What Else Do We Need to Know? (part 2)

On what and where can we focus our learning to take us to the next level of professionalism and success AND build our perseverance muscles? When we begin our seasons of local church ministry, we only know what we know. It’s what we DON’T know that can take our legs out from under us and leave us paddling for our ministry lives. Another theme for Advent and a reading plan for Lent will not cut it.

“Ministry leaders are more likely to survive when they know what they are getting into and how to navigate the challenges.” p. 138 from When Women Lead: Embrace Your Authority, Move Beyond Barriers, and Find Joy in Leading Others.

Once you get to the point of lifting your head from the calendar and demands of ‘Sunday’s always coming’, a professional will realize the skills that got them the job will not lead them to a place of health and thriving without some additional skills. What else do we need to know?

In chapter 8 of When Women Lead, Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore suggests an emphasis on focused, professional training in at least four major areas. I wrote of the first two in part 1 of this 2-part series which can be found here.

Here are two other areas of skill-building I totally agree with:

Vocational Development – training in identifying the right situation for each skill set, identifying coaches and mentors, and in networking. 

Lead Like A Shepherd by Larry Osborne
Podcasts: Kids Ministry 101 by Lifeway, Lead Podcast by Josh Denhart, Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way by Discipleship Ministries
Fusion by Nelson Searcy
Connect by Nelson Searcy
Sustainable Children’s Ministry by Ministry Architects
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase

One thing I did because of what I learned…

Before social media, the only local network of leaders I could get to was for lunch at quarterly CEF meetings (Christian Educators Fellowship) and the monthly tri-county Preschool Directors networking groups. I would attend with a legal pad of questions. While the participants stood in line for food, I’d go down the line and chat with folks to get answers to the most pressing questions because these were the professional Christian educators in the trenches and they were all in one place. Sometimes I actually ate lunch, but mostly not.

One thing I still do today because of what I learned…

Intentionally build relationships with new and experienced staff hired from the pew from across North Georgia. I make it a priority of gathering and collaborating with others in the trenches of the local church leading littles and bigs to Jesus. I make it a priority to schedule and drive to wherever my peers will gather in small groups to discover who has amazing skills in budgeting, staffing, volunteering, negotiating, special events, hospitality, church development, research, curriculum, resources, holy habits, child development, social media, and communication. I connect people for ministry in community.

I’m contacted almost weekly by healthy, great churches looking to build their team for ministry with children and families. Frankly, the pickings are slim because most folks won’t take the time to network and build relationships outside their current local church. As more churches re-org the organizational chart in the next 3-5 years, those who fail to build relationships through face-to-face networking, even occasionally, will regret it. We all need mentors, coaches, and door openers. Building relationships through face-to-face networking makes having all three so much easier and costs us nothing, but prioritizing the time to attend every opportunity that arises.

I’m also contacted almost monthly by hurt, broken, blindsided kidmin champions who never thought they’d be looking for a new position. Building relationships outside our own houses is a necessary priority. How can I help?

“Here’s a cold, hard fact: no one is going to advocate for you, your gifts, or your circumstances quite like  you will advocate for yourself, your gifts, and your circumstances.” When Women Lead, p. 149

Personal Development – training in time management and life rhythms

Creating a Healthier Church by Ronald Richardson (this one kept me in ministry)
The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker
Ministry Chick by Melissa Mashburn (I met the author because of a bodacious ask!)
Good to Great by Jim Collins (I’m quoting and living by this one almost every day)
Stride by Ken Willard (purposeful generational discipleship)
Attended and participated in the Walk to Emmaus movement (the recipe for living a life of grace)

One thing I did because of what I learned…

Schedule balcony time to set goals twice each year and unofficially edit my job description of the local church I’m serving each January. Setting goals go along with an overall discipleship pathway for an extended period of time and edit that to excellence. Editing my job description reminds me what I’m being evaluated on (the original job description for which I was hired) and what do I need to set aside that I’ve mysteriously inherited over the last year which is not my lane. This guards my heart and my head to spend my best time and creative energies to meet my priorities and take spiritual authority over my call to ministry for the next season.

One thing I still do today because of what I learned…all of the above.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18

What Else Do We Need To Know? (part 1)

Once we get to the point of lifting our heads from the calendar and demands of ‘Sunday’s always coming’, a professional will realize the skills that got us the job will not lead us to a place of health and thriving without some additional skills. What else do we need to know?

There was so much I really enjoyed in Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore’s book I listened to it on Audible, as well. Filled with honorable storytelling and diligent fact-gathering, every turn of the page held greater weight for leading with authority and intentionality. This resource is for women AND men navigating the tension of what one naturally brings to the table and what is needed in reality.

Chapter 8: Equipping: Real-World Stuff Everyone Needs to Learn was the chapter of greatest interest for this less-than-formally-taught Christian Educator.  

Dr. Moore begins the chapter with the reminder that the ‘activity of strategy’ is what most church folk are looking for. But “until  I’ve done the foundational work of discovering my identity in Christ, of understanding what it means to take spiritual authority over my call, of making peace with the fact that I live in a fallen world, no amount of strategy will stick.” p. 137

If you are in this discovery, acceptance, and submission phase, I’m here for you. If you are lacking a liturgy for suffering, hurt, and perseverance to get you to the next place of perseverance, I’m here for you, too.

“Ministry leaders are more likely to survive when they know what they are getting into and how to navigate the challenges.” p. 138

Rev. Dr. Moore suggests an emphasis on focused, professional training in at least four major areas. I’ll list two below and add where I’ve discovered the most valuable for me.

Fund Development and Management – training in how to negotiate and financial leadership

Only the Lord knew that my dad’s insistence that I attend the local business college in finance the summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college would equip me with the language and rhythm of finance. Dr. Moore writes, “Discipleship gets real when we begin teaching and training in the area of money.”


Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey
Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate by J. Clif Christopher
Getting the Word Out: How to Market Your Ministry by Bunnie Jackson-Ransom

One thing I did because of what I’ve learned?

I was hired by a church to start a Family Ministry which included a weekday preschool and connections with the incoming students on the college campus on which the church was located. After six months the US economy tanked and the church leadership, led by retired professors, held their giving tightly. My salary had been provided for three years by an anonymous gift, but now there was no money for ministry. Looking at what was in my hand, I began selling hot pizza and cold Gatorades 10pm-1am Monday-Thursdays in the dorm parking lots to all the summer camps. I did this for all three summers I served there to fund the effective ministry for which I was hired.

One thing I still do today because of what I’ve learned? 

I write thank you notes with stories twice each year to those who give to the children’s ministry designated account and other stakeholders in the ministry I’m responsible for. Without knowing the amount, I ask our financial lead for the list of donors who have given directly. Compiling stories in a google doc I’ll prepare a letter of thankfulness.  ‘Let me tell you how your investment in the kingdom is making a world of difference.’ 75% of the letter will be about the immediate past. 25% of the letter will be about the vision and plans for the upcoming season with an invitation to participate with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness and bring your neighbors. This a best practice for all non-profits.

“Thankfulness strengthens relationships.” – Network for Good, LinkedIn

Leadership Development – training in team-based leadership


The Servant by James C. Hunter
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Every book written by Patrick Lencioni
When Women Lead by Carolyn Moore
Small Groups For The Rest of Us by Chris Surrat

One thing I did because of what I’ve learned…

Years ago the only leadership development opportunities were led by and for Christian men, yet I still attended and brought other Christian women with me to such events at Catalyst, Children’s Pastors Conference, Drive, Stephen Covey, and read everything I could get my hands on about organizational leadership. I would start and lead Bible and book studies in small groups when I was available and when it would fit my own personal schedule. I hoped folks would come. They did. They do.

One thing I still do today because of what I’ve learned:

I make it a priority to attend any free online training by people in the trenches, not just authors, such as She Leads Church (Christian women leaders in the marketplace and church space), Bible Creatives (those in the trenches of teaching Sunday school each week), and Children’s Pastors Conference (intentional leadership for me a disciple-maker AND as a disciple of Jesus).

Where have you received training in the areas of organizational money management and leadership development?

Next week I’ll cover the other two all-important skills Rev. Dr. Moore suggests. In the mean time, consider reading or listening to at least two books this summer in one of these areas especially if you intend on taking your ministry leadership to the next level and building those perseverance muscles.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and author, 1930-2009

We Do VBS, We Just Do It Differently

During the quarantine, I researched the fruitfulness of VBS the way we’d always done it. Yes, we involved a slew of people to volunteer. Yes, we had crowds of kids in the hundreds. Yes, we threw everything we had at the walls, every wall, for an entire week. I found no new family connections for all that investment the traditional VBS way for us going back several years prior to 2020.

We had to do VBS differently in 2020. We chose a tailgate party with a jacked-up VBS large group for the families to enjoy at three different times on Thursday nights. Why Thursdays? Once everything returned (we really thought we’d be back in a few weeks) it would not interfere with other ministries returning. 

For the next 14 weeks, we gathered so our families ‘would not become accustomed to doing life without us’ after the initial 12 weeks of drive-thru family ministry every Tuesday at 1pm in March, April, and May. So we did parking lot family VBS every Thursday night in June, July, and August. The stage was a sidewalk. The classroom was their vehicle.

What happened? We had five new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Winner winner!

Summer 2021 rolled around and there lingered a continued caution. So we planned another Family VBS as a drive-in service playing games as a family, telling stories about Jesus, theming out each evening in June & July, dancing and singing praises to the Lord. We highlighted and involved a different ministry each night (ex: Men’s Ministry on Nerf Game Night). Five more new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Winner, winner!

Summer 2022 rolled around and we decided to continue this different Family VBS because (1) it was connectionally fruitful, (2) we didn’t need as many volunteers (still an issue today for almost everyone), (3) we added some table life to it through a generous donation to include a food truck each night and an ice cream truck going into neighborhoods immediately following and (4) we had one service to throw at it everything we had. 

What we learned from Family VBS 2022?

  • The table life added more stress as only 3 out of 5 food trucks proved reliable.
  • Including tables meant more volunteers and set up was a bear as take down had to be complete before moving on to anything else in the wicked heat.
  • Rather than the tables being a space to engage as a family, it separated adults from their kids.
  • Leaving to escort an ice cream truck into a local neighborhood meant some folks were left eating in the parking lot due to late food trucks. Missed hospitality.
  • More families attended since it wasn’t in one single week, but were able to schedule out one or more of the 5 Thursdays in June and felt they didn’t miss a thing. Consistency matters.
  • We had five more new families connected in at least a 2nd way with the church family by October. Still a connectional winner.

So what about 2023? 

We are doing Family VBS again because (1) it continues to be connectionally fruitful, (2) we don’t need as many volunteers and the volunteers can be different every week, (3) we are using a larger, shaded, grassy area which can be seen and heard from the street which is now available, (4) Using ReFocus Ministry’s generational discipleship curriculum: Talk Tools, (5) better stewardship of a decreasing budget, (6) we have 3 rounds of VBS training which explains our WHY and practices hospitality skills.

The schedule looks like this: “Building our faith this summer as we ‘serve one another humbly in love’” (Galatians 5:13)

5:45pm – Building stations w/art station, magnetile station, lego station, straws/connector station. In years passed we’d use consumables. This year, we will use items we can repurpose in the Welcome Center to better steward the VBS budget.

6:10pm – Assume-your-positions song: Take Me Back to Church by Cochren & Co.

6:15pm – Worship Music begins (start song: He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands – this year’s call to worship) with another song (we build a Spotify playlist w/VBS songs we curate)

6:20pm – Family games (provided by ReFocus) transitioning to story with a song

6:30pm – Bible story (always about Jesus)
6:35pm – Family response activity (by ReFocus)

6:45pm – Family affirmations (by ReFocus)

6:50pm – JumpStart3 Matthew 7:24-25 House On The Rock! closing song w/invite, “We’ve loved spending the evening together and would love to get to know you better. We’ll be packing everything up by 7pm and heading to ? restaurant for dinner and would love to have you join us.” We tested some dine-out locations during Lent and have made arrangements with local restaurants we’re going to. This lets us be a ‘good neighbor’ together.

Follow-up (setting the table for the next step in generational discipleship right quickly)

  1. Sunday morning building our faith continues in June & July with Sign Language class for K5-2nd grades & Power Tool Building class for 3rd-5th graders. Looks like McEachern Academy.
  2. Invites to various Christmas in July events in July aka Christmas caroling to shut-ins, snow machines, marshmallow games, Tall/Small Paint Party, Women’s Ministry potluck & sundae bar, Promotion Sunday, Prayer Warrior Bootcamp, National Ice Cream Sunday at the Gaga Ball pit.

If you are local or local enough and would like to bring a bus/van/car load of kids (your church kids or just the ones you live with) to see what it looks like, we’d love to have ya. We’ll take care of the programming.

I love VBS and all that it entails, if it’s fruitful and blesses the socks off littles and bigs alike. I also love doing generational discipleship which is fruitful and measurable. And I REALLY love dancing before the Lord in praise on Thursday nights with little people and their bigs. By the way, our Student ministry is handing out freeze pops each Thursday night at the end because building our faith through serving together is generational discipleship. Our Women’s Ministry small groups are rolling out the red carpet in as the hospitality team for each Thursday. Teamwork at its best!

“Serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Resources For Loss, Death, Heaven, and Grief

A beloved weekday preschool teacher passed away a few weeks ago after a long illness. A text from a long-ago colleague just last Saturday evening shared that a dad had unexpectedly passed away. Inquiries on kidmin social media groups are coming in almost weekly asking what do I do and what resources to provide when death takes a loved one, so I thought I’d put all that I’ve used in one place.

When a family I serve is expecting family to come to town for the service, I typically will drop off a couple of books along with multiple bags of various paper products: paper plates, toilet paper, paper towels, utensils, Ziploc bags, travel coffee cups, cold beverage paper cups, and trash bags.

When a family I serve is having to travel or arrangements have not been made, I’ll typically drop off a couple of books along with ice cream cones and a half-gallon of really good ice cream. No-mess and no-dishes, but a sweet treat for those late night conversations of ‘Where’s grandpa?”

What books? I keep several copies of each on my shelf because, well, you never know. Below are listed my favorites. Amber O’Neal Johnston, Heritage Mom, reminds me to choose books which are both windows and mirrors. I’m very mindful of ‘who’ passed away and ‘what’ that mirror should like in illustrations, so I’m always on the lookout for new books.

Someone I Loved Died by Christine Harder Tangvald –  A small paperback, this is a story with multiple places to draw and respond with images of a grandparent. “When one of God’s people dies, God moves the breath of life  back out of the body to a special place we call Heaven, a place we can’t see right now.”

When I’m With Jesus by Kimberly Rae – A small paperback, this story is told by a mom. “When someone you love is gone, you feel sad. Talk to Jesus about it. He understands. He had to leave His Father for a awhile and it was hard for Him, too.”

The Memory Box by Joanna Rowland – A short story which opens with a child losing a balloon. “But as sad as I am now. I can always get another balloon. But I can never have another you. I miss you.” The child gathers stories and items of remembrance, “I’m making a box so I won’t forget you, with our memories like sand from the beach where we played and left footprints as we ran from crashing waves.” 

Someday Heaven by Larry Libby – A beautiful book illustrated by Wayne McLoughlin which answers questions about Heaven with biblical backup: Where is heaven? How long does it take to get there? Will I need money in Heaven? Will it always be light in Heaven? Is there a beach in Heaven? It was this book which walked me through my grief when my Dad passed in 2005. I was scheduled to teach my 4th-6th grade girls Sunday school class the following Sunday. I was able to share with them what my daddy was doing while we were in Sunday school. The edition illustrated by Tim Jonke is extended and my personal favorite. I think every children’s ministry leader should have a copy of this and the other two books by Larry Libby, illustrated by Tim Jonke: Someone Awesome (Jesus) and Somewhere Angels

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party by Joni Eareckson Tada – a hardback with whimsical illustrations describing Heaven and the new Heaven for really littles, “When Jesus comes back to this world, he will bring heaven with him. Heaven and earth will join together.”

Gone But Never Forgotten by Pamela Rae Hughey – a paperback of remembering a grandmother the children never knew yet their parents share memorable experiences about her. “”Where did she go? Will she ever come back?’ ‘No, she went to heaven to be with God, and that’s that. Now, her spirit is in heaven, and she no longer feels pain, but in the ground is where her body remains.”

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst – a story of a mom calming her twins through a storm with an invisible string. “You don’t need to see the Invisible String. People who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love.”

Tell Me About Heaven by Randy Alcorn – a story written for older children to answer a young boy’s questions, “What’s it like where Grammy is?” in a narrative to answer some of the questions about Heaven.

Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen – a more advanced read-aloud about grief after loss. “Grandy put on her apron because she knew it would get messy. It seems that grief is never clean. Grief always takes longer to cook than anyone wants it to.” 

The Next Place by Warren Hanson – a child’s whimsical read-aloud with text curved and turned on the pages. “Though I will know the joy of solitude…I’ll never be alone.”

Tell Me The Secrets by Max Lucado – a lovely book of a retired missionary couple who befriend and share life with a trio of tweens. A beautiful book of multiple short stories of wonder, awe, and loss. Lucado’s companion book Tell Me The Story is one I read aloud on every retreat at lights-out.

Which books I deliver with either paper products or ice cream depends on the age of the child and who has passed away and how far along the grief journey my friend has traveled. It’s an honor and privilege to walk alongside families while navigating loss as a remarkable moment of life. 

How do you walk alongside your families? Which books are on your shelf?

“To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

Prayer Labyrinths

Praying outside, wandering along a pre-set path makes me slow my pace, linger in prayer, and delight myself in the wonder and thoughts of the saints who have gone before me. For kids it’s a pre-set race path. Or at least the first time they see it and that’s okay. I rushed through lots of things as a child. That’s okay, too.

A labyrinth is simply a place to walk and pray or think. There is nothing mystical about it. It gives you the freedom to walk around while focusing your mind on God – and not worry about getting lost. A labyrinth contains a single walking path to the center and then back out again. Labyrinths are used world-wide as a way to quiet the mind, calm anxieties, recover balance in life, enhance creativity and encourage meditation, insight, self-reflection, and stress reduction.

I’ve always wanted one for littles and bigs to enjoy. Using a labyrinth we introduce a connection with the holy habits of saints of the church with our current students. Having one outside is perfect to enjoy anytime.

It took us a year to paint due to the weather, but an amazing servant leader with an art background helped us prepare a proposal to our church trustees to draw and paint a classical labyrinth in a distant corner of our parking lot. Drawn with a piece of chalk she attached to a long piece of PVC pipe, the outline was painted white and the inside path was painted blue with parking lot paint. The center was painted with our children’s ministry logo. The center can certainly be changed at any time. If some folks don’t want it in the future, time and constantly driving over it can fix that or painting over it in black will do the trick.

Since then, an Eagle Scout project filled in the lingering space with a box to hold laminated paperwork for teaching and practicing prayer, a bench, and some low-maintenance landscaping.

I’ve used it at our Fall Festival as a ‘station’, the first stop of a S’more Jesus Late Night, on Kid’s Bible study night when the weather was exceptionally beautiful, and as part of the Easter Story Walk on Palm Sunday. Many times I go out there to take a break on a long 10-hour on-campus day.

There have been some amazing prayer labyrinths making inside and outside spaces sacred. With tools as simple as a couple of strings of Christmas lights, stacking cans from a food pantry, or some painted on tarp-like material which makes it easily mobile, a labyrinth can happen almost anywhere. Here are a few to consider:

St. Johns in San Francisco with Christmas lights https://theresaecho.com/2020/10/19/a-labyrinth-pandemic-friendly/

St. Johns in San Francisco on a small patch of land alongside a sidewalk https://theresaecho.com/2023/04/06/building-a-succulent-labyrinth/

Want to find a labyrinth in your area? Check out https://labyrinthlocator.com/home

When kids use a labyrinth, they’ll run through it like a maze. Be okay with it. The more we use it, the slower the pace becomes. It’s become a fabulous meet-up space on campus. Do you have a space on campus which can be turned into a prayer labyrinth?

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Acts 2;28

Secret Hallelujah Sisters

Last summer I took on the leadership of Women’s Ministry alongside the K5-5th grade ministry with children and their families. Our goal was to move from event planning to intentional disciple-making. Disciple-making means we’re getting into building new and deeper relationships with Jesus and with other disciples of Jesus. Secret Hallelujah Sisters is a new ministry to do just that. SHS started last October completing it’s first season in March.

I prayerfully recruited a young adult woman A to come alongside a high school young lady O to partner as co-leaders. They worked together to come up with the survey of interests to be completed on a registration form. We used our church registration database, set a start date, set an ending month, decided how to get the information out there, and what the parameters would be. As the ministry lead, I took care of the promotion, calendaring, and lovingly coached them through the process. A talked it up at all the areas she served in and was the communication lead through the SHS season. O made sure the high school girls were included and so much more.

Goal of Secret Hallelujah Sister: to create prayerful, intentional, intergenerational relationships with the women of our church family.
Start Date: October 2nd, World Communion Sunday
End Date: March (exact date TBD) Reveal: offsite (place TBD) and bring an item to share for multiple charcuterie boards.

August & September: planning and advertising
SHS pairings this first go-round had A the SHS for B and B the SHS for A to more easily manage any sister who dropped the ball or moved during the season. Only the 2 co-leads knew the SHS pairings. Pairings for high school ladies were with adults to set the table for promoting inter-generational partnerships.
Promotion info:
Want to raise a hallelujah with a sister in Christ?
You are cordially invited to be part of a new ministry: Secret Hallelujah Sisters! Please share with other ladies in your circle of friends before September 18th.

Sign up to secretly pray and encourage another McEachern lady for a 6-month season of Oct-Mar creating delightful, prayerful, intentional, intergenerational relationships with other Christian women.
Signups expire on Sept. 18 to give time for pairings.
Pairings will be available for pickup on Sunday Oct 2.
Secret Hallelujah Sisters is open to all ladies high school age through adult.
1. Pray regularly for your Secret Hallelujah Sister, and
2. Deliver by mail or on a designated table on campus a SMALL gift/note at least monthly, and
3. Attend a reveal event in March
Sponsored by McEachern Women’s Ministry, led by A & O
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

Secret Hallelujah Sister drop-off table – This turned out to be the challenge. A small space already in the church Narthex, but unassigned, served our purposes well and delightfully made the space much more colorful. Table placement encouraged people to come to church since that space was typically locked except on Wednesdays and Sundays. This gave the women two days each week to drop off a note or an item valued less than $5 at least once a month. Every single week the table was filled with colorful packages, plants, and more.

SHS Reveal – We chose a March Sunday afternoon immediately following a youth ministry retreat which took place at the church knowing we’d have a greater likelihood of the busy high school girls attending. Though tired, they came and were so glad they did. The location was the empty parsonage within walking distance of church where a new senior pastor will be moving into this summer with his/her family. Our current pastor is retiring and does not live in the parsonage. One women’s Bible study group cleaned and prayed through the parsonage the week before the event. Part of the reveal event included the SHS praying through the home for the new family to come closing with a congregational prayer. Lovely visuals of women in prayer while laying hands on the doors, washing machine, and counters. The last part of the event was the SHS reveal and was made with scriptures attached to flowers. The women were encouraged to find their partners matching the scriptures and were surprised to discover the pairings.

Last October 67 women chose to be Secret Hallelujah Sisters to one another. Investing 6 months in prayer and expressing the love of Jesus in all the five love languages in quiet service to one another. My greatest delight of the reveal event was the joyful chatter of the women with their now-known SHS. My greatest delight over the SHS season was the multi-generational partnership between the two co-leaders.

We’ve debriefed and the two co-leaders are prayerfully considering who to invite alongside them to coach in the next season come the fall to take on some of the tasks and spread the service opportunities. A & O are chatting it up already for how to set the table for growth and more disciple-making.

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5

A Lot Can Happen After Resurrection Sunday: May

The scriptures share that for 50 days, the Lord Jesus made His way around His world appearing to more than 500 including His brother, James. The Lord Jesus had a ton of work and coverage to do following His resurrection and so do we.

We Methodists call this Easter Season the Great Fifty Days beginning sunset Easter Eve through Pentecost Sunday. “It is the most joyous and celebrative season of the Christian year.” (UMC Discipleship) I shared a few ideas for April which can be found here.

Many of the Sunday celebrations which follow in May are filled with family celebrations like Confirmation, Graduation, etc. But that’s on Sunday. So, what else?

Before we jump straight into VBS mode, can we ask a few questions around a couple of tables, in prayer, and leverage the power of the Holy Spirit for intentional movement of ‘spring strategy for summer strength’ rather than settling for ‘spring bumps into summer slumps’? (Dan Reiland)

Grandparenting With A Purpose is the second Tuesday evening in May. Grandparents gather to learn and share tips for intentionally sharing their faith with their grandchildren during the May celebrations and the upcoming summer. Prepare a summer calendar of dates and places where grandparents and their grandchildren can be together to celebrate and make sticky faith formation memories: Family VBS, National Ice Cream Sunday, Gaga Ball pit chats, June summer dine-outs, vacation, storytelling with photo albums, etc. GOAL: Intentional plans for grandparents to share their faith stories and engage in faith conversations throughout the summer. Discipleship can come with a dinner plate and the kitchen table/garden can become the new classroom with a little planning. (Dr. Josh Mulvihill)

Summer Book Buddies This is a result of asking, “What’s in our hand?” We received two baskets of Beanie Babies over the last year and I’ve held on to them. We invited the church Book Clubs to donate used copies of biographies of Christian men and women of multiple reading levels to further build our Saints Library of paperbacks for littles and their bigs. Kids will be invited beginning on Mother’s Day to ‘adopt’ a Book Buddy for the summer for Bible and sacred book readings. We’ll schedule random outings this summer for littles to bring their Book buddies and chat about what we’re learning at the park, ice cream shop, lunch, breakfast, etc. GOAL: Summer reading while at home and on the road; Faith sharing reading for fun especially for those who do not like to read. Another opportunity to support a local business and be in the community as a family of faith.

Pentecost Sunday Everyone wears red! Use a birthday cupcake to introduce the birthday of the church with a candle that won’t go out. How will you fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in your own life this Easter Season for a strong summer?

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15: 3-6

Easter Story Walk

Sharing the account of the Resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our Christian faith. The miracle and power of our triune God can be taught to littles in developmentally appropriate ways that are sticky, celebratory, and filled with truth. We use the word ‘Easter’ because that is what the ‘season’ is known as and we insert the word ‘Resurrection’ every chance we get.

Here are a few ways we walked right into the story.

Jumbo Eggs – This is preschool chapel. Jumbo eggs, purchased after Easter Sunday at deep discounts, are filled with…

Plush donkey with fake palm branch – Jesus came to town for the annual Passover celebration and the children were part of the parade. Ex: Palm Sunday vs Donkey Sunday

Goblet & plastic coins – Jesus had dinner with his friends. Jesus told his friends to ‘do this and remember me.’ But there was one friend who was not a real friend and he took money to tell the meaners where Jesus was so they could catch him and make him stop doing such amazing things.

Flower bunch – Jesus had a big dinner with his friends then went to a favorite place to pray where meaners came to take Jesus away.

Crown of thorns – Have you ever had a splinter? The meaners took Jesus away. The meaners called Jesus names, hurt him, and made fun of him. They put a crown of thorns on his head.

White fabric – After Jesus died on the cross, his friends and his mama’s friends wrapped Him up and buried him in a cave/tomb. They were so sad.

Stone – After Jesus was placed in the cave/tomb, a stone door was placed to close the cave/tomb.

Empty egg – After 3 days (count to 3), the friends came to the tomb and discovered Jesus was not there. The stone was rolled away (rolling arms). He had risen (hands raised), just as He said He would.

White pillow filler – Jesus walked and greeted his friends and more than 500 people including his family then went UP into heaven (that’s how we know where heaven is – UP) to send the Holy Spirit to all those who believe and follow Jesus. The bestest news? Jesus is coming back to make a new Heaven and a new earth.

Easter Story Walk – Based on the book, ‘Twas the Morning of Easter’ a partnering church shared the book signs they prepared with approval from the author and publisher. There was a deep discounted price for bulk purchases of the book several months back. Her church used the yard signs for part of a Hunt For Easter event with live actors and interactive elements a few weeks’ prior. I used her yard signs around our parking lot prayer labyrinth on Palm Sunday morning and again on Maundy Thursday evening. At the page where Mary prayed, the children walked in and out of the labyrinth before moving on to our ‘hunt’ for Easter. Each family received a copy of the book while supplies lasted. This is when sharing resources between churches is at its best. Thank you Kate Morris and Wesley UMC in Evans, Georgia. Our weekday preschool also set the yard signs in the field where they held their egg hunt for the parents to walk through with their children.

Hunt for Easter – 10 stations had signs #1 – #10 with buckets filled with eggs to tell the story of Easter. Students were led by their Sunday school teachers to each station to pick up an egg for each part of the story. At the end of the story walk, the students returned to their classrooms to open their eggs and debrief/tell the story again. This event was pricey, but using it twice means we reach more people (Palm Sunday AM and Maundy Thursday PM drop-in) and the stations can be edited to be less in number.

#1  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He grew up going to church. It was His family’s custom. He listened to His teachers and obeyed His parents. (Jesus)

#2  When it was God’s time, Jesus rode a donkey into the town of Jerusalem like King David did so many years before. Jesus was 33 years old. We remember this day as Palm Sunday. (Donkey)

#3  Up to this time, to be forgiven for sin (the things we think and do that are not God’s best for us) lambs were sacrificed as payment. Jesus came to replace the lamb sacrifices once and for all. His friends John and Peter call Jesus ‘the lamb of God’ in
their Bible writings. (Lamb)

#4  Jesus called His friends to a last supper to share a meal with bread and juice. Jesus told His friends, “Do this and remember me.” We call this Holy Communion.

#5  Jesus and His friends went to one of their favorite gardens to pray. It was late at night. The meaners came to get Jesus. They punished Jesus and made fun of Him. The meaners made a crown of thorns and placed it on His head. (Crown of thorns)

#6  Jesus died on the cross. His friends came to bury Him. On the third day His friends came to pray and discovered He was gone. He had risen from the dead! Only the miracle power of God can do that. (Empty)

#7  We know this really happened because Jesus appeared with the nail scars in His hands to more than 500 people and His brother John over the next 40 days. (Bracelet)

#8  After 40 days, Jesus went UP into the clouds. So, when we believe in Jesus and choose to be His follower, He promises His believers a helper, The Holy Spirit! That’s how we know where heaven is: UP. (Bubbles)

#9  Jesus is coming back one day the same way He left: the clouds. We share His story of saving us with our friends and family and everybody, like bouncing a ball back and forth until He comes back or calls us to Heaven. (Ball)

#10 This really happened. It’s an historical fact with eye witnesses and ancient writings of those who were there and not just in the Bible. We tell this story so that others will know and believe and follow Jesus. We call this re-telling of the Easter story “The Great Commission.”  Who will you tell about Jesus? (Jelly Bean Bracelet)

The Story Walk and Hunt For Easter were set up outside the church entrance for a drop-in on Maundy Thursday 4-6:30pm for families and anyone else with children’s books/Bibles opened to those pieces of the account. Placing literature to accompany the storytelling involves multiple levels of learning styles remembering that children’s literature should provide both a mirror and a window to children’s worlds. I was stationed at the start of the walk to share (1) this account is true, we have historical and archeological evidence to support what they are about to see/hear, and (2) we are called to tell the story every year and remember what Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit did for us like all other special annual family celebrations. Jesus is alive!

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it.” 3 John 1:3

A Lot Can Happen After Resurrection Sunday: April

I love an Easter Cantata and a Holy Week filled with celebrations like just about everybody, but I want to ask: What if we put just as much energy and creativity into the season following Resurrection Sunday as we do leading up to Resurrection Sunday?

Lent is an amazing, intentional season of teaching, learning, and experiencing the sticky faith practices which point littles and bigs to Jesus. Keeping the main thing the main thing: celebrating our Risen Savior. 

The scriptures share that for 50 days, the Lord Jesus made His way around His world reaching his friends, appearing to more than 500 including His brother, James. The Lord Jesus had a ton of work and coverage to do following His resurrection and so do we.

Before we jump straight into VBS mode, can we ask a few questions around a couple of tables, in prayer, and leverage the power of the Holy Spirit for intentional movement of ‘spring strategy for summer strength’ rather than settling for ‘spring bumps into summer slumps’? (Dan Reiland)

Bring Your Parents to Sunday School is the Sunday after Easter. Kids will invite their parents to their typical kid’s Sunday school morning: Welcome Center, Large Group with song, Bible, prayer, and repeat after me, “We light this candle….as a symbol….of God’s presence with us…and around us always,” then on to their kid’s small group for about 5-7 minutes. After that time I’ll gather all the parents from small groups for a chat altogether: Is this the Sunday school you remember? (NO! It is not.) This is our vision. This is what you can expect this summer. This is what you can expect this fall. This is where YOU can serve and step into this. The stakes are too high! Sooooo, I’ll have Steak & Shake and Longhorn gift cards for those willing to step into the team of coaches this summer and this fall. GOAL: Servant leaders for summer and fall; next steps for those who have been attenders to grow in relationship with their kids and others they’ll serve alongside.

Good Neighbor Baskets Each Women’s Bible study and Women’s Ministry small group (Women’s Ministry is my lane, too) was invited to participate in a service activity before their last class. One opportunity was to bring new/used outdoor play items to fill laundry baskets which will be dropped at local green spaces and neighborhood playgrounds. A sign on the laundry basket will read, “Enjoy this beautiful day that the Lord has made with these items for you to share and keep from your friends and neighbors of McEachern Memorial UMC!” Part of our being a good neighbor is unwrapping everything so it’s ready to play and there is little to no trash/debris. Items include sidewalk chalk, bubbles, balls, bats, hula hoops, play animals/dinosaurs/ people, and more. These will be delivered mid/end of April when we know we’ll be having several days of fabulous weather. GOAL: Be a good and generous neighbor to delight littles and their bigs where they play. No bait and switch, just being a good and generous neighbor. Give small groups an opportunity to serve and practice generosity.

Summer Jubilee is when we offer June and July off for our regular Sunday servant leaders. We typically offer a one-room Sunday school, but our numbers will be too large this year and we wanted to build energy for kids to come and bring their friends/family. We’ve planned to offer an extended large group time with another game, more music, and deeper dive into the Bible story from an apologetics (defending our faith) point of view. That’ll be 30 minutes rather than our typical 20 minutes. The other 30 minutes will be covered in two small groups: K5-2nd grades will be learning American Sign Language to present as part of the summer Children’s Moments in song or Apostle’s Creed or any other regular part of our worship service led by our intern and her ‘wingman’; 3rd-5th grade will be using power tools and building with wood led by a general contractor and his ‘wingman’. A faith in Jesus is always under construction!

What are some other spring strategies for building summer strength? I’ll share a few more ideas in next week’s post.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God.” Romans 10:1-2a

Family Matters

My 10yo grandson has discovered the 1990s sitcom Family Matters. In every episode I hear him laughing his head off at some funny statement or situation of neighbors being neighbors and family being family.

I love the Christian family. When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and savior, we get family. We get brothers and sisters, spiritual mothers and fathers, and lots of little people who make up the local Body of Christ we are constantly delighted by their joy and wonder in Christ all around the world.

What do we do with this new family? How are we to relate to one another as Christians? 

  • Brothers & Sisters – All humans are image-bearers of our great and creative God, but only those who trust in Jesus Christ, God’s only son, are our brothers and sisters in the faith according to Romans 8:29; Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:1-3; and Hebrews 2:9-13, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 12:13b)
  • Co-workers for Jesus – 1 Corinthians 3:5-10 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (vs 9)

How are we responsible to one another as Christians?

  • We are to pray for one another – 2 Timothy 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” (vs 1)
  • We are to minister to each other physically – Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:13 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
  • We are to minister to each other spiritually – Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 13:3; Romans 15:1-2 “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good; to build them up.” (vs 1)
  • We are to encourage and edify one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage one another and build each other up.
  • We are to serve one another with humility – Matthew 20:25-28; Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (vs 3)

What is my attitude to be toward other Christians?

  • Love them – John 3:14-16; 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all love each other deeply.”
  • Be patient with them – Romans 15:5-7, “Accept one another as Christ accepted you.”
  • Be sensitive to their needs – James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (vs 18)
  • Be forgiving of each other – Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13, Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

How do Christians share life in biblical fellowship with one another?

  • In prayer – 2 Corinthians 1:11, favor is granted to us in answer to the prayers of many.
  • In faith – Romans 1:12, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
  • In ministry – 2 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 2:9 the privilege of sharing in service.
  • In suffering – Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13, 5:1 “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ. One who will share in the glory to be revealed.”
  • True biblical fellowship is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ first and foremost – 1 John 1:3-7; 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 “God who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful.” (vs 9)

When we choose to follow Jesus, we’re related to others all around the world who follow Jesus. Personalities can still clash and wrongs will still happen. As Christians we have to respond differently though not all offenses can be resolved this side of Heaven.

The above teachings were part of a lesson about other Christians in Biblical Discipleship I participated in in 1996 in New England. I’d give credit if the documents I’ve kept on my shelf were marked with copyright or anything else. What I do know is that I’ve gone to these scriptures and these discipleship teachings almost monthly, if not weekly, to remind me that I am part of a family: the family of God. This is how we are to live together as the Body of Christ.

The church is an historical organization which has endured more than 2,000 years of chaos, strife, conflict, and the horrors of evil openly hostile to the things and people of Jesus. Yet the Bride of Christ still stands as a critical means of growth for the health of all Christians. Theologian Krista Bontrager shares, “When you are born (accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior) into the family of God, the local church is your family. You have a weird uncle, a crazy aunt, and brothers and sisters you didn’t ask for. But these are your people!” Thank you, Theology Mom.

“The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Acts 11:26b