5 Principles to Follow Before You Overhaul Your Children’s Ministry 

Throughout my years of ministry on a church staff and as a senior pastor, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing young children come to faith in Christ and grow up as amazing, godly, adults. 

Years ago, I took on a task of developing a children’s ministry in a suburban church. There was great potential, but the children’s ministry at the time was not meeting the needs of the families. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can now see its fruit. What were once children in our church are now moms and missionaries, husbands and ministers, teachers who are passionate for their world and the people in it. The gospel, alive in this ministry then, in still alive in their hearts now. It’s just so encouraging to recall!

Above all, what I learned from this experience and more has been very, very valuable. Some of the principles below might not be needed, but in case your children’s ministry needs an overhaul, here are some of a few principles for you:

  1. The Gospel comes first. There is no compromise on the need for the gospel in any ministry, but in both children’s and youth ministries, there is often a temptation to focus on the fun. Fun is, well, fun, but don’t miss why you’re there in the first place: to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
  2. The parents are the teachers. Deut 6 and Eph 6:4 are both very clear passages as to the role of the parents. Church leaders need to remember that their role is to help the parents fulfill that role, not take over for them. In other words, when planning on teaching children, don’t forget that parents need instruction as well. 
  3. Train your leaders. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a task to do and feeling completely inadequate for it. Leaders need training, and a leader who refuses to be trained is probably not a leader you should have on your team. Blunt words, but true. Plan on supplying plenty of training and encouragement for your leaders in all areas of the ministry. 
  4. Bring joy wherever you go. Ministry is challenging but it needs to be fun. Do a heart check and make sure that you are truly enjoying the ministry. A joyful heart will be contagious to others, so be willing to have fun with the families and celebrate life and the Lord with them!  
  5. Find good partners in ministry. There are tons of resources, curricula, and experts that would love to help you with your ministry. I am excited to be a church partner for LifeWay because I get to go into churches and help them reach more people than ever before. No leader should ever feel alone, because God has plenty of workers for His harvest. Get help, and be happy that God gave you these resources! 

There you have it. Many of the principles can be applied across to other ministries, but all of them should be considered before getting into the structure of a ministry. Hope these principles helped you as they have helped me. 

In Christ, 

Pastor Fran 

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6 Thoughts on the Power of the Resurrection

  1. Christianity without the resurrection is dead. Literally. Paul wrote plainly, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Death without a raising of the dead would have made Christ a liar and a fraud, however, life after the cross makes Him Lord.
  2. The resurrection resolves the death of the Messiah. This is why we place so much effort on Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday must have Resurrection Sunday, for Christ’s victory over death is shown to the world. Just as the second to the last note on a song needs to be resolved by the final note, so did the cross.
  3. The resurrection fulfills prophecy. Our Jesus was predicted to bear our stripes and atone for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22-24, and others point us to the cross and the resurrection. No one could intricately plan these events apart from God.
  4. The resurrection is our power. We have a great High Priest in heaven preparing for us (see John 14:1-6). He was raised by the power of God, will be returning in power, and will raise His people as He promised by this same power. Imagine this: if you are in Christ, God’s power is graciously going to raise you to be with Him!
  5. The resurrection is our hope. Our hope is entirely dependent on the resurrection. A few days ago, I got to speak with a dear saint in her 90’s just before she passed. Her words: “I’m at peace and waiting for my golden chariot to come get me.” She is now with Christ. Without the resurrection, none of us can have this hope as we have no example of the raising of the dead.
  6. The resurrection is our life. While pagans serve dead gods made of stone, wood, or their imagination, our God is a living God. Over 500 witnesses saw Christ after He arose, and these eyewitnesses were willing to tell of what they saw, even if this meant death. Because for them and hopefully for you, death means life.

Think over these things as you enter worship this morning. His resurrection is powerful as He is risen, indeed!

Pastor Fran 

A Silent Saturday


They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish day of preparation and since the tomb was nearby. (Jn 19:42, CSB)

The work was done, death had come. The chaos and calamity of the most barbaric and horrendous death ever imagined gave way to silence. Emptiness. Incompleteness. cross-1375765_640The red-hot fire of the piercing spear, the flesh pressed nails, the mocking crowds were finished when it was finished. The cold stone of the tomb, sealed and guarded, now housed the body of the victim of scorn and the object of wrath.

But what was to come of this? How long will the silence continue? After all, the last time a prophet spoke, 400 years had passed before more revelation came from God. What was God to do? These were no doubt the questions in the mind of those on Saturday, that Saturday after THAT Friday.

But Sunday was about to come. The chaos of Friday and the uncertainty of Saturday were soon overshadowed by the victory of Sunday. The future of Saturday was THE triumph, when all power, majesty, and glory shone in the resurrected Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords! He was silent no more, He was no longer dead, He was alive: now and forever more, our Jesus is alive!

May your silent Saturday make way for the joy of His resurrection!

Pastor Fran

Four Reasons Why Leaders Need to Press On Despite the Bullies

I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 12 years and on a church staff for the rest of my 23 plus years of ministry. I’ve pastored in several states both in the North and the South, urban, rural, and suburban. During that time, I’ve seen a flurry of changes as the church has come into the digital age and the culture has drastically shifted nationwide. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is our inherent sinfulness and our reaction to change. Most of us don’t like change (unless we are involved in it), yet change is a certainty in life. Thankfully, some churches and leaders have successfully pushed past the resistant bullies and are seeing the fruits of their work. However, with so many churches plateaued or declining, subtle and not so subtle battles are taking place in churches all over. Bullies, ingrained in their traditions and positions, threaten the survival of churches themselves, and sadly, hundreds of churches close their door each year because the church didn’t respond to their community with the gospel. 

So what is a leader to do? Start over? Take over? Leave? None of the above? Lots of options here, but something needs to be done (NOTE: check out Thom Rainer’s podcast for this great insight).  Also, I’ll write more on the how and what to do in another post, but here’s some reasons why leaders need to press on despite the bullies:

  • Jesus died for you. You are saved, gloriously and wonderfully saved by grace through faith. His death meant your life, and His gift was sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you. Hold on to this truth, and rely on God’s leading through His Spirit. 
  • Jesus prepared you. One of my favorite sayings of late said by a pastor is that “God never wastes a hurt.” Whatever you have gone through before has been used by God to prepare you for this task ahead. Remind yourself of what you have experienced and what you have learned from it. 
  • Jesus called you. Jesus called you to this church, and until He moves you to another place, you need to bloom where you are planted. As in the case of Nehemiah and the task he had, opposition from ungodly, fierce people threatened to stop the work. He and his followers pressed on. 
  • Jesus loves you. This is of course a great reminder, but remember that Jesus also loves others, too. He even loves those bullies. Pray for them, talk to them, and press on despite them. Your work in the gospel is not for the bullies, but for the new believers who need Christ and then need to grow in His grace. 

Hope this encourages you you as we go into the greatest weekend of the year leading up to Resurrection Sunday. May you do His gospel work through His power as we remember that Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rise again! 

In Him, 

Pastor Fran 

Four Ways to Connect with God: 4) Love with All Your Mind

How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?

It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”

There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect book-623163_640will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.

So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.

Until next time,

Pastor Fran

Four Ways to Connect With God: 3) Love With All Your Strength

Like several people I know, I track my steps on my phone. The reason for this is so I can make sure that I don’t sit too long and miss out on a daily routine of staying active. I also work out, and though my schedule has changed, I am working on trying to get a routine where I can can get into my favorite place on a regular basis and sweat for an hour or so. These are important things to me, because being physically fit will in theory let me be around longer to enjoy life, my family, and worship here on earth. 

To love God with all your strength means to be present with Him daily. It means that you are willing to physically follow through with what your head and heart has said is true. I come to worship, I read my Bible, I pray, but I don’t just do it, I do it with all my attention and focus. In other words, being present with God is an intentional, disciplined act of love. 

I think that this is seen so much in scripture. Think about Abraham’s sacrifice in moving his family to a land God was to show him. Think about the physical love shown by Rahab as she hid the spies then hung the thread out her window. Think most of all, about the example of Jesus, hung on a cross willingly, in agony, in glory. Think about it and your physical sacrifice that you can do for Him as an act of love. 

Pray for God to show you a way to focus on Him today. I know that He can show it! 

In Him, 

Fran

Four Ways to Connect With God: 2) Love With All Your Soul

In a sense, our creation in the image of God is trinitarian in nature. The bible says that people are made of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 4:23, Heb 4:12). Above that, we also know that in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are new in Christ to become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:17, 21).

god-1772560_640This is why Jesus was very clear that when we love, we are to love in a deeper sense. We relate to the Lord and to others within our soul, in an indescribable relationship that transcends the physical, emotive, and cognitive. Of course, you can never love God nor the things of God until you are born again, but when you are reborn, you are restored and ready to love with a new dimension of love.

Look at David as an example. Even though he had blown it with in case of Bathsheba and Uriah, he knew of God’s grace and trusted in it. David, once was so caught up in his sin, remembered God as the One who forgives and restores. He would later write,

“To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust” (Ps 25:1-2)

You who are forgiven, love God back with the soul that He refreshed. Take time to thank Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness! Most of all connect with Him and with others with a humility in the kindness of the Lord like never before.

Next post: Love God With All Your Strength

In Him,

Fran

Four ways to Connect with God: 1) Love with All Your Heart

apple-570965_640Loving God with all your heart is impossible to do in your natural state. It’s true that “We love because God first love us” (1 Jn 4:19), and that God sent his Son, so that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). You cannot truly love God unless you surrender yourself to Him, denying yourself, repenting of your sins, and receiving the great gift of eternal life paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the first and greatest thing that needs to happen, and if you have never done this and need to, contact me immediately.

If you have received Christ, you already have God’s love! However, many of us have seen times when this love can get cold, dry, even routine. This is where you need to change things up a bit, like dedicating yourself to prayer more, worship corporately in a different spot than where you normally sit, or even take time for a personal retreat (with no phones!). These are practical ways to change things so you can get out of your routine and focus on who truly matters, the Christ Himself.

That said, if you are growing in your love for God, then you need to be sure to grow in your love for others. John the apostle wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). For example, take a chance and love on that grumpy grouch that you encounter, by praying for them, talking with them, and loving on them. If they stay grumpy, at least you can move ahead and stay positive, focused, and ready to love the next person. Remember, Jesus says to love people more than you love yourself (even the grouches), so let your love of Christ shine to others no matter their response!

The point is this: never settle for a mediocre existence of life without a deep love for God and people. He commands it, He has proven it, and He desires it in you. Reciprocate God’s love and share it liberally with all you encounter! 

That’s it for now. Next post: Love with All Your Soul (spiritual).  

Fran

Four Ways You Can Connect with God

Jesus, in answering a lawyer’s question, affirmed in Luke 10:27 that you are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” These two great commandments, He would also say in Matthew 22:40, “depend all of the Law and the prophets.”

bible-2167776_640This is huge, to say the least! I see so many different dimensions to these commands. First, we interact with God on the four levels of heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the same way, we interact with people on these four levels. For example, when one of these four levels in a marriage relationship is broken, the relationship suffers like a four-cylinder car running on three. This is why every relationship should be healthy emotionally, spiritually, physically, and even cognitively (the mind).

For my next few posts, I am going to spend time on how you can love God and people more in each of these areas on a daily basis. Keep in mind that no one is going to perfectly love God and people, but if you sincerely desire to put on love, you can do this greater today than you did yesterday, and tomorrow more than you did today!

Next: Love with All Your Heart

Fran

 

Some Truth For Our Pastors

I have just finished a little over a nine-year pastorate at a church that I have absolutely Worshiploved. Leaving on the best of terms, I feel good about the future for this church and her work of the gospel. One thing I do want to say about pastoring is that it is hard work, and a pastor who serves is serving a very difficult and challenging calling. As a result, I will always appreciate the local church pastor. That said, whatever your role in the church, here’s a few truths that I want to share with our pastors but that I think that everyone should hear.

Pastor, remember this:

  • You are a minister of the Word. It’s very easy to get tied down with administrative tasks and pastoral care duties, but you are called primarily as a minister of the Word. This means you are called to teach, train, rebuke, counsel, and preach the Word. The ministry of exhortation cannot be second place. Sure, there’ll be critics who want a pastor to be a glorified chaplain, but this can weaken the church in the long run. Pastors who minister faithfully through the Word of God can see a more mature, healthy, missions-focused church.
  • You are to love people. I once had a pastor say over and over again, “if you can do people, you can’t do ministry.” He was the best “people person” I have ever known, and he is now in his 26th year at the same church. Loving people takes on many forms, but this does include spending time with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that primary focus on the Word should suffer, but you do need to see church members regularly. Whether it’s counseling, home visits, office visits, lunch, or any of the above, enjoy time with your church family. You won’t regret it.
  • You are loved. God loves the pastor and called him to minister in a unique setting and time. It’s tough and lonely work at times! However, remember that when Elijah was at his lowest point, he felt alone and helpless, but God reminded him otherwise with ministering spirits. Ministry can be lonely, but you need to be reminded that God uses a variety of ways (including his church) to show you how deeply, sincerely you are loved.
  • You should remember the weak. There are many people to love on and minister to on a daily basis, but those who are already mature don’t always need your full attention. However, the baby Christians need your attention more, and as a lead discipler in your church, you are responsible for them whether this is delegated or not. Sure, their lives might be messy, but be patient with them, love them, and help them to walk a deeper walk in Christ.
  • You need to develop leaders. You may have one, ten or a hundred leaders, but you are all part of the same team. Make sure that your followers are sitting on the right seats on the ministry bus, and then commit to the task of equipping and empowering them. You can’t overcommunicate your vision, and you can’t underestimate their willingness to be challenged. Be there for them when they struggle and when they succeed. After all, you are in this together.

Obviously, this is not a complete list and maybe I can add to it much later. However, I hope that this is encouraging and helpful. Let’s all pray for our pastors, as they lead the church!

Fran