Kinkade Family: A Personal Update

This post is going to be a different post for me. My posts are usually centered on helping Christ followers, ministry leaders and the like in maturing their faith and circle of influence. For this one, I want to give you a personal update on the journey my wife, family and I are on.

For the last twelve years I have served as a local church associate pastor, mainly in the area of youth ministry. It was what I went to school to do and what we as a family have invested our hearts and souls in. We have been a part of four great churches in this time, seeing incredible ministry take place. At all four of these churches we have been blessed beyond measure to be around incredible families who have loved us like their own family and been there for us. Local church ministry on the staff level can be tough no doubt. It can be messy and figuring out how to best work in the “system” that you are in has it challenges. There is no doubt that God called us to all four of these churches and His hand guided us in the season while we were there. I love pastoring and shepherding. I have a deep passion for the local church because it is the main vehicle God uses to spread His Kingdom.

About five years ago I stumbled into writing with a local publishing ministry here in Nashville. I’ll never forget it. I sat around the table with the ministry leaders, writers and editors and we planned how to best help this curriculum line take next steps. I remember calling my wife that night from my hotel and telling her, “I loved being apart of this. I don’t know what this means or looks like but I would love to write and help local churches and ministries in this way.” One opportunity led to another and I began contract writing soon after that and haven’t looked back. I love writing and have a deep passion for helping churches and ministries through the written word, whether that be curriculum, story-telling and articles, blog posts, or training materials. There is no doubt in my mind that five years ago what I thought was simply “stumbling” across a writing project, I can clearly see as God’s providence in my life- leading, guiding and directing me.

Next week, my two passions, the local church and writing, collide into a new full-time ministry opportunity. I have accepted a job as a copywriter with The Gideons International here in Nashville. This is an incredible organization whose sole purpose is to win the lost to Christ and to get the Word of God into the hands of as many people as possible. How awesome is that! Will it be a change of pace and a learning curve? For sure. Are we excited? Absolutely! God is faithful. He has and continues to reveal that to us time and time again. He can be trusted when things are going well. He can be trusted when you have no idea what will happen next.

Our life long calling is ministry and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. We get one shot at this thing we call life and we simply want to do well. The local church was established by God Himself for reason. Plug in, be active, serve, give. Be faithful to the mission given to every single believer to make disciples in your circle of influence and beyond. I love the local church and pastoring. I love writing. I’m eternally grateful for this God-ordained opportunity. I am also extremely thankful for my incredible wife and family who has been right beside me every single step of the way.

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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.

 

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?

Why I’m Using Pencil and Paper More Often

I love technology. I use various forms of technology multiple times a day. I’m writing this blog post on a MacBook Pro, while wearing an Apple Watch, while seeing a notification on my iPhone laying next to me. It is safe to say I use technology to its fullest.

With all that being said, at the beginning of the year I made a little bit of a switch and moved away from using some soft of electronic device for everything. Honestly, it has greatly helped me. So what have I done? I am using pencil and paper more often. I know, earth shattering stuff right there. More specifically, there are two things I’m using pencil and paper more often for. First, I use a Moleskine Weekly Planner for my weekly to-do list and appointments.  This is a great tool with the week’s dates on the left side (appointments) and a blank lined page on the right side (to-do list). Second, I’m carving out my messages for Wednesday nights in a journal. Full disclosure, for both of these things, weekly planning and messages, I still save them digitally. I use iCal for events and appointments and all my messages end up in a word document, saved in my Dropbox. I still teach from my iPad more times than not. It is simply easier all around for me.

So why use pencil and paper more often? What differences have I seen?

I remember more. It is amazing how many tasks and appointments I accomplish and don’t forget about quite as easily when I simply write it down. I will put it down on my weekly calendar which I look at multiple times a day. I remember to pray for people more often as I look at their name. I can also see what it most important to me. Simply put, I forget less and pray more. What I have also found is that if I don’t write it in my weekly planner, I more than likely will end up not doing it.

It feels more intimate. I’m sure there is some sort of formal scientific explanation here but, there is something about writing things down and looking at your own messed up handwriting that makes your content feel more intimate. I feel like it is more personal and in some ways, more from the heart. I’m not saying this can’t be the case when you are looking at a digital screen, it just, to me feels more intimate when I read what I have wrote down. This is also a reason that I am using a hard copy of God’s Word more often. It encourages the students and leaders I lead to bring a copy of God’s Word, to highlight and underline in it, and to make notes. It is great to go back and look at what God taught you in different seasons of life.

I’m more organized. When writing things down, I can see what I have to do and how I’m going to manage it and ultimately do it. This goes beyond simply not forgetting tasks and appointments and into mapping things out ahead of time, being proactive with my schedule instead of reactive, and making sure the most important things get done before anything else. It can also serve as a great evaluation tool as it will tell you what you spend most of your time doing during the week.

The takeaway… I have found using pencil and paper helps me more than I realize. It works for me. It won’t work for everyone. The bottom line here is to find a system that works for you. One that comes naturally and that is not forced. You will be amazed what you learn about yourself and how much your leadership skills will improve as a result.

We Didn’t Go to Church on Wednesday

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Before you jump to conclusions, no, I have not lost my job and yes, things are fine at the church. We didn’t go to church on Wednesday because it was fall break for our local school system and we didn’t have our regularly scheduled activities. Our local school system actually has a two week fall break. Our student ministry had a game night during the first week and then the second week we gave our leaders and families a break. Many people were out of town for both weeks anyway.

This past Wednesday actually ended up being a very eye-opening, confirming night for me. Let me explain by giving you four observations/confirmations I made by being a home on a Wednesday night.

Our neighborhoods are full of people not connected to a local church. I saw many of our neighbors and their friends. At one point I looked out our front door and counted 8 kids, various ages. The driveways were full of cars, not empty. I had a great conversation with my next door neighbor about his job, family, and what it is like raising kids. It lasted about 30 minutes but no where in the conversation did he say, “Wait a minute, aren’t you a pastor? Why aren’t you at church right now?” We talk about missional living as this trip we go on 10 hours down the road in a different city, all while we have people we see everyday, that live right next to us, that may not be saved. That aren’t connected to a local church.

Our start times may be difficult for some. Several of my neighbors got home right before 6pm or right after 6pm. Most of the ones I personally know work 30-45 minutes away from our neighborhood. Our church has an optional dinner that begins at 5pm and then activates start at 6pm or a little bit after. People are busy, no doubt. Several families have two working parents, leaving/picking up kids at daycare, practices, recitals, and so many other things. We have to have a start time for programming. If you start earlier people can’t get off work to be there in time. If you start later you run into bed times for younger kids, middle and high students cramming to finish homework, and so on. Its a hard call when is the best time to start. Again just an observation about how crunched people are for time.

People miss church. I received a text message from one of our leadership high school students right before 6pm asking what time the party started at my house. We joked for a little while and I thought to myself, “What a great idea for another fall break down the road!” If I had student stuff that night would some have came, yes. Would it been a great night, yes. Next two week fall break am I going to meet both weeks, no. Why? It’s totally okay and valid to give volunteers a break every once in a while. It gives them a necessary break and tells them I appreciate what they do. You also have to have volunteers to pull it off. If you don’t, then you need to seriously evaluate what and how you are doing ministry. It was good to hear from students and know that they miss when we don’t meet.

I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and spending time with them, but I missed church as well. It was an odd feeling. What was on TV? What were we going to do? I ended up thinking a lot about church and actually began writing this blog post. Outside of family vacation and if I’m so sick I can’t see straight, we are always at church on Wednesday. Some may say, “Well you are paid to be, right?” Technically, yes, but I have gone to church on Wednesday nights long before I was a paid staff member. That does not make me more spiritual than someone who works third shift and simply can’t make it a Wednesday night at 6pm. Church is a priority in my family, always has been, always will be.

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Was that a bad thing, not at all. Should that be the habit, not at all.

 

When the God I Read About is not the God I See

God. Whether you believe in God or you don’t believe in God, it is hard to argue against the influence God has had and continues to have in our culture. Some see Him as nothing more than a fairy tale figure with no real purpose, especially a divine purpose. Some have believed and surrendered their very life to Him. No matter where you are on this spectrum, at the every least, it is worth seeking and asking. After all, we are dealing with one of the most debated figures of all time.

The more conversations I’m in with people about God, “organized religion,” church, the Bible, and so on, the more I hear in people’s questions the desire to know. The desire to go deeper in their pursuit of something that will matter in the end. Something or Someone that makes a difference. In the midst of these conversations I hear a main-line thread running in the question(s). After much thought and continual learning when asked about God and the Christian faith, I believe the main-line thread is this:

Why is the God I read about (or am told about) not the God I see (or experience)?

In other words, if God is a loving, caring, relational God, then why does nothing in my world, from what I can tell, speak to this? I hear or maybe have even read in the Bible that God is a good, holy God. Then I look at the world and I see pain, divorce, cancer, and disunity, at best. I just don’t get it. If God a liar? Is He mad at the world, or at me for that matter?

If you have ever thought about these things or are currently thinking through these things, don’t worry you are not the first. Trust me, you will not be the last either. You are in good company. I have personally asked some of these same questions. With that being said, allow me to pose a few questions in helping you as you discern crucial questions about who God really is. I encourage you to write out your responses.

Who is God? 

This question may seem simple or the logical place to start but notice what I didn’t ask. I did not say, who do you wish God was in this season of life you find yourself in, who did your parents say God is, who did your grandma’s preacher yell to you that God is. I simply asked, who is God? Who do you believe Him to be?

What filter or lenses did I use to come to this answer?

When asking questions and trying to seek solid responses or answers, we must be honest with ourselves how we came to the conclusion we did, if any. Again, were we just told to believe a certain way because “that is the way it is.” Did we read secular books, the Bible, and other sources, and draw a conclusion that way? Did we ask questions to those we perceived to know more than us or people we thought much of? Did I enter my own “spiritual journey” of thought and contemplation? After answering the question, “Who is God…” wrestle with the why and how. Why and how did I come to this conclusion?

When you have the time to dedicate to it, get a Bible and read John 1:1-14 and John 3:1-21. Underline key people, words, and phrases. Write down any thoughts, questions, or concerns you have.

Do I really know who God is?

Behind the question, why is the God I read about, not the God I see, typically lies this reasoning: God is not acting like I think He should or need Him too. He didn’t come through. Maybe there is a situation you prayed about for months and the outcome was totally different from what you prayed for. Maybe you have always had this internal struggle with how God really connects in your reality. Maybe you really want to know, you just don’t know how and you really desire more than the clique, “Pray this prayer, and you will be fine.” Do you really know who God is? Who has changed, the nature, character, and wisdom of God… or… you?

Who God Is.

I grew up in a Christian home. Both of my parents are Christians, my dad is a deacon at my home church and my mom has always worked in some capacity with kids at church. All of my brothers are Christians, one is in full-time ministry as well. I never recall a time where conversations about Jesus and the Christian faith were not a part of my life. I was truly saved at the young age of six years old. Just to be clear, “saved” means that you have come to point where you admitted you are a sinner in need of saving from your sins which separate you from a right relationship with God. You have believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of your life, the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Growing up in a Christian home did not make me a Christian. Think about this: every single person who has been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ has had a personal encounter with it. Do you really know who God is? Think about the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. What was Nicodemus’ struggle? He couldn’t separate the Jesus he thought he knew or wanted Him to be, from the actual Jesus sitting right in front of Him.

Life is hard, no doubt. There have been (and will be) seasons in my own life that I ask, “God, what are doing right now?” Typically these are asked in hard and difficult seasons. This does not mean God doesn’t care or is absent from your reality. Just because my thoughts about God may change or the way I perceive Him may change, doesn’t mean God changes. Pursue Him with all your heart. Seek to truly know Him, you won’t regret it.

Isaiah 55:8 (HCSB), “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration.

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!