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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Heaven Is For Real Late Night

Love it when a good book becomes a family movie. Heaven Is For Real opened in theaterHeaven is for Reals across the county the Wednesday of Holy Week. After previewing the movie, I knew it’d make a great ‘late night’ event for our CLUB345 (3-5th graders) and our youth. And I wanted the ‘late night’ to be on Good Friday. And I wanted to share it with another local church, because we are better together.

We have a local Movie Tavern within walking distance who would be showing it. They typicHeaven7ally have private parties on Sundays and during the week, but I was set on Good Friday. I set up a free EventBrite registration event that closed the week before and then waited until the Movie Tavern set up their online registration for our night.  We registered 46 for the movie in the maximum blocks of 6.  We registered for every seat except the front 2 rows for the 6:30pm showing and met in the parking lot at 5:45pm.

We also have a cemetery on our church grounds. Our partnering church came early to enjoy a cemetery scavenger hunt in the rain, then we headed to the theater to meetHeaven4 up with the rest of our students and families.

After watching the 6:30pm showing, we returned to the church to process out loud what we’d seen. We offered water bottles to drink upon our return to the church and had a bible study on Heaven.  The original plan was to walk back, but the rain was pretty fierce.

SeparaHeaven1ting the students into pairs and threes, we answered the following questions with the scripture references and they answered by preparing a poster of what they discovered. We then had a poster party to answer our questions after 30 minutes.

On Sunday, April 17, 2005, I presented this lesson to our Princess Sunday School class (4th-6th grade girls) at my home church. It was my first Sunday back since my Daddy had passed away on April 1, 2005. This helped me begin to heal and it helped the girls know how to help me in my grief as we answered what my Daddy was doing that day in Heaven.

Revelation 2Heaven31:25/22:5 day?night?
John 14:2 Is there room for me?
Romans 8:23/ 2 Corinthians 5:2-3 …look like?
Revelation 7:9 …look like?
1 Corinthians 15:42,44 …what’s there?
Isaiah 29:18 … be like?
Isaiah 25:6 …eat?
Revelation 3:5, 7:9 …wear?
Isaiah 11:6-7 …animals?
Psalm 90:4 …time?
Revelation 5:11 …angels?
Revelation 4:6 …beach?
Revelation 22:2 …plants?
Revelation 22:1 …rivers?
Revelation Heaven621:19-20 …jewelry?
Revelation 21:4 …no more?
Revelation 21:21 …streets?
1 Corinthians 13:12 …questions?
Luke 23:43 …how long to get there?
Psalm 33:13-14 … where?
John 14:1-3 …who takes me?
John 14:6 …how?
John 5:24 …how can I be sure?

We respondeHeaven5d in worship art with a door-sized painting (purchased uncut wooden door from Home Dept for $24 and it was primed before the evening activities.)

Since it was Good Friday, we served our church by moving chairs to a holding area to make it easier for our volunteers to set up the Easter Sunrise service, as well.

“ThereHeaven2 are some things God has kept secret. But there are some things He has let us know. These things belong to us and our children forever.” Deuteronomy 29:29

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Bring Your Bible

When we swim on the swim team, we bring a towel. When we run for field day, we bring a water bottle. When we go to school, we bring our backpack. When we go to Be-Preparedart camp, we are sure to wear something that can get messed up. These are all things we must have to be successful in what we’ve chosen to do. We want to be ready. We want to be equipped. We want to be prepared.

Bringing your Bible to church is exactly the same! Research tells us that we learn 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, but  65% of what we hear AND see.

When we come to church without our bibles, we come ready to only hear. We are coming prepared to walk away with only 20% of what is shared. BuBringYourBiblet when we come to church with our bibles, ready to hear AND to see what is being read, we plan to walk away with so much more.

We are dealing with eternal things, life lessons, relationship tools, and a greater understanding of who God is and who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ when we bring our bibles to church.  We engage in a worship service ceremony each fall and give bibles to all our 1st graders (they are just learning to read, so we give them Early Reader’s Bibles), all our 3rd graders (they get a red-letter NIV to use at CLUB345,) and all our 6th graders (they get a study bible to use and learn going through Confirmation.)  Having access or getting bibles is not the issue….it’s bringing it, which is reflective of our using it…or not.

biblejokescountdownSD_00813-680x450We join swim team to be a great swimmer. We run on field day to win the prize. We go to school to learn to be great citizens and learners. We go to art camp to get our greatest creativity on. When we come to church with our bibles, we come ready and prepared to be a great disciple of Jesus Christ. Let’s be great together!

“Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”  Job 34:4

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Preschool Kids Practicing the Gift of Helps

Children learn sharing and compassion when they share with others they do not see. When children hear about people who are hurting or lost or sad, they want to do something about it. We get the chance to help them learn that ‘helping others’ is a very good thing.

In a prevWesley Chapel VBS 2012 Completed-6ious preschool, children were invited to bring a canned good as an ‘offering’ to our weekly chapel time which we donated to a local food pantry. In others, children made cards for the local nursing home, brought items for hygiene kits, sponsored a Compassion International Child, and collected items for Thanksgiving boxes and Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.

Serving and helping others can be experienced when children race through the sanctuary with socks on their hands dusting the pews during S week, collecting leftover Halloween candy to be sent to our troops serving overseas and collecting socks and coats for local charities during the coldest months.

Never underestimate nor squelch the desire of a little person to reach out when he or she hears of a need. It’s a healthy way to respond to the hurts and needy of our communiWesley Chapel VBS 2012 Completed-38ties. And if we can offer many opportunities to our little people to go with their hearts and respond in a tangible way, we and the world will be the better for it.

We’ve filled plastic eggs with change during the season of Lent as we want to “Make A Change In the World This Easter” and donated the money to build an indoor bathroom for a school in Africa.  What kid doesn’t understand the need for a bathroom at school?  This year, we’re using a Lenten Penny Calendar to collect $$ to donate to the Brighter Future Children Rescue Center in Liberia, Africa.  We wrap plastic silverware in napkins with scriptures and words of encouragement for the local shelter, and trail mixes to a local breakfast station for the homeless.  Little people can make a huge difference in the world, one idea at a time.

I serve on tSmiles13he Executive Board of the Georgia Preschool Association as the Service Project Coordinator.  For the last two Annual Conferences, we’ve invited the membership to bring to the conference new or slightly used preschool-level books to be donated to ForeverFed, Inc.  ForeverFed has been helping to break the cycle of illiteracy in specific communities in Cherokee County, Georgia, by establishing mobile reading clubs for preschoolers and their non-English-speaking/reading mothers.   We know that illiteracy is passed along from parents who can not read or write and a mother’s level of literacy directly affects the literacy of their children. Tell one child that another has no books, and that child wants to do something about it.  Books

I’d love to hear how you are giving your preschoolers an opportunity to respond to the needs of your community. Email me at dedereilly@comcast.net and I’ll share your ideas here as well as in the next Georgia Preschool Association newsletter.

“Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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Finding Rhythm in Children’s Ministry

Brandon Cox, Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas and editor for Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox, put out a blog last year about “How to Build Rhythm Into Your Church”. I read it twice when it first came out. Then I printed it.  I have read it over and over since then. I have gone to it at the begiBulletinBoardnning of every planning season:  January for Summer, April for Fall, August for January.  The article speaks to the whole church, but it can relate specifically to finding a rhythm in Children’s Ministry.

When I was hired full time, it was much easier to just throw myself into all that we could offer: typical Sunday and midweek programming and special events just about every month, sometimes every other week. Trying new things happened often.  But hired part-time requires a rhythm.

When church leadership sets a position as Sunday only, 1/4 time, 1/3 time, or 3/4 time, there are some expectations they have determined.  One expectation being that this person can not do everything the larger church down the street can do.  Setting priorities offers a realistic rhythm.

Pastor Cox remarks that “balance is an elusive target” because balance is based on a subjectChildrens-Ministryive perspective: whoever you are asking. But a rhythm, being measurable, is much more manageable when the goal is healthy Children’s Ministry.

If we use the five purposes/goals of healthy Children’s Ministry, worship-growth-belonging-service-share/testimony, and the entire calendar year as the canvas, finding a rhythm works to develop a filter.

He first suggests focusing on 5-6 peak moments in the year. That’s for a full-time KidMin Director. We know that for excellent regular programming, it takes an average of 2.5 hours for every 1 hour of programming. Any special event or peak moment requires a whole lot more. Think VBS: 4-5 months+whole lot of lay servants+$$=10 – 15 hours of programming.  That may explain why so many churches are stepping away from offering a week of VBS and looking for more bang for their buck.  Perhaps offering a summer VBS program over childrens-ministry-this-weeka summer of Sundays and promoting the daylights out of it.

Even part time (half-time = 20 hour) KidMin Directors can effectively and realistically take on weekly Sunday am, Sunday pm OR Wednesday/Midweek pm, and 4-5 peak moments through the year, if you include Christmas and Easter. Then you are working on 1 peak moment quarterly and that is much more manageable.

Each year our Children’s Council writes on individual index cards everything involving ministry with children over the course of the year.  All traditions and even new things: Trunk-or-Treat, Sunday School, CLUB345, Children’s Christmas program, etc.  As a team, they then determine what 4 items are the most important:  asking, “If we did nothing but these 4 things next year, what would they be?”  Once we haggle…er, decide which 4 (which takes a bit of time), we then choose 2 more (which takes no time, because the discussions childrens ministryhave already taken place.)  As a Council, we have now chosen what we will throw ourselves into.  Where and when will we be ‘all in’, for the next year.  Of course, other special events take place over the course of the year, but there must be two champions for those special events where I can serve as the resource, cheerleader, and/or promoter for those things.  But me ‘taking the point’ on them has now been decided by the Children’s Council to not be a priority for me this next year.

So where will you throw your resources, your servants, your finances, your space, your over-the-top-best?

“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23

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When Ministry Hurts

In preparation for an upcoming workshop, I had to read through some documents and files that were painful. Emails from one organization, letters from another (before emails). In the mix were also letters of apology, notes of encouragement, and timelines. The stroll down those memory lanes stirred up some grief.

The cuts from stained glass go deep and wide. They typically come out of nowhere.

Those years ostained_glass_windowf reading Beth Moore’s “Why Godly People Do Ungodly Things” and Francis Frangipane’s, “The Three Battlegrounds” gave me vocabulary for my experiences. It did not make the hurt any less deep nor less memorable.

I relied on God every single day, every single night, every single conversation, every single relationship, and knew He was with me every step of the way. But the hurt still came.

So this is what I did….

1. I read….ALOT. Books like Ronald Richardson’s “Creating A Healthier Church,” Andy Stanley’s “It Came From Within,” and Namie & Namie’s “The Bully at Work.” 3Battegrounds

2. I did lunch…ALOT.  I stayed in contact with my networking groups, Emmaus reunion group, Christian Educators Fellowship (now Christians Engaged in Faith Formation) and my personal board of directors (thanks, Jim Collins’ “Good To Great.”) I joined them for lunch, tea, and any continuing education I could include, even when all I really wanted to do was stay in bed.  I do admit, I prayed that no one would ask me anything.  Most knew.  They honored my space.

3. I read Psalm 119 outloud three times a day.

4. I worshiped…ALOT.  I found a local church which had services either early in the wee hours of Sunday morning before I had to report in, or services after my responsibilities were over, or on Saturday evening.  I lifted my hands and I sang through the tears that seemed to flow and flow and flow.  why-1.jpeg

5.  I cried…ALOT.  I cried out to the LORD.  The first months were “why?”  The following months were “Show me Your glory in this.”

6.  I prayed…ALOT.  I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me sin in this.” I prayed that I would not feel the need to spend whatever energies I had left defending false allegations and blame that were not mine to take.  It was overwhelming to think how many people I’d have to go to to say, “That’s not right…That’s not the truth…That’s not the whole story.”  Instead, I carried it…straight to Jesus.  In my prayers, I asked Him to help me clarify what battles were His and which battles were mine.  He kept reminding me that Jesus spoke the truth and did not argue.

WhyGodlyPeople7.  I took bible study at another local church…I looked on websites and registered for a bible study that offered no childcare to ensure I’d be with saints.  Saints with floppy bibles from years of use.  Women of faith who didn’t know who I was, yet gave me visual examples of God’s overcomers to this overwhelmed and broken woman.  Saints who were ok with silence in a classroom and laughter through tears.  This is why it’s important to communicate bible studies online.  You never know when your organization might be the hope of someone else.

8. I left…both times.  I submitted to my authority at the first place, yet it threatened the current staff, so I was hung out to dry.  I feared for my physical and emotional harm in the second place.  After hitting ‘SEND’ on an email to one on my personal board of directors at 3am asking, “Is God being quiet for me to continue to stay in this?  Is serving in the local church supposed to be this hard? Or has He been speaking and I’m just stupid?”, it was healthier for me to accept the latter.  I worked on becoming ‘whole’ again, so the next organization wouldn’t be hiring a broken, fearful servant, but one with a great history of redemption.

9.  I persevered!  Through a long season of hurt and constant wounding.  I stained glass windowquestioned my call to professional ministry.  I questioned any value I could bring to the table.  But I was surrounded by God’s Word and His people who spoke truth into my life, my mind, and my heart.  I practiced the spiritual disciplines of old with fervor.

And God sifted the “people pleaser” out of me in the process.  My only fear now is that I will disappoint my Lord.  There is such a sense of urgency in my soul now that burns hot every minute of every day. If I’m awake, I’m counting on Him, and He’s counting on me.  If I get it wrong, I want to be quick to apologize.  He honors my efforts and loves me anyway.

In the process, He has placed me in positions of influence to be the voice of others who were called into professional ministry, but maybe not seminary.  I speak for their hopes, dreams, plans, fears and insecurities.  I get to be the advocate for the bi-vocational children’s director, the Sunday-only lay-staff member, the 1/4 time, 1/2 time, 3/4 time, full time and the super volunteer that has no idea God has called him/her into professional ministry with children.  And I pour out that hurt like a drink offering unto my Lord.

You shine brighter when I’m broken.” – McClurg Brothers’ ‘Shine On’

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.” Psalm 119:132

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