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Trend Quakes

Christine Yount Jones

The top trends that could rattle your ministry from the ground up -- if you let them.

Trend-spotting is best done by experts. It takes a savvy person to distinguish the difference between a passing fad that'll waste your time and a seismic trend that could rattle the very foundations of your ministry. That's why we asked the experts -- leading children's ministers, consultants, authors, resource creators, advisors, and professors -- to spot the macrotrends that are poised to send quakes through your ministry.

Just as fads and trends differ, not all trends are created equal. Macrotrends are emerging from the culture of children and require serious consideration and change in course.

So hold on tight as we unveil what'll be shaking, rattling, and rolling in your ministry this coming year. Your mission is to strategically create a ministry with an impact that's off the Richter scale.

Macrotrend #1: Family Ministry

Family Ministry is a strategy that directly impacts a child's spiritual growth by reaching the child's entire family. It's a response to God's directive for parents to train their children spiritually (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Family Ministry acknowledges that our time with kids is limited at church -- one hour a week compared to dozens of hours at home. By reaching the entire family, children's ministers maximize opportunities parents have throughout the week to help their children develop a thriving friendship with Jesus.

Family Ministry degree programs in Christian colleges and seminaries have increased, and the position of Family Minister is on the upswing on church staffs. Increasing numbers of churches are strategically hiring a Family Ministry staff person and reorganizing their entire birth-through-high-school ministry under the umbrella of Family Ministry. Each age-specific ministry area plans, coordinates, schedules, communicates, and prays so everything they do supports and equips families.

Family Ministry strategies span the spectrum from take-home papers to intergenerational programs -- with everything from family events, parent training, resource libraries, and family counseling in between. Effective Family Ministry churches have multiple communication points for families: the weekly take-home paper; downloadable podcasts of large group teaching; CDs to purchase or take for free that families can listen to in the car; and weekly emails to parents with tips, insights, and faith-nurturing ideas.

Family Ministry churches invest in resources that equip families with training and tools. Many churches have an online resource library similar to Hill Country Bible Church's Web site in Austin, Texas. Parents can browse recommended resources for them and their children that are available for purchase in the church bookstore. There's also a burgeoning offering in family-focused curriculum. Programs that target families include Group's FaithWeaver family of resources that maximizes multigenerational learning (every person studying the same Scripture in age-graded classes) and Northpoint Church's 252 Basics that focuses on intergenerational learning (families learning together in the same environment).

"Family Ministry is a way to bring the generations together. We are recognizing that by dividing our ministries exclusively by ages and stages (children, youth, young adult, middle adult, and older adults), we contribute to the fragmentation of families. Family Ministry is not just ministry to families and ministry for families, but also ministry with and in families. We want to encourage more opportunities for our families to experience life in Christ together."

-Holly Allen, director of children and family ministries at John Brown University

Strategic Impact: Retool your ministry to focus on reaching families through everything you do. Create a strategic plan from birth through high school that integrates the family at each stage. Focus less on segregating families and more on bringing families together for Christian education -- whether it's in the same room or everyone in separate rooms studying the same Bible passage.

Macrotrend #2: Wired Ministry

Wired Ministry is the use of media and technology to capture kids' attention and communicate the gospel to a media-savvy generation. It's a response to kids' glassy-eyed stares when they're taught in ways that aren't culturally relevant.

Kids today are "digital natives," according to trend-spotter and author of Trend-Savvy Parenting Mary Manz Simon. And kids enter the digital world from birth. Manz Simon has tagged babies as "mousers" who access computer programs called lapware via their parent's lap.

Kids today are Firefly cell phone-toting, video-game playing, TV-watching, iTunes downloading, instant messaging wonders. The proliferation of digital choices is not unique to children; it's just that children know nothing else but a technologically saturated environment. As a result, their brains work differently, their attention spans are shorter, and their patience for nontechnological teaching is thin.

Wired Ministry pulls kids into the technology rather than simply using media as a passive communication tool (that is, setting them in front of a TV screen for the entire lesson). Video gaming stations for kids to use before class are a good example of Wired Ministry. Another one is interactive video countdowns where kids are prompted to build relationships with one another -- rather than simply answer trivia questions.

Wired Ministry churches maximize the Internet for their ministries. They have dynamic, secure, kid-friendly sites that do a fabulous job showcasing their ministry while also giving kids a reason to come back to the site -- games, clues, changing content, email capacity, and downloadable music and videos.

"I have a 7-year-old son who loves to go online and play games. He has taken possession of my PS2, and now when I bring my laptop home he leaves the PlayStation for online gaming. I don't want to make it sound bad; we limit his game time. When he goes online it's to play games, and I hear that from many other parents…I am working on a new children's Web site, and we will offer 15 different games, hoping this will encourage kids to check us out."

-Russ Hill, associate pastor of children at First Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas

Strategic Impact: Use multimedia in your teaching every single time you teach. It's not optional. Spend the money to get the resources you need -- a Web site, a video projection unit and large screen for a large room, televisions and DVD players for individual classrooms, gaming stations for kids before class. Learn to speak digital to the kids in your ministry in classrooms and online. If you're not, then you're not speaking their language.

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