The Joy of Giving (In other words – we’re doing something right!!)

Being a parent is really tough at times. Our child has gotten to terrible 3s. (The 2s weren’t so bad…but the 3s…let me just tell ya!)

She has reached an age where her vocabulary is full enough to talk back to us on purpose. She has become adventurous, louder, and extremely OCD about how everything should be lined up. Her imagination is on full blast, and she gets caught up into these imaginary worlds and often times forgets to come back to earth. She has darted away from us a few times in public, scaring us silly.

Sometimes, I feel like we’re going a stellar job raising her. Most of the time, I feel like a colossal failure. I see other kids sitting still in class, and ours decides that since a crayon is on the floor under the table, rather than tell the teacher, or wait till later, she hops up and pushes the girl next to her out of her chair so she can climb under and retrieve the crayon (remember, OCD, it has to be picked up now and put in its proper place).

I know, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. She is only 3. But that doesn’t mean she should chuck her tennis shoes down the stairs at someone’s head after class time at Life group does it? Or if she falls down the wooden stairs because she’s jumping on them in sock feet, she should learn her lesson and not do it again immediately after we wipe the tears away, right?

Enter Valentine’s day. We woke up and had heart shaped sweet rolls, and gave Josie a Veggie Tales movie about God’s love. She had a good day at Mother’s Day Out at Crieve Hall. I got home, and we sat down for dinner. We went through the mail, and Josie had a card from my parents, her grandmommy and granddaddy.

She opened up the card, and out fell a crisp $5 bill from them for Valentine’s Day. Immediately, all on her own, Josie said “Oh daddy, look, I can give this like the lady did at church!”. I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about at first, so we asked a few clarification questions.

Come to find out, she wanted to give all she had like the widow had done when she gave her two pennies to God. She wanted to give the $5.00 grandmmommy and granddaddy had sent her to God.

All of a sudden, the running from us, the random screaming, the hard times in parenting, the lack of sense in some of her decisions…didn’t matter.

I realized that she is listening, and paying attention. She isn’t just a bundle of energy ready to explode. She IS paying attention to her Sunday School lessons and Wednesday night lessons. She IS paying attention to what mommy and daddy are teaching her at home.

Never stop teaching your children what is right. Train them up in the way of the Lord, and they will not depart from it!

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The Death of Sunday School and Wednesday Night Class

The Barna Research Group in a 2000 study found that:

  • Only 19 percent of church members attended Sunday school in 2000. That figure is relatively unchanged since 1991.
  • Thirty-three percent of born again Christians and 60 percent of evangelicals attend Sunday school in a typical week.
  • Married individuals are more likely than single adults to attend a Sunday school class in a typical week.
  • Sunday school remains a draw primarily in the South, where nearly three out of 10 adults attend weekly.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, there is virtually no drop off in Sunday school attendance during the summer.
  • Nearly one out of 10 adults is currently involved in teaching a Sunday school class, a catechism class or other type of Christian education class.

I don’t know where the church you attend is at in their Sunday School situation, but it seems like Sunday School is getting less and less of a priority today.  People tend to show up 10-15 minutes late, and by then they’ve either missed the beginning, or the teacher has waited to start, and they don’t get a full 45 minutes to an hour.  You can’t discipline them, because its their prerogative to be there or not.

I feel like the reason most Sunday School programs may lack attendance is two-fold:

1.  Lack of options for classes

2.  Lack of commitment and dedication among members.

If you attend a church like most, you will have very few adult options for classes.  In fact, in the churches I have worked at, there has been very limited options for adult classes.  You always have your typical “Adult Auditorium” class, where more often than not, it is a textual study that is verse by verse, or is using a rather boring curriculum.  These classes are effective for those that want to attend, but those that want to attend are growing fewer and fewer.  While these classes should be some of the best, and most attended, they are not.   Sadly, most younger people, young adults, and even middle aged adults are not seeking heavy textual classes anymore, but rather are seeking classes that are fresh, topical in nature, or directly affects them and their niche in life.

Even in the last church where I worked, where there were over 350 in attendance, for adult classes there were only 3 options.  On top of that, those 3 classes were taught by the same 3 people, over and over and again.  And that’s how it typically happens.  Therefore, new styles, thoughts, or direction from different teachers were never an option.

I remember in college I had one semester where I had the same teacher for 3 different classes.  It was horrible.  Its not that I didn’t like the teacher, its just that no matter what the subject matter was, the style was exactly the same.  Many of the same illustrations found their way into the lectures.

If Sunday morning is a problem, Wednesday nights are even harder.  Its growing more and more complicated to find people who willing to teach on Wednesday evenings due to a growing demand on their schedule.  If you attend a smaller congregation, you find yourself pulling from the same pool of Sunday morning teachers, thus overwhelming them and burning them out.

Smaller churches also have a hard time finding different teachers for their children’s classes.  It grows even more complicated for finding teachers for Junior High and High School classes.  Sadly, this task falls solely on the youth minister, if there is one.  The youth minister then never has a chance to connect with people his own age in an adult class setting (which is why I’m a firm believer that a minister should only teach either Sunday Morning or Wednesday night, never both, or at least get a quarter off from teaching each year).

The second problem is you may have a lack of commitment.  We’ll discuss that later.  Your thoughts?

Settling for Low Quality in Children’s Ministry

childrenminThis post will explore chapter 4 of Geoff Surratt’s book “10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing”.  This chapter is about Children’s Ministry.

After I finish reviewing most of the chapters in this book, I may go back and give my feelings on youth ministry.  However, this chapter deals with children’s ministry.  Its an area that most churches are finally realizing they are not putting enough effort and money into.  I know children pretty well.  In fact, I am one class away from having an Elementary Education degree.  My wife has a Child and Family Studies degree.  I may not be an expert, but I do know a little something about children.

We have a Children’s Minister at our congregation here in West University Place.  Christy works many hours a week preparing big events and service projects.  However, she is only one person.  I’m starting to realize that all ministry is much larger than any one person.  For our Children’s Ministry at West U to be successful, it can’t be only Christy.  She knows that, I know that, but sometimes parents don’t realize that.  For a program to be successful, it needs to be supported by everyone.

Another thing I’ve learned is that in ministry, no single minister is good at everything.  That’s why we equip other people to help and serve.  Areas I may not be good at, you may excel at, and I need you to help me.

 

 

Children’s Ministry is more than:

–  Sunday School
–  Wednesday night class
–  VBS
–  Parties
–  Children’s Worship or Bible hour during service
–  Gathering all the kids and singing and playing games

Children’s Ministry is an area that affects the entire congregation.  If a child is not happy, or not learning, the parent may pull that child out of the program, and go look for a place that will influence or teach their children better.  Others will follow, and before you know it, you’re left with a small group of kids, but even worse, a whole lot of your volunteers are gone.  When visitors with children come to your service, they will notice a lack of people in their children’s age range, but also in their own age group as well.  Its a snowball effect that a church can hardly ever recover from.

One problem that I have noticed recently in Children’s Ministries across the board is that they are using the wrong curriculum.  Some write their own that have no business doing so.  Others use a curriculum that doesn’t fit their church.  Some problems with that are that some curricula call for large groups for the class, acting out a skit or playing a big group game, and you’ve got Junior and  Susie, and no one else in your classroom.  This won’t work for that class.

I think we don’t give kids enough credit.  Children are smart, and are sponges.  They listen better than we think they do.  We may think that children have to be entertained, but in reality, children are extremely flexible in their learning styles.  As long as someone is prepared, children will listen.  The problem arises when a teacher shows up at the last second without preparing.  Children know when someone isn’t prepared, and they will take advantage of the situation.

If you come to kids with a plan of attack, and things to fill the entire hour of their time, they don’t have a chance to get distracted.  There is no room for error when teaching Children.  If you give them an inch they will take a mile.  Teachers being prepared is the single most important thing.

But you also need to understand that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Don’t focus too much on the big events and overlook the weekly activities and classes.  Classes should be the bread and butter of any children’s ministry.  At the same time, you can’t just put all your effort into classes and expect children to stay happy.  They do need the big events such as VBS and festivals and parties, but don’t overdo it.

A strong, vibrant, and exciting children’s ministry will be an outreach tool on its own, because children will want to bring their friends with them to class, to events, to church, and anything else going on.  With their friends come parents who may not belong to a church.  Maybe  a refreshment in your children’s ministry is what you need to start your church on a path to revival.