Why is Children’s Ministry So Important?

Why is children’s ministry so important?

People bring their Bibles to church, but they also bring their expectations. Sometimes, those expectations clash with other churchgoers in the same congregation. Since children are rarely involved in church leadership, their needs and interests can take a backseat to other “more important” ministries. Here are 10 great reasons why churches prioritize children’s ministry.

  • 1. The family is an important part of God’s plan for the world. He invented gender, marriage, and procreation – God invented the generations! The 10 Commandments and the Epistles both include important instructions for children to honor and obey their parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1).
  • 2. The majority of people who make a decision for Christ do it before the age of 18. Most studies place the percentage around 85 percent. This number may vary slightly by family or by the stripe of church, but surely it is above 50 percent. Consider your own experience – did you make a decision for Christ as a child or a teenager? If so, then you know about the importance.
  • 3. If a person comes to Christ at a young age, they can follow Christ for their whole lives. The rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 is identified by his age, as well as his wealth. What if this young man would have decided to follow Christ? That would have been an amazing story of God’s grace.
  • 4. Children can be examples of sincere faith. Jesus’ disciples drove children away, but Jesus welcomed them into His presence (Mark 10:13-16). The way children accept things as truth is a living illustration of what it means to have saving faith.
  1. 5. Believing parents are commanded to disciple their children – and they need help. Parents in the Old Testament were expected to teach their children about the things of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This expectation is continued on into the New Testament as well (Ephesians 6:4). Parents can have a huge positive spiritual influence on their kids, e
  2. 6. There are all kinds of forces clamoring for our kid’s attention and loyalty. Retailers and advertisers have focused their efforts on children for decades. Today’s social reformers are directing their efforts at younger and younger ages to capture kids while they are still impressionable. The destructive power of Satan takes on a whole new level of meaning if you think about it in relation to our young ones. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • 7. Reaching out and ministering to kids is the key to ministering to the whole family. Children’s and youth ministry is one of the top three ministries that modern families are looking for in a church. (The other two are worship/music style and preaching). Some church planting experts are recommending a children’s minister/director as the first staff hire beyond the church planter himself. Parents will come to and even in engage in the church if their children are happy and growing.
  • 8. Churches need the energy and enthusiasm of up-and-coming generations. It’s inevitable – we all grow older over time. Churches need a balance between the wisdom and experience of older generations and the energy and enthusiasm that children and youth bring. I’ve had several conversations recently with apologetic parents and concerned church members about the noise and activity level of some of the kids in our church. In my opinion, that’s a good thing because we need these kids!
  • 9. God blesses the discipling efforts of those who minister to children. Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle rather an iron-clad promise. As a church, we have an opportunity to partner with parents as they “train up their children.” This kind of ministry focus invites God’s blessing and we need all the blessings we can get!
  • 10. Every person, no matter how young they are, is precious and important to God. The sanctity of human life begins at conception and extends all the way to natural death (Psalm 139:14). Sanctity refers to the holiness and intrinsic value of every human life. The very young and the very old are frequently discounted in our culture, but not so with God.

Take your pick – there a lots of reasons why children’s ministry should be important in today’s church. Investing in children will pay off dividends now and for eternity. 

How Do We Get Godly Wisdom?

  1. The screen revolution has had positive and negative impacts on society. One of the negative impacts it has had on many people is moving the focal point of authority from external to internal. Meaning that people feel freer to disagree with the things they learn because they think they discovered that information on their own by looking it up on Wikipedia or Google.
  2. This past Sunday, we talked about the importance of passing wisdom down from one generation to another. Not just any knowledge or wisdom, but godly wisdom. According the book of Proverbs, godly wisdom is the key to life.
  3. The first section of Proverbs 1 serves as an introduction to the book as a whole and primer on gaining godly wisdom. The first 7 verses contain four principles for growing on godly wisdom. Here they are…
  1. 1. Proverbs are pint-sized portions of Godly wisdom (v. 1). The book of Proverbs contains a long list of short, pithy sayings and poems. They contain a concentrated dose of reality to help the reader see things for how they really are vs. how they appear. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, Hezekiah, Agur, and Lemuel during Israel’s golden age – and has stood the test of time.
  2. 2. Proverbs help unlock the mysteries of life (v. 2-3, 6). Most of us have a set of keys that we use to open up our house, turn on our vehicle, and gain access to our workplace. The right key makes all the difference. Proverbs help unlock the mental mysteries of life by providing wisdom, instruction, and understanding. 
  3. 3. Proverbs are for the innocent, inexperienced, & impressionable (v. 5). Those who already have life figured out don’t need godly wisdom. But those who are teachable and humble, will find a wealth of wisdom in God’s Word. Steph Curry is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. According to one of this coaches, Curry is, “The most educable player I’ve ever known—both in terms of his willingness to listen and in his ability to absorb and execute.”
  4. 4. Proverbs pave the way to Godly wisdom (v. 7). The closing verse in this passage introduces theme that is reapted throughout the book: godly isdom is a path that must be pursued (It shows up again in chapters 4, 9, and 15). Those who purse wisdom will find it and will be transformed by it.
  • Godly wisdom is the key to life, but it must studied and acted upon. Instead of treating like one more news headline, or one more piece of trivia, or one more social media post, we must hold on to it like a priceless treasure. We must do whatever it takes to incorporate godly wisdom into our lives and to share it with the next generation.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 3)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This is the last post in a short series on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are helpful in emphasizing what makes a particular church unique. But what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

So far, I have described two scenarios that can spring up in a church where they don’t know or act on their core values: perpetual conflict and mission drift. These of the symptoms of the greater problem of ignorance and apathy. Here is a third scenario that can arise from this problem.

Scenario #3: Misplaced Priorities

Calvary Church has had many ups and downs during Pastor Mark’s tenure. During the last few years, however, the downs seem to be happening more regularly. In order to “rebuild momentum” and “turn things around,” Pastor Mark has encouraged his church to lower their standards for membership. In fact, they have discussed removing membership from their church altogether. The line of thinking is that people are just people. If they make it as easy as possible, with no expectations or required beliefs, then maybe more people will opt in. This idea gains a lot of traction with the church’s existing membership and they make it a major emphasis as they promote their church out in the community. For a brief time, the emphasis seems to work, attracting a handful of newer people to the church. But they don’t stick around very long because their commitment level is so low.

Another problem pops us in Calvary Church as well. Some of the newcomers to the church hold some unbiblical views and others are involved in some questionable practices. One charismatic and persuasive newcomer offers to teach a study that describes heaven and hell as a myth instead of real places. Another caring and creative newcomer begins a class on the benefits of all world religions. In time, these groups weaken the church’s convictions about the necessity and uniqueness of the gospel message.

All values are not created equal. Some values are real and some are aspirational (“I wish we believed in X, Y, or Z”). Some values are shared and others are personal (Think back to the scenario about perpetual conflict). And more importantly, some values are biblical and some values are not. This may one of the most important reasons for a church to identify and define its core values. If a church chooses and implements an unbiblical value, it will wander away from its Scriptural basis.

Being open and welcoming to newcomers are good and healthy things. Removing unnecessary barriers to participation and membership is a must. For example, people shouldn’t be expected to meet a specific dress code to attend or join your church. But removing any and all doctrinal boundaries or expectations for membership is a value that goes too far. In fact, it’s unbiblical. The Scriptures make repeated references to the importance of being a recognized part of a local church (Acts 2;47, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 13:17).

It is important that church leaders and church members know their core values to make sure they line up with Scripture. Things that are unexamined and unexplained can lead subtly in the wrong direction.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 2)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This post is a continuation of my last post on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are foundational concepts that shape a church’s personality and “drive its ministry”, according to Aubrey Malphurs.

So far, we’ve been exploring what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values. In the last post, I described a church that was damaged by perpetual conflict because influential parties in the church refused to take ownership of their own personal values.

Here is another scenario…

Scenario #2: Mission Drift

Pastor Mike has served at Christ’s Fellowship Church for more than a decade. He is well known for his strong pulpit ministry and his shepherd’s heart. Christ’s Fellowship is known in the community as one of the busiest churches in town. They have events and programs going at the church building every day of the week. Sunday’s schedule is full of Bible studies, worship services, and volunteer training. Monday and Tuesday feature specialty studies, outreach programs, and a full slate of committee meetings. Wednesday evening has a long list of age-graded ministries along with ministry teams preparing for upcoming services. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday include affinity groups for outreach, numerous social gatherings, and a large youth sports program. Pastor Mike and his church members work hard to maintain all of these ministry opportunities. They don’t have as many people involved as they once did, but they are faithful to “get the job done.”

In time, Pastor Mike notices that his church members seem tired and worn out from all of the activity. He spends an inordinate amount of his time recruiting new leaders and volunteers. He is proud of all that His church is doing, but secretly wonders how long they can keep it up.

In addition, Pastor Mike has also noticed that Christ’s Fellowship seems to have a hard time keeping newcomers. Guests visit and attend for a few weeks or a month, but they fade away with no explanation. When he follows up with some of the guests who are more open about their experience, they share that they are unsure where to get started or how to plug in since there is so much going on at the church.

This is a more subtle problem with core values, but it is just as damaging. When a church fails to define and defend its core values, it begins to drift from its mission. If you try to chase too many priorities, you will get overwhelmed, and soon or later you will have to let something go. Churches leaders that do not know their church’s core values will be tempted to adopt every new ministry trend that comes along. Church members that do not understand their core values will try to start programs to meet every need. Or, they will have a very hard time letting go of a ministry that has outlived its usefulness.

Churches that drift from their mission will have a hard time retaining newer members. People are excited about joining in with a group of people that are going somewhere. They are less excited about joining up with a group that seems to be going everywhere at the same time.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe a third scenario of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values?

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

Every church has the same mission, but its own personality. We all go about making disciples for Jesus Christ in our own unique way. Some congregations emphasize the relational part of church life, while others focus more heavily on the praise and worship part. Other assemblies pay more attention to community engagement and missions.

A church’s personality is shaped by its core values. Church leadership expert, Aubrey Malphus, defines core values as, “The constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs tha drive ministry.” A church’s top priorities are what bring a church together – or at least they should!

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values? How can you tell if there is a breakdown in communication or a missalignent? What does ot take to reenergize a church that is struggling? How can you repair an unhealthy church culture?

This post will introduce the first of three church scenarios involving ignorance and inaction when it comes to core values. Each scenario is an example of what can happen when a church and its leaders are unware and out of touch with its operational convictions. The remaining church scenarios will be described on posts that will be released later this week.

Scenario #1: Perpetual Conflict

Pastor Tom came into First Church with a ton of energy and enthusiasm. He was excited to serve in his first senior pastorate and the church was excited to have him. First Church had been a thriving and growing church at one time, but recently they had been struggling. Pastor Tom introduced a number of well-thought out initiatives that were designed to attract new people to the church. In time, those initiatives began to work and the church was reinvigorated with stream of new faces. But some older members of the congregation were uneasy about the changes. The new changes interrupted the weekly schedule they had been accustom to. The new people were unfamiliar and hard to get to know. The increase in attendance meant that it was more difficult to get their pastor’s attention when they had a need.

In time, these older members began to complain about how their church had gotten “too big” and how the newer people were moving the church in the “wrong direction.” The complaints continued until they stirred up a significant amount of friction and discontent in the church. Attempts to address the concerns by Pastor Tom and other supportive church leaders were unsuccessful. In time, Pastor Tom felt pressure to leave First Church for another place of ministry, even though the church was evangelizing the lost and attracting new members.

This is an example of a breakdown in communication between a pastor and the congregation he is called to serve. Pastor Tom put a high value on evangelizing the lost and growing the church through new people. Few church members would openly oppose evangelism or church growth, but in this example, the disgruntled church members have a different set of core values. They are more interested in personal relationships and fellowship. These priorities are not bad or wrong. Healthy relationship are vital part of any healthy church. The problem happened when neither party (the church or the pastor) took ownership of core values that were driving their approach life and ministry in the church. They never sat down together and discussed why they felt so strongly about their opposing visions of the church.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe another version of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

Can You Predict the Future?

Can you predict the future? Think about the last time you made plans for an outdoor event or activity. Did the weather work out the way you hoped it would?

No matter how hard we may try, we cannot predict the future accurately. Sometimes we get it right, but just as often we get it wrong. This can leave us with a sense of dread.

Instead, it should push us towards faith – faith in the One who can predict the future. We should acknowledge our limits and lean on the one Person who knows our past, our present, and our future. We should trust Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s ability to predict the future was highlighted during the weeks that led up to His death, burial and resurrection in Jerusalem. Just before approaching the capital city, He took His followers aside and explained to them that He was about to die. He told them He would mocked, scourged, and crucified, but on the third day he would be raised back up to life (Matthew 20:17-19).

Jesus had made many other hints and declarations of His death and resurrection; this was just the most direct. Not only does it underscore His dedication to God’s plan for redemption, it also helps to explains why He made it a point to tell His follows about His death and resurrection before it ever happened (Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 27:63, 28:6).

This last prediction was meant to help His followers find their part in God’s plan for redemption. In Matthew 20:18, Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem.” The rest of His statement implies that He was sharing more than travel instructions. He was sharing how His followers would be involved in and affected by the coming events. The Jewish officials would condemn Him to death. The Roman authorities would carry out that sentence. And His followers would have a front row seat to what happened next.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a historical fact, it’s the focal point of God’s plan to redeem the world. The clues that the Savior dropped along the way to Jerusalem were shared as request for all His followers, past and present. They were meant as an invitation to share in His death and His resurrection.

Easter is a reminder that “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). It is also an invitation to put our faith in the Savior who defeated sin and death on our behalf. It’s an opportunity to follow the One who knows our past, our present, and our future.

What Kind of Partnerships are Permissible?

This past Sunday I shared a message with my church about the distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness from Ephesians 5:3-14. In the passage, Christians are called “children of light” and called to live in God-honoring ways. One of the instructions in the passage that stands out is the warning about partnering with unbelievers (v. 7, “Do not be partakers with them”).

This should make thinking Christians ask, “What kind or partnerships are permissible and what kind of partnerships are out of bounds?” This original question led me to four more additional questions. The answers to these questions serve as a framework for evaluating the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith.

Will it affect your identity? Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (NIV). A “good name” involves your identity and reputation. Once your identity and reputation have been tarnished, they can be very hard to restore.

Associations with certain social clubs or even social movements can be viewed a kind of voluntary partnerships. Believers should be careful not to associate themselves with a club or a cause they don’t fully understand. If they do, they might unintentionally harm their identity.

Will it affect your values?  2 Corinthians 6:14 is verse another verses that addresses Christian partnerships, especially marriage. It says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV). This verse emphasizes the importance of going the same direction, pursing the same things, and valuing the same things in a long-term relationship.

A solid marriage is built on agreement in a number of key areas. How will you spend your time and money? How will you raise your children? How will you express you religious convictions? Bible believing Christians and agnostics have different views on these key areas because they have conflicting values. This is just one of the reasons why it is unwise for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

Will it affect your resources? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). In other words, the way someone uses their money is a window into their soul.

Entering a partnership with someone who has a different faith commitment can be tricky. A business partnership along these lines may be strained as you make decisions that affect your bottom line. Christians must be cautious here.

Will it affect your witness? 1 Peter 2:12 is just one of many verses that urge believes to steer clear from blameworthy behavior. If a Christian lives like a non-Christian, it can be hard for them to explain their faith to others. Some connections, and even some friendships, can have a negative impact on your ability to share the gospel.

The warning in Ephesians 5:3-14 should not be misunderstood as a call for isolation or various levels of separation from the world. We must engage the world and the kingdom of darkness. But we must also be thoughtful and wise about our longterm partnerships, so that we can live in ways that honor God.

What questions would you add to evaluate the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith? Please leave your comments below.

Who or What Controls Your Church Schedule?

Are their things that are controlling your church’s schedule in unhelpful ways?

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

The pandemic has had some unexpectedly positive side effects on the local church. One of those side effects is an opportunity for church leaders to assess and adjust the ministries and programs of their church. This brings up the often unspoken yet critical question of who or what controls the schedule of your church? The easy answer is the Bible, but there are some other considerations that usually get added into the mix. Here are 5 things that may be controlling your church schedule in unhelpful ways.

1. Tradition. When asked about why a ministry or program is done the way it is, the traditional response (no pun intended) is, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” There is nothing wrong with familiar habits or established customs, as long as they don’t become an excuses or laziness or lack of creativity.

2. The Calendar. Another familiar response when discussing church activities ends in a day of the week. As in, “We always do X on this day or that day.” I am not trying to resolve the debate between those who prefer to gather “weekly” for worship and those who view Sunday as the appointed day for corporate worship. My point is that apart from a few clear principles in Scripture, there seems to be lot of flexibility for the church to do what works best in their context.

3. The Budget. Like it or not, giving, accounting, and budgeting are a part of today’s modern church. Bible study materials have to be purchased, lights need to be turned on, and staff members need to support their families. At times, a service or ministry must be canceled even if it might have a negative impact on the giving. Other times, churches may see the need to invest in a ministry, like an outreach to college students, that may be a draw on the church’s resources. As important as the church budget is, it should not become the most consideration.

4. Business Meetings. “Business Meetings” is code for the hodgepodge of concerns, interests, and preferences that exist in any local congregation at a given time. These interests maybe helpful, but they don’t always line up in clear and cohesive approach to ministry. To be clear, I believe that church members should alway voice their opinion in a vote, but not everything on the church schedule needs to be voted on.

5. A Denomination. Denominations can provide tremendous resources for church, but they can’t provide an effective ministry schedule. National or regional church leaders can provide opportunities for collaboration, information, or training, but they can’t provide an effective “plug and play” strategy to reach your community or disciple the people in your church.

After reviewing 5 things that may be controlling your church schedule in unhelpful ways, you may wonder who or what SHOULD be controlling your church’s week-to-week schedule. In my experience, the best way to build (or rebuild) a church schedule is by clarifying your outreach and discipleship. strategies. Your church schedule needs to be constructed in a way that will help more and more people come to faith in Jesus Christ and then grow in that faith. As pastor Robby Gallaty at Long Hollow Baptist Church has said, “Discipleship isn’t A ministry of the church, it’s THE ministry of the church.” The most effective church schedules, especially after the pandemic, will be constructed and controlled with this focus in mind.

Exalting Christ in Our Leadership

What does it look like to be a good leader in the church?

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

This past Sunday I shared 5 principles about being a good follower in the local church and the greater kingdom of God from Hebrews 13:7-19. Each one of the principles I shared can also be applied to leaders so I promised to share those this week through this blog post. You can find a link to my sermon notes on good followership here.

Jesus Christ is exalted when followers follow and leaders lead. Here are 5 ways that leaders can step up to make a difference in their local congregations based on Hebrews 13.

1. Set an example that others can follow (v. 7). The first generation of leaders may have passed off the scene in the church that recieved the book of Hebrews, but they left behind a pattern that was worth replicating. The best leaders set the tone for others in performance as well as their behavior.

2. Spread the right doctrine (v. 9-14). Like many of the other first century churches, some of the original recipients of Hebrews struggled with false teaching. Christian leaders today would do well by grounding everything they teach in the Word of God. This may seem obvious in theory, but it’s not so obvious in practice.

3. Showcase your sacrifice (v. 15-16). This principle sounds prideful, but it’s not intended to be. These verses describe two practices that believers should engage in regularly, two “sacrifice.” They are the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of service. Pastors and teacher in the Church should lead the way in worshiping God and serving others with a spirit of humility.

4. Step up for your sheep (v. 17). Shepherding is one of the most familiar metaphors for leadership in the Bible. Sometimes sheep bite, butt, buck, and wander away (metaphorically speaking of course), but they still need to be cared for. Pastors and elders especially, will be held accountable for the “flocks” of believers under their care.

5. Share your prayer requests (v. 18-19). The writer of Hebrews is transparent about his needs and concerns. His request for prayer in verse 18 should be a model for today’s Christian leaders.

The writer of Hebrews (your guess is as good as mine) was concerned with the believers under his care. He wanted them to be good followers as well as good leaders so that their congregation would grow and flourish. We need good followers and good leaders in our churches today as well.

A Fresh Way to Craft a Strategic Plan for Your Church

There are several ways to build a strategic plan for your church. Here is a fresh way that may help you achieve clarity and buy-in.

A strategic plan is a document that establishes the mission, vision, values, and strategy for a church, organization, or business. Instead of being framed and hung on a wall, a strategic plan is meant to shape what happens down the hall and in every corner of the organization. A biblical strategic plan for a church is theology in action.

There are two approaches that churches use most often in establishing their strategic plans. The first is what I call “the leader on the mountain” approach. This is where the senior leader (typically the senior pastor) gathers his thoughts and ideas and shares them with a select group of leaders in a meeting or the whole congregation in a sermon series. The “the secret committee” approach is where the church elects a select group of members to research the options, formulate their recommendations, and then to share them with the congregation.

Each of these two pathways has their own strengths, but they also have weaknesses. This blog post about a fresh way to craft a strategic plan that features both clarity and buy-in from the congregation. This way could be called “the open invitation” approach. Here’s how we used it recently to establish a strategic plan in the church that I serve as senior pastor.

First, I gathered information about the basic components of a strategic plan for a church: mission, vision, values, and strategy. I found a biblical background for each component and reacquainted myself with today’s “best practices.” Care was taken to search out the best goals and ministries for our particular context.

Second, I announced that our church would gather for a series of meetings to “rediscover” our purpose and plan as a church. These meetings were held over a period of five weeks and open to anyone who wanted to attend. I used the idea of “rediscovery” to tie our future plans back into our history and legacy as a a congregation.

Each meeting included some form of collaboration and feedback in the form of question and answer, round-table discussion, story-boarding, or written comments. I engaged with several participants one-on-one after the meetings and in-between meetings during the week. Ongoing feedback was incorporated as we moved closer to our completed plan.

Third, I shared a summary of our shared results in a public message to the church body the Sunday following our last weekly meeting. The message was framed as plan for a “new season of ministry” at the church, rather than the end of series of meetings. Since that presentation, I have been working with the church staff and other leaders to implement our new strategic plan.

Strategic planning is a must for any organization, especially a church. The “open invitation” concept certainly has its weaknesses, but its strengths seem to loom larger in a church and season of ministry that requires a great deal of trust and thoughtful interaction. Church leaders who are looking for a fresh way to craft a strategic plan should consider this approach.