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My Conspire 2009 Thoughts – Breakout Session C with Larry Shallenberger

(picture taken from LarryShallenberger.com)

The third breakout I attended at Conspire was entitled “Cultural Trends that Affect Children’s Ministry” presented by Larry Shallenberger. You can check out my live blogging of this breakout here.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Larry through my online interactions with him online at the Children’s Ministry and Culture blog he and Keith Johnson author as well as emails and Twitter and Facebook. Oh the joys of social networking! I was excited to finally be able to meet and talk with Larry at Conspire as well as sit in on this session.

Larry began this session by asking, “Why would anyone want to keep track of kid culture?” I like his answer. “If you love someone, you keep tabs on their culture.”

Larry shared three cultural trends he has noticed that should affect how we go about children’s ministry. For more detailed explanations on each trend, see my live blogging of the session.

The three trends are:

  1. Outsiders view Christianity as the disease and not the cure
  2. The changing face of the available volunteer
  3. The falling price of technology

For trend #1, Larry cited research done for the book unChristian, which outlines some objections that many people have of the Church. While we can read through the objections and explain each of them away, Larry encouraged us to rather see the objections as realities and areas that we need to repent of and change.

During this discussion, the question was raised about children “being friends” with those outside a relationship with Christ. Is it OK for children to have non-Christian friends? In short, Larry’s answer was, “Yes.” We are called to love others as we love ourselves, so how can we love people if we can’t be their friends?

There were some at the session who stated concerns of children being negatively influenced by non-Christian friends and disagreed with Larry. I think Larry handled the whole situation well and still challenged people to avoid sheltering children. (Larry mentioned the conversation on the Children’s Ministry and Culture blog as well as some further thoughts he did not share during the breakout.)

In talking about volunteers, Larry highlighted two ends of the generational spectrum who are the most time on their hands to volunteer: the Millennials (approx. 20-30 years old) and Retiring Boomers. Larry highlighted the characteristics of each age group and how we can best work with them.

Lastly, Larry talked about the lowering cost of technology and how that affects what we do in children’s ministry. Larry cautioned that while technology is a very useful tool, we need to be careful to not overuse it. He likened the overuse of technology can be likened to the installation of “electronic flannelgraph.” Larry did make it clear that he isn’t against the use of video curriculum (see Larry! I’m making sure to mention it…). Technology needs to be used to enhance relationship and interaction not replace it.

Overall, I think this was a great session. Anyone involved in ministry of any kind needs to be aware of cultural trends and the affect they have on how people respond to the gospel message. Like Larry said at the beginning of this session, “We study culture because God has called us to love the world and we need to be aware of the greater culture around us.”

What do you do to keep tabs on kid culture?
How do you respond to Larry’s answer that it is OK for kids to be friends with non-Christians? What advice do you give parents on this issue?
How do you help parents keep tabs on kid culture?
How are you engaging Millennials and retiring Boomers involved in your ministries?
How do you use technology in your ministries? Do you see a danger of it being overused? Where do you draw the line?

One Response to “My Conspire 2009 Thoughts – Breakout Session C with Larry Shallenberger”

  1. JaredKennedy April 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    This sounds like a great session. The "electronic flannelgraph" analogy is fantastic.

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