Faith Milestone: I Can Serve

Faith+Milestones-shaded+button2We’ve saved this Faith Milestone until November  as we prepare for Advent and other special Sundays that seem to fall in quick succession in the Liturgical calendar year. We invite the students 3rd-5th grade to attend an hour training with our Pastor to learn the ins and outs of serving in the worship service. These acolytes (helpers) learn what to say, how to give eye contact, the logistics of where to go, and the specialness of serving the Lord in community worship. AND I ask that they arrive 10 minutes before the start of this training so they understand arriving early is part of their service.

ICanServeWe promoted the event through social media, the bulletin, the monthly newsletter, and by individual snail mail invitations. I include a brochure outlining all of the Faith Milestone events scheduled throughout the year to impress our intentionality of our partnership in their children’s spiritual journey.

I opened our time with the story of Samuel. He served in the temple as a young child. He probably did every small job you can imagine: emptied trash, cleaned up after others, dusted, swept, made beds, etc.  He would also know all the secret places in the temple. He’d know all the warmest places in the winter and coolest places in the summer. And when God called him into ministry, he had grown such great relationships with the leaders at the temple, he went to them (Eli) for clarity, knowledge, and direction. This is what we hope for our students: they’d know the spaces and places and grow in such strong relationships they’d be connected to the local church for life.

ICanServeThen we played a game of tag of multiple items in the sanctuary so they’d be reminded or learn the vocabulary of the worship space: chancel area, organ, mic stand, communion table, back worship table, narthex, piano, keyboard, lecturn, pulpit, flower table, baptismal font, tech booth, etc.

Pastor J took the remaining time teaching them the symbolism and logistics, giving ample opportunity to practice, of lighting candles, offering communion, and using a microphone.

Lighting candles: why we light, when we light, when we extinguish, why we bow, where to go, where not to go, how to light, what happens when it goes out, walking too fast, walking too slow, which aisle to travel, which stick to use, etc.  And then we practice.

wine and breadOffering communion juice: why we use the elements of bread and juice, when we come up, when we finish, where do we look, how do we walk, where do we go, how do we clean up, what do we say to each person, how we smile, etc. And then we practice with a full chalice.

Next, we learn to use a microphone. How to speak, when to speak, when to clear our throats, how to address the microphone, where do we look, how do we hold things and speak, etc. And then we practice with a live microphone. (We ran out of time this year, but it’s on the agenda for next.)

I jump back in to finish the training explaining the act of hospitality they are doing when serving in the worship services. We address appropriate clothing to wear, shoes to wear, readiness to serve, their freedom to say, “Not today,” when invited to serve, and personal hygiene. When we serve, we don’t want anything we do to be a distraction. So, yes, I went there about brushing teeth, combing hair, taking a shower, and using deodorant. They thought it was funny, but they’ll remember it.

ShoeBoxes2015Parents were not invited to stay for this Faith Milestone since we scheduled it right before CLUB345. This gave the students who had never come to CLUB345 a natural ‘in’ to start. This is the night we pack and stack the Christmas shoeboxes. We had a full house!

“Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 1 Samuel 3:4

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Christmas or Advent?

XmasNoahIt wasn’t long ago that my grown children were little people. Being the overachiever that is in my DNA, I practically killed myself trying to do all the things that could possibly be done for Christmas. Think multiple themed trees, white chocolate mix made in a 30-gallon bag, packages wrapped like the magazines, homemade decorations that would put HGTV to shame, family newsletter to 200, decorating the house like we were on the tour of homes, and daily runs to every department store for who-knows-what.

I wanted something different.  So I sat with the family at dinner before Thanksgiving weekend when my little people were in middle school and asked a few questions:

“What if we did the season differently this year?” Heads started to nod in affirmation.

XmasNativity“What if we each chose three things that made the season special this year and did only those?” “What three things would you choose?” Instantly, each one knew what they wanted, and thankfully a couple things made two or more lists: Lemon cake on Christmas Eve, Church on Christmas Eve, wood delivered for a fire in the fireplace, one tree with all the ornaments they’ve made over the years, presents opened on Christmas Eve with stockings on Christmas morning, and gumbo for Christmas day.

XmasGumboWe ask the question again each year and it pretty much stays the same.  We set our dates for parties or special events before Thanksgiving and say, “No thanks” to the rest. This exercise, along with a couple of spiritual disciplines, has made the season Advent, and not Christmas for us. We discuss it, we plan it out, and guard ourselves from being sucked into the chaos.

A wise pastor shared a message one year about Advent being a season of readiness and anticipation of Jesus being born. I wondered. What if we lived out the season as if Jesus chose to come back during this time? What would He find in me and mine? Where would He find me and mine? Am I ready for His return or for ‘it all to be over with?’

XmasHomeWhat three things make the season special to you?

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthews 24:42

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A Facebook Bible Study

FacebookHookedJ. Ellsworth Kalas shares a story in What I Learned When I Was Ten of Gene Palmer, a revival preacher, who came to dinner on his last Sunday in town. In the course of dinner, Kalas’ mom shared with Palmer of Kalas’ call to ministry. Kalas was 10 years old. Palmer took this announcement seriously and asked to speak to young Kalas alone. Palmer asked, “Have you read the bible through yet?” Kalas replied, “Uh-huh, I read the bible.” Palmer pushes, “No. I asked if you’ve read it through?” “All the way?,” asked Kalas. Palmer pushes even more, “All the way! How can you hope to be a preacher if you haven’t read the bible through?”

In two weeks, 10 days to be specific, I will complete a journey that started on January 1, 2011: Reading through the bible…in community.  The community was within a closed Facebook group.

facebook-3d-logo-vectorOur senior pastor sets a scripture to give clarity and a focus for our particular body of Christ for the upcoming season. On Christmas Eve 2010, He called us to ‘Let the Spirit of God grow in you” for 2011. Seemed easy enough: be a part of a bible study.

But I had some challenges:

  1. I lived 50 minutes away from the church
  2. I was on staff, so I could be seen as an ‘authority’, though FAR from it
  3. Most of the congregation commuted to downtown Atlanta for work and had little time to carve out one more thing like a typical bible study
  4. I had just started at this church the previous April, so I had no real credibility in being a part of a discipleship program…these folks didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat

So I opened a closed facebook group to begin January 1st.  The parameters were…

  1. We’d promote it in the church and on facebook
  2. Starting in Matthew, we’d follow a reading plan, reading several chapters in the New Testament, in order, each day
  3. We’d post our train of thought in a comment each day, though we’d take weekends and holidays off
  4. The first one to post started with a comment (November 10: Zephaniah 9: ‘comment’) and others would add their comments to the comment stream

We started with five commenters/members. We found after we read the New Testament that we wanted to continue, but with adjusted parameters:

  1. Read one chapter each day beginning in Psalms and through Proverbs, taking the weekends and holidays off
  2. Periodically promote it in the bulletin and on facebook allowing others to join if one of the originating members knew them.
  3. We’d keep on reading and keep on commenting and if a fellow sojourner wanted to join in who was known by a member of the group, we’d add them in

FacebookReadAfter finishing the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, we completed the first year. But found we wanted to continue this new habit, this new spiritual discipline. So come January 2012, we started the Old Testament, one chapter each day, taking the weekend and holidays off. The first to comment started the stream for that day.

Today, we have thirty members, but typically have only three to five comment, or ‘like’, or view. We have members from all over the country and include both men and women. Members have come in and out in comment activity. Each one perhaps not able to carve hours out of their daily schedule to gather together and study the bible in a typical way. Rather, we have dedicated to start out each morning with reading one chapter each day and commenting what is on our hearts and minds, a simple prayer, keeping it clean of disunifying rants, and just sharing in our pajamas or work suits and over a cup of coffee or tea or Diet Coke.

FacebookThe accountability has been fantastic. The habit has been transforming. There are now a few folks who know ALL the colors of my rainbow through the lens of scripture…and I remember a whole lot more of what I’ve read. For goodness sakes, just when I thought obeying God was the easiest thing in the world, I read in Isaiah 20 that God asked Isaiah to go around stripped and barefoot for 3 years….naked and barefoot for 3 years! And Isaiah did it! I don’t know how I missed that before.

We’ve decided to continue on through the New Testament again in two weeks. One chapter at a time so to be molded and challenged by the holy word of God as we did the Old Testament, Psalms and Proverbs rather than the chunks of scripture we started out with.  For just about everyone, they accomplished something rare, especially for Christians….American Christians:  They read the whole bible through.

Have you?

“The most frequent excuse for not growing in our spiritual lives is lack of time. Most of us live at the mercy of our schedule, instead of planning ahead and arranging our schedule around our apprenticeship to Jesus.” Rev James Bryan Smith, from The Good And Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ


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Faith Milestone: I Can Pray

Pray11Kindergarteners and 1st graders are very image-led so it seemed the perfect age to learn to pray and practice praying with visual prompts with their families. When we set the date for this Faith Milestone, we chose a few months after school began so we could use centers and circle time spaces the children had grown familiar with at school.

We announced it in the bulletin, sent personal emails, and a formal invitation. We set up the room with several round tables as centers, a place to eat Pray9cheese, crackers, and grapes, and a circle time space to begin filling “Prayer Kits.” The students gathered first at the circle time space to get their red bags to fill as they moved from center to Prayercenter with their parents. I asked them “Do you pray?”, “Where do you pray?”, “Who do we pray to?”, “Why do we pray?” which made for precious conversation.

I read the first few pages of The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers and Pray10invited them to pick up a yellow clothespin to be clipped at home near their toothbrushes so they are reminded to pray when they brush their teeth. Then we sent them on to the prayer centers Pray2with their parents.  This first I Can Pray event proved especially delightful to me as my students were all boys and it was their dads who participated.  Pure sweetness!

Pray1We ended at the snack table where the students prepared a snack for each member of their families and prayed with their dads. After a few minutes, I joined the table as we enjoyed an echo prayer that I found from Mark Burrow’s ‘Children In Worship’ listing of action prayers and closed it out with elbow prayers (we touch elbows and echo a short prayer of thanksgiving.)Pray5

Pray2They brought home their prayer kits that included a bottle of bubbles, a silly putty egg, a Berenstain Bears book, a starter journal with hands traced, a yellow clothespin, and a glory bell.  It took all of about 45 minutes immediately following the 11 o’clock service.

Pray7I’ve heard from one of the dads since the event who shared that his son came home and shared everything with his Mom and they are sharing in prayer every day. Could I ask for anything more?

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'” Luke 11:1

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Spinner Prayers For Leaders

SpinnerTopThis is the Praying On The Go bag for October. Since October is Pastor Appreciation month, we will be praying for our leaders. I purchased plastic spinning tops in the party section at WalMart and had a slew of them in the supply cabinet.

In each bag were these directions and two spinning tops.

Spinner Prayers for Who’s At The Top

Each Day, pray for…
Monday – Teachers and Coaches (by name)
Tuesday – Local Government of Mayor and City Council (by name)
Wednesday – Pastor and Spiritual Teachers (by name)
Thursday – National Government of President, Congress, and Supreme Court (by name)
Friday – Law Enforcement & Firefighters (by name)

Teacher, Coach, and Spiritual Teacher names are easy, but finding out the name of your town’s mayor and a city council member may require you asking your parents. Ask your parents to also help you find out the name of your US congressperson and find the name of someone who serves in law enforcement and a firefighter so you can pray for ‘by name’, too.  Names are so important and it will make your prayers specific and more personal.

For each leader, spin the top and talk to God about ‘Who’s At The Top’ until the spinner stops. If your top is still spinning when you finish the prayer below, you must be a master spinner! So keep praying until it stops!

Example: (Insert names)
Dear Lord, I pray for _________________ and _______________ to lead a life that is worthy of You Lord.
I pray that __________________ and __________________ will please You in every way, God.
I pray that __________________ and __________________ will want to grow to know You better, God.
I pray that __________________ and __________________ will be strong and patient, God.
I pray that __________________ and __________________ will never give up and be joyful, God.
(based on Colossians 1:10-11)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you. Colossians 1:3

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Walk In It Retreat for Preteens

Walk-In-It-logoIt’s the Monday after the fabulous fall “Walk In It” retreat for preteens sponsored by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church held at Camp Glisson. The retreat began on Friday night and finished with communion and a worship service on Sunday morning. This was the first spiritual retreat for all of my preteens and for most, the first time they’d ever slept away from home. We loved it!

These are just a few of the things we loved…CampGlisson

  1. The daily schedule was taped to the back of the cabin doors for easy reference and no need to answer the million dollar question: what are we doing next?
  2. The music, especially the bass, was at a reasonable level at all worship services.CampGlissonSaturday
  3. Each student brought a gently-worn pair of shoes to donate and set upon the communion table as an opportunity to give an offering.
  4. Morning and evening devotions were prepared and sent to all the leaders a few weeks ahead of time for review and prayer. I especially enjoyed the chance to have my students dig in their bibles to find the scripture and basically, do a bible study each morning and evening. A holy habit practiced!
  5. The messages were concise, filled with storytelling (because stories are sticky) and developmentally appropriate.CampGlissonGrass
  6. The videos that accompanied the music were familiar, VBS-like which invited the students to ‘know what to do’ especially for those students whose home church only uses music videos during VBS.
  7. Signage was great, especially the prayer walk!
  8. The cost of $110 per student was reasonable and allowed for some partial scholarships. Thank you to the grant from the Discipleship Team of the North Georgia UMC Conference (our apportionment dollars at work!)
  9. My little photographer had plenty to take photos of; “I really wish I could find some wild life besides people.”
  10. We taught our students one-on-one how to set a table as we prepared the dinner space ahead of the meal.  Watching them serve one another was a thrill to my soul. I liked the mass entrance into the dining hall and dinner prayers outside the doors. Memorable table life, indeed!CampGlissonPrayer
  11. The Saturday evenings’ worship service and message was held beside a lake that when it was over, we stargazed. Our own Mr. Don showed our students the big dipper and the North star.
  12. Coming from a smaller church, we played games that were especially thrilling when the group was huge: Hurry Potter and a massive game of knee tag where everyone was IT and there was no BASE. Also loved that the Lord protected one of ours from a huge, dead limb falling as she sat under it. The hugs and attention given by students and staff were kind, compassionate, and sincere.CampGlissonTableLife
  13. The camp store was not open so I didn’t have to deal with kids losing money or overindulging in candy and junk food that wrecked havoc with their bodies.
  14. Elements of family traditions. Several of my students had parents who had awesome Camp Glisson experiences: swimming the waterfalls, worship on holy ground, singing on the porch.
  15. Elements of adventure: ziplining, rock climbing, tower swinging, crossing bridges, flashlight adventures.
  16. Having time to visit and chat with other KidMin leaders for encouragement, stories, laughter, exchanging ideas. Relationships maintained through facebook, blogs, and emails…got to enjoy some face-to-face time.CampGlissonPhoto
  17. Another church’s chaperone brought her infant. I still laugh as one of my boys considered himself a baby-whisperer and took every opportunity to share with the mom how she can take care of her baby at camp.
  18. Prayer Walk that led us from our dining space to our Saturday night worship space with ‘thinking putty.’ One of the stops asked us how we reflected the character of God.  After 24 hours with our group, I was able to speak truth of how each one reflected the character of God within the last 24 hours.  A very precious moment for my soul.CampGlissonPrayerWater
  19. Learning that God lives in each of us, God never hides from us, God speaks to us in the quiet and through other spiritual leaders, God wants the best for us, God is not out to huff and puff and blow our house down for what we do wrong but rather to catch us doing well, God wants us to take care of the one on my left and the one on my right.
  20. Asking crazy questions of everyone on the ride up like ‘what’s under your bed right now?’
  21. We were in bed with lights-out by 10pm each night and up at 7am.  We got plenty of sleep even though we were wore out when we hit the bunks. I always enjoy reading a bedtime story after lights out, so sleep came quickly.CampGlissonHighRopes
  22. Stopping for lunch on the way home to process and discuss three questions so we’d have a better answer when Mom asks, “Well, how was it?” (1) What did you learn?, (2) Who did you meet? and something you learned about them, and (3) What will you do now?

This is what I wish I had thought of:CampGlissonZipLining

  1. Wearing my fitbit!

Parents and students are already asking about summer camp at Camp Glisson and if we’ll return for a preteen retreat again next year.  The answer? OH YES!

“Ready or not, Lord, here I come!” – Pastor Blair Zant

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Hand Blessings

HandsOne of the most precious moments of my week is shared at the end of each week’s Sunday School. After we play together, study together, respond together, laugh together, and pray together, we gather up to 1) get a fruit snack, 2) receive bible bucks, and 3) get a hand blessing.

My friend Lauren Miller, a United Methodist Deacon, shared the idea of hand blessing with me a few years ago and I knew it’d be the perfect way to offer personal and individual blessings to my students. It would involve four of the five senses (smell, touch, hearing, sight), give me time to look into each one’s eyes, and take only a few seconds to speak truth and life over each child.  Every. Single. Week. It’s one thing to touch, see, and hear church, but how often do I get to impart the ‘smell’ of church?

ThistleOilsLauren introduced the hand blessing to me using a scented chap stick with the wrapping removed. With the essential oil craze, finding ‘anointing oils’ is super easy. I came across a package of oil roll-ons at the Thistle Stop Cafe’ in Nashville at last year’s CEF (Christian Educator’s Fellowship) 2014 Conference.  I typically invite the oldest student in the room to choose the roll-on oil for each particular Sunday.

Taking a child’s hand in mine, I draw the shape of a cross with the roll-on oil on the back of the student’s hand BLESSINGSas I look into each one’s eyes and say a blessing: “Anna, may the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace,” “Griffin, trust in the Lord always and He will direct your paths,” “Isabella, Jesus loves you this I know for the Bible tells us so,” etc. Something relative to the lesson, a hymn, or a scripture. It’s makes me smile to see them smell the back of their hands during the following worship service.

“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

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Faith Milestone: Touch and See My Church

Faith+Milestones-shaded+button2Our students worship with their families. We offer nursery for students up to age 4, but we continue to involve and make our worship services family friendly with visuals, participatory experiences throughout the service, call and response moments, moved the sermon to the middle of the order of worship, and invite many voices as part of our services. We wanted our children to know about what they saw, so we made Touch and See My Church a Faith Milestone for our 1st and 2nd graders.

Touch&SeeMichaelThe goals of Touch and See My Church, held a few weeks before Palm Sunday, are to familiarize the children with worship components and connect them to the people in worship leadership. The students also learn why and how active participation in worship is important for them.

Meet & Greet – the students move as a large group and interview several folks in worship leadership asking 4 basic questions: 1) What do you do?, 2) Why do you do it?, 3) Do you like what you do?, 4) How did you get to do what you do? (volunteer, pray about it, went to seminary, etc.)  The students interviewed (in different places in the Sanctuary) a worship singer, a musician, an acolyte, a worship leader, our pastor, and the church secretary.  The students get stickers as they move in a group from person to person because it gives us a sense of accomplishment and all kids like stickers!

Touch&SeeCharlieSnack Lunch – meatballs in the a crock pot in hot dog buns (how we do meatball subs) with cheese balls and ice water is a snack as we show a teaching segment on something in the sanctuary from Chuck Knows Church.  Families get a chance to chat with other families and we read a few sections of Come Worship With Me.

Scavenger Hunt – sending the children to ‘discover’ the sanctuary with their families makes for some great conversations and teaching moments for the parents to do the best teaching to their own children.  Some of the scavenger hunt questions: What is the name Touch&SeeScavengerof our pastor? How many keys are on the keyboard played by our worship leader? How many pews are in the sanctuary? How many pictures of Jesus are in our sanctuary? What color is the church’s front door? Who has more books, Pastor J or the church library? How many crosses are in the sanctuary? What is one item always on the altar table? What is in the baptismal font? Along the bottom of the list it reads, “Answer all the questions and return for something special to take home and share with your family. Psalm 122:1 ‘I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.””

Touch&SeeWe laughed through the debrief and we offered a Look and Find Bible (purchased in bulk inexpensively from a Children’s Pastor’s Conference) for the student to take home and share with his/her family.

We sent an email 3 weeks out, sent a snail-mailed invitation 2 weeks out, then reminded with text messages the week of.  Scheduled it for immediately after worship while the leadership and the ‘physical items’ were still in place and the sanctuary was just recently used, 12:15pm-1:30pm.

What else would you add?

 Psalm 118:26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
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Faith Milestones

Faith+Milestones-shaded+button2Milestones are the significant cultural and developmental markers that we experience throughout our years of life. They are our firsts. There are ordinary firsts of steps and teeth, walking and talking. There are also firsts of our faith life: baptism, beginning Sunday School, receiving a Bible, our first retreat, making decisions for Christ, and more.

Faith Milestones are those firsts as we grow in our faith experiences because we know it doesn’t happen just on Sunday mornings.  It’s part of all we are and all we do as God’s beloved people.  Attending a CEF (Christian Educator’s Fellowship) national conference last year gave me the jumping off point to identify intentional firsts, presented as Faith Milestones, for our little people journeying through children’s ministries.  A huge thanks goes to Donna Draeger, Minister of Disciple Formation at Centennial UMC in Roseville, Minnesota and Deb Johnson, Children, Youth, and Family Minister at Spirit of Hope UMC in Golden Valley, Minnesota for leading the workshop that got this ball rolling around in my head.

It was important these Faith Milestones were in partnership and shared with the whole family as we sought to help families find ways to grow in their faith together.  We wanted shared spiritual experiences for our families and decided to put a few ages together just in case a family missed it the first time.  I calendared throughout the year based on our church’s rhythm of activities and wanted to introduce as much faith-filled vocabulary as possible for these firsts.

MilestoneBrochureFrontI put out a brochure (old school, I know, but it has all the dates on it for the year and that seems to work best for my parents to be able to keep up with it, especially those with more than one child.) I also put it in the monthly newsletters, bulletins, and sent a personal invite as well as a personal email a few weeks out inviting families to preregister if a meal was involved.

Ages 3 & 4 and any new rising kindergartner students: Welcome to Sunday School – Scheduled the Sunday before fall’s promotion Sunday from 12:15-1pm.  Program: What does Sunday School mean? What do we do there? Through story, song, and hands-on activities, learn what a fun place Sunday School is!  I invite a couple of the Sunday School teachers to participate so the families meet & greet and learn the routines.  We play some songs, tour the children’s hallway, decorate a cookie, and we give out a copy of The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School to each student.  The following week, I send a personal, handwritten post card as follow up inviting them to Sunday School.

bell hotel-serviceAge 5/Kindergartners and 1st Grade: I Can Pray – Scheduled on an October Sunday from 12:15-1:30 and includes a snack lunch – Children and parents/grandparents learn the parts of prayer and when and how to pray through word and song.  We’ll have prayer stations the families can share similar to the Praying On The Go Bags that are prepared each month.  We’ll make a prayer list and trace hands in a prayer journal for the family to share together…to be left on the kitchen counter for everyone in the family to write blessings or prayer requests and read throughout the comings and goings of their family.  Their take-aways will be the family prayer journal and a glory bell…something to place in the home to ring when they want to praise the Lord!  We hit it and shout, “Glory!”

1st & 2nd Grades: Touch & See My Church – Scheduled on a Spring Sunday from 12:15-1:30 and includes a snack lunch – A chance to explore the sanctuary ‘behind the scenes’ and learn more about worship.  The students and their families will go on a scavenger hunt in the Sanctuary (What is the name of our pastor? How many pews are in the Sanctuary? Touch&SeeJimWhat’s in the baptismal font? What’s bigger…the pastor’s office or church library?, What’s the color of the Sanctuary doors?, etc) I invite the worship leader, a musician, our senior pastor, a worship singer, an acolyte, and the church secretary to be a ‘station’ where the children ask each of 3 questions:  What do you do? How did you get to do what you do? Where do you do what you do? Students receive a sticker at the end of each station because little people like stickers.  Their take-away is a search book of bible stories.  This milestone is more involved, so I’ll post about this one next week.

3rd & 4th Grades: I Can Serve – Scheduled on a Sunday before Advent/November an hour before our CLUB345 gathering and led by our Senior Pastor.  The students learn how they can ‘help’ in the worship service and practice communion, lighting and extinguishing candles, get a tour of the chancel/stage area, etc.  The students also get their first hands-on teaching on the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.  This is also a very specific time when our students spend time with their pastor.  Anytime I can build their relationships with our pastor, I’m all in!

kids at church3rd – 5th Grades: A Bible of My Own – A student late night 6pm-9:30pm to learn about the bible and how to use it in daily living.  I’m in the process of writing this one now, so check out the blog later.  Our church gives Early Reader Bibles to students entering 1st grade and NIV Red Letter edition bibles to those entering 3rd grade (they’ll use these for CLUB345) on the Sunday during worship before the first CLUB345.

4th – 5th Grades: A Day Away At Ms. DeDe’s Retreat – Scheduled on a Tuesday in July practicing personal spiritual disciplines which help grow our focus and love for the Lord.  Deep & Wide Retreat

The scriptures share that Moses prepared the people of Israel to enter the Good Land by asking them to remember and tell the ways that they had experienced God’s love and care. In this way, he knew that faith in the God of Israel would live on.  These shared spiritual memories are special and we have sought to set them apart as such.

Deuteronomy 6:6 “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them…”


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“Move Your Bus”…A Book Review

move-your-bus-9781501105036_hrRon Clark is the founder of Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and the author of the new book on leadership teams, Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life.  Serving in the field of Christian education in the context of a local church, I enjoy his books and was thrilled that this one shared some specifics about serving on a team with clear organizational goals.

His lays out the book in a parable speaking of five characters who make up every type of organization aka your bus:

RunnerRunners come early, stay late, never complain, provide a positive spirit, have a strong work ethic, are driven to take the initiative to work, not for personal reward, but toward the good of the whole organization and tackle tasks with an attitude of It has to be done, let’s knock it out, let’s do it.  Runners are the first to fearlessly volunteer and want to include the whole team in problem solving and celebration.

Joggers are steady, dependable, fairly punctual and conscientious about following the rules.  ‘They don’t slow the bus down, but they don’t make it fly either.’  They dress appropriately, often rise to meet expectations, but ‘aren’t going to blow your mind, day in and day out.’  They can switch into high gear when called upon, but can’t sustain such energy for the long haul primarily because they lack the confidence to go full throttle.

WalkerWalkers point out everything they see is wrong in the organization, deflect blame, want attention, complain the Runners make them look bad, and shouldn’t be expected to go beyond their job descriptions. Walkers pull people down to their speed and see no need to accelerate on a regular basis, thereby frustrating Runners and Joggers.  Clark warns that Walkers target new hires quickly ‘to recruit new walkers.’

Riders aren’t interested in organizational success or even personal success. They greatly frustrate the Runners and Joggers since they get the most attention from the Driver of the Bus who desperately tries to motivate the Riders and Walkers to move the organization further. Riders don’t want to lose their jobs/paychecks, so their main goal is to do just enough to avoid termination.  They’ll even keep track of the slights of other staff members just in case they are held to a higher standard than the very bare minimum.

Drivers drive the bus and have the entire organization on their shoulders. In the local church, this should be the senior pastor.  Due to gifts and graces, the driver of a particular local church may be a lay person or a staff member.  Due to personalities, the driver of a particular local church may appear to be a lay person or a staff member.  Due to the lack of a driver, a Runner may assume the role of a driver for a season.  It’s not a Runner’s role, but it’s what a Runner does. Thinking of a school bus driver, they are constantly looking in the side and rear mirrors for hindrances, they constantly check the bus (the organization) that it is safe, ready, and prepared for the ride.  Drivers know the starting place, the destination, and the healthy stops along the way.

The remainder of the book shares how the Driver can accelerate success, most effectively free the Runners, encourage the Joggers to become Runners, and continue to move the bus toward the goal.  It reminded me of a Disney Institute tour taken many years ago.  The focus of Disney’s leadership is on the top 1/3 of the team.  The thought process is to make the top tier more effective, thereby making the organization more effective.  In essence, it’s better for the organization to move a team member from an 8 to a 10 rather than spend all your energy trying to move a 3 to a 5.

BusToyAs a family of faith, we are commissioned to love everyone.  The warning is not to forget, ignore, or even fire the Riders and Walkers, but rather not worry about being ‘fair’ (ex: Jesus didn’t heal everyone, just the one, at the pool of Bethesda found in John 5), look at the good of the whole, and keep the bus moving toward the organizational goals.  Several of the ‘accelerants’ that resonated with me in the local church setting…

1.  Sit with the Runners – We are more apt to BE who we sit with, fostering collaboration, and improving ourselves when we spend time with those who are doing it well.  This is why I don’t miss a networking lunch with others who minister with children, engage in conversation, and ask a ton of questions.  John Maxwell’s new book speaks of great leaders asking lots of questions when in the company of Runners.  What is my question-to-statement ratio?

2.  Clean the Windshield – If we are not the Runners on a particular project we should volunteer to take on the menial tasks so the Runner can be the Runner.  Asking “What can I do to help?” or helping others on the team do their jobs well for the greater good of the organization.  My responsibility may not be ‘worship’, but am I helping that team of Runners? It is safe to say that the majority of a congregation’s only connection to the Body of Christ happens in worship.  Even if it’s not in my bucket, what can I do to ‘clean the windshield’ every week?  And not just worship…what can I do to ‘clean the windshield’ for the other staff?  Empty the trash, be one of the last to walk out, be one of the first to arrive, bring a bottle of water to the tech ninja, bring Altoids and sugarless gum to the youth director taking kids on a retreat…

3.  Allow Runners to Reap the Rewards – As the Body of Christ, we must we willing to be happy for and willing to support the Runners who carry the lion’s share of the work.  It’s not a competition, it’s a family.

4. Say Hello – Greeting people with a smile or a ‘Good morning’ spreads good energy and ‘good energy will come back to you.’  Anybody else ever said, “Good Morning,” even in the afternoon or at a night event at church? Guilty! I recall listening to a sermon series and hearing that a cheerful greeting done in the first 5 seconds relates interest, care, and love like nothing else.  Even if you get nothing but a grunt from a young person (like the one I gave birth to during his middle school years,) my greeting can set up an environment of joy, compassion, and empathy.  That’s my idea of great decorating!  That young man now kisses me on the cheek when he arrives and leaves the room. He learned that greeting matters. (Heart melting!)

The goal of a local church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  That’s as clear as it gets. I would think that everyone would want to be a Runner when it comes to Kingdom-building.  It’s not a personality thing, but rather a drive and/or momentum thing.

I was especially moved by the 23rd chapter.  “If you ask your Runners to hide their success or to do their important work under cover, you make them feel unappreciated and that can cause them to decelerate – or even to hop aboard another bus that is moving at the speed of light.” Clark goes on to share, “I’ve been to schools where there really aren’t any Runners, but there are a lot of Joggers who consider themselves to be top performers. If a true Runner comes onboard in an environment like that, she will very likely be perceived as a threat….When you only have one Runner in your organization, you have to work hard to protect that individual because she is in a very vulnerable position.”  Whew! The job of the Driver.

bus-ministryI thoroughly enjoyed the book.  I especially enjoyed being reminded that I am called to be a Runner for Christ and I should be doing all that goes with that in the area where He has called me to serve.  Serving as a professional Christian educator and as a staff member of a local church, I am in bus ministry.  What will you do this week to move your bus?

Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore, let us MOVE (emphasis mine) beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”

“A movement exists only when people choose to work together in one direction. The leader’s job is to inspire the people to move.” – Simon Sinek

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