Beyond the Classroom

Kid’s church is a great place for a child to learn about God, Christ & faith.  Obviously, as a children’s pastor, I wish that every kid had the opportunity to come to church to hear about God.  In the end though, I know that a church service is only one of the many experiences that a child needs in order to grow in their relationship with Christ, and ultimately to have their faith stick with them for a lifetime.

What else do kids need to grow up following Christ into adulthood?  Well, for one thing, opportunities to serve.  Diana Garland in Inside Out Families writes,

Community service was significantly more closely related to the faith development of teens than attending worship services.  Service appears to be more powerful than Sunday School, Bible study, or participation in worship in the faith development of teenagers.

Giving kids and youth the opportunity to live out their faith in practical service increases the likely hood that the child’s faith will stick with them for a lifetime.  This is why I get so excited when parents get their kids involved in serving, and even more excited when parents serve with their kids.

At Calvary, we have a dad who has taken, or is going to take, all of his kids on their first missions trip with the church.  We have a mom and daughter that volunteer in our wheelchair van ministry, faithfully serving together to go pick up our shut-ins for church on Sunday.  We have had families that serve at the local soup kitchen, My Brother’s Table, together.  Every year we have parents participate in our Christmas and Easter productions with their kids.  All of these parents, and the dozens like them, are giving their kids a chance to grow in their faith outside the regular Sunday morning classroom.

I wonder if the statistics showing how many teens walk away from their faith after high school would diminish if every child were given opportunities to serve and put their faith into action?  What would happen if parents invested the time and energy to get their kids plugged into church beyond the classroom?

Why 1 to 7 Teacher/Student Ratios Are Killing the Church

My church has one, and odds are yours does too.  Most churches have a set ratio of the number of teachers/leaders/volunteers they require in a classroom for every certain number of kids.  In my church the ratio is 1 teacher for every 7 kids (except in the nursery where it is 1 nursery worker for every 4 infants).

Churches recruit for their ministries based on ratio’s like these.  “Parents, we could really use some help in kid’s church.  We have 30 kids coming, but just two people helping out…so we are reeeeaaaaally short staffed.  We need at 2 or 3 more people.  Can you help out?”  The trouble is using a 1-to-7 ratio is far too low, at least if you want the kids in the church to be lifelong followers of Christ.  According to Lifeway Research:

Teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives….were more likely to keep attending church.  More of those who stayed in church – by a margin of 46 percent to 28 percent – said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.

Did you catch that?  The more people who invest in a kid from church, the more likely that kid is to stick with their faith.  We live in a day and age where countless teens are walking away from their faith after high school.  Could one reason be because we (the church & parents) have left our kids spiritual formation entirely to one person in a classroom, who is already distracted by 6 other kids, and only given them 75 minutes a week to speak into our children’s lives?

What would happen if we changed the ratio?  What if rather than trying to get one teacher in every room for every 7 kids, we made it a point to try to help parents find 5 mentors for every one of their kids?  What if every kid got more than a teacher for a single Sunday morning service, but beyond that had multiple people who were investing in “them personally and spiritually” throughout the week, the month and their life?

Don’t get me wrong, I think 1 to 7 ratios are important and needed.  They provide structure and safety for classes and ministries.  I also think that every single Sunday school teacher, kid’s worker, youth staff member plays a pivotal part in a kids’ spiritual growth.  I also think they by themselves they are insufficient.  I think that a childrens or youth worker can, and should, be an important voice in the life a kid, but it should only be one of the voices that that child hears.  The reality is though, many kids are only hearing one voice, and so many are walking away from the faith.  To put it another way, 1-to-7 ratios are killing the next generation of the church.

Same Kind of Different As Me

samekind

I just finished reading Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together (affiliate link).   This is a powerful book.

This story illustrates how one man can make a difference.  But, it’s not the man you would suspect.  You would expect the different maker to be the wealthy art dealer, the man of means.  The hero in this book is not that guy.

In his own words, “There’s somethin’ I learned when I was homeless: Our limitation is God’s opportunity.”  God can take our brokenness and weakness to make a difference.  In fact, he seems to prefer to use broken people.  This book shows that God can use anyone to make a difference in the lives of others.  Ecclesiastes 9:15 puts it this way, “There was found in a certain city a poor man who was wise, and by his wisdom he saved the city.”  This book is about a poor man that makes a huge difference.

It’s also about learning to love others.  It’s about learning to love those that society rejects.  Society may not value those who seem down and out, but God does and he wants us to as well.  This story shows the difference reaching out and loving someone who is unloved can make.  It can change the destiny of not only that person, but the lives of so many more.

This is a great read for parents to read to their slighty older kids (their are some mature themes like racism, slavery, etc..), people who intersted in social justice and social change, or anybody who is interested in loving people more like Christ loves them.

This is a short book that I would encourage everybody to read at some point.  You can pick up a copy here in softcover from Amazon or here on Kindle.

For Parents

childs hands

This Winter we have two great opportunities for every parent at Calvary.  First, Pastor Clark and I will be teaching a two week class addressing issues surrounding parents and their kids use of technology.  We find stats such as the average child is first exposed to pornography on the internet at the age of 12 staggering, and we want to do something about them.  So, we are going to teach this class for parents addressing issues such as how to filter content on the internet, monitor their kids on Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, the whole gamut. We’ll also be sure to leave some time at the end of each class for parents to ask any questions they like on the topic.  The class is scheduled for January 23rd and 30th at 10:15. Location TBA.

Then on February 5th Calvary is hosting a Home Improvement Ministries conference entitled “Sacred Parenting in a Not So Sacred World.” Gary Thomas is the guest speaker so it guaranteed to be a worthwhile day.  Here is a brief write-up on the conference…

In a world that is less than “sacred,” we as parents are often at a loss on how to raise kids who honor God, their parents and others.  We’re looking for easy steps to “new kids” when we may do better to look first at our own lives.  Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting, helps us understand “How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls.”  In addition to Gary Thomas’ three plenary sessions, practical workshops will round out this incredibly important day.

You can find out more about the conference by checking out this site.

If you’re a parent be sure not to miss out on these two great opportunities.

Welcome Home

snow

Somehow we made it, and we actually made it early.  Becky, Jack and I spent this past week in Missouri visiting family.   When we heard there was a major snowstorm heading towards the northeast on Sunday & Monday we were a little nervous as our flights home were scheduled for Monday night.  Then we started hearing of 1,000’s of cancelled flights, and travelers stranded until Thursday.  So when it came time to leave for the airport we were a little concerned about getting stuck in Chicago where our layover was.  But, they still hadn’t cancelled our flight, so we jumped in the car and headed for Lambert Airport.  By the time we made it on the plane to Boston they had one runway open at Logan, and we were actually able to land 9 minutes early.

Ironically, the last time we were back to Missouri it was the summer and we were concerned we were not going to make it back then as well as a hurricane was heading up the east coast.  We made it back to Mass then too, that time right on schedule and a little before the storm arrived.

We didn’t make it back before the storm this time though, so I still have about 2 feet of snow to clear off my drive way!  Welcome home.

Blessed

blessed

Yesterday I stumbled across The Global Rich List.    I took the time to enter my annual income, and when I saw the results I was thinking, “Wow, I am pretty well off compared to a lot of people.”  Then I realized that I had inadvertently left a zero off of the end of my income.  When I put the right amount in I realized that compared to a vast majority of the world my family is extremely extremely blessed.

Most of us don’t realize how blessed we truly are.  We compare ourselves to billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Saudi Princes.  Often we dream about what we do if we had their kind of money.  The irony is that much of the world dreams about having as much money as  you and I do.  They dream of being able to put food on the table, or drink clean water or go to school.  Forget dreaming of a house with plenty of rooms and a built in pool, many people around the world just dream of having a roof, of any kind, over their head.

If you haven’t done it already visit the The Global Rich List.  See how much you have compared to most of the world.  Then, take the time to be thankful for all you have this holiday season.  Take the time to teach your children how blessed they are.

A Lesson From the Ballet

Last night my wife and I went to see the Nutcracker in Boston with some friends.  I got into the set design and theatrics a little more than the ballet, but one thing in particular intreged me about the performance…there were no words.  No lines for the actors to recite, no songs that were sung.  The only way the story was communicated was non-verbally.  I knew this would be the case, but it amazed how they were able to clearly communicate a whole story without saying a single word.  The old study that says most communication is non-verbal didn’t apply to The Nutcracker, as 100% of the story was communicated without words.

Nutcracker

As I sat there watching the performance a quote attributed to Francis of Assisi came to mind, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.”

Quite often, we tell the story of how Christ has changed our lives by the way we live out our lives.  When we won’t cut corners at work that tells part of the story to our co-workers.  When we are the same person at church and at home that tells the story to our family.  When we are kind and cheerful that tells the story to our neighbors.  How we live our lives often tells more about how Christ has changed us than with what we say with our mouths.

Don’t get me wrong using our words to tell people about Christ is still terribly important.  Christ told his disciples to go into all the world and preach.  Following that command you see the disciples using their words quite often.  Don’t believe me, just read the Book of Acts.  The truth is that command wasn’t just for the disciples, it is for us too.

But the disciples didn’t win people over with just their speech.  Acts 4:13 states, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  It wasn’t what they said, it was how they said it.  They lived their lives with courage and people could tell that they had been with Christ.  The disciples talked about Christ a lot, but their speech and their actions matched up.  Their actions amplified their speech.  Often you don’t see that with Christians.  Some will  say one thing in church on Sunday morning, but the way the live their lives Monday to Saturday doesn’t back up their words.

Can people tell you follow Christ by the way you live your life?  Do you actions match your words, or do your actions give some non-verbal clues that you may not believe the words that are coming our of your own mouth?  What story do your actions tell?

Christmas Eve

This past weekend we had 2,218 people come out to see The Gospel According to Scrooge at Calvary.  That shatters last years attendance high of 1,514.  We actually had so many people attend on Saturday and Sunday nights that we had to turn people away, as we simply didn’t have enough seats.   Top top it all off we had 25 people accept Christ as this year’s performances.  And the holiday season is just warming up.

christmas time

This Sunday you do not want to miss church.  We have a special Christmas performance by our worship team and a few others.  Then on December 24th we will be having our candlelight communion service at 6:00.  This Christmas Eve service is one of the highlights on our church calendar every year.  The service starts at 6:00 PM, but I would recommend arriving early to get a good seat.

To check out everything that is going on around the church checkout the website at www.lynnfield-ccc.org.