Join the 2019 Children's Ministry Leadership Cohort

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From January to June of 2019, I'll be leading a group of children's ministers in a unique leadership development experience.

You'll learn to assimilate and train volunteers, build a child protection policy for your church, and partner with parents. You'll be developed as a theologically driven, gospel-centered, mission-focused children’s ministry leader. Cost for this coaching cohort includes one in-person ministry retreat,  five conference calls, and five books.

Download more information here, or apply below.

“Jared has served as an incredible ministry coach in my life. He has helped me lay out a specific and detailed action plan for the church I serve in, held me accountable to it, and provided biblically-informed wisdom as I strive to accomplish this plan. However, as important as the church ministry is, Jared has a deep passion and concern for my personal and family life—leading me to set a similar plan for those areas as well.” Brent Cisson, Family Ministries Pastor, Heritage Fellowship, Medford, OR

“I cannot think of anyone more passionate about gospel-centered ministry than Jared Kennedy. His leadership, excitement and coaching has helped me refocus and shape the direction of my church’s family ministry. If you have the opportunity to learn from Jared in any capacity, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.” Josh Hogue, Children's and Family Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale, AZ

I learned so much while participating in Jared's coaching cohort. Jared used really helpful resources and questions to help me grow and evaluate my church's children's ministry. He walked me through setting up and implementing a strategic ministry plan. Jared took the time to get to know me, my ministry, and my church in order to know how to best care for and advise me as a children's director. He also gave ample time to ask questions and learn from his experience. Laura Knisely, Trinity Church, Abington, PA

Jared does an incredible job of helping you keep the gospel primary while helping you evaluate your ministry and develop and implement an action plan that will help it grow. Throughout and following the cohort, Jared is personable, accessible and ready to help. As a result of my time with him, our ministry has benefited and I have grown as a leader. Finally, Jared is a baller in arcade basketball (but I did beat him once)! Cody Timmerman, Central Baptist Church, Americus, GA

Sharing the Gospel with Your Kids

As our kids grow, we have a responsibility to make their spiritual growth a priority. This doesn’t simply involve reading a Bible storybook to them a few times a week. It also means having intentional times when we simply share the gospel and invite our children to respond by believing it and then obeying the Bible’s command to be baptized.

I know many parents feel intimidated by these kinds of conversations. How do I help my child understand things that are still a mystery to me?  Be encouraged. While you bear some responsibility to teach your children, God is ultimately the author of their faith. So, when the moment comes, say a quick prayer. Lean into the Lord and ask him for help, wisdom and discernment as you share the gospel with your child. 

The next step is simply sharing the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Here is a simple way we teach it in Sojourn Kids. This gospel presentation contains five simple truths.

  • First, God rules. God is the king of the universe. God made the whole world and everything in it. And because God made everything, he is also in charge of everything. But God isn’t mean, selfish, or weak like human kings. God is the good king. He is just, loving, and powerful. And he wants us to be close to him—to trust him and live a good life in his kingdom – the life we were created for.

    Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
     
  • Second, we sinned. The problem with our world is that we have rejected God as our king. We’ve said no to God, and we’ve tried to live life our own way apart from him. Whenever we fight—whether it’s over the last cookie or the first place in line—we’re trying to get our own way instead of his.  The Bible calls this sin. Sin is saying no to God. The Bible tells us that everyone has sinned, and this sin separates us from God.

    Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
     
  • Third, sin leads to death. Here’s the truth. We were made to be with God. Though it may work for a little while to live life on our own, eventually the pain of being far away from God in a broken world shows us that something is wrong. People start to see that nothing else will satisfy and they look for ways to get back to God.  We try to be good enough—to make a fresh start. We want to be smart enough so we search for the right answers. We might even get busy with churchy activities. But these are broken bridges that lead to sadness, confusion, and judgment. God is still far away.

    Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.
     
  • Fourth, God provided at the cross. The pit created by sin is so wide that you can’t measure it, and there is nothing we can do to bridge the gap. We can’t pay for our crimes and put things back the way they’re meant to be. We can’t climb up to God, but God has come to us. Jesus is God’s son. Jesus was born on earth—fully God and fully man. He lived with God perfectly. Then, he suffered and died on the cross to pay the punishment our sins deserve. Three days later, Jesus rose to life and won victory over sin and death. Because of Jesus, we can live close with God again.

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 
     
  • Finally, God gives us his love and grace. God gets close to us, and he still loves us. This is such good news! God accepts us—not because we have earned it or deserve it—but just because he loves us. He showed you how much he loves you by sending Jesus.

    Now, Jesus is inviting you to come into his kingdom and receive his love by trusting him. If sin is saying no to God, then trust is saying yes. Will you say yes to Jesus?

    You can say this to God: Dear God, I trust you with my life. I’ve tried to rule your world as my own. I’ve said no to you, and I’m sorry. Thank for sending Jesus to die so that I might live. I trust Jesus as my king. I trust only him to save me and help me live with you. Amen.

    Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

So, that’s the gospel in five simple steps. And I want to encourage you to intentionally share it with your kids then call them to respond.

At the end of that conversation, if your child just isn’t ready, don’t try to pressure or manipulate them. And don’t be discouraged. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t saved or that they won’t be saved. Jesus didn’t identify his own faith as separate from his parents until the age of twelve, and he was not baptized until age thirty. Keep praying for your child and find a time in the future to come back to this conversation again.

On the other hand, if your child says “Yes!” don’t be tempted to doubt their sincerity. Take it at face value. We know that Jesus loves children and desires to save them, so eagerly encourage your kids to keep on believing—not just today but throughout their life. I pray this simple outline will help you intentionality share the gospel with your child.

 

If you liked this post, check out my Are You Close To God? gospel booklet. The illustrations on each page of this booklet correspond with the training video above. Use them to show and tell kids how God has come to us through Jesus, and how we can receive his love by saying "yes!" and putting all of our trust in him.  Click here to purchase.

 

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

At Sojourn Church Midtown, the church where I serve as a pastor, we're now using a series of training videos both to equip parents as disciple-makers in their homes and to orient and update our children's ministry team on our ministry policies and procedures as well best practices when teaching kids. 

I'm planning to share these videos here at gospelcenteredfamily.com as we release them to our church community. This third video in the series is designed to orient volunteers to our church's reporting policies for child abuse and neglect. It outlines three things: (1) our responsibility as mandatory reporters (2) how to report, and (3) how volunteers can guard themselves from accusation.  

Our Responsibility as Mandatory Reporters

The first representation a child has of God is their parents and regular caregivers. That’s a truth that should encourage us to be hyper-vigilant about protecting children from predatory or abusive influences. Sadly, most abuse takes place within the context of an on-going relationship.  Over 80% of the time, abusers are people who are well-known to the victim. They are the people we’d least expect.

In Matthew 18, Jesus warns us, “If  anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” This a strong warning, but it’s one that highlights our responsibility before God to protect kids.

We believe that reporting abuse is a responsibility we have before God. But it’s also a responsibility we have before the governing authorities. It’s important to know that all Sojourn Kids volunteers are mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect according to both Kentucky and Indiana law.

How to Report

So, what do I do if I suspect that a child has been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused? The short answer is, Report Immediately!

In the case of suspected abuse by a staff member, volunteer, or parent, volunteers should immediately make a report to Child Protective Services in your city or state. We also ask that you report your concerns to a safe staff person or pastor at the church. If you’d like, we’re willing to call Child Protective Services with you. After all, you are a mandatory reporter and we are mandatory reporters as well.

Here’s a couple of things about reporting that it’s important to know.

  • First, it’s not your responsibility (or ours) to substantiate your suspicions. We simply have a responsibility as a church community to comply with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and cooperate fully with both Child Protective Services and the law enforcement officials in our community. If you’d like to learn more about what constitutes abuse, take a look at the checklist that accompanies this video. But I’d encourage you to err on the side of caution and report any suspicions you have.
     
  • Second, know that you should not discuss the report with other parents or childcare workers. This is for the sake of privacy. But also, if a child is disclosing that a parent or another adult is causing harm, DO NOT talk with that parent or adult. Talking to a potential abuser could result in additional shame or abuse for the child. Instead, as we’ve already said, Report Right Away!

How Can I Guard Myself from Accusation?

One question that regularly comes up when we’re talking about abuse reporting is the question of protecting yourself from accusation. This is important because appropriate physical contact with children can be really helpful (and even necessary!) in a children’s ministry environment. A hand on a child’s shoulder may be helpful for aiding communication, redirecting attention, or calming restlessness. But physical touch can also be easily misinterpreted. So, whether you are serving in children’s ministry or are just interacting with kids in your community group, here are a few simple rules to abide by:

  • Always remain in open sight of other adults.
     
  • Know that appropriate physical contact varies according to the child’s age. What is appropriate for nursery age children (holding, rocking, assisting in the restroom, etc.) is not appropriate for kids in grade school. Sitting on laps for instance may be appropriate for a toddler, but it’s not appropriate for a first grader.  
     
  • Because the majority of sexual offenders are men, our policy at Sojourn Kids is that only females may change diapers. Also, we don’t change the diapers of children over age five.
     
  • Also know that in some situations, a man will need to limit physical contact more than a woman in the same situation, especially when working with older children.
     
  • All caregivers should refrain from roughhousing, wrestling, or giving shoulder or piggyback rides to children. Physical contact in group activities such as ultimate Frisbee, freeze tag, touch football, etc., is reasonable and understandable. But rough play and the kind of personal attention given by a shoulder ride is not appropriate for a classroom setting. And generally speaking, these types of activities should be avoided in a community group setting as well—particularly if a child’s parents are not present or within sight range.
     
  • It’s also important to use care and discernment when hugging a child. Brief side-hugs when greeting or comforting a child are generally appropriate. Prolonged, frequent, or frontal hugs are just not. In older classes, volunteers should not initiate hugs, particularly towards children of the opposite sex. If an older child initiates a hug, redirect them to more appropriate contact such as a side hug or gentle "high-five.”
     
  • Never touch a child on or near any region that is considered private or personal unless you are changing diaper or assisting toddler or preschool age children in the restroom.
     
  • And never touch a child out of frustration or anger. Physical discipline is never an appropriate means of correcting someone else’s child.

Thank you for joining us for this training reporting and protecting children from abuse and neglect.  These are heavy responsibilities that we take very seriously, and we trust that you will as well.

Children's Ministry Volunteer Orientation Video

At Sojourn Church Midtown, the church where I serve as a pastor, we're now using a series of training videos both to equip parents as disciple-makers in their homes and to orient and update our children's ministry team on our ministry policies and procedures as well best practices when teaching kids. 

I'm planning to share these videos here at gospelcenteredfamily.com as we release them to our church community. This first video is designed to orient new volunteers in our children's ministry. It outlines three things: (1) a gospel-centered vision for children's ministry, (2) what is required to serve as a volunteer, and (3) what volunteers can expect.

Here's a brief outline of the content:

Vision

Jesus said, “When you welcome a child in my name, you welcome me.” That’s why children’s ministry exists. At Sojourn Kids we want to show kids Jesus so that they grow up to be like him and then in turn go to tell others about him.

We are seeking to do this in several ways. Here are two of our goals. (1) We’re striving to create safe and welcoming environments where we can build relationships with kids and their families. (2) Next, we want to connect kids and their families to Christ in the way we sing, teach, and play. 

That’s where you come in. Your faithful service as a member of one of our Sojourn Kids ministry teams makes it possible for us to accomplish this. And as you use your gifts serve children, I believe God will use that to grow you as well.  

Requirements as You Begin Serving

So, where do you begin? All Sojourn Kids ministry team members must be Sojourn members or members in process. In addition, middle and high school students who are involved in Sojourn’s student ministry can serve as a third person assistant in classrooms alongside an assigned mentor. You must complete the volunteer application that you can find here http://sojournkids.com/get-involved, submit to a thorough criminal background and reference check, and complete the required basic training videos or checklists that cover our ministry philosophy, safety and security policies, and abuse reporting policies. If you’ve already completed the application, you may have an invitation to complete one of these requirements in your e-mail Inbox right now. After these steps are completed, we’ll set up a time for you to observe in a classroom on Sunday to see what role might be the best fit for you.

What You Can Expect from Us

As you are serving in Sojourn Kids, here are six things you can expect from us as your leaders. 

  1. Expect to hear from us every week. We’ll send weekly communication that includes our schedule and the curriculum we’ll be teaching at our upcoming weekend gatherings. That communication will tell you what supplies we’re providing for the weekly lessons and tell you about any additional items you may want to bring as a supplement to your teaching.
     
  2. Know that we’re praying for you on a weekly basis as you live as you prepare to share Jesus with Sojourn’s kids.
     
  3. You can also expect that every open classroom will be staffed with at least two fully vetted volunteers.
     
  4. Then, we will equip you with educationally excellent, biblically faithful curriculum that focuses on Jesus.
     
  5. And we’ll create training resources like this video and conduct regular formal training meetings to help you grow your skills.
     
  6. Finally, if there is ever anything you need, please ask us, your Sojourn Kids staffers, as well as the coaches and coordinators that lead in your service areas each week.

What We Expect from You

 Last of all, before you begin serving, it’s important for you to know what we expect from you as well. Here are five quick things.

  1. It is really important that you arrive on time. Volunteer teams huddle before the service begins (times vary by Sojourn location) so that we can open the doors for parents early.
     
  2. Second, please prepare well. Read the Bible passage for the week. Think about it and pray that God will help you understand it. Even if you are not the primary teacher in the classroom, study the lesson and be ready to help out.
     
  3. Watch these training videos and read through our policy checklists. But don’t just read them, commit to follow these policies and implement them when you serve.
     
  4. When, you have to be away, post a request for a substitute in our online group at least two weeks in advance. And if you have to be out at the last minute because you’re sick (It happens. And please don’t show up if you have the flu!), just call or text your service leader.
     
  5. Finally, after you’ve observed at a gathering and found a volunteer role that seems like a good fit for you, let us know. We ask that all volunteers commit to serve for a covenanted time period (commitment cycles vary by Sojourn church location) This provides stability and continuity for the children in your classroom, and it gives you a season of service to consider whether or not you’d like to make longer-term commitment to children’s ministry or take a look at serving in a different Sojourn ministry area.

This is a 101 walkthrough of what it means to serve as a volunteer with Sojourn Kids. Hope it's helpful as you consider equipping children's teams at your church. Stay tuned for another Sojourn Kids 101 training video next month!