Wesley Chapel Academy: Sewing Basics

We are discovering a variety of skills are appealing to both parents and kids with the Wesley Chapel Academy. Even though some of the boys who signed up for sewing basics were concerned there wouldn’t be other boys, we found there were an equal number of boys to girls at the third Wesley Chapel Academy class.

Ordering Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love To Make with kid-friendly graphics from Amazon, we chose two projects we thought the kids could accomplish in the time frame of 6-7:30 with tutor introductions at the beginning, a small break mid-way for a story about the sick woman healed by the power of even the touch of the fabric of Jesus’ cloak, and certificates with summer fun registration information attached.

Supplies included: 2 needles per student, scrap fabric for the pillow, batting for stuffing the pillow, 2 small sewing kits with small spools of thread, crayons/chalk for outlining patterns, large 2-hole buttons, dark colored felt (the darker colors make for a stiffer fabric), scissors, paper bags for carrying finished projects or storing unfinished projects, ice water in the large dispenser with small cups for the water-story break.

6:05-6:15 Introductions and housekeeping

6:15-6:45 Station #1

6:45-6:55 Water and story break

6:55-7:25 Station #2

7:25-7:30 Certificates earned and class photo

Two seamstresses in the church (Titus 2 women!) and two young people who could take instruction AND keep the littles on task along with keeping their needles threaded/knotted (we did have some 1st & 2nd graders) were wonderful tutors. They spoke, they displayed, then encouraged the students to keep trying to do it themselves.

One brother and sister team drove over an hour to attend the class. They heard about the class through our registration tool Eventbrite. Twenty registered, fifteen attended, three students were new faces!

The next Wesley Chapel Academy is next month and we’re breaking out the power tools!

“When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”” Mark 5:27-28

Visual Faith Project

Tossing out the photos onto the table, the workshop participants were invited to choose a photo that best represented ‘How well is your soul?’.  At each table everyone shared their photo and why they chose it. I had no idea that the community had suffered through a suicide at the local high school and two had just been diagnosed with the terrible-awful. We prayed with. We prayed over. We prayer through. Then we were able to carry on the scheduled training having addressed the many elephants in the room and the heavy baggage most of us didn’t even know about.

Tossing photos onto the floor, the children were invited to choose a photo that best represented sadness. Photos were chosen that were black and white, a colorful clown, and others. They were asked to show the photo each one chose and why it made them feel sad. Then I began teaching about how Jesus might have felt when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane as he kept coming back to ask his friends to “watch and pray, watch and pray”. Bringing scripture to a heart and mind ready with a visual image made for a swift application of the Jesus moment as best a 1st grader could understand.

Third through fifth graders chose from a group of photos one picture that represented ‘waiting’. After sharing each photo chosen and why it represented waiting with the great silliness and laughter that only comes from third-fifth graders, we began to learn how long David waited and persevered in God’s big adventure for him from being a shepherd boy to king of Israel. God has a big adventure for each of them and it’ll be worth the wait. Spiritual conversations began as soon as we searched the scriptures in 2 Samuel when we each brought our idea of waiting to the table.

A colleague from Discipleship Ministries shared The Visual Faith Project with me a few months ago. I ordered the kid pack of images and another pack of images. There are several to choose from on the website.  I’ve been playing with the images in the settings above and I don’t even know what I’m doing. What I do know is I’ve already found several ways to use them to begin spiritual conversations with adults and children.

Images provide vocabulary, prompt memories, initiate conversation, and allow connection quickly in a small group. So we’ve set up a training sponsored by North Georgia’s CEF team for using images and The Visual Faith Project.

We are wired for imagery. Exploring scripture through the use of images creates a connection in our biology and our souls that allows us to experience God’s Word in new and transformative ways. Rev. Dr. Scott Hughes, Director of Adult Ministries of United Methodist Discipleship team will lead training to use these and other images for faith formation.  Will you join me?  I stand in wonder for how I can be better equipped when I know what I’m actually doing. I’m always looking for new tools in my toolbox to be a better teacher, a better coach, and a better disciple. Aren’t you? Register here.

“Ears that hear and eyes that see – the LORD has made them both.” Proverbs 20:12

On The Sundays I Wear A Dress

Palm Sunday is one of only a few Sundays I can wear a dress or skirt to church because coming off the floor after the Children’s Moment in anything other than pants can easily turn ugly. So when a service has so much going on and a Sunday is so big there isn’t time for a Children’s Moment, I wear a dress or skirt and work the room.

It’s on the Sundays I wear a dress, we typically have lots of guests because the choir is singing, the youth are playing, the puppets are puppeting, the children are signing, the services are combined and there’s usually a lunch or meal to follow the service. Lunch after church is a guarantee that it’s a big Sunday. It’s a big Sunday with critical mass and I work the room.

Waving to people I know, but giving face-time to all the little people and their people is priority #1. Keeping aware for who is watching me, I head in their direction with hands to shake, side hugs ready, and high fives moving into position.

By the time I reach the food line, the kitchen team is usually packing up or dishing out seconds, but it gives me a chance to linger saying, “Thanks!” to each one on the other side of serving spoon. I notice the tables full with friends already made. I notice the tables with one or two sitting and lots of empty chairs. I head in that direction and sit-a-spell to ask, “How you doin?” and let them know the next KidMin thing that’s coming up that I’m excited about. “Hey! Did you know that we ….?” This is foot marketing….and I’ve learned these conversations are investments for KidMin champions.

This last big Sunday a new family was sitting by themselves, so I asked if I could join them and engaged in fabulous conversation with the oldest a 3rd grader, the kindergartner who told me all the family news in typical middle child fashion, and their just-turned-three-year-old little brother. It was Dad’s first time on campus and Mom had been coming for the last month with the oldest. Within the last month, they’d gotten an email, a postcard, and a handwritten letter from me. Now we get some table life. By the end of the meal, which I didn’t eat because big Sundays are not for eating, we were laughing and making plans for tea in the next two weeks.

This next Sunday is a big Sunday, too…Resurrection Sunday! I’ll be back to wearing pants and pouring out hot chocolate at the sunrise service. Did you know that you can fill a huge coffee canister with hot chocolate from RaceTrac or QuickTrip for around $1.50?

Hospitality should be at it’s best on big Sundays. How do you do big Sundays?

“We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.” 3 John 1:8

Company’s Coming!

According to HGTV.com, a house can be whipped into shape for guests in less than an hour if we have a plan. “Focus your efforts where they’re really going to show,” advises interior designer Paula Jhung.

Start in the foyer by decluttering. Your entrance should look inviting with fresh flowers, rid of spider webs, and debris. It’s the entrance that gives folks a first impression of who you are, how you take care of things, and will our guests want to linger there. “You want to make sure that you get things clean that are closer to eye-level,” she adds. ‘Dust horizontal surfaces, check the floor for dust bunnies, then move on to the bathrooms.’

“Ironically, this area — not the kitchen or the living room — is where you want to be the most fastidious,” says Jhung. “People are in there with blaring light, with no one else around and they can see everything,” she says. Focus instead on the things most people will actually use — the toilet, mirror, sink and counter. Spray bleach/whitening cleaner in, around, and on the front of the toilet AND the sink especially if your facilities are a tad…how do I say this….aged. Remembering that eyes go up and then down, sweep the dust away from the intake vents and for goodness sake, put some clean smelling (not fruity) air fresheners behind the doors in every bathroom in the house. Wipe down the doorknobs, and make sure it’s stocked with napkins, toilet paper, and have a place for a lady to put down or hang up her purse.

I remember cleaning Baby Girl’s room all night long while she slept.  The mess didn’t bother her, but it made me nuts. I was sick and tired of her bedroom being the topic of every conversation. Honestly, it was more like a monologue….me fussing, her listening. Though she felt she had done her part, it was not up to Mama’s code. Since it was bothering only me, I served her and me by taking it on. I love this girl like nobody’s business, so I put on the headphones of my Walkman (now I’ve dated myself!) and cleaned all around her while she slept. Everything but the vacuuming.  The next morning, she was delighted to do the vacuuming and my brain was no longer distracted by the hot mess of a middle schooler’s bedroom. We certainly had better things to talk about and now I could.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday with little people parading with palm branches and our music department presenting an Easter program followed by Resurrection Sunday and all that goes along with that. Company’s coming! Yesterday, I picked up a slew of fresh rain air fresheners at Dollar Tree and Publix had bleach cleaners on sale at three for five dollars. Wearing the gloves of hospitality, I spent some time this morning getting ‘our house’ ready for company.

Yes, there may be a custodian, but I put on fresh eyes, rubber gloves, and instead of wishing someone else would ‘take care of that’, I did what it took to make ‘our home’ ready for guests and company….up to Mama’s code.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9

Sometimes None and Sometimes One

I didn’t know praise band practice had been cancelled last Thursday, so the nursery caregiver I had arranged arrived early rather than going home only to wait for several hours before realizing what was happening…er, not happening. In my other role, I’m responsible for the church calendar and space reservations.

The children’s moment is presented each week in both services. But I didn’t know something else would be happening at that part of the service. Something else absolutely awesome, and I mean awesome, but I didn’t know. Somehow it didn’t get to me that I’d not be presenting the children’s moment. So I stood prepared with props in hand to come down at that point in the service, just to sit back down in my seat. In my other role, I am responsible for communications and preparing the printed order of worship.

And only one student came to Sunday school. I and our faithful Sunday school team prayed and prepared and only one student was present. Our faithful Sunday school team is made up of grandparents…active, dancing, Lego-building-on-the-floor, faithful, Jesus-following grandparents. Our kid’s parents are amazing people. They’re busy, weary, and committed to so many other amazing and wonderful things. I don’t even know when they have time to do laundry. Sometimes it’s just life.

It is our human tendency to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. This is when I realize I don’t spend enough time thinking about how good God is. This is when it’s better to go with what I know rather than how I feel.

This I know:

(1)  God made me and Jesus loves me.

(2)  When I am called to keep pushing the boulder, it isn’t just so the boulder moves, but rather that I will be obedient in the boulder-pushing.

(3)  In the opening words of The Purpose-Driven Life, “It’s not about me.”

(4)  Preparing for one as I’d do if there were 300 is a sign of my trust in a very great God. Jesus did…Nicodemus, the Woman at the well, etc.

(5) According to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, “Some days are just like that.”

Before you think this is a Debby Downer blogpost, it’s far from it. That evening at CLUB345’s orange night, kids and their families brought bags of fresh orange fruit to share with the residents of Elizabeth Inn Homeless Shelter which operates under the guidance of MUST Ministries.

It’s times like these that cause me to pause…to pray…to love…to rest. The freight train has been running fast and furious. It’s time for a DAWG Day…Day Alone With God. A Day dedicated to the Lord of the Dance and a VBS can in my house clothes. Watching music videos of kids singing and dancing before the Lord. Reading leader guides with fabulous ideas to impress God’s Word upon His children. And that will be today. This is the best part: It’s been scheduled and on the calendar for three weeks.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

I Wish I Had Thought Of That!

Last September the North Georgia Annual Conference received a new Bishop, as did several other United Methodist conferences all around the country. Since our new Bishop’s appointment, she has given folks a chance to share their hearts and hear her heart’s message in meet and greet receptions for the laity in each district. Last weekend, she was in our district.

In our district she preached at two churches on Sunday morning, held the meet and greet laity reception on Sunday afternoon, and met with the clergy of our district on Monday afternoon. Attending the laity reception, she gave a message and then essentially opened the floor to anyone who wished to speak. As the host church provided microphones, folks asked questions and shared celebrations as well as challenges in our district and in the global church.

I stood up to make a comment about my heart for children in our community, especially for those who serve the children in our local churches. I shared about the gatherings in every district of our conference of those who serve children in ministry to resource and offer training to engage children in worship, in Sunday school, and in mission at what we called “Done In A Day.” Then I asked about her thoughts and dreams about engaging children in the faith. The Bishop shared about her grandmother and her desire to see more intergenerational faith experiences.

Others asked and spoke about the homeless, the lonely, and how to share Jesus in their workplace. One fellow stood and asked if there were any 20-somethings in the room. One man stood. He was sitting in the back row. He was sitting among several students. This young man had brought his confirmation class. Two of his students were also given the microphone to comment and ask a question of the Bishop.

I had been running invites in the bulletin for six weeks. We made announcements from the pulpit for a month. For the last three weeks, our pastor spoke to say, “DeDe will treat you to lunch or you can meet her here to carpool to gather to meet our Bishop.” No one took me up on it.

Yet, this guy brought his confirmation class. How often will a group of kids get to hear a message from a great communicator like a Bishop? How often do kids get to ask questions of a conference leader? What a great idea!

The guy left before I could speak with him or get his name. He left before I could tell him that his presence and his gesture to invite the young people in his spiritual charge had an impact not just on his kids, but on me. Next time. Next time my invites will be different. I sure hope there is a next time.

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12

WC Academy: Cooking Basics

Every kid wants to be in the kitchen…using the coolest tools…making a huge mess…listening in on the family stories…because it’s in the kitchen where the action of family and food happen. Giving kids a chance to practice life skills that are yummy and easy was the goal for our second WC Academy Class. Housekeeping Basics was our first and we continue to hear from parents how the help at their homes has greatly improved since their kids took the class.

We ordered aprons to use another day and gave them chef hats to take home. No need for name tags since we used a food container to take from station to station with names.

We set up five stations, each with a different skill and different kind of food:

Item: Chocolate covered strawberries & pretzel sticks
Supplies: Microwave, glass bowls, wooden and metal spoons, wax paper
Shopping List: White and brown chocolate bark, strawberries, large pretzel sticks
Tips: Even a drop of water will mess up melted chocolate (which we had an example of).

Item: Punch & Peach Salsa
Supplies: Glass bowls, spoons, ladle, beverage dispenser, ice
Shopping List: Ginger Ale, cranberry juice, salsa, peach fruit cups, tortilla chips (different colors)
Tips: Ginger ale will lose it’s bubble if poured too fast; straining the peaches makes for a better, thicker salsa so let the kids pull back only a little on the fruit cups to strain the juice; using blue and brown chips makes for a more visually appealing plate; most had never seen a ladle before nor knew what it was called; dropping in orange slices or strawberries makes punch look pretty; we used a Styrofoam cup we tore down half-way to make for a dipping cup in the food carrier to keep the salsa from touching everything else.

Item: Fruit kabobs
Supplies: long toothpicks, plastic knives, paper plates
Shopping List: String cheese, green grapes
Tips: Teach to ‘saw’ rather than ‘chop’ food with a plastic knife to cut string cheese into cubes; pre-cut small bunches of grapes for students to wash and dry.

Item: Grilled Cheese Sandwich (gotta have an element of danger, right?!)
Supplies: Electric frying pan, egg turner/pancake flipper, paper plates, metal spoon to spread butter
Shopping List: tub/soft butter, bread, sliced cheese
Tips: Kids were taught altogether at the beginning of class how to make a grilled cheese because of the heat and the time constraints; a lot of my kids couldn’t spread the butter even though the back of a spoon makes it easier, so the ‘beautiful golden bread’ happened for some and not for others (They LOVED it anyway! Who doesn’t like butter and a lot of it?); leave the butter out of the fridge for a bit to get softer and make it easier to spread. Station signs were paper bags in the center of the tables to keep the trash and wrappers at bay. Cleaning up as you go is a life skill in itself, yes?

Item: Pinwheel Sandwich
Supplies: Toothpicks, paper plates, knives to slice roasted peppers, metal teaspoons for spreading cream cheese, vegetable peelers (got from the dollar store for half price after Christmas)
Shopping List: Large head of romaine lettuce, whipped cream cheese, baby spinach leaves, small flour tortillas, slices of oven-roasted deli turkey, provolone cheese, roasted pepper from a jar, carrots, toothpicks
Tips: Using whipped cream cheese (much easier to spread than original cream cheese) instead of mayo keeps the items in the tortillas rather than sliding so cutting the roll-up into pinwheels is much easier; the colors are beautiful from the side of a pinwheel; cut the hard center from a romaine lettuce leaf with a veggie peeler so it’ll roll smoothly; thankfully huge carrots are inexpensive so they could peel to their heart’s content over their own tall garbage can; when ordering the turkey and cheese, ask the deli to place a piece of paper between each slice; plan for 1 slice of turkey and a half slice of cheese for each pinwheel.

In between the 3rd and 4th rotation, we stopped for a beverage (punch) break as I shared the story of how Jesus fed the 5,000: he uses what kids have to offer, he blesses, he multiplies, we gather together, and leftovers. Jesus can and will do mighty things with what a kid brings to Him. Jesus can do anything!

Some students ate as they traveled from station to station. Some students snacked as they went. One student waited until she got home so she could show her parents everything she had made. This same student had her Mom send me a pic last weekend showing a beautifully grilled cheese sandwich she made on her own at home. Certificates were handed out at the end with testimony time with the items, supply and shopping lists printed on the back.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

Ninja Think Tank

When attending a children’s ministry conference, some of the best and most helpful information comes in the carpool to the conference. I don’t drive because I am an awful navigator. So armed with a yellow legal pad and a cellphone (to make online inquiries along the way), I ask questions and take notes of the multiple conversations that follow.  In response to a conversation at our monthly, district networking group, several of us gathered together for a day. The goal was to share a few things and take home a few things to help us in our local church ministries. Think: Carpool to a conference without the conference.

Instructions went out in an email like this:


We are moving the planning day to Wednesday, Feb 22 to make sure L and C can participate.  S, hoping that is good for you, too.
We will meet at Wesley Chapel UMC from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to brain storm together how we can use ministries and programs to reach out into the community and/or nurture the faith of our kids and adults.
Bring 8 copies of what you have already done with LOTS of details AND ideas that have been simmering.   If you have supplies to share, then bring them too.  Got something you don’t know what to do with? Bring it!  Got a picture of something you’ve seen? Bring it.
Bring your lap top AND what ever you like to brain storm with (chart paper, marker board, jump rope, endless diet coke).
Bring your calendar.  Hard copy might be easiest to pencil things here and there.  If we all like the idea it would be great to create a bin of reusable supplies to pass from church to church as the events are scheduled.
We will have chili and baked potatoes for lunch.  D is baking the potatoes. K is bringing the chili.  Respond with what you’re bringing: salad, corn bread, toppings, etc.
Bring your own beverage and cup.  There is ice available on site as well as a tea pot for hot water. (Of course there is!)

We set up our computers, opened in prayer, then each champion answered the question: What do you HAVE to get out of today? What is your “If I don’t get anything else, I’ve GOT to get this”?

We put up big post-it notes with areas of interest and focus, then added what we’re already doing under each area with little post-it notes. We each offered a couple of ‘already doings’ with the prep paperwork and even emailed info to everyone if all we had were electronic copies.

We each walked out filled with at least two new ideas and the prep paperwork to tweak to best fit our contexts. We also walked out with encouragement, fuel for the journey, and memories of laughter and good food. Fruitful table life! These folks are ninja warrior champions when it comes to ministry with children. Some have been doing kidmin for more than 20 years, others just 3 years.  Oh how I love the connection!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Rock Solid Retreat 2017-Part 2

2016teaOur senses are heightened when we step away for retreat. We wait in anxious expectation of sounds, smells, and sights which are different than our everyday. It reminds me of Abram called by God from his land of Ur (usual routine.) But it’s the people that we meet while away that stick in my memory most.

At the 5th grade Rock Solid Retreat on the beautiful campus of Camp Glisson, our students are prepared through workshop and practices for their next season as they transition not only from elementary to middle school, but also from children’s ministry to youth/student ministry. The connections with mine and other’s kids are different, slower, deeper, funnier. The connections are just….more.

2016teaOne of the great delights of retreat is connecting with other champions of children’s ministry. As we walk outside, wake up to Mandisa’s “Good Morning” in the girl’s cabin, and take fantastic meals ‘family style’ with others, I get to hear their stories. Stories of their journey to director of children’s ministry at their church. Stories of how a student has overcome life challenges. Stories of exciting family events coming up. Stories of clarity for what one will do next year. Stories of grandparents who used to come to Camp Glisson so many years ago. Oh, the testimonies of old and new friends in the Lord.

2016teaThis time we were invited to travel with a church we often partner with for special events like Splish Splash and Winter Ball. Our kids and chaperones make deep connections with hers. I’m the last one down at night in our cabin to be sure everyone is snoozing. She’s the first one up to take them hiking in the falls before breakfast. She brings cookies. I bring a wireless speaker for cabin dance parties. A chaperone from the third church represented in our cabin was a hairdresser. There was a line of 5th grade girls chatting and laughing waiting to get their hair braided.

2016teaThere is so much more to an away retreat than curriculum and food…though both were fabulous. When I go on retreat, I seek out those I already know and see only online for a hug, a cup of tea, a conversation. When I go on retreat, I especially seek out those new-to-me. I ask a couple of questions. I make a new friend. I hear testimonies of champions. I hear how God is alive and active in their calling. I hear of challenges and celebrations. I hear delights and sighs and laughter. It feeds me and helps me to grow in my ‘champion-ness.’ What are you doing to build connection with other champions?

“There are essentially two things that will change your life – the books you read and the people you meet.” – Charles Tremendous Jones

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Rock Solid Retreat 2017-Part 1

2016teaFifth graders in February are closer to sixth grade than most moms wish to admit. Many will be transitioning not only to middle school, but also from children’s ministry to youth ministry. Transitions can be no big deal for some students and completely terrifying for others even with the most intentional training-up. How can we help? A winter retreat for fifth graders.

The North Georgia United Methodist Church conference presented a retreat specific to and only for fifth graders at Camp Glisson just a couple of weeks ago. We arrived early in time for hiking and setting up cabins which we shared with other amazing local churches. Half expecting to hear about when we would be ziplining, swimming, or high swinging, not one time did my students wish to be somewhere else or to be doing something else.

rocksolidWe attended workshops specific to kid-friendly spiritual practices.  They learned and practiced multiple prayer positions from a pastor in camo with a heavy leaning toward Star Wars. They learned to communicate at all decibel levels and listen for the wisest voices that will get them to their goals. The activities and debriefing was inviting and done especially well in small groups. Not wanting to give away all the details, THIS event has best prepared my fifth graders to take on the next season with a greater confidence.

We attended multiple worship services with teaching elements led my Chuck Bell. Chuck is amazing at involving multiple worship preferences in a service beyond the music component. He also led a workshop on worship to offer students the chance to discover their own personal worship style preferences AND learn to appreciate other’s preferences. He used video, storytelling, and small group teaching. He even led each group to be prepared to participate in the remaining worship services in liturgy, music, motions, visuals, voice, and so much more. He invited the students to interpret a music video from Bethel kids that was spot-on in helping them grow their ‘fearless’ muscles.

chloeI had multiple favorite moments, quick visual pictures in my head, and enjoyed amazing conversations. During our ‘cabin visit’ we shared time and space outside with another local church we do a ton of things with giving our students a chance to talk, pray, and give their hearts, minds, hands, and feet to Jesus. I mean, how can we do these intensive practices of giving our hearts, minds, hands, and feet to Jesus and not give them a chance to do just that? A place and a date for some. A reminder and another step forward for others.

HUGE difference from the first worship service on Saturday morning to the last on Sunday morning. During the first service, students looked around to do what they saw others doing…formal…cautious…reserved.  By the last service, students prayed in multiple positions. Students sang in multiple ways (voice, motions, movement, etc.) Students received communion and reminder bracelets to take home. Students were writing their contact info in other’s notebooks to stay connected. Made me smile.

We will go again next year. I can’t imagine missing it. Last Sunday’s worship at home was different with the students who attended. We were all so very comfortable in our own worship-style-preference-skin. We smiled at one another across the sanctuary. Pure sweetness. Will you join us next year?

“This day flew by.” C. Reed, WC 5th grader
“I’ll never forget this day as long as I live, Ms. DeDe.” A. Smith, WC 5th grader