Foreword by Jim Burns


In every generation, God raises up movements and leaders with a key message for that generation. Relational Children’s Ministry is the message for this generation, and Dan Lovaglia is the messenger to deliver it. Today, while the children’s ministry movement is strong, the need to help children and families commit their lives to God as his disciples has never been greater. This book is the most useful book I have seen on this topic, combining practical suggestions for doing excellent children’s ministry with helpful suggestions on how to be a heathy leader. Dan provides some of the finest content on the day-to-day practice of children’s ministry, all of it integrated into a discipleship model that transcends your typical vision for children’s ministry. As I read this book, I thought, “This is a message for every church leader.”

Dan knows that in the church today, you cannot focus solely on working with children; you must also come alongside the parents. We have a favorite saying at HomeWord: “One of the major purposes of the church is to mentor parents so that parents mentor their children and the legacy of faith continues from generation to generation.” Dan teaches you how to make that happen. He knows that when you reach the family, you reach the world. His insights on family ministry are fresh and right on target.

Dan also reminds us that good, healthy ministry is all about building relationships. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “We not only gave you the gospel of God, but our very lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8). Relationships were Jesus’ discipleship method, and they’ve always been the most effective tool for real-life transformation. Our job, as Christian educators, is to bring young people the gospel in a practical life-changing way, and as Paul instructs and Jesus modeled, we do this by building relationships with the children and families we serve. Kids won’t always remember the words we taught them, but they will never forget the loving relationships that brought them the words of the gospel.

I believe Dan Lovaglia is one of the key leaders for this generation, helping the church to develop healthy, biblical models for children and family ministry. Dan lives out his faith in his own family. He has grown as an influential leader working at Willow Creek Community Church and now is multiplying that impact through the ministry of Awana. When you combine his convictions with his leadership experience, the result is a powerful and compelling book. In the final chapter, Dan describes Awana’s impact over the generations and how it is continuing its work today. Dan has been instrumental in transforming this ministry to the “new Awana,” one that is helping lead the way in reaching a new generation with the gospel.

I’m glad you are reading this book. I believe it will help you better minister to children, and it will affirm you in your calling to make a difference in the lives of kids and their families. As Jesus once said, “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name, welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). Thank you for welcoming Jesus into your life and for investing into the lives of children.

—Jim Burns, PhD, President, HomeWord