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What to Do With Santa

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by kevindooley)

A lot of people are worried about their kids believing that Santa is real. It’s not the story you tell at Christmas that’s going to determine their belief in Jesus. It’s the story that you tell every other day of the year with your life that makes the difference.

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry Book Sells 100 Copies!

Yeah, yeah, I know that 100 copies isn’t a huge thing in the publishing world, but when you put your own money upfront to get a project you believe in off the ground, 100 copies is huge! So to celebrate Matt coming out of the red on this project, the print version of What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry is available for $6.99 for the month of December. That’s $3 off the regular price! Simply enter the discount code “JSH7Z7GW” when you check out. They’ll make great gifts for your leadership team, senior pastor and volunteers! And just in case you’re worried, the ebook is still available for free.

I can’t believe that it’s barely been a year since Matt Guevara, Amy Dolan and I began collaborating together on this. We’ve been so excited at how many people have begun conversations around the question of “What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry.” Be watching in 2011! There’s more coming from What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry including a video edition which will be streamed for FREE as well as a global edition that will include contributor from different areas of the world. A huge thanks to all the contributors to the original project and upcoming projects as well as a huge thank you to all of you who have downloaded and/or bought the book!

Love Your Enemies

I found out about this video on Eugene Cho’s blog. I thought it was pretty cool and a powerful way to jump start a conversation with children on loving your enemies.

Any ideas on how you would use it?


Lead the Way God Made You Blog Tour!!!

If you haven’t heard yet, Lead the Way God Made You by Larry Shallenberger is five years old! To celebrate, Lead the Way God Made You is travelling the blogosphere on a virtual book tour, and today it is stopping by Elementary Children’s Ministry. You can check out the previous stops with Matt Guevara, Barbara Graves, Joe McGinnis, and Todd McKeever.


Prepackaged Goodness!

(picture taken from

I don’t know about you, but I’m really not into Hamburger Helper. It’s just plain nasty! I’m sure there are many out there who can’t think of anything better then digging into all that prepackaged goodness… more power to ya! (and a good cardiologist)

Anyway, I came across this cartoon and it got me thinking… How many times do we do this in children’s ministry? I see so many tweets and blogs and Facebook statuses talking about being Biblical. It’s almost as if there’s a competition out there to be the most Biblical. “Our curriculum is more Biblical than yours!” OK, maybe that isn’t explicitly what is said, but it’s pretty easy to read between the lines of all the not-so-subtle digs at other curriculums. Who’s to say that what you use or create for children is more Biblical than what someone else is doing or creating? C’mon!

We can become so arrogant about our understanding of the Bible that we forget that God is WAY bigger than the boxes we try and package him in. I’m not saying that being Biblical isn’t important. What I am saying is that our idea of “Biblical” isn’t the end all.

I can already hear it, “Well, it’s easy. You just teach from the Bible! What’s more Biblical than that?” If it were that simple then I would challenge you that your idea of God and understanding of Biblical is too small. God is infinite. To think that we can corner the market on Biblical interpretation is arrogant at the least and dangerously unorthodox at it’s worst.

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we pick and choose what we focus on in the Bible. Some of us put more emphasis on free will while others of us focus more on God’s sovereignty. Some of us thrive on more contemporary forms of worship while others of us connect more fully to God in the midst of creeds and ritual. The list can go on.

I’m not saying we throw out the Bible. What I am saying is that we give our kids space to encounter the Bible with the Holy Spirit guiding them. We shouldn’t be so quick to interpret everything for them and systematize how they are “supposed” to understand the Bible in order to fit within your denominational distinctives. We need to help children see the Bible as a comprehensive story of who God is, how much he loves us, how we can follow him to have the most amazing life ever and how we can be a part of the redemptive and transformative work God is doing in the world around us.

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest that you pick up Scot McKnight’s book the Blue Parakeet. It’s a great resource on how to read the Bible in light of it being a comprehensive story of God’s desire to restore creation to what he intended for it.

  • What are some ways that you are prepackaging God for kids? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
  • What are some ways you help children discover God?
  • How can we become more like facilitators and cultivators of spiritual formation rather than simply being conduits of information?

More Than Just Making God Happy

(Image taken from Indexed)

I’ve started reading N.T. Wright’s most recent book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. In it, one of the things Wright challenges is the view that morality and character are mere rules that we follow out of guilt or a sense of obligation until we reach the “real” prize of heaven. It’s begun to make me think of the context in which we teach character to children. I think we are good at teaching kids how to “make God happy/proud” with how we live, but is that the point of character? Or is character about something more? What we do… what kids do… in that time between conversion and eternity has got to be about more than putting a smile on God’s face. It’s got to be about ruthlessly reflecting God to our world and being a part of bringing redemptive transformation to our world now.

What are the implications for your children’s ministry when approaching character this way?

How do you equip families to pass on this kind of view of virtues and character and morality?

How is this way of thinking different than how you’ve approached character? Is it different?

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry: Why I Chose Ingenuity

Alright, I’m taking a cue from my friends Amy Dolan and Dan Scott and posting about my reasons for choosing my answer for What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry.

I chose the word Ingenuity.

Why that word? Well, I didn’t start off with that word. I knew what I wanted to write about. I just didn’t have a word. Back in December, I wrote a post about innovation in children’s ministry. I then followed that up witha series on being dynamic in children’s ministry. Those posts were my response to the love affair that we have with wanting models and programs and systems to follow so that we can do children’s ministry well.

I’ve been to my share of CM conferences and networking meetings and have perused so many books and articles and curriculum. The main thrust of these is to give “practical” models to adapt and/or follow. While I know that practical advice is important, I think that we limit ourselves to only searching out the practical.

We become too fearful of “reinventing the wheel” because we think it’s a waste of time. We follow the axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because we don’t want to mess with a good thing. If those are your philosophies, then great. But don’t pretend you’re being innovative or ingenious.

I’m not saying we ignore the past or not learn from those that have gone before us. What I am saying though is that the wheel always needs to be reinvented and if it ain’t broke, then maybe your aren’t trying hard enough. True ingenuity isn’t afraid to reshape, re-engineer and rethink what children’s ministry looks like. We need less people worrying about what curriculum or model they are using and more people experimenting with what they already have as well as daring to incorporate ideas and elements they’ve never considered using before in their children’s ministries.

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry: Ingenuity

(picture was originally uploaded to Flickr by vancouverconvention)

With yesterday’s release of the FREE eBook What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry, I thought I’d share my contribution here at Elemental CM. The word I chose was Ingenuity.

Following a recipe is easy to do. It takes little skill. One only needs to follow directions.

Short order cooks follow recipes. World-class chefs create mouth-watering masterpieces.

Creating a culinary work of art isn’t so easy. It takes finesse and the understanding of how ingredients combine to create a dish that is tailored to the specific palate of an individual.

Why is it that you attend conferences, read books, network with others, and buy curriculum? Is it simply to gather and trade recipes for ministry? Or is it to gather inspiration, taste something different and discover ingredients you’ve never tried before?

True creativity, innovation and reformation in children’s ministry will only come when we dare to step beyond the tried and true recipes and are willing to experiment with new strategies and practices.

What are your thoughts on Ingenuity? I’d love to hear!

What word would you choose to answer the question, “What Matters Now In Children’s Ministry?”

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