Ride Into The Danger Zone

I’ve missed going to the movies. A big time movie in a big time theater will reset my brain when it’s on overload for summer season or any heavy season of ministry activity. Guaranteed. Attending the new Top Gun: Maverick movie was exactly what the doctor ordered for this gal’s mental health.

As soon as I saw the new movie on opening day, I wanted to see it again. The editing, cinematography, music, and sound were amazing. Even the second time around I was shifting from right to left in my seat as the jets did their maneuvers. Yeah, I’m that movie goer! I clap when good things happen, too.

A couple of weeks ago our lead staff set the fall kick-off plan for a ‘Basic Training’ sermon series with a focus on the Apostles’ Creed. As I watched the movie at the theater over Father’s Day with my honey, I was inspired to plan our fall kid’s ministry around the basic training for kids in the Lord’s Army. We’re even rolling out a new curriculum for Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Tuesday evening kid’s Bible studies. I’m breaking out the camo and the Flip Dictionary.

The motions for the traditional kid’s song all came back

I started thinking of paper airplane stations with good paper, origami plans and targets.

I thought of jet juice being iced water.

I thought of using directional traffic batons at the entrance with a helmet by Ambassador greeters.

I thought of a list of call names for kids to choose from. My call name would be “Bull” for a whole host of reasons.

I thought of army green tshirts for our team with this on the back in white ink and a masculine font….

On August 1, 2022 an elite team of servants were chosen representing the top one percent of its leaders. Its purpose was to make disciples of Jesus Christ to insure they love the Lord with their whole heart for their whole lives. 

They succeeded.

Today churches call it children’s ministry. The locals call it….. (with the McEachern Kids top gun logo on the front)

We’re riding into the danger zone of today’s culture and they need to be equipped with what they believe, what is truth, to live set apart even when it’s hard, unpopular, and as exiles in a foreign land. As followers of Jesus, we can do hard things with the help of the Holy Spirit. The hardest things! We were indeed created for such a time as this.

We’re raising up Daniels, Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos in Babylon. It’ll be a battle and we’re in the Lord’s Army.

My heart is pounding just thinking about it!

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” 2 Kings 22:1a, 2

We’ve Accepted Some Bad Habits

We have developed some bad social habits over the last two years. We think we’re friendly, but we’re really just polite. We think we are welcoming to strangers, but only if they come to us, on our timetable, in our way, to our house, on our schedule, and with the least amount of discomfort on our part as possible. We think we ask questions for conversation, but it’s really an interview. 

We think we are engaging, when we are really exchanging content where my opinion is the best answer to all questions. When holding doors and accomplishing a checklist of tasks in a certain order are the epitome of satisfactory hospitality. We are setting the table for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of everyone else’s world, but it better be comfortable, convenient, and cost me nothing.

Enough of that!

Here’s the good news: We can learn the skills necessary to be a friend, make a friend, and live out the welcome of Jesus in this new world. It’s not a program, but a gentle reminder we grow in our faith better when we are in relationship with others in a healthy way. It’s personal. It’ll take humility to know I have something new to learn. It’ll be awkward. Really awkward! It’ll take energy. It’ll feel risky, be inconvenient and uncomfortable. I challenge you to make all your feelings and caution a matter of prayer and get over it. I believe our Lord has something better in mind and we’ve got the gift of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and energy to make it happen.

Even the greatest of all introverts (those who do not get their energy from being around other people) can learn the skills necessary to make a friend-in-the-Lord. Even the greatest of all extroverts (those who do get energy from being around other people) need coaching and encouragement to notice social cues and hold a good, healthy, amazing conversation with confidence. If we intend to fulfill the Biblical command to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we’d better be ready to make some new friends.

Radical hospitality goes beyond the passive receiving guests warmly but rather an unexpected interest with people inside, but especially outside, the faith community. Bishop Robert Schnase writes, “Radical means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,’ and so it provokes practices that exceed expectations, that go the second mile.” (from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations)

This is the goal of offering Radical Hospitality Training (RHT) this summer at the church I serve. We are offering this training this summer, because every Thursday this June we can practice our RHT skills at Food Truck Church sponsored by McEachern Kids.

Food Truck Church is our Family VBS. Every Thursday in June, 5-8pm in our parking lot, 5-7pm on our campus with food truck, music, games, a Jesus teaching, prayer, a kid’s table (activity each week going along with our Jesus teaching), and an ice cream truck at the end. THEN 7:15-8pm we pop into a nearby neighborhood to be a ‘guest’ in a cul-de-sac for a sweet treat on us with the ice cream truck. RHT is practiced at each table for Food Truck Church AND RHT is practiced when we’re a guest off-campus being a good neighbor. No bait and switch of coming to our church. We go to McEachern Church and we’re neighbors and it’s hot, so let’s share some ice cream.

Promotion: All ages and stages are invited to one of three Radical Hospitality training sessions in the Children’s Welcome Center.  Learn to invite, engage, and offer an early sense of connection and belonging within the McEachern family and community.  Two more opportunities next Sunday at 1pm and Tuesday at 6:30 for kids, youth, and adults in the Children’s Welcome Center.  More than being friendly, but training in starting and continuing a conversation especially when it’s hard, risky, and awkward.

Program: After welcoming everyone we go around inviting everyone to share their name and something they’d like others to know about them. I quickly practice the conversation skills we’re about to cover so I can refer back to everyone in the room as I teach the skills.

I like to use a fill-in because it keeps me on track and hearing it, writing it, seeing it makes the information stickier. What’s in parentheses are my notes to further explain each point in story.

Radical Hospitality Training – June 2022

Be Fully Present

Listen for 3 NOTS (from North Point Community Church)
NOT in church (relocated, been planning to, we live in an area of the country that WANTS to go to church but they just can’t figure out how to make it happen)
NOT going well (grief, fear, struggle, relationships, loss, gain, job, lonely)
NOT prepared for (parenting, care giving, medical diagnosis, living alone)

Toss the conversation ball…speak briefly, then end with a question. (toss a ball to role play beginning with the youngest in the room)

Listen = Silent (same letters) – leave space in the conversation

Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk: 10 Ways to have a better conversation without getting bored, without offending, and walk away inspired speaks to the following list.

(Goal: a coherent, confident, connection through conversation with people you like, don’t like, disagree with, admire, typically run from. As Christians, what’s expected? Make it a matter of prayer to get over my own sensitivity, being right, and being self-conscious).

1.       Don’t multi-task (When the song “Taste and See” starts take your place at tables at food truck church; you’re fully present with who is sharing the table; don’t look at your phone or watch, but fully face the person you’re talking with)

2.       Don’t  pontificate (This is not a blog, nor a podium, it’s a table; assume you have something to learn; everyone is an expert at something….what about you? What could you talk about for 10 minutes with no prep, just not here?)

3.       Use open-ended questions  (What was that like?; What did you choose to eat? How did you hear about this?)

4.       Go with the flow (Let other distracting thoughts come and go)

5.       If you don’t know, say so (Be open to learn something new and interesting; ‘tell me more’)

6.       Don’t equate your experience with theirs. (It’s not the same; all experiences are personal; no one-up-man-ship)

7.       Try not to repeat yourself. (Assume they heard you and don’t want to go there; take the hint)

8.       Stay out of the weeds (Don’t worry about names, dates, time; resist having side conversations about the details)

9.     Listen (We’d rather talk 225 words/minute; but we can listen 500 words/minute)

10.   Be brief (Be interested rather than try to be interesting)

Be prepared to be amazed. Amazed at the creativity of our Creator God and the stories shared because someone feels safe, heard, and cared for. It’ll take practice because it’s awkward. It’s rarely intuitive because it’s risky. It’s expected so we resist becoming lukewarm. That is indeed radical, Christian, hospitality!

Are you up for the challenge to learn how, practice with, and work diligently as if you were the last disciple of Jesus? What’s the worse that could happen? What’s the best that could happen? What’s the last risky, awkward thing you did to make a new friend?

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

Risky, Radical Hospitality at the Kid’s Table

Last week was the Annual Conference of the United Methodists of North Georgia. We met in person after meeting online for the last two years. I was invited to serve as an at-large lay delegate from my district. The theme for this year’s conference was “There’s a Place For You At the Table.”

In true children’s ministry fashion, we took on the task of providing a kid’s table in an innovative way.

The kid’s table was set for the holy habit of play, for snack, and for good conversation about the local church’s ministry with children and families. We set up a pop-up table where the folks were at the times when critical mass was guaranteed, just outside the Grand Hall (the room where official delegate business was handled) in the Atrium where there were round tables and where people gathered for conversation and food.

From 11:30am-2pm, the pop-up kid’s table was set for two days. Nothing formal, but intentionally organized to make space to chat Safe Sanctuary and Family Ministry. 

Otrio – if you can play tic-tac-toe, you already know how to play which makes this game able to be played well by a 3yo to a 100yo. Intergenerational play together with 2-4 people and much quicker to play than checkers or any other board game. We taught how to play, just like we teach about Jesus.

Puzzle Balls – if you know the concept of a Rubik’s Cube, anyone can push the colored balls into the matching rings. If our hands are busy, our minds are calm. We showed how to play, just like we model how to engage with anyone like Jesus.

Snack – Animal crackers on day 1, Goldfish on day 2 in individual snack bags. Maslow teaches that if we meet one’s physical needs, we can more easily be trusted to meet other basic needs. We fed the masses like Jesus. When the line for lunch food was so very long wrapping around the Atrium, we handed out snack bags with a smile to hold folks over as they waited to order their lunches. Coming from a place of generosity, we went where the people were and offered what we had.

Signage – Clear marking where we were set the table for many conversations about family ministry and Safe Sanctuary, current research, the great wave of incoming state residents from all over the world, hiring, healthy updates, changes, situations, shared events, what’s on the horizon in culture and how we can meet the needs of our backyard neighbors.  A pop-up table where people were offered a location where we could be found to chat making us easily accessible.

Take-aways – Buttons labeled with “Kid’s Table Alumni” for haven’t we ALL spent time at a kid’s table? May we remember the tables from which we came and return to disciple the littles. Wearing buttons at Annual Conference is a thing. A handful of squishy Jesus-es also made their way around in delightful places.

So many conversations. So much laughter. So much news. Lots of game play. AND we provided afternoon snack for those passing by on their way to conference with the sacred bread of kid’s tables: Goldfish and Animal Crackers.

In Bishop Robert Schnase’s updated book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, he speaks of Radical Hospitality being an excellent expression of our love for others to make friends-in-the-Lord. When we exceed expectations to welcome and be welcomed. Not only do we set the table to welcome those who come to us to make a new friend, but we also intentionally become a guest where new friends can be made in our neighborhood, where people are.

“Radical means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,’ and so it provokes practices that exceed expectations, that go the second mile that take welcoming the stranger to surprising, new levels.” At times it will feel risky, awkward, and uncomfortable, but oh the opportunities to reach the wandering and our hungry neighbors now.

What’s the riskiest thing you ever did to offer radical hospitality? And WHERE?

“And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more…” 1 Thessalonians 4:10

Soul Food Summer

Sixty-two days. That’s how many days there are from today until the first day of school. That’s this ‘summer season’. There are nine Sundays before Promotion Sunday and the start of the fall season. Doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?

My 2022 summer bucket list will include the typical, time with family (everyone is here now, so I’ve prepared for what I’ve prayed for) and eating watermelon. But only with an intentional plan to grow in my discipleship and disciple-maker-ship, can I make this summer season a Soul Food Summer.

A Soul Food Summer is a season of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. These are just a few things on my summer bucket list to intentionally feed my soul with God’s goodness:

  1. Deep-dive into the life of a missionary/saint. Last summer I and our students read biographies of  many followers of Jesus who were inventors, missionaries, and used their skills and talents to express their love of Jesus in times of trouble. This year I’ve chosen to read books, listen to podcasts, and deep-dive into the life of one: Elisabeth Elliot. She and her husband, Jim, served as missionaries in Ecuador in the 1950s. What does it take to raise up and become followers of Jesus that Jesus and Jesus alone is worth the loss and gain of everything?
  2. Fresh tomatoes are my summer chocolate. Fresh tomatoes from my church family are like the ‘good’ chocolate. This year I am figuring out and learning to grow my own tomatoes alongside my daughter and granddaughter. It’s a miracle of our Creator God that people can plant a seed and stuff can grow from the dirt we can enjoy. A miracle! It’s a partnership between people and the Lord with water, sun, seed, and tending that make mater samwiches happen. Bring on the Duke’s light mayo and the sour dough. Pure goodness!
  3. I’m part of a great team which will set the table for a food truck party for my church families. It’s our VBS. It just looks different. Every Thursday in June (all five of them) we’ll turn our parking lot into a drive-in VBS service for families of all sizes and shapes, numbers, and kinds. Music, Jesus, a weekly food truck, the generosity of our church, and families will make sticky, sacred memories of praising and serving and tasting to see that the Lord is good for and with our neighbors and community. No matter what is going on in the world, God is good. Want to bring your family or some of your students? Come on! The more the merrier. We’ve got the programming, you bring your kids (or just you!) and money for the food truck and we’ll dance and play before the Lord together.
  4. A dream come true: a first family mission trip for parents/grandparents to attend with their little people is happening in July. A Sunday through Monday event at Camp Collinswood (search: Aldersgate at Collinswood) bumping elbows and serving alongside another local church on the other side of the state to do repairs and cleanup that is developmentally appropriate for littles with their bigs. It’s two hours from our church. The camp is a space specifically for children and adults with mobility issues. On Lake Oconee, my own adult children along with the grands will be part and I’m beside myself excited! These are the sacred memories my grands will talk about forever. 

What is your plan for a Soul Food Summer…a summer filled with intentional opportunities to feed your soul and learn again that the Lord is good?

“However, I consider my life 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

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