We Are All Shepherds

shepherdMy kids missed the Elf on the Shelf movement. Our family tradition was moving Mary & Joseph from the plastic nativity all throughout the house during the season of Advent until Christmas Eve when they finally arrived at the wooden/straw stable. Each year we would discover all the animals with chewed on legs and an angel sitting precariously on a small peg above the stable. How we have kept all the pieces for the last 30 years, I do not know. Last April, we found the angel under the sofa because we have grandchildren now who ‘work’ with the pieces just as their parents did. Sorry…’squirrel’ moment.

I was tagged by a great mom in early November about a wandering shepherd plush-doll with a Baby Jesus and a book: The Shepherd’s Treasure. This little darlin’ could translate into random acts of compassion and activities of service on the campus of our local church for the kiddos to find whenever they came to church throughout Advent and my brain started clicking.  I picked up two (one for church and one for the grands) and I am beside myself with the ideas of fun and adventure for all my little people.

shepard-quest-book-dol-card-setl_1024x1024We named him Charlie last Sunday in Sunday school and read the book while everyone got a chance to handle him.  Beginning on Monday, he will be where the kids are when they come to visit or participate in activities.  He sat with a can of crayons during the annual Chili Cookoff. He’ll be at a station at our CLUB345 Merry Grinch-mas party with note cards, stickers, and pens for little people to write notes to our shut-ins. He’ll be around the sanctuary, at the front door, in the children’s hallway, at the Christmas Eve services, the Christmas Family breakfast potluck, and at Fantastic Friday.

Then on Christmas Day, he’ll be set with the plush-doll Baby Jesus that came in the box which is just darlin’-with-a-side-of-precious. A baby’s coming and this little shepherd is looking for the newborn King.

Happy searching for the new born King, my friends!

“After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone.” Luke 2:17

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2016 Advent Bags

2016adventbagLoving the idea of families sharing in traditions and activities that honor the Lord, the season of Advent is the perfect time to gather some goodies for kids to do each day from Dec 1st through Christmas Eve and beyond. Many Children’s Ministry champions are putting together Advent bags and Advent boxes and this is what ours looks like this year:

  • Magnetic Advent Wreath with magnetic candles – perfect for the car or refrigerator. Place one candle to start, then another each Sunday of Advent.
  • Glow Stick as a reminder to let your light shine!
  • Post-it Notes to share “God loves you” messages with family and friends.
  • Glory in the Highest magnetic list – place it on the refrigerator to make lists to help you and your family make the Christmas card list, make the grocery list, make the donation list, make the errand list, even the packing list if you are heading out of town to visit family.
  • 2016 Advent Calendar from Discipleship Ministries’ United Methodist Ministry with Children to share with your family a thought or activity for each day of the Advent season.
  • God Bless You tissues – perfect for keeping close to stay well this Advent season and offer to help someone else clean up. Be a blessing this Advent!
  • Advent Prayer Cube – place near where you share meals or brush your teeth to offer a prayer each day in preparation for Christmas Day outloud.
  • A Pop-Up Window Calendar for Advent – Set the calendar on a table or on your mantel and each day of December, lift up a numbered window to reveal a surprising message and an image of something or someone who was present to see God’s gift with their own eyes.
  • A Happy Birthday Jesus sticker to place on your family calendar on December 25 to remind you to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on His birthday.
  • Nativity Sticker Sheet – Using your own art paper, draw a stable/barn and using the stickers, make your own stable scene to display.
  • 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

Added to the preschooler’s bags is the book Manger on the Mantel; to the upper elementary bags is a Nativity activity book.

Be sure to put the dates and times for the Drive Through Nativity, Fantastic Friday (parent’s night out), and Christmas Eve services along the bottom.

epiphanyWe also are ready for the season of Epiphany to give out countdowns on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

What’s in your bag?

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3

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Faith Milestone: I Can Serve – Part 2

icanservepledgeWe began last year to intentionally provide training along age lines as rights of passage for students called Faith Milestones.  I Can Serve offers an invitation and an expectation to include and engage children in worship for students in 3rd-5th grades. This year, we kicked it up a notch.

icanservesnoconeWe have a Sno Cone machine, a Popcorn machine, and a Spin Art machine to add that little something special to events, hot summer after-church-times of fellowship, and great fun to ministry with children. Including training and practice with these items invite the students to share in hospitality to other students.

icanserveacolyteTeaching one machine at a time included set-up, safety features, possible dangers, how to speak to others we serve, and the all important clean-up. A job done is only done well with training and practice. To everyone’s delight we taste-tested everything and spoke about partnering with one another to serve well as Jesus never sent out his disciples one at a time, but two and three at a time.

icanservepastorWe started the event at 3:20pm and finished out at 5pm just in time for CLUB345. The closing bingo game gave us a chance to elaborate on logistics of serving communion; personal hygiene; icanservebingoarriving 30 minutes ahead of time to set up and get any final instructions before serving; to always be on the lookout to be safe and provide a safe environment for those we are serving (where the electrical plugs go, which way to face the machine, setting up a floor mat, etc.); appropriate dress code when serving; serving like Jesus in extending icanserveinviteover-the-top hospitality in our words and face; we begin serving as a 3rd grader because our hands are strong enough to hold the full challis and tall enough to light the candles on the communion table; by 6th grade they have practiced and followed directions well enough to serve as a student leader in VBS; and vocabulary=an acolyte is a ‘helper in church.’ We took the pledge…’raise your right hand’…and they are chomping at the bit to know when they can begin, as Ashton said, their ‘duty.’

By the end of the day, students have been trained and practiced lighting the candles on the communion table, serving the juice at communion, speaking into a microphone, running the sno cone machine, spin art machine, and serving from the popcorn machine. How are you training up the current and future leaders in your church in service and hospitality?

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” Ephesians 6:7

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How Was Your Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years…?

xmasmessWhen folks asked me last January, “How was your Christmas?”, I was stumped for a good answer because the upcoming holiday season starts with last Sunday’s Trunk or Treat. I love this time of year, but the church calendar can have a staff member, volunteer, and family reeling.

Planning freak that I am, the calendar has basically been set since last November. My heart’s desire is to fulfill church traditions, yet not stretch our WC families to the point of where I was last year. Yes, we baked the turkey, made the gumbo, prepped for pies, decorated the tree, and opened presents, but I didn’t watch not one Christmas movie, didn’t linger on the back porch with hot chocolate, and felt pressed to meet lots of expectations until MLK Monday in January.

Our gracious pastor closes the church office the week between Christmas and New Year’s, yet bulletins still need a-printing and bills still need a-paying. Rather than sitting on the sofa in my new flannels, I also take this window of time to serve on a Chrysalis Flight, the youth version of The Walk To Emmaus. It’s kingdom-building! Yeah, I get that it’s my own fault, but I love it all!

Working in the church office has me hitting the ground running January 2nd to close out the year, print the W-2s, set budgets, and prepare the files for the new year. Frankly, I was praying for a snow day last year…I know….in Atlanta…just to have a day to breathe. I did see Christmas lights each night as I drove home in the dark (oh yeah, the time change happens this weekend!), but it’s not the same as piling in the car with the littles or my honey to stroll through the neighborhoods. My strolling takes place in the aisles of Michael’s as I gather the last remaining silver bell and green pompom or on Amazon.com.

I don’t have the answer except that my awareness is so much greater this year heading into the season(s). This is when the people-pleaser in me rears its ugly head and I stare at the ceiling each night wondering if I left something undone. An awesome, sold-out-to-raising-her-kids-in-Christian-community Mom sat across my desk yesterday and we laughed about this very thing because the struggle is real. I would like to think I’d guard the white space better on my calendar, go to bed at a decent hour so I can get up earlier to linger in His presence, and not feel I have to be at everything because I don’t want to miss anything (more like arrive early and be the one who takes out the trash and turns out the lights).

I want to do it all, because I love it all! But I want a better answer this year when someone asks me “How was your Christmas?”

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply-and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23

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Like Me?

harvest-vineInvited to serve on a design team for a national conference two years ago made me downright giddy. Two years in the planning offered the chance to leave my bubble of ‘practically everyone like me’ and engage in a creative forum with incredibly gifted people who may not look like me, work like me, process like me, talk like me, filter like me, see like me, speak like me, schedule like me, are the same age as me.  The one commonality? We all love and teach Jesus. A beautifully creative and accessible community that would challenge me…yep, I was ‘all in.’

nogacefHolding conversations with others ‘not like me’ teaches me to listen, to compromise, and to give in gracefully when a ‘win’ is defined as keeping the conversation going. Naturally drawn to hear the stories of folks, I am fascinated at the words and expressions of all of God’s people. But don’t we all linger where we are most comfortable? Collaborate only where it’s easy and frustration is limited? Share our ideas where we are most likely affirmed? Stay in the safe lane? Run from contention and differing processes?

ninjasThe last two years of face-to-face meetings, monthly conference calls, and an enormous number of emails resulted in a national conference where folks new to Christian education were empowered, where experienced folks shared ideas, and where surprises abounded. I was responsible for championing the vendor and networking fair on the second day as well as the conference response stations on the last day.  Ideas and partnerships with those in my own local children’s ministry networking group and KidMin Ninja mentoring group in attendance made for closer relationships and lots of laughter as together we set up, cleaned up, pulled up, worked up,  lit up all three events.

cefchuckThe vendor fair was one afternoon with a variety of local talent and non-profits set alongside seminaries, authors, and denominational agencies. The greatest thing our denomination has to a national celebrity is a guy who stars in three minute discipleship training videos that cover everything ‘church’ from the colors of the church year to the church sacristy: Chuck Knows Church. We expected to have him for 15-20 minutes of photo ops. He stayed 56 minutes. That’s how long it took for the line to go down. He was in full character and was definitely among ‘his people.’ Think twenty somethings with Justin Timberlake. That’s the energy of Chuck among United Methodist Christian educators.  The next hour Flo Paris of the musical group Rain For Roots performed three beautiful songs with her daughters. The next hour we shared in a chef’s delight of afternoon appetizers. Yummy!

cefnetworkingThe networking fair gave conference participants ‘table time’ with folks who are the best at what they do for 15-30 minutes.  Not a workshop, nothing formal, very organic conversation. We offered a schedule of times and locations (three were happening at the same block of time). Some of the networks who gathered included: Developing VBS themes with a VBS publisher; Creating space for young adults in your context; Youth ministry confirmation ideas; and learning how to blog or to go to the next level in blogging.  We even skyped-in a networking leader who spoke of Connecting Worship and Christian Formation for All Ages. Networking and table life takes many forms, amen? A constant coming and going of people, up and down a staircase, in the same three rooms, for close to four hours, who wished to gather and share info on a whole array of topics and conversations. Access!

This season is over, but several new seasons are beginning. I am such a better person, a better collaborator, and a better team member for this experience. For my natural bent to being a chatterbox, I got plenty of practice to ask more questions and make less statements.  I met online, by phone, and then in-person, amazing resource leaders in the field of Christian education who I would never have otherwise had access to. Conversations and collaboration made me think and caused me to laugh my head off. Are you intentional about following Jesus professionally where it may not be so….you?

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble…because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9

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CEF Conference Response Stations

cefresponse3Just last week I enjoyed the company of Christian educators at the 2016 National CEF (Christians Engaged In Faith Formation) Conference in Nashville. After participating in teaching, communities of practice, conversations, worship, workshops, table life, and laughter on the lawn, we finished the last day with an hour of response stations. Outdoor stations, enjoying nature, and giving hands-on responses to gather our thoughts and feelings before worship and returning home. These were those stations:

cefresponse7Response Station #1 – Kind Hands TV TRAY, STAND UP FRAME

We are called not only to ‘pray without ceasing’, but also to pray with our whole selves. How we use our bodies when we pray shares what is on the heart of the person who is praying to God.  The KINDNESS that comes from God tells us we belong to His family. We must be KIND because we belong to Him.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

While standing, rub your hands together gently as if you were putting on lotion. Make sure to turn your wrists in all directions and touch all parts of your hands – between your fingers, the back of your hands, and even your wrists.

Share with God as you rub your hands, “Thank you, God, that You are kind when you ______ and ______ and ______. Help me to be kind when I ___________. Amen.”

Additional Resource: Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy With God by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill

cefresponse5Response Station #2 – 10,000 Reasons TV TRAY, CLOTHESPINS, CUT PAPER & CONTAINER/BASKET, BIG FRAME, STANDUP FRAME

Let’s COUNT our blessings!

“For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find, …to bless the Lord, O my soul. Worship His holy name.”

cefresponse8Write (or draw) a blessing from this week at CEF.  Clip it to the frame with a clothespin.

Additional Resource: Counting Blessings by Debby Boone and Gabriel Ferrer

cef1Response Station #3 – Praying in Color TV TRAY, STANDUP FRAME, FABRIC RIBBON CUT INTO 4-5 INCH STRIPS & CONTAINER, SMALL FRAME

Take a strip of fabric and as you tie it onto the frame, share with God your regrets over the last year. Make a conscious decision to let it go and move on.  You may also choose to give thanks for lessons learned.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Additional Resource: Praying in Color: Drawing A New Path To God (Active Prayer) by Sybil MacBeth

cef2Response Station #4 –Psalm 23 TV TRAY, STANDUP FRAME, 15 OIL ROLLERBOTTLES IN CONTAINER/BASKET, PSALM 23 BOOKMARKS

Anointing sheep’s heads with oil shielded them from annoying and even deadly insects, so anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.

Using the anointing oil, anoint yourself (on the back of your hand, on pulse points, or on your forehead) and recite the 23rd Psalm.

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” 1 John 2:20

Additional Resource: A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

cefresponse1Response Station #5 – Bubble Wrap Worries TV TRAY, BUBBLE WRAP CUT INTO STRIPS, 2 CONTAINERS, STANDUP FRAME

Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength. Corrie Ten Boom

God loves you and knows the desires of your heart. He also knows what you think can keep you from fulfilling His call on your life as you use your gifts and graces back home.

Take a strip of bubble wrap and pop the bubbles as a symbol of giving your worries over to the One who has called you, will equip you, will go before you, will never leave you, and will teach you along the way.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthews 6: 34

Additional Resource: Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand

cefresponse4Response #6 – A Fresh Word TV TRAY, KIDDIE POOL, STANDUP FRAME, BAG OF SAND, GLASS BEADS IN CONTAINER, FINE SHARPIES IN CONTAINER

Play in the sand with your hands and fingers.

When you choose a word to take with you in your heart, write that word on a glass bead and take the bead with you as a reminder of ‘the fresh word’ you received this week at the 2016 National CEF Conference.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Additional Resource: Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century: Engaging All Ages & Generations by John Roberto

cefresponse2Response #7 – In Memory PVC PIPE STAND, FISH NET, WHITE TABLE CLOTHS, 2 COLORS RIBBON, STANDUPFRAME, TV TRAY, BASKET FOR RIBBONS

We all follow the saints of our journey. The saints who plowed the fields before us. The saints who spoke truth into our lives when we didn’t want to hear or maybe didn’t know to listen. The saints who have gone on to Glory, yet their influence upon our own calling lives on in us. We are their legacy.

Tie a ribbon in the net as you give a prayer of thanksgiving for the saints of your journey who have gone on to Glory, yet their influence continues in you.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

cefresponseResponse #8 – In Honor (SAME STATION #7 AS ABOVE, ADD ON)

We all share in influencing others for the cause of Christ. We teach, we lead, we speak, and we pray. We laugh, we train, we offer an effective hand off to those coming behind us. They are our legacy. They are the lives in whom we speak truth and influence to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.

Tie a ribbon in the net as you offer a prayer of hope for those who you are influencing to answer the call to carry the banner of Christian education.

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Kenneth H. Blanchard

As you end a growth event, like a conference, how do you process on the last day to gather your thoughts and prepare to return home to implement what you’ve gleaned and learned?

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Engaging Children In Worship Writings

family-at-churchThis week I am thrilled to be with other champions for Christian education at the 2016 National CEF (Christians Engaged In Faith Formation) Conference in Nashville and participating in a Community of Practice for engaging children in worship. I serve a church where intergenerational worship happens every week.  But getting there started with the first step of communicating the ‘why’. One way to begin the conversation of moving to sharing worship as a whole family of faith included months of sharing writings/blogs/research about that very thing on my personal Facebook page with our congregation.  These are some of the writings shared that helped us engage in the conversations:

This is just a sample of information that is available to continue conversations within a congregation…one at a time…over a period of time….of engaging and including children in worship.

children-praying-over-me2We are ‘all in’ to include children in worship at my church. It works for us and sets us our mid-sized church apart from other churches in our area that provide separate worship for children and adults. Worshipping as a whole family of faith is now part of our culture. Where we wish to go this next season is to not only engage children in worship, but continue to make worship even more engaging for children. I can’t wait to find out what else we will learn and share this week as we endeavor to champion for children in worship. What other writings can you communicate to continue the conversation?

“What’s good for kids is good for adults.” Mark Burrows, Director of Children’s Ministries at First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, author of Children First: Worshipping With The Family of God

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39

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Staying Alive

cpr-first-aid-3170There is nothing like a three hour CPR & First Aid course to remind me how much I can forget. Enlisting the help of the fabulous trainers of First Response, we offered a class last Sunday. I’d used these folks before and their trainers are thorough, funny, talk a mile a minute, and use 80’s tunes like the BeeGee’s Staying Alive and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive to help us keep a steady beat of compressions.

cpr1I booked the First Response folks last May for an October date. I marketed the class inside the church through typical channels (social media, bulletin, newsletter) through August and September. First Response requires a minimum of 12 participants at a very reasonable rate. Knowing we needed to cover a couple of our college student nursery servants, and in case I couldn’t get the minimum, we added a small buffer to the fee we charged.

cpr2Two weeks before the class date, we promoted it through other social media channels and to our community on the signs along our roadside. I got two phone calls within a couple of days from a children’s caregiver and a girl scout leader calling to reserve a spot. On Sunday, three others just showed up along with an additional three of our own who were not sure they could make it (so they didn’t reserve a spot ahead of time) and did.

cpr3We had a total group of 18 folks from all walks of life, all ages and stages: a grandmother and her granddaughter, two caregivers from a senior adult care facility, our nursery caregivers, our head of trustees and his daughter, a twelve-year old boy scout working his way to Tenderfoot, two high school freshmen who serve in children’s ministry often, two day care workers, a girl scout leader, a mom and her daughter-in-law who serves as a teacher and expecting her second baby in a few months.

In all honesty, for fear of not making the minimum participants, I was sweating it ten days ago. But I was reminded again that we are called to provide an opportunity to do good things, God will do the number crunching and the people gathering. Our job is obedience.

cpr4Completely surprised at the community participation of 6 out of 18, I will be scheduling CPR & First Aid training as part of our regular calendar every fall. We will promote it just as much as an outreach to our community as to our own. We extended the gift of Christian hospitality to our neighbors and our own. Our own bumping elbows with our community for three hours…on a Sunday afternoon. My supply list: name tags and iced-down, bottled water.

My very favorite part (other than our youth naming their dummies after characters from The Walking Dead)? Our instructor arrived late due to Atlanta traffic of the last Braves game AND a Falcons home game, so it gave us a chance to share why we were there and get to know one another.  Yeah, I’m doing this every year!

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

 

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What Do We Do Now?

what-nextToday’s post is more like a public service announcement because we didn’t know six months ago what we know now. You may be in the same boat. Six months ago my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. When I got the news by phone, my first phone call was to one of my bridesmaids of life in my Emmaus Reunion Group because we knew we’d need to be covered in prayers. The next two phone calls were to our adult children. But the fourth phone call was to my pastor and boss with a cry from a place of utter grief and despair, “What do we do now?”

At 55 years old, we are the first of our peers to lose both parents AND be responsible for everything. These are a few things we have learned along the way:

  1. Get a will – Kay had her will and my father-in-law’s will along with their passports, social security cards, birth certificates, and other important papers in a safe-deposit which my husband had a key for. We went to the box the day after she passed. All important papers like car titles, home closing documents and tax returns were also in one place. She had a clear filing system. She set this up years ago. Don’t put it off. The will has protected us, guided us, directed us, and made clear much of what we needed to do next.
  2. Have personal and professional relationships – with an attorney, a pastor, and accountant/CPA, contractors, realtors, etc. We are so grateful for the wisdom and expertise of those we had built relationships with through our local church.
  3. Beneficiaries trump wills – If the will is specific to what happens next with limitations and directions, yet only names are listed as beneficiaries of investments and assets, the limits and directions within the will do not apply.
  4. Have an Emergency Fund – There will be many expenses that will need to be covered way before any paperwork can be completed at the courthouse: funeral expenses (including special wishes by family members), monthly utilities, monthly mortgages, lawn services, house cleaning supplies, groceries, paper products, clothes, traveling expenses, home repairs, and a whole lot more. Reimbursements take a long time…right now, more than six months.
  5. Have a list of accounts and passwords and update the list often – Kay did nothing online which made the paper trail easy to follow. Over the course of 45 days, every utility, investment, bank statement, and QVC order came through the mail.  We, of course, do everything online. Passwords, account numbers, vendor and utility lists should be on paper and stored in some way so to be easily located. How will anybody be able to settle your affairs and gain access to your parent’s or your assets and liabilities if nothing comes through the mail?
  6. Be gracious, no matter what people and family do and say – Everybody has questions. Everybody has opinions. Everybody grieves differently. Everybody has a different perspective. Everybody remembers a past conversation. Prayer and wise counsel are imperative.
  7. Talk through the process with your adult kids – This has been a learning experience for all of us. Clear communication with our young adult children throughout this process has equipped them and their spouses to know what to do and what to expect when our time comes. We had wills prepared when they were minors, but as adults, new wills and this learning is our responsibility to impart as part of their financial training.

The grief has been intense. The responsibility has been heavy. Ministry with families happen all throughout remarkable moments of a family’s life. When we learn new things, we figure out a way to teach them. This is one area where I now have experience. It helps the healing to pour out our lessons as a drink offering unto the Lord.

What will you do now?

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” Titus 3:1-2

 

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Calendaring 201

calendaring201I just picked up a 2017 calendar from the office supply store which means I just printed my own 2018 calendar. Which means I printed the two counties’ school 2017-2018 calendars. Which means I am preparing for 2017 in September of 2016. My parents and families need calendars for the next year so I can’t just throw things together and hope it fits the rhythm of my community.

The first installment of my calendaring process can be found here at Calendaring 101. But what else?

Calendaring is not planning. Calendaring is about partnering. Calendaring is putting on the calendar that which complements other ministries: Holy Week, Advent, Missions, Stewardship, Good Friday, One Service Sundays, Youth Mission Trips, etc. AND what I know about my own community: school calendars, scout calendars, band/music calendars, local festivals which happen the same time every year, etc. so when I plan special events and time specific to my families as ‘church’, I am a help to my families. We are no help to families when we are one more thing to add to their calendar nor one more thing for my families to feel guilty about because of the hard choices they make each day of what is best. Calendaring should help offer a healthy rhythm for volunteers and should give families some ‘easy wins.’

It helps that our pastor gives us the next year’s sermon schedule a few months before year-end. We calendar to partner with another ministry by piggy-backing: Missions Lunch & Easter Egg Hunt on Palm Sunday; CLUB345 Bake Sale fundraiser for camp & Youth Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday, etc.. Partnering with other ministry events/specials offer greater opportunities for intergenerational relationships and sticky memories in the hearts of minds of our little people. Always a huge win!

Then there’s what you want to start new.  How does it fit in the mix? First, you evaluate the ‘whipped cream’ of your ministries. Anything outside of Sunday am programming is ‘whipped cream’. Sunday is the ‘daily bread’ of Children’s Ministry and it must be done to the best of our abilities and resources.  For example, we noticed this year a lessening of enthusiasm for The Saints Book Club, so we will be taking a jubilee from that in 2017. Thus opening a spot for something I’ve been tossing around in my head for a couple of years now. The challenge comes when it’s all good, but we have limited resources in volunteers, champions, funding, and time. So let’s be intentional about offering what is best: be in prayer, talk with your parents, chat it up among your students, run it by your pastor.

Don’t forget to plan for personal time away for education, for rest, for reevaluation, and for celebration. The white space will fill quickly. Calendaring is how we offer easy wins for families, including your own. Shauna Niequist wrote in Present Over Perfect, “I fake-rested instead of real-rested, and then I found that I was real-tired.” She went on to write, “Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life. People love it when you say yes, and they get used to it. But you can’t have a yes without no. If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.”

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation as quoted in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero.

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