Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Every Kidmin Can Learn from Gregg Russell

As Children’s Pastor I’m constantly looking for examples of people and organizations that do a great job of engaging families.  Whether I’m at a restaurant, grocery store or even on vacation, my kidmin radar is always going, searching for new ideas and transferrable principles I can apply at church.
So, when my family sat down at our first Gregg Russell concert on spring break, it was a no brainer.  This guy is a master at engaging families, and I knew immediately I could learn some valuable lessons by watching him in action. 
In case you’ve never heard of him, Gregg Russell is a musician and comedian who has been entertaining families on Hilton Head Island for the past forty-one years.  Russell performs six nights a week on a stage under a picturesque live oak tree at the edge of the water in Harbour Town in the Sea Pines resort.  Dozens of kids sit on stage at his feet singing, laughing and begging to get picked to be a part of the show.
Here are five things every kidmin can learn from watching Russell in action.  
1. Create space for families. 
Back in the seventies, Charles Frasier, the man who developed Sea Pines, made a brilliant move by putting Russell front and center.  The stage and benches, nestled under the 300 year old Liberty Oak, make it obvious that Sea Pines values families. 
So how can we make family experiences central to our ministry?  Do our facilities say, “We value families?”  Do we create opportunities for families to come together as a part of the regular rhythm of our church? 

2.  Engage kids and you get the parents.
Half the fun of watching a Gregg Russell concert is watching the kids’ reactions.  He’s hilarious and they love him.  As a result every parent and grandparent loves him too. 
One of the best ways to reach parents is to make sure their kids are having an amazing experience.  Are our kids engaged and do parents notice?
3.  Include parents in the fun.
Just because kids are on stage doesn’t mean Russell leaves parents out.  Throughout the show he directly addresses the parents, includes jokes just for them and sometimes even has some parent sing-alongs.
Are we including parents in our ministry too?  Do we create opportunities for them to join in on the fun?
A dad singing "My Little Teacup"

4.  Take time to listen to kids.
At every Gregg Russell concert he invites kids to come up and sing for the audience.  Many of the kids make elaborate signs to get Gregg to pick them.  I’ve always been impressed that Russell takes the time to go through the crowd and read every single sign to the audience.  He says that he knows the kids put a lot of time into it and he wants to value their effort.  You and I know that also goes a long way in connecting with their parents.
In the busyness of our ministry, are we really taking time to listen to kids and value them as individuals?

5.  Stick around. 
Russell has been performing in Harbor Town for over four decades, and because of it, he has impacted generations.  He’s had several other opportunities in the entertainment world which could have taken him away from Hilton Head.   Yet, he chose to stay planted under the Liberty Oak, and because of it, he has endeared himself to kids, parents and grandparents who return year after year to see him again.
Parents who sat on stage with him twenty-five years ago bring their kids to the concerts to share their childhood experience.  It’s really like Russell is a part of their family.
Are we committed to staying in Children's Ministry and in our church for the long haul?  Are we sticking around to develop relationships with multiple generations?   Are we raising up leaders who will do the same?

So those are my five take-aways and the questions I'm asking myself.  How about you?  If you've ever seen Russell in concert, what could you learn and apply for your church setting?  
If you haven't been to a Gregg Russell concert, who else have you seen who engages families effectively and what can you learn from them?  The important takeaway is that we're constantly looking for these examples and learning how to make our children's and family ministries better every chance we get.


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