Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Getting Kids Connected To Church

All of us can agree that it is important for kids to be connected to the church. Unfortunately, statistics tell us that by the time kids enter collage- nearly 45% of them walk away from church. So what are we to do? How do we get them to feel a sense of connection that will transcend the changes of life that the kids will experience? These changes consist not only of biological changes but also social and geographical changes. As the body grows we all know there are changes which effect us emotionally but we have social changes as we advance in school, neighbors come and go, fellow church attendees and often church leadership change to name a few. Geographical changes can consist of not only the new school but also the movement of the family to different neighborhoods, states or regions. If we consider the amount of kids that have been effected by divorce the number doubles! So again, with all these changes kids experience how do we give them a sense of connection that will last?

There are several ways that people attempt to accomplish this that may prove to not be as effective as we would hope. I am guilty of many of them as well, all in the name of drawing in kids to church. I know that I have used the “Energy Drink” method of kid retention! What’s that you ask, it’s when you give them all the hype without the substance. At some point in time they are going to crash when the adrenaline wears off. Energy drinks get you going or give you a burst of energy but it won’t last. So, please take these suggestions as a starting point and expand on them as God expands your vision.

  • Don’t Forget Jesus
Remember it not about the crazy games or the cool contemporary worship. It’s not the treats, food or prizes but it’s about showing them Jesus! Kids need to see examples of Jesus working in the lives of the men and women we read about in the bible but they also need example of Him working in the lives of us and our fellow children’s ministry workers. Make it relatable and applicable to the kids sitting in front of us today.

  • Equipped not just Entertained
I believe their needs to be a balance between silly and serious. In most kids churches we minister to kids from kindergarten through fifth grades. So balancing the content over this broad of an age span does pose challenges but shooting for the 3rd graders and flowing it up to the older kids and down to the younger kids will accomplish this (a topic for a later blog)! At least once in a service if not a couple we need to get serious with the kids and talk about being real and applying the bible point to what’s going on in life. Then give kids a time to pray at the alter and identify with what the need is in their life or the need in others that they are concerned about.
  • Partner with Parents
Parents need to be the driving force in the connection to Christ and the church. But we need to partner with them and provide tools and services to help with that endeavor. One of the easiest way is to provide take-home papers. These generally recap what we learned today and give some brief announcements. Then encourage parents to ask the question “What did you learn about?” this will help start the dialog about God working in their life. Also if you can, provide daily devotions for the family. This will continue the process all week long and help the parents with building spiritual discipline in their children.

These suggestions will help kids connect to the church and Christ. If you then couple that with a kid friendly environment that is purposefully set up for them, you will have a winning combination. We can all do our part and reach and keep this generation for Him!
#aokl, #ckn4him, #agkidmin

Rick Ricciardelli,

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pokemon Go or No?

Pokémon Go or No?
If you didn’t know the new Pokémon Go App launched this past weekend, then you probably don’t have kids or teens living in your house.  Pokémon hit the seen in 1998 here in the US, it was a wave that quickly spread with the Red and Blue game version being released, followed by an anime series and trading card game. As a kid’s pastor I wanted to know what this was all about. During this sensation Burger King hosted trading card events, so my son and I went to one.  It was a little overwhelming for my 6 year-old and me.  We felt like inexperienced traders in the heart of Wall Street! Nevertheless, we got the cards and later that night I started reading the characteristics of the characters -- I was not a fan.  They were fairly descriptive of how they destroyed the opponent they would face and felt like this was probably not something I would promote.  That night my son and I had identical nightmares about the Pokémon and that sealed the deal.  Fast-forward several years with much retooling and softening of the characters, the inclusion of them in multiple platforms, and general acceptance of the popular characters brings us to the new phenomenon called Pokémon Go.  This app works on your mobile device with access to the GPS and camera. It creates a fictional world in the real world of your town.  Object: collect the characters “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” as the slogan goes. Whereas before Pokémon was a No, I think Pokémon Go is a YES! Here are my reasons why:
  •       It is fun! The interactive partnership with Google allows you to find Pokémons in your very own town. That promotes people to go around and check out their area.  Churches, shopping centers, and parks are often Poké Stop where you can gain items.
  •       It gets your kids moving while playing a video game! On the map you will have to walk to get to the Pokémon, again parks, shopping centers are great for walking around collecting the unique characters. Michelle Obama would be proud!
  •       It brings people together! If your kid doesn’t drive, you will soon be hearing… “mom can I go to the store with you?” Unfortunately, it might not be because they want more bonding time with their parent, but an opportunity to pick up new items needed in the game.
  •       It can be used as a connecting point! What a great opportunity to connect with your community, organize a Pokémon Scavenger Hunt, put a sign up at your church saying “Poké Stop- Come Inside for Free Pokémon Balls & Special Gift” then give them a visitor pack and invite them to visit on Sunday.

Although this game has its positive points, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, parents and players please be wise when playing.  It is not a good idea to wander around areas that you are not familiar with. Unsafe areas and the danger of strangers still exists, even if the game says it’s a Poké Stop or Poké Gym. Second, the people gather at one of these stops might not have good intentions. A game this popular will bring out those seeking to harm others.

In all, have fun with this fad- be safe and be creative!  There are always opportunities to connect with people; this one will engage the kids, teens and young adults in our community.