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Christine has over 20 years of children's ministry experience. She's the author of 10 books and hundreds of articles related to children's ministry. It's no wonder she enjoys an almost-daily latte to keep her going! She is also the executive editor of Children's Ministry Magazine and serves as Group's children's ministry champion, responsible for research, development, and innovation in children's ministry resources. 

The First Shall Be Last

I'm so inspired today by the Chile miners who've endured hardship together underground for two months. Now that freedom is so close they can taste it, they're arguing. Not about who will go first, but who will go last. That actually gives me goosebumps. How many of us would do the same?

It just reminds me of what Jesus said that the first shall be last and that if we want to be a leader, we must be servant of all.

God bless those men and their families--and may they arrive home safely very soon!

Posted at 16:59

Halloween: Be the Light

It's October which brings out spooky things related to Halloween. And it brings out varying views from church folks. What do you do with it?

Our family has done everything from leave town, stay home with the lights out and cringe at every doorbell ring, give candy to kids with scary masks, go to/throw fall festivals, not carve pumpkins/do carve pumpkins. Back in the day when we were a "leave town or turn off the lights" family, I felt like Halloween was evil and we just needed to avoid it.

Then I read an essay by a Christian man who talked about being a light in the darkness. His approach was that he didn't want to be the one house in the community--on a night that children came to his door--that wouldn't receive them. And I remembered those curmudgeons from my childhood. For whatever reasons they didn't open their doors to us, I wasn't sure of, but they weren't someone that conveyed love and acceptance for us trick or treaters.

So, now I take a more moderate approach. We don't decorate or dress up, but we do have a giant bowl of candy that has way too much candy left over at the end of the night--even though we give handfuls to kids no matter what age they are.

Is it the right approach? It is for us. Everyone must decide before God how to handle it.

Last year on Halloween, we were at my parents' house in Oklahoma and I was "uptown" when the Halloween parade started. I saw costumes with kids with their heads cut off and lots of gore. The word that came to mind at the time was "vapid." It was so empty. But it was one community's desire to be there for their kids (they've been doing this since I was a kid). Then they gathered for a carnival type of thing (again, a tradition).

I came back with renewed vision for the two fall festival kits we were working on: Slime Time and The Great Tomb Raid (where Jesus is the greatest tomb raider). I know that people want to give kids a safe alternative on Halloween, why not make it an alternative with a message and have kids gather at the place that always has its arms and doors open wide to them? Your church!

If you'd like to learn more about these two fall festivals (and order one in a hurry), go to http://search.group.com/search?p=Q&w=fall+festival

Posted at 17:03

What Matters Most: Love

So many kids in the news recently are killing themselves because they've been bullied for being gay. That breaks my heart! And when I listen to Dan Savage, creator of the "It Gets Better" campaign, say that the pain these gay and lesbian kids are suffering is due in part to the "religious right," I get even sadder.

What have we as a church communicated to these kids--or to Mr. Savage--that makes him not know that Jesus loves them and wants to give them hope? What are we communicating to a lost and hopeless generation about the love of God?

What matters most in the church? It's not being right! We need a new definition of "righteous."

We need a loving response to kids who are struggling with their sexuality and trying to come to terms with their creator--were they made that way? is it sin? is it a choice? Does it matter if these kids don't know Jesus' love?

How can we show kids our amazing Jesus who's full of love and compassion first and foremost? It's the work of the Holy Spirit to grow all of us to be like Jesus--and every single one of us in process. I heard someone recently say that our job is to encourage what the Holy Spirit is doing--and will do--in others' lives if we allow them to draw close to God.

My heart is broken that these kids who killed themselves--and those who are struggling still--don't know our loving Savior. What can we, as the church, do to change that?

Posted at 16:30

Would You Get an A?

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently conducted a survey of what Americans know about religion. I just took the 15-question quiz, and I scored a 100. Does that mean I'm a better Christian than others? Does it even mean I'm a good Christian?

Does it matter if I know Mother Teresa's religion? Or what Ramadan is? Or which one of four statements is not a Ten Commandment? (Take the quiz for yourself: http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php?)

It makes me wonder when a research organization makes sweeping statements about how ignorant we Christians are about religion, what is it that they're measuring? our level of faith? our relationship with Jesus? our trust in him? our contentment in tough times? the measure of our character?

I don't think God looks at the things the Pew Center measured because after all, God looks at our hearts--not our knowledge base.

What is it that we're aiming for when we teach our kids in children's ministry? A body of knowledge or a relationship with the living God?

And, can you have one without the other? I'd say yes, because I've known some pretty illiterate people who love Jesus with more passion than many learned people I've known.

We need to focus on what really matters in our ministries--and not take studies like these to heart.

Posted at 22:47

The Church's Role

What's the church's role in an information age? Honestly, what's the church's role in any age?

I have multiple conversations--inside and out of Group--about this topic. I listen to visionary leaders talk about the way to nurture kids to be fully devoted followers of Christ, the way to impact families so parents take their role as primary faith influencers, and more. And the one thing I hear--a lot of--is information.

In one conversation recently, I asked a children's pastor where his parents go for information. Is their immediate reaction to see if the church has a brochure on a topic...or do they google it...go on facebook and ask their friends...read a blog about it...order a Kindle or iPad version of a book on it? He said their first default is not the church.

Hmmm...not the church. If we're not the repository of all authority on every subject, then what is our role? We scramble to teach on every topic--and we often struggle when people don't show up for classes on things like parenting, don't we? (I'm not saying the Word of God doesn't speak to all of life, by the way. It does!)

Again, if people today aren't looking to us for information on the topics of their daily life, what is the church for?

What is the unique God-given mission that the church has that no other entity in all of culture is geared to, nor equipped or empowered to meet?

#1 on my list is to encounter the living God in ways that are transformational. (And in all honesty, the information model we use could be getting in the way of that.) It's about transformation, not information. We like to say around here at Group that "faith is not a subject; it's a relationship." I think the unique role of the church is not to just inform people about God but to introduce them to God and help them experience God--while they're at church!

#2 on my list is the wonder of the body of Christ and everything that entails: community, sharing, fellowship, support, encouragement--just look at all the "one another" verses in the Bible to make a list. The Bible says that they'll know we're Christians by our love. I believe the church's role and what we need to experience at church is this amazing love and community that'll transform us. Sadly, our information model of all of us sitting in rows and listening to a sermon, then filing out at the end gets in the way of this kind of community. Every single time we're in the body of Christ's presence, I believe we need to facilitate relational connections. (We do this every week in our Buzz curriculum for kids by having what we call Buzz Bond--where kids strengthen their relationships with one another.)

But beyond any resource or tool, I think God is calling the church to come back to what it's meant for. And I don't think that's going to happen by reading a blog (like this one), googling for information, going to a conference, or taking another class. I think it's going to happen when we cry out to God and ask him by the Holy Spirit to do a work in us that is impossible without him showing up. I think we've worshipped long enough at the altar of information as leaders and in our church practices; and it's time to wake up to what we're really meant for.

Posted at 13:10

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