If you’re involved in children’s ministry – or have a kid who goes to Sunday School, youth group, or an Awana club – you’ll want to read the new book The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry. It’s put out by the folks at Awana and it is quite eye-opening.
Let me preface this review by saying I’ve had the opportunity to get to know several of the people at Awana over the last couple years on the phone, over Skype, and in person at conferences. I was invited to write one of the days of their Advent Devotional. I’ve done interviews with Ryan Frank (watch it here) and Brannon Marshall (watch it here). And I am currently in conversations about doing some more writing for one of their very cool upcoming multi-book projects. (How’s that for a teaser?)
All that to say, I have gotten to know these people really well.
More than that, I really like them.
Even more than that, I trust them.
You should too. They are doing some very cool and creative things. One of them is The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry.
The book is only 87 pages. The content could fill a few hundred. There are three distinct sections: The Problem. 10 Fresh KidMin Research Findings. Suggested Solutions. Each one could be a book in and of itself. Let’s take one at a time.
This whole book is based on research. A ton of research. Multiple types of surveys over the course of 2013. Here is their approach and desire in their own words:
We intentionally talked with children’s ministry leaders who use Awana programs and those who do not use curriculum or programs offered by Awana. We surveyed across the nation and across the spectrum of region, denomination, church size, ministry approach, and so on. Our desire was to learn all we could from as many people engaged in children’s ministry who were willing to share their experience and current realities with us.”
They found out that “the problem” is really several problems. Here are two of the biggies:
- KidMin leaders feel they can’t keep up with all the changes. They’re overwhelmed.
- KidMin leaders feel that the programs and “busyness” of running a children’s ministry has caused them to lose sight of the priority (and why they got into kidmin in the first place) – making disciples of kids, parents, and leaders.
10 Fresh KidMin Research Findings
This section alone is invaluable.
I love that each “finding” is filled with the research behind it. I love that it’s laid out visually (lots of infographics) as well as written. I love that each finding has discussion questions so your staff, leadership, and volunteers can truly evaluate how your ministry is doing in each area.
Rather than try to summarize or evaluate each of the findings, let me simply encourage you to grab the book and read it. Remember…It’s only 87 pages (and lots of them are pictures.) Every two pages unpacks one of the ten findings:
- Whatever you do, remember it’s still all about the Word of God
- Lifelong discipleship is the outcome we’re looking for.
- The starting point in discipleship is the Gospel: Leading kids to know Christ.
- Emphasis on evangelism and the centrality of the Bible is how we make lifelong disciples
- It really does take a village: Discipleship is relational and family integrated.
- We’re struggling to develop kids who can navigate culture and live out a gospel-centered faith.
- Children’s ministry leaders are afraid we may have sacrificed substance for fun and entertainment.
- We need a program that can meet the digital natives where they are.
- We need flexibility so we can customize to our purpose and needs.
- Children’s ministry leaders are ready to change if curriculum providers can provide them with the right resource to help.
The suggested solutions are all about three of the resources Awana has created to address the problems and findings in the first two sections. You might think it’s a bit “salesy” to put info about their solutions in the back of a book like this, but I actually like it – for two reasons.
First – Writing about a problem without offering a solution is pretty mean, don’t you think? They’ve spent the last six decades serving kids, churches, and families. They know what they’re doing. They have created some terrific resources and they make them easy to find.
After all, if you have gotten that far in the book, you probably want a solution.
Second – They are very humble about the presentation of their resources and make it very clear there are other ministries and other resources. Before the first solution they devote a whole paragraph (on an otherwise blank page) calling attention to the “many trusted ministry partners with an effective track record of gospel based ministry.”
If you already use one of those solutions – or don’t want to hear about what Awana is doing – simply stop reading there and you will have gotten way more than your money’s worth. That said…
- If you’re looking at possibly switching your Sunday AM curriculum, check out Solution 1.
- If you’re considering a mid-week ministry to children, check out Solution 2.
- If you already run an Awana club at your church and want to use technology to streamline things, check out Solution 3.
If you’ve gotten this far in this blog post, take the next three steps.