Q&A: 4 Acts of Love for Your Ministry

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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?

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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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