Kid’s Korner: What about Halloween?

Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives. (Proverbs 22:6)
Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives. (Proverbs 22:6)

Days are getting shorter and the air crisper—both unmistakable signs of the fall season. And if you have stepped foot into any retail store lately, or checked out upcoming movies at the theater, you can’t miss the fact that Halloween is upon us, with all its ghoulish imagery and assorted costumes. In fact, U.S. consumers will spend approximately $8 billion on this popular holiday.

At Halloween, small (and sometimes not so small) children are excited to dress up in their favorite superhero or princess costumes as they set off into neighborhoods in search of heaps of candy. Some adults use Halloween as an opportunity for unbridled partying and debauchery. What for some is a harmless, fun holiday, others view as an excuse for wickedness. How then shall we approach the celebration of Halloween within the church—Children’s Church in particular?

batman_and_robin_in_action__

Halloween has its roots in a celebration within the church called All Hallows Eve (or All Saints Day). But somewhere in the halls of history, the celebration was hijacked by various groups (some were Satanists) who attached their own meanings to the celebration and introduced ghouls, demons, witches, and other grisly characters.

Halloween falls on Monday this year, so there’s no chance to avoid the topic at church the day before. But how shall we do so in light of the fact that Christians of good conscience differ on the topic of participation in Halloween celebrations? Some churches view Halloween as an excellent opportunity to engage the world with the light that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. They use the holiday as an opportunity to serve the community by providing a safe and fun place for families to gather that night. Some churches opt for Halloween alternatives such as a Harvest Festival. The fun of dressing up in costumes, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating are incorporated, while the darker, more sinister aspects of Halloween are left out. This approach is especially beneficial to families with smaller children, as they can enjoy the evening without worries of being scared or facing the dangers on the street.

Other churches and families are convicted by their consciences that they should not participate in any aspect of Halloween. But whatever convictions we might hold (personally or corporately), we should give one another the freedom to live out those convictions. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval” (Romans 14:4 NLT).

Whatever our feelings toward Halloween, within the church let’s approach the day with wisdom and compassion, and an eye toward advancing God’s mission. With respect to Children’s Church this year, the Sunday prior to Halloween would be an appropriate time to provide a lesson answering the questions kids likely will have on topics like death, darkness, the devil and fear. We can address their questions and concerns by emphasizing that Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection overcame the darkness of evil and sin, placing us into the everlasting light of his love and grace. Here are some Bible passages you might use:

  • Colossians 2:13-15. Jesus disarmed the powers of evil. Satan is a defeated foe.
  • 1 John 4:4, 18. Jesus in us is far greater and more powerful than anything in the world (including all the scary stuff).
  • 1 Peter 5:8-11. Though the enemy is prowling, he has no chance against us. Jesus, our strength and protector, has called us into his eternal glory.
  • Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 91:1-7. We do not have to be afraid because God is with us always.

Please remind your congregation to pray for the children’s safety as many will be out trick-or-treating on Halloween night or otherwise. You might also want to touch base with parents to learn how they will approach Halloween as a family so you can prepare your activities sensitively.

The ultimate goal for us as Children’s Church teachers should always be to reach out to children and bring them closer to the light of Jesus. Toward that end, below are links to helpful resources we’ve found. If you know of others, please share them in the comments box below.

– Susi Albrecht and Nancy Akers

From Greg: Invest in the development of your leaders

Dear pastors and ministry leaders:

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

October is Clergy Appreciation Month, and though I appreciate our pastors every month of the year, this month I want to send out a special Thank you! to them all. I love these men and women, and I deeply appreciate their labor of love in the Lord.

Let’s prepare for 2017

Now that we’ve entered the 4th quarter of 2016 (can you believe it?), it’s time to prepare for 2017. I’m sure you’ll soon be holding budget meetings with your finance committee, and planning/vision meetings with your leadership team. As you do, please consider how, in 2017, you’ll invest in the development of your congregation’s leaders—both existing and new ones. Because this investment is so important to the health of your church, this issue of Equipper has been expanded to make room for multiple insights, suggestions and resources related to this vital topic.

Jesus with His Disciples by Rembrandt (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Jesus meets with his “leadership team” (public domain via Wikimedia)

Key questions and some recommendations

In your planning meetings, I recommend that you ask yourselves some key diagnostic questions: Do our leaders have specific, well-defined responsibilities? Are we empowering them to follow through? Are we training them, or sending them for training?

I recommend that you prepare ministry (job) descriptions for each of your ministry leaders (see Heber Ticas’ article for a sample), then review those descriptions with those leaders to help them form clear, measurable goals as the basis for a development plan that will provide direction for their ministry in 2017.

With these development plans in place, stay focused and on task in 2017 by holding regular meetings with each ministry leader. For a time, you might meet weekly (particularly with first-time leaders), then less often as they show good progress. I recommend that you structure these meetings using the five-step outline that we use in CAD’s coaching services. The outline is summarized by the acronym C.O.A.C.H.

  • Connect: How have you been? Or as GiANT WORLDWIDE puts it, “How’s your peace?” (related to your person, place, and the people around you).
  • Outcome: What result do you hope to take away from this meeting? (As the supervisor, what result do you hope to accomplish?)
  • Awareness: What are we learning in this ministry? How is it impacting people? Are people being pointed to Jesus? Are the goals we have set for this ministry being accomplished?
  • Course: What adjustments need to be made? Do goals need to be re-calibrated, or new ones established? Are the resources adequate to meet the stated goals?
  • Highlight: What will you take away from this meeting? (End by praying for one another.)

Focus on developing new leaders

In 2017, I urge you to keep uppermost in your planning and practices the identifying, recruiting and developing of new leaders. I hope you’ll be inspired by the examples of some of our established leaders who have written articles for this issue. To add to what they share, here are two “best practices” for your consideration:

  • Whenever possible, take another person along with you in your day-to-day ministry work. Because ministry is “more caught than taught,” working in pairs will make a big difference.
  • Account for the training/equipping of new leaders as you prepare your congregation’s 2017 budget—doing so will pay huge dividends. Ask your regional pastor about training events in your region and beyond, and keep an eye on GCI Weekly Update for announcements.

Be an equipper

As you know, the apostle Paul (in Ephesians 4:11-13) shows that the primary responsibility of pastoral leaders is to equip other members of the body of Christ for their participation in the ongoing ministry of Jesus. This call to ministry equipping includes identifying and developing new second-tier leaders. It’s the assessment of the CAD team that there is a near-epidemic lack of this activity in our congregations. I ask for your help in remedying that deficit by committing as a leadership team to implementing in 2017 what we address in this issue of Equipper. What if all our pastors and ministry leaders would do so? What would our churches look like a year from now? Three years? Five years? I cannot wait to see!

May the Lord inspire and guide us all as we invest in the development of our congregational leaders!

– Greg Williams

Building the leaders around you

Leader Development ModelAs we participate with Christ in developing leaders in our congregations, it’s important that we give attention to their character, calling and competencies—all centered on Christ. In his article, A New Paradigm, Malcolm Webber points out how Jesus went about developing leaders in all three areas:

He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)

Jesus’ leadership development methods involved providing four transformational elements:

  • Spiritual. A relationship with God (with himself and the Father)
  • Relational. Relationships with a mature leader (himself), and others (the disciples)
  • Experiential. Challenging assignments (diverse learning opportunities)

These three elements constitute the context (environment) within which leaders tend to emerge. Then there is the fourth element, the content:

  • Instructional. Focused, relevant instruction

When all four of these elements are in place, the spiritual life of the emerging leader is nurtured, their relational capacities are strengthened, their character is developed, their calling is clarified and their leadership capacities are built. For more about these concepts, watch this video:

On Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/138862819

For a helpful article related to this topic, click here to read “Don’t Wait Until You Need a Leader to Find One” by A. Trevor Sutton.

Developing our congregational leaders

Below are links to the seven articles in the October issue of Equipper, which focuses on developing leaders in GCI congregations. Enjoy! — Ted Johnston, editor

From Greg: Invest in the development of your leaders
Greg Williams urges pastors and ministry leaders to plan now to invest in the development of established and new congregational leaders in 2017.

Jesus with his disciples

Mentoring young leaders
Michael Rasmussen draws from his experience in discussing ways to mentor young (emerging) leaders.

Developing a new pastor: It began with a question
PD Kurts tells the story of how he helped a young leader hear God’s call to pastoral ministry.

Using ministry descriptions in developing your ministry leaders
Heber Ticas shares how he uses ministry (job) descriptions in developing the ministry leaders in his congregation.

Building the leaders around you
Here is an article and a video showing how to use Jesus’ methods in building the leaders in your church.

Sermon video: Safe and Sound
Here is a video that unpacks the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It provides a good basis for a sermon.

Kid’s Korner: What about Halloween?
This month we address the topic of Halloween. What’s the best way to approach this holiday in your Children’s Church?

Using ministry descriptions in developing your ministry leaders

Heber Ticas, GCI’s national coordinator of Church Multiplication Ministries, offers advice on using ministry (job) descriptions in developing the ministry leaders within your congregation.

Heber and Xochilt Ticas
Heber and Xochilt Ticas

As Greg mentions in his letter this month, a “best practice” in developing each ministry leader in your congregation is to utilize a “Ministry Description” (or call it a “Job Description”) that outlines their responsibilities in a way that integrates what they are doing into the missional flow of your church.

As Greg recommends, you as lead pastor should sit down on a regular basis with each ministry leader and review the agreed-upon Ministry Description, looking for points of alignment and conflict. I have used this approach for several years in the congregation I pastor and it’s worked well. Here is one of the ministry descriptions I’m currently using—it’s for the leader of my congregation’s Assimilation Ministries:

MINISTRY DESCRIPTION:
assimilation ministries leader

Description and Purpose of Assimilation Ministries:

This ministry exists to fulfill various important purposes within the missional posture of the church (Colossians 4:5; Matthew 25:21) in accordance with these understandings:

  • Assimilation is not the same as spiritual formation. Assimilation is the process used for integrating a person into the life of the church. It seeks to help a person journey from being an occasional visitor to an active, responsible and committed member of the local body of Christ. Spiritual formation is a journey of transformation by which the Spirit leads a person into greater conformity with the image of Jesus.
  • God uses our Assimilation Ministries as a vital tool in helping people on this journey of spiritual formation as they are nurtured and “plugged into” our discipleship environments.
  • Assimilation Ministries exists to help create an environment that is hospitable and friendly within the congregation—one in which visitors feel loved, welcomed, accepted and that they belong.
  • It exists to provide a system by which we keep in constant contact with visitors with the purpose of participating in what the Lord Jesus is doing in these visitors’ lives.
  • It exists so that first-time visitors have a powerful, positive first impression of our church.
  • It exists to move first-time visitors to becoming second- and third-time visitors, and eventually to becoming active members of our church.
Ministry Vision:

Our vision for Assimilation Ministries is to assist the congregation at large in living out the Great Commission. It does so by fostering a hospitable environment in the congregation, with the overall purpose of participating with Jesus in his desire to save all people.

Ministry Strategy:
  • Assimilation Ministries provides four points of contact with visitors and the church as a whole:
    • Parking Greeter: This is the first point of contact in the parking lot—an initial welcome given with a great smile, offering to guide the visitor to the second point of contact.
    • Door Greeter: This is the second point of contact, now at the front door. This greeter directs the visitor and points out the restrooms, children’s ministry, the sanctuary and refreshments.
    • Friend: This person will intentionally look to befriend the visitor. They will offer refreshments, take the visitor to the information table and introduce them to others in the congregation. This person is available both before and after services.
    • Usher: This is the last step in the greeting process. It’s the step where the visitor will be seated in a comfortable place, to their liking.
  • Assimilation Ministries maintains the information table, paying attention to the table and making sure there is always someone there. This table is an important part of our process for gathering information. The table must have bulletins, connection cards and gift bag always available. The person manning the table must be sure to collect the vital information. At the end of the service, this person provides the ministry leader and lead pastor with a list of visitor information.
  • Assimilation Ministries will follow up with visitors as follows:
    • Send a personalized thank you letter to be received by Friday
    • Make a phone call to them on Tuesday night thanking them for visiting our church and inviting them back.
Ministry Leader Responsibilities:

The Assimilation Ministries leader has these important responsibilities:

  • General coordination of the ministry, and effective implementation of the ministry strategy.
  • Coordination of the work of all ministry workers.
  • Providing a monthly calendar with the specific functions of each ministry member.
  • The effective functioning of the ministry within the church (with special emphasis on coordinating attractional events)
  • Maintaining unity, motivation and fraternity within the assimilation team. Encourage the ministry workers to have a heart that aches for the community and for sojourners seeking a spiritual experience.
  • Execution of the follow-up strategy with first and second time visitors.
  • Oversight of the information table, making sure it is stocked with all needed items and making sure that those serving at the table are responsible and dressed properly.
  • Recruit and train new ministry workers according to the need.
  • Manage the ministry budget with wisdom and for the effective working of the ministry.
  • Insure that all leaders in the ministry have an apprentice at all times.

Developing a new pastor: It began with a question

Regional pastor Paul David (PD) Kurts tells the story of his experience in developing a new, young pastor.

Some of the most important things in life begin with a question, like, “Are we there yet?” “Who shot J.R.?” “How many licks to the center of a tootsie pop?” Kidding aside, questions do have great power, and asking them at the right time can lead to focused action. Jesus frequently moved people to action with questions. You’ll remember when he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” You know the story.

One of the most impactful questions I’ve ever asked came about several years ago while flying to a GCI conference in Chicago with a young man named Dennis who was serving in ministry in the church I was pastoring. Dennis and his wife Diana were overseeing our youth ministry at the time, and though they were doing an amazing job, I felt the Lord was possibly calling them to pastor a church––my church!

pd
Dennis and PD

For some time the Spirit had been compelling me to decrease so that others might increase, thus creating “space” where others could spread their wings and develop as leaders. Basically, Holy Spirit was telling me to get out of the way! These weren’t easy concepts to wrap my mind around—they made me wonder what I would do, where I would go, and how I would be utilized. But I’m getting ahead of myself—back to the airplane.

For the majority of the flight I struggled to ask Dennis the question. I’m not sure why. It was a simple yes or no sort of question. I guess I was afraid of being told no, afraid of rejection. In fact, it wasn’t until we began our descent that I finally blurted out, “Dennis, have you ever thought about being a pastor?”

His prolonged silence was deafening. Had I put him in an awkward position? Many things ran through my mind as I waited for his reply. Finally, after what seemed like a minute of silence, he replied, “Yes I’ve thought about it.” And that answer began a wonderful journey together of discerning the nature of the Lord’s call in his life.

You might be interested to know that I’ve asked the same question of numerous people over the years. More often than not, the answer was no. However a few answered yes. In every case what was needed most was for someone to see in that person what they could not see in themselves.

As much as anything, developing leaders involves actively looking for the potential in people—seeing it and then doing all you can to help the person realize that potential (thankfully, it’s not “rocket science”).

In addition to loads of leadership and pastoral potential, Dennis possessed four qualities that, though essential to pastoral leadership, are not easy to find in people. Those qualities can be summed up in the acronym A.F.T.R, which stands for Available, Faithful, Teachable and Responsive.

Dennis was nearly always available (barring family or work commitments he could not get out of). He looked for additional opportunities to hang out with me, visit members and simply learn by doing. It was always a pleasure spending time with Dennis!

Dennis was faithful, first in little things then later in big things. He could always be counted on. If he said he would take care of something, he did. If he said he would be there, he was. It’s been said that 90% of success is just showing up! Dennis and his wife Diana always seemed to do this effortlessly and with joy.

The thing I think I appreciated most about Dennis was that he was teachable. He had an open mind and genuine hunger to learn. Additionally, he was willing to admit he didn’t know everything. To this day we enjoy a very special relationship in which we learn a great deal from each other.

Finally, Dennis was responsive. Not only did he accept guidance and constructive criticism, he actively sought these out and did his best to respond accordingly.

Who might the Lord be leading you to plant a seed in by asking a question? How might you decrease so others might increase? In what areas could you create “space” for others to spread their wings and grow as leaders? Are there any among you who are A.F.T.R. more?—women and men who are available, faithful, teachable and responsive?

If these ideas resonate with you (and I hope they do), please take a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret doing so.

Dennis has come a long way since that plane ride to Chicago. In fact, he’s my pastor now. It all began with a question.

Mentoring young leaders

Regional pastor Michael Rasmussen draws from his personal experience to share an effective approach for developing young leaders.

rasmussens-3
Mike and Juli Rasmussen

I remember when I first started pastoring. I had a deep desire to help mentor the next generation of young leaders. Many people had invested in my life when I was young, and I wanted to do the same for other young people coming up.

So I sat down with the leaders of my congregation to discuss a plan. After laying out (from my perspective) a vision and strategy for mentoring, training and releasing young people into ministry within our congregation, I was shocked by some of the responses. Almost half of my leaders stated clearly and dogmatically that a young person could not serve in any kind of ministry unless they first had graduated from college.

I thought maybe we weren’t thinking of “ministry” in the same way, so I presented my proposal in finer detail. Once again, I received “thumbs down” from several in the group (though, to be fair, the rest of the leaders were on board and excited about the vision for our youth). It was at that time I realized I had my work cut out for me (in more ways than one!).

The plan was to give small ministry opportunities to young people (age 12 and up). They could help with set-up, ushering, receiving the offering, helping babysit during services (with adult supervision). We soon asked some young leaders if they would like to start a praise team and a drama team. They were excited!

Our plan was to have each young person shadow an adult to learn the ropes, then they would be given more and more responsibility as they showed they were ready. In time, our goal was to release them into ministry on their own.

Group photo at CrossWalk Camp in Oklahoma
Group photo at CrossWalk Camp in Oklahoma

As a venue for developing young emerging leaders we started CrossWalk Camp where young people are surrounded by loving parents and grandparents who help mentor them. In that environment, young people can make mistakes and learn from them. To this day, the camp is largely run by young adults with guidance and help from caring older adults.

It’s my strong belief that if you wait until young people are out of college or otherwise “old enough” you will lose them and you will miss some of the greatest opportunities to develop new ministers.

Note this passage of Scripture:

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalms 71:16-18 KJV)

As pastors, ministry leaders and other adults, our job is to share the word and love of God with the next generation—showing them how to live that word and love through good deeds and ministry service. Part of our responsibility is to give them opportunity to minister. It’s better to take a chance with a young person than to let them die on the vine.

I have to admit that following through on my commitment was hard at first. Some of the young people wanted to do things differently than I would have. Sometimes they fell on their faces and would sit and talk about why and how we could do it better next time. Other times they did things differently and far better than I ever could.

Our motto at our camp and at the church I pastor is this: Always be mentoring someone to do your job better than you do! We’re always looking for young people to come alongside to train and then release. We don’t do this perfectly by any means, but by the grace of God, we’ve come a long way.