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Archive - December, 2009

Staying Dynamic in Children’s Ministry – #5 Futurecast

(image originally uploaded to Flickr by Mr Wabu)

You can read more about this series here.

5. Futurecast

One way to stay dynamic in children’s ministry is to futurecast. “What is futurecasting?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you asked! To futurecast is to predict what something might look like based on trends, culture and bit of intuition. “Why not just use the term ‘forecast?’” you might now be asking. I like how futurecast sounds…

Anyway, how do you futurecast children’s ministry? This is a bit tricky because you can’t know for certain if you are correct or not. Some ways to gather the needed information to predict where children’s ministry might be going is to read what people like Barna, Andy Crouch, and Ed Stetzer are saying about ministry and culture. Also take a look at sites like TrendWatching.com and Kidscreen.com. Also keep an eye on movies, TV shows, books and magazines that are coming out for kids.

As you take a look at these resources, take the following into account:

  • Recurring Themes – If you see certain themes or topics showing up multiple times, this may point to topics that are relevant or may become relevant to address.
  • Communication Methods – What are prevalent ways messages are being communicated? What mediums are being used? What images or slogans are being used? How are messages being communicated? The answers to these questions hint at how information is being processed and how we might need to adapt the medium of our message so that children can hear and understand it.
  • Social Models – How are families portrayed? How are friendships portrayed? What social themes are being used for different age groups? This can give you a glimpse into the social dynamics of children and families.
  • Communicated Values – What values are being highlighted? What values are being ignored? How are these values examples of Biblical values? How are they not?

The more you do this, the better you get at it.

What are some ways you futurecast? What resources do you use?

You can check out other parts to this series:
#1. Creative Space
#2. Cross-Train
#3. Question Everything
#4. Be Involved in Your Community
#6. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Grape Juice!
#7. It’s Not About You
#8. The Holy Spririt is Your Friend

Staying Dynamic in Children’s Ministry – #4 Be Involved in Your Community

You can read an explanation of this series here.

4. Be Involved in Your Community

I’ve found that being in full-time vocational church ministry it is very hard to be actively involved in the community. We spend so much time putting our programs together and getting people to come to us that we never get out there and be a part of what’s going on in the community.

What things are you doing that are alternatives or duplicates of what is happening in the community? What are the ways that you are getting involved in community activities? How are you serving your community?

God is already working in your community. You need to find it and support it and be a part of it. We act, too many times, as if people exist so that the church can keep truckin’. We exist for our community. When we do that we are being missional, we are bringing glimpses of God’s Kingdom to this earth.

When we look outside of ourselves and get involved in our communities, we will happen upon new ways of ministry that we could never think of on our own.

What are some ways you’ve been involved in your community? What ways have you changed that wouldn’t have otherwise happened?

You can check out other parts to this series:
#1. Creative Space
#2. Cross-Train
#3. Question Everything
#5. Futurecast
#6. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Grape Juice!
#7. It’s Not About You
#8. The Holy Spirit is Your Friend

Staying Dynamic in Children’s Ministry – #3 Question Everything

(photo originally upoloaded to Flickr by El Negro Magnifico)

You can read an explanation of this series here.

3. Question Everything

For some reason in church world we are afraid of questioning what we do and what we believe. There are lots of reasons for this that I won’t get into because I will end up writing an entirely different post :)

In order to stay dynamic in children’s ministry, we need to question why we do what we do. Why do we use curriculum? Why do we write curriculum? Why have curriculum at all? Why do we sing? What are we accomplishing by having or not having small groups? Why do we teach what we teach? Is children’s ministry really that important?

I think you get the point.

After we ask questions, then we need to ask more questions. We even need to ask the same questions in different ways. This can be very hard to do alone. It can even be hard to do it with a team (if you have one). One of the best ways I’ve discovered to ask questions is to enlist the help of a coach… you know the life coach kind of coach. This kind of coach is different than a mentor-coach. Someone doing pure coaching will simply ask questions and help you take a look at situations from as many angles as possible without injecting their opinions into the situation. This kind of coaching is hard to go through because we simply want someone to give us the answers or their feedback. Unfortunately, if you get the answers too quickly or you don’t come to conclusions on your own, then you short circuit the effectiveness of questioning everything as a way to stay dynamic.

When you question everything is this context, it isn’t necessarily about getting answers. It’s more about figuring out why you do what you do. It’s about discovering what makes you and the children’s ministry you oversee tick. Once you discover that, you can begin to change and adapt those things as needed in order to stay dynamic.

So, put aside those “gotta get it done” tendencies and question away. Enlist the help of a life coach. Get to the root of why you do what you do and begin seeing things from a whole new perspective.

Have any of you enlisted the help of a life coach? How has it helped? How has it not helped? What do you do to question everything? How do you keep from limiting your questioning?

You can check out other parts to this series:
#1. Creative Space
#2. Cross-Train
#4. Get Involved in Your Community
#5. Futurecast
#6. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Grape Juice!
#7. It’s Not About You
#8. The Holy Spirit is Your Friend

Staying Dynamic In Children’s Ministry: #2 Cross-Train

(image taken from ajc.com)

You can read an explanation of this series here.

2. Cross Train

We all know that if we want to continue growing, we need to continue learning. There are an abundant number of ways to learn: reading, conferences, schooling, mentoring, workshops, blogs, magazine, etc. The list can go on.

Learning, though, does not mean you will stay dynamic. There are plenty of learned people that haven’t changed in eons. You know these people. They are those who lament about the “good ol’ days” and wish that things would just go back to the way they were when it was easier to do ministry. They are the people who take a look at the landscape around them and blame the culture for the ineffectiveness of ministry.

If we are going to make any headway in children’s ministry, we need to do more than just learn more about children’s ministry and leadership. We need to broaden what we learn and where we learn it. One of the best things I learned in university was that all truth is God’s truth. That means that we can find, search and learn truth in all areas of life. We need to cross-train.

When athletes cross-train, they train their bodies through a number of different disciplines. When I was a swimmer in high school and university, we didn’t just practice in the pool. We lifted weights. We ran. We did more than just swim. The reason for doing that was to condition our entire bodies. As we strengthened other muscle groups, we allowed for those used in swimming to be able to grow stronger as well.

The same can be applied in children’s ministry. As we look outside of children’s ministry materials to learn, we develop our ability to more holistically grow in our capacity to lead, learn, and adapt. We see more than just what is immediately in front of us.

So what does that look like? For me, that means reading from a variety of disciplines as well as reading both fiction and non-fiction. I read blogs that range from theology to technology to sociology to parenting to humor to current events. I’m even learning a bit about linguistics from my wife… :) I’m no expert, but I would say that if you are spending more than half of your learning on one topic, then you need to branch out.

OK, so what are your experiences with cross-training in learning? Do you find it advantageous? What are some of the areas that you do your learning in?

You can check out other parts to this series:
#1. Creative Space
#3. Question Everything
#4. Get Involved in Your Community
#5. Futurecast
#6. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Grape Juice!
#7. It’s Not About You
#8. The Holy Spirit is Your Friend

Staying Dynamic In Children’s Ministry: #1 Creative Space

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Torley)

A few days ago I put up a post about saying something is new and innovative when it really isn’t. I thought I would follow up that post with this series called Staying Dynamic in Children’s Ministry. I like the word dynamic better than innovative because dynamic refers to something that continually interacts, changes and progresses. That’s exactly what I believe children’s ministry must do: interact with the culture and context it is in, change as needed to best minister to that context and move forward.

In no particular order, I will talk about eight things that I think are needed for a children’s ministry to remain dynamic.

1. Creative Space

Creativity isn’t something that just happens. Creativity is active not passive. Since creativity is active, then space needs to be made for creativity. I know what you’re saying. “Sunday comes every week, and summer activities are just around the corner! Don’t even get me started on Easter and Mothers’ Day!!! In between, I have to recruit and train volunteers, gather and adapt curriculum, and spend time with my family.”

I know it’s hard, but if you want to stay dynamic, then you have to make space to be creative.

You might be thinking, “Creative? What do you mean be creative?”

Make space to create something… it doesn’t even have to be work realated! Write an essay or story, paint a picture, doodle, plant a garden, create some cool graphics, photograph something. Do something to work out those creative muscles God gave you. “I’m not creative,” you might say. Nonsense! We are all creative. God created us in His image, and part of that image is creativity. You don’t have to create masterpieces. You just have to create.

You don’t have to set aside a lot of time for creativity. I try to give myself a couple hours a week to do something creative. I’m not always successful in carving out that time, but more often than not I try to give myself some time for creativity.

If we don’t set aside time to create, then we diminish our ability to do so. Creativity is like a muscle. It has to be used and exercised. You must work it out regularly. If you haven’t been allowing yourself time to create, it will be hard to do so at first. Maybe start with a pen and a blank sheet of paper. Start by doodling or writing random thoughts. Allow those doodles or random thoughts to take shape into a picture or narrative. It doesn’t have to look good or flow well. My doodles will never make their way into any art galleries… or on my fridge :) See what you come up with. Try different types of creative things. The point is not to produce something. The point is to create.

As you allow yourself time to create, you will find yourself being more creative with thoughts and situations related to children’s ministry. You will be able to take situations, tasks, curriculum and turn them into something new. You will be more willing to take risks and see beyond what children’s ministry is right now to what it can be.

How many of you already set aside time to be creative? When do you do it? What do you do to work out those creative muscles? How has it helped you remain dynamic?

You can check out the other parts to this series:
#2. Cross-Train
#3. Question Everything
#4. Be Involved in Your Community
#5. Futurecast
#6. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Grape Juice!
#7. It’s Not About You
#8. The Holy Spirit is Your Friend

Completely Uniformed Impressions on Karate Kid Movie Remake

I first heard there was a Karate Kid remake yesterday on Twitter. I had flashbacks of watching the Karate Kid movies… yes, even The Next Karate Kid (I’m not proud of it). I remember trying to do the crane and wanting to have awesome movies just like Ralph Macchio’s character… And don’t even get me started on Mr. Miyagi!

Anyway, I was holding out some hope for a pretty cool remake, even if it would probably be a complete ripoff of the originals. Who doesn’t like karate movies? Especially with Jackie Chan! I digress… I watched the trailer this morning, and I’m not sure what to make of the movie. All I can say is that I don’t have a good feeling about it. I was bothered at the ages of the kids in the movie. The movie isn’t about high school angst and the plight of the teenage underdog winning over the jock. It’s about upper elementary kids… the themes from the original movies are there, though… adolescent love interest, beating each other up, etc. The major exception is that it’s happening with 11 and 12-year olds in the movie.

Now, I’m not one to be overly alarmist about things, but I just don’t have a good feeling about this movie based on this trailer. The movie isn’t coming out until June 2010 so there could be a lot of changes done to the movie… I hope so. Based on the feel of the trailer and the scenes that were shown, I have a hard time trying to find something good to say. Do we really want to portray kids playing out semi-adult themes? There’s gotta be a line somewhere, and it seems like Sony is playing a little too freely with that line. Like I said, though, things can change in 6 months. I could be completely misreading the trailer (I haven’t read or seen anything else about the movie). I sure hope, though, that this new Karate Kid movie doesn’t turn out how I think it is going to.

What are your thoughts? What have you seen/read about the movie? Am I being overly critical?


Innovative and New in Children’s Ministry!

A little while back, Sam Luce posted about innovation in children’s ministry. He asked the question, “Why isn’t there more innovation in Children’s Ministry?” I then saw an article via Alltop on 50 ways to foster innovation in an organization.

We want to be original. We want to be new, fresh, and all that jazz. Yet, when you take a look at the world of children’s ministry and much of the church for that matter, you get the feeling you do when you watch that YouTube video at the top of this post.

Do we really need another curriculum, another book, another conference, another whatever? Now, I’m not saying any of those things are bad or that we don’t need them. What I am saying, though is that we need to stop calling things new or innovative that really aren’t. I am also not saying that we shouldn’t try discovering some new and innovative way of helping children to encounter God in life transforming ways. We need new glasses to see things. We need to reevaluate what it is we’re trying to do. Then we need to wade our way through to a truly new and innovative way to children’s ministry.

(HT: Brian’s Blog for the link to the above YouTube vid)


Got It All Figured Out

(image taken from ASBO Jesus)

So, who’s right? Does it matter? Can both be right? I’ve been reading a wonderful book entitled Manifold Witness by John Franke that explores the theology of the plurality of truth. I’m almost done. It’s not a long book, but boy has it got my brain doing back handsprings and other things that exhaust it. I look forward to discussing it here at Elemental Children’s Ministry when I’m done!

For now, what are your thoughts on the image above?


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