Archives For children’s ministry

I jumped into blogging about preteen ministry and my role as preteen pastor, but I really wanted to share how God gripped my heart for this age group.

I love ministry.  I understood God’s call ever since the age of 16, and I realize that he was preparing me even long before that.  God led me through a series of events that made it clear my role would be in children’s ministry.  I did my best to serve Him in that role for 8 years, and then something happened.

I began to feel a passion being fueled by God.  As Bill Hybels calls it, I had a “Holy Discontent.”  Hybels, in his book titled Holy Discontent, describes it as the one thing in the world that when you see, hear, feel, or even come close to.  It is that one thing that you can’t stand to leave alone, and every part of you burns to make a change.  I knew that I was feeling something, but just could not label it.  I discovered that the thing for me was how churches minister to preteens.  And I learned it in a very unique moment.

While serving in a children’s pastor role that had responsibilities for birth through 5th Grade, I had a defining experience.  One Sunday, two 5th grade boys approached me and asked to have a meeting.  I had no idea what it was for, but I was definitely game.  So Elliott, Wyatt, and I scheduled a meeting for that week at the lunch buffet of Pizza Hut.

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I talked with one of their parents about the meeting, and I learned where the conversation had started.  On the way home from church a few Sundays prior, the boys had made several comments about how church wasn’t exciting.  They enjoyed their small groups, they enjoyed what they were learning, and they enjoyed the worship time.  But their comments centered on the idea that there should be something more.  The parent did an amazing job of listening and continuing the conversation.  She prompted to bring their ideas to me and see what we could do.

So, back to the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut.  It was amazing to sit across the booth from two 5th grade boys and listen to them lay out a ministry strategy.  They talked about their interest in serving.  They talked about how they were ready and willing to put into practice all that they knew and were learning.  They didn’t want to just sit back and listen.  They wanted to do!  They had ideas to form teams that would serve in various capacities.  They had ideas for how to do sign-ups, how to do training, and how to show appreciation to those that serve. 

I’ve sat across the table from some amazing men of God that serve in very successful ministries.  I’ve read books and attended conferences with some of the most successful business and ministry leaders of our time.  But, I’ve never been as impressed as I was when I spoke with Wyatt and Elliott.  They took what God was laying on their hearts and made a strategy for action.  They went through all the steps to make sure that we took that action.

Through that conversation we created the “Work Crew.”  These 5th graders served every Sunday in different roles around to church.  They served as greeters and gave tours to new families.  They served on the tech team for our elementary worship time.  They assisted small group leaders or the storyteller during our large group teaching.  It was amazing to watch the group grow together by serving the body of Christ.

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This was an amazing win for our church.  It was also a defining moment for me.  I had realized where God was leading me.  He was leading me to make change for the way churches equip and unleash kids ages 9 to 12. 

That is really how God led me to preteen ministry.  He stirred my heart in a meeting with Wyatt and Elliott at the lunch buffet of Pizza Hut.

 

What is your “Holy Discontent”?

What is the one thing that you burn to see changed in your lifetime?

What has God called you to?  How did He call you?

 

 

Tonight I was reminded about the importance of greeters in our ministry.  They are literally the “front-line” of our church. Every Sunday, they are the first faces seen, the first voices heard, and the first impression left on regular attendees and first-time families.  Given the magnitude of their role, we need to evaluate the message that we’re sending (or not sending) through our greeting team.

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Meet Willie. Or as he’s known around these parts, “Willie the Wal-Mart Greeter.”  (And yes, that’s his name on Facebook.) Tonight I watched as Willie did his job, and I was filled with ideas and inspiration.  Willie is a living legend because of his role as greeter at our local Wal-Mart.  Here’s why…

When you walk into the store, a seemingly mild-mannered man greets you.  As you get closer, he holds out his arm with hand clinched in a fist.  As your fist bumps his, he lets out the loudest “BAM” that you will ever hear.  Then he smiles a HUGE smile and says, “All right now…my man!”  As you continue walking, you hear that greeting repeated over and over to the customers coming and going.  When you’re in the very last aisle of the store, you can still here his greetings resonating over everything else. 

Here are a few things I learned from Willie that I think are transferable to greeters in ministry areas:

Willie is always smiling.
I’ve never seen him in a bad mood.  People enter frustrated, stressed, lonely—but they are instantly cheered on by the greetings from Willie.
Do our greeters understand the emotions and stresses that people are dealing with when coming to church?  How are we preparing them to counteract those emotions and prepare people for worship?


Willie is always stationed at the same entrance.
You can’t miss him.  He is always working the same entrance, the same hours, the same days.  People will intentionally park on that side of the store so that they can be greeted by Willie.
Do we promote consistency in our greeter team in the same way that we do so in our small groups ministry?  Why would it look like if we did?


Willie is always “on.”
Willie doesn’t let anyone pass without a greeting.  He doesn’t take a break from greeting or get caught up talking with other employees.  He knows that his job is to greet everyone entering the store, and he makes sure that he does his job. There can be 60 people walking in at the same time, and Willie will make sure that each of them get a personal greeting.  He does the same for those leaving the store.  He makes sure that they are thanked and invited back soon.  Even when someone walks through the door in a foul mood and tries to avoid the greeter, Willie finds a way to reach out to them and say hello.  (I can’t even put into words how amazing it is to watch)
How do we train our greeting team to approach those that are seemingly “unapproachable”?  How do we make sure that every individual receives a greeting?

I have to admit that greeting team is often overlooked in my ministry.  I know the importance of the position, but I don’t have a strategy for that ministry.  Willie does his job with excellence because he has a strategy.  He may not have it written down (or maybe he does), but it is clear that he has thought about it and took action to do his job well.  I will definitely be using what I’ve learned from him to train our greeting team.  Or better yet, maybe Willie can come train them!

If you’re ever in Maumelle, AR and need to visit Wal-Mart, let me encourage you to enter on the grocery/pharmacy side of the store.  Willie works everyday 3pm to 11pm.  Every day, except Wednesday and Sunday because he is also a minister at a local church.   You will immediately understand why Willie is a living legend.  The impression that Willie has left on people as a greeter will live on way past his service as a greeter. Would someone say the same about you or your greeter team?

 

It’s recruit and train season for ministry workers.  And as we are prayerfully seeking those that God has called to serve, we need to be evaluating the expectations that we’re placing on our leaders.

The trend has been to lower expectations and commitment levels to attract more volunteers.  I’ve definitely done it, and I’m sure you’ve at least thought about it doing it.  Take it from my experience, IT DOES NOT WORK!

Lowering the expectations will lower the quality AND the quantity of volunteers.

Don’t believe me?  Have you heard of the Pygmalion Effect?

The Pygmalion Effect is based on research of Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson.  The Pygmalion Effect says, in short, that if you believe someone is capable of high performance, then that person will perform highly.  The reverse is also true.  If you believe that someone is incapable of high performance, then in subtle ways you encourage & facilitate the lower performance. The conclusion of research by Rosenthal and Jacobson found that simply believing in the individual’s potential could raise performance. 

The reality is that it’s not just “belief” in potential, but the development of that potential.  If we believe someone has potential, then we spend more time with them and focus more on their development.  If we think that person is incapable of meeting our expectations, then we tend to compromise and lower our expectations to a mediocre level.

Tom Shefchunas had a great line in his breakout at Orange ’11.  He said over and over, “You can’t drive people to do something but the culture can.”  What I took from that statement was that we create a culture of excellence through our expectations.  If we expect great things, then we create an opportunity for our volunteers to rise to that level.   If we celebrate the wins in our ministry and communicate a strategic vision, we can ask great things of our leaders.  And research has proven that if we will ask more from them, we be pleased with the outcome.

This one is hard for me because it’s just hard to ask for more from someone who is “working for free.”  But I when I consider the eternal outcomes that are at stake, I realize that we must call our leaders to do whatever it takes to introduce kids to the Savior.

What are you doing to “raise the expectations” of your leaders?

Are there certain requirements or personal development things that you require of leaders?  (required readings, training events, mentoring, etc?)

 

I’ve been looking through mounds of research on Generation Z, which encompasses pretty much all of the current participants in children’s and student ministries.  The research on this age group is fascinating and jaw-dropping.  I’m going to try to blog more on this in the coming posts.  But that’s another day.  Today is a fun, interactive day.  

As we talked about this research, my wife and I began to think about the things from our childhood that our daughter will never experience. This led to the top 5 things that a preteen will never experience.  Feel free to comment and add others that you think of.  I’m working on a prize for the best comment, so make ’em good!

Top 5 things that a preteen will never experience

Preteens will never have to…

#1–Wait a week to see pictures because the film needs to be developed
Remember dropping off a canister of film and coming back a week later to find photos that you had taken 9 months before.  Remember taking the picture with you 8 lb camera and thinking everything looked great only to find out after “development” that everyone’s eyes were closed.  Or worse, remember opening the back of the camera before rewinding the film and losing everything…Epic Fail!

#2–Get information for school projects from Britannica, World Book, or Funk and Wagnall’s
Come on, you remember encyclopedias. I recall that all my school projects were on eskimos, the Emancipation Proclamation, England, volcanoes, Venus, or Venezuela.  Why?  Because my older brother and sister had lost every volume except “E” and “V” of our Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia set.

#3–Purchase their favorite music on something called a cassette tape
My 16 year-old nephew just got a 1994 GMC Sierra.  This truck baffled him because it had a tape deck.  The poor kid is going to miss out on the devastation of having your favorite tape eaten by the cassette player.  (Side note: Sony stopped the manufacturing of the Sony Cassette Walkman because of the rise in digital downloads of music.  When did they catch on and stop production? OCTOBER 2010!)

#4–Turn on the computer, connect to the World Wide Web, go eat dinner with the family, and return an hour later to find that it is still dialing-up a connection
If you lived through dial-up then you probably can still hear the screech and ping of your dial up connection.  If you are one of the fortunate ones and happen to live in California, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island–you can still get unlimited free access through a dialup connection.  Well…what are you waiting for?  Go sign up for that free internet! 

#5–Be Kind and Rewind
Long gone are the days of penalties and fines for not rewinding the 7⅜” × 4″ × 1″ plastic box known as the VHS Cassette.  Also long gone are the days of sitting in the movie rental parking lot whittling off the tip of your finger as you try to avoid the 25 cent fine by manually rewinding. 

So there is our top 5.  I’m sure there are some other great ones.  Comment below and share your memory of the past that preteens will never experience!

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