Aug 18, 2017

How Gen Z is Changing Television as We Know It

I remember the days when TV's were part of a large, cabinet-like console.  And there was no remote control.  I was the remote control.  I had to get up and change the channel by turning the knob.  Which wasn't too big a problem, since there were only 3 to 4 channels.  Maybe 5, if the weather was right and I titled the rabbit ears that had aluminum foil on them just the right way.  And TV went off at midnight.  They played the national anthem and then it went static until the next morning.  As TV's progressed, they moved out of the furniture console and stood alone.  But they had a big back and weighed a ton.  Especially the large screens, which were large, but clunky.  Standard definition was the only option.

Later HD was introduced and TV's began to get thinner and thinner.  Kids who saw an older TV would ask what was on the back of the TV....not knowing that TV's used to be very thick and heavy.

Today, TV's come in ultra thin sizes and the screens continue to get larger and larger while the clarity gets better and better.  There are hundreds of channels to choose from.  And if you miss a show, you can always watch it on demand.

Yes, TV has changed.  Both physically and programmatically.  But the changes are just getting started.  When you consider factors like evolving technology, relevant programming and the rapidly expanding internet, it is obvious change is continuing to accelerate.  Futurists say by 2020, TV may not look like TV as we know it.  The viewing habits and expectations of Gen Z are set to shape the future of TV.

Here are 3 ways Gen Z is changing television as we know it...and what children's ministries should do as well.

Gen Z expects to interact with TV in a way their Millennial parents didn't.  In apps like Minecraft, kids create worlds from scratch.  With, they create their own videos.  They participate in choose-your-own adventures, explore in virtual reality and customize their apps and video games.

Kids don't have the opportunity for control in much of their life and they love the control and creativity these formats allow them to have.  As they grow up, they won't let that go.  They will demand content that they can give input into and help create.

Children's ministries that want to connect with Gen Z and reach them with content, must shift toward interactive lessons that provide kids with the opportunity to give input and help create the lesson agenda and flow.

Fresh Content. 
Gen Z expects fresh content.  Their favorite YouTubers post weekly, daily and even hourly.  Information comes and goes by the minute and in many cases, by the second.   Once Gen Z kids move past their preschool years, they have a very low tolerance for reruns.  Gen Z is also very aware of current trends and know when content is outdated.  Which can happen rapidly.

Children's ministries must stay up-to-date with what is happening in the culture and provide relevant and fresh content.  Up to this point, we have made references that something is outdated in the church world if it is from a decade ago.  It's time to rethink that and realize something from a month ago may be outdated.  

This doesn't mean we change our message.  We are anchored to the truth of God's Word.  But we must also be geared for the times.  The timeless message of God's Word must be presented with timely methods.

Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever.  They are diverse in ethnicity, family make-up and much more.  Content that captures their attention must reflect diversity.  It must be a mirror of how they look, act and feel in this area.

Children's ministries that want to be effective must be diverse as well.  Places where all people are welcomed.  Places that mirror the group that will gather at the throne of God one day.  Kids from every tribe, nation and language. 

In many instances, television content is a reflection of the culture as a whole.  The 3 insights above give us a good picture of the changes Gen Z is bringing to not only television, but to the culture as a whole.  Ministries that will continue to be effective will be those who adapt as well.

Here are some questions to talk through with your team:
  • Are we giving kids the opportunity to participate and give feedback in our lessons?
  • Are our lessons interactive?
  • How can we give kids the opportunity to help create and plan their experience at church?
  • What are some ways we can keep our ministry fresh in kids' eyes?
  • Does our ministry reflect the diversity of Gen Z?  How can we improve this?

Aug 17, 2017

An Inside Look at What the Largest Children's Ministries in America Are Doing

Two years ago, I started a round table gathering for the largest children's ministries in the country.  We get in a room for two days and simply talk about what's going on in our ministries, issues and challenges we are facing, trends we see, what is working well, new ideas, etc. 

I always type up notes from the meeting and thought I'd share some of it with you. Here's an inside look at what some of these children's ministry leaders are doing and saying.
  • Children's ministry is so important that Jesus talked about it.
  • Many times children's ministry leaders feel isolated because people don't understand what they are doing. 
  • Multi-site:
    • When your church is multi-site, it is challenging.  Campuses are messy, personalities are different and you have different leadership styles.  You must have clear guidelines and structure.
    • A successful weekend in children's ministry doesn't just happen.
    • Have campuses send you a "hit and miss" list each week from their services.
    • Campus pastors are responsible for staff health at their campus. 
    • Central team must hold children's ministries at campuses accountable to visions, values, culture, etc.
    • Hiring is done together by central and campus team for children's ministry roles.
    • Ask for a "snapshot" report from each campus after each weekend. 
    • Central team calls the plays, campus team runs the plays.
    • All of the Central team goes to help launch new campuses.
  • Protect your church.  When something happens, it won't be your name in the news, it will be the pastor's and church's name.
  • Some start check-in 20 minutes before service.  Others start it 15 minutes before service.
  • Have a volunteer in every area who trains new volunteers with on-the-job mentoring.
  • Have a different color of name tag or sticker for first-time guests, so you can give them lots of love and attention.
  • Have team jerseys that volunteers put on over their regular shirt each week.  Jerseys stay at church and are washed each week.
  • Be intentional about giving student leaders lots of opportunities to serve.
  • Have volunteers working to replace themselves.
  • Key to longevity in ministry is re-inventing yourself.   The hardest re-invention is internally.  
  • A big part of empowerment is overcoming your own insecurities.
  • People will only be empowered to the degree you empower them.  They will only trust you as you trust them.
  • Are you willing to be the weakest link?  Are you willing to have people around you who are stronger than you? 
  • Occasionally have a staff meeting during weekend services to make sure staff is doing a good job of replacing themselves.
  • As the leader, don't feel guilty about not being as busy as everyone else during the weekend.  You have to be up in the air to have a clear head and make good decisions.
  • Determine the strengths of the people on your team:  
    • Dreamers: see the end result, are not detail-oriented, like to ask "why not?", have great imaginations
    • Designers: can see the dream in their mind, analysts,  architect - puts on paper
    • Developer: love systems, efficient, thinks logically and can adapt, manages with the designer from start to finish
    • Doer: skilled at trade, loves to make things, an action person, trainable
  • The brightest part of your city is sitting in your rooms each weekend.
  • Give guests a glow necklace  - people will know to give them extra love and attention.
  • Large group teachers and communicators (strategy to develop people):
    • Level 1 - co-host a game or activity
    • Level 2 - offering talk
    • Level 3 - teach lesson
    • Level 4 - train other communicators
  • Curriculum used:
    • Create own content
    • First Look
    • Gospel Project
    • Elevate
    • One Hope
    • Elevate Jr.
    • 252
    • Little K
    • Bible App for Kids
  • Mid-week programming:
    • milestone and parenting classes
    • nothing offered
    • service projects
    • Bible classes for kids

Aug 16, 2017

Transgender Camp for Kids

The issues and conversations around transgender continues to accelerate as it becomes a major point of interest in the country.  Discussions like which public restroom should someone who is transgender use?  Can they serve in the military?  Are sex-change surgeries ethical?

The transgender spotlight has now even been turned onto children...some as young as 3-to-4-years-old.

An example is the Rainbow Day Camp.  It's a camp in the city of El Cerrito (San Fran area) for children who say they are transgender or "gender fluid."  The camp is for children ages 4 to 12 and is one of the first in the world for "transgender preschoolers."

When kids check in, they are given a name tag with their pronoun of choice.  Some choose "he."  Some choose "she."  Some choose "he/she" or "they" or no pronoun at all.  Some kids even change their name or pronouns daily, based on what feels right that day.  Specialists say the camp reflects a larger number of children across the nation who are coming out as transgender at younger and younger ages.  Some say children can know as young as 2 that they are transgender.

The protocol today for when a child begins to indicate that he or she is transgender is called "gender affirmation."  It focuses on helping transgender children to socially transition.  In other words, to live as the gender they identify with rather than the one they were born with until they are old enough to decide about medical procedures like puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

Consider these statements from some of the specialists in this field.

"When people say, 'Isn't this too young?' my question back to them is, 'Too young for what?  How young do people know their gender?'  The answer to that is some people know it at 3, and some people know it at 30." 
- Johanna Olson-Kennedy,  The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles

"Enrollment has tripled over the past few years.  There has been a 'sea change - maybe we can even call it a tsunami - in the number of little kids showing up with their families'."
Diane Ehrensaft, San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center 

"Scarlett" is an example of one of the kids who attends the camp.  Scarlett is 6-years-old and was born as a boy.  She first started expressing her female gender at the age of 2.  She would be sent off to preschool in boy's clothes but would change into spare clothes at school and come home dressed as a girl.  She fully transitioned to Scarlett at age 6 and started going by that name all the time, using female pronouns and wearing girl's clothes.

There is obviously a big controversy about whether parents should let children transition to another gender...especially at a younger age.  It's not something that is going to diminish, but will probably pick up momentum in our rapidly changing culture.

What should our response be as children's ministry leaders?

How should we approach this?

How should we navigate this when families in our ministry who are experiencing this come to us?

What should we teach our children about this?

What does the Bible teach about this?

In a recent post, I shared what I believe is a balanced, Bible-based approach to take.  You can read it at this link - "Transgender Children...a Christian Leader's Response."

Ministry is messy.  Last week our family was eating dinner with a gay couple that we know.  During the meal, I was reminded that I was right where Jesus would be.  He spent time not with the Pharisees, but with those who needed Him.  He was right in the middle of the messiness - offering hope, forgiveness and love. 

Aug 15, 2017

The 2 Asks It Takes to Build a Great Volunteer Team

The key to building a great children's ministry is first building a great volunteer team.  And that can be challenging.

Do you currently need more volunteers?  You're not alone.  Ask any children's ministry leader what their greatest need is and you'll hear the word "volunteers."

Here's the good news.  You can build a great volunteer team.  And here's how.  With 2 asks.  Check out this verse for the first ask.

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  ASK the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send workers into His harvest fields'."   Matthew 9:35-38

The first ask - ASK God to send you volunteers.   

In the verses above, Jesus brings our attention to those around us who need Him.  He reminds us that there are many people that need to be reached.  Kids.  Moms.  Dads.  Grandparents.  He then shows us that it takes reach them.  How will these workers be propelled into the harvest fields?  By ASKING God to send them.

Do you need more volunteers?  Pray.  Pray.  Pray.  Ask God each and every week to send you more volunteers.  During your quiet time...ask God for volunteers.  Ask some of the prayer warriors in your church to ask God for volunteers for children's ministry.  Every time you meet with your staff and volunteers...take time to ask God for more volunteers.  When you are driving down the road...ask God for volunteers (with your eyes open, of course).  When you are walking through the hallways of your ministry...ask God for more volunteers.  When people ask how they can pray for your ministry...ask them to pray for more volunteers.

How do I know God wants to give you more volunteers?  Because He told you to ask for them.  Jesus wouldn't have told you to ask God for something, if it wasn't something He wanted for you.  God's heart is full of compassion for kids and families who are hurting.  Kids and families who have yet to experience His forgiveness and healing.  He longs to have a relationship with them.  You can be sure He will give you the volunteers you need to bring them to Him...if you simply ASK
There have been times when I moped around because I didn't have enough volunteers.  But looking was because I was spending more time complaining about not having volunteers, than I was praying for volunteers.
James 4:2 reminds us that "we have not, because we ASK not."  If you need more volunteers, then spend more time asking God for them.

And when you ask...take your prayers to a deeper level.  Ask God to send you to divine appointments.  You see, I believe there are people in your church that God is already dealing with about serving in children's ministry.  They are simply waiting to be asked.  How do you find them?  ASK God to lead you to them.  When you find a divine appointment,  the person will say "yes" when you ask them to serve.

I remember when we needed another volunteer for our security team.  We begin to ask God to lead us to the person He was preparing for this role.  One Sunday morning, after praying for God to lead us to a divine appointment, my wife noticed Dan.  Dan had three children in our ministry.  We had noticed him in the hallways when he dropped off and picked up his children.  That Sunday morning, the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit said, "There he is.  Dan is the person you're looking for."

My wife approached him and shared with him about the volunteer role.  As she begin talking with him, his eyes teared up.  He said, "I've been coming for about a year now.  God has been dealing with me about serving.  I had told God I would like to serve on the security team, but I wasn't sure if you had an opening or if I could do it.  And now you have asked me.  He began to cry as he said, "Yes.  I want to join the team!"

That's what you are looking for.  Divine appointments.  They come again by asking God for them.

That's the first ask.  Here is the second ask.  It's found in Matthew 9.

"As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the collector's booth.  'Follow me',  He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him."  

The second ask is PERSONALLY ASKING PEOPLE TO VOLUNTEER.  Notice what Jesus did.  He approached Matthew and made a personal ask.
This is how you build a volunteer team.  Asking people, one at a time, to join you. 
Week in and week out.  Approach people (divine appointments) and make the ask.

I remember when we made a list of all of the volunteer ministry positions we needed.  It was our dream list...if we could have all the volunteers we'd ever need.  We turned the list into posters.  There was a poster for guest services, a poster for nursery, a poster for preschool, a poster for elementary, a poster for pre-teen, a poster for special events, etc.  Each vacant volunteer role was represented by a sticky note on the poster.  There were a lot of sticky notes on those posters.  Each week we would pray over those sticky notes.  Each week we would ask at a join the team.  And God begin to fill up those sticky notes.  In 8 years, the volunteer team grew from 300 to 2,600.  How did it happen?  One prayer at a personal ask at a time.
Here's what you've got to remember.  It takes BOTH ASKS to build a volunteer team. 
You can ask and ask and ask God in prayer for more volunteers, but if you don't put feet to your prayers and ask people to volunteer, you won't build a volunteer team.  And if you ask and ask and ask people to volunteer, but you haven't first bathed your asks in prayer, you'll hear more "nos" than you do "yeses."

If you will leverage the power of the 2 asks, you will build a great volunteer team.

You can get more insight about building a great volunteer team in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."  It is available at this link.