A new conference by Awana

If you’re in children’s ministry and for sure if you have any link to Awana, your inbox has received a number of emails about the Vantage conference that is taking place at Awana next week. I’ll be blogging the event, but before I get there I thought it would be good to answer a few questions you may have.

What is Vantage?

Vantage is a one day conference that will aim at providing a look into the future. They’ll be looking at the horizon of culture and talking about the latest innovations from the Awana ministry. Their hope is that this will be a community gathering for those within children and student ministry who are seeking how to prepare for and reply to what’s next in culture, technology and ministry.


Awana is shifting its ministry. Last year I shared how Awana saw that they had begun to suffer mission drift. After 60 years as a ministry it began to be about keeping the organization going more than reaching children. Vantage is another sign that Awana is changing. This conference is about serving the church. They understand that many of our children’s workers do not have the opportunities to attend a ministry conference or to spend time looking at the horizon. Vantage is not only a local conference, but one that will be streamed into churches.

EachVantage Conference will be built on three main pillars:
  • The Gospel and how it defines our ministry - The Gospel is why we do what we do. It is the central part of our calling, the unshakeable and undeniable truth we relentlessly obey.
  • Mission and how it drives us - Our response to the Gospel call, our mission to partner with Jesus to change the hearts and lives of the global population of children and youth is what drives us, pushes us and where we place our energies.
  • Perspective and how it guides us - As we engage in mission we do so by looking forward, over the horizon at landscapes of cultural shifts and trends (including technology, family, etc.).
Why should you take part?
If your church has or is interested in Awana, Vantage will give you a better understanding as to the “why” and “what” of the Awana ministry. Regional Awana Ministry Conferences provide tatics, tools and tips as to how to run Awana, but The Vantage Conference is really the place to learn about philosophy of ministry, to understand the future of children’s and youth ministry as well as to preview all the latest and greatest from the Awana ministry and other partners and friends.
Still on the fence?
As a ministry leader, I completely understand. My time is limited and so is the time of my volunteers. If I am going to have them attend a conference, it needs to work.
If this is your through, maybe a site license is for you. You pay the $150 and get access to the conference and materials. The license provides access for the next 120 days so you can gather your workers when it is convenient for them – and if you’re not holding your site conference in May 1, you can follow my blog and the many other social media connections to find ut exactly what the conference was like.


ESV Action Bible Review

A few years ago I posted a video of my son sharing his thoughts about the Action Bible. The following year David C Cook released the Action Bible Handbook and I reviewed it here. Well, they are back with a full fledged ESV study Bible and once again, I’m impressed.

My son, like many preteen boys loves comics. I’ve shared in the past how I could find him in his room researching, yes researching, what stories were in the Bible but not in the Action Bible. I think any parent would place that in the win category.

My friend Sam Luce has shared on the importance of having a bible that fits your child’s reading age so I’ll refer you there and simply say that the The Action Bible Study Bible ESV should be on the list for your preteen.

The first thing that caught my eye is the illustrations. Like the Action Bible, they are outstanding. Of course, there are far fewer, but still serve as an attraction to make sure kids are picking up the Bible often.

The next thing that is really impressive is that his is a real study bible. Maps, index, dictionary, concordance – it’s all there, more than 70 pages.

And it doesn’t stop there. Through out the bible you’ll find sections of learning:

  • Remember it - key verses to memorize
  • What about it - 52 questions on faith, like “Will every good person go to heaven?”
  • Unlock it - because reading scripture can often cause more questions than answers, this section gives hints about what is going on in that section of scripture
  • Guess it - just as it sounds, a guessing game, with clues
  • Ancient Archives - an explanation on ancient times
  • Activate it - This section will help your child make connections to every day life

That should be enough, but there’s still more! Every book begins with an attractive preface that talks about the book and its author.

I’m sure there is even more to be found and I am honestly excited to share this Bible with my son and to share it with you.

Of course, you can pick up The Action Bible Study Bible at your local book store or on Amazon, but if you are a children’s ministry worker, I’d like to encourage you to check out dispatch. For $39 you get a three month subscription to a box of curated products and latest ideas and products for children’s ministry leaders. This Bible was in the first box and that alone almost covers the full subscription cost. Dispatch is brought to you by INCM along with ministry partners like Awana, David C Cook and Kidzmatter.

Review: The Story of King Jesus

On Easter Sunday I found myself in an unusual place: a preschool classroom with 4 year olds. I typically spend my Sundays teaching a large group of elementary students but decided to celebrate Easter with our younger children. This presented the perfect opportunity for me to review The Story of Kind Jesus by Benhamin Irwin.

After the children had played for a while I pulled them together to read through the story.

The beginning pages were perfect for this Easter Sunday, the colors reminding us of seasonal decorations, and drew the children’s’ attention. Overall, the artwork is fairly simplistic, yet beautiful – perfect for a preschool audience.

Many of the children were familiar with the story but I appreciated the focus of “they didn’t listen to God” and “They wanted to do things their own way.” One surprise to the children was that there was no mention of the serpent. With the focus, that makes sense, but as a HUGE fan of the Jesus Storybook Bible, I missed passing on the sorrow that our sin brings to our Heavenly Father.

As we moved through the story, it was very clear to children that “doing things their own way” brought anger and fighting to the people in the story. The illustrations did a wonderful job at capturing conflict and sorrow.
Hear more about The Story of King Jesus

Using Technology in Your Ministry

A couple of years ago my friend, Matt McKee spoke to a group of conference attenders about looking at how the world around us is using technology and seeing if it would be useful in our ministry setting.

It’s not about using technology just because it exists, rather using tech effectively.
Consider this:
I don’t remember the last time I stood in line at a movie theater. Sure, I still see others heading to the booth to get tickets but for years I’ve been buying my tickets on line, then using my credit card to check in at a kiosk. The same for flights…but now I don’t even use my card, my phone can check me in at both places.

So, when I see a checkin line in our children’s ministry, I have to wonder – am I using the best system? Would it not be better to allow people to pre-check in and just scan their phone when they arrive?

As technology helps us, people begin to get used to that help – and if your church doesn’t use technology effectively, your church feels dated and out of touch. Even if it isn’t.

I was reminded of a story Matt told about pizza delivery in Dubai when I saw that Amazon Dash button was launched this morning. In short, dash is a button that connects to your phone and sends a message to Amazon to order a critical supply such as laundry soap or coffee pods.

Intersting. I think it will be a while before I have buttons all over the house, but I’m wondering how the “instant” button would be useful in a different context. Is there a way to leverage that technology to connect the church and home better?

Where to Vacation

Okay Pastors, we’ve talked about your need for a vacation and I’ve mentioned where to look for airfare and that only leaves the question of where to go on vacation.

If you have children, your first instinct might be to make sure you’re going to a spot that they will enjoy – often at the cost of your sanity or your relaxation. I’m talking amusement parks, Disney world, or even big cities.

Instead of making that your focus, why not make that an “add on”? A place were you visit while on vacation, but not the focus. You’re the one that your family and church are worried about burning out yet your tendency is to take a vacation that is an experience for your family.

Instead of an experience for your family, simply experience your family.

There are retreat locations throughout the country that are set up just for you, the church staff member. They’re away from the hustle and bustle, the people running them understand pastoral issues, and, perhaps best of all, they are free or very low costs.

Last year Christianity Today ran an article highlighting some of these locations, but a quick google search can give you similar information.

I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy to figure out the retreat center’s website…how to apply, the actual cost, what is involved…but I can tell you it will be worth the work you put into it. Some of these places really are no cost – there is no hidden fee and no sales call.

Now, what is standing in the way of your vacation?

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