Friday, September 25, 2009
Sneak peek at some of what I am going to be speaking on at the very end of the Annual Vision Day......I've had two aims for the day all along:
1. to cast once more the vision that outlines the incredible need for well thought out theological teaching on the place of children in our churches
2. for those who are involved with children as parents or kids leaders to be refreshed, to be renewed in their experience of the Father so that they may pass on their experience of this relationship to children who are tired of stories and ritual without relationship. I hope and pray this day will bring significant refreshing for the pastors and leaders/coordinators who will attend.
This is not just written for pastors and group leaders who oversee teams of people who work with children and young people; I have written this for everyone involved in volunteering.
Volunteers are the backbone of the church. Without them, nothing could be achieved. The church is recognised as having the largest unpaid workforce in the world, who should derive satisfaction from what they do.
Here are some practical pointers on what you can do to refresh (bring something new to) and bless (encourage, build up) your volunteers/team. If you are a pastor in a church where your kids/youth volunteers are dropping like flies, try some of these strategies!
1. assist your children’s ministry leaders in the development of a vision. And then, allow them to articulate this to the leadership and to the whole church. Work this out together. What are your theological views on children and their place in the church? Two or more parties going in opposite directions is a recipe for misunderstanding and therefore you won’t be able to refresh and bless your kids’ ministry leaders as easily!
2. give children’s ministry leaders your time – if they phone or email you, make sure you get back to them promptly. (at least follow the 80/20 rule!)
3. Listen, listen and listen. Children’s leaders need to be listened to – please remember that they might spend up to 50-75% of their time outwith the main services; outside of community. Pastors/leaders can tend to listen more to “adult” leaders than to children’s leaders – think of the importance sometimes given to small group leaders or those on the mission field rather than to those who minister to the youngest.
4. ensure your church gives your team money to buy resources. Don’t skimp or moan about costs and do act quickly to reimburse when you receive receipts.
5. arrange annual or termly training and be prepared that this will cost. There are several providers – for example: Scripture Union, individual denominations, New Wine.
Check out: http://kids.new-wine.org/training/
Perhaps you might consider sending key individuals to do a specific children’s ministry module. I particularly recommend “Children and the Church”.
www.icc.ac.uk – website has full details of the children’s ministry specialism or email me for further information (this is the theology degree I completed).
6. Don’t overload children’s ministry team with meetings. Instead of monthly evening meetings, be prepared to talk with individuals on Sunday mornings or help set up and/or chat informally at the end without resorting to “meeting-itis”. Release your team to be the best at what they do.
7. Consider putting on thank-you events or socials for your children’s ministry leaders: examples – pizza and punch night, bowling trip. And yes, they don’t pay!
8. Ensure that church meetings/vestry/session hear reports of what is happening in children’s ministry. Celebrate successes of your team(s). Pray for the children’s leaders in services; not just at holiday club time. Consider this quote from the book “Evangelism - Which Way Now?” It’s pretty stirring.
9. Consider your use of language in the services: how do your volunteers feel if they hear that our worship will begin once the children have left for their own groups? How does this marginalise children?
10. Verbally thank your volunteers, often and go out of your way to pass on encouragements. This sounds so obvious. But it means a lot and it won’t make their heads get big, honest!
11. Pray with and for your volunteers. This again sounds so obvious. There is nothing as special as a senior pastor/pastor/coordinator praying with and for his/her children’s ministry team – in whatever way you are comfortable but in some demonstrable way that expresses your desire for them to be filled with the knowledge of God.
You could use this prayer from Colossians chapter one, verses 9 to 12:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light
12. Give your volunteers opportunities to encounter God in an experiential and tangible way; you as the reader could be the one to make this happen!
It’s not good to serve long-time in children’s ministry (or any!) without the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Put simply, we run dry. Teach volunteers about the phileo love God has for each of his children – the demonstrated, natural affection of the father to a child which he wants to lavish on each one of us (1 John 3:1)
Then we will do some of numbers 11 and 12 on Saturday :-)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
....imagine my great delight to find a comment from the President of the Barna Group on the blog post below.....I was mid-reading it when blogger crashed and lost the comment.....
Thank you David for emailing me with your comment again!
Thank you David for emailing me with your comment again!
1. thanks - for following and using our stufff
2. be sure to check back because we are releasing more data on kids, teens and young adults all the time
3. it might even be worth signing up for e-newsletter - free
I hope you're doing well, Lynn. keep fighting the good fight of faith. and truly, sincerely it is a privilege to serve folks on the front lines like you.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
In the words of Monty Python, now for something completely different.
Several times a year since I started this blog in 2006, I like to highlight the work of George Barna. Quite simply, anything the Barna Group publishes is worth reading. They are the Gallup of the N. American Christian/Social Trends scene. George Barna is not a children's pastor, he is a researcher. He is used by God, I believe, in a very practical sense as well as in a prophetic sense to herald things for the church to sit up and take notice of.
I am preparing for my annual Vision Day - why work with children? How can I help children's leaders and church leaders to carry the flame unflinchingly for the necessity of developing children's faith development at the heart of any plan to grow the church? Growing the church starts with nurturing the faith of the very youngest and discipling them to play their fullest part of the ecclesia, the called out, chosen ones, under the guidance and nurture of the family. I have written more on this in previous posts such as here and here.
[If you wish to come to this day on Saturday 26th Sept, email me on email@example.com for further information]
It's far, far too risky to leave this task to chance, to whoever will look after the kids, "fingers crossed" that they will hopefully do an OK job; or to assume that parents new to faith coming out of postmodern vacuous spirituality will know how to disciple their children.
History shows us that the enemy is seeking to - quite simply - get rid of children - in lots of different ways such as high levels of infant mortality in times past, and also through specific events such as the slaughter of Hebrew boys in Moses time, Herod killing children in Jesus time, through "social trends" such as infanticide commonly practiced by Roman fathers, in communist regimes such as China at the height of the One Child Policy ...I need not elaborate further.
“Children are central to the health and future well-being of the church. Reprioritizing ministry to children is the beginning of a revolution.”
So said researcher and cultural analyst George Barna before a strategic two-day session attended by 94 Christian leaders representing 54 organizations, including churches, parachurch ministries, media, and academia, at AWANA Clubs International headquarters in Streamwood, Illinois.
Barna’s clarion call to churches was doubly strong toward parents, as he claimed his recent research shows that “while 85% of parents believe they have the primary responsibility for the moral and spiritual development of their children, more than two out of three are abdicating that responsibility to their church.”
“And very few churches” Barna continued,”go beyond seeing children’s ministry as ‘bait’ that enables them to land the real treasure — i.e., adults. We spend roughly 68 times more money per capita on caring for the average felon than on a church’s ministry to a spiritually hungry child.”
Barna presented the findings of his research on the state of children’s ministry in the U.S., which fueled group discussions concerning the “4-14” window; that is, the critical age timeframe wherein the vast majority of people decide what they will—or won’t—believe. Barna’s findings—and their meaning to a church and family in transition—are spelled out in the book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (Regal, 2003).
“Our children will determine the future, which makes them our most significant and enduring legacy,” Barna proclaimed, “can we afford to let the spiritual and moral dimension of our future leaders be shaped by default?”
A surprising outcome of the gathering was the uniform acceptance of Barna's words of challenge, even among those participants who have appreciated children’s ministry for years,beginning with pastors.
“I’m in the process of rethinking the direction and priorities of our church,” stated Dr. Ed Johnson, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Ocala, Fla. “I’m going home with the deep conviction that children need to be the number one
priority of what we’re doing.”
So strongly did the majority of attendees respond to Barna’s challenge, that they themselves issued a number of calls and challenges.
Specifically, the Forum:
*** Called for churches to strategically place their resources toward ministering to children within this window of opportunity and to assist parents in their role of being spiritual shapers.
*** Called for parents to step up to their biblically directed responsibility to be the primary source of spiritual nurture for their children.
*** Encouraged strategic partnerships among organisations to work together to create awareness of this window of ministry opportunity
*** Called for ministries, churches and parents to adopt a comprehensive system of high quality teaching and mentoring efforts that include meaningful assessment and evaluation of children’s understandings.
*** Agreed to a coordinated ongoing effort at shifting the perception of ministry to children from that of mere appreciation to that of strategic priority in the local church.
Sponsoring organizations for this forum, held April 5 and 6, included: AWANA Clubs International, The Barna Group, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity Today International, Gospel Light, and LifeWay Christian Resources.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I've just come back from visiting some very good friends from my long gone teenage years and they were describing their church's emergence (good news!) from a period of meltdown amongst those who previously led their work with children and families.
Working with children and teenagers for a church, as either a volunteer of a staff member, is a very challenging position and you need to be totally, totally focused on God's call to do so. This doesn't mean that if you suffer stress or hard times whilst caring for children, dealing with parents and relating to lots of volunteers that you are necessarily an in a bad place emotionally (though you could be!) as I think the following bravely articulated article outlines so well.
As George Barna said (not me!) children's ministry is the one area of ministry where best attention should be given at the highest level of church leadership.....he wrote that as a researcher and not as a children's minister of any kind....If this is in any way true, then it's probably going to be a target! Another children's pastor recently asked the question: think of the three areas of your church life you'd like to knock out if you were God's enemy. I'd say: work with children, work with teenagers and worship.
There hasn't been comparable research done on this for children's workers and pastors, but at college I was told that the average turnover time for youth workers/pastors was a mere EIGHTEEN months. This does seem to be substantiated by this post and this one.
In my previous church there have been three people employed (one after the other) to work with teenagers in a seven or eight year period so this statistic on first glance fits, if you were a young person throughout this time - although in reality each stayed longer than 18 months and the 7 or 8 years is the span inbetween. What has been your church's experience of this? How can this be reversed? Should it be or is turnover good?
Saturday, September 12, 2009
All around me just now is change.
Change is good and necessary but sometimes change brings about casualties.
Times of change are times where we need to take extra care with attention to detail not in a need to be "professional" but in a way that brings about inclusion.
Change requires us to bear with one another; to see the good in one another; to speak in love to one another; to seek above everything else that which unites and which demonstrates the heart of God.
But times of change also allow us to reflect and review the things we are involved in. Time to drop something? Pick something up? Time to move on? Time to settle down if we have nomadic tendencies?
I am really struggling with my workload more than I ever, ever have before. I work 0.8 of a week in a really large church, some 50% bigger than my past church, which was also a large church. Sometimes it takes me one whole day a week just to get through the previous week's emails; people wanting to join the team, queries, pastoral matters; all important things. Then there's the people I want to visit out of the office; the materials I need to write; the volunteers I want to encourage and support. If you talk about your workload, as many readers know, you can tend to have an audience of one as everyone is the same; there is always more and more work to be done. But there comes a time when mapping out areas of responsibility and writing out time diaries can be incredibly useful, plus the input of outside organisations such as this one
I had the privilege, a few years ago, of hearing Jill Garrett, formerly head of Gallup and now with Caret, speak on leadership issues within churches and a lot of what she said at that time was incredibly useful to me to help with the work-life balance. The reality is that I care deeply about my spiritual health - sometimes my job stands in the way of my own personal growth and that of others in my household.
I'm a child of my Father first and foremost and a Christian who nurtures my children's faith and releases them into all that God has for them. Instead of rushing over to praying with as many people as possible tonight after a wonderful open-air baptismal service (going into work-mode), I just sat with my wee boy on my knee and prayed for the release of all that God has for him in his life. I love him so much!
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
September is the month when everything kicks off afresh.
My aim this month is to overhaul the links to blogs I read at the side of this page, as sadly some of them are no longer in existence, add some good books to read and perhaps do a wee redesign.
Good intentions now that I have so much free time......
White woman speak with forked tongue.
More about that in another post!
Meanwhile, I would love to encourage ANYONE who read this blog to please, please say hello in the comments box, even just raise a little wave and you can do that anonymously without anyone knowing who you are. You can even become a blog follower and get updates sent to you automatically. The newest person to join is James and you can find out more about him if you click the followers section on the left hand side of the page.
Look forward to reading your hellos. (even if you have been away over the summer!)