Titus 2 Mystery Guests

titus2Our church chooses a scripture focus for each year. The 2017 focus is based on Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” With my personal challenge of offering more testimony time in each setting for my kids, each month we will be inviting Titus 2 men and women of our church to speak to our students during Sunday school.

titus2Titus 2 speaks of older men teaching the younger men and older women teaching the younger women in the church. The students won’t know who is coming, so we’ve called it “Titus 2 Mystery Guest Sunday”. Each person will be invited to share how they ‘shine the light of Jesus’ before others to glorify their Father in heaven. After each Titus 2 mystery guest gives testimony of how they came to know Jesus and shine His light in their world, the students will be invited to respond with a task, activity, or expected follow up.

Some of the folks we will invite will be a trustee, a gardener, a baker, a person who regularly volunteers anywhere and everywhere, a college student who goes on short-term mission trips, an Eagle Scout candidate working on his project, and others.

titus2_2I want my kids to see how God uses His light within each of us to do good deeds to glorify our Heavenly Father. I want my kids to know they will always have a way to be in ministry and mission where they are with the gifts and graces they have today. I also want my kids to know the saints of their church…who probably attend another service…who probably don’t sit at their table on Souper Bowl Sunday…who they’ll never know unless they get some face time. I also want the saints of their church to know the children running in the hallways, accolyting in the worship service, and to know the names of those coming up behind them. They may also be more inclined to serve in ministry with children if they get a chance to look into their big brown eyes, hear their giggles, and answer their questions.

titus2_1Our first Titus 2 Mystery Guest was Ms. Meg. She is part of the team of We Care. We Care provides meals for the sick, writes cards for the shut-ins, and coordinates receptions for bereaved families. After her testimony, the children were invited to write letters to two members of their church who just got home from a hospital stay.

Each church is filled with Titus 2 men and women. Who will you invite to tell their story of shining the light of Jesus in their world?

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

WC Academy: Housekeeping Basics

academy5Lynley Jones of Asbury UMC in Lafayette, Louisiana is a KidMin Ninja and incredibly creative in how she shares Jesus with little people.  Thanks to this dear colleague who shared pictures and her organizational tricks with me, WC Academy started the first of four life skill classes for 1st-5th graders. WC Academy is a free community outreach of WCKids. We created the event on Eventbrite for free registration and to gather information of ages, names, and emails for a Friday night 6-7:30pm.

5pm: Volunteers arrived for training and set up (needed every minute of it)

6-6:10pm: Arrival games in the Children’s Hallway

6:10-30pm: Amazing volunteers (3 middle school youth and 3 adults) introduced themselves and told an interesting fact about themselves. We then welcomed and gave instructions.

6:30pm: Students received packets of handouts (all found on pinterest and noted below) to be used at each station and began rotating every 10 minutes.

After the 3rd rotation, we gathered for hot chocolate and I shared the story of Jesus making the Leper clean from Mark 1:40-42…including the shouting of “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” Jesus makes us clean on the inside. Then we finished the last two rotations.

7:15pm: Huddled to give testimony about what we learned, favorite station, and what we can’t wait to demonstrate as soon as they get home. Handed out certificates (what’s an Academy without certificates?) and celebrated with an all-hands-in cheer at dismissal.

academy1Folding Clothes Station: My adult daughter does this ninja-tshirt-folding-thing and sock-roll that totally amazed each student. Yep…one of their favorite stations. We received texts from parents later that night about students teaching their parents how to properly fold clothes! Supplies: kid sized tshirts and white tube socks.

Dusting/Sweeping Station: Set up in the corner of the room with a little baby cornstarch (with lavendar for obvious reasons) and Lego bricks to dust. Then to sweep up what fell on the floor. A huge mess by the end of the night, but with all the wet towels and washcloths from the dishwashing station, the students cleaned up the floors pretty well. Supplies: Baby Cornstarch, a few Lego bricks, 2 brooms, washcloths.

academy4Bed Making Station: Set a twin top mattress on a long table and had the Eagle Scout teach how to make the bed with hospital corners. Interesting fact: Not one of our kids knew the bottom sheet was called a ‘fitted sheet.’ Supplies: twin top mattress (put out a request on facebook), mattress cover/case, top sheet, fitted sheet, pillow, pillow case.

Dishwashing Station: Learned the order in which dishes should be handwashed and how to load a dishwasher. We used a single sink and a dish drainer. Supplies: Dish drainer, bowl, silverware, 2 glasses, saucer, washcloths, dish detergent, gloves.

academy2Ironing Station: Set up two ironing boards in an adjacent room with irons on lowest setting and ironed a washcloth first. Using the directions in the packet, students ironed a dress shirt and hung it on a hanger. Supplies: 2  ironing boards, iron, hangers, two dress shirts, 2 washcloths.

Next month: Basic cooking.

“A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Mark 1:40

Ever Thought Of Being A Delegate?

2016teaEvery summer our Conference of the United Methodist Church holds its annual business meeting in June. For many of my KidMin colleagues, those are the weeks of Vacation Bible School and summer camps. Me, too. But what if you were able to carve out the time to be an at-large delegate to be part of the process?

For every clergy delegate there is a lay delegate. Some clergy delegates are retired, on medical leave, on loan to other UM Conferences. When we gather each year to discuss resolutions, share celebration reports, hear amazing preaching, and participate in various worship experiences, there are lay people who make ‘the representative pair’ of one clergy and one lay person.

I have been honored and thrilled to be an at-large delegate for my district for many years. My whys?  Networking, collaboration, table life with those I admire, face time with folks I have served with from day-one. I listen/participate in the debates of everything from church property management, promote and voice the needs of my KidMin colleagues, and vote on resolutions that help define our position in areas of social justice and mission.

There are specific activities for those engaged in Christian education, young adults, a fantastic team of youth delegates, clergy women, UM Men, UM Women, a 5K, and so much more. Baby Girl was a delegate in high school and college for years before I got involved. I would wait in anxious expectation for when she’d come home sharing stories of her experiences each year and decided I wanted in. I contacted our District Office and asked if there was a need or opening for an at-large delegate and the rest is history.

The district offers a stipend to cover hotel and meal expenses…our apportionment dollars at work to do intentional church business and give me access to people, places, and programs that can support our local churches and other KidMin champions in the trenches. Standing in support of colleagues at their ordination service, hearing the retired clergy speeches, and honoring those who have gone on to Glory in the last year are just a few of my can’t-misses.

Plans are in the works to have a gathering of KidMin champions while I’m there this year because we are better together in connection. Face time is always better than screen time. If you want to drink from the fire-hose of varied worship (as varied as our congregations across our Conference), have face time with folks who can make KidMin things happen, and get access to resources you didn’t even know were available in our own backyard, perhaps you’d like to join me in Athens to be an at-large delegate or a delegate from your local church at the 2017 Annual Conference. I guarantee it’s worth the conversations to get the ball rolling. And I’d love to share some table life with you.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Marketing Your Ministry From Your iPhone

2016teaEver heard of WordSwag? It’s an app from the app store that lets you pick a background, add text, then post on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A great guy from a church from the Northeast USA showed me over lunch how to put out beautiful graphic text at a church administration training last summer to market my ministry. I’ve been learning a lot about marketing my ministry over the last 10 years. Lots of books, lots of reading, lots of training, lots of podcasts, lots of conversation.

Imagine we are having lunch or tea (and if we ever get the chance to do either, let’s do it!). Pull out your phone and download the WordSwag app. Open the app and press the ‘two photos’ button.

In the pixabay images search bar, type in ‘cup’ or whatever image background you wish. Pick your image, then choose to crop it or accept one of the various crop settings (I typically use ‘facebook post’) that shows up below the image. Press ‘SKIP’.

Double tap the ‘double tap me to change text’ which will bring you to a box to type the text you wish after x-ing out the ‘double tap me to change text’ or backspacing over the text in the upper right hand corner. Type in the text you wish.  Tap the ‘SAVE & CLOSE’ tab and move the text with your finger to where you’d like it to be on the background. Here comes the fun…

Tap the style tabs below the image and the various options to change how the text looks. The other tabs are fun to pick the color of the text and even change the background hue and shading. You can change the blur and even the brightness with a slider tab along the bottom. When you are satisfied with your image/text, tap ‘SAVE’. Don’t overthink it!

I typically get a ‘whoops couldn’t save it’, but just go on. I follow the couple of prompts to post to Instagram from here because after I add a caption to Instagram, it gives me options to post to Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms so I don’t have to retype a caption. You can even add a location. Hit SHARE and it’s done.

Single images are better than a collage. Blues and greens cause folks to linger on your images longer than red or orange. Putting your image or announcement through WordSwag and posting it on Facebook will let you SAVE your image to use for everything else so to use the same visual for current and future marketing.

If you’re using it for an upcoming event, be sure to send it to the church admin who prepares the bulletin, sanctuary media folks, etc as soon as possible so to keep consistency in the visual marketing. These folks are your best partners in getting the word out and offering your image/announcement to be shared in-house and beyond social media.

How’d ya do?

“We will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.” Numbers 10:32

Thrill Me To The Bone

2016teaThere are so many things that thrill me to the bone about serving Jesus with little people: singing, dancing, teaching, candy, nursery photos of baby silliness, games, the Bible, children’s moments, faith milestones, field trips, camping retreats, dancing (love me some dancing before the Lord so it gets listed twice), and the laughter, oh the laughter.

To keep it short, here are four things that will be thrilling me to the bone about serving my Jesus with little people in the next 90 days:

  1. Testimony – I will be challenging my students to give testimony. Think “Show & Tell”, but about what God is doing in their lives and using the power of their spoken words to claim His presence in their every day. Our church 2017 theme is to “Let the light of Jesus shine through you” and I wish for their words to do just that with boldness and confidence.
  2. Wesley Chapel Academy – We will begin a series of Friday evenings to learn life skills. After setting up the EventBrite registration, the first class filled up in less than 48 hours. I think we have something here! A dear colleague in my home state of Louisiana shared her organizational plan and the first Academy class is less than two weeks away. Keep an eye on the blog for specifics.
  3. Fifth Grade Only Retreat – Our denominational conference is offering a two day retreat for fifth graders specifically addressing ways to worship at our favorite retreat center, Camp Glisson. The place is holy ground for our kids and I am thrilled to be going in March. Blogs will follow for sure!
  4. Done In A Day Training – Anyone who serves the Lord with little people will find this Saturday training 9am-12noon super-duper-helpful. Video driven plenaries and workshops with multiple stops for discussion, sharing, and hands-on responses will focus on what we all do every.single.week. : Connecting Kids in Worship, Connecting Kids in Mission, and Connecting Kids in Sunday School. The best thing is that this is taking place in every single district in the North Georgia Conference, at the same time, on the same day! I can’t wait to see what we can get done in a day to bring home to our kids.

What is thrilling you to the bone in the next 90 days?

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.” Isaiah 61:10

Pondering The Week Before Christmas

noah2016As leaders in ministry with children, we are all running this week to celebrate, to labor, and to gather. We are also shopping, planning, printing, phone-calling, texting and waking up staring at the ceiling wondering how to get 48 hours of productivity into the next 12. So, I’m going to hit the brakes for a few and give a shout-out to three of the many things I’m thankful for this week:

1. Drug Stores…Yep. There doesn’t seem to be enough Vitamin C, essential oils, or magic soap to keep some crud away. When the grands attend a birthday party at a place I am renaming “Catch Stuff Here,” we’re asking for trouble. Antibiotics and half a row of cold remedies can keep even a rhinoceros moving. Maybe not up to regular speed, but who in the world has time to be sick…it’s the week before Christmas!

2. Amazon…Do we have enough glow sticks? What are the items that make an interactive service with kids an interactive service? How many is really in a gross? Hate is a really strong word, so let me confess instead that I LOATHE shopping. Running around from store to store hoping to find what sold out in November just makes me more susceptible to “Catch Stuff Here, Too.” But in the comfort of my office chair, or the Doctor’s office waiting room, I can order whatever I need. In two days it’s sitting on my desk in plenty of time to glitter blast before Christmas Eve.

emma3. Family…Church family, extended family, and the the-ones-I-live-with-family. The family Christmas letters that come in the mail sharing life beyond what’s told on social media. The private Facebook messages from new family that makes me stop and offer a prayer of thankfulness and wonder at God’s mercy. The Christmas tree decorated by two toddlers with napkins, trucks, tshirts, baby dolls, and anything else they can get to stay in the branches. The family who sent out an invite to their open house on Christmas Eve ALONG WITH an invite to service times at church. Little people singing in their first church Christmas pageant. The many hands that make for light work where and when it’s needed most.

I could go on and on, but it’s the week before Christmas and there lots to do. A baby’s coming! And I am SO thankful.

“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15b

Merry Grinchmas Party

grinchmeEvery year we assign our December CLUB345 as a time to slow down, breathe, take in the season. One year we enjoy Silent Night. The alternating year we plan for a family gathering of table life, games, food, and service. When gifted with beaucoup lime green paper products left over from a baby shower last summer, we think The Grinch! Confession: inspiration comes from all sorts of places.

5-5:30 – Dinner of ham, mac-n-cheese, salad, Hawaiian rolls, and ice water and/or Sprite. Ready for early arrivals was a Grinch word search and ink pens on all of the tables. Name tags were “find your elf name“.

5:30-6:15 – Grinch stations (see below)

grinchtree6:15-6:30 – Decorating a tree game, a game of Pit (green crepe paper and cardboard stars all from Walmart)

6:30-6:45 – Left/Right Nativity game (everyone retrieves an item leftover from the morning’s Jingle Bell Shop-church donates items for kids to purchase 50 cents to $5 with free giftwrap so students can shop for their families for Christmas) and circles up for a roaring game of passing items left or right depending upon the reading of the Christmas story.) This has become an annual tradition and it is hilarious!

6:45 – Closing prayers & clean up

Grinch Stations included…

  • Who-Hair Station – A very creative Mom painted a canvas backdrop; asked for colored hair spray from other Moms on Facebook, gathered neon colored pipe cleaners, and Dollar Store table cloths for drop cloths because the spray can get everywhere. Don’t forget the glitter spray!
  • Star ornament – cardboard cut outs with wire and pony beads to wrap or wired tinsel to wrap the cardboard star. Not every student has the same level of fine-motor skills and even our littlest family members can get in on the craft without other hands getting involved. Any crafty ornament will do, just remember to make it VERY simple so even our youngest folks are successful on their own.
  • Red and white Lego bricks – just because
  • Christmas cards – Many of our 3rd-5th graders don’t know the shut-in saints of their church, so we prepared a list of eight with addresses held by our journeying shepherd, Charley, and set out a place where our kids and family members could write Christmas cards. Parents showed students how to address envelopes and we will be mailing them today. This goes along with our theme this year of the life of David in a color-themed curriculum since David was a writer, having written many of the Psalms in the Bible.
  • Hand painted pot holders for Grandparentsfabric paint and a lot of Dollar Tree potholders made a time where kids could make as many as they wished because everyone’s grandparents need new potholders.
  • Coloring Advent Poster – this poster printed from Staples has been following us around for the last couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. Doesn’t everyone like to slow down and color a bit while chatting with friends?
  • How to Draw a Grinch – markers, pencils, paper
  • grinchcandlesCLUB345 service project – preparing the candles for the church’s Christmas Eve service, cleaning up old wax, and placing them in baskets as a gift to the Worship Committee.

Favorite parts of the night? The many conversations between parents and their kids as well as parents with other parents. Even the students whose families didn’t come were loved on well and included by their friends’ families. Amazing parents who do so much for their kids that spending time across the table or passing crazy gifts right and left made them all laugh. We slow down. Dads draw with their kids. Moms and Dads serve one another for dinner. Lots of table life.

grinchbackdropWhat are you doing to help families slow down and smile across the table from one another during a season of a full calendar?

The Lord is with me; He is my helper. Psalm 118:7

Rhinoceros Success: A Book Review

rhinoEver gotten your hands on a little book that if you could, you would buy it in bulk and hand out a copy to everyone you know? This is one of those books. I was getting ready to take a trip and wanted to bring a book on the plane. I didn’t have the focus to take on a novel, so this book of less than 100 pages was perfect.

Scott Alexander wrote this little ditty when he was 23 years old back in 1980. Today he speaks around the world encouraging those who wish to make life an adventure.  I can relate to a rhinoceros…my maiden name is “Bull.” Charging toward opportunities is what I do…it’s in my dna. These are a few of the places I underlined in this little gem, or understood enough to take away:

Rhinoceroses have a natural zeal for living. (pg 13) Live each minute as though you had to pay $10 for it. (pg 46)

We become the product of three things: the people we associate with, the books we read, and the media we listen to. (pg 20) TV is not for rhinos…too much of a negative influence.

Rhinoceroses thrive on goals. (pg 23) Rhinos are happy when they are charging at their goals. (pg 33)

At least twice a year, take off for one week and go lie in a mud hole. Do nothing but relax. (pg 27) Take the family with you. (pg 70) Then when your week is up, explode out of that mud hole and charge!

In the chapter entitled “How To Be The World’s Happiest Rhinoceros” the author writes READ THE BIBLE.  He continues, “Every success book is based on the Bible, only worded differently.”

One of the most intriguing sections was the author’s challenge to be a rhino in work and in finances. Give 10% of all the money you make back to God. After all, if he is your partner, he deserves at least 10% of the take, doesn’t he? If he isn’t your partner, sign him on as soon as possible. Where else are you going to find help like that at such a price?

The other section I found intriguing was on rhino problems. Using our rhinoceros imagination, we can lower our heads, point our horns at any problem, charge full steam ahead, and tear it to pieces. But what about sorrow? What about death and tragedy? Spending our lives in a closet is not an option, though very appealing. He stresses the importance of having a rhinoceros faith in God, a rhinoceros love for our Maker,  and quotes 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Sheep are indecisive. Cows watch life go by. Rhinos have 2-inch thick skin. Rhinos and optimism go together.  Fight over-caution with rhino audacity and enthusiasm because the worst possible condition to be in life is cool. Dead animals are cool!

My daughter and daughter-in-law broke out in laughter when they saw me take this book from my carry-on bag. Like I needed help being a rhino! But even rhinos need a fresh word of affirmation every now and then. A reminder to be alert for opportunities, make time to meet and hang around other rhinos, and develop my audacity skills.

“Rhinos have scars.  They are signs of being alive and attempting great things.”– Scott Alexander from ScottRobertAlexander.com

We Are All Shepherds

shepherdMy kids missed the Elf on the Shelf movement. Our family tradition was moving Mary & Joseph from the plastic nativity all throughout the house during the season of Advent until Christmas Eve when they finally arrived at the wooden/straw stable. Each year we would discover all the animals with chewed on legs and an angel sitting precariously on a small peg above the stable. How we have kept all the pieces for the last 30 years, I do not know. Last April, we found the angel under the sofa because we have grandchildren now who ‘work’ with the pieces just as their parents did. Sorry…’squirrel’ moment.

I was tagged by a great mom in early November about a wandering shepherd plush-doll with a Baby Jesus and a book: The Shepherd’s Treasure. This little darlin’ could translate into random acts of compassion and activities of service on the campus of our local church for the kiddos to find whenever they came to church throughout Advent and my brain started clicking.  I picked up two (one for church and one for the grands) and I am beside myself with the ideas of fun and adventure for all my little people.

shepard-quest-book-dol-card-setl_1024x1024We named him Charlie last Sunday in Sunday school and read the book while everyone got a chance to handle him.  Beginning on Monday, he will be where the kids are when they come to visit or participate in activities.  He sat with a can of crayons during the annual Chili Cookoff. He’ll be at a station at our CLUB345 Merry Grinch-mas party with note cards, stickers, and pens for little people to write notes to our shut-ins. He’ll be around the sanctuary, at the front door, in the children’s hallway, at the Christmas Eve services, the Christmas Family breakfast potluck, and at Fantastic Friday.

Then on Christmas Day, he’ll be set with the plush-doll Baby Jesus that came in the box which is just darlin’-with-a-side-of-precious. A baby’s coming and this little shepherd is looking for the newborn King.

Happy searching for the new born King, my friends!

“After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone.” Luke 2:17

2016 Advent Bags

2016adventbagLoving the idea of families sharing in traditions and activities that honor the Lord, the season of Advent is the perfect time to gather some goodies for kids to do each day from Dec 1st through Christmas Eve and beyond. Many Children’s Ministry champions are putting together Advent bags and Advent boxes and this is what ours looks like this year:

  • Magnetic Advent Wreath with magnetic candles – perfect for the car or refrigerator. Place one candle to start, then another each Sunday of Advent.
  • Glow Stick as a reminder to let your light shine!
  • Post-it Notes to share “God loves you” messages with family and friends.
  • Glory in the Highest magnetic list – place it on the refrigerator to make lists to help you and your family make the Christmas card list, make the grocery list, make the donation list, make the errand list, even the packing list if you are heading out of town to visit family.
  • 2016 Advent Calendar from Discipleship Ministries’ United Methodist Ministry with Children to share with your family a thought or activity for each day of the Advent season.
  • God Bless You tissues – perfect for keeping close to stay well this Advent season and offer to help someone else clean up. Be a blessing this Advent!
  • Advent Prayer Cube – place near where you share meals or brush your teeth to offer a prayer each day in preparation for Christmas Day outloud.
  • A Pop-Up Window Calendar for Advent – Set the calendar on a table or on your mantel and each day of December, lift up a numbered window to reveal a surprising message and an image of something or someone who was present to see God’s gift with their own eyes.
  • A Happy Birthday Jesus sticker to place on your family calendar on December 25 to remind you to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on His birthday.
  • Nativity Sticker Sheet – Using your own art paper, draw a stable/barn and using the stickers, make your own stable scene to display.
  • 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

Added to the preschooler’s bags is the book Manger on the Mantel; to the upper elementary bags is a Nativity activity book.

Be sure to put the dates and times for the Drive Through Nativity, Fantastic Friday (parent’s night out), and Christmas Eve services along the bottom.

epiphanyWe also are ready for the season of Epiphany to give out countdowns on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

What’s in your bag?

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