Bible Praying For Parents: A Book Review

PrayerBooksChantal and I became quick friends during my family’s time in New England. I had accepted Christ as my savior at 10 years old at VBS, but she made Him Lord of her life as an adult. She was on the disciple-of-Jesus express train and I jumped on with all I had. We sharpened one another as iron sharpens iron in the Lord’s army as wives, mothers of little people, and weekday preschool teachers. One evening a week from 8-9pm we would call one another to share prayer requests and then pray our hearts out over the phone. At the top of our prayer lists were to become the Godly wives our Creator called us to be and that our children, all under 7 years old at the time, would love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, and minds at an early age. We fasted one day each week for God’s call on the lives of our children, even to pray for their future spouses. Yet even with all of our intentionality I felt limited in my prayer vocabulary, until I picked up a copy of Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Parent. Thirty chapters with thirty prayers at the end of each chapter along with scripture. Whatever day of the calendar month, that’s the chapter I would pray for my children. That was 1993.

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Godly parents desire to be faithful to pray for their children. I’m thinking today’s parents are just as challenged as I was in prayer vocabulary. I have always encouraged parental prayers as part of a parent’s spiritual discipline, and The Power of a Praying Parent was the best resource I’ve ever used. Though I started this prayer practice when my littles were under the age of 7, it was when they were in middle and high school these chapters were especially helpful: Praying Through A Child’s Room, Learning To Speak Life, and Avoiding Addictions. A fruitful resource indeed and in paperback still available today.

“Having raised children from birth to adulthood, I’ve come to realize that one of the main things our children will take with them when they leave our realm of influence is their faith. If we can be sure they have strong faith in God and His Word, and the love of God in their hearts, then we can know they are set for eternity. Our prayers can play a big part in helping them achieve that.” Stormie Omartian, The Power of a Praying Parent (p. 204)

While listening to the podcast , The Kid’s Ministry Collective I heard of a new book Bible Praying For Parents and immediately ordered two copies. Keith Ferrin and Judy Fetzer collaborated to publish a book of prayers straight from the Holy Bible. Mrs. Fetzer collected these 365 prayers and sent them to herself and others through her blog www.mamahenprays.wordpress.com. Y’all this book provides more than just a book of prayers.

Bible Praying For Parents is a great tool for brief, breath prayers for our kids for every day of the year. The book also includes a section for Bible praying by categories such as anger, anxiety, family relationships, temptation, and more. And if that wasn’t worth the $14.99 price of the book, the back section is entitled: Bible Blessings.

Forty-three blessings are listed in the order they are found in the Bible. Blessings to speak over your children at night, as they head out the door, while eating a meal, or wherever you wish to speak God’s Word and truth so they know the power and mystery of the One who loves them even more than you.

“From 2 Thessalonians 3:5 Blessing: ____________, may the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (p 293)

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Hand in hand through childhood

When we read the Bible we learn God’s vocabulary and of His history and plan for His people. When we pray God’s vocabulary over our children, we hear His heart for our own, and our children hear His voice. This new resource should be beside every prayer chair on the planet because this I know: No one will pray for our kids like we will. Lord, may we be found faithful to do so regularly and well.

“A Godly Mother guides our steps…nurtures our growth, encourages our Spirit, molds our character, commits our lives to the One she’s been raising us for.” Julee Lynn Boren 1971-1998

Self Evaluate – It’s Important!

Need to know if you are on the right path? Need to know if the vision for your ministry is in line with the plans, vision, and mission with the church you serve? Need to join the conversation of informing yourself and others of where the Spirit is headed in your organization? Need to let the leadership know what in the world you’re doing and how long it takes to do it? Offer regular and periodic evaluations!

If you are not doing a job well, I’d hope you’d hear about it very early in the ‘running down that road’ process. But what if you don’t hear anything…neither encouraging nor critical?

What if you are in a constant state of evaluation, but your organization doesn’t offer a time for you to share the passion, dream, successes, and challenges across a table that got you the job in the first place? And who knows your goals? Your professional, your personal, your ministry goals? Do a regular self-evaluation!

There is something about putting such information on paper that offers accountability and gives clarity for a season, a ministry, an event. I so need this since I’m thinking about next Sunday, next year, and five years down the road all at the same time!

The idea behind self evaluation is that our judgment of what we think we are doing and what we actually are doing is not always the same. This is why it is so important to perform regular self evaluation. – Stanley C. Loewen, Health Guidance For Better Health

A colleague in my district children’s ministry networking group shared a list of five items she was being asked to respond to for this very purpose. With this list of questions we can easily and quickly put onto paper our response to offer focus, reflection, and even measure results. I do it every six months.

1. High points of your responsibilities

A job description outlines the bare minimums. A responsibility description outlines the much-less-cumbersome-to-outline responsibilities of the role one serves on the leadership team. Some responsibilities are seasonal. Some responsibilities have a greater impact on others on the team. This lets me outline a few of those things that are a priority and what I love which gives me energy and fosters the greatest creativity.

2. Three goals

Where do I want to see the ministry go this year? Though there is lots to do, what are the most important things to keep before my eyes, my heart, and my passions? These will offer clarity for what is actually in my bucket, the dogs in my hunt, and the runway on which to land my plane with deadlines.

“If all I do is tasks, I leave a ton of value on the table for creativity and initiation of doing things better.” – Seth Godin

3.  How am I taking care of myself?

What do I have in place over the next six months to maintaining healthy boundaries? From my most recent self-eval: Check and set my weekly schedule, Emmaus Reunion group weekly meeting, Blog writing, Partnering with CEF, Children’s Ministry Connection, District KidMin Networking Teams by my attendance.

4.  Who is on my ministry team?

Put onto paper 5-7 of the names of my inner circle, my go-tos, my champions, and who I can intentionally invest in over the next six months.

“Do for one what you wish you could do for everybody.” – Andy Stanley

5.  What can my pastor do to help or empower me?

This keeps me realistic in my expectations, helpful to the whole team, and gives me the vocabulary to have courageous conversations with my team leader. When I meet with him/her I am not rambling for what I need this week and something different next week. It keeps me focused for a bit of dreaming without being a high-maintenance team member. It does the ministry no good to confuse my organizational team leader when it appears I am all willy-nilly in the needs of the ministry. I limit this to a list of only three items. One item is always something to pray for me.

“Self-evaluation and assessment should be a major part of our lives as believers.” Sunday Adelaja

Self-evaluation helps remind me of my why. It helps me see what is most important in the coming six months so I am not easily distracted by the busy stuff on the calendar. It offers evidence of meeting measurable goals. It gives clarity in how and what to best communicate to my team sold out for Jesus and little people. It lets me know who to invest in.

We certainly don’t serve the Lord for pats on the back, but everyone needs to know regularly they are doing a good or great job. If we know the importance of volunteer appreciation and practice it with words of affirmation, small tokens of appreciation, notes of encouragement, birthday celebrations, and the occasional afternoon tea at the local coffee house, wouldn’t we also wish to hear and experience these same practices as staff members? If you are not getting it, then prayerfully release the expectation of someone doing it for you. Take yourself to lunch and celebrate your ministry through self-evaluation!

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5

What Is So Funny?

Children, on average, laugh 200 times per day. Adults laugh 15 to 18 times a day. Serving and leading little people can give you the chance to make up your laughter deficit. We tend to think of humor as part of our genetic makeup, like brown eyes and blond hair, but a healthy sense of humor is a learned quality that is developed well in early childhood. Paul E McGhee, Ph.D. shares in Understanding and Promoting the Development of Children’s Humor, “Humor is a form of play. It is intellectual play or play with ideas.” A healthy sense of humor builds vocabulary, supports creative thinking, fosters social interaction skills, and promotes life skills necessary to cope with stress and hardships throughout the adolescent and adult years.

Early on, infants respond to physical stimuli like blowing raspberries or playing peek-a-boo. They enjoy silly faces and sounds and especially the faces of those they love. In the toddler years, visual humor is very funny. Making faces, putting on a silly hat, or using an ordinary item in an extraordinary way will have toddlers laughing out loud. When my grandson pushes the bubble mower, he is serious about mowing the yard, floor, or rug and he’ll hardly laugh. But empty the bucket of bristle blocks onto the floor and place the empty bucket on his head and he’ll run through the house squealing with delight. KidsHealth.org reports, “Anything that disrupts a pattern or expectation is funny to a toddler.” That explains how a diaper placed on your head, Daddy’s shoes worn by a preschooler, or knocking yourself on the head with a pillow and pretending to fall over will amuse your little one.

Other fun games you can play that will build a healthy sense of humor in a preschooler is Ring Around the Rosey, This Little Piggy, or Row, Roy, Row your….Car. Changing the lyrics of familiar songs will also make them laugh. As a preschooler’s vocabulary increases, so will opportunities to laugh.

Preschoolers are eager to show off new ways to be playful and they look to you for the proper response. One of the best ways to teach a healthy sense of humor is to be playful yourself. Be willing to be silly, wear odd hats, sing familiar songs with odd lyrics, and laugh along with them. Laugh well and laugh loud.

So the next time a bucket is emptied on the floor and your preschooler treats an object differently from its original purpose, be ready to laugh with your preschooler. You just might have a future stand-up comedian in your presence or a kid who can deal with whatever life throws at him/her in the most healthy response. So what should be your response? Full on belly laugh. Be a laughter encourager. Life skills, indeed.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31: 25

Deep and Wide Retreat: Whatever Gift

Faith formation is not just a Sunday morning activity. There are firsts, milestones, rights of passage with specialness wrapped all around which can offer faith experiences and sticky spiritual memories. I believe each local church, each family even, can prepare an ordered format of FAITH MILESTONES offering intentional firsts as part of a student’s faith experiences.

A retreat is time away from our normal life for the purpose of connecting with God on a deeper level.  1 Peter 4:10 was the focus of our day away at Ms. DeDe’s for rising 4th-6th graders and last week’s annual Deep & Wide Retreat: where we go deeper in our relationship with God and each other & where we look wider in our scope of influence than just our own little world.

$45 per student provided supplies, lunch, snacks, dinner, movie tickets, rental van to carry everyone to and from, and a great tshirt. Our AMAR District summer interns brainstormed the scripture, the schedule, the activities, and the supplies needed for the kids to learn more about their personality gifts, their spiritual gifts, and practice serving others in their every-day. Parents pick up and drop off at my home. Most of them carpool because I live 40 minutes north of the church.

10-10:30am Rock painting
Finding painted rocks are huge in our area, so we started the morning by painting rocks we would later hide on the playground and in the pool area of the neighborhood to delight others we would know nothing about. What happened? After going swimming the second time, we observed and heard the squeals of a family as they were finding our painted rocks and uploading pics on the Canton Rocks Facebook page.

10:30-11 Lesson #1 True Colors Personality Quiz
Take and discuss the different personalities and how accurate they are. How can we use this to better understand ourselves and others? Discuss how better knowing who you are, and your gifts, helps you better understand how you can help serve God’s purposes. The different colors and personalities each offer different ways to best serve others.
Orange: drawn to active mission projects, building houses (Amelia Earhart and Teddy Roosevelt)
Green: curious and logical innovators who can solve issues (Moses, Ben Franklin)
Blue: drawn to outreach, relationship building (Oprah Winfrey, Abraham Lincoln)
Gold: drawn to admin jobs in the church, office (George Washington, Henry Ford)

11-11:20 Make lunch of sandwiches, chips, fill water bottles

11:20-12:00noon Lesson #2 Spiritual Gifts Assessment
Dissect the 1 Peter 4:10 scripture. Discuss how we must work together as ambassadors for the Lord. How to use spiritual gifts to serve others in church, at school, in the community, and in the world. God can use even what you think is the smallest of gifts. David was small and though he was young, yet he protected his people with God’s help and a little slingshot. Esther was a woman in a time where women did not have any power, yet she saved her people by changing the king’s mind. Gideon was a farmer, but God made him into a mighty warrior who saved the Israelites from the Midianites and other meaners. Rahab was an innkeeper whose strong faith in a God she’d only heard about in stories led her to risk her life by hiding spies in her home. Moses ran away from God at first due to fear, but then he led the people to the Promised Land. Noah picked up his family and built an ark due to his huge faith in God.

12-12:30 Hiked to reservoir and picnicked lunch

12:45-2:00pm Pool time with snacks during Adult Swim/whistle blow/lifeguard breaks

2:30 Movie: Cars 3

5:00pm Lesson #3 Debriefed Movie
Proverbs 19:21 & 1 Peter 4:10 Discussed how, in the movie, each car had a different gift/purpose though all were cars/vehicles. Though McQueen had gifts he used to win, he also had gifts he could use to help others win. Jesus served others in many ways, never taking the glory for himself, rather giving it all to his Father. Discussed how each student could help others win.

5:30pm Prepared fruit salad and deep dish pizza
The rising 6th graders (since this is their last Deep & Wide) used their gifts to teach and coach how to prepare the fruit salad and the deep dish pizza. Played games while cooking: Spoons, Pit

7-8pm Distribute painted rocks around neighborhood playground and pool area and go swimming

8-9pm Returned to pack up for pick up and enjoy fruit sorbets (a tradition) Discussion of how they served each other today, their experience watching/hearing the family making painted rock discoveries, how they can carry on serving the others they live with (family), at church, and in their community.

I love these kids. I love watching the older ones teach and coach the younger ones. I love hearing the stories and seeing the comments on social media sharing their Deep & Wide Retreat experience. Enjoying their company in the everyday with the thread of the scriptures throughout makes for sticky spiritual memories. The interns and I debriefed realizing we accomplished a lot in one day without rush or mishap. We engaged every learning style and offered laughter, competition, creativity, and all the physical needs through food and lots of water. You can find out about past Deep & Wide retreats here and here. The amazing tshirts (designed by the interns and our friends at Sportsprint) we’ll wear to church on Sunday. What does your kid’s first retreat look like?

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Seven Things: A Book Review & Book Giveaway

This darling, little book picked up from the Cokesbury display at North Georgia’s Annual Conference is an in-your-face challenge for God’s people to respond to children in the church and in the community based on John Wesley’s instructions to Methodist preachers found in the “Large Minutes.” Rev. Dr. Christopher Miles Ritter came to learn early in his ministry career that Wesley believed in ministry to children. So much so that I didn’t have the right to call myself a Methodist preacher if I didn’t spend time with children. My copy is so marked up, starred, underlined, pages turned down, and used it looks like it’s been in my library for 20 years.

Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter is an ordained elder/clergy in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church where he has served as the Directing Pastor of Geneseo First United Methodist Church since 2009. Dr. Ritter considers the following seven things to be the bare minimum in ministry with children:

1. Teach them intentionallyA Christian education should have no other end but to teach them to think, and judge, and act according to Christ. Stop the excuses! Don’t buy into the idea that once your kids have aged up or aged out, so have you.

2. Know them personallyHagrid took Harry Potter to Hogwarts, Obi-Wan introduced Luke to the ways of the Force. Gandalf called Frodo into the Fellowship of the Ring, Morpheus helped Neo take off his blinders. Batman had Alfred. Daniel had Mr. Miyagi. Bill and Ted had Rufus. Mutants were recruited by Professor Xavier to become X-Men. Could it be that Hollywood makes billions of dollars telling these and similar stories over again because they have tapped into a deep spiritual longing within all of us? Side note: Who is your Obi-Wan? Who is your Daniel?

3. Pray for them intenselyOne way to pray with them is simply to bless them in Jesus’ name.  It was said that Wesley always had a smile and a kind word for children, and would place his hands on their heads offering a heavenly benediction. Let’s go beyond praying for their safety and traveling mercies. Join me in prayers and fasting a meal a week for them to hear God’s voice, have a hunger for God’s word, and a fearless witness to fulfil the adventure He has for each of them.

4.  Mentor families meaningfullyNot only is the home the primary unit of spiritual formation, but it is also the place where we tend to either use or lose our Christianity. Let’s have some honest conversations of living out our family’s spiritual priorities in a regular and faithful way. We have time for what is important. How our kids will view their calendars (and Sundays) as adults is how they see us view each day (including Sundays) when they were kids.

5.  Challenge ourselves continually – Pastor Ritter offers the challenge to expand the definition of ‘our kids.’ Poor children are not that difficult to reach…they have time on their hands. Poor kids are never too busy to go to church. What does fishing for kids look like in your community? He goes on to write about the first Sunday Charity School in 1780, and by 1821, roughly a quarter of the kids in England, 1.25 million, were in a Sunday school paving the way for universal education for kids. You many not have the means to bus a load of kids to church, but your kids have friends. Following Jesus is not comfortable, convenient, nor cheap, yet the payoff is huge! Thinking about it is not the same as doing something about it.

6. Shape our ministries appropriatelyChildren need an advocate, an adult who is seeking their good. Sometimes this involves defending them, sometimes providing for them, and sometimes simply expecting the best from them. Kids insist on changing and growing up, kinda how God wired them/us. The gospel message doesn’t change, but the delivery better. Ministry is all about relationships, yet relationships are cultivated differently than they were even five years ago. Are we engaged in on-going learning to be better at leading kids and their families? A friend confided that she knew it was time to retire when she no longer wanted to learn anything new. What is your plan for learning and growing your ministry with children more deeply and effectively?

7. Care for them practically – Pastor Ritter opens the chapter, “You don’t know the story of Methodism until you know the story of a place called Kingswood.” He then goes on to tell this amazing story of the children of coal-miners considered a little better than beasts.

There is so much goodness in these mere 80 pages I want to offer two books to give away. Comment below how you are meeting one of the seven in your context as an encouragement to your fellow kidmin champions because we are better together. Two different recipients will be mailed a copy in August. You may not have time for a 600 page treatise on Wesley, but this little book will remind you why you’ve been called where you’ve been called.

“Take care of the rising generation.” ~ John Wesley

Ministry Marketing on Social Media

It’s kind of a hobby I have to listen to podcasts and read books/articles about Main Street marketing (business to consumer) through social media. That’s what we do…market and promote our ministries to and on Main Street USA. We can argue all day that ‘ministry isn’t business’, but there are many best practices in business that can benefit ministry. From 2005 to 2016, the percentage of Americans on at least one social media platform has climbed from 5 percent to 69 percent. Who doesn’t want a piece of that? (Pew Research Center, January 2016)

One easy way to market your ministry is collecting email addresses because email is still king. Do you have a system in place to get and use email addresses? When folks register for events or the basketball program or apply to be volunteers, include a line for email addresses. As tedious as it is, I use the first couple of weeks following VBS and the start of basketball season to update and input email addresses into an excel worksheet started when I first arrived at WC six years ago. Just the email addresses. Larger churches can use Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or other online tools, but for a small to mid-size church, excel still rocks.

At least once every other month I will send an email to that huge email list inviting them to an upcoming event. People expect to get emails once they’ve joined us for something. If someone wants off the email list, they’ll let me know and I oblige quickly. Many are reading emails on their phones, so the email should be short, sweet, and to the point.

This is the email that went out this week:
Let us help you get your student ready for a great school year with Grow Day Camp at Wesley Chapel, Monday-Friday July 24-28 (9-5:30 Mon-Thur; 9-12:30 Fri). For only $135 for the entire week your rising 1st through rising 6th grader can enjoy camp, small groups, archery, and still sleep in their own beds! Register today at http://www.ngumc.org/grow … then plan to join us for the Blessing of the Backpacks at 11am service on Sunday, July 30th! ~ DeDe Reilly, Wesley Chapel UMC, 4495 Sandy Plains Rd, Marietta, 770-993-4919

The next most-often used vehicle for marketing your ministry is Facebook. Most of the Mamas are on Facebook, so it’s a great way to communicate with families. Posting at least once a day is easy and helps your posts appear regularly in their timeline. Schedule it! Most of my families are on Facebook first thing in the morning, so my window of posting needs to be before 8am.

The following content stats about Facebook I found very helpful to me:

  • 50% of the posts/content should be information/announcements – get an image and rock out the basics of who, when, where, how to get more info and a registration link. We have found that if we use an ‘outside’ registration link in the Atlanta metro area like Eventbrite, we get more of the community and not just our own church folk.
  • 40% should be ‘shared content’ – what do you find interesting that supports what you are trying to do and ‘share’ it. Since what we do in ministry with children is faith formation, I subscribe to several blogs offering parents easy wins to champion for their kids with a faith  bent. The blogs I shared this last month included TodaysMama.com, iMom.com, AllProDad.com, Kidzmatter.com, ChurchLeaders.com, Parent Cue. A sentence or two why you think it’s important to share that content let’s folk know why you chose it and sometimes initiates followup conversation.
  • 10% should be personality content which gives information about who we are, who you are. This is when we share content about who we are as a denomination, where the nearest voting precinct is to the church, the local community fireworks schedule, last day of school info.

THEN, ask the church staff to ‘LIKE’ everything you put out there and to engage in commenting to help with the algorithms of frequency. Ask your families to ‘SHARE’ upcoming events on their Facebook pages.

Our youth (the best children’s ministry volunteers on the planet!) use Instagram so the experts say to be sure the image there is close up, clear, a little off-center. Colors of the images that are brown, green, and blue cause the eye to linger longer. Steer clear of red and orange images. Think ‘nature’, not ‘fire.’

There are even gender preferences. Guys linger on images with straight edges, lines, and corners. Chicks on the other hand linger on images with curves, drapery, and the impression of movement. I’ll just let that sit there for a bit…

You can post all day on Facebook. It helps the algorithms. Post only once a day on Instagram and let it reflect the story of who you are since it’s more personal. Your peeps will recognize it’s you and won’t just scroll through. My personal story on Instagram has to do with tea and daily reading through the bible. I use WordSwag and Text over Image apps on my phone to market on Instagram which will let me share straight to Facebook and Twitter as well.

I use Twitter when I watch TV to find out if everyone else is thinking the same thing I am, or not. Crazy, I know! And I use Twitter when I’m at a conference, learning event, or to quote folks when I hear good stuff on podcasts.

The best all-in info ebook that is free and can guide you through a strategy and a plan can be found here.

What’s your plan for marketing your ministry next week?

Churches that don’t take social media seriously will soon lose any opportunity to engage emerging generations with the gospel. – from the Definitive Guide To Social Media in the Church (ChurchLeaders.com)

Someone Like Me And You

WC is located at the northernmost tip of one county with two other counties touching the corners within just a few miles. Because the suburbs of north Atlanta are filled with elementary schools, WC is surrounded by several elementary schools.

For six years, I have tried to get in at the closest one. I’ve walked in to meet the principals face to face and offered tutoring help.  Nothing. I joined the PTA for several years to get a calendar of events so not to schedule anything in conflict for my families. Nothing. Not even after multiple phone calls and emails. The only foot in the door we’ve gotten is they call to use our parking lot for fall and spring events if their parking lot is insufficient. I’ll take it.

Then I noticed several of the students in our program wearing “Rise Up” tshirts. I asked a third grader, “What’s Rise Up?” He began to share with me that it’s like VBS at his school where they talk and learn about Jesus. I did some research and found out he was right. Then I saw a few of my student’s parents pics on Facebook as a team of volunteers for Rise Up.

I jumped online to read everything I could about Rise Up 4 Christ and found myself immediately clicking on the get involved tab and filled out the application. After completing the background check and child safety protocols, I got an email from a lovely woman who loves Jesus and loves kids who was thrilled someone like me would apply. Huh…someone like me? We set up a meeting.

We met face-to-face last week along with her husband at the RISE UP offices. These folks have a great open door to gather students once a month for a little more than an hour speaking of Jesus and how He loves them…at the elementary school…a mile behind WC. The system is already in place and that ‘get involved’ tab invited me to play. They’ve only had this elementary’s chapter for a little over two years. There are multiple chapters all over the Atlanta and even one in Florida.

Right now it looks like I’ll be involved to champion the fifth graders to lead small groups and in worship with sign language and wait for it….dance moves! There are several times a year when this group of fifth grade leaders will gather for fellowship and training. Since I don’t live in the community, the largest space I can offer is WC. The first leadership meeting is in August and I can’t wait!

Rev. Junius Dotson is the top executive of Discipleship Ministries who began the ‘See All The People’ initiative for the United Methodist Church this summer. “ʽSee All the People’ is not a program,” said the Rev. Junius Dotson. “It really is an attempt to spur and ignite and inspire the spirit and movement of disciple-making across our denomination.” The first goal is to not focus on fixing churches, but rather be laser-focused for intentionally building disciples. The second goal of the initiative is to boost engagement with those outside the church. “It’s not about waiting for people to come to us,” Dotson said. “It’s about planting seeds, building relationships and knowing that once that happens, that really is the beginning of the disciple-making process … We can’t disciple people we’re not in relationship with.”

Everyone reading this is someone like me: loves the Lord, desires to build His kingdom, shares with others that God made them and Jesus loves them, and knows it takes relationship to make disciples. What’s something already happening in your community where you can get involved to ‘see all the people’?

“In the church there is no ‘them.’ There is only ‘us.'” ~ Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson serving the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church

Bible Stories For A Girl’s Heart: A Book Review

There is something really special about being invited to join the launch team for books written and published by friends and colleagues. When it’s a children’s book (my favorite people)…from the bible (my favorite book)….about chicks in the bible (my bucket list for tea times when I enter the pearly gates)….well, I just put on the tea pot and pull out my favorite cup and saucer, ready to enjoy a treat.

Glenys Nellist, an English gal engaged in fabulous ministry in Michigan, is a grandmother, a mom to four young men, and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Oh, and she writes poetry for little people wired for story and rhyme. Because of her deep passion for bringing the Bible to life for little people, I have copies of all her books on my shelf, on my bedside, and in my grandkids’ box of books. I have given multiple copies of her books as gifts to mamas who seek to be the spiritual champions for their littles because each one is filled with biblical truth, lovely rhyming text, and some have delightful lift-the-flaps with love letters from God, our Creator. The beautiful illustrations by Rachel Clowes from her Love Letter series have a gravity all their own and are utterly gorgeous. My daughter and I just gave copies of her Snuggle Times Prayers and Snuggle Times Psalms to my daughter-in-law who is expecting her first little one next month.

Glenys has added to her series of “Love Letters From God” a new book “Love Letters From God: Bible Stories For A Girl’s Heart.” As Glenys writes each girl’s story in kid-friendly language, she uses adjectives that could describe children of all ages and all stages: the first girl, the brave girl, the thirsty girl, and the generous girl. She includes a few you’d expect: Hannah, Esther, and Martha. I was thrilled she also included Eve (one who makes mistakes), Naaman’s servant girl (what’s a little girl’s book without the story of a little girl), and Rahab (one of the bravest women in the book.)

From Rahab: The Brave Girl from Joshua 2, “Rahab wanted to know a God like that. If he could take care of his people in such a wonderful way, maybe he would take care of her, too. Rahab was ready for a new start. She had made some bad choices. Was it too late for her to change, or could this God save her?” The lift-the-flap love letter  addressed to “Dear _____” reads at the end, “How amazing that Jesus would come from Rahab’s own family! But that’s what happens when you are brave and choose to follow me. I will take care of you in the most wonderful and amazing ways. Your caring friend, God.”

I’ve been thinking of a princess tea with my girls for next spring. This book will be part of the planning. This book will be part of my storytelling in Vacation Bible School this year since we’re covering Rahab and the Resurrection of Jesus. This book won’t stay on my shelf long. I probably ought to go ahead and order a box of copies. Love Letters From God: Bible Stories For A Girl’s Heart is a precious gift indeed.

“You are in my hand.” – Jeremiah 18:6 as noted from the pages 18-19 of “Love Letters From God: Bible Stories For A Girl’s Heart”

We Are Invited!

In the United Methodist Church, there is an annual business meeting which takes place each summer. This is no regular business meeting. We are reminded that the UMC is a global movement of the Holy Spirit where cultures gather for teaching, reporting, fellowship, and dreaming. And Oh, the worship!

We celebrate the joys of outreach. We learn of the necessity of extension ministries, who they are, what they do. We hear the debates of how the denomination will face hunger, homelessness, and health issues in our own backyard and beyond. And Oh, the worship!

We ordain those called to be clergy as local pastors, deacons, and elders at the beginning of their professional lives. We celebrate the memory of those who have gone on to Glory at their ending. We debate resolutions and vote on amendments that will direct our denomination morally, socially, and financially. We hear multiple two-minute speeches from those retiring from the itineracy, but never the ministry. And Oh, the worship!

We hug the necks of those who are part of our stories: colleagues and ministry partners from whom we have moved, and those who have moved from us. We have table-life conversations over meals and in the hallways about staff needs, positions open, and personal crises where we are invited to pray for one another. We share ideas for campaigns, books, and themes. We chat by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, and post pics on Instagram. And Oh, the worship!

This year we began a new tradition of gathering to honor those engaged in ministry with children at a “Heroes Eat Dessert First” reception hosted by the KidMin heroes of Athens First UMC and the North Georgia Children’s Ministry Connection. A time of connection, fellowship, and dessert with those who are KidMin interns, those in the trenches today, and even those who retired ‘a while back’, but as we all know, never stop sharing their gifts and graces with the children and families at the local church they now call ‘home’.

One of these heroes believes so much in the power of this connection, she drove her church’s bus and provided transportation for Children’s Ministry Network groups from two districts, interns, and even the children’s caregivers provided for the Annual Conference so to join in the Heroes reception. Back at midnight, she got up early the next morning for her last day at Hero Day Camp she is providing her local church. She is a true crusader for little people, but also her colleagues and those just starting out in ministry with children.

This is the business of our church. For every clergy person, there is to be a lay person as a delegate. Many districts have open spots for laity called ‘at-large delegates’ that are never filled. I am an at-large delegate for my district. We need you. Future dates of North Georgia’s Annual Conference are June 10-14, 2018 and June 9-14, 2019. I encourage the KidMin heroes of North Georgia to call their district office (here’s the link to find out which one), and offer to be an at-large delegate next year. There is much we can do together, to know the resources available to the local church, and join in the conversation of the business of North Georgia.

Don’t plan your VBS or a summer camp that week! Instead, prayerfully consider being an at-large delegate at next year’s annual conference. Read more about the logistics here. Then, contact me. I’ve got some ideas of how we can share in this journey together because we are better together!

2 Timothy 2:15 Common English Bible (CEB)
Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly.

#1 Son Is Gonna Have A #1 Son

Last weekend was baby weekend: A dessert shower for our Daughter-in-Law on Friday evening, a diaper shower for #1 Son with his colleagues and rec soccer team on Saturday evening, and the hospital tour on Sunday. When I texted him on Monday asking how the weekend went, his quick reply was, “Tour was awesome. I’m overwhelmed. Don’t know what I’m doing. LOL” Welcome, my child, to the world of parenting.

Anyone can have a child, but parenting a son is so much more than passing out blue bubble-gum cigars. Do they still do that sort of thing? He has no idea how holding your beating heart in your very hands will rock his world. He has no idea how his plans will change, how his dreams will be bigger, and how he’s been a perfect parent until he becomes one. We all started out with “I don’t know what I’m doing.” This I do know: he’s a good man, a generous husband, and devoted to his family. So these are a few of the things I hope #1 Son will do with his #1 Son:

  • Teach him to cook.
  • Teach him to respect all women because every women is someone’s sister or daughter.
  • Teach him to respect authority. We are a country and community of laws.
  • Teach him to be brave by initiating acts of kindness and generosity when given the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
  • Let him see you read your Bible for he will practice what you practice, not just do what you say.
  • Let him learn American History so he will hear the stories of the bold sacrifices made to appreciate and acknowledge the symbols of American freedoms.
  • Let him play with his cousins a lot. Cousins are our first friends and our friends for life.
  • Teach him how to write and read in cursive so he can read the powerful words of history, documents of old, and sign his name. My grandfather was unable to read and write so he ‘made his mark’ when he endorsed his paycheck and completed the documents to purchase his home. He wanted badly to be able to sign his name, yet never learned. A man needs to be able to sign his name and not just print it.
  • Teach him to use power tools and be creative with his hands. There is something about a man who can step back and see and hold in his hands the fruit of his labors and creativity of his mind.
  • Let him play outside, play with bugs, get muddy, and sweat from play and hard work.
  • Show him how to pray…and not just at church.
  • Show him how to work as an apprentice. He’s watching you in all you do, all you say, and all you share.
  • Model manly prayers, generosity and tithing, and to never stop learning.
  • Introduce him to other amazing men and women of faith and strength.
  • Tell him family stories.
  • Teach him how to love his Mama by how you love yours. That kiss on the cheek at every greeting and the hug upon every departure means more than you will ever know…but, his lovely mama will.

Some of my greatest gifts from the LORD are the amazing adults who used to engage with playdoh, duct tape, and yell, “Watch me, Mama!” from the diving board at the neighborhood pool. Oh, I’m watching, alright. Watching them become fabulous parents is a big, sloppy kiss on my cheek from the One who made them.

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!” Proverbs 23:24-25