Mar 16, 2018

10 Inspirational Lessons We Can All Learn From Billy Graham's Life

As you know, Billy Graham passed away a few days ago at the age of 99.  He impacted so many people over the years.  I have personally met several people who came to Christ as a result of attending one of his crusades. 

As I sit and think about Billy and his legacy, there are 10 inspirational lessons that I've learned from his life.  I decided to put them in writing.  Here they are.

Lesson 1 - Greatness in ministry is not measured in years, but in decades.  Billy was ordained for the ministry in 1939.  Do the math.  When he died, he had been serving the Lord for 79 years!  

I believe that the best way to be successful in ministry is to stay in ministry.  For all those years, Billy paced himself, guarded himself against moral failure and walked with God.  

I'm sure he heard the words "well done, good and faithful servant."  That inspires me to stay faithful and strive to finish my course as well.   I'm sure it does you as well.

Lesson 2 - It's all about the Gospel.  I heard Larry King, who is not a believer to my knowledge, say this. 

"He always answered the questions, but it always came back to 'Is Christ your Savior, Christ loves you, Christ is with me'."

In 2000, Graham wrote an article for Decision magazine, encouraging all believers to...

1. Reaffirm our commitment to the truth of the Gospel.

2. Reaffirm the priority of evangelism.

This should inspire us to make sharing the Gospel with the world our number one priority.  Let's share the Good News wherever we are.

Lesson 3 - Make guarding your integrity a top priority.  Over the years, we have all seen Christian leaders who had moral failures.  When we hear that another leader has committed adultery or lied or embezzled money, it's almost to the point where nothing surprises us anymore. 

Billy made sure he guarded his heart against these things. 

I'm sure you've heard of the guardrails he put up in his life - never traveling alone, never meeting with a lady who was not his wife alone and sending someone in the hotel room ahead of him to make sure no one was there in waiting.

Early in his ministry, he also insisted that the entire organizational staff be placed on a set salary so no one could accuse them of using the crusades to make a profit.  He also used the majority of his book royalties to fund many charitable organizations.

They say if you walk with integrity, then those closest to you should think the most of you.  His son, Franklin, said this about his father.

"I guess one thing that has always impressed me over the years has been the humility of my parents and their deep integrity.  They were always careful not to do anything that would hinder the Gospel."

This should inspire us to walk in integrity and put up safeguards that will protect us from the snares of the enemy.  May we be inspired to never bring harm to the name of Christ through our actions.

Lesson 4 - Effective ministry comes from behind-the-scenes prayer.  Billy was a man of prayer.

He said "When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God."

He also said, "In the morning, prayer is the key that opens to us the treasures of God's mercies and blessings; in the evening, it is the key that shuts us up under His protection and safeguard."

One thing, you may not be aware of about Billy and prayer is this.

Billy grew up in a small farming community in North Carolina.  There were a group of men in his community that had been earnestly praying that God would raise up someone to take the Gospel to the world.  Billy was the answer to that prayer. 

This not only should inspire us to pray, but also be a reminder that God may answer our prayers by raising up someone else to fulfill the vision He has placed in our heart.

Lesson 5 - Make sure your message is grounded in Scripture.  If you listen to Billy's sermons, there were filled with Scripture.  He knew the power was in the Word of God, rather than in man's reasoning or persuasion.

May our lessons, devotions, sermons and ministries be built upon the foundation of God's Word.  Lives are not changed through our words, but through the Word of God.

Lesson 6 - Value everyone equally and treat them with respect.  Billy was given the opportunity to meet with presidents, celebrities and other famous people.  But those who knew him personally said he treated the doorman, the driver and the janitor with just as much respect as the famous people.  He was kind to everyone.  He smiled at everyone.  He didn't play favorites. 

This should inspire us to see everyone as a 10.  Treat everyone with respect.  Honor everyone with our words and actions.

Lesson 7 - Love your family.  I think one of the most inspiring things about Billy is the fact that he and his wife, Ruth, were married for 63 years before she went to heaven.

While they haven't been perfect (who is), all 5 of his children have grown up to love Jesus and are involved in ministry. 

This comes from a home that is full of love for each other.

This inspires me to love my wife and kids with everything I've got.

Lesson 8 - God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  While Billy was obviously gifted, he would have been the first to tell you that it was God's grace and power that enabled him to preach the Gospel to millions of people. 

There were 2 other men who started preaching with Billy when he first began.  Those who heard the 3 men speak, said that the other 2 men were more gifted and had more potential than Billy did.  Out of the 3 men, Billy was the least likely to make a world-wide impact for Christ. 

But the other two men both had a crisis of their faith and dropped out of ministry.  You've probably never heard of them, even though they were more gifted and more talented than Billy. 

This should inspire all of us.  We all have those voices, both internally and externally, that remind us of our shortcomings.  That tell us we are not the smartest or most talented or eloquent. 

The good news is this.  God is not looking for the smartest person or the most talented person.  He is simply looking for ordinary people who will surrender to His will.  The greatest ability is availability.

All we have to say is "Here I am Lord.  Send me."  When we do that, He will do more in us and through us than we could every ask or imagine. 

Lesson 9 - The message doesn't change, but we must be willing to change our methods of sharing it.  Billy Graham was among the first to use new communication technologies to help spread the Gospel.  During his “global crusade” from Puerto Rico in 1995, his sermons were translated simultaneously into 48 languages and transmitted to 185 countries by satellite.

From radio to television to movies to the internet, he was was willing to change and adapt his methods to reach people.

This reminds me that I must be anchored to the truth, but be geared for the times.  I must know the difference between truth and tradition and cannot let the latter dictate how I share it.

Lesson 10 - You can do more with a team than you can by yourself.   While Billy was the face in front of the cameras, he knew he couldn't do it by himself, and so he surrounded himself with a great team that made the ministry successful.

George Beverly Shea was Graham's soloist from 1947 to 2005.

Cliff Barrows was the director of music for Graham for more than 60 years and hosted the ministries' "Hour of Decision" radio program.

Art Bailey served for more than 20 years with Billy, directing crusades and counseling.  He said,

"Billy was the type of person who recognized early on that he could not do everything.  He trusted us and knew that we had gifts that were integral to what we did."

May we be inspired to partner with others, empower them and release them to do the work of the ministry.  It's not about what we can do by ourselves.  It's about what we can empower others to do.

So there's my list of 10 inspirational lessons we can learn from Billy Graham.  I'd love to hear what you learned from him.  You can share your thoughts with everyone in the comment section below.

Mar 14, 2018

Why The Next Generation Doesn't Know Christianity is True

Why do 13% of Gen Z kids say they are atheists?

Why do 37% of Gen Z kids say you can't know for sure if God is real?

Why do 58% of Gen Z kids say there is more than one way to God?

Why did 78% of nones (those who claim no religion) grow up in church?

Why do so many kids get to college and walk away from the faith?

All of this points to one burning question that they church must face.

Why does the next generation not know that Christianity is true?

Which leads to the answer that the church must face.

The next generation doesn't know Christianity is true, because we haven't been showing them that Christianity is true.

Gen Z may not always know how to verbalize it or even have the courage to say it.  But internally, they desperately want you to show them evidence that what you are telling them about Christianity is true.

46% of Gen Z kids say they need factual evidence to support their beliefs.

49% of Gen Z kids say the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.

27% of Gen Z kids say the church is not a safe place to express doubts.

24% of Gen Z kids say the teaching they are exposed to is shallow.

If the church wants to reach the next generation...if the church wants to stop the exodus of kids walking away from the faith...if the church wants to see kids have a faith that can withstand the reasoning of agnostics and atheists...then we must show them the factual foundation that the faith is built upon.

The Bible is very clear about this.  
But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.         -I Peter 3:15  
We cannot leave kids spiritually defenseless and then just hope they will grow up to follow Jesus.

Teaching kids to be "kind to each other" is a good thing, but it won't equip kids to know why they believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Teaching kids to "be responsible" is a good thing, but it won't equip kids to be able to articulate the proof of Jesus' resurrection.

Teaching kids to "be fair with others" is a noble undertaking, but it won't equip them to answer questions like "How can a fair God allow innocent children to starve?"
Helping kids memorize the books of the Bible is great, but it won't equip them to defend why they believe those books are true.

Showing kids the 10 commandments is important, but it won't equip them to defend why they believe there is a God who gave us the 10 commandments.

I'm afraid, in many cases, we are spending the little time we have on Sundays, teaching kids general character traits that they already hear at school and other places like the boy scouts.  Character traits that are not going to sustain their faith when it is attacked.  "Treating your neighbor right" is not going to sustain a child's faith one day when he or she is hearing a professor say that it's ludicrous to believe God created the world based on scientific evidence.
Yes, it's important to teach kids things like the fruits of the Spirit.  But we must also help them put on the "whole armor" of God, so they can withstand the attacks of the enemy.  If we don't give them the shield of faith...a solid, grounded, doctrine infused will they withstand the attacks?
Couple shallow teaching and the church attendance patterns of today's families and the result is Gen Z having a very weak faith that tumbles when questioned at a deeper level.
I hear something blowing in the wind.  It's the words "It's the parent's job to teach their children these things."  Yes...that is true.  But it is also the church's job to teach children how to be able to do I Peter 3:15.  In fact, it's the church's job to teach parents how to teach their children to be able to live out 1 Peter 3:15.

Whether it's teaching children or it's teaching parents how to teach their children, it's the church's responsibility to disciple and equip believers. 

I'm afraid, we've gotten so caught up with "family ministry" that at times, we've lost sight of the role of the church in teaching and equipping.  You see, parents can't teach their children how to defend their faith, if they don't first know how to defend the faith themselves.

Many of the young, Millennial parents we are asking to lead their children spiritually, were raised on the shallow teaching that we fed them and so they don't have the knowledge to equip their own children about what we believe.  If we are really serious about family ministry, then I believe it's time we start equipping parents to be able to defend their faith, so they in return, can teach their children how to defend their faith.

There is something else blowing in the wind.  The tune is "It's all about relationships."  This tune says if a child has someone at church who knows their name and cares about them, they will grow up to follow Jesus for a lifetime.

That's true...but not completely true.  A child can have great relationships growing up in church, but those relationships will probably not be there when they are sitting in a college classroom one day, hearing about why the Bible is not true and evolution is.  Those relationships will not be there one day, when they are in a dorm room, being asked the hard questions.  Those relationships will not be there one day, when they decide to watch a YouTube video from an intellectually smooth atheist.

It takes providing kids with meaningful relationships and rationale if they are going to follow Jesus for a lifetime.  It's like an airplane.  Takes both wings to fly.  I'm afraid at times, we've gotten so focused on the relational aspect that we've neglected to show them why it's rational to believe you can have a relationship with Jesus.

Can you hear this blowing in the wind as well?  The thought pattern that says we live by faith, so there's no need to examine the evidence.  Or that faith is necessary to fill the gaps when there is lack of tangible evidence.

Hebrews 11:1 is often used to justify this way of thinking.  It says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

But if you look closer, the word "substance" means "a substructure or foundation."  The word "evidence" means "a proof or by which a thing is proved or tested."  Our faith should not be a blind faith, but a faith that is based on a tested foundation. 

The Hebrews 11 passage is very relevant in this discussion.  It is in the context of the origin of the universe.  Verse 3 says, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."

A solid Biblical foundation emerges from observation and working through all available evidence and facts.  Gen Z is growing up in a post-Christian culture.  We cannot assume they will believe the Bible just because we tell them to.  We must take them back to the basics and show them why those basics are trustworthy.

And here's the good news.  If we take time to help kids weigh the evidence, it will point them to the fact that there is a Creator. 

The complex design of our universe, the intricacies of the human body, the position of the earth to the sun and a vast array of other evidence points to the fact that God is real and the Bible is true.  Instead of having kids just take our word for it, we have to be more strategic in letting kids examine the evidence for themselves.

We've been on a downward faith slide for decades in our country.  With each new generation, we are seeing more and more people say they have no religion.  With each new generation, we are seeing more kids grow up and walk away from their faith.  What we're doing is simply not working.  It's time for a wake up call.

This is not about HOW we teach.  This is not about methods or styles of ministry.  Read my articles and you'll quickly see I'm all about kids having fun at church, kids having deep relational connections and parents leading their children spiritually.  

This is about WHAT we are teaching kids This is about WHAT we are equipping parents to teach their children.  

Our job as Christian leaders and parents is to give kids the tools they need to build a faith that will last.  What tools are we placing in their spiritual tool boxes?  They need those tools now and believe me...even more later in life, as their faith is tested.

We only have a short window of time to help kids get a solid faith foundation.  We only have a short window of time to give parents the tools they need to provide their children with a faith that can withstand attack. 

What will you do with this window of time?  How about...

Helping kids see for themselves the evidence for why we believe God created the earth.

Helping kids grapple with the evidence of Jesus' resurrection.

Letting kids walk through the historical evidence for the Bible being God's Word.

Equipping parents to show their children why Jesus' claim to be the only way to God is true.

Allowing kids to face the hard questions and work through them now, so they can get faith-sustaining answers.

Think about it.

Change what you are teaching if needed.

Evaluate what you are placing in the hands of parents to equip their children.

Jude 1:3 says this.
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people.
Gen Z can't defend the faith if they don't know the doctrines and tenets of the faith.  Gen Z can't defend the faith if they don't know why those doctrines and tenets are true. 

And you will notice that it says "the" faith.  Gen Z is immersed in a culture that elevates tolerance to a level that says "all faiths lead to the same place and if you say otherwise, you are an intolerant bigot."

The faith we are called to teach Gen Z says there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.  We must equip Gen Z to be able to defend this faith.  For many churches, this is only going to happen if they change the scope and sequence of what they are teaching Gen Z and their parents.

If Gen Z and the generations to follow are going to know and believe that Christianity is true, it will be because you and I shared with them WHY it is true.  

If you are looking for resources to help teach Gen Z why we can know the Bible is true, then the Prankster series is just what you need.   It takes kids on a deep dive into why the Bible is the Word of God and why you can trust it.  You can see more at this link

If you are looking for a resource to help kids examine the evidence of Jesus' resurrection, then the CSI (Christ Scene Investigation) lesson is a great tool.  You can get more info. at this link.

Mar 13, 2018

Why Church Should Be a Play Day for Kids

"Kids should learn to sit still and be quiet in church."

"Stop running around the room."


"This is not a playground."

"Stop talking and listen to me."

Did you hear those words growing up in church?

Have you ever said those words to a child?

I'm reminded of the two little boys who went to the church with their grandfather to decorate the auditorium for Christmas.  Soon they began to race around the auditorium and their grandfather scolded them.

"You shouldn't do that, boys.  This is God's house."

The little 5-year-old looked up innocently and said, "Doesn't God like little boys, grandfather?"

The grandfather stopped to ponder the question for a few seconds and then signaled for the boys to carry on with their playing.

Here's what I believe about this in one sentence.  Church should be a play day for kids.

Let me preface this by saying this is not about WHAT we teach kids at church.  It's about HOW we teach kids at church.  I believe like never before, it is vital that we teach kids what we believe and share with them solid Biblical truths that they can build a strong faith foundation on. 

But HOW we teach those truths should be facilitated not by tradition, but by how kids learn best.

Research shows that kids do not learn best by sitting still and being lectured to.  They learn best by PLAY.  Play helps kids develop in all areas - physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.

There are so many ways you can bring play into the teaching process at your church.  And the play should always have a purpose.  It should tie into the lesson and be used to teach kids truth.

Here are a few examples:
  • Dramatic play - acting out Bible stories, creating life application skits, making paperbag puppets and using them to act out the lesson, etc.
  • Competitive play - review games, memory verse races, etc. 
  • Constructive play -  putting together a craft, building something that ties into the lesson, putting a Bible verse puzzle together, etc.
  • Cooperative play - playing with other children and volunteers to complete a task that deepens their relational connections.
  • Solitary play - an activity that a child does alone that points them toward self-reflection and a deeper relationship with God.  This might be a guided prayer activity, a meditative reflection, etc.
Some well-meaning churches have the mindset that kids are engaged in play all week, so church should be a time to pull away from play.  But the truth is, play is on the decline.  According to a recent survey, 56% of parents say their kids spend less than an hour every day playing outside - which is less time than prisoners in a maximum security prison spend outdoors!  75% of parents say their kids play less than they did when they were kids.

Then let's make Sunday a play day.  A day when kids can come and learn the great truths of the Bible with the method they learn best through - play.

What if we created environments that kids looked forward to coming to?  Perhaps they would come more often.

What if we taught kids through play instead of lecturing?  Perhaps they would remember more.

What if we stopped making kids sit still and be quiet in church?  Perhaps they would grow up to make some noise for God in the culture.

What if we made our churches the place for play in our communities?  Perhaps more parents would bring their children to church for a "play date" and we would see their family transformed in the process.

What if we made church an active place for kids?  Perhaps we'd see them more active in their faith.

What if we gave kids opportunities to play together in our lessons?  Perhaps we'd see more meaningful relationships formed.
Maybe the reason kids grow up and play church as adults is because we didn't give them opportunities to play at church when they were kids. 
So, here's the challenge.  Gather a group of kids together and ask them this question.  Better yet, ask them individually.

How much do you get to play at church?

Take the response you get, sit down with key people on your team and talk about these questions.
  • How can we bring more play into our lessons and programs?
  • How can more effectively use play to teach kids God's Word?
  • How can use play to create environments that kids look forward to coming to?
  • How can we use play to help deepen relationships?
One last thing to keep in mind as you are creating play opportunities at your church.  Remember, kids are inundated with technology all week.  They are engaged with video games, cell phone games, tablets, laptops, television, NetFlix, etc.

Because of this, they are looking for opportunities to engage in hands-on, non-technological play.  Simple play like board games, races, building blocks, etc. are very appealing to them.  Swap out the video games at your church for old school, hands-on games.  Because it will be one of the few places they can find this, they will really enjoy it.

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  Do you think Sunday should be a play day?  Share your thoughts, insight and ideas in the comment section below.

p.s. If you're looking for more great ideas to bring more play into your children's ministry, check out our book "If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry."  It's full of ideas on engaging kids in play with a purpose.  You can get it now at  

    Mar 12, 2018

    3 Keys to Attracting Millennial Volunteers

    By 2025, the Millennials will be 75% of working age people.

    Ministries that are going to thrive in the next 10 years must attract Millennial volunteers.  

    Which leads us to the question, "How do I attract Millennial volunteers to my team?

    There are 3 big keys to seeing Millennials join your volunteer team.

    The first key is PURPOSE.  Millennials are attracted to organizations that clearly state why they exist and demonstrate the impact they are making in the world.  This means you should start with the "why" when inviting Millennials to join your team. 

    I often say, "Millennials are not going to line up to change a diaper.  But they will line up to change the world."

    Here's a practical example.  Let's say you need someone to volunteer in a preschool room at your church.  (Chances are you probably do.)

    With Millennials, rather than first inviting them to "serve in a preschool room where they will check kids in, help with crafts, give out goldfish crackers and help teach a lesson" instead say "Did you know that the first years of a person's life are the most important?  Children learn more in their early years than any other time in life.  How would you like to be a part of laying a spiritual foundation for children's lives that will impact them for their entire life?" 

    See te difference?  If you want to attract Millennials, purpose must come before the process that makes the purpose happen.

    The second key is to PROMOTE stories of other Millennials who are already serving on your team and the impact they are making.

    This can done through videos, personal testimonies in the weekend bulletin, having people personally share their story, etc.

    These stories will not only create an emotional connection for Millennials, but will also offer them proof that they can make an impact in the world by joining your volunteer team.

    The third and final key is showing Millennials the developmental PLANS you have for them. 

    The Millennials are eager to grow, develop their gifts and lead.  Have clear growth and development pathways you can point them to as you invite them to join your team. 

    Remember - it's not about using Millennals to build your ministry.  It's about using using your ministry to build Millennais.

    Follow these 3 simple, but powerful keys and you will attract Millennial volunteers.

    You can get more proven insight into building volunteer teams in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer teams.  It is availble at in paperback end ebook fomats.