Mar 27, 2020

Why No One is Singing on Row 3

I was recently sitting in a church service.  In front of me in the other section of seats, I noticed the teenagers of the church were sitting together on about the 3rd row.

The fact that they were sitting up front together was a good thing.

But one thing that stood out to me was this.  Not one of them was singing.  Zero.  Nada.  They were simply not engaging with the service.

It caused me to ponder why they were not engaging with the worship time.  Why were they just standing there with no emotion? Lips closed or yawning.

Perhaps it's because the music style is much different than what they listen to during the week?  Most of the songs they are being asked to sing to were written decades and in some cases even hundreds of years ago.

I believe it is important to have songs that are current and relevant for today's young people.  Not songs that were written for a group of people that lived a long time ago.

Why is it we are asking kids to sing songs that were written for a previous generation?  I believe that God gives each new generation new songs that express worship in their time in history.  When this happens kids will connect and be able to say...

"He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD."  Psalm 40:3

Perhaps another reason why they are not singing is because they have not been asked to help lead worship?  Stats show that kids who get involved in serving will stick with their faith and not walk away.  Yes, the kids in our churches are the church of tomorrow.  But they are also the church of today.  They can help lead and make a big difference in the church today.

If you want row 3 to start worshiping, then give them the opportunity to help lead worship.

Perhaps another reason they are not singing is because they can't relate to the person leading the worship?  It's difficult to get teens excited about worshiping when the leaders are the age of their great grandparents.

Does this mean the entire worship team needs to be young?  Is that what I am saying?  Not all of the worship team has to be young, but if you want to engage today's students, then they should be able connect with and relate to the people who are leading them.  A good percentage of the worship team should be from a younger generation.

Those are the 3 big reasons why I believe row 3 is not singing.  What do you think?  Why do you think teenagers don't sing in church?  Love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Or if you are part of a church where teenagers are singing, what are some of the keys to seeing teens worship in church?  How are you engaging them in worship?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.  

Mar 26, 2020

The Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation.  Have you heard of them?  It's not people who love sandwiches at Subway.   

So who are the members of the "Sandwich Generation?"

They are people who are in the middle of caring for a younger generation (their kids) and an older generation (their parents) at the same time.  They are sandwiched in between these generations, hence they have been tagged as the "sandwich generation."

Usually it is those who have a living parent age 65 or older, while also raising a child under the age of 18 or helping support a grown child.  71% of this group are ages 40 to 59.  10% are younger than 40 and 10% are age 60 or older.

Married adults are more likely to be sandwiched between their parents and their children.  36% of those married fall into the sandwich generation.  Only 13% of adults who are not married are part of the sandwich group.  75% of adult children say they have a responsibility to provide assistance to an elderly parent in need.

This is the situation many Millennials find themselves in.  In fact, 18% of Millennials who were surveyed said they are delaying their plans to have children or have fewer children in anticipation of the care taking role of their aging family members.  An estimated 6.2 million millennials currently provide care for a parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, according to a 2018 AARP Public Policy Report.

But primarily, the sandwich generation is made up of Boomers and Gen Xers.  42% of Gen Xers have parents age 65 or older and a dependent child, compared with 33% of Boomers having older parents to care for.  The sandwich generation is primarily made up of middle-aged adults.

Interesting enough, a survey from Pew Research, reveals that the public places more value on supporting an aging parent than in helping support a grown child.  75% of adults say they have a responsibility to provide for an elderly parent who is in need.  50% says parents have a similar responsibility to support a grown child.

Being a multi-generational household can be stressful.  Most would say they are very busy and are often pressed for time.  They say they always feel rushed even to do the things they have to do.

It can also be a financial stress.  Among those who are financially helping both their children and their parents, here is their financial situation. 
  • 28% say they live comfortably.
  • 30% say they have enough to meet their basic expenses with a little left over for extras.
  •  30% say they are just able to meet their basic expenses.
  • 11% say they don't have enough to meet even basic expenses. 
  • 52% say parents have a responsibility to provide financial assistance to a grown child when needed.  In the past year, 30% of sandwich parents have given financial support to a grown child.
In addition to helping their parents financially, the sandwich generation also provides care and emotional support for their parents. 84% of those in the sandwich generation says their parents turn to them for emotional support some of the time.  

Another factor to consider is the toll this can have on marriages.  The stress of caring for children and parents can lead to relationship issues.  25% of the "sandwich generation" says they have made sacrifices in their romantic relationships.

On the flip side, one positive trend out of this is the relationship growth it can cause among family members  It provides adult children the opportunity to work through any differences they may have had over the years with their parents. 

For those who are involved in family ministry, it is important to keep these trends in mind.  The number of multi-generational families in this situation is going to increase in the next 20 years.

Move than ever, the church must be committed to multi-generational ministry and think of ways they can partner with families who are part of this growing trend.

Mar 25, 2020

It's About the Experience

There's a phrase that needs to be replaced.  It's the phrase "guest services."

I believe changing it to "guest experience" would be the better term to describe what we want our guests to "experience" on their first visit and beyond.

An experience is something that you first and foremost feel.

You've probably heard it said that guests won't remember everything you told them, but they will remember how you made them feel.  They will remember the "experience" you provided for them.

And when guests have a great experience, they will be back.  The opposite is true when a guest has a bad experience.  It doesn't matter how much you "follow up" with them, more than likely they will not return.

You see, we live in an experience economy.  Parents are looking for ways to have great experiences with their children.

The term "Experience Economy" was first used in a 1998 article by Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore.  They believed that if businesses orchestrate memorable events for their customers, that the memory itself becomes the product.  The concept of the experience was initially focused in business, but it soon crossed into tourism, architecture, nursing, urban planning and other fields.

The Experience Economy is also now considered a key part of CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT.

The theory was that in an experience society, people behave differently as consumers.  They begin to judge the value of a transaction based not just about the goods or services that they received, but rather the need for goods or service that delivers an experience as well.

A Danish researcher named Rolf Jensen, wrote the following in his article called The Dream Society.  He stated that American society is yielding to a society focused on dreams, adventure, spirituality and feelings where the story that shapes feelings about a product would become a large part of what people buy when they buy the product.  He stated the trend as the "commercialization of emotions. He predicted that in 25 years people would be buying based mostly on stories, legends, emotions and lifestyles.

Jensen nailed it.  The term "customer experience" is everywhere in business these days.  Some experts say that focusing on the customer experience has become the single most important factor for an organization to achieve business success.

And I would add another key place where the "guest experience" must be a priority.  And that is in the church world.  Growing churches provide guests with exceptional experiences.  Growing churches cause people to feel loved, accepted, welcomed and cared for.

Why will over 70 million people walk into a Disney theme park this year?  I believe the reason is clearly stated on the sign as you drive onto their property.  Here is what it says...

Where Dreams Come True
Disney is so popular with families because Disney helps families create lifelong memories that are birthed in an experience. 
That's why families go there.  They know they will make some great memories together.  And by focusing on a few key elements, you can also create great experiences for families.  Let's take a look at a few of these.

Everyone has a part in the guests' first experience.  A simple definition to keep in mind about guests' experience is this:

The guest's experience is the sum of all the interactions a guest has with your church.  This includes everything from the greeter at the door smiling to clear, easy to read signage to a short waiting line to the appearance of the physical building to the person at the classroom door who welcomes them to the spiritual passion of the worship service to how they are treated when they pick up their child after the service to the hundreds of other interactions they will have during that first visit.

One thing all of these have in common is what?  It's interaction with people in your ministry.  Remember this - while no one owns the guests, everyone does own the moment they are with the guests.

This means that a first-time guest can have a great experience in the parking lot and at the entrance doors, but if the person at the classroom is short with them, they will remember how they were made to feel by that person over everything positive they experienced

Here's something else that is crucial to remember - the experience you create for guests goes way beyond the guest's experience with your greeter team.  It must be a core value that is owned and implemented across the entire team.

It is crucial to help every single person on your team sees that they play a huge part in creating a great first experience with guests.  Every person on your team matters and contributes to the guest's first impression of your ministry.

Your guest experience makers must be happy, positive people.   Don't staff your guests' experience team with negative, frowning people.  The people that you choose to serve on the front lines for this should be happy, upbeat, positive people who know how to make guests feel comfortable and at home.

Why is this so important?  Because this will make or break your ministry.  If the percentage of guests who are returning for another visit is very, very low, then it is time to take a look at the leadership of your guests' experience team.

Look for opportunities to go the second mile.  Most of your great experiences will be found on the second mile.  And BTW, it's not a road that most organizations travel on. But you can and should. Why?  Because your goal should be to far exceed guests' expectations.

I have a friend that was at a Disney park.  His daughter, who was a preschooler at the time, got sick and vomited all over her shirt.  Not anticipating for something like this to happen, my friend had not packed an extra outfit for the day.  It suddenly changed a good experience into a bad experience.

Until a Disney employee from a store, who had seen what happened, walked over and invited them to pick out an outfit for their child out of the of charge.

Suddenly, a good experience that had turned into a bad experience was turned back into a good experience due to the thoughtfulness of an empowered team member.

Atmosphere is a key element of a great guest experience.  And the good news is can control the atmosphere.  Music is a huge part of this.  Next time you are at a Disney Park, notice the music.  It is carefully crafted to contribute to the experience they want guests to have at that particular time and place in the park.

In the morning, as people are entering the park, they play happy, upbeat music.  It's music that brings anticipation and excitement about all the fun they are going to have that day.

Then notice when people are leaving at the end of the day.  The music is very reflective, relaxing and soothing.  It helps people reminisce about all the great experiences they had together that day.

You must remember that people are not just comparing the experience you give them to only the experiences they've had at other churches.  They are comparing the experience you give them to the experience they've had that week at the grocery store, the restaurant, the DMV, the school, etc.

All the "little" details add up to guests' overall experience.  How long they had to wait to get checked in.  The clearly marked signage.  The guests' reserved parking spots in the parking lot.  Walking the parents to the adult worship area.  All of these little things add up to being a big part of the experience.

In my current ministry role, I travel quite a bit.  One thing I have noticed and look for, is the hotel chains that have fresh baked cookies and freshly brewed coffee in their lobby.  After a long day of travel, that cookie is something I look for.  It's one of the little, second mile acts that contributes to my experience with their company.

So...let me ask you this.  What are some of the "cookies" you can provide that will add up to a great guests' experience?   

When guest's experience is done well, word will spread through social media and word of mouth.  And this will result in numerical growth.  Families are looking for places that can provide them with memory making experiences.

One big way your church can accomplish this is by celebrating key milestones in families' lives. Milestones like baby dedication, faith commitment, baptism, Bible presentation, graduation into student ministry, etc.

These are big-time experience moments in families' lives.  They will welcome your help and assistance in creating these memories through the experience you provide them with.

Let's look at one example.  Baby dedication.  What are some ways you can come alongside families and make it an experience they will never forget?  How about...
  • Offering a class they attend before they participate in the dedication.  In this class, help them not only understand what the dedication represents, but also share with them how they can lead their children to follow Jesus for a lifetime. 
  • Giving each parent an opportunity to pray over their baby and ask God's blessings upon them. 
  • Presenting each family with a baby's first Bible. 
  • Have a party atmosphere with cake, drinks, snacks, etc. Work to make it a happy, joyous time.
  • Encourage families to invite their friends, extended family, etc. to come to the celebration. 
I believe when we are intentional about creating great experiences for people, that God will use it to help open their heart to His love for them.

The experience you create matters.  A lot.  Make it a high priority and you will see God move through it to reach families.

p.s. If you are interested in the key milestone experiences, you can get the elements you need right here.  These resources have everything you need to create great milestone experiences for families.
Click here for more information and to see samples.

Mar 24, 2020

The Graying of the American Church

Let me start off by saying I love the senior adults in our ministries.  They bring wisdom, experience and knowledge to the table.

With that clarified, I want to shift and point out a challenge that we must face and meet if we are going to see our churches reach future generations.

The American church is becoming more and more gray with each passing year.  Getting older is a part of life.  I have a lot of gray hair myself.

But left to coast in neutral, most churches will naturally grow grayer every year.  Then one day, they will look up and see that the next generation has left the building.

It takes intentionality to reach succeeding generations. It must be done by keeping the church balanced with the wisdom of older generations alongside the zeal and passion of younger generations.

It also takes the older people of the church to look beyond themselves and seek the changes that must be made to reach their children and grandchildren along with the young families in their community.

One area this shows up is in the worship music.  Music is important to every generation.  Generations get used to a certain style of music.  Usually it's what they grew up with.  Go messing with their music and you will ruffle some feathers.

But the churches that are growing and reaching the next generation are churches where the older members are willing to lay aside their preferences so the next generation can be reached and thrive as leaders in the church.

Want to know how healthy your church is?  There is one place we can go to and see how healthy your church is.  What area is it?  Look into your children's ministry.

Does your church have any babies in the nursery?  How about preschoolers?  How about elemetary-age children?  What about teenagers?

If the answer is "no," then here is the sad news I need to share with you.  Your church is dying.  And when the older people in your church pass away, your church will have to close it's doors. 
Where there is no crying in the nursery, the church is dying.
I was at a church last year and as I looked around I saw that they had no children in the church.  Not one baby.  Not one preschoolers.  Not one elementary student.  No teenagers.  As I sat in their services that morning and looked around, I saw mostly gray hair.  I thought to myself, "This church is terminal."  Unless they start reaching the next generation, they will eventually have to close their doors.

As we talk about reaching the next generation, we must look closely at the Millennials.  They are the young parents in your community.  By 2030, they will represent 75% of the workforce in the country.  The big question is "will they be 75% of your church as well?"

For many Millennials, church is irrelevant.  The number of people who do not have a "religion" has grown by 40% in the last 30 years.

The next generation is growing up in a post Christian world.  Many are Biblically illiterate.  Bible stories like Moses and the burning bush are not common knowledge among them.  But they want to learn and are very open to it.

At the same time, they are observing leaders who say one thing and live something else.  Authenticity is crucial if you want to bring them to your leadership table.

Older church members must understand that the next generation is ready to step up and lead.  But they want to lead not from an authoritative structure, but from a collaborative structure.  This is a big shift for most of the older leaders.

Here are a few more tips that can help your church have a good balance of gray-headed leaders alongside a group of young leaders.
  • Listen to them.  Younger leaders want to have a voice.  They want to be heard. 
  • Build relationships with them.  They respond best to leadership that is grounded by relationship.  Yes, they love coffee?  Why?  Because coffee represents more than having coffee. It represents building a relationship through talking with another person.
  • Mentor them.  They want to be invested in by older leaders.  
Any church that is willing to reach out and connect with the next generation of leaders, can grow their church now and in the future.

Remember this - a healthy family is made up of all generations.  Children.  Teenagers.  Young adults. Middle-age adults.  Senior adults.

I want to enocurage you to do this - the next time you are at church take a look around.  How much gray hair do you see?  Is the gray balanced with the edgy hair styles of youth as well? 

I pray you will be passionate about reaching the next generation.  Hold your "style of ministry" with open hands.  Be willing to change and adjust...even when the changes are not your preferences.

The spiritual future of the next generation is depending on it.