07.10.17

The Challenges Facing Young Christians by J. Warner Wallace

coldcasechristianity.com

Every other week, from May to August, I have the honor of speaking with students at Summit Worldview Academy. I typically teach on the nature of truth, the reliability of the gospels, and the evidence for God’s existence. The students are eager to learn and have many good questions. As I speak with these young men and women, I think about the many ways our kids are challenged from childhood through their college years:

They Are Challenged by the Media
Young Christians are challenged very early, beginning with their first exposure to television, movies and the internet. Much of the media is aligned against Christian values, and Americans spend about one-third of their free time, (more than the next 10 most popular leisure activities combined) watching some form of television. The messages communicated by television programming are often in direct opposition to the teaching of Christianity, and students are deeply impacted by what they absorb from the media. Two out of every three shows on television, for example, include sexual content (a dramatic increase over the past 15 years). 50% of the couples involved in sexual behavior in television programming are depicted in casual relationships (10% of these couples had just met, and 9% of television programs depict sexual behavior between teens). In a set of Kaiser Family Foundation studies, 76% of teens said that one reason young people have sex is because TV shows and movies “make it seem normal”. College students who were exposed to the many examples of sexual behavior on television were more likely to believe their peers engaged in those same activities.

They Are Challenged by Elementary and High School Programming
Make no mistake about it, when Christian values are attacked in the public education system, the basis for those beliefs (Christianity) is also attacked. Here in California, for example, comprehensive sexual health and HIV / AIDS instruction requires schools to teach students how to have “safe sex”. “Abstinence only” education is not permitted in California public schools. In addition, California schools cannot inform parents if their children leave campus to receive certain confidential medical services, including abortions. Classic Christian values related to sexuality (and marriage) are under attack in the public school system.

They Are Challenged by University Professors
Once students get to college, they are likely to encounter professors who are even more aggressive in their opposition to Christianity and Christian values. According to the Institute for Jewish and Community research, a survey of 1,200 college faculty members revealed 1 in 4 professors (25%) is an atheist or agnostic (compared with 4-5% in the general population). In addition, only 6% of university professors say the Bible is “the actual word of God”. Instead, 51% say the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history & moral precepts”. More than half of professors have “unfavorable” feelings toward Evangelical Christians. Charles Francis Potter (author of Humanism: A New Religion) said it best when he proclaimed, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism.  What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five day program of humanistic teaching?”

They Are Challenged by University Students
The attitude and influence of hostile professors is often accepted by University students happy to reject the moral precepts of the Christian worldview. Atheist student groups are multiplying dramatically in universities across America. The Secular Student Alliance, for example, grew from 80 student clubs in 2007 to over 250 clubs in 2011. These students groups are eager to identify themselves with names that challenge the intellectual capacity of Christian students. Atheist groups often seek titles such as “Free Thinker Society,” the “Coalition of Reason,” or the “Center for Inquiry”. The implication, of course, is that Christians are ignorant and constrained by their antiquated worldview.

The Church will never begin to address the growing problem of young people leaving the faith if it doesn’t first recognize the challenges facing Christian students. It’s time to address the challenges facing students before they find themselves struggling to resist the cultural tide on their own.

05.23.16

Faith: How to Ensure Kids Are Getting the Message by Jill Williams for Children’s Ministry Magazine

Wonder whether kids are listening when you teach? Fear your words go in one ear and out the other? When it comes to faith, here’s how to ensure kids are getting the message.

Is your teaching in one ear and out the other? Maybe—or maybe not.

Children’s ministry looks a lot different to me now than it used to. Over the past few years my understanding of the purpose behind children’s ministry has changed — dramatically. The goals I set and the approaches I take in teaching aren’t what they used to be. And — this may make you cringe — I’m beginning to realize that no matter how well I teach a lesson, much of what I say to a child in Sunday school may actually go in one ear and out the other. But that’s not because teaching is a waste of time or kids aren’t learning. It’s because as much as the amazing truths of our faith are difficult for adults to grasp, they can be even more difficult for children.

Faith: How to Ensure Kids Are Getting the Message

If you grew up going to church, think back to your Sunday school days. Maybe you remember a handful of specific things from memorable lessons. You could probably recount some main events of the Bible. But you likely didn’t grasp the deeper truths of Christianity until you were older — things such as grace, forgiveness, and sacrifice. That’s not because your teachers weren’t effective. It’s simply because developmentally kids learn on a spectrum that begins with concrete concepts and develops into deeper understanding of abstract ones. Kids build that bridge from the concrete to the abstract over years. They do it using the tools of discovery and repetition in sync with their brain’s development.

Many of the most important concepts in God’s Word are highly abstract. So when you wonder whether kids are getting the message, they are. It’s just that kids will absorb what they can when they’re developmentally ready.

Examining the Framework

Christian tradition, or our statement of faith, is one basis kids can stand on as they begin their faith journey. Ironically, I’ve found this important information is often overlooked when it comes to children’s ministry because we’re home-blind to it; we tend to assume that kids will automatically absorb the basics of our faith along the way, even if they’re never directly articulated to them. These are basic truths such as, “God’s grace, not our good works, is what assures us eternal life” and “Jesus is the only way to God.” But if we fail to carefully instruct kids on the details of our beliefs, how will they fully understand what Christians really believe? And could this lack of understanding contribute to the fact that so many Christian kids grow up and leave the church when their faith is challenged?

These two questions became very real to me in conversations with college students about their experiences growing up in church. It was during these discussions that I realized people’s views of the church and of Christianity itself varied greatly — from confusion to superficial understanding to detailed comprehension. I began to wonder if we as Christian educators are missing something when it comes to teaching our kids. I wondered how we’re ensuring kids are getting the message about faith?

My curiosity led me to create the Christian Truths Survey, based on the foundational Christian beliefs of the Apostle’s Creed and on three main categories related to our faith: salvation, the Trinity, and general biblical truths (note the distinction between biblical truths and Bible trivia). I designed the survey to gain insights about 185 elementary-age churched kids’ understanding of our faith, and I enlisted the expertise of pastors and experts in children’s education and faith to build it. The questions ranged from factual questions (multiple choice and true/false), such as, “True or False: People can get to heaven by doing good things” to open-ended questions, such as, “How do we receive salvation?”

The Right Tools

Elementary-age children have the potential to hold deep conceptions of God and can have a greater personal faith than most adults assume they can, according to researchers in the International Journal for Psychology and Religious Education.

What this means is there’s not necessarily a correlation between children’s cognitive development (perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning) and their spiritual development. My survey results agree with this: There is a significant difference in how kids age 10 and older scored compared with those 9 and under when it comes to understanding the more abstract details of our faith. Older kids scored higher in my survey when it came to questions focused on salvation, the Trinity, and biblical truth. While 85 percent of 10- and 11-year-olds demonstrated understanding of these things, almost 73 percent of 8- and 9-year-olds could. Specifically, 83 percent of 10- and 11-year-olds understood salvation concepts, while 70 percent of 8- and 9-year-olds did.

* Building Faith: Much more may be going on spiritually in children than is evident on the surface. Even so, how you teach younger elementary children-and your expectations of what they can comprehend — have to be different than with older children. Research shows that older children have a grasp of facts and may be ready to go deeper with more abstract concepts. With younger kids, however, focus on stating the basic tenets of the faith again and again in different ways so kids hear repetition and a reinforcing message — or the framework.

The Right Words

I figured that many people grow up with confused understanding of biblical events and a few moral lessons as the sum of their experience of Christianity. This was for a few reasons. First, many curricula focus on teaching traits such as honesty, obedience, and love. Though God desires all of these from us, this approach seems to aim to improve children’s character rather than increase their knowledge of God. The lessons expect children to “do good” and “be good” rather than giving them a sense of their true condition and utter need for God. In addition, my discussions with peers and experts seemed to reinforce the argument that many practicing Christians may not have a concrete, accurate understanding of the basics of Christianity and are therefore more at risk of walking away from their faith. And because today’s families are more transient than past generations, kids may travel through many different children’s ministries with many different philosophies — and fewer opportunities for consistent teaching and learning that sticks.

Kids understood a lot about who God is, though they struggled most with the abstract, Trinity-focused questions. Seventy-four percent of 12-year-olds demonstrated comprehension of the Trinity, while 64 percent of younger children did. Despite lower scores on the abstract nature of God, the survey revealed a very encouraging point to note: Kids could accurately use the terminology they’d heard used to describe salvation, even if they didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the words. So for instance, they knew terms such as grace, savior, and Holy Spirit, even if they couldn’t give a textbook definition.

Building Faith: Language is a key component of our faith’s framework for children who are learning about Christianity. By providing kids with the correct language and using that language frequently, you can give them a context for concepts they’ll grow to understand later. For teachers, it’s critical to acknowledge the importance of using faith-accurate language and to use it correctly, based on Scripture and tradition.

The Right Approach

The results of the survey data confirmed for me that our role as Christian faith educators is to provide a standard for content and a language for experience. Here’s a radical idea: Children don’t have to graduate from our ministries knowing all the content of the Bible, all the events that took place. They should, however, walk away with a plum line by which to measure their growing knowledge and experience. It’s our responsibility and honor to provide them with this tool. Shifting our mindset and re-evaluating our goals and definitions of success in ministry may prove necessary. Where before we may have felt a sense of failure if kids confused the facts of Noah’s experience or thought Job was really Moses, it’s important to remember that it’s not Bible trivia we’re teaching, but Bible truths. So if kids walk away thinking, God stayed with Noah, and he’ll stay with me when I’m afraid, too, you’ve scored a major win for your ministry. Our mission is relationship with Jesus — not trivia.

Building Faith: We don’t create faith — we frame it. Don’t get me wrong; becoming a “framer” doesn’t mean lowering your standards. In fact, the opposite is true. Framing faith for the kids in your ministry means you challenge yourself to learn anew the language and truths of our faith. It means you try even harder to articulate those complex truths in a way that’s kid-friendly and biblically and theologically sound. This is a huge task — and good reason for children’s Christian educators to be some of the best-trained people of your church.

03.28.16

7 Essentials for Growing Kids’ Faith by Tony Lane for Children’s Ministry Magazine

childrensministry.com/articles/faith-to-grow-on/?utm_source=bm23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Read+More&utm_content=CMMag_20160323_eNews&utm_campaign=03/23/2016&_bta_tid=3.AIlK.Cb_fqw.CYyJ.ApXofg..A7QMTg.b..s.AU1g.n…yaPBUA

7 essentials for developing, enhancing, and growing kids’ faith.

I started teaching Sunday school when I was 12. That was a while ago.

Throughout my years in the classroom, I’ve always believed that children experience and know God in a personal and dynamic way. I think most of us who work with children understand the importance of God’s impact in kids’ lives. Most of us would agree that children hold a special place in God’s heart. From the first mention of kids in the Bible, it’s evident that God wants to nurture children in their faith walk.

Developing kids’ faith isn’t optional. Jesus expects us to support children and their potential for spiritual growth and maturity. As children’s ministers, our understanding of how kids’ faith is developed, enhanced, and shared is crucial. Here’s what I’ve learned about kids’ faith.

Essential #1. Kids’ faith can be crushed.

Remember when Jesus’ disciples rebuked people who were bringing children to him for blessing? When Jesus witnessed their actions, he was displeased. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Children have a right — and a natural desire — to enter into Jesus’ presence. They have a natural faith. Our job is to encourage and strengthen that faith.

“It’s important for children’s pastors to know and understand that a child’s faith is both real and fragile,” says Jack Miller, children’s pastor at Grace Point Church in Irving, Texas. “It can be developed — or destroyed.”

Careless words and behavior can crush kids’ spirits. In their innocent and childlike faith, kids often share prayer requests about their pets, toys, upcoming activities, television heroes, and family members. Wise children’s ministers will encourage their faith by praying with kids and encouraging them to believe and trust in God. Sure, a prayer request may appear to be an obvious impossibility to an adult. But God listens and responds to his kids. Be careful about not taking kids’ sincere requests seriously.

“When a child talks about a wonderful experience or incident of faith, we must believe and affirm the child,” observes Irma Hendrix, director of children’s ministry at Mt. Paran North in Atlanta. “Use Scripture to show children how God hears them and has answered. Be careful how you reply to children when their faith hasn’t yet brought the result they’ve asked for. God is always on time and never late to answer.”

Essential #2. Kids’ faith has no boundaries.

It’s a fact that faith comes by hearing and living God’s Word. Whenever we teach kids the Word and they receive it, their faith grows. Each Sunday school class, each Bible study, and each interactive experience grants children the opportunity to grow their faith. With consistent, positive experiences, it’s natural that children will want to exercise their faith, resulting in further growth. Their prayers grow stronger as they see and believe that God can do anything. Such confidence ignites powerful prayers.

“A child’s pure faith doesn’t falter,” says Rodney Ragland, children’s pastor at Christway Church in Alabama. “I had a girl in my children’s ministry who began to pray that her dad would stop smoking. This was her prayer request for six years. When she left to go to the youth ministry program, her brother took over asking for prayer for their dad. This dad has been prayed for for over eight years. He still smokes, but the children know that one day God will answer their request, and they aren’t giving up.”

Affirm kids’ faith. Teach them examples of faith in the Bible. Share personal testimonies of your faith growth. Allow children to talk about how their faith has resulted in answers to prayer. Display a chart with prayer requests and dates of answered prayer. Give kids a prayer journal to help build their faith.

Essential #3. Kids’ faith should be Bible-based.

Knowledge of God’s Word is foundational to kids’ faith. You can develop kids’ faith in healthy ways based on a solid scriptural foundation — not on man-made interpretations of the Bible.

If kids’ faith is Word-based, then teachers need to ask tough questions about what they’re teaching. Is the information scripturally based? Are all activities and plans focused on God’s Word? What media-based tools are appropriate? Media shouldn’t only be used to keep kids engaged. Any media-based tools used need to directly support kids’ faith development by having a clear link to what they’re learning in the class.

Essential #4. Kids’ faith is strengthened by relationships.

Children are an important part of the church…but many congregations haven’t realized that. Some segregate children at all times and don’t afford them the opportunity to learn from the entire faith community. Many churches want children to be still and quiet when they are part of a church service. Some churches never give kids the chance to worship with the entire church family.

However, when we segregate kids, we prevent them from learning from the older people in the church, and vice versa. When Jesus was in the temple, he was practicing the accepted method of teaching in his day by asking questions that provoked teachers to rethink their understanding of God’s Word. Jesus wasn’t asking questions just to learn their responses or obtain answers.

Children need to be involved in the overall ministry of your church. This includes worship, singing, leading praise and worship, reading the Scripture, testifying, praying, and speaking. The biblical image of God’s people includes a community of people who’ve been redeemed regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic class. We are family. Children can worship.

In an orphanage I work with in Poza Rica, Vera Cruz, Mexico, the children often lift their hands in worship and praise or dancing. When it’s time to pray, they kneel with their forehead touching the ground or by laying prostrate on the floor, face down, crying out to God. They walk by their faith, utterly depending on God. They rely on God for their daily needs. Their faith has grown exponentially as a result of seeing the hand of God working in their lives. They’ve been liberated from lives of sexual abuse, abandonment, and poverty. God’s Word has built their faith. Their community of faith, the Casa Hogar family, has been the bond that’s strengthened this faith.

My dad was a pastor. Both he and my mother believed in me. They poured into me the knowledge that God had a plan for my life, with God’s Word being a focal point in our home. They encouraged me to put my talents to work for God. I recall one Sunday morning when the church organist quit. The Sunday school superintendent had led the congregation in the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me.” Believing that this song was “too childlike” for the worship service, the organist resigned. I’d been taking organ lessons, so my dad determined that it was my turn to play. Thank God for a community of faith who understood the importance of encouraging a young man to use his God-given talent and ability! Subsequently, I started teaching children’s church at age 14 and began a junior choir at age 15.

A faith community is vital to faith development in the life of any person, but especially in a child’s life. Kids need avenues to express their faith, and such a community can provide it.

Essential #5. Kids’ faith is significantly shaped by experiences and relationships with parents.

“At the heart of our call to perpetuate faith in the lives of our children is the realization that the Great Commandment is not merely an ideal to be understood but an invitation to be experienced,” observes John Kie Vining, director of family ministries for the Church of God International Offices.

In large part, parents shape their child’s image of God by how they relate to their child. Therefore, to nurture a child who loves God, has a healthy sense of self-love, and who loves others necessitates an approach to parenting that’s grace-filled. None of us can truly love a God who is distant, disrespectful, or disappointed in us. In this manner, parents are indeed the primary disciple-makers of their children, shaping the child’s image of God, which ultimately is the foundation of children’s faith development.

Your church must do its best to strengthen relationships with families, equipping parents for their role in faith development. Before God created the church, he created the family. Your church must perceive its role to be a support and resource for families as parents endeavor to make disciples of their children. Encourage parents to model their faith in their daily living. Equip them to share God’s Word at home. Help them understand principles of child development so they know how to relate to their children in an effective way.

Wise teachers and parents understand the need for experiential learning. You can help them understand how important it is for children to experience what they learn rather than try to absorb life truths through passive learning. Parents teach their children 24/7. Birthday parties, religious celebrations, taking the Lord’s Supper, family ministry events — all these support and undergird family units and allow children opportunities to experience their faith. Only after faith has been explored and questioned can it really be developed and strengthened.

Essential #6. Kids’ faith yields results.

God values children and honors their innocence. Jesus demonstrated this when he accepted a boy’s small lunch and fed thousands.

“After a weekend Kidfest kids’ event, I had one boy, 11 years old, who said he heard from God,” says Kevin Edgington, children’s pastor at the House of Restoration Worship Center in Milford, Ohio. “He believed that God wanted him to go home and start having services for kids in his neighborhood. His family supported him and helped him begin services for kids on Saturday mornings. In just a very short time, nine children accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.”

Essential #7. Kids’ faith development impacts their eternal destiny.

The impact of building a strong faith now can result in a healthy relationship with Jesus and the church in the future. The moral development of children is complete by age nine, according to research by the Barna Institute. Nonreligious-oriented research on children’s moral and values development substantiates that the foundation for lifelong values and morals are formed during kids’ earliest years.

Every child has a place in the body of Christ. Children’s destinies await them. It’s our responsibility to help kids determine their destinies and their purposes in life. And entire faith communities must be involved in developing and nurturing children and their parents.

03.21.16

How to Help Kids Discern Biblical Truth by Children’s Ministry Magazine

childrensministry.com/articles/once-upon-the-bible/

Kids’ culture contains everything from Disney characters to Harry Potter hype. Is God’s Word being drowned out? How can we help kids discern biblical truth?

Kids all over the world are constantly pulled between traditional childhood culture and up-to-the-minute trends and fads. Fairy tales, popular movies, and fictional stories have powerful ways of illustrating specific ideologies. When kids’ culture contains everything from Aesop’s fables and classical mythology to Pokémon characters and Harry Potter hype, sometimes it feels as if God’s Word is being drowned out. Is there room for the Bible?

There’s more room than you might think. Christians often shy away from connecting Bible lessons to fairy tales or popular culture for the simple reason that we believe that the Bible is truth, while stories are only fiction. Yet throughout his ministry, Jesus used parables — fictitious stories — to explain in ways humans could understand the incomprehensible logic of heaven and the kingdom of God. While our human nature causes us to identify with the jealous older brother, Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son calls us to open our arms as the father did…and come home with humility as the son did.

The Value Of Story

Jesus could’ve instructed us about the kingdom of heaven with only commands and facts: “God values the lost,” “Forgive because you are forgiven,” and “Be prepared for my return.” But he knew the things of heaven wouldn’t make sense to human minds — Israel proved that. The Israelites forgot God’s saving hand in Egypt, quickly lost patience waiting for the Messiah, and constantly ran after other gods. Jesus knew we’d understand truths of heaven better if we could identify with a woman frantically searching for a lost coin, a servant who’d been forgiven much yet refused to forgive a little, and virgins who had (or had not) come prepared for a long wait.

The stories Jesus used had one thing that must’ve set them apart from the folk tales and oral traditions of the time. Jesus began or ended the parables he told with a statement that said, “This is the point. If you get anything out of the story, get this.”

“I tell you the truth,” he says in Matthew 24:47. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” he answers Peter in Matthew 18:23. There is truth, despite the inconsequential details of his story, and Jesus points out that truth.

Biblical truth exists even in stories and cultural tales that aren’t in the Bible because God’s truth isn’t stagnant. Our Lord still moves in our world, and even people who don’t believe in God are affected by his truth. Christians and non-Christians alike can experience humility, forgiveness, and brokenness. Something about the journey of the human race remains the same despite cultural and millennial differences. We’re still the Israelites in the desert, hoarding God’s blessings today in fear that he won’t provide tomorrow and making idols out of things that satisfy us only for the moment.

Separating Truth From Fiction

It may frighten Christian educators to hear kids say that Jonah’s big fish was just like Pinocchio’s whale or that the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk” was the same as David’s Goliath. The perceived threat is that kids will see similarities in characters and stories and confuse fiction with biblical truth. In our ministries, we certainly want to lay the foundation of God’s Word as truth. Otherwise, what basis do kids have for understanding who God is?

During vacation Bible school, one teacher brought preschoolers to a room that was set up like the belly of Jonah’s big fish. She led them into the fish’s plastic body and recreated Jonah’s three-day experience in the fish by reading from the Bible and allowing the kids to experience the fear and adventure Jonah did. At the end, a paid child-care provider remarked, “Hey! That’s just like Pinocchio.” A lesson defeated? A blurring of truth and fiction? Perhaps, but definitely a teachable moment.

In this situation, it’s important to think about kids’ developmental stages. Kids around age 9 can begin to understand simple abstractions and are less likely to be confused by literary connections. To bridge from fiction to fact, ask kids, “How similar are the experiences of the fictional Pinocchio and the biblical Jonah? How are they different?”

However, kids under age 8 tend to think literally. You can still use hooks to introduce Bible stories, but it’s best to save abstract connections for older kids. Help kids around ages 6 to 8 make simple comparisons. Ask, “How do you think Pinocchio felt in the stomach of the whale? How would you feel if you got swallowed by a whale? Even though Pinocchio’s story is pretend, there’s a true story in the Bible about a man who was swallowed by a big fish.”

What Kids Know

It’s easy to take what kids know and help draw them closer to God because certain stories and themes are ingrained in their culture. Take for example the story “Cinderella.” Throughout the whole world, various versions of “Cinderella” share similar thematic elements. In China, there’s “Lin Lan”; in France, they have the story of “Donkeyskin.” In these stories, especially in the Grimms’ version of “Cinderella,” the story follows a plot similar to the book of Esther. Both Cinderella and Esther greatly need friends and mentors. They’re both left virtually alone and deemed culturally inferior, yet meeting their Prince Charmings dramatically redeems their situations. Each woman went from unvalued to invaluable and from ashes to glory — a vivid picture of Christ’s redemption of each one of us.

“Cinderella” can be used to introduce the Bible story of Esther and reinforce Psalm 40:2-3: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

Literary scholars often look for the Christ figure in literature. And they find that figure in literature from cultures and countries all over the world. Why? Perhaps because writers have borrowed from the Bible. Or perhaps the very essence of our need for salvation is written into the fiber of our souls. Perhaps the gospel is written on our hearts. The point is not which came first; the point is that inherently, the story of the gospel contains something familiar, something we know we need — and it’s repeated in thousands of ways in hundreds of cultures and languages.

Fairy tales can introduce children to biblical truth just as other culturally specific media, such as books, movies, and personal stories, can contain elements useful for teaching truth. God can redeem the culture for his kingdom. Jesus used stories that first-century Christians could understand in the context of their culture, and we can do the same.

Finding The Gospel In Our Culture

Have you seen a movie lately in which one character gives up his or her very life for the sake of someone else? Do you know a story of complete forgiveness for unforgivable sins? Those are fibers in the tapestry of the gospel. The one doing the forgiving or “saving” in your story might not be the perfect Savior, but the threads of salvation and forgiveness can lead your kids into discussions of what it feels like to be forgiven and what it means to experience salvation. How can we do this?

Look for the gospel everywhere. Movies, fairy tales, cartoons, stories, and songs can contain traces of biblical truth that you can use to introduce Bible themes and stories. Tell or show the story. Let kids feel the emotions of the characters, understand the events of the story, and experience the outcome of the actions. Extract the truth. Use discussion and debriefing to help kids discover the core biblical truth in your story. Emphasize the Bible. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” not the other way around. The Bible’s truth supersedes any fiction, and it’s vital that kids understand the difference. Emphasize the verse or passage that your story reinforces. Ask God to use the story to bring kids to a heightened level of spiritual understanding. Have kids look for God’s truth in their lives. Kids can identify forgiveness, faith, and kindness. Encourage them to discover God’s truth in their lives and share it with their families. The kingdom of God is here, and if we watch for it carefully, we can see God working in our lives and in the lives of others.

Making The Connection

Not all stories or movies in kids’ culture can be used in the same way to teach biblical truth. Some stories don’t directly follow the Bible but make great lead-ins for the Bible stories you’re teaching. Other stories powerfully illustrate a biblical point you want to emphasize. What’s the difference? Here are four ways to use stories to teach the Bible.

• Attention-Getters — Some stories share objects or characters with Bible stories but don’t teach the same point or have the same plot; these reappearing objects or people can introduce your Bible story. You can point out how the whale that swallows Pinocchio is similar to Jonah’s fish and how Jack and David each had a giant to defeat.

For kids ages 8 and up, use stories, movie clips, or fairy tales to introduce your Bible lesson. In the Disney movie The Jungle Book, the characters encounter an antagonist seemingly lifted straight out of the pages of Genesis. Kaa, the deceitful snake who seeks to trick Mowgli, can remind kids to watch for Satan’s deceitfulness. After showing a clip of Kaa, say, “How does Kaa try to trick Mowgli? What does it feel like when someone tries to trick you? How can you remember what’s true?” Then turn to your Bible lesson by saying, “The Jungle Book is just a story, but in the Bible, Satan disguised himself as a snake just like Kaa and deceived Adam and Eve.”

 Character-Connectors Many stories have characters similar to Bible characters who experience similar trials. Amanda Deramus, Sunday school superintendent and teacher at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan, uses the character of Cinderella to help children who’ve never heard of King David to become familiar with him. Amanda tells kids, “David, like Cinderella, was always left behind to do the hard work. Both David and Cinderella spent their lives being overlooked and underappreciated. But God is faithful! In the end, their faithfulness made them shine, and they became the heroes of their stories. In God’s eyes, it is not the oldest, strongest, or most wealthy person but the one with the truest heart who makes the best hero.” Amanda helps kids understand David’s situation better because they connect with a similar story about someone else.

• Plot-Followers The Cinderella-Esther connection is an example of a parallel story. Similarly, the “Sleeping Beauty” (or “Briar Rose”) tale parallels the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Issac. Each set of parents wishes for a child and finally conceives after much hoping and praying. Then, although due to vastly different forces — one evil, the other good — the parents are compelled to sacrifice their children. Both sets of parents have a test of faith related to their children.

For preteens, use this type of connection to get kids to experience the feelings of the characters in the Bible story. Have kids form groups and talk about the feelings and actions of each character in the fairy tale who also parallels a character in your Bible story. Then assign each group a character in the parallel Bible story. As you read the Bible story, pause to give the groups time to respond with actions and words about the feelings their characters may’ve experienced. Since kids know the fairy tale, they should be able to follow the Bible story even if they’ve never heard it before.

• Point-Makers When guided with age-appropriate debriefing questions, kids ages 5 and up can talk about characters in stories as they explore how they might feel or what they might do in specific situations. Talking about “Hansel and Gretel” can teach kids to not be greedy. “The Red Shoes” can be a lesson about vanity. For older kids, check out the “Reel Time” and “Tuned In” sections of “Keeping Current” in Children’s Ministry Magazine for clips from recent movies and songs that you can use to teach biblical points.

02.22.16

What You Need to Know About Kids’ Spiritual Development by Children’s Ministry Magazine

childrensministry.com/articles/spiritual-moral-development

We tracked down four noted experts to demystify kids’ spiritual development by the ages. Read on to learn how to reach—and teach—the wonderful little people in your ministry!

Every age and every stage presents its challenges and joys—just ask the parents of kids in your ministry! No matter what age group you work with—babies, preschoolers, elementary, or preteens—you have your hands full with the big task of imparting God’s truth into kids’ minds and hearts.

BABIES AND TODDLERS: Faith-Filled Environments

Not long ago a children’s ministry volunteer said to me that little ones just can’t learn and understand spiritual concepts like older children. Perhaps others in your church agree with her impression of babies’ learning abilities. The truth is, though, that this stage of infancy may seem simplistic to adults; however, it’s a vital first step in spiritual growth.

Relationships are central to healthy spiritual growth in the lives of the very youngest. Infants and toddlers bond with the parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers who look after their physical and emotional needs. Because adults care for their needs, infants develop a sense of trust. According to the psychologist Erik Erikson, infants who successfully learn to trust develop hope. And Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In the first two years of life, the foundational concepts of spiritual formation–trust and hope–grow.

Additionally, while caring for the physical and emotional needs of infants and toddlers, adults teach them the language of faith. When soothing a crying infant, for instance, a teacher sings a song about Jesus. In the toddler room, children hear about Noah and the Ark. Parents talk about God and Jesus in their daily conversations with babies and toddlers. That’s where growth comes from.

Ministry to Babies and Toddlers You can support infants and toddlers’ spiritual growth using these tips.

  • Read to little ones about God and Jesus. Simple Bibles for toddlers such as board books about God’s creation, animals, and family are great choices.
  • Talk often about God and Jesus.
  • Tell children constantly that Jesus loves them.
  • Use teachable moments to highlight spiritual truths.
  • As children learn to talk, help instill words of our faith such as God, Jesus, Bible, and pray in their vocabulary.
  • Include infants and toddlers in spiritual activities such as worship and prayer.
  • Know that infants and toddlers really do learn at church.
  • Invite little ones to special worship occasions.
  • Encourage parents to have their youngest children present during prayer times at home.
  • Pray with infants and toddlers. Explain that prayer is talking to God.
  • Make prayer a part of the routine in your classroom.
  • Remember that children discover God from infancy. Paul wrote to Timothy “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Joyce Meyers holds a Ph.D. in early childhood education. She teaches classes on early childhood education at Dallas Baptist University.

PRESCHOOLERS: At Their Level

When one of my children was 4 years old, I found her searching her bedroom–in the closet, under the bed.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

She drew her hand to her hip and replied, “You said God was everywhere and I can’t find him anywhere.”

Unlike their younger counterparts, preschool children are able to understand something exists, even if they can’t see it. That’s a huge developmental step in spiritual growth and understanding God’s existence. At the same time, preschoolers are also literal in their thinking. If you tell a preschooler “Jesus is in your heart,” he’s likely to ask, “How does he fit in there?”

With all the work and effort that goes into teaching preschoolers about Jesus, ever wonder, “Do they really get it?” You bet they do. Preschoolers have many spiritual capabilities and emerging skills. Consider that they can:

• Express love for Jesus and others
• Exhibit an intense wonder about God’s world and everything in it
• Understand and often retell Bible events
• Memorize and understand simple Bible verses
• Pray to God
• Differentiate between right and wrong
• Understand the consequences of behavior
• Try to please adults
• Have compassion for others
• Ask many questions

You might be thinking, “If preschoolers can do all that, then couldn’t they just be quiet and sit still for a few minutes so I can teach them more?” Well, preschoolers learn on the go. With the best intentions, teachers have a tendency to focus on teaching–which is what we do–rather than on learning–which is what children do. Knowing how preschoolers learn will let you share God’s love and biblical truths in a way they can understand.

Keep preschoolers moving through active, hands-on learning. Play games, sing songs, create hand motions for Bible time, use choral responses, and allow lots of time for child-choice to explore their environment.

Show God’s love through your actions. Preschoolers learn by imitating us. I once heard a preschooler say, “If Jesus loves us so much, why are some of his teachers so mean?” For a child, an adult without a smile or one too busy to answer questions can signal mean.

Make every child feel special. Greet children with excitement. Spend time having conversations with each child. Praise preschoolers for successes and efforts.

Love what you do! What could be more important than telling and showing children about Jesus in a way they can understand? Many preschoolers may be too young to become followers of Jesus, but they can learn about his unfailing love for them. Kids come to church with trust, open hearts, and the kind of attitude needed to approach God. Are you willing to let the children come as they are, often noisy and active? Just bring a big heart, lots of patience, and a smile that doesn’t quit!

Gigi Schweikert has published seven books on parenting, child development, and children’s ministry. She directed the United Nations Early Childhood Program in New York City and developed and managed the Johnson & Johnson System of Family Centers. Gigi has also hosted a cable television show, “Today’s Family.”      

ELEMENTARY-AGE KIDS: Real-Life Faith Connections

It’s easy to underestimate what elementary-age kids hear, remember, and internalize. But one thing is certain: You can’t overestimate the importance of this age. The elementary years represent a special window of opportunity. This life stage is one of the most fertile times for planting seeds of faith that can be nurtured to bear fruit through an entire lifetime.

Reality and Real Questions Elementary-age children can sense their personal need for a relationship with Jesus, and that can lead to a lot of questions about faith, God, and the world we live in. These are significant questions for anyone confronted with the joys and disappointments of life, but at this age finding concrete ways to connect belief to behaviors and situations can be transformational. In hearing and recalling the truth about God, elementary children flesh out the details of their faith. We need to continue to share truths about God and let the children tell them as well.

Language and Symbols An important part of our job as pastors and teachers is to give children the language to express their faith in ways that accurately reflect what they’re experiencing. If a child hasn’t yet learned the basic elements of Christian worship, life, and fellowship, the time to begin is now. What children need to know begins with Scripture, but it reaches out to our creeds, the testimony of the faithful, our community rituals and traditions. And even at this age, children can participate fully in the worshiping community: praying, singing, reading Scripture, teaching, inviting and welcoming others, sharing their faith. While elementary-age kids may not immediately understand all the words and images we offer, embedding them now in a child’s mind allows concepts and understanding to emerge throughout the child’s life. It’s important to let them become familiar with the language and symbols of our faith; it’s as equally important to define those things, use language all kids can understand, and answer their questions without impatience.

Morality and Empathy These children don’t have to have an “Aha!” moment for God’s power to impact them fully. Sometimes faith comes in very unexpected ways; it’s not up to us to dictate how a child comes to follow Jesus. Even an elementary child’s normal moral and social development can nurture his or her spiritual senses. Children at this age begin to develop a sense of empathy. This means they begin to identify with others, their needs, and their situations. Children respond very positively when they have the opportunity to care for others. Whether it’s looking after a younger child or helping a peer with special needs participate in activities, giving responsibility and trust to a child to do those things nurtures identity, leadership, and service.

In fact, elementary children can be very passionate about the things they care for, and when that’s coupled with empathy the possibilities are limitless. Obedience, kindness, and respect are character traits everyone needs, but when we connect these attitudes and behaviors to a child’s faith, they take on a deeper meaning. Children are generous, thoughtful, and creative when they catch a vision for serving others. Child sponsorship and simple, local projects are all very effective tools for reinforcing empathy and service to elementary-age kids.

Interests and Expectations The greatest challenge of working with elementary children is merging creativity with consistency. They learn in such varied ways that literature, science, nature, art, sports, music, history, cooking, and so many other interests may all be avenues to faith. Elementary children also need to know what to expect when it comes to boundaries, consequences, and order. Your expectations of them and consistent follow through are subtle but invaluable for creating a sense of truth, faithfulness and grace in which together you can begin to explore the deep things of God.

Julia Roat-Abla holds a masters in theology. She’s the co-author of Growing Like Jesus: Essential Christian Concepts for Elementary Students, and serves her church in Dayton, Ohio.

PRETEENS: A Whole New World

Preteens. They’re silly, goofy, and obnoxious. They can’t sit still and seldom pay attention. They love screaming and doing anything that involves getting messy. And that’s just scratching the surface of their awesomeness. So what’s the best way to help teach these amazing kids about God? Let’s start by looking at what’s happening to them developmentally.

Preteen development can be summed up in one word: change. As preteens enter early adolescence, they experience incredible change. They change physically, emotionally, socially, and even–are you ready for this?–intellectually. That’s right! These crazy beings of highly explosive energy and terribly short attention spans are actually gaining the capacity to be more intelligent. In his book Developmentally Appropriate: Middle Level Schools, M. Lee Manning says, “During early adolescence, youth typically progress from concrete logical operations and problem solving to acquiring the ability to develop and test hypotheses, analyze and synthesize data, grapple with complex concepts, and think reflectively.”

This intellectual increase has a direct effect on something else that’s changing: their faith. As preteens gain the ability to analyze, hypothesize, and reflect, they ask deeper questions about God, the Bible, and Jesus. Rather than blindly accepting their parents’ and ministers’ answers, they yearn to understand faith for themselves. In other words, they take their first steps from faith dependence (relying on what others tell them to believe) to faith ownership.

As they take those first steps, we can expect preteens to learn and grow differently than they did as first, second, and third graders. No longer are they happy to take what we tell them at face value, simply swallowing what we feed them. Instead, they want to experience, test, and interact with that faith on their own. And it’s up to us to “let go” and allow them do so.

Preteens need our direction and influence. Rather than simply teaching preteens by providing the right information, we support them by allowing them to learn for themselves. Rather than telling preteens how their faith affects their life, we create environments and resources where they can discover it. Instead of giving them all the answers about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the rest of life, we invite them to grapple with their questions and even offer answers. Instead of telling them what they should do, we create opportunities to discover what God calls them to do.

Preteens truly are a special age, unlike any other. Yes, they can be crazy, overwhelming, and even exhausting at times. But to watch a preteen, for the first time on his or her own, truly comprehend who Jesus is and what he’s done for us is unlike any other ministry experience. So who cares if we get a little messy in the process?

Patrick Snow works as the director of SuperStart!, a national touring weekend event for preteens. Through SuperStart! Patrick teaches and speaks to over 9,000 preteens each year. Patrick is the author of Leading Preteens and co-founder of fourfivesix.org.

02.08.16

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

childrensministry.com/articles/4-essential-strategies-for-classroom-management/2/

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.

1. RELY ON GOD

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.

2. DEFINE YOUR SYSTEM

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.

3. TAILOR YOUR SYSTEM

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.”

4. REFINE YOUR SKILLS

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.

05.04.15

3 Questions All Parents With Young Children Must Ask by Beau Coffin

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/3-questions-all-parents-young-children-must-ask#v3fiYJSOfJCHWgCH.99

Sometimes it’s easy to observe other families at your local coffee shop and think, “I will never parent like that,” or “at least my kids don’t act like those,” or even, “I’m pregnant, what was I thinking?”

Moments like these are the reason parenting books, websites, seminars and support groups are so popular. And while there’s nothing wrong with looking for answers from the professionals, we should first be able to ask ourselves the right questions.

Maybe you don’t have kids yet, but you plan to in the near future. You should still be pondering questions like these before you become a parent. This isn’t about giving you the correct answers, but about helping you ask the best questions that will lead you to the best answers for your family.

Here are three questions that parents (or future parents) of young children must ask:

What kind of person are you raising your child to become?

Sometimes it’s easy for parents of little kids to get stuck in a rut. It’s not because you don’t want to show your kids what it means to be a Christian, it’s because you are just so dang tired.

The youth leaders at your church are there to help, but make no mistake; you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.

Even without realizing it, we are daily putting our small children on a path to becoming the adult they will eventually be. Yes, they will make their own choices, and yes, it’s scary to think about the enormity of this responsibility. However, if you are a parent, or will be soon, you don’t have the luxury of passing this off to someone else. The youth leaders at your church are there to help, but make no mistake; you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.

The good news is that God is there to guide you, even when you haven’t slept for two days and your kid just somehow singlehandedly destroyed the living room using only a blueberry muffin. So, are your actions, attitudes and words helping your child in the journey to becoming the person God has created them to be?

Where will your children find their identity?

Most parents want what is best for their kids. This is something that unites parents of any faith or non-faith background. However, in our push to help our children succeed, we sometimes hinder rather than help them. We inadvertently encourage them to seek their identity in sports, drama, colleges, relationships and future careers.

These things shouldn’t define who your child is. The Bible makes it clear that we are adopted children into God’s family. When I promote placing my child’s athletic gifts over their relationship with God, I am telling them their identity is in sports first and God second. Their identity is not in being a future professional athlete, but it is in who they already are: A child of the living God.

As a youth pastor, I meet too many parents who say they want God to be priority No. 1, but the direction they push their kids communicates something entirely different.

When I promote placing my child’s athletic gifts over their relationship with God, I am telling them their identity is in sports first, and God second.

The problem is that when our kids fail, or things don’t work out as planned, their world can be turned upside-down. As parents, we need to let our kids know that it will be OK, because even though the temporary situation changed, they are a child of God— and that never changes.

What other parents are you surrounding yourself with?

I might be biased because I work with families and I also help run a dad’s group, but parents need other parents who are in the same life stage as them.

I am not just talking about for advice on removing nail polish from carpet or how to make the strongest caffeinated drink known to humankind. The Bible talks time and again about how we were created to be in community with God and others.

Parents need this community because it is important to hang out with people who get you. You need to know that you are having a conversation with someone that understands what it’s like when your kid changes your iPhone to Swahili and hides the keys in the toilet.

Friends in other life stages are important as well, but you must make relationships with parents who can empathize with you a priority. Who are two parents in the same life stage as you that you can build a relationship with?

There are plenty more questions you can ask, but start with these three and come up with a plan to implement your answers. Remember that whether you have five kids, or are not yet even pregnant with your first, you will make mistakes. The good news is that God has plenty of grace for all of us parents, and sometimes our kids even have grace for us as well.

03.23.15

Want To Reach Millennials? with Infographic

http://www.youthministrymedia.ca/infographics/want-to-reach-millennials-infographic/

Millennials spend an alarming 18 hours a day consuming media. They are engaged online in a whole new way. What does it mean for your youth ministry? Young adults ministry?

We need to engage millennials online, and in real relationships.  Don Tapscott said, ” “These kids are different, and they’re about to change the world.”, “This is the first generation of people that work, play, think and learn differently than their parents, … They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It’s like the air to them.”  Technology will be the air we breathe for the indefinite future.  It’s going to change the way we do youth ministry, and church.

Here are few things that stand out to me from this infographic on the millennials:

1. 5.4 hours per day on social media.  Where are you spending time?  One of the best ways to spend time trying to reach students, and communicate to students is through social media accounts. You might think this is obvious, but what is your strategy while you are there?

Last year, my youth ministry decided to run a photo booth on a certain night and we posted the photos on our Facebook page so that students could download them.  We also printed them off for them to take home.  Our Facebook page blew up(We actually called the blog post, How To Blow Up Your Facebook Page).  One of the things the photo booth did that I wasn’t expecting was to promo our youth ministry to other teenagers in town virally.

A week later we had a student message us from a town away asking if he could come to our youth group.  He said in the message that he saw his friends at our youth group and it looked awesome.  He showed up the next week.

You have to be intentional how you post on your social media accounts.  Whats your youth ministry look?  Whats your logo?

2. Check smart phones on average 43 times per day.   What is your strategy for texting out messages to leaders, parents, students?   There are tons of programs that will do this.  Trust me, you don’t want to be using your iPhone with a group message.  Nothing is worse than a group message.

You can find some awesome text message options for your youth ministry here.

I feel like a broken record when I say that buying a texting program was the best thing I have done in the past 5 years.

3. They multitask.  To be honest, sometimes I feel like the students aren’t listening.  When I am preaching, or someone else is, everyone is on their devices.  Are they listening?

A few weeks ago I had a leader ask me why the students today are so disrespectful.  I shared a story with this leader on how I watch shows at home.  I usually am watching a phone with my iPad around, or working on something for this website or for work.  A lot of times my wife will ask me if I am paying attention or not.  I am.  I am just multitasking.  I am doing multiple things at once.  So, I asked the leader what the difference was between me and the students on their phones on a youth night?

I don’t think it’s great for our students to be on their phones all night.  One thing we try to value is face to face conversations and relationships.  My small group has decided to put their phones away each night when we come together, and now that the grade 8 boys have committed to it, they police it themselves.

This culture is ever changing, and the students we are working with are more digitally connected than ever before.  This is going to require us to help each other to reach more students, and to preach the word faithfully to this and the next generations of students.

11.17.14

What’s with all the selfies? What your teenager’s obsession might mean by Amy Peterson
Teenage behavior is often hard to understand. Here are some clues to the reasons behind all those selfies.
http://newsok.com/whats-with-all-the-selfies-what-your-teenagers-obsession-might-mean/article/5365374/?page=1

From Facebook to Snapchat, Instagram to Twitter, there are countless places for your teen to post her image. Some teens post everywhere with little regard for privacy. If you’re concerned your teen is quickly becoming the Internet’s biggest narcissist, it’s time to figure out the meaning behind your teenager’s selfies. Here are four possible reasons for all those carefully posed photos. Continue reading

10.06.14

A Cell Phone Contract by Kara Powell

http://stickyfaith.org/family/blog/cell-phone-contract#sthash.CdKDobo2.dpuf

In celebration of the release of The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, stickyfaith.org is hosting a “Blog Tour” to share some of the book’s research highlights and practical ideas. This cell phone contract emerged from the research we conducted for chapter ten: “Home Sticky Home: Making Your House a Hub of Faith”.

Dan and Denise’s fourteen-year-old son has two cell phone contracts: one with his cell phone carrier and one with them. In order to clarify their family’s cell phone expectations and protocol, Dan and Denise printed the following guidelines and had their son sign them and post them in his room.

001  It is our phone. We bought it. We pay for it. We are loaning it to you. Aren’t we great?

002  We will always know the password.

003  If it rings, answer it. Say hello and use good manners. Never ignore a phone call if the screen reads, “Mom” or “Dad.”

004  Hand the phone to one of your parents before bed every night.

005  If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.

006  Put it away in public (for example, in church, in restaurants, in movie theaters, wherever you are with other people). You are not rude; do not allow your phone to change that.

007  Do not use your phone to lie to, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first.

008  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

009  No porn. Nothing you wouldn’t want your mother to see.

010  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Despite your intelligence, someday you might be tempted to do this. It is risky and could ruin your life.

011  Take pictures, but don’t forget to live your experiences. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk.

012  Leave your phone home sometimes and be okay with that decision. Learn to live without it.

013  Download music that is new or classic or different from what your peers listen to. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

014  Play a game with words or puzzles or brainteasers every now and then.

015  You will mess up. We will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We will always be learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.