I had an experience yesterday that reminded me of the beauty and the power of having a mentor. By mentor, I mean someone who is older or more experienced to speak encouragement and training over you–like the relationship between Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi.

I had stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a few supplies for our ministry. As I stood in the office supply aisle, I overheard a conversation between two Wal-Mart employees about 15 feet away. The first employee was a young man, probably early 20s. The second employee was a woman in her 60s or 70s.

As I walked up, I could tell that the young man was talking about a job interview he had recently. I wasn’t sure if it was for a role at the store or elsewhere, but he was sharing very openly about it with the woman. He ended his comment by saying, “I’m just not sure what I should do.”

This is when the conversation got amazing and I didn’t even care if they knew I was listening.

The woman asked if she could share some advice. She proceeded to share about a few times in her life when she was faced with difficult decisions and how she prayed and sought the Lord in those times. She talked about following Christ in obedience even when it was hard. She encouraged him to keep praying and to keep trusting that God was good and in control no matter what.

Her words were as sweet as honey. I glanced over a time or two and could see the young man just soaking in the encouragement this wise woman was pouring over him. He continued to stock shelves but his entire countenance changed. It reminded me why we all need a mentor to share what God has given to them and speak into our lives when we need it the most.

As I continued to shop and process the conversation, I jotted down a few questions to ponder:

  • How can I thank those mentors who have invested in my life over the years?
  • How can I continue to seek out the advice of a mentor in ministry and in life?
  • Who can I encourage and offer the wisdom (limited as it may be) God has shown me?

Last semester, I started reading several books by Charles Spurgeon and became captivated by one statement he made regarding children. I’ve repeated this statement so many times since reading it, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how it impacts our children’s ministry.

Maybe it was just the right words at the right time, but I’ve labeled this statement as the greatest advice for children’s ministry leaders. Charles Spurgeon says,

“Be sure, whatever you leave out, that you teach the children the three R’s, –
Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration.”

This concise statement calls our focus back to the Gospel. As children’s ministry leaders, we can get lost in the busyness of curriculum, volunteers, and buckets of goldfish crackers. We fret and sweat throughout the week trying to find the perfect game or video that will keep the kids attention and put our lesson over the top. While those things are certainly important, I’ll admit that they’ve often made me miss this simple truth:

These children need the Gospel.

They are fallen, sinful creatures just like you and me. They have no means of saving themselves from the immediate and eternal consequences of sin. They need to hear of Christ and Him crucified. They need to hear how to believe in the saving work of Jesus. And they need to understand how to walk in the salvation that God has graciously provided through Christ!

Don’t get me wrong, I want them to have fun. I want them to be engaged and enjoy the lesson we’re teaching. But most importantly, I want them to walk away with a clearer picture of the three R’s—Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration. Without the Gospel, our investment is a waste of time.

Whatever you’re planning for this Sunday—stop and ask this question:

Does this lesson help kids to see the truth of the Gospel—ruin, redemption, and regeneration?

Wrestle with that question. Spend time making sure that kids are getting a clear explanation of the Gospel and a chance to respond to God. Just be sure, whatever you leave out, that you teach the children the three R’s, – Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration.

This has been the greatest advice anyone has ever given to me as a Children’s Pastor.

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ETCH Family Ministry Conference started with a lot of laughs. Dustin Nickerson killed his set and managed to upset all dog lovers, cross-fitters, and hawkers of essential oils! The whole room—which was packed wall to wall—was rolling with laughter.

After worshiping with the Stephen Cole Band, Eric Geiger came to the stage to talk about the important of equipping. He read Ephesians 4:11-13 and reminded the audience that we are all called to EQUIP the saints for the work of the ministry. This is comes with the promise that we will all “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,”

To illustrate the importance of equipping, Geiger pointed to Joshua 1 where Moses has passed away and immediately the ministry is handed over to Joshua. When we reach Judges 2 and Joshua dies, the Bible says all whole generation did not know the Lord or the works He had done. The lack of equipping left no succession for Joshua. Imagine all the glorious thoughts and stories that were forgotten in just one generation. Equipping is important.

As pastors, we need to be careful to avoid ministry idolatry. We can fall into the trap of living for the approval of others, but this will never bring satisfaction. I loved the way Eric ended his talk with the truth that we need to be more concerned with what God is doing in us than what He ever does through us.

Here are a few more notes I captured during Eric’s talk:

  • “We think we personally need to be the hero for every kid. This is fruitless and unbiblical.”
  • “We are called to be equippers, not entertainers. Equippers prepare, entertainers perform.”
  • “We need a conviction for equipping. If you can’t imagine your ministry without something then you’ve found your conviction.”
  • “Ministry idolatry is building a system around yourself for yourself.”
  • “Sunday School teachers have the same Holy Spirit as you!”

Today, we’re loading 11 people into a 12-passenger van and heading to Nashville, TN! Despite the cramped 5 hour drive, I’m really excited and looking forward to the trip. Here are a few reasons why:

Time with Team

The bonding that comes with a shared experience like this is priceless. It’s the little moments over dinner, in the van, walking 6 blocks to the conference center, and attending the Grand Ol’ Opry that will be memories that strengthen our team.

New Ideas

I’m looking forward to hearing new ideas from great leaders. The hardest part will be picking which breakouts to attend when there are so many great ones. Luckily, we have 11 people going! Hopefully, we can split up and cover most of them!

Networking

I’m also looking forward to the encouragement and wisdom that comes through networking with other children’s ministry leaders. I love using the break times to meet other leaders and catch up with old friends. Those moments seem to always encourage me about what God is doing in their ministry and in our own.

I’m thankful that our whole team gets to attend ETCH Family Ministry Conference. The trip will be short, but full of memories. I’ll try to share more on the blog as we go through the conference this week.