PLEASE STOP Paying Your Kids to Know Jesus

Over the last few months I’ve seen too many parents and children’s ministry leaders and directors who are skewing the Gospel of Jesus with well-intentions. For some reason in our we are compelled to feed the cultural idea that the end justifies the means.

I read (and often fight against) ministry program after program having kids earn Bible Bucks or Jesus Money at church. Play money is awarded when a child successfully memorizes a Bible verse, or the Books of the Bible, or completes their “homework.”  Stores are set up where kids can purchase meaningless prizes in exchange for knowing John 3:16. I even know of a KIDMIN teacher who paid her kids an actual ONE DOLLAR BILL for stopping for a few moments in class to listen to God.

Even parents have jumped on this bandwagon.  They are having their kids earn X-Boxes and extra dessert for reading their two chapters a day, and are doing so unashamed.

I can go on and on about how this is so unhealthy for your environment and community. I can explain how it sets certain children up to fail, because they can’t physically follow through with what you are asking of them. I could give you insight on how this is completely unfair to the child of divorce, or who have experienced trauma.  Instead I will slap you with this:

WHEN YOU PAY KIDS IN ANY WAY TO LEARN ABOUT JESUS YOU ARE PREACHING A PROSPERITY GOSPEL. 

A prosperity gospel preaches and teaches that in return for your faith, or works, or tithes God will return the favor and bless you with wealth and/or health. This is the dangerous ministry that is often taught by most televangelists and some majorly known pastors in the Christian community…and it just might be taught by you.

When I tell a child that knowing Jesus and learning to know the Bible is worthy of a paycheck we are completely tainting the truth that His grace is a free gift. We set our kids up to think that there is always instant gratification in our relationship with God. We teach them to focus on the prize of the world instead the prize of Christ.

Bible bucks

By paying kids to know Jesus, we are training them to think of Jesus as some sort of slot machine, who if you pull the right lever, read the chapters, memorize the verse, Jesus will spit out some sort of blessing in return.

Out of all the bribes we make our kids day in and day out…Knowing Jesus should NOT be one of those. How disappointed will they be when their faith doesn’t pay dividends in a way they expect? What’s going to happen when they do all the right things in life, and they don’t get that job they want?

Will this type of faith, that is dependent upon earning something, be foundational enough, or more importantly, relational enough?

Jesus is about relationship–and relationship is built on love, and trust and time and effort, not “what can you do for me?”

When we pay our kids to learn about Jesus as a “harmless incentive” we are missing out on the opportunity to share the real gospel –it’s about what Jesus did for us at the cross that matters, nothing else.  He doesn’t owe us, we owe Him.

Paying kids to know Jesus:

Cheapens the Gospel

Devalues the Bible

Stifles the Holy Spirit

And Sets Kids Up on a faith that is not rooted in authentic relationship but rather superficial temporal motivations.

I know we want our kids to read their Bible. I know it’s important for them to form habits.  I know that we want our kids to know the books and commandments. But is it worth teaching the absolute adulterated perspective of Christ and His sacrifice in order to get there?

We don’t need incentive programs, we need Holy Spirit revival.  We need to spend as much time on our knees praying for movement in their hearts instead of developing stores and money and payment programs.  As parents and ministry leaders, we first must believe that Jesus in and of himself is absolutely enough. We must have the faith that when a child tastes and sees how good the LORD is, he will be hooked. We must trust that God can come in and give that conviction to a child to know and be known by Jesus.

So, I beg you, please, in your ministries, in your homes, please, please, please, stop paying your kids to know Jesus. It’s just not helpful.

Comment and share!

LG|LP

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Why Cliques Don’t Disappear After High School

cluelessI hated high school. Dude, did I hate it. So much,  that the moment I discovered I could drop out, get my GED and go straight to college, I ran as fast as I could to sign up. I was an emotional mess and high school was daunting for me. My school educated approximately 3,600 students, 980 of which were in my future graduating class. I hated  feeling lost, I wasn’t challenged in my studies, and spent most of my time utterly confused.

What was hardest on me was the cliques. I was tall, awkward and to say I lacked confidence is a severe understatement. I constantly compared myself to other girls, tried my hardest to find my place, but I only found myself even more misplaced. The girls were ruthless, and loved only those who loved them. Those girls who were my friends in middle school found other places and spaces and boyfriends and activities. I simply roamed the halls, skipped classes, and felt alone.

Ironically, one of my favorite no-brainer movies is Mean Girls. It’s a story of a girl who moves to public education aftspartaner being homeschooled by her missionary parents in Africa. She discovers the hatred & the treachery of the realities of the clique. Oh and then there is Clueless…and of course our favorite SNL Skit with Will Ferrell….

And then there is the Breakfast Club. The absolute quintessential high school movie about cliques, and how at the end of the day…the end of a day at Saturday detention, we are all pretty much the same. This whole idea of exclusion is a universal struggle among all people. I felt like the poster child.

High school was tough and I thought by escaping the hallways, I would escape what I hated the most about them.  One of my Besties and I have had several conversations in the last few weeks about how our problems follow us no matter which state we attempt to escape to….or which school we try and ditch, or job we quit. I remember my first job in corporate America. I discovered rather quickly that high schoomean girlsl antics don’t go away after high school, they simply follow us. The haunting of the clique just seems to never go away…not even in the church.

It’s interesting to me how the entire ministry of Jesus was centered around abolishing the cliques, destroying the idea of exclusivity and challenging people to open their hearts to the least, the confused, the emotional mess. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place and it is one of honor. Yet within the Christian community, I witness these groups of people that sometimes seem impenetrable. The same women attend the same Bible studies, the same recovery people attend their groups. There are those who belong to this small group and those who belong to that volunteer group. And everyone has the same group of people they say hi to every week. We tend to only talk to those select neighbors, and those select friends. Seems we have missed the point completely!

We just don’t have time for everyone.

It’s just so uncomfortable.

We want church to be ours.

We want our evenings to be relaxing.

Three or four friends are enough.

We are afraid.

We are too worried about ourselves.

The reasons, the excuses, the rationale, all of it convince us that the safety of our clique is justified, because we are Christians doing life with other Christians.  It’s convoluted, and it’s not Biblical.

We must love everyone, and we must do it intentionally. We must go out of our way. Jesus went out of His way to love me, to give me a place to belong. After years of feeling alone, and even times now when it seems I have no place, I find a place in Him.  There are so many–lots of people–who need for once to NOT feel as if they are outside of the clique. It has to start with us. When Jesus called us to love others, it wasn’t intended to be from a distance. That command was so that we can love others in a way that make us uncomfortable, that forces us to depend on Him, that requires much of us.

Go to a different Bible Study.

Go outside after dinner and take a walk, and talk to your neighbors.

Invite your co-worker to sit with you at lunch.

Say hello to the lady at the grocery store.

We can never have enough friends.

Have that family over for dinner.

Everyone wants to be included.

Why do we love Facebook? Because anyone and everyone is there. Why do we want our kids to play for the YMCA? Everyone gets to play and everyone gets a trophy, everyone is included.

The cliques won’t disappear, but you can choose to not be a part of them anymore. You can choose to include and accept everyone. You can offer the love of Christ to every. single. person. within your reach. You have absolutely no idea who just might need it…it might be me, it might, in fact, be you.

LG|LP

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Why Baltimore Is Important To Your Ministry & Your Faith.

It started at 6 a.m. I was avoiding my day, and told myself I could scroll through Facebook and Twitter for 9 minutes, until my alarm went off again. Nine minutes turned into twenty as I went from story to story, opinion to opinion, and tweet to tweet about the horrific happenings in Baltimore. It wasn’t simply the reports that made my stomach turn, but I found myself holding my breath and outright angry at people’s perspectives–more precisely those of the Y Generation (people born between early 80’s &  the year 2000.

All day my thoughts simmered as my frustration slowly turned into anger. I knew I needed to write it out, because, that’s what I do. But my ideas were scattered, and the queen knows we don’t need to add another already spoken opinion, except to say this.

Your ministry is important. 

What you do every week when you serve kids or teenagers, or the parents raising kids and teenagers, is the absolute most important thing you can do for our culture, for our community, for our future. No matter the race, ethnicity, social status of where your church is or where you outreach, your calling and obedience to that call is what will begin to spread the only message that can actually redeem us from these situations.

I conversed with myself wondering if we are surrounded by one of the most ignorant generations ever. And I think, no, we are not. Riots aren’t new… lack of understanding, education and empathy…lack of peace…have destroyed corners of our country for centuries. What is different, however, is how wide and quickly anger and hatred is spread. And how people accept all they see at face value. That fire of negative spreads, and we can only change it by quenching it with love, true love.

In order for our world to change, we who have been called must stand in the gap with prayer in fasting. We must pour into teaching love more than creating games. We must grieve over the possibility that the children and teens we teach may never know experience true justice or peace. For the sake of the next generation, we must stand firm in truth, and teach Jesus.

The President is not the answer. 

The Mayor is not the answer. 

Donald Trump is not the answer. 

Some of these people could help provide temporary solutions, but what we see…the looting, the burning, the cursing, the hatred… is not because America had slaves, or really even that a community has been neglected with no government funding….what we see is a heart issue. A heart issue in people who are crying out for answers, who are alone and hurting, who feel purposeless and disconnected, who have been abandoned and need to be redeemed. The black, the white, the poor, the police, the leaders, All of them, as chaotic in their souls as they are creating in the streets.

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We have such a privilege to be able to speak into these broken hearts before they are so shattered all they see is hate. Our purpose is to show the world that there is absolutely, at the end of the day, after all the injustice, a better way. Our purpose  is to speak into the heart of that Police Officer who abuses his power, or the government officials who pad their pockets at the expense of the poverty stricken, or the child who is lost, or the store owner who is victimized, or the mother who is addicted, or the father who is bitter…they are in your church, in your pews, drinking your coffee, shaking your hand. In your hallways, your workplaces, your classrooms.

You living out your faith is important. Wherever you are, whoever you are. If you have a relationship with Jesus, now, now, now is the time. 

The power to raise the dead is in us. We are commissioned. We have our banner, we must wave it high. It is not just unity, or love, or peace. Those are good things. But we have the mystery, the key, they secret. We have the answer.  We have Jesus. Sharing that matters! Never give up. Let the hatred you see not bring fear or discouragement, but rather a charge to press on and press into the only one who can save us.

Jesus.

LG|LP

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Encourage someone, and share!

How To Build Relationship with Kids to Change the Faith of Families.

I live in a large, interconnected neighborhood. In order to save money on school bus service, schools tend to be plopped down right in the middle or our community. At the end of the day bell, the streets are flooded with kids. First elementary school, then half an hour later the middle-schoolers.

Tons of kids, even more families, just waiting for us–the church.

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That’s all I saw that day, a bunch of teenagers who needed Jesus. I wondered how many of them went to church. I wondered how many of these kids who went to church ever invited other kids. I thought of how Christians are pulling their kids out of schools, pulling Jesus out of schools, and I was saddened at the thought. (But that’s a post for another time.)

When  I lived in Florida, one day I drove into our gated community at the same time the bus was dropping kids off. I counted them. Fifteen. There were 15 kids, and I knew their stories. I could have invited them to church, but they wouldn’t have come. Instead, I brought church to them. The first week I ordered pizza, twelve kids showed up to eat the free food and hear about Jesus. The next week we grew, and the next and the next. There were nights I had 40 kids piled on top of each other in my living room, just dying to hear, dying for community, dying for connection.

I find that kids, including teens are willing to take responsibility for their own faith apart from their parents. We need to find ways to connect with kids even if parents aren’t willing to come to church. In fact, we can change the entire trajectory of faith in Jesus in families through kids and their faith. It isn’t going to happen with a single event, or with flyers on doorknobs. People need real connection, real relationship and that takes time.

Here are some ways to minister to families through kids:

1. SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT: whether you are in PTA, or just show up to a class party, getting to know kids and begin building friendship with them is a great start.

2. OUTSIDE TIME: When you see a group of kids outside, or you have a park near your house, get off your couch and go play some basketball.  One of the things I try and do as much as possible is walk to pick up my 4th grader. I talk to his classmates, give fist bumps and high fives. Sometimes I even end up with groups of kids around me as we walk and talk together. Not only am I getting to know them,  most of these kids are going home alone and I can offer a sense of security for their walk home.

3. GAMES: Go to local highschool or middle school games and get to know kids names and start conversations with parents.

4. BLOCK PARTY: throw a block party with hot dogs and juice boxes in your front yard. Have a few games out or a football. It’s a great way to get to know the kids in your hood.

And I wish I didn’t have to say this, but have some boundaries when hanging out with kids. Don’t friend them on Facebook, or ever be alone with any of them. As you begin to build friendships, make sure other kids and adults are around as you spend time with them.

The reality is, not every child or family will come to church with just an invite, but we can always bring Jesus to them, through our kindness and acts of love, and showing them how much we care.

What are some ways you have or you can start building relationships with kids in your neighborhood? Comment and  share your ideas. 

And LIKE my FACEBOOK PAGE somewhere over there —-> for daily updates, encouragement and crazy talk!

LG|LP

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I Need Your Help

I want to start a movement.

I want you to help me.

It's simple, really. But at the same time it is so against what the world has, what the world offers.

It won't take much, just a little switch in thinking on our parts. A different window in which to gaze at the world.

I like the idea that we control our thoughts, and not the other way around. It's true, ya know?

All we have to do is believe in what we are called to do, and then act on our beliefs.

Jesus said to love God with everything.

Jesus said to love others.

So that's the movement I want us to start.

I want us to move God's love into the lives of anyone and everyone within our reach.

How? You ask.

By holding open doors.

By putting your phone away when you are checking out at the grocery store and talking to your cashier. Ask him how his day is going. Tell her that you like her earrings.

Smile at people.

Say thiank you.

Let people ahead of you in traffic, and wave a friendly hello.

Act with love.

Stop acting with impatience, selfishness and discontent.

Move God's love.

To anyone who crosses your path.

We are starting it. And we are starting it now. We are doing it together… and we are going to share our stories about how commiting to moving God's love makes a difference, not just in other's lives, but in ours.

Are you in? Comment and join the movement!

LG|LP