2019 Special Summer Sundays

As the calendar begins to be filled with mah-velous fun, memorable and intentional faith-formation experiences, those Summer Sundays should not be neglected. It has been my experience that special summer Sundays can give the traditional summer slump some major push-back.

After checking some holiday websites with the 2019 summer dates, this is what we’ve come up with to rebuke the idea of low attendance Sundays during the summer:

June 2 – Our first night of VBS begins this evening, so we’re asking everyone to wear their past VBS tshirts.

June 9 – National Iced Tea Day is 6/10, so our 5th graders will be serving the congregation Chick-Fil-A iced tea (purchased the day before) between services. Chick-Fil-A typically donates their $$ from gallon iced tea sales to local charities during June, so it’s a perfect fit.

June 16 – Goodies with Guys (Father’s Day) donut holes & jerky will be served to the guys, Dads, Granddads between services.

June 23 – National Pink Day (wear pink).

June 30 – McPeachern – the children serve the church brunch & lunch of all peach goodness with BBQ, peach tea, peach salsa & chips, peach ice cream, peach cobblers. This is the only fundraiser our ministry with children does. Even our littles can serve chips!

July 7 – National Strawberry Sundae Day – serving strawberry sundaes in children’s church/well-versed kids.

July 14 – National Flip Flop Day.

July 21 – National Ice Cream Day.

July 28 – National Parent’s Day so we’re offering freeze pops outside our entrance around the Gaga Ball pit.

August 4 – Promotion Sunday wearing team spirit wear this year (think foam fingers and such), then we are headed to a Braves base ball game after services for an afternoon game. Our gym floor is being replaced, so we needed a way to gather AND build memories.

What other ways can we make summer 2019 Sundays special?

“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” Galatians 4:10

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A Safe Place

After multiple texts, running into each other at the local outlets during the holidays, and catching up on social media, a dear friend and I were finally able to meet for lunch. Rachel Castillo is a fearless champion for providing families hope in the midst of life’s challenges. She is a knowledgeable professional in leading non-profit organizations. In July 2018 she began serving as the President and Chief Executive Office of Georgia’s Advocates For Children committed to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

Rachel led me on a tour of the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter where I was introduced to several professionals who lead programs striving to one day help create a world where all children are respected and loved, happy and thriving.’ One of those programs is Safe Place. Safe Place is a national prevention program for young people under the age of 18 in need of immediate help and safety.

Safe Place designates businesses and organizations as locations where children and youth in crisis can find help. Designated Safe Place locations display a yellow Safe Place sign, the universal symbol of youth safety. Each Designated Safe Place undergoes training and is listed in a national database with addresses of Safe Place sites. One way children can get help when in crisis is through the TXT 4HELP program. TXT 4HELP is a nationwide, 24-hour text-for-support-service. Children text the word ‘safe’ and their current location (city/state/zip) to 4HELP (44357). Within seconds, a message including the closest Safe Place site and contact number for the local youth shelter is delivered.  The young person will then have the option to reply with “2chat” to immediately text with a professional for more help.

Tracy Arp is Advocates for Children’s Safe Place Coordinator. Tracy shared with me that any business, church, school, fire station, etc. can become a Safe Place site. “We offer training for each site to ensure that the site employees feel comfortable if they were to have youth need the assistance of Safe Place. Safe Place is a national organization, but Advocates for Children is the only one in North Georgia.  Although Advocates for Children is located in Bartow County they provide services to their surrounding counties as well, which include, Polk, Floyd, Cherokee, Gordon, Cobb, Fulton, Paulding, and Pickens to ensure that all youth are safe.” 

How do students hear about it? Most young people hear about Safe Place during school or community presentations where Safe Place information cards are distributed. These cards have the local Safe Place phone number and explains that Safe Place help is free and confidential. Youth also hear about the program through word of mouth, social media, and public service announcements on radio or TV. (from http://www.nationalsafeplace.org)

The week of March 17-23 Safe Place will be celebrating National Safe Place Week and are looking for more outreach opportunities. I will be proposing to our Family Ministry team to undergo the training so that our local church can become a Safe Place site. Our county has only several sites and most are QuickTrip gas stations. I believe we can do this. We are blessed with a facility and a family of faith which loves children and youth. Reading Psalm 27:5, I am compelled!

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5

Coaching in Ministry With Children

Several months ago I was invited to serve as a coach at the 2019 Children’s Pastors Conference. An application was required along with a professional reference, a personal phone call, and a training webinar. The training is extraordinarily thorough because the Coaching Sessions at CPC are one of the highest-rated experiences at CPC.

CPC attendees are invited to signup for a 30-minute appointment with an experienced ministry leader of their choice through Signup Genius. Each coach has listed several areas of expertise or profound experience. The attendee completes a form to clarify some questions or a direction the attendee wants to go during the session. The Coach listens as the attendee begins to explain their situation.

Melanie Hester, Community Development Specialist for International Network of Children’s Ministry, explained in the coaches’ training webinar the difference between mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is typically a long-term, mentor-driven arrangement. Coaching is driven by the one being coached for a shorter season of time. As a coach, my role is to engage in active listening, and then ask really good questions as I assure the one being coached that he/she has everything they need to be successful.

At the close of the coaching session, specific goals along with a couple of key action steps would be written down. These action steps would be specific, measurable, attainable (lofty enough to inspire), relevant (personally applicable), and time bound (include a period of time for completion…90 days or by Easter/Summer). My favorite question in this exercise was to ask the one being coached, “Who will be your champion in your world to help you in prayer and accountability?” This question always elicited a smile as a dear friend-in-the-Lord would be named by the kidmin champion being coached.

In the course of three coaching sessions, I met three amazing women. The first one I knew and have an ongoing relationship with. The second had just been hired the Friday before. The third was a young woman in an American-Chinese church. Two of the three were United Methodists. The most common statement I heard was, “Where do I start?” Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint, but hardly a time for baby steps. So what giant leap do you take first? Each kidmin was different…and it was a beautiful thing to see them encouraged by the end of the coaching session.

There were more than 100 such coaching experiences going on in three separate time frames in one humongous room. We were assigned a numbered table with two chairs on two sides of the table: one for a person and one for all the stuff they were carrying. With five minutes remaining, a horn was blown. An evaluation was completed by the one being coached as well as the coach to be turned in at the end of the coaching session. Every person I saw leaving the tables had a huge smile on their faces. At the end of each coaching session, it appeared the one being coached received exactly what they’d hoped for.

Coaching is what we do when we take the phone call, answer the email, and ask the questions. Coaching can talk you off the ledge as well as push you to your limits. The best of the best have coaches: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and all those amazing Olympic athletes. If we seek to be the best communicators of the gospel and kingdom builders for Jesus, taking advantage of a coaching opportunity and reaching out to a coach every now and then can only make us better.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

2019 Children’s Pastors Conference

Last week was the Children’s Pastors Conference sponsored by the International Network of Children’s Ministry, an empowering organization which serves leaders who champion the discipleship of kids and families. The event was held at a great facility in Orlando. It’s been five years since I attended and was thrilled with the intentionality of so many details, such as…

1. The pace – No standing in lines to pickup registration materials, but rather a welcoming party with tables, music, donuts as we waited to be invited in by groups upon arrival. Most of our group were in the green circle group. I was in the blue star group. Day 1 was all general/plenary sessions and coaching. Days 2 & 3 was general/plenary session and workshops. With 8-10 food trucks and a two-hour lunch time there were lots of opportunities for conversation and sharing. Early nights, not-oh-dark-thirty mornings, and the locations of rooms to meeting spaces could be trekked easily. A detail? Put the schedule inside front cover. Wonderful! A detail? Everything began with a worship & prayer experience with stations throughout the general session area. Fabulous!

2. The diversity – The general/plenary sessions were led by an intentionally diverse group of leaders. By diverse, I mean men and women of different ages and cultures. They were ALL funny and knew their craft. All the messages were based on Hebrews 11 & 12, By Faith. I can’t ever remember attending a conference where the messages were so congruent from the first with Beth Guckenberger to the last with Bob Goff. And the speakers were all easily accessible. These folks are big deals, yet I couldn’t see a pedestal anywhere, if you know what I mean. And by diversity, they shared from scripture about the ‘not so shiny’…Rahab, Gideon, Moses, Saul, and Samson.

3. The accessibility – There were multiple stations led by multiple faces for customer service. Want to change your reserved workshop? Easy-peasy at the customer service desk. I wanted to change my last workshop, but was told it was full. So I hung around outside the meeting room before it started and I was able to enter with a dozen or so empty seats waiting to be filled. The Executive Director, who I’m sure had other things to do, stood anywhere there was a line to chat with attendees. Not only did she chat, but she constantly asked those of us connected to look for those who were not connected and invite him/her into our connection.

4. The connection – There were more than twenty-two attendees from North Georgia. There were nine of us who traveled in a church bus driven by an amazing kidmin champion. Five of us stayed in a suite so there would be a community space to be shared with others. We shared space. We shared resources. We shared meals. We laughed our heads off. We did laundry. We shared table life. A major part of Day 1 was the intentional connection offered by 103 coaches in three different sessions. 309 children’s pastors coached by children’s pastors in the trenches.  It was powerful. I’ll share my experience as a coach next week.

My cup runneth over. My heart is full. My head is full. My cart of resources is full. My favorite resource? The research-based workshop leader kit for parents on the ten greatest influencers of spiritual health for kids. So excited! CPC is every January. It’s worth it. I’m so grateful for my church leadership choosing to invest in me and my colleagues in this powerful and amazing way. We’re making plans for next year. Want to ride?

“Rahab had seconds to choose faith. (Stomp the floor like the soldiers knocked on her door as they were searching for the Hebrew spies). Understanding can wait. Obedience can not.” – Pastor Chaco De Jesus 

Got A New Calendar Yet?

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

Gather supplies and documents:

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

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

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

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

Adding Something New to Your Church Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

How do you add something to your calendar with intentionality?

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

Thank You

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

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

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

Thank you for starting things and stopping things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandma’s Buttons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 3 Resources From 3 Learning Platforms Of 2018

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

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

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

Podcasts

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

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

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

Books

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

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

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

People

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

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

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

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

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

Armor of God Event for Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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