American Ninja Warrior: Bible Edition

NinjaAwardsWhat do we do after handing out a slew of new Bibles to 3rd-5th graders? We schedule a late night (6:30-9:30pm) on the following Friday for 3rd-5th graders to learn to use this new gift. Using the hugely popular tv show American Ninja Warrior as our theme, we set up bible and physical challenges that go together. Brainstorming for this event with another kidmin champion made for an awesome night.  The plan was to have it outside, but a rainstorm called for plan B – our gym.

Students were instructed to wear red, white, and blue, bring a towel (to lay on during the silence time), bring a bible (that’s why we’re here, but have some student bibles handy just in case someone forgets), bring a water bottle (the kids got thirsty quick), and use free Event Bright registration for signups (this made for quick notification emails of the change in venue and intake location).

Arrival activity: let students write names on headbands with a sharpie or a name tag for those who wore their own headbands, and lots of jump ropes.

Introduce the gathering attention chant with a leader saying, “The B-I-B-L-E” and the students respond “that’s the book for me.”

NinjaStudyUsing a Rainbow Bookmark – As followers of Jesus, we are people of THE BOOK…the Bible. 2 sections, 66 books. Testament – covenant – promise. Asking the question: What is the Bible? We pre-made 1/4 inch ribbon bookmarks knotted at the top to be placed in different places in their bibles as a large group:

  • black=Table of Contents;
  • red=Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament;
  • orange=Joshua, the first history book in the Old Testament;
  • yellow=Psalms, the 2nd poetry book in our Bible;
  • green=Isaiah, the first prophet book in our Bible;
  • blue=Matthew, the first Gospel book in our Bible;
  • purple=to mark Romans, the first letter book in our Bible.

NinjaQuadstepsQuintuple Steps – Discussion and overview of the Bible. How did the Bible come to be? Play the telephone game (oral tradition).  The story of the Bible is about God and how God acted in people’s lives then and now.   Run the Quintuple side steps without touching the ground.

Agility Ladder – Creation – Genesis 1…We serve a God of order & systems. We made a creation trail mix to save for later for snack and used an agility ladder to run through the 7 days of creation in order. Joke: Where does the Bible talk about baseball? Genesis 1:1 “In the big-inning.” Then back to the bible study tables.

NinjaTiresFlip the Tire – The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible. Was originally written on scrolls (rolled up paper). Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Flip the tire 5 times and say the books that make up the Torah.

Over Under PVC Hurdles – God gave His people the 10 Commandments to live well with one another. Look up in Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5. Run under the pvc hurdles for the ‘do’ commandments and over the pvc hurdles for the ‘don’t’ commandments. Then speak loudly reading the commandments from a 10 commandment poster taped to the wall.

NinjaStumpsKing of the Mountain – Look up the 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Step from stump to stump without falling off.

Hula Hoops – Look up Matthew 10:2-4 and discover the 12 disciples. 4 stations of hula hoops. Jump through each hoop 3 times each saying the disciples/apostle’s names.

Bean Bag Toss – Look up Matthew 22:36-40 to discover The Greatest Commandment. Toss a bean bag into a Rubbermaid bin saying, “YOU shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, and with all your might. YOU shall love the Lord with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself, UMPH!”

NinjaLaddersPass the Torch – Gotta have some water, right? Look up 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and discover the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Pass or carry a halved pool noodle with a cup taped to the end filled with water to another bucket. (We were not able to do this being inside, but the plan was there.)

Walking the Plank – Look up  Luke 11:1-4 The Lord’s Prayer. We’ll discuss the many aspects of prayer using a gift from Mark Burrows, the Children’s Ministry Lead at FUMC of Ft Worth, WITH (Wow, God….I’m sorry, God….Thank you, God…Help me/another, God), then a 10 minute NinjaBalanceperiod of silence. Walking raised lengths of wood for balance beams.

SilenceAt some point on the course have a rest time for a period of silence (10-15 minutes, depending on time) to eat the trail mix and a cold Powerade on their towels spread throughout the space.

Drag A Tire – Look up the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and discuss who is my neighbor. Drag a tire with a rim by rope across a long space.

NinjaTirePerform Sword Drills for a whole host of things. (We did not have time for this, but we were ready just in case we did.)

Closed out the evening with awards of “Take 5” candy bars on 1/4 inch ribbons as we discuss taking 5 minutes each day to read the bible and pray.

My kidmin brainstorming partner’s husband came to pick up at night’s end. They have scheduled their American Ninja Warrior: Bible Edition late night at her local church in two weeks. With the help of NinjaTrailMixparents and some gracious 5th grade boys, we had everything except the largest quad step packed in the van and ready to go within 20 minutes.  Most everything will be returned for next year’s event, because this turned out even better than I imagined. When parents arrived for pickup, they were able to watch their students ‘run the course.’

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

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Throwing In The Towel

towelI grieve the loss of colleagues who have thrown in the towel and decided to leave professional ministry. Seven colleagues in the last 6 months. Five colleagues in the last 2 weeks. Each one led fruitful, effective ministry. All but two served in multiple local churches. One went through the process and was ordained.  Understanding that some are called for a season and life changes make for priority shifts, I still grieve the loss of their leadership.

According to an ongoing Lifeway survey, the average term of a children’s pastor is 3.6 years. The #1 catalyst which offers a longer term of service in the professional call into ministry: connection outside your own local church.

In a conversation several years ago with a preschool director involved in weekday ministry with children, I asked why she didn’t come to the monthly preschool director networking lunch. She replied, “I don’t need anything.” The way I saw it?  She had so much to share! Within 18 months of that conversation, she, too, left professional ministry. I don’t even know if she’s worshiping anywhere or using her gifts within a local church anymore.  Sigh…

Hebrews 3:12 reads in the NIV “See to it, brothers (and sisters) that none of you (y’all = a statement meant for the group of us) has an unbelieving heart (our tendency to discouragement, unbelieving, needing something more, and disillusionment) that turns away from the living God (because without one another, we drift.)”

Without one another, we drift. How far we drift depends on the relationships we build face to face, not Facebook to Facebook, or Instagram to Instagram, nor blog to blog. Social media is not enough. Building connection is time consuming, intentional, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. But O the value of sharing table life, a meal, a trauma, losses, disappointments, gains, ideas, celebrations, words of truth and encouragement with one another face to face .  I mean truth like what was shared with me a few years back, “I don’t know why in the world you are letting that situation take up so much space in your head. Let it go, girl, let it go!”  I let it go.

I challenge each of you reading this to make building professional relationships outside your own house (local church) a priority where throwing in the towel is not even an option. Network with others regularly in face-to-face gatherings. Join professional organizations not for what you can get out of them, but for what you can bring to the table. Make gathering for lunch or breakfast a priority in your continuing education. Linked-in doesn’t count, social networking doesn’t count, face-to-face counts. If there isn’t a gathering in your area, call the church down the road a piece and ask to speak to their children’s ministry lead. Invite him/her to lunch, or tea, or coffee, or breakfast….share some table life. Start one. Go ahead….you can do this!

“Leadership is the most complicated thing you will ever do in your life, why do you think you can do it alone?” Simon Sinek

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Grow Day Camp And More

GrowDayCampThe last week of the summer at Wesley Chapel was hopping, singing, playing, and laughing because of the efforts of a whole host of planning, praying, and commitment from the Camping & Retreat Ministry arm of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. All of this in the faces and from the hands and feet of two amazingly organized college-age site directors and six fabulously energetic high-school-age (rising junior and senior) counselors who have ‘applied and interviewed for and been accepted to Grow Day Camp’s sibling ministry, the Experiential Leadership Institute.’ All this to bring faith-based camp to our kids so they experience the week in living groups of 3-10 campers with 2 counselors focused on building Christian community. Bringing a week of summer camp to our house!

‘Counselors plan each day’s activities with the theme of the day and week in mind. Each summer’s theme is based on professionally developed camp ministry curriculum that is age-appropriate, based on scripture, and respectful of God’s creation.’ Activities at our site included chapel, archery (love the sense of danger), group games, bible stories, drama skits (Grow Factor talent show happens on the last day of the week with our kids drawing houses, counting to 20 in Chinese, playing a game, dribbling a basketball, a Civil War monologue, etc.), arts & crafts, and the most amazing day trip to Camp Glisson. Such a fabulous day trip that parents were quick to sign up kids for the fall 3rd-6th graders retreat in September just to get their feet on Camp Glisson soil again. Sweetness!

growarcheryI will admit that I have been an obnoxious begger to get the program at WC ever since the program began just a couple of years ago. Perseverance paid off when another church had to back out and we were blessed to get the week before school started….everyone is back in town not to miss Meet & Greet…and the parents who reported to pre-planning had a great place for their kids to go. Needless to say the followup survey is completed and I will commence to begging for the same week next year.

The coordinating leadership from Camp Glisson provided banners, marketing materials and paperwork to be completed for the site (do we have fire extinguishers, closest hospital number, showers, etc.) FAR in advance. They were very clear on their expectations of us and what we could expect from them.  We don’t have showers, so they bring a trailer with an outside shower that fit our water connections. If we don’t hit the minimum of campers, we have to pay for the difference.

GrowThe ELI leader-students slept over at the church, debriefed each day, and planned for the next as they were able to make their own meals in the church kitchen. Another kidmin champion provided dinner one night (her son was our representative for the Experiential Leadership Institute), we provided dinner one night, and I picked up Starbucks love one morning for every leader.

Camp Glisson did an amazing job of training the students. At the end of the week, they provided a slide show, gave it to me on a flashdrive, gave me a framed group photo, and a precious thank you note at the communion (led by our senior pastor) and celebration ceremony at the end of the week. Their training, energy, compassion, kindness, and faith exceeded my expectations. They cleaned up so well it looked as if they weren’t even here…made me kinda sad.

growbustripAt the end of each day my kids were exhausted, sweaty, and challenged to go outside their comfort zone which resulted in confidence and powerful memories. A week of sacred moments developmentally appropriate with great joy and energy. This I know: the rising juniors and seniors who served on this their 3rd, 4th, or 5th week of their summer were gracious, kind, creative, helpful, and totally confident in their roles as leaders in ministry with children. Gosh, I wish this program was around when my kids were juniors and seniors in high school!

Both programs going on simultaneously, Grow Day Camp for littles and Experiential Leadership Institute for bigs. A true partnership. Can’t have one without the other. My campers want the ELI’s jobs when they grow up.

Henrietta Mears had a definite philosophy about camping ministry that could be summed up in one word: decision. “If Sunday School was the place where people were built up in the faith, then camp was where they made their decisions about following the Lord.”

This last week of the summer, our kids got to see what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, moves like, tastes like, feels like to be a young person who is sold out for Jesus and the local church in the faces of our site leaders and ELI students. Their home churches have done well. Man….I can’t wait until next year!

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Blessing of the Backpacks

backpackEach year on the Sunday before one of our school systems begins, we hold a Blessing of the Backpacks. We invite anyone with a backpack, rollercart, lunchbox, briefcase, etc. (and those who use them) to come forward to the communion rails to receive and participate in a blessing. The liturgy is simple and it takes only 3-4 minutes of the Sunday service. The liturgy was originally shared with us by the gracious folks at Covington First United Methodist Church in Covington, Georgia.

Liturgy for the Blessing of the Backpacks

Leader: We are gathered together today in thanksgiving for the gift of education – a gift that we respond to in different ways. Some of us find the following from Ecclesiastes to be true:  Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (12.12). For others, the excitement of  Proverbs sums it up better: Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding. (3.13)

Leader: In our weariness, and in our excitement; for those of us continuing, and those just beginning; for all who prepare for another school year, let us abide by this scripture above all:  Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.

Leader: Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.4-9)

Leaders: Today these people bring forward their backpacks, book bags, lunch boxes, pencil boxes, briefcases and other carriers that they might be blessed and dedicated to the glory of God.  Come, children and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

 All:  Teach me, O Lord, your ways.

Leader:  I will bless the Lord at all time; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

All:  Teach me, O Lord, your ways.

Leader:  I will glory in the Lord;  let the humble hear and rejoice.

All:  Teach me, O Lord, your ways.

Students and Educators:  We dedicate these items, our work, and ourselves to the glory of God. We thank you, God, for the opportunity to learn, to teach and to serve, so that your work may be done in the world.

Leader:  May God, the maker of all things, bless these things for the kingdom, and may their use be a blessing to all!

Congregation:  O God, source of all goodness: We give you thanks for the gift of reason and the opportunity for education. Bless our schools, that they may be places of learning and safety where teachers challenge the minds and nurture the hearts of students.

Grant that teacher, students, administrators, coaches and support staff may work together in mutual respect and find joy in the challenges of academic life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

BlessingOfTheBackpackAfter the service, these same folks are invited to meet on the front lawn to pick up a carabineer and a tag as a reminder of this blessing and God’s call and challenge for them in this new season. I order the tags and carabineers from Share-It 2016 tags read “1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” Ordered online last Sunday. Approved a proof received by email on Monday. Had them in my hands on Thursday. Be aware: They come in strips of three. If you place an ScriptureTagD74order for one, you will get three. Of course the more you order, the cheaper they are, but they really look nice and we’ll add others throughout the year for special events.

“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:23

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Deep and Wide Day Retreat: A True Blue Friend

2016deep4Last year was our first day away retreat for rising 4th-6th graders and that info is here. Our first retreat is a faith milestone and this we do once a year for rising 4th-6th graders.  This year offered several movie themes to jump from and the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) proved to be the most applicable to our group in attendance with the theme of “A True Blue Friend.” This is the rundown:

Location: At my house along with other CLUB345 adults, 10am-9pm….I live so far away from the church, it’s a very special treat to come and spend the day at my house for my students.

What the kids bring: A bag to carry everything in, swim suit, sunscreen, refillable water bottle, towel, pen, Bible, walking shoes (for the hike to the reservoir), flipflops (shoes for the pool), bag of favorite candy for popcorn bar.

2016DeepLesson 1: A Heart That Chooses Friends Wisely (Jonathan & David)…Spiritual Gifts Inventory from Credo …A True Blue Friend (Naomi & Ruth). This spiritual gifts inventory relates to body parts and makes the ‘gifts’ more relative to students. It was a great encouragement for the students to hear about the best parts of them which are gifts of the Holy Spirit truly from the Lord.

Students made sub sandwiches and we hiked to the local reservoir for a picnic lunch.

To the neighborhood pool! Then to the movies. Debriefed the movie and lesson #2 which is a trifold I prepared years ago for a scout event on friendship. This is the info on the trifold:

2016Deep2Advice on selection of a friend


A righteous one is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26


  • Gossips (Proverbs 20:19)
  • Short-tempered (Proverbs 22:24-25)
  • Those given to obsession (Proverbs 23:20-21)
  • The rebellious (Proverbs 24:2122)
  • Liars and those untrustworthy (Proverbs 25:18-20)
  • Those inconsiderate and those unfaithful
  • The violent


  • Those who display wise choices (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Those whose love is constant (Proverbs 17:17)
  • Those who are loyal (Proverbs 18:24)
  • Those who aren’t afraid to help you be the greatest YOU that you can be (Proverbs 27:6)

2016deep1Solving problems with your friends

  1. Be slow to anger. Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel.
  2. Be slow to respond by not interrupting Proverbs 18:13 She who answers before listening that is her folly and her shame.
  3. Avoid quarreling. Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
  4. Speak gently. Proverbs 15:1 gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up more anger.
  5. Speak briefly. Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but she who holds her tongue is wise.
  6. Be quick to show love. Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
  7. But if necessary, rebuke rather than flatter. Proverbs 28:23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

10 Commandments of Friendship

  1. Speak to people
  2. Smile at people
  3. Call people by name
  4. Be friendly and helpful
  5. Be cordial (speak and act as if everything you do is a real pleasure)
  6. Be genuinely interested in people – you can like everyone if you try
  7. Be generous with praise and cautious with criticism
  8. Be considerate of the feelings of others
  9. Be thoughtful of the opinions of others
  10. Be alert to give service – what counts most is what we do for others!

Things to avoid, which can disrupt a good friendship

  1. Don’t repeat everything you hear (Proverbs 17:9)
  2. Avoid senseless arguments (Proverbs 17:14)
  3. Don’t overstay your welcome (Proverbs 25:17)
  4. Don’t meddle in affairs not your own (Proverbs 26:17)
  5. Don’t play bad jokes (Proverbs 26:18-19)
  6. Don’t be contentious (Proverbs 26:21)

And if you get lonely, God has provided friendships for you:

First, you have a friend in _____JESUS_________

Jesus said in John 15:15, “I have called you friends.”

Second, you have friends in your __PARENTS_____

They are God’s gift to you and believe me, no one loves you more or cares for you more deeply and genuinely than your very own mother and father.

And third, you have friends in your  ___FAMILY__& CHURCH___ (This was especially important for us to cover since all of our students who attended the retreat go to different schools.)

2016deep3We prepared dinner of fruit salad and deep dish pizza and enjoyed fruit sorbet for dessert. After several heated games of Pit, laughter, sharks & minnows, line tag, and popcorn fun, we are already planning next year’s event. Of course we wear our tshirts to church the following Sunday.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Christ.” Romans 8:39

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Remarkable Moments and Little People

KidsIt seems I’ve attended more funerals in the last 90 days than in my whole life combined. Celebrating the life of my own precious Mother-In-Law with little people in my lap opened my eyes to an area of service I had not considered before. Isn’t that how it goes?

It wasn’t a real plan, but this is how we set up the environment…

  • Folded over construction paper, wrote “sticker book” on the cover and had a few sheets of stickers. We set a couple of these in the front pews ahead of time…didn’t want Mama to have to carry or keep up with not one more thing with a toddler.
  • Several rubber bugs, animals, or non-battle characters in a beach bucket…quiet play poured out in the floor of the pew or in the aisle for a preschooler.
  • Since Mama was playing the piano, we all sat toward that side of the pew/row rather than the center aisle so that having Mama in sight kept for a calm little one.
  • Etch a sketches with a roller ball mover made for an easy win with very little hands and challenging fine motor skills.
  • Several small bottles of water, already opened, with a little poured out to avoid opening spills.

FuneralLast week, one of our families lost their second, much-loved grandparent in two months. In the midst of this sweet Mama’s grief, she stopped by the church to pick up a bucket of items to keep little hands and hearts present and busy during the funeral service at her home church. I also handed three rolls of Mentos to the oldest to share with his younger siblings.  The middle one received her Mentos roll and immediately asked, “Do you have a bottle of Diet Coke?” Man, I love them!

An outside wedding filled with all ages and all stages. Little people dressed in comfortable clothes, shoes off, playing in the dirt on the side, but within sight of the ceremony of the beautiful couple which a 2 and 4 year old watched intently while their hands were busy. Be still my heart!

On Sunday, I danced and sang the closing song with a 5-month old in the service where he was dedicated to the Lord. He’s a talker and so am I. His kind Grandma handed him to me and so we danced and sang. His beautiful Mama was tending to the needs of his toddler older brother. Man, I love them!

A wise pastor once shared his four favorite sounds: folding chairs, the turn of a page in a bible, the tearing of a check from a checkbook, and the noise of little people while he preached. All four sounds reflect life in a living, loving church.

Remarkable moments of life. Births and deaths. Baptisms and funerals. Weddings and new babies. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the tastes (celebration food!), the touches that build the foundations and connections for little people to all of God’s people in the remarkable moments of life.  To be invited into these moments is a privilege. To share the journey is an honor…even if it’s with rubber bugs and cloth diapers embroidered with “We may not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51

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VBS Conversations

playmobil-451203_960_720I love Vacation Bible School for a whole host of reasons: training youth, sharing the gospel with little people, dancing before the Lord, and having amazing conversations with folks. You know those wonderful conversations with folks who probably don’t need new friends, but I want to be friends with.

  • Conversations with those who might attend a different service.
  • Conversations with those who I can’t get to know from a handshake and a ‘peace be with you’ before the Children’s Moment on Sunday mornings.
  • Conversations with young people who see VBS as training and take instruction without offense.
  • Conversations with little people who want access to me so I can tell each one he/she belongs here.
  • Conversations with fifth graders who are invited to watch and learn everyone they meet this week so they know who’s job they want next year if they want to serve.

This is better than a survey.

From the conversations that took place this year…

  • I discovered who is on the hospitality committee for the local neighborhoods.
  • I discovered new families are moving in with younger and younger little people… we’re talking about planning a preschool club to get those relationships started.
  • I discovered there will be a Cotillion offered for local 5th graders and since it’s happening in October, I can schedule accordingly.
  • I discovered my 5th grade boys are already telling me what jobs they want next year in VBS leadership.
  • I discovered our high school seniors were handing over the reins to their younger counterparts for a smooth baton hand-off for next year.
  • I discovered our middle school girls can change the roadside sign in no time.
  • I discovered our kids preferred fresh fruit for snacks.
  • I discovered our kids are inviting other kids to come and see about Jesus and church.
  • I discovered Friday nights are better nights for specials for elementary kiddos for when we start a new life skills series for children’s ministry outreach in 2017 called “Wesley Chapel Academy”.
  • I discovered even folks who attend the traditional service want to, and do, dance before the Lord ‘in the Sanctuary.’
  • I discovered who lost their jobs over the last several weeks and who got new ones.
  • I discovered there are already calendars out there for 2016-2017 with dates for local organizations and I asked for copies so as not to overwhelm my families with the church calendar.
  • I discovered who has been thinking about serving on the CLUB345 Team for next year.
  • I discovered our theme for the Bible Late Night this year will be “American Ninja Warrior: Wesley Chapel style” in August and started talking with the graduating youth of how to pull it off…with their help.

What VBS conversations did you have this year? What are you going to do about it?

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4 

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Ministry and Administration: Two Hats, One Heart

GirlDancingArtLast week was Vacation Bible School and all that goes with it. Rather than leave for a much needed nap after the last little one was signed out, I would eat my bag lunch and change hats. I serve as the half-time Director of Children’s Ministry AND the half-time Church Financial Secretary and Administrative Support. In the words of one of the kid’s favorite VBS songs, “I’m all in.”  The narrative of how we got here two years ago is here. As I re-read the blogpost, my soul grins.

This week I am participating in the Academy of Church Business Administration hosted by The General Council on Finance and Administration in Nashville, Tennessee. This program is designed “to provide church business administrators with the necessary training and continuing education to obtain their designation as a Certified Church Administrator (CCA) through The Church Network.” The facilitators are the best of the best who wear ‘this hat.’ This is the second week. The first week, last week, I was wearing the other hat. I’ll take the first week next year, as I was advised by the coordinator and director of the program who refers to himself as a ‘church geek.’

Always looking for connection to learn best practices in all that I’ve been called and entrusted to do, the room is filled with other church geeks. Those who are responsible for “effective business practices in finances, facilities, human resources, and information technology.” Those who crunch numbers so we are good stewards of resources. Those who use limited resources to create a spirit of generosity within their local churches. Those who are hosts with the mosts. Those who communicate and market ministry to their worlds of influence. Those who consider and advise on legal and tax issues, finances and facilities. Those who have seats at strategic planning tables and facilitate human resource considerations.

That’s where I am. Jesus freak AND church geek.  I’m so ok with that. When I’m too old to get up off the floor after offering the children’s moment without asking for help from the front row youth, I can still wear both hats. It just may look differently. I plan on that being a long time from now. Two hats, one heart. A heart sold out for the One and Only and the local church for whom He sent His son to give it all that we may live out His kingdom here ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’

After singing VBS songs in my sleep last week and getting in my minimum Fitbit steps before closing at noon each day, you can find me this week along the side wall of the classroom at ACBA. I hope I won’t be much of a distraction, but if I break into dancing before the Lord, or shout, “Amen!”, well….  I wear two hats and sometimes they overlap.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

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Transitioning From Children’s Ministry to Youth Ministry

VBS2014DI’m glad to be busy this time of year or I’d be sitting in the corner crying over the loss of the kids I just trained up in children’s ministry who are moving on. Yep….they keep insisting on growing up. Sigh…sniff! I don’t profess to know the answer to a smooth transition, but will share a few of the intentionals I’ve tried to offer to make the move.

Our Children’s Ministry includes bed babies through 5th grade. At 3rd grade, they get to be a part of CLUB345 where we go deeper in the Word, introduce greater use of our bibles, and partner with other churches for special events (Splash Night, Messy Night, Winter Ball, etc.) We also go on our first overnight retreat with our local denominational leaders.

With Ministry Milestones, we can set some special events that are ‘rites of passage’ like moving up to large group Sunday School, accolyting, starting in CLUB345, getting new bibles (1st graders get Early Reader Bibles, 3rd graders get red-letter NIVs), Deep & Wide Retreat, running the Bake Sale fundraiser for camp, etc. By the time the kids reach the next milestone, they are so excited they about can’t stand themselves.

At 4th grade, our kids attend a day long Deep & Wide Retreat at my home to practice developmentally appropriate spiritual disciplines to begin using as they begin to live out their faith as a follower of Jesus. Our 5th graders also attend for the first time or as a refresher and a chance for building closer relationships with the 4th graders who are coming up behind them.  Our CLUB345 piggy backs with the youth’s missions lunches and Souper Bowl For Caring with a bake sale to fundraise for the fall overnight camp. At our end of school year CLUB345 the youth have come out to cheer on the CLUB345 talent show so my oldest kids begin to ‘feel the love’ of their new youth peeps, and those completing 5th grade receive their names in framed scripture.

Our students who complete 5th grade get to have their feet in both camps during the summer of transition.  Most of our youth go on local and international mission trips, so the rising 6th graders can’t go on mission trips, but are invited to a couple of youth activities. Summer is where they totally get to serve in VBS as travel guides (partnered with a seasoned youth) or section minions in an area of leadership (partnered with a Titus 2 adult).  After the VBS decorating party, we gather for a Safe Sanctuary training specific to them and the rising 6th graders join the youth for Youth Training.  On the Wednesday of VBS, we gather at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch to bring all the youth volunteers and my rising 6th graders together to share table life.   Rising 6th graders pray over bandanas and prepare treat bags for the youth attending the missions trips. At the ‘Slide Into Fall’ dual water slide they graduate to the right side of the slide which is much faster and slicker.

It’s these students who know where all the supplies are. These students who now offer to run and load up the Bible Bucks store when we get donations. These students who come for a few hours to transition the children’s hallway from season to season. These students set up the Winter Ball. These students are invited to write articles for the newsletter. These students offer to help me and our kids in so many ways. Every opportunity is a training and sharing opportunity which makes their faith even stickier as they experience belonging and service. A 3rd grader joined us for last year’s VBS decorating party with her parents. She shared afterwards that she had no idea so much went into preparing for VBS. “I thought y’all just pulled stuff out of a closet and poof it was there.”

teens%20pointingOh, and when they age out of youth, children’s ministry sends gift boxes, cards, and notes to continue in relationship. So when they come home from college or stick around after high school, their connection is still clear as we arrange for them to serve on Fantastic Friday (parent’s night out), late night, and CLUB345. I invite them to share testimony of what’s going on in their lives with my kids and lead a Sunday school class so they get to inspire my current kids to stay strong in their faith. For it’s in ministry with children where we can continue the relationship that clearly communicates: this is MY church! They will always age out….but only for a season.

What do you do to intentionally transition your kids to youth/student ministry….and beyond? What can you do to invite kids when they’re no longer kids to answer God’s call on their lives to be walkers (servers) and talkers (teachers) for the cause of Christ?

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.” 1 Corinthians 1:26


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From Tablet to Table: A Book Review

tablet-to-tablePicking up books for a couple of newlywed gals from the local book store, I came across Leonard Sweet’s From Tablet to Table: Where Community Is Found And Identity is Formed. Table Life being one of my faith files, I picked it up.

This 163 page little book is filled with statistics (the average dinner time 60 years ago was 90 minutes; today it is less than 12 minutes), stories (I like any vegetable stir-fried, my chicken deep-fried, and my table story-fied), and historical facts of the importance of table life (God’s first commandment in Genesis 2:16 is to ‘eat freely’ and his final commandment in Revelation 22:17 is to ‘drink freely’).

Sweet reminds us of our spiritual heritage where the story of God’s deliverance is told by a child and by the food in the Seder meal. Children catch their tribal identity by the table stories, food and customs of our tables. It’s around the table where we learn boundaries, manners, rituals of right and wrong, and get to know one another.

Jesus started out on earth in a food trough, he dined with sinners, he fed the hungry, ate with dirty hands, sipped water at a well with a Samaritan woman, and though He may have started as a guest at homes all over the region, Jesus ended up taking on the role of the host. When the Greco-Roman culture partied on to keep the gods away from mortals, Jewish feast days invited God’s presence among His people. Of the 23 parables in Luke’s Gospel, more than 15 (or almost 70%) of them feature food. (pg 110)

Sweet speaks specifically of three tables to intentionally set: setting the table at home, at church, and in the world. These are the aha moments I discovered in the read:

Setting the table at home: Homes used to have two tables – a dining room table and a kitchen table. We have exchanged the kitchen table for an island where we sit facing one direction. We have exchanged the dining room table for a great room where the ‘screen is queen’, speaking of the TV.

Setting the table at church: It’s the Communion table in the sanctuary and table of communion in the fellowship hall which brings the church talkers and church walkers together. The church walkers invest in using their hands, feet, and knees to serve. The church talkers revel in the teachings of Jesus and Paul, loving the life of the mind. When Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me” at the Last Supper, Sweet suggests that our Savior meant for us to ‘do the table.’ Have a seat, join the conversation, engage in civil debate, share ideas, speak of human concerns, persecutions, provide comfort, extend compassion, eat, teach the children, and be the church. Do table life in memory of Jesus.

Setting the table in the world: Matthew 14:16 reminds us We love our neighbors when we reach out to them, when we listen to them, when we ‘give them something to eat.’ There is nothing like homemade food prepared and planned by a friend that feeds my soul.  When my mother-in-law passed away a couple of months ago, the church came out and dished out. There is a lovely Mom in our church who’s ministry and business is to prepare weekly meals for her community and she has blessed my socks off so many times. She makes a chicken pot pie that is heaven on my plate.  My daughter prepares dinner for her pastor and his family regularly. The gift of Christian hospitality.

The biggest star I placed in the book is on page 133: Irish novelist Bernard MacLaverty recalls a key detail of his Belfast childhood: “The air was full, always and everywhere, with the sound of the old ones talking.” Do the ears of your kids ring from the sound of the old ones talking? Ask those who have given their lives to children and youth, like Presbyterian pastor Lars Rood: “Kids gravitate to the oldest person in the room if that person shows an interest in them.” Children belong at the table. Teenagers belong at the table. They can be a pain, and they may ruffle the tidiness of the table. But if your eschatology is strong, if you have a vision of the future, they become a joy and a pleasure. The table talk they experience there gives them a sense of their place in the story, so that even if they leave the table, like I did, they can’t escape it.  Oh, the power of doing table life!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and EAT (emphasis mine) with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

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