Create, Connect, Grow, Go: A tool for assessing your family ministry

John Piper says, “Leadership is knowing where people need to go and taking the initiative to get them there in God’s way and by God’s power."

 Many Christian leaders have a robust theology. They have clear standards for how ministry should be. The leader may even be able to see how their church or ministry area fails to live up to those standards. What they don’t have is a creative vision for how to move the people under their care in the direction they should go. They don’t have a strategy for ministry. In order to have a clear ministry vision, it’s important to have deep convictions and also be able to see how they will work out practically.

Here is a four-part strategy we've use to plan and measure our progress in family ministry. I presented this earlier in the week at the ETCH conference in Nashville.

Review the questions below or download the full powerpoint presentation here. 

  1. CREATE welcoming environments for building relationships with kids and families. Welcoming environments are the front door of our children’s ministry. We show Jesus to children through the way we welcome. We want the atmosphere of our children’s environments to be prayer-filled and dependent on God. We want facilities that are fun and safe. Welcoming environments include exciting kids events like Vacation Bible School and even our website where new families look to check out what we do for kids before they come. Keeping our environments welcoming involves training up excellent hospitality teams—including those who do follow-up and those who serve kids with special needs.

    We measure…

    Hospitality: Is there a regular prayer huddle that sets the atmosphere for our time together? Is there a welcoming hospitality presence? Are there long lines at check-in? How are we following up with new families? Thank you notes? Care packages? Do teachers know regular kids by name? Is there a need for a special needs team or bi-lingual workers? Is the hospitality team clearly identifiable (lanyards, t-shirts, etc.)?

    Safety: Are all exit/entrance doors secured? Is there a security presence at main entrance? Emergency response plan up-to-date? Volunteer records (background checks, references, membership, policy and abuse training) up-to-date? Are policies and procedures implemented? Are there reports of policy violations?

    Showing Value of Children through Aesthetics: Are you providing a kid-friendly and bright environment? Displaying adequate signage? Using up-to-date check-in technology? Hosting attractional family events?
  2. CONNECT kids to Jesus and the church community. After kids have stepped through our front door, we want them to see Jesus. This means preparing creative and application-oriented Bible lessons that connect kids to Jesus and his good news. It also means providing consistent leaders who intentionally shepherd children and other volunteers. We recruit and develop men and women who are willing and gifted for serving and leading in children’s ministry.

    We measure…

    Large Group Teaching: Is there a regular large group teaching time? Is the gospel (Need / Good News / Faith) clear? Does it include music? Excellence level? Are you regularly assessing the teaching? Are we using technology (sound, video, powerpoint, etc.)

    Classroom Lesson: Are teachers kid-friendly and engaging? Following and implementing provided resources? Are teachers following provided lesson schedules? Is the gospel (Need / Good News / Faith) clear? Are classrooms organized and well-stocked? Are lesson materials prepped for teachers before they arrive? Engaging a variety of learning styles? Are there any testimonies to report about engaging kids in the classroom?

    Leadership Team: Are coaches and coordinators regularly meeting with the other leaders and teachers under their care? Are we consistently meeting classroom ratios (Nursery, 1:3; Toddler, 1:5; Preschool, 1:7; Elementary, 1:10)? Did we hold a training for our children’s ministry team during the past month? What percentage of our team has completed basic vision training before serving?
  3. GROW alongside kids and families by helping them take next steps. After families have become regular parts of our community, we want to move them into taking the “next step” along their journey of faith. So, we’re intentional about equipping families with classes and resources to help them grow with Jesus. We also lead our families through a series of milestones that include child dedication and the student baptism process.

    We measure….

    Training (Classes): Are parents attending classes? Are the topics the classes cover engaging the questions that families are asking? Is the gospel (need / good news / faith) clear in our classroom presentations? Are the classes organized as a pathway? How do the differing classes relate to one another?

    Involvement (Milestones): How many families participated? How well was the milestone promoted? Excellence level? How are we gifting parents or individuals who participate? How are we encouraging community celebrations?

    Equipping (Resources): Are we providing weekly take home resources? Are other parent resources available at the book table or online? Are we highlighting them? Are we sending a regular (weekly/monthly) parent e-mail? Are families using these resources? Are there any testimonies to report about parents teaching kids at home?
  4. GO—Send kids and families on mission. Growth for kids and families moves beyond their personal discipleship. Our growth in faith should move us to be ambassadors for Christ who love our neighbors and go with God on mission to the world. We cultivate this in our family ministry by partnering with our church’s international missions and mercy ministries. We also give families opportunities to serve together, and we are intentional about training children in evangelism.

    We measure…

    Evangelism Training: Are you regularly challenging kids to invite their friends to church? Have you taught kids to share their faith? Has this been highlighted in the last month? Have you given them clear resources to use when sharing their faith with their friends?

    Service: Do middle and high school students have some way to use their gifts in your church? Can they serve in your children’s ministry (never without adult supervision; we don’t leave children with children)? How are you cultivating a heart for service or a heart for the poor amongst the next generation?

    Missions: Does your church sponsor short-term mission trips where families can go on mission together? Does your children’s ministry regular pray for missionaries? Do the kids in your ministry create care packages for missionaries? How are you doing missions education with the kids under your care?

What emotions are you experiencing about this self-evaluation? In which of these twelve areas do you feel the weakest? In which of these areas do you feel the strongest? How does the gospel speak to your emotions? What are two or three next steps can you can take to grow as a ministry. Write them down. Pray about them with a friend.

Family Friday Links 3.25.16

Here's what we've been reading online lately:

Greg Baird had a post on truths for parents. One of them (and in my opinion the best one) is, "... shaping your child’s heart more than modifying your child’s behavior." Parents, especially young parents, need to read this and find encouragement.

Caesar Kalinowski had a post kids and missional communities. He says, "Just like we could never properly parent our kids in a single night each week, missional community life cannot be jammed into a few hours on a weeknight." Pastors, we need to working through this.

Christward Collective had a post entitled "A Parent's Prayer". It reads in part, "The longing of every Christian parent is to see their child healed of his or her sin by Christ and increase in the knowledge of God. There is planting and watering for us to do, but God must provide the life and growth. He bids us to come to Him and ask that our children would fear the Lord." Parents, this is hard work that only God can do, so ask Him.

My friend, Paul Maxwell, wrote a post for Desiring God on the laziness of boys. He says, "“The lazy man works as hard to avoid condemnation as he does to avoid work.” Parents of boys and pastors we need show young men the dangers of their laziness and the value (and blessing) of work.

We hope you find encouragement in these. What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section and (at least) one of us will check it out.

Family Friday Links 9.25.15

Here's what we've found helpful online this week:

Gospel Centered Discipleship had a post asking the question, "Are kids a barrier or a blessing for missional communities?" It reads, "As opposed to viewing children as a barrier, let’s view them as a blessing. Yes, it’s chaotic. Yes, it can drive us crazy. But, despite that, let’s model graciousness in our families and groups towards our children." Kids need to understand the community is for them and we as parents need to teach and model for them what that means.

Matt Adair wrote a post on how to help parents follow Jesus. He suggests that best way to prepare parents for the "tough gig" of parenting is to create your own content. Have the parents help you by supplying topics. Don't just copy what may (or may not) be working elsewhere.

Desiring God had a post on parenting. It dealt with how our kids, from the earliest of ages can develop prejudices. It reads, "If we want to see our children reject the sin of partiality, we must point them to their Impartial Savior." Parents, we need to remind our kids as the occasion warrants, that we called to love the broken ... like God loved us when we were broken by sin.

Our friend Timothy Paul Jones wrote a post about effective family ministry. He says, "Family-equipping is not a series of steps to success. It is not a programmatic panacea for your church’s problems. It is a process that works its way over time into every aspect of your ministry." He lists several categories that helpful to think through.

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

Punching Fear In The Face

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
— 1 John 4:4 ESV

God has blessed my family with people who share their lives on mission with us. We celebrate together, cry together, experience God together and play games together among other things. One of my favorite things for our family to do during the summer is go to Six Flags. We will invite people from our small group to join us. It is fun to watch my kids get excited to have our friends join us and want to ride with them and have fun with them throughout the day. Last year, Kristy joined us and was riding rides with my daughter Josie. On one of the rides, Josie, who is normally very bold when it comes to rides, was a little scared. Kristy was there to help encourage Josie and told her, "Yeah, I'm a little scared too, but we're gonna do this! We're gonna punch fear in the face!" This made Josie laugh and helped to encourage her to ride the ride.

The amazing thing for me as a parent is that I know I don't have to raise my kids alone. My kids respect and are known by the people in my small group. I know when my sons and daughter are teenagers there are going to be other adults who will be able to speak into their lives even if they do not want to listen to mom and dad. 

God is knitting together our small group to be more than a church group or more than a bible study. He is forming us together as part of His family. People in relationship with God and each other. As we are adopted by God we become brothers and sisters. I see this happening before my eyes. 

Being formed as a family on mission is God's calling for us.  We can see this throughout the narrative in scripture. Mike and Sally Breen in their book Family on Mission say it this way, "This is rooted in the two key themes of the Scriptures: covenant and kingdom. Covenant means that God has called us into a relationship with himself that leads us to become one with him. Covenant is two becoming one. That's the family part. Kingdom means that our Father who has called us into relationship with himself also happens to have the most important job you can think of--he's the king of the universe. And as the king he's not just looking for a relationship - he's also looking for representatives. That's the mission part - the same people who are in covenantal relationship with him also adopt his mission and learn to represent his kingship to the world."

The great thing about the relationships in my small group is they are mutual. It isn't the adults just teaching other adults or adults teaching kids, but it is also how my kids are challenging and encouraging the adults. Here is a story about how this two-way relationship has worked with my daughter. 

Fast forward to this spring. We spent a Sunday afternoon hiking with a number of people with our small group. During the hike we were on a ledge and Kristy was helping Josie climb down.  Josie said "I'm afraid of heights." Then without missing a beat Josie added, "we're punching fear in the face!"

Wow! Here is discipleship at work. We see a relationship being formed. That mentoring is occurring and now the student is instructing the teacher. What an encouragement as a parent to know that my kids have godly men and women in their life that they respect and have fun with to speak truth in their lives when they need it. 

Do you have relationships in your life that you are living a life on mission? 

Are there other godly relationships speaking into your life? Your kids lives? 

How is your church helping to build relationships to be on mission? Share your stories with us below.