Got A New Calendar Yet?

A brand new calendar with all its white space makes me downright giddy. In preparing for the next calendar year, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
A. What will be your focus the next year…as a church…as a ministry with children?
B. What are the important days that are ‘known’ or ‘tradition’ in your church and community so children’s ministry can piggy-back or involve little people?
C. For what events do you already have champions to take the point and advocate?
D. What are your professional and personal priorities you should guard with the calendar?
E. Prepare to calendar 18-24 months out. (I do this every January AND June
F. Calendaring is not planning. Calendaring is about partnering. Calendaring is putting on the calendar that which complements other ministries and your local church as a whole body of Christ.

Gather supplies and documents:

  • Start with a blank, paper calendar. Why? Because it helps you see the big picture. You can always add it to your devices/apps later.
  • Your Vacation and Sabbath time: 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 the healthy no. If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.” Remember you are in this for the long haul so though you can fill your calendar with a ton of good things, sustainability without killing yourself and others is the goal.
  • Last year’s calendar. Why? To record when to begin planning for specials and record major cultural holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, etc. Ex: Trunk or Treat in October requires a start in hard planning in July to get local advertising in; the year Palm Sunday started a spring break; Glee Club/Cherub Choir Wednesday night programming begins the new year AFTER the Atlanta area has historical issues with ice/snow.
  • Church calendar. Why? So as not to conflict with hard dates for space and volunteer base. Ex: Anything that has to do with major seasons like Lent and Advent; anything that requires all church hands on deck like a Fall Festival will drain a volunteer base for a period of time. Include seasonal events and holidays, traditions, and rites of passage that you know are ‘set in stone.’ Be sure to add your regular Sunday AM ‘bread’ schedule. Anything other than Sunday morning in ‘whipped cream’ programming.
  • Liturgical calendar. Why? Using colors and practices as past saints connect us to our heritage of faith. Ex: Advent is purple, not red & green; the magi come out for Epiphany and not Advent; 12 days of Christmastide; Maundy Thursday may change your Wednesday programming that week; we send home bags of empty, plastic eggs beginning on Ash Wednesday to be filled and returned for the church Easter Egg Hunt so prep has to be done WAY in advance.
  • Pencil and a really good eraser. Why? I’m visual and neat erasing matters.
  • School calendar. Why? Gotta plan for when families won’t be here as well as when they will be. Ex: Fall and spring breaks = low attendance Sundays which offers some special planning opportunities. Look especially at when the four fifth Sundays of the month are set.
  • Youth calendar. Why? Many specials for children require youth help and we all know it’s healthy for youth and little people to have youth faces involved in ministry with children. Ex: Coordinating VBS with summer youth mission trips; Parent’s Night Out when the youth may be on a retreat; Christmas parties that would possibly require parents to be in two places at once. Ex: Last year’s Faith Field Trips were such a huge relationship and sticky faith success, I’ve already set aside specific summer dates in partnership with another local church to share in the heavy work and other local churches are joining in. This lets me go ahead and make bus reservations on the dates that I know are not in conflict. Summer bus reservations in January…what a great idea!
  • Networking, Conference, Training dates. Why? The connection outside of your own house, face-to-face with live people is what keeps you at your best, encouraged, and provides energy. Ex: Our KidMin networking group meets once a month on the second Monday of the month; choosing my training for the next year helps me stay on task for the focus of the next year; early bird prices for conferences and local trainings are much more budget-friendly.
  • College Football schedule. Why? We live in the south. Just sayin’.

Then it’s time to start mapping out the year. Find a block of uninterrupted time to put it on paper. Pray for clarity and direction before, during, and after. Remember the rhythm of your community. Be sensitive to time expectations of your volunteers and your families. Don’t forget to map out your Sundays and Wednesdays, as this is the ‘daily bread’ of Children’s Ministry and it must be done well and take priority over ‘whipped cream’ programming.

When it’s finished, we all know it isn’t really finished. It’s a working document, but it’s a start to keep your priorities in line, plan well in advance, communicate well with your team and your family knows they are just as much a priority as your ministry.

“I’m not sure how you feel about a new beginning, but fresh starts are my favorite! I am the girl loves a clean slate.” – Becky Kiser from Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus

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Adding Something New to Your Church Calendar

By the time this is published, I’ll be attending a national Children’s Ministry conference with a bus load of other kidmin champions. We’ll attend workshops, overhear conversations, spend WAY too much time in a resource center and come home with a slew of new ideas and excitement for what is to come.  The tension comes when I’ve already set my calendar for the year. As stated last week, that document is always a working calendar because we desire to be relevant, helpful to our families, and offer freshness. How do we work out the tension?

Each programming year, the goal is to offer 20% of our programming as ‘new’ items, meaning that 20% of our old programming will take a sabbatical, be fully handed off to laity, or updated to be included in the 20% of ‘new’. This keeps ministry fresh and relative to changing culture and family needs. For example: The Tour of the Nativities has grown into such a huge event set two hours before the annual Christmas Choir event, that it’s bigger than me. Little people handling the treasures of so many has me shaking in my boots, so I’ve already contacted one of the Women’s Ministry groups to take it on in the future, thus opening a spot for something new in that season of church life.

The additional challenge comes when everything you offer is great, or we like to think it is.  But let’s face it.  We all 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 and church leadership in the casual conversations of life. For example, while Christmas Caroling, I was able to ask the children in attendance if they had enough time to make all the stations at Messy Family Christmas to see if I needed to adjust the next year’s timing of Messy McEachern on the Fifth Sundays. I do. Sharing a bus seat with our Princess Class Bible Study leader which took us from home to home while caroling, we were able to discuss a change in 3rd-5th grade programming for the NEXT school year which will suit her schedule and passions as well as meet the prayerful needs of the large group of students coming up into the 3rd grade. Two major programming items for 2019-2020? Done! Now I have a whole year to talk it up.

To aid my focus of adding only what is best, I set aside a dinner with my leadership team two weeks before attending the conference. Away from church. At a local restaurant. These ten servants in the trenches of children’s ministry shared laughter, food, ideas, what they love, and what they dream for us in the years to come.  We talked and laughed about everything from Sunday school to the Christmas Eve children’s play. Very informally they shared their kid’s favorite things about their church and even why. This amazing team of leaders are of all ages, have kids of all ages, been at the church forever or just joined our church this year. These are the champions, the connectors, the voices with seats at leadership tables in other areas of the church, the workers, and the partners who will fuel the new and will be all-in for what we keep and update in our programming. We talked about our shared vision for relationships between our kids and families and agreed that Sunday school is the primary offering of Christian Education developmentally appropriate for our littles. We even renamed a few things that will take on an update in the new year. Collaboration at it’s best before I head off to a conference that will blow my mind without this focus.

Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, that “Great leaders shoot bullets before shooting cannonballs. Bullets are miniature cannonballs. They’re inexpensive, easy to make, and easy to shoot. Outcomes invite us to face assumptions as we test, evaluate, and adapt on a smaller scale.” We did that with Messy Family Christmas (a take on the Messy Church model during Advent). We did that with McPeachern (luncheon with peach food at the height of Georgia peach season). We will do that with Wonderfully Made and a Middle School panel dessert event we’ll have in late April for what we desire to offer as a series in 2019-2020.

How do you add something to your calendar with intentionality?

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:5-8

Thank You

As we close out a year, thank you….thank you…thank you.

You don’t hear it enough and I want you to hear it…read it…outloud…often.

With a grateful heart, thank you for wearing your cape so little people can learn to wear theirs.

Thank you for starting things and stopping things.

Thank you for inviting others to use their gifts in your church family as God’s answer to your prayers for ‘more’.

Thank you for taking out the trash, cleaning out the refrigerator, shopping until you drop, climbing ladders, and driving all over creation to find that special something to make your kid’s event so much more.

Thank you for staying close to the Savior so your littles can smell Him, hear Him, see Him, taste Him, feel Him when they come close.

Thank you for living with open arms, open hearts, open hands to share…sharing your resources, your gifts, your graces, your kids, your space, and your dreams with others outside your own church to be an encouragement, a resource, a coach, an answer to their prayers.

Thank you for arriving early, staying late, and engaging in one more conversation so you are fully present to those you serve.

Thank you for speaking up for ministry with children and families at every table, every gathering, every meal, every meeting.  You know, having that story ready to let your leadership know that their investment in resources and space and people are making a world of difference.

Thank you for using your voice, your influence, your smile, your joy to attract and point people to Jesus.

Thank you for crying out to the Lord on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost He sets before you.

Thank you to the saints and champions who have led Sunday school, gathered Sunday school supplies, made bulletin boards, secured food and costumes, drove the buses, texted and emailed and communicated often and promptly, shopped at Home Depot and through Amazon, played games, sat for pictures, filled and hid Easter eggs, played Gaga Ball, led small groups, gave testimony about missions to the littles, shared space graciously, prepared lessons in advance, gave resources, hugged and held, prayed, agreed and committed to give your life to serving and loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength in ministry to children and their families.

You rocked last year. You really did! Let’s dust ourselves off. Shine ourselves up with the love and word of God. We’re just getting started and a new year offers a whole lot of opportunities for which you have been called to take the point. Thank you for sharing the journey.

Grandma’s Buttons

When the matriarch of the Bull family passed away in the 1990s, my cousins came upon some great discoveries. One was a chest-of-drawers with the top drawer filled with quarters, the second drawer filled with dimes, the third drawer with nickels, and the bottom drawer with buttons. I have no idea what happened to the top three drawers, but my Virginia cousins sent the buttons to me.

Teaching weekday preschool at my local church, buttons were a hot commodity and a great addition to my classroom. My cousins also sent to me a box of Sunday School pictures of Jesus that I treasure and hung on the walls in my classroom.

After many years in the weekday preschool classroom, I had to step out of teaching every day because of some medical issues with my vocal chords. I gave away most of my classroom supplies to help some new teachers and kept a few things for workshop visuals. But I was in a quandary of what to do with the buttons since I did not want to pack them away in the basement. I really wanted a way to enjoy them.

So, discovering some wire among my craft supplies, I started to string them and made 18-24 inch strings of these beautiful buttons. A lot of them. And we hang them on our Christmas tree every year.

My Grandma Bull married late, had 5 children, and raised them all on a dairy farm, hence my LOVE for cheese. She wasted nothing. Before she would discard a shirt, blouse, or other piece of clothing, she’d snip the button off just in case she needed it. Over the course of all those years, she snipped buttons from her husband’s Merchant Marine uniforms, church dresses from two little girls who chased their precocious older brothers, and work shirts of her three sons to make future repairs.

I really have no idea who wore what, when, how, or where. But each year, as we hang this precious garland, I think of my Aunt Weegie, Uncle John, Aunt Mary Anna, Uncle Eddie, and my Daddy. I recall the stories they told about each other around the tables after meals. I remember the loud voices (we do loud extremely well), the competitions, and the laughter (if we talk loud, imagine the decibel level of the laughter). And I praise God for time, words, and the stories that have shaped my perspective, given me a history, and prepared me for connection.

In Playing for Keeps: What You Do This Week Matters, Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivey wrote, “Stories matter…they provide kids with the relational, cultural, and spiritual context to shape their perspectives about God, Faith, Values, and Life…Stories are just another one of God’s brilliant ideas to connect us to what really matters.”

Each Christmas, Grandma Bull’s buttons remind me annually to be sure I share family stories with my kids…the ones I gave birth to and the ones I serve.

“Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!”  1 Chronicles 16:9

This was originally posted in December 2013. Seemed timely to share today, Christmas Day, 2018. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

My Top 3 Resources From 3 Learning Platforms Of 2018

Catching up at a wedding with a fellow preschool teacher from way back, she let me know that she has retired. When I asked her when she knew it was time, she responded, “I knew it was time to retire when I didn’t want to learn anything new.”

Alrighty, then! If that’s the benchmark, I am SO not anywhere near there.

I learned so much in 2018 from a whole host of platforms. Let me share with you my Top 3 of 2018 from 3 go-to platforms that has changed who I started as in January into who I am at the end of 2018. They each essentially rocked my world!

Podcasts

The Sustainable Ministry Show presented by Ministry Architects – all about processes for everyone serving on staff in a local church from budgeting to major event notebooks to pruning ministry and more. This is for ANY ministry!

MyCom Church Marketing Podcast presented by United Methodist Communications – all about marking your ministry inside and outside your local church; ideas for ‘throwing seed’ to reach communities. Be intentional about working smarter, not harder. And short!

Set Apart Girl podcast by Leslie Ludy – this Jesus gal needs the words of wisdom from missionaries, saints of the faith, and the scriptures. I was introduced to Leslie Ludy as an author when my now-adult daughter was in high school and she is the real deal.

Books

Sustainable Children’s Ministry – for this ‘people and process’ girl, Annette Safstrom and Mark DeVries lay out in one place how to set up sustainable systems beneath the unforgettable moments of children’s ministry.

Irresistible – Andy Stanley presents a history of the Bible and how we got it for the sole purpose of reclaiming the ‘new’ in the New Testament. The people of God serve a ‘mobile, inhabiting, Spirit God’…think tabernacle, not temple…and that’s just the beginning! Still chewing on this one.

Messy Church – Lucy Moore puts forth a goal of building a fresh expression of community rather than accomplishing tasks in discipleship for the little people and families in the ministry I lead.  McEachern Kid’s Messy Family Christmas is the direct result of how that would look in the local church I serve. More to come on this one especially on 2019’s upcoming fifth Sundays.

People

McEachern Kids Servant-Leader Team –The joy of the Lord has a gravity all its own. The team of Jesus Guys & Gals who invite me into their lives to do the work of ministry with joy and wonder make my eyes tear up and my chin quiver. These are prayerful, hard-working, hilarious, sold-out disciples of Jesus! Jesus never sent out His disciples to ‘do the work’ one at a time, but two, three, and up to 70. And OH, the stories! A year under my belt at McEachern and I am as excited for what God has in store for us together as I was when I answered the call into professional ministry more than 20 years ago.

Staff-Parish Relations & My Senior Pastor – The epitome of folks buying into the vision you bring to the table is to offer assistance in ramping it up. Beginning in January, McEachern Kids will be blessed with the Marvelous Ms. Misty for 15-20 hours each week. Praying for ‘more’, then letting the Lord decide what ‘more’ looks like for the last 8 months. The support of a senior pastor and the staff-parish relations team can make or break your spirit of, “Yes!”. I pray for them. They pray for me. We don’t serve for ‘atta-girls’, but to be heard, encouraged, and equipped by the SP & SPR can give strength when you’re weary and courage when you’re…well, not courageous.

Atlanta-Marietta District Children’s Ministry Networking Group – We’ve met monthly for almost 20 years. Some of the faces have changed, but they feed my soul, make me laugh my head off, talk me off my ledge of crazy, and throw seed (think parable of the Seed & the Sower) like confetti. Kate and I went to the Holy Lands in February with Jesus action figures and started Faith Field Trips last summer. We’ve already met to plan Summer 2019. Sarah is the best story-teller and we connect in mini-meetings at Annual Conference like the true extroverts we are in our little corner of the auditorium. Kelly will be leading our first Wonderfully Made faith and sexuality event for the 5th & 6th graders in our district which I get to host. One is a super volunteer who brings her broken heart until she heals well enough to dock at a new port. Been there. Done that. Rebecca came to networking lunch on her first day back from maternity leave, and we ALL know what her office and in-box must look like. Michelle just started on church staff three months ago.

What are you reading? Who are you listening to? Who are your people?

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie Tremendous Jones

Armor of God Event for Boys

This week’s guest blogger is Hannah Harwood, Children’s Ministry Director at Sam Jones United Methodist Church located in Cartersville, Georgia. To connect with Hannah, you can contact her at hharwood@samjonesumc.org.

Our Club 345 ministry targets our 3rd-5th graders. We had presented a God’s Princess Party in the Spring and several of our boys had asked when it was going to be their turn to have their own event. We decided to have a Nerf War and scheduled it for Veteran’s Day. They were so excited but had several questions. What will we do? What do I bring? How can we play Nerf War in CHURCH? It is not very often that boys get told they can run in church.

My first step was to reach out to other area churches through our networking group. Two other churches lent me their Nerf guns to use for the afternoon. My second step was to reach out to Dads to invite them to volunteer and to ask one of our church’s veterans to speak to the young boys at our event. There is a wealth of information on the Armor of God and Nerf War events on different blog entries and websites. I found two websites that had information I thought would be perfect for our event. The first one included a way to tie Scripture and Veteran’s Day into a fun game of Capture the Flag. I also used an activity from this site and this site.

Set-up
At the welcome table I set up our release forms and two different colors of bandannas. We had a yellow team and a red team. Inside our snack room, I had tables with tablecloths of each team color, the guns I had borrowed, and safety glasses that I had ordered from Amazon for each child. The safety goggles were a huge MUST. Each team had flags made from pillowcases. When they arrived they were given a color and had a chance to sign their team’s flag. One of the boys actually asked if we could use the same flags each year so that we could see the teams every year (loved that idea!). Our Senior Pastor even had a Knight in Shining Armor that he let us borrow that we used as a photo prop for team pictures.

In the main room, we had two different sides. Each side had a base with canvas draped over two tables and a circle of chairs of that team’s base. In the middle each side had tables put on their sides with tablecloths in their individual colors. I had gotten black trick or treat buckets after Halloween that held Nerf bullets for each team. I had also ordered 400 Nerf bullets from Amazon.

Schedule
2:45-3:10 Photo Booth, decorate team flags, and get guns and glasses
3:10-3:20 Go over rules and point system
3:20-3:50 Capture the Flag
3:50-4:15 Snacks and Speaker
4:15-4:45 Shield of Faith activity
4:45-5:00 Clean up and Points tally​
As each child arrived, they were alternately given a color of team which helped the boys make new friends. We ended up playing Capture the Flag three times but the boys would have continued playing that all day. During our lesson time, we used a lesson from Children’s Ministry Deals on the Armor of God. Our Veteran not only led the lesson but also taught the boys how he used to get his patrol to listen up when he was about to tell them something very important. The boys were mesmerized. During our Shield of Faith activity, we had each boy write on sticky notes three things that worry them or keep them from God and put them inside their bullets. They had trouble putting the sticky notes into the bullets. Next year we are going to have them wrap the sticky notes around the bullets instead. They took turns holding a shield as a partner shot the shield and then as a group we said, “My trust is in God. No matter what happens, God is with me! I put my faith in THAT!”

Overall it was a great event. One of the churches in our networking group joined us.  At one point, I was talking to an adult about how glad I was that the other church had joined us. They looked confused and replied that they did not realize there were two churches because the boys played so well together. I couldn’t tell who had more fun; the dads or the boys. When each boy left, they were given their team bandanna to remember the new friends they had made and the lesson they had heard from
the day.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:11

Intentional Advent Plans

Can I get an AMEN for busy schedules, busy kids, busy families, and busy calendars? Advent can ramp it up beyond their control. Let’s be intentional to lessen the calendar burden. Let’s be intentional to lessen the stress of what DOES make the calendar. Let’s be intentional to make some time to actually PLAY. These are a few of my intentional Advent plans:

1. I’m not over-scheduling our families and continuing our focus on Sundays with a Cereal Bar on a Sunday morning, A Hot Chocolate Bar on a Sunday morning, and PopTarts & Pajamas with a Blessing of the Toys for the Sunday following Christmas.

2. I’m going to play with my kids by going Christmas Caroling thanks to someone else taking the point on the big planning.

3. I’m taking the Luke In December challenge. Reading one chapter each day from the Gospel of Luke beginning December 1st through the 24th. There are 24 chapters in the Gospel of Luke which is consideredthe most comprehensive of the Gospels. By Christmas Eve, we can read the when, the who, the how, and the why our sweet Jesus came.

4. Recruiting new team members each Sunday by inviting them to shadow experienced team members. Our numbers are always up during Advent (all the sports and championships are over for the season) which gives us the additional coverage necessary as well as time to train alongside great team members with a critical mass of little people.

5. Soup recipe exchange in our Advent Bible study. This is the time of year when a soup & bread dinner is the perfect ending to a great day.

6. A Pop-up Advent calendar was sent home with our families. I happened to bring one on my visit to my brother’s in Florida. My nine-year-old niece is now daily sending a picture of what she finds in the flap so that I can give her more information about each part of the story through Facebook messenger.

7. A Messy Family Christmas will be our Advent celebration with a plan to replicate a similar event for each of the four 5th Sundays in 2019 during the Sunday school time.

8. Plan to see Mary Poppins at the movies.

9. Collaborations begin for Summer 2019 Faith Field Trips.

What are your intentional Advent plans?

“And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” 1 John 2:28

No Prep. No Prop. Children’s Sermons

Heather and Rev. Ken Hagler have done an amazing job of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the young and the young-at-heart. In their new book No Prep. No Prop. Children’s Sermons: Sermons for People Passionate About Telling Kids About Jesus in a Hurried World, they offer a tool that won’t rest on a shelf. I’ve got a stack of books filled with object lessons and children’s sermons. This one is different. It requires only the best objects necessary to tell children about our wonderful Jesus: You and Jesus.

Heather opens the book with a letter to the reader:
Our hectic pace of life has reached every part of society, including the church. Pastor and church staff are expected to do more in less time. With volunteerism down and congregational expectations on the rise, everyone involved in spreading the Gospel needs help.

Can I get an Amen?!

Anyone who has served in a local church for any length of time knows you need short and sticky sermons in your back pocket. This resource gives you fifty-two which will do just that in 110 short pages. Nine lessons are from the Old Testament and twenty-eight from the New Testament. Like a sweet surprise, the book ends with fifteen lessons to make that special holiday sticky and bring us right back to Jesus.

As I’ve read this great resource and used many of her illustrations I KNOW she’s served in the trenches of the local church as a champion for ministry with children. In fact, Heather served as a day camp leader, VBS coordinator, Sunday school teacher and children’s church leader, and she married a church planter helping others to organize and plan their children’s ministry. These lessons reflect their experiences and their passion for sharing the gospel.

Heather wanted more than anything to share her gift of story telling and love of Jesus with kids and churches.  She wanted to help anyone in ministry with kids to share the Gospel because Jesus meant more to her than anything. – Rev. Ken Hagler, aka Jedi Pastor Ken

I’ve ordered multiple copies of this book which released just yesterday as the #1 New Release in Christian Ministry on Amazon for colleagues and those who volunteer to present the weekly Children’s Moment in my absence. I’m telling you…this book is a gift. Thank you, Pastor Ken for your tenacity to get Heather’s heart and voice into the hands of the local church through No Prep. No Prop. Speaking of gift: today you can download the Kindle version for free.

“Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4:8a

Bread and Juice Class

A plan for Faith Milestones lets families in on specific faith formation practices for their children. Though every mainline church offers the sacrament of Holy Communion, each church practices the sacrament specific to their own house traditions: intinction, kneeling, prayers before AND after, altar rail, in the seat, in the aisle, stations, pita bread, wafers, cups, chalice, etc. With Kindergartners attending the sanctuary during Holy Communion, we want our little people and their families to know the logistics and the why we do what we do as the local church and as a denomination.

Bread and Juice Class invitations printed from vistaprint.com are sent to any K5 and first grader who has passed our doors. A Facebook event is set up so we can share it on social media which reads:
Kindergartners and first graders are invited to a Bread & Juice Class to learn about Holy Communion on Wednesday 11/7 5:45-6:30pm in the Children’s Welcome Center. Parents are invited to stay as they are able. For more information and to RSVP, please contact DeDe Reilly at dreilly@mceachernumc.org or call 404-493-1683.

Supplies:
Chalice
Plate
Paper cups
Pita Bread
Fellowship cups
Welch’s grape juice
Come, Taste the Bread: A Storybook About the Lord’s Supper by Daphna Flegal
Cardstock
Glue sticks
Scissors
Jesus stickers

We gather around tables while the students hold the Fellowship cups and I introduce the items on the table. The Fellowship cups give the students something to hold while we teach and read the account of Jesus sharing with his friends from the Bible. We constantly share “Jesus said, ‘Eat this and remember me.;” or “Jesus said, ‘Drink this and remember me.'”

We eat the different breads. We drink different juices. We tell the story of Mr. Welch coming up with non-alcoholic juice for Holy Communion.

Moving to the craft table, the children cut out circles (we primarily use wafers in our church) and glue them to a piece of card stock above an already cut-out chalice. Then add the Jesus sticker where ever the student wishes because it’s all about remembering Jesus. (Students are better focused when they can move around a room).

We then head back to open the Fellowship cups for a different ‘taste’ while I share a bit about the liturgy of getting our hearts ready to receive communion.

The 45-minute class ends with a story-time of Come, Taste the Bread: A Storybook About the Lord’s Supper and let the students fill in the blanks as a review of what we just shared. We then give out certificates and the students are dismissed. (Upon arrival, parents are invited to write their child’s name on the certificate which is one more way parents participate in the milestone AND the spelling will always be correct).

As United Methodists I share why many UM churches have the tradition of Holy Communion once a month and the UM table is open to everyone who wants to know about Jesus. We are intentional to teach that we ‘receive’ Holy Communion and never ‘take it.’ We also teach the littles how to hold their hands (in the shape of a cross), how to dip the wafer into the juice, and how to get it to their mouths without dropping juice and even what to say in response.

Many of our parents share afterwards how they didn’t know a lot of what was shared with the littles and the class is a helpful reminder of the how and why we share in this sacred moment.

Several new families also attended with older students (I personally invited any new 3rd-5th graders to come as ‘helpers’) so they could also learn.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Second Annual Ambassador Class

Inviting 4th and 5th graders to take on leadership tasks is exciting. For them and for me. Training young people to serve and giving them regular practice opportunities builds a culture of service and education. The first Ambassador Class included an invite to all 5th graders and a few 4th graders I knew were ready for the challenge. This year I sent personal invites with follow up emails to all 4th graders and 5th graders and let them make the choice. The first class were all girls. This second class included boys who have since been showing up early on Sunday mornings to take on the setup tasks and they aren’t even scheduled. These students are ready to put their faith into action and I am thrilled to let them know their home church is putting its faith in them to begin taking on places of leadership. The following blog appeared in the fall of 2017 giving all the details. This year we added Tech Ninja training for the sound booth.  What else would you add to your Ambassador Team?

Got the small group of kids who are ready for more? Faithful to Sunday school attendance, but talk about more? Those who take on more than the bare minimums and their families are all-in…would even venture to say some of their parents might even have keys to the building? That’s why we started the Ambassadors.

My bucket of responsibility is Kindergarten through 5th grade. Preparing beautiful postcard invitations from vistaprint.com, invitations were sent to all fifth graders on the rolls. Since I observed leadership skills in some fourth graders in Sunday school, specific invites went to them, as well. 

This was the plan:

5-5:30pm Pizza & Chat Dinner (some parents have quite a commute, so we allowed for traffic time)
Visual Faith Project images: Choose an image that represents a part of your life (a representative) and discussed during Pizza & Chat

“We are Christ’s ambassadors.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

5:30-6:30pm Welcome, Prayer, Game
What is an Ambassador?
Tour of the Children’s Ministry space; tech booth & kiosk training; fill-in-the-blank worksheet; respond on a large post it note

Ambassador – one of the best positions to meet new people and have fun; grow our communication skills (helps you get your ideas heard); leadership) … ambassador…representative…an example…aka a person chosen or appointed to act or speak for another

Tour and walk through the Sunday Morning Setup – carts, check-in kiosks, water, cups, snack, supplies, all classrooms, tech booth, storage, greeting practice

A – Arrive 30 minutes early to assignments (plenty of time to be ready)
M – Mature/Can be trusted (dependable, punctual, enthusiastic without craziness, positive attitude/no complaining)
B – Bible readers (we pour out what we take in; are you reading your Bible regularly and attending weekly Sunday school?)
A – Assist those in our area in a spirit of hospitality (kindness to a stranger) (Hi!, offers hand outs at end of services)
S – Smile (let’s others know you want to be here; makes the best impression on guests and those having a hard time)
S – Set up on Sundays, Tour of the Nativities, special events, weekly guest greeters
A – Assist in the K5 & 1st grade Sunday school classrooms and special events as needed
D – Dress appropriately for the event (flip flops; awards ceremony/representatives; brush your teeth, gum chewing; sneakers; clean)
O – Open the doors…of conversation, of encouragement, and the real doors, too.
R – Respond quickly with kindness; be aware of your surroundings and others

Roles for Ambassadors 1. Partner with kid guests (weekly)
2. Tour of the Nativities (tour guide)
3. Greet & serve new guests and at special events and weekly
4. Set up on Sunday mornings (weekly rotation)
5. Assist in K5 & 1st grade Sunday school (as needed)

The students were asked to consider if they wished to take on such responsibilities at the end of the orientation. If so, they were invited to write their names on the large post-it-note on the wall. They were eager and asked good questions. “Do we have to smile the whole time? My mouth might start to hurt.” (Man! I love these kids!)

The first Sunday following the Ambassador Orientation, many of the Sunday morning tasks were taken on by the Ambassadors without my even knowing it until I saw certain things already taken care of throughout the morning. Leadership opportunities are part of what every student should be able to experience in their home/local church. Jesus believes in them and I want them to know that their church family believes in them, too.

“Building the habit of service at a young age tends to alter the attitudes and expectations of young people, resulting in a lifelong practice of helping others. The younger we instill such a mind-set and lifestyle, the more ingrained they become.” George Barna from Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority, page 74