Has your children's ministry plateaued or is it not growing like you think it should be? I believe the big key to sparking growth lies in one word. Here it is.
Listen to what Walt Disney said.
“We can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” -Walt Disney
Walt Disney always had one foot in the past, because he loved the nostalgic, and one foot in the future. He was constantly seeking and integrating new technologies that improved what he did. A great example of this is Disney’s commitment to not only maintain, but also update many of the classic rides in their parks to keep them relevant. An example is the ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, that was recently was updated. Enhanced special effects were added including new cannons with water-based smoke and strobe. New scents were added to experience in different areas of the ride. The audio animatronic figures were rebuilt and fitted with new costumes to appear even more realistic. Captain Jack Sparrow was added a few years ago as well.
Another example of an update is Peter Pan’s Flight, one of the most popular rides, which recently added a new interactive queue. The queue takes guests through the Darling home, as Mr. and Mrs. Darling get ready for a night out! Tinker Bell makes an appearance, as does the Darling’s beloved dog, Nana.
Disney not only updates rides, attractions and shows, they also replace the ones that aren’t popular or have run their cultural course. Here’s an example. Not long after Disneyland opened, Walt opened an on-site circus show. He set up two huge circus tents on the edge of Fantasyland. Two 75-minute performances took place every day, featuring acrobats, aerialists, wild animals and the Mouseketeers. Guests voted with their feet and it was unpopular. After a series of mishaps, Walt shut the circus down after just a few months.
Here’s another example. In Epcot, Norway the Maelstrom ride, which first opened in 1988, has been replaced with a new “Frozen Ever After” attraction to make it culturally relevant for today’s kids. These are just a few examples of the many rides, shows and attractions that have been closed or replaced over the years.
“Disneyland will always be building and growing and adding new things...new ways of having fun, of learning things, and sharing the many exciting adventures which may be experienced here in the company of family and friends.” -Walt Disney
Children’s ministries that want to be successful must operate in the same mode. They must be willing to change or replace what’s not working and constantly be looking for ways to improve what is working. There are many ministries that were thriving in the 70s and 80s that are now just a shadow of what they used to be. Ministries that were reaching young families that now rarely hear the sound of children in their hallways. What happened? They were unwilling to change. They are still operating like it’s the 70s and 80s and are dying a slow death.
Ministries that are bent on preserving the past are struggling...ministries that are committed to reaching the next generation are thriving. Ministries that are more concerned about singing the songs they grew up with than they are connecting with today’s kids aren’t growing...ministries that have changed their music to resemble what kids are hearing on the radio today are reaching them.
Past traditions are important...but change is the dynamic that sparks growth.Is your ministry changing? Is it adapting? Does it speak the language of today’s kids or is it stuck in the past? We must be open to new ideas. We must hold the ministry loosely and not be tied to philosophies or programs that are no longer effective. We’ve all seen people who are stuck in their ways and refuse to change. Don’t be that guy. Stay anchored to the truth, but geared for the current culture. Honor the past...learn from the past...but always be looking to the future. Stay thankful for the past, but don’t let it dictate the future. You can’t reach for something new if you’re holding onto the past. The rear-view mirror is for glancing...not staring. Don’t get trapped in the past. Focus on what’s ahead of you. That’s why your front windshield is bigger. Remember...
The last three letters of trend are E-N-D.This is an except from the new book If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry. You can get your copy today at www.kidminmouse.com.