Got Volunteers?

Everything we do, think, or dream to offer developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences for little people and their families is dependent on volunteers. Our volunteers and servant leaders are actually living out their discipleship with their hands, feet, and faces as they set tables, sing songs (how theology sticks), and tell of the accounts of Jesus from the Bible.

When we invite folks to serve, we are saying, “I’m gonna walk through this next season as a guide from the side to be the disciple-maker your Heavenly Father has called you to be. And here’s a t-shirt!” 

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us our marching orders to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:11-12).

When we invite folks to serve, we are also saying, “You can trust me to teach, train, provide resources, and follow-up with you so you know we are in this together. I’ll see you. I’ll hear you. I’ll pray for you. And here’s a t-shirt!”

As you begin to recruit and dream for a new season of ministry,
1. Remember to tithe 10% of your time each week serving your volunteer team with phone calls, texts, thank yous, and your ministry of presence with some eye-to-eye contact.
2. Remember to ask questions of your volunteer team members to find out their time rhythms for the summer and the coming fall season. Listen.
3. Remember to affirm your volunteer servants they are living out their discipleship to go into all the world to make disciples. There’s nothing like a personal fan club of little disciples who are eager to become whole-hearted disciples of Jesus to encourage us all along our own personal journey of faith because of our faithful witness.
4. Remember to enjoy the company of your volunteer servants as brothers and sisters in the family of faith, so plan some fun with no expectation. The first phone call to a new person is always about the person, not the ask. The second phone call can be about the ask.
5. Remember to make some new friends in the Lord as folks linger after church on those summer Sundays. Invite folks to lunch or offer freeze pops for the littles to chat and laugh with your team in the parking lot. Clean out the cooler on wheels and attach a good pair of kid’s scissors and a trash bag.
6. Remember you’ll never have all the volunteers you think you need, but the Lord has already provided what He can use to multiply the team necessary to fulfill His plan for the ministry you lead right here, right now. Be faithful to invite and recruit.
7. Remember the Lord will provide the increase, you are called to obediently accept your position as His ambassador with joy and trust. If you lose your joy, you’ll lose your impact.
8. Remember to add your volunteer servants to your summer bucket list. Ministry is always about relationships with people. His people. Your people. Love them well to Jesus!
9. Remember these amazing volunteer servants are also how YOU live out YOUR discipleship. Be a delight to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!
10. Don’t forget the t-shirt!

Tonight, May 24th, I’ll be co-hosting alongside Rev. Dr. Kevin Johnson who leads the Ministry With Children for Discipleship Ministries a Family Table Zoom meeting at 5pm ET, 4pm CT to chat all things volunteers. Come to the table by registering here. All are invited to the first MWC (Ministry with Children) Family Table. Pull up a seat, connect, and have conversation with others passionate about children and family ministries. The meeting will be recorded, but we hope you’ll come to the table for real.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

Grandparent Summer Faith Fun

Twice each year we set the table for a shared teaching for grandparents who desire to share their faith with their grandchildren with intentionality. Why?

  • The average age of a first-time grandparent in the US is 47 years old.
  • Biblical command from Deuteronomy 4:9 ‘teach my commands to your children and your children’s children….’

With summer just around the corner time with our grands will look different, so we offered these suggestions and used them for conversational prompts to fill the 90-minute workshop time together. With snacks, of course!

This summer, let’s begin by ‘marking your home.’ Every faith tradition expects there to be visual elements and more to help the devout practice their faith in their home. Think of the prayer corner of a practicing Hindu, a prayer rug of a practicing Muslim, or a statuary of the Mother Mary of a practicing Catholic. What sensory elements, using all five senses, do we provide to mark our homes as a Christian home? Ideas: visual elements like our Bible, scripture (not in cursive) on artwork, appealing artwork of Jesus; smell elements like ‘we light this vanilla candle when we pray’ or baking bread; windchimes to hear as ‘the wind’ passes (can’t see the wind, but we know it’s presence…like the Holy Spirit); drink water because our great God created our bodies to work well when hydrated, etc.

Let’s hike together – Explore a waterfall, walk a prayer labyrinth, discover a local cemetery, or stroll through your neighborhood pointing out the creativity of our great God. And give that kid a stick!

Let’s cook together – Pick those strawberries and blueberries or pick up some at a local fresh food market to enjoy the sense of taste and smell offered by our great God.

Let’s grow stuff together – It’s a miracle that we can plant seeds and stuff pops up out of the ground when the Lord provides water and sunlight. Photosynthesis is a miracle and leaf colors are made real because of the wisdom of our great God. Go ahead and get that seeded watermelon and linger to talk of gardens, foods, planting, and the partnership of water, sun, and good soil as you poke those seeds. And seed-spitting competition!

Let’s read together – Read books together, especially biographies of people who endured hardships as they depended on the Lord in prayer and provision like Elisabeth Elliot, Samuel Morse, Prudence Crandall, John Wesley, Corrie Ten Boom, etc.

Let’s play games together – Otrio is our family favorite because if a kid can play tic-tac-toe, they can play, and probably beat you, in a short amount of time. It plays quickly. I learned to play Rummy, War, and Crazy Eights with a deck of cards my grandmother gave me and we played all the time. When I spent my tween-year summers with my Grandmother, she taught me how to play solitaire and properly shuffle a deck of cards. Learning to follow the rules of a game (builds trust) reminds us that God has rules for us to live by together and He is trustworthy. Learning to properly shuffle a deck of cards, I learned I can do hard things if I take the time to practice. And boy, does summer give us time to practice!

Let’s learn together – Want to know what are the stickiest and most impactful pieces of faith formation to repeat and know? The Apostle’s Creed (What do Christians believe?), The Lord’s Prayer (How do Christians pray?), and the 10 Commandments (How do Christians live out our faith in Jesus with one another in community and relationship?) In our home, we have artwork with all three pieces on the wall, on the stair landing, and on a displayed dish.

Let’s share together – Share with your grand what you are learning about Jesus in your Sunday school class, small group, prayer group. Share with your grand, and introduce them to the folks who walk your faith journey with you regularly.

Let’s worship together – Invite them to worship with you in your sanctuary and at our June Thursday family VBS parking lot service this summer!

What’s on your summer bucket list as you prepare to intentionally share your faith with your grandchildren?

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9

Previous posts of sharing your faith with your grands can be found here.

The Kids Table at a Sacred Assembly

The theme of the 2022 United Methodist Church Annual Conference of North Georgia is “A Place For You At The Table”. As an at-large delegate from my district, I will be gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ in early June in Athens, Georgia to report on the fruitful work of God’s people, celebrate the faithfulness of our great God, and hear the cry of the needy from various local churches and entities sharing the gospel of Jesus.

Serving in ministry with children and families I find great delight and wonder at tables, especially the kid’s table. Remembering back to great family celebrations, the best time was always at the kid’s table because…

The common denominator on every plate was typically bread and dessert.
Jesus broke the bread and gave some to each of his friends and said, “Eat this and remember me.”
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

The best stories are about family, especially those about our parents, aunts and uncles when they were young, playful, and fearless.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2

Everybody laughs. The same table where we eat is where we play games or make stuff. It’s where we do stuff with our hands and we laugh our heads off.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 2:14

It’s more about the company than the decorations. In pre-Pinterest world the kid’s table rarely got elaborate decorations making room for as many little chairs as possible.
“Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.” 2 Corinthians 7:2-3

This annual conference my colleagues in ministry with children will be providing a pop-up kid’s table in the common area. Nothing formal. Nothing fancy. We’ll just randomly pop-up in places where see family and hear laughter. This is what we’ll have:

Legos – legos are tools for building with friction.

Otrio – a quick game of jacked-up tic-tac-toe puts everyone on the same playing field.

Goldfish – a snack will keep the hangries away.

Those of us serving children’s ministry rarely get seats at tables where the big decisions are made. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Angels and men, so far as we know, are the only creatures who have been guilty of this refusal to keep their appointed places.” Yet in the Wesley tradition, there is a divine partnership between laity and clergy where we live out this tension with integrity and order all to the glory of God and I can’t think of a better place to do that than with a sacred assembly at the table. Especially the kid’s table with a quick game of Otrio and a snack. Come, pull up a chair!

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” Joel 2:15

Taking Faith Milestones to the Next Level

We offer faith milestones for littles with a big-who-loves-them to make for a sticky faith memory with some accountability as a platform to teach the holy habits of growing our faith in Jesus. Most are 45 minutes long. Most include a teaching, a practicable interactive element, takeaways, a certificate, and a class photo. Most, especially the Communion and Baptism milestones, will include a collaborating clergy. If offered as a workshop, we begin by lighting an LED pillar candle and repeating, “We light this candle….as a symbol…of God’s presence with us…and around us.”

The schedule looks like this:

K5 – I Can Go To Sunday School (August) … A meet and greet with tour into McEachern Kids (K5-5th grade) the Sunday prior to Promotion Sunday especially for rising kindergartners led by the Ambassadors

K5 & 1st – I Can Receive Communion: Bread & Juice Class (Sept) …. Holy Communion 

1st & 2nd – I Can Pray (February) … Prayer stations with takeaway tools to use at home

2nd & 3rd – I Can Love My Church (Nov) … Group treasure hunt to locations throughout campus and learning vocabulary like narthex, pew, along with local church history

3rd-5th – I Can Serve (August) … Acolyte training

3rd-5th – I Can Follow Jesus: Baptism (March) NEW

4th & 5th – I Can Lead: Ambassadors (August) … Leadership Training 5-7pm w/dinner

4th & 5th – Road Trip Retreat (March) … Fri-Sun shared event with other local churches retreat at local state park (alternate Ambassadors Road Trip and Disciples Road Trip)

5th grade – Moving On Up to Middle School (March) … begin transition to youth group

5th & 6th – Wonderfully Made: Loved By God (January) … Human Sexuality & Jesus w/parents; 3 days

K5-5th – I Can Worship With My Family – various worship services with intentional teaching of worship elements specific to our denomination and honoring of our local church

K5-5th – I Can Go On A Mission Trip: Family Mission Trip (July) NEW

I started these years ago to make special for families a time/place for intentional teaching and practice what I considered the most important practices of our faith in Jesus. I chose these elements since they were practices of Jesus. Each year we edit to excellence with shared language and interactive elements. I started with three in the first year.

As a great number of new families are moving into our state and into our community, offering these faith milestones help us…
1. Find common language with those new to the faith and new to our part of the country/world with shared experiences with new friends-in-the-Lord. Moving from other parts of the country/world, these experiences practice our commonalities and give space for sacred conversations.
2. Give the littles and their bigs access to the spiritual leaders in our church Teaching for a little and a big-who-loves-them, the big learns alongside their little, removing the anxiety which could be part of joining a new faith community. Young parents today are looking for integrity and truth in their spiritual leaders. Faith milestones give space to begin and grow those relationships.
3. Remove the expectation that a robust faith in Jesus will be ‘caught’. Faith milestones give intentional space for developmentally appropriate faith formation family experiences. This generation of bigs of our littles want to learn alongside their children. Faith milestones sets the table for bigs to be the spiritual heroes in their little’s lives.

Want to take it a step further? Blessing of a driver’s license, Confirmation, Bible Ninja Warrior, first job, biblical finance, etc. You get the idea. I’m responsible for K5-5th grades, but so much more could be accomplished if shared throughout for 0-26yo.

How could you set a table for faith milestones in your church family?

“My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.” Job 23:11

Recruiting For A Best Yes

We had a Reilly family tradition which called everyone (kids and adults) to decide by Memorial Day what we’d commit to for the next school year as a family. Negotiations took place to be sure we were best able to balance our calendars, our finances, and our heads. This resulted in a gift of regularly reminding everyone in the family of our mutual commitment to our discipleship and relationship with Jesus and the local church as our priority. This was long before I became a local church staff member. This was far from a formal meeting and more like multiple  mini-conversations in the car, around the dinner table, and while doing laundry. There was plenty of time for PTA, marching band, drama plays, school, soccer, and vacation time, but only as it worked around our priority of discipleship. 

Wouldn’t I want to provide the same healthy habit for the families I serve in the local church?

This last Sunday, we passed out an ‘Intention Postcard’ to our current team and to our families. I’ll begin passing them out as other regular programming takes place in the next two weeks, as well.

Thank you for serving on the McEachern Kids Dream Team this school year with your presence, your preparation, your faithfulness, your smile, your joy and so much more. It is with great appreciation that we wish for you to take a jubilee…a time of rest and refreshment…this summer for June and July.

You were an answer to prayer when you said, “Yes!” to serve this year and I can’t thank you enough. 

As we begin to pray and prepare for the next school year, we humbly ask you to prayerfully consider how and where you wish to continue serving on the McEachern Kids Dream Team come August.

Please return this card to me by Mother’s Day.

o   I want to stay with this grade level in Sunday school.
o   I want to stay in my role in Sunday school, but with another grade level. __________
o   I want to loop-up with my current class to the next grade level.
o   I want to begin to lead a Sunday school class (one month on, one month off)
o   I want to stay in my role on Tuesday Bible Study
o   I want to learn more about Tuesday night Bible Study 6-7:30pm
o   I want to stay in my role in monthly CLUB345
o   I want to learn more about monthly CLUB345
o   I want to begin serving in the new, monthly K2 Club
o   I want to learn more about the new, monthly K2 Club
o   I want to serve on Special Projects
o   I want to serve on summer Sundays
o   I want to serve on summer Thursdays (VBS drive-ins)
o   I want to serve on the tech team
o   I want to serve on the Sunday Hospitality team
o   I want to serve on the Hospitality team (other than Sundays)
o   I want to serve on the McEachern Kids missions team
o   I want to serve on the McEachern Kids Apologetics team
o   I want to serve __________________________
o   I want to take a year off
o   I want to serve and I’ve got an idea!

How will you invite your team to return, invite your team to take a time of rest, invite your team to share their ideas and needs, AND trust our great God to provide for the harvest? This is HIS holy work. We are invited to play in His sandbox and have the faith He will show up and show off among His people. This I know: The laborers will always seem few. The harvest will always be great. Our great God can multiply fire and enthusiasm among His own to draw people close to know His love and His Son.

It’s been my experience that ‘staffing’ for the giftedness and passions of our leaders is better than placing people in places/positions I need. Knowing who has offered their best YES this far in advance, and where, will give me the margin to prayerfully consider what the fall and next season could look like. Recruiting never stops. It only looks different in different seasons. I prefer not doing things the way they’ve always been done, so this is a best practice for me and the families we serve to innovatively consider ‘what’s in my hand?’ for the next school year in 60-90 day blocks.

Anyone else have the prayer prompt “Lord, who?” written in sharpie on the car windshield? What is your process?

“Your ministry will always be better if you have volunteers/servant leaders who are recruited early, who are well trained, and who give you their best YES.” The Sustainable Ministry Show podcast, episode 084

When Rocky Road Isn’t Ice Cream

I’m always on the move. My brain is going, my feet are going, and my calendar includes 2024. I’ve been praying for clarity for several ‘forward paths’. 

Lord, which path do I take? What do you want me to be focused on? Where do I push? Where do I sit? What should I be learning now to be prepared? Lord, I trust You to make clear the next path You’ve chosen for me for such a time as this. In the meantime, I will be obedient to what you’ve called me to and the tables you’ve invited me to today.

He’s made several paths incredibly clear over the last month. In full transparency, I’m disappointed in some.

I will sit in that disappointment for a bit. I’ll rock in my prayer chair. I’ll take the commute without music. I’ll write in my journal. I’ll be quiet in meetings. I’ll intentionally practice my listening skills. 

For about a day.

Then I will remember that disappointment is part of the journey. I’m not entitled nor permitted to be bitter. Though my personal prayer is to a personal God, the answer is from a faithful God who is about a picture and a future so much bigger than me. He alone is trustworthy in disappointment and on the rocky road!

I choose to replace my disappointment with the joys that come with the paths made clear and the doors which remain open, all confirmed by His word.

Reading biographies and the writings of Christian women who have treaded the hard and rocky roads of following Jesus offer perspective. These women have told the Jesus story in huts, orphanages, on chalkboards, in story time, prisons, and foreign lands. These women have lived faithful lives as singles, wives, mothers, and widows. Their stories are the stories that build trust and faith.

Leslie Ludy offered a podcast recently with several reasons why we should be reading Christian biographies:
* We need to hear stories of God answering prayer. (Corrie Ten Boom)
* History is filled with stories of mighty men and women who overcame and endured impossible obstacles of faith through the power of God. (Darlene Deibler)
* It builds my faith to see how these regular people leaned on God and how God came through for them. (Prudence Crandall)
* Faith is not going to be built through modern messages that encourage disillusionment with God or lackluster worship songs that talk about our woes and disappointment with God. (Emma Gatewood)
* We can build our faith muscles by flooding our hearts, minds, and souls with reminders of the power and faithfulness of God. (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Christian discipline means placing oneself under orders. Any ‘solder,’ any candidate for Christian discipline, ought daily to report to his commanding officer for duty. At your service, Lord. What the soldier does for the officer is not in the category of a favor. The officer may ask anything. He disposes of the soldier as he chooses.” Elisabeth Eliott, from Discipline: The Glad Surrender, pg 26. 

At your service, Lord!

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:4

Moving On Up to Middle School: A Faith Milestone

Moving On Up To Middle School is a Faith Milestone with dessert and a panel discussion for 5th graders AND their parent(s). The panel is made up of a dad and his daughter, a son and his mom who are living in a 6th grade spring. Though many of our 7th graders just started this year in a typical middle school setting, we focused on the students and faces of those who aged out of children’s ministry most recently. Our 5th graders remember them and they have shared experiences with those who just aged up.

Initial communication: 5th graders and their parents are invited to join us for dessert and a panel discussion about Middle School on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, 6-7:30pm in the Children’s Welcome Center.

Secondary communication: Your home church wants to help your family navigate this big move to middle school with confidence, information, and tools for success. 5th grade students AND parents are invited for dessert to a panel discussion and Q&A on Wednesday, March 30, 6-7:30pm in the Children’s Welcome Center of the Christian Life Center/Gym building. Park and enter at the McEachern Kids entrance. 

Promotion: Social media, bulletin, mailed full-page invites to all 5th graders, emails from church database.

Arrival activity: Student chooses a combination lock; parent chooses a Prayer Book. Students attempt to open the combination lock with NO help from their parents. No help. No words. Nothing. Just smile.

6-6:30pm: Panel discussion with surprises and wins of going to Middle school. Instruct the students to hand their combination locks to their parents for opening, which they do quickly much to the surprise of their students.

6:30-7pm: Youth Group take over with golf pencils and People Bingo game
In order to familiarize our 5th graders/parents with the youth space, we made arrangements with the youth leadership to ‘take over’ with a game to get to know one another. After the chaos of getting each space filled with a name with all ages and all stages participating, we invited each person to stand who met the criteria of the space. So much fun getting to know others who shared in those attributes/experience criteria. I then shared what to expect for them all working together this summer at the summer drive-in services (our family VBS weekly Thursday night in June experience). The youth group gave the 5th graders a silicone verse bracelet as they left.

7-7:30pm: Offered dessert with water. We took questions and some encouragement from the parents who’d navigated middle school with older siblings; offered confetti tubes to the students to save for a future day of celebration and wooden palm crosses for the students to use in prayer.
I shared that just like their parents knew how to work a combination lock, their parents know WAY MORE than a middle schooler thinks they do. Their parents love them best and will help them navigate a life lived for Jesus in combination with their home church. This is where they belong!
The Stormie Omartian book has 30 short chapters ending with prayers which I used each day of the month when my kids were in middle/high school. It’s the best book with scripture prayers for their children and their children’s friends I’ve ever used. The chapter on praying through a child’s room is gold and the book is our gift to our parents.

This is the first step in offering a fun and engaging bridge from children’s ministry to student ministry. Next stop: Summer drive-in service training together for neighborhood pop-ins coming in May. 

How do you begin to bridge your students from children’s ministry to student ministry?

“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Hebrews 3:4

The Bible Food Truck & A Soul Food Summer

This summer’s month of Thursdays in our parking lot will be a blended model of Fresh Expressions’ Dinner Church and family Vacation Bible School. How did we get here? It all started with learning last fall that Vanessa Myers was publishing a children’s devotional entitled The Bible Food Truck: Serving Up 75 Devotions for Kids About Food in the Bible.

Vanessa Myers is the creative Director of Children’s Ministry serving the families and community of the Dahlonega United Methodist Church located in Dahlonega, Georgia. She’s authored both Rise Up: Choosing Faith Over Fear in Christian Ministry which equips a ministry leader navigating the trenches of effective ministry through the Bible accounts we know and love, and Breakfast With Jesus: 100 Devotions For Kids About the Life of Jesus. Vanessa writes clearly for the middle to upper elementary reading level which is perfect for a Jesus gal like me who serves that demographic. 

Vanessa has a passion for bringing the Word of God to life for little people and their big people to know the Jesus of the Bible. She is a wife, mom, and a blogger offering printable tools to resource families (and local churches) to grow in their relationships with Jesus wherever they go and as they go through the rhythms and hectic schedules of life. 

When I discovered The Bible Food Truck would be in my hands this spring, our kidmin team knew it would be the perfect resource to help us take the last two summer’s drive-in services to the next level. Her book did not disappoint. The bonus is the book invites a child/family to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit by walking them through the development of their own food truck ministry and business. About every eight devotions, Vanessa walks through next steps for a food truck ministry with guidance for a menu, a truck name & logo, a mission statement, workers, a grocery list, and even a food truck prayer. This is not your typical kid’s devotional book!

Vanessa’s book has prompted my team to consider adding an entrepreneurial class this fall with a product fair for our students just before Advent. Think of a blend of Junior Achievement and a way for us to include our business leaders and owners on the Titus 2 leadership team for our students for the next school year for the community.

This is where we are in ideation for this summer’s Soul Food Summer: 

  • each of the five Thursdays in June
  • a scheduled food truck 5-7pm in the parking lot
  • music
  • trained intergenerational conversationalists for each table
  • a VBS program for littles with bigs in the car beginning at 6pm
  • ice cream truck arriving at 6:45pm
  • we load up our Ambassadors and youth team at 7pm to escort the ice cream truck to pop into a nearby neighborhood offering free ice cream and chat with our neighbors
  • return to church parking lot by 7:45pm to discuss two needs we heard that we could creatively meet (do for two what we wish we could do for everybody) before the next week’s Thursday’s VBS. 

Vanessa will be at the first Thursday’s event of the summer to sign books we’re giving to each family in attendance and take pictures-with-the-author. She made it super easy to order books in bulk directly from her!

We’re using five of her devotions specific to Jesus and the tables He set: (there are five Thursdays this June)

  • Breaking Bread Together – Acts 2 (word of the day: Together)
  • Zacchaeus – A Wee Little Man (miniature games; word of the day: Welcome)
  • Feeding the 5,000 (word of the day: Multiply)
  • Breakfast on the Beach (word of the day: Invite)
  • Last Supper with Friends (word of the day: Remember)

Stay tuned for how the summer will roll out. In the meantime, pick up a copy (or two or more) of The Bible Food Truck and see how you could use it at home or at church to add a little surprise and delight to your summer programming. Grandparents, this would be a great ‘summer read’ to share and read alongside your grand!

Vanessa is generously offering a free copy of The Bible Food Truck to one of my blog families. Simply comment on this post on Facebook or Instagram with how you share Jesus with your family around your table, whatever that table may look like or wherever that table may be. I’ll announce the winner on my Facebook page before next Tuesday. The Bible Food Truck blog tour continues on April 11 with Mindy Jones who has some great Easter printables.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Setting the Table: Progressive Dinners

When Mr. Bob and I lived in south Louisiana there were so many amazing restaurants we learned we’d cover more ground if we made a special night out like a progressive dinner. We’d stop at one restaurant for sausage gumbo, another for crawfish etouffee’, and still another for bread pudding and cafe’ au lait. The food was a delight, but it was the varied tables and settings along with the travel in-between which added so much more to the meal.

A progressive dinner is an occasion at which the different courses of a meal are eaten at different locations. A progressive dinner invited our 3rd-5th graders to enjoy some intergenerational table-life with each other and their church family for our last gathering of the school year. 

April has Easter and Spring Break. May is December-in-the-spring for our families. The end of March is the last monthly gathering of our 3rd-5th graders for the school year.  If we say we’re partnering with families, we offer them margin in April and May by finishing special, ongoing programming in March.

Progressive Dinner, Sunday March 27th, 3:45-7pm
Start with a 20 minute review at the church of the specific liturgical holidays studied over the school year and how each one reminds us of Jesus. This allows space for review and late-arrivers.
Stick-on name tags with first names let our hosts call the children by names.

Three locations were arranged as follows:
* Appetizer was nearby – various hot and cold (served by young newly weds in their first home)
* Main course was further away from the church – all things taco (served by a parent and their adult Sunday school class)
* Dessert was the furthest away from the church – homemade family recipe of pound cake, cookie bars, and ice cream (served by a couple who’ve been part of the church family for more than 30 years).

At each home we asked our hosts before we ate to tell how they’d come to be part of our church’s family and where they serve at church and in the world. Our hosts then blessed the food and gave instructions. 

Our hosts decided what to serve. I contacted them on Saturday with an attendance estimate. On Sunday I texted an estimated time of arrival and when we were headed their way.

Other details: Water was the beverage of choice. Multiple tables along with some standing space to learn to hold a plate and eat standing up. The party number grew as we progressed to the locations. Our two bus drivers serve as leaders on church committees and looked great in their McEachern Kids’ t-shirts they’d been gifted with at prior events – I didn’t even have to ask, they chose those t-shirts on their own. 

I brought games with us for down time, but we never had time as the conversations were plentiful and the laughter over-the-top. Some parents took us up on our offer to join the ride and they, too, were able to get to know new friends and enjoy some great food. Even our pickiest eaters were delighted.

Lagniappe (extra) delights? Our two bus drivers are granddads and will be talking about driving the children and their families when they gather at their next committee meetings AND our older littles spent time with the Titus 2 men and women of their home church in their homes around their tables. Sticky faith memories for everyone!

If you grew up in the local church, especially a smaller to mid-size local church, what intergenerational experiences do you recall which could be re-introduced in a fresh way with your church family?

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7

An Uncontrolled and Uncomfortable Ride

Two books have me fired up right now.

One Body by Sam Halverson was passed along to me in a stack of books about family ministry. There are almost as many words underlined in blue ink (my signature ink color) than there are black-inked words in the book. I had to rein in my blue ink. Sam is an elder in the United Methodist Church who leads a North Georgia local church with a bent to integrate children and youth into the life of the WHOLE church. He articulately explains the slow fade to silos of the last decades’ church growth model built around charismatic leaders and attractional events. His onramps for youth (and I’ll include children) into the life of the church are not just to look cute and sing a song in worship occasionally, nor just serve a breakfast and set up/take down tables for a big church event. It’s all about time and space to build intergenerational relationships.

Children and youth learn best how to love Jesus and commit to the Christian community by spending time with adults who love Jesus and are committed to Christian community. Where are we guaranteed to be in Christian community? The local church! Sam invites us to look beyond paying a young adult to be our kid’s Christian event coordinator and Christian friend. Rather, let’s empower the director of children and youth ministries to make space and intentional invitation for the intergenerational congregation with onramps to, as we claim in our baptismal vows, so order our lives after the example of Christ that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be ESTABLISHED IN THE FAITH AND CONFIRMED AND STRENGTHENED in the way that leads to LIFE ETERNAL. (emphasis mine)

How’s that working for you?

Sam explains that when we hire leaders of family ministry outside the denomination, these leaders don’t know how the denomination views the body of Christ. They certainly don’t have time to include that framework in their first year learning curve of database, community, personalities, and room reservations. They might not know how music should be so diverse as to articulate our faith story and our faith history. 

As Michayla White, CEO of International Network of Children’s Ministry, reminded the church innovators at the 2022 Exponential Conference for church innovators, the Deuteronomy 6 passage we throw at parents all the time is the marching orders of an entire nation (body of believers), to teach God’s commands to the children and talk about them as you go, bind them on your hands, and write them on your doorposts.

How’s that working for you?

Sam does a fabulous job of reporting the obstacles we face, but also the many ways to live into our Christian adoption in our commission to make disciples of all nations (and ages) for the transformation of the world (in it for the long haul). When we live into adoption, some become children and some become parents. All of us!

Which brings me to the second book: Sailboat Church by Joan S. Gray. Joan is a teaching elder living in Atlanta of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) She explains rowboat churches as doing what they can with the resources they have. A rowboat church dismisses any spiritual realities and functions in the belief that the ultimate responsibility for everything rests on us. Instead, a sailboat church tends to focus not on their own situation, resources, or limitations but rather on discerning God’s unfolding will. They engage in intimate partnership with God, trusting God to provide and do what only God can do.

Sailboat churches train sailors who can navigate their way into God’s will. There is so much good to chew on and live into in this little book, but what jumped off the page was a bit about two things which consistently block God: the need for control and the need for comfort. Adopting a posture of sacrifice, of letting go, in these two areas will go a long way in helping the church set sail. (pg 55)

The struggle to control isn’t with malice, but rather a dismissive and disregard for creatives on the steering crew. Where in your local church is traction tended, taught, and energy happening where organizational goals are being met in creative and sailboat ‘led by the Spirit’ ways? Are those leaders invited to the table for ideation or treated with a pat on the head with a ‘You do you, Boo. We’ve got this’? 

The other element to sacrifice is that of comfort. We all have our personal routines aka taking the summer off, zoning out at staff meetings until I get to talk about my area, having an opinion for every area of the church as the expert on absolutely everything, speaking/guarding things for others so they aren’t uncomfortable, keeping information to myself and not sharing it for the good of the whole body, unopen to negotiation and unwilling to see the value of changing something up for a bit, etc.

Today I choose to come to every table with a spirit of YES and trust God’s provision He’s given everything needed to accomplish the goals He’s set. I want to move to CATCH the wind and in a state of anxious expectation the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our midst. I want to live in a state of risk and imagination for the whole body to proclaim the truth of the gospel to the parish the Lord has called me to serve. And I’m taking people with me to work and power that sailboat as God sees fit because we’re better together, one body, rethinking and pioneering the practices that will invite others on this very uncontrolled and uncomfortable ride. Our great God is trustworthy! Who’s in?

“I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, than in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare, unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to. And sure I am that His blessing attends it.” – John Wesley