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Q&A: 4 Acts of Love for Your Ministry

Laycie Costigan

Discover how Thom and Joani Schultz's new book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore will renew your children's ministry -and your entire church

For almost 40 years, Thom and Joani Schultz, the dynamic leaders of Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado, have kept a close watch on the state of the church, noting what kinds of things lead to trouble-and to triumph. Thom founded Group in 1974 with a focus on equipping ministers to lead others into a vibrant, personal, and foundational relationship with Jesus. As Group's Chief Creative Officer, Joani brings creativity, innovation, and passion for building relationships, hearing people's life stories, and watching for God in all the details.

While investigating the histories of specific churches that have divided and diminished-as well as those that thrive and continue to bless others-Thom and Joani have assembled a compelling picture of how churches everywhere can introduce people to the irresistibility of God's love. In their new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible, Thom and Joani share invaluable insights for any minister. Children's Ministry Magazine recently caught up with them to investigate what the book means for your ministry and church.

CM: What inspired your new book?

Thom and Joani: We love the church! Unfortunately, we've seen it recede in our culture since Group began. While many people recognize the decline in church attendance and influence, few understand the reasons behind it-or the transition needed to turn it around. So we wanted to put our findings together to help us all make church a place where kids, families, and people everywhere want to be.

CM: What's one of the most important implications for children's ministers in Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore?

Thom and Joani: Our last similarly titled book, Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church and How to Fix It, dealt with education in the church-particularly children. We now admit that emphasis may've left the wrong impression of children's ministry and how we go about it. The focus on education may've led some to believe that our primary job in children's ministry is to teach children similarly to what they experience in school. The problem is that implies faith is merely a subject like math or history. But faith is not a scholastic subject. Faith is a relationship. Understanding that difference makes our children's ministries look importantly different, and the 4 Acts of Love will help you bring that distinction to life in your ministry.

CM: What's the most surprising discovery you made as you were gathering information for this book? How does it apply to children's ministry?

Thom and Joani: We were surprised how resistant, defensive, and unwilling people can be when faced with facts that shout, "Changes are needed!" In any ministry, it's important to remain humble and teachable.

CM: In the book, you describe the 4 Acts of Love journey. What benefits does this offer churches and children's ministries?

Thom and Joani: The most prominent benefit is that children, youth, and adults will experience Jesus' love beyond expectations. Children impact their family's decision to go to church, and when they experience the 4 Acts of Love, they'll likely nudge their parents to get to church because your children's ministry is so irresistible. The 4 Acts of Love counteract
the reasons people don't want to go to church. Here's what they'll mean for your ministry:

  1. Radical Hospitality-Kids feel welcome when they're known by name, accepted, appreciated, missed when they're not around, and loved unconditionally. Express the joy you find in simply being around the kids in your ministry, and they'll know they're welcome and safe.
  2. Fearless Conversation-Children learn most when they're allowed to interact verbally and be part of a conversation rather than listening to a lecture. Conversation shows kids you're truly interested in what they have to say. This, by the way, doesn't mean children merely answer an adult leader's fact-based question. "Fearless" means we aren't afraid to discuss things that children wonder about and would benefit from discussing. For example, don't be afraid to talk about difficult things such as death, divorce, cancer, and so on. Kids are already wondering about the tough stuff and need to know that God is with them throughout it. Be real. Be authentic. Let God's Holy Spirit guide you.
  3. Genuine Humility-Don't get hung up on attendance numbers or on comparing yourself to other churches. When you practice genuine humility, you aren't so wrapped up in what you do or like best, your favorite curriculum, and other things centered around you. Focus on the kids in your ministry and what's best for their learning and safety. And remember, it's not a weekly production. It's not about how amazing your stage is or if you even have one. It's about the loving relationship kids have with caring adults. There's freedom and relief in that.
  4. Divine Anticipation-As you study the Bible with kids, it's easy to get out of balance by talking about God in the past tense. Kids can be left with the impression that God was then, not now. The truth kids need today and for the rest of their lives is that God is very much here-now. Invite kids to watch for God in the details of every day. We call these God Sightings. Ask kids to tell you about their God Sightings every week, and they'll develop a personal, blessed expectation of God.

CM: What's the best way for children's ministers to begin a 4 Acts of Love journey?

Thom and Joani: Choose one act of love to start with. Don't try to implement everything at once. Focus on one, gather results, tell the stories of what God is doing, and then implement the next act of love.

CM: Do you have any advice for children's ministers interested in adopting the 4 Acts of Love principles churchwide?

Thom and Joani: Embrace the concept within you first. Then make changes in your ministry and circle of influence. Your results will speak for themselves and be a magnet for other church leaders. Gather testimonials of the changes you see, and talk about them one-on-one with your church staff and leaders. After those initial discussions, grapple together with the concepts in the book. A handy discussion guide is available at group.com/4-acts-of-love.

CM: How can the 4 Acts of Love transform and refresh a children's minister's passion, connection to God, and ministry vision?

Thom and Joani:
The 4 Acts of Love are personally invigorating and refreshing. They're simply Jesus-style love put into action. Integrating them into your life, relationship approach, and ministry will bring you closer to Jesus and help you be more like him-and that's magnetic. It'll make your children's ministry and your church irresistible.

You aren't alone in the journey. Let's encourage one another in a bold revolution of love. Join the community at group.com/
4-acts-of-love
.


Laycie Costigan is an associate editor for Children's Ministry Magazine.

 

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