Pop Into Sunday School

The Sunday school hour is a priority. It’s when children are involved in large group, then break up into developmentally-appropriate small groups by grade. If we run a ‘special’ on a Sunday, it always happens at the Sunday school hour because I want families to get into a new habit of joining us during that time. If Sunday school is a priority, then we want to do something memorable for the first Sunday school of the season. My colleague and dear friend, Katie Atcheson, who also leads ministry with children is part of our children’s ministry network in North Georgia and the POP INTO SUNDAY SCHOOL was her original idea. Thanks for sharing, Katie!

We prepared parent packets similar to what families receive when they go to their kid’s school for meet & greet. Ours included: school year calendar, parent/family interest survey to be completed and returned (family info and ways to serve in the ministry this year…think: parent volunteer list similar to what families get at meet & greet again), God Loves Your Family brochure, postcard for upcoming Glee Club & Cherub Choir open house, and pop-rocks (thanks for popping into Sunday school).

We had jars of Ring Pops and Mini Tootsie Pops for kids on Sunday as well as lined the main hallways with 1/2″ 24X250 (ordered two rolls) bubble wrap. When you step on it, it sounds like firecrackers! Can’t help but step on it. Can’t help but laugh. Can’t help but be surprised! I actually got an email from the church receptionist when it was delivered by Uline.com that the bubble wrap was too big for the church office door! We didn’t need all of it, so we cut the remainder into strips for the kids to pop upon arrival while in the Children’s Welcome Center.

The sounds of the kids popping and laughing were better than I imagined. It was noisy and made the morning a very special way to begin a new season of Sunday school. What did you do to begin a new year?

“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story.” Acts 11:4

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Like Me Or Not: A Giveaway

During a long and difficult season of healing from the deep cuts of stained glass, a dear pastor suggested I find a way to overcome being a pleaser if I was going to continue God’s call on my life to minister to children and families. A pleaser is a person who tries hard to make people happy or to make people like them. Was it that obvious? Of course it was. I wore that status like a pair of glasses. It was my lens when I began my call to ministry. Had Dawn Owens’ book Like Me Or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction been published 15 years ago, it probably wouldn’t have taken me so long to be on this side of a struggle I’ll deal with my whole life. “Most of us are addicted to approval, but not everyone knows it.” (pg 9)

An approval addict’s wounds go deep and can be slow to heal because of the number of times we scratch them open. For many, the wounds have left scars we don’t want others to see. But scars fade and even disappear in the light of the wonderful gift Jesus gave us when He decided to choose the approval of God over the approval of man. When we do the same, our scars become so insignificant to us that we no longer realize they are there. (p 10)

Like Me Or Not is a raw book. Dawn Owens goes down trails I would typically avoid. Yet, she hits the nail on the head often. In each chapter Dawn addresses areas of everyday when we find ourselves dependent on the approval of others rather than focusing on the approval of God. She writes of insecurities, putting ‘me’ where God belongs in my focus, the lie of self-justification, social media, the individual choice to be angry or offended, rejection, comparison, and being a control freak.  Community, not comparison is how we show the world our Savior is alive and lives within us. (pg 125)

In every instance she points us to the scriptures where we find God’s heart, the perfect vocabulary necessary to learn the truth of who we truly are and whose we truly are. She writes of forward-moving steps to overcoming the addiction to people-pleasing by realizing who the enemy is, reminding myself who I belong to, recognizing the guilt and shame I’ve ever felt is not from God, and this is the kicker: forgiveness comes when I realize the person who hurt me or ignited my insecurities did so out of their own wounds. The walking wounded. Hmmm…

There probably aren’t any surprises in the text when you’re on the other side of approval addiction, but when it’s YOU, and you’re in the midst of a bad case of it, the practical responses to renewing our minds to seek to please the Lord are very helpful. She’s right for what it’ll take. It’ll take discipline and patience and trust in the one who speaks, “Beloved” to your soul. Study and pray the scriptures.  Fast from those things which encourage you to be conformed to the approval of others. Quit talking to other people about your decisions going instead to God in prayer. Take a true Sabbath. This and more is what it took for me. I have a stack of index cards with the scriptures which helped me turn the corner and wait on the Lord. If I don’t hear “Beloved”, even in my self-talk, it’s not of the Lord.

Dawn’s personal stories are real and she points us to Christ throughout. I’m grateful for her book and suggest anyone in ministry with others (is there any other ministry?) to pick up a copy. As a matter of fact, I’ve got one to share. Let me know by a comment below and I’ll announce the winner next week.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Best Read of 2018: Sustainable Children’s Ministry (part 2 of 2)

When I watch my grandson play with little green army men, he’s very particular about where every figure goes. He sets one, then realizes he must reset another. He’s flat on the floor, taking in the whole scene as close as possible. It’s all in the set up. There’s a leadership lesson there. It IS all in the set up when it comes to preparing for a new school year. So when I came across Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions I had a road map for setting up systems.  As the authors shared in chapter 1: “Putting foundational systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.”

My review and synopsis of the first nine chapters can be found here. These are some highlights from the last several chapters:

Chapter 10:  Beyond the Victim Before we can have politics in the church, we have to have relationships. Invest time and communication with your parents. Invest time and communication with your senior leadership. Invest time and communication with the other staff on your organization’s team.  The authors share the ‘secret six’=six secret ways to be the champion of the ministry you’ve been called to lead into the regular flow of what you do:

  1. Celebrate successes-share stories of last week
  2. Share the bigger vision-when you ask for help, share the big picture of where you’re wanting to go. For the last 90 days I’ve been sharing how we need to split children’s church due to our growth in numbers, so I began asking for prayer for leaders to take on Well-Versed Kids for our 3rd-5th graders. There are now 5 on that team and we are ready to begin next week!
  3. Embrace fun-offer an environment where there is a spirit of joy and resilience, not negativity and a critical spirit of what you’re missing, lacking, coveting… You get the picture.
  4. Share the dream-‘get your message to the congregation through stories and pictures.’ I use a closed Facebook group, I use the church’s main FB page, I send parents pictures of their kids, and I have a story every time someone asks, “How’s it going?”
  5. Build trust with key leaders-there are folks in every congregation who have the trust and ear of the rest of the congregation. Find those folks and talk about what’s happening ALL THE TIME.
  6. Be patient-Did you know it took 10 years for Chick-Fil-A to be the fast food restaurant that finishes every customer transaction with ‘My pleasure’? TEN YEARS! “Give yourself the grace to let change happen at the Spirit’s pace, not your own.” This is when a kidmin networking group can help. They will help you maintain the momentum when you are in the valley and feeling like nothing’s happening the way you’d hope for. The scriptures and my monthly networking group has been my lifeline.

Chapter 11: Children’s Ministry is Family Ministry Parents are already partners with us in the faith formation of their children, and so there are few things more important to our children’s ministries than building relationships with parents. I know Sunday mornings are not the ideal time for you to have serious relationship-building time with parents. But your presence and availability to them during that time is key.  If you are scrambling around looking for cotton balls, trying to get technology working, or teaching one of the kid’s classes yourself, you may miss your most important opportunity of the week-connecting with the people who have the most spiritual influence on the kids in your program. Make a plan of contacting a certain number of families each week, then contact them. If you’re not a people person or an introvert with exceptional people skills, this can be a matter of prayer. But it’s got to happen to grow and have a sustainable ministry. Jesus was all about relationships, old and new. Met or invested in anyone new lately?

Chapter 12: More Than Planning is where Annette shares a few hard-won tricks of the trade for managing the urgent while preparing for the future. Whether you’re struggling like I was or you’re an organizational savant, these tips might help you get enough altitude to tend to the things that matter most.

Chapter 13: Your Ministry Marathon ‘Injury prevention and warning signs that you may be one of the walking wounded…prevention…and recovery.’ Find a rhythmic week in ministry with ‘on’ time, ‘flex’ time, and ‘sabbath’ time. What can typically happen on which day of the week, write it out, then guard it with your life. It is your life! Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia UMC Conference speaks often of guarding and celebrating a weekly Sabbath. As church staff, our Sabbath is different, but critical. Figure it out, then guard it. The way I guard it is to talk about it. “Fridays are my Sabbath.” It’s that easy, because people who care for you will also help you guard it. Here are a few thoughts of when and how do we staff members worship.

Chapter 14: Finding Your Bounce Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Well, they do fall down, they just don’t stay down. If we are the team with many ideas, then we get the ‘chance to fail often and quickly.’ So how do we get out of the pit?

  1. Be humble, not defensive. Learn to respond with, “Fair enough,” or “Point well taken.”
  2. If you pay the tuition, learn the lesson. Debriefing is the last thing you want to do, but when it offers solutions, isn’t that what we’re looking for?
  3. Talk most about what you want most because ‘we always get more of what we focus on. Focus on the ways God IS at work regardless of our most recent misstep.’

Then, develop/build a community of support for yourself with mentors, your supervisor, and coaches. Hey, even Olympians need coaches and so do you!

God’s called you. Your organization has hired you. Parents are relying on you. Kids are depending on you. I believe in you. What are you doing today to set yourself up for the long haul?

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Children’s Ministry’s Dirty Little Secret

Our guest blogger this week is Mrs. Amy May who serves as the Director Children’s Ministry at McDonough United Methodist Church in McDonough, Georgia.

I’m a fun girl, really. Like all children’s ministers, I like playing games outside, making slime, and getting smeared with shaving cream. But I have a dark side, too. In my spare time, I watch documentaries on Netflix. My husband shudders every time I watch a new one and get convicted. Lately, I’ve been asking some hard questions about children’s ministry and social justice.

Take, for example, the lovely annual Easter Egg Hunt. We order hundreds of plastic eggs and plastic toys for our hunt. We have tables (covered in plastic disposable tablecloths) with prepackaged crafts from cheap online companies. After we’re done, all this plastic will go into the trash and end up maybe in a landfill where it will take 400 years to rot. Or maybe float around in an ocean.

Let’s go a little further. Where did these products come from? Indonesia? Bangladesh? China? Certainly somewhere where overhead is low enough to produce cheap disposable goods for Americans. Many workers in these countries are not paid living wages and work in unsafe working conditions. The production of the items often produce pollution which harms the people who live and work there.

Life was easier when I didn’t know these things. Ecclesiastes 1:18 says “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” It truly grieves me that people suffer, especially for my convenience, for my easy disposable lifestyle. I can’t be a follower of Christ and not be concerned about our brothers and sisters around the world. The prophet Isaiah (1:17) tells us, “Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” When we buy cheap goods from these companies, we are supporting oppression with our dollars. When we live with mounds of disposable goods, we are contributing to pollution. Make no mistake, pollution and environmental issues are elements of social justice, too. Poor people pay the bulk of the price for our choices. You generally won’t find rich people living near trash heaps or drinking from polluted water sources.

If you haven’t thought about this issue until right now, let me reassure you: hyperventilating is normal. Sometimes, I feel crippled by the weight of my conscience and the challenge of doing ministry different. But this can be a teachable moment, too.

I’ve had age-appropriate conversations with my kids about where our stuff comes from. Who makes it? How does it make us feel when we buy something new? How long does it take until that feeling goes away and we want to buy something else? Maybe we are trying to fill a hole in our hearts with “stuff” when only God can fill it up. If we’re honest, we will see that we live a consumer lifestyle that thrives on our constant “need” for entertainment, convenience, or just something new. I hope my kids learn sooner than I did that peace comes from Jesus and not a purchase. I hope they’ll choose to live simply and give generously.

So what have I done to help with this problem? We recycled our Easter eggs this year (parents and kids could turn them back in to reuse next year). We don’t do prizes at church or have goodie bags. We try to use recyclable paper products or use real plates if the group is small enough. You can even find biodegradable eating utensils on Amazon and they’re not expensive. Baby steps, y’all.

VBS is coming up next. Lord, have mercy on my brand-new environmental soul! I’m gonna do my best. I’m sorry if I made you hyperventilate and I’d like to reiterate that I am, indeed, a truly fun girl.

I would LOVE to hear what you do in your ministry to avoid unethically made products or reduce your waste? Let’s help each other out!

Ecclesiastes 1:18 says “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”

Connect with Amy by emailing amysmithmay@yahoo.com.

 

Sharing Is Caring

The guest blogger this week is Kate Morris. Kate was the Children’s Pastor of my own children from the time they were in middle elementary. She serves today at Acworth United Methodist Church in Acworth Georgia as the Director of Family Ministry.

Growing up an ARMY brat I moved a lot: 4 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 3 high schools. A LOT! Sadly, I don’t recall my favorite teacher’s names or even the names of my best friends. What I do remember is the events we shared: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, roller skating for hours, racing on our bikes down the gravel street, riding the train to the beach, hours of laughter over ice cream sundaes. With each move, I made new friends with new shared experiences. For one goodbye gift my friends gave me a little pink care bear with a message of “sharing is caring.”

While the phrase may now be trite, it was a huge thing for me. As I was plucked from one environment to another I learned that sharing and caring go hand in hand.

Sharing your heart is caring. Sharing your toys is caring. Sharing your love is caring. Sharing your time is caring. Sharing your fun is caring. Sharing your homemade cookies is really caring!

As an adult, sharing truly makes me happy. The best way for me to climb out of a funk is to put together care packages to bless someone else. AND shared events with other Children’s Ministry leaders make my heart SOAR!

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

I SO get that! I love sharing the gospel and my faith but I am ABSOLUTLEY DELIGHTED to share my life with others in ministry that we might experience the Love of God together through experiences. Shared events allow for us to share AND care for one another.

I am so blessed to be a part of a networking group that meets regularly and plans experiences together. This fabulous group of Children’s Ministry leaders gathers around a table for an extended time for a KidMin Ninja Think Tank. We live out “sharing is caring.” We share laughter and joy, prayers and tears, heartache and celebrations, love and loss, resources and struggles.

We plan experiences where we share and care for one another. The church with a gym shares Winter Ball night where we play lots of ball games. The church with access to the lake hosts Splish Splash with water games galore. The church with a great art teacher hosts a Princess party. The church with green space hosts Messy Games with a 100 foot slip and slide. We gather at Camp Glisson for retreat to share cabins and leaders. We jump in our own vehicles to meet across town to share a fabulous Christmas experience with each other’s kids.

By sharing our resources, people and places, gifts and talents, we are caring for the body of Christ. We are showing the kids and leaders in our ministry their faith is not to be contained in one building with one set of people. Faith is meant to be shared; Faith is meant to care for others.

My little pink care bear was placed in a treasure box and accompanied me on every move. Recently my kids found it.  Since I don’t have many childhood moments and I have never been a pink girl type, they were a bit perplexed. But when I told them my story they understood why it is so important to me to work in tandem with other KidMin Ninjas to create shared events. Sharing is caring.

Kate is the wife of John and mom of four. Connect with Kate at kate@acworthumc.org. 

“I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of  Christ.” Philemon 1:6

Best Read of 2018: Sustainable Children’s Ministry (part 1 of 2)

The summer is full of kidmin life: Vacation Bible School, Faith Field Trips, Annual Conference, my youngest grandson’s first birthday. Summer is also a time to prepare my heart, soul, and mind sold out for Christ for a school year filled with intentional faith formation and discipleship for the little people and their families God has called me to champion. With podcasts, books, tea with colleagues, and phone calls on the commute, I listen to the ‘theme’ the Lord is speaking for this new season to come. I’m not sure where I heard about Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-term Solutions, but it is my best read of 2018.

How I wish this was out when I first started living out this call to Children’s Ministry some 25 years ago! The authors are Mark DeVries, founder of Ministry Architects which helps churches and faith-based organizations build sustainable ministries, and Annette Safstrom who is the voice of the 234 pages of in-the-trenches-been-there-done-it-struggles-but-now-shares-the-life-giving-systems-to-keep-you-in-love-with-kidmin based on her 30 years of experience. Yep…there are those who do this for life. This book focuses on the set-up. It’s about taking the time and great energy to set up systems and rhythms and measurable goals to let you know if we’re hitting the mark of long-lasting discipleship or just an event planner at a great venue. The practical is strong in this one.
Here are some highlights:

Chapter 1: From Chaos to Clarity “Putting foundational systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.”

Chapter 2: The Workhorse Syndrome “Most children’s ministry leaders I know didn’t know they were on a path to professional children’s ministry until they were already there.” TRUTH!

Chapter 3: Beyond Goldfish and Bubble Machines “The right systems, like a good fence in a garden, can offer the kind of protection any ministry will need to thrive.”

Chapter 4: Measuring Up In working with churches of all different sizes, denominations, and complexities of programming, we’ve discovered these four patterns: $1,000 per child in financial investment including staff salaries; one full-time staff person for every 75 children who participate in some aspect of the ministry each week; one adult volunteer for every five children; in a typical church, the number of children who participate weekly in some type of program at the church tends to settle around 15% of the total number of people who worship on an average week. Grabbing a calculator yet?

Chapter 5: Building Your Ministry With Simple Machines speaks about where to start ‘the Database machine, the Calendar machine, the Volunteer machine.’

Chapter 6: From Pearls to a Necklace speaks about ‘the Communication machine, the Attendance Tracking machine, The Visitor/Guest and MIA Tracking machine, Safety and Security machine, the Check-In System machine, and the Facilities and Maintenance machine.’

Chapter 7: Seeing What Other’s Can’t – Yet is filled with a wealth of measurable goals, vision and mission vocabulary, and the bull’s eye you wish for the ministry to hit…so you know whether you’ve hit it or not. I mean we’ve all put on great events, but are we just event planners at a great venue? These are tools that keep our feet on the ground, keeping Jesus in the hearts and minds of our families, and keeping our churches from becoming just a neighborhood venue for stuff.

Chapter 8: The Delegation Dance about building your team, empowering your team, and managing your team. This section is worth the price of the book alone.

Chapter 9: Beyond Rotation “Make your prospect list…you’ll need three times the number of unfilled positions.” “When we fail to train our volunteers, we send the message that the job they signed up for isn’t really that important…So stop apologizing for recruiting and training…everyone needs to be invited three different ways if you want them to come.”

Next week I’ll move through the remaining five chapters. What the authors share is super practical and what most of us have learned along the way. Sometimes the hard way. Sometimes with scars. There’s a whole chapter on how to avoid seasons of living the life of the walking wounded. But the hope and a better way are possible. Whether you are new to kidmin or uber tired and running on empty, this is a healthy read. No matter what size church or what level of influence in your organization’s ministry with children or how long you’ve been at it, there’s a hug and a kiss on the cheek from the Lord in this one.

Ya’ll! Get the book and grab a pen! It’s dripping in goodness.

“Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Faith Field Trips

Many traditional churches offer week-long day camps during the summer as part of their ministry with children. We are planning one the last week of the summer and our recreation department has a slew of great ones. I wanted to offer a very intentionally memorable faith-formation experience, developmentally appropriate for kids k-2nd and 3rd-5th, in partnership with another church because ‘we’re better together’, and take kids outside where Jesus likely spent most of his growing up years.

Logistically, the trips are scheduled 9am-2pm. Kids brown-bag their own lunches, wear water shoes, and bring a refillable-water bottle, sunscreen, a towel, an open mind, and a spirit of adventure. Each trip is $20 per student to cover transportation, expenses, destination fees, and chaperone expenses. My colleague from a partnering church and I engage in lots of conversations with the children about the faith-formation theme of the day, then share a Bible lesson about halfway through lunch. Ms. Kate opens a Cluster group for each trip for us all to post photos which parents can see. I even try to send photos to parents/grandparents by text throughout the day or by the end of the day.

K5-2nd graders walked and played in the shaded, shallow creek of a walking trail in nearby Kennesaw, Georgia. We shared the Bible account of Jesus healing the blind man with mud. We had planned to make mud pies after lunch, but a sudden, summer rainstorm had us trekking back early. I packed a first aid kit with plenty of band aids, small orange cones to set some boundaries, we threw rocks, and we played in the creek. The students decorated wooden walking sticks sanded with sand paper (The Home Depot), then decorated the sticks with sharpies and bandannas. A trip to QT for ice cream cones finished out the trip. #jesusandmud

3rd-5th graders walked and played at the beach area of nearby Red Top Mountain where we hired a paddle board company to provide safety teaching and rental paddle boards. The paddle board area was adjacent to a terraced putt-putt course. The partnering church brought a load of putters and we were set to go. Adventure ‘buddies’ and life jackets and the devotion time of Jesus walking on the water. #jesuswalksonwater

K5-5th graders headed to a large local park which included a splash pad, went to the movies about 2 miles away, then returned to the park for lunch at one of the pavilions. This trip required two buses for transportation and half of my bus was sleeping on the return trip back to the church. Incredible means ‘extraordinary’. The only place in the Bible where the word ‘incredible’ is used is Acts 26:8 “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” Yep, God raising Jesus from the dead is INCREDIBLE.  #jesusisincredible

Upcoming trips include a hike and the interactive historical display at Sweetwater Creek State Park for the olders, 7 Springs Water Park for the littles, a Day at Ms. DeDe’s for the completed 4th & 5th graders called ‘Ambassador Day’ which will be 9am-8pm, and a K5-5th grade trip to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta which will be a longer day for sure.  Ms. Kate and I collaborate weekly on times (she likes staying longer), Bible study, and specific details that will let us build relationship with our chaperones and our kids (I like lingering.)

Ms. Kate calls her trips ‘tours of faith.’ I call mine ‘faith field trips.’ Our families call it ‘a whole lot of fun’ as they continue the conversations at home.

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 20

Children’s Ministry Stakeholder Event

Even in the midst of Summer Jubilee (same Sunday summer schedule, but it looks different, and lets our regular, faithful Sunday Saints enjoy a season of rest and refreshment) and Vacation Bible School (ours is the first week of June), I’m already thinking about this fall, next year, and five years from now. So to get the collaboration ball rolling, we planned a Children’s Ministry Stakeholder Event. A stakeholder is any individual or group who can affect or is affected by the actions, decisions, policies, practices, or goals of the organization.

We will celebrate where the Lord has taken us, brainstorm to meet the needs of our continued growth, and dream for where we are headed over the next five years. Any and all stakeholders are invited. Dessert is included!

With giant post-it notes in hand, we discussed the parent survey which included the following questions:

What areas of McEachern Kids has your child(ren) participated in over the last year? (check all that apply)…then listed everything from Sunday school, Children’s Church, VBS, Winter Ball, Faith Milestones, everything.

What areas of McEachern Kids would you plan for your child(ren) to participate in over the next two years? (check all that apply)…then listed everything as in the first question.

Please ask your child, “What is one (or more) of your favorite parts of going to church?”

What areas would you want your child(ren) to participate in if offered by McEachern Kids? (check all that apply)…then listed Cherub Choir, McEachern Kids Glee Club, Manners & Etiquette, Self-defense, Book Club, 5th Grade Transitions (cell phone safety, anti-bullying, Wonderfully Made/faith & sexuality, healthy communications, etc.), Life Skills, Other (please elaborate).

What is the best way to communicate with you?…then listed church website, email, text, postcard, Facebook, Instagram, flier, newsletter, bulletin, other (please elaborate). Just to let you know: email is still king!

How can McEachern Kids help you share and build the faith of your family at home? (please elaborate)

How will you serve this year?

The event itself did not turn out the response numbers I had hoped, but those who did attend spoke well of the ministry and what was important to them, championed for their ‘if we only did one other thing outside of Sunday school and Children’s Church what would it be’, and what we can take a break from. I heard each one. As a result, it was more important HOW we did what we will do, and I am so grateful to have had a sounding board for the logistics.

“There is no reason for not having a published twelve-month calendar other than a lack of discipline. A published twelve-month calendar is a huge gift to your families. Parents plan their lives around sports calendars, school calendars, job deadlines, career commitments, and community events. If you don’t get your calendar into their hands, the best you can expect from families is their leftovers.” Annette Safstrom, from Sustainable Children’s Ministry

How have you begun to evaluate the past year and plan for the next school year?

Piggyback Psalms

The reason I sign songs is because I can’t sing. When I do sing, it’s usually loud and indeed a joyful noise. So when I came across Emily La Branche Delikat’s paperback “Piggyback Psalms: 100+ Bible Songs to Tunes You Know” at the resource center of North Georgia’s United Methodist Church’s Annual Conference last week, I thought, “Hey! THIS I can do!” The book releases today on Amazon!

According to Emily, a Piggyback Psalm is a song that is based on a sacred song or poem from the Book of Psalms and is written or paraphrased in simple language and set to a well-known tune. Because each Piggyback Psalm is set to tunes that are already stuck in my head, it is perfect for this ‘musically less-than Jesus gal.’ There are 62 songs based on 62 Psalms written to tunes like Mary Had a Little Lamb, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, The Ants Go Marching, Are You Sleeping?, Skip to My Lou, One Little Two Little, and more. I was surprised at the number of tunes that are already stuck in my head!

Singing the psalms make the liturgy and vocabulary sticky, interactive, and easy to remember. Emily didn’t just include the psalms of joy, but also offered small portions of psalms of lament and anger. I’m glad. I believe we do our kids a disservice when we let them think that following Jesus means it’s all kumbaya. Even the VBS we used this year shared every day that in the storms of life, Jesus is there. When we sing the Psalms, we teach our children that all emotions are important and healthy. An example would be “When Life is Hard” based on Psalm 14 sung to the tune: Rock-a-bye, Baby:

When life is hard and people are mean, I can trust that God is with me. God is my refuge and my strength. Soon I will rejoice and celebrate.

I bought two copies. One for me and one for my daughter to sing with the grands. I’ll probably get more copies, because this resource is fabulous. Thank you Emily for writing, and Abingdon Press for publishing, this resource!

Bonus: In the back of the book, there is an index to align the Piggyback Psalm with the Revised Common Lectionary. There is also a tune index just in case one of the tunes just gets stuck in your head and it’s one of your favorites!

“You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.” Psalm 118:28

Is Your Vine In A Jungle?

Hannah Harwood, Director of Children’s Ministries serving at Sam Jones United Methodist Church, Cartersville, Georgia is this week’s guest blogger.  Hannah was the Campus Ministry Intern at Reinhardt University when we first met. My daughter followed in her footsteps and we’ve been connected ever since.

I am currently in a very busy season serving in my first full-time Children’s Director position. It has been a learning experience navigating the ropes of a new position as well as being mom to a very precious Kindergartner. The other day I had a light bulb or face-palm moment. I had just finished leading a chapel on John 15:5 and was talking with one of our children’s ministry leaders. He happened to mention that he had a whole field of grape vines. He went on to discuss a lesson he had learned when he first started planting grape vines. In the winter months he had a tendency to plant several new vines and because they were so small and easy he would plant several more than expected. However, by the summer months the vines were huge and needed pruning and daily care. His neat and orderly rows of vines had turned into a jungle.

Immediately I realized how quickly I seem to fall into the grape vine trap when it comes to ministry and even my personal life. I LOVE to dream about ministry and enjoy brainstorming and creating new programs. I often carry around my dream journal as I write down different ideas that I get from a podcast or conversation with another Kidmin Champion. Surely something good like a new program or new great idea can’t be a bad thing…. Right? But just like the grape vines needed daily care and pruning so do the programs in our ministries. When we are dreaming and thinking of new ideas in those calm-er seasons during the year it is very easy to think that we can handle adding even more to our and our church families’ plates. In most situations projects can seem very small and simple in the beginning.  As more details get added and volunteers provide needed feedback what took such a small portion of our to-do list is now taking up more and more time, energy, and resources.

Looking back at John 15 we can find the answer to the age-old question of when to say, “No” and when to say, “Yes”. We find the section of scripture in the midst of advice Jesus is giving to his disciples prior to being arrested and crucified.

Jesus says to his disciples in verse 16 and 17 “You did not chose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: love each other.

I believe that Children’s Ministry is a calling. A very crucial and important one. We have to remember that because we were called; our command is to bear fruit. When our schedules begin to look like jungles and need pruning we have to ask ourselves, “Does this program bear fruit? Is it helping connect our children and their families to Jesus? Is it fruit that will last or one more thing on our to-do list?”

At the close of my conversation, Mr. J turned to me and said “don’t forget to ask for help if you need someone to take care of different fruits.”  I think my grapevines are going to do just fine and I can’t wait to see the amazing things GOD does.

I am the vine: you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Thanks, Hannah! If you’d like to connect with Hannah, reach out at hccoady@gmail.com.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Congratulations, Michelle McLeroy! Michelle is the winner of both Glenys Nellist’s books from last week’s book review and giveaway.