Parents: The Ultimate Small Group Leader

The International Network of Children’s Ministers has been one of the more faithful voices speaking over those of us in truth and love in the trenches of the local church who point littles and bigs to Jesus. Last week they published data specific to millennial parents of faith. You can read about it here. Millennial parents span birth years 1981-1996. My adult children are in this amazing, generous, Jesus-loving, and overwhelmed generation of young parents. This is personal.

INCM reports ‘they want their children to love Jesus, but most of them don’t fully understand what discipleship means or looks like for themselves.’ We lead littles in children’s ministry, but what does it mean to lead their bigs? Here are a few ideas…

Intentionally plan to provide ‘church’ other than Sunday mornings. Faith communities can provide consistent, excellent faith formation experiences other than on Sunday mornings. This is one of the reasons we provide weekly, intergenerational experiences in ‘seasons’ alongside a family’s seasonal rhythm like Thursday evening family drive-in services in the summer at two different times: 6pm & 7pm. We may not have the numbers of a Sunday morning, but we have consistent attendance of weekly and seasonal guests because we make it easy, short, energetic, relaxed and kid-friendly to practice the holy habits with us as a guide and parents or grandparents as the lead and hero. We are there every Thursday, rain or shine….kinda like we’re also there on Sunday mornings.

Story: B and E have careers (retail management and law enforcement) where regular Sunday mornings are every-other so that their boys don’t go to day-care during the typical work week. Because the familiar faces of their weekday preschool staff are sprinkled through the church throughout the week and weekend, they and their boys are loved on by a consistent faith family. They attended a different church before the pandemic. This ‘preschool church’ is now their church. INCM and Barna reported not long ago that parents will put up with mediocre preaching and music as long as their kids are known by name and are hearing about Jesus.

Story: B and K’s work schedule is every-other (nurse and law enforcement) and are consistent attenders to the weekly Thursday evening summer drive-in services, offered at two different times, and now bring their parents (the grandparents) so the entire family sings, plays games, prays, and hears a Jesus teaching as an intergenerational team for the sake of their littles. They even brought the dog last time! Connection and content have equal weight in priority of planning.

Intentionally plan to communicate in lots of different ways. Email is still king, but make it short, friendly, less formal, and relative. Digging for info is not helpful and no one’s got time for that. Social media basic image consistency, but post so that these parents don’t have to dig through the feed. Sending personal texts the morning of makes us real, personal, and communicates, “I’m in this with you, friend, and I really want to see you and your littles.” Old school still works, too. Update bulletin announcements because parents are looking for ways to grow with their children’s faith and are looking to us to help them do that easily and developmentally appropriately. New people read bulletins. New people are looking for new friends. Make posters to grab a kid’s attention. Post pics almost immediately afterwards for the purpose of recording memories and building a desire for those who weren’t there to want to be there next time. Pictures and images tell stories best. A quick review of your photos of an experience can let you know if families are all–in in that area of the event or checked-out and an edit might be in store for next time. Always edit your communication and event to excellence, but the basics of when, where, how, and who are consistent and reliable.

Intentionally plan to build community by interacting with families where THEY are. Figure out where your parents are and be there. If they’re online, be there. If they’re not online, they still have phones so plan to regularly text or email. Parents want the best for their children. All of them! Even if we don’t see them on a regular basis because they are doing other great things, we should keep up with them wherever they are. Decide to not make them feel guilty for not coming to your stuff, but rather feel they haven’t missed a beat when the do come. Four weekends in a row at a dance competition or a travel ball tournament? I’ve got something to chat about when I do see them and a handwritten note of ‘missing you’ or ‘congratulations’ goes a long way in relationships. You know that friend who no matter how much time has passed you can pick right back up where you left off? We want to be that.

Story: Mom works in the medical field and I haven’t seen her nor her girls since before COVID, but I’ve texted her every Sunday morning since COVID. She responded a couple of times, but I still texted. She and her girls came to last week’s drive-in service and our team didn’t miss a beat making sure they felt they still belonged and we had lots to chat about. Finding the girl’s Sunday school teacher at the same drive-in service, we were able to get them re-connected face-to-face and the chatting was over-the-top.

I eagerly await for INCM to continue reporting how we can walk alongside our millennial parents. These folks are leading the ultimate small group. We’d train our small group leaders, right? Can we do any less for these amazing disciples who want desperately to point their small group of little people to Jesus?

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

We Are Family

Summer 2020 we were shooting from the hip when it came to family ministry programming. While everyone was trying to figure out what in the world was going to happen next, we were throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick so that our families did not grow accustomed to doing life without us. Not even focused on content, we were focused on connection. Not even focused on the delivery, we were focused on a reliable and consistent weekly celebration of Jesus, no matter what, which was developmentally appropriate for littles and worth leaving air-conditioning for adults. With all the safety protocols and boundaries given, we rolled out a weekly drive-in service for littles with bigs in the vehicle. Families are the ultimate small group, so we gave them tools and practice to lead their littles in the holy habits of prayer, Bible reading, sacred conversation, and play. It was crazy fun, memory sticky, and fruitful in growing our reach to our community with multiple new families now part of our church family. Insert the confetti cannons!

When it came time to plan for Summer 2021 we chose to continue riding the wave of fruitful connection and revisit the weekly drive-ins. We had time to plan and make deeper connections into the other ministries of the church. 

Updates, edits, and ‘jacking it up’ looks like this:

Visual elements to resemble a VBS-look and feel
* Car lot vinyl balloons lining the parking lot ‘stage’ (it’s a sidewalk) and “Welcome” feather flags in blue and red lining the main road, all assembled by a small group of retired engineers. Lightweight enough so that the 4th & 5th grade Ambassadors could safely set up.
* Wild blue air dancer found in the consignment sale closet.
* Winshape-Camp-welcome for extreme hospitality with hula hoops, pool noodles, people, noise, and signs.
* Tshirts and McEachern Kids aprons for everyone serving.

Bold Follow-up
Registration forms are on paper asking for family name, how many in the vehicle, and an email address. We roll around a huge trash can/basketball net for kids to wad up their forms and toss them in before they depart which is another opportunity for personal interaction. If we get the form, we get the email. If we get the email, we get an invite to communicate. We will communicate the next morning by asking questions and trying to make a new friend. The Walk to Emmaus teaches ‘make a friend, be a friend, introduce a friend to Christ.’ Especially in this season of post-covid, people are looking for new friends so I’m looking to make new friends. Friends share life and know their kids by name. We’ll chat almost weekly because that’s what new friends do.

Entire summer theme: We Are Family
Yep, think Sister Sledge which is our ‘everyone assume your positions, we’re starting’ song. Each week we’ll honor and recognize a member of the family with a ministry connection taking place within the next two weeks for a ‘check us out’ opportunity.

First week we honored the girls and women in our families. The Bible story was Baby Moses who had his mama Jochebed who trusted the Lord, his sister Miriam who was brave, and the Pharaoh’s daughter who showed compassion. We chalked the parking lot with the names of the amazing girls and women in our families. We also scheduled a Paint & Praise Party to take place the following Tuesday evening for any little person who brings a big person with them. Not a drop off, but rather a true ‘let’s paint and praise the Lord together’ event for all ages. 

The second week drive-in we will honor our senior saints so we invited our senior saints choir (who would’ve been singing at nursing homes, but can’t) to lead our music. Just heard from them they’ll be at the drive-ins all summer long…because they want to sing and they want to be together. Because we’ve already set the song list with YouTube videos with motions, those have been shared with all the members of our Joyful Singers.

It poured down rain during our first service. Our team still showed up and showed off in hospitality, dance, and story from the covered Gaga Ball pit and in the rain. Families still came. The second service was dry and we played games with beach balls and laundry baskets because families working together can accomplish anything. Families still came.  More than fifty in attendance…in the rain!

With the goals of connection and reliable celebration, we practice being a family of faith. We laugh. And we dance!

What are your goals for the summer?

“He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does.'” Luke 12:54

How Is Your Mental Health?

Anyone else still running full steam ahead? Anyone else unable to turn your brain off for all the logistics, demands, expectations, and rhythms which come with today’s local church life? Your office has been your kitchen table or your phone, learning new things has an edit almost daily, and the many voices coming from all around directing you right now to make ministry with families look just like ‘before’.

I love my job, my calling, and my church family. Where I used to be able to draw distinct boundaries for sabbath, rest, and the brain break necessary to ‘run my race,’ I have not been able to consistently reset those boundaries and practices for a healthy me in over a year. Though I made substantial physical changes to lose 95 pounds during quarantine and have kept it off, I know I can not sustain another year running like this in my head. How do I get a new rhythm?

When Church Communications offered a free two-day, online, on-demand summit entitled Thrive & Cultivate to support the mental health of church leaders, I signed up and shared it all over social media for anyone who would listen. This professional organization led by Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng consistently provided the very best in education, support, innovation, and community over the last year. I knew this educational opportunity would meet my needs and they didn’t disappoint.

For instance…

Dr. Merry C. Lin shared about our Resilient Zone – when and where our natural nervous system manages life’s ups and downs. We can get stuck in a high and a low of our nervous system. Our great Creator has given us the tools to signal our minds and bodies, “I am safe,” when we over-function. 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world (my self-directed over-functioning), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 My mind. Our gracious and merciful Creator has already given us the chemicals we need to tell our bodies, “I am safe,” so how can I get my mind to run those chemicals to say, “I am safe”?

Dr. Lin called these happiness hacks….

Dopamine – the reward chemical. How to turn it on? Complete a task, receive affirmation, celebrate a win.

Serotonin – the mood stabilizer. How to turn it on? Exercise, pray, meditate, be around nature, get some sun.

Oxytocin – the love hormone. How to turn it on? Hug, play, cuddle, give someone a compliment.

Endorphin – the pain killer. How to turn it on? Laughter, smell essential oils, eat chocolate, watch something light-hearted.

Chuck Mingo spoke of thriving in a perfect storm and invites us to be a trustworthy guide without stone cladding. Stone cladding is a construction term for a structure which looks like stone and feels like stone, but is unable to bear the load or weight like real stone.

Debra Fileta shared, “Just because I feel something, doesn’t make it true.” My deep dive into apologetics over the last 18 months reminds me often that there is no real truth except God’s truth. He is who He says He is, He can do what He says He can do, and I am who He says I am. That truth. Again, just because I feel it doesn’t make it true. Whew! Deep breath.

THEN, Ashley Aucker asked a question that made me press pause to return to the other talks another day because I was done….and grinning. 

“Am I God’s employee or His child?”

So what am I going to do about all this? First, I shared the happiness hacks as the staff devotional last week. Second, I’ve gotten my creativity on where I can fully complete a task by painting an old dresser in our grandgirl’s signature color: bright azure blue. Third, I’m listening to music on my long commute home each evening rather than podcasts to give a healthier transition time to reset my brain. New music for a new season: 

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How are you resetting your rhythms?

“Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants.” 2 Chronicles 9:2

In This World You Will Have Trouble

Our families have dealt with an incredible amount of uncertainty, fear, trouble, concern, anxiety…. I could go on, but you get the picture. Jesus tells us (it’s red, so Jesus said) in Big John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So how can we help littles and their bigs build those ‘peace muscles’ and live like Jesus is overcoming the world? Our world?

I don’t want my kids to just read John 16:33 from their Bibles, but also read it in the lives of people like Nate Saint, Corrie Ten-Boom, Brother Andrew, Susanna Wesley, Billy Graham, Amy Carmichael, C.S. Lewis, and Katie Davis and even the saints of their own church family

Children learn best to love Jesus when they spend time with people who love Jesus. It’s also been my experience that children can learn best to courageously follow the Lord and learn what Jesus’ peace looks like by reading about and meeting real people who have lived out their faith in war, in famine, in thirst, in different countries, in times of uncertainty, fear, trouble, concern, anxiety… Again, you get the picture.

Summer is the perfect time for reading about the missionaries and giants of our faith history.  I’ve curated a list of biographies of missionaries and courageous disciples of Jesus of every reading level which are developmentally appropriate for elementary-aged students. Students will read about many people who followed Jesus, maybe traveled the world, lived in very difficult times, or who started an orphanage, the Salvation Army, or taught a teacher to share the good news of Jesus.

This touches close to my heart as our daughter served in Senegal, Africa providing medical care to children orphaned, abandoned, harmed, and sick at a local compound during the almost five months between earning her pre-nursing degree and attending nursing school. Uncertainty was all around, but as she says, “When God is the only one who speaks your language, you talk a lot!”

The next step is to get together to chat about who we’re reading about so we can share the stories and give testimony. I contacted several saints of our local church and asked if they’d host a Saints Book Club Chat on their front porch, back porch, or front lawn. Every one said, “YES!” and will join us in reading about a saint of the faith, as well. These local church saints have their own stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness when they’ve been uncertain, anxious, and fearful. I can’t wait to hear!

These intergenerational opportunities to tell stories and share testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness when life is hard, challenging, and victorious will help our kids along their way in uncertain times. It’ll help me along my way. Could it help you along your way?

Last Sunday I set out my own personal library for the students to explore and check out. Even our youth interns and several parents checked out books. I can’t wait to see what God will do this summer in the hearts and minds of His disciples because of the stories of those who have gone before us.

How can you get the stories of Jesus’ overcoming the world into your world?  I received a text from Mom of the young lady above later that afternoon which read: “You gave S a book this morning, haven’t seen her face since.”

“And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Philippians 1:14

When I’m Too Much

I don’t get my feelings hurt easily. With the maiden name of Bull, you grow a pretty thick skin from the get-go. Yet there are times when I am too much. I am. I run fast, I learn fast, I speak loud, and I throw ideas at the wall like a textbook innovator. I rebuke any critical spirit and always want the best in others and myself to shine through. I’ve learned to increase my question to statement ratio and I work on not interrupting people. I’m a verbal processor, so I affirm with listening skills like, “Mmmm”, “Hmmmm”, “Yes”, and “I hear you.”

In complete self-awareness, what I intend is not always what is received. As the ‘child’ of the church staff team (think of a typical family and the dynamics involved) I get my feelings hurt when I’m too much and informed to cool my jets, slow it down, told that I could be off-putting, or when I get a “shhh!” as I jump into a conversation. Yeah. I’m totally aware that I can be too much.

It’s been my experience that the Senior Pastors are historically the ‘parents’ and carry the weight of authority and responsibility of the church-staff-family. They may invite us to have a say (staff meeting=family meeting), but they have the final say for what’s going to happen in the family. Worship leaders are the ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’. They add creativity, always sit at the adult table, and can tell the family stories through song, space, and well, they’re the other adults. Youth ministry people are considered the ‘teens’ and children’s ministry people are historically considered the ‘kids’ in the church-staff-family. Think about it. Each church-staff-family role comes with family-related responsibilities, expectations, tolerances, and nods to what is permitted as a multi-generational (no matter the age of any individual) in how the church-staff-family works.

This means children’s ministry people are typically accommodating (we’re informed what we’re doing to help and support everyone else in the church-staff-family), adaptive (we deal with what we’re told), require more set-up (ever packed up for a 3-year old for the beach or let a 10-year old pack themselves? Can’t ask a 1st grader to set up or take down tables and chairs for an event so the before and after is WAY more complicated with a greater amount of children’s ministry logistics.) We take direction, make the best of every situation (ever had the worship service end 30 minutes early/late?) and do whatever it takes thinking everything rides on our shoulders. We want everyone to be happy and enjoy the ride. Sound like kids? Yeah. 

I’m always at the kid’s table and I’m good with that. It offers clarity for my boundaries and responsibilities.

So what to do when I get my feelings hurt?

  • Fix a cup of tea and cry. Tears are God’s healing balm and physical release of the yuck. Even if the rebuke is prefaced with “It’s not personal…,” it is. Name it, then let it go. Thank you Lord, for tears.
  • Go with what I know and not with how I feel. I’m a beloved child of God and He is my Heavenly Father. He hears me. He knows me. He is still working on what He hopes for me. He alone is trustworthy and can handle my feelings. He has a whole book filled with stories of His faithfulness to His children who are ‘too much’. Thank you Lord, for transforming my mind and my feelings will follow. Lord, help me to live into James 1:9, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
  • Keep it between me and God remembering that if I lose my joy, I lose my impact. So, I do what brings me joy: Scroll through pics of the grands. Write a note of thanks to someone on my team. Help someone. Bake a cake and deliver to a neighbor. Take a long, hot shower. Watch season 1, episode 3 of The Chosen. Stay off Facebook. Practice a period of silence. Drink water. Take a walk. Lord, no matter how I feel, do not let me sin in this.

In the wise words of Scarlett O’Hara in the classic Gone With The Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

 

2021 Special Summer Sundays

It is an ugly, awful, terribly misguided myth that churches can’t grow during the summer. Don’t listen to it. Don’t buy into it. Don’t settle for it. Summer is the perfect time to try new things, change up each week, and be so invitational it makes your hospitality team wonder where you came from.

Summer Sundays should not just pass, but be intentionally celebrated. Making each Sunday a special event builds energy and helps people feel they belong to something alive and relevant. We’ll be taking advantage of our 2021 Summer of Sundays to serve a state of celebration in Children’s Ministry. We make a place to serve alongside the Gaga Ball Pit at our McEachern Kids entrance as families linger up to an hour after our 11am services.

May 23 – Pentecost Sunday – wear red to church.

May 30 – First Sunday of summer – serve Chick-Fil-A lemonade (pick it up on Saturday!)

June 6 – National YoYo Day – yoyo exhibition and skills with a yoyo with our kid’s logo.

June 13 – Celebrate National Ice Tea Day 6/10 – serve peach tea (we’re in Georgia!)

June 20 – Pops With Pops Father’s Day – popsicles & Father’s Day photo booth

June 27 – National Sunglasses Day – It’s cool to be at church! So wear your sunglasses (we’ll provide sunglasses) & Kona Ice Truck

July 4 – Independence Day – wear red, white & blue

July 11 – National Blueberry Muffin Day – mini blueberry muffins

July 18 – National Ice Cream Day – ice cream truck available for purchase and tickets which are given to all children’s ministry volunteers throughout the entire year

July 25 – Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy (7/24) – wear your cowboy gear & we’ll rodeo

August 1 – Let’s Roll – bring your wheels and helmets for Wild Worship & Wheels

August 8 – Promotion Sunday: Welcome Home!

Signing up at nationaltoday.com gives a great list of national and international dates to celebrate.

Each Special Summer Sunday provides an opportunity to celebrate as a family of faith. It is not my habit to let each Sunday just run into another. Nor is it my habit of thinking that people take the summer off from church. Never has. Never will. Whenever I can provide a memorable church experience for the littles, their bigs can enjoy the conversations started beyond the, “Did you have fun?”

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son…” Proverbs 10:5

Knocking Service Elements Out of the Park

This week we hear from two champions for ministry with families and children in North Georgia. Gretchen Barker serves the children and families of Harmony Grove United Methodist Church located in Lilburn, Georgia. Hannah Harwood serves the church families of Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Cartersville.

When asked, “What areas of ministry do you knock it out of the park?” and “What are five tips/hacks for making that area happen?” These are their responses.

Gretchen knocks it out of the park in preparing her children’s moment videos: I have actually developed quite a routine for my production process. I start with the scripture lesson from the lectionary or a gospel and read it thoroughly while taking my own personal notes.

Next, I read through a number of different children’s sermons already shared and published online for that particular scripture and choose my favorite interpretation, which almost always involves something from the poet Lois Parker Edtrom. Many of these children’s sermons can be easily found on sermonwriter.com. 

From there I come up with a “script” that I use for filming, similar to a screenplay, but not that complicated. 

I extensively research Google images that relate to my message and use those to illustrate the main points. Up until now, I have strictly used Windows Video editor as my main tool, although I am ready to expand on my newly found video editing hobby with some different software.

This process used to take me an entire week to complete, but I now am able to get it done in about 3-4 hours.

You can find many of Gretchen’s videos at https://harmonygroveumc.com/2021/01/14/childrens-ministry/   If you’d like to find out more, contact Gretchen at hgumckids@gmail.com

Hannah knocks it out of the park at pulling off a 45-minute kids worship service: (1) Worship Extreme software, (2) Kids as worship leaders, (3) GROW curriculum, (4) Traditional elements such as the Apostles Creed and Lord’s Prayer, (5) Time for them to share requests on their hearts, Bonus Tip: (6) Lifetree Kids worship music.

If you’d like to find out more, contact Hannah at hharwood@samjonesumc.org

I’m sure you knock it out of the park in some area of ministry. What would that be? And when you do, what would be five tips/hacks you’d share to help your kidmin champions along the way?

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We His servants will start rebuilding.” Nehemiah 2:20

Prayer Stations for the Rock Solid Retreat

The Rock Solid 5th Grade Retreat offers developmentally appropriate teaching and practice for students completing elementary school to build a rock solid faith through the holy habits of worship, prayer, study, and play as they prepare to move into middle and high school. I was a co-leader for the prayer station. My partner used yoga mats and body prayers. I offered self-directed stations with a short debrief at the conclusion.

Introductory teaching: Prayer is communicating with God. The best way for God to communicate with us is through the Bible. The way we best communicate with God is through prayer. God gave us five gifts to help us experience the world He created and to keep us safe. These were the stations using those five gifts based on Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Sight – Glow stick bracelets

Say a blessing prayer for someone by name, then give them a bracelet. Be willing to receive prayer from someone else only responding, “Thank you.”

Jesus asked his friends, “Watch and pray.” Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 21:36

Smell – Silence/deep breaths

Just be with God, light an LED candle, sit on (or near) the towel, and stay until you are tapped on the shoulder to move on.

I added  a healthy sprinkle of peppermint essential oils to the towel often to have the scent as part of the space.

God’s favorite smell is our prayers. Psalm 141:2 “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”   

Touch – Ask forgiveness for your wrongs, your hurts, your expectations, your words.

Recite the CONFESSION AND PARDON.

Merciful God,
I confess that I have not loved you with my whole heart.
I have failed to be an obedient church.
I have not done your will,
I have broken your law,
I have rebelled against your love,
I have not loved my neighbors,
and I have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive me, I pray.
Free me for joyful obedience,
through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Tie a ribbon onto the frame as a remembrance that Jesus took the punishment for our sins. If you confess (agree with God) your sins, God is faithful and just (fair) and will forgive you.

God does not remember our repented sins, but we do so that we repent/turn away from them to love God with our whole heart for our whole lives.

“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just (fair) and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Hear – Pray the 23rd Psalm from bookmark  aloud while walking a track around 2 orange cones

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Think beyond the moment, but the future. God and you can use anything and everything you face to help someone else.

Don’t despair. Ex: Judas…if he’d just waited one more day! Pray aloud even when you don’t feel it….it’ll remind you until you do.

In the debrief I share they will hear this scripture at various remarkable moments of Christian lives like funerals, births, prayer nights, help, etc. The bookmark I found was a King James Version so I shared that it was the first Bible financed by King James in the year 1611 to be mass produced through the printing press and explained the old English words which were appropriate at that time.

Taste – Dumdum lollipop

Read a proverb each day for the day of the month. Today is the 17th, so read Proverbs 17 from your own Bible.

Proverbs are wise sayings, not truths, but can help you along your way…will help you live like Jesus growing “in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

In debrief, I shared testimony of students who read a proverb every night before they go to bed or each when they rise each morning while in middle school/high school.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8

Debrief

  • God has equipped you with 5 senses: tools to stay safe & enjoy the world He created. When we don’t know what or how to pray/communicate with Him, we can use our five senses.
  • Go with what you know and not with how you feel. This is what you know: YOU are a beloved child of God, created by God, for Jesus, to bring good into the world.
  • Sing an echo benediction: “Do not be afraid, God is with you, Everywhere you go, God is there.” (Thank you, Mark Burrows). Do not be afraid/fear not …. 366 times…one for every day of the year.

Is It Time to Move On?

I’ve had a great number of conversations about open staff positions in local churches for children’s ministry over the last month. More than typical. Everything from half-time, ¾ time and full-time. Due to the little to no movement of church staffing over the last year, we can anticipate a good bit in the next 12-18 months. People are relocating, retiring, and making career moves. The Holy Spirit is moving!

I’ve had some experience in moving on. I started as a super volunteer in kidmin and on staff in weekday ministry at my home church. Due to a season of paralyzed vocal cords I could no longer serve in the weekday classroom, so I took on the Director of Weekday ministry at another local church while still serving as a servant leader at my home church. I was not called to seminary, but I was called to professional Christian education which was affirmed as I moved to two other local churches in part time roles until I heard clearly, “Get ready” which provided the opening to serve full-time in ministry with children and families at the local church I now serve. That’s five local churches, all within driving distance, in one district, from part-time to full-time, over the course of 25 years. Before that, I served in Christian education roles on staff in New England and Louisiana.

Through it all I was diligent to (1) ‘be faithful with little’, and (2) do whatever it took so that ‘surely goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life’. 

These are a few things to consider if a move might be in your future:

  1. Without ordination, we serve at the whim and pleasure of the senior pastor. Know you will learn a little or a lot from each one. This will build your trust muscle like nothing else. We must trust the appointment process and we must submit to the authority over us or make plans to graciously move on if we can’t do either one. Do not be the face of disunity. This close to the appointment change date, it’s prudent to wait so that the one hiring you is not moving on in your first year. It’s in your first year you get your legs under you, you build trust currency in your families’ minds, and you understand the leadership culture for a season. Be a Joseph!
  2. Talk with other kidmin leaders a lot. Build your network of those in the trenches. The average life expectancy of kidmin leads is 3.5 years UNLESS you connect with others outside of your own house/local church. Their shared experiences can only make you better and can offer help and hope in areas you don’t even know about until you’re in it up to your neck. They’ll encourage you, pray with you, and share their stories of what is healthy and hopeful. They’ll help you persevere, learn, and affirm your gifts and calling. Be an Esther!
  3. When you move on, you will no longer be looked at as the super volunteer you started as, but the professional Christian educator you’ve sought to become. Learn your craft and hone your skills. What are you learning today to help you move the next church to the next level? Constantly be upping your skill set so you are ready when invited to take on the next big thing. Know this: Women typically wait until they are 100% ready to make a move. Men typically wait until they are 50% ready to make a move. (She Leads Church, 2021). Be a constant, ready learner, and you don’t have to wait until you’re 100% ready. Be a Nehemiah!
  4. Deep dive into God’s Word in preparation to hear His voice. Waiting is a time of intentional preparation. It is unrealistic to expect to clearly hear the Lord’s voice if you are not in His Word learning His vocabulary. God has a perfect design for His people. He directs His own in the midst of uncertainty with courage and joy. Only in His Word can we fully discern that every open door may not be for you. Be a Paul!
  5. Some will. Some won’t. Everybody can. Be an Abigail!

If you are considering a move or wish to move from part-time to full-time, let’s chat. I’d love to help you be filled with health and hope as you fulfill God’s call on your life as a professional Christian educator. You were created for such a time as this! For this I know: We are better together.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

“I Just Used All My Skills”

“I just used all my skills,” with a shoulder shrug was the charming reply of my 5-year-old grandson when asked about his accomplishment. I love claiming that saying when considering my own successes. As a Children’s Ministry Director for over 15 years, it was always my goal to create compelling faith experiences for children and their families. I learned early that I needed to rely on all MY skills and so much more.

My top 5:

  1. Cast a vision and share it with  your team and our families. They can’t buy in unless they can see it. Always important but especially now with a shrinking base of volunteers and what many are calling a rebuilding time.
  2. Invite. Children and parents and grandparents; neighbors and seniors. Help them see their place in faith formation of children> Recruit others to invite. Find ways to reach outside your circle. Get personal!
  3. Make engaging lessons accessible for teachers and students. Equip your teachers to cater to different, creative learning styles. Build in adaptations for age, time, and space.
  4. Listen to your people and other influencers in ministry. Build on the successes of others. (One great reason that I faithfully read this blog!) Brainstorm. Collaborate. Network.
  5. “Do all the good you can” — in this case, maximize every effort and every dollar to reach the most for Jesus!

I began serving in children’s ministry at a time when it was rather vanilla. Many great parents routinely taught using pamphlets and coloring sheets and a great Bible story. Fortunately, my mentor encouraged me to step it up a few notches and adopt the Workshop Rotation Sunday School method.

Talk about a facelift in many ways! Sunday mornings went from simple to spectacular. Our lessons began to fully engage kids by addressing all learning styles through workshops employing art, cooking, movies, media, drama and more. Teaching teams were easy to build. Kids and parents loved it and everyone learned while they were loving it. On Sunday mornings, there was excitement in the air. Best part: relationships were built with Jesus AND among our community.

Fast forward to today. Many of today’s leaders are tasked with rebuilding or energizing a ministry. I encourage everyone to look at Rotation.org. If you feel like a change is in order, there is every resource there to help you see how to get started.

However, if you are most interested in “upping your game” within a traditional Sunday school model, there you will find lessons and support with engaging lessons built upon creative learning styles. There are also very complete background materials which equip new or experienced teachers. Adaptations for our new normal are being added weekly.

I serve at Rotation.org with a team of experienced volunteers who are eager to help you find the answers you need via online collaboration. And finally, it is very accessible at a rate of $45 per year. Our one goal is to equip leaders to “Do all the good you can” for Jesus. We want to help you “use all your skills!”

Robin Stewart served the families on staff as the Children’s Ministry Director at Athens First United Methodist Church in Athens, Georgia until her recent retirement. She believes in Rotation.org so much, she continues to volunteer her time and energy to making their resources known and shared. Robin is a wife, mother, and grandmother. You can connect with Robin at robinafumc@bellsouth.net. 

*Rotation.org is a nonprofit funded entirely by subscriptions with only one paid website manager.