Intentional Advent Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Plan to see Mary Poppins at the movies.

9. Collaborations begin for Summer 2019 Faith Field Trips.

What are your intentional Advent plans?

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

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No Prep. No Prop. Children’s Sermons

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

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

Can I get an Amen?!

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

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

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

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

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

Bread and Juice Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Annual Ambassador Class

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

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

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

This was the plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October Is For Learning – Part 2 of 2

October has been a season for learning. Part 1 gives insight on the Catalyst Leader Conference and the Wonderfully Made Trainer Training. On the third week of October the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church Center for Congregational Excellence presented a one-day event led by Ken Willard entitled, “Creating a Discipleship Pathway for Your Church.” Ken Willard is an outstanding presenter who points us to become coaches helping people take strides forward in their personal and individual spiritual growth.

Though we were once called the ‘Methodist Movement’, we probably aren’t moving from unbelief to belief in every aspect of our lives. Our job as church leaders is to grow disciples for the transformation of the world by equipping individuals to take next steps, or strides, on their spiritual journey through an intentional process of introducing spiritual practices….soul training!

Ken Willard shared eight particular spiritual practices: Prayer & Fasting, Sabbath, Witness, Sunday School/Small Group, Financial Generosity (Tithing/Giving), Serving, Worship, Scripture Reading. He then shared the three which he believes have the greatest tendency to catapult people forward in their faith formation: Scripture Reading, Serving, Financial Generosity. It’s been my experience these are the three we can be very intentional in teaching our littles.

My favorite take-away was the above image we can use as a tool to engage in conversation with individuals for where they are and what next steps in particular spiritual practices they can intentionally begin or move into. Several groups of people came to mind immediately where I can begin to have these spiritual coaching conversations. I left the training with a plan to engage in these ‘next steps’ conversations with my students aging out of Children’s Ministry with ‘next steps’ in the summer, as well as those finishing any study I’m leading. As people complete a

season of engagement, I can intentionally share with them ‘next steps’ to keep these amazing people moving and making strides in their faith.

Discipleship is not a class. Discipleship Coaching is the secret sauce for continuing to move people through their journey. Today, I and another Kidmin Champion are taking two buses of 3rd-5th grade students to a local Monastery for a Faith Field Trip. We will be teaching and practicing several of the spiritual disciplines which will guide each one to continue to take next steps in their faith formation. I so look forward to the coaching conversations to come.

Highlight: Being in the company of a cloud of witnesses who want to make disciples of Jesus Christ so bad they can taste it.

My next steps:
1. Make an appointment to coach a leader in my local church I already have a Kidmin relationship with.
2. Prepare intentional next steps for 5th graders next summer aging out of Children’s Ministry.
3. Prepare and email next steps for the ladies who shared the Bible study we just completed.

When are you setting aside a season for learning? My next season comes after the New Year: A church-bus full of local church leaders in ministry with children will be heading to Orlando for the Children’s Pastor’s Conference in January.

“Teach the wise, and they will become wiser; inform the righteous, and their learning will increase.” Proverbs 9:9

October Is For Learning – Part 1 of 2

October is a month for learning. The first week was the 2-day Catalyst Conference held in Atlanta. Catalyst is a leadership conference for those who love the church. The theme of ‘Fully Alive’ marked the amazing preaching and teaching from other church leaders and culture movers and shakers:
“I don’t have to figure it all out before I go all out.” – Andy Stanley
“Lead with who you are rather than what you know.” – Miles Adcox
“Comparison either makes you feel better or worse and neither honors God.” – Craig Groeschel
“I can’t please everybody, but I can please God.” – Craig Groeschel
“Grow up! Ministry is not for children or babies.” – Dr. Henry Cloud
“As you discover yourself in a new way on the Enneagram journey, you’ll also find you are paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.” – Ian Morgan Cron (On the Enneagram journey, I’m a 7…which means I don’t like to dwell on Good Friday and every day is Easter. Yep…that’s me.)
“We are not created to be everything for everyone.” – Christine Caine
“Choose what to bomb.” – Jon Acuff (Intentionally decide what you will not worry about.)
“Whatever grows produces energy.” – Dr. Caroline Leaf (lots of research about our mindset…so interesting)
“Most experiences fade. What sticks? Pits and peaks.” – Chip Heath (think college and Disney World)
“Truth without love is harsh. Love without truth is lies.” “Those coming up behind us are not our replacements, they are our reinforcements.” – Lisa Bevere (Be in partnership with those younger than I.)
“My greatest legacy is not to pastor a big church, but to raise children to love the Lord Jesus.” – Choco DeJesus

The greatest insight of the event is that I am one person, created by God with certain (not all) gifts and strengths, called by God to please Him (not everyone) in the local church, and empowered by God to go all out (don’t hold back) in the areas He has given me influence today (be fully alive and fully present.) This event makes me think alongside others who are thinking through the filter of Jesus and the local church. The music and preaching is like a feast for my soul. It causes me to lift my head and heart from the daily to the eternal.

Highlight: Watching my friend chase down and compete in the Catalyst community app scavenger hunt while I saved seats and held onto the stuff she won and collected. Ordering breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and hearing the server call out the name of Jesus when our order was ready because that’s the name we gave to the order-taker. My friend’s hip replacement frequently gets the security guys to pull out the scanner wand so my part is to encourage the security guys to consider a body search. We got to hold a parrot and take pics with a baby kangaroo at lunch!

The second week of October involved another 2-day event to become a Wonderfully Made Trainer. Information can be found here.

Highlight: Listening to my colleagues acknowledge the 95% of the time I looked at my shoes, thanks to lots of anatomy visuals and vocabulary, yet being totally committed to being a champion for bringing this fabulous resource for parents on faith and sexuality to the local church.

My next steps from those two learning events:

  1. Schedule a shared-event with other churches to offer a Wonderfully Made weekend  event next March as I meet with other children’s ministry leaders next.
  2. Finish reading “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World” by Andy Stanley….THIS is fascinating history on the temple, the church, and how we got the Bible.
  3. Read “Learning to Lead Like Jesus” by Boyd Bailey.
  4. Read “The Road Back to You: an Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

Next week I’ll share the third week of training focused on teaching people to feed themselves as disciples of Jesus so we can share the journey.

When is your next season for learning?

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts.” Habakkuk 1:1

Wonderfully Made: Body and Soul

Families are so busy. Living in the metropolitan Atlanta area has many families spending more time than ever on the road running errands, going to work, and delivering little people to all that will give each child an edge. Children are tutored, rushed, coached, taught, and fed. Families eat on the run, do homework late, and can hardly get the laundry folded. Planning for and setting aside time to have ‘the talk’ is indeed a priority, but hardly makes the ‘urgent’ column. And when is the right age? Where do you even begin? How much vocabulary needs to be covered? What does he/she already know? WHY and HOW do they know what they already know?

The United Methodist Church has taken the point on emphasizing a healthy biblical and Christian perspective on human sexuality, values, and relationships since the 1980s with a program specifically for 5th and 6th graders entitled Created By God. The course was updated significantly in 2017 by Rev. Dr. Leigh Meekins, Rev. Dr. Tanya Eustace Campen, and Mark Huffman, Certified Sexuality Educator and is now known as Wonderfully Made: Loved by God. Updates in the program include time for reflection and ways to incorporate learning into the lives of students, as well as a strengthened spiritual component.

The course offers a comprehensive introduction to human sexuality – anatomy, vocabulary, attitudes, morals, growth and development, relationships, reproduction, responsibility and safety – built on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and the written Word of God. Participant Books serve as resources that help children ages 10-12 understand their bodies, the changes they are going through, and how God loves them now and always. The course explains sexual anatomy as well as the different aspects of puberty. Additionally, the book will discuss the influence of social media on sexual desire and decision making.

Why ages 10-12? Because their parents and families are still the primary influence in their lives. They are still listening. They still trust their parents and teachers more than their peers. Current research also tells us that changes are beginning to take place in their bodies on the average at age 8. Age 8!

Wonderfully Made is typically a 3-day course for 5th and 6th grade students and their parents: Thursday evening (parents), Friday evening (students), all day Saturday (students in the am, parents & students in the afternoon). Attending a trainer-training a couple of weeks ago reiterated the need for the church to champion for kid’s souls AND their bodies.

I sent an email last spring to several then-4th-grade parents sharing we would have the opportunity to host a Wonderfully Made event the next year when their students would be 5th graders inviting them to pray with their spouses about their family’s participation. Though families didn’t want yet to think about it, they overwhelmingly agreed they would indeed participate. It’s on the calendar for March 2019 for 5th & 6th grade families.

We will also invite other churches in our district/region to bring their families/students because we believe we are better together. A smaller church probably wouldn’t offer a class to one or a couple of students, but together we can offer a critical mass environment and their families will receive an excellent small group connection with their own church’s leaders. This is also one of those events when a trained facilitator/trainer comes into your house to lead. Though I am now a trainer, I have invited a fellow Children’s Pastor who has experience offering this program to her own students for many years with the one of the authors as her church’s facilitator/trainer.  I will serve as the hostess-with-the-mostest.

How will you reach out to your families to provide Christian education for mind, souls, and bodies?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Children Serving in Meaningful Ways

Children are constantly exposed to a culture that says, “Serve me” rather than “Serve others.” If children capture the concept of service to others while they are still young, they will most likely be lifelong servants in the Kingdom of God.

Children’s Ministry was offered the opportunity to serve lunch to our church family last Sunday. With it being autumn, we chose an apple theme and called it Johnny Appleseed Day. Two amazing Dads prepared pulled pork and we ordered sweet coleslaw from the local BBQ house. We purchased bread rolls and individual apple sauces from Costco with leftovers given to the food pantry. Then we invited our families to donate as follows:
Kindergartners – bag of apples (any kind), bottle of any kind of BBQ sauce for two sauce bars
1st & 2nd graders – 3 big bags of chips
3rd & 4th graders – large bucket of vanilla ice cream
5th graders – 13×9 baked apple crisp (some amazing ladies in our church also made crisps)

Following the first, early service, we offered apples, apple crisp, and ice cream by the 4th & 5th grade Sunday school class. Following the other services we served all of the above. Parents and teachers who were not leading Sunday school were there to direct students and set up the gym with three serving lines and one dessert serving line. Round tables were set with black table cloths and simple decorative leaves to match the fall season.

Who served? The children! Two adorable 1st graders greeted everyone at the door. Four amazing 3rd graders stood at entrances with donation buckets ready to share where the lunch donations would be spent such as camp/retreat scholarships, special guests, and missions supplies. 2nd graders manned the two sauce bars to thank their church family for sharing lunch and supporting ministry with children. 4th & 5th graders served BBQ & cole slaw as they directed the 1st & 2nd graders to offer applesauce containers and rolls with plastic gloves that were too big for their little hands. The older kids were helping the littles and they were all laughing and taking their jobs so very seriously. Other students dished out apple crisp, added ice cream, and handed out spoons and ice water.

The kindergartners and 1st graders went from table to table as folks finished their meals to run everything to the cart which would make its way into the kitchen. We used real plates and silverware for creation-care reasons AND so kids could learn to use the commercial dish washer, dry dishes, and put everything away in dry storage. Everyone wanted to learn to use the commercial dishwasher! Who knew?

One Dad came by to tell me his 1st grader wouldn’t stop to eat because he was “needed on the floor”. A 2nd grader wandered to the entrance when he saw there was no one there to greet after the big wave passed. One mom let me know by text ‘My kids have talked about it all afternoon. They had a blast! Who would have ever thought kids would be arguing over whose turn it was to wash dishes?’

I want our kids to serve in meaningful ways. Ways that build relationship. Ways that make for sticky memories engaging all five senses. Ways that look really big in the life of their home church. Ways they can partner with people they love and with those who love them.

Serving in ministry gives us a chance to gauge the spiritual development of our children. A tremendous amount of nurturing each child’s call into ministry can be derived from early service opportunities as they uncover and discover the use of their spiritual and natural gifts. The message we hope to share in our church family is, “Let the kids serve!”

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Rise Up – A Book Give Away

There are a ton of fabulous books out there about themes, special events, logistics, theory, encouragement and stories for the disciple called to professional ministry with children. There are few that make ‘the shelf.’ On ‘the shelf’ are the ones I go to often as must-have resources. Rise Up: Choosing Faith over Fear in Christian Ministry, written by Vanessa Myers, is the one that has it’s own spot on ‘the shelf’ and one I will gift out to many because it will absolutely help you stay the course.

Vanessa Myers is in the trenches which gives her great credibility in my book and in my heart. I know Vanessa. We’ve shared ministry, stories, and life for a lot of years. To God be the glory, we are still in ministry. What Rise Up: Choosing Faith over Fear in Christian Ministry brings to ‘the shelf’ is truth about feelings, experiences, the shiny and the crud which comes from following God’s call into professional ministry. Something happens between 18 months and 3.6 years in serving in professional ministry that drives most to throw in the towel. But for those who persevere

Vanessa is vulnerable and hopeful. She is honest and funny.  Each of the 12 chapters addresses fears she has faced which we all could share at different times along the journey. From the fear of God’s calling, fear of criticism, fear of moving, and fear of letting go, to name just a few, she gives personal accounts of what it looks like, sounds like, smells like, and feels like. But she doesn’t leave you walking the tightrope. She writes of her reactions and the hope. Oh the hope she offers in each chapter she headlines as ‘Finding Freedom.’

She closes each chapter with a prayer. I’m glad. When I’ve ever been overcome with debilitating fear I hardly had the words or vocabulary beyond ‘Lord, please make it stop!’ (which is a perfectly good prayer, but I want more to offer my Lord.)

My absolute favorite part of her book is how she offers an account from the Bible for each fear. When I’m afraid I need to know that I’m not the only one and this is priceless. For example, Chapter 5 is entitled: Surrounded by Fire…Fear of Criticism. She reminds us that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ‘didn’t please the king.’ She continues, ‘When you work in the church there’s not just one person you want to please, but many people. When you are being attacked in your job, it is hard…criticized by other Christians. Usually when people complain about you in the church they don’t go to you directly. They go your pastor or a committee.’ Yet she found comfort as did the three young men in the fiery furnace. ‘The first step into walking through the fire was to forgive. The next step I took was to allow God to be my shield. God’s presence was there. God’s love was there. God’s protection was there.’ As reminded in Psalm 3:3-4, David writes “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Whew! I’ve got to get that on a pillow!

I wrote all over this book. Here are a few of the writings that jumped off the pages…

Seeking the Lord requires good spiritual disciplines or habits. Yes!

His calling for your life is important, but His desire for you to know Him trumps all. Yes!

Pressing into the Lord, I believe, involves a few steps: being aware of His presence, reading the Bible, and singing. Yes!

Lack of support does not mean that I am a failure. I will always have the best supporter on my team, Jesus Christ. Amen!

When I asked Vanessa if she was surprised by anything since she’s put the book, er..her heart out there. She said, “My biggest surprise is how the book has been speaking to more people than those in the ministry. God is using it to speak to people who need to hear it right when they need to hear it.” I am so glad she obeyed the Lord and wrote this book….for herself…and for US!

You can order your own copy at Amazon AND you can win a free copy of Rise Up: Choosing Faith over Fear in Christian Ministry by commenting below with a scripture which has helped you to rise up and serve the Lord. The winner will be announced on next Tuesday’s blog. Your heart and your ‘shelf’ needs the words shared in Rise Up.

“Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic – be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.” Romans 12:11-12, CEB

The free book give away week is complete. The winner is Jen Clark, a children’s pastor who serves Mountain View United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

You’ve Got Mail!

Today’s guest blogger is Robin Stewart, Director of Children’s Ministry at Athens First United Methodist Church located in downtown Athens, Georgia.   

“You’ve Got Mail” may evoke many different images in the mind of the reader, but for our kids, we want it to remind them that God’s Word is for them daily!

You’ve Got Mail: Letters From God is an event inspired by a combination of the Love Letters from God book series by Glenys Nellist and categories of scripture found in Bible Black Belts by Mark Burrows.

Families on the Fifth is a tradition our church began a few years ago to promote faith-building activities for parents and children to share together.  As usual, we combined as many opportunities as possible. Our goal: for families to experience scripture in a meaningful, memorable way, and to take it with them out into the world. At each stop in the rotation, kids received a letter (scripture postcard) and engaged a variety of activities which utilized a variety of learning styles.

We began together with Words of Celebration: Psalm 100:1-2 directed a rousing family worship time which included movement and instruments.

Groups of families then moved through four stations.

Words of Wisdom: Psalm 19:105 letter from God. Our leader at this station did a fantastic job of telling the story of Josiah finding the dusty scroll and quickly brought it to this day. How do we keep our Bibles? And then our church. It led beautifully into our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness concept. Our church began its Stewardship season this day.

Words of Comfort: Jeremiah 29:11 letter from God.
This station featured the comfort we are offered in 23rd Psalm and the kids were able to construct the setting of the Psalm on poster board with random materials provided.

Words of Jesus: John 15:12 letter from God.  Our missions assistant hosted this part of our rotations and explained how we prepare food bags to give to our community families who are in need. They were able to witness the assembling of one bag and take away bags to fill with their family. We combined a kindness quilt in this rotation, where kids added their card stock squares to a “quilt” which displays illustrations of kindness experienced.

Words of Inspiration: Philippians 4:13 letter from God. Children heard from a leader who admitted that sometimes she was not sure if she could do all that she had promised, like this morning, but that God is always present and will provide a way! (great testimony following a big UGA weekend). The children engaged in the scripture with a movement activity. We followed up by reminding them of the WITH prayer. We used a game spinner and children were able to volunteer to spin and say a prayer sentence that would match the letter (W-I -T- H) that came up on the spinner.

Take away: An envelope with 5 scripture cards and parents and children engaged together for one hour!

You can connect with Robin at robin@athensfirstumc.org