The Journey of Effectively Sharing Jesus With Today's Kids and Parents.Relevant Children's Ministry brings fresh ideas, insight, and content to Children's and Family Ministry leaders.
The author is Dale Hudson.Dale Hudson has been in Children's Ministry for over 28 years. He has helped build some of the largest and fastest growing children's ministries and churches in the..
How is your nursery ministry doing? Lots of babies? Fewer babies?
Nursery ministry is a key indicator of the future of a church. Without the next generation, a church will eventually cease to exist.
What is happening in your nursery matters. If you are reaching young families...young couples, your nursery should be thriving.
At the same time, we have to keep in mind the current overall birth rates, since this can affect your nursery attendance. Let's look at the latest birth stats.
The U.S. total fertility rate has been declining for the past 10 years. The number of women giving birth has hit a historic low. In 2016, the general fertility rate hit a record low of 62 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. In 2015, it was 62.5
One factor is this. Millennials, who are the new generation of young adults, are getting married later. The average age for men is 29 and 27 for women. So far, Millennials are much less likely to have babies. There is speculation about whether they are just postponing parenthood or simply choosing to not have children at all.
Interesting enough, while the birthrate for younger women has decreased, the birthrate for women in their 30's and 40's has been increasing.
Another interesting factor to watch and keep in mind is the number of unmarried women who are giving birth. This includes single moms and mothers who are cohabiting. In 2015, 39.7% of all babies born in the U.S. were born to unmarried women. This also varies a great deal according to race and ethnicity. Women of Asian descent had the lowest proportion of births to unmarried women (12%), followed by whites (28.4%), Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (47.7%), Latinos (52.5%), American Indian or Alaska Natives (68.1%) and African Americans (69.7%).
If we're going to reach today's babies and their parents, we must be a church that celebrates diversity. Everyone should feel welcomed and accepted, no matter their social status, age, ethnicity or marriage status. We must also be place where single moms can come and belong even before they believe.
While there are fewer babies being born, this doesn't mean there still aren't lots of babies and their families that need to be reached with the Gospel. Gen Z, today's kids, are still the largest generation on the planet and we must be focused on reaching them.
If you want to see your nursery filled with babies and your church connecting with young parents, then here are some articles that can help you. My prayer is your nursery will be blessed with lots of little ones. Make it a priority. Your church's future depends on it.
Gen Z is nervous. They are experiencing more anxiety, depression and pressure than ever before.
Studies show that today's kids are 6 times more likely to have anxiety and depression than their grandparents did at their age.
Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among American children and continues to rise.
The latest study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pedriatics shows that, in recent years, there has been a 20% increase in anxiety diagnoses for children ages 6 to 17.
In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institutue at UCLA asked incoming freshman if they "felt overwhelmed" by all they had to do. 18% replied yes. In 2000, 28% said yes. By 2016, 41% said yes.
What is causing the rise of anxiety among kids? Why is Gen Z nervous?
There are many factors involved. Here are a few of them.
Social media. Gen Z's self image is closely tied to social media. Who is "liking" them? Who is following them? How many followers do they have? What comments are they receiving? Who is clicking on their posts? This can create pressure for Gen Z.
And make that "constant pressure" because they constantly check their social media, in many cases non-stop throughout the day. It's the first thing they look at in the morning and the last thing they see before they go to sleep that night.
Social media has also made bullying much more common. Kids can already be cruel with their words in person. But they are much more cruel online.
Living in a culture of volatility. Lockdowns. School shootings. Church shootings. Terrorism.
Places that previous generations considered safe, are now considered places of vulnerability.
Whereas previous generations walked into school anticipating learning, Gen Z walks in to school anticipating violence.
Whereas previous generations were free to roam the hallways of their church and rushed out after service (on their own) to play, Gen Z has to wait for their parents to present a security tag. And in many cases, they walk past a police officer guarding the hallway of the children's area.
Whereas previous generations went to a movie thinking only about the movie, Gen Z is thinking about the movie and the fact that there could be a shooting take place in the theater.
Whereas previous generations went to the store looking around for toys, Gen Z is looking around for suspicious people who could be a potential terrorist.
The pressure to succeed. Everything is measured today and kids feel an elevated pressure to succeed academically, athletically and socially.
There's nothing wrong with competitiveness, unless it gets to the point that anxiety takes over enjoyment. And that's what is happening for many kids.
Pressured to get a scholarship. Pressured to be the best on the team. Pressured to get the best grades. Pressured to be the most popular.
All of this contributes to the rise in anxiety. Something must change. 38% of Gen Z girls ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime and 26% of boys will do the same.
Gen Z is walking into your ministry nervous. Stressed out. Full of anxiety.
The good news? You have a great opportunity to minister to them and bring hope, encouragement and God's promises. And you can equip their parents to speak the same to them.
Teach Gen Z that they are valuable to God and He cares about them. Help them untie their self-worth from social media and the opinions of others and link it to how God feels about them. Show them how much God cares for them by using verses like this.
"Look at the birds of the air," He says; "they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
Teach Gen Z that God controls the future. Anxiety says,"will I be able to secure a good job when I finish college one day?" Anxiety says,"will I even be able to go to college?"Anxiety says, "will I even survive high school without being shot? Anxiety says, "do I have any kind of future?" To the these stressful questions, you can show Gen Z that God holds the future, their future, in His hands. There's no need to stress out. God's got the future.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Luke 12:25)
Show Gen Z what they can accomplish through God's power rather than their own. Much of the anxiety that Gen Z is facing is coming from the voices inside their own head. Doubt. Insecurity. Fear. These things can dominate their thoughts.
Unless you come against them with promises of God. The promises of God can help calm Gen Z's anxiety. The promises of God can help remove the pressure of "performing" and replace it with simple dependance on God's promises.
If they know those promises. So, teach them the promises of God. Teach their parents the promises of God. Model for them how to lean on the promises of God.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13.
Do you want to improve your skills as a Bible teacher? As a small group leader? As a parent?
There's one word you can use that has been proven to make a big difference in communicating with children, helping them grasp what you're teaching and seeing them think about the subject on a deeper level.
Before I share what the word is, let's look at some of the research behind it.
A team of psychologists in California have been trying to find ways to help children learn more effectively. Their research has helped them uncover a simple, but powerful way to do just that.
The psychologists gave children a set of blocks with different features. Some of the blocks played music when put in place. The children were then asked why they thought some of the blocks caused music to play, while other blocks didn't.
Here's what they found. By simply following up the activity with the word "WHY," the kids were able to learn more effectively. This one word caused the kids to think on a deeper level because they were asking them to elaborate on something they have observed or been told.
The word "why" also causes kids to focus on abstract information, like cause and effect. The result - kids learn more effectively.
If you want to improve as a teacher, small group leader or parent, start incorporating the word "why" into your lessons and conversations.
We know many kids are walking out of churches with a shallow faith that can't stand the test of humanism and a secular world view. Perhaps a big reason is because we haven't been using the word "why" enough.
Teachers. Look at the lesson you're going to be teaching this weekend. Are there any "why's" in it?
Small group leaders. Look at your discussion outline. Are there any "why's" in it?
Parents. I know you hear the word "why" a lot. Especially if your children are younger. As you're reading them a devotion, you'll hear "Why this?" and "Why that?" Don't look at those "why's" as a bother, but rather as an opportunity to help your child build a strong faith foundation. In fact, don't wait for them to ask why. Take the initiative and ask them first.
The truth is, if we'll start lecturing less and start guiding kids through the "why's," we can see a lot more kids develop a faith that will last. I was very intentional about writing in a lot of "why's" into the curriculum we developed. You can see samples and get it at this link.
Think about this. Jesus asked a lot of questions when He taught, communicated and interacted with people. And often when asked a question, He would respond with a question. The Master Teacher knew the power of "why" long before the psychologists in California did. Here are just a few examples of the Master Teacher using the word "why."
Why are you anxious about clothes? (Matthew 6:28)
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye yet fail to perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2)
Why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31)
Why do you make trouble for the woman? (Matthew 26:10)
Why do you not judge for yourself what is right? (Luke 12:57)
Why do you not understand what I am saying? (John 8:43)
Our goal must move beyond just having kids parrot back Bible facts to us, but to also have them think about the "why's" behind those facts. We should not be afraid of asking "why?" Asking the "why's" will lead kids to a deeper faith.
Asking "why?" opens the door to great conversation.
Asking "why?" causes kids to delve into apologetics.
Asking "why?" can help you transition from being an ineffective lecturer to being an effective facilitator.
Asking "why?" can be the tool that helps kids move beyond a surface faith.
Asking "why?" can turn an activity into a learning, thought provoking experience.
Asking "why? can make a review game more meaningful.
Let's think about a practical example. You're sharing the story of Noah. What are some why questions you could ask? Here are a few...
Why do you think God chose Noah to build the ark?
Why do you think Noah didn't quit building when people laughed at him?
Why do you think God decided to send a flood and start over with Noah and his family?
Do you think it was hard for Noah to trust God? Why?
Do you think Noah's family was afraid? Why?
The people laughed at Noah when he was building the ark. Why?
Do you think you would have been able to trust God if He had asked you to build a giant boat? Why?
How many "why's" will you ask this weekend? Hopefully a lot. If you do, I promise you it will make you a better teacher, small group leader, parents and all around kid's ministry Ninja extraordinaire.
Your turn. Do you use the word "why" in your lessons, discussions, etc.? What are some tips or insight you have for this? Share with everyone in the comment section below.
But we also need to look at the transition from elementary into student ministry.
Do this to see the need more clearly. Work with the student ministry at your church to track how many kids who graduated from your elementary ministry are now plugged into student ministry. I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be a percentage missing because they slipped through the cracks during or right after the transition.
Let's talk about how we can improve this critical time of transition, so kids make the jump into student ministry successfully. Start the transition early. The transition should be a carefully planned process. Sit down and map it out. Here's an example of a planned transition.
3 months out - have people from student ministry hang out in the pre-teen area at church and then introduce themselves to the group and make the announcements during the service / class.
2 months out - have people from student ministry hang out in the pre-teen area at church and then share the lesson that day.
4 weeks out - have people from the student ministry hang out in the pre-teen area at church and then share the lesson that day.
3 weeks out - have people from the student ministry hang out in the pre-teen area at church and then share the lesson that day.
2 weeks out - have the pre-teens go and observe the student ministry during a service or event.
1 week out - host an elementary graduation celebration for pre-teens and their parents. See more about this below.
Transition week - host an open house for pre-teens and their parents in the student ministry area.
1-2 weeks after the transition - student ministry host an event for pre-teens who have just entered student ministry.
Start building the relational connection early. Pre-teens are already insecure. Add to that transitioning into a new area and you've got the recipe for a royal freak out. Pre-teens are wondering if they will fit in. Will anyone know them? Will they make friends? Will they be accepted?
Pre-teens need to transition into an environment that may be new, but is full of familiar faces. Student ministry leaders are the key to this. They can do this by spending significant time with pre-teens before the transition takes place.
Ask your children's ministry volunteers to be involved in the transition. Your children's ministry volunteers have a relational connection with the pre-teens. Cast vision to them for helping pre-teens they have invested in make the transition into middle school successfully.
Some volunteers should even consider moving up with the pre-teens into student ministry. An example would be a small group leader who moves up with the kids in his group and becomes their small group leader in middle school.
Get student ministry teenage leaders involved. This is a great opportunity to see teenagers serve and reach back to influence the pre-teens who are following them. An upcoming 6th grade girl looks up to and admires an upcoming senior in high school. That's who she wants to be.
Challenge teens to leverage their influence and use it to help pre-teens transition well into student ministry. Cast vision with them to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of those coming behind them.
Get many of your key students involved in the process we outlined in the first point. It will make a big, big difference.
Get parents involved. Pre-teens aren't the only ones nervous about the middle school transition. Their parents are as well. Especially if this is their first child who is making the jump into middle school.
This transition is one of the key times when parents are wide-open to your insight, encouragement and help. One of the best things you can do to help pre-teens make the transition into middle school is to help their parents make the transition as well.
How to lead your child spiritually during the teenager years.
You can make an event like this really, really effective by asking student ministry to host it with you. Student ministry leaders can be involved in helping teaching the class, greeting parents as they arrive, answering questions, giving an overview of the vision of student ministry, etc.
I have created a special class / event for this called "Elementary Graduation Celebration." I have personally seen hundreds of pre-teens go through this with their praents and successfully make the transition into middle school.
Equip kids and parents for their middle school years. As mentioned above, pre-teens and parents are entering new territory in their relationship. Many parents try to parent their teenager just like they parented them when they were 9-years-old. They simply just don't know.
That's why it's critical for you to equip pre-teens and their parents for the middle school years. The elementary gradaution celebration class is full of great teaching about....
Pre-teens - how to not just survive the middle school years, but thrive.
Parents - clear parenting strategies for the middle school years.
Celebrate the transition and make it memorable. As part of the elementary graduation celebration, parents have the opportunity to write out and speak a blessing over their child. It's a memorable moment and lots of tears of joy and love are shed.
You can also make the transition celebration memorable for families by taking pictures and having a small gift for each pre-teen who is graduating. One of my favorites to give is a necklace that has a dog tag. The dog tag has the children's ministry logo on one side and the student ministry logo on the other side. It's a symbol of the two blending to become one.
Please...please...please remember this. The front lines of the battle for the next generation is no longer in high school, but in the transition from elementary to middle school. Let's be there for pre-teens and help them to continue following Jesus for the rest of their life.
Recently, I was in Canada sharing a talk based on the parable of the sower.
Out of the 4 seeds that were planted, only 1 produced long-term fruit.
At first glance, that could be discouraging. It appears that the majority of the sower's time, energy, labor and effort was fruitless.
Do you ever feel that way? That your impact is far less than you had prayed and hoped for? That the kids aren't really grasping and putting into practice what you're teaching them? That the take home paper you spent so much time creating for parents, just ends up in the trash can, having never been used? That all the time and effort you put into pulling off that big event, didn't really produce any lasting fruit?
You're not alone. We've all felt that way at times. Or maybe even all the time.
Back to the talk in Canada. After the talk, a precious lady, who had been serving in children's ministry for many years, shared something with me about the sower that was profound. It has to do with the impact he ended up having.
If you continue reading the parable, you will see the end result of the sower's efforts yielded a fruit of at least 30. Compare that to the 3 seeds that he planted that did not bear fruit. He couldn't see it at the time, but his impact ended up being at least 10 times more than the 3 seeds that didn't bear fruit. That was the minimum result. In some cases, it produced 20 times and even 30 times more fruit than the seed that wasn't fruitful.
Here's the deal.
Your impact is much more than you can see right now. That I can promise you.
Be encouraged. Your lesson will bring at least 10 times more fruit than you can see right now.
Don't quit. Your role as a small group leader will bring at least 10 times more fruit in the lives of the kids in your group.
Smile. The time you're spending loving, holding and ministering to babies in the nursery is going to yield at least 10 times more fruit than you are expecting.
Stay faithful. The time you're spending helping preschoolers memorize a Bible verse is going to produce 10 times more fruit in the years to come.
When we focus on the seeds that aren't bearing fruit, we get discouraged. When we focus on the seeds that wilt under the heat of the sun, we lose sight of the ones that are healthy. When we focus on the seeds that the birds snatch away, we overlook the ones that are flourishing. When we focus on the seeds that are getting choked out by the thorns, we begin to think the effort is not worth it.
Someone is reading this right now who is about to quit. Your focus on the seeds that aren't bearing fruit, has crushed your spirit.
Be encouraged today. God is at work. Your impact is going to far outweigh your effort when all is said and done.
I have a friend who lives in China. He equips and trains over 83,000 children's ministry leaders in the underground churches across China. They in turn, minister to and share the Gospel with millions of children there.
I asked my friend how he came to faith in Christ. I was curious how he become a follower of Jesus having grown up in an atheistic, communist culture. He shared with me that decades ago, a missionary from Houston, Texas, came to China and shared the Gospel with his great, great grandfather. From that one seed, my friend is now the 4th generation of believers in his family.
Think about it. Over 83,000 children's ministry volunteers being trained and millions of kids hearing the Gospel...and it all started with one Gospel seed that was planted years ago.
I'm sure that missionary shared the Gospel with many people over the course of his ministry. And he probably heard more "no's" than he did "yes's" during those years. I'm sure there were times when he wondered if he had made any impact at all.
But his impact would end up being much more than he could see at the time. And so will yours. In fact, you won't realize the magnitude of your impact, until you are standing on the other side of eternity.
I leave you with this promise.
So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Galatians 6:9
If you want your ministry to thrive, then it's crucial that you build a strong volunteer team.
This means you need to enlist new people to volunteer on a regular basis.
But it can't stop there. HOW you bring them on your team is just as crucial for building a strong volunteer team.
You see, how you bring new volunteers on your team will set the tone for the time they volunteer with you.
Let's look at 5 keys to successfully onboarding new volunteers.
Key #1 - Help new volunteers find their sweet spot. When you ask a new volunteer where they want to serve, many times they will say "wherever you need me." And the temptation is to do just that...place them where you need them.
But don't do it. Here's why.
Don't place new volunteers where you need them. Place new volunteers where they need to be.
Where they need to be is in a role that aligns with their passion, gifts and personality.
You can help a new volunteer find their sweet spot by...
Asking them "What's your dream job at church?"
Having them take a personality test.
Having them take a spiritual gifts test.
Letting them observe several different areas of the ministry if they are not sure which area is their sweet spot.
Giving them permission and actually encouraging them to switch to a new role if they find the role they first entered is not their sweet spot.
When you place someone in their sweet spot, they will thrive. When you place someone in their sweet spot, they will enjoy serving and will stick around.
Key #2 - Share the vision and core values of the ministry. The ministry vision is why they will be doing what they will be doing. The core values are how they will be doing what they will be doing. This is critical if you want your team to stay aligned.
Give them both of these in writing and take time to explain it.
Key #4 - Provide new volunteers with on-the-job training. This doesn't mean shoving a new volunteer in a room of 30 preschoolers with just one other person and saying "Good luck."
Place new volunteers with an experienced volunteer that they can shadow for a few weeks. How long will depend on the role.
Here's an example for a new small group leader you're onboarding.
Week 1 - sit with the group and observe veteran volunteer leading the group.
Week 2 - co-lead the group with the veteran volunteer by doing about 25% of the lesson.
Week 3 - co-lead the group with the veteran volunteer by doing about 50% of the lesson.
Week 4 - lead the entire lesson with the veteran volunteer observing and providing feedback afterwards
Week 5 - new volunteer lead his/her own group by himself/herself.
Key #5 - Provide new volunteers with the resources they need. This includes curriculum, supplies, snacks, etc. Provide these things in a timely manner and show them where they are. You want your volunteers to be relaxed as possible. Knowing they have the tools they need will help reduce any anxiety they may be feeling.
You can get more great tips for enlisting, equipping, engaging, encouraging and empowering new volunteers in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams." Readers have called it the best book ever written on the subject.
In the last 20ish years, a movement has risen that focuses on encouraging and equipping parents to disciple their children.
This is a good thing. We know no one has more influence in a child's life than his or her parents. And Scripture makes it clear that parents are to pass on their faith to their children.
But, I wonder in the push to get parents to disciple their children, if we have forgotten something.
You can't pass on something you don't first have yourself.
Deuteronomy 6, which is a mantra passage for the movement, says this in verse 7...
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. (MSG)
Notice that it says parents must first know God's Word themselves if they are going to pass it along to their children.
In the majority of cases, I'm afraid we haven't focused enough on teaching parents God's Word, so they in return, can teach it to their children.
Want proof of this?
A recent survey among church-going parents revealed that 51% do not know what the term "the Great Commission" means.
25% say it does ring a bell, though they can't remember what it is.
6% say they are not sure if they have ever heard the term before.
Let's narrow that down to today's parents....who are Gen Xer's and Millennials.
Only 17% of church-going Gen Xer's know the Great Commission.
Only 10% of church-going Millennials know the Great Commission.
Unless something changes, just a small, small percentage of Gen Z will even know Christ's last command and marching orders for us as believers.
Think about it. Only 5-6% of the next generation of church-going kids will know the Great Commission.
"If we produce parents who have a weak, water-downed, shallow faith, then that is what they will pass onto their children."
So what needs to change?
The church has to get serious about discipling parents, so they in return can disciple their children.
What are some steps we can take to see this happen?
Focus on parents first. It's time we get serious about producing fully devoted, Christ-following parents who are grounded in God's Word. Our teaching and preaching must be balanced with information and application, so parents have a solid knowledge and understanding of God's Word and how to live according to His purposes.
This must happen in the worship service, in adult small groups, in men's ministry, in women's ministry and in every other format where adult discipleship is supposed to happen.
This will give parents the knowledge and tools they need to disciple their children and see them grow up to know Jesus and His Word. Target parents at key milestones.
Do you have baby dedication? If you just call it "baby dedication" or "child dedication," then change it to "Parent & Child Dedication."
Several years ago, I had started a new role as children's pastor at a large church. At the time, the church had child dedication 2 to 3 times a year. Parents registered online, but there was no class or meeting with the parents prior to the dedication. We simply met the parents in the auditorium the morning of the dedication.
After going through a few of the dedications, it became clear to me that many of the parents had no idea what the dedication was about. And it wasn't their fault. We simply weren't taking the opportunity to teach them at this important time in their life.
And so, I started a class that parents were required to go through before they dedicated their child. And in that class, we not only taught parents what the dedication was about, but we also took time to give them a Biblical foundation for parenting and a strategy to disciple their children.
We saw great fruit come out of this.
There are key times, milestones, in a family's journey, where they are very open to your input and influence. These are times, that at first glance, appear to be focused on their children. But if you will be intentional about also focusing on parents during these times, you can make a huge spiritual impact in the lives of parents as well. Don't miss these opportunities to teach and disciple them.
Here are some of the key times and resources available to help you implement this. These are proven resources that have been used to disciple thousands of parents in a local church setting.
Bible Presentation & Celebration - as kids transition into elementary school, you can use this resource to teach not only them, but their parents as well, foundational truths about the Bible and how to make it a priority in their life.
Faith Commitment - when a child is asking about beginning a relationship with Jesus - you can use the Starting Point class and strategy to reach not only the children, but their parents as well.
Baptism - when a child is asking about being baptized - you can use the Baptism Class curriculum to not only teach children what baptism is, but their parents as well. Do this and you'll not only see kids baptized on a regular basis, but parents as well.
Elementary Graduation & Celebration - when kids are transitioning into middle school, you can use this resource to not only prepare them for middle school, but also their parents for parenting during the middle school years. Key parenting and discipleship strategies are taught.
Partner with adult ministry. Rather than being a silo that only impacts children, reach out to the adult ministry in your church and partner with them to disciple parents. This could look like you teaching an adult Bible study, leading a small group of parents, collaborating with your pastor for a teaching series about family, etc.
Take the initiative in discipling parents. Often in children's ministry, we have the mindset that it's our job to disciple children and it's adult ministries' job to disciple parents. Change your thinking and take the initiative in discipling parents. Host a parenting seminar. Offer family discipleship classes. Create opportunities for parents and kids to serve together. Include discipleship questions for kids to ask their parents in your take home materials.
I mentioned earlier the verse in Deuteronomy where Moses urges parents to get God's Word in them first, so they can in return, get it in their children. There's a great example of this found in 2 Timothy 1:5. It says this...
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
If we are going to see the faith passed onto the next generation, we must first see parents filled with it.
A few years ago, I went to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Miami Dolphins in Miami.
I went with a friend who volunteered in our children's ministry. We are both lifelong Cowboys' fans, even though we lived in South Florida, which is the home of the Dolphins.
We were able to get great seats, just a few rows up from the field. The game went well for our team and we came away with the win. For any sport's enthusiasts out there, it was the game Tony Romo returned after a shoulder injury several weeks earlier.
During the game, my friend pointed out that we were sitting a few seats away from one the player's family. It was the family of Jason Witten. If you're not familiar with the NFL, Jason was an all-pro tight end with the Cowboys for 15 years. He just recently retired.
That day at the game, there were a lot of people cheering for Jason. Thousands of fans at the stadium. Millions of people watching by television. Cheerleaders. Coaches. But one thing stood out to me that day when I looked over a few seats and saw Jason's family. It was this. They were cheering for him. His children and wife were wearing his number. And when his name was announced for a catch or other play, they beamed with love and admiration. You could see it on their faces.
I don't know Jason personally, but as I've followed his career and watched his family cheering for him during a game, one thing has stood out to me. He's done something right, because his biggest fans are his wife and kids.
For over 8 years, I had the privilege of serving as the children's pastor at the church where Dr. John Maxwell is one of the teaching pastors. I spent time with his kids and grand-kids and saw firsthand how they loved and respected him. I am reminded of what John said about your family being your biggest fans.
"Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most. This made success for me possible only if I included my wife and children in the journey. From that moment on, my success depended on putting my family first. If you want to truly succeed in this life, you need to ask yourself a question: Is your pursuit of success drawing you closer to - or farther from – the most important people in your life?"
He is right. True success is when your family members are your biggest fans.
Perhaps you are just starting out in ministry. Please remember this. What does it profit you, if you win all the families in your community to Jesus, but lose your own family? What does it profit you, if the kids in your ministry think you hung the moon, but your own kids are bitter toward you. What does it profit you, if you save other people's marriages, but lose your own marriage? What does it profit you, if the volunteers in your ministry give you a thumbs up, but your family gives your relationship with them a thumbs down?
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then put them first. If your son has a ballgame that conflicts with a meeting at church, then skip the meeting and be at the ball game. Make sure you are home most weeknights. Use all of your vacation time and do fun things with your family. If someone asks you to do something ministry related on your date night with your spouse, say "no."
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then spend time with them. Words are great to tell your family you love them. But words alone are not enough. Show your family you love them by spending time with them. Your preschooler will only be a preschooler once. Your elementary-aged child will only be that age once. Your teenager will only turn 16 once. You'll only have one 5th wedding anniversary. Don't miss it.
This may mean even setting aside some hobbies you love for awhile. That's okay. You can pick the golf clubs back up when your son or daughter has graduated and is in college. You can go on that girls' trip after your own girls are out of the house.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then treat them with honor and respect. Leave the stress of work at work. Be gentle and loving with your children and spouse. Smile as much or even more at home, than you do at church. Speak kind words to your spouse. No matter angry you are about something that happened at church, don't unload on your family. You can't be a jerk at home and expect your family to be your biggest fans.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then ask for their forgiveness when you blow it. No one is the perfect spouse. No one is the perfect parent. You will blow it at times. When it happens, humbly ask for their forgiveness.
If you want your family to be your biggest fans, then let them hear the words "I am sorry. Will you forgive me?"
One day, you will arrive at the end of your journey here on earth. As you walk those last few miles to the finish line, everything else will fade away. Your accomplishments in ministry will go out of focus. Your earthly possessions will won't matter.
But what will matter will be your family. When the crowds are not there cheering, will your family be there cheering for you? It depends on how you live now.
Jason Witten has received lots of awards and accolades over the years. But after seeing his wife and children cheering for him, I now realize his greatest accomplishment is this.
His family members are his biggest fans.
Are your family members your biggest fans? If not, now's the time to make some adjustments. Rearrange some priorities. Shift some calendar dates. Drop some hobbies. Say "no" to some things, so you can see "yes" to your family more often. This is how you will accomplish true success.
Need some help parenting? If you have an Amazon Echo with Alexa, the digital voice assistant, you may be in luck.
There's a new "Magic Word" function that you can turn on which will tell kids to use the word "please" when they ask for something. The function can also be used to reinforce positive behavior.
Amazon has also introduced children's content for the Echo that includes 300 audio books for kids, as well as skills designed for kids by Nickelodeon, Disney and National Geographic.
Need help getting the kids out of bed? Digital parent to the rescue.
Need kids to be reminded to study for a test? Digital parent to the rescue.
Want to teach your child how to be polite? Digital parent to the rescue.
Want to see your child improve in their history lessons? Digital parent to the rescue.
Need someone to read a bedtime story to your child? Digital parent to the rescue.
Want to monitor what your child is watching and listening to? Digital parent to the rescue.
The truth is no app, computer, digitally generated voice or "futuristic robot" can take the place of a parent.
God has placed the guidance, training, spiritual formation and molding of children in the hands of their parents.
I often remind parents of this truth: No one has more influence in the life of a child than his or her parents.
Parents are told this in God's Word.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Parents are to...
Treat their children right (do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them).
Train their children (bring them up with the discipline).
Teach their children (bring them up with the instruction).
One of the most important things we can do is equip parents to raise their children to love Jesus. When we influence the greatest influencers (parents), we can then truly influence their children through them.
This means we should teach parents how to treat their children right. Most parents, by default, parent the way they were parented....bad parenting traits included. Provide parents with the tools and resources they need to identify bad parenting habits they want to correct. Show parents how they can build a great relationship with their child. We should also teach parents how to train their children. This includes how to discipline, how to train their kids to make wise decisions, how to manage money, etc.
And we should equip parents with the Biblical knowledge they need to teach their children the ways of God. Giving them the understanding they need to pass on a Christian worldview to their children.
Do these 3 things and you will set parents up for success as they guide their children.
Let me ask you a question. Do you have a plan in place to equip parents? Do you have a strategy to influence them?
Here are some articles that can help you develop and implement a strategy to influence the parents in your ministry.
Anyone who says parenting is easy has never been one. Parents are looking for help. That's one reason many of them are excited about something as simple as a digital voice that will help them teach their children to say "please."
God has placed you in a unique position as a ministry leader. You can be a voice speaking into the lives of parents, helping them step up to be the parent God is calling them to be.
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