Children’s ministry has the power to change the lives of kids and families. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear that the work a person does with kids is really making a lasting difference. Ask children’s ministry leaders and kid-influencers if they are making the impact on children’s lives as they had hoped and most likely the responses will be mixed. And for good reason. Research over the past decade has revealed an alarming lack of long-term growth in the faith community as children progress through student ministries into adulthood.
Clearly, something needs to change.
Relational Children’s Ministry seeks to reverse this trend by equipping children’s ministry leaders with practical tools to disrupt the status quo approach to discipleship with children and realign their ministries for greater long-term impact. Ministry leaders will:
Children’s ministry leaders will receive practical training to refocus their children’s ministry along with time-tested tools to personally recommit to lifelong discipleship. Kid-influencers can become a disciple-making community that redirects the current trajectory for this and future generations.
Part One: Rise Above the Status Quo in Children’s Ministry Introduction: Are We Just Spinning Our Wheels? The state of the union in children’s ministry shows that spiritual succession rates are in trouble if church leaders and children’s ministry leaders stick with status quo methods. Chapter 1: Minding the Discipleship Gap The church dropout rates among college students point to the presence of a “discipleship gap” despite well-intended ministry methods and models (cf. Kinnaman, You Lost Me, 2011). Is this the result of cultural shifts, cowardly parenting, contentshallow resources, or careless church leaders? What leads to sustained commitment to long-term discipleship? Chapter 2: Pain Points in Today’s Children’s Ministry This chapter will open with a harried story of Dan’s children’s ministry experience as a recently hired associate pastor in a mid-sized church. Four programmatic pain points distract well-meaning children’s ministry leaders from facilitating long-term discipleship: * Fatigued Leaders * Scarce Budgets * Complex Programs * Deficient Content Part Two: Relate Intentionally to Kids and Families Chapter 3: Jesus’ Disruptive Approach to Discipleship This chapter will open with a snapshot story of Jesus disrupting His disciples’ impression of greatness and the importance of childlike, not childish, faith (Mt. 18:1-6). Jesus modeled five discipleship invitations: * Jesus compellingly drew people into an unscripted adventure with God – discipleship marked by faith over formulas. * Jesus graciously challenged people to wrestle with messy faith in community – discipleship marked by relationship over regulations. * Jesus radically established unconventional community between the most unlikely people – discipleship marked by interdependence over independence. * Jesus wholeheartedly modeled God’s revolutionary mission for the sake of this world – discipleship marked by the gospel over good principles. * Jesus humbly equipped people for a lifetime of dynamic discipleship – discipleship marked by individualized over institutionalized. Chapter 4: Draw Kids Into an Unscripted Adventure with God This chapter will open with a story about God using Mrs. Anderson in Dan’s life as a disruptive disciple-maker. It will elaborate on his personal desire to fully engage with God’s Word, the body of believers, and their children’s ministry programs at a young age. It will highlight five techniques to invite them into a faith-guide, not formula-driven journey. * TALKING: Talk openly with kids about personal “life with God” stories * EXPLORING: Give kids opportunities to explore faithful Godfollowers in the Bible * SHARING: Encourage children to share what they are discovering about God * RESPONDING: Invite kids to respond to Christ for salvation by receiving God’s gift of grace * CELEBRATING: Find creative ways to celebrate milestones while walking with God Chapter 5: Wrestle with Messy Faith Together Anchored in John 15:5, this chapter will address the discipleship tension between bearing spiritual fruit and abiding in relationship with Christ by building upon Jesus’ “relationship over regulations” approach. Children’s ministry leaders and volunteers can create sacred space for kids, parents and leaders to wrestle with messy faith issues by: * The power of “I’m here” (presence) – it’s ok to be yourself * The power of “I don’t know” (humility) – it’s ok to ask tough questions * The power of “We’re in this together” (empathy) – it’s ok to lean on each other Chapter 6: Build Unconventional Community with Families The practical principles in this chapter will be rooted in varied Bible passages (John 19:26-27; Acts 2:42-47; Galatians 6:10) that demonstrate that the church becomes “extended family” for all disciples. Children, whether they are part of healthy nuclear families or casualties of extremely dysfunctional homes, must experience discipleship in relationship with biological a