Safe Church: Screening Volunteers

The first time I helped create a Safe Church Policy (called a Child Protection Policy at that time) I was still in seminary.  In the years since, I have been involved in the drafting, implementing, evaluating, and updating of such policies in many congregations. While I am thankful that nearly every church now has such a policy, I am troubled that the number is less than 100%.  I am also concerned by stories of churches that have such policies but don't follow them or regularly make Read More …

Sermon: The Gift of Children

Sermon Text: Mark 10:13-16 Sermon Excerpt In many churches the simplest way to identify which rooms are intended for children and which are reserved for adults is to observe the size of the furniture.  Since so many of you are parents and grandparents, I hope you know that children are not miniature adults. Some of the adults here have talked to me about our recent use of many different versions of the Lord’s Prayer.  The most common comment is that this variety has led you to really Read More …

Spiritual Prodigies

Vince Amlin, associate minister at the United Church of Gainesville (Gainesville, FL), recently suggested that we need more spiritual prodigies. More specifically, he wrote The Church could use a generation of spiritual prodigies. The UCC needs them. The world needs them – kids hungry for a second helping of soul. So What? I agree wholeheartedly with Amlin that the church is ready to benefit from a new generation of spiritual prodigies.  I wonder, however, what it is that your local Read More …

Youth Min: Exit Interviews

Every congregation I have served has recognized students when they graduate from high school.  In most cases this recognition has included both formal recognition in a Sunday morning worship service (or services) along with a more personalized celebration in the context of youth ministry.  As these new graduates prepare to transition from the youth ministry (those devised for students in middle school and high school) into a college or young adult ministry, youth ministry leaders should consider Read More …

Christian Youth: Learning and Living the Faith

Princeton Theological Seminary was recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a study that will "provide church leaders with strategies to help children connect with their religion."  This study of confirmation in five denominations - United Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal - will include two elements: : (1) a survey of youth and parents about their beliefs, and  (2) research that will involve visiting churches Read More …

Best Youth/Student Ministry

Jeremy Zach, a youth minister since 2002 and youth ministry blogger, recently shared his list of common characteristics found in great youth ministries.  His list of seven shared attributes includes three that are not directly about the youth/students: maintain and train amazing and healthy leaders, engage 25% of their parents, and invite the senior pastor into the student ministry. So What? Zach is right: great youth/student ministry is never ministry in its own silo.  Effective Read More …

Myths About Raising Interfaith Kids

Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family (2013), recently shared myths parents of differing religions who want their children to be raised in both traditions often hear presented as facts: the kids will be confused, the kids will be stressed by choosing between parents, the child will not feel comfortable in a synagogue or church, the two religions are contradictory, Jesus is a huge dilemma for interfaith kids, both religions will be Read More …

Is Youth Group Biblical?

The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches is currently surveying people about their views of youth groups.  The three question survey will remain open through November 8. So What? Cast your vote now. How did you answer the first question? (Are church "youth group" programs a biblical way to reach young people?) Does your congregation have a youth group? If so, what do you understand its role to be? If not, do you believe your congregation should consider starting such a Read More …

Wisdom for Boys

For those that do not regularly speak to teenagers, opportunities to give talks to those in this age group can prove especially challenging.  On the occasion of preparing to give an extended presentation to a group of teen aged boys, Roger Olson shared a working outline.  Among his list of ten items are it’s good to be a boy—and a man, they need to ignore the stereotypes of “manhood”—whether those come at them from their male peers or from the media or anywhere, and they should talk Read More …

Sermon: Persisting for the Children

Sermon Text Luke 18:1 -8 Sermon Excerpt In both the modern retelling and the original parable, you can't miss the huge power difference between the judge and the widow.  The widow has limited resources, limited mobility, and limited options.  The judge is supposed to play by the rules but has decided he is above them. The persistence of the marginalized widow is appealing.  It is an admirable quality that resonates with readers and viewers alike.  They want what she wants.  We want Read More …