On Sunday mornings, the hallways of our kids ministry are bustling. There are parents picking up kids, parents dropping off kids, and just a lot of conversations and connections happening each week.

I’ve found that it’s a great place for me to slow down and be present with families and kids. As families pass in the halls, I’ve heard one question over and over again. The question is:

Did you have fun?

I’m all for fun. I think fun is such an important ingredient to reaching kids, but there is so much pressure wrapped up in that question. ‘Did you have fun?’ implies that our primary focus should be spending 90 minutes entertaining kids. I wonder how I can compete the all the entertainment that kids have at their fingertips, and even more so I wrestle with the conviction that this should not be the measuring stick of Sunday morning. There is so much unnecessary pressure in this question.

This is also no knock against parents. Admittedly, I’ve asked my kids the same question. Every parent wants their kids to enjoy coming to church so that there’s not a battle every Sunday morning. I want to be more focused on how the Gospel connected with the heart and less on how the teacher did or did not entertain for the full 90 minutes. As a pastor, I can’t expect a parent to change the question they are asking until I’ve cast a vision for something greater. The more I heard this question, the more it caused me to think about the question I wish every parent would ask instead.

When a child comes running to the classroom door to head home with a waiting parent, I wish every parent would be excited to ask:

What did you learn about Jesus today?  

This question anticipates that children are learning who Jesus is and all that He has done to seek and save the lost. The immediate inquiry about Jesus means parents are excited to hear how their child is learning the riches of the Gospel. And this question provides our ministries with accountability to keep the message of the Gospel as the central theme to everything we do.

Think about this for a moment: If every parent asked that question, would your kids ministry provide kids with an answer? 

This is still not the predominant question being asked in our hallways, but I’m praying that it would be heard more and more each week. We have tried to explicitly emphasize the Gospel in every aspect of our kids ministry. There are other steps we need to take to get parents thinking and listening for how their child is growing in the Gospel. We will keep working on reaching kids with the Gospel and equipping parents to engage in Gospel-centered conversations with their kids. As we do what is humanly possible, I’m trusting in God and begging Him to fill our hallways with the question I wish every parent would ask.

The handcuffs clicked tight, we shuffled into the small cell, and the locked door slammed behind us. That was the night our whole children’s ministry staff ended up in jail.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic and definitely not what you think. While the handcuffs were real (and too tight), we weren’t really in jail. We were taking on the challenge of “C-Block,” an escape room from Escape Experience in Nashville, TN.

If you’ve never done an escape room, you’re basically locked inside a small room and forced to gather clues, solve puzzles, and channel your inner MacGyver to escape the room before the clock runs out. It’s intense and challenging, but tons of fun. It advertises itself to be a great team building exercise, so we put that to the test.

Over the last 12 months, our staff team has had multiple transitions. We saw a few staff members change roles in the church and five new staff members join our team. Along with the staff changes, we also changed curriculum and much of our Sunday morning schedule.

Here’s the crazy part: Things are going great! Even with all that change and certainly despite my distracted leadership, our team was more unified in our work and our attitude. By God’s grace, our team was thriving in a season of change. As we prepared to attend the ETCH Conference in Nashville, TN (which I highly recommend and will blog about later), I prayed that God would do something to unify our team even more.

The conference gave us training and more encouragement for our ministry roles, but God did something extra special through handcuffs and the intense pressure of a ticking clock.  Here’s why it was so good to be handcuffed in a jail cell with the Children’s Ministry staff:

It Created a Lasting Memory

After we escaped the jail cell—with 14:41 to spare—the entire team immediately began to recall the experience. We laughed about funny moments. We wondered how we missed clues and found others. And for the next 48 hours, we pretended like every random sign, locked door, or manhole contained a clue to help us escape! I imagine that this experience will be something that we all talk about for years to come because it was such a unique and lasting memory.

It Gave Everyone a Chance to Use Their Skills

Only 42% of groups escape “C-Block” in the allotted time, While the experience was fun, it was also very challenging.  It took the whole team working together and using their unique skills to piece together the clues. There was problem solving, data processing, listening, communicating, dexterity (which I proved was not my strength). Each team member had a chance to contribute and shine as they used their skills.

It Confirmed that We are Better Together

As I watched the team work together so fluidly and effectively inside the jail cell, I caught a glimpse of how God is using our team as a TEAM to proclaim the Gospel to kids. I realized how God is building this team so that each piece compliments the other pieces and at the same time needs the other pieces. There’s no way we would’ve made it out of that escape room if we had been missing even just one person. We are better together, and my prayer is that God will be glorified as this team works together to reach kids and families with the Gospel.

I’m not sure when, but I’m certain that we’ll be back in an escape room. This experience gave me so many ideas for injecting energy into our meetings, working together to solve problems, and just having similar fun to build a stronger team. If you lead a team of volunteers, employees, or a discipleship group, I encourage you to check out your closest escape game and have some fun growing together.

We have guests attending our church every weekend. Some of them from the invitation of a friend and some of them just because they decided on Saturday night to get up the next morning and find a church.

For a little while now, I’ve made an effort to send each of these families a handwritten card that lets them know how thankful we are that they worshipped with us, asks specifically about how the morning went for their kids, and gives my contact information so that I can help them get more involved with the church.

I send multiple cards every week, and I pray that each one will encourage the family to continue making church a part of their week. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten to see the power of a handwritten note.

On Sunday, I watched a family checking in their kids at our Welcome Desk. As I overheard their name, I immediately recognized it as one of the handwritten cards from the previous week. I introduced myself to the family and before I could say anything more than my name, the wife turned to her husband and said, “He’s the one that wrote that handwritten card!”

I laughed and said, “Yes, that was me. I try to make contact with every family by sending a little note.” And as if I hadn’t heard her the first time, she said with even more emphasis, “And it was handwritten!”

I walked with the family to their child’s class, and then we went separate ways. But that brief conversation reminded me that there is power in taking the time to write a handwritten note.

Everybody gets emails. Most people send and receive multiple text messages a day. But when is the last time you went to the mailbox and got a handwritten note? In a digital world, the handwritten note is such a powerful tool to convey interest and value.

The interesting thing about this conversation is I’ve had the exact same conversation at least half a dozen times in the last few months. Over and over again, this simple note sparks a conversation, a relationship, and opportunity to help families grow in their understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

Take some time this week and write a card to someone! A family member, a volunteer in your ministry, or a family that visited on Sunday—they all would love to open the mailbox and see their name scribbled in ink from the pen you’re holding.

A recent seminary assignment challenged me to think of the 10 truths that I want to teach my children. Typically, my answer would simply be the GOSPEL, but the assignment made me think more deeply about all that is encapsulated in that word and how I would break it down for my daughters.

The assignment was valuable because it challenged me to define what I believe and get intentional about how I will impress those truths on my children. Here is the list I came up with:

Top 10 Truths to Teach My Children

1. God is Sovereign
Genesis 1, Psalm 103:19, Proverbs 16:4, Isaiah 14; 45
We want our children to know God as supreme creator over all things. We want them to see that He is God and we are not. This must be taught in conjunction with the attributes of God to help them understand the goodness of His sovereignty.

2. God is unchanging and faithful
Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6, Deuteronomy 7:9, 2 Timothy 2:13
We want our children to know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same power that we see on display throughout the Bible is in existence today. In the same way, God’s promises always remain true. The promises He has made will always come to fruition. We can trust God’s character and His promises.

3. Sin affects every aspect of my life and your life
Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23, Jeremiah 17:9
We want our children to know their depravity and the consequences of sin. We want to be open as parents about our struggle with sin and gratefulness for Christ. We want to set an example of repentance and dependence on Christ for any hope of change.

4. God’s Law shows us our sinfulness and how great our need is for Jesus
Romans 6:23, James 2:10, Romans 7:7, Galatians 3:19-24
We want our children to know that, while we strive to be obedient, we will never be able to obey God’s Law perfectly. The Law only reveals sin and condemns. At the same time, we want our children to see the hope that God graciously provides through Jesus—our salvation.

5. Jesus died in our place to give us the life we never deserved.
John 3:16, Ephesians 2, Titus 3:5, Galatians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 5:21
We want our children to see that Jesus was fully God and fully man, that He faced temptation yet lived a life of perfect obedience, and that He died a sinner’s death in our place so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God! We want our children to know this was an act of God’s grace, a demonstration of His love, and not based on anything we could do to save ourselves.

6. Belief in Jesus means we are adopted as God’s children and now live as a new creation
Ephesians 1, Galatians 4:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, 1 John 3:1
We want our children to know what it means to fully believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We want them to know that this faith in the finished work of Christ is the sole source of salvation and it means that we live as a new creation—forgiven, adopted, and called out to live as children of God.

7. The Holy Spirit helps believers to grow more and more like Christ.
John 14:26, Romans 8:26, Galatians 5:22-23
We want our children to know who the Holy Spirit is and how He helps us to grow as Christians. We want our children to know the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in believers to make us more like Christ. We want them to seek out friends and future mates that are walking with Christ and show the fruit of the Spirit.

8. God’s Word is true and contains all we need for growing in our faith
Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119
We want our children to cherish God’s Word and be disciplined in reading it, memorizing it, and applying it to their lives. We want them to see Scripture as sufficient for all issues of life in every season of life. We want to demonstrate a love for God’s Word that our children can emulate.

9. God has given us the Church where we can worship, serve, and grow with other believers.
Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 12, Matthew 28:19, Matthew 26:26-28
We want our children to know their gifting and their role in the body of Christ. We want them to be a part of a local body of believers to worship, serve, and grow. We also want them understand Baptism and Communion as part of a believer’s obedience and remembrance of Christ and how each of these sacraments fit into the life of the Church.

10. Jesus is coming back again to complete His work of redemption and restoration
Matthew 24:14, Romans 16:19-20, 1 Peter 3:10-13
We want our children to know that Jesus’ redemptive work is not yet complete but will be made complete when he returns. At that time, He will eternally destroy sin, restore creation to God’s design, and give us new glorified bodies to worship Him eternally.

What truths would you put in your top 10?
How will you be intentional about passing those truths on to your children?