I like living in my bubble. My bubble is nice. It is comfortable. It is happy. Life was good until I read, “Meet Generation Z” by James Emery White at which time my bubble burst. I thought that since I was working with elementary age kids, I should learn more about this generation. These are kids born between 1996 and 2014. Wow! What a wakeup call! I think I’d like to go back into my bubble now. Unfortunately, it does not work that way when serving the Lord.
So what did I learn? Perhaps the most startling fact was that this generation is the first true POST-Christian generation. I supposed I should not be surprised, after all, we cannot talk about God in the work place (unless you work in ministry). We cannot talk about God in schools. Our monuments tied to Christianity are no longer welcome. And then we watched evil sweep in. We cannot talk about God in school but we can teach the science of evolution. We cannot discuss God; however we can talk about accepting the homosexual lifestyle. We cannot talk about God but transgenders are welcomed into elementary schools and encouraging kids to accept this lifestyle. No, I guess I should not be surprised at this latest statistic.
This generation makes up more of the American population than Baby Boomers. This is a large group and only 4 out of 10 attend church services weekly. Today’s generation is very secularized and has little to no knowledge of the gospel. Here’s how White summarized Generation Z, “First, they are lost. They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel. The degree of spiritual illiteracy is simply stunning… (Second), they are leaderless. Little if any direction is coming from their families, and even less from their attempts to access guidance from the internet. So how can they be reached?”
Reaching children when we have them is one thing, but getting them to us is a whole other dilemma. Then, of course, there is keeping them focused on God as they grow and we know that parents have more influence on this than church leaders. It seems to me that yes, we need to make our children’s ministry attractive; after all, the statistics on how much a child influences decisions in the home these days is truly astonishing! None the less, we must deal with reality. Equally important to an inviting and engaging children’s ministry is a parent’s ministry.
The parents of our Gen Z kids are mainly from Generation X. We need to understand them to know what pulls at their heart string. These parents are more cautious and frugal than generations past, but are known to spend more on their kids. They want good things for their children. Most of our kids homes have two parents working outside the home so kids come home to an empty house after school every day or are enrolled in after school care. Then there’s divorce… much higher divorce rates than years past. So their kids are growing up more independent, but not necessarily learning what they ought to.
Now, we know how important their kids are to them but we also know how pressed for time they are. Parents are short on time and want to spend time with their kids so they put their kids in sports. Baseball, soccer and cheer is fun for everyone, but this means even less time for the church each week. It may appear hopeless, but let’s look closer. Parents want to be good parents. They love their kids. The church needs to teach parents what is happening to children when they are not hearing about God every day. They need to be shown them very real and scary statistics of our children growing up without expressing and showing them that God is the focal point, the priority for the family. Then we need to teach a parent how to do this. And finally, we do not need to overwhelm parents with more programs, but we do need to offer them the tools to raise kids for Christ with the church as their partner.
What tools do they want and need? Here are just a few ideas:
- Scriptural answers for why we believe in God
- Time management tips
- Prayer suggestions
- 5-minute devotional with discussion question
- Share their bible lesson from Sunday and give ways to reinforce at home
- Fun family activities that allow discussion of God
- Discussion starter questions about God for the dinner table, traveling to school, etc.
- Make counseling available. Being a parent is hard and sometimes, we just need extra help.
Remind parents of Deuteronomy 6:5-8: 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Why would God instruct us to talk about God’s commands ALL the time, at every opportunity? Are parents doing this? If parents had been doing this all along, do you think the state of America would be where it is today? Make your children’s AND parent’s ministry a priority.
Interested in reading more about Generation Z?
How often do you see visitors with their kids trying to talk them into going to their bible class, but they are shy and uncomfortable so they quietly protest? This week I was sitting in my adult class just before time to start when I overheard a visitor sitting behind talking to his dad about his first grade daughter. He said, “I thought I was going to have to bring her to class with me until she saw they were playing with Play-doh in her class!” He continued to say, “Usually I tell her she can go to her class or mine and that my class will be boring to her, we don’t get to play. Her response is typically, ‘We don’t get to play in my class either.'” So both this dad and daughter were thrilled when she was playing with Play-doh. He got to enjoy his adult class knowing his daughter was enjoying her children’s bible class.
Was she just playing? Not at all! She was using a Play-doh mat I created of Psalm 23. She got to give the lamb a tail, make a river and more. She was learning scripture and having fun doing it! Who says Bible class needs to be boring? Not me! Let’s make Bible class a place our kids and their friends actually desire to be. We are not “entertaining” kids, we simply recognize how children learn best and “teach” this way. Your teaching does not have to include Play-doh, but it should capture children’s attention and make them desire to participate.
I’m attaching a copy of the Psalm 23 Play-doh mat I used this week. Feel free to download, copy and use as much as you would like. Send it home with kids to play at home. I am working on a full set of 24 at the moment since my kiddo’s enjoyed it so much. I will post when they are ready in the event any of you are interested in using them for your classes or to simply send home with families as a way to intentionally bring God’s word into the home each week. (This may be a great idea for children’s gifts this Christmas with a small party sized Play-doh.) I have the stories I plan on using, but would love to hear those you would like to see.
Psalm-23-Play-doh-mat.pdf (24 downloads)
Play-Doh Party Bag Dough, 15 Count (assorted colors)
Feelings. We live in a time where feelings dictate behavior. And it has become acceptable in our culture. Many of our youth does not seem to feel like God meant what He said. Dress modestly? I don’t feel like it and God would want me to be happy. Sexual preferences and gender identity? I feel this way and God would want me to be happy. Worship the way God says? But I feel like God would like it this way better because I can get into the service better this other way. Love your neighbor? But he has stolen from me twice and lied about it. Surely God doesn’t mean for me to love a sinner like that? Regardless of what scripture may say, many of our youth have developed an attitude that our feelings outweigh obedience.
Yes, our awesome God wants His children to find happiness, but not happiness of the world. Not a self-centered happiness, but one with a servant’s heart. Here are just a few verses of hundreds that tell us what our God expects, and selfishness is absent.
- “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
- “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
- In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells Saul that it is better to obey than to sacrifice. Our God wants obedience, yet our youth are more focused on how they believe God wants them to feel. They’ve made this life all about them, not God. So how do we turn this backwards way of thinking around?
We have a problem, now how do we fix it? It will not happen overnight, but we can teach the next generation, our children. It’s important that we teach them how much God loves them and wants a good life for them, but this good life comes with obedience. We should reinforce often God’s desire for obedience and share the many bible stories that teach this. They are everywhere! Saul grew impatient waiting for Samuel so he offered the sacrifice before going into battle and this act of disobedience cost Saul his kingdom. Yes, we could easily see how Saul justified his decision just like we often do with our own choices today, but God expects obedience. Then there is Daniel. He chose to obey, praying to God in spite of an earthly law and God closed the mouths of the lions keeping Daniel safe. We can show this point in just about every biblical account beginning with Adam and Eve. Take the time to do this and explain to our children that it is clearly not about what we feel, but what God asks of us.
Need ideas? Take a look at my curriculum (FREE) and use as is or just for ideas. (More to come.) The goal is to reach our children with the God’s Truth, teaching our kids to KNOW God, LOVE God, and SHARE God with others.
I had no idea so many people felt alone and discouraged in children’s ministry until I started scrolling through one of the KidMin Facebook feeds. Wow! Our children are the future of God’s church and those leading them are feeling discouraged at this incredible work. Training them up in the Lord is a calling, a gift and it is sad to hear so many are feeling down about it.
What is causing this? My guess, not enough support or encouragement from others, but remember, we work for God and His glory, not man’s. Easier said than done though, right? What can we do about it? First, and probably most important, pray. After that, remember this ministry is a gift and you are imparting God’s word into the lives of children. Here are a few suggestions they may help you when you need that extra push.
- Create a “WIN” wall. Take notes of each “win” you notice. Colorful index cards are good for this. With kids, it’s often in the little things. For instance, this past Sunday after Bible class, one of my kindergarteners ran up to me to and asked if we’d be meeting again in a certain room that day. She was excited about our Bible Science night on Wednesday and had been just that week. She was ready to go again. This is a win! When a child is excited about a bible event. Another recent win was having one of my fifth graders asking if we could have a bible movie night this summer before school starts up again. She wanted to spend time watching a biblical movie with her church friends before moving onto sixth grade. Another win! Write these things down on index cards and hang them where you see them daily. This is encouraging when you see your work paying off. And imagine how encouraging it is to look back a year from now at all the “wins” you have had.
- Parent Help. Parents want to raise their kids to have a relationship with Christ, but often just don’t know how. When they realize you are their partner, not just another person occupying their child’s time for an hour a week, they appreciate you. Let them know what you do with their kids each week. Send out an email update each Monday that tells them what you taught their kids that week along with the scripture reference and a suggestion for a simple way they can reinforce this at home. They may not always do it, but they appreciate it.
- Bible Trivia. Ask the kids some questions about previous lessons. When they remember what you taught them, when it really sunk into their memories, that is encouraging! It keeps me going for sure. I usually cannot wait to tell my husband what they remembered. I get so excited when they remember little details from things we learned months ago. And if they aren’t remembering, this is a great opportunity to adjust what you are doing. I am continually tweaking my methods to get a better response. I want these kids to know God, to love God and to share Him with others!
- Join a Children’s Ministry Group. Whether a local group or online, join a group of like minded individuals who share your frustrations and your triumphs. Learn from each other. God gave us friends because He knew how much we would need them.
I know. These suggestions are not going to make everything better, but they help. Sometimes, all we need is to know we are not alone and be reminded of what is at stake. I’ll leave you with these thoughts from God:
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. -Psalms 16:8
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. -Psalms 55:22
Promoting Jesus? When there’s so much on the web these days, how do we stand out and get seen by the right people? I will happily share my recent experience.
This summer is my fourth year of hosting a Bible Science program. This is my favorite thing to do all year, every year. It creates an excitement in kids that has them enjoying their time learning about God. In the past few years I announced the program to our church families and printed fliers that we passed out at our weekly food pantry. This brought in a good number of kids. I was thrilled.
This year my husband recommended I try some Facebook advertising. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? I designed a simple advertisement. Facebook let me select my target audience. I chose parents of elementary aged children in my town. It was a simple as that. I used MailChimp to auto send responses with more information about our program. Amazing! Parents responded and kids who had never been to our congregation signed up for information and better yet, they came! And they came back!
Every week I send out an email with a video showing the experiment their kids will be doing and how we will tie that into God’s word. I’ll do just about anything to get kids excited about God! First I’ve got to get them in the door, then I can share His message. What methods of promoting have worked for you? As always, I am looking for the best ways to reach kids and their parents.
Here’s what went out this week: (This one is a little pricey, but they flock to slime!)
Want to make your own? Here’s what I used:
1/4 cup Glue
1/4 cup Liquid Starch (See what it is, but it’s less expensive to pick up at grocery store)
2 TB Iron Oxide
Strong Magnet (I used N52 bars, but they come in all shapes and sizes)
- Mix starch and iron oxide in bowl
- Add glue and stir with spoon. It will form a glob.
- When it is all sticking together, use hands to kneed for 2 – 3 minutes
- Set on clean plate
- Wash hands with hand wipe and let dry before touching slime
- Now, when you pick up the slime, your hands should stay clean.
- Use magnet to attract the slime
Discuss the experiment. What did they do? What happened? (Magnet was attracted to the Iron oxide in the slime)
Let’s talk about attraction. What are we attracted to? Is it good stuff, bad stuff, both? (Discuss)
As God’s people, we should try to stay away from bad stuff. What are some bad things we really like to do, but should stay away from? (Lying, Fighting with siblings, saying mean things, watching things we shouldn’t, playing games that people say lots of bad words on… I’m sure the kids will have plenty of examples)
Hold up two magnets. One magnet represents the bad stuff we just talked about. The other represents God’s people being obedient, staying away from bad things. (Hold magnets on ends that push away from each other.)
As God’s people, we should be attracted to God and all the good things that come from God. What are some good things from God we should be attracted to, things we should want in our lives? (Good friends, our family).
If we are attracted to good stuff, people will see this good stuff come from us! Let’s take a look at the “good stuff” we should be attracted to and want to have in our lives. Read Galatians 5:22-26: (There are lots of short video’s on YouTube you may want to show your kids.)
22 But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful 23 and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sinful desires to his cross. They don’t want these things anymore. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others
What are the fruits of the spirit?
Do the fruits of the spirit grow on trees? No.
Where do they grow? In God’s people.
The Fruit of God’s spirit lets other people know that we are God’s people because just like an apple grows on an apple tree, the fruits of the spirit grow in a Christian. When we are drawn to evil, good things won’t show. When we are drawn to, or attracted to, good things, those good things will show in us.
This is my fourth summer teaching Bible Science to K-5th graders every Wednesday night in the summer. The first year I did this our classes doubled in size! That was incredible. The kids LOVED it. They got to play with their friends on the play ground, eat pizza, do science experiments followed by an applicable bible lesson. I have to admit, every week I went home worn out, but absolutely loved what I was seeing from the kids. They were excited to learn God’s word. Well, they were excited about the “fun” stuff and God’s word was intertwined; it was the whole purpose and they were enjoying it.
So what is Bible Science? It is taking a simple science experiment to draw kids in and capture their attention so they are receptive to God’s word. I have heard of teachers performing the experiment at the head of class while everyone watches, but I prefer to let everyone participate. If they are hands on, they are more engaged and in turn, more likely to remember what’s being taught. Some experiments everyone does it themselves and then there are others that are better suited for small groups of 2-3 kids, especially if my kindergartens will struggle with parts of the experiment.
Every Wednesday night I start a half hour before bible classes are scheduled for our congregation. The first two years we served pizza on the playground for 30 minutes, but the Texas heat made snow cones much more desirable. So, I bought a snow cone machine and the kids can’t believe they get all the snow cones they want for FREE! This draws in others from our community too. Some kids arrive before me and then they trickle in. The next 30 minutes are dedicated to the science experiment. Make sure to test the experiments before you get there. It’s not much fun for the kids when the experiment fails (unless something exploded that wasn’t supposed to, of course). The last 30 minutes are dedicated to a bible lesson, singing, and sometimes reinforcement games. That’s it! Simple and highly effective. So, here’s the overview of the evening again:
30 minutes: Playground and Snow Cones (or whatever you choose to offer)
30 minutes: Hands on science experiment
30 minutes: Applicable bible lesson, singing and sometimes reinforcement games
This past Wednesday we played with fire. Yes, we are aloud to light things on fire in Bible Science and the kids get fired up about it! I have the youth come help out with this part. I partner each group of two to three K-5th graders with a high school student. This helps a ton! Here’s a look at last week’s experiment and how we applied it to God’s word:
Next week we will play with dry ice, another we will explode a mix, we experiment with magnets and more. The idea is to keep it interesting so they keep coming back for more! For those interested, I’ll have a book of experiments with lessons out late this summer. I’ve had this request quite a bit so I’m finally getting it together!! These are great for a weekly summer program, a week of day camps, a Saturday event during the school year and more! It’s all about getting kids to come participate so you can share God with them.
Supplies for this experiment:
Unscented Tealight Candles 30 Pack-White-By CandleNScent(TM)
AmazonBasics Pre-sharpened Wood Cased #2 HB Pencils, 150 Pack
Glad Aluminum Foil, 40 Square Foot Roll, 12 Inches Wide