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Archive - January, 2009

Upcoming TokBox Conversation on “Creating Culture: What About the Kids?”

16:9 Booths in a Field, originally uploaded by Яick Harris.

By age nine, a person’s spiritual framework is built, so our biggest opportunity to create culture is during childhood. Having a dynamic children’s or family ministry is not adequate. How do we include children in creating a culture that is transformational, having lasting impact in the future?

On Friday, January 30 at 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST, I will be hosting a conversation on the topic “Creating Culture: What About the Kids?”

The conversation will be via TokBox. You will need to, at least, have a mic for your computer and preferably a webcam to join in.

This conversation will contribute to a workshop that I will be facilitating at The Idea Camp at the end of February. I want to get input from people in different areas of church ministry.

If you are interested in being a part of the conversation, you can leave a comment here or DM me via Twitter @henryjz or email me. The conversation will be limited to 10 people. I will contact the people to be a part of the conversation with details of how to connect to the conversation.

I look forward to interacting with you!

Blogs I’m Following

I thought I’d put a brief list of blogs that I follow via Bloglines. BTW, if you don’t already use a newsreader for reading your blogs, then you might want to think of doing so. there are plenty of them out there like Bloglines, Google Reader and Newsgator.

Children’s Ministry Related Blogs

Business/Leadership Blogs

Some Blogs I File Under Inspirational/Fun

Theological Blogs

Parenting Blogs


Some Other Blogs

What blogs are you reading? Any suggestions?

    Rethinking How We Teach


    collaborate and listen, originally uploaded by detritus.

    The days of one-way teaching where a teacher stands at the front of a classroom or on a stage and the children quietly take in information are gone! We need to become more interactive, hands-on and collaborative with our teaching methods. Don Tapscott blogged about this from his book, ”Grown Up Digital.” Now, I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve heard a few interviews of him about this book and have a friend who’s read it. It is definitely on my “next-to-read” list.

    How do you think this paradigm shift affects what we do in large group settings and/or Sunday school settings? Are you already trying to address this?

    We’ve already tried to make some changes by being more intentional about including children in what happens on stage like coming up with actions for our main points and asking for input from children during large group times. I also let our small group leaders know that they need to be more relational with their kids as well as making sure there is a lot of participation happening. For the times that we need kids to sit and watch, we use video… but even then we make sure that some interaction with the video is built in.

    What are your thoughts?

    Children Given a Voice About Climate Change by Churches in the UK


    (Picture courtesy of Church Times)

    I ran across this on Dave Roberts’ blog on Children Matter. It is about an organization called Operation Noah, which is staging a demonstration in Cardiff (in the UK) by turning a ship into an ark, of sorts. Children will be dressed as animals entering the ark and holding signs representing countries that are high at risk due to climate change. In doing this, Operation Noah is encouraging the UK to take a greater role in talks happening in Copenhagen in December 2009 regarding climate change.

    In relation to my last post about connecting spirituality with religion, I thought this was a really neat thing that these churches are doing.

    Have you run into any other stories about churches giving children a voice into making the world a better place? Please share!

    New Study About Spirituality vs. Religion and Children


    An eye on the community…, originally uploaded by carf.

    Recent research has found that spirituality (a sense of one’s life having meaning and having quality relationships) in the life of children 8-12 years old positively affects their happiness. These findings are detailed in an MSNBC article I found via the Children’s Ministry and Culture blog.

    According to the article:

    …religious practices — including attending church, praying and meditating — had little effect on a child’s happiness

    “Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness,” the researchers stated. Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children  — such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering — may help to make children happier…

    Here is what I posted as a comment on the Children’s Ministry and Culture blog:

    As I read through this article and then through the original journal article, my first thought was to swing the pendulum and say, “See! Relationship and Community need to be emphasized in spiritual formation for children!” Then as I started telling people about the article and my emotional response was tempered, I think the nugget that we need to gather from this is that we have to have BOTH spirituality and religiosity. I think the educational models we mostly have when it comes to spiritual formation are just that… educational. There is more emphasis/importance leveraged on learning material and right practices and right HABITS. A lot of resources are put into making sure children know/believe the right things and can defend those and much of the communal and relational aspects are downplayed if even mentioned.

    The call to love God and love others is also about relationship and community. Sprituality (defined as relationship and community) and Religion (defined as religious practices like prayer, church-going, etc.) are two sides of the same coin. You really can’t have one without the other and expect transformation to be lasting and continual. Spirituality brings life/meaning to Religion and Religion brings strength and endurance to Spirituality.

    One other thing that we can glean from this research, too, is that children need intentionality built into how we help shape their spiritual framework just as much, if not more than, youth and adults. Also, we need to make sure that following Christ is seen as something that is relational (horizontally and vertically) as well as communal and not just a bunch of “right beliefs.”

    Also, this research point to the reality that an apologetic of love/relationship is much more effective at evangelism than an apologetic of facts and knowledge.

    What are your thoughts? What are some ways that we can connect spirituality with religiosity? Do you even see this as an issue?

    Facebook Integrated Into Comments


    While I was driving from Pearson Airport to Niagara Falls for a district retreat, I was listening to a podcast called Net@Nite that is hosted by Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur. Amber mentioning adding Facebook Connect to her comments on her website, and Leo found out that Facebook Connect was also integrated into Disqus.

    Now, all of that might mean nothing to some of you. In simple terms, you can use your Facebook login to post comments. This allows for the comments section to be more of a discussion community rather than simply a place to agree or disagree with my posts.

    Also, with the format Disqus has, you can reply directly to someone’s comment and have a discussion with that person. You aren’t tied to simply discuss the blog post! Freedom!

    One of my main goals with this blog is to have discussions about the mutual influence of children’s ministry and culture as well as where children’s ministry needs to go in the 21st century. I am hoping the changes in the comments section will facilitate more conversations as we continue to figure out how to best create culture as we minister to kids and their families.

    So, c’mon and try leaving a comment using your Facebook login!!! Let me know how you like the new comments setup. Do even care?

    Desks, Doors and Culture a la Mark Batterson


    Clay, originally uploaded by thefost.

    I read this post from Mark Batterson’s blog. (For those of you who don’t who Mark is, he is the pastor of National Community Church in Washinton, D.C. and the author of “In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day” and “Wild Goose Chase.”)

    Mark was talking about a book that he had read about the founder of Amazon.com and the culture he created there that started with him building his first office desk out of a cheap Home Depot door and sawed-off two-by-fours. Mark then went on to say:

    “…creating culture is the most importantand most difficult task of a leader. In fact, the only thing more difficult is changing culture. But the good news is that culture is nota mystery. It is living out your core values in meaningful ways. It iscommunicating your values in memorable ways. And that boils down to small actions that make a big difference. Things like making desks from doors!”

    I agree that creating culture is the most important task of leaders. That is the reason why I am so passionate about focusing on children. Here is the comment I posted to Mark’s blog post:

    The greatest impact we can have to actually create culture is to influence people before their core beliefs are pretty much set in stone after the age of 9. Creating culture within children is like working with clay; it’s easy to mold and shape. The clay dries very quickly after age 9 and becomes rock solid by age 13. After that you are having to chisel away at stone. Yes, there can be change but usually only happens due to life crises and/or divine intervention.

    Sadly, too many churches and church leaders wait until high school or university to seriously address spiritual formation issues and impacting culture. If we truly want to create culture and have lasting impact, then it needs to be done early. Do we ignore students and adults? No. But more intentional thought needs to go into realizing that children are probably the most integral part of our communities and deserve more of our resources, thought, and strategic planning.

    What are your thoughts on creating culture? What are some obstacles you face in putting children’s ministry as a priority in affecting culture at your church? What are you doing with children to create a culture that is transformational and can have lasting impact in the future?

    More on Christian Subculture and CM

    02-01-09_15141I ran into a new blog a couple of days ago from another person in children’s ministry. It’s called Just Pudge. I found the latest blog entry on Christian subculture interesting, especially since I blogged my thoughts regarding that same topic a while back. Check out what Pudge wrote.

    Here’s my comment to his blog post:

    I think we do a great disservice to kids (both churched and unchurched) whenever we try to perpetuate a mentality that says, “You have to be a part of my subculture, or you are wrong.” We are called to shape the future and be a part of the culture around us. Now, that doesn’t mean we conform to the culture. We need to be able to communicate God’s timeless truths in ways that can be heard in our time and in our culture. We cannot do that effectively if we huddle in our barracks, speaking our secret codes, and laughing to our insider jokes. We must reach beyond a Christian subculture and be transforming agents in the greater culture around us. That means each Christian context will look a bit differently from another one because each will be flavoured a bit differently depending on the surrounding culture. Now this is a messier way of looking at Christian influence in the greater culture, but I think it has far better chance of being effective than simply perpetuating a subculture that simply does not fit the context it is in.

    We need to equip the children and families we minister to to be able to read the culture around them, interpret it, and become culturally effective.