Why the Church Still Needs Youth and Children’s Ministries

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Should students (K-12) be separated from their parents at church? This is a question of much debate among some. Those who argue that separation is negative for the family believe children need to see their parents worship. They learn by imitation, and, the way our culture is heading, students and parents already spend a majority of time apart from each other doing their own thing. Besides, there is something special about parents worshiping alongside their children. I see value in that.

Yet, my experience with this says children are mostly bored with “adult” talk and don’t engage in this setting. I think having times where togetherness happens should be a part of every local church’s planning, but more than ever, our churches need strong children and youth ministries that are intentional about engaging students in ways that train them as Christian warriors. It is beneficial for students to be with their peers learning about Jesus and what that means for their lives. Adults need that alone time with their peers as well.

Every pastor to students (children and youth pastors) worth his salt longs to do family ministry. Pastors don’t want to be “all things spiritual” to students. They are burdened for parents to step up and be the spiritual leaders. They long to walk alongside them in training their child spiritually. They don’t want to replace the parent, but they are experts in understanding how students tick. They know their needs are different than adults, and they know how to engage minds and hearts in a way students understand. Instead of hoarding this knowledge, they desire to help parents better engage their children spiritually.

Yet, most parents see student ministry as a replacement rather than a supplement. “Teach my child spiritually because I am not doing it at home” is how many parents in the church are approaching their child’s spiritual life. This is not healthy!  Student pastors are aware of this and long to see parents wake up to the reality that they need to be the loudest voice spiritually in their child’s life.

Our children are under attack. Everywhere they turn, their inexperienced eyes are bombarded with temptation, immorality, cruelty, and wickedness of every kind. There is no debating this is only getting worse. It doesn’t matter if you send your kids to public school or homeschool; unless you lock them in a room and keep them away from all technology and outside influence, they will face these things to some degree. Even if you manage to shelter them from most of it, eventually they will step into the world as young adults. No matter what, they will face the realities of this wicked world.

Good student ministers intersect the Word with life on a level students get. These ministers speak honestly and boldly about temptations that will be faced and help students be prepared to stand against them. They are skilled and passionate and, therefore, effective at not only training students but also working alongside parents to train their children to be in the world but not of the world.  The best student ministers do not oppose family ministry but embrace it by seeking to influence parents to better engage their children with spiritual truth.

I see four ways that motivate student ministers in these tasks:

  1. Teach the Word to students in an engaging and practical way that students can apply to their lives.
  2. Teach students to serve the Kingdom now and not wait until adulthood (which usually means they probably won’t serve then either).
  3. Engage parents on what is happening in their ministry so parents can utilize the information in spiritual training of their children.
  4. Equip parents to be the spiritual leaders to their student at home.

Thriving student ministries have no desire to isolate students form their parents. Instead, they provide a valuable service of walking alongside intentional parents who long to see their children know God and make Him known. Rather than dismissing student ministries and bringing families together for the whole time at church, Christian parents need to catch a vision for their role as spiritual leaders to their children and embrace student ministries as a helpful reinforcement to their own efforts with their children. Our children need godly parents and godly student ministries. This will lead to children becoming mighty warriors for God.

 

Love Your Church Or Leave It

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Perhaps there is nothing more encouraging than to hear people talk lovingly about their church. Perhaps there is nothing more discouraging than to hear people tear down their church. Both of these statements ring true. Sure your church is not perfect. If you think it is you are either unaware of some things or you are in denial. Church is the people of Christ and where there are people, you will have brokenness and sin. But that in no way excuses us to speak negatively of Christ’s body.

If you can’t speak highly of your church then you need to do some soul searching. Maybe you are the issue. Maybe you are overly critical or you have an issue with one or two people and are judging the whole church on that. Maybe you only have half the story on a situation. Or if you are not the issue maybe your church has strayed from Christ and what He is about. If that is the case then you need to decide can you love it through this as you pray and influence it towards Christ? If not then it is time for you to find another church home that you can fully support. Venting your critical opinions to those in your community is Satan’s will for you. No way Christ is honored by it. It is a selfish act and hurts the kingdom.

Love your church. God sure does. Many of you do this well and I think God is glorified in you for it.

Here are a few specific ways you can express your love for your church.

Be honest with yourself and others that your church is not perfect.

When someone comes to me and says I know people in your church who do this or that, I do not collapse to the floor in devastation or lash out at those sinners. It confirms what I already know… people are sinful, including those who go to church. Like me, they are in process. I don’t defend sinful actions in our people but I do not condemn them or lose perspective that God is at work in them. I too am a work in process and don’t want to condemn them, in fear I would be condemned too.

Support your Leadership.

You should be an encouragement to your pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. They too are not perfect and will make mistakes. Show them grace. Defend them to the community. Support them in their efforts to lead the church in the will of God. If you can’t then I bet you know what I am going to say… Check your heart and motive and then make a decision to support or leave.

Maintain Perspective. It is the body of Christ.

Christ loves His church. He died for it. There are no circumstances where he wants you judging it. As head off the church, Christ will hold His church accountable. We need to let Him do that. We do well to remember that this imperfect group of people is very valuable to Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

Focus on the redeeming qualities of your church

I am sure there are many things about your church that are commendable. Areas where God’s hand is evident. This should be a focus of ours. Paul said to the church in Philippi… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8)

Buy fully into the vision of the church

Trust that your leadership has sought God and is following the vision He has given them through His word. If you are confident that this vision is not in accordance with His word then you should run from that church. I mean you are saying that they are not following God. The is a bold accusation! Be careful to make it.  Make sure you are not confusing worship style with vision or decor with vision or anything else that is not about the message.

When something happens that you can’t support then handle it biblically.

What if something happens at your church that you know is not biblical? If you have influence then approach the parties involved and directly speak to it. Don’t gossip about it or lash out in other ways. Go to that person(s) as we are instructed in Matthew 18. Bathe whatever action you are going to take in prayer. Make sure you go humbly and graciously. Trust God to lead you as you seek Him.

 

If we want the church to take notice of Christ then they must see that His body is healthy. Is there a greater witness to the lost than for them to hear you uplift your church? Love your church. They are your brothers and sisters. God demands that you love them if you are in the family.

LEADERS PUT RELATIONSHIPS OVER TASKS PRINCIPLE #1

If you are a leader and you desire to grow in effectiveness, this post is written for you. It does not matter if you manage a department store, oversee a big company, serve as a pastor, elder, or deacon, or simply lead your family, the principles here are universal in their effectiveness.

What is needed to be a leader? Follower(s). To be a leader it is assumed that there is at least one person following you. A leader with no followers is either delusion or rejected. So we cannot lead unless people are following us. And that gets to the heart of what I want to write about: Since leadership is about leading people, then relating well to our people is essential.

Principle #1: Leaders put relationships over tasks.

Now for you doers, you with laminated To-Do lists who get fulfillment out of checking off tasks on the list, let me say from the beginning that I am not anti-tasks nor do i think leaders ignore tasks. Tasks are necessary to function as a leader. Scheduling has to happen along with planning of numerous details. Those things cannot be neglected in order to go hang out with the people. Some jobs call for more tasks than others. So do levels of leadership. The higher you are in an organization the more you probably delegate.

But surely you task-masters  agree with me that relationships will always be vital to being a leader. If we are not constantly engaging corporately and individually with people we influence then we will see that influence wain. Tasks alone are not enough to maintain influence. Relationships are organic and must constantly be nurtured in some form or they will slowly wither away.

Strong leaders prioritize well. They know when tasks have to be the focus and they follow through but relationships are always high on the priority list. We can never get to far away from being intentional to connect with those we influence.

So what are strategic ways leaders can connect with people without it usurping all their time. Here are some practical ways you can be present with your people while maintaining boundaries that allow you to do the other tasks vying for your attention.

What I am looking for here are low cost, high reward solutions. There will be times when greater investment is needed but these are the week to week ideas that will keep you week connected with those you lead. Here are just three of many that I find effective.

1. Stock up on postcards— I have found that sending three or four notes in the mail to people in my circle of influence is low cost, high reward. I try to be strategic with who I send them too. My context is leading a church. For me, it might be a note to someone who has been out for awhile due to illness. I might send one to a leader in our church, thanking them for believing in the vision and investing in our people. I might send another to a new member who is looking to get acclimated and could use a greater connection with me.

If you just sent three notes a week then you would have reached 156 people. Now think for a moment about the number of other people in your operation that those 156 influence. The influence of your note should benefit them as well, even if indirectly. It’s hard to measure the value of sending a personal note to people we lead. For me it is priceless.

2. Smile and Acknowledge— It is common for people to wonder just how their leader feels about them. In an organization with several people, many leaders have very little opportunity for one on one contact with most of their people. That is especially true for my setting, a large church. But there are ways to bridge the gap without killing yourself to connect with so many.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. You probably will accuse me of exaggerating the effectiveness of this but it’s so easy, you should try it to see for yourself. The secret is to train yourself (if this does not come naturally for you) to smile, make eye contact, and acknowledge people directly in passing. When you see them in the hall, in the break room, in their office, in the parking lot, outside of work; wherever you see them, make eye contact, smile, and acknowledge that they exist in your world. If you don’t know there name then address them generically. In passing you can say things like: Good to see you, nice shirt, great job yesterday, have a great day, etc…

I assure you that taking the time to look them in the eye (that is crucial by the way), smile at them (not in a scary or stalker kind of way), and address them will go further with them than you know. I see results  from this personally. There are members in my church that I do not get to connect with except in passing but because I take time to smile, look them in the eye, and acknowledge them, I know they are connecting with me on a personal level.

Now one thing I will caution you on. Sincerity is key. If you do not like your people and have venomous thoughts towards them, then this will not fly. People are smarter than that. They will call you out usually behind your back. You have to really care about them. If it comes from a sincere place than this is a powerful tool. And it comes at a very low cost to you with great reward.

3) Don’t Be Scared To Listen— There is little that gives our people more affirmation that they are vital than when we really listen to what they have to say. I am blessed to work with pastors that are extremely talented. While I have the final say on many decisions here, I have found that taking the time to listen to their opinion is extremely beneficial. When they are heard, it communicates to them that they are valuable. Plus it earns respect because the truth about most leaders is while they are in charge, they are not experts in everything. It’s pride and insecurity that keep a leader from allowing others to give input. Leaders gain respect when they listen to others advice. It shows  humility, while at the same time affirms that person’s value. Confident leaders do not fear being influenced.

I have given you three strategies I use in connecting with those I lead. I would challenge you to try them to see if they do not bolster your connection with those who follow you. The more our people are connected to us, the greater our influence will be.

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