Oct 24, 2014

Ebola...What to Know...What to Do

Ebola now ranks in the top 10 concerns of Americans.  1 in 5 people say they worry about getting the virus.

Among those concerned are parents.  In one city, parents took their kids out of school when they found out the teacher had visited Zambia.  And in another school, two parents refused to send their kids to school when they found out that two kids in the class had recently moved there from Rwanda...even though Rwanda is 2,600 miles from the area of the outbreak.

With this issue being in the public eye, how should children's ministries respond?  Here are a few suggestions.

Don't freak out.  Unless you have a documented case that affects your ministry, there is no need to be alarmed.  If you display a spirit of fear, the parents in your ministry will pick up on it. 

Keep things clean.  Clean and disinfect your rooms after each usage.  This includes wiping down toys, chairs, tables, doorknobs, etc.  This should already be a policy that you have in place.  It helps prevent the spread of germs, the flu, etc.

Have a child wellness policy in place and display it.  We have a child wellness policy that is displayed outside each room.

Be prepared to answer parent's questions.  Parents may come with questions.  Be informed and prepared to answer their concerns and questions.  You may receive questions like, "How do you contract Ebola?"  The answer is, "by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.  It is not spread by air, water, or food."

What steps are you taking in your children's ministry?  
Are you communicating with parents?
Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Oct 23, 2014

10 Children's Ministries You Should Visit and Learn From

One of the best ways to get ideas for your children's ministry is by studying other children's ministries that are getting the job done.

Conferences are great, but I believe visiting, observing and studying other children's ministries is just as helpful.  Many of the things our children's ministry does were sparked by something we saw other ministries doing successfully.

Below are 10 children's ministries that are doing a great job reaching kids and families.  In other words, they've got it going on!  They're not just talking about impacting kids, they're actually doing it.

North Point Church has been a leader in children and family ministry since it's inception in 1995.  Reggie Joiner is a pioneer in family ministry (I actually call him the godfather of family ministry) and led the team at North Point to reach thousands of kids and families.  Reggie then left to begin The ReThink Group and help other churches reach families.  Kendra Fleming and the North Point team have continued to bring innovation, leadership, and great creativity to children's and family ministry.  If you're serious about reaching families, study what North Point is doing.

Team Kid is the children's ministry of Second Baptist Church of Houston.  They are reaching thousands of kids and families in their city.  From an amazing preschool ministry to their JUMP kids' worship services, they are highly effective in reaching kids.  At Christmas, they do an incredible Christmas family show that reaches thousands of kids and parents.

Kids' Club is the children's ministry of Crossroads Church in the Cincinnati area.  The ministry is led by my friend, Kim Botto.  They are doing an amazing job reaching kids.  They are also producing some amazing resources including songs and videos.

Church on the Move has been a leader in children's ministry since it's beginning days.  Lead Pastor Willie George has always had a heart to reach kids and has used the Gospel Bill TV show to reach kids around the world.  My friend and one of my heroes in children's ministry, Jim Wideman, led the ministry there for years.  Kids on the Move continues to produce incredible worship songs, curriculum, videos and other resources you can access.

Life Church is a leader in multi-site children's ministry and is reaching kids across the country.  Their children's ministry is called Life Kids.  Life Kids produces amazing curriculum that they share with other churches for free.  Check it out here.  They are also a leader in using technology to share God's Word.  The Bible app for kids is helping thousands of kids discover God's Word.

Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas has always made children's ministry a top priority.   This is evident in their programming, facilities and staffing.  The result - they are reaching thousands of kids in the Dallas metro area.  One of my heroes in children's ministry, Sondra Saunders, led Prestonwood Kidz for decades.  Now my friend, Diane Pendley, leads the children's ministry.  She has an amazing staff and team of volunteers who are committed to reaching the next generation.  

Fellowship Church in the Dallas metro area is impacting thousands of kids each week.  My friend, Mike Johnson, leads FC Kids.  He and his team are highly creative and produce incredible resources for other churches.  They are the masterminds behind Elevation Curriculum.  And...Mike has the coolest children's ministry office on the planet.

Gateway Church is another church in the Dallas metro area that is making a huge impact.  Ken Jackson leads their children's ministry called Amazing Kids.  Amazing Kids has exploded with growth.  Not only are they impacting kids in their city, but also churches across the country through their worship songs for kids.  Check out their worship music.

Saddleback Church in California has been a national leader in children's ministries for years.  My friend, Steve Adams, leads Saddleback Kids.  Their commitment to children's ministry is reflected in everything they do.  They produce amazing curriculum and resources that impact kids' lives.  They set the bar for what children's ministry should be in the local church.

eKidz is the children's ministry of Elevation Church in the Charlotte area.  They have exploded with growth and are on the cutting edge of children's ministry.  You can access their amazing, free curriculum and resources at this site.

What are some other churches that we can learn from?  List some more for us in the comment section below.

Oct 22, 2014

NO KIDS ALLOWED (10 Things Churches Do That Keeps Them From Reaching Kids)

One of the most heartbreaking things I hear when I travel to speak at churches and conferences is this.

"Our church is dying.  We have very few, if any, kids.  If it continues, in a few years we'll have to close the doors."

"We can't seem to reach kids."  Everyone at our church is older."  

It's almost like there's a sign at the front door that says, "No kids allowed."

The reason kids are not coming could be because they are unintentionally doing one or more of the following...

1. Making kids sit through a service that bores them.
Kids are not adults.  So why would you ask them to sit through a service that is designed for adults?

Bill Maher, outspoken agnostic, said the reason he stopped attending church as a kid was because it was boring.  He said it wasn't relevant to his life and he hated going.  I am sure he hated going because he was placed in an adult service that he couldn't connect with.

Yes...kids should have fun at church.  If you're blood pressure just rose a little...hang on.  Here's what I mean.  When a kid says they had "fun" at church...here's what they mean.  "It was engaging.  It kept my attention.  It was relevant to my life.  I got something out of it."

2. Placing kids in rooms designed and decorated for adults. 
When a child walks into a space at church...the design and interior either says, "this is for adults" or it says, "we designed and decorated this with you in mind."

Don't expect kids to be excited about sitting in brown metal folding chairs in rooms that are painted beige or hospital white.

Besides the volunteers, the physical space is one of the most important ingredients in attracting kids.  

3. Making kids be quiet.
Kids were made to fidget, talk, move, and interact.  If you don't want to them to come to your church, then tell them to sit still and be quiet when they arrive.  

4. Spending more money on things like choir robes than you do on children's programming.
What's important to your church will be reflected in your budget and staffing.  

5. Treating them like they are 1960's kids instead of 2014 kids.
Children haven't changed...but childhood has.  Don't expect to attract digital kids with rotary phone methods.  Don't expect kids who play PS4 on Saturday to be excited about flannel-graph on Sunday.

6. Continually calling them out. 
Kids are constantly told what they're doing wrong...even at church.  This causes kids to see church as a house of rules instead of a house of relationships.  Instead of calling kids out...let's call them up to all that God wants for their life.

7. Not reaching their parents. 
When a church says they're not reaching kids, the bigger issue is they are not reaching young parents.  Kids don't drive themselves to church.  Reach young families and you will have lots of kids. 

8. Perpetuating programs that are no longer effective. 
Keep doing what you've always done...even if it's not working.  Don't change or adjust.  Yes...you'll appease Sister-So-and-So who's grandmother started the program years ago...but you'll keep having the same results.  Yes...you'll make Deacon Crabby happy...but you'll lose his grandkids.

9. Placing your best volunteers everywhere except in children's ministry.
Churches that are reaching kids have placed their brightest and best volunteers in children's ministry.  The priority of children's ministry is reflected in the quality and quantity of people who serve there.    

10. Trying to teach kids by just lecturing them.
Stand up...tell them to listen up...and proceed to download information at them through lecturing.  You'll alienate the majority of the kids and they'll silently count down every miserable second.  Kids don't learn best by being talked at...they learn best by talking and being talked with.

If you find children in your church a fading memory...be encouraged.  You can turn things around.  Sit down and talk a hard look at what you're doing.  Access where your ministry is at.  Be willing to have some hard conversations and make some changes if needed.

The future of the next generation is at stake.  This is big-time! 

Oct 21, 2014

Effective Fall Festival Follow-Up (How to Get Your Guests to Come Back on Sunday)

It's almost that time.  Churches across the country will be hosting Fall Festivals.

We will be hosting Fall Festivals at 6 of our campuses with an anticipated attendance of 15,000-20,000 people.  Many of these people will be unchurched.

We've been strategically thinking of ways to connect with these families and see them return on the weekend for a church service.  Here's our strategy for this year.

1. We've been providing invite cards that our church members can use to invite their friends, family members, co-workers, schoolmates, and neighbors to the event.

2. We will be doing a family show during the event.  It will be 10-15 minutes long and will include music, puppets, games, and family fun.  The show will be held in our children's worship area and will be a soft touch to give kids and parents a feel of what weekends are like.  We'll have showtimes throughout the evening.

3. The night of the event we will be giving away several prizes such as iPads, game systems, etc.  The way you enter the drawings is by filling out a short contact form.  You can fill it out online with your smart phone or on paper.

4. Everyone who enters the drawing will also be given an entry they can bring back for a grand prize drawing that will happen on the weekend.  If they register online, it will come by email.  If they register by paper, they will be given a paper entry form.

5. The grand prize drawing will be for 4 tickets to Disney World.  This drawing will take place after the last service on Sunday.  The way you enter this drawing is to bring the entry referenced in #4 with you to a church service.

6. We will also be having special guest parties after each weekend service to meet those who come back. 

Beyond the prizes, is a commitment to give our guests a great, welcoming experience at the Fall Festival.  If we can get them in the door and love on them, many of them will return.

You see, when you do something nice for a child, you get the attention of the parents.  No matter how far a father or mother is from God, they appreciate someone who is kind to their child.  Provide their child with a great experience and you have an inroad to invite the family to come back on Sunday.

I'm thinking of a family who came to our Fall Festival last year.  It was their first contact with our church.  They came back on the weekend, gave their lives to Christ and are now growing in their faith and serving in the ministry.

What a great opportunity all of us have this year.  Whether you're hosting a Fall Festival on your church property, participating in a community event off-site, or being a witness in your neighborhood, I'm praying with you for many families to come to Christ.

Would love to hear about your strategies to encourage Fall Festival guests to come back.  Feel free to share with us in the comment section below.

Oct 20, 2014

Are You Letting Kids Lead in Your Church?

"The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David."  But the leaders were indignant."   Matthew 21:15

Guess who led worship last weekend in our adult service?  Kids.

Guess who helps greet people as they walk in our church doors each weekend?  Kids

Guess who does outreach in our community?  Kids

Guess who helps feed families during our Thanksgiving meal distribution?  Kids

Guess who helps run sound and tech each weekend in our church?  Kids

Guess who raises thousands of dollars for mission projects each year in our church?  Kids

Guess who shares the Gospel with others?  Kids

Guess who invites people to our church?  Kids.  Last year a lady came to our church for the very first time.  When asked how she heard about the church, she told us she's a crossing guard at a local elementary school.  One of our kids invited her to come while waiting to cross the street.

Guess who serves alongside their parents in various ministries in our church?  Kids

Kids are eager and ready to serve.  Are you giving them the opportunity?