Discover the four surprising cultural trends impacting your ministry.
Tucked deep inside 1 Chronicles is the account of Issachar leaders who observed cultural upheaval in Israel. They saw the incumbent King Saul and his banished field general, David. The men of Issachar realized that the times required them to side with one leader or the other-they chose wisely and sided with God’s anointed. There’s a brief phrase praising them: “From the tribe of Issachar…these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (1 Chronicles 12:32). The rest, as they say, is history.
Children’s ministry leaders need the same skill today as did the chiefs of Issachar — to accurately read culture and then develop a strategy for action. As a profession, we’ve done an excellent job of monitoring trends within church culture. We identify trendsetting churches, and we note their strategies and benchmarks. We apply what works best for our ministries. Likewise, children’s ministers must become students of our surrounding culture. Culture shapes our priorities and perceptions of reality on a subconscious level. Studying culture can keep us from being changed by culture in unbiblical ways.
Studying culture isn’t only necessary for our ministries’ survival; it’s an exercise in love. When I married my wife, I quickly realized that loving her also meant I’d have to learn her family’s culture. Exhibit A: The kitchen. I’m the primary cook. Early in our marriage I discovered that our differing family cultures created a problem. My mental image of spaghetti sauce involved hand-diced tomatoes simmering in freshly cut spices for hours. Amy envisioned machine-puréed, jarred, processed sauce. Imagine my surprise when Amy tasted my homemade sauce and asked if I could make it “more like Ragú.” Eventually love (and practicality) overcame indignation, and I now buy jarred sauce. In the same way, children’s ministers study surrounding culture to discover what unchurched people value — and so that our efforts to reach them actually feel the way they’re meant to feel — like an act of love.
Read on for four cultural trends from outside the church that every children’s minister needs to be able to discern, learn from, and respond to.