A Target Audience Survey

Reading Rethink Communication: A Playbook to Clarify and Communicate Everything In Your Church, author Phil Bowdle shares the following:

“The basic foundation of most churches has not changed dramatically. The average church is built around worship services, children’s ministry, student ministry, Sunday school or small groups, and ministry events. So what’s changed? It’s the people.”

He then quotes Dave Adamson, “Church attendance is not decreasing, it’s decentralizing.” BECAUSE, according to http://www.socialmediatoday.com, “The average person who attends your church may only physically attend eight to ten times a year. The average person your church is trying to engage with is on social media 116 minutes a day.” 

Breathe. Really. Just breathe.

Phil Bowdle was interviewed on the MyCom Church Marketing Podcast of March 12. He shared his dad was a United Methodist pastor, his mom served as a leader in Children’s Ministry. He didn’t just grow up in the church. His parents had keys! Phil serves today as the Creative Arts Pastor at West Ridge Church in Northwest Atlanta. I ordered the book before the podcast ended.

Jesus’ Great Commission to us as His followers is to ‘make disciples of Jesus Christ’ or in other translations, ‘go and teach’. We can only do that through engaging people in discipleship as they live their lives every day of the week. We MUST prepare and plan to engage people as they are inside the house AND outside the house.

So where do we start? Phil writes that many churches exist in the ‘chaos cycle.’ Two of the many symptoms of the ‘chaos cycle’ would be ‘reactive workflow instead of proactive planning’ and ‘everything comes together at the last minute.’ To break out of the ‘chaos cycle’ Phil suggests and outlines six plays to effectively communicate our message. Play #1: Clarify your message.

In clarifying your message, we ask ourselves three great questions:
1. Who is your target audience?
2. What’s the win for your message?
3. What are the barriers to your message?

I’ve spent the last week contemplating and talking about and to my target audience as we prepare to plan and promote a new monthly ministry to students in 3rd-5th grade next fall. I surveyed our 2nd-5th graders on Palm Sunday as they were waiting their class’ turn to move through the Easter Story Stone Stations after the traditional palm processional. Why? I no longer have a 2nd-5th grader living their everyday in my home and I don’t want to make assumptions.

The information gathered was surprisingly delightful, and so helpful. The questions we asked are below:
1. Top 2 shows you like to watch
2. Top 2 outside-of-school activities do you like to play
3. Top 2 sports you like to watch
4. Top 2 people in your life
5. Top 2 people you’d like to hang out with (past or present people)
6. Top 2 restaurants where you like to eat
7. Top 2 family traditions
8. Top 2 favorite colors
9. Top 2 things you like about church
10. Top 2 things you like about school
11. Top 2 things you like about Jesus
12. Top 2 things you like about your family
13. Top 2 people you like to talk to when you have a problem
14. Top 2 friends you have at church
15. Top 2 church leaders you know
16. Top 2 times when you like to pray
17. Top 2 times when you read your Bible
18. Top 2 songs you like to sing
19. What do you or have you participated in at church since you’ve been at McEachern? (circle all that apply)
Sunday School / Vacation Bible School / Ambassadors / Messy Family Lent / Messy Family Christmas / Acolytes / Winter Ball / Gaga Ball Pit / Christmas Caroling / Trip to Bethlehem / Ultimate Camp / Princess Class / Knights Class / Splish Splash / Tour of Nativities / Day Away at Ms. DeDe’s / Bible Ninja Warrior / Summer Special Sundays / Camp Glisson / Wonderfully Made / Faith Field Trips–Paddle Board, Puppets, Hiking, Movies / Recreation-Soccer, Basketball, etc. / McEachern Preschool

Next, I will work with our team to determine the win. Then, we address the barriers. This book is a practical playbook on communicating your message. Do I dare prepare a ‘next steps’ plan of discipleship for each age level based on this information? You bet I do!

“And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again he says, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Hebrews 2:13

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Messy Family Lent

Messy Church is a fresh expression of inter-generational worship, service, and fellowship experiences which values being Christ-centered, based on creativity, hospitality, and celebration. We used the framework for Messy Church for a Messy Family Christmas event last December for an afternoon event. Thirty minutes for creative activities; thirty minutes for inter-generational worship with familiar live music and a jacked-up children’s moment; thirty minutes for table life with a simple meal of soup, bread, and water. It was a huge success in registration of 100 and actually 120 in attendance. Our Missions Committee also used the Messy Church model as an opportunity to extend a Christmas blessing to families in need who are serviced by our food pantry and Teach-One-To-Lead-One missions in our local elementary and middle schools naming it The Christmas Table for the sole purpose of growing in relationships and sharing table-life with even more families in our community.

After receiving permission to take on the four 5th Sundays in the coming year to expand the Messy Church model in our context, we chose to present a Messy Family Lent event as an opportunity to celebrate the end of our first Glee Club & Cherub Choir season on March 31st. What was different? We chose to offer it as a takeover for the first part of the 11am Sanctuary service where the children sang, signed, offered the call-to-worship as a call and response, and were flanked by worship art the children had prepared with six panels representing six scenes of the Lent season in the life of Jesus.

The schedule included twenty minutes of familiar music (Jesus Loves Me; This is the Day) including special music (song and sign language) of Rend Collective’s “Strength of My Heart.” We then dismissed from the Sanctuary, along with all of our parents/families, to the gym for a beautiful signing piece from our Cherub Choir (4-5 year olds) followed by eight stations of experiential activities. Parents were required to stay with their children as they moved from one station to another. At 12noon, the stations closed and families joined up at tables (assigned tables of eight for families who registered to encourage families to make new friends) along with additional table and chair spaces for 32. With two two-sided serving stations, we served sloppy joes, buns, shredded cheese, chips, pickles, and water which folks signed up to bring when they registered. At 12:20pm we finished the event with a sing-along of Jesus Loves Me and This Is The Day (song sheets on the tables) and a rousing rendition of a JumpStart 3 song our students have enjoyed singing since the first of the year.

This particular Sunday was the beginning of Spring Break. Expecting numbers to be low, we were surprised with the 85 registrations. Knowing what happened at Messy Family Christmas, I planned supplies for 125 at each station that had individual take-aways. We used everything! One of the reasons this planning freak gal likes to use the Messy Church model for creative and inter-generational stations is that not everything is a craft requiring a fixed amount of individual take-aways. Each station is not about the task, but rather the discussion and relationship-building.

With our theme of JESUS IS AMAZING, the following stations were set up around the perimeter of the gym. Not all the stations were ‘manned’ since the families were to remain together. When the station was ‘manned’, it was manned by past Ambassadors (current middle school youth) or an adult (not a parent/grandparent), and the story eggs were led by a husband and wife team who shared the Resurrection story with flare, excitement, and creativity.

Station #1 – Decorate bag to carry goodies home
Discussion: What do you think about Easter?
What do you think about Lent?
Did your family do something special for the season of Lent?
Jesus is amazing!

Station #2 – Decorate an altar cloth for the altar table in the Treehouse
Supplies: Full Sheet
Sharpies
Activity: Draw a cross and write your name around it on the sheet in a sharpie.
Discussion: What does the cross remind you of? Jesus died on a cross so we could be forgiven and was buried in a tomb, but He didn’t stay dead. He rose on the 3rd day to let us know that we are forgiven. A cross reminds us of God’s love for us. For God so loved YOU that he gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but will have everlasting life. John 3:16
After Jesus died on the cross, the women who followed Him, wrapped up His body and laid Him in a tomb (a cave carved out of rock.) What Jesus did for us on the cross is amazing!

Station #3 – Lent words to know
Supplies: Scrabble letters on a large cookie sheet from the kitchen
Paper
Markers
List of words to start with: Lent, Easter, Jesus, cross, blood, water, soldier, pray
Activity: Make a word; build on a word already on the cookie sheet (like a crossword/scrabble board).
Discussion: During Lent we might hear lots of new words like ‘resurrection’, ‘redemption’, ‘holiness’ which we don’t typically hear any other time of year. What are some new words you have heard? Every word points to Jesus, because Jesus is amazing!

Station #4 – Story Eggs
Supplies: Wooden eggs
Activity: Draw symbols on your egg to decorate it so you can tell the Good News of Jesus.
Discussion: Dots – Jesus’ mommy Mary & friends cried tears of sadness when He died and cried tears of joy when He rose again
Hearts – God sent His son Jesus so we would know how much He loves us
Swirls – God made you and Jesus loves you
Cross – Jesus died on a cross, but is risen because Jesus is amazing!
Star – Where is Heaven? Heaven is up like the stars are up! Jesus walked the earth for 40 days to talk with his family and friends after His resurrection then went up into the clouds to (1) prepare a place for us when our time on earth is through, and (2) to send us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to help us live a life that honors God and our family as followers of Jesus. Jesus is amazing!

Station #5 – Decorated Crosses
Supplies: Wooden crosses
Activity: Have children choose a wooden cross they can keep.
Discussion: Talk about why the cross is the most important symbol of Easter for Christians (Believers and Followers of Jesus). Jesus in amazing!

Station #6 – Please Stones
Supplies: Small stones/jewels
Activity: Pick up a stone/jewel and hold it in your hand.
When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked God to please let something else take place to save people from sin. But, if this (Jesus dying on the cross) was the only way people could be saved and forgiven of our sins, then He would do what God asked of Him. This was a “Please prayer.”
Discussion: What’s on your mind? What are you hoping for? What are you wishing for?
Pray a “please” prayer (a prayer where you ask God “please”) for what’s on your mind.
When you’re done, place your stone in the bowl along with everyone else’s. Notice the growing numbers of prayers we share together.
God hears every prayer, even the ones that seem small or silly. Jesus is amazing!

Station #7 – Crown of Thorns
Supplies: Brown playdoh
Toothpicks
Activity: Mold a circle/crown with the playdoh and place broken toothpicks in it to make a crown of thorns.
Discussion: The first time ‘thorns’ is mentioned in the Bible is as a punishment for disobeying God’s first and only rule for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Because they disobeyed and did eat the fruit from it, they had to leave the Garden and now grow their own food ‘among the thorns and the thistles.’ Now we see that a crown of ‘thorns and thistles’ were placed on His head. This is an example of what we call, “The rule of first mention” in the Bible. When something is mentioned in the Bible for the first time, it matters how and when it is mentioned throughout the Bible. What does it feel like to your fingers? Jesus loves you so much that He took the punishment for our sin (our selfishness) so we can be forgiven and learn to live a life of kindness and help for other people. Jesus is amazing!

Station #8 – Rolling the Stone
Supplies: Marbles, poster paint, linen hand towel
Activity: Roll marbles in paint, and then roll them over the hand towel to leave a pattern.
Discussion: Talk about the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb=the cave where Jesus was laid after He died on the cross. Jesus is amazing!

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

Spring Memories

This week is hard. The memories come fast. The tears come even faster.

Three  years ago, on March 31st, we found my mother-in-law ‘asleep’ at the table we shared many a salad, scrambled eggs, and story about her amazing grandchildren.  Her birthday was the day before on March 30th. This woman knew me before I knew myself. We grew up together.

On April 1st my Daddy was escorted to his Heavenly home before my very eyes. The best and worst of days for this Daddy’s girl. From 1am-3am I sat in the presence of our sweet Jesus as He took two entire hours to gather the spirit of this larger-than-life man only 14 years ago.  I have his laugh, his booming voice. He told me first about Jesus. His head was always full of ideas and nothing seemed impossible. I like to think that my voice and Jesus’ voice overlapped as Dad moved from here to there.

My father-in-law’s birthday is April 3rd. It’s also #1 Son’s spiritual birthday, accepting Jesus as his Savior at 5 years old. Frank went to his Heavenly home on April 4, 1994, the day after Ben decided to follow Jesus.

This week is hard. The memories come fast. The tears come even faster.

Yet the Lord can redeem a season of loss.

Mr. Yummy, our first grandchild, turns 7 this week on April 6th. Amazon has already delivered a rebounding soccer ball, the board game Sorry, and a box of foam swords.

#1 Son and the most amazing Daughter-in-Love & Law will celebrate their 3rd wedding anniversary on April 23rd, the same wedding date as my in-laws.

Miss Precious, second grandchild, delivered by her super-hero Dad on the side of the road during rush hour traffic, turns 5 on April 24th. I was surrounded by 70 of my best-girl-friends-in-Lord that evening and she made international news. We also mailed our Son-in-Love & Law a cape the very next day.

As I dust the frames of our family pictures on the wall this week, the memories come fast. The tears come even faster.

A dear friend gave to me a copy of Rockstar Grandparent written by Chrys Howard for my birthday.  Chrys Howard is Korie Robertson’s mom of Duck Dynasty fame. They live in Louisiana. She shares, “Your life is like a one-million-piece puzzle. The good – no, great – news about this stage of life is that your corners are probably pretty secure. You’ve raised your family, worked forever, and established yourself in your church and community. Gone are the days of wondering what you’ll be when you grow up or how you’ll handle the death of a loved one or the loss of a job or the betrayal of a friend. Chances are you’ve experienced similar scenarios in life and conquered them. But there are still a few pieces missing from your puzzle.”

Lord, I pray that the few pieces still missing from our puzzles will be filled with stories retold, new celebrations to experience, and we are smack dab in the middle of Your will and purposes for our lives. May our legacy be Christ-centered, lived out in the local church and in our homes, in joyful obedience to Your Word.  And may we welcome the tears and memories as a direct result of the depth of our love for one another.

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Done In A Day: Discipleship for Children

Done In A Day is an annual training event for those who serve children and their families in ministry offered by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is one training held simultaneously, at multiple locations, across the conference offering nurture, and support for those in ministry with children; either as pastors, staff or volunteers. There is about 1.5 hours for the training material which includes places for conversation and group sharing.

We’ve offered training for connecting children in worship, in mission, and in Sunday school. Last year we offered training in using Holy Listening Stones to engage in sacred and every-day conversations with children in multiple settings by Leanne Hadley.

The theme this year is “Creating a Discipleship Pathway (Plan) for Children.” The video presenter will be Rev. Kathryn Pittenger. She serves as the Children’s Initiatives Coordinator in the Michigan Conference and author of Developing an Intentional Discipleship System for Children offered through Discipleship Ministries. She will be presenting the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ to prepare a plan for discipleship for children in your context. Ken Willard offered training for a Pathway for Discipleship last October here in North Georgia sharing we must propel disciples of Jesus to make strides to become more like Jesus through intentionally offering next steps in resources and experiences. As he reminded us, the goal and mission of the local church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is not church growth. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. I recall him speaking about offering a certain amount of high chairs in a church nursery. We can’t keep adding high chairs for Baby Christians without a plan to move disciples in their relationship with Jesus through the spiritual disciplines of the saints of the yesterday and today. There’s more about my take-aways from that training here.

When we speak about children’s discipleship, are we event coordinators or disciple-makers? Disciple-making doesn’t just happen. We must have an intentional plan if our job is make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Even the little disciples.  BUT….. What is developmentally appropriate for children? What is helpful for parents? What is realistic, measurable, and intentional? When we bring our kids to soccer, baseball, and dance on a weekly basis, our children have coaches. Those coaches guide their practice so their skills at the end of a season are better than they were at the beginning. Can we offer anything less for our kids when it comes to their ‘soul training”? We are those coaches!

The question I hear all the time is, “Who’s got time to lay out a plan for discipleship that is developmentally appropriate when Sunday keeps coming, VBS is in a few months, and don’t even ask me about the Christmas play?” I know you want more than just to survive a calendar of events, get through a season, or decorate another bulletin board. Let’s get together and help each other come up with a plan. I’ll be at the McEachern Memorial UMC location and our facilitator with be the fabulous Kate Morris of Acworth United Methodist Church. Will you join us this year for Done in a Day at night? Register here today.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

Quitter, Quitter, Chicken Dinner!

Mrs. Jennifer Clark is our guest blogger today. Jen serves as the Children’s Ministry Director at Mountainview United Methodist Church located in Marietta, Georgia. 

While recently attending the Children’s Pastor’s Conference, I kept hearing this statistic: “The average time for a Director of KidMin to stay in the job is 18 months.” Yikes. That’s not very long. You can’t even get the supply closet organized in 18 months.

But it’s also not surprising, is it? I mean, it only takes about a week on the job to discover how hard it can be. The kid part tends to be the fun, rewarding part, but the behind-the-scenes stuff – wrangling volunteers, maintaining rosters, bargaining for facility space – those are things that can break you in a hurry.

I’m at the beginning of my 25th month on the job. And to be honest, I’ve thought about quitting at least a hundred times. Flooded classrooms, double-booked Fellowship Halls, keys that didn’t work, adults arguing… My husband will testify to the tearful conversations that typically end with me saying, “This is so HARD. I want to quit.”

So what’s keeping me from quitting? Some days, it’s just sheer laziness – it would take too long to write a resignation letter. But more often, my merciful Father reminds me of the tools that He gave me along with this amazing, challenging call. And the good news – He’s given you these tools too.

A Direct Help Line
There is no more powerful tool than calling out to God directly during an hour or season of discouragement. Jesus says to come to Him when we are worn out and overwhelmed, and He will help. (Matthew 11:28)

Encouraging Words
These are a few of the verses I treasure in my heart and pull out during the dark hours of discouragement:
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This verse reminds me that I don’t have to have it all together, and the best thing is to stand down so Jesus can stand in.

Psalm 30:5 Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Don’t things always seem a little better after some sleep and that first cup of coffee (or tea)? Sometimes, literally, God says, “Go to bed”.

John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble.” I know on the surface scripture about life’s difficulties may not seem encouraging, but isn’t there some comfort in knowing that this isn’t supposed to be easy? When things get hard, perhaps that means we’re on the right track!

A Community of Support
God doesn’t expect us to do this by ourselves. He provides people to encourage us, whether it be through a mentor’s wise counsel, a volunteer’s enthusiasm or a child’s hug. We all have access to an extraordinary collection of KidMin champions through the North Georgia United Methodist Church’s Children’s Ministry Network, whose collective experiences and wisdom are available for the asking.

A Clear Goal
God has called us into Children’s Ministry to make Jesus-disciples. Staying focused on our purpose acts like a filter, allowing us to tune in to the clear frequency of God’s call, and tune out the static of distractions that lead to discouragement and a longing to give up.

Sometimes, in seasons of discouragement, I am lulled into the deceptive thinking that quitting will make things better. But then the Lord provides – a verse of encouragement, a nudge to call on His name, a hug from a child. And that’s sufficient to sustain me for the day.

I’d love to know – what tools sustain you through seasons of discouragement?

If you’d like to connect with Jen Clark, contact her at jenniferleeclark@gmail.com.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

First Time Guests

Extending radical hospitality to first time guests should constantly be on our minds and ready for an upgrade. We’ve addressed signage and location to the best of our abilities, but what else?

Checking out images of a fellow blogger who visited and posted images at a mega-church, I stopped over a simple image he’d posted specifically for first time guests. A round table, set a bit higher than most tables, with a simple sign, ink pens, and a general form. Something so simple, yet so intentional.

I asked our facilities manager if he had a similar table tucked away in storage and he did. The taller round table meant that a dear Mom or Dad wouldn’t be bent over filling out forms (not attractive and very uncomfortable) and made it easier to keep an eye on their littles. The sign was printed with our logo with clear instructions for parents. Multiple ink pens were set in a plastic cup with stones to keep it upright. We set it all in the middle of the entrance used specifically for little people so it couldn’t be missed. Didn’t even need to man it since our greeters could easily see it and it’s purpose.

We set it up three weeks ago.

Week 1: Our greeters (we set up the table and gave no announcement or instruction) directed a Mama of 3 to the table where she easily completed paperwork and the kids had space to move around, yet didn’t stray far. Mama brought the younger two to the nursery and the older one to me with paperwork in-hand with time to spare for quick welcoming conversations and me being fully present to speak to her son as we explained what would be happening that morning. I paired her son with a welcoming buddy of his same age to show him the ropes. We didn’t have to hand her forms, ask her to step aside and fill it out in both the children’s area and the nursery, then try to come back to us when a whole host of people would be talking to us. Smooth, personal, clear and we were all fully present with time to spare for conversation and connection.

Week 2: A grandfather who is a member brought his grandson for the first time. Granddad went straight to the table to fill out paperwork and brought it to me as I was able to welcome the grandson by name. We introduced him to a great welcome buddy in the Children’s Ministry Welcome Center which was a student in his grade level and the transition into the morning was smooth and very welcoming.

Week 3: I watched as an older couple with no children went to the First Time? table and retrieved two forms. When I stepped up to greet them, they told me they wanted to welcome their new neighbors with two kids with the forms AND a monthly flier of what’s happening. These folks would not have come to me directly because it may look like I’m too busy, yet the table made it easier for them to pickup forms/documents for First Time guests as part of their welcome to their new neighbors.

I pass the paperwork on to to their Sunday school teacher. The Sunday school teacher returns it to me after class so that I can input their information into the database AND followup with a couple of postcards: Welcome postcard and any upcoming event postcard, as well as an email on the second week. It’s been up for only three weeks!

What are other ways to be intentional to welcome guests into your ministry with children?

“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:5

Teaching Children to Pray at a Faith Milestone

Jesus is our model for worship, study, play, and prayer.  Prayer is one of those sacred practices which can be caught, but when we offer an intentional teaching time, students grow to have more confidence.  When practiced with their families, it’s a shared sacred memory.   This is the motivation behind the Faith Milestone: I Can Pray offered to our families with 1st and 2nd grade students. The event was scheduled for a Wednesday evening 5:45pm-6:30pm.

After students decorate a solid colored gift bag to hold all their take home goodies and printed instructions, we share that “Prayer is talking AND listening to God (Father and Creator), Jesus (God’s son, our best friend, and Savior), and the Holy Spirit (Comforter, reminding us as believers/followers what will please the Lord.)” Students are required to stay with and participate fully with their parents/caregivers. Students and families are then led to these stations spread throughout a large room.

Supplies:

These are the various stations with directions:

Find The Page – Choose a book. Find the page where the little bears are praying before bedtime and read aloud. Take one for your family prayer bag.

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 spinner 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)

Silly Putty Prayers (W.I.T.H. Prayer)

  • Take out your silly putty and stretch, mold, pull, tug on it as you sit quietly and ponder the following:
  • Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
  • Think of something that makes you say “WOW!” (pause)
  • Take a deep breath…when you slowly and quietly exhale, whisper, “Wow, God!”
  • Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
  • Think of something that you’ve said, done, or thought that would not please God….something you’d want to say, “I’m sorry” about.  (pause)
  • Take a deep breath…when you slowly and quietly exhale, whisper, “I’m sorry, God.”
  • Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
  • Keep pulling on your silly putty.
  • Think of something you want to thank God for.  Several somethings. (pause)
  • Take a deep breath…when you slowly and quietly exhale, whisper, “Thank you, God.”
  • Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
  • Think of someone you know who needs help…maybe they are sad, maybe they are sick, maybe they are poor, maybe they are hurting. (pause)
  • Take a deep breath…when you slowly and quietly exhale, whisper, “Help them, God.”
  • Then close to tell God whatever you want.  He loves to hear from you! Amen.
  • Thankful to Mark Burrows for sharing this experience at National Christian Educators Fellowship Conference in Nashville several years ago.

Bubble Prayers

Blow a bubble.  As it floats to the floor, pray a help prayer.

“Lord, please help _____________________ because ______________________. Amen.”

Journal Prayers

  1. Choose a journal.
  2. Open to the first page.
  3. Trace the hands of everyone in the family on individual pages and write their name on the page.
  4. Put your hand in each family member’s traced hand and talk to God about that family member.
  5. Then turn to a fresh page each day with a date to invite family members to write prayer requests. As you pray for that prayer request, place your hand on the family member’s traced hand.

A Wiggle Prayer

O God, who made my fingers (wiggle fingers)

O God, who made my toes, (wiggle toes)

O God, who made my eyebrows, (wiggle eyebrows)

O God, who made my nose, (wiggle nose)

You made my heart for laughter, (put hand to heart)

You made my voice for song, (make a “singing” pose)

You made my soul to dance, (dance in place)

And praise you all lifelong. (raise both hands in the air)

Amen

“Glory” Celebration Prayers –  Open a call bell.  Every time you think of a time to say, “Thank you, Lord!”, ring the bell and say, “Glory!” Place the bell somewhere in your home when anyone in the family wishes to express a thanks to the Lord, they ring the bell and shout, “Glory!”

M&M Prayers – Find a quiet spot, take a deep breath, and open your bag of M&Ms. As you put an M&M in your mouth, close your eyes and take time to feel and taste as the candy melts in your mouth. As the candy melts, turn your thoughts to God, and use the color code below to focus your prayers:

Red candy: Think about the greatness of God. Think about the great things God has made.

Take a deep breath, hold it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper “God, You are great.”

Orange candy: Thank God for the blessings you have received and the goodness in your life. Take a deep breath, hold it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper, “God, You are good.”

Yellow candy: Pray for those who are in need of basic human needs; food, shelter, water, peace.

Take a deep breath, hold it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper, “Thank you, God.”

Brown candy: Pray for those close to you or far away in need of God’s guiding spirit, that they will feel God’s abundant love in their life.

Take a deep breath, holding it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper, “Help them, God.”

Blue candy: Confess to God (agree with God) that you are sometimes weak and fail to follow God as you should. Ask God to help you stay strong.

Take a deep breath, holding it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper, “Forgive me, God.”

Green candy: Sit in silence as you ask God to hear your prayers, those spoken and those that are unsaid in your heart.

Take a deep breath, holding it counting to 5, then breathe out slowly and whisper, “Praise you, God, for hearing my prayers.”

Upon completion, we debrief by asking:

What was your favorite station?

What do you think you could do to pray tonight before you go to bed?

What do you think you could do in the morning when you wake up to help you pray?

What is prayer? “When we _____ & ______ to the Lord.”

Prayer is ‘caught’ AND ‘taught’. What other ways can we intentionally teach children and families to pray together?

“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

Recruiting: Intention Postcards

Each spring thoughts of fall ministry with Sunday school, weekly programming, special events and the Children’s Ministry Dream Team God has planned to gather begins to take up great space in my head, my heart, and my prayers. Inviting others to join a team of Jesus’ disciples to disciple little people (and themselves in the process) thrills this Jesus gal to the bone. I fully understand how difficult it is to ask folks to make a commitment for the fall a full six months ahead of time, but it’s that intentionality that has saved me from taking on more than I should when I had little people and a family to take care of. It helped us keep our family priorities.

We had a Reilly family tradition which called everyone (kids and adults) to decide by Memorial Day what we’d commit to for the next school year as a family. Negotiations took place to be sure we were best able to balance our calendars, our finances, and our heads. This resulted in a gift of reminding everyone in the family of our mutual commitment to our discipleship and relationship with Jesus and the local church as our priority. This was far from a formal meeting and more like multiple  mini-conversations in the car, around the dinner table, and while doing laundry. There was plenty of time for PTA, marching band, drama plays, school, soccer, and vacation time, but only as it worked around our priority of discipleship. Wouldn’t I want to provide the same healthy habit for the families I serve in the local church?

This last Sunday, we attached a ‘Intention Postcard’ to the copies of Sunday school lessons. I’ll begin passing them out as other regular programming takes place in the next two weeks, as well.

Thank you for serving on the McEachern Kids Dream Team this school year with your presence, your preparation, your faithfulness, your smile, your joy and so much more. It is with great appreciation that we wish for you to take a jubilee…a time of rest and refreshment…this summer for June and July.

You were an answer to prayer when you said, “Yes!” to serve this year and I can’t thank you enough.  As we begin to pray and prepare for the next school year, we humbly ask you to prayerfully consider how and where you wish to continue serving on the McEachern Kids Dream Team come August.

Please return this card to me by the first day of spring, March 20.

  • I want to stay with this grade level in Sunday school.
  • I want to stay in my role in Sunday school, but with another grade level. ______
  • I want to loop-up with my current class to the next grade level.
  • I want to begin to lead a Sunday school class (one month on, one month off)
  • I want to stay in my role in Children’s Church
  • I want to stay in my role in Well-Versed Kids
  • I want to begin serving in Children’s Church
  • I want to begin serving in Well-Versed Kids
  • I want to stay in my role in Glee Club/Cherub Choir
  • I want to begin serving in Glee Club/Cherub Choir (program 5:45-6:30pm on most Wednesdays)
  • I want to begin serving in the new CLUB345 on Sunday evenings beginning in August
  • I want to take a year off
  • I want to serve and I’ve got an idea!

_____________________________________ (please print your name)

How will you invite your team to return, invite your team to take a time of rest, invite your team to share their ideas and needs, AND trust our great God to provide for the harvest. This is HIS holy work. We are invited to play in His sandbox and have the faith He will show up and show off among His people. This I know: The laborers will always seem few. The harvest will always be great. Yet our great God can multiple fire and enthusiasm among His own to draw people close to know His love and His Son. Anyone else have the prayer prompt “Lord, who?” written in sharpie on the car windshield? What is your process?

“Your ministry will always be better if you have volunteers/servant leaders who are recruited early, who are well trained, and who gave you their best YES.” The Sustainable Ministry Show podcast, episode 084

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Hebrews 3:6

What is Your Language of Appreciation in your Work?

Just a few weeks ago I got a phone call from a fellow Kidmin champion who was crushed and ready to quit. After prayer and some ‘laughter through tears’, she backed away from the ledge. My heart hurt for her as she was on the receiving end of neglect, disappointment, and feeling humiliated by her immediate supervisor. Just a few days later I received in the mail a flier from a local book store. When I saw The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People as one of the books highlighted, I stopped on my way into the office and purchased the last two copies.

Steven Covey, author of the bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states, “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” Gary Chapman of The 5 Love Languages fame has partnered with Paul White, a psychologist, speaker, and consultant who helps make work relationships work to offer a tool on how to encourage your co-workers/staff with intentionality and efficiency.

There is a distinct difference between recognition and appreciation. Recognition is about acknowledging behavior, improving performance which focuses on what is good for the company, and comes from the top down in an organization. Appreciation focuses on what’s good for the company AND affirms one’s value as a person which can be communicated in any direction – colleague to colleague, supervisor to team member, even team member to supervisor. Quoting a ton of research, they found that most people leave their positions not because of money (12%), but rather because of not feeling appreciated or valued (88%). (pg 35)

There are 5 languages of appreciation in the workplace.

  1. Words of Affirmation – Global praise does very little to encourage (“I appreciate you.”), but specific verbal praise for a specific job well done, affirming one’s character, and praise for positive personality traits will make the difference. The greatest tragedy is while most people genuinely appreciate the people they work with, they often neglect to verbally, or on paper, express that appreciation. This might be your language of appreciation when words shared have an edge, are not personally affirming, and you feel ripped to pieces by the words that ARE shared. This the language of appreciation of my friend above because words can cut her to the quick. And they have.
  2. Quality Time – If you enjoy people dropping by your office (or you dropping by theirs), sitting down in the chair, telling stories, checking on one another, this may be your primary language of appreciation. The key element to Quality Time is not proximity, but personal attention. “I don’t need a lot of time. All I really want is for someone to stop by my office occasionally and see how I’m doing. After five minutes, I’m bootin’ you because I’ve got a lot to do!” This might be your language of appreciation if you’re the one to coordinate “Taco Tuesday” with colleagues, enjoy quality conversations, weekly meetings, regular ‘touching base’, and shared experiences.
  3. Acts of Service – When others reach out to help and assist in getting the job done, this may be your greatest language of appreciation. If you get twisted when someone agrees to take on something to help the team then leaves it unfinished or drops the ball, this is you…this is me. Argh! This is my language of appreciation. When we can share in the task for the good of the organization and everyone does their part, I feel appreciated and I feel a sense of camaraderie with the staff as a whole. I’m all about the team, the big picture with many hands and faces, and everyone on the same page in service.  This is why a team approach to VBS, Fall Gathering, summer camps, and even Sunday school thrills me to the bone. When someone volunteers or signs up to take on something, then completes what they’ve taken on, I’m doing the happy dance! This is me! #bettertogether
  4. Tangible Gifts – Small items are given showing you know your staff personally. “Tangible Gifts is the least chosen language of appreciation through which individuals want to be shown appreciation. (6%)” This isn’t good news since most employee recognition programs put a heavy emphasis on ‘rewards.’  If your co-workers have an assortment (a LOT) of similar gifts on display all over their offices, this may be their language of appreciation. The greatest gift appreciated by most all staff? The gift of time. Time off. Permission to come in late or leave early. Having the freedom to take a longer lunch break. A supervisor trusting the staff member to get the job done without punching a clock. Comp time.
  5. Physical Touch – Though many conversations around physical touch in the workplace is controversial, all touches are not created equal. Touches of spontaneous celebration (high five, fist bump, congratulatory handshakes, pats on the back, side hugs) and those which communicate care, concern, support, and empathy can all communicate a variety of positive messages in relationships: a sense of trust, connectedness, and caring.

Want to discover your co-worker’s or supervisor’s language of appreciation without taking the assessment? Observe what they ask for over time (What did you bring me? = tangible gifts) AND listen to their complaints (How are they most easily offended, hurt, frustrated, disappointed?).

“In our work with church staff members and individuals who work for other non-church ministries, we consistently find a deep hunger for appreciation. These people are not looking for financial reward and rarely desire high levels of praise. But they honestly express the need to be appreciated for their time and efforts.  When appreciation is not forthcoming, they often become discouraged.  In fact, In our research on toxic workplaces, we sadly found churches and ministries to be over-represented, ‘missing the mark’ in their efforts to show appreciation.” (page 191)

Regardless of your position within your organization, you can make a world of difference in your organizational world by beginning to encourage and show appreciation to your colleagues and supervisors. What will you do this week to start the process?

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

2019 Special Summer Sundays

As the calendar begins to be filled with mah-velous fun, memorable and intentional faith-formation experiences, those Summer Sundays should not be neglected. It has been my experience that special summer Sundays can give the traditional summer slump some major push-back.

After checking some holiday websites with the 2019 summer dates, this is what we’ve come up with to rebuke the idea of low attendance Sundays during the summer:

June 2 – Our first night of VBS begins this evening, so we’re asking everyone to wear their past VBS tshirts.

June 9 – National Iced Tea Day is 6/10, so our 5th graders will be serving the congregation Chick-Fil-A iced tea (purchased the day before) between services. Chick-Fil-A typically donates their $$ from gallon iced tea sales to local charities during June, so it’s a perfect fit.

June 16 – Goodies with Guys (Father’s Day) donut holes & jerky will be served to the guys, Dads, Granddads between services.

June 23 – National Pink Day (wear pink).

June 30 – McPeachern – the children serve the church brunch & lunch of all peach goodness with BBQ, peach tea, peach salsa & chips, peach ice cream, peach cobblers. This is the only fundraiser our ministry with children does. Even our littles can serve chips!

July 7 – National Strawberry Sundae Day – serving strawberry sundaes in children’s church/well-versed kids.

July 14 – National Flip Flop Day.

July 21 – National Ice Cream Day.

July 28 – National Parent’s Day so we’re offering freeze pops outside our entrance around the Gaga Ball pit.

August 4 – Promotion Sunday wearing team spirit wear this year (think foam fingers and such), then we are headed to a Braves base ball game after services for an afternoon game. Our gym floor is being replaced, so we needed a way to gather AND build memories.

What other ways can we make summer 2019 Sundays special?

“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” Galatians 4:10