Lent Praying on the Go Bags: Prayer Garden

2016PrayerGardenStonesWith the season of Lent as part of our church liturgical calendar, I wanted to give my parents some easy wins with their little people. So let’s engage in some habits of reflection.
Supplies: 5-6 rocks/stones/pebbles, a quart Ziploc bag of sand (leftover from the Christmas Eve luminaries), and an LED candle.
Place everything in a bag with these instructions:

Pour the sand into a wide, shallow container.
Place your candle in the sand.
Each night at dinner or some other regular time during the day, turn the candle on and say a prayer out loud.
Maybe choose a rock and pray for a special concern or a thanksgiving before adding it to the garden.
This I know: when hands are busy, minds are calm. So keep your eyes open and talk to the Lord out loud just like you talk to Mom and Dad. Draw in the sand with your fingers.
The candle reminds us of Jesus – the light of the world.
If you can get to your family’s Nativity Scene in the Christmas decorations, place the shepherd and the sheep back on the mantle to remind us of Jesus being the Good Shepherd.

2016PrayerGardenInside the bag, we also included a list of Lenten season activities ranging from the Jelly Bean Prayer to the recipe for Resurrection Rolls. Finding ways for parents to enjoy easy wins to pray with their little people is a beautiful thing.  Praying On The Go bags help us do just that.

“Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” John 17:1

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Sticking With Prayer for Lent

2016prayOur pastor has been preaching a series about the characteristics of a Christian disciple. The ‘prayer’ sermon will be offered on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. On our staff retreat last fall, as we made plans for 2016, a fellow staff member shared an experience at a previous church to stick with prayer during lent. So we’re doing it!

Picking up large, wooden craft sticks from the local craft store, we wrote names on each stick. We used the directory, the phone list, the youth list, even the regular visitor sign-in sheets, to write names on the craft sticks. We’ll have them placed in red galvanized buckets (only because that’s what I’ve got in the basement…and it’s February!) throughout the sanctuary during lent for folks to pick a stick and pray for that person or couple.

On Palm Sunday, we will have our egg hunt, donkey appearance, and missions lunch following the last service of the morning when folks can bring their sticks and meet up with the one they’ve been praying for during lent. I know…not everyone will come, but maybe they will.

What are you planning to build family and community for the season of Lent?

“They all  joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts 1:14

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When and How Do We Worship?

2016MiriamWe were created to worship – to bring glory to God, putting Him first in all things and all areas of our lives. Not forsaking the gathering together, it says in Hebrews, but more than just ‘going to church.’

Before I served on a local church staff in weekend ministry, I entertained some crazy thoughts about when and how to worship our great God. I attended a traditional service where I thought, “If I sing louder, I’d be worshipping God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it. Then I began attending a contemporary service where I thought, “If I stood more, I could worship God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it. I even took sign language classes at the local recreation center, three seasons of sign language classes with my high school daughter, where I thought, “If I moved more, I could worship God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it.

It really wasn’t until I studied Revelation 5 last year that I figured out a way that I could tell if I am really worshipping the Lord…not just a feeling, not just a noun, not just a service, but the when and how of worship.

“Then I (John) looked and heard, the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand (THAT’s community!). They encircled the throne and the living creature and the elders (serving a God of order.) In a loud voice they sang (singing is still a part): Worthy is the Lamb (Jesus) who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11-12 NIV

This was revealed to John of how Jesus will be worshiped in Heaven. Doesn’t He deserve the same worship from me, from us, here on earth now? I am SO visual, it gives me a great picture of what it means to really worship our great God.

So I ask myself these questions:

How can I worship Him today in power? With my emotions. I have power over my emotions, my disposition, and whom I will please. What I have power over, I can worship Him in joyful obedience. Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Then give me opportunities where I have the power to do something about it.

How can I worship Him today in wealth? With my money. We give because we serve a generous God and He desires for us be a generous people (John 3:16). He calls us to give regularly, in percentages, and cheerfully. He has chosen the local storehouse, the local church, and that is where we are to give. Returning to Him which was His in the first place is an act of trust and obedience. Giving is the act of returning. Giving is worship.

How can I worship Him today in wisdom? With my mind. Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Jesus understood that any authentic transformation will happen for all of us in our minds first. When I am regularly in The Word, learning the language and vocabulary of God, transformation takes place. This one is seriously on me. If I claim I am not hearing from God…If I state that ‘I don’t get fed at church’… If I hold on to the idea that my personal preferences for Sunday morning worship determines if I worship or not… I am SO out of sinc with what God intended worship to be. When in study, in bible reading, in Sunday school, in ANY way of learning the language and vocabulary of God, I am in worship.

How can I worship Him today in strength? With my body. I am 54 years old. I KNOW my triggers. Peanut M&Ms are my Judas sin…you know, sin that comes at you looking like a friend, kissing you on the cheek, then turning on you. I may not be able to scale a 10 foot wall, but taking care of my body is worship. Thank you, Fitbit, for the accountability help.

How can I worship Him today in honor? With my deeds. I honor our great God when I bake a cake, write a note, make a phone call, send an encouraging text, share a casserole (this is how we really share love in the south, right?), bring a flower, go above and beyond in my work, drop off a 24-pack of toilet paper when my neighbor has house guests due to a funeral or a wedding. How and when I serve should bring Him honor. Once a week, won’t cut it for me. God’s abundant love has ruined me for the typical, the ordinary, the mediocre.

How can I worship Him today in glory? With expressions of hope, encouragement, and forgiving well.  Glory has a weight to it, a leaning-in quality. Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you.” So I give Him glory when I extend the same forgiveness He gives me. This is when worship doesn’t come easy.

How can I worship Him today in praise? With my words and my speech. The power of words and the way words are shared move entire countries to do amazing things or bit by bit, inch by inch to tolerate and promote unbelievable atrocities. That may be taking it a bit too far, but this I know: my words can heal or hurt, my countenance when sharing those words can help or hinder, my heart is heard by my words.

I can worship our great God in ways that are measurable. Not in a legalistic sort of way, but rather, an accountability sort of way. And because we are ‘better together’, I can present this worship best in community. This makes me downright giddy!

Jesus alone is worthy of this kind of worship; God the Son. Worship is not where I go, it’s how we are to live. Not once a week, but every single day!

“Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that You’re my God.” Phillips, Craig & Dean…now imagine Mr. Bob stepping out into the aisle to give me plenty of room to worship in sign.

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4 Major Church-Wide Events…with 4 Major Whys

how-what-when-why-Google-SearchWe have lots of events that take place on and off campus throughout the year, but we intentionally have four events each year where our sole purpose is to ‘get folks on campus to bump elbows with each other.’ We do ALOT off-campus love on our community, both locally and globally. But there is joy and work involved in making sure our own folks, all ages, all stages, have an easy win to invite their neighbors, co-workers, and family to church: when they can be sure it is done well, it’s for fellowship, and all hands are on deck without killing any one volunteer base.

The four basic parameters are:

  1. Partner with multiple areas so one area doesn’t have to take on all the work, or work in silo mode
  2. We don’t exhaust our volunteer base
  3. Space it out on the calendar so one event doesn’t immediately follow another and it matches the rhythm of our community
  4. Sole purpose – An easy invite for the whole family, not matter the age or the stage of life each person is open to give lots of folks the chance to bump elbows with new and old friends

Over the last three years, we’ve found these four church-wide events work for us:

  1. Palm Sunday – Adult praise band/choir Cantata (adult music) program at one service, Donkey selfies (worship), egg hunt (adults fill eggs picked up from children’s ministry since Ash Wednesday, and youth place them out to be hunted), missions luncheon (missions team provides a lunch with donations going to missions trips). Multiple areas involved in pieces, no one group is overloaded with responsibility, and it takes place in the spring with a follow up invite to Easter services.
  2. VBS End of the Week Party – Children in attendance from VBS, supper provided by team of volunteers who can’t serve during the day yet are available at night, Sunday school classes provide donations of food and supplies for the week, youth & adult volunteers on site every day, and takes place in the summer. Our pastor let us dye his hair and I took a pie to the face because we met our goal of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes…folks came out of the woodwork! We follow up with an invite to Blessing of the Backpacks at the beginning of school.
  3. Trunk or Treat – Enlist the help of some grill-cooks to have as part of their trunks, challenge the Sunday School classes with a prize for the most trunks represented, inflatables for kids to jump and adults to chat and bump elbows, youth to facilitate carnival games. This takes place the last Sunday in October during the regular youth/CLUB345/Adult bible study time. We follow up with an invite to multiple small groups.
  4. Drive-Thru Nativity – We started this in 2015 and it was a huge hit involving children, youth, animals, carolers, drama, costumes, hot chocolate, and pizza. All hands on deck, two nights, inviting the community, and we have the perfect drive way to pull it off. We had tried several things around Christmas, but this is the winner by far. We follow up with invites to Christmas Eve services.

We enjoy many different special activities church-wide, but there are four very specific to our folks bumping elbows with the community and each other.  What about you?

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

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4th Annual Winter Ball Invitational

WinterBallThe Winter Ball Invitational is an evening of ball food, ball games, inviting several other local churches to bring their 3rd-5th graders, and building connectional community. We started it in 2013 and I blogged about it here.  We have tweaked it a bit since then, so this is how we ran it last weekend.  We so thoroughly enjoy it that it has become a great tradition for our CLUB345 and schedule it for our first gathering in the new year. It is truly one of the best nights to invite a friend…and they do!

These are the logistics:

WinterBallCheeseballs5pm – 5:30 dinner  Meatball subs (cut hot dog buns in half with one meatball smothered in spaghetti sauce, sprinkled with shredded cheese), cake balls, cheese balls, carrots, ice water in dispensers.  This is when we have continued a tradition of finding out how many cheeseballs can a kid, or leader, put in their mouth all at once. Because we can…Ms Kate wins this year at 40!

5:30 Introduce Games in the gym through 6:00 at stations inside gym with Icebreaker (this gives our youth and the adults a chance to pick  up the tables and chairs to prepare for ball stations already set up by some great youth who started this event in Children’s Ministry and have it down to a science).

WinterBallIceBreakerIcebreaker:  Students meet at center of gym and move from one side of the gym to the other
Cake balls or Cheese balls
Cake or Cookie
Coke or Slurpie
Popcorn or Candy
Radio or iPod
Basketball or Soccer
Tennis or Football
Video Games or Board Games
Board Games or Card Games
Mountains or Beach
Circus Clown or Circus tiger trainer
Book or Movie
QT or RaceTrac
Target or WalMart
Jonah or David
Mary or Esther

These are the games, set up in our gym, in 9 different stations:

Bible Station has a stack of bibles set on a chair in the middle of the gym. To find out who goes first, each youth station leader asks a question and the students have to dive into the scriptures, then leave the bible and run back with the answer.

Basketball Wrap
Supplies: Toilet paper, Basketballs, Trash can
Who goes first question or picks their team first: What friend of Jesus, who was the brother of Mary and Martha, was brought back to life when he was already buried with burial clothes when Jesus said, “Come out!” John 11:43
Answer: Lazarus
To Play: Work in a team of 2. At the GO, wrap a basketball in an entire roll of toilet paper.  First team to use all the toilet paper, wins!

WinterBallTwisterFootball Twister
Goal: Be the last well-balanced player
Supplies: Twister Game mat (we duct tape 6 mats together to make a huge mat and use it all the time)
Football as the spinner (we found a spinner that adds tasks like rock paper scissors people on yellow, scream for 5 seconds, play pat-a-cake with the mat, etc. which makes for a loud and hilarious game).
Who goes first question:Where was Jesus when He raised His hand and said, “Be still!” Mark 4:39
Answer: in a boat
To Play: Everyone plays and last one standing, or leaning, wins.

That’s My Bucket
Goal: Toss mini basketballs (happened to find a bucket of these at a leadership conference years ago) to fill buckets while scripture is read by 2 teammates
Supplies: Buckets, Mini basketballs, Kid’s bibles
Break into two teams. Teammates toss mini basketballs into buckets while partner teammates read a passage of scripture aloud.  Most mini basketballs in the bucket wins!
Scripture Passages:
The shortest chapter in the bible – Psalm 117
The shortest book of the bible – 3 John
Most commonly quoted chapter – Psalm 23

10 Commandment Ball
10 buckets numbered 1-10,  tennis balls (a local tennis pro leaves a bag of hundreds of tennis balls on her front porch a couple times a year and posts on Facebook for whomever gets to her porch first can take them home.)
“Who’s first” Question: In what 2 books of the bible do you find the 10 commandments?
Answer: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5
Actions for each numbered bucket:
1 jump up and down 3 times
2 whistle
3 snap your fingers
4 answer “what do you like best about your church?”
5 tell a grown up, “thanks”
6 do a cheer
7 answer “what is your favorite thing your parents do for you?”
8 answer “if you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”
9 high 5 everyone at your station
10 make a funny face

WinterBallKateIce Hockey
Supplies: Snow Balls (white cotton batting in white socks), little hockey sticks (found these in the storage closet one year and have no idea where they came from.)
Construction paper
Who goes first question: In Mark 16:15, Jesus told His disciples to “Go into the world and preach the _______ _______ to all _________.”
To Play: Break into two teams and hockey the snow balls from behind the line onto the colored construction paper. Which team gets all their snow balls on the construction paper mat first, wins.

Horse Love
Supplies: Basketball, Basketball hoop
Who goes first question: Who was Jesus talking to when He spoke John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believed in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life?”
Answer: Nicodemus
To Play: Play HORSE, but spell LOVE. Everyone plays, even the youth station leader. (make it easy or no one will ever win and there can easily be a lot of frustration).

WinterBallBibleBig Stuff
Supplies: Kiddie pool, Plastic balls (got 150 balls at Toys R Us for $24 last weekend to restock).
Who goes first question: In John 14:1-5, Jesus told His disciples, “In my Father’s house, are many what?”
Answer: rooms/mansions
To Play: At the GO, who can stuff the most balls into their clothes by the time the youth leader counts to 14 or stops a stopwatch/clock. Count.  Repeat.

WinterBallPingPongIn The Hole
Supplies: Ping Pong balls and/or Cottonballs, 2 boxes on side
Who goes first question: Ask how many books are in the bible?
Answer: 66
To Play: Break into 2 teams. One play from each team kneels behind the line by his starting line with a Ping-Pong/cotton ball on the floor in front of him.  At GO, players blow the Ping-Pong/cotton balls along the floor and into the hole on their side of the box.  First player to blow his ball into the box, wins.  Players can not touch their ball or interfere with an opponent’s ball.

WinterBallTrophyKickin’ Back
Supplies: 2 footballs, Cones
Ask who goes first question: What are the first 4 words in the bible?
Answer: Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God”
To Play: Relay kicking a ball around an obstacle course and returning to your team/line. First team to complete the course wins.  Replay linking arms of 2 players who have to kick together.  Replay moving the ball without feet.

Our fabulous youth facilitate each ball station and we blow a whistle every 5 minutes to rotate clockwise.  Each team has between 4-6 team members. When we have all played every station, we play a couple games of Rock, Paper, Scissors and build a huge snake chain to see who wins. We offer short devotion, then award trophies to each church represented to take home. Our youth leader is an artist and she can do amazing things with old basketball trophies.  Team photos are taken and everyone goes home.

WinterBallBFFThere are some amazing KidMin directors within my networking group and playing with them and their kids always makes for a fun and memorable night.  I’m still grinning over Sunday’s fun, fellowship, and fanning the flame of connectedness with champions for children’s ministry who serve with intention and collaboration without fear, comparison, or competition…except for how many cheese balls you can fit in your mouth!

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

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My Word for 2016

scrabbleWords have power. A spoken word can empower, tear down, and even change the trajectory of one’s life. When an uncle teased me for having big lips and a teacher told me I had a great voice for teaching, both gave fuel for accomplishment and problem solving. A written word can heal a deep wound or wack your legs out from under you.

I typically choose a scripture for the year, but I’ll be choosing a word for 2016 instead. There are many scriptures that align with the word and I just didn’t feel the pull to rest on only one.  With the word comes a visual for me. I am visual by nature and a tool makes for greater reinforcement and, dare I say it, play. It makes me smile.

In my husband’s work, his supervisor and peer team communicate best by conference call. When a celebration takes place, they each ring a call bell. Hearing it go off several times a few years ago, I thought, “What a great way to celebrate and praise the Lord!”  The ‘glory bell’ was born.

bell hotel-serviceIt sits in the kitchen, the central part of our southern home. When we pass a test? DING! When we get ‘that’ phone call? DING! When we have enough change saved in the jar to eat out?” DING! When I get flowers from #1 Son ‘just because’? DING! When I get a ‘good news’ text? DING! When I want to praise the Lord and give Him the glory? DING! When I want to AMEN a statement made by family, friends, neighbors, house guests? DING! When I hear that Baby Girl slept through the night because her little people are well? DING!

I just purchased beaucoup call bells from Staples online. I am able to pick them up in an hour and use a 20% online coupon this week. There’ll be some glory bells going out in the mail in the next few weeks with other prayer prompters to several young women I love. They helped me hear, see, feel, taste, and even smell my word for 2016: GLORY!

What is your word for 2016?

Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 1 Chronicles 16:10

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Conferences and Trainings…Why Go?

2016CollaborateI am collaborative by nature. Trainings and conferences relative to ministry have great value and are worth every penny. But what if your pennies are few and your calendar is even slimmer? What if you are freaked out by crowds or not knowing someone one?  Here are just a few of the reasons I build in margin to make conferences and trainings a priority if I am going to be involved in professional ministry:

  1. I meet the most amazing people. At the last Children’s Pastors Conference, I sat behind a woman who, after the workshop was over, was ranting on her phone about the previous Sunday’s attempt at family worship at  her church. She was lit up! Since we were looking at the same thing at my church, I blatantly lingered to listen and then engaged in a 30-minute conversation about her experiences: what worked, what evidently didn’t work, and the surprises she didn’t anticipate. “Why network and collaborate with others?  Even on my worst day, I could be someone’s best hope.” – Craig Johnson
  2. I see what’s coming in culture. At past conferences we have watched uncut, full length movies that would be coming out 9 months later, played with Sunday school curriculum as a focus group, and engaged in conversations across the table as a think-tank over challenges, and struggles.  “Moses was 80+ years old when he walked up and down a 6,000 ft mountain repeatedly to bring others to the summit. The whole Bible is filled with COME and GO.  We come to the Lord, but then forget to go back into the chaos to escort others into the Kingdom.  We forget that God has more than just my chapter in His hands.” – Beth Guckenberger
  3. I glean from those who are in the trenches. It does something to a weary, bruised soul to see other sojourners joining in the fight for a Kingdom of God that is real for little people. For most of us, we don’t just attend church events, we have either planned them or come with keys in hand. So it’s lovely to ‘just come and be served.’ We need a regular something that feeds our Spirit and encourages us in our calling. If it’s a conference out of town and for an extended period of time, several of us will go a day or so early to catch up and glean from one another our challenges, and celebrations over the last year. We laugh, we take notes from each other, and we enjoy table life.  “In the spiritual life, we need mentors to point us back to Jesus when we get confused about who we are or where we are going.” – Jessica LaGrone
  4. Face-to-Face builds community and relationships. Even if it’s just a day away, I am a better, more confident servant for Christ when I come home. I could probably sit in my pajamas and search the internet for blogs and Pinterest to build a program. I mean, do we really need any new friends? (said with a lot of sarcasm). God wants to build ME into the best teacher and student…a disciple…in my work, my calling, my family, my life.  His abundant love has ruined me for the mediocre. After spending time in the company of others who share my passions, I am ready to take on the world. “God’s spiritual comfort often comes in the physical company of another person.” – Jessica LaGrone

2016ConferenceSomeone says, “Join the conversation” and I am all in. If I can do it outside my normal surroundings, I am better prepared to be fully present and focused. Because budgets are involved and planning is part of the process, make choices far in advance. Taking advantage of early registration is also being a good steward. Where will I go next year?

I’ll be attending the North Georgia Conference’s  Done In a Day in January because these are my denominational and local peeps in five locations on the same half-a-Saturday; and the 2016 National CEF Conference in October because it builds Communities of Practice with Christians engaged in faith formation around the world.  I will also spend a week in June at Emory’s Candler School of Theology to begin a certification program provided by the National Institute of Church Finance and Administration (NICFA), a program of the National Association of Church Business Administrators (NACBA) because there’s more to ministry than glitter and putting nasty stuff in my hair.

2016drinking-from-firehoseAttending conferences and trainings are like drinking from a fire hose, so I make sure to send a local postcard to my Staff-Parish Relations Committee thanking them for investing in me and our ministry with children.

Where will you go? If you are wigged out about going somewhere by yourself, join me. I am always looking for new friends. I’ll bring the tea.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

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Calendaring 101

Happy-New-Year-Wallpaper-WishesA brand new calendar with all it’s 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 our focus the next year…as a church…as a ministry with children?
B. What are the important days that are ‘known’ or ‘tradition’ in my church and community so children’s ministry can piggy-back or involve little people?
C. For what events do we already have champions to take the point and advocate?
D. What are my professional and personal priorities I wish to guard with the calendar?

Gather supplies and documents:
1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Global church calendar. Why? General Conferences when changes in how we do church business can happen and special offerings. Ex: We need to be in prayer for global missions and church business; Reminds us we are in partnership with the global church.

planning-calendar-pic4. 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 wise men come out for Epiphany and not Advent.

5. Pencil and a really good eraser. Why? I’m visual and neat erasing matters.

6. 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.

7. Youth calendar. Why? Many specials for children require youth help. Ex: Coordinating VBS with summer youth mission trips; Parent’s Night Out on a night when the youth may be on a retreat; Christmas parties that would possibly require parents to be in two places at once.

8. 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 first Wednesday 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 are much more budget friendly.

planningThen 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. Pencil in what you now know. 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. Be sure to calendar rest, vacation, family events, and debriefing following an event/training.

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. Oh, and be sure the church secretary and pastor have a copy. Maybe deliver it with their favorite beverage…cherry coke or diet Sunkist, anyone?

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9



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The Tale of Four Bibles

4BiblesWhat’s your Bible story? It’s a question I ask often when I speak to Christian educators or lead a Ladies Retreat. It’s a beautiful thing to watch someone’s countenance change from ‘here’ to ‘then’ as he or she tells the story of their Bible. It’s a stroll down their spiritual memory lane. Listening to the ‘who’, the ‘where’, the ‘when’ and your heart can jump straight into your throat.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I broke down and bought a new bible. I wrestled with letting go of the current one, but when chunks of Genesis now rest among 2 Kings, and pages from Matthew are folded into the creases of Mark, I knew I needed to do it. The CLUB345 students gave to me a gift card to Barnes & Noble last Christmas, so what better way to use their gift than for me to get a new Bible where all the books are in the order they were intended.

In 1968, I was 7 years old and my world was round. My parents gave me a Bible that fit perfectly under my arm as I rushed to Sunday School. It was a red-letter King James Bible with a zipper closure. This is my Starter Bible. Every name was marked and spaced phonetically so even this first-born-overachiever wouldn’t stumble if she read aloud the story of Melchizedec. In those days we could earn star stickers on a huge chart for memorizing Bible verses. So innumerable SHORT bible verses are underlined all throughout. This little black bible is all that I have of my childhood. As a junior in high school, our home burned down. To the ground. Everything was lost. Everything except our Corning Ware dishes and our bibles. In every one of my siblings’ bedrooms and my own, the only things rescued…the only things recovered…the only items with no ash…were each of our Bibles. I can still turn the pages at times and the smells of that day return.

4Bibles.1992In 1991, after resigning from serving as the Assistant Vice President of Investments at the bank, I found myself standing on the stage of our local church being introduced as the new Kindergarten teacher and teaching supervisor at Comite Christian Academy celebrating with God for providing a way that I could earn a living and do more than just feed and clothe my kids at night. As I was being introduced, I prayed, “Lord! It doesn’t get any better than this. I am so excited about what you are going to do in our lives.” When Bob called home that night, he shared we’d been transferred to Connecticut.

We moved to New England in November. I couldn’t find red beans, Rotel tomatoes, Duke’s mayonnaise, or grits. No one spoke like me. My neighbors were polite, but hardly friendly. It snowed our second day and didn’t melt until the following April. I’d never been so cold in all my life. I was lost, and lonely. Bob and the kids gave me a hardback, red-letter New International Version Life Application Bible for my 31st birthday. This is my Young Mom & Wife Bible. The black print was God’s history with His people. If the print was red, “Jesus said.” And if the print was blue, it was God’s history with me. There is a lot of blue print. Marked up especially around Proverbs 31, 23rd Psalm, Ephesians and everywhere else a young mom and wife would go for comfort, help, encouragement, joy, and vocabulary of love and purpose. On the inside cover is a picture of #1 Son and Baby Girl just after they were baptized.

4Bibles2By 2001, we had been moved by Bob’s company to the Atlanta area. Our kids were in middle elementary school. We bought a home, and began serving in a church just around the corner. We’d both gone on our Walk to Emmaus the year before and Bible study was part of the rhythm of our lives. I was teaching weekday preschool, beginning to present trainings and workshops all over North Georgia. My hardback Bible was in pieces and I eagerly saved my coupons and picked up a thumb-indexed, red-letter, NIV, Life Application Bible from the local Christian bookstore. One of my students gave to me a Bible cover that I still use to this day reminding me of my calling and the huge responsibility to consider myself a teacher. This is my Warrior’s Bible. There is more written in blue ink than any other. My faith files are clear with post it notes and added material to help me bring God’s story to life for me and mine and others in the struggles of life.

This is the Bible I soaked in tears as the Lord and I fought through spiritual warfare, when He resurrected dead places in my heart and taught me to forgive. We endured seasons of sifting and wrestling, I claimed my call, I prayed, I taught, I fought, I hid, empty nesting, and our children chose their partners for life.

4Bibles.1Baby Girl tells me this new Bible is my New Beginnings Bible. Only time will tell of the season to come. A red-letter, NIV (1984), Life Application Bible because it’s the bible that is the same translation as our student Bibles at our church. It’s hard enough to learn God’s vocabulary when the congruency is off in teaching. I started Bible Study Fellowship this year and they encourage us to use a Bible without notes. I confess, my Warrior’s Bible was filled with years of Bible study teachings from a whole host of teachers, commentators, and personal experiences. It is so familiar. I can picture certain scriptures on the left top corner, or ‘in the middle of the page somewhere in John.’ As much as I miss turning the page to find familiarity, I am touched by the fresh word impressed upon me from a clean page with only His words and not my own. At least for now. When I turn the page I can be sure that Genesis is in the beginning and Revelation ends in the back of the book with “Amen.” And that’s a good thing.

What’s your Bible Story? Do your students know your Bible Story? When’s the last time you shared your Bible Story?

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.” Psalm 119:18

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Faith Milestone: I Can Serve

Faith+Milestones-shaded+button2We’ve saved this Faith Milestone until November  as we prepare for Advent and other special Sundays that seem to fall in quick succession in the Liturgical calendar year. We invite the students 3rd-5th grade to attend an hour training with our Pastor to learn the ins and outs of serving in the worship service. These acolytes (helpers) learn what to say, how to give eye contact, the logistics of where to go, and the specialness of serving the Lord in community worship. AND I ask that they arrive 10 minutes before the start of this training so they understand arriving early is part of their service.

ICanServeWe promoted the event through social media, the bulletin, the monthly newsletter, and by individual snail mail invitations. I include a brochure outlining all of the Faith Milestone events scheduled throughout the year to impress our intentionality of our partnership in their children’s spiritual journey.

I opened our time with the story of Samuel. He served in the temple as a young child. He probably did every small job you can imagine: emptied trash, cleaned up after others, dusted, swept, made beds, etc.  He would also know all the secret places in the temple. He’d know all the warmest places in the winter and coolest places in the summer. And when God called him into ministry, he had grown such great relationships with the leaders at the temple, he went to them (Eli) for clarity, knowledge, and direction. This is what we hope for our students: they’d know the spaces and places and grow in such strong relationships they’d be connected to the local church for life.

ICanServeThen we played a game of tag of multiple items in the sanctuary so they’d be reminded or learn the vocabulary of the worship space: chancel area, organ, mic stand, communion table, back worship table, narthex, piano, keyboard, lecturn, pulpit, flower table, baptismal font, tech booth, etc.

Pastor J took the remaining time teaching them the symbolism and logistics, giving ample opportunity to practice, of lighting candles, offering communion, and using a microphone.

Lighting candles: why we light, when we light, when we extinguish, why we bow, where to go, where not to go, how to light, what happens when it goes out, walking too fast, walking too slow, which aisle to travel, which stick to use, etc.  And then we practice.

wine and breadOffering communion juice: why we use the elements of bread and juice, when we come up, when we finish, where do we look, how do we walk, where do we go, how do we clean up, what do we say to each person, how we smile, etc. And then we practice with a full chalice.

Next, we learn to use a microphone. How to speak, when to speak, when to clear our throats, how to address the microphone, where do we look, how do we hold things and speak, etc. And then we practice with a live microphone. (We ran out of time this year, but it’s on the agenda for next.)

I jump back in to finish the training explaining the act of hospitality they are doing when serving in the worship services. We address appropriate clothing to wear, shoes to wear, readiness to serve, their freedom to say, “Not today,” when invited to serve, and personal hygiene. When we serve, we don’t want anything we do to be a distraction. So, yes, I went there about brushing teeth, combing hair, taking a shower, and using deodorant. They thought it was funny, but they’ll remember it.

ShoeBoxes2015Parents were not invited to stay for this Faith Milestone since we scheduled it right before CLUB345. This gave the students who had never come to CLUB345 a natural ‘in’ to start. This is the night we pack and stack the Christmas shoeboxes. We had a full house!

“Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 1 Samuel 3:4

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