Mar 26, 2015

The Back of the Fence

Steve Jobs had a passion for excellence.  There's no denying his commitment has impacted the world.

Recently I listened to Walter Isaacson, who wrote Steve's biography, talk about the source of his success.

Steve took him to his childhood home and had him look at the fence in the backyard.  Steve had helped his father build the fence when he was a kid.

He had Walter rub his hand on the back of the fence.  Steve said when they started building the fence, his father told him...
Steve asked, "Why?  No one will ever see it.  No one will ever know."

His father responded, "Yes, but you will know."

Steve learned from this that if you're passionate about the quality of something, you even care about the parts that aren't seen.

It stuck with him.  When he designed the first Mac computer, he held it up to make sure the circuit board...which the customers wouldn't see...was beautifully done.  To him, the parts that no one saw was where true greatness originated.

The reason Apple's front fence has been so successful is because of their commitment to their back fence. 

What does the back of your ministry fence look like?  Are you committed to behind-the-scenes excellence?  What would parents see if they looked at the back of the fence?  What would your volunteers say about the back of the fence?

Show me a ministry that is successful and I'll show you a ministry that cares about the back of the fence.    

Mar 25, 2015

What's Causing You to Limp Into Weekend Services?

Do you limp into weekend services?

Do you find yourself struggling to get one foot in front of the other on Sunday morning when you know you should be running?

Do you enter the weekend with your energy tank on empty when you need it to be full?

Here are some things that may be causing you to limp into the weekend.

Doing too much. 
When I first started in ministry, I was taught to get as many "hooks" in the water as possible.  The rationale was the more ministries you have, the more fish you will catch.  I have found the opposite to be true.  Trying to do lots of things will leave you limping into the weekend and result in less fruit.  

In this post, I share how to determine what to say "no" to

Mid-week programming.
About a year ago, we went to 6 services on weekends.  For us, that was the tipping point for ceasing mid-week children's programming.  We knew we couldn't do 6 weekend services coming off of a mid-week program.  Let me rephrase that...we could...but we would be limping.  And we couldn't afford to limp into the most effective thing we do.

Big events.
I love big events.  And I've done a lot of them over the years.  The the past, I did too many in a year.  And the weekends suffered because of it.  What I had hoped would be a boost for the weekend, ended up being a drain on the weekend.

Now I only do two big events each year.  A Fall Festival in October and a 1 night family experience in the summer.  That's it.  Do I miss all the big events?  Yes...but I don't miss the limp they caused.  And our weekend services are much stronger because of it.

Not taking your day off.
I've got too much on your plate to take your day off.   Been there...done that...and limped into the weekend too many times to know that you can't afford NOT to take your day off.  You think you are getting more done by working on your day off, but in actuality you are getting less done.  You will be more productive over the course of the week if you take your day off.

I take off Fridays.  It helps me catch my breath and go into the weekend rested instead of exhausted.

Not using your vacation time.
Again, by experience, I can tell you that not using your vacation time will not only cause you to limp into the weekend, but can take you out of ministry completely.  You can read more about that here.

When you pull away, it helps you return refreshed, strong and ready to conquer weekends.  Along those lines, it's important to include being away for the weekend when you are on vacation.  Being off for a weekend makes you better when you come back to it.

Working too many hours during the week.
It's hard not to chuckle when someone asks what you do all week.  As if all the programming, volunteers and avalanche of details magically appear on the weekend.  I know if takes a lot to pull the weekend off, but don't spend so much time getting ready to pull the weekend off that you don't have any energy left to actually pull it off.  Make sure you balance your time.
Poor calendaring.
Do you carefully plan and space out the items on your ministry calendar?  If not, you can find yourself with back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back events and activities that cause you to limp into the weekend.  

Stress during the week can drain you and leave you empty when the weekend rolls around.  There is going to be's part of life.  But you can manage it and keep it from causing you to limp.  One way is to exercise during the week.  Exercise is a great stress reliever.  Another way is to have a hobby or other outlet that takes your mind off what is stressing you.

It's also good to avoid stressful conversations or conflicts going into the weekend.  Of course, things pop up that are out of your control, but as much as possible deal with the ones you know about early in the week.

Not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep causes limping.  Get a good night's sleep going into the weekend. 

A crazy summer schedule.
Up until the last few years, summer was our busiest time of the year in children's ministry.  We did lots of stuff.  The stuff we were doing was good...but it was causing us to limp into the weekends of the Fall season.  The Fall is one of our most important seasons of growth and reaching new families.  It's hard to bring your A game in the Fall when you've spent all your energy during the summer months.  We've slowed down our summers so we can be ready to run hard in the Fall.  I talk more about this in this here.
Each weekend is the super bowl for children's ministry.  Don't go into it with a limp.

Mar 24, 2015

Why You Don't Need Video Games In Your Children's Ministry

I was one of the early adopters of bringing video games into children's ministry.  Back in the 90's, I lined our pre-service areas with them.

Our plan was to create a connection point for kids...and it worked for years.  Kids loved it. 

In the last few years though, we have noticed a shift taking place.  Video games are no longer a big deal when kids come to church.

Why?  Technology has brought video games to kids 24/7.  They have access to games through not only consoles, but through phones, tablets and other online sources.

We have noticed a trend among churches of all sizes.  Instead of video games, they are giving kids the opportunity to connect with leaders and other kids before the service through hands-on, participatory activities such as crafts and simple games.  Kids are looking for face-to-face connections and these simple methods are resounding with kids who are immersed in technology 24/7.

We just decided to cut back the number of video games in one of our new children's buildings to just 2.  We'll take the money instead and purchase craft supplies and other hands on games and activities.

Your turn?  Are video games still a big draw for kids at church?  What methods do you use to connect kids pre-service?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Mar 23, 2015

Do Kids Look at Your Children's Ministry Like This?

Recently a group of kids had a VCR placed in front of them and were asked what it was.  A few of the kids knew, but for the most part, they were bewildered.  For kids who are growing up with streaming content, a VCR and VHS tape is something from the dark ages.

You see...content is content.  But the method that is used to deliver the content must change to stay in sync with technology, trends and times.  It makes no sense to use VCR's anymore...especially when you're delivering content to a streaming generation.

In many cases, churches and children's ministries are fading.  Why?  Is it because of their content?  No.  It's because the methods they are using to deliver the content are outdated.  Kids and families from a streaming generation are walking in the door and looking with bewilderment at VCR ministry.

Want to know if you're a VCR ministry in a streaming world?  Here's a few ways to tell.
  • Is your music style from a time when VCR's were popular?
  • Are your programs as complicated as programming a VCR or simple as pushing a button on an iPad?
  • Are your lessons geared to meet the needs of the VCR generation or the streaming generation?
  • Do you know more about the culture of VCR kids than you do of streaming kids?
Bottom line:  Our content never changes.  But the methods we use to deliver the content must change to stay relevant to the culture in which we are ministering.  Ministries that hang onto VCR methods will have a hard time being effective in a streaming world.

Mar 20, 2015

What Young Parents Want When They Come to Your Church

The Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are the young parents who are walking through your church doors.

It is vital that we reach them.  A church that is healthy will have young families.  Here's some things Millennial parents are looking for.

An encounter with God.  39% of Millennials who don't attend church say it's because they can find God elsewhere.  In their mind, why would they sit through a church service to experience God when they can do the same thing at the lake? 

The presence of Gd is not something that can be manufactured.  It rests upon a church as a result of unity, prayer and seeking those far from God.  

An engaging experience.  31% of Millennials don't attend church because they say it's boring.  They want teaching that is relevant to their life.  They want to know how the Word of God connects to 2015. 

Authenticity.  35% say they want people that are authentic.  The church scandals they watched unfold as they were growing up have made them quick to sniff out hypocrites.  

Acceptance.  87% of Millennials say the church is not accepting of people whose lifestyles do not line up with Scripture.  They want a church that accepts people no matter where they are on their journey.  They want a place where you can belong before you believe.  A key thing to remember is there is a difference between acceptance and approval.  You can accept people and love them without approving of their lifestyle.  

Community.  48% of Millennials see church as a place where you can experience community with other people.  If you want to keep them, then you've got to offer easy steps for them to get connected into community.

Opportunity to initially remain anonymous.  82% of Millennials don't want to share more than their first name on their first visit to your church.  If you come across as a used car salesman when they first walk through the doors, they will run the other way.  

The floor is yours.  What are some other things young parents are looking for when they come to your church?  Share in the comment section below.

Mar 19, 2015

3 Ways You Can Make Your Lessons More Interactive

Kids love interactivity.  So if you want them to connect with your lesson, make it interactive.  Here's 3 ways you can accomplish this.

Bringing friendly competition into your lesson will improve focus and help kids learn.  Games can include media games that embed questions and display results on screen, quiz show formats and traditional games such as Tic Tac Toe, fill in the blank, etc.  Games are also a great way to review at the end of a lesson.
Turning top-down lectures into a conversation is one of the best ways to make your lessons interactive.  Today's kids are growing up in a highly interactive world and are wired for highly interactive communication.

Instead of expecting kids to sit silently, give them opportunities to discuss what you sharing.  Use open ended questions to get conversations going.  Have kids discuss how they would navigate real-life scenarios with the truth you're sharing.

Empower kids to teach each other
If you really want kids to "get" the lesson, carve out time during the class time for them to teach each other what you just taught them.  Not only will they remember the lesson, but they will enjoy it as well.  Interaction leads to satisfaction.

Interactive lessons turn passive kids into participating kids.