We Are Invited!

In the United Methodist Church, there is an annual business meeting which takes place each summer. This is no regular business meeting. We are reminded that the UMC is a global movement of the Holy Spirit where cultures gather for teaching, reporting, fellowship, and dreaming. And Oh, the worship!

We celebrate the joys of outreach. We learn of the necessity of extension ministries, who they are, what they do. We hear the debates of how the denomination will face hunger, homelessness, and health issues in our own backyard and beyond. And Oh, the worship!

We ordain those called to be clergy as local pastors, deacons, and elders at the beginning of their professional lives. We celebrate the memory of those who have gone on to Glory at their ending. We debate resolutions and vote on amendments that will direct our denomination morally, socially, and financially. We hear multiple two-minute speeches from those retiring from the itineracy, but never the ministry. And Oh, the worship!

We hug the necks of those who are part of our stories: colleagues and ministry partners from whom we have moved, and those who have moved from us. We have table-life conversations over meals and in the hallways about staff needs, positions open, and personal crises where we are invited to pray for one another. We share ideas for campaigns, books, and themes. We chat by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, and post pics on Instagram. And Oh, the worship!

This year we began a new tradition of gathering to honor those engaged in ministry with children at a “Heroes Eat Dessert First” reception hosted by the KidMin heroes of Athens First UMC and the North Georgia Children’s Ministry Connection. A time of connection, fellowship, and dessert with those who are KidMin interns, those in the trenches today, and even those who retired ‘a while back’, but as we all know, never stop sharing their gifts and graces with the children and families at the local church they now call ‘home’.

One of these heroes believes so much in the power of this connection, she drove her church’s bus and provided transportation for Children’s Ministry Network groups from two districts, interns, and even the children’s caregivers provided for the Annual Conference so to join in the Heroes reception. Back at midnight, she got up early the next morning for her last day at Hero Day Camp she is providing her local church. She is a true crusader for little people, but also her colleagues and those just starting out in ministry with children.

This is the business of our church. For every clergy person, there is to be a lay person as a delegate. Many districts have open spots for laity called ‘at-large delegates’ that are never filled. I am an at-large delegate for my district. We need you. Future dates of North Georgia’s Annual Conference are June 10-14, 2018 and June 9-14, 2019. I encourage the KidMin heroes of North Georgia to call their district office (here’s the link to find out which one), and offer to be an at-large delegate next year. There is much we can do together, to know the resources available to the local church, and join in the conversation of the business of North Georgia.

Don’t plan your VBS or a summer camp that week! Instead, prayerfully consider being an at-large delegate at next year’s annual conference. Read more about the logistics here. Then, contact me. I’ve got some ideas of how we can share in this journey together because we are better together!

2 Timothy 2:15 Common English Bible (CEB)
Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly.

#1 Son Is Gonna Have A #1 Son

Last weekend was baby weekend: A dessert shower for our Daughter-in-Law on Friday evening, a diaper shower for #1 Son with his colleagues and rec soccer team on Saturday evening, and the hospital tour on Sunday. When I texted him on Monday asking how the weekend went, his quick reply was, “Tour was awesome. I’m overwhelmed. Don’t know what I’m doing. LOL” Welcome, my child, to the world of parenting.

Anyone can have a child, but parenting a son is so much more than passing out blue bubble-gum cigars. Do they still do that sort of thing? He has no idea how holding your beating heart in your very hands will rock his world. He has no idea how his plans will change, how his dreams will be bigger, and how he’s been a perfect parent until he becomes one. We all started out with “I don’t know what I’m doing.” This I do know: he’s a good man, a generous husband, and devoted to his family. So these are a few of the things I hope #1 Son will do with his #1 Son:

  • Teach him to cook.
  • Teach him to respect all women because every women is someone’s sister or daughter.
  • Teach him to respect authority. We are a country and community of laws.
  • Teach him to be brave by initiating acts of kindness and generosity when given the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
  • Let him see you read your Bible for he will practice what you practice, not just do what you say.
  • Let him learn American History so he will hear the stories of the bold sacrifices made to appreciate and acknowledge the symbols of American freedoms.
  • Let him play with his cousins a lot. Cousins are our first friends and our friends for life.
  • Teach him how to write and read in cursive so he can read the powerful words of history, documents of old, and sign his name. My grandfather was unable to read and write so he ‘made his mark’ when he endorsed his paycheck and completed the documents to purchase his home. He wanted badly to be able to sign his name, yet never learned. A man needs to be able to sign his name and not just print it.
  • Teach him to use power tools and be creative with his hands. There is something about a man who can step back and see and hold in his hands the fruit of his labors and creativity of his mind.
  • Let him play outside, play with bugs, get muddy, and sweat from play and hard work.
  • Show him how to pray…and not just at church.
  • Show him how to work as an apprentice. He’s watching you in all you do, all you say, and all you share.
  • Model manly prayers, generosity and tithing, and to never stop learning.
  • Introduce him to other amazing men and women of faith and strength.
  • Tell him family stories.
  • Teach him how to love his Mama by how you love yours. That kiss on the cheek at every greeting and the hug upon every departure means more than you will ever know…but, his lovely mama will.

Some of my greatest gifts from the LORD are the amazing adults who used to engage with playdoh, duct tape, and yell, “Watch me, Mama!” from the diving board at the neighborhood pool. Oh, I’m watching, alright. Watching them become fabulous parents is a big, sloppy kiss on my cheek from the One who made them.

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!” Proverbs 23:24-25

Something New – Summer Interns 2017

The Experiential Leadership Institute (ELI) is a multi-week, immersive leadership development experience. Highly trained coaches guide rising 11-12th graders to discover their God-given strengths, reflect on what it means to function as a Christian community, and practice servant leadership while making a difference as day camp counselors. These amazing ELI students serve as the on-site teams to bring the power of camp ministry to local churches through Grow Day Camp in North Georgia. ELI students are well trained in camp, flexible with developmentally appropriate programming for children, and play focused on faith formation. But what happens when these exceptionally training students age out of the program? There are only a limited number of site coordinator positions available to continue. This is what motivated multiple conversations, some while waiting in a lunch line. Some of the best conversations come from lingering at the end of a food line with key folks.

The Atlanta-Marietta District of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference is beyond excited to launch the pilot KidMin Intern Program for college students to explore a calling to ministry with children in the local church. We count it an honor to walk beside students exploring their gifts and talents in their discernment process to follow God’s leading on their lives. As Children’s Ministry leader-servants we are passionate about sharing the gospel with kids and their families.

Nature of the Intern Program
KidMin Interns will work in pairs with three unique local churches to plan and implement ministry programs during the months of June and July. Free housing will be provided as well as a stipend paid.

KidMin Interns began serving on Thursday, June 1 and will conclude July 31. KidMin Interns will be assigned and serve alongside three experienced KidMin Mentors who desire feedback, fresh ideas, insights and to share their passion for ministry. KidMin Interns and KidMin Mentors will meet all together weekly on Sunday afternoons for lunch, fun, prayer, worship, training and planning for the next week. KidMin Interns will rotate through the local churches to provide support and leadership for Vacation Bible School, Summer Camps, Sunday school, family events, children’s church, mission projects, small group Bible study and a few surprise events.

The KidMin Interns will have a weekly opportunity to serve in worship services and to engage in district connections. Interns will explore vocations in ministry and service through field trips and dialogue with lay and ordained leadership of various partnering non-profit organizations, businesses, and United Methodist institutions. They’ll gather with other Children’s Ministry heroes of North Georgia at Annual Conference in June.

The summer will be busy. This summer will be a blast. This summer will fly by. And most importantly, the summer will be a great time of spiritual growth for three KidMin mentors and two KidMin Interns as they learn, serve, and fall more in love with Jesus and the local church!

Purpose of the Program
To provide church ministry experiences through which young adults can explore how God might be calling them, develop gifts for ministry, serve the needs of the mentor local churches, and grow in faith in Jesus Christ.

Two fabulous ELI alumni began last Thursday on a trip with fifth graders from two of the mentor churches to Lake Winnie for a day of play, games (which the interns directed), and training for the fifth graders who will be serving in servant-leadership positions this summer for the first time.

We have downloaded the She Reads Truth app and will be using the SOAP method to journal together. We will be using the 1 & 2 Timothy lesson since we are focused on mentoring relationships. At the end of each day, the interns will record three things they noticed which we will discuss each Sunday as a small group and/or with the mentors each will work alongside each day. A calendar schedule lets everyone know where the interns will be each day in June and July and provides a fair coverage and time with each mentor local church.

Since I enjoyed C’s company in worship last Sunday, recording the times each transition took place in the worship service (one of the many ‘numbers’ I collect each week), Sunday school using Visual Faith Project images, and VBS training after services, I asked her what she noticed:
– She noticed how our church serves communion differently than her home church. This made for great conversation about local church traditions.
– She noticed my super volunteer, Ms. Diana and asked if she was involved in everything I did. I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” Although Ms. Diana serves the church in other ways, she is dedicated to making sure the littles know Jesus. She is a fabulous partner in ministry! I thought it interesting C could tell by attending one Sunday who was ‘all in’ for ministry with little people.
– She noticed at Lake Winnie that two of my girls were game for trying new things. We call it a ‘spirit of yes.’ Although I had never really spoken about it at the church, I share with others that my local church does indeed have a ‘spirit of yes.’ We try new things. We talk about new experiences. We engage in the wonder of a growing faith. We love Jesus and we love to say, “Yes!” How precious to me for Christina to pick up on that especially as these two girls are aging out of children’s ministry at the end of the summer. If I talk about it more, I’ll just be a puddle of tears.

Most of the blogs this summer will be about our KidMin intern experiences. It is a dream come true to mentor these young women and they to mentor us. Though my small-to-mid-size-church could not afford an intern on our own, our connectional body has made it possible for three small-to-mid-size-churches with completely different DNAs to practice and especially learn from two wonderfully trained students. Living out Titus 2…with glitter and water games!

“Teach the older women…to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love , to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy, to be kind, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5

2017 Summer Bucket List

The first Sunday following the last day of school is technically the first Sunday of summer. With students living in two counties, my church kids have only 65 days to do all they want to do, or all they don’t want to do before the first day of the next school year.

So with my big silver bucket, the Children’s Moment invites the students to think about their summer bucket list. A bucket list is a written list of things to accomplish before the end of a season. One of my WCKids shared she wants to have a lemonade stand. Another shared she wants to go to Disney World even though her Mom says, ‘It’s not happening.”

I am a list-maker by DNA. There is something therapeutic about a list where everything is marked off. So these are the items I shared with the children at the first Children’s Moment of the summer, partly for the accountability of it:

  • See Despicable Me 3 and Wonder at the movies. If you haven’t had a chance to read Wonder, you are missing out. Be sure to get the one with the extra chapter “Julian”.
  • Watch the sunrise.
  • Go to the pool. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, but my summer is so filled with non-pool things, I can hardly get there. This year with the grands living close by and after two great weeks of swim lesson boot camp, going to the pool is a ‘got-to-do.’
  • Be at VBS….in a tutu….on Tuesday. Yep, gonna make each day something special and we will have Tutu Tuesday at VBS.
  • Do something kind for someone in secret….don’t tell anyone…just do it…at least once a week.
  • Read my bible everyday. I read my bible everyday, but more than just in the morning. Reading the Proverbs chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. I even downloaded the app “She Reads Truth” and starting the 1 & 2 Timothy reading plan with the KidMin Intern Team.
  • Learn something new.

What’s on your summer bucket list?

“Those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” Proverbs 14:22b

Wesley Chapel Academy: Power Tools

Wesley Chapel Academy is a series of classes presented on a Friday evening 6-7:30pm which teach life skills to students in 1st through 5th grade. The first three classes offered teaching and practice for housekeeping basics, cooking basics, and sewing basics. The fourth class of life skills focused around using power tools. It was shared with me by a counselor many years ago that if a person learns to use power tools, they are less likely to be taken advantage off. I wanted this for the girls and boys in my world.

Two amazingly gifted tool-men in our congregation answered the invite through bulletin and newsletter to join in the fun and planning. My son-in-law broke apart wooden pallets and removed all the metal giving the project a rustic feel and a great starting product. We set up outside in the shade to help with cleanup.

Supplies: circular saw, drill, screws, saw horses, clamps, hammers, aprons, carpenter pencils, screw drivers, D-hook hangers, nails, sandpaper, safety glasses and goggles, ear plugs, measuring tape

After introductions and much talk about safety, students were taught to use a measuring tape to mark off the line to cut. As they waited and listened to the ‘circular saw talk’, each student sanded their wood piece to take care of rough edges and keep their hands busy. If hands are busy, minds are calm. Using clamps and proper hand placement, each student cut their own piece of wood with the circular saw.

Sanding continued as we took a water and story break. I shared how Jesus was a carpenter, and his earthly father was a carpenter from Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3: an apprentice is one who has a teachable spirit to learn tasks to honor the Lord. Jesus was Joseph’s apprentice. We are apprentices of Jesus.

Back outside, students discovered the difference between a nail and a screw as each student measured where to connect the cut pieces of wood and install a hanger on the back of each project.

After the group photo, students were able to keep the tool apron, a carpenter’s pencil, measuring tape, two screwdrivers, and received a certificate.

Wesley Chapel Academy is an outreach ministry of WCKids. Completing this first season of four academy classes, 56% of attendance were students who we did not know beforehand. Four of the nine adult tutors were members of our congregation, but WCA was their first experience serving at the church. With an average class of 12 students, we used $200 for all four classes. The most expensive class was the cooking basics at $125. Advertising and registration through Eventbrite brought in 12.5% of our attendance, which proved effective marketing outside our own typical social media.

Thank you notes are going out in the mail this week for all our tutors and youth helpers. Fifth graders who will be aging up have already asked to be youth helpers for next spring. Each class proved to be greater than I ever imagined. Not sure yet what we will teach next season, but this is an outreach program that is here to stay.  Oh, the possibilities!

“Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood.” Exodus 15:25

Worship As A Family: Prayground

We decided several years ago while evaluating our worship experience that we would be a local church which worships as a family. We plan nothing else and no other programming takes place during the two worship experiences. This way our kids can see their parents sing, give, pray, learn to engage and participate in the worship experiences of our faith tradition. This meant we would bring back the order of worship in the front of our hymnal which puts the sermon in the middle, add more visual elements through art, video, and space, and offer more music/liturgy with repetition. This was fine as our Ministry Insights reported we had no little-littles, and most of our kids were 2nd-5th graders.

Today there are more families moving into the area with little-littles. To offer a Sunday morning worship experience where the littles (and mamas) aren’t experiencing separation anxiety, when their little is too heavy to ‘wear’ anymore, and guest parents wish to get to know the congregation better through worship, we started talking.

We talked at Worship committee. We talked with our current mamas of littles. We talked with trustees. We talked with grandparents who wanted to worship with their adult children and grandchildren. We talked with the Lord in prayer.

The name “prayground” comes from Rev. Catherine Renken, pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in Kennesaw, GA who brainstormed with others when the prayground at Grace in Apple Valley, MN was being built. The name has caught on.

Though different churches have put it into practice in different ways, a prayground is a place in the front of the sanctuary where young children can experience worship through age-appropriate worship materials and tools that will help keep them engaged in worship. (Traci Smith)

We put together a packet of colored photos of what praygrounds looked like in other churches. We talked in every small group gathering. Even with the small group of ladies who prepare the Sanctuary and fold bulletins each Thursday afternoon. I wore it like a sandwich board and made it a topic of every single conversation at every table. We posted on social media every blog post or article we could find that would keep it at the forefront of our family’s minds and hearts.

A grandparent proposed preparing a prayground at the Administrative Council. Lots of discussion took place. A motion was made and approved unanimously for us to give it a try and re-evaluate come September. There are several intentional preschool entry events happening this summer so trying it out now would be a great next step to invite our community to worship as a family. Though the Ad Council meeting closed in prayer in the meeting room, everyone gathered for more conversation at the proposed space to get a ‘picture’ of what it might look like before heading home. The Staff-Parish Relations Committee Chairperson took the point of public champion and spoke about it at every service fielding all the questions for three weeks.

Promoted in person, bulletin and newsletter announcements, social media posts, and a sermon series on attitudes including the attitudes of gratitude and compassion kept the conversations going. Our pastor and trustees removed the pews, grandparents steam cleaned the floor space, rugs were ordered from Amazon, the senior pastor painted the wall, a trustee performed a safety inventory and made adjustments, other grandparents provided board books, foam blocks, receiving blankets, a bouncy seat, and a few small machine-washable stuffed animals.

We opened on the best day possible: Mother’s Day. The prayground space was used in both services, by two families, three generations each. A daughter-in-law led the first family when 20 minutes in, her preschooler was stacking foam blocks with his suited-up grandfather. A grandmother led the second family to the prayground when 20 minutes in, a toddler was engaged with his daddy in the front row and his grandfather in the pew behind. He bolted at one point and the youth corralled him before he ran up the steps of the chancel area. No one missed a beat. This endeavor was and is so worth the tension. We are worshiping as a family of faith. Prayers and praises for the champions who waved the banner!

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

For Such A Time As This

Christy Wright is a speaker/coach and the face of Business Boutique, a part of the Dave Ramsey brand. Though I listen to other leadership podcasts, her’s is the one that I relate to the most as it speaks to women in business. She acknowledges that as a woman in business, I don’t do all my best work behind a desk, but typically at the dining room table with the dog needing to be let out, the laundry on the other side of the table, a toddler’s mac-n-cheese on the chair to my left, a teenager’s forgotten gym bag at my feet, and the most up-to-date family calendar on my fridge. I lead a business…ministry with children in a local church…with a personal mission to know God and make Him known in every area of my life.

She shared last week on her podcast five qualities necessary for running a small business. She spoke truth. These same five qualities are exactly what I have experienced are necessary to lead effectively in ministry with children in the local church over the long haul.

1. Be resourceful – Use what you already have. It may appear that someone else has more money, more land, more space, more supplies, more volunteers, more kids, yet God has called YOU to this community to be His shining light. Christy says, “When you shine in your gifts, people see God.” Shine on!

2. Be scrappy – Be willing to do whatever it takes to get it done.
When you run out of something, you improvise because we don’t have to be perfect in budget, attendance, or resources to get the job done of expressing the love of God, pointing little people to Jesus, or equipping Mamas to be the spiritual champions for their littles. Our battle is real. Our adversary is formidable. Our prayers are powerful. His Word is armor. Be scrappy. Not because of who YOU are, but because of who HE is! I’m in the middle of the bible study of Geri Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Woman. It’s helping me to be scrappy well.

3. Be persistent – Don’t give up.
I can’t count the number of ideas that were complete failures in my house (my local church), but because I shared it on my blog or at a workshop, someone else pulled it off with great success and that leader was kind enough to give testimony. Keep trying. 60% of sales transactions come after four interactions. We are all salespeople and we are all in business, so learn the best practices of marketing and communicating to build relationships. I’m reading Gail Z. Martin’s 30 Days To Social Media Success to keep my skills sharp. If anyone’s in the business of building relationships, it’s those who dedicate their lives to ministry with children and introducing them to a sold-out relationship with Jesus. So don’t give up.

4.  Be creative – Surround yourself with creative people who want to be creative with you. I’ve learned that just because someone’s expertise is graphic arts, set decoration, or kids with special needs doesn’t mean they want to share their gift in the local church. I don’t get it, but it happens. Release them, forgive them, and move on. I’ll take faithfulness and enthusiasm any day over giftedness. Our monthly kidmin network lunch is filled with the most creative people on the planet and thankfully they take my calls.

5. Be willing to try – Risk is always involved in advancing the cause of Christ, so don’t stay in the dreaming phase. Talk about your dreams for your ministry a lot. All the time. Bring it up in every conversation. Wear it like a sandwich-board sign. I’m in the middle of reading Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High. This may not be their lives, but it’s God’s call on yours. Everyone is consumed with something happening in their own lives, so you have to wave your flag, banner, sign all. the. time. Champions come not from the words written in a bulletin or an occasional announcement at the beginning of Sunday services. It’s only face-to-face when folk can see your energy, the tone in your voice, and you can make the ask.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for God’s people will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Color Night 2017

The insight reports share that most of the students in my immediate community are 2nd grade and older which inspired us to begin CLUB345 for 3rd-5th graders six years ago. The 2017 CLUB345 theme came from Children’s Ministry Deals presenting the life of King David in colors. Each night we gathered with a color theme matching the life of David. We’ve been waiting all year for this very night to close out the 2016-2017 school season with our CLUB345 families.

We were blown away at the generosity of Team Smith who provided a taco bar with lots of color for family dinner for us all. Each fifth grader was presented with our traditional parting gift of their first names in scriptures that are timely for wisdom and continuing to grow in the knowledge of our great God. 5×7 frames come from Amazon, decorated lunch bags serve as the background, and a long list of scriptures collected over the years make for an inexpensive yet personal gift for each fifth grader. If you’d like the list of scriptures, send me an email at dedereilly@comcast.net.

Families went on a color scavenger hunt – gotta fit in the white lunch bag and can only collect from the children’s hallway. THEN, 20 seconds to return it all! Afterwards, it’s outside to play our two favorite games: the shoe game and a pool noodle sword game.

Amazon offers a Color Powder Party Box we ordered in January for around $50 for fun beyond belief, then continued the messiness with kiddy pools filled with water and Dollar Tree water shooters. Our BEST idea was to put out on social media a request for a free, amateur photographer to take the photos. Mamas weren’t getting anywhere near the color powders and we wanted colorful photos to use for the remainder of the summer for various purposes. Ms. Martha took AMAZING photos and had a dvd dropped off at my office door before I arrived with keys at 9am on Monday.

The littles in the family got a chance to play with ‘the big kids’ and it is the best thing we do to build their excitement for when they start third grade.

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

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