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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Movies and Ministry

My husband claims that I can name a movie title under 5 seconds or even with a passing glance walking through the living room. I love the movies. Tuesday nights are “Stimulus Tuesdays” at the local theater, so I invite my new daughter-in-law often and head to the cheap show when finances and time permit. It has movie_nightbeen particularly wonderful that more and more movies are coming out with biblical topics.

I had the chance to see a pre-screening of Courageous, Facing the Giants, The Lost Medallion, even The Passion of the Christ. Just last week I was invited to a pre-screening to see Heaven Is For Real. It comes out across the country on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Our Tweener Saints Book Club chose the book for this month’s reading. My kids are already talking about it. The Youth Director and I are planning to have a Good Friday event for 3rd graders and higher to watch the movie, walk back to the church, and dive into the scriptures as a followup.

10CommandmentsTheMovieIt thrills me to hear the conversations that get started as a result of these movies.    I can’t make movies.  I can’t publish books.  I can’t write screenplays.  But I can support anything that encourages conversations about the scriptures.  Our family watches  The 10 Commandments every Palm Sunday and each year I take a day (it takes me that long to get through it) during Lent to watch The Passion of the Christ.

After a fellow Christian blogger posted his thoughts about a pre-screening of a similar movie this week, some of his blog followers started tearing the movie apart.  It broke my heart.  I will not slam those who have access to such influence because their interpretation of the Holy Writ may be difLostMedallionferent than mine.  I recall reading multiple negative comments from my own Christian community about The Bible mini-series.  Frankly, I kinda liked the idea that the angels that came to deal with Sodom and Gommorah in the mini-series looked like ninjas.  I won’t publicly criticize the efforts of those who offer me and others the opportunity to pull out our Bibles and have meaningful discussion because the biblical topic wasn’t dealt with “completely,” or over a character’s costume, or…or…whatever.

I will spend my money to show my support so that more and more movies come out relating to Jesus.  And I will bring my kids out to go instead of waiting until it comes out on Heaven is for Realdvd.  This is a perfect way to grow their discernment muscles.  I will act and speak with joy that the testimony of our Christian community can be one of unity.  It breaks my heart when we turn on one another.  What kind of testimony is that to the lost and the hurting?  Lord, please remove any critical spirit in me.

In James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful Community, he writes, “It is misguided to think that we Christians are always going to agree on every issue.  Accepting our differences is imperative, but they are not grounds for division.  The true narrative, I believe, goes something like this:  If you do not look, act, worship, or believe as I do, but your heart beats in love for Jesus, then regardless of our differences, we can and must have fellowship with one anothNoahMovie2014er.”  I would add that because a movie is not “spot on,” doesn’t mean I have to place it in the same bin as those that have nothing at all to do with Jesus or biblical topics.  It’s hard enough to find entertainment that is clean.  Need it be biblically perfect?  I don’t think so.  I am no bible scholar, only a satisfied customer of the scriptures.

There are other movies coming out that I want to see with my kids and my family of faith:  Noah with Russell Crowe, Son of God, and Mom’s Night Out.  And I hope they keep on coming.

“In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” – Saint Augustine

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Children’s Pastor’s Conference 2014

It’s been almost a month since I and several of my colleagues attended CPC East in Orlando. There are still 3 orange bags, 2 boxes, and 3 tables (yes, furniture) that are along the wall in our kitchen filled with goodies that were shared, won, gifted, or gleaned; all resources to further our cause to minister with children.

CPC2014BWe go down a day or so early to catch up with friends in the Lord and glean from one another our challenges, and celebrations over the last year. We laugh, we take notes from each other, and we eat. This year we even chose to have afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian. We spoke of the power of modeling level 5 leadership, purchasing science materials from Steve Spangler, and using Blessing Balm (chapstick) on the back of a child’s hand to offer a weekly blessing at the end of class.

Pre-Conference focused on self-care with Beth Guckenberger, author of Reckless Faith. My personal summary: God has an adventure for me and my kids, and if I can extract the precious from the worthless, then I can be His spokesperson. (Jeremiah 15:19) There is nothing I can do that can take me out of the game; no story He can’t redeem, and He does make all things new. Moses was 80+ CPC2014Dyears old when he walked up and down a 6,000 ft mountain repeatedly to bring others to the summit. The whole bible is filled with COME and GO.  We come to the Lord, but then forget to go back into the chaos to escort others into the Kingdom.  We forget that God has more than just my chapter in His hands.

These are my personal summaries of CPC 2014:

I can still lead when I am limping.  Just as in the story of the 10 lepers, all were healed.  Only one came back.  Only one was thankful.  That one was made whole. – Harvey Carey

Story is king.  If you work with kids, you have to tell a good story with a character changing into something better (redemption.) - Matthew Luhn

CPC2014CJoseph embodies the young person we want our kids to be.  There is no greater challenge for kids and adults than to decide where wisdom comes from.  It comes from God (2 Corinthians 5:17.) Ministry with children includes a focus on respect, wisdom, and grace.  Grace is the greatest social skill we can teach little people. - Larry Fowler

Have I built in space in our teaching schedule to celebrate? – Dawn Heckert

CPC2014AWhen grace becomes touchable it becomes costly.  An abstract grace has that new car smell.  Touchable grace smells like dirty diapers and vomit.  Every orphan’s story begins with a tragedy. – Jedd Medefind

Why network and collaborate with others?  Even on my worst day, I could be someone’s best hope. – Craig Johnson

There are many who serve children in the world in ministry who have nothing but a call on their lives.  Advancing Native Missions helps to filter those global missions that are safe and legit. – Bo Barredo, Alex Mitala, Joji Barredo.  The UMC community has ministry around the world and if it’s water scarcity, hunger, or orphanages that tweek our hearts, we can go to Advance UMC.com to find a place and a people to support in partnership with the United Methodist Church.

CPC2014EThe rest of my notes include: What 10 scriptures do I want my kids to know before they go to youth?; I’m paying WAY too much for Sunday School curriculum; great large group games and illusions (magic tricks) to practice for object lessons; some local scarcity opportunities to take my kids to this summer as day trips; and a recipe for a fabulous Broccoli Cheese Cornbread.

Children’s Pastor’s Conference 2015 is in Chattanooga, TN.  The purchase of my discounted ticket was approved by text.  And I am so grateful.  Attending this conference is like drinking from a fire hose, so I made sure to send a Mickey Mouse postcard to my Staff-Parish Relations Committee thanking them for investing in me and our ministry with children.  I hope you’ll join us next year!

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. – Proverbs 1:5

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Bless My House in 2014

We typically have small numbers during the Sunday School hour the last Sunday of the year. I also wanted to give our regular, faithful Sunday School leader servants some precious time off. Upon deciding to gather all the ages together, even inviting the youth, we made a way to claim our homes for Jesus in 2014.

Arrival Activity: Draw a picture of your house; Make a model of your house with playdoh or clay.  (Students are greeted in their regular classroom spaces to make it easier to receive guests and they move to a larger space after 10 minutes.)

We talked about Jesus’ homes (heaven, stable, cave, heaven) and his beds (manger). We shared about our homes and our beds. We talked about our favorite rooms in our houses. We talked about what we do in each room.

BlessHouseCrossFrontWhen we believe that Jesus is a gift from God who died for the sins of the whole world, God sends a helper to us, the Holy Spirit, to live inside of us to show us the way to please God and share God’s love to help others.  WE are the house of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says one more important thing about houses. It says that Jesus is preparing a house for each one of us is Heaven! He says that one day, we can all live forever with Him there in that perfect, wonderful place! (Luke 1:31-33; John 6:38-40; John 14:1-3)

ASK: Where do you live? (My house) Where in your house do you spend the most time? What is your favorite room in the house?

BlessHouseCrossBackIn the book of Deuteronomy 6:5, God directed His people (are we also God’s people?, so can this apply to us?) He said…
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at HOME and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Where do you SIT AT HOME?
Where do you WALK ALONG THE ROAD?
Where do you LIE DOWN?
When do you GET UP?

BlessHouseSuppliesWe brainstorm some creative ways to bless our homes using our sight (hang artwork that honors God), sounds (speak prayers out loud – there is power in the spoken word), touch (physically lay hands on the walls, chairs, carpeting, etc.), smell (light a scented candle or bring an open orange).

Activity:  Wrap crosses with wire and beads to be artwork to hang in your home that honors God.

Personal Testimony:  I would pray through my kid’s rooms often when they were growing up, especially in middle school.  When we purchased a new home, my Emmaus Reunion group came to pray through the house from my son’s bedroom (he asked if it could be the starting place) out to our mailbox on the street.  When #1 Son moved into his new place after graduation from college, he asked if I’d come to pray through it, as well.

BlessHousePamphletWe prepared a pamphlet with short prayers that apply to each room of the house and we read some of those prayers together, out loud holding onto our crosses.  If anyone reading this blog would like an electronic copy of the prayers, email me at dedereilly@comcast.net and I’d be happy to share in a Word document.

One of the youth shared how she’d just gotten the acceptance letter she’d been waiting for from the college of her first choice.  She shared how she plans to pray through her home now and her dorm next fall.

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:17

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Grandma Bull’s Buttons

When the matriarch of the Bull family passed away in the 1990s, my cousins came upon some great discoveries. One was a chest-of-drawers with the top drawer filled with quarters, the second drawer filled with dimes, the third drawer with nickels, and the bottom drawer with buttons. I have no idea what happened to the top three drawers, but my Virginia cousins sent the buttons to me.

GrandmasButtonsDTeaching weekday preschool at my local church, buttons were a hot commodity and a great addition to my classroom. My cousins also sent to me a box of Sunday School pictures of Jesus that I treasure and hung on the walls in my classroom.

After many years in the weekday preschool classroom, I had to step out of teaching every day because of some medical issues with my vocal chords. I gave away most of my classroom supplies to help some new teachers and kept a few things for workshop visuals. But I was in a quandary of what to do with the buttons since I did not want to pack them away in the basement. I really wanted a way to enjoy them.

GrandmasButtonsCSo, discovering some wire among my craft supplies, I started to string them and made 18-24 inch strings of these beautiful buttons. A lot of them. And we hang them on our Christmas tree every year.

My Grandma Bull married late, had 5 children, and raised them all on a dairy farm, hence my LOVE for cheese. She wasted nothing. Before she would discard a shirt, blouse, or other piece of clothing, she’d snip the button off just in case she needed it. Over the course of all those years, she snipped buttons from her husband’s Merchant Marine uniforms, church dresses from two little girls who chased their precocious older brothers, and work shirts of her three sons to make future repairs.

GrandmasButtonsBI really have no idea who wore what, when, how, or where. But each year, as we hang this precious garland, I think of my Aunt Weegie, Uncle John, Aunt Mary Anna, Uncle Eddie, and my Daddy. I recall the stories they told about each other around the tables after meals. I remember the loud voices (we do loud extremely well), the competitions, and the laughter (if we talk loud, imagine the decibel level of the laughter). And I praise God for time, words, and the stories that have shaped my perspective, given me a history, and prepared me for connection.GrandmasButtonsA

In Playing for Keeps: What You Do This Week Matters, Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivey wrote, “Stories matter…they provide kids with the relational , cultural, and spiritual context to shape their perspectives about God, Faith, Values, and Life…Stories are just another one of God’s brilliant ideas to connect us to what really matters.”

Each Christmas, Grandma Bull’s buttons give me the energy and momentum annually to be sure I share family stories with my kids…the ones I gave birth to and the ones I serve.BullFarm

Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!  1 Chronicles 16:9

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The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus

There is a great used bookstore just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee named “McKays.” I learned about them when we needed to stock a new weekday preschool with developmentally appropriate books and the classic favorites of preschool teachers. We would make an annual pilgrimage exchanging our own “read that, give it back” boxes of used books.

A few years back, I picked up Walk the Talk’s Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus:  How To Get Big Things Done In YOUR Workshop All Year Long. The small paperback, published in 2003, was filled with some funny insights. I came across it just the other day and thought it seasonally appropriate.

IMG_0311If we can all agree that one of Santa’s biggest challenges is the dance between Santa the MANAGER and Santa the LEADER, we can understand the following practical strategies outlined with truth and humor.  My comments as it relates to local church leadership follow in italics.

Build a wonderful workshop:  Focus on your people as well as your purposeIn church world, it’s about building relationships.  The quickest way to build relationships is to share in experiences whether they be in mission, service, worship, special event help, sharing in the remarkable moments of life, or just working the room regularly with joy and encouragement.

Choose your reindeer wisely:  Hire tough so you can manage easilyI want the best for my kids.  Whether a Sunday School teacher, a permanent sub, a small group leader, a CLUB345 chef, even setting the altar shouldn’t be done by volunteers, but sold-out followers of Jesus in the local church.  And if the ones serving are not yet the best, we can give them the encouragement and tools to grow from where they are to be the best they can be.  

Make the list and check it twice:  Make the most of what you haveWe can whine thaChristmasBabySantahatt we don’t have enough time, money, volunteers, kids, material, equipment, talent, or expertise.  Or we can make the most of what we have.  Share your kids with other kids.  Share your resources with others who have resources who will share with you.  I don’t have to have everything to make everything available for ministry to children in my own house.  I DO have to build relationships with other children’s directors through networking.  We have a gym (we host the Winter Ball Invitational).  We have access to our sanctuary during Advent (we host Silent Night.)  A colleague has paid interns who’ll clean up anything (she hosts Messy Night).  A colleague has a beautiful stage area (she hosts a christian concert).  Another colleague can do anything in her huge fellowship hall (she hosts shared summer camps.)

Listen to the elves:  Walk awhile in their shoesChildren’s Ministry Directors are not supposed to do everything.  We are to equip and delegate.  But we can’t equip nor delegate if we don’t intentionally partner.  I know that my kid’s parents want the very best for their kids and will do anything to make it happen.  They just may do it differently than I do. I raised my kids in a different time.  (We finally purchased a computer in our house when Baby Girl was a sophomore in high school only because she was working on a project about the Vietnam War and according to our 1970 World Book Encyclopedias  the Vietnam War was still going on.)  Providing easy wins for parents is part of my job.  These parents are already harder on themselves that I could ever be.  I won’t be the one to join in the chorus of “you’re not doing enough.”  I will be their cheerleader and make them look great in their kid’s eyes.  I will provide a lot of resources and encouragement because I don’t know what’ll stick for each family.  But they will know that we’re in this together.

Get Beyond the Red Wagons:  Teach “The Business” of the businessSharing the why we do what we do is important and it is constant.  We can do alChristmasStoryTreel the things other churches do, but are we really aware of what we do best?  Then capitalize on THAT.  Then promote THAT.  Then talk about THAT.  The business of the local church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Period.  We can do a lot of other great things, but our marching order is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Have we done THAT?  Are we pre-planning for THAT in the context of what we do best? Do my folks know how and are they given opportunities to tell their story with Christ?

Share The Milk and Cookies:  Help them see the difference they makeThis goes beyond volunteer recognition, which is very important.  Sharing life with my families and fellow disciples is one the best parts of what I do.  But am I allowing them to share life with me?  I can invite them to networking lunch, women’s ministry retreat or dinner event, sit with them at church, tell the stories I hear, go shopping, invite them to a concert or play, share a night with other KidMin leaders, local and not so local trainings, or even gather together to attend the Amy Grant/Vince Gill Christmas concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. 

Find Out Whose Naughty and Nice:  Coach “the majority in the middle”It’s so easy to stroke the KidMin superstars, but it’s the majority in the middle who are the backbone of the workshop, er the local church.  When we started an extremely successful, free, academic tutoring ministry just a few short weeks ago, MEN stepped into Children’s Ministry like I never expected.  I confess I didn’t recruit them. They asked if they could play.  Leaders in their vocation and (who I thought were the) non-flammable faithful who attend bible study, Sunday school, and serve on church committees.  Building relationships with these folks by spending a year in the adult choir and at least one season a year in adult bible study, as well as working the room at special events and making myself available and approachable on Sunday mornings made for a very safe and easy opportunity for these guys to see me and say, “Hey, what if I…”

IMG_0280Be Good for Goodness Sake:  Set the exampleOne of the most pivotal questions asked by a wise pastor from the pulpit of this reformed pew sitter, “If everyone in the church was just like you, what kind of church would we be?”  Good grief!  I had some catching up to do.  I have counted on Christ.  He is also counting on me.  Setting the example of service, worship, belonging, community, healing, accountability, joy, teaching, telling, setting healthy boundaries, helping is a result of just how much work the Savior has done in me,  around me, and for me. Let me never forget from where He has brought me.  Let me never forget my salvation wasn’t just for me.


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Lessons from a Gingerbread Man

My “wilding-out” buddy, who also happens to be a Director of Children’s Ministry, gave me some of the biggest Gingerbread Men I’ve ever seen from B.J.s. And wanting to do something special for all the Sunday School classes on the Sunday before Christmas, decorating these mack-daddys were perfect!

This is the lesson basics of what we’ll do. Depending on the age and range in the classrooGingerbreadManHeldm, I wanted to be prepared with several scriptures to choose from. We’ll have “circle time/large group time” with the singing and using our bibles. Then let loose with the decorating. I’ll ask more specific comprehension questions as they’re working on their GB men and I work the room. It should be sweet!

Sing: O Be Careful Little Eyes What You See
O Be Careful, Little Eyes
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

EyesGingerbreadMan
Proverbs 4:25 “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills – Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 119:37 “Turn my eyes away from worthless things.”
Psalm 101:3 “I will set before my eyes, no vile thing.”
Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
Pair Share: What do you consider worthless things?

Ears
Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.”
Righteous = morally upright, without guilt or sin; in accordance with what is right
Attentive = paying close attention to something

Hands
Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”
Pair Share: When do you clap?

Deuteronomy 2:7 “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These 40 years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”
James 2:14 “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?
James 2:16-17 “What good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Pair Share: Deeds with your hands…like what? (donations, helping someone who dropped something, starting a conversation with a new kid at school or church, showing kindness no matter what)

Feet
Romans 10:15 “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
The Good News = God loved us so much, He sent Jesus to show us how to live and to give His life for us so we could be forgiven for our sins. AND we are invited to be God’s people to show and tell others of God’s love and become more like Jesus everyday. Isn’t that good news?

Mouth
Psalm 54:2 “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.”
Proverbs 4:24 “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”
Perversity = a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way; contrary
Corrupt = having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain
Psalm 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.”
1 Peter 3:10 “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”

Send off/Closing
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you (verb=set apart; declare holy; dedicate to God more) completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Get Their Name

A colleague lent to me last June, Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building New Relationships authored by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan. I’m just now getting around to reading it. I confess, because she’s asked for it back.

get-their-nameIt’s a fantastic little book offering practical steps to sharing faith, building healthy, spiritual relationships, and growing a healthy church. Once I read, “The average UMC (United Methodist Church) member invites someone to come to church once every 38 years,” I couldn’t put the book down.

Simply put, they present evangelism in the following levels:

Elementary Evangelism is meeting new people through service…handing out water bottles, cleaning up a park, and being intentional about “adding the Good Word to your deeds.” Good deeds are merely good deeds if not sharing the why “We want to share God’s love with you because God’s love is available to everyone, including you.”

Middle School Evangelism is sharing life and faith through small groups with people you already know. Middle schoolers rarely step outside their comfort groups, but will do most anything in a small group.

High School Evangelism is sharing your faith through testimony of recent experiences for the building up of the persons around you. You want to share your story where you are safe for the sole purposes of offering hope to those listening.

College Evangelism is inviting others to worship who you do not know. In college, I recall inviting and being invited often to group gatherings and events on campus simply because we were within earshot.

The authors go on to share that until we are confident in giving testimony, most are fearful of inviting others to church. And when was the last time that testimonies were shared in the worship setting or even in the Sunday school setting? It’s been my experience that we are more about taking in more general information and spitting it back out, rwho-what-when-where-why-howather than learning how to tell our story or His story over the last week. I was challenged early in my walk that when asked “Why God?” my story can’t begin, “Well…when I was 10 years old…” My testimony should be no older than the bread in my breadbox.

The goal is to begin “real conversations with real people to build real relationships that lead to a real experience with Jesus Christ in the gathered community.”

The challenge: Have I built in enough margin, extra white space, in my day to make a new friend? Or am I so caught up in going to the next thing that I can’t make time to be interested in new people; making sure to concentrate on the other person’s story; building trust in who they are; making sure my questions are about them; resisting making the conversation about me and my story?friend

The authors were kind enough to lay out steps of how to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know because, “People looking for a faith community are not looking for friendly people, but for friends.”

As in Adam Hamilton’s Leading Beyond the Walls, we’d do well to offer a short (two-minute elevator story) response to the following 3 questions:

1. Why God? “God has been active in my life from when I was a kid and has always wanted good for me, but my free will is alive and active within me…Most of the bad that has happened in my life is because of choices made for me or those I’ve made on my own when I am not paying attention to the life lessons taught in the Scriptures…My church gives me the relationships and support to keep my free will on track.”

2. Why Church? “God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community…God is best and most easily experienced in the faith community….We are the bridge to the gathered community….Then the Holy Spirit can do the heavy lifting.”

3. Why My Church? “God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community….we need a gathered experience…we need to feel the win…going in the same direction….cheering for the same result…in the company of others with a spirit of “YES!””

A few statements stopped me in my tracks:

  • “97% of all newcomers to a church have had a major life transition in the last two months.” (From The Race to Reach Out by Douglas T Anderson & Michael J. Coyner) Everyone has a story. Little do we know what life transition will bring someone through the doors.  Am I asking questions with genuine curiosity to learn another’s story?
  • “The #1 roadblock for connected people inviting unconnected people to worship is that they are not confident in the guest experience.”  This is where radical hospitality comes in. Where our hospitality is going beyond expectation, beyond the average, beyond what we’ve always done, beyond the typical Sunday morning handshake experience.
  • “Guests arrive early or late, but rarely on time.  Be prepared.”  Think guest, not a visitor (when was the last time I had a visitor in my home…never…I have guests).

I’m going to start asking questions of the people I DO know at my church and the ones I DON’T. It’s the beginning of shands_friendsharing testimony.  And I’m ready to make some new friends in the Lord.

Lord, let me not just be friendly, but be willing and build in life-space to make new friends in the Lord.  Amen

Thanks, Cindy…you can have your book back now.

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