We Are Going to Have to Start Over

Over the past few months, we have learned that there really is only one thing that remains constant…that is that nothing is constant. COVID has come in and seems to change everything we have held dear for years overnight. Just when we adjust there are new challenge and changes we face daily. COVID has come and has done damage to the health of our country but also it has shaken the foundations of our confidence and the normality of our daily lives.

In times of prolonged uncertainty novel is not the answer. People don’t want a new normal they don’t want digital everything they want the comfort of old truth. Coming out of quarantine I knew that we were going to have a slow path back but I don’t think I was fully prepared for what the reality presently is…I think we are going to have to start over.

I say this because about 10% of our kids have come back and only 10% of our volunteers have returned. There are lots of reasons for this. Many in isolation have reevaluated priories and have moved to be closer to family, some are still scarred by the daily barrage of media, still, others are waiting for a cure. These are uncertain times. These are times filled with difficulty for every leader because no matter what decision you make someone will not be pleased.

We in our churches have been dealing with things as they have arisen on the fly. I have seen much creativity from the church in creating Zoom small groups for Youth and doing kids shows on YouTube. Those are great adaptations but the longer everything lingers the more I am convinced that I think the reality is that we are going to need to start over. I have often thought about what would I do differently in kids and youth ministry if I had to start over from scratch knowing what I know now after 23 years leading in the same church.

Here are a few things we are going to need to change.

  1. Discipleship needs more thought and investment than environments. There has been much focus on excellence in kids and youth environments and not enough on how do we create lifelong followers of Christ. What things do we need to teach and how can we teach them to kids in a way that creates lifelong faith in Christ? These need to consume our thoughts and drive our budgets.
  2. We need to rely more on training live teachers and less on video elements. Video doesn’t have the same impact in a zoom or online setting that a loving teacher teaching kids live over zoom or making phone calls to kids can make. Video is wrong but people are better.
  3. Small group leaders are going to have to know kids better. When difficulty hits small group leaders that know their kids are better equipped to reach out to those families. We are going to need to create opportunities for small group leaders to connect more intentionally with parents and look at their small group as a little church and not as child care during the service. We need a better structure for coaching small group leaders to spiritually direct kids rather than to simply disseminate religious information to children.
  4. We are going to have to run more of what we do like a small church rather than a megachurch. Our bigger campuses have a return rate of 10% but at our smaller campus kids are coming back at rates like 80%. It seems like for the foreseeable future people are more comfortable in smaller settings. Over the last 30 years, the people who we have looked to for direction are the kids and youth ministry experts from the largest churches in America. I know many of these people and they are amazing leaders but our solution going forward does not seem to be bigger and better but intimate and intentional.
  5. Our preaching needs to be more Biblically driven and less topically driven. The reason for this is our kids need to know what God reveals to us in his word more than cute stories and applications that are fun but not formational. Kids need fathers in the faith to proclaim Biblical truth far more than they need cool older brothers to hang with them. I am not saying our approach should be informational at the expense of being relational. What I am saying is that our approach needs to Biblical if it is to be transformational.

I know starting over sounds overwhelming because it is overwhelming. I also think that this is a great opportunity for us to re-evaluate our approach to ministry, our motivation in ministry, and ultimately what the fruit of our ministry should look at.

If we walk away from COVID unchanged by its far reaching effects in every area of life we have missed an opportunity to start over to reset and and to reevaluate what matters most.

Pastors, we can’t go back to a new normal. We shouldn’t try to keep things the same. We need to take this moment to learn how to make our churches smaller and make our ministry more personal.

How would you start over if you had too? Because I think we are going to have to do exactly that.

Books You Should Read Your First Year in Kidmin

One the questions I get asked from time to time is what books people who are new to Kids Ministry should read. Some are asking because they are new to ministry others are asking because they are family pastors adding new staff. This is the list of books I often share it isn’t comprehensive and is not in order of importance.
One of the best books I have ever read on the mandatory art of recruiting and building teams of volunteers. As a family pastor, you will not survive without learning how to help make volunteers.
Show them Jesus is an indispensable resource for anyone who teaches or communicates with kids. Jack gets to the heart of what we teach and then gives practical tools and tips in how to teach those truths using real world examples. Jack is not sharing with us untested theories but time-tested truths he has learned as someone who has been and still is teaching kids Sunday to Sunday. His stuff on how to teach the hard stories of the bible are solid gold.
Leading isn’t easy. Leading others when you are deceiving yourself is impossible. If you lead anyone and yes I realize this is everyone. You need to read this book.
 You are what you love – by James KA Smith You Are What You Love is a fantastic book that tackles the idea that we are not so much what we think but what we love. That the problems in our lives are a result of misdirected affections. Even if the whole book doesn’t interest you the chapter on teaching kids and youth is a must read for all who work in family ministry.
You Are What You Love is a fantastic book that tackles the idea that we are not so much what we think but what we love. That the problems in our lives are a result of misdirected affections. Even if the whole book doesn’t interest you the chapter on teaching kids and youth is a must read for all who work in family ministry.

The Disordered Love of Disney

Disney Beauty and the Beast

This week The Disney company made news by introducing an LGBTQ sub-plot in its remake of Beauty and the Beast. They also are placing their first gay kiss between two animated characters. This is shocking for many Disney lovers. As someone who respects Disney’s creativity but won’t sell an organ on eBay to make the annual pilgrimage, I find it not shocking but expected. Disney has always told their fairy tales in a way that reflects culture rather than transcends culture. Most of the stories Disney tells are of reflecting our culture’s obsession with romantic love. The answer to the problem every character faces is not the proper order of love but in the right kind of love. The heart of every princess wants to find true love usually in the form of romantic love.

C.S. Lewis called Christianity a true myth. He came to faith through his friend J.R.R. Tolkien’s explanation of the gospel as the story behind every story. Lewis said “Christianity is both a myth and a fact. It’s unique. It’s the true myth.” Disney has always dealt in the currency of fairy tales, in the happily ever after. Every story Disney tells has the same framework we see in the Bible. In the Bible, we see the structure every good story has Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. In Cinderella, for example, we see Cinderella’s perfect world, followed by the death of her mother, the redemption through her Fairy Godmother and restoration with the prince and happily ever after. Our hearts long for redemption and restoration. This storyline resonates with us because we see ourselves as Cinderella in a world full of Step-mothers. We instinctively long for Redemption. The problem with Disney is their idea of love is usually reflective of culture rather than transcending culture or as we would call it otherworldly. To be fair Disney has produced movies that speak to the longing of properly ordered love in movies like Frozen and Up.

3 Reasons Why Kids Need Systematic Theology

I know what you are thinking “Isn’t that a bit much for kids?” 50 years ago I would have agreed with you even 20 years ago. Today is a different day.  There are many reasons for this, but I think DA Carson’s analysis is most concise in this matter. He says,”One generation knows the gospel the next assumes the gospel the third generation denies the gospel.”

When I was growing up as a kid, and I believe even my first few years as a children’s pastor we lived in a season where the gospel was assumed. As a kid, there were no sports or school activities on Wednesday night so kids could go to youth group. Stores were closed on Sunday so people could spend time with family and observe the Sabbath. We lived in a culture that Christian ideas thoughts and standards for better or worse pervaded our country.  In the south, this is still true to some extent. I think the feeling when I was growing up was that you didn’t need to give kids as deep of a grounding in doctrine and truth because it was everywhere. There was stuff you learned for sure, but I think many things were assumed. As parents and as pastors we can no longer assume anything. We live in arguably the most secular age our country has ever seen. We must proactively teach our kids the stories of the Bible but also the truth underneath the stories and most importantly the person to whom those truths and stories point.

That is the context for why we need to teach our kids systematically here are a few reasons why it matters.

The Gospel Truth About Kids Ministry

Until 5 years ago I had heard of Awana but knew very little about them. Over the past few years that has changed I have had the privilege of meeting many of the Awana staff and team. Every time I leave a meeting with them I am blown away by their passion to reach kids and families as well as the bigness of the vision they have to do so. Here is a short video of the impact they are having around the world.


This week Awana is releasing a new book called “The Gospel Truth About Kids Ministry” here is how they describe it.

The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry. The book is based on research we conducted in 2013 & 2014 to “take the pulse” of the children’s ministry community. We wanted to fully understand the wants, needs, and expectations of children’s ministry decision makers. This fresh research will equip leaders and their ministry teams to make the kind of changes that are necessary to reach this generation of kids- and beyond.

I like that in their book they address many of the problems children’s ministry workers face and they don’t leave it there they offer insight and solutions. I know what some of you might be thinking “I’m not an Awana church, and I don’t think I ever will be.” That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from Awana pray for their success and apply some of the wisdom and tools they have to share to help you be more effective where God has placed you.

“The Gospel Truth About Kids Ministry” Is has many great quotes, insights, stats and potential solutions. My favorite quote was the following.

Many fear that in the overwhelming busyness of running a children’s ministry program, we may have lost sight of the priority — making disciples of kids, parents, and leaders.

The reality of reaching kids is the more you reach the busier you become and if you are not careful you can become a middle manager to kids who need a pastor. Such an important reminder for me in reading this book that the gospel must be the beginning middle and end of all I do, and if I am not pointing kids to Christ weekly and intentionally. I am missing the whole point.

The Gospel Truth About Kids Ministry will be available on the 22nd of June at the Awana online store. Be sure to pick up a copy for yourself and one to share.