Easter Is Done, Now What?

This was posted on our North Georgia Children’s Ministry Facebook Page on Easter Sunday: To all the kidmin champions who have been running the race this week, well done! On this Resurrection Sunday, take the mental photos of the children in your care, be filled with compassion for the parents who are doing the best they can, and trust in the One and Only who has called you for such a time as this. This we know: No matter what today looks like, He is risen! Rest this coming week…evaluate on paper…and take the time to crawl in our Father’s lap for some R&R before you hit the ground running for summer.

Evaluate on Paper – Take good notes. Ask good questions of what worked, what didn’t, what needs consideration, and who was present? This year Easter Sunday fell on the beginning of Spring Break. Next year it’ll be April 21st which is after all the Spring Breaks meaning there will be even more families ready to celebrate. Go through the various Children’s Ministry Facebook pages to peruse the activities of those who were kind enough to share what they did. Print them out or save them where you’ll remember to look for them. Mark your calendar for next January to schedule, place orders, recruit team members, and reserve spaces. Don’t overschedule. Be particular. Be intentional. Know what everyone loves and tweak. Know what is missing, and start small because Easter rolls around every year and you can pump it up next year.

Take time to crawl in our Father’s lap for some R&R – Not everyone can pile up the kiddos into the SUV and head to the beach, though that IS my favorite R&R location. So take a day or two within the next two weeks following Resurrection Sunday to think. Remember. Scroll through the mental photos you took as the families you serve celebrated. Write the thank you notes. Take a walk. Spend time in nature. It totally rained here in Atlanta and the yellow pollen is everywhere, so I get that it may not look like what’s posted on Facebook. I went to the movies. Saw Paul. By myself. I laughed and I cried. It was so good. Even went to the grands’ church on a Sunday night for some great preaching and Bible study. Do something out of the ordinary that brings you to our Heavenly Father. Pause and pray.

You’ve still got time to take the Sabbath.

“Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11 (HCSB)

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2018 Summer Special Sundays

It is NOT inevitable that Summer Sundays have to be considered ‘low attendance.’ If it is, I’m rebuking it! Sunday is my favorite day of the week, even in the summer. One way to make each Sunday special is to find something special about each Sunday. There are several websites dedicated to communicating national holidays. With that information in mind, these are the special Sundays we’ll be promoting the summer of 2018:

6/3 – VBS starts, so wear your Hawaiian/beach wear
6/10 – Iced Tea Day
6/17 – Father’s Day – Donuts with Dad
7/1 – Mc’Peach’ern Sunday – having a peach-flavored luncheon after church since it’s the thick of Georgia peach season with BBQ, peach tea, make-your-own peach salsa station, peach cobbler, peach ice cream
7/8 – National Blueberry Day – wear blue
7/15 – National Ice Cream Day – Sunday sundaes! In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month and established National Ice Cream Day as the 3rd Sunday in the month.
7/22 – National Parents Day – Not a day for gift giving. That’s for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Just do something fun together. Maybe a photo booth, but open to ideas. In 1994, President William (Bill) Clinton proclaimed the 4th Sunday in July as National Parent’s Day.
7/29 – Blessing of the Backpacks – bring backpacks, lunchboxes, briefcases, rollercarts, etc. for a blessing as school begins the following week with a keytag take-away.
8/5 – Promotion Sunday…ready to slide into fall with dual waterslides and more family fun that afternoon.

What specials will your local church be recognizing this summer? How will you be rebuking the summer slump?

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and it’s leaves come out, you know that summer is near.” Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28 and Luke 21:30

American Ninja Warrior: Bible Edition (updated)

Anyone else tweak every event after each time? Anyone else just can’t do the same thing even if you repeat an event? Just a few weeks ago, we spent 3-5pm with 3rd-5th graders teaching them how use THEIR Bibles at an event we call American Ninja Warrior: Bible Edition. Cut strips of white, twin, flat sheet became our name tags so students tied them on their foreheads ninja-style and we got started.

The most important areas we wished to address were: Genesis 1:1 & John 1:1, Creation, Torah, 10 Commandments, Gospels, Disciples, Greatest Commandment, Paul & Timothy (letters), Lord’s Prayer/23 Psalm, Parables, Revelation, Shema.  Check it out!

Using 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.
  1. Quintuple Steps

SAY – “How did the Bible come to be?”

PLAY – the Telephone Game = an example of the ‘oral tradition’

“The Bible is divided into 2 sections:  the Old and New Testaments.  It was written over a period of over 1600 years.  The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblia, which means “little books.” In all there are sixty-six “little books” in the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament (old promise/covenant) and 27 in the New Testament (new promise/covenant).”

  • Have one student look up Genesis 1:1 and read it aloud.
  • In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Ask another student to look up John 1:1 and read it aloud.
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

“We are SO fortunate to have the Bible and the words written down for us.  The early people had to memorize it.  Those who were young, memorized the Torah, the first five books of the Bible (show them).  Once they got to High School, they memorized up through the Psalms and if they were going to be a Spiritual leader or Rabbi, they had to memorize the entire Old Testament!”

Activity:

Have the students jump from one platform to the other, saying the Scriptures. Each student should go through twice so that they can recite each verse.  (It is probably best if the whole group says it together as each student goes through.  That way, they will memorize both verses.  Help be loud and lead the way, especially for the first few times.)

  1. Agility Ladder– Creation – Have students find and mark Genesis 1:1

This verse tells us who the Bible is about.

We serve a God of order & systems. (solar system, patterns in pine cones, spring/summer/fall/winter, day/night/day/night, birth/getting old, etc.) Ask kids “what else?”

Make 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.

Day1         God created the light and the dark (oreo cereal)

Day 2        God separated the water on the top from the water on the bottom. The top was sky, and the bottom was ground (Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal for the clouds and the ground)

Day 3        God made the green grass, the trees, and the flowers (stick pretzels). God also made the fruit and berries (raisins.) “God made food before he made animals that would need the food. Our God is SO WISE.”

Day 4        God created the sun and the moon and the stars (yellow M&M candies; Cheerios)

Day 5        God made the birds and the fish (Goldfish)

Day 6        God made man and woman and all the animals that walk on the ground (animal cookies)

Day 7        God rested on the seventh day (marshmallow pillows)

Joke: Where does the Bible talk about baseball? Genesis 1:1 “In the big-inning.” Then back to the bible study tables.

  1. Flip the Tires:

The first five books of the Old Testament are called the Penteteuch. “Pente” means “five” and “teuch” means “books”.  The first five books of the Old Testament are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.  This is also call THE TORAH.

Was originally written on scrolls (rolled up paper) that were found in jars.

Activity:

Have half of the students on one side and half on the other. Have them flip each of the five tires, while saying the first five books of the Old Testament.

  1. Stepping Stones

“The Ten Commandments are found in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Today, we are going to learn the Ten Commandments as we jump from stone to stone on one foot. Say the commandment as you go.  Remember that you have 10 fingers so you can transfer this to everyday life by looking down at your hands and reciting the Ten Commandments later.”

#1       God first

#2       Don’t bow down to idols

#3       Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain (misuse the Lord’s name)

#4       Remember the Sabbath & keep it holy

#5       Honor your Father & Mother

#6       Don’t murder/kill

#7       Don’t commit adultery (keep your marriage promises)

#8       Don’t steal (don’t take what is not yours)

#9       Don’t bear false witness (don’t speak ugly about others)

#10     Don’t covet (don’t want what is not meant for you)

  1. TIps: Share the Good News

The Gospels are the first 4 books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Gospel = good news

Ask, “What is the good news?” That Jesus came from heaven to save us and reconcile (make us right) with God.

Get in pairs and throw a ball back and forth. Do this four times, saying the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

  1. Hula Hoops:

Have a student find & read: Matthew 10:2-4 (NIV)

“ These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

Set up four hoola hoops and ask each student hula hoop to hula hoop while saying as many names as possible.

Ask: What did Jesus do before He called/decided on these guys? (He prayed)

Simon Peter

Andrew

James

John

Philip

Bartholomew

Thomas, the twin

Matthew

James, the lesser

Judas Iscariot

Thaddaeus

Simon, the zealot

Matthias (replaced Judas Iscariot)

  1. Cornhole: The Great Commandment

Have the students look up:  Mathew 22:36-40

“You shall love the Lord 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!” (We chant it like a cheer).

  1. Pass the Torch: Paul and Timothy

Have the students look up and read aloud: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so so that the servant of God[a]may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Create two lines and have a relay, carrying a pool noodle with a plastic cup taped to top of pool noodle filled with marshmallows.  If they spill it, they must pick up the marshmallows and start over from the starting line.

  1. Balance Beams – Walk the Plank

Look up Luke 11:1-4  The Lord’s Prayer

Look up Psalm 23  A Prayer of David

Discuss the many aspects of prayer (music, journaling, WITH, breath prayers, hand prayers, and silence.)

Activity: Walk the Plank in silence….everyone is silent…silent prayer walk.

Examples of how to pray…

WITH = What makes you want to tell God, “WOW!”

What do you wish to tell God, “I’m sorry.”

What do you want to THANK God for?

What do you need HELP with?

In between each one, repeat, “Thank you, Lord, that you are with me.”

Take a deep breath before each one.

Breath Prayer = Jesus, Be My Rock

Jesus (breathe in), Be my rock (breathe out)

Hand Prayers for Intercession (prayer for people)

Thumb – Those closest to me

Index  finger – those who teach me

Middle finger – those who are “over’ me (in authority)

Ring finger – those who are sick (weakest finger that can’t stay up on it’s own.)

Pinkie – yourself

  1. Drag a Tire – Parables

Parables=stories that did not really happen, but that best tell a point Jesus wants us to know.

Have students look up Luke 10:25-37: Parable of the Good Samaritan

Discussion:   Who is your neighbor?

God wants us to help others, even if it’s a heavy load.

Pull the heavy tires across a long space.

  1. Stack the tires – How does it end? With a new beginning!

Have the students look up Revelation 22:1-5

Say, “Jesus is coming back.”

Ask, “What would Jesus find you doing?” “Where would Jesus find you?”

Discuss: We are supposed to be growing in our knowledge of God and more and more like Jesus, though in this world. Once we learn one thing, we learn the next, and the next. Our growing in wisdom and knowledge of God stacks like these tires.

Ask, “How do we do we grow in the knowledge of god and more like Jesus?”

Stack the remaining tires one on top of another.

  1. Medals: The Shema and Spiritual Discipline of taking 5 minutes each day to read the Bible and 5 minutes in prayer every day (even Sundays!) TAKE 5

Have everyone find and read:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Ask: How will you plan to Take 5 every day? 5 minutes reading the Bible and 5 minutes in silent prayer.

The first event looked like this. Each time, we tweak to make the experience better for the students and better for the leaders. And each time we offer this event I remember why I LOVE it!

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Reading Aloud in Children’s Ministry

Of all my years in elementary school, few memories are more special than of fourth grade when my teacher read aloud to us after lunch every single day. Every. Single. Day. Placing my weary 10-year-old head on my desk after lunch, I listened as she took my classmates and I to far off lands and into the heads of crazy characters. It was an absolute delight.

I carry on this read-aloud tradition for our closing activity each Sunday in Children’s Church. Armed with a fabulous local library, homeschool families, and my own personal library, I’ve been able to find a children’s book that relates to our weekly theme or point of the day of our Sunday school curriculum. The Read Aloud Revival podcast is a fabulous resource for classics and more recent, developmentally-appropriate read-alouds.

This is a short list of the books I’ve used so far over the last several months:

God wants us to tell the world about Jesus – Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson – Evangelism, Disciples, Missions
God wants what’s best for us – It Could Have Been Worse by A. H. Benjamin & Tim Warnes – Parting of the Red Sea & The Passover
God has a plan for Joseph – My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess – Joseph and his life of ups and downs
God helps us make things right – Lettuce by Diana Kizlauskas – Jacob & Esau
God promises Sarah a son – Whatever You Grow Up To Be by Karen Kingsbury – Sarah
God keeps His promises – All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Francis Alexander – Abraham
God gives us do-overs – Will You Forgive Me? By Sally Grindley & Penny Dann – Noah’s Ark
God wants us to listen – Listen Buddy by Helen Lester
God wants us to talk to Him – The Lord’s Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness by Rick Warren – Prayer
God created us for a reason – You’re Here For A Reason by Nancy Tillman; The One, The Only Magnificent Me! By Dan Haseltine, A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester – Adam & Eve
God made us and Jesus loves us – Maybe God Is Like That Too by Jennifer Grant, When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner – Fruit of the Spirit, Made in the image of God,
God created the world – This Is The Earth That God Made by Lynn Downey; Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu – Creation
Jesus loves us – I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt – All things Jesus
Jesus hears us – I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman – Prayer
Jesus shows us how to serve – The Scarecrow’s Dance by Jane Yolen – Mary & Martha
Jesus wants us to be with children – God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall
Jesus washes His disciple’s feet – Bloom by Doreen Cronin – dirt can be a holy thing
Easter – Easter Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist – Lent
Easter – The Best Thing About Easter by Christine Harder Tangvald – Lent
Easter – God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren
New Year’s – There’s Sno Gift Like Jesus by Michael Hupp – Jesus
Epiphany – Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer – Wise men and camels
Christmas – Christmas Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist – Advent
Christmas – Legend Of The Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall – Advent
Christmas – The Grumpy Shepherd by Paddie Devon – Advent
Jesus deserves our thanks – The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy – Thanksgiving
Books for children grieving loss – Someday Heaven by Larry Libby, Someone I Love Died by Christine Harder Tangvald
Questions about God “What does God look like?” – Someone Awesome by Larry Libby – concrete thinking kid-friendly answers to all things about God; Tell Me The Stories by Max Lucado; Tell Me The Secrets by Max Lucado

What’s on your shelf?

“Whoever has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

Faith Milestone: I Love My Church

When do kids and their families learn the whys and whats of the sacred space they call ‘home church’? At the Faith Milestone: I Love My Church! Every local church has beautiful history (original MM sanctuary was built in 1932 and used in the movie Smokie and the Bandit among other films) and a fabulous traditional church space (MM built in 1990, narthex, vestibule, massive communion table, two levels of sanctuary pews) that little people just have to run in. I want them to have those memories AND have the vocabulary to share their own stories in their own home-church when they become teens and adults

Supplies:

The Year of Our Lord liturgical color calendar – discussing differences between our house calendar and the church calendar, colors to look for throughout campus, and remembrances of Jesus’ life. (color copy in packet)

Heart Stickers
Scavenger Hunt
“What We Do In Church” by Anne E. Kitch (color sheets on prayer stances and vocabulary)
The Beginner’s Bible: All About Jesus Sticker & Activity Book
Orange caution cones (Dollar Tree)

We begin with an ice breaker: Say your name and something interesting about yourself. Open in prayer.

Start discussing the church calendar and how the colors the students will see represent certain events of Jesus’ life.
Vocabulary: Lent, Liturgical, Advent, Pentecost, Epiphany, Christmas season, Ascension, Holy Trinity, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week. Then we set out with our sticker sheets looking for orange caution cones.

Earlier in the day we set up stations throughout campus with heart stickers (we LOVE our church!) in a clear bucket. Orange caution cones advised us where to go…think: Amazing Race has the red and yellow boxes, we use caution cones found at Dollar Tree. Students are ready with their sticker sheets to place stickers beside vocabulary describing different locations in the church.
Vocabulary:
Chapel (built in 1931)
Narthex (porch of a church)
Sanctuary (built in 1990)
Vestibule (space near outer door)
Pew (long bench with a back placed in rows)
Pulpit (raised platform where preacher delivers a message)
Choir Loft (space where choir sings together)
Communion Table (table where all are welcome to remember Jesus!)

As a group, we then follow the signage proceeding to the above locations and we run! All over the place. When we’ve met at each location, we enjoy a ‘work as a team because Jesus always sent out His disciples 2 or 3 at a time’ Scavenger Hunt:
What is the name of one of our pastors?
What color are the church’s front doors?
What color is the parament on the Communion Table?
How many black keys are on the piano played by the accompanist?
What is the big book opened on the Communion Table?
How many exit signs are in the Sanctuary and the Narthex? (Why would we need to know where the exits are?)
How many pews are in the Sanctuary?
How many crosses are in the Sanctuary?
What colors are the chairs in the choir loft?

Upon completion, I share a very abbreviated story of Jesus going to church with His family and affirm their parent’s heart for them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Everyone gets an All About Jesus Sticker & Activity book to take home! Close in prayer. Precious face time with 2nd graders and their families…sacred memories of sacred spaces and special kids. Kiss on the cheek from the Lord? Three students in attendance came to Sunday school the following weekend for the first time!

What would your I Love My Church Faith Milestone look like?

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'” Psalm 122:1

 

Holy Listening: An Emotional Milestone

Our 3-year-old granddaughter is petite, but mighty. She was born on the side of the road during rush-hour traffic in south Florida, has a 10-foot personality, and has been talking since she could open her eyes. Communication is her gift and it will get her far in life. She is patient and will rephrase her sentences until you understand what she’s trying to tell you. She isn’t as articulate as a 13-year-old, but she seeks to be understood so she will keep talking until you get it and rarely gets frustrated.

Most kids have difficulty finding the words to explain what they are feeling, what they have seen, what they understand, and how their precious, little minds are processing their worlds. Just as there are building blocks to cognitive skills like academics, there are also building blocks for their emotional development. Children without emotional vocabulary struggle to find perspective and have difficulty in regulating their emotions. Meltdowns are often and grow in intensity.

In Are My Kids On Track: The 12 Emotional, Social and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach the three authors (Christian counselors) write, “Emotional literacy is a prerequisite to regulation, practiced empathy, resourcefulness, and healthy interpersonal relationships.” It’s in the first chapter of this amazing resource because ‘we believe it’s where the other milestones begin.’ (pg 38)

In the back of the chapter, the authors shared several practical ideas for building an emotional vocabulary: post a feelings chart on the fridge, choose books and movies rich in emotional content, reflect back feelings statements (“It seems you are feeling…”), role-play, use art, and play games. I particularly like using art. “If your child is having trouble expressing their emotions, hand them a sheet of paper and have them draw what they’re feeling.” (pg 41)

I am constantly fascinated with the way kids communicate. If given the opportunity, they’ll share with you their dreams, their hopes, their fears, and what their parents did last night that made them late for church. (grin) Using art and symbols is one of the easiest ways to engage in communication with a child. They can’t be wrong.

In the local church, we teach, but do we ask the best questions? Do we give kids a chance to engage in conversation face-to-face? Share testimony? Do we go deep into the minds and hearts of the little people we serve? I admit, not enough. Let’s take it a step further: How do we have conversations with kids who are lost, sad, grieve, or are angry?  What if you had a tool to do just that? According to the founder of Holy Listening Stones, Rev. Dr. Leanne Hadley, the practice of using the Holy Listening Stones symbols is to help people share how they feel. Symbol, especially to children, is their “native language”.

The North Georgia United Methodist Church Conference will be offering a practical, hands-on training with Holy Listening Stones. We’ll create a partial set of stones and practice how to engage children in prayer, begin conversations, offering emotional and sacred vocabulary in a safe place. I know plenty of tweeners who have just as much difficulty in explaining themselves. These tools are helpful in a whole host of ways and for all ages. Join us for an evening of sharing at https://www.ngumc.org/doneinaday. Six locations on the same evening across North Georgia on Monday, March 19, 2018 at 6:15pm. Childcare is provided.

Anyone who works with children or even has children (grandparents, you too!) would benefit to learn the art of holy listening. Little Miss helped make my set of holy listening stones armed with modpodge and a foam brush. Our children need to feel loved and heard. Using holy listening stones is one of the ways we can encourage children to share their dreams, their fears, their prayers, and their hearts when they don’t have the vocabulary to do so. As it reads on the flier, “When we interact in this way with a child, we are living into the familiar scripture, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m with them.’ Matthew 18:20 CEB”  Register today!

HandsOn Family Holy Week Stations

Faith sticks when little people can experience the family stories of the Bible through their five senses. The greatest story ever told is the Good News of Jesus. With Easter coming, we are preparing for a sticky faith formation experience for Palm Sunday’s Sunday school hour. The goal is to introduce vocabulary and give a time line of what happened. I share with our littles that this is the greatest story ever told because it’s about our best friend, Jesus. There are some really happy parts and some really sad parts, but the ending is AMAZING!

Family Friendly Holy Week Stations

1. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
After Jesus had His LAST SUPPER with His buddies, and sang a song, He went out to pray.
Luke 22:39-43 “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”
Item: Praying Hands, Communion Cup and plate
Did you know? Nowhere else in scripture did God kneel on this earth, but here. How often do you kneel before God?

2. Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
While Jesus was asking his buddies to “Watch and pray,” Judas, one of the 12, arrived. At once Judas came up to Jesus and kissed Jesus. Then a crowd came and arrested Jesus.
Matthew 26:47-50 “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the Meaners of the people. ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.”
Item: Handcuffs, leather cord, chains (the bigger and the heavier, the better)
Did you know? Jesus came back to his buddies to ask them to “Watch and Pray” 3 times. Do you have buddies you can ask to “Watch and Pray?” Pray that God will send them to you.

3. Jesus was taken to the religious leaders.
The Meaners took Jesus to the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law looking for evidence against Jesus so they could put him to death.
Mark 14:61-64 “The meaners took Jesus to the high priest and the whole Sanhedrin who were looking for evidence against Jesus. They all agreed to send Jesus to die. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and yelled at him. And the guards took him and beat him.”
Item: a Pastor’s stole
Did you know? The religious leaders were afraid of how the people loved Jesus. Are you afraid of people who love Jesus?

4. Jesus taken to the government leaders.
Since the religious leaders were not allowed by law to put someone to death, they sent Jesus to the government leader to put Jesus to death.
John 18:28-37 “In the early morning, the meaners took Jesus to the palace of the Roman governor named Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus “What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. My kingdom is not from here.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.”
Item: Judge’s gavel
Did you know? Pilate wanted to let Jesus go and thought that having Jesus “spanked” would be enough punishment for the crowd. Do you let other people make you do things you know are wrong?

5. Pilate hands Jesus over to be beaten.
John 19:1-3 “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.”
Item: Crown of thorns and leather whip.
Did you know? The first mention of “thorns” in the bible comes in Genesis as part of the punishment of Adam and Eve as they leave the Garden of Eden and were then required to grow their own food among the “thorns and the thistles.”

6. Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified.
John 19:16- “So the meaners took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to the place of the Skull (which is called Golgotha).”
Item: Railroad tie, cross beams, cross the kids can pick up and hoist onto their shoulders
Did you know? that the sickness of sin and selfishness is heavy? Do you really want to carry around something that separates you from God?

7. Simon helps Jesus carry the heavy cross.
Luke 23:26 “As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced Simon to help Jesus carry the cross.”
Item: Table mirror or cross kids can pick up and hoist onto their shoulders here, instead.
Did you know? That someone helped Jesus carry His cross when it got too heavy? Would you help Jesus carry His cross?

8. Many of the ladies who loved Jesus followed him crying.
Luke23:27 “A large number of people follow him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Item: Box of Kleenex
Did you know? The term “Daughter” is a term of endearment for a family member. Jesus was claiming these ladies as part of his family. Even though He was going through a bad time, Jesus still thought of others. Do you claim Jesus as part of your family?

9. The Meaners take Jesus’ clothes.
John 19:23-When the meaners crucified Jesus; they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (Psalm 22:18)
Item: Dice, purple/scarlet robe
Did you know? It is a great insult to human dignity to rob a person of everything, even his clothing. Most of us will never know the shame and suffering of being penniless and virtually naked in a public place, as many of the homeless on the streets of our cities today. Have you offered anything to help clothe the people in our community?

10. Jesus on the cross.
Luke 23:33-34 “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Item: Nails, rubber mallet
Did you know? Jesus could have zapped those who mocked/made fun of him – but he suffered through it all because he loved even his enemies. Does this even matter? Does Jesus matter to you? How?

11. Criminals speak to Jesus
Luke 23:39-43 “One of the criminals who hung there hurled/yelled insults at Jesus: he said, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t’ you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Item: First Aid kit, Stephen Ministry kit
Did you know? From the very words of Jesus, it’ll take no longer than a day to get to heaven. Do you only pray to ask for Jesus to rescue you, bless you, protect you? Is it all about you?

12. Jesus asked for something to drink.
John 19:28-30 “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When Jesus had received the drink, Jesus said,”It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Item: Vinegar in various cups, sponges to smell and touch
Did you know? This vinegar was a cheap wine that the Roman soldiers drank while waiting for those crucified to die. Do you offer Jesus your whole life, the best of you (everyday prayer, bible reading, regular giving, and regular church attendance), or a cheap life (prayer only when you are in trouble, don’t use your bible at all, giving what’s left over, and choosing anything else over church attendance)?

13. Jesus dies on the cross
Luke 23:44-46 “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
Item: Altar cross covered in black sheeting
Did you know? Complete darkness covered the earth from noon until 3pm after Jesus died on the cross. All nature seemed to mourn over the stark tragedy of the death of God’s Son. Sunday matters because of what happened on Friday.

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
John 19:38-42 “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple/follower of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He and Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night, took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in strips of linen, with spices. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. A stone was placed over the entrance.”
Item: Heart-shaped stone, Resurrection Garden pot, a plant.
Did you know? John 3:16 God loved . . . God gave . . . We believe and trust/ put our weight on it . . . We receive eternal life, new life, Christ life. What will you do now with what you know?

15. Jesus is Alive!
Item: Basketful of empty eggs, live plant, live lily
Did you know? That God loves you so much, He sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sins (when we don’t love God and don’t love others) so that we can go to the big party in heaven one day when our time on earth is done. Jesus is preparing a place for all who love Him in Heaven. This is another amazing part: In the mean time, God wants us to talk like Jesus, and act like Jesus, by showing love to God and others. One way to do that is telling others the Good News that Jesus came to show us God’s love for us and others. Who will you tell this week? Another way to do that is to help someone in need. Who will you help today?

You can place the information in plastic stand-up frames which can be placed at each station, or use a small, cheap photo book with the information if the stations are not in one location.

Let me know of other ideas to keep the story fresh and new in the hearts of our families and in my own heart. A good challenge each year is to discover something new about the Easter story to share with your little people. This IS the Good News…may we be found faithful in sharing it well and in a way that lets little people and their families engage in conversation about our great Jesus.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18 NIV

(This blog was originally posted in February 2013)

Boys-Part 4

Many women have modeled for me the different stages of a woman’s life: my mother was a scrappy entrepreneur, most of Team Reilly’s family traditions came from my stepmother, Chantal was my first prayer partner, Cindy S pushed me to lead, Kate showed me how to take risks, Rowena pointed me to the healing and resurrection power of God’s Holy Word. I watch Sheila be a loving mother-in-law and grandmother, listen to Rhoda teach me how to measure ministry, Cindy C gently reminds me by her life to be aware of the needs of others. These women and many others have directed, modeled, and nurtured my heart to be seen, be named, and be drawn out.

This is the closing blog on the fifth factor from Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Parts 1-3 can be found here, here, and here. Dr. Sax shares story upon story about factor #5: the loss of positive role models. “A boy does not naturally become a gentleman by which I mean a man who is courteous, kind, and unselfish. That behavior is not hardwired. It has to be taught.” (pg 202)

Think about it….even movies and television shows today do not show men as heroes unless the main character has a superpower or wears a cape. The dads are typically portrayed as bumbling idiots who are unaware, unwise, and ridiculous or abusive. This gal was raised by a John Wayne and Andy Griffith fan. Get my drift? We still have masculine heroes in some of our movies (Gladiator, Avatar, Titanic, Three Musketeers), but ‘script-writers seem unable to write a believable story about a boy becoming a heroic man, without supernatural powers, set in our era.‘ (pg 212) “If we fail to provide boys with pro-social models of the transition to adulthood, they will construct their own, which may not be so positive and constructive.” (pg 205) The Boy Scouts was founded in 1910 with the explicit goal of making men of little boys and fostering an independent manhood.

In Chapter 10 of Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, the authors speak of nurturing a boy’s heart where the heart is the center and basis for all spiritual life…’his entire inner being and how he is created to be.’ We are called to do three things:

We must SEE HIM – to love a boy well we must be a student of him. We must know more than just what makes him tick or ticks him off. We study our boys with a curiosity and appreciation who he is, but even more than that. Be a student of your boys with a vision for who they will become. All those years of studying my son and his friends have given me wonderful stories to share with his wife and will share with his son. When the Promise Keepers movement was prominent in faith formation of men several decades ago, they offered a conference named Promise Keepers for Boys. The men in my home church traveled and provided this experience for my son and many of his friends. One on one. Then these men came back and invested in each of the boys in their charge with time, adventure, antique cars, laughter. These men SAW these young boys and spoke truth of God’s call on their lives in the present and in the future. They are still connected today.

We must NAME HIM – ‘To name someone means that we have profound and intimate relationship with him.’ Nicknames are a great example of the power of names. They are often terms of endearment used by close family or friends or admirers. If you SEE your boys well (been curious about him, developed an appreciation of his uniqueness, and gained a vision for him), ‘it’s likely that you will be motivated to speak what you have seen by naming him.’ If it is accurate, we offer a boy an identity he can’t quite see for himself, we offer a direction for his reputation, his promise and his glory that will help direct his movements and decisions going forward. When I named my son in public, he could ALWAYS trust that I would speak highly of him. Are we speaking highly of our brothers? Our husbands? Our sons? Our family?

We DRAW HIM OUT – This is where a boy’s heart is challenged, invited, coaxed, and directed toward integrity, intimacy, and to be known. In Hebrew, the word that means ‘to draw’ is hiphil. The same word translates ‘to be saved.’ This highlights the truth that the work of drawing a boy out is the work of saving him. Saving him beyond life’s disappointments, shattered dreams, and the rubble of many opinions of what it means to be a man of faith, a disciple of Jesus Christ who is our boy’s true Savior. “The truth is, a boy can do everything right and follow all the rules, but if his heart’s not in it, his life will be aimless and ultimately meaningless. A boy must be engaged with and directed in an ongoing and intimate relationship with himself, with others, and with God. It’s our job to draw him out and help him to keep his heart.” (pg 207)

Just as a kid learns best about Jesus by spending time with men and women who love Jesus, boys need men of faith who invest in their lives. Yet few men invest in children’s ministry. I’ve appealed to many men to join the ranks. My son and his rambunctious fellow 3rd-5th graders called their Sunday school teacher ‘Harry Braveheart Booth.’ This man was ready for battle with them and the distractions of life every single Sunday. I prayed for this man, regularly. I prayed for men to step into my son’s life in the areas where I could not with a joy and fire for Jesus. I pray today for older men to continue to step into my sons’ lives, and for the churches who are my grandsons’ home churches. I pray for the men who have said YES in the local church where I serve and I reach out to them often with gratitude and hope and wonder.

Oh to meet the needs of all children with the love and hope found in Jesus! The struggle is real in trying to be all things for all people who walk through our local church’s doors as well as who we meet along the sidewalks of life. As a lead in ministry with children, it is helpful to be aware of the needs of others that may not be intuitive. Though I grew up with brothers and their friends, married a boy, raised one, and feel the ministry I’ve been called to lead is realistically boy-friendly, it is important to provide an environment where men of faith in our great God get the best start possible in partnership with their amazing families. So I read, I study, and I share with you.

How are you seeing, naming, and drawing out the children in your charge?

“Without a positive male role model in your life, it’s extremely difficult to become a man who benefits his family and benefits his society.” Donald Miller

Boys – Part 3

This is an ongoing blog based on becoming more boy-friendly in children’s ministry and faith formation. I am challenged by Dr. Sax’s research and ongoing family practice as laid out in his book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Before you think I’m picking on one gender, I just happened to read this book before Dr. Sax’s book Girls On The Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis For Girls. Future posts will come from that one.

Dr. Sax shares that factor #1 is the accelerated teaching methods for early childhood education. My insights can be found here.  Factor #2 has to do with video games. My insights can be found here. Factors #3 and #4 I will address in this blog.

Factor #3 – Dr. Sax gives story after story of how young men are prescribed drugs abundantly in America. His view: ‘the person most likely to suggest a diagnosis is a teacher’ (pg 112) and ‘boys are being put on medications to fit the boy to the school.’ (pg 125) Whatever your opinion on daily and regular medications, we have to admit that even over-the-counter medications are prevalent in every home today. As a kid I can only recall taking aspirin when I had a fever. I also can’t recall the last time a sickness was obliterated, yet there are entire industries who’s sole goal is to help us take away the symptoms that make us ‘less than what we think is our best.’ It seems like everybody’s on something and now we can get it online and dropped off in the mailbox. Even the essential oil phenomenon is a way in which families are trying to educate themselves on healthy alternatives to the crazy stuff in our food and to limit the intake of mass-produced processed medications. Which brings us to Factor #4 – Endocrine Disruptors.

There is an overwhelming amount of modern chemicals acting like human sex hormones, specifically female hormones, aka environmental estrogens. If it’s just the hormones in our beef, why are only girls going through puberty as young as 7 or 8 years old, but not boys? Puberty is out of sync. Pesticides permitted in the US from 1950s through 2010, “this product was on the market for roughly 50 years before scientists discovered its effect on puberty in boys, and another 7 years followed before the EPA took action to remove it form the market” (pg 135) and heated plastic byproducts (BPA, phthalates, pg 132). “Researchers have also found that early exposure to BPA reduces or eliminates the normal sex differences seen in the behavior of laboratory animals.” (p 137). Scary enough?

Another issue with endocrine disruptors? American parents are letting their kids decide what to eat. Anyone else remember being told to eat your spinach? And forget getting dessert EVERYDAY, much less at just about every meal. “Chemicals in the environment are changing the way fat cells work, so that they become fatter more easily and are more resistant to weight loss.” (pg 141) “Boys today drink less milk and more cola beverages than they did 30 years ago” (pg 144) which may explain the 350% increase in broken bones of children from January 2004-December 2009. (pg 144-145) “Here’s what’s scary: scientists are finding that exposure to environmental estrogens early in life, (plastic baby bottles, plastic bottle liners…isn’t plastic supposed to be safer than using glass with babies and toddlers?) particularly in utero and in early infancy, blunts or eliminates sex differences in behavior. Females become less feminine. Males become less masculine. For example, when young laboratory animals were exposed to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the males stopped acting like males.” (pg 145)

Wow! Take a breath.

So what does this mean for the local church and the environments we offer to our kids?

I’m using paper cups and a lot of water. When it spills, it’s not the end of the world. Kids don’t get enough water anyways. When we travel or go on field trips, I invite the kids to bring their own water bottles. Moms and Dads are doing the best they can. I won’t be getting on some soapbox for nor against medication or oils or food or whatever. I won’t offer candy every time they are in the building. I will publicly support my parent’s roles in determining what is best for their own kids. I will pray for the decisions my parents must make every single day. I wish for my parents and the families who have invited me into their lives to believe and trust that I will always speak highly of them.

In Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys these are some considerations as we seek to be boy-friendly in ministry….provide more than medicine (we don’t make that decision anyways, thankfully!) (pg 324-325)

  1. Loving authority – be supportive, loving, consistent in structure (be prepared and have a plan for every part of an event/gathering)
  2. Good diet – use water; caffeine, sugar, and excessive carbs drive unwanted behavior
  3. Plenty of rest – one of the reasons we make the choice we do when we attend a retreat for our 3rd-5th graders is the one when they get to bed by 10pm.
  4. Daily exercise – let them move!
  5. Discipline toward character – not punishment, but rather logical consequences and remember that each boy, if a believer, is your BROTHER-IN-CHRIST. If not a believer, your goal is love him in such a way that he will become your BROTHER-IN-CHRIST. He is your family!

What else?

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10

Boys-Part 2

This is a continuing blog based on Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Part 1, focusing on accelerated early childhood education, can be found here.

The second factor affecting American boys today is the impact of video games. I was surprised to hear of why they are so popular among young boys. It is not what I thought.

In complete honesty, I didn’t grow up with video games, but rather on the side of an orange grove in south Florida until my late teen years. My brothers and I would set out each day building tree houses, rigging up Big Wheels behind mini-bikes, making mud pies (more like ammo), and throwing late-season oranges with the fierceness of a military operation. We all have scars from injuries and great stories. We steered clear of video games in #1 Son’s life until he was old enough to wheel-and-deal the neighborhood’s semi-annual garage sale to build a sufficient balance at the local Game Stop to purchase his first video game system, eventually, as a high schooler. We chose to have only one TV in our home until we permitted he purchase one to play video games. We were the family that held off long enough getting a computer at all until Baby Girl was required to do a report as a junior in high school about the Vietnam War. According to our go-to research resource, our 1971 World Book Encyclopedia, the Vietnam War was still going on. We acquiesced and bought our first home computer. #1 Son played video games well and often, but he didn’t start as early as kids do today and they were certainly not on every device he held in his hand. Things are different for American boys today, for sure.

Video games feed a kid’s ‘will to power.’ The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche likens it to one’s need to be in charge of their environment. In boys, this ‘will to power’ takes precedence over other drives, worldviews, and other perspectives. (pg 76) Dr. Sax shares that boys who appear unmotivated are indeed motivated by this ‘will to power.’

“Secretly, these boys often believe that they are special, that they are unique, that they have a hidden destiny that will be revealed in time. As a result, they believe that the rules that apply to ordinary people don’t apply to them. Their ‘destiny’ matters more to them than friendship or academic achievement – more than happiness, for that matter. They often do not expect other people, including their parents, to understand them. They may not even want other people to understand them, because they sense that their worldview, with all its megalomania, will appear puerile and egocentric to most adult eyes.” (pg 76) Are you grinning yet? I am!

So, think about it. Take on the world and beat the bad guys or choose math homework? The virtual world is fast-moving, interactive, collaborative, and fun. “And it is heroic…..In the world of the video game, you can be great.” (pg 79) This is where the distinction between Kenntnis (playing football online) and Wissenschaft (playing football on a field) gets blurry for a boy. This is where a boy believes he can drive a real car because he can drive a virtual car.

Boys are then challenged in this ‘destiny-fulfillment’ and ‘healthy competition’ because the screen has replaced engaging in reality, even outdoors. Boys who can climb, jump, win, and drive online have difficulty climbing a tree (upper body strength), jumping (gross motor skills), winning (racing without breathing heavy), showing endurance (riding the bike for long distances), and, well, you get the idea. Where does a young boy learn patience…humility…how to play with a friend…ride a bike…healthy relationships (many boys today prefer to play video games to being with their families or even girls – pg 89)?

High schools are so large now that only the 30+ athletically elite out of a school of 1,000-2,000 will make the team. So let’s be creative on how we, as the local church, can offer reality, competition, and Jesus ‘is a real man’s man.’ Jesus was hardly a weakling. He was a carpenter’s son, a fisherman, handy, yet patient, kind, and spent time with his tribe. Tribe here means a group of people with similar ideas and interests.

Dr. Sax’s suggestions? Nothing teaches a boy patience like going fishing. Want to make a fishing trip even better? Take a boy fishing with an older guy. The best way for kids to know Jesus is to know people who know Jesus. The best way for a boy to know about being a man of faith is to know and spend time with men of faith doing guy stuff with other guys. Not every guy likes sports, but there is healthy competition to see who can catch the first fish, grill the best burger, and drive a bumper car. Sign boys up for contact sports, classes to learn to play an instrument to play in a band (one band, one sound!), and live out the real thing. Video games are just pretend, an imitation. Encourage boys to take cotillion classes so they learn that spending time and sharing real experiences with real girls is way better than spending time with imitation or pretend girls online. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

My response? I’ve enlisted the help of the Men’s Ministry of my local church to begin offering these outlets for my boys and connecting my dads with Titus 2 men of the church. Let’s break out the power tools, the duct tape, and offer time for creative work with their hands. Will look at planning a local fishing trip, too. “Let’s reconnect the generations.” (pg 255) We’re in the brainstorming phase right now. What else?

“Once you have a boy in your life, things you never dreamed of become normal.” ~ Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas