Blog
Posted on September 29, 2020 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
You are not a failure.
 
There’s plenty telling you otherwise. You’ve fought a temptation to feel like you’re a failure. Someone might have even offered proofs that you’re one, not
that you can’t offer even better proofs.
 
First, you were called to follow Jesus. You’re a follower. Visions of grand leadership aside, you’re not the head guy. It’s not on you. You can’t fail God if He’s
not counting on your success.
 
Second, you were called to be a fisher of people. Regardless of the rise or fall of whatever great programs in 2020, your role is unchanged. You’re His follower and fisher; you’re His new creation and His ambassador. Forget failure. Our win is to abide in the Spirit and to make Him known to others. So don’t carry the burden of fighting for success, and don’t cast it on those around you. Instead, embrace the identity in Mark 1:17.
 
Living and leading thus freed, enable others likewise. They too may experience the same identity to abide and make disciples. Pastors and elders are to equip them in doing so, right?
 
Our upcoming cohort will wrestle with the implications of such an identity for ourselves as leaders and our approaches to generational disciple-making. 
 
--Jason McKinney is CABA's church planting coach. He also pastors One Church Cincinnati. 
Posted on August 20, 2020 8:00 AM by Joshua Lenon
Categories: Disciple-making
Anything we can do to stop encouraging outsourcing the primary spiritual development to those other than the parents would be a win. I believe this season would allow for churches to reconsider an approach towards integrating families in ways they would not have been able to before. 
 
The question for us comes in how we set up parents for success each week and month. Our family team works on activity packets that translate the weekly teaching into “kid” and they also create family discussion cards for dinner times and drive times. 
 
Red Door is not currently meeting in person and that has caused a shift even for us. We have personally found that engaging our kids with a live stream is a battle not worth fighting. Most of our parents were feeling like failures for not keeping their kids engaged in a live stream. One hour with adults talking for most of it is hard for a kid. That should not be the barometer for success. 
 
We decided it was better to encourage parents to use different outlets for the kids during the time they watch the live stream. We have focused on helping parents with the discussion cards through the week and resources they can use for devotions as well as other media resources. The primary question continues to be… How do we set-up a parent for success? 
 
When we do meet in person, we will return to packets for the kids to use during our service. These are usually filled with: 
1.    A coloring sheet (or sheets) 
2.    An activity that corresponds to the teaching
3.    A snack
4.    A tray for them to use as a writing surface
 
Most parents raised in church feel like it is important that their kids sit and listen. I prefer to think they should play and listen. The kids in our gatherings are picking up waaaay more than their parents realize. It is usually when the kid blurts out a question mid-week about what was said on Sunday when the parent realizes their kids were hearing a lot more than we thought. But it’s the same way at home. We don’t think our kids are listening until much later when they blurt something out we didn’t think they had heard—usually to our surprise! 
 
Kids are going to make things louder and more interesting. Good. Parents will be frustrated and embarrassed. No big deal. I think any pastor that is going to encourage it should embrace it with vision for what it could and should be. Not simply as another thing to endure during COVID. The pastor is the one who has to set the tone to let parents know that it is no big deal if their kids do kid things. I have had kids walk up and ask me questions as I’m teaching. Great. We aren’t running productions. How we handle our kids’ hearts these days will be a big deal. They will know if they feel like a nuisance or a part of what is happening. 
 
I don’t know what pastors’ timelines are for returning to “normal” childcare and kid’s ministry. But I do think that embracing bringing the family together could be good for this season (and beyond if willing to consider it).
 
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“Taking Kids’ Ministry Home” is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and repeat the session live at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1.
Features Joshua Lenon, Pastor, and Ben Eckstein, Family Pastor, Red Door Church, in Fairfield, Oh. We plan to meet via Zoom. Join the Zoom meeting 
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85257870845?pwd=VzdnMTJBRW04MnhEYXB4aFNMMTMxUT09
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--Joshua Lenon pastors Red Door Church in Fairfield, Oh. 
Posted on August 19, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
Mary Leigh and I hosted a small group in our home before coming to Cincinnati. It was fully age-diverse. We had kids in elementary school sitting beside recent retirees. We also had a teen couple that was dating and got married after high school. We were part of a church plant that couldn’t afford much meeting space to rent, but we prioritized disciple-making above all other obstacles or challenges. We were family-integrated in all we did. 

Family Integrated Churches as a movement holds the keys to discipleship, especially during COVID-19. The Barna Group’s annual report on the state of the church usually points to declining Sunday School attendance that stretches prior to the pandemic and social distancing guidelines. In 2015, even USA Today carried an article titled, “Has the sun set on Sunday School?” Barna’s study showed the Sunday School couldn’t compete with “fun” options, competed with what little time families had to be together, and even cited racial divisions interfering at church. 

Many Sunday School workers spend so much time on their one hour on Sunday morning that they forego disciple-making outside of church walls. Meanwhile, the family’s Dad is not being the spiritual leader of his family. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). The CSB says the responsibility is to “parents.” 

Moms and Dads can be encouraged, guided, and provided for as spiritual leaders for their children. What does it take for Dad to lead worship and become a protector against predators? How can families become stronger in the Lord? How can FIC’s prevent teen exodus in high school? 

FIC’s are not creating bunkers. Dad becoming a spiritual leader doesn’t replace his church’s pastor. Socialization of children in a healthy church context is important. Yet, age-graded programs don’t have to continue being the status quo. What if Sunday School workers were freed up to become disciple-makers in their home and community?
In this unusual time of potential pandemics ripping across our churches, helping parents become active disciplers must be intentional. Church leaders must not just provide activity sheets for elementary-age kids or books for teens to review, but active times of spiritual growth with parents tracking spiritual progress in key areas – worship, prayer, devotions, Bible study (including dialog on key points), fellowship, ministry inside and outside the church family, evangelizing, and being on mission. The church cannot easily do that right now. Families can. 

Red Door Church in Fairfield is one church that is excelling as a family-integrated church. They were a church plant in 2010 and are now in CABA’s top five in AM Worship attendance. Discipleship started and stayed in the family. Explore their model and then accept their offer to help your church strengthen disciple-making in the home. 

“Taking Kids’ Ministry Home” is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and repeat the session live at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1. My special guests: Joshua Lenon, Pastor, and Ben Eckstein, Family Pastor, Red Door Church, in Fairfield, Oh. We plan to meet via Zoom.  Join the Zoom meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85257870845?pwd=VzdnMTJBRW04MnhEYXB4aFNMMTMxUT09
 
-- Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He and his wife, Mary Leigh, have been part of two church plants and one re-plant. 
 
Posted on August 3, 2020 7:00 AM by Jason McKinney
Categories: Disciple-making
   Ask a planter what he needs, and he’ll probably first tell you “Support,” but then likely “Leaders.” Who of us wouldn’t want additional leaders? We need men, women and even kids who can engage the communities around us with the gospel and truly make disciples, the kind of disciples that can make disciples.
   This September (2020), our association will begin a discipleship residency, which will be a practicum for disciple-making. The primary goal will be to become healthy disciples who make new disciples who make new disciples. We’ll seek to reinforce our identity as a new creation (followers) and develop competency in our identity as ambassadors (fishers) in order to better strive to fulfill the Great Commission (make disciples and teach them) to the ends of the earth. Practice, loving accountability and partnership
will be key.
   This residency is designed for “co-vocational” laborers who have a hunger for more outside the walls of the church. The residency is open to men, women, single and married couples. Whole families are encouraged to participate in the residency as much as they are able. Our time will be a practicum of practitioners, building a coalition of peers to labor in Cincinnati and beyond.
   Contact Jason here.
 
=Jason McKinney pastors One Church and is serving as CABA's Church Planting Coach.
Posted on February 25, 2020 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
When a schoolteacher prepares for her class at the beginning of the year, she is taught to write out a course description and course objectives.  In a Sunday School class, we aren’t that formal, but it is valuable to consider what we are really trying to accomplish when we set out to teach a Sunday School class.  Here are several objectives we should seriously consider.
 
1. To lead people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  As a Sunday School leader, the spiritual condition of each enrollee and prospect should be my first concern.  I can save no one, but I can offer opportunities and take the initiative to see that each person I am responsible for  can understand and respond to the gospel.  Even in preschool areas, our objective is to create a learning environment in which children can be guided in the direction of the Savior as spiritual seed is planted in their lives.
 
2. To move people closer to Christ in their personal walk with Him.  People should be more in love with Christ as a result of being a part of our Sunday School class.  They should see Jesus lifted up and exalted and have the opportunity to know Him more and serve Him better.  This is the discipleship emphasis of Sunday School.  The spiritual growth of each prospect and member is a primary concern a Sunday School teacher or leader.  This is how spiritual leaders are developed and called out to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  One key objective is to move people Christ-ward. 
 
3. To get people involved in the Great Commission and other meaningful ministries related to reaching and discipling people for Christ.  Jesus gave the church a mission statement that has motivated the church for 2,000 years.  It should be obvious that the mission statement of the church is also the mission statement of the Sunday School.  Bible knowledge alone has never been the objective of the church or the Sunday School.  We know that God has called us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
 
4. To enhance genuine fellowship and love for one another.  The Sunday School has the opportunity for people to develop meaningful spiritual relationships that will enhance their growth in Christ.  It provides ways to pray for and serve one another by meeting practical needs.  Trying to meet the needs of a multitude is an overwhelming task, but as we focus on those in our care, we can touch one life at a time, face to face and heart to heart.  This is the primary way Jesus did ministry and enhanced fellowship among His disciples and it is still effective today.
 
5. To help people discover the Word of God.  The Bible is the textbook of the Sunday School.  God’s Word changes lives.  However, every good teacher knows that people learn in different ways and at various learning levels.  So, the teacher adjusts his teaching style to make God’s Word understandable and easy for his class to learn.  Motivated by love for God and the people being taught, the teacher connects the struggles and needs of the learner with the solutions and principles of the Scripture, allowing people to discover how to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.
 
The Sunday School experience can be truly life-changing as we keep the right objectives in mind.  Why we do a thing is at least as important as what we do and how we do it.  As we lead our Sunday School classes into a new decade, we recognize that great things begin with the right motivation.  May God be glorified as we work together to make disciples who worship God, grow in Christ and share Jesus with the world.
Posted on February 24, 2020 8:00 AM by Admin
Midwest Leadership Summit Breakout notes provided by Allen Suit, member, Mt. Carmel Baptist and Chairman ALT, CABA
 
5 KEY STEPS TO LEAD MULTIPLE GENERATIONS IN YOUR CHURCH
Dr. Gary Mathes, AMS, Clay-Platte Baptist Assoc., Kansas City, Mo.
 
Note:  he did a good job of describing the various generations and the historical shapers of each generation (e.g., Builders, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, Alpha).  I have asked for his presentation with all of the details.

•    Stop stereotyping and seek to understand each other.  (Covey approach)
•    Make mission the main thing.
     o    Too many churches let preferences trump mission.  No church is entitled to exist.  We are to be missional outposts.
     o    Need to be like the sons of Issachar – understand the times and know what to do.
     o    Like any mission effort, it is important to deal with location, language, and engagement.
•    Embrace the value of change
     o    Understand current demographics:  family structures, social pressures, tech changes.
     o    How do people communicate?
     o    Is your message relevant?  If your methods aren’t relevant, helpful, it will lead to wonder about the relevance of your message.
     o    Must deal with institutional, spiritual, moral, and legal
•    Be diligent to make Christian faith real & relevant
     o    Authentic, passionate for mission, don’t sugarcoat.
     o    Are digital natives and expect the church to be
     o    Desire for genuine worship vs. overly produced.
     o    Want to engage and make a difference.
     o    Hungry for real relationships.
•    Make mentoring a discipleship strategy.
Posted on February 17, 2020 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
Over the years, the church has seen many church growth strategies come and go.  I’d read and studied many of them in detail—I even have some of the t-shirts!  I’ve seen some plans succeed and some fail.  I’ve seen some work well for a season (like the bus ministry), only to lose momentum and eventually fade away, at least for most churches.  But I have been, and continue to be, convinced that one of the greatest evangelism/discipleship/ministry tools of all time is the Sunday School and it continues to be at the heart of my ministry strategy as a pastor.  There are several reasons for that conviction.
 
Sunday School gives the ministry to the people.  Many church growth strategies are based on a “come hear me preach” philosophy.  That is, people are saved, discipled and ministered to by the professionals, and the willing, gifted members of the congregation are basically reduced to inviters.  Such a strategy doesn’t line up well with Ephesians 4:11-12 nor the Great Commission.
 
Sunday School is not a new program with built in resistance and hesitance for “buy in.”  Most churches do not need to be convinced that Sunday School is a viable ministry.  We don’t need a consultant to come and convince the people that this will work if they are willing to embrace it as a ministry.  It may need revitalization in some cases, but it doesn’t need to be sold to the people.
 
Sunday School is consistent with the New Testament model for ministry.  Clearly the early church used small groups for ministry.  Before the days of church buildings, meetings were held in homes as church members ministered to one another.  Through the hospitality of the small groups, the Bible was taught, fellowship deepened, ministry took place and people were reached.
 
Sunday School does not rely on people outside the church for its success.  We don’t have to schedule a revivalist to do Sunday School well.  We don’t have to hope someone new will join the church who has the special skills or gifts required.  Our people may need to be mentored and trained, but they have the ability to love people and give of themselves to see people discipled.
 
Sunday School uses the power of God’s Word.  We all know that the Word of God is powerful to transform lives.  Guess what—the Bible is the Sunday School textbook!  The scriptures in the hand of a spirit-filled teacher who really loves people is a powerful tool.
 
Sunday School is a ministry strategy the Holy Spirit can bless.  The Spirit is not grieved by Bible study.  The spirit is not quenched by people loving one another in practical ways.  The Holy Spirit enjoys blessing people in Christian community with one another.
 
Sunday School recognizes the need to minister at various stages of life and levels of learning.  It is difficult for a six-year-old to understand the value of the pre-millennial view of eschatology.  The Bible needs be taught on a six-year-old level to six-year-olds!  The Bible is always relevant, when it is taught well, and good Sunday School ministry is graded appropriately. 
 
This may sound strange, but maybe we need to start challenging the modern church to think inside the box!  Sunday School has a proven track-record for doing the things we say are important to the health and success of the church.  It hasn’t been around as long as the wheel, but maybe we don’t need to re-invent something that does what Sunday School already does.  Maybe we just need a fresh vision for the potential of something we already know and love.
Posted on October 7, 2019 8:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
if a first-time church guest asked you what Sunday School is all about, what do you think you would say?  Some might say it is about teaching the Bible.  That would only be partially correct.  If it is about Bible teaching alone, then why do we worry about keeping the groups smaller?  Why do we organize the groups by age/grade?  Why do we encourage discussion and participation?  Why worry about caring for one another’s needs in the class?  If it is just about Bible teaching, then why don’t we have one big class with the most qualified teacher teaching it?  Sunday School is a ministry that involves teaching the Bible and reaching new people and caring for the needs of people, but without relationships, the functions of the Sunday School could easily be done in another way.
 
Sunday School allows relationships to grow by spending time with people.  As we spend time with people in the classroom setting, we can learn about the Bible from one another, but in the process,  we learn about each other as well.  If a Sunday School class is deliberate about it, relationships may also grow outside the classroom setting.  By visiting over coffee, at an event or even in someone’s home, we move from casual acquaintances to close friendship just by spending time together.  Sunday School gives us that opportunity.
 
Relationships grow in a place of safety.  In a good Sunday School class, people feel they can express their hurts without out fear that someone will gossip about them.  People can share their struggles without fear of being judged and condemned.  If criticism about the church staff or a church decision flows freely in a classroom, people feel they are in the middle of a conflict and are unlikely to return.  Even emotional political discussions can make people feel they are not in a safe environment.  When we see that Sunday School is built on relationships, we can take the needed steps to create an environment that feels more open and safe.
 
Relationships grow through listening.  God gave us two ears and two eyes and only one mouth.  Perhaps there is a message there for us.  We can listen better when we notice body language with our eyes and listen to what is being said and how it is being communicated.  By focused listening, we can perhaps feel the emotion behind what is being said and be less preoccupied by what we are about to say.  By asking questions about the person’s comments and repeating a paraphrase of what they have shared, we make deeper connections by being better listeners.
 
Relationships grow through motives of love and acts of kindness.  Simply remembering a person’s birthday or anniversary can communicate love.  Knowing a person’s favorite color or empathizing with what they experience in their workplace can communicate love.  Praying for or with someone is an act of love.  Love is meaningless unless it is communicated, so words and acts of kindness are vital for growing deeper in relationships.
 
Relationships can take you in the right direction or the wrong direction.  Teens get caught up in gangs and toxic peer groups because of wrong relationships.  With social media and interactive video games, predators can take advantage of kids longing for a meaningful relationship.  Even adults can be pulled into destructive and unhealthy activities in their quest for stronger relationships.  In the church, we have a powerful relationship tool called the Sunday School.  Like any tool, it can only do its job in the hands of a willing worker. 
Posted on August 5, 2019 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
The Supremes’ lead singer, Diana Ross, pleaded with her man not to leave her and go to another woman.
 
The lyrics of that 1965 hit cried, “Stop! In the name of love before you break my heart. Baby baby, I’m aware of where you go / Each time you leave my door / I watch you walk down the street / Knowing your other love you’ll meet.”
 
That’s how a lot of small group leaders feel when some of their participants begin to miss, look around for something else, and leave. They want to do anything it seems to keep everyone showing up.

But there’s something a bit more insidious lurking in some groups. An associate pastor of a church experimenting with Bible Storying said, “My group won’t do anything. Nothing!”

What’s a small group leader to do? Look carefully at those in your group. What if they stay and never bear fruit for the kingdom, continue living in disobedience to what Scripture commands, and even distract others from joining the group?

I once shut my small group down. After 18 months of no growth, lots of socializing, growing conflicts with the home group schedule, and prayer, my wife and I canceled our group. We simply encouraged them to go to other classes in the church. One couple continues and is very active. A single lady is now engaged to another young man she met in another small group. Another couple bounces from church to church.

It bothered me for months. No spiritual fruit and we were often regressing! We were doing so many things right. But fruit-bearing was getting irritating.

On March 22, 2015, USA Today ran an unusual-for-them article asking “Has the Sun Set on Sunday School?” The article used statistics from research by the Barna Group noting consistent decline in attendance across America. The expectations set for spiritual training in Sunday School were countered by other options ranging from racial divides in an increasingly diverse culture, other fun options, to increasingly sparse family time.

Actually getting someone to attend a small group is amazing in our culture. So, the idea of stopping a small group seems downright drastic. At least it takes thought.

But stop the small group we did and the kingdom of God has been better for it. I’ve invested in the lives of one couple that not only started a new young adult class using orality methods, but the teacher is also starting a Bible Storying group at the jail. And then my wife and I mentored a small group for three months. They are sold-out to start a new work in a Missouri community with no evangelical churches.

Jesus exhibited tough love. Luke 9:57-62 notes that some with good intentions also had their own conditions that prevented them from following Jesus as they should. Jesus would not relent on the conditions to follow Him. Neither should we. Getting buy-in on the front-end seems to be vital. It sets the DNA for the group.

Why was your small group started? What’s its current vision? What progress for making disciple-makers is being made by the participants?

A church planter in Illinois reported to the work group that I was in that he had to stop his small group. They had met for six months with no change, growth, or even sharing their faith. They were a Bible-centric social group that was content to just meet and “do life together.” They were hanging out around the status quo pole. Ouch. Life together with Jesus requires a different set of standards.

Perhaps instead of singing Motown’s lovelorn plea, we need to raise the bar on disciple-making and adopt the title from this country song by Bobby Harden, “All I Want from You (Is Away.)” Let’s keep striving to make disciples that make disciples to the glory of the Lord – and not just cower at the thought of losing someone.

It just might be the right thing to do in the name of Love.
 
--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on May 31, 2019 7:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
To know where a person is on their journey, just ask!
 
Use appropriate discussion questions that help those in the small group you lead.
 
And listen! They could surface some serious issues. Don’t be afraid to raise issues that can lead to meaningful discussion that “goes deep.”
 
DOCTRINE: Through inductive Bible studies that I lead, I use a specific Bible story that conveys the doctrinal truth. I ask specific questions about a belief (salvation by grace) or a practice (baptism). It often helps to revisit the truth later to reinforce it.
 
BELIEFS: Include a time at the beginning of a teaching session when you ask for reports. What happens when they witness or tell Bible stories to others including agnostics, atheists, and the combative? Be sensitive to those who had tough questions asked of them. Ask the group how they would have responded. Ask the person who was facing doubts how they would have answered if asked that question next time. Coach them by offering to go with them to meet their friend who may or may not have gotten an answer, but is still expecting one.
 
SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION: Change is tough for anyone. Reaching a point of vulnerability is important for every witness or class member to share freely about their feelings and even failures at being Christ-like. Being genuine counts.
 
Life has so many distractions. Do you seize them as kingdom opportunities. I recently saw a poster that said, "Keep Calm and Disciple On." How true in today's situations. And, by making disciples, we continue to live out our relationship with Jesus in obedience and love.
 
--Mark Snowden serves as the director of missional leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
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