Recommended Resource: “Leading A Special Needs Ministry” by Amy Fenton Lee

According to a 2013 report released by the CDC, an estimated 1 in 50 children receive a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Churches are finding themselves in a place where the need is great, but the answers and resources are few.  Kids Ministry Leaders are encountering an ever-increasing pressure to help parents navigate through these tough waters, but establishing an effective ministry to children with special needs can be a daunting task.

Amy Fenton Lee’s new book serves as a practical “how-to” handbook for the Kidmin Leader who desires to create an atmosphere of inclusion for children with special needs. This incredible book provides guidance for talking to parents who are learning their child has a diagnosis.  It also gives all the tools you will need to develop programs, write policies and educate volunteers working with children with disabilities.  Sample ministry documents are provided throughout this resource guide as well.

Includes:
*  Loving The Family Through the Diagnosis
*  Special Needs Statistics
*  Terms, Laws and Trends
*  Establishing a Mission for the Special Needs Ministry
*  Developing an Accommodation Plan for the Child with Special Needs
*  The Special Needs Ministry Leader
*  Volunteers: Leading, Recruiting, Training and Creating Community
*  Behavior and Participant Safety; and FAQs

I have personally known Amy for a while now.  I have been honored to speak at several events with her.  She is a powerhouse!  What will impress you more than her vast range of knowledge is her deep heart for families of children with special needs.  She blogs at www.TheInclusiveChurch.com – I highly recommend you becoming a regular reader!

Amy and the great folks at Orange are offering my readers a SPECIAL DEAL on this amazing resource.  You can get $2 off the purchase of one (1) copy of of the book “Leading a Special Needs Ministry”  (brings price down to $16.99)

Just use this Coupon Code at checkout (case sensitive):  LSNM2
Coupon good through: 12/31/13
Coupon only good for purchases through the Orange Store.
Make sure you are logged into your Orange Store account for coupon code to work.  (Anyone can create an account.)

WANT TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK?
Amy has offered to give away a free copy of the book to one of my readers!  All you have to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post if you want to win!  We will pick a winner and send you a copy of the book!

More about Amy Fenton Lee:

Amy is the special needs consultant to The reThink Group, Inc.  Amy has written extensively on the subject of special needs inclusion in children’s ministry environments and has been published in dozens of in-print publications, journals, and on the web, including her own blog, www.TheInclusiveChurch.com.

Book Review: “Connecting Church & Home” by Dr. Tim Kimmel

“Strong churches don’t make strong families.  Strong families make strong churches.” – Dr. Tim Kimmel

What is the center of your Family Ministry strategy?  Is it safety and protection from the dark influences of this world?  Is it reaching unchurched families through evangelism?  What drives your ministry to kids and families?

Dr. Tim Kimmel offers a one word answer in his new book, “Connecting Church & Home.” That one word:  GRACE.  Dr. Kimmel suggests that God’s grace can and should be what encompasses everything we do as a church – especially ministering to families.

Kimmel begins with the book with a challenging history of what has happened in the American church in the last 75 years.  As society has deteriorated, parents have felt more and more isolated and incapable of leading their own children on a spiritual journey.  Add to that – the church answered by raising up professional Children’s and Youth Ministers to “help” them raise their kids.  What happened more often was that the parents abdigated their responsibility to the “professionals.”

This book is challenging, but is a very encouraging read.  Kimmel offers a blue print of a “grace based parenting system.”  This is clearly defined as “treating others the way that God treats us” in every single relationship in the home.  Kimmel writes, “By making God’s grace the philosophical starting point of everything we do, we guarantee that whatever is done will be done within an authentic connection to our kids’ heart” (P. 58).

Kimmel’s strategy of “Grace Based Parenting” is broken into four dimensions:  Greatness (aiming kids at the biblical standard of greatness), Character (guiding kids through the building of godly character that will last a lifetime), Freedom (every child wants freedom; allowing the child freedom to fail, etc.), and Inner Needs (providing for the basic needs for love, security, hope, etc.).

Grace based parenting is a parenting strategy that seeks to produce heart change in the life of our kids.  This type of parenting results in kids who inwardly love Jesus and inwardly want to serve Him wholeheartedly.  Kimmel understands that if you change the heart – the outward actions will change to imitate Jesus as well.

“Connecting Church & Home” can be purchased here.

Check out this video from Dr. Tim Kimmel discussing his book:

Book Review – “From Hectic To Healthy” by Craig and Mary Jutila

About a month ago I received a complimentary autographed copy of Craig and Mary’s book.  I was excited to dive into it because I had already read the first chapter via a free download on their site.  Let me just say, this book is a life-changer.

Like many of you, I have been blessed by Craig’s ministry for the last decade or so via his position as Kids Pastor at Saddleback to his incredible leadership materials and teaching resources at Empowering Kids.  I was saddened when I heard several years ago that Craig was having a difficult time, but was unaware of any of the details as to what he was going through.  This book chronicles much of the journey Craig and his wife, Mary, went on during that time period – as well as lessons learned from the journey.

In the book, Craig and Mary discuss how their lives had spun out of control due to driven, workaholic personalities and a desire to change the world for God.  Through it all, their marriage suffered, their family suffered, and their personal connection to God suffered.  They found themselves in a cycle they refer to in the book: SPIN.  In classic Craig fashion, this is an acronym that stands for Seasons, Priorities, Isolation, Neglect.

Without giving away too much of the content of the book, let me say that it was refreshingly candid and inspiring.  It is far from a “tell all” memoir.  Craig points no fingers of blame to others – instead, he takes full responsibility for the damage he brought to his family.  “H2H” is a glimpse into the hearts of an incredible couple who got swept away in the demands of public ministry.  Craig and Mary never take a “know it all” approach, instead they confess to being fellow strugglers who are continuing to learn and grow.

If you are someone who finds yourself living dangerously out of balance due to the constant busyness of ministry, this book is for you.  In fact, it is a book for ALL of us who labor in the fields of ministry – as a guide to maintain a healthy balance between ministry demands and family priorities.  It will challenge you, inspire you, and refresh you.

For more info and to order your copy of “From Hectic To Healthy:  The Journey To A Balanced Life”, click HERE.

“The Eric Trap” Book Review

I am very pleased to be able to talk about The Eric Trap, a new book written by Jim Wideman, Sam Luce, Kenny Conley, and several others.  I received a copy a week or so ago and immediately began diving into it.  I have to say, I was blown away by it.

Here are the things I LOVED about The Eric Trap:

1)  It is written as a leadership fable. If you are not familiar with this style of writing (a la Patrick Lencioni, Ken Blanchard, and others), it is told as a fictional story of Eric Newman.  Eric is a regular guy who finds himself reeling from the demands and expectations of Kids Ministry.  It’s easy to read.  You learn as Eric learns.

2)  The main character is easy to relate to.  Eric is you.  Eric is me.  Eric is the Kidmin Leader we all have been at some point in our journey.  I felt a connection to Eric within the first couple of paragraphs.  I found myself truly caring about Eric and the pain he was going through.  That is what good writing does.  This book is well-written and compelling.

3)  The lessons are impacting.  The book deals with “five things every leader has to get right.”  Each of these lessons are learned by Eric along the way.  From learning how to balance ministry and family to serving under a Lead Pastor and carrying his/her vision, these lessons ARE things that every Kidmin Leader must get right if they want to accomplish God’s best in their ministry.

The only thing I wish was different with the book is that it is not COMPLETELY a leadership fable.  Periodically, the story of Eric is broken up with select lessons from successful Kidmin Leaders.  Don’t get me wrong – these lessons are phenomenally written and are very helpful.  I just wish the content could have been worked more into the story rather than having to continually pop out of the story in order to do practical teaching.

Bottom line – The Eric Trap is a well-written book that will appeal to much more than just Kidmin Leaders.  It serves as a guidebook for every new staff pastor getting into ministry.  Male or female.  Long-term or short-term.  Kids Ministry or Student Ministry.  Everyone can learn from Eric Newman and help themselves NEVER to fall into the “Eric Traps.”

* The official release date of the book is APRIL 25th.  For more info check out the official website.

Book Review: “Jumping The Track” by Roger Fields

When I first began seeing Roger tweet about the book he was writing, he was billing it as “The Kidz Blitz Story.”  That is a major understatement!  While this book does chronicle the story of how the Kidmin phenomenon KIDZ BLITZ got started, it is so much more than that!

“Jumping The Track” is Roger’s story.  It’s the story of a man who refused to follow the mold set by others in ministry.  It’s the story of a man’s struggle with his own overwhelmingly shy personality to become a mesmerizing stage host and people-person.  It’s the story of a man who broke through tradition into a dynamic faith experience.  It’s all that and much more!

Roger is a gifted storyteller.  After reading the book, I feel like I was right there with him, Tammie, Terra, Shannon, Mica, and Morgan for the whole journey.  I literally laughed out loud as Roger shared some of his early ministry mistakes.  I was truly challenged as I read about his leaps of faith to start Kidz Blitz.

“Jumping The Track” refers to being willing to abruptly change directions in life at the Lord’s command.  Rather than follow a pre-set strategy and list of long-term goals, Roger suggests that each of us should “hold on loosely” to the trajectory of our lives and be open to the voice of God.  He may call each of us to “Jump The Track.”  If so, will we be so tightly clinging to our long-term goals and human vision that we miss out on His plan?

I encourage each of you to purchase this book.  It will challenge you to think differently about life, ministry, and faith – in a good way!

“I Blew It!” Officially Released!

I’m very excited to announce that my book, “I Blew It!”, officially released this week!  This has been a labor of love that was nearly a year in the making (well, 20 years if you want to be technical LOL).  It chronicles my twenty years in Kids Ministry and all the biggest mistakes I have made – plus offers insight and principles to help YOU avoid those mistakes.

I was honored to have one of my heroes, Jim Wideman, write the Foreword for the book.  Jim is a legend in Kids Ministry and has served at some of the largest churches in America.  I appreciate his friendship and willingness to contribute to this project.

This book is filled with hilarious stories of incredible blunders I have made.  You will laugh until it hurts at how stupid I was in my early years of ministry (and probably will identify with many of the mistakes as well).  My prayer is that you will also be challenged to look at failure in a whole new way.  “Failure is never final.”

I was blessed to have some of the top leaders in Kids Ministry read a pre-release copy of the book and write endorsements.  These leaders include Kenny Conley, Sam Luce, Gina McClain, Ryan Frank, Michael Chanley, Karl Bastian, and many more.  I am humbled that these men and women of God with a passion for kids would lend their names and credibility to this project!

Many have asked, “What are the topics you cover in I Blew It!?”  So, I thought I would share those with you – CLICK HERE!

Thanks, everyone, for celebrating this milestone with me!  I pray that this book will be a blessing to you and your ministry – helping you avoid some of the biggest pitfalls of Kids Ministry!

Why I Wrote “I Blew It!”

WEEKLY KIDMIN QUESTION:

“So, why did you decide to write a book?” – submitted by Aaron in Arkansas

Since I announced that I was writing a book several months ago, this question has been asked of me many times.  I will have to admit, I asked it of myself many times – in many various forms.

I have read many books relating to Kids Ministry.  There are some that focus solely on practical ministry helps (i.e. Learn To Juggle In 15 Short Lessons or Understanding Your Pre-Teens).  There are others that focus solely on Leadership Lessons (i.e. 12 Habits Of The Post-Modern Kids Pastor).  Still others focus on challenging the status quo and making a BIG paradigm shift in the Kidmin World.

Most books I read come from the angle of “learning from the expert.”  That’s not the book I wanted to write.  Although I have been a Kids Pastor for nearly 20 years now, I in no way consider myself an “expert.”  I have failed more times than I can count.

That’s why I decided to reflect on my first 20 years of Kids Ministry and document the biggest mistakes I have made.  These mistakes range from leadership mistakes, personal failures, and practical ministry blunders.  I have written about them all in I Blew It!: the biggest mistakes I’ve made in kids ministry and how you can avoid them.

All of us must learn how to handle it when we make mistakes—and we certainly are going to make plenty of them.  We’re human, and mistakes are a normal part of life.  Ministry (and every other part of life) is packed with difficult choices that require wisdom, and often, we have to face problems we’ve never encountered before.  Mistakes are inevitable—sometimes really big ones!  No matter how hard we try to do things right, the question isn’t “Will I make mistakes?” but “How will I respond to my mistakes?”

This book is a collection of stories (some funny, some devastating) documenting mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned in more than twenty years of kids’ ministry.  I hope you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself.

I Blew It! will be released by Influence Resources in January 2012!  You can pre-order an autographed copy through High Voltage Kids Ministry Resources now!