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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. 

Trends in Children's Ministry

One of the workshops I attended at Children's Pastors Conference was Mary Manz Simon's "CPC Trendwatching: 2008." Here are some highlights according to my notes (and my thoughts, of course)...

* Environments are huge in children's ministries. (But I wonder... Are children's ministries making their ministry areas "new wineskins" but not using the "new wine" of untraditional discovery learning? Who are the ministries that are bringing both "new" things together?)

* Focus on Safety--at home and at church (That's a definite trend. And not one that's going away with our information-saturated culture that makes us more afraid by the day.)

* Luxe Parents--Manz Simon says that parents "feel like a good parent if they spend $." (No comment.)

* Parents are looking for advice/support/mentoring (I don't believe we in the church have yet figured out how to provide that in a non-programmatic way. Except, have you checked out our new ParentLink newsletter? Go to group.com/parentlink. Shameless plug, but it's good.)

* Enviromental Sensitivity--Gotta go green! (If only we could learn the secrets of the environmental movement and launch a generation of children who guide their parents to not only become more green, but to also become more godly!)

* Instant Access Generation--We've got to figure out how to help families be less wired and more connected. (Ok, here's where I think we have to move into the future and instead of railing against "what is," we have to figure out how to communicate in new ways, to access the reality of today's new style of family, and to help parents establish healthy boundaries. My boundaries: no texting during church, meals, or face-to-face conversations.)

Posted at 19:31

How Annoying Are Parents--Anyway?

I'm a parent. And I take seriously my role as my children's primary faith model. We talk about faith issues at different times--in the car, before bed, at dinner, while watching a TV show, after school--but not every day. More so when the need arises. I don't make my 12- and 14-year-old go to every church program every time the doors are open. I don't make them attend Sunday school--they go to "big" church with us unless they want to go to their class. With my 19-year-old, I don't make him go to church at all...he goes when he chooses. I don't make them serve...although they do serve in different ways--preteen week of hope, toddler room teacher, Belize mission trip, etc. I don't lead them in weekly family devotions--although we used to try that. I don't pray with them regularly enough. I don't get them in the Word enough--although they're all going to Christian school now and learning tons about God's Word!

Am I the kind of parent who would annoy most children's ministers--because "I don't care enough"?

I have to tell you something I experienced at the conference that saddened and scared me. In one of the large sessions, a speaker made a disparaging remark about parents (trying to be funny, I'm sure) and over half the crowd cheered. Cheered, I tell you!! Are we really that annoying because we don't fit the mold of what some children's ministers think we should be?

I hear a lot of talk (and I understand that it comes from a good place) about we need to help parents be the primary Christian educators in their children's lives. So we give them educational tools to use at home and when they don't use them, we say they don't care. Perhaps we need to forget the "educational" model at home...and stop and instead say to parents "You are the primary faith model in your child's life--at all times! And we're the primary Christian educators--as you allow us to be!"

How can we help parents in the everydayness of doing life with their children to model faith in a loving God, to create homes that are workshops for grace, to grapple together with who God is and what it means to follow hard after him--not in a programmed way, but in a natural way? Maybe it's as simple as great discussion-starters that get parents and children talking about faith. Or using a strategic curriculum like FaithWeaver so every single person in the entire family studies the same passage (and the pastor preaches on it, too!)--and therefore they've got something to talk about at home throughout the week.

We parents know how you feel about us, by the way. We pick up on the nuances. Rather than being annoyed by us, please advocate for us! Be our biggest fans! Welcome our children--and us--with grace, a hug, and a big smile--after we've made the effort to bundle them up, pack their bags, load the car, get them into the building, and try to be on time to big church.

Thank you for partnering with us--so that you're the primary Christian educator in our children's lives. We need your partnership since we're the primary faith models. That's why we bring our kids to church--because we care so much (not because we're delegating all of it to you). 

Posted at 18:05

Children's Pastors Conference

I'm off to the Children's Pastors Conference in San Diego tomorrow. I'm going to learn and listen and interact with children's ministers. I'm looking forward to workshops, speakers, and time to just hear what's on people's hearts. It's always a great way to find out how we can serve better.

Posted at 03:56

Can't Get No Respect--From Kids?

In our latest childrensministry.com e-newsletter, we highlighted an article by Carmen Kamrath called "Respect--Not!" This article takes a look at the phenomenon of kids who show disrespect--like never before. If you want to read the article, go here: http://www.childrensministry.com/article.asp?ID=1019

What intrigues me is what some of the people posted in response to the article:

"I am a Sunday School teacher In New Zealand, and just started studying my Masters in children and public policy, because I want to try make a difference in the underlying values of our society that produces this disrespectful generation."

"As a child abuse educator, I continue to hear from numerous parents how friends are such an influence to the respectful behavior of their child. The reality is that numerous parents in my experience fail to take a close and honest look at how they respect their family members. It is about taking responsibility for our own respectful behavior, that's the scary part."

"Thanks so much for this article. It was an eye-opener. Sometimes you think you are the only one going though this. I think your article brought up some good points."

Seems to be a widespread issue.

So, it makes me wonder...what's up with kids who show little respect? Why are they so "mouthy"? Experts say this is the generation that's used to "being heard"--ie, kids influence billions of dollars in purchases. Mom and Dad are obviously listening. And, believe me, marketers are listening to!

I guess I wonder sometimes if we've created an environment where kids don't know the boundaries of when they shouldn't speak up. I know, for me as a parent, I sometimes let my kids "express themselves" a little too much. How can we re-establish the boundaries for kids--and let them know their opinion is highly valued?

I'm sure it's more complex than this, but I think this is one aspect that contributes to kids' "lack of respect."

Posted at 21:25

The Breakfast of Champions

My title at Group cracks me up--I'm the "Children's Ministry Champion." (Whenever I have to introduce myself as the "champion," I always want to thrust my hand in the air and pretend to do a trumpet call--du-du-du-du!) It's a bit embarrassing. Every time I go into my kids' orthodontist, he says, "Now there's the champion!" in sufficient mocking tone. (It's embarrassing.)

But once I can get beyond the embarrasing title, I love what it means. It means that I "champion" the cause of children, parents, and children's ministers in our company. I get to be involved in the research and development side of every new resource. We ask questions like: What would really serve children's ministers today? What would make kids fall in love with Jesus for a lifetime? What would make learning about God the best thing a kid does each week? How can we truly come alongside parents in our resources so that faith becomes a conversation at home? (It's pretty fun!)

And, then I get to be involved in the quality control side of things. I get to stamp a lot of approval on great resources, great lessons, great articles, and more. And, every now and then, I ask these questions: Why are there so many supplies? Why can't this be easier? Would kids find that question a bit lame? (It's not so fun.) But in the process, we cull out the things that don't serve children, parents, and children's ministers all too well...and we create great resources that meet real needs.

So, that's what a champion does at Group. And, I'm always eager to hear from children, parents, and children's ministers about problems we can solve and ways we can better serve. Hopefully, and eventually, that's what this blog will become--a listening post to serve you better. Let me know what you think we need to know!

Posted at 19:07

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