The 8 Life Skills All 18 Year Olds Should Have: A Checklist For Parents by Julie Lythcot-Haims


If we want our kids to have a shot at making it in the world as 18-year-olds, without the umbilical cord of the cell phone being their go-to solution in all manner of things, they’re going to need a set of basic life skills.

Based upon my observations as dean, and the advice of parents and educators around the country, here are some examples of practical things they’ll need to know how to do before they go to college — and here are the crutches that are currently hindering them from standing up on their own two feet:

How to stop helicopter parenting and set your kids up for success.

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers — faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics—in the real world.

The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around a campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.

The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.

3. An eighteen-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it— sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a house hold.

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses and workloads, college- level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.

The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money.

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks.

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they’re calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.


4 Essential Strategies for Classroom Management by Jody Capehart for Children’s Ministry Magazine


Helpful disciplinary tips for teachers that’ll help increase joy and effectiveness in the classroom.

You love God and children. You feel called to teach and be enthusiastic about the year ahead. But now you find yourself faced with disruptive children. You don’t want to give up; you’re just frustrated beyond belief.

This probably sounds familiar. Most children’s ministry teachers or volunteers have the passion and the right attitude, but relatively few are equipped for when the “little angels” behave less than angelically.

Unfortunately, that leaves many formerly upbeat teachers ready to throw in the towel.

How can you prevent discipline problems from diminishing your effectiveness and joy? Here’s a bounty of practical pointers from my 40 years in children’s ministry.


Ground your discipline strategy in God’s Word. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Children usually don’t view discipline as training in right living, though. They often interpret strictness as meanness. Although the former is okay, the latter is never appropriate.

A discipline policy is really a discipleship process that allows us to demonstrate Jesus’ love. Although we may not like everything children do each moment, we always love them. They need to hear and feel that from us often.

Adults’ character and conduct are very contagious to children, who learn more from how we act than what we say. So it’s important to respond in a Christian manner rather than react in the flesh. When we adults rely on God to model respect, manners, concern for others, and a gentle spirit, we teach volumes.

Discipline is far more effective when you move slowly and quietly, praying for God’s guidance. Prayer is the Christian version of “counting to 10.” It slows down our human reactions, puts things in proper perspective, and gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. In our weakness, God can use us to glorify him.


Don’t wait until problems arise to create a discipline plan. Teacher training needs to include details about how to handle common behavioral problems-and when to seek help for the “bigger” issues as well. Try these steps.

Set ground rules. I’ve found that three simple rules work well for children of all ages: 1. When you want to talk, raise your hand and wait to be called on. 2. When someone else is talking, be quiet. 3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself unless you have permission. If you teach young children, you may need to repeat these three guidelines every week. Establish a clear discipline process. I recommend this simple three-step approach. The first time children violate a rule, walk to them and quietly tell them the rule. In other words, assume they have rule amnesia, which is prevalent in childhood. State the desired behavior first; for example, “We use our hands to love and help, not hit.” For a second violation, walk to children and ask them what the rule is in your room. For a third violation, have an immediate consequence related to the misbehavior. Develop logical consequences. The purpose of a consequence is to retrain the brain and transform the heart. Training through discipline requires that the deed and consequence be logically related and that it occurs right away. The consequence helps children see that their choices determined what happened. This brings accountability into the picture.

Consequences must maintain children’s dignity. Respond only to the current misbehavior and don’t bring up a long list of past offenses. Instead of saying, “You always…” or “You never…,” simply say, “Because you’ve chosen to do this behavior, this is the consequence.”

For example, if children talk rudely and inappropriately, they must find a nice way to say the same thing. If children hurt someone else, they must do something kind for him or her. Connected, immediate consequences can lead to significant changes in children’s behavior.


Although rules need to remain consistent, it’s also important to factor personalities into the equation. Children often hear rules through the grid of their God-given personalities.

For a strong-willed child who may evolve into a discipline problem without guidance, preface a desired behavior in words that empower; for example, “You can be in charge of cleaning up the block center.” Fun-loving children may be busy talking with their friends and forget the rules. They usually respond well to warm, loving words about something enjoyable. You might say, “I wonder if we can get our centers all cleaned up by the time I count to 10? Then we’ll have time to play a game.” Otherwise calm, peace-loving children may have problems making transitions between experiences. They respond best when you provide warnings and time to respond. For example, “In five minutes, we’ll move on to our centers.” Perfectionists may have trouble because they get stuck emotionally or can’t do something just right. They usually respond well to encouragement. You could say, “I know you’re upset that those colors don’t match, but it’s a very detailed drawing. I’m sure your mom will want to hang it up when you get home.”


Sometimes the more we use our voices while trying to discipline, the less effective they become. In other words, when we talk too much, children begin to tune us out. Instead, use these techniques.

Offer focused attention. Ever noticed that children seem to act up whenever you’re crunched for time, short on help, or expecting a classroom guest? Children are very sensitive to our moods and can tell when we’re under the most pressure. If you ignore or isolate them-or, even worse, yell at them-the problems escalate and no one wins. The best solution is to stop and give children your undivided attention or, if they’re young, simply hold them.

Move slowly and maintain eye contact. Look into children’s eyes and truly focus on them, just as Jesus did. Avoid turning your back on a child you’ve just disciplined; otherwise, you may inadvertently set yourself up for round two.

Act detached from the deed, not from the children. Don’t take children’s misbehaviors personally. Pretend you’re trying to win an Academy Award in detachment. As you begin acting that way, you’ll actually start feeling that way.

When you do speak, pray that God will give you the right words and the right tone of voice. Our voices tend to go up when we’re upset, which makes it harder for children to take us seriously. Instead, stair-step your voice down and use visual clues along with your words. As you state what you want children to do, nod your head and smile. As you state what you don’t want them to do, shake your head “no.”

Close the matter properly. Verify whether children understand you. Then ask kids to apologize to others involved, realizing that they may not. Don’t force apologies; repentance is a learned skill. Even so, it’s important to set forth the expectation that kids will apologize when they’ve hurt someone. Train children in the habit of apologizing and trust God to change their hearts.

Keep your sense of humor. Humor is an important principle of discipline because it helps us put things into perspective. Often we have to step back, take a few deep breaths, and pray that God will show us the lighter side of a situation. With little children who are squirmy and inattentive, you could say, “Did you eat wiggle worms for breakfast? I know you must’ve had silly cereal!” With older kids, you could say, “Is this my life, or am I in a TV show-because I’m ready for a commercial break!” Humor isn’t for kids only; it helps us see the funny side, too.

When your ministry has an established, loving discipline strategy, children feel secure and are able to learn more. And teaching becomes a joy, not a chore.


3 Ways You Can Be the Church for Millennials by Carryl Tinsley


Every other day there seems to be a new article or another opinion about why Millennials are leaving the church and how to stop it. But, is the problem actually being addressed?

Picture a student who has grown up in your church, going to Sunday School, participating in Bible studies, and eventually leading a small group. But soon, it is time for this student to graduate, and she decides to go to a small, liberal arts school. She sits in her first college religion class, unsuspecting of the world-shattering things she is about to learn.

Was all the time she spent sitting in the pews in your church preparing her for this environment of challenge and doubt? If not, how can we better prepare Millennials for this challenge they will most likely face in their future?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Give us real answers to our very real questions. 

We’ve all heard the classic “because I said so” answer from parents. But, all too often, this is the answer we receive when we ask difficult questions in church communities. When a spiritual leader answers a challenging question with a simple, “that’s what the Bible says,” it is a conversation stopper. What could you say instead that would encourage conversation further?

2. Teach us how to study the Bible in an objective way.

When the Bible is dumbed down to a “Pinterest version” or made to fit into the 140 character Twitter limit, Scripture loses its value. So, teach us how to study. Teach us about the places where Paul seems to contradict himself and how to make sense of it. Teach us how to value Scripture and use it as the Lord intended.

3. Engage in difficult conversations with us. 

According to a Pew Research study in May 2015, 35% of Millennials do not identify with a religion. These numbers may not be shocking to you, but that 35% of Millennials is double the number of unaffiliated Baby Boomers (17%) and more than three times the number of members of the Silent generation (11%).

Does this scare you? Because it scares me, and I know we are not going to get anywhere with the easy answers and clean truth. We need to dig into the messy places. We need to challenge the accepted norms. This is not an easy process for Millennials. There is learning and growing and doubting that needs to take place, and having someone like you walk alongside us in that could be all we need.

So, how will you welcome this dialogue among Millennials in your church? How will you take on the challenge? Culture is shifting, and “equipping the saints” to do ministry is as important as ever. It just may look differently than it did last decade.


7 Non-Negotiables for Effective Spiritual Leaders by Perry Noble


As I have been thinking through my personal leadership journey lately and trying to figure out who God has called me to be and what He’s called me to do…I have narrowed my focus down to seven areas that I believe are essential for effective leadership in the church.

I’m not talking about false excitement over an event that you would not attend if you were not on the payroll at the church, but rather raw, unfiltered, emotional and unapologetic passion…a white hot fire inside that consumes, controls and configures us into who Jesus has called us to be and what He’s called us to do!

Be warned — passionate people make for easy targets because no one has to guess what they stand for! However, passion, if handled correctly, can be one of the best friends a leader can have.


One of the first verses I ever memorized was Galatians 1:10. I remember reading it and feeling like it literally jumped off the page…and something inside of me kept screaming, “You are going to need this verse for yourself if you are going to be truly successful in ministry.”

A true leader in church would understand that God is our Leader…and in a passionate pursuit to please Him you and I will often disappoint people. We can’t please committee’s and Christ-a choice must be made.


James 1:5 has been a verse that I have also had to cling to as a leader. What a promise!

God has called us to wisdom…so, as leaders, I feel that we need to be doing as much as possible to learn. That means going to conferences, reading books, and not being afraid to meet with and learn from people who “aren’t like us!”
What are you personally doing right now to grow and develop yourself as a leader? To add to your wisdom?

I am in the process of connecting with other church leaders. In the past several weeks I’ve been involved in numerous learning environments with people who know SO MUCH MORE than me…and God has used each experience to shape me in an awesome way.

If all we tell our people is what we know and we lead out of our limited knowledge, never seeking wisdom from others or God — then we will raise up some very shallow people.


I don’t think the tag “leader” should be put on anyone who hasn’t had to make tough decisions on a consistent basis. I once heard Andy Stanley say that a leader isn’t necessarily the first person to see an opportunity, but rather the first person to act on what they see. So true! There are lots and lots of people who see what is wrong with the world, church, etc…however, very few are actually willing to do anything about it.

Leaders step up and make the hard calls…even when it’s unpopular. On a side note — courage is NOT the absence of fear! There have been so many situations in my leadership journey at NewSpring Church that have just about caused me to pee my pants! However, courage is KNOWING what God has called you to…and then DOING it…not knowing the outcome…but KNOWING who is in control of the outcome!


This is a tough one because…well…one cannot actually brag that they are humble! 

Too many times in the past I know that this was a quality that was NOT in me! I wanted the credit for all of “my ideas!” If something went right and I was involved-I wanted people to know about it. If an element of service programming went well and it was my idea…I took the credit. And then one day I had a conversation with John Maxwell that ROCKED MY WORLD…he said to me,

“Perry, you are where you are for two reasons. The first is the favor of God. The second is the giftedness of God. And Perry, please understand that God didn’t owe you either of these. You are where you are because of Him!”

DANG! When it comes right down to it, I don’t have good ideas — God gives them to me. I don’t have the ability to think or act…OR LEAD…unless HE leads me! John 15:5 is SO true…and I have no right to boast in anything that I feel like I accomplish!

If a leader doesn’t care who gets the credit…but is obsessed with God getting the glory-awesome things can happen!


One of the things the corporate world has seen lately is a lack of integrity…and the lie that “this is my life and how I live it doesn’t really impact anyone else” has been exposed over and over and over again!

As leaders we’ve got to be honest with…

  • OURSELVES – how are you doing? Really? Can you keep up the pace you have right now? What changes need to be made?
  • OTHERS – is everyone around you doing a good job? Is there a tough conversation that needs to be had-but you won’t because you are afraid of the outcome?
  • GOD – Is life and ministry REALLY “all about Him?”


I once heard Ed Young say, “If you want to impress me as a leader-don’t tell me what you’re doing, tell me what you’re NOT doing!” DANG!

I think a leader who is worth his or her salt will admit that they are not good at everything…and as a result they will stop trying to be. Reality is that everyone of us only do a few things well…and our leadership will be maximized when we focus on what God has gifted us and called us to be rather than what everyone else in the church expects us to be! I can’t do everything…but I can do something…and the something that I can do…I will do!!!


Teens & Young Adults Use Porn More Than Anyone Else by Barna Group


Sex sells. Or, to put it in 21st century terms, sex gets clicks.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops have revolutionized the way people encounter images. Pictures and videos are easily accessible with one swipe or click; it takes very little effort to encounter sexually explicit content on apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Even mainstream media is infused with sexualized images and ideas—one needs only to see an Axe commercial, a primetime Miley Cyrus performance or a “reality” show like The Bachelor for confirmation.

This “pornification” of popular culture means younger generations are coming of age in a hypersexualized cultural ecosystem. They, in turn, tend to be more open to sexual experimentation and self-expression—leading to further social acceptance of sexually explicit content. One cannot help but wonder where this self-perpetuating feedback loop will end.

For a landmark study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, Barna Group interviewed American teens, young adults and older adults about their views on and use of pornography. Among many notable findings, researchers discovered that teens and young adults have a more cavalier attitude toward porn than adults 25 and older. In addition, young adults ages 18 to 24 seek out and view porn more often than any other generation. Continue reading


4 Cultural Characteristics That Make Discipleship an Uphill Battle by Michael Kelley


One of the primary terms the Bible uses to describe our relationship with Jesus is the word “walk.” It’s a good word; it has the connotation of a forward progression. We aren’t meant to have a stagnant relationship with our Lord; instead, we are making forward progress in intimacy and obedience.

But there are certain characteristics of our culture that make this walk seem like it’s going uphill. These are attributes that are so infectiously true of the environment we live in that they inevitably work their way into our own lives just because we are humans at this given place and at this given time. Unfortunately, though, these cultural characteristics are also obstacles to discipleship, this long walk in the same direction with Jesus. It’s important, then, for us, the people of the walk on the way to recognize some of the factors that make this walk so arduous sometimes.

1. The craving for immediacy.

We live in the culture of now, and because we do, we are the people of now. My children’s generation is the first generation that don’t know a life without the internet, that don’t know what it means to have to do slow research in paper books or even wait for the regularly scheduled time for a TV program. We are a microwave people living in a microwave world. And that craving for immediacy in all things runs against discipleship, which is by its very nature a long, long road.

I love how Psalm 84 describes this long road: Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5). Note particularly that he didn’t say that our hearts are set in a sprint or a stroll; rather, our hearts are on pilgrimage. It’s a long journey together with Jesus.

2. The avoidance of adversity.

We live in a culture that will do almost anything to alleviate pain, difficulty, or adversity. When we meet with things like adversity, we simply leave the relationship, we quit the job, or we walk away from the challenge. We like to be really good really quickly, and if we don’t have that instant gratification, we are likely to turn the other way and try to escape.

But adversity is one of God’s most effective crucibles for spiritual growth. Indeed, James said that without adversity, we will never truly grow into maturity:

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

The stance of rejoicing instead of escaping is counter-intuitive to most everyone in the world today. But for those committed to the walk of spiritual growth, it’s absolutely essential.

3. The crowding of messages.

Whether you know it or not, you are constantly being marketed to. TV, billboards, radio – these are only the obvious ones. But everywhere, all the time, someone is trying to get a message into you. But that’s okay because we have conditioned ourselves to be able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. But this division of focus runs contrary to the single-minded disciple who is seeking the kingdom of God. The writer of Hebrews described this focus like this:

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Notice what we are being to told to throw off so that we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus: There is the sin that easily trips us up, of course, but there are also apparently other things that might not necessarily be sin, but nonetheless can serve as weights around our ankles in the walk of discipleship. Whether a seemingly innocent distraction or a downright sin, they both must be thrown off so that we might have an uncrowded pursuit of Him.

4. The complicating of process.

We love processes in our culture, don’t we? And many times, the more complex the process is the better. It seems that the most complicated we make something the better we feel when we finally accomplish it. That’s also true in church many times.

We have all kinds of metrics and all kinds of measures and all kinds of processes to go through, all designed to produce and measure spiritual growth. While many of these might have their merits, it does seem that we have, at times, very much complicated the issue. Discipleship is a matter of seeking to know God through prayer and His Word and do what He says.

Know Him and follow Him. That’s it. Everything else is an aid to that simple, core message.

We live in a culture that is immediate, adversity-adverse, crowded, and overcomplicated. Here, too, as disciples of Jesus, we are meant to be salt and light. We are meant to stand distinct from this pattern as we walk with Him, even if that means we are going uphill for a while.


Tipping Faith Points by Stephanie Martin for Children’s Ministry Magazine


Tipping faith points can cause a child’s faith to go tumbling. Here’s how you can model Christ’s love to children upended by crisis.

Children’s ministry, like children’s lives, is more than just fun and games. When life throws weighty issues at little ones, their balance of faith can tip dangerously away from God. These tipping faith points can leave children vulnerable and questioning.

And you’re in the perfect position to help them find equilibrium when they’re tipping. When children are tottering on the brink and doubting Gods love for them, your main message of the scope of Gods love gives them stability.

Children’s Ministry Magazine spoke with several experts to discover what puts kids faith at risk and how you can help restore balance.

Heavy Burdens
The loss of a parent, through death or divorce, is the top stressor for children. Other biggies include abuse or neglect, illness or physical trauma, unemployment, frequent moves, death of any family member or pet, a new extended family, racism, and exposure to violence or threats.

But many seemingly lesser incidents can also trigger a faith crisis, says Kevin Lawson, director of doctoral programs in educational studies at California’s Talbot School of Theology. These incidents include not receiving a positive answer to prayers, being ridiculed for faith or Christian behaviors, and even discovering that Santa Claus isn’t real.

I suspect more children have a faith crisis from these lesser things than from the more traumatic ones, especially if their parents and church teachers don’t seem open to their questions and doubts, Lawson says. This can start at a young age 6 or 7.

At the heart of trauma is broken trust in some form, says Judy Medeiros, administrative director at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. Showing children that the adults in their life are trustworthy can prevent lifelong unresolved emotions, fear, and mistrust.

Any tipping faith point can have deep, lasting impacts on a child’s development. Five affected areas include:

  1. Perception of God–Children are trying to determine what God is like and whether he’s loving and protecting. Lawson says major events challenge children’s basic understanding of a God who cares for them and is watching out for their good. The danger, he says, is that children may conclude that God doesn’t love them enough to act or that God doesn’t exist. Pennsylvania children’s pastor Larry Shallenberger points out that many traumas involve children’s parents which affect kids view of God. That’s significant, he says, because we know that children develop their sense of what God is like from interactions with their parents.
  2. Formation of Faith–Crises threaten the developing faith of younger children who haven’t been exposed to spiritual struggles yet. Alice Bell-Gaines, a children’s pastor in California, says Sunday school teachers often use their limited time with children to focus on Gods goodness. Were so sensitive to their young minds and emotions that we don’t go in-depth into the wickedness of the devil and the ways he tries to steal, kill, and destroy, she says. This, combined with limited processing abilities, can put a roadblock in children’s spiritual paths because they think if God is good, then only good things will happen to them.
  3. Perception of the World–Loss can make children view the world as unfair and unjust, says Medeiros, who is also the author of Through My Eyes: A Child’s Journal Through Illness. Exposure to violence, Medeiros says, undermines children’s ability to form trusting relationships with the world around them and the adults to whom they turn for safety.
  4. Healthy Emotions and Relationships–Stressors create emotional static by triggering the release of brain chemicals that make relational connections more difficult, says Shallenberger. And what is spirituality anyway but friendship with God? he points out.
  5. Developmental Challenges–Potential risks vary according to a child’s age. Lawson says kids are especially vulnerable during two major cognitive and social transitions: (1) when moving from intuitive to concrete thinking and entering school (roughly ages 6 to 8), and (2) when moving from concrete to more formal thinking and entering adolescence (roughly ages 10 to 13).
    When children are part of any family crisis, they feel as out-of-control as adults do. This leads to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, Medeiros says. On the other hand, when children feel included and their abilities are recognized, she says, they learn to cope with what life throws them and develop resourcefulness and a sense of competency.

Recognizing Tipping Points
To help children in need, you must be tuned into their lives and changing situations. By incorporating the following six keys into your children’s ministry, you’ll more easily notice any threats.

  1. Listen and talk. Make time to listen to children, and invite conversation regarding their fears or wonderings about God, advises Lawson. Listening helps us discern if there may be something bothering a child or something troubling her as she thinks about her relationship with God.
  2. Ask for prayer requests. Bell-Gaines remembers visiting her church’s 3-year-old classroom and inviting children to pray. I was amazed at the raised hands and the prayer requests that followed, she says. I prayed a very simple prayer for each need, letting children know that God heard our voices and will take care of those needs.
  3. Watch behaviors. There’s generally little guesswork that something’s bothering children, says Medeiros. As they’re primarily sensory beings, behaviors will be the first evidence that something’s wrong. Watch for defiance or aggression, sadness or withdrawal, regression, diminished interest, and attendance changes.
  4. Make time for kids. Children’s ministries must have the time and personnel to allow children free access to caring adults who will take their questions and concerns seriously, Lawson says. We need to build in relational time off task to give ministry leaders access to the inner lives of children as they’re willing to share it.
  5. Ask questions. Building a relational ministry is crucial to staying in touch with children’s lives, says Shallenberger, who is also the author of Instant Puppet Skit’s: Big, Hairy Issues Kids Face (Group Publishing, Inc.). Create sharing times where kids can talk about their weeks, he says. Throughout a lesson, ask feeling questions to get children used to talking about their emotions before the hard times come.
  6. Consult parents. Conversation and brainstorming with caregivers helps provide insight into what may be causing the trauma, says Medeiros. Establishing a relationship with parents early on helps you more easily turn to them for advice when their children are struggling.

Setting Kids on Solid Ground
Responses to an event can often be more influential than the event itself. Because children are still developing, they’re profoundly impacted by the behaviors of the adults around them, says Medeiros. How we relate to children may well affect how they view the church and God for the rest of their lives.

When responding to a crisis, remember to:

  1. Stay shock-proof. When a child reveals a trauma or stressor, remain calm. Children look to adults for emotional cues on how to react, says Shallenberger. If you react with shock, pity, or horror, you’re letting children know something’s wrong and they’ll assume they’re out of whack.
  2. Give love and acceptance. Medeiros advises always keeping in mind, How am I reflecting the image of God to this child? Reassuring children you love them no matter what they’re going through models Gods unconditional love. Tell them they’re not to blame for what’s happening.
  3. Seek help, if necessary. Children’s ministers volunteer and staff are mandated reporters in cases of suspected or disclosed abuse. Shallenberger recommends consulting your pastor for advice in this situation. If you sense you’re in over your head, get help, he says. Don’t play therapist.

What Kids Need Most

  1. Help Kids Feel Loved and Reassured The most immediate needs are loving and nurturing people to help children process the event and feel that there’s hope and a solution, says Bell-Gaines. They need to know they’re not alone. Because children fear God is punishing them for doing something wrong, says Lawson, it’s crucial for them to hear and experience the love of others to be reassured of Gods love for them.
  2. Help Kids Feel Safe During a crisis, Shallenberger says, children’s big questions include, Is someone looking out for me? and Who’s going to take care of me? A stable environment and consistent relationships with caring adults are crucial for children as events happen around them, Lawson says. For the long-term, says Bell-Gaines, children need to know they have a safe place to go and some form of structure where they’ll know what to do every day, such as school, home, church, and activities.
  3. Help Kids Feel Understood Once children know they’re safe, Shallenberger says, they need to know they’re being understood that a caring adult understands their emotions. Adults must be willing to talk about the trauma, not deny or keep it a secret, or placate a child with false information, only making matters worse, Medeiros says. Adults also must confirm children’s perceptions, meet them exactly where they are, and remember that children may lack the language and processing skills to share what’s bothering them, she says.
  4. Help Kids Grieve When children face loss, Lawson says, they need someone to grieve with them, they need to know that grieving is okay, and they need to know they’re not experiencing this alone. Don’t try to cheer them up too soon, but cry with them and love them, he says. Sharing a verse of hope can be appropriate, but don’t make children feel guilty for grieving.
  5. Give Kids a Support System Children who are surrounded by loving adults get through tough times better than children who don’t have healthy, extensive support systems, says Shallenberger, noting that Sunday school teachers can play important roles. All children — especially those facing difficulties at a young age need a sense of belonging to a caring group, says Bell-Gaines. Provide mentors who will stay with children for a long time, who will spend time with them and be honest with them.

Shoring Up Children’s Needs
Your staff can provide a bulwark against tipping faith points by helping children in the following ways:

  • Pray, and teach prayer. Because we often lack the wisdom to know how to help children, Lawson says, prayer for them and ourselves is essential. Often, insight comes over time as we bring these needs to our Father, he says. Medeiros says teaching prayer should be a children’s ministry’s #1 priority because it’s so empowering. Even a two-word prayer such as Help, Jesus! can comfort a child, she says.
  • Provide extra attention. During group activities, encourage struggling children to fully participate, and give extra attention and hugs as needed, Lawson says. Remind little ones that God is loving and faithful even when we cant see or understand it, he adds.
  • Have a relational classroom. Children’s ministry workers can make a huge impact on helping children developing their relational repertoire, says Shallenberger. He recommends creating prayer groups and helping children connect with the emotions of people in the Bible. Identifying and expressing ones emotions is an important skill for children to develop before a crisis erupts, he says.
  • Get kids talking. Games and activities can reveal what children are thinking, feeling, perceiving, deciding, and experiencing, says Medeiros. The more we know about their internal world, the more effective we can be in our pastoral care. She recommends playing Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down (children agree or disagree with statements such as “People get sick because they’re bad”), Sentence Completions (children finish statements such as “I get scared when…”), and Draw a Feeling (children draw faces to match emotions).
  • Reach out. Check in with children during the week, and let them know you’re available to talk. Lawson suggests meeting on a regular basis until a crisis passes, sending notes reminding children of your love and prayers, and giving your cell phone number for when children feel their worst.
  • Share your story. Sharing your own faith challenges, losses, or crises can greatly encourage a child who’s feeling doubt or guilt or loss of hope, says Lawson. He recommends telling a child, Sometimes I don’t know what to say when I pray because something hurts too much. So I just tell God that, and he says that’s okay; he understands. (See the Big, Hairy Issues sidebar for more ideas of what to say and not to say.)
  • Watch for relapses. During each major developmental stage, children often emotionally and spiritually revisit a past trauma, Shallenberger says. They’ll need to rethink what they believe about God, their parents, and themselves as their capacity to understand the events changes, he says. Be prepared for this rehashing of old wounds, and minister to children at each particular stage.

Don’t give up on children who’ve experienced a tipping faith point, says Shallenberger. Little ones are incredibly resilient, and, with the right support system, will regain equilibrium.

When in doubt about how to handle a tough situation, follow Bell-Gaines advice: Let the fruit of the Spirit continually be the guide of how we treat the children. They’re so trusting of what we say, and we must be careful to use words of encouragement and hope at all times.

Big, Hairy Issues

Because your responses to children in crisis are so crucial, weave collected examples of both hurtful and uplifting statements.

What Not to Say

  • God took your mom because he needed her in heaven. She’s happy there now. (This makes God the enemy, says Professor Kevin Lawson.)
  • If you’re good, God will help you and you’ll see your mom again someday.
  • Don’t cry. Be a big boy/girl.
  • Don’t cry. Instead, trust God. Things will be okay.
  • You should feel…
  • Sometimes God lets these things happen to test our faith. (Children’s pastor Larry Shallenberger says, Gods wisdom is often hidden from us for years after a traumatic event if he chooses to reveal it at all.)

What to Say

  • Mommy is with God.
  • When you give your heart to Jesus, you’ll see Mom again. (Explain what that entails in an age-appropriate way.)
  • It’s okay to miss Mom. God gave us a time to cry and remember people we love. (Children’s pastor Alice Bell-Gaines then suggests gently reminding children that God also gives us joy to remember the funny things [he/she did] and asking Do you remember any of those things?)
  • I’m so sorry.
  • I love you and care about you and so does God.
  • This didn’t happen because you were bad.
  • I don’t know why this is happening, but God still cares for you and comforts you.
  • Whenever you’d like to talk about it, Id love to listen.
  • Can I call you this week to see how you’re doing? Maybe we can get some ice cream and talk.
  • Ill be praying for you this week. (Do so, remind the child you’re doing so, and follow up, says Lawson. Tell him how you specifically prayed for him.)


Dear Youth Pastor: I Don’t Want Your Job by Danette Matty


Dear Youth Pastor,

I don’t want your job—I just want to do mine. Thought I’d throw that out there.

Don’t get me wrong—I know you have one of the best jobs in the church. You seem to have more fun than other staff members. I won’t tell them you told me.

I know some volunteers wish they could do what you do. They want to invest in this generation, and they feel called to vocational ministry. They want to learn as much about youth ministry as you’re willing to teach them. But that’s not me. I already have a job I love. I take youth ministry seriously, but it’s not my vocational call.

As a volunteer with a life and limited free time, one of my top needs is for my youth director to make it worth my while to show up. While it’s not what I want to do full time, I do want the few hours I spend doing youth ministry to be time well spent. Youth Pastor, this is for your sake and mine, but—even more—it’s for the students we both care about.

There are three ways you can keep me loyal to your team:


Hold a training for all your volunteers at least once a quarter, if not monthly. I don’t care if you’re 20 years my junior—show me you want me to grow and that you believe I can. You can do something as simple as print out a great article from a youth ministry magazine or online resource. Highlight your favorite points. Hand out copies and tell us why it matters. Then tell us how to implement what we just talked about.


Now and then remind me that you notice my sacrifice of time, emotion, and energy. Don’t just thank me for being there—thank me for the praying and mentoring I do outside of our weekly meetings. Catch me being awesome, and tell me you notice. I’m not going to get tired of that.


Give me permission and opportunities to minister within my capacity, personality, and talent. I won’t do things exactly like you do . . . and that should be okay. Release me to lead, teach, or plan as merather than as a caricature of you.

Thanks, Pastor. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, not only do I not want your job, I don’t think I could do it better than you do. I appreciate you more than you know.


A grateful volunteer


How to Minister to Kids in Crisis When You Don’t Have a Counseling Degree by Donald Welch for Children’s Ministry Magazine


You don’t have to be a mental health professional to help troubled children — you only need a deep commitment to Jesus and kids, and a whole lot of empathy…

Imagine your Sunday school class — all the kids are engaged in the lesson, intently focused on what Joseph’s father is going to do to him after the way he’s behaved. Then suddenly, your reverence-filled room disintegrates into chaos. Elizabeth — who’s experiencing some challenges outside of class — slaps Pedro in the back of the head and calls him stupid. Some kids giggle, but others fidget uncomfortably — they wanted to find out what happened to Joseph. A volunteer scrambles toward Elizabeth, hoping to stop yet another out-of-control impulsive outburst. After the dust settles, you see Elizabeth smiling and looking oh-so-proud of what she’s created.

I’ve encountered kids with a lot in common with Elizabeth in my time in children’s ministry. In fact, an established “troublemaker” was one of my first assignments when I signed on as a volunteer.

As a marriage and family therapist and professor, I thought I knew the necessary skills for working with troubled children. Why, I’ve helped dozens of families work through issues in family therapy, I thought. It’ll be a piece of cake.

But some of these lads frosted my personal experiences and professional expertise. I had to dig deep into my pockets of patience and creativity for skills that would work with troubled children. From temper outbursts to overtly unbecoming behavior — you name it, I experienced it. And I’ll tell you what, I now express my respect and appreciation more openly to children’s ministry volunteers — the unsung heroes of our churches.

What do you do when you know a child is hurting or doesn’t fit in with the other kids? If a child is suffering because of a physical or emotional challenge — or both — where do you turn? And how do you know whether the challenges are beyond your resources?

You can make powerful connections in kids’ lives, even when they’re burdened with emotional, physical, and social problems. You don’t have to be a mental health professional to help troubled children — you only need a deep commitment to Jesus and kids, and a whole lot of empathy.

Here are three profound principles I’ve learned in my journey as a children’s ministry volunteer and professional counselor: Continue reading


3 Things That Influence How Kids Use Social Media Today by Jacob Eckeberger


1. We live in a world with no technological boundaries.

In my generation, we grew up with some really firm boundaries on our technology. Phones had cords that plugged into walls. The internet was only available through dial-up. Big box televisions were the only way to watch TV shows. Those literal boundaries around our technology helped us come to understand who we were outside of it. Today, there are zero boundaries to our technology. This constant, 24/7 access to technology leaves a huge impact on our kids, inviting things like social media to become an important part of their personal, mental, and sociological development.

2. Social media becomes a window through which we see and experience the world around us.

This means that apps like Instagram aren’t merely used to post pictures. Instagram becomes a window through which we answer important questions like: Who am I? Where do I fit in? Does my life matter?

We aren’t just consuming answers to those questions through the images we see on Instagram, we’re actually creating our responses. We create images to tell stories of our daily life and then compare it to what everyone else is creating. This is a significant thing for kids who are just starting to figure out who there are and where/if they fit in.

3. The fallacy that everything on line is temporary.

Darrel Girardier shared a GREAT POST that touched on this. Apps like Snapchat tap into this idea that content on the internet can be easily deleted. But we know from experience (SNAPCHAT LEAKS 100,000 PHOTOS) that it’s not always the case. Once we post something, we have very little control over what happens to it.


1. Recognize that the issue isn’t the technology, but how that technology is used.

Most of the technology available to our kids today, and specifically things like social media, aren’t necessarily evil. It’s all in how the technology is used. When we give our kids a smart phone, we’re giving them technology that comes with a ton of responsibility. We can’t protect our kids from all the bad ways that this technology can be used, but we can help them live into the incredible amount of responsibility that they’ve been given. To borrow from Walt Mueller, it’s all apart of helping students think critically and Christianly about what they post before they post it.

2. Create boundaries around technology.

Sit down as a family to create blackout times and locations in your house where every screen is turned off, and the phones and tablets are put away. Have family game nights, or dinner times when you intentionally connect with one another. Buy an old fashioned alarm clock to have in your room so that you don’t need your phone at night.

3. Be the example.

Ideally, parents would be modeling healthy uses of technology for their kids. So set boundaries that your entire family can agree on. That way, as a parent, you can be the first one to step away from your phone or tablet. By being the example, you can show what a healthy relationship with technology looks like.