A Great Children’s Council Meeting

“The best question a leader can ask his/her team is, ‘What’s missing?'” ~John Maxwell

I LOVE the women who make up our Children’s Council. In the beginning of my tenure, we met monthly. We now meet quarterly and I adore their company. I enjoy meetings, but meetings with a purpose, a focus, take-aways, and ‘circle time.’ Those meetings give me insight, a filter, and energy.

StarbucksLast Tuesday we gathered at the local Starbucks because we can get caught up, laugh, and speak face to face as we wait for our dessert in a cup. It’s relaxing, a breather for a hectic day.

Sitting in a circle, we each picked up a folded card that would ask questions to prompt our opening conversation. These questions were emailed earlier in the day to give time for prayerful consideration:
What are we doing well?
What is confusing?
What is missing?
What are we not doing well?
What is fruitful?
What has energy?

Taking notes offers a filter when implementing programming and communicating to our families in the days and weeks to come.

Proverbs 22 6I then passed out a 2015 calendar (I spent the previous couple of weekends in Microsoft Publisher to prepare) with sermon titles, special events, school holidays, and the dates of Fantastic Friday/Parents Night Out, Faith Milestone events, VBS, and CLUB345…the dates of the non-regular-Sunday-stuff. The goal: Families need to plan ahead ( the council should be our greatest advocate and talk up these activities way ahead of time) AND the greater calendar offers the filter to not overwhelm our families and servants in the regular rhythm of our community.

who-what-when-where-why-howThen, a front/back page of 2014 Celebrations as well as 2015 Plans, along with a more detailed explanation of upcoming Faith Milestone events with the what, the who, the when, the why, and the where that will be shared at next month’s Administrative Council meeting. I also introduced the upcoming three worship services in 2015 that will take place on the fifth Sunday of the month: Families First On The Fifth with a glimpse of what that’ll look like, but really just a ‘jumping off point.’

We started at 6pm and departures started a little after 8pm. It took a while, but a productive and focused meeting where everyone spoke, everyone shared, and everyone laughed.

Three MUSTS for meaningful meetings:why-1.jpeg

1.  Great preparation – have a plan, share the plan ahead of time (ex: emailing the questions to prayerfully consider along with the reminder email.)

2.  Great participation – have something where everyone shares, all voices are important (what folks talk about offer a glimpse into what their hearts and minds are taking up the most space in their heads.)

3.  Great prayer – before, during, and after.

Top takeaways from last night’s meeting?Team-Building-Activities

1. We have renewed energy for Sunday school (good thing because I had a copy of Sunday School That Works: The Complete Guide To Maximize Your Children’s Ministry Impact put out by Group Publishing for their take away and our discussion for our winter meeting.

2. As an alternative to our typical SCREAM Retreat in March, we will offer a day away retreat called “Deep And Wide” in July. 9am-9pm and only for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders…a faith milestone at Mrs. DeDe’s house (great response from the Moms on the Council because I live 45-50 minutes away from the church in the mountains of North Georgia.)  We’ll hike, swim, go the movies, and have a program specific to practicing ‘soul training’ and answering their own personal call into ministry.

3. Sending the weekly Sunday school challenge by text to the families of the older kids.

4. Incorporating the traditional songs with motions in Sunday school…there’s great truth in the traditional songs of ‘Deep and Wide,’ ‘My God Is So Great,’ and ‘He’s A Peach of a Savior,’ etc.

“The most effective children’s ministry director is the one who has an inner circle of champions and advocates who believe so much in what you’re doing they will hide bodies for you.” ~ Lynley Jones, Children’s Ministry Director, Asbury United Methodist Church, Lafayette, Louisiana

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No More Children’s Church For Us

Since last summer, our staff team has been on the mission of improving the worship experience for our medium-sized church in the Atlanta suburbs. We’ve attended seminars, trainings, workshops, and even a week-long retreat with The Worship Design Studio team. We have been intentional to institute many details making the experience more personal, more inviting, relative to all learning and worship styles, and giving multiple opportunities for congregational involvement throughout.

What has this got to do with little people? Everything.

ChurchChangeIt has always been our desire to connect as a family of faith…a family where our kids and their parents and grands pray, sing, praise, give, share and greet together.  Before this month, we dismissed the kids to a separate Children’s Church time immediately following the children’s moment and before the pastor’s “big sermon” which took place towards the end of the order of worship.  On Communion Sunday, we ushered the children back to their parents so to participate as a family.

When we changed the placement of the “big sermon” to be early mid-service, the giving, greeting, and praying were now at the end of the service in response to the Word proclaimed.  Our kids were going to miss some powerful times as a family of faith if we continued Children’s Church.  Oh I could do those things in Children’s Church, but not like it’s done with our whole family of faith.

PrayerhandsI spoke with our pastor, a couple of ‘big names’ in KidMin, and some of our Children’s Church families sharing what we were doing and they were game for us to stay and continue to worship together. Families sitting side by side, arms around shoulders, standing in unison in call and response, enjoying time and space together.

We had already offered some interactive pew tools for our kids and now I could kick it up a notch, such as…

ClipboardsSermon Bingo…our pastor puts out the sermon schedule, scripture, and title for the entire year in advance.  This helps me when I prepare the weekly Children’s Moment, so I set up a bingo card with words and phrases that are likely to be sung, spoken, or shared for the several week-long worship series.  The kids then mark or color the spaces when they hear the vocabulary.  These are placed on clipboards in the narthex.  The kids are invited to place their completed cards in my mailbox outside the worship space.

Etch-a-Sketches…for our littlest disciples.

Clipboards with blank paper…I invite the kids to take notes, draw pictures, write a note or draw a picture of encouragement to give to someone who sits in their row or one of the pastors.

A Challenge…when the sermon was titled “Salt and Light,” I challenged the kids in Sunday School to pick up a clipboard outside my office and tally the times they heard the words “salt” and “light” and tell me after the service which word was said most often.  I have a few tally sheets on the bulletin board behind my desk…”light” won out.

Pockets monthly magazines on clipboards…I attach a note about a few upcoming kid’s events like Fantastic Friday/Parents Night Out or the Jingle Bell Shoppe.  Even our middle schoolCarlieArters enjoy these.

Cloth 3 ring binder zipper pouches from Dollar Tree (they are quiet)…with crayons, or colored pencils, or a handful of legos (for the pre readers).

And yes, all of them are out each week in a nice, shallow rubbermaid container set just outside our worship space.  Colored ribbons make for a colorful display.  I look forward to seeing what else we can come up with.

Attending the bi-annual CEF Conference (Christian’s Engaged in Faith Formation formerly known as Christian  Educator’s Fellowship) last month in Nashville, ‘kids in worship’ was the topic of almost every conversation.  Facebook has had multiple conversations and some very heated.  We have a Children’s Ministry networking luncheon coming up this week and it’ll be the topic, as well.  I’ll blog afterwards with what we came up with.

We are no longer offering Children’s Church.  We want to live and worship as a family of faith.  Our staff supports it, our parents support it, and our kids are thriving making connections with folks of all ages and stages.  Like family, some things are taught and some things are caught.  We want opportunities for both.

viele bemalte bunte KinderhändeWe offer a nursery for ages 0-4 years old.  This gives our parents a choice for our smallest disciples of staying in the service or be loved on in the nursery.  Our Mamas seem to like having the option.

There appears to be a great deal of research out there now that kids who worship with their families and connect inter-generationally in a family of faith are more likely to remain active in the local church as they get older.

This is the research we have lived:  We worshipped together in the early traditional service and served together and separately throughout Baby Girl’s and #1 Son’s preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school years at our home churches…in Baton Rouge, in New England, and in Woodstock.  They were invited to serve and lead on Sunday mornings as they grew in their faith and faithfulness.  They enjoyed a regular diet of adult investment into their lives.  When #1 Son didn’t want to go, the conversation went something like this, “Church and worship is what we do as Reillys.  It’s who we are.  God gets an ‘awards’ day once a week for all He has done for us and we go.  This is not a choice you get to make.  It’s KidwParenthandright up there with you don’t get a choice to not brush your teeth or not take algebra.  It’s what we do.  When you get old enough to earn a degree, move out, and pay all of your own bills, then you can make a decision about church.  Until then, we leave in 10 minutes.”  If we were too busy or too tired for church life, we were too busy and something had to go.  It was never church.  The priority of worshipping together and serving in the local church was guarded and made for lots of conversations of who we were as christians as they grew up.  A life lesson of filtering what is good for what is best.  Oh, and did I mention that I was not on church staff until they were in late high school?

This is what I know:  Baby Girl and #1 Son remain active in their spiritual disciplines and in their local churches now as young adults.

“What’s good for kids in church is good for everybody.”  Mark Burrows, Children’s Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Ft. Worth

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Change Is A Movement of the Holy Spirit

My Mother-in-Law got a new cell phone. Her flip phone broke in half and she got tired of having to use both hands to talk. She didn’t want a smart phone, but wanted another flip phone, so my Honey got her one. Same color, same style, but it has a few upgrades that the first one didn’t.

UpgradeButton We got daily phone calls for two weeks about her frustrations. She would open it in the night to use the light and hit a button. It took her picture. She wants to know what Verizon is going to do with a picture ‘they’ took of her in the night. She found the flashlight button, which we thought was a good upgrade, but now she can’t turn it off and she says it blinds her and she really doesn’t want to use her glasses at night to turn it off. Somehow she has gotten a ding alarm set for 3am and wants to know who is calling her in the middle of the night.  We chuckle and we have tried to ‘fix’ her new phone, but as she found out when she went to the Verizon store, upgrades can’t be removed.  She has now quit calling us and is finally settling into her new, upgraded cell phone.  If she finds a new challenge, she now goes straight to the source, the Verizon store, and they teach her.

The staff and worship committee at my church have taken on the challenge to instill excellence in worship for 2015 and we aren’t waiting until January to get the ball rolling.  We are ‘shooting a few bullets’ this fall.  Jim Collins, noted author and researcher of the book Good to Great, calls it ‘shooting bullets before cannonballs.”  http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/jim-collins-on-bullets-before-cannonballs/.  Over the last several months we have spent time with the best:  Mark Burrows from First UMC in Ft Worth, and Rev Dr Marcia McFee.  We have continued to participate in online training and working diligently alongside our laity in prayer and discussion about some of the things we have ‘sprinkled’ here and there before we go ‘all in’ for the Advent season.

We’ve beenUpgradeChangeSign at this a month now.  We are putting educational information in the weekly bulletin and in our monthly newsletter. I note it in the emails addressed to folks who serve on the worship teams on Sunday morning and our worship leader is talking it up at their practices.  We are taking every opportunity to speak face to face with energy and enthusiasm.  Our senior pastor is even planning for a few Sunday School class visits over the next month or so to give folks a chance to participate in word, deed, and prayer.

I LOVE the energy that comes with the tension of change in the local church.  It gives me a chance to share in the whole church, not just my area of Children’s Ministry.  It gives me a chance to be invited into the hearts and spiritual histories of the saints of the church as I may be more accessible, maybe even ‘safe’, when the tensions come.  Just last week, I happened to be sitting behind someone who needed to ‘share’ immediatelyUpgradeChange after services.  She placed her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and shared her personal challenge with tenderness and grace.  In that very moment, I got to feel, hear, and see her heart as I looked into her eyes.  It allowed me to encourage, affirm, and pray for her.  I was invited into her journey.

The sense of the movement of the Holy Spirit comes to more people when we make changes at church.  And it can be uncomfortable.  And they don’t know what to do with the discomfort…the tension.  Folks begin to articulate their personal preferences, their personal histories, and their personal narratives.  How they do this is a direct result of their dedication to prayer and bible study.  How I respond is also a direct result of my dedication to prayer and bible study.

Every church I have every served has been a place of change.  Some congregations handle it well, some just get mean about it.  Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway says, “Obstacles and critics are common, but not insurmountable.”  Church saints and leaders who are in the Word on a daily basis and in prayer on a daily basis, share their challenges in a way that invites others to know their hearts because they are kind, ChurchChangethey are constructively involved, and they read everything that comes out: bulletins, newsletters, emails, everything!  Those constantly in the Word and prayer speak of their tensions with tenderness, open minds, and discussion for clarity for understanding.  Oh the filter that is afforded with a regular diet of prayer and bible study!

I, too, get frustrated when I have to take on an upgraded cell phone, an upgraded computer, any upgraded device.  Yet I have discovered the situation invites me to slow down, to pay attention to the details, and to participate fully until I can be more confident in my place in the mix.

When it comes to participating fully in church change, I will devote myself to prayer (talking with the Lord), bible study (the Lord talking with me), and to be ‘all in’ in the community of faith (read everything that comes out from the leadership).  It’s a ‘whole church’ thing, not just my particular area.  Then I’ll ask, “What ELSE can I do to help?”  When the Holy Spirit is involved, I will not settle to sit on the sidelines and wait to be invited onboard.  I’m jumping on and holding on for dear life because something great for His Kingdom is going to happen and I don’t want to miss a thing.

“To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Mark 12:33

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The Song: A Movie Review

A text message came across my cell phone last Friday evening with the blessing of a couple of free tickets to the movie, The Song, that opened last weekend. Loving to go to the movies, but with my hubby with an already planned-out college football Saturday, I invited my neighbor to join me. She had the flu. So I went by myself.

TheSongMovieaThe story is of an aspiring singer—songwriter Jed King who is struggling to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his famous father when he reluctantly agrees to a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival.  Jed meets the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose, and a romance quickly blooms. Soon after their wedding, Jed writes Rose “The Song,” which becomes a breakout hit. Suddenly thrust into a life of stardom and a world of temptation, his life and marriage begin to fall apart. (www.thesongthemovie.com)

TheSongMoviebThe Song is heavy on drama and music.  His life and marriage do fall apart with the infamous other woman, drugs, booze, and stereotypical life-on-the-road situations. Though much is implied, the film-makers don’t show, nor glorify, the ‘acting out’ of such.  Classy move.  We get it without showing it.

Though it is marketed as a date night film similar to FireProof, I disagree with the comparison.  It is definately an adult movie.  There is actual cheating and drug use involved in this movie, not just disallusionment and disappointment. There is also repentance, hope, and the start of restoration.  Marriage is hard, ongoing work.  Temptation comes in the areas of our giftedness.

TheSongMoviecThe scenery is beautiful, the cast is perfect, the music is moving, and the narration from the Song of Solomon scriptures thread throughout.  I’m still processing it in my head.  It’ll certainly begin a conversation or two.

“He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4


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Frustrating or Fascinating?

With a 40 minute commute one way to the office, I can only sing so much. So, if I’m not talking to family on the cell phone headset, I’m listening to podcasts. One  that always challenges me is the EntreLeadership podcast. Professional interviewers take on some of the best names in organizational leadership about every other week.

HowTheWorldSeesYouA few weeks ago, they interviewed Sally Hogshead, author of How The World Sees You. Her new book has a measurement tool to help distinguish the best way to communicate, add value, or fascinate, based on how others see you.

I had taken a Meyers-Briggs evaluation at a QUEST conference and discovered that I am an ENTJ = Extrovert, Intuitive, something else that begins with the letter T, and prone to Judgement. Then I had taken a DISC evaluation when I started consulting for Proactive Ministries and discovered that I was a high I=enthusiastic, optimistic to a fault, talkative, persuasive, impulsive and emotional; naturally trusts others and functions best when around people and working in teams. Yep, I am the one who likes meetings.  ENTJs keep environments positive with their enthusiasm and positive sense of humor. They will go out of their way to keep things light, avoid and negotiate conflict and keep the peace.  And before I can think I’m ‘all that,’ I am prone to NOT be a good listener, may give the impression of waiting to speak instead of truly listening to what someone else is saying and in some cases, gestures and facial features are overly used.  These are how I see myself.  Have mercy!

personalityThis measurement tool, found at howtheworldseesyou.com/you, entering the coupon code entreleadership, could be taken for free as a gift to listeners to the Entreleadership podcast for the sole purpose of finding my best way to communicate, add value, or fascinate.  AND discovering my WORST way to communicate, add value, or fascinate.  This is how others see me.  In her introduction she writes, “On the day you were born, you already knew how to fascinate.  Like breathing and swallowing and smiling, the ability to fascinate is a hardwired survival mechanism.  Fascination is an instinctive form of connection.”   Yet, along the way, there happens situations, people, or circumstances when we choose to become boring instead of fascinating.  As I read further in the book, this is the passage that stopped me in my tracks:  “Your most fascinating traits are your most valuable traits.  Too often, these traits are the first to go in favor of blending in or avoiding criticism.  Yet when you dull your edges, on some level you’re giving up.”  Not being a quitter, I took the Fascination Advantage evaluation.

BoysOnTinCanPhoneOf the possible personality archetypes, I am “The Coordinator.”  The evaluation tells me the world sees me as speaking the language of ALERT (details) and PASSION (relationships).  The coordinator brings a “pragmatic, step-by-step approach to every project; is loyal to the team; detail-oriented, works in an ordered manner, and focuses on deadlines working to avoid unwelcome surprises.  The coordinator prompts deliberate action, exhibits a strong will and determination, and is aware of all facets of a situation.  Being the eternal optomist, the author suggests there be “Innovators” around the tables where I sit, since that is the where I scored the lowest.  Not a problem!

This last week, our staff team participated in a 4 day worship design retreat with the fabulous PuzzlePeopleRev. Dr. Marcie McFee.  On the last day, she presents some ‘tags’ for our team members so that we can hope to achieve some balance in bringing our best to the 85% of our congregation who attends only Sunday morning worship. Her ‘tags’ included …

The Swinger=the one who loves the brainstorming process and moves from one focus to another (we’ve got this one)

The Shaper=the one who loves the details, the organizing, and the gathering of supplies (we’ve got this one)

The Hanger=the one who sits back, doesn’t talk much, but sees the bigger picture (we’ve got this one)

The Thruster=the one who pushes to the deadline, the one who holds the others to remain focused and ‘get-r-done.’ (I AM this one!)

The creativity of our Creator amazes me everyday.  We each have a message.  As believers in Jesus, we have a message of hope, love, and forgiveness.  How we deliver that message has been given to us as a gift from the Creator in our personality.  Being our best selves and communicating in a way that uses our best gifts can give momentum to the message.  Name and claim the gifts and language God has poured out upon you.  I know that I feel alot better now that everyone knows that I know what my language is.  And I am grateful for every team that has allowed me to play.

“You are the guardian of your message…You don’t need to find the light.  You ARE the light.  When you let your personality shine, you can light up the world.” – from How The World Sees You by Sally Hogshead

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Awake at Oh-dark-thirty

The Lord’s been waking me between 3 and 4 every morning for the last several weeks. Even on vacation. It must be the Lord because I cherish a good night’s sleep and consider na4ampping one of my favorite spiritual disciplines.

Getting back to sleep is hard for me when the brain kicks in, so I’ve been praying…

  • for the Moms who didn’t get a full night’s sleep last night either because their little one is sick, is nursing, or just left for college…our God is a Father with a Mother’s heart. He gets it.
  • for the friend who is undergoing treatment; who has read all the scary stuff on the internet yet chooses to read the bible and funny books instead…that the only hole her mind goes into is the pothole in the parking lot on her way to a Nutella milkshake.  I pray she’ll have the funniest nurses on the planet and affectionate doctors because she’s going through something that a hug just might be the best medicine of the day.
  • for the friend who is ‘between the rains,’ where life and direction is dry, aimless, seemingly purposeless…and I pray she’ll remember the promises offered at her baptism, through her calling.  I pray her work towards wholeness will be fruitful, so she will find her identity in His restoration and redemption and not her brokenness.
  • for the Mama who has begged the Lord for a cure to work in her baby girl, but now just begs…be SO present Lord.
  • for more folks to come to the upcoming training event we’ve been advocating for for the last 8-9 years to provide excellent resources and experiences and friends-in-the-Lord to those who answered the call into service to minister with children in the locaPsalm63l church in the North Georgia Conference…and I pray that more than three will come.  But if only three come, I pray we will be faithful to pour into them with all the hope and energy as if 100 come.
  • for a children’s ministry colleague who continues to look for work in professional ministry because of all the places to cut expenses, her previous church chose the ministry to children…Did she hear you right, Lord?  What can she do in the meantime?  Can she find meaning and provision?  Let her count the moments instead of the days.
  • for my grandchildren to live closer…just sayin’.
  • for every machine in my office to work today…not like yesterday.
  • for His voice to be clear and like a loud, flashing siren when my children, my hubby, or I get even close to stepping over the line of what is right in His eyes.
  • for forgiveness for passing judgement…even in my head.
  • to be fully present when a heart is before me.

What do you pray for when He wakes you early…really early?

“O God, you are MY God, earnestly (early in the morning) I seek you…On my bed, I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” Psalm 63:1, 6


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Ch-Ch-Changes in Seasons

Last year, our long-time-serving Church Administrator and Financial Secretary retired to a life of traveling, fun, and love. The position was 3/4 time and the search began immediately for her replacement. After 8 months, the right fit was not happening.

change-wordleI had been ‘working’ on a whole host of things that included Children’s Ministry co-rep for our denomination’s conference and Discipleship Team, speaking and training around the country, coordinating two networking groups, writing, reading, taking and leading bible study, all important and wonderful mostly-volunteer-work that mattered. But now that we are true empty nesters with grandbabies that live way too far away, we wanted to improve the family balance sheet in preparation for ‘later.’  I had been working ‘part time’ since our little ones were little ones.

calculatorThe other consideration was that although our finances were secure, like most Americans, we were probably one medical procedure away from “OH NO!”  Like Dave Ramsey says, “We didn’t have an expense problem, we had an income problem.”  The planning freaks that we are, we started praying about it, waiting in anxious expectation for God to answer those prayers.

Sitting BankingWordCloudon the back porch with Mr. Bob after an amazing retreat weekend surrounded by the greatest servants on the planet, he suggested I apply for the Church Administrator and Financial Secretary job…..wait for it…in addition to serving as the Director of Children’s Ministry.  I worked my way through college by running the customer service desk at the local A&P grocery store and as a bank teller.  Before going into ministry and raising our family, I was an Assistant Vice President of Investments at a huge clearing house bank in south Louisiana.  I fully understood debits, credits, deposits, expenses, assets, and numbers.

Not one to leave any stone unturned, we put together a proposal to submit to the Staff Parish Relations Committee.  I asked for prayer from a couple of friends who serve on my personal board of directors.

ILOveVBSThe SPR Committee accepted our proposal and I started both positions…wait for it… the week before Vacation Bible School.

I’ve been at the full time position since June 15th.  I’ve had to learn a few new things like the church ledger system, ACS, and the proper protocal for a whole host of situations.  But I didn’t have to learn the faces, the hearts, the storage cabinets, the building, the dna of a new organization.  I love the folks who call this church ‘home’ and I am committed to the staff who serve here.  We already know each other.  I did have to adjust my schedule to be ‘in the office’ Sunday through Thursday, but the blessings have been profound.  I resigned a few of thOfficeHoursClipArt_0e organizations where I was volunteering and reset some time priorities to make it work. SPR agreed to let me continue my speaking engagements and we have precious volunteers to cover the office when I am out.

My greatest challenge: I have to adjust my ‘girlfriend-in-the-Lord’ time and bible study may be for a party of one until I get my schedule to operate most efficiently.  I chose the audio cds for the study I just started so I can continue to use the commute time even when I’ve finished the study.  I’ll be making more phone calls, writing more notes, having afternoon tea instead of lunch, and really guarding my Mr. Bob time on Saturdays since it’s our only day off together.  Priorities.

God answers our prayers that continue to put Him first.  Everything is for a season and a reason.  We didn’t want a season to just happen for us, but rather we chose to be intentional about beginning a new season. We covered it in prayer and left no stone unturned, no opportunity was labeled with “I don’t think so,” or “I can’t.”  This is my new season.  What does your new season hold?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


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When the Game Stands Tall: Movie Review

Football season is my favorite season of the year. If you call my cellphone, you’ll hear the Louisiana State University Fight Song as you wait for me to answer it. I have friends, faithful to other college football teams, who accuse me of lingering before   answering jStandsTall4ust so the caller has to hear the tunes of my alma mater. So when I was invited to attend a preview of the upcoming Affirm Films movie, When the Game Stands Tall, to use the words of a football coach of fellow SEC team Auburn, I was “all in.”

The movie is based on the true story of Coach Bob Ladouceur who led the football team of De La Salle High School located in northern California to the most wins in history. I was thrilled to see Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ and TV’s Person of Interest) plays the coach, Laura Dern plays his wife, and Michael Chiklis plays his coaching partner of more than 30 years.

Although the movie is not a ‘faith-based’ movie, it is about how the faith of these young men and the ones who lead them are challenged and held accountable to give their perfect effort.  Their perfect effort in practice, on the field, and especially in life.  AND how they are better together.

StandsTall3The movie is written well to include the remarkable moments in the lives of the players and their families.  They walk onto the field to play, holding hands, two by two to show their love for one another…and wig out the opposing team.  The players are given opportunities to share what’s going on in their lives and how they pledge to support the team in all they are with great transparency the evening before the games.  They share the challenges and goals each player has set for himself, written on an index card, and hands the index card to another player, to be read aloud, and for accountability.  These scenes offer great examples of healthy small group.

Although all the game scenes rock this southern gal’s world with fantastic photography and sound, my favorite part of the film is when the coach takes the team StandsTall1to spend the day at the local VA hospital.  When a football player paces a veteran running on a treadmill with prosthetic legs, the energy in the theater is palpable.  I could hear the audience around me shifting in their seats to lean forward.  When a football player gives a wounded warrior a bath and the most egotistical of the players has a run-in with a urine bag, the laughter is big and real.

With my limited vocabulary, I think the movie was great.   I really enjoyed it.  I’ll be talking about it when it comes to theaters on August 22nd.  I’ll be telling Mamas and Dads to take their kids.  I’ll be throwing some footballs in our CLUB345 to share that it’s a great movie to see.  And I’ll be hanging up some posters on a few bulletin boards throStandsTall2ughout the church to promote this really good family movie.  It’s clean, courageous, inspiring, and a great film for teams, youth groups, teachers, coaches, parents, tweeners, everyone.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel proud and there’s never a dull moment. 

If you really pay attention to the coaching team along the sidelines, you’ll see cameo appearances of the ‘real’ Coach Lad.  There were even a couple of cameos of LSU’s head coach, Les Miles, in the opening game scenes.  I was downright giddy!

“Winning is just a way of keeping score for the days when opportunity and perfect effort meet. …..Winning a lot of football games is doable.  Teaching kids there’s more to life?  That’s hard.“- Coach Bob Lad, from the movie When the Game Stands Tall.


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My Favorite Things About VBS 2014

I love Vacation Bible SchoVBS2014Lol. I look forward to it every year. I’ve served in VBS where the kids totaled 400. I’ve served in VBS where the kids totaled 35. Each year takes on new space in my head and heart. This year is no different. These are a few of my favorite things about VBS 2014, and in no particular order:

1. Watching my rising 6th graders take on leadership roles they’ve been chomping at the bit to do since last year.  If I’ve done my job well over the last severVBS2014Jal years, they know where everything is in the storage closets because I’ve sent them there often enough to help gather supplies.

2. Listening to the storytellers, our most energetic teachers, share the intensity of each day’s ‘moments.’

VBS2014D3.  Watching our youth make sure that even the smallest of kids gets to hit the big ball in beach ball volleyball.

4.  Meeting a young Mama who is dropping off her preschooler while holding an infant on her hip…fearful of leaving her little man for the first time, but knowing he is safe with us.

VBS2014M5.  Watching two youth guys lead a group of ten 3rd grade boys with grace, kindness, and joy.

6.  The beach party at the end of the week with hot dogs (halved hot dogs for the VBS2014Pkids so to avoid waste) and an inflatable, dual water slide AFTER the kids sang the VBS songs with motions and fun.  Bumping elbows with old friends and watching old friends meet new ones to welcome new families into the mix.

7.  Sharing resources with other area Atlanta churches.

8.  A gifted dad who built two, huge wooden lifeguard stands that were shared with another church.

VBS2014N9.  Lunch at the local Mexican restaurant with all our youth volunteers on Wednesday after VBS.

10.  Hearing the squeals of delight as Daddies played with their kids on the waterslide at the Friday night beach party.

VBS2014F11.  Four young boys who publicly decided to follow Jesus.  Sharing Jesus is why we offer Vacation Bible School….and it’s why our team does what it does every year.

12.  We chose a VBS that shared Jesus every single day of the week…Jesus came as a baby on day one and is coming back on day five.  You’d think this would be a given, yet it is not.  Sharing Jesus is why we offer VBS…he can’t be talked about only on decision day.  I look for a curriculum that will equip our volunteers to share Jesus.  If we can learn to do it at VBS, we’ll be more likely to do it in our daily lives.

13.  WatchingVBS2014I the multiple sets of grandparents who not only volunteered in very visible areas, but they brought their grandkids every single day.  These were the Christian Soldiers of the week for me.  By the end of the week, I could tell they were exhausted, but their faithfulness to serving the Lord AND having their grandchildren see it, were legacies of faith that could only be accomplished with being sold out Jesus and what was being shared every single day.

VBS2014A14.  The donation fish cut outs that were put out and all taken on one Sunday tells me of the commitment my church makes to being sure we do our part well….I think it’s because almost everyone in my church can share that VBS is a part of their faith journey.  They get it!

A colleague’s husband used the phrase, “VBS is like revival for VBS2014Hkids.”  I love that perspective.  Everyone needs a revival every now and then:  the kidsVBS2014B and the volunteers.  Revival brings new messages and we do things differently for a short period of time than what we usually do on Sundays:  snack, the best storytelling, turn on the water hose, decorate like crazy, and dress the part.

Vacation Bible School is revival, and not just for kids…it’s revival for me aVBS2014Gnd all the others, youth and adults.  We are reminded in song, experience, energy, and every learning style of how God loves us and how loving Him binds the body of Christ in energy, service, and gifts.

I will be getting together with my colleagues from other local churches at our monthly networking group to discuss what we will do next year in just a few short weeks.  It’s a time when we share celebrations and hilarious memories.  It’s revival and we’re better doing it together.

God is love.  1 John 4:8

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Smart Money, Smart Kids- A Book Review

Moving to New England in November of 1992 when Baby Girl and #1 Son were preschoolers made for a very long winter for this south Louisiana gal. I joined Crossings Book Club to pass the time and was sent my first book…not the one I ordered. They were gracious and told me to keep the first book and they’d send out the correct one the next day. The wrong book changed our lives and the trajectory of our family’s future.

financialpeacebookIt was Dave Ramsey’s ‘Financial Peace.’

Many years later we took ‘Financial Peace University’ at church. A few years after that it was offered to the youth and we paid our kids to go. Yes, you read that right. We paid them to go. We paid them to arrive early, stay late, participate in the conversation, attend every class, and do it with a joyful heart. It has turned out to be a great investment.  Our kids are so against debt, so for saving, and so for tithing as adults that we can all sleep well at night.

Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze, have authored a new book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, specifically to offer tools and ideas to parents of how to raise children into becoming adults with peace in their finances. When we taught our kids about finances, it was a lot like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks. After reading the book, it looks like we did OK.smartmoney_300X300

The meat comes at page 64.

  • They write brutally truthful about the dangers of Student Loans.  I think this college generation is shackled from doing what God has called them to do because of Student Loans.
  • They share that saving for our retirement should be just as, if not more important, than saving for their education at a young age. Kids should have a dog in the hunt when it comes to financing their college lives.
  • They share that 3-6 year olds can learn that money comes from work when they earn commissions (not allowances).
  • They share that a clear jar is good enough to save their commission money until littmoneyjarle darlin’ is 6 years old.  Commissions are paid weekly.
  • They share that the envelope system of GIVE, SAVE (which is really ‘just a bigger, slower Spend envelope’), SPEND can be started at 6 years old and used until they turn 13.  At 6, they no longer need Dad’s quarter to drop in the offering plate, but the contents of their own GIVE envelope.  A $5 commission paid in one dollar bills are budgeted with $1 in give, $2 in save, $2 in spend.  John D. Rockefeller once said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.”
  • They share that although online giving may be more convenient for the church and the household, ordering checks to write the family’s tithe and letting your kids see you give each week (or pay period) when the offering plate is passed is a ‘powerful visual statement.’ Christian giving is regular, biblical, and part of who we are as a family.
  • They share how to choose a college.  This is awesome information for parents of tweeners and teens and worth the price of the book alone.
  • They share at 14 years old, kids can begin their own businesses. #1 Son had a lawn business called “Mow, Blow, and Go.” Baby Girl baby sat. Ramsey/Cruze give their own examples and ideas for small businesses for teens.  They teach that teens can write a budget and graduate from an envelope system into a real checking account and how to pull that off for without scaring the daylights out of the parents.

Financial-Peace-UniversityI think my favorite line comes at the end of the “Contentment” chapter: “With every act of giving, your child is taking a stand against discontentment. It’s like he’s saying, ‘I not only have enough for me, but I have enough to share with you.’ That’s fertile ground for contentment.”


Smart Money, Smart Kids is an easy, quick read.  There are teen budget forms in the back and scripture references throughout.  I would suggest this book to every parent of kids of every age….especially those with teens, because it’s not too late.  And I am praying that a couple in my church will step up to lead a Sunday School class this fall for parents to take one chapter at a time each week, if for no other reason that to get me to shut up about the power of the tools in this book, because we are better together.  Teaching our kids about God’s way of viewing money can only serve to be a great blessing to our families and our families of faith.

“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”  Nehemiah 6:3

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