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There is a new generation on the horizons of leadership in our congregations. While their permanent name will be assigned sometime in the future, researchers are calling them Generation Z, iGen, the Centennials or the Founders. For the sake of this article, let’s go with Gen Z. Most researchers have settled on Gen Z being born around 1995 – 2015 (although the final year is still being determined). They are characterized by being individuals who are too young to remember what life was like before September 11th. While they are the children of Gen Xers and Millennials, they are extremely different from those generations with defining characteristics on how they see the world and view faith.

Their social views are different. Disney princesses have different skin color, hair color, and hair types. They had an African American president for the majority of their lives. Their parents are multi-racial. Their classrooms are diverse across racial, cultural, and economic lines. Having friends with two parents of the same gender is not unknown to them. Members of Gen Z walk in a room and are more likely to recognize the lack of diversity than the presence of it (Dorsey, Jason. 2015. Center for Generational Kinetics). Gen Z sees a lack of diversity as an indicator of isolation and that all people are not welcome within a group of individuals. They are much more open to seeing and judging the inside character of a person before erecting cultural barriers.

In regards to their social habits, there has been a 38% drop in alcohol and tobacco usage (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2016). They recognize the need to make the most of their educational opportunities and thus teenage pregnancy rates are down 40% and teenagers are graduating high school on time at an increased rate of 28% (Annie Casey Foundation, 2016). They experienced the consequences of the social mistakes of their parents and grandparents and have refused to go the same route. Life has an intrinsic value to this generation. They want to make the most of their opportunities and see a purpose for existing beyond themselves. As the Church, we get the benefit of directing that purpose in a way that capitalizes on their God-given talents and personalities. They love life and want to live it abundantly. It will be our job to show them how through the lenses of faith in Jesus Christ.

Their lenses for processing information operates differently than ours. According to the National Center for Biotechology, the average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. In 2015, it is 8.25 seconds. With Gen Z, we have less than 8.25 seconds to present something to them in a way that peaks their interest and catches their attention. They have “eight-second information filters” that have been crafted by growing up in an internet world with limitless amounts information (White, James Emery. 2017).

If we can capture their attention in less than 8 seconds, it will be paramount that we answer the question of why they should care about spiritual matters to a spiritually illiterate audience. In addition to their social views being different than previous generations and their preoccupation with living a peaceful and purposeful life that is open to everyone…In addition to their attention spans being shorter than that of a goldfish (fish attention spans are actually 9 seconds)…Gen Zers are not post-Christian. According to Dr. White, they are considered further down the road from that as “spiritually illiterate,” and don’t have even a memory of the Gospel as part of their lives. Because a large number of their parents were post-Christian, they have not been given the tools to fill the spiritual needs that remain. It is like taking a child who never had a book in their home, but has been successful in life, and now telling them at 15, 16, 18, or 21 that it is important for them to read. In order for them to agree with you, you would need to show them the need.

If we are going to reach the next generation for Christ, we must understand that their social outlook is wider than our generation. We must be willing to capture their attention quickly, answer their questions purposefully and succinctly, and then present the grace of the Gospel with language that doesn’t require Biblical knowledge. We must be willing to walk alongside the members of Gen Z and embrace their drive for purpose and their inquisitive questions without quickly judging and condemning their actions. They will find Christ through relationship that has cared enough to meet them where they are.

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Anything worth doing, is worth reviewing, so we can see how to do it better. From worship services, to events, to camps & retreats, we have a responsibility to continue to improve and give God and our families the best experience possible. One of the ways to continually improve is to celebrate the wins and evaluate and plan for things that need improvement. Debriefing meetings designed to celebrate the contributions of your team, evaluate the furtherance of vision, and examine the logistics are beneficial opportunities that can lead to ministry enhancement and growth.

Every Sunday is coming! Events are necessary to continue to build relationships amongst ministry members! And everyone that is involved and giving energy to those things wants to win. Both worship services and special events take the talents of people to ensure their success. Even if the event doesn’t go according to plan, and things didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, leaders must take time to show appreciation to the people who serve. People have an innate need to feel valued and know that their contribution matters. Take time to celebrate the things that went right before commenting on anything that needs improvement. Then end in celebration as well. Encouraging words make us feel like we can win. So even if as the leader, you don’t feel like the event or Sundays have been winning, point out pieces that went well and then next time your team might win, or at least come closer to it. Everybody wants to be a winner!

In order to keep kid and student ministry from being a plethora of endless events with no definitive direction, the ministry needs a strategy, with goals and objectives, that all point to the accomplishment of a vision. Evaluating and debriefing worship services and events according to that vision keeps everyone on the same page and keeps the ministry on track. The vision (where you want to go) is influenced by your strategies (how you plan to get there). Each worship service and event should have goals and objectives connected to one of those strategies and that is designed to further vision. Before the event, ensure that the goals and objectives meet the strategy. Then during debriefing, evaluate if the goals and objectives were accomplished, if the ministry strategies were met, and then discuss how the event accomplished vision. If the worship services or events are not furthering vision, then reevaluate and reconstruct their design.

While vision is essential to keep us on track, policies, procedures, and practices keep us safe spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Policies, procedures, and practices also sync up expectations in regards to what is acceptable and unacceptable norms and behaviors within a group of people. During a debriefing meeting, highlight those policies, procedures, and practices that were done well. Then discuss the ones that weren’t executed so excellently, determine where the breakdown happened, and come up with solutions to remedy them from breaking down in the future.

Debriefing meetings should be purposeful, evaluate vision and strategy, and take into account policies, procedures, and best practices in order to minimize the subjectivity of varying opinions and to keep your team on the same page of standards. Debriefing meetings can further a team’s ability to work together and improve programming for families.

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We are halfway through 2017 and before we hit the end of another year I wanted to repost a blog I wrote at the end of 2016. The mid-point is a great time to look in the mirror and see how we are doing on a self-care and spiritual growth this year. So here's a little reminder...

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We’ve made it to the end of another year, and this new year brings the opportunity for new beginnings. Before we set goals and resolutions for this next 365 days, let’s take time to look at where we’ve been and what was accomplished over the last 12 months. But wait . . . let’s make this assessment, not about our ministries or churches, but our ourselves. Let’s ask some self-assessing holistic questions. Let’s do a 365-spin, an inside-out look, in the self-assessment mirror and assess our whole selves.

God created each of us as spiritual beings with a soul that lives in a body. We want to make sure we are taking care of every part of His creation. When we work in the Church it is easy to lose track of our spiritual health but because we use this the most, it is essential that we stay spiritually healthy. So, let’s ask ourselves:

  • Did you spend time in worship when you weren’t working?

  • Did you take study time that wasn’t connected to preparing for a lesson or a talk?

  • If ministry stopped right now, would your relationship with God still be one of joyful excitement and engagement?

  • Are you spiritually strong? Have you stayed spiritually healthy this year?

If you find yourself with nothing to say in prayer, annoyed by the thought of Bible study, and church is now a burden, you might find that this year took a toll on your spiritual health and you want to spend time intentionally resting and rejuvenating as we begin another 12-month journey. On the other hand, you may feel spiritually strong and enthused about your relationship with Christ. Assessing and evaluating this area will let you know if you’re strength is up and you’re ready to move forward, or if you have to do some intentional building of your spiritual self in order to continue to serve others from a healthy place.

God gave us a soul that consists of our mind, will, and emotions. The soul is the part of us that makes us special as individualized beings. It is the part that gives us our personality and often dictates the decisions we make every day. What soul strengthening did you do this year? Maybe you started therapy. Maybe you strengthened a journal habit. Maybe you forgave someone or something that was controlling your emotions and habits. Maybe you learned how to differentiate your wants from God’s will. Maybe you learned how to control your thoughts so they wouldn’t lead to non-productive behaviors. Whatever it is, did your mind, will, and emotions grow healthier over the last 365 days? Proverbs 4:23 warns us to, above everything else, guard our hearts because everything else concerning our lives flows from it. If your heart has been strengthened, stressed, or strained this year, every decision flows from that emotional space. As we enter a new year, this is a great opportunity to make a self-assessment and ensure that your decisions are being made from a healthy place.

The spirit and soul are housed in our physical bodies so this is a great time to assess how we did physically this year. While our bodies carry the ministry God has given us, this can be the most neglected area of our lives. We get busy and forget to eat, eat too late, drink too much caffeine, don’t get enough sleep, don’t drink enough water and the list goes on! Did you take care of yourself this year? How did the exercise goals do? Did you do better with your water intake? How about those eating habits? What health habits can be improved as you start out the new year? Even if there were health challenges this year, this is a great time to be honest with ourselves (and even if we avoid the scale while doing it) and assess the care we give to our bodies.

If you didn’t meet your goals from last year, or maybe even years before, self-assessment may seem like a difficult or pointless practice. But, even if the goal wasn’t met, this is a good time to encourage yourself by evaluating any progress that was made. And if after honest evaluation there was no progress, this is a great opportunity to evaluate why and perhaps re-write the goal with smaller steps. Make your goals about continual progress and stay encouraged when you see forward movement. As we move into the new year, let’s all take time to assess where we are and put realistic goals in mind to move us forward.

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