Gospel Centered Family

Helping families and churches share Jesus with the next generation.

Family Friday Links 6.23.17

Pat AldridgeComment

Here's what we've been reading online this week:

Carey Nieuwhof had a  guest post on his blog that protect the pastor's (or leaders) family. It asks the question, "What if you could stop saying sorry and start saying, 'I’ve got a plan'?" Pastors, leaders - your family is your primary ministry. In order to keep this priority we need to vigilant in keeping a healthy schedule.

All Pro Dad had a post on parental regrets. This is important for us all and a really helpful perspective. It says, ". For whatever reason, the way we parent might be the thing we’re most sensitive about in life." He goes one to list his top 5 regrets. It's a helpful list of things to avoid.

Sally Lloyd-Jones had a post over on Desiring God on the topic of teaching kids the Bible. She says, "... the Bible isn’t mainly about me and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done." Kids need to know the Bible isn't a book of rules, nor is it about them; rather, it's, "...  the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them" Parents (and pastors, leaders, and teachers) - this is what our kids need to know.

What have you been reading and finding helpful online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Children’s Ministry Environments: Children’s Hospital, Kids Museum, or Disney?

Children's MinistryJared KennedyComment

There is a lot of talk in the children’s ministry world about creating attractional environments for kids. This is for good reason. At the very least, “Let the children come…” means removing every hindrance that stands in the way of connecting kids to Jesus.

Fun and safe kids’ facilities, excellent hospitality, and exciting kids events are children’s ministry’s front door. But attractional environments for kids come in all shapes and sizes. Which one is most like children’s ministry? Here are three options:

  1. The Children’s Hospital. Once I had to take my daughter Elisabeth to Norton Children's Hospital for a procedure. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. I hate having to be there, because it means usually means that my child or someone else’s is sick or hurt. On the other hand, I’m always intrigued by the children’s hospital, because it is one of the most kid-friendly environments in our city. Waiting in the lobby for an hour before a test is more pleasant at the children’s hospital, because there is an interactive video projection game in the lobby. A painful procedure goes more smoothly there, because you can play games on an iPad and Frozen is showing on the ER television. The entire place is designed to build a child’s trust so that healers can provide care. Do you see the connection to children's ministry? Our environments are like the children’s hospital. Attractional environments build a relationship of trust so that kids can be led to the Healer.
  2. The Kids Museum. On another occasion, I was talking to a seminary class about how to create attractional environments. One of the students objected, “That sounds like Nickelodeon.” Without thinking, I answered, “No, it’s more like PBS Kids.” Sure. There is an entertainment factor, but there is an goal in mind that is larger than selling a product or a character. Like the interactive exhibits at the kids museum or the skits on Sesame Street, we have an educational goal in mind. My friend, Dave Ainsworth, put it this way: Attractional environments lead kids to hands-on, real-life, engaging discovery. Thinking through this has helped me to see why it’s important to do more than theme your environments in a kid-friendly way. You must also use the kid-friendliness to teach. We need environments that lead kids to engage with the Truth of the Bible. I wrote a bit about how we do this at Sojourn Kids in the December/January 2012 edition of K! Magazine in an article entitled, “God Has the Best Imagination” (pages 48-51).
  3. Disney. We've visited Disney World as a family a couple of times now with our children, and we love it! There are so many things to love about Disney’s attractions and amazing hospitality, but we fell in love with Disney for the way they took care of our Lucy. Lucy has special needs and a very unique diet. Disney asked about special needs before we arrived, and, when they discovered Lucy’s diet, they took care of her. Whenever we ate at a park restaurant, the chef met us at the front and showed us menu items that would work best. Their excellent hospitality allowed us rest and simply enjoy the theme park experience. After all, that’s part of their mission, right? They want you to lay down your worries and get lost in the Disney story–where dreams always come true. Tim Keller has written about how excellence and higher quality production communicates something about God’s transcendence. In other words, the excellence of an attractional environment can help lift eyes above temporary things to the bigger story God is telling. In another context, Paul Miller said it this way, “Disney is right. Because of the intrusion of a good God into an evil world, there are happy endings. Some of God’s last words in the Bible are, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5 KJV)

Do you think it is important to have an attractional environment for children’s ministry? Do you agree with these three analogies? What other analogies would you suggest?

Photos courtesy Jared Kennedy (at Louisville’s Norton Children’s Hospital), Art Sparks at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, and Amy Embry (at Walt Disney World). This post originally appeared at sojournkids.com in 2012. 

Family Friday Links 6.16.17

Jeff HutchingsComment

Greg Baird at Children's Ministry Leader Blog wrote a post about 4 Ways To Help Parents Want To Engage With Your Children’s Ministry. Greg writes, "Cast a clear and compelling vision. In other words, there needs to be a good reason to engage. Most parents are selective about what they invest their time in. If they view your Children’s Ministry more like childcare, forget about engaging them." Do you have a vision for your ministry? Is it compelling? 

Christianity Today shared a post by Alvin Reid about Reaching the Next Generation. Reid says that the Next Generation is starving for community. He states, "One of the primary reasons those in the next generation stay in church after their teens is because they develop meaningful relationships and develop a sense of community. They are twice as likely to be engaged in church if they have a close friendship with an adult in the church. And they are two and a half times as likely to be engaged if they have a mentor." Are you developing lasting relationships? 

If you haven't made a summer reading list Kristen Ivy at The Orange Leaders Blog wrote about the 17 Inspiring Books About Working With Kids and Teens. You should check it out and maybe add a couple for your summer reading list. Post in the comments some of your favorite books about working with kids or teens. 

As I am studying more about helping people connect with the church Carey Nieuwhof writes on How to Lose a Guest in the First 10 Minutes or Less. Carey writes, "Before they hear the first note of music, before they hear the first word of a sermon or before anyone stands up and says “welcome” in the service, most first-time guests have already made a conscious or subconscious decision about whether they’re coming back." Are you being intentional on creating a welcoming culture at your church? 

Interview with Jaquelle Crowe ... and BOOK GIVEAWAY

InterviewPat AldridgeComment

A few months ago I started hearing rumblings about a young lady who had written her first book about the gospel and the teen years. A little while later, Jaquelle Crowe and her dad showed up one Sunday and joined us for worship. After reading her book, This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years, which my kids will be reading this summer, I wanted to get this much needed book in the hands of the three groups of people who need it most: teens, their parents, and the church leaders that lead them. We have two copies to give away (more on how to enter later), but first I want to introduce to the author.

Pat: Tell me a little about yourself.

Jaquelle: I’m nineteen, and I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I graduated from university at the end of 2015 after studying communications and English and am a full-time writer now. I also run an online membership community for young writers called the Young Writers Workshop and host a podcast for youth with my dad called Age of Minority. And for fun, I love to read, cook, eat, explore, hang out with cool people, and write (obviously).

Pat: What prompted you to write your book?

Jaquelle: There were two primary reasons. First, because it was the book I wanted to read as a young teen – something that was gospel-centered and practical and written for the unique, specific stage of life I was in. I ended up reading a lot of fantastic books on Christian living, but they were all written for adults. 

Which leads to the second reason I wrote this book – because I saw a need. I began interacting with more and more young Christians like myself, and we were all looking for this kind of book. The Lord graciously began opening doors, and here we are!

Pat: Why do you think the teen years are so critical for faith development?

aquelle: J.C. Ryle referred to youth as “the seed time of full age … the moulding season in the little space of human life,” and I think that perfectly captures why the teen years are so critical for faith development. The teen years are preparing us for life. They’re cultivating the habits, virtues, vices, loves, and fears that will remain with us as adults. They’re when we learn the most, when we’re most shaped by what we hear and believe. This is why teens desperately need the life-giving truth of the gospel.

Pat: What was the process of writing like?

aquelle: The bulk of the book was written over a span of four months in 2016. I’m a planner, so I drew up outlines for each chapter, and then tackled each one individually. Most chapters went through 2-3 drafts. I’ve heard it said that writing is rewriting, and that was certainly true for me.

I also got a lot of feedback. My parents read almost every draft of every chapter. I had a team member at Crossway read each chapter and offer feedback. Before the book’s final edit, I had a group of teens and twentysomethings read the book and give their thoughts as well. So the process was a cycle of planning, concentrated writing, editing/rewriting, and receiving and implementing feedback. 

Pat: What do you hope your book does for those that read it?

aquelle: I hope it upsets the apathetic, that it communicates the hard truth that Jesus demands absolutely everything. But I hope it encourages the faithful, that it fills them with supreme joy and inspires them to know that they’re not alone. I hope teenagers love Jesus more. I also hope this is a helpful tool for parent-teen discipleship, that it gives parents more insight into their teens’ spiritual lives and that it sparks rich and honest conversations about faith and sanctification.

Pat: What’s next for you?

aquelle: Wherever the Lord leads! I’m focusing on the current things on my plate right now – traveling, speaking, leading the Young Writers Workshop, and writing. I’d love to go to seminary in the next few years, and I’d also love to write another book. But we’ll see what happens.

Here's how to enter the giveaway: Write something creative and post to Facebook and/or Twitter using the hashtag #GCFgiveaway2017. There will be one randomly selected winner from each social media platform who will each receive one copy of the book. Enter as many times as you'd like. The drawing will be held on Friday, June 30th, 2017.