Three Consistent “Asks” of Kids and Students

There are a lot of “asks” in life. As married adults, our spouses will ask for us to run errands, help fix something, or our opinion on different matters. Kids and teenagers are often asked to do homework, to help pick up siblings, help with yard work, to sit still and pay attention or potentially many other things. At times, it seems whether we are 8 years old or 88 years old that people are always asking something of us. Quite frankly it can get draining even if our true hearts desire is to serve and submit well.

With this framework in mind, I’m very careful how often and what I ask of my wife, my family and the volunteer leaders I serve alongside. I don’ want my reputation to be one of every time someone sees my name on their phone or sees me coming down the hall, they want to hit the decline button or walk the other direction because they know I need them to do something. As leaders, we always need help. People know this, it is no secret, especially in the local church setting. Volunteers want to feel valued and like they are making a difference. Therefore, it is important that even before we ask, they know we value them and love them no matter what. After all, that should be why we are asking them to help with something in the first place.

I spend most my days and weeks working with kids and students and with those that work with or parent kids and students. When it comes to asking of kids and students, I’m also very careful how often I do this and in the manner in which I do this. Especially students can often feel like you are just using them because they are gifted and talented in a certain area or because they are simply available.

There are three things I’m fairly consistent in asking kids and students to bring with them to church every week (outside of themselves, of course).

Their Bible. This may seem like a no brainer or it may even seem as if we are only desiring the “committed Christian” to show up. However, in the ministries I lead I want it to be no secret we are a people of the Bible. It is the most important book you can ever engage with. Period. If we can get a Bible in every kids and students hands that they can read and understand and instill in them and their parents the importance of daily Bible reading/engagement, then we are helping lay a crucial foundation in their life. It is impossible to disciple a person without Bible engagement. Therefore, I often say, “Be sure and bring your Bible with you. If you don’t have one or one that is easy for you to understand, come see me or one of the leaders and we will be sure and get you one as soon as possible.” 

A friend. The local church should always be a safe, fun and exciting place for kids and students to bring their friends. The big picture is we want to instill into kids and students  the importance of building healthy relationships with others. Then they/we have an opportunity to share the Gospel with others. Also, especially in the next generation, they want to be where their friends are. We don’t want to be event-driven, but we do want create environments that foster community. Therefore, I will often say or social media things like, “See you Wednesday at 6pm with a friend!” Also while promoting an event I will say something like, “This is an incredible thing to bring friends to that may not go to church or are looking for a new church.”

A willingness to learn and grow. I realize this is not a person or object but it is still very important. We want kids and students to know, in a very age-appropriate way, that we are a ministry and we desire for them to grow spiritually and learn all they can about God, His plan of redemption, the Church, how to live on mission and many other things about the Christian life. This is the age they are most eager to learn so we must capitalize on that. Therefore, I will often say something like, “Be ready to learn something very exciting this coming Sunday” or I will give them a well crafted, short, catchy phrase and then say, “You want to find out what this means… we will see you at church tonight!” This helps create a little bit of curiosity and an eagerness to learn more.

We don’t want to “ask” just for the sake of asking or sounding like a broken record. We have intentional asks because we care about the next generation and their walk with Jesus.

 

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3 Things to Remember When Teaching Kids the Bible

One of my absolute favorite things I get to do every week is teach kids the Bible. For some, a room full of elementary kids bouncing off the walls, desiring to play tag with every free minute all while downing a sprinkles-filled donut, might not sound so awesome. While at moments it can drive you nuts, another way to look at it is all the potential that lies in the room. Here is the truth: these kids will not stay kids forever. They will continue to grow up. They are growing up in a world that does not love Jesus and could care less about pursuing Jesus. Parents, therefore, what you teach them matters. Kids ministry leaders, what you do every Sunday and Wednesday matters. It matters for eternity. You can’t save your child or anyone else’s child for that matter but what you can do is teach. You can take a pie-in-the-face, laugh with kids, and then share the Gospel with them. You can set a Godly example. You can equip and release.

Recently, I stepped into more of role in our church’s kids worship environment. It has grown me as a teacher of God’s Word and has shown me things I never saw before. And, quite frankly, I love it. There is simply something incredible about seeing a kid have a “lightbulb” moment and get it for the first time.

While being a part of kids worship I’m learning more and more about the ways kids learn and intake information. If you are a parent of a child, a kids ministry leader, a life-long VBS volunteer, a chaperon for events, or whatever role you find yourself in ministering to kids, I would like to offer you three tips when teaching kids the Bible. I’m in no way an expert in this area but I have found these helpful.

Break it down, don’t water it down. It is huge we understand the difference in these two things. When you break it down you desire to teach for impact. When you water it down you are simply “getting by.” By breaking it down you understand that you have influence in a kid’s life and you desire them to know Jesus. Typically, kids has a greater capacity than we give them credit for. They CAN understand the Gospel and Biblical truths. They CAN understand sin. They CAN understand why Jesus had to come to die for our sins. When we choose to water it down, we live under the false pretense that “kids can’t handle this yet.” As a result, we are doing kids a major disservice. This way of thinking usually comes from an immature Christian that simply does not want to put the time or preparation in. No doubt teaching kids is a difficult task. They are restless, up and down, and their favorite word is usually “why.” However, what we miss when we water it down instead of breaking it down, is the incredible opportunity to speak Gospel truth into the life of a kid at the most receptive time of their life.

Make it stick, so it will click. How you teach, what you teach matters. Hardly a time goes by that I don’t use objects, visual aids, or some form of media, when I’m teaching kids the Bible. These are all great tools in breaking it down to help kids understand what we are trying to communicate to them. When kids understand truth it gives them the opportunity to embrace truth and then apply that truth to the people around them. So work hard at making it memorable so they will have “lightbulb” moments. It is important to remember that you won’t hit a “home-run” every time. That is to be expected and okay. Change your methods up every once in a while, spend time with a parent or a ministry leader further down the road than you and ask what worked for them. All these things can help you think of ways to creatively teach kids the Bible.

Explain the Gospel clearly and often. Never, ever lost sight of this. While I’m all for exciting environments, they should NEVER replace or trump the Gospel message. Again, teach in a very age-appropriate way but never lose sight of the bottom line of why you are teaching in the first place- to introduce kids to Jesus. Don’t lose Jesus in the production. Ask a kid how they became a Christian, and they will inevitably tell you about a time that a caring adult, whether it be mom and dad, a Sunday school teacher, a coach, or a kids pastor/ministry leader, took the time to invest into them and tell them about the greatest hope they can ever have. This is a beautiful picture of the Church being the Church.

Bottom lineCreatively break down the Gospel message so kids clearly understand it and as a result have the chance to connect to it.

Here are three questions to consider as you are teaching kids the Bible:

  1. What is the one thing I want them to remember from our time together in God’s Word? (In other words, what is your bottom line?)
  2. How can I best teach this to them in a fun, age-appropriate way?
  3. No matter what I’m teaching them, how can I tie it back to the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us?

3 Things Christ Following Parents Need to Constantly Remind Their Kids

My wife and I have been parents for a little over 3 years now. We have a 3 1/2 year old daughter and a 4 month old baby boy. No, we are not getting sleep at night and yes, we still love being mommy and daddy. Just the other night I was holding our 4 month old, Caleb, as he had fallen asleep in my arms. I began to look at him, gently rub his head and pray for him. In the background I could hear our 3 1/2 year old daughter running around, avoiding brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. She is a constant reminder of what energy and laughter is. I thought about the world they will grow up in. I then thought about the solar eclipse that occurred this past Monday and what an incredible display of the awesomeness of God it was. I thanked God for who He is and how He graciously continues to reveal Himself to us. I thanked God that no matter how crazy our world gets, He is still on His throne.

As I was looking at Caleb I began to have a thought I have had many times before, “What do I really want our kids to learn and grasp?” As a Christ following parent, if I could remind them of a few things over and over, what would those things be? These three things came to mind…

God loves you more than you will ever know. Yes, it is crazy important for our kids to know how much we as parents love them. We are very intentional to constantly be affirming and loving with Madelyn and Caleb, even in the tough moments. Yet, even in their very young minds, we want to instill in them that the greatest love they will ever know is the love of God. As much as mom and dad love them, God loves them more. While being raised in a Christian home, having a dad who is a pastor, and being taught the Bible at church and at home, a relationship with God is personal. We desire for our kids to personally know and embrace how much God loves them. He loves them so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for their sins so they can have a right relationship with Him.

This world is broken. Just yesterday morning, while working from a local coffee shop, I had conversation with someone about brokenness in their family. Divorce in the midst of an affair had broken a more than 20 year marriage within their family. As I talked with this person, the conversation led into how an 8 old girl had been effected by the situation and the things she was being exposed to. In one word, brokenness. An 8-year-old sees this and an 88-year-old sees this. We live in a broken world as a result of sin. We need to constantly remind our kids that the brokenness they see is NOT the way God intended the world to be. Yet, He still is crazy in love with us even when we make decisions that do not bring Him glory. We must instill in our kids that yes, brokenness will always exist on this side of eternity but, they can choose to pursue Jesus.

Jesus is always better. Our kids will face many temptations and decisions along the way.  When it comes to choosing the God-honoring path or the worldly path, may we always instill in our kids that Jesus is simply better. He always is. The world offers quick, temporary “happiness” and Jesus offers eternal joy. There is a big difference in these two things. From the young child that yells, “But Mommy, I want it now!” to the teenager that keeps asking, “But why…?!” we need to constantly keep Hebrews 12:1-2 on the hearts and minds of our kids. Why? Because Jesus is better, in every single circumstance that may arise.

From one Christ-following parent to another one that is reading this right now, I know it is hard. We in no way have this parent thing figured out. There are parents that we lean on and ask for Godly advice all the time. We are praying for you as you raise kids in a world that does not love and pursue Jesus. We pray the Gospel of Jesus Christ will so grip your kids hearts and minds that they will passionately live for Jesus and His Kingdom. We are constantly praying this for our kids.

 

Families and the Summer Months

Summer is here!!! What an exciting time for families to connect with each other and do Kingdom work! What tends to happen within the summer schedule is we allow our spiritual growth to drift a little bit due to different schedules, vacations, camps, and so forth. For many of us this can be done very unintentionally but yet very easily. Satan is “crafty” as Genesis 3 teaches and he may be getting your heart by getting your calendar. If you are consistently going to bed at night exhausted and worn out from various activities, there is a chance you might be falling into this category. You might be involved in really great, moral, activities but are you engaged in Gospel-centered, Kingdom work? Allow me to make four suggestions that you and your family can do over the summer to enhance your spiritual walk both as individuals and as a family.

Share the Gospel. Find a family in your neighborhood that is lost, on the fringe, or unchurched, and make a connection with them. Invite them over for a meal and fellowship. Take them a plate of cookies one afternoon and invite them to a family event at your church. The key, however, is to do all this with the intention of sharing the Gospel with them. A neat thing to also do is pray for the families in your neighborhood by street.

Connect to a Daily Bible Reading Plan. Make sure you and your family are in the Word every single day. Parents have to be the ones setting the example and modeling this. Kids will model what they see. There are TONS of great resources available to help out with this such as bible apps, websites, and printed materials are all very accessible. My encouragement to families is to find a time, a place, and a resource that works for them and be diligent to see it through.

Spend Quality Time Together. I know spending quality time together as a family is growing more and more difficult simply due to schedules, especially if you are raising multiple kids. Make it a point to spend quality family time 2-3 times a week. In this time talk about what God is doing in your hearts and lives. Spend time together by seeing a movie, grilling out with other families, going to a local ballgame, or getting some ice-cream after dinner one night. All of these things communicate a key truth: I care about you and you are worth my time. Kids, whether they want to admit it or not, want to know we care about them and love them. One of the best ways to do this is to simply spend time together. Jesus modeled this in His ministry- He was all about people. He also took time to be alone- to rest and relax and spend time with the Heavenly Father.

Engage into Ministry Outreach. Simply put, be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you. Serve during VBS week and/or get plugged into a mission opportunity through the local church. Find another family that is in need and if you are able to, meet it. If you don’t have the resources to help them do what you can, God will honor your heart and effort. One of the best ways we can reach families with the Gospel is simple acts of service. We model this because Jesus modeled this.

Summer is often seen as a time of rest and relaxation. While we definitely need to take time to do this, that doesn’t mean we put evangelism and spiritual growth on hold or make it an after thought. This summer, whether we have a lot of free time or we find ourselves so “busy” we literally can’t fit everything in, Jesus and Kingdom work must be our top priority.

Here is a simple way to think about ministry as a family:

Sharing: Who are we telling our faith story too?

Growing: How are we growing in our faith and as a family?

Caring: When are we spending quality time together?

Engaging: Where are we plugging into ministry?

Helping Kids Live on Mission

Recently, I blogged about the importance of helping middle school and high school students live on mission. You can find that blog post HERE. It is absolutely vital that teenagers live on mission. With that being said, I believe living on mission needs to begin way before a person enters middle school. In fact, I believe we must be proactive in the area of missional living with younger kids so that when they get older it isn’t such a struggle. There is huge long-term benefit for the family, families to come, and the Kingdom of heaven, in doing this.

I believe we need to lead, equip, and teach elementary aged kids in four concepts so that they have a better understanding of what it means to live on mission for Jesus.

1. Lead kids to understand the why behind the what. As Christ followers, the Gospel drives all we do and all we are about. Kids need to know that yes we are “helping people” but that is not all there is to it. We live on mission by loving people like Jesus loves people. We have the opportunity to tell the greatest story ever told. Our thoughts and actions must speak to the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Kids can and should play a hug role in this. Remember, kids learn best from repetition. We need to constantly remind them of the why behind the what.

2. Teach kids the 10-10-10 principle: Missional living can take place 10 steps down the road, 10 minutes down the road, and 10 hours down the road. You don’t have to be in a “jungle in Africa” to live on mission. Kids need to be reminded that people 10 steps away, 10 minutes away, and 10 hours away, all need Jesus. From the kids they run around with on the playground, to the kids they only see on the refrigerator that their family prays for, the mission is the same, show them Jesus. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and dying world. What is important to remember is that no matter the location, the mission is the same.

3. Help kids and families experience missional living together. It is a powerful picture of the church being the church when dad, mom, grandparents, and the next generation are all living on mission together. Dads and moms must be in the habit of telling their kids how they are living on mission while showing them as well. This can involve things such as praying together, serving a family in need, and inviting another family in the neighborhood to come to church with you. Deuteronomy 6:7b (HCSB) says “talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I pray that families live this out faithfully, starting with mine.

4. Equip kids to embrace that missional living is something Christ followers are continually about. Missional living does not have an “off and on switch.” Whether we are at school, on the ball friend, at a dance recital, at a birthday party, or at church, we are always to be a light in a dark world. A simple way of living this out is praying, “Lord use us to bring Your name glory today” before leaving for the day. Kids are as much the church as their parents are. Parents, before you go to bed at night, pray over your kids. Pray that they would love Jesus more than anything else.

Psalm 78:6a (HCSB), “…so that a future generation — children yet to be born — might know…”

Kid’s Ministry and Sharing the Gospel

The season is here… church worship spaces are being decorated, markers are being counted and placed in zip lock bags, copiers are preparing leader packets, and volunteers are being recruited. Next week our church is having our annual Vacation Bible School. A HUGE week in the life of local church children’s ministry. What a blessing to be able to minister to kids and their families in a fun and exciting way! Literally hours and hours of training and preparation will go into 5 days of bible lessons, crafts, games and rec, missions emphasizes, snacks, large group worship, and so on. Why? Because kids need Jesus. We all do. Kids need to know that the God we sing about in “big church” truly wants them to know how much cares for them. How much He loves them.

The most important part of kid’s ministry, especially during events like VBS and camps, is sharing the Gospel in an age-appropriate, God-glorifying way.

Below I have listed three “common questions” that are often heard when dealing with kids who are asking question about Jesus, salvation, baptism, etc. I then offer a potential better way of asking these questions. It’s important to note here I’m learning and growing just like ministry leaders all over are. The key here is not perfection but obedience.

1. Common Question: Am I ready to share the Gospel with children? At times it can seem overwhelming to share your faith with a child. Sure, you know it’s a blessing, but maybe you are used to and more comfortable communicating with adults rather than kids or students. Don’t allow fear to drive you in this. You may never feel ready but, the LORD wants to use you.

Better Question: Am I willing to be used by God and equipped to share the Gospel with children? The key is to have a willing spirit and be willing to be equipped and trained. Sharing your faith with a child is very different from sharing with an adult. How you say, what you say, matters. We must remember that sharing our faith and leading a child to the LORD is not impossible but rather an incredible honor.

2. Common Question: Is this child old enough to understand the Gospel? I understand the heart behind this question. I really do. As ministry leaders and parents we all want kids to understand what they are doing when they ask Jesus to be LORD and Savior. I believe at times though we get to caught up on the actual number and age before we hear a child out. Parents will often say, “They just are too young and not ready yet.” While there is usually wise discernment here, let’s not get caught up on, “They are just 7… they can’t know what they are doing.”

Better Question: Can this child explain to me who Jesus is, what He did on the cross, and why it matters? If a child can do this at the age of 7 or 8, then awesome. Have a Gospel conversation with them and help lead them in making the greatest decision they can ever make. For some kids they won’t be able to do this until they are 12 or even older. The age isn’t the most important thing here because every kid is different. The most important part is discerning if the child fully understands the Gospel. When we rush this, it leads to kids not really knowing what they are doing and then when they turn 16 saying, “I just did that because I thought I was supposed to.” It is so important that we take the time to have several conversations with kids to insure they are ready. I have found the best way to do this is to have a conversation with both the child and parents in the room.

3. Common Question: How can I simplify the Gospel so this child will understand it? In my opinion using words like “simplify” and “watered-down” are not really communicating what we are trying to do. It is so crucial we give kids the FULL picture of the Gospel and not just a snapshot because we feel they can’t grasp it.

Better Question: How can I clearly explain the life changing message of Jesus Christ to this child? Don’t just simply simplify it, be very clear. Be age appropriate? Absolutely. Move slower instead of faster to insure they are tracking with you. Ask a lot of questions. Do a lot of listening. Pray like crazy before and after. When we clearly explain the Gospel and pray the Holy Spirit moves in hearts and lives, great things can happen.

Sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ is an honor and blessing not matter who you are sharing it with. May kid’s ministries all the world be intentional and proactive in this!

Teaching Our Kids to Pray

Prayer, one of the most powerful aspects of the Christian life. It is an amazing thought that we have the opportunity to communicate with the God of the universe. The key is communication. Effective communication involves both talking and listening.

Almost a year ago, I received a new title. Dad. Let me tell you how awesome it is. Sure it has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Recently, I also moved into a new role in church ministry. I’m now a Next Generation Pastor. This means I still work with students and families but I now also oversee the Preschool and Children’s Ministries. I LOVE family ministry. Sharing Jesus with mom and dad, their 8-year-old, and 14-year-old, excites me. It wakes me up and keeps me up.

This month our pastor has been doing a series on prayer. Prayer is one of those things I have always tried to teach on, model, and be a major part of any ministry I have been blessed to lead. With that being said, in my own life, I have experienced seasons in which frankly, it has been hard. Not so much because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but rather that I didn’t make it a priority. I got busy doing a lot of “Christian” things and I allowed my prayer life to slip.

So how do we teach our kids to pray? As a new dad and a pastor of almost seven years here are my thoughts…

1. We must first model it. In the Gospels, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11). He not only gave them a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), He modeled it Himself (Mark 1:35, John 17). As parents and ministry leaders we have to do more than use the phrase, “I’m praying for you.” I have had many people send me text messages saying, “I’m praying for you today.” I have had very few of those people actually pray with me. Don’t hear me wrong, telling people you are praying for them is great. Send them that text message every time, it is definitely worth it. After you send that text message, take the next step, follow up. Maybe pray with them the following Sunday. The more times we do things like this, the more our kids will realize prayer is more than something we do before a meal.

2. We must teach the “why” before the “how” or “what.” There is great power in understanding why we do the things we do. Teaching our kids why we pray is no different. Have conversations like, “What does it mean to pray to God?” “What or who are somethings we should be praying for as a family?” “Son/Daughter, how can I be praying for you?” “Will you pray with me about this?”  Once families have a deeper understanding of the “why” it will make the “how” and the “what” much more significant. Why do we pray? We pray because we are Biblically commanded to but also because Jesus desires to have a relationship with us. Think about your best friend(s). I bet you don’t go very long without communicating with them either over the phone, email, or social media. Why do you do this? Because we value what they have to say. You desire to know and grow in your relationship with them.

3. We must make prayer more than a “wish list.” For many Christ followers, prayer becomes nothing more than a “what I can get out of it” outlet. “God bless me, take care of this need, and oh yes, thank you for this day.” Read Jesus’ prayers to the Father. Take a look at John 17.

John 17:1 (HCSB), “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You…”

This prayer was not about Jesus. It was about the glory of the Father. We must teach our kids that it is okay to ask God to bless us and take care of needs. However, our prayers and our Christmas gift list should not sound very similar.

There are two things I try to pray for often. First, are the lost people I’m in direct contact with. I pray that I would be a faithful example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they so desperately need. Second, is the nations. This includes the people groups where the spreading of the Gospel is limited and missionaries are in difficult settings.

Practical Advice for Praying as a Family Unit:

1. Prayer before a meal. Traditionally, if Christian influenced homes don’t do much praying at all they tend to bless their meals, even if it’s every once in a while. Next time you sit down as a family for a meal, go to the table 10 minutes early before you start eating your meal. Spend that 10 minutes praying as a family unit. Pray for each other.

2. Prayer for a missionary and/or church planter and their family. Place a picture of a missionary/church planter and their family somewhere visible in your home. Encourage each family member to pray for the missionary/church planter and their family once a week. Having a visual will be a great reminder. Pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

3. Prayer for your circle of influence. Have each family member write down two people in their circle of influence (friends, teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.) that they can lift up in prayer. Allow each family member to voice these prayers aloud.

4. Parents, pray over your children. Mom and dads, don’t miss this. When your kids go to sleep, spend time with your spouse praying for your kids. Pray that they would fall in love with Jesus and love Him more than anything else. Pray that the decisions they make in life would honor and glorify God. Pray for their future spouse.