I ended yesterday with the introduction of my vision talk to my church staff.
I asked the question, “what would Gateway look like if Next Gen didn’t exist?” I knew what their answers would be. You do too. It actually generates a lot of laughter. We imagine a chaotic place. Kids running everywhere. We imagine a noisy auditorium with squealing kids. Maybe even roaming gangs of Middle Schoolers roughing people up in the parking lot. These were some of the things people said. One person said, “we’d have a lot less people.”
After I got a handful of predictable answers, I let them in on the secret. I told them that the question was a set up. I expected their answers. Why? Because most people have preconceived notions about ministry to young people and I was playing toward that notion. I then said, “If your initial thoughts and answers about what Gateway would look like without Next Gen was about how its absence would affect the general adult experience, you’ve missed the point entirely.” Nearly every answer was in the context of how the adult service would be affected or about how the experience would not be attractive to adults. This lead me to my first point:
Next Gen is Strategic, Vital and Urgent…
I began telling the staff about George Barna and how he wrote a book on accident. I told how he was doing research and the results lead him to see something he’d never seen before. He had an epiphany. This expert more than 25 years of experience of studying everything about the church had a life-altering realization that caused him to write a book about it. You know the book. Transforming Children int Spiritual Champions. Unfortunately, no one read this book. Let’s be real honest. One of the most influential people in the church today wrote a book about his biggest epiphany and this is what the book looks like?
Reality check. No one is going to read this book but Children’s Pastors. That’s unfortunate. However, I shared the first couple of quotes from Barna about his realization… how he missed the boat and the ocean. I then gave some of the stats about how most Christ followers come to faith while they are young people and set the stage for the punch to the gut.
So, if most people feel that the absence of Next Gen is bad becasue it would affect the adult experience… we missed the point entirely. A church with no Next Gen would be removing the most effective and efficient arm of evangelism in the Church (I used a big C becasue I wasn’t just talking about Gateway). Yes, a strong and effective church needs a good children’s and student ministry. But it’s not just about having a good Children’s Ministry for the sake of the rest of the church. It’s about having a great Children’s ministry becasue some of the greatest work of the Holy Spirit happening each weekend is happening in the Kids building. Period.
I wrapped up this point talking abut the Strategic, Vital and Urgent nature of Next gen. It’s strategic because this is the age when people are open to Christ. There’s no better time. Although Gateway excels in reaching lost adults (haft the church came to faith at Gateway) that doesn’t mean our biggest influx of new believers won’t still come from Next Gen. It’s Vital becasue the church does need a strong ministry to kids and students to bring in families. Last of all, it’s Urgent because if we don’t reach these kids before they hit the age of 13, statistically they probably won’t come to faith at all.
I ended this point be leading them into table discussion around this information. Next we’d hit our second point which was: Next Gen isn’t just about Kids and Students.
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Even though I am not a children’s minister, I am so incredbily interested in reading everything I can get my hands on about serving as one! Maybe God’s trying to tell me something….. Thank you so much for posting so much valuable information!
Okay, after re-reading the article, I must admit that I have often thought this to be true. I often thank God for giving me a Christian Mother that INSISTED I go to Church EVERY SINGLE WEEK (NO EXCUSES) – because when hard life happens, you eventually (some of us have to take a detour) know where to go! It’s so much easier to go BACK (then to try to FIND Him when you’re older).
Theresa, I’d recommend two books. The one I mentioned above… Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions does a really great job of setting the vision for Children’s Ministry in the church. It’s a great start. The second book would be Revolutionary Parenting. It’s a great tie in to the first book as it shows you how parents fit into the equation. After reading the first book you’ll get very excited about ministry to kids, but after reading the second book, you’ll see how urgent it is to develop parents because what we’re doing at the church isn’t nearly as important as what parents are doing in the home. Both books are by George Barna.
GREAT!!!! Love it. Love it, love it, love it.
I agree. All too often, people look at the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the children’s ministry as it relates to adult things. In leading early childhood/preschool leadership classes, I have often said this: We are doing important work. We are not just a parking lot for the kids while parents go and do important stuff. Thank you for your words.
I agree with you Scott – parenting is vitally important. However, I can tell you as a parent of a middle school daughter (UGH!) and a son that is now 26 years old – I can say something until I’m blue in the face and they don’t believe me! But…if YOU say it ONCE – they do!!!!! I appreciate the children’s ministry and the youth ministry more than words can ever describe.
And THANK YOU SO MUCH KENNY-I’m on my way to B&N right now! I use to work PT there, hopefully I can find one of my old friends to get their discount!
Merry Christmas – and thanks again for sharing this amazing information!
I’d recommend Amazon. I picked up both these books at the local Christian bookstore last week. They only had one copy of each (I needed a lot more) and I paid substantially more. Although I know that many feel good about supporting their local Christian Bookstores, I’ve got to be responsible with my own money, and paying 20% more doesn’t cut it for me. So I do recommend Amazon. Cheaper price and free shipping and usually never out of stock.