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Archive for Children


On Sitting Still

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The following poem, written by Muriel Blackwell, has always stuck in the back of my mind as I think about children’s ministry.

On Sitting Still
by Muriel Blackwell

He told me just to sit right here,
But not to make a sound;
And he would teach me all the truths
Within the lessons found.
Although I sat still on a chair,
My mind went out to play;
For God’s blue sky called out to me,
“This is a lovely day.”
I soared the vast expanse of space
Without an earthly care,
And built me castles in the clouds,
Yet never left the chair.
It’s true I didn’t make a sound;
But he could not discern,
That sitting still does not assure
A single thing I’ll learn!

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The State of Vacation Bible School

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As long as I can remember, Vacation Bible School has been the main staple of the summer church calendar. Barna research has provided a new report on the state of VBS in American church life. You can read the report BY CLICKING HERE.

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Why Our Kids Are Leaving Church

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Marc Solos has a thought provoking article posted on ChurchLeaders.com. The article gives ten reasons why our kids go through our children and youth ministries and then depart from the life of the church. This one is worth your time! You can read it by clicking HERE.

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Children’s Ministry Matters

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Here’s an excellent blog post from StickyFaith.org on the church’s need to value and prioritize Children’s Ministry! Check it out HERE.

Categories : Children
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Why Value Children’s Ministry

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Few books have impacted my thinking about ministry any more than George Barna’s book titled, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. I recently pulled this book off the shelf to see if it would still make the same impression, and of course, it did. Check out some of the demographical information cited:

One out of every eight children under age 13 is overweight.
One out of every ten children has had sexual intercourse before their 13th birthday.
One out of every ten eighth graders smoke daily, and one out of five in that grade has tried drugs.
During a typical school year, one out of every fourteen elementary school students is threatened or injured at school with a weapon.
In a given year in America, one million children will miss at least one day of school for fear of physical violence.
One out of every eight children under age 13 has no health insurance.
Approximately 7% of children in America between the ages of 6 and 11 have been diagnosed with ADHD.
As many as 17% of children live at or below the poverty line.
One out of every three children born each year in America is born to an unwed mother.
One out of every four children lives with a single parent.
Three out of every five mothers of infants are in the American labor force.
Children between the ages of 2 and 7 consume nearly 25 hours of mass media/technology per week.
Children between the ages of 8 and 13 consume almost 48 hours of mass media/technology per week.
44% of preteens admit to not having any role models in life. For those who do, only one in three name their father or mother as their role model.

Looking at those numbers brings to mind a couple of thoughts. For one, life is extremely messy. Gone are the days when children were sheltered from “adult” problems and issues. Kids today understand the difficult realities of life and are painfully aware of life’s challenges. Second, it is harder today to be a kid today than it was for most of us yesterday. There are more problems, more complexities, and more readily available temptations. There is less structure, less supervision, and less consistency.

But while those statistics are certainly troubling, they aren’t the ones that give cause for alarm. When the same age groups were surveyed and studied, it was discovered that children under the age of 13 were statistically no different that adults regarding spirituality. In short, Barna Research concluded that by the age of 13, a child’s spiritual worldview is largely set in place.

Let me put that into a context that my generation can understand. When I was young, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (and others, for that matter) recognized the value of investing in the spiritual development of teenagers, citing that the likelihood of a person coming to faith in Christ significantly diminished after a person’s 18th birthday. Churches of all denominations responded to that information by investing their programming dollars and resources in youth programs. Youth ministers were trained and hired and provided the financial resources to perform ministry to junior and senior high students. That was then, this is now. In today’s spiritual economy, 13 is the new 18. Youth ministry is still viable and important in our congregations, but wisdom would indicate that today’s church must invest as much if not more in children’s ministry if we’re going to make a difference in future generations.

I’m turning 50 in four months. Two of my children are in college now, and the third will graduate in 2015. I must confess, however, that I have a greater sense of urgency about children’s ministry than at any time in my (nearly) 30 year career. Children’s ministry must be a priority for our churches. It can’t be just another good thing we do among the host of other good things we do. As the adage goes, “When everything is important, nothing is important.” With passion and intent we must rise to the challenge and see it as the greatest Kingdom opportunity that we have before us.

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Lessons from Happy Valley

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Along with you, I am deeply saddened by the events that have transpired this week at Penn State University. It troubles me as a sports fan and as a father who has entrusted two of his children to undergraduate schools for their education. But most of all, I am concerned as a pastor who is charged with the responsibility of providing a safe and protected environment for children.

This year our church committed to two practices in our children’s ministry. First, we wanted to make sure that we placed two adults in each classroom. Even though class ratios may be small, we felt it was important to provide this layer of protection for our children as well as to safeguard the integrity of our faithful volunteers. The second practice we implemented was to ask each adult volunteer who works with children aged birth through 18 to submit to a criminal background check. Granted, its a difficult ask to make, and it comes at no small expense. But taking every step possible to maintain the safety of our children is well worth it.

A lot of talking heads are working hard to find every possible angle to the story out of Happy Valley. I think one of the most practical voices I have read today is the blog post by Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Resources. If you’re in ministry leadership, I encourage you to take the time to check it out and to use this as a guideline to evaluate your ministry practices. You can find the article by clicking here.

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One thing I appreciate about churches is their commitment to children. Churches in general offer nurseries for babies and childcare for preschoolers during the worship hour. Churches with high commitment to children’s ministry will even provide a full hour worship experience designed specifically for elementary age children while the parents worship in “big church.” As a pastor, I’ve always appreciated every expression of a church to meet the spiritual needs of kids.

Some churches do not have a full program for children during worship, leaving mom and dad wondering how to best prepare their kids to sit through an hour of worship that is designed for and aimed toward adults. How can parents best prepare their child for worship? I don’t confess to having all of the answers, but here are 11 things that you may want to consider.

1. Before you do anything, determine the expectations you will have for your child. Are your expectations age appropriate for your child? Are they reasonable? Are you and your spouse in agreement on the expectations? Do you have goals? Will there be rewards or consequences? Thinking through your expectations in advance will prevent you from flying by the seat of your pants when it’s time to walk into the worship center.

2. Talk with your child in advance. Kids function best when parents take the time to explain what worship is and what they can expect when they arrive. Talking kids through the routine of worship will help them to understand the rhythm of the service. (Even the most contemporary churches have a worship template they follow!) It is especially important to help the child understand unique situations in worship such as baptism or communion. Certainly we would want the child to know that the offering plate is for putting money in, not helping one’s self!

3. Teach your child correctly from the beginning. Sometimes parents will take short cuts in explaining spiritual things to their children because frankly, it’s easier. For example, every now and then I hear a parent refer to the church facility as “God’s House.” While this is not intended to be a negative thing, it communicates some really poor theology. It communicates that God is restricted to a given location; that we can go see God like we go see Grandma; that when we leave the building, God stays put, and so forth. Some of you are thinking that I’m a little harsh on this, but from my perspective there are more adults than not who practically live out those same concepts that I’ve listed above on a daily basis. When you teach your kids about God, be simple without being simplistic. You don’t help your child grow up to think right by teaching them wrong in their most formative years.

4. Arrange for your child to meet the pastor. My wife is a school teacher. Occasionally we’ll be shopping or eating out and we’ll have a chance encounter with one of her school kids who is out with his or her family. I’m always amazed at the kid’s reaction to seeing their teacher out in public, as if it hadn’t occurred to them that their teacher actually bought groceries or had a life outside of the classroom. Children are helped when they can meet the pastor and see that the pastor is a real person apart from the pulpit.

5. Take your child on a tour of the platform. Before or after the service, escort your child to the front of the room and let them see what it’s like to stand on the platform and look out. Let them see the platform furniture and tell them about what each represents and how it functions. This will help them to become more familiar with the environment of worship and create a sense of comfort.

6. Decide beforehand what you’re plan of action will be for using the restroom. Many parents opt to explain to their children before the service that they will not be allowed to leave during the service to use the restroom. Parents who choose to take this position need to make sure that the child uses the restroom prior to the beginning of the service. If you decide you’ll allow your child to go to the restroom, it’s recommended that you escort the child to and from the restroom for their safety and security.

7. Encourage the child to participate as much as possible. While the sermon may be a little out of reach for the school age child, many elements of the service provide reasonable opportunities for the child to participate, such as praying, singing, and giving.

8. Consider taking a “church bag.” When our kids were small, my wife prepared a church bag for our kids to take to worship. She encouraged our kids to sing, pray, and give, and then when I got up to speak she would pull out the “church bag.” The church bag contained a small etch-a-sketch, a magna-doodle, crayons, paper, scissors, and a simple snack such as teddy grahams. (As a pastor I’ve never objected to kids eating during church. Frankly, I’d like to eat during church but my mother taught me that it’s impolite to speak with your mouth full!) This allowed our kids to do something constructive during the sermon. The church bag was only used for church, so the special items in it stayed special week in and week out. If you utilize an idea such as this, make sure to clean up after yourself at the conclusion of the service. In addition to this, I’d also recommend that you include an age appropriate Bible or Bible story books. I’d further recommend that you leave the Disney and Loony-Tunes books at home. Christian childhood education specialists recommend that parents and Sunday School teachers not use secular children’s literature at church because children will make the association that Jesus is a story like Cinderella is a story. (see #3!)

9. Talk with your child on the drive home about the service. This gives you an opportunity to reinforce the good things about your family’s worship experience and answer any questions the child may have.

10. Model worship to your child during the service. Your child will not progress beyond where you are as a worshipper. If you don’t pray, sing, give, or open a Bible, chances are your child will not see the value of the experience. As a parent you set the benchmark for your child’s spiritual development. When you engage in worship you teach your child the difference between worshipping God and merely going to church.

11. Above all, don’t stress! Many times parents feel embarrassed about their child’s behavior during the worship service. My standard and unoriginal response to that apology is “I’d rather hear a baby cry than an old man snore.” What parents need to realize, perhaps more than anything else, is that the goal is to teach the child how to worship God. When we teach our children how to worship God we make the experience about worship and God. On the other hand, if the goal is to teach the child how to behave in church we make the experience about ourselves as parents and how we wish to be perceived by those around us. In church, teaching “behavior” is about ourselves and how we can impress others around us.

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