Archives For communication

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.

BombBomb Logo Sta

We’ve started using a new company to help with our communication to parents of preteens. It is so stinkin’ cool that I wanted to share it!

BombBomb.com is an email marketing platform that allows you to juice up your emails with the power of video. You can embed HD video, linked documents, text, etc. into the email template. BombBomb will optimize your video for all platforms: desktop, mobile, tablet, etc. This means your video looks its best on whatever device the recipient uses to view it.

Here is the best part for those of us in ministry:

1) It integrates with several church database systems, including Church Community Builder (CCB), FellowshipOne, AccesACS, and ICON systems.

We were sending out parent emails to almost 400 unique addresses that were already saved in Fellowship One. I did not want to have to enter each of those contacts again, and I didn’t have to with BombBomb. They have a really simple integration that allows you to sync your database groups with the email template. It literally took me 2 minutes to transfer the 400 contacts!

2) BombBomb gives you tracking analytics on EVERYTHING!

Here is a snapshot of the Analytics page:

Screen Shot 2012 10 23 at 10.48.32 AM

When you send a traditional email, it’s really hard to know if it’s opened or if the attached documents are ever downloaded. With BombBomb, you can see all of that information. They tell you how many emails were delivered vs. bounced to spam. They tell you how many emails were opened, how many clicks were made on each specific link, how many plays of the embedded video, and how many downloads of attached documents.

In ministry, it’s really hard to gauge success and failures. This data really has helped us to see what’s working and what is not. One thing we quickly realized was that our parents were very likely to watch the video (60%), but few downloaded to attached document (7%). If we want to communicate important info, we now know that it needs to be in the video!

If you’re looking for creative ways to communicate with volunteers or parents, you should definitely check out BombBomb.com. They will create custom email templates for your ministry, and their monthly service fee starts at only $29/month.

Here is how we used BombBomb to communicate our series content with our parents:
(Thanks to Jim Kast-Keat for the “Fifty6 in :56” idea!)

Fifty6 in :56

preteen text

Next time you’re sitting in a public place, count the number of people who are using their phones to text. I bet you lose count!

Texting is quickly becoming the #1 form of communication. Good or bad (that’s a topic for another day), it is the truth. This is especially true among preteens. In early 2008, Pew Research Center found that 51% of 12-year olds had cell phones. I can only imagine that this number has increased in the last 4 years.

According to research cited by Common Sense Media, texting is the #2 use for all cell phones behind checking the time! The research also shows that preteens (age 9 to 12) send and average of 1,146 texts per month. That’s more than 37 texts per day!

Texting is changing the way preteens communicate with one another. Should it change the way we communicate with preteens?

Here’s the question that I’ve been mulling over for the last few weeks:

Can text messaging be used constructively in preteen ministry?

I’m interested in hearing from those that have used text messaging in student ministry and/or preteen ministry. I have some concerns about using text messages with 9 to 12 year olds, but I can see value in being able to communicate things like weekly devotions, small group questions, updates about service projects or events, etc.

What do you think? Is text messaging beneficial to preteen ministry or is it a slippery slope that should be avoided?


This past Sunday, we invited students from our High School ministry to come and share with our preteens. We asked them to share specifically about their experiences in Middle School and High School.

I wish we would’ve filmed the interaction, but here are a few quotes from the High School students:

“Be careful what you listen to. What goes in your ears will come out of your mouth.”

“You always have a friend in God.”

“Watch what you say. You never know how it will affect someone.”

“We’re not perfect. Don’t think that. We’re still struggling with the same things and trying to figure it out.”

“This is not the end. Eternity is the end.”

It was amazing to watch the preteens (boys and girls) be glued to the High School students. They were hanging on every word out of the students’ mouths. After the Q&A with the students, preteens went off to small groups. Several of the Small Group Mentors said it was one of the best small group sessions they’ve had. They said the kids were so talkative and repeating back all they had heard from the High School students.

I’m so thankful that God moved in this service. We will definitely do it again in the near future. After the service, I jotted down a few notes and a couple of thoughts. As I looked back over my notes, I’m really left with 2 big questions regarding preteen ministry.

How are we preparing preteens for something bigger than the issues of right now?

A 12th grade girl made the comment, “This is not the end. Eternity is the end.” She explained that good things and bad things will happen, but the most important thing is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It was such a great statement. It made me think about how we need to spend more time focusing on the big picture with preteens. We focus on the issues they face, and I think that is good. But they also need to be reminded of the awesome God that created them, loves them, and uses them for His glory.

How can we use the experiences and wisdom of teenagers in preteen ministry?

I was absolutely blown away at the maturity and wisdom of the teenagers. They shared great advice from a place of humility and honesty. As I watched the preteens, they were completely engaged. For those of you that work with preteens, you know how rare that is! I’m not sure how, but we need to find ways to use the experiences and wisdom of teenagers in preteen ministry.

What do you think?