones you think have the most potential to grow.  Spend 80% of your time investing in these people.  Yes, you are to love all of your volunteers, but invest the majority of your time selectively.  
  • Focus not only ministry skills, but personal development as well.  When you help volunteers see that the growth they will experience can translate into other areas and aspects of their life as well, they will be more likely to engage.
  • Promote a culture of open, honest communication.  If you don't, volunteers who are not being challenged may not tell you and you won't know it until you are hearing the words "I am not going to continue serving."
When you make growth a part of your volunteer culture, people will rise to the occasion.  In a ministry I led, we had a paid children's ministry staff team of over 70 people.  All but 5 of them started as volunteers.  As we invested in them, challenged them and gave them opportunities to grow, they responded with enthusiasm and commitment.

We must remember that the end goal is not to see people grow just so we can get more out of them.  The end goal is to see people thrive and flourish as followers of Jesus and leaders in His kingdom.  Our heart should be to see people reach their full potential and fulfill God's calling for their life.

Here are some questions to think through...

Do I have a growth pathway for all of our volunteer roles?

Am I communicating the potential to grow to our new volunteers?
Do our volunteers feel not only valued, but challenged as well? 

Who are 3 volunteers that I am personally investing in and helping develop?  If I don't have them currently, who are the 3 people I can begin developing?

What is my current turnover rate for volunteers each year?  Am I keeping volunteers long-term?  

What can I change or adjust to keep more volunteers long-term?

Do we have a culture that encourages honest, open communication?  Do volunteers know they will be heard if they express that they don't feel challenged?

Does our team reflect a good balance of new and veteran volunteers?  What steps do we need to take to have an even better balance?

You can get more insight into growing volunteers in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."