The two most significant questions: Part two

Yesterday I began a short series on the two most significant questions asked every week in our church hallways. They are questions parents ask their kids when they pick them up after the service. I truly believe that the answers to these questions have a huge impact on whether a family will come back the following week.

Yesterday, I revealed the first question, “Did you have fun?” Fun! It’s what parents seem most concerned about. More than anything else, parents care about whether their kids laughed and giggled during they hour they were there. It may not be our favorite question, but I think we have a fantastic opportunity. If we can create an experience this is crazy fun, that visiting family is much more likely to come back next week.

The second question is better. I mean better because those of us who work in children’s ministry like it more. It’s a question we want moms and dads to ask. Interestingly, this question is typically asked after the “did you have fun” question and much less often.

Question number two:

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Meeting families where they are

Sometimes I feel that churches miss the most significant chance they have with visiting families. It has to do with the disconnect between where families are and where we in the church want them to be.

This is probably a larger philosophical conversation based on how your church may interface with the community at large. If your church believes that it’s primary focus is to disciple believers and to do so through weekend services, then you probably won’t be seeing tons of unchurched visiting families showing up on Sundays. That’s totally fine, it’s just important that your expectations, philosophy and experiences are aligned… otherwise there will be frustration.

However, I often see churches where philosophy, expectations and experiences are not aligned. It’s a ministry’s desire to see the unchurch show up in droves, but when they arrive, the church isn’t really ready to create a welcoming experience.

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Invest in you!

Yes, this is an Orange Conference promotional post. Yes, today is the last day to register before the price goes up. However, I write this post because I care. Ha! No, really.

For seven years I’ve written nearly 2000 post with the intent to inspire and encourage those who work with kids. If I had to boil down ministry to kids into two or three “most important things” I would definitely include learning/development into one of those “most important things.” I think that is why I’m such a big fan of the Orange Conference. I come home every year tired, overwhelmed (in the best way possible), over-packed (somehow my suitcase grows) and inspired.

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It’s time to get your Advent on…

That title might have been offensive to some… terribly sorry. Oh well, it’s true though, isn’t it? Advent has totally become the “think” in our Kidmin communities in recent years, right? It’s not like advent is new or anything. I remember the creative calendar boxes from when I was a kid, but now it seems to be everywhere, and that’s a great thing. (Confession: I’ve never actually done advent, in a serious and disciplined way – meaning to do it every day for 25 days. Don’t judge, I think we’re going to give it a shot this year.)
So, I thought I’d share some of the advent ideas out there as there seems to be quite a few. Maybe you’re looking for some inspiration to create your own for families in your church or you simply want to point families to an advent resource they can do on their own. Well, here are some of the ideas I know about.

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Offer more for parents at your church

I feel the dilemma that you feel. Children’s Ministry is what you do, but in recent years your heart has been pricked for family ministry. You want to offer more for your parents. You’ve been sold on the idea that if we do more for parents, we leverage their influence on kids (which is far greater than ours) and we all win. There’s only one problem. You’re a children’s pastor and Sunday comes each and every weekend. There’s more work to be done than hours in the week to do it. What you do on Sunday is so important, but it just crowds out the time you want to devote to parents. Yeah, you’re not alone.

Here’s an idea though. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The class you want to offer parents doesn’t have to be written from scratch by you. The weekly email you want to send doesn’t have to be penned completely by you. Even the topics you’d like to cover doesn’t have to be dreamed up by you. I honestly believe that we’re doing ministry in one of the greatest times because there are so many content providers emerging every day to help us do what we do better… including family ministry.

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When a Teen Idol crashes and burns

I’m sure every generation of parenting had it’s extreme challenges. With the hyper connectedness of media and social networks of today’s times, it seems like parent have got to be one their A-game like never before. The issue I’d like to bring up is subject of teen idols. Most kids have them, from TV actors, sports prodigies and most well known… the teen rockstar! This kind of teen role model isn’t really a bad thing, everyone needs someone to look up to. However, as parents, we need to prepare our kids for the likely event of when a teen idol crashes and burns.

Case in point… Miley Cyrus. The lovable star of Hannah Montana of just a few years ago, who had the hearts of millions of pre-teen girls is no longer the teen idol you want influencing your pre-teen girls. This isn’t just a problem for teenage fans who fell in love with Miley years ago, but new fans are made everyday with old DVD’s and video on demand services. The pro-Christian message and strong morals Miley professed a few years ago has been replaced with strong messages of sex promiscuity and drug use.

Check out the reaction of these teenagers who watched her new music video “We Can’t Stop.”

WARNING, this video is not safe for children!

My favorite quote, “It made no sense, like, nothing made sense,” one teen said “[Miley] just wanted to take every cool and edgy and explicit and naughty thing she could come up with and throw it all together in one big vomit of mess.” Some of the teens recognized the disaster, but others saw it as Miley making a name for herself and they were in full support.

This flip-flop happened so fast, many parents still think as Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana as a great role model for their kids. So what happens when your child’s harmless teen idol goes off the deep end?

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Orange Legacy App

Orange released a new app yesterday. It’s both frightening, amazing and depressing all at the same time. Whatever emotion you feel, it’s a truth that no parent should ignore. We have limited time. Below I have put in both of my kids. Wow! Time is ticking away!

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This app allows you to put in a child’s birthdate and it estimates the time left until their graduation. It is a visual representation of the time we have left to influence a child before they leave home.

You can also add in specific events and see the countdown until that day.

When you see the time you have left, you get serious about the time you have now.

Download the app right here.

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Good Friday Family Event: Summary

If you’ve visited this site in the past two weeks, you’ve probably seen something about the Good Friday event we held almost three weeks ago. I didn’t hold anything back, everything we did is here. Below I’ll post all the links to the individual posts for quick reference.

I must say that this past Easter was the best Easter weekend experience I can remember. From Good Friday to Saturday and Sunday Easter services with our Family Egg-a-Palooza in the middle, it was hands down amazing. No doubt about it, we’ll do the Good Friday experience again. As a team, we’ve talked about just making some slight modifications to what we did this year and improve the whole experience  We can change the content enough that it would feel new and unique, maybe changing out one or two of the stations.

The idea that came to us for the next version of the Family Good Friday Experience is where the event is more like a scavenger hunt. Rather than getting stamps in a passport, families are seeking pieces to a larger puzzle that will come together after they have visited all the stations that we’ve put in place. It could be a new twist.

I’ve also decided that we will have a phone app to pull this off. We’re in the process of building the content of a Family portal on our website for all things kids/students and resources at Gateway which would easily translate to a mobile app. The Good Friday Family Experience next year could be the perfect opportunity to launch the app. Regardless, we will use the app in parent’s phone to scan QR codes throughout the event to link to videos that will tell families more about each station. The more ways we can engage families, the better.

Below are the links in this series:

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Good Friday: Meaning of the Mystery

All the stations as part of the Good Friday Family Experience were great hands on environments that introduced kids to the events of Holy Week, but without focus, they could all seem fairly random as well. It was very important that there was an opportunity to bring all the pieces together and connect the dots. That was the point of the station, Meaning of the Mystery.

This was a veyr simple station, We took one of our large group environments, turned down the lights and used colored LED lights to create atmosphere and only light a very small section of the stage so that there were no distractions and only one focal point. Every came in every 20 minutes and sat on the floor around the stage. Our smallest group was about 25-30 and our largest was a little over 100. We did 6 in all though.

It was essentially a 12-15 minute talk that brought all the pieces together. On the stage I had 5 boxes. A heart was in the first, an apple in the second, a stuffed animal lamb in the third, a crown in the forth and a cross in the 5th. Over the 12-15 minutes, a story was told using an element from each box to support the story. This technique kept the kids engaged to the story because there was a new visual every 2-3 minutes with anticipation for the next one and it connected to much of what they had just experienced.

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Good Friday: Bag of Silver Craft Tent

Okay, this wasn’t really a craft tent. We started with an idea and it morphed as we got closer to the event. The betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver was a major event of Holy Week, so we wanted to connect the kids to this as well. So, we decided to order little pouches and a bunch of silver coins. That might be an understatement. We planned for 500 kids, so we ordered 15,000 silver coins. Let me tell you, 15,000 of anything is a crazy! It was awesome. We had a treasure chest box, so we filled it to overflowing with the pouches easily accessible to the sides.

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Here’s the idea we went with. Judas had a weakness… money. For him he had a price and that happened to be 30 pieces of sliver. The scriptures state that there may have been some things that happened that week that were outside Judas’ control (that’s a completely different conversation), but I’m convinced that things happened the way that they did with Judas because of a an area of sin that he didn’t have under control. The love and temptation of money was too much for him to handle.

As families entered the room, our hosts (who were a cross between used car salesmen and game show hosts) interacted with everyone. The promised money (silver coins) to perform various actions in front of the crowd. Many kids did the chicken dance for a few pieces of plastic, several adults recited all the words they knew to variou 80’s hits. It was fun, but then the point was made that in the same way we can all be convinced to do something embarrassing or funny, Judas was temped to do something unspeakable, and he did it.

Kids went into the tent, grabbed a pouch and counted out 30 pieces of silver. Once they got their coins, they had time to read through the passport page about this station and discuss the questions.

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