The Ideal Team Player: A Book Review

TeamPlayerPatrick Lencioni leads a consulting firm, The Table Group, specializing in executive team development and organizational health. Two of his previous books that have impacted my journey are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and Death By Meeting. Where the Five Dysfunctions focuses on how a group of folks interacts in order to become a cohesive team, The Ideal Team Player: How To Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues is all about the makeup of individual team members.

In typical Lencioni fashion, the author leads the reader through a fable where the premise of an ideal team player is defined, recognized, and developed. This storytelling brings the reader into a situation where the success of an organization is determined by the hiring of a team member. A nephew was hired by a successful uncle to help creatively lead his construction company. Over lunch, the uncle shares he has medical issues meaning he is going to step aside and hand over the entire organization to the nephew. Oh, and there are two major jobs they just got and they’ll have to hire close to 80 people to pull it off. Here we go.

There is drama, there is juggling, and there is a great deal of dialogue. Love me some dialogue where talking through stuff is the major function of a team.  There are interviews (great questions and situational processes), there are systems, there are situations of culture building to carry on the ideal team following the hiring. In the process, they determine that the ideal team player must have three virtues:

The ideal team player must be HUNGRY…They go beyond what is required, passionate about the work they’re doing (not just passionate about other stuff, but passionate about the work), always looking for more to learn, self-motivated, diligent, thinking about the next step, next opportunity and they ‘loathe the idea that they might be perceived as slackers.’

The ideal team player must be SMART…people smart: referring to a person’s common sense about people, knowing how to say, what to say, and how to act, ‘which is a lot more than being nice.’ They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and stay engaged in conversations. Smart people have good judgment and ‘intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics.’

The ideal team player must be HUMBLE…They are quick to point out the contributions of others, lack excessive ego or concerns about status, share credit, and emphasize team over self.  Even if someone has the skill set to take on a role on the team, if they treat people with preference or bias, they are not the ideal team player.

Are you an ideal team player? I admit, I have some work to do. That’s why I read these books.  The author speaks into how to become an ideal team player: practice what you want to be. Lencioni even lays out situations and scenarios of how to practice and boost your ‘idealness’ (my word, not his.)  A quick read with a story to share.

The author closes the book with ‘apart from the other two virtues, humility stands alone. It is, indeed, the greatest of all virtues and the antithesis of pride, which is the root of all sin, according to the Bible. The most compelling example of humility in the history of mankind can be found in Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. He attracted people of all kinds when he walked the earth, and continues to do so today, providing an example of humility that is as powerful as it is countercultural.’

Are you an ideal team player? It’s the person who walks in the combination of all three virtues: hungry, humble, and smart.

“For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

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“Leadership Pain”: A Book Review (Part 2)

LeadershipPain1400Last week I shared the ‘pop-up’ for me in the first part of the book, Leadership Pain. At the end of each chapter is the line, “And remember: you’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.” Finishing the book this week there were several areas that further resonated with me.

A testimony from a pastor of a church in Nashville wrote, “Pain is unavoidable, but I’ve learned it isn’t eternal.” Another testimonial shared, “We can’t stop what happens to us, but we can certainly stop what happens in us.” If you are in the midst of a season of leadership pain, it is difficult to look out 3 months, 6 months, a year from now, but it helped me tremendously to think the situation could not go on forever. The line from Steel Magnolias comes to mind, “That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.” But what if the professional pain feels like it’s killing you? I would go to page 182.

It’s on page 182 that I found the life preserver I’d been looking for, “Be certain of this: when you suffer the pains of leadership, God is trusting you to weather the storm and represent him to a watching world.” What? God is trusting me? My world is watching me?  “God has put you in a position to display His kindness, wisdom, and power in the midst of your heartache.”  Whew! The author continues, “When we’re in pain, it may not seem like much of a privilege to represent God at that moment and at that place, but God himself has appointed us, empowered us, and placed us ‘for such a time as this.’ He trusts us to endure with grace. The moment of pain, then, is a point of high honor earned by faithfulness, effectiveness, reputation, and proven character. It’s an honor and a challenge to be God’s representative in a time of heartache.” What a statement!  When I naturally respond by fight or flight, I am invited to yield. My heart is hurting and God knows. This is my chance to display not blame, not vengeance, not anger, but His kindness, His wisdom, and His power in the midst of my heartache.

The author closes the book in chapter 10 with the challenge to find and build pain partners. In a terrible time of King David’s life, he had his mighty men.  David’s mighty men were totally loyal to him, loved him, knew him well enough to notice when he was in need. We also need mighty men/women. The challenge: Friendships such as these take time and have to be in place before the crisis hits.  Like the friends who dropped the paralytic in through the roof, when our faith falters, we all need friends who share a similar call into leadership who can carry us, and whom we can carry along for a season. The author warns us to be selective though. Jesus took a chosen three when He went into the Garden of Gethsemane to come closer…Peter, James, and John…they were His pain partners. They didn’t get it right all the time, but they were invited to come closer.

Characteristics to build these pain partner friendships?

(1) Listen…really listen…to hearts, not just words. Plan to listen for the long haul. What is your question-to-statement ratio? Are you engaging in conversation…tossing the convo ball back and forth…or just offering statements, announcements, info.

(2) Revealing…”relationships deepen gradually through a slow dance of self-disclosure.” Will I continue to wear the mask, or be ‘on’, or does our shared faith permit us to be honest without judgment? And here’s the hard part: do we invite others to be revealing without offering advice or judgment? Lord, help this naturally ENTJ gal to check my J at the door!

(3) Finding common ground…others who share your call, your position, your profession, not to give advice, but to ‘listen and love without strings attached.’ Without expectation…no strings attached.

I have pain partners – professional friendships who will speak truth into my life and who invite me to speak into theirs or just sit and share sacred space.  It seems we don’t have enough margin in our lives to make the time for such gatherings, but I would die without them.

The testimonials throughout the book were shared by men and women in pastoral, para-church, non-profits who further the cause of Christ in our world. Many were from outside the US.  Most were on the other side of their leadership pain. Sheryl Brady from Plano, Texas offered precious insight, “I thought my painful position would destroy me, but it was really just a place for my personal preparation. It was never meant to work there because it was simply a training ground. I fasted there, but it wasn’t for there. I served there, but it wasn’t for there. I prayed there, but it wasn’t for there…I couldn’t see where all the pain would lead, but He could…This is when you must keep going, step by step, day by day. This is when your hungry heart must follow the daily bread crumbs God always gives and accept that you have enough hope for today.”

Looking back on that painful season through this book, the daily bread crumbs God offered by the hands of my family (my children were the world that watched me and they still love the local church as I do), my pain friends (children’s ministry colleagues and mentors who helped me laugh through tears), and remaining in the written word of God (I’ll never forget the day I turned the page and discovered John 12:7a) grew my trust muscle like nothing else.

Today I serve in a healthy, ‘Spirit of Yes’, and kind local church.  Today I even get to serve outside my local church pouring into the lives of others answering the call into professional ministry with children and families. Today I get phone calls and emails from others who are living through painful leadership seasons. Some have persevered to find their emotional legs and continue to follow their calling into professional ministry. One suggested this book make my reading list and I am so glad she did. One is no longer in ministry…no longer even an active part of a local church. I will call her this week and offer what I have: some daily crumbs. Because that’s what pain friends are for.

“Sometimes you have to walk with Him for a while to realize just how good He is.” Sheryl Brady

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“Leadership Pain”: A Book Review (Part 1)

brokenAsked why I was invited to mentor a precious group of Children’s Ministry professionals for the next six months, I responded, “I think because I had outwitted, outplayed, outlasted and been voted off the island, but I am still in the game.” We laughed.

I LOVE God’s call on my life to professional ministry with a focus on faith building in children and their families. My professional development includes being connected to a networking group for more than 10 years, sharing life with several mentors who speak truth and laughter in my life, listening to podcasts (EntreLeadership and The Bregman Leadership Podcast), and reading books.

Leadership Pain: The Classroom For Growth shares in personal stories, insights, and practical exercises to live less confused by the pain we experience in our roles and process through it. The author, Samuel R. Chand, is a mentor to pastors. The book is written for leaders in ministries and non-profits and opens with “Leadership – all leadership – is a magnet for pain.”

Resonating with me is our need for ambidextrous faith: holding God’s blessings in my right hand and life’s challenges in my left hand, ‘trusting God to use both to accomplish his divine purposes in and through him.’ The book is not a treatise on the biblical analysis of pain, but rather a help to understand the external challenges, internal stresses, and growing pains of leadership so that every heartache, hurt, and disappointment doesn’t stop me in my tracks.

One testimony in particular struck a chord with me.  A Pastor in Orlando shared, “In life, you can’t heal yourself; it takes relationships to heal you.”  From the colleague driving over an hour to greet me at the door with flowers, the visiting young missionary family who stayed at our home offering that ‘working at a church is like passing a brick…it’s painful, it’s gonna leave a mark, and there’s going to be blood for a long time’ (young guys, huh?), and the prayers of my networking group which I stayed with even when it was awkward. Laments aren’t sub-Christian; they are part of a vibrant , authentic walk with God.

What are the relationships that heal you?

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

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The Sin Talk

This ‘sin talk’ is appropriate for older elementary and confirmation age.  The office dots lesson I did teach to preschoolers…then let them loose in the ‘drama center’ with a sheet of dots and baby dolls.  Do I teach on ‘sin’ every week? No. But we have to ‘go there’…because God did…and Jesus did in the biggest of ways to die for our sins that separate us from God and others.  Vocabulary matters.  I have an obligation to introduce the vocabulary of salvation and peace.  Sin is in the mix. This is how I do it.

Supplies:
Bible
Smoothie straws
Office dots (if you can’t get bullseyes, place several of these around the room)
Paper Archery Bullseyes (if you can get them, place around the room)
Peanut M&Ms (biggest bag you can find)
Bright, Red Lipstick

SinOpening discussion/statements:
Sin is like a dirty dog in a clean kitchen.
Sin separates us from others/puts up a barrier between me and others, but most importantly, it separates me from God. Only Jesus can remove the barrier that sin causes to separate us from God.
Activity:  Obedience is when we obey immediately, completely, and sweetly. Using the office dots, invite a volunteer to stand up front as you toss out scenarios when a typical kid would not obey Mom immediately (asked to turn off the video game and you don’t), then completely (asked to brush your teeth and you only wet the toothbrush), then sweetly (stomping feet up the stairs). After each scenario, place an office dot on the face of the volunteer kid. But then share that ‘when we repent/turn away’ and ask for forgiveness, the dots are removed.

Lesson:

SIN in the Old Testament – Pair share: What is a rule you have at your house? How many rules do you have at your house? (Adam and Eve had only one rule: don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam had two jobs: guard the garden – think hockey goalie, and name the animals. Guarding the garden meant keeping the one rule.)

  • Introduce the Rule Of First Mention (how a word/phrase is used the first time in the scriptures helps set the tone for the following uses of that word/phrase). For instance, the punishment for Adam after the fall was to leave the garden and gather/grow their food from among the ‘thorns and the thistles’… when Jesus was crucified, when and where do you hear about ‘thorns and thistles’?  – SIN is first mentioned in Genesis 4:6
  • Who’s word is SIN? God’s
  • Hebrew word “chattah” (khat-taw-aw) means ‘an offense against someone we know’…Mom, Dad, brother, sister, neighbor, etc.
  • Payment for that sin was to face a perfect lamb/goat/pigeon (look at a volunteer straight in the eyes) and slit it’s throat once a year at the temple.  Ask: Is that how we say ‘we’re sorry’ or make a wrong right today?

Sin in the New Testament – Read 1 John 1:8-2:3,6

  • Greek word “hamartano” (ham-ar-tan’-o) means “to miss the mark so as not to share in the prize,”…an archery term
  • Bullseye? To be like Jesus = Pleasing God by loving God and loving others
  • Activity: Place the paper bullseyes/dots around the room. Teach how to make a spit ball. Kids use straws and paper to make spit balls and spit through straws trying to the hit the bullseye (they can not move  for the first 2-3 minutes of trying to hit the bullseye with the spitball…then invite the kids to do whatever it takes to hit the bullseye.)
  • Pair Share: When did you hit the bullseye? (when I was closest to the bullseye/target/Jesus…the bullseye never moves, but the students move.) Jesus is the bullseye, not our friends, or anyone else. JESUS!

Judas Sin – Read Mark 14:43-46

  • Judas SIN is that sin that comes at you looking like a friend (not the same for everyone). Judas greeted Jesus in the garden with a kiss (customary greeting of a friend back-in-the-day/like a handshake or a hug today). The meaners did not know which man was Jesus (He didn’t glow or wear white like the paintings and pictures show us. He looked just like everyone else…only his words and actions were different.)
  • I confess to the kids that my Judas Sin (drumrollllllllll…big deal presentation) = Peanut M&Ms (pretty, bright yellow bag, darlin’ size, colorful, yummy…and before I know it, the whole bag is gone.) Ugh!
  • Pair Share: What is your Judas sin? (video games, friends, that something that takes up WAY too much space and WAY too often in your head.)

Boundaries & Free Will – Read 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Philippians 2:14

  • Using lipstick as I speak…Life and I are pretty when I stay within the boundaries of what is right in God’s sight, and ugly (draw the lipstick way outside the boundaries of my lips) when I don’t stay within the boundaries of what is right in God’s sight.  Wait out the drama of putting on the lipstick…they can’t believe you are going to draw all over your face with lipstick, so when you actually do it, they roar. Note: Have a wet wipe handy…it’s pretty much the only thing that can get lipstick off your face if you plan to run to the grocery store after church.

“God will not reveal His will to the curious, but only to the obedient.” Week 4, Disciple 1

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Chick Night: A Night of Blush & Bashful

ChickNightSeveral years back, in a conversation between our youth ministry leader and I, we wanted to offer a way to involve the women of our church with the youth ladies of our church. We also wanted to connect my 5th grade girls with the girls of the youth group since they’d be headed that way in just a few short months. And we wanted to initiate a culture of invitation so that when we had a future event, our folks would be more apt to invite new folks and not just insiders. That conversation birthed our annual spring Chick Night.

ChickNightTableWe begin promoting it several months out at a registration rate set on a ‘per couple’ basis to encourage inviting new ladies to participate.  Registration must be for at least two..no singles…and you must be in 5th grade or older.  The 6:30pm-9:30pm event includes dinner, games, game prizes, a message, and a take home t-shirt at a cost of $35/couple.

Last year’s theme was based on Breakfast at Tiffany’s with breakfast food, black dresses and pearls, games involving jewelry, and a message on pearls of wisdom for women of faith by one of our very own ladies’ bible study teachers. Oh, and the Tiffany blue punch with sweetened condensed milk was divine!

ChickNightPinkThis year’s theme was based on the movie ‘Steel Magnolias’ with a southern garden party theme, hats/flowers/fascinators/head bands, simple magnolia table decorations, and we called it, “A Night of Blush and Bashful at Wesley Chapel.” Food included chicken salad, raw veggies and ranch dressing, dill-cucumber and pimento cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, pink cupcakes, and fuzzy pink lemonade. White table cloths, white Christmas lights, white and pink paper products along with magnolia leaf centerpieces with Steel Magnolia table conversation tents made of cardstock folded into tents with various quotes from the movie.

ChickPeopleBingoGames included a Steel Magnolia People Bingo game I came up with after watching the movie for the upteenth time for folks to mix and mingle and get to know one another. Two rolls of toilet paper and a roll of tape for each table to come up with a Project Runway wedding dress to be worn by a model at each table (ended up not having time for this one, but gotta have backup games just in case), a Pink Party Ring-A-Bell search list (the person who is wearing the darkest pink nail polish, wearng the most pink accessories, and the most letters of the word ‘pink’ in their name.)  And no evening is ever complete without the pocket-book scavenger hunt.

ChickNightArmadilloThe message was presented by a precious woman of faith born and raised in the Atlanta area, known by our youth ministry leader raising four girls to whom we paid an honorarium.  My favorite line of the evening: “Southern women know how to show up…in life’s highs…and in life’s lows. Love one another well.” ~ Paige Knudsen

ChickNightCaroleOnce we set the theme, put it on the calendar, and set the scripture for the night, we split the responsibilities.  I take care of the marketing, the money, the registrations, the tshirt sizes, the table assignments, the tshirt tags, and the games.  Our uber creative youth ministry leader takes care of the registration form, table and room decorations, arranges for the food, designs the tshirt, and secures game prizes.

How do you connect your girls with your Titus 2 women?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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A Ministry With Children Challenge

WinterBallBFFI love my kidmin colleagues. My kidmin colleagues are more like close friends and family. We share a passion in making Jesus real to little people and offering easy wins equipping their parents to do the same. We take on a Target after-Halloween sale like crazy people for discounted costumes. We creatively make water and condiments and fruit rollups into holy elements. We submit to the pastoral and laity leadership authority over us. We could each write a book on the 100 uses of pool noodles just off the tops of our heads.

This morning five of us will rendezvous at a Starbucks at 7am to carpool to a challenge prepared to help us connect to an even greater gathering of resources and relationships intentionally prepared to move each of us to the next level.  Many of us will have already connected through social media, but now get a face to face. I couldn’t be more elated to spend time with those who have encouraged me, hoped for me, laughed with me, shared losses and gains with me, and even sent gracious emails and messages to me over the last week since the sudden passing of my mother-in-law.  Yep, I love my kidmin colleagues.

Several of us who’ve been doing ministry with children for a while have been invited to be a mentor to a small group for the next six months.  I have some idea of what will be in store for us today, but most will be a surprise.

This I know: We are better together.  Starting out: We are better together. Celebrating professional gains: We are better together. Enduring professional challenges: We are better together.  Persevering through the personal while fulfilling the professional: We are better together.

This is my first social gathering since my family lost our matriarch just ten short days ago. I can’t focus for long periods of time yet. The memorial service isn’t until next week. My heart is aching and the tears still come out of nowhere.  But as my personal and professional BFF texted, “A little laughter as we travel together will be good for your soul.” Yep, we are better together.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1

 

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Reflections (Not the deep ones) on Easter 2016

EasterWilliamAll the planning, all the shopping, and all the cooking and it’s now the week following Resurrection Sunday. Though I am wired to begin planning for the next big thing, it is most healthy and helpful to evaluate all that led up to and including Resurrection Sunday. These will be quite random…

  1. After several years renting a tent for the Sunrise service, we bit the bullet and took advantage of the spring sales at Tractor Supply by purchasing two outdoor carports with side panels. Total cost was less than two year’s rental and now we have some space coverage for more outdoor activities. Makes this KidMin chick very happy and the creativity is burning rubber in my head!
  2. Even one of my regular volunteers never saw the Sunday school special announcement for Easter Sunday morning I’ve been running for months in the bulletin, the newsletter, the weekly Mailchimp announcements, nor the multiple emails or facebook posts. (Insert a heavy sigh here.)
  3. Glad I kept a list of the numbers and kinds of palms and flowers to order from the local floral distributor for Palm Sunday and the Easter Sunday flower cross.  Making the updates from this year and writing in the handy address book. I use an address book because it is laid out in alphabetical order to keep these numbers. Everything having to do with Easter is under E. Everything about Christmas is under C, banking under B, funerals under F.
  4. Easter Egg hunt happens on Palm Sunday and down to a science. The January meeting of CLUB345 has the students putting the eggs together and filling paper bags with a baker’s dozen for the congregation to begin to take on Ash Wednesday (Ash Wednesday was the plan, but the first Sunday in Lent was the reality this year with Easter coming so early) and the following Sundays in Lent to fill with wrapped candy, stickers, toys, (no chocolate, please) and return before Palm Sunday. Pour eggs into sealed storage bins and fold up bags for next year (this lets me easily count how many eggs we have, too, to tease the kids).  Awesome youth take the bins and hide the eggs during Sunday school hour of Palm Sunday. Little people hunt for eggs after the 11 am service. Attending the Missions Lunch, little people take the goodies from the eggs and return the eggs to the storage bins for the next year’s CLUB345 January meeting.
  5. Worship Committee Team, the Worship Leader, and our Senior Pastor rocked the lily pickup and delivery, the flower cross flowers were clipped and put in water, the furniture was moved, the outdoor space was readied and packed up with awning, chairs, keyboard, music stands, and technical equipment; frilled out Palm Sunday to bare Maundy Thursday to uber-frilled out Easter Sunday. This made for multiple lay people visits during Holy Week.  Note to team: Gotta order the ferns and the palms weeks before Holy Week when they cost only $10 at the local WalMart.
  6. Anticipating multiple lay folk visits during Holy Week in the office, it was wise to prepare bulletins and other timely items in the weeks prior so to be the hostess-with-the-mostest and ready to assist as needed.
  7. Even Easter banana pudding has enough sugar in it to bring back sciatic nerve pain. Step away from the banana pudding, DeDe. No dessert is worth it anymore! Well, maybe a petit four.
  8. Sunrise Services continues to increase in number so it’s helpful to have little people show hospitality by handing out the hot chocolate.  No need to plan for this, just see who is there and grab ’em. Quick Trip will fill a standard coffee pumper for around a $1 with the best hot chocolate ever. Two coffee pumpers can fill a sleeve of Styrofoam cups for about 50 folks.
  9. Glad that everything is prepped and laid out for the morning, so I could engage in face-time conversations with youth and adults I don’t usually get to chat with.
  10. Palm Sunday bulletin was focused on ‘in-house’ marketing of events and news. Easter Sunday bulletin was focused on ‘guest’ marketing of events and news.  That way, the Easter Sunday bulletin is not filled with insider jargon, but easy items of intentional first entry into the family of faith with larger fonts and intentionally invitational.
  11. When we promoted the services on social media, we made sure we included the address to make it easy to GPS. We can’t assume everyone knows, especially new folks, where we are exactly located.  Aha moment: Even though I posted the times for Easter Sunday services on the church Facebook pages and groups the week before, I got an ask for them again at 9pm the night before on my personal page.  Easy enough then to ‘share’ it on my personal page the evening before.  In the words of Donald Miller in the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover, I can’t expect people to burn a lot of calories to find the basics of info.
  12. We had one child in Sunday School, but a bunch in every worship service. We had one child in Sunday School on Easter last year, too.  I won’t be discouraged with all the planning and prep that goes into it, because we are a family of faith that worships together and I am so proud of that.  It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. Just know that the multiple bags of skittles will probably be showing up through the summer until Trunk or Treat. There were multiple ways the children were part of the services and it works for us.My families love each other, enjoy each other’s company, share life as one, and what we do together makes for family traditions and memories that make sacred celebrations sticky…I couldn’t be more thrilled.

What are some of your ‘notes to self’ for next Easter?

“This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:17

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Easter Family Traditions

EasterEggsWatching The Passion Live through the streets of New Orleans got me to thinking about family traditions. South Louisiana was my home during my teen through my young-married years. The creativity had me glued to my seat throughout and I eagerly downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes midway through.

I don’t remember much of Easter Sunday as a child. My parents were very active as Sunday school teachers in our local church until their divorce when I was 10.  In my teen years we engaged in a wild Easter egg hunt with a money egg, ate ham, made multi-colored egg salad, and a basket of beautifully painted ceramic eggs decorated the center of our family table.

When Baby Girl and #1 Son were little people, our Easter celebrations centered around an all-day church day with food, dressy clothes, fantastic music, and lots of kids in Sunday school as we lived in New England. By the middle elementary years, we were in the Atlanta area and we joined a church that celebrated a season of Lent in addition to Resurrection Sunday.  We began a new family tradition of attending the Sunrise service in the parking lot on our own lawn chairs with hot chocolate. The adults didn’t dress up and most of the kids were still in pajamas.  It was intimate. It was different. It was powerful. We sang the same songs every year and huddled under blankets to keep warm. The message was delivered by a lay person who has now answered the call into full time professional ministry and leads a spirit-filled church about 20 minutes away.  Frankly, that sunrise service was the most uncomfortable service of the year… we remembered it….and we loved it.

Serving on a local church staff, there are now multiple services. Lots of planning. Lots of flowers. Lots of greenery. Lots of beautiful music and lots of preparation for church guests and church family. But it’s the Sunrise service that makes my Resurrection celebration.  Now I’m the one to stop at the Quick Trip to fill the pump carafes with hot chocolate (just a few dollars to fill each one), roll a cart with sleeves of Styrofoam cups and paper towels to the outdoor site.  People walking their dogs, stop and take a seat. We sing. We shiver in the cold. We hear the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

What are your Easter Family traditions?

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'” John 20:21

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Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to Best Friends and Mean Girls

51rVObA-D3L__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A colleague at last month’s children’s ministry networking lunch suggested a book series for tween girls. Always looking for new books for the Saints Book Club, I ordered it, read it in a day, and made this book our month’s reading choice. I was not disappointed.

The book is laid out in six small chapters about BFFs and Mean Girls followed by 6 small chapters of My Best Friend, Jesus – Bible Study which includes a scripture passage to read with puzzles to apply it.  I love puzzles! Authors Dannah Gresh & Suzy Weibel invite the reader to be a meditator: ‘a meditator studies the bible and then asks God to help her understand it while she prays. A wise pastor once told me that meditation is what happens when studying and praying crash into each other!’

The chapters include easy reading for tweens to choose their team (Jesus didn’t wait to be chosen, but chose His team) and how we can follow Jesus’ example of how to deal with jealousy, wounds, how to be a good friend and not a mean girl, and what it means to be a fruitful friend of and to Jesus.

At Saints Book Club we were able to talk about being an extrovert/introvert, our closest friends, the friends we chose, the friends who chose us, when we were hurt by friends, when we forgave, and were challenged to pray regularly for our friends.  ‘Friends, by the way, were intended to make us better people’ was one of my favorite lines.

There are several other books in this series and we’ll choose another.  I found the book to be very relevant to my group of tween girls (3rd-5th grade) without going into situations that were more teen-appropriate.  Their Secret Keeper Girl’s website is amazing and promotes a Crazy Hair Tour for moms and daughters.  They are coming to our town, but I have a commitment that day, so I’ll have to wait until they come by again. The meditation part with Jesus as the model provided a best friend context for my girls.  It made for great conversation over a Wendy’s frosty. Yes, we will definitely read another.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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Prayer Walk On Campus

2016PrayerWalkPraying together on campus can happen beyond the Sanctuary and Sunday School classroom.  For flip-flop night with our CLUB345, we prepared prayer books with dollar-store soft photo albums with prayer images and the following instructions. Then sent our 3rd-5th graders out in pairs to prayer walk our campus.

Page 1:  Did you know that you can talk to God?  Well, you can.  Talking to God is called PRAYING.  God loves it when you talk to Him. God loves kids. The Bible says so.  That’s why He always hears a child’s prayer.  In fact, He tells adults that they should act like children in their hearts if they want God to listen to their prayers.  You may be small, but your prayers are important to God.  That’s why when you pray, big things happen.

Page 2: Prayer Walk Suggestions 

You can take the prayer walk by yourself, but a partner is always more fun.

  • First, choose who will be Reader #1 and who will be Reader #2.
  • When you arrive at a location, do everything the book asks.
  • Then, take turns reading the statements and questions outloud.
  • Read the prayer aloud together.
  • Part of praying is listening. Listening to God from the scriptures and listening to each other’s answers.
  • Wait one full minute before going to the next location.
  • Take your time and don’t be in a hurry to finish.

Page 3: Go to the stage area in the sanctuary where weekly worship services happen

Reader #1: On this stage, weekly, the leaders present God’s Word in song and preach the Scriptures.

Reader #2: Go stand where Mr. Michael typically stands.  Look at the church or congregation from his view.  Do you know how much time goes into preparing the worship music weekly?

Reader #1: Go stand in front of the pulpit and see what Pastor Jimmy sees on a weekly basis.  Can you picture where any of our people sit?  Point them out and name who you know.

Prayer: Lord, let Your Word be taught clearly.  Let the people respond to the Good News of Jesus.  Let our worship be pure and let us be ready to hear.  Amen

Page 4: Go to the Grateful Bread Kitchen

Reader #2: This is where we share a meal with our church family.  When was the last time you ate here?

Reader #1: This is also where the basketball league is open to the community.  Have you ever seen a basketball game here in the gym?

Reader #2: This is also the place where the youth hold their classes and small groups.  Where do you hear about Jesus with your friends?

Prayer: Father God, thank you for giving us food to eat and friends to eat with.  May we always be grateful for the people who teach us about You.  Amen

Page 5: Go to the Playground

Reader #1: This is where little people play.  This is where we play.  The preschoolers will grow to be kids and the kids will grow to be youth, then adults.  We need to set good examples for them how we play here.

Reader #2: It’s important to always be friendly to little people.  They are watching us in everything we do and don’t do.  Say out loud like a cheer, “Yay! Jesus!”

Reader #1: Remember when you were a really little child?  What questions did you ask of God, then?  They were probably different from the ones you ask now.

Prayer: God, help me to remember that you have the answers to all of my simple and hard questions. Help me to trust You like I did when I was a little kid to __________. Amen.

Page 6: Go to the Parking Lot

Reader #2: What does a parking lot represent?  It can represent visitors or new people, regular attenders, a place to park your car, or even a place to come hang out.

Reader #1: From our parking lot you can hear/see Sandy Plains Road.  How many people drive by who know someone from the church?  Count how many cars drive by in 1 minute.

Reader #2: Of the people that drive by, how many know and are walking with Jesus?  How many will never come to church unless someone invites them?  Why?

Pray: Dear Lord, we pray for the people who just drove by our church.  We pray that they know about Jesus.  Help me to tell people that I know You and the good things that are going on at Your church to teach us about You.  Amen.

Page 7: Go to the Pastor’s car, or someone else’s car that you know and put your hands on the car

Reader #1: This is how __(name)___ comes to serve here and how they go home.  Share with your prayer partner where you usually park when you come to the church campus.

Reader #2: This is where ___(name)___ spends a lot of time traveling all over to tell people about Jesus. ___(name)___  listens to music, talks on the phone, and runs errands to help them do ministry in this car.

Reader #1: Did you know that they pray for you by name?  They love Jesus very much and always need your help to pray for them.

Prayer: Father God, please keep ___(name)___  safe in their car.  Please keep them close to you because they love you so much.  Help him/her to __________ . Amen.

Page 8: Go to the top of the steps on the back side of the Christian Education Building

Reader #1: This is the highest place on the church campus.  Can you see the parsonage (where the Pastor’s family lives) to the right?

Reader #2: Can you see Sweat Mountain to the left?  It is the 2nd highest point in all of Cobb County behind Kennesaw Mountain.  What is the highest you have ever been?

Reader #1: Jesus went up on mountains to pray all the time in the Bible.  Have you ever climbed or hiked up a mountain?

Prayer: God, thank you that today the sky is________. Thank you that I can walk this high.  Help me to ________. Amen.

2016PrayerWalkBookletPage 9: Go to the Outside Chapel area and sit on one of the pews facing the cross

Close your eyes.

Take 7 slow, deep breaths.

Reader #1: Romans 8:31 asks us the amazing question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Reader #2: This question is a source of great encouragement for people who believe in Jesus.  If God is for us, what else do we need?

Reader #1: Read these other endings to the phrase aloud.  If there are any that don’t feel true to you, tell your prayer partner.

Page 10: Read together aloud:

If God is for me, …

I will always have hope.

He will hear my prayers.

Life is an exciting adventure.

He will defend me.

I can view myself as His treasured possession.

My future is bright

I can expect things to work out for good.

I have no limitations.

I can expect His help as I live out the plan He has for me.

I cannot out-dream God.

He will not try to make me feel bad about myself.

Addictions can be overcome.

Nothing can separate me from God’s love.

He approaches me in love.

Stepping out in faith is natural.

He is rooting for me.

He is crazy about me.

Which phrase is your favorite?

Page 11: Go to the CLUB345 Classroom and find the knotted rope

Reader #1: Sometimes life seems to bring one difficulty or disappointment after another.  Going through a crisis can make us stronger, but there are also times when we seem to crumble under the weight.

Reader #2: We can encounter what at first appears to be a fairly small problem.  Then somehow it becomes overwhelming as we try to fix it on our own.

Reader #1: Such a circumstance is like tangles or knots that become tighter and more complicated as we struggle to sort them out.  Do you have a knot that seems hard to sort out?

(Get ready to untie a knot in the rope as you pray)

Prayer: Father God, as I untie a knot in this rope, please give me the courage to become stronger in the circumstance.  Amen.

Page 12: Go to a broken tree outside

Reader #1: God wants to speak to us more than we realize.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you that You love me.  Thank you that you hear me when I talk to you.  Help me to learn to pray more.  Help me to pray about everything.  Thank you for your answers to my prayers.   Teach me to hear you speaking to my heart and guiding me every day.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

Dear Lord, the other things I want to pray about today are _________… Amen.

Page 13: Go to at least 2 of the following 4 locations

Go to the prettiest tree near the playground – What makes it pretty? Define beauty. Name 3 items/objects of beauty to you.

Go outside the gym. Do you see the tall cross on the outside of the gym wall? What does it look like? What does it remind you of?

Go to the sidewalk steps between roses alongside sanctuary wall and 2 rose bushes to the left of sidewalk steps. These rose bushes were given by the landscaping company in memory of Mrs. Vickie’s husband. Have you ever had someone die who you loved very much?

Go to the silver box in the ground on the front lawn of the Sanctuary. This is the power box to the road sign along Sandy Plains Road. What gives you the power to shine for Jesus?

Page 14: Go to at least 2 of the following 4 locations

Go to the bird’s nest on the outside of church office window unit. What reminds you of Spring?

Go to the Sanctuary. Did you notice the artwork in the Sanctuary tells a story? What story? Where is the beginning and where is the end?

Go to the technical booth. What is the last movie you went to the movies to see?

Go to the Coosa Dogwood tree on the front lawn. Did you know this type of dogwood tree blooms AFTER Easter.   What are your plans to celebrate Easter?

We mixed up the pages in each book so everyone was headed to a different location throughout the night.  Last Sunday was the perfect weather to be outside. We did have  adult volunteers located in the Sanctuary and outside to help our prayer partners along their way if necessary.

2016PrayerWalkFeetIn our debrief we discussed the places they had not known about before and the stories of their favorite prayer places.  We also discussed what it meant to follow in someone’s footsteps. Would they be the witness and friend of Jesus that someone else would follow?  If so, we used sharpies to write our names on the bottoms of each other’s feet as reminder that our friends and family follow our footsteps to Jesus…and He can count on us!

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good  news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” Isaiah 52:7

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