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Category Archives: Kidmin

More than a “Good Example”

More than a “Good Example”

You cannot earn your child’s place in Heaven

Growing up in a small town, I loved driving past the local car wash on Main Street for one reason: they had a sign with changeable letters.

The sign owners would change the display often – switching from riddles, to knock-knock jokes, to [in]famous quotes, to sales… but, one thing stayed the same.  We all paid attention to that sign.

Fast-forward 20 years and you’d often find me driving past a similar sign that sits in front of a local church that I live near.  If you saw me drive past it today, you’d have seen me turn pale as I read this week’s “inspirational” quote:

churchsign

“The greatest thing you can give your child is a good example”

Here’s why I disagree and wanted to take down the words from the sign where I read them:

As parents, we cannot place the weight of our children’s future squarely on our shoulders. Our children need more than good examples. Good examples won’t get them to heaven, friends.

From a secular understanding, I’d totally agree. The only thing you can give your children, if this world is all there is, is an example to watch.  They’ll choose whether or not to follow that example – but it’s yours to offer.

From the understanding that I’m coming from, that there are greater things yet to come (and, by yet to come, I mean to say that there will be life that continues long after my lungs no longer have breath in them), the greatest thing I can offer my children is a relationship with Jesus.  The example I set for them will pale in comparison to the life-changing power of God’s spirit in their lives.

All too often, parents neglect the spiritual ramifications of their choices and their examples.  If I truly believed that the most important thing, 100 years from now, is my child’s relationship with their creator… would I ever choose to skip gathering with the Church because of sports, a birthday party or a homework assignment?  If I had a sign that hung over my door, reminding me that the one thing that matters is my child’s relationship with Jesus, would that change the way I approach the day?  I think it would.

This is not to say that a good example is meaningless.  Rather, the example I set shows my children what it looks like to be a husband and a father who loves Jesus.  But, friends, my example is not the greatest gift I can give to my children.  My example matters, but it isn’t enough to save them.  The school they go to, the grades they get, the sports they play, the scholarships they receive, the person they marry, the job they get or the house they live in will not save them.

That’s something that only a relationship with Jesus can do.

Unless, of course, this world is truly all that there is.  Then your example is all you have to offer.  If that’s your worldview, then this sign is for you.

However, I believe in something bigger than what I can offer my kids.

How about you?
Agree or disagree?

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Kidmin, Quotes, Thoughts

 

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Partnering with Parents: Workshop Prezi

(pictured above, Westwood United Methodist Church)

Partnering with Parents

Workshop Prezi and LINKS

This weekend, I was asked to present a workshop on Partnering with Parents at a West Coast gathering for ministry leaders in the United Methodist Church.

Here’s the Prezi I used for the weekend’s presentation… which should look familiar because the content was very similar to what I presented in Chicago last Fall.

PREZI LINKOrange-ology: Turning Parents into Partners
(you’ll notice a shout-out to Orange in this workshop, because I wanted to pitch the Orange strategy to these leaders in a way that I felt would have been distracting at Kidmin)

Other posts related to this topic:

Reaching a New Generation of Families

http://westcoastcm.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

Reaching a New Generation of Families: Redux

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/03/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families-redux/

Turning Parents into Partners: An Introduction

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-an-introduction/

Parents into Partners: Strategy #1

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-strategy-1/

Casting a Vision for Partnership

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/08/casting-a-vision-for-partnership/

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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Turning Parents into Partners

Turning Parents into Partners

Notes from my #kidmin12 workshop

Later this week, I’ll begin posts that correspond with each slide in this presentation.  If you were at Kidmin and attended my breakouts, these slides and notes will make perfect sense.  For those of you who were unable to be there… well, this post won’t be nearly as helpful as the ones that are going to follow.

You may also enjoy these posts:

Reaching a New Generation of Families
http://westcoastcm.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

Reaching a New Generation of Families: Redux
http://westcoastcm.com/2012/03/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families-redux/

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Kidmin, Kidmin12, Resources

 

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Dedication Vows

Dedication Vows

what we promise and why it matters

This is not a post about the debates surrounding infant baptism and baby dedications within Christian traditions.  Rather, this is a post meant to encourage those serving families in the Church to examine the role of dedication/baptism in the life of their congregation.  This discussion doesn’t exist in a vacuum and, as often is the case, the following thoughts were prompted by a recent real-life situation.  As you read about it, consider what your response might be…

On Thursday morning, I logged into Facebook (you can find and friend me HERE) to find this message from a ministry friend of mine:

Hey all, we have a situation in our church where unwed (but living together) parents want to dedicate their baby in church. Mom also wants to get baptized. Mom is also already volunteering in Children’s Ministry. Our Sr. Pastor has decided not to dedicate the baby without talking to mom and dad first to make sure they understand that living together outside of marriage is a sin. Then he also brought up the point that he didn’t want mom volunteering in Children’s Ministry while living with a man outside of marriage. Have you dealt with any of these things? How did you handle them? Does your church have a policy on this yet?

Question 1: What is a baby dedication?

The first question you’ll have to tackle, when thinking through your response, has to do with what dedication is in your context.  If dedication, at your church, is a moment when a congregation simply thanks God for the blessing of new life and offers a prayer for the family, then answering the question above becomes a whole lot easier.  However, some churches see dedication and/or baptism as a covenant between the congregation and the family, which has the potential to make things a little trickier.  So, in your context, what is a baby dedication?  Would everyone in leadership at your church agree with your understanding of dedication/baptism?

Question 2: What are you willing to risk?

I believe that those of us called into ministering to families should have some idea of what our goals in ministry are.  Simply put, it’s really hard to hit a target if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.  Considering the situation above, a few of the risks associated with saying “no” in the scenario are clear: the family might leave the church, the baby won’t be dedicated, friends of the family may be upset, others in a similar situation could feel judged, etc.  Though we should always try to handle situations like this with mercy and grace, it’s always good to consider the risks involved – we pray for best case scenarios, but want to take into account what could go poorly before we respond.

Question 3: What are your options?

If you church has never faced a similar situation, you may want to consider what options you’d have if this scenario presented itself.  If baby dedication/baptism services aren’t open to unconventional families, has your church considered having a “celebration of new life” option as a way to celebrate a child’s birth without the formality of vows or the perceived “blessing” of a lifestyle that your church is uncomfortable with?  Some churches take a weekend each fall to celebrate babies born during that year.  An option like this gives a staff something to point to for a family who might not be ready for a dedication service but still wants to be a church that feels inclusive to those who want to honor the birth of their child.

A response, within a context

In our church’s context, infant baptism/dedication requires a family to make vows with the congregation as we promise to raise up a child in the faith together.  For a single mom, these vows might be easy to say yes to.  For a couple living together outside of marriage, it might be a little trickier.  The questions we ask of parents, in front of the congregation, are:

  • Do you trust in Jesus Christ and acknowledge that he alone is your lord and savior?
  • Do you turn away from evil and sin and their power in your life?
  • Will you be faithful and active members of the church?
  • Will you bring your child up in the faith, opening the Scriptures with him/her/them and teaching them the way of Jesus?
The conversation that I might have with parents, who haven’t made vows to each other to raise a child together, would probably be less focused on the questions above and more focused on what stands in the way of them getting married.  A couple that is hesitant to make vows and promises to each other should also be wary of making vows and promises with a congregation.  My response, in my context, would start with those questions and move forward from there.  The language of partnership in my church is all over the place; beginning a conversation with the idea of partnering fits our ministry context well and might lead to the parents deciding for themselves if dedication/baptism is the right next step for them.
Statistically speaking, today’s parents are less likely to enter into the convenant of marriage than the generations before them.  With that in mind, churches should consider how they might respond to a situation like this before they face it so that they can handle it with the questions about in mind.
If you’ve faced a similar situation, or want to point out something I missed, we’d love to see your thoughts in the comments section!
 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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A Community Church

A Community Church

being the church when the pews are empty

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a comment/question that has resonated with my soul each time that it’s spoken.  Whether it’s been in the context of a conference, a book, a conversation or a sermon, these words have struck me significantly each time:

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would your community notice?

Now, before I get angry comments below, I’ll quickly say that I don’t think that the church is a building… though, in this context, we’ll assume the church gathers in a building.  The heart of the question is this: is the local gathering of Christ-followers that you’re a part of play a significant role in the community around you?  When thinking through this question today, I wanted to share with you some creative ways some churches are making an impact in their community.

A Substitute Staff

I recently heard of a church where the staff was required to submit an application to become a substitute teacher in their local school district as a part of the hiring process.  You see, the local public school in the church’s community does not have enough substitute teachers… and so, because the church’s heart is for their community, the entire staff also serves as subs in the district.  That’s right: even the Senior Pastor (his favorite class to substitute for is band/music).

The church I’m speaking of is not a large church, but it’s making a large impact in its community.  Because of the staff leading the way, members of the congregation have started to volunteer at the local elementary school as yard duty teachers, crossing guards and maintenance/grounds workers.  This church is bringing Christ to their community by serving their local schools.  It’s kind of brilliant.

A Shelter from the Cold

In our area, there is a coalition of churches who partner together every winter in order to serve, feed and house homeless in our community during the coldest months of the year.  Because we are in a warm climate, the Los Angeles area has a significant homeless population.  During most of the year, many of those without a place to stay can sleep outdoors without significant risk to their health… however, during the winter, there are nights when the temperatures drop and those without a roof over their heads, especially young children, face significant consequences if they’re caught out in the cold overnight.

Churches who are a part of this coalition take turns opening up the doors of their buildings in order to offer shelter and meals during those coldest times of the year.  Local congregations who do not have facilities that could house hundreds of people partner with larger churches and provide volunteers – some of whom specialize in dentistry, medical care, hair styling or other skills that help the homeless population feel cared for and worthy of attention.  These churches care for those who could never repay them for the services they offer and, because of this, offer something significant for their community by offering the love of Christ to those on the margins of society.

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Being a church who cares for your community is BIGGER than being a church who runs events and welcomes your community to come to you.  Being a Community Church often means taking Christ to those who might not yet know Him and who probably have never seen a church who actually cared for those outside of itself.

This last week, I had the privilege of watching our church rally with our community to support a family when their son was dying from cancer.  Moms, students and our church’s staff cared deeply for those who were mourning in ways that I’ve never witnessed before.  Though the family does not attend our church, we found ourselves at the center of helping organize a candlelight vigil for those in the community who needed a place to ask where God was in the midst of tragedy  (Read more about that vigil HERE or HERE).

This week, as you reflect on the role you play in your community, consider what some next steps might be in your context.  What if your church decided to invest deeply in its local school district by providing coaches, PTA members or library volunteers?  Have you ever considered taking an afternoon as a family and baking cookies for your neighbors? (Halloween is coming – reverse trick-or-treating with homemade bread could be a fun idea, right?)

Have you wrestled through this recently or maybe have a brilliant idea to share with the community?
Post your thoughts below!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Book Review: The Eric Trap

Book Review: The Eric Trap

It’s been a while since I read a book as quickly as I read The Eric Trap.  But, here’s the thing, I care about Eric Newman.  Having not read the book, you might be wondering who Eric Newman is and why I care about him.  The Eric Trap, a book written as a collaborative effort by Jim Wideman, Sam Luce & Kenny Conley, is told as a fable of sorts that walks the reader through a week in the life of Eric Newman, Children’s Pastor at New Hope Community Church.  Eric is your typical kids’ pastor and is a character I could quickly relate to.  As Eric faces the typical challenges those of us in ministry face each week (disgruntled volunteers, painful meetings, time away from our family, etc), it’s easy to see a little bit of ourselves in his thoughts and reactions.  Which leads me to the things I dig.

Things I dig

Not only is The Eric Trap a fable about a guy you learn to relate to, but it offers advice throughout for how those of us in children’s ministry can avoid the mistakes and situations that seem to drag Eric down.  I love a good story, but I’m also someone who really appreciates tangible next steps – The Eric Trap is able to pull off both, which I wasn’t expecting and was pleasantly surprised to discover.  The writing style of the book makes this an easy read and something I could pass off to a friend or intern without feeling like I’m asking them to read an encyclopedia.  Before I pass it off to them, however, I’m handing it over to my wife – with permission to call me out on areas where I’m falling into the Eric Trap.  I’d encourage others in ministry to do the same.

Things that Dribbled

My one concern about this book is how a female reader will relate to the narrative.  In children’s ministry, I recognize that most people who hold my position are women – and most people who should read this book are those who are in children’s ministry.  Having said that, I think that every lesson learned is one that applies to both men and women.  My concern, though, is whether or not a female reader will relate to Eric in the same way that I do.

Wrapping Up

I now have another book that will serve as mandatory reading for my staff and for those who volunteer on our team and may one day be called to professional ministry.  This book is the best of it’s kind.  I appreciate that it was developed by those who are serving in real-life, full time ministry.  The stories within it are relatable because they happen every week in the lives of those who serve in children’s ministry.  If you have a chance to get your hands on a copy, or you’re looking for a book to add to your wish list, this is a book worth asking for.

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Want to get your hands on a copy for free?

For reviewing this book, I’ve been given a copy that I can give away to a lucky reader of this blog!  All you have to do is comment on this post (by next Wednesday, 4/18) and tell me your favorite book on leadership and/or children’s ministry.  I’m always looking to expand my library – and so should you!  I’ll then randomly choose one commenter below who will receive a FREE copy of The Eric Trap.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Book Review, Kidmin, Resources

 

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Songs about Jesus

Songs about Jesus

Essential words we need to say in church

A few weeks ago, the team that leads worship for our elementary-aged children on Sunday mornings had just wrapped up their set and closed in prayer when a child from our 2nd grade section called out, “When are we going to sing a song about Jesus?”

Though two of our songs that day came directly from the words of Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27 & Luke 9:23) and our third song was a song that sings of our God’s power, I had not been intentional about making sure that our kids (especially the short ones in the room) sang a song that specifically mentioned Jesus that morning.  I’ll get to why that is a big deal in a moment.

I believe that the words we speak and the songs we sing in our church’s worship services help create a reality for the community we worship alongside.  And, though I believe that statement, I sometimes forget how important it is to remember its truth each time I have the opportunity to lead from the front of the room – with adults or with children.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m going to be super intentional about saying when I have a chance to speak in front of our church.  If there’s anything you’d add to the list, feel free to add on.

The Name of Jesus

I am convinced that this is what separates the Church from being just another neat place where people go and learn to be nice.  It’s a big deal that Jesus was a real person.  It’s an even bigger deal that he died for our sins.  It’s the biggest deal that he came back to life and that we can experience eternity in Heaven because of the gift of grace that his resurrection offers to us.  With that in mind, we should probably say the name of Jesus and sing songs that specifically remind us of his name – the Name by which we are to call to during life’s storms and the Name by which we pray.

Visitors are Welcome

It’s possible, believe it or not, for someone to feel unwelcome at your church.  In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that our churches face in getting a first time visitor to become a second time visitor is helping them feel welcomed and connected during their first visit.  I was recently speaking to a group of children’s directors and youth pastors when I suggested that they always take a moment to welcome first time visitors.  Afterwards, I had multiple people come up to me to tell me that they haven’t had first time visitors for over a year at their church.

I’d encourage you, much like I encouraged them, to begin talking about visitors before they are there.  If you intentionally begin talking about first time visitors and using words that express that everyone is welcome at your church, you’ll begin to teach your congregation that (a) church is a place for visitors and (b) they need to live into the reality that it’s their job to make your services a place where they can invite their friends who do not yet know who Jesus is.

You Matter

If I could encourage you to be intentional about the words you choose when speaking in front of children, teens or adults at church, I couldn’t end the conversation without talking about this next idea.  We live in a culture where fame and outward beauty are the bars by which we measure worth.  And those who try to measure up to that world and fall short question their own worth. It’s our job, as those who have the chance to speak words of truth to our churches, to make sure that we let others know that they matter – that God loves them and created them on purpose.

Make it a point, every time you gather, to speak of a world where God loves us deeply, where our community needs us and where we are valued… because that’s the world that exists and speaking of it gives others a little glimpse into what Heaven on Earth might look like.

These are the things that I’ll be making sure that we say in our church and in my ministries because I believe that they are true and I believe that it’s our role to say them regularly.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.  Feel free to add on or ask questions below.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Why You Might Experience Serious Regret this Thursday

Why You Might Experience Serious Regret this Thursday

The folks at ONLY144.com have done it again…I don’t think they sleep.

This time they’ve teamed up with 20 different producers to put together the most epic bundle I’ve ever seen for anyone who does Children’s, Preteen or Student Ministry.  It’s really cool stuff, but the only catch is that they can only do this for 144 hours, then it’s over.

This deal ends on Thursday at noon…that’s in 2 days…just sayin’.

If you want to turn $97 into $2,000 for your ministry, snag this and don’t cry yourself to sleep on Thursday night.  Dave Ramsey would be proud of you!

Visit www.only144.com to check it out.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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The Hardest Part of Kidmin

The Hardest Part of Kidmin

Thoughts on Ministry Burnout

I was recently reminded of the staggeringly high drop out rates of those in ministry… and my heart broke a little bit.  My heart didn’t break because I had never heard the figures before.  (Check out these statistics to see what I’m talking about)  I was deeply saddened because, often, I think that burning out in ministry can be avoided with a basic understanding of why ministry is hard.

If you’d add anything to my list (or suggest that I take something away), share your thoughts in the comments section.  This post is not meant to be THE answer… it’s meant to start a conversation.

Ministry Can Disconnect Us

The problem: The next time you have a chance to attend a conference, watch the people who work in children’s ministry.  They sing their hearts out.  And here’s why: I’d be willing to bet that only 20% of those of us who work in children’s ministry regularly attend worship services with our congregation.  When we don’t worship with our congregation, we become disconnected in a handful of ways (spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically) – all of which begin to wear away at your soul.  It’s easy to lose your passion when you feel as though you’re on an island.  Ministry, at times, can be exhausting and you need to know that you’re a part of a larger body and that you’re surrounded by others who are living out the faith alongside you.  If you’re not in your church, it’s hard to feel like you’re a part of your church.

The fix: Serve at a church that you would choose to attend and then actually be a part of a full worship service a minimum of 3 out of every 5 Sundays.  I’ve seen people take positions at churches where they would not choose to attend.  If you do that, you’ll wear yourself out.  I’ve heard of children’s ministry workers who haven’t attended a worship service at their church in over a year.  If that’s you, your wearing yourself out.  Listening to the podcast is not the same as being a part of a worshipping community.  If you want to last in ministry – go to church!

Our Systems are Broken

The problem: Many who are in ministry are underprepared for the expectations of ministry and the work that it takes to care for a congregation.  Before seminaries existed, those who were called into ministry received Theological training and then spent years serving under someone as an apprentice before taking their own position in a church.

The pieces of paper that students are earning in ministry programs across the country are not preparing the next generation of church leaders for the struggles and hard work of ministry.  We’ve lost our apprenticeship model within the church and are sending too many young leaders to the front lines of ministry ill-prepared.  And they’re dying out there.

The fix: If you can do anything other than ministry, do anything other than ministry.  That is to say – you’re going to get burned out in ministry if you don’t feel a deep sense of call to the position that you’re in.  Don’t go into ministry because it’s always sounded fun (it isn’t always), or because you think Jesus will love you more (he won’t) – go into ministry because you can’t do anything else.  Then, once you go down the path of seeking out a career in ministry, start small and build from there.

Find a ministry you love and volunteer with intentions of interning under those in charge of that ministry.  From there, take a mid-level or assistant position in the field of ministry you want to be in and commit a few years to being in that role.  Churches who are looking to hire full-time staff usually look for someone who has served at the same church for multiple years.  They’re not just looking out for themselves, they want to know that you’ve put in the work that it takes to learn the balance of life and ministry.  Start out small and take on roles that you feel overqualified for – because you aren’t overqualified and you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Satan is Real

The problem: As church leaders, we don’t talk about sin enough.  I mean, we talk about the sin of others… but many of us don’t have a place to talk about our own sin.  And I have something to tell you about that: Satan is real and he is delighted when people burn out in ministry because of the weight of unconfessed sin.

We’ve lost the art of confession in the protestant church and have especially lost our way when it comes to allowing our ministers and church staff members to admit their shortcomings.  If this were a battle (and it is) and we were sending people to the front lines without an understanding of how the enemy operates (which is what we do), we’d be sacrificing our best and our brightest future leaders simple because we don’t want to talk about sin.

The fix: Church leaders need accountability.  I’m not calling us to sinless lives – that’s an impossible bar to get over.  I’m calling us to surround ourselves with people who we can be real around.  And, I want you to know, it’s good to know yourself.  I know that, as someone who loves to tell a good story, I face a constant temptation to tell a “better” story than what actually happened.  I deal with that sin by (1) being very open about it and letting others know that it’s a struggle of mine and (2) giving people in my life the ability to call me out when they see this sin surfacing.

Sin has more power over us when it’s unspoken.  Every week, church leaders leave their ministry because of some sort of moral failure.  It’s an ugly truth that exists because those leaders lacked accountability in their lives.  So – can you name 3 people in your life that you can be honest with?  I believe in a God who, through the power of Christ’s resurrection, has freed us from sin’s grasp.  Are you living a life where you can confess the sin that holds you down so that you can experience that freedom?  If you don’t, you’re going to burn out.  It’s just a matter of time.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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CYMLC 2012

Children & Youth Ministry Leadership Conference 2012

I had the honor of taking my 2012 workshop presentations for a test drive today at the 16th annual gathering of children and youth ministry leaders at CYMLC in sunny Murrieta, CA.  As promised to those who attended my sessions, I’ve uploaded my notes here.  If you’d like the slides that go with them, comment below and I’ll pass them your way.

Tapping into Teen Helpers in Children’s Ministry

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

This workshop examines best practices and next steps for getting teen helpers involved in children’s ministry at your church. From getting your youth pastor in your corner to a how-to guide for getting teens to serve in your ministry, learn how to take your children’s programs to the next level by effectively integrating teen leaders onto your team!

Turning Parents Into Partners: Family Ministry 101

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

Family ministry is more than just large events and Sunday morning handouts that end up in the church parking lot. In this workshop, we discuss the best ways to create a church environment that encourages parents (and other adults who bring children to church) to partner with your children’s ministry team as you raise up children in the faith together. We also examine the common pit-falls that family ministry models fall into as well as simple ways you can make your ministry more family-friendly.

 I’ll be leading expanded versions of these workshops at Group’s Kidmin Conference this Fall.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Kidmin, Orange, Resources

 

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