Category Archives: Discipleship
Ever thought about taking your churches Kids Ministry to the streets? I think we should. Most children’s ministry is focused on reaching/teaching/discipling kids that show up at my church on the weekends or midweek. Some of the questionable outcomes of this:
- Are we teaching kids that church is all about them and most importantly, about them having fun, falling just short of disciple-making?
- In wanting to grow our churches, are we talking about kids as only hooks to get their parents “butts in the seats” (to quote Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act)? “If the kids have fun, the parents will come back” ~ church growth quip.
- Children’s facilities can cost mega bucks. No matter how hard we try, we CAN’T out Disney, Disney.
- Are we cutting the rug out from under parental responsibility for discipling kids as they become more and more dependent upon the “professionals” down at the church?
AND the big one: WHAT ABOUT THE MAJORITY KIDS THAT ARE NOT COMING TO THE FULL COLOR KIDS MINISTRY EVENTS AT OUR CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
In my region of 345,000 people, demographic reports show that around 21% of the population is age 14 or below. That’s around 69,000 kids!!!! In my denomination, which is one of largest in the region with 11,500 worshipers on any given Sunday, approximately 18% of that number are children under 14. Meaning on any given week only 2,500 or so kids are attending. Which is only about 4% of the population in the 14 and under age bracket. We average about 7,000 each year for Vacation Bible School, which is a 1-week, 4-hour overdose of Sunday’s Kids Ministry. That gets us to 10%. Add the other evangelical groups to the mix and best figures, after consulting with other church leaders, give us a number of 4,500 kids in an evangelical church each Sunday for faith and fun. That’s only 7% of the kids in our community. And many of these kids are growing up with absolutely no or very little Gospel story or Christian witness in their lives. Are we losing a generation as we strategize on how to improve our children’s facilities? and preach loudly about God being taken out of schools? and continue to think of kids ministry as a facilities focused ministry? and considering the # of kids that need to be reached, can we even build a big enough facility to do what’s needed?)
A New Vision for Kids Ministry
What if we began to consider the 93% in our Kids Ministry strategy? Not neglecting the 7%, providing faith and fun on Sunday’s as we are, but also thinking of new ways to get God’s story into the lives of kids in our community. When you think of it like this you’ll realize there are more opportunities then you might imagine. Here’s a few ideas:
- Encourage your congregation to get involved in schools on their terms, not yours. There are a variety of mentoring, tutoring, encouraging opportunities that will equal relationships with unchurched families in the community and opportunities to invest in kids. Our church recently provided free popcorn for an area schools open house and met several families in need.
- Partner with local kids organizations that are serving children and asking (if not begging) for volunteers. In my community, there’s the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, local multi-housing complexes, private schools. And we’ve found many of them are open to you sharing THE story as part of your work.
- Get involved in local recreation and sports leagues by encouraging adults to get involved in coaching kids. Volunteer coaches are usually desperately needed, especially in inner cities. Provide some training on how to be a character building influence on kids and keep relationships going. These opportunities can lead to lifelong relationships of encouragement and mentoring between a child and an adult, who will forever be know as “Coach” to the kid.
- Multiply what you do on-site, off-site. You’ve made great backdrops and costumes, produced cool videos and posters, you’ve bought expensive curriculum, and prepared awesome crafts. And you’ve trained volunteers who are loving it. Why not look for an avenue to multiply that in the community? Do the VBS at a local multi-housing complex or another church that would not be able to do it for the kids in their neighborhood. Do a one day kids ministry event at a local park or multi-housing complex utilizing all the stuff you’ve done over the past few months. One church in our state, extends their VBS every Summer to a private daycare with over 200 kids, multiplying their efforts to reach more kids.
- Local Festivals provide opportunities to show kids and families that faith is fun by providing some of the crafts or games or other elements you do each week. This is a great way also to build trust with community leaders and parents. And you can say, “if you like what we do here, you’ll love our Kids ministry at ______ Church on Sunday.” Our local associations have Block Party Trailers with many of the supplies you’ll need for this type of outreach.
- Get the Kids involved. Instead of seeing them as hooks to get more “butts in the seats.” See them as missionaries who can invest in their friends and demonstrate that faith is fun and meaningful in the community. Teach kids that it’s important to serve and that faith is not just about them but others, by taking them on a local mission trip to the park or festival or multi-housing complex for Kids Ministry Day.
- Start or get involved in a mentoring program for children without dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children, etc.
- Instead of VBS. I heard of one church that instead of VBS they encouraged neighborhood Bible Clubs during the summer and trained and empowered people to reach the kids and families around them, utilizing the same curriculum sets and production quality, but in yards and subdivision common space all around the city.
- Other ideas?
We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep preaching about culture decay, how God has been kicked out of schools, and bad parenting. We’ve got to get involved. The doors are open in our communities. It won’t be easy, but salt is no good left in the salt-shaker.
How could your church take kids ministry to the streets?
Challenging words from Nik Ripken in his latest book The Insanity of Sacrifice:
“Safety is not one of God’s core values.”
- Do we share our faith as long as it is safe?
- Do we send mission teams as long as it is safe?
- Do we witness to our neighbors as long as it is safe?
- Do we make financial decisions as individuals and churches based on how safe those decisions are?
As one who leads others and values mobilization of others into missions, safety is too often a top shelf concern of mine. Great reminder that safety is relative to God and not a top shelf concern for the Almighty, nor should it be for His people.
Ripken argues that danger IS and SHOULD BE a part of the life of the faith filled follower. How tied is your faith to safety? Have you said no to an opportunity or a side of town because of the idol and illusion of safety? Is your faith in God lived out only in safe, comfortable environments where you’re never challenged, never have to sacrifice, never have to stress over the needs of others? Maybe it’s time for us to embrace the tension of discomfort and put more faith in God’s power.
More great quotes from Ripken:
- “Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ… the closer we are to Jesus… the more danger we will face in our lives.”
- “faithfulness to the commands of God holds more value than safety every time! The people of God are called to faithful response whether it is safe or not. If we are faithful, we will go and we will send and we will share and we will speak and we will give and we will pray… even when it is not safe.”
- “It will probably be safer for you to not share your faith with your neighbor. It will be safer for your church to not send out mission teams. It will be safer for you to not get on that plane. It will be safer to not let the world get under your skin. It will be safer to gather for worship each Sunday and simply go through the motions. It will be safer to keep financial resources close to home.”
- “God’s people value faithfulness and obedience. And we consider it a holy privilege to do exactly what God has called us to do… even if it is not safe.“
Lord, set us free from the idol and the illusion of safety.
Check out Nik Ripken’s great new 90 Day devotional called The Insanity of Sacrifice.
What does Jesus want for me this year?
Jesus has actually already decided what He wants for us in the new year. We could answer that question with so many great promises from Christ – Abundant life, Joy, Fruitfulness, Eternal life and so much more. As I think about that question, three words stick out to me: BELIEVE – FOLLOW – DISCIPLE.
Jesus wants us to believe him for big things. When asked what the work he wanted us to do was, Jesus replied – Believe! (John 6:29) That’s it. Jesus wants us to believe. The promises he gives for belief range from joy to supernatural power. It’s believing in, trusting in, and staying connected to Jesus that fuels everything in the Christian life. The older I get the more I understand why Jesus talked so much about believing. It’s hard. To believe, we fight doubt, fear, negative thoughts, doubters, fearmongers, critics, and more. What do you need to believe Jesus for this year? Salvation, Provision, Power, Overcoming Doubt and Fear? Make this year a year of BELIEF.
What did Jesus call people to do? Simply to Follow Him (Matthew 4:19). To follow someone means to make them the leader on the highway of life. You’re following their lead, listening to their instructions, and taking your cues in life from them. For us, that would include starting everyday with a commitment to follow Him, denying ourselves and putting the will of Jesus and the needs of others first, committing to listen to God through regularly reading His Word – the Bible, asking him for direction and wisdom for the journey through prayer. We are all following something or someone. We have the opportunity and invitation to follow Jesus. Make this year a year to FOLLOW.
What did Jesus command? Go and Make Disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). What does Jesus want from my life? from my church? He wants Disciples. Disciple, the verb, means to teach and train others. So the command to go and make disciples is to draw others in and teach them to believe and follow Jesus. Most Christians probably see this as the job of the pastors, but it’s a command and desire of Jesus for all his people. And what if every believer and follower of Jesus, discipled one other person this year? The impact of obeying this desire and call of Jesus would be immediately felt in our time. Two questions for the New Year: Who are you discipling? and who is discipling you? We all need to be learning from those ahead of us in the journey and we need to be passing on the faith to someone behind us in the journey. Make this year a year to DISCIPLE.
One of the best tools I’ve discovered for scripture memory sense the Topical Memory System, has been the Bible Memory App. I have loved this App. It has helped me memorize over 1,000 verses in the last year and a half. It also has helped me diminish the amount of time spent on Social Media, giving me something with eternal impact to do in spare moments, besides scrolling news feeds. I’ve wrote about it HERE and HERE.
How to get started with the Bible Memory App:
- Download the App, open and account, find the Verse Library and start with the Group of Verses called “Verses for Children.” About 20 verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, move to the Group “Top 100 Verses.” Another great group of verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, pick another verse library category that speaks to where you are in life. Or, you can search for a group that you would like to connect with. I started with the Topical Memory System Group, because those verses were familiar to me. Right now, I have a group that is trying to memorize every YouVersion.com “Verse of the Day.” Find the group HERE. Will be starting a 2020 “Verse of the Day” group next week.
- Put together a group with your Small Group, family, accountability partner, or for your church.
I have loved this app. It has worked well for me. Check it out. Every moment spent memorizing scripture makes an eternal impact – “the word of the Lord endures forever” 1 Peter 1:25.
Eligibility is a term we here in sports a lot. We want our teams to be Bowl eligible, playoff eligible. We get excited when the college star become draft eligible. Runners work to be eligible for the Boston Marathon, or other races. I’m encouraging my kids to get college eligible by working hard on their grades and ACT score.
Eligibility = readiness. It demonstrates that you are ready for the next step in maturity and growth or the next challenge. For churches, a great challenge is to get Multiplication Eligible. To be healthy enough for the challenges of multiplying new groups, new ministries, new locations, new churches. What does that look like?
- A Passion for God and the Lost.
- Healthy systems (evangelism, groups, gatherings, assimilation, mobilization, stewardship) that are producing new and growing disciples.
- Unity of purpose and mission.
- Eyes open to the needs of the world.
- Leader(s) that can be sent to lead the mission at the new location.
What do you need to work on in order to be Multiplication Eligible?
- Small Group life is better than small group meetings.
- Doing life together is better than eating together.
- Growing Spiritually together is better than studying the lesson together.
- All of life discipleship is better than a Sunday morning Bible Study.
Most of the small group questions I hear about what happens DURING THE MEETING. “What are you studying?” “When do you meet?” “Who’s the teacher?” Necessary but not primary elements.
The real gold for small groups is in life together. I’ve walked with a few small groups for 5+ years. These people are like family. We experience each others lives through the ordinary and difficult moments. We can see life change happening over time and think about how far people have come over years. More than just getting through a lesson or a study, it’s journeying through all of life. Gatherings are simply opportunities to catch up, be encouraged, grow deeper in relationship with God and each other, and apply the scripture to our lives specifically and directly. Life together also allows you to serve one another in special ways as life happens. Seeing and experiencing Jesus in the life of another happens as we walk this worlds ups and down with one another. Love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, carrying burdens. All of these happen best in family like relationships that small group life provide.
Grateful for my Small Group. Can’t wait to gather together again this week!
Mine the gold of life together by focusing on group life and not just a group meeting.
If the elements of God’s mission can be compared to a football game, we might say that the focus has become the huddle instead of the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the action happens. We have prioritized huddling over playing our part on the line of scrimmage by purchasing fancier uniforms for the huddle, composing cooler songs for the huddle, writing more speeches to inspire the huddle, positioning every person in the perfect spot for the huddle, holding conferences on how to build a better huddle, even getting the perfect brew to pass around the huddle.
But Jesus’ commission for the church was about going, not huddling. The huddle is vital, but it’s only a brief moment to receive the playing directions from the quarterback. If you stay in the huddle too long, you get penalized and moved backward. The church is getting shoved backward on the mission field… the problem is an overemphasis on the huddle. The church must be mobilized, it must be sent to the scrimmage line.
Every new year, there seems to be a pruning of things that just don’t make the cut to continue as a habit or tool that is effective. Here’s a few things that I picked up or continued in 2018 that have made the jump into the new year.
2. Nate Bagatze – How have I not heard of this guy before 2018?! Absolutely hilarious and very clean comedian. If you like Jim Gaffigan and Brian Reagan, you’ll love Nate. Check him out.
3. HIIT Training – In December, I joined a High Intensity Interval Training Group at our gym. Having been a Crossfitter and 9Rounder in the past, I’ve loved the intensity and brevity of this workout. And I love doing it with a group. 30 minutes – 15+ different exercises – 80%-100% of max heart rate for 20 minutes or more. I’ve lost 15 lbs, and a couple of belt loops. And planning on a triathlon on my 45th birthday in August.
3. Music: Jenny and Tyler – Not sure how I came across their music, but I’m hooked. Very deep and meaningful lyrics. Personal feel. A couple of their songs have been very special to me during deep waters over the last year.
4. The Christian Planner – I developed a reputation a few years ago in my professions circle for being a go to guy for media and technology questions. I’ve even developed and taught courses called Social Media and Ministry and Technology for the Church Office. Well, last year, I made the backwards leap to Paper. Paper Calendar – the giant one that sits on the desk, and Paper Planner. I’ve loved the Christian Planner. Great crowd funded story from a veteran turned entrepreneur. Very user friendly, simple, and always fun to open.
5. Podcast: The World and Everything In It – The best source of daily news from a Christian perspective, in a 25 minute, engaging format. I never miss a day. Looking for a Christian news source with positive voices. Check it out on Itunes or wherever you get your podcast.
6. Book: How to Read the Bible Book by Book – I talk about this book a lot. It’s my favorite “Read along” with my daily Bible Reading plan. It summarizes every book of the Bible, so as you read along and feel a little lost in the geography or history of the Biblical narrative, the summary in this book can get you back in the know, so you can hear from God. It’s not the only one. Any Bible Handbook will do the same, but I love this one. Check it out.
7. Youversion.com / The Bible App – I’m hooked on this app for Bible Reading, sharing Bible verses, and now our church uses the Events page for sermon notes. Check it out if you haven’t already. And when you do, let’s be friends.
8. Feedly.com – for staying up to date on news and blogs on all my favorite topics, which include theology, gardening, hunting, church, technology, marriage, parenting, etc. Great place for consolidating the things that you want to see everyday from around the internet.
9. YNAB – This will be our 6th year as YNAB’ers. Love this budgeting tool and App, that helps us keep up with our money and spending. I like what I see from Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar as well, but we were YNAB’ers before that, so we’re hooked and not going anywhere. If you’re looking for a budgeting and expense tracking tool, check out YNAB. And I’ve enjoyed the YNAB Podcast this year as well.
What making life easier for you? Don’t be stingy. Please share.
It is an understatement to say that prayer was an important part of the life of Jesus. It is also an understatement to say, if it was important to him, how much more should it be to us. During our churches 40 Days of Prayer journey this year, I’ve spent some time exploring the prayers of Jesus. A simple rhythm emerged that’s worth emulating.
1. Jesus prayed ALONE.
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” Luke 5:16
For the believer, private prayer is essential to power and essential to demonstrating to God our faith in him. If you don’t really believe in God’s promises to hear and answer prayer, you’ll never go to your private room or prayer closet, shut the door and with no one looking, seek God for power or for people (Matthew 6:6). Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. So should we.
What is your plan to pray ALONE? Where is your PLACE of private prayer?
2. Jesus prayed WITH OTHERS.
“he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Luke 9:28
Jesus had a small group of disciples that he did life with 24/7. He also had an inner circle of his closest friends that he gathered for special seasons of prayer and connection with God. Jesus promised special power to those who pray in agreement with others (Matthew 18:19-20), and he practiced this, by praying with others regularly throughout his ministry.
What is your plan to pray WITH OTHERS? Do you have a small group of friends that you pray with? Do you have prayer partners who pray for you regularly? Are you a faithful, praying friend to others in your life?
3. Jesus prayed FOR OTHERS.
“people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them” Matthew 19:13
Jesus talked to God about men along with talking to men about God. In Matthew 19, we see Jesus praying for children brought to him. Jesus prayed for his followers, including us future believers in John 17. The Bible even says that he intercedes for us still today (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Paul, commends intercession, or praying for others, as a top priority for believers, urging prayer for everyone, including those in authority (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
What is your plan to pray FOR OTHERS? What people do you pray for by name everyday? How are you making intercession a part of your life of prayer?
4. Jesus prayed STRENUOUSLY.
“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12
We see Jesus, taking prayer to another level throughout his life and ministry by spending nights in prayer to the Father. He began his ministry with 40 days of fasting and prayer. We see a rhythm in the life of Christ of him exerting himself with greater intensity in prayer.
When was the last time, you took your prayer life seriously and strenuously for a season? Could you see yourself doing an annual fast? Could you see yourself doing an annual retreat where you focused on God and God’s desire for an area of your life or a person or persons in your life?
A simple rhythm of prayer: Pray Alone – Pray With Others – Pray For Others – Pray Strenuously.
Next Steps / To Do’s:
- Schedule time alone with God at least 3 times this week. Find a place of connection with God in your home or in nature.
- Join a group at a local church or start a group in your home or at your work, that is committed to praying for each other.
- Make a list of people to pray for everyday. Your family, your church, your coworkers, your neighbors. Check out the Prayer Card app to help with organizing your prayer list.
- Look at your annual calendar and plan an overnight prayer retreat or a season of fasting and prayer this year. More about fasting HERE.