Summer Church-on-the-Go Boxes

Since January our families have been picking up Praying On The Go Bags each month to build their faith muscles in prayer with simple directions and a prayer prompter to take home.  I wanted to do something different for July following Vacation Bible School and came across a great facebook post of a blog offering  Take Out Church.  Thankfully, everything they used with photos and pdfs are at the link.  Gotta love it when colleagues share their goodies!

POGOBoxStuffWith a spin specific to us and our Children’s Ministry tagline, I prepared a pizza box (purchased at a local pizza shop @ $1 each) for each family, ordered the prayer cubes, and filled it with some goodies to clean out my own shelves along with the following instructions:

Summer Church On the Go Instructions

Summer Church On The Go is a way for your family to bring church with you as you vacation and enjoy wonderful family time this summer.  Building memories around faith practices. In this box are ways you and your family can

GROW (App List, Coloring Scroll with memory verses),

TELL (Flat Jesus, Conversation questions),

SERVE (Serve Your Neighbor Game),

WORSHIP (VBS CD, Prayer Cube, Skittle Prayers), and

BELONG (give the Wesley Chapel Welcome Postcard to a friend and invite them to church, Write a note of encouragement on the funny postcards and mail them to whomever you want – grandparents LOVE this stuff!)

Through it all we want you to remember to take Jesus with you. He is the most important thing in this box, but especially in our family life. Color FLAT JESUS and then take it with you everywhere you go. Take a picture and post it on facebook or email it to the church office at church.office@wesleychapelumc.com.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy church on the go this Summer!

FullSizeRenderWe introduced the boxes at the children’s moment the Sunday following VBS as a way to continue growing in our faith during the next month when most of us might hear, “Mom, I’m bored.”  It was quite dramatic to see a stack of pizza boxes near the church office and the kids headed straight for them after services were over.

What is your follow up to VBS?

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Colossians 4:2 NIV

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Eye Twitching Season

Two mornings last week had me awakened by my eye twitching. Instantly the old southern wives tales came to mind of ‘someone must be talking about me’ or ‘I’m going to come into money’, or is that if your palm itches?  Anyway, it’s eye twitching season for me.

EyeTwitchingMy eye begins to twitch when the VBS signup board outside the office has way more white space than names. My eye begins to twitch when I’m not sure if the Science Camp folks have the registrations that will encourage them to come back next year. My eye twitches when I discover I’ve texted the wrong date for the 5th Sunday Family Service and find that several of the families are now going to be out of town or a little person has one last dance recital that very morning. My eye twitches when our conference has put together this awesome overnight retreat for tweeners, and I don’t know how many to register for since it’s still 90 days away. My eye twitches that vacation time is here and it is so much easier for folks to stay home from church even though we have a rocking Science Sunday school planned. My eye twitches that I have only 2 out of 7 Sundays (in July, no less) with signed up helpers for summer Sunday school that starts in a week and a half. Oh and did I mention that #1 Son moved into his own apartment last weekend and Baby Girl is still way too far away as her 3 year old is a real 3 year old and I wish I lived close enough to take Mr Yummy for a night to let her sleep through the night?

eye-twitching-causes-1Yep, it’s eye twitching season.  What do I do?  I pray.

I pray to ask God to remind me who (Him), why (kids to know Jesus and have faith tradition memories), when (His timing and the rhythm of my community), what (there is still a week or two to come), how (if he can multiply fishes and loaves, he can multiply hands and smiles and time) needed to make a season His.  And I pray for more: more children, more volunteers, more families, more resources, more kindness, more patience, more love, more joy, just more.

And then there’s a week later.

EyeCalmWhen we had to add more chairs to the VBS training held after church on Sunday for more faces appeared than the names on the sign up board.  When the Science Camp folks shared at the walk-through that we are full with a waiting list.  When the voices shared for the Family First On The Fifth Worship service were many and fabulous (Gosh! I love it when tweeners can work a microphone in partnership with one another, a 6th grader invites the congregation to “meet and greet one another with a handshake and a smile”, a Dad and his two daughters lead the service in announcements and the call and response, and the high schooler who led corporate prayer and prayed from his bible!) When a saint of the church walks in on Monday to sign up to be a part of the team to lead Summer Science Sunday school for the first two Sundays of the Summer that begins this Sunday.  When #1 Son is content in his new place. When Baby Girl realizes that God was so wise as to only offer 24 hours in a regular day…no more, no less.

Eye twitching season and God.  It’s more than I can even imagine.

“On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.” Psalm 138:3

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End of Season Celebration

club-345-1-mswIt saddens me to see a season end, but thrilled to see how God will use His young disciples I have watched grow in their knowledge of Him and personal history with Him. We just celebrated the end of the season for CLUB345. These are our 3rd – 5th graders, so I technically get to play and pray with them for three years before they head off into middle school youth group, confirmation, and beyond.

We meet on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month from August through April. The schedule looks like this: 5-5:30 snack meal, 5:30-6 games, 6-6:30 lesson, 6:30-7 response activity. This year we used Abingdon Press’ Live It! curriculum on Family (last fall) and KatieNameMaking A Difference in the World (this spring). We’ve had special guests who are ministry colleagues who actively engage the students with their toolbox of goodies relating to something they are passionate about. We’ve gone on field trips to other local churches and had them come to ours to give our kids a ‘big experience’ that is always more fun with more, giving them the experiences of our connected system.

We just celebrated our last night of the season with a special guest who spoke of ‘what we need to live’ and we prepared and learned about UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) Sewing Kits. We ate dinner from a taco bar and enjoyed what we call, Wesley Chapel’s Got Talent when any of the students are free to perform a talent.  We even had one juggling this year!  We invite the youth to attend the talent show and then make a presentation of a gift.

BradfordVersesThe gift is a framed copy of their name in scripture.  I purchased the inexpensive frames from IKEA (3 to a bag) through Amazon.  Then used gift bags purchased from Hobby Lobby for the background using my handy-dandy paper cutter.

I have a huge list of scriptures that I’ve gathered over the years to copy and paste that begin with each letter of the alphabet, some with multiple scriptures because the letter is used multiple times. I choose the ones I think offer wisdom and hope as they enter middle school.  If you’d like a copy of the list, send me an email to dedereilly@comcast.net.

What do you do for the end of the season?

“The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 KJV

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry – BELONG

BelongWe’ve been sharing how the local church can nurture each child’s call into ministry. At WC we provide five specific ways to intentionally set the stage to do so in partnership with Mom and Dad. We’ve looked at practical experiences so kids can GROW, TELL, SERVE, and WORSHIP our Lord God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. Today we consider ways for children to know they BELONG.

We are wired for stories and community.  The local church community is the perfect environment to live and tell our stories, to belong, and be drawn into the ongoing Christian story “teaching us how to negotiate the hows and what-nexts, the surprises, struggles, and victories of the radical, countercultural way of life that Christianity is.” (from Susanne Johnson’s Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom.)

“When children feel a sense of belonging and sense of pride in their families, their peers, and their communities, they can be emotionally strong, self-assured, and able to deal with challenges and difficulties.” (Alstear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework)  Children feel a sense of belonging as they experience respect, encouragement, forgiveness, care, approval, and especially love…unconditional love.  We want our children to move beyond saying, “That’s my church,” and move toward proclaiming, “That’s where I belong, where I matter, and where I am loved, no matter what!”

11137087_10205437777456862_3762399533793086975_nStarting in the nursery, we can meet Mom with a “smile at the door and be ready to play on the floor.”  We ask how Little Man is doing, how was his night, and show interest in his family with joyful questions.  When Little Man is picked up, we share his story with Mom about how he napped, or what he played with, or an anecdote of his experience while in our care.  Moms understand Little Man may not be the only one in the nursery, but she wants to know that we have cared for him as if he was.

Write notes, send birthday cards, send postcards from training events and travels, report on their achievements, attend their outside activities, go to a play, share their stories and victories in the church newsletter.  Even consider sponsoring the local swim team where your students will be wearing the team shirt with their church name on the back.

Swim TeamChick Night…for 5th grade and higher to connect with other women of the church. They’ll interact over food, games, craft, mingle, laugh, and know they are acknowledged and welcomed by the Titus 2 women, the ‘models’ of negotiating the Christian life as a woman of faith in Jesus.

Saints Book Club…sign language ministry to go to other churches to help and teach at special events invites them to ‘learn, then teach/pour out’ the gifts and opportunities with others in the Body of Christ…invite them to things I’m doing…going to the movies…small group opportunities…confirmation mentoring/sponsoring…connect with other UMC churches through Messy Night, Winter Ball, Confirmation, Summer camps where students get a chance to meet other adults who are sold out for Jesus.

The greeting/beginning time on Sunday mornings gives them time to make make new friends and spend time together at church because it may be the only time they get to see or play with one another.  Provide the environments to play together and pray together.  Doing anything that will encourage face time, table life, encouraging memories, and building relationships with one another.

NurturingPowerpointHow do we nurture each child’s call into ministry?  We intentionally set a balanced stage for personal encounters with the living God as each one grows in wisdom and stature with the Lord and man (GROW),  share in their own words their story and experiences (TELL), use his/her gifts and explore interactive opportunities to show mercy, do justice, and love on others (SERVE), experience worship corporately as an integral part of the family of faith (WORSHIP), and repeatedly engage in relationship building so that he/she knows without a shadow of doubt that God’s people are his/her people. (BELONG)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry – WORSHIP

Smaller churches can rock at this one! Though we plan our sermon series a year in advance, we don’t have the limits that many large churches have. We do have a worship committee, but by serving on it as the staff liaison, involving the kids is gladly welcomed.

Kid_FriendlyWorship is how we adore the Lord of all creation.  Worship is also our response to what the Lord has done, is doing, and who He is.  Worship is song and giving and being fully present among His people.  Worship is regular, personal and corporate, and participatory. We can continue to nurture a child’s call into ministry through worship.

Kids love parades, so processionals for World Communion Sunday (loaves of bread), All Saints Sunday (names of people drawn/written on cards), and Thankful Sunday (items kids are thankful for expressed through drawings of homes, families, items of importance) all presented on the altar table.  Jumping into Summer Sunday School shared by kids jumping rope on the front lawn before services as people are arriving for worship.  Posters of specific themes decorated and lining the narthex hallways invite the artistic to share their love of art.

Allow them to intern in the tech booth or take up the offering.  Yes, they’ll wave Palm Branches on Palm Sunday, but let the CLUB345 kids cut out hundreds of paper palm branches to insert in the hymnals on a specific page number so the whole congregation can participate.

ThankYouGodTeach kids how to take notes from the sermon….if the sermon is on Salt & Light, let them tally how many times they hear the words SALT and LIGHT.  Our CLUB345 kids prepare luminaries to line the walkways for Christmas Eve and they clean them up after the last service of the night with their families.  Let them hand out takeaways after the service in a theme relative to the sermon series.  Invite them pour out/pump out hot chocolate at the Easter Sunrise service. Invite kids to acknowledge specific groups like Boy Scout Sunday and Girl Scout Sunday….they can wear their uniforms to church, hand out bulletins, and initiate the pledge of allegiance.

Don’t forget the importance of a Call & Response in the worship service for them to talk.  Invite children to share prayer requests and be sure to say the Lord’s Prayer or Apostle’s Creed when the entire congregation does.  I even teach them a few simple sign language motions for specific words they’ll hear all the time in worship, so they can do them all together.  This month?  We’re all getting egg shakers to be a part of the praise band from our seats.  Egg shakes are handed out at the end of Sunday School and returned to the bucket in the narthex for next week.

The worship service is in community and it’s regular and it’s important.  Inviting and involving children in community worship offers spiritual memories, accomplishment, and worship teaching as another means of nurturing each child’s call into ministry.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.” Psalm 103:1

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry – SERVE

Serving with the heart of Jesus shows us what students are learning and holding close. God, the Father, chose to send His Son to earth as the way of salvation for all humanity. It was in this humanity that Jesus demonstrated service to God. Despite Jesus’ physical limitations when He walked the earth as you and me, He modeled service so we could see the value of serving.  The foundational pillars of ministry with children which intentionally nurtures a call into ministry include GROW, TELL, SERVE, WORSHIP, and BELONG.  This blog post is about the third pillar:  SERVE.

serveChildren are constantly exposed to a culture that says, “Serve me” rather than “Serve others.” If children capture the concept of service to others while they are still young, they will most likely be lifelong servants in the Kingdom of God.

Serving in ministry gives us a chance to gauge the spiritual development of our children.  A tremendous amount of nurturing each child’s call into ministry can be derived from early service opportunities as they uncover and discover the use of their spiritual and natural gifts.  The message that we hope to share in our church community is …”Let the kids serve!”

Let kids fill out a ‘job application,’ then interview them, and train them.  These are life skills.  We invite students to serve in the Nursery on Christmas Eve and other big Sundays.  Our fifth graders help co-lead small groups and serve in our large group Sunday school.

servesandwichesWe have a Winter Ball event inviting other local churches to join us for ball food and ball games in our gym in January.  This year students who had aged out and into youth set up the game stations from printed instructions and the written plan for the evening.  These same students are also instrumental for Vacation Bible School decorating the training space and the event spaces, as well as serving as Fantastic Friday servants.  These kids are in training for their leadership wherever God calls them to serve.  Where else will they learn to do great ministry by attending to the details…like emptying the trash, cleaning up after others and self, and turning out the lights?

SouperBowlIf they play an instrument, invite them to play with the praise band.  If they sing in school chorus, invite them to sing with the choir.  If they like to play with kids, invite them to be the VBS Preschool helper.  If they are handy with wood, invite them to build a huge wooden cross for the altar (thanks, Tyler!).  If they like to build with Legos, let them build another altar cross (thanks, Olivia!).  If they like to talk (thanks, Anna & Olivia!), invite them to serve as greeters (thanks, Noah!) and open the doors for folks.  If they like to do drama, invite them to be on your drama team (thanks, Benton!) or wear a sandwich board advertising your next big event.  If they like smaller groups, invite them to tutor (thanks, Eddie!) If they like science, invite them to do the experiments during Summer Sunday school (thanks, James!).  If they like to paint, invite them to serve on Trustee Work Day.  If they like to cook, invite them to serve on the next Missions Lunch serving line.  If they like to play football, invite them to run your games during special Sundays.

PalmSundaySigningLast Sunday was Palm Sunday and in the worship service, kids were palm-handlers, handed out bulletins, youth students set out over 1,000 eggs for the egg hunt, took photos of folks with Tom the donkey, held up a “Celebrate” sign for the theme of worship, read the scriptures before the sermon with their dads, shared a Prayer To The Extraordinary, signed and sang and played the guitar for the offertory.  The Friday and Saturday before, our youth set out, sold, and cleared an indoor yard sale in our gym to raise funds for their summer mission trips.  It was a full weekend of service and it was awesome!

CarlieUsherFigure out what ticks each one off and what thrills each soul.  Then do your best to provide a stage, an arena, an opportunity for each one to shine their gifts for the Lord.  Don’t forget to keep reminding them that their gifts and calling came from Him and are for His glory.  We don’t perform for the Lord, we serve Him and His people.  It’s all in the opportunity and the vocabulary!

 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry – TELL

imagesVXGL5UXWEvery time we set the stage for children to give testimony and to hear the testimonies of others, the God-moment is impressed and chiseled on the hearts of the hearers and tellers, especially little people.

This blog post is the third in a six-part series of setting the stage for nurturing each child’s call into ministry.  The first foundational pillar is to offer intentional opportunities to GROW.  The second is to give kids a way to process out loud or on paper what they heard, saw, and experienced.  As well as get their thoughts around how they will move forward.

Think Family Reunion. As a kid I loved to hear the stories of my parents and their siblings, especially the ones that incite laughter from even the grumpiest uncle. These are the stories of family history and the ones that get shared from generation to generation. The same dynamic works for students sharing their experiences with God. We want to offer kids opportunities to build a personal vocabulary to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by sharing their own personal stories.

images33OWJL3VAnytime I can get my kids to write, I’m thrilled.  The first Sunday of the New Year students write about themselves:  favorite book, favorite sport, favorite tv show, greatest thing they did last year, and set some goals for the next year.  Saving them, I’ll mail them years later.  Several years ago, I had a girls Sunday School class write a letter to themselves of what they will “purpose” in their hearts.  The students were in 4th-6th grade.  When most were seniors in high school, I mailed them after Christmas in their self-addressed envelopes.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Many had forgotten, but thankfully Facebook let me see how many of the girls were meeting for lunch to reflect and discuss their letters with one another.

MUSTOne of my girls wrote a fantastic story of “What a 5th grader Will Do For A 6 Pound Bag of Gummies” after a SCREAM Retreat.  I knew we had a writer on our hands.  Inviting her to write of her God Adventures for the church newsletter gives her a chance to tell her God Story to her whole church and a chance to hone her writing skills.  We took our CLUB345 students to a local homeless shelter a few weeks back.  The students were invited to write about what they heard, saw, and felt while there.

  • “On March 8, 2015 I went to Elizabeth Inn, which is a homeless shelter run by MUST Ministries.  When I went inside, it was not what I expected.  It made me feel sad because seeing and knowing what they live through everyday makes me realize how thankful I am to live in a real house with food and afford things.”
  • “I saw that their beds were nice, but small.”
  • “I saw people that need help and they got it by going to the Elizabeth Inn.  It was sad, but they are being cared for.  And I can help by giving toys and can foods and I can make cards.”
  • “Kids get to go to a room to do their homework.  That kind-of looked like fun.”
  • “The Loaves & Fishes kitchen provided food for the homeless.  There was also clothes provided for them.  I’m going to donate a lot to them.”

Moms and Dads and even I can say a whole host of things, but when someone young comes to share testimonies of God’s faithfulness and of how God is working in their lives, impressions are made.  Giving past students the chance to ‘call back’ also encourages previous students to continue to tell their God Story.  I want my kids to hear testimonies of the fruitfulness of their holy habits…tithing…serving…mission trips…reading the bible all the way through…being respectful of their parents…choosing their future schools…answering God’s call on their own lives as nurses, police officers, tutors, scouts, etc.

What are other ways you offer for kids to tell their God stories?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” Deuteronomy 29:29

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry – GROW

This is the second post that was started last week about five foundational pillars on which to nurture each child’s call into ministry.  GROW is the first of those pillars.

Our Sunday morning programming is heavy on growing relationships….with God and each other. Most of my kids attend different schools in two different counties. I can provide the best environment to grow their knowledge and love of the Lord, but if they don’t come, I’ve done nothing.

HallwayTablesWatching our adults meet and greet over coffee between services has encouraged us to offer time for our kids to meet and greet over games: table top Jenga, Spot it cards, Connect Four, jumbo Checkers, and Legos. We’ve lined the children’s hallway with small $20 foldaway tables (Bed Bath & Beyond) and placed games for interactive play for the sole purpose of making friends at church. Our first ten minutes is playtime to build relationships and give the kids time to hang out with one another because this is the only place many of them see one another.

Larry Fowler (AWANA.org) shares ‘the greatest factor in getting kids to come regularly is friend to friend, kid to kid, relationships at church.’ Our fun time is specifically structured for building relationships.

Sunday morning is also the time when we can give lots of opportunities to experience and grow in the holy habits:

Activity Stations – journals with pens, bibles with challenges, mirrors and dry erase markers asking “What do you know about God?”, a large piece of paper with one word “Justice” and another piece of paper with one word “Mercy” and inviting the kids to add words they think go with the big word, self-directed prayer walk on campus in partnership with parents/grandparents with challenges at each location inside and outside the building.

POGOSign&BagsPraying On the Go Bags – Each month we send home a bag of simple directions and a tool to use to pray at home with the family.  We practice the type of prayer a month or so before it goes home in CLUB345 or on Sunday morning (in large group-we all meet together to ensure critical mass, then break up into smaller discussion groups led by amazing adults) so the kids know exactly what to do when they get home to help direct Mom and Dad or big sister or big brother.

Use the Bible – Kids use their bibles every single Sunday and at CLUB345.  We look it up, we read it, we talk about it, we wrestle with it.  Yes, it’s time consuming, but I want them to know the book.  It’s the play book…not on a phone, not as a reference, but a living, breathing, teaching, loving, giving-me-the-best-words-to-hear EVER!  I was 26 years old when I realized the wise men did NOT go to the stable in the Christmas story because I let someone else tell me what the bible said and didn’t read it for myself.  My kids know this story and I share it to remind them that God meant for them to know the scriptures for themselves so they’d know His truth and not be easily be confused about what it says.

FaithMilestonesLogoFaith Milestones – I felt I wasn’t teaching enough the vocabulary of our faith to set us apart from other non-Jesus faiths.  So we’ve begun hour-long specific events this year for our little people with their families.  Our 3 & 4 year olds, along with their parents/grandparents, are invited to learn about Sunday School the Sunday before they join the large group.  Our 1st & 2nd graders, along with their parents/grandparents, are invited to “Touch & See My Church” to meet leaders and get a back stage tour of the worship space and ask questions of the people involved.  Our 3rd-4th graders, along with their parents/grandparents, are invited to acolyte training and learn with our senior pastor about the sacraments of baptism and communion.  Check it out:

Age 3 & 4 year olds – Welcome to Sunday School

What does Sunday School mean? What do we do there? Through story, song, and hands-on activities, learn what a fun place Sunday School is! Learn a special daily blessing for your child and enjoy a special snack.

Age 5 & 1st Grade – I Can Pray

Children and parents/grandparents learn the parts of prayer and when and how to pray through word and song.

1st & 2nd Grades – Touch & See My Church

A chance to explore the sanctuary ‘behind the scenes’ and learn more about worship.

3rd & 4th Grades – Acolyte Training

Learn about being a part of the worship service and the sacraments of Baptism & Holy Communion.

3rd-5th Grades – A Bible of My Own

Student Late Night to learn about the bible and how to use it in daily living.

4th & 5th Grades – Deep & Wide Day Away Retreat

Practicing personal disciplines.

What else do you do on Sunday morning or your age specific programming times to nurture each child’s call into ministry in the area of GROWing a child’s love for our Great God?

Join me next time in the blog when I share how we set the stage for students to TELL in nurturing each child’s call into ministry.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

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Nurturing Each Child’s Call Into Ministry

A few weeks back I was invited to share at the North Georgia United Methodist Church’s Children’s Ministry Connection training event. The original speaker was going to be out of the country, so I was honored to present in her absence.

Just to clarify: the task was to offer practical suggestions to nurture each child’s call into ministry…not seminary…but a lifestyle of ministry both inside and outside the local church…and to do so in a way that nourishes, feeds, and trains up a child (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6) in partnership with Mom & Dad to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind.

JBandsWe have access to the best resources, many opportunities, and a Christian culture that covers everything from clothing lines to music genre.  But I really want more for my kids than to be good kids, get good grades, have good friends, be led by good coaches, meet a good boy/girl, get into a good college, and live a good life.  I want to provide them with experiences and memories so that they live out 1 John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – THIS we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

Chad Miller from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association shared at a Children’s Pastor’s Conference a few years back about using a teach/hold/release method (like teaching a kid how to use a hammer) by putting a greater emphasis on experiencing God and not just knowing the right answer.  In an ongoing way, it’s important to be sure that kids…

1.  Know the Gospel – The Good News is that Jesus died for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God, but it’s even better than that! It is Good News that each kid is loved by God, forgiven by God, and raised to new life in Christ Jesus (letting them know there should be a difference in who they are today and who they will be as they choose daily to follow and worship Jesus.)  AND Jesus invites them to a great adventure of living in the Kingdom of God here on earth…when bad things happen, God uses us to help make things right (missions with a message, not just charity).

KidsNWorship2.  Practice Holy Habits – Give lots of experiences and tell lots of stories to build habits in attending church, having daily time in God’s Word, hearing His voice in opportunities of solitude and silence (Silent Night), praying (during the presentation, we stopped and participated in silly putty prayers,) and tithing (John D Rockefeller said, “It was easy to give my first million dollars to the church because I started when I tithed on my first $1.50.”…Dave Ramsey/Rachel Cruze sharing that putting something in the plate each time it passed is an exercise in trusting God with money…because we serve a generous God, we are called as God’s people to be generous…at WC we use the monthly Bible Bucks store to practice God’s way of handling money 10% to give, 10% to save, you can choose to spend the rest or not.)

3.  Learn the Scriptures – We are wired for stories and the bible is fully of family stories.  Choose a scripture for the year.  Write them on mirrors, shower bags (put in a Ziploc bag and let the friction of the water stick it to the shower wall.)  Pray the scriptures (lectio divina with paint sample cards.)  Teach them the common scriptures (Jeremiah 29:11) and the funny ones (Luke 1:35 “Be dressed and ready for service.”)

4. Go on Field Trips and Tell the Stories – Deliver a cake, pack a shoebox, write a note, decorate a card, decorate for VBS training, pay for the next guy at the drive through, clean up the front of the movie theatre you take the kids to, teach them to be noticers.  Bring in others to tell the stories of their field trips (we used to call these ‘testimonies.’)

KidsGroupWe have 5 intentions for nurturing each child’s call into ministry at Wesley Chapel: Grow, Tell, Serve, Worship, Belong.  The next five blogs will lay out more practical experiences within each arena to nurture each child’s call into ministry.

How do you nurture each child’s call into ministry?  By setting the stage/arena for personal encounters with the living God and letting each one celebrate by talking about it!

“You, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house (are we letting little people be built into a spiritual house?) to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices (spiritual experiences that are so imprinted as memories around the Lord, that once they’ve had a taste of service and ministry, they can’t go back and they won’t forget) acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

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So Angry I Could Just Spit!

First, you’ve got to know that for a southern gal, that’s about as angry as it gets. I just heard from the second Children’s Pastor this week, the fourth since the new year, who had to leave their position or will be let go soon. These are servants who did not spend too much, paint over a mural from 100 years ago, or even offend a saint of the church.  Because I know too many of the details, I could just spit!

WeepingHeartYes, God will turn it all for good.  Yes, God did not do this to them.  Yes, leadership is stewardship and He’ll give it to whomever He pleases.  But the cuts from stained glass go deep and wide.  Having experienced this heart-wrenching trauma of leaving a local church without a ‘celebration’…what can and should we do?

First, please don’t be silent.  They not only lost their job, but their church, their support system.  They feel they’ve lost their closest friends in the Lord, and their spiritual history with that local church has just taken a huge hit.  And so has their family.  Call them.  Text them.  Love on them with a note, a card, a gift card, flowers, dinner.  You may not know what to say, but please don’t act like they never existed.  It is heartbreaking for the phone to stop ringing today when they had to answer 75 emails about an upcoming event just yesterday.  If and when they don’t answer the phone, keep loving on them in ways you’ve loved on them before.  There is no disloyalty in extending the hand of compassion, sharing a word of encouragement, tying a balloon on their mailbox, or even dropping off flowers on their front doorstep.  Please don’t be silent.

Also, if they’ve had an impact on your life and your ministry, write them a letter.  Tell them of their influence and share a story or two.  Words on paper can be re-read often.  As Dr Phil shares: even though the ‘meeting’ took place once, it repeats itself in a recurring loop, along with every relative conversation that comes to mind.  Then they end up hearing and experiencing it hundreds of times.  They need new words, encouraging words, to record over the loop running repeatedly in their head.  They lost their job, not their life, not their calling.  They need to hear that mantra….a lot.

And for goodness sakes, pray for them…and their spouses…and their kids.  Their spouses are angry.  Their kids are lost.  If the kids are really young, they don’t understand why they can’t be at the only church they’ve ever known…essentially their second home.  If the kids are older, they will struggle between being loyal to their hurt parent or their small group that helps them set the world aright each week.  The professional Christian educator feels guilty for bringing this grief on their family.  Ugh!

Oh, and their heart is also broken for the kids they’ve left behind…who they’ve known since before the kids were born…who visited them at the hospital on diagnosis day….who came to school and had lunch with them…who has nurtured each child into the call God has on each life since they were in the nursery…who was Jesus with skin on every single day.

Professional networking groups are pivotal relationships at this time.  If a colleague is now ‘a ship at sea,’ BE the church for these folks until they dock at their new harbor.  Invite them to your church.  Remind them that they lost their job, but not God’s calling on their lives.  Speak truth of how Jesus redeems, repairs, restores, and remembers what betrayal, loneliness, and hurt looks, feels, and sounds like.  Provide a lunch of laughter, share a trip to the mountains, and hold their hand as they grieve and seek to become whole.  Be the instrument of peace, the salve of comfort, and share the journey.

When people lose their jobs, their family of faith surrounds them with support, encouragement, and fills their hope-tank until they can fill it on their own again.  But when it happens at church, it’s just different.   And I’m so angry, I could just spit!

“If you can extract the precious from the worthless, then you can be my spokesman.”  Jeremiah 15:19

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