Book Review: Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children

As a brand new father to my daughter, Ava, life is very different and full of different responsibilities that I am still adjusting to.

I have a new area that I need to learn and grow in quickly, PARENTING.

As a Kids’ Pastor I have dabbled in topics of parenting, but having a child has made this area in the forefront of my mind and heart.

I want to be the best father I can be and learn everything I can about parenting so I can give the best to my wife and to my daughter.

To help me learn about parenting and being a father I was given a gift at Christmas. It was Mark Batterson‘s book, Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children. I know a crazzyyy long title!

It was a great book to read when starting a family and adding children into your lives. It speaks to the foundation of what parenting is about and what parents should be instilling into the lives of their children. Batterson makes you realize the importance of your role as parents and the skills to set you in the right direction.

Quick Hitters

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

1. “As a parent you cannot practice the spiritual disciplines for your kids. You have to practice them with your kids.” 

As our children grow we have to involve them in spiritual disciplines. We cannot just model how to pray, but we have to give them the opportunity to pray. Batterson talks about your children being spiritually codependent. Parents primary role is to instill personal faith into the lives of their children. This is why so many teens and young adults leave the church and abandon their faith. Their parents have shown them how to have a relationship with Jesus, but have not cultivated a faith inside of their children.

2. “If you repeat them often enough, those truths will get integrated in your child’s way of thinking and way of life.”

Coming up with a prayer mantra is life changing. Praying a specific prayer of your child will help shape your child’s future. Your child is looking to you to help define who they are and help shape their character. As they hear the same prayer every day it will make a lasting impact on them. As we pray, I believe, that the Lord will bless us and take care of our children. Come up with a simple prayer that you pray over your child multiple times a day. Great times to pray are in the morning, at bedtime, in the car, and at the dinner table. God answers the prayers of the faithful.

3. “Your devotion to God will lay a foundation and set a standard for your children to build on.”

The next generation is better, faster, smarter, taller (fill in the blank) than the last generation. You have the choice as parents to help set your children up for success in their relationship with Jesus and in their prayer life. Your spiritual life will directly change the next generation and the next generation. What an important thought. The Bible talks about this concept in Judges 2:10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” How you pray will dictate how your kids prayer and how your grandchildren pray and how your great-grandchildren will pray.

9780310339731

1. “As a parent you cannot practice the spiritual disciplines for your kids. You have to practice them with your kids.” 

2. “If you repeat them often enough, those truths will get integrated in your child’s way of thinking and way of life.”

3. “Your devotion to God will lay a foundation and set a standard for your children to build on

Praying Circles Around the Lives of your Children is foundational to parenting and I recommend it to all parents out their. Its never too late to start a spiritual prayer revolution in your family and change your family tree.

Advertisements

What’s Your Mark?

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what my mark is on my current place of ministry. I have been at Bethel Church for 4 years in December 2015. 4 years is long enough that you should be able to look around and see programs, people, and/or places that you have influenced as the leader. As I had this thought and reflected I had two thoughts that were counter-intuitive to each other. Take time this week to think of what is your mark? What has been accomplished since you have been at your current place of ministry? The results will probably lead you to the same two thoughts that I had.

1. You have left a bigger mark than you realize.

In my reflections about my mark and influence at Bethel I first thought that I haven’t really left any mark of significance. I haven’t really started any new ministries or any new initiatives. Since this is my first full-time position I have been primarily a manager. I have spent a lot of time just trying to stay afloat. From my perspective I can see that I haven’t accomplished that much. I want so much more. Then I had an encouraging thought. I have made a difference in people’s lives. I haven’t done or started magnificent things that have revolutionized my church or the kidmin community, but I have influenced individuals. Isn’t that what ministry is all about? Think of the notes or cards you have received. Think of the hugs from countless kids that you have embraced. Thanks be to God! You have left a bigger mark than you realize.

2.You haven’t left your mark as much as you want. 

Leaders are hungry for change. Leaders aim for success. If you call yourself a leader then inevitably you have much more to give and much more passion to leave your mark wherever you go. When you look around your ministry and your sphere of influence you can see all the holes and opportunities to leave your mark. We see the opportunities and dream of the possibilities. No matter how long you have been in ministry never lose become complacent and think that you have arrived. Never think that you have left your mark as much as you possibly can. When you come to this point you might as well call AARP and call it quits.

There is a balance between these two thoughts.

What’s your mark?

Talk Now and Later Book Review

I had the privilege to take a look at Brian Dollar‘s new book Talk Now and Later and share my opinion. What a book! As I prepare to have my first child in November this book was so helpful as I think about all the meaningful conversations I will have with my daughter soon. This book is perfect for parents in all seasons of parenting — new parents, veteran parents, single parents, grandparents, etc. If you are a parent you should invest in your kids and get Talk Now and Later.

As Brian Dollar writes about talking to your kids about tough topics like death, sex, self-esteem, divorce, and many other topics; there were a few themes that ran throughout the entire book. These are my takeaways from Dollar’s book, Talk Now and Later:

  1. All the tough topics that are covered in the book need to be communicated time and time again. Communicating the truths that Brian Dollar discusses need to happen consistently and often. If parents wait until the tragedy comes to have these conversations they are too late. You might even have to schedule to have these conversations with your kids, but they should also happen randomly when they present themselves.

MHC_Dollar_Instagram_19

  1. To really communicate the truths that are covered in Talk Now and Later they need to be modeled and a part of your life and character as a parent. We can only communicate so much through our words. The majority of these topics are taught to our kids more through our actions than with our words. If I want my kids to be good stewards of their finances they need to see that modeled and practiced by me. This book challenged me to be the best person I can be. This can only be accomplished through a relationship with Jesus and being covered by His grace and mercy.

MHC_Dollar_Instagram_11

  1. Many parents are overwhelmed when they think about talking to their kids about these tough topics, but Talk Now and Later teaches parents to ask questions and help their kids process through the tough topic. Brian Dollar guides parents to ask questions like, “How did you respond?” or “Why is that?” He calls these questions “funneling questions”. Parents need to help funnel kids down to the very core of the issue to help your kids get clarity and answers. Dollar recommends using the phrase “Tell more about that” to help your kids process the tough topic or tragedy. We don’t need to know everything as parents to be great parents. Admit that we don’t know everything and help your child by asking them questions.

MHC_Dollar_Instagram_06

Talk Now and Later by Brian Dollar is a great resource for parents, teachers, and ministry leaders. I highly recommend it. You can grab your copy today HERE

What is Kids Church? – Fellowship

Growing up in the church in the 90s I remember how most children’s ministries didn’t have some creative name like Bethel Kids, Elevation Kids, Promiseland, or High Voltage. Instead it was simply called Kids Church. I think we sometimes forget and lose sight of the fact that our kids ministries are churches of kids. They aren’t a place for kids to ONLY come play games, dance, and yell. All those things aren’t necessarily bad to have, for kids to come, but it should never be the reason that kids continue to come. Kids ministries at its essence is a CHURCH.

Over the next few blog posts I will highlight 5 characteristics that should be evident and define churches, INCLUDING KIDS CHURCH.

kids

Let’s get started with the first characteristic of life-giving kids churches:

-FELLOWSHIP-

The Bible is filled with Scriptures about breaking bread together, spending time together, and doing life together.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Jesus thought it was so important that He dined with His disciples just before He was crucified. The early church was known for spending time together and encouraging one another.

We, as #kidmin leaders need to provide space for kids to hang out and do life together. Tweet That!

So what does this look like practically?

1. Provide free time before the service starts, while kids are arriving, for kids to catch up, play together, and build relationships. If you never let kids talk during the service and you always want them to pay attention then how will they ever build friendships that can be life-giving?

2. Create age-specific small groups that are filled with conversations and real world scenarios. These conversations and scenarios that reiterate the lesson give kids the ability to apply their faith in a safe and controlled environment. In these small groups kids will make meaningful relationships with kids their age that are going through the same life phase.

3. Plan and execute kid/family events that allow kids to spend time with their friends and invite neighbors, school friends, or other kids that aren’t a part of the church. There are many kids that won’t come to church or can’t come to church, but will be able to if it is a non threatening event for kids. These events should not exist by themselves, but should be a pathway or connection point to church life.

Let’s make sure our kids ministries have space for kids to fellowship and form life-giving relationships that will last.

What are some ways you invite fellowship into your kids ministry?

Ministry is intended to be fun!

ministry is fun

Ministry is intended to be fun, but many times it is a tough experience filled with discouragement, depression, and frustration. When we are a part of God’s work it should be a joy to serve! I pray that each one of you enjoys serving in #kidmin and has fun serving the Lord. I have come up with four ways to help us have fun while we serve and experience that joy that comes with serving:

1. Be prepared – Take time to look over the lesson. There is no easier way to get stressed then not knowing what to do when kids start showing up. Guess what?! If you arent’ prepared and have a plan the kids will come up with one for you!

2. Show up early – When we are running late it adds unnecessary stress and anxiety that kills our joy and makes serving a burden. On Saturday night, set the alarm a few minutes earlier than normal, get your outfit ready before you get in bed, and turn the automatic starter on the coffee. Be proactive in showing up early so you are ready to welcome families and experience life together.

3. Pray – Spend time praying during the week to help give you confidence in the Lord that He will take care of your concerns and that He will show up on Sunday as you serve. I wonder how many church leaders come to church on Sunday without ever praying for their services and the kids that attend. God hears our prayers and pray will go a long way to bringing joy to you serving.

4. Bring a friend – Leading a small group full of kids without any help can be a “joy-sucker.” Don’t give excuses as to why you haven’t asked someone to join you in ministry. Help others that aren’t involved in ministry get involved. God calls all of us to serve and help others experience Christ. Invite a friend to serve with you and be your assistant in the classroom. They can help with the fussy kids and keep you focused on leading the small group. Just make sure they aren’t in the classroom alone.

These are 4 ways to help you have fun while serving! Hope they help make next Sunday a little less stressed and a little more fun!

Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kids Week Book Review

Before I start writing what I liked about this book, I just have to mention one thing. The title to this book is no joke (April Fools!) It is probably the longest title that I have read thus far. A book title is not suppose to be a full-on sentence. Now that I have that off my chest let’s get on to the meat and potatoes of the book review.

I had the privilege of meeting Sue Miller, the author of this book, at the Illuminate Conference in Hampton, VA in the fall of 2013. She is a gifted speaker and encourager. Since I recently heard her spoke I had the awesome experience of reading this book while hearing her say these words. It was a cool effect to my reading experience and if you have an opportunity to read a book after hearing the author speak I would truly recommend it. This book is pretty introductory to the world of kid’s ministry, but it has some great principles for all of us in kids ministry. In this book, Sue Miller, talks about how she came to Promiseland, kids ministry at Willow Creek, how God put a goal on her heart to make Promiseland the best hour of every kids week.

Quick Hitters

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

1. The importance of a Missions Statement and Core Values. Not just cute sentences that you can advertise with, but your mission and core values that cause you to action. Without a mission statement and core values you will never have an idea of what to “yes” to and what to say “no” to. Sue Miller uses her experience at Promiseland to highlight their Mission Statement and Core Values. The Mission Statement comes from Matthew 28:19, to supplement the family in reaching kids and helping them become fully devoted followers of Christ. They measure their effectiveness by the 5-G’s: Grace, Groups, Growth, Gifts, and Good Stewardship. After the Mission Statement comes the Core Values. Sue Miller talks about the 6 Core Values of Promiseland. It is pretty cool that Sue Miller provides the secret sauce, the foundation of what Promiseland is built on. While it might not be smart to copy their Mission Statement and Core Values it does provide a large amount of incite into her thought process. Their Core Values are:

Value 1: Promiseland is Child-Targeted

Value 2: Promiseland is Safe

Value 3: Promiseland Teaching is Relevant and Application-Oriented

Value 4: Promiseland will Teach the Bible Creatively

Value 5: Promiseland will Intentionally Shepherd in Small Groups

Value 6: Promiseland is Fun

The idea is to accomplish the Mission Statement (What?) by using the Core Value (How?)

Take the time to think through with your team what your Mission and Values will be.

2. I love the way that Sue Miller breaks down volunteers involvement. Of course, every kids leader wants to get those homerun volunteers that serve every Sunday, every Wednesday, and every event, but those only happen every blue moon. Sue Miller depicts different levels of involvement and different levels to recruit for. This is a quick graphic I created that comes from Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kids Week. volunteer wheelThese are the different groups that you need to recruit to and share the vision of the kids ministry and the church. Miller recommends trying to get in front of the entire congregation at least twice a year. Then  you recruit for special events like: VBS or during the summer months. Then you have a group of volunteers that serve once every 6 weeks. Then you have your every week volunteers. Finally you have your core group of volunteers that help train. The idea is to get volunteers from the outer circles to the inner circles. Everyone starts a different level and that is okay. Your object is to get them started so meet them where they are. Give your congregation different levels of involvement and meet them where they are.

3. The final quick hitter is about how to treat all the volunteers that you work tirelessly to obtain. A lot of us work hard to recruit, but forget to appreciate and get to know the volunteers that we have serving in our ministry. Miller uses different ministry monsters to point out why volunteers leave ministry and never serve again. Volunteers are saying four things to our faces that we better hear or we aren’t going to have a team to make ministry possible for very long.

They are saying: Value Me! Connect Me! Include Me! Challenge Me!

Volunteers are more than a childcare worker, they are part of the team, part of the family. They want be included and challenged.

 

9780310254850_p0_v1_s260x420

Those are my quick hitters for Sue Miller’s book, Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kids Week:

Take the time to think through with your team about your Mission and Values.

Give your congregation different levels of involvement and meet them where they are.

Volunteers are more than a childcare worker, they are part of the team, part of the family. They want be included and challenged.

 Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.

Lead Small Book Review

As I was reading this book I discovered this book wasn’t necessarily for me, but I was glad that I was reading it. I realized that this book was for the small group leaders  (SGL) that serve in the kids ministry I lead. I kept thinking about all my SGL as I was reading, Lead Small. I would love for each one of my SGL to read this book and put these “big ideas” into practice and into their heart and being. For the time being, I will be using the material from this book to use in our huddles before the Sunday services. The “big ideas” are precise and small nuggets of encouragement and direction that they will serve us well in this setting. I love my SGL and want to equip them to be the best leaders and role models to the kids that come through our church door.

Quick Hitters 

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

1. The first concept that I grabbed from this book was something that isn’t really in the book. There is no reason to learn if you keep it to yourself. While I will definitely be using the ideas and concepts in this book to become a better person, father, and pastor; I don’t want to keep it to myself. I can have a greater influence if I teach others the concepts from this book on how to lead the few that you are entrusted with. I have come to realize that it is in my best interest to teach and lead those that are under and beside me in ministry. Share what you learn. 

2. I also was reminded of the importance of a SGL. A lot of the time SGL get overlooked and undervalued. They aren’t up on stage, they don’t get all the limelight, but they do deserve credit and praise. I think they are more important than those that are up on stage and getting all the attention. SGL are the one’s that know the kids. They are the one’s that make the kids feel welcome and a part of a family. SGL get to know their few’s parents (and hopefully partner with them.) They have a relationship with parents and kids that a kids’ pastor could only dream and hope of having. Lead Small reminded me of how important these volunteers really are to fulfilling the overall mission and vision of the kids ministry and the church. SGL really are important to developing authentic faith in the lives of kids.

3. Out of the 5 “big ideas” that this book highlights as things SGL need to know, I picked what I thought was the most vital of them all. When this concept is not a part of a small group I believe nothing else will get accomplished. I believe that SGL have to make their group or classroom a safe place. Not just a safe place away from the boogieman or spiders, but a safe place where they can be themselves. When the “few” feel safe and know that what they share and learn about themselves and others is not going to be blasted to and fro all over their world. Kids need to know that church is a safe place where they can discover themselves. It is the responsibility of the SGL to lead the group as a safe place. Not tolerating slander, gossip, making fun. The SGL has to be willing to face those that are threatening the safety of the circle. Create a safe place.

Those are my quick hitters that I learned from this book:

Share what you learn.

SGL really are important to developing authentic faith in the lives of kids.

Create a safe place.

This book, Lead Small, is a book that I will reference from time and time. It is a book that will get implanted into my heart and spirit. It will be a book that I will use to teach and lead those that are playing one of the most important roles in the church, small group leaders.

Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.

Losing Your Marbles/Playing for Keeps

This is an interesting book that I received as a gift. It is interesting because it is really two books in one. It reminds me of a game I had when I was younger that I loved to play with my brothers. It was a 3-1 table that had pool, hockey, and ping pong all together. You might have had one of these yourself. My parents bought us one game, but to mine and my brothers surprise, we had three games. I have great memories spending time with my brothers and building those relationships that are still intact today.

When I got this book, I thought I was simply getting one book, but to my surprise I was receiving two. This 2-1 book is an easy read that is laid out beautifully and packed with content that can easily be used to advocate for kids and to cast vision to parents, kidmin or stumin volunteers, and those in a kid-oriented field. I would recommend this book for anyone in those three categories. The first book is called, Losing Your Marbles, and is a story about a group of school-age kids. The second book is called, Playing For Keeps, and it discusses and develops principles and practices based on the Losing Your Marbles book. Anyway, enough with the jibber jabber! Let’s get on to the Quick Hitters.

Quick Hitters

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

I will prefise my quick hitters by stating that I personally did not like the fictional story part of this book and will therefore not be using anything from Losing Your Marbles in my quick hitter section.

1. The strongest and greatest principle that I was reminded about from this book was the need to be involved in the life of a kid over time. There is a saying that says “time heals all wounds.” There is something special about a relationship that has endured over time and that is TRUST. The leader or parent has such a louder voice when trust is a part of the relationship and trust can only be built over time. The statistics for how long a pastor stays at a church before leaving is remarkable and very sad. As I become a father and develop as a leader and pastor I pray that I will have a relationship with my kids and stay at the same church for many years and see the fruit that can only become ripe through longevity. Whatever matters will matter even more over time.

2. The second quick hitter from this book is to have fun. Now most kids pastor have no problem with this point, but I do. My personality does not do well with goofiness and having fun like kids need. I am introverted. I am earth. I am melancholy. Whatever personality test you use, I am the one that is boring and to myself. I am not the life of the party so for me having fun is something that I have to be intentional about. The book gave three ways to have fun. Reggie Joiner recommends loosening up, learn what they like, and lose the agenda. He suggests that having fun just to have fun actually has benefits and isn’t just a waste of time like many of us adults think. Having fun breaks down barriers and builds relationships that foster honesty and transparency. There is a great quote in this chapter about having fun over time that I want to mention. It is a quote from the classic movie, Hook. Peter, played by Robin Williams, snaps at his children for interrupting a business call. His wife, while throwing his phone out the window, says, “Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon Jack may not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that youre going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.” Fun over time makes a friendship go deeper.

3. My final quick hitter from, Playing For Keeps, is the importance of having tribes or a group of people that come together because of some common interest. It could be anything that brings them together. The point is that they are together. I believe in the notion that someone is more likely to continue to come to church and get involved in church because they have a friend. I make it a priority to introduce kids to each other each Sunday so they will be me friends. This is the first step in making a tribe. Being a part of a tribe gives a sense of belonging. Being a part of a tribe allows kids to be known. Inside a tribe, the members get to know each other. When people are known they become to feel welcomed, forgiven, and a sense of belonging. These are critical for kids to experience community. Tribes over time show us how we belong.

Those are my quick hitters that I learned from this book:

Whatever matters will matter even more over time.

Fun over time makes a friendship go deeper.

Tribes over time show us how we belong.

I love how this book gave you 5 different things that matter to kids over time, but it didn’t just give you the principles. It gave you different practical ways to make those 5 principles take place. A lot of books give you principles, but never tell you how to make those things happen. They leave it up to you. While that does give you the freedom to come up with ways, it is great to be given a head start. This book does just that. It gives you a head start on making these 5 principles part of your life and part of your ministry.

Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.

“The Eric Trap” Book Review

Everyone loves a good story. Everyone has a story. Everyone needs to have a friend to tell the correct version. We all have fabricated stories in our mind of how great we are or how good or life is. In reality, we really aren’t that great and we need our friends to keep us grounded.

I love the lesson of David and Nathan in the Bible. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan tells David a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had lots of sheep, but the poor man only had one little sheep. There came a traveler and it was their custom to offer guests something to eat. Instead of offering one of his many sheep, the rich man, offered the poor man’s only sheep. David became very angry at the rich man and wanted him punished. Nathan said to David, “You are this man!” The End.

We all need people in our lives that will tell us the truth and keep us grounded. They need to pick us up when we are down too low and push us down when we are too high. The book, The Eric Trap, has that affect on the reader. It gives the reader a story that give perspective and insight about their ministry that they lead without destroying them.

Quick Hitters 

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

1. This book really helped me understand the importance of delegation. Yes, I still have difficulty delegating to others but I am starting to understand why it isn’t “giving your work to someone else” I never realized that God delegated to other people all the time. The Eric Trap talks about how God gave the responsibility of naming all the animals to Adam. God also gave the responsibility of spreading the Good News to the disciples and the apostles. He could have done those things all by himself, He was God. He chose to get others involved and a part of the ministry to spread the Gospel exponentially. When you have more people on your team you can get way more accomplish than you ever thought possible by yourself. This book has really challenged me to delegate more and get more people involved in serving and being a part of the Body of Christ. When we delegate, our influence and growth is exponential.

2. The second principle that this book taught me is to use the right type of measuring stick for success. There are so many different ways to measure success in ministry. Some measure by number of kids in the pews. Some measure by how many families attend. Still others measure by the number of kids that came to the front of the stage. While these measuring sticks do give some information about how successful our ministry is. They do not measure success completely. We have to remember that success is based solely on kids and families lives being changed. It is not based on who comes to church or who walks to the front. The hard part for me that I am still trying to figure out is how do we measure lives being changed. Do we wait until they have come to church for a year straight? Do we wait until they have spoken in tongues? What can we/I use to label someone as a changed life? One thing this book taught me is that we can just think we are successful by the size of our kids ministry or how many families sign up for a family fun night. It is so much more than that. Measure success not by numbers but by changed lives.

3. The last item that I was reminded about by reading this book was the need for order and commitment to keep our priorities in check. I don’t think I have my priorities really out of whack, but sometimes I get lackadaisical. It’s not on purpose I just am not as disciplined and mindful as I should be sometimes. For example, I am still learning how to manage my ministry calendar with my personal calendar. I have double booked two events by accidental on more than one occasion. While I am trying to deny the fact, this shows what my priorities are. I need to set up systems and checks to make sure that my calendar reflects my priorities. Make sure your priorities are in the right order.

51YHmihQU9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Those are my quick hitters that I learned from this book:

When we delegate, our influence and growth is exponential.

Measure success not by numbers but by changed lives.

Make sure your priorities are in the right order.

I love that this book was told like a story, but filled with great content too. The way the book went back and forth between the fable and the principles kept the book interesting all the way through. It hit on some important topics that any kids ministry person can use to improve themselves and their ministry.

Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.

Leading a Special Needs Ministry Book Review

Just tell me HOW to do it. Then get out of my way!

I am a practical guy. I don’t get bogged down by the ethereal or the why? I am just filtering through everything keeping my eye open for the bottom line. What matters? As I begin to go through the process I will start to construct for myself why?

In college, I never had any desire to go to my theology classes or other thought provoking classes like ethics. They all seemed useless. They weren’t practical enough for my liking. I wanted to take classes that taught me how to do something. How to public speak, how to write a sermon, how to minister to kids. These might not have been the easiest classes for me, because they made me get out of my comfort zone, but they gave me tools and directions to make something happen.

The book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, by Amy Fenton Lee, taught me just that. How to make something happen. How to make a Special Needs Ministry a success. It’s not a book that tries to convince you to have a special needs ministry or talks about how it is Biblical. It will answer the question: how? You will have to read a different book to learn how special needs ministry and inclusion is Biblical or why you should have one at your church. Well enough with the introduction. Let’s get to what I like to call the quick hitters.

Quick Hitters

In this section of the book review, I will point out some sections of the book that I especially liked and that I will try to use in my own life, character, and/or ministry.

1. The biggest item that I took from this book is the need for a screening process. On a few occasions I have had to ask the parents for advise on how to serve their kid that has special needs. Unfortunately, I usually ask this question because something happened that I did not know how to handle. If a screening process is in place then, I believe, the majority of these questions would already have answers to them.

The great thing about this book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, is that the questions you should ask during your screening process are provided. It does not get much easier than this. Everything is conveniently provided for you by Amy Fenton Lee. If you really want to start a Special Needs Ministry this book is priceless.

It might be uncomfortable to sit down with the parents, but the amount of information that is gained from having a screens process with the parents. Amy Fenton Lee says that the reason to have a meeting with the guardian(s) before letting their child be a part of your ministry is: to convey your intention to accept the child into your ministry, invite an open and candid relationship between the church and the family, and it might reveal other needs that the family might need. Have a screening and intake interview process.

2. Another amazing part about this book is the numerous appendices that have been included in the back of the book. While some may argue that these aren’t part of the book, I would argue against that view. The amount of hours it would take to make these forms on your own is manifold. Also, these forms ask the questions that are most common and most useful. Many of us have no idea what questions to ask parents of special needs kids. It is like you are getting the answers to a test before you take it. You almost feel guilty for having all these forms and words without having done any of the work. Amy has graciously done it all for us. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Some of the forms and resources that she has included in this section are inclusion tips, buddy training material, mission statement examples, handbook examples, and a parent questionnaire. Use the appendices in the back of the book.

3. The last quick hitter that I would like to mention about the book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, is the importance of writing a handbook and/or any other guiding documents. These documents might seem pointless and a trivial, but they are super important. The book gives some reasons as to why it’s important. First, it tells everyone what the special needs ministry will provide and what they won’t provide. It’s important to make this known at the beginning, because if you don’t tell people what you will and won’t provide, they will. Also, having these guiding documents will answer a lot of the questions and concerns that interested families might have. It will make your job easier in the long run. Take time to write out your guiding documents.

leading-a-special-needs-ministry-cover

Those are my quick hitters that I learned from this book:

Have a screening and intake interview process.

Use the appendices in the back of the book.

Take time to write out your guiding documents.

This book gave me a lot to think about if I want to have a successful special needs ministry. It might be easy to check off the list that we have buddies available to walk around and support your child with special needs, but to have a ministry to kids with special needs where buddies are trained is something entirely different. This book will help take your existing special needs ministry to a completely different level or will help lay the foundation for a brand new special needs ministry that God has birthed in your church.

Read the rest of the book for yourself. There is much more to learn and only a limited amount of time.