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Why a strategic plan, not just random activity, is needed to disciple kids
In a world of video games, sports, social networking and self-centeredness, it might be easy to overlook this simple reality: Even kids want to know, “What on earth am I here for?” It doesn’t surface as a deep theological discussion, and you rarely have a child come up to you and articulate that question. But kids want to know that their life means something. They want to know that they matter.
I have given my life to helping kids make this connection, to helping them understand they are God’s masterpiece and that God has a specific plan and purpose just for them.
Think about it—what if all our kids embraced this truth at a young age? At Saddleback Kids, we have a simple ministry objective that gives kids the opportunity to know what on earth they are here for. That objective is reflected in our vision statement: “Connecting kids to God and others.”
Churches need men who will mentor the next generation
On a recent mission trip to Sri Lanka, I had a most memorable conversation with a young man I had met more than 11 years ago. Then a 14-year-old Tamil boy, he struggled to survive amidst a bloody civil war raging a few miles from his village.
He recounted some of the most difficult times in his formative years that included living in a nation at war. He had deep appreciation for his father, a converted Hindu, who went to great lengths to protect him from the Tamil Tigers that reportedly forced families to sacrifice their sons for the cause. He recounted the indoctrination and the pressure he faced at the hands of school officials with direct ties to the Tamil Tigers on a daily basis in the classroom.
He spoke of the Tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people. He told of the war’s violent end that forced hundreds of thousands of people into refugee camps just a few miles outside of his village.
Raising up strong children requires transparency and authenticity
A time-worn Christian cliche’ says that family decline is the root cause of much of the devastation in the nation today. From broken families, broken children emerge to create broken communities, broken churches and even broken nations. If we are going to turn America around, we must heal our families. Our families and homes are the first school house and the first church.
When my husband talks about a spiritual reformation within our nation, I often think about the practical aspects of training the next generation. I know several strong Christian leaders whose children have wound up doing prison time or they are stuck in nonproductive jobs, or even worse: They hate the idea of being engaged in ministry. This is often because the leaders did not pass the baton on to the next generation.
Years ago I looked at my life. I saw how wounded and dysfunctional I really was personally. Born an illegitimate child, the descendant of three generations of broken homes. Sexually abused before the age of 5 and brought up in a ghetto that led to me getting involved with drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. I even had two abortions.
Practical help for pastors and lay leaders in selecting the best outreach program
Vacation Bible School (VBS) has come a long way since 1923 when Standard Publishing produced the first printed faith-based curriculum for children, which was designed as a five-week course. Today, VBS has morphed and expanded into the largest church outreach program of the year for kids, though it only lasts a few days of their summer.
Churches nationwide gear up during the winter and spring months for the summer event by investing precious time, money and resources for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is the opportunity to reach out to the local community with the love of Christ and the message of hope. VBS is a non-threatening way for families to walk onto a church campus and experience firsthand a church’s commitment to loving and ministering to people.
VBS also creates a great opportunity for the entire congregation to support and highlight its children’s ministry. VBS should always be a big deal. The exposure it creates for children’s ministry is invaluable.
12 ways to make your church ‘middle school friendly’
Parents can do a great job of being the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, but they can be much more effective if the church is supporting them in the endeavor. Here are 12 suggestions for how you can help families with kids in middle school, ages 11 to 14.
1. Encourage families to participate in activities with their teenagers. Plan church family activities for everyone. Make sure single parents know they’re welcome. Invite singles to help plan and organize so they, too, feel part of the church family.
2. Make your church middle school friendly.This is the age so many kids drop out of church. Make your teenagers feel wanted and needed and a valuable part of your church.
3. Choose your teachers and ministry leaders wisely. Middle schoolers especially need adults in their lives who will teach God’s Word in a gentle manner—not preaching or judging, but relating to, respecting and encouraging them.
4. Develop a resource library for parents to help them teach a biblical response to abortion, homosexuality, racism, premarital sex, drugs, etc. Sometimes parents who desire to teach their kids about difficult subjects don’t know how to do it or have so little knowledge about the subject that they hesitate.
5. Offer a purity seminar. Make it optional for those families that prefer to teach this at home. A thought: Even if parents teach purity at home, having their teenagers attend the class will support what they’ve been taught. Teenagers will also recognize that they’re in this together—with their friends. Remember, peer pressure isn’t always bad.
6. Make a DVD of a Bible character who has a sense of destiny in doing God’s will.Students will learn about the person in a way that they will remember for years to come.
7. Encourage teamwork. Instead of asking one teenager to set up the Sunday school room, ask two or three. Instead of having an individual Bible memory contest, divide into teams.
8. Stock the church library with books and DVDs for this age group. Supply books about creation/evolution, devotionals, fiction, missionary biographies, etc.
9. Involve middle schoolers in a mission project. They need to meet ordinary people doing extraordinary service for the Lord. Focus on missionaries who occasionally visit the church (so the teenagers can get to know them). Choose tangible mission projects such as saving money for a specific need.
10. Plan a middle school Sunday. Allow your middle schoolers to do as much of the service as possible.
11. Write letters or send e-mails to your teenagers. Communicate to each middle schooler how much she’s appreciated as part of the church family. Make each letter different (because they will compare) and mention specific circumstances.
12. Appreciate them. When a group of kids was surveyed as to how they thought the adults perceived them, they answered: “They don’t like us.” I had a young teenager tell me: “They can’t find a Sunday school teacher for our class because adults are afraid of us.”
Change the perception of middle schoolers in your church. Get to know them by name. Ask how they’re doing. What are their interests? You might be surprised at the maturity some of them possess.
Linda Massey Weddle has published more than 2,000 articles and short stories. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the last 40 years. ©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph by Linda Massey Weddle. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
How can your church become a child’s favorite place to go?
A few months ago I conducted a water baptism interview in my office with a 10-year-old girl. We talked about all the reasons that Christians should be baptized, and I walked her through how and why we immerse kids and adults into the “big bath tub” and what it means.
The interview continued, and then she asked if she could share something with me. While in chapel at school a few days earlier, she said, a teacher asked the students where their favorite place was to go. One of the kids in the front of the room raised his hand and exclaimed, “Church!” Enthusiastically, the little girl in my office added, “Church is my favorite place too!”
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