S’more Jesus Late Night for 3rd-5th graders

When families prioritize a time on their calendar for a weekend retreat for their 3rd-5th graders and discover we are unable to make it happen the way we’d originally planned, we pivot with intentionality because our 3rd graders have finally arrived. Our 4th graders should’ve arrived last year, but 2020. Our 5th graders see everything as ‘the last time’. Asking the question, “What’s in our hand?” and partnering with another local church, we planned a late night event, 4:30-9:30pm on a fall Friday night.

Promotion
– 3rd-5th graders are invited to learn to grow s’more like Jesus as we travel to Mountasia for putt-putt, go-kart, and pizza then back on campus with s’mores at the fire pit. $25 per student. Chaperones free.
– Logo image built on phone through Bazaart app
– Coordinate original chaperones along with new leaders for driving, fire, tshirts, hospitality, setup, cleanup, and space arrangements on a campus used by multiple ministries on a typical Friday night.
– With the ‘bring list’ including non-typical items, we sent 3 emails before event night: one week out, 3 days out, the night before so families could make whatever arrangements were necessary.

Space
Everything was outside except the bus ride. Dinner of 2 slices of pizza and unlimited pitchers of water (my beverage of choice) and unlimited putt-putt and go-cart time for 2 hours cost $25.10. With local Friday night football, we were the only group at Mountasia. Most of our kids were not old enough to ride alone, so this was a time of intentional relationship building between leaders and students to share a go-kart.

Students were instructed to bring
– Gas or food gift card for a mission project – a dear church family battling childhood leukemia would be delivered a gift box filled with notes written by students along with the gift cards the following Sunday
– Refillable water bottle – holy habit to take care of our bodies and the earth
– Bible – Bible study on Luke 2:52
– Closed-toe shoes (can’t go-kart without them)
– Camp/lawn chair – place to keep track of their own stuff, personal space, and to sit for Bible study

Schedule
4-4:30pm Welcome, Rules, Introductions
4:30pm Assign small groups w/leaders
5-7pm Mountasia
8-8:30pm Bible study and teaching
8:30-9:15pm Split into 2 groups, with time then flip
Group 1: S’mores at the fire pit & note writing to mission family
Group 2: Breath prayer Labyrinth
9:15-9:30pm Talk to each other-1 on 1 w/ get-to-know-you and either/or questions
(students stood facing each other so they could move; release nervous energy)
9:30pm Group picture, dismissal

Bible study: Luke 2:52
The one Jesus-as-a-kid eyewitness account was placed in God’s Word especially for kids by Dr. Luke. How do we become s’more like Jesus? We spend time with others who love Jesus together in prayer (labyrinth), play (Mountasia), service (gift cards/note writing), at tables sharing food (pizza, water pitchers, s’mores), and in conversation (get-to-know-you questions).

Scripture memory: Jesus grew in…(chat through ways to grow in…)

  • Wisdom – take good care of your mind – hands on head
  • Stature – take good care of your body – arms up showing muscles
  • Favor with God and man – take good care of your heart – hands over your heart in shape of a cross.

Breath Prayer at Labyrinth w/Bible Buddy (plush s’more distributed by Ambassadors)
Lord, let me grow in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.
The prayer labyrinth has been a labor of love and gifted by an art teacher in our church. Though unfinished due to the rain, she came to teach and practice the labyrinth journey with the students at it’s inaugural use. 

Weather was the greatest consideration of the entire week preceding, so Plan B was walked through and ready to go: gym reserved if not outside, umbrellas for labyrinth, sterno tins in glass jars for s’mores in small groups (now we can take this anywhere and share), arcade was arranged if no putt-putt/go karts running, gaga ball pit space/covered space for outdoor Bible study with camp chairs. Both Plan A and Plan B were walked through every step the week before and the day before.

Leading ministry with children and families has always required navigating multiple moving pieces, especially people and calendar resources, and requires pivot adaptability and Plan Bs. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we’ll always do. When done often, it builds adaptability muscles. When done well, it builds trust and integrity.

How did you spend last Friday night?

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

The gold-framed Guardian Angel picture followed my maternal grandparents to every home they lived in. They moved from the coal mines of West Virginia to Virginia to Florida then back to Virginia. They also kept a huge, white family Bible on the coffee table. These are the images I recall from my childhood related to their faith.

In Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes To Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God,  Voddie Baucham, Jr. speaks of marking the home as God’s territory. He shares the memory of his Buddhist mother. Her regular practice of that belief system involved all five senses: a black lacquer box in the corner of their dining room, a statue of Buddha, a scroll of strange writing, incense, fruit, beads, and a small gong or bell. Those images remain with him to this day even though she became a Christian within six months of his conversion.

“Imagine the impact that Moses’ teaching had on the children of Israel in the Promised Land.” God’s people were entering a new land with new smells, sights, sounds, tastes, yet were expected to retain their distinction as followers of the one true God. How?  Marking their doorposts, celebrating annual feasts with bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and the stories. Oh, the stories, the stones, the Sabbath practices, the music, and so much more.

My BFF-in-the-Lord just set up her new office space with bright yellow chairs and throw rugs to cover floor stains. She has stuffed animals (you know, the holy stuffed animals like sheep, donkey, lamb, plush Jesus which are staples for family faith experiences) on shelves and filled a wall with pictures of remarkable moments with the people of God she has served alongside. Visual reminders of creative, innovative, hard, hilarious moments in time where she served her families in ministry with great zeal and joy. She has marked her space as the Lord’s.

How can we regularly and intentionally mark our spaces and places for the Lord? At home? At church? At work? Sticky faith formation experiences engaging all five senses.

Engaging Eyes
“There was a period in history when anyone who wanted to be considered a serious painter, a grand master, painted biblical themes.”
At this week’s Faith Milestone: Bread & Juice Class, we’ll pull out the jumbo framed picture of Da Vinci’s Last Supper for our kindergarten and first grade students to stand behind for their class photo.

Engaging Ears
“Music is an incredible medium. With a few notes we can be transported to another time and place.”
Preparing for this week’s S’more Jesus Late Night with our 3rd-5th graders, we prepared a Spotify playlist with camp songs. Sent it out ahead of time to the leaders and the children.
Dr. Richard Hunter offered a sermon based on his daughter’s favorite song, at the time, Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying at my home church. There are some messages super sticky because of a song.

Engaging Taste
“There is no such thing as Christian food.” Well, I beg to differ.
I recall a young pastor at my home church who prepared a summer sermon series based on breakfast cereals. I’ll never be able to look at a box of Frosted Flakes the same again.
Goldfish? Cheerios? S’mores prayers? Bread and juice? 

Engaging Smells
“I could almost smell the Sunday dinner as he described in great detail his vivid memory of every aspect…”
Dr. Doug Thrasher gave a sermon at my home church about Sunday dinner with biscuits and gravy on a communion Sunday. I’ll never forget the intentionality of a mama setting the Sunday table for her family and the planning involved.

Engaging Touch
“Have you ever walked into a home with one of those enormous family Bibles? I mean the kind you have to open with two hands.”
When a local UMC church was closing in our district, one of my moms went to the garage sale the church was having. It was her home church. She asked about the Chrismons which were a sticky faith formation experience of her now art-teacher-of-the-year faith journey. They pulled them out and gave them to her! Even before this, she had led our 3rd graders in October and November for the last four years in a rite of passage to make and learn about Chrismons. She leads those students to decorate the children’s large group space each year for Advent: Hanging of the Greens. Lots of gold beads, lots of white styrofoam, lots of conversation, LOTS of stick pins. The Chrismons of her home church are now enjoyed and shared with her students at her son’s home church. The Chrismons of both churches hang together in our children’s spaces.

In my weekday preschool days, we displayed an apple when we studied apples. We ate apple stuff, counted apples, played with apples, used apple-scented shampoo in the water table, read apple books, painted with apples, and did everything we could possibly think of with apples.

“It all comes down to a simple question: Why are we here?” If our local church, and our family, exists to know Jesus and make Him known, how are we intentionally marking our lives for Him in the stickiest ways possible, through our five senses? At home. At church. At work.

“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:9

Breath Prayers of a Jedi

Rev. Ken Hagler is widely known as Jedi Pastor Ken. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church currently serving a local church in Alaska, he records video, writes a blog and books, speaks, and prays like a coach and teacher to help spiritual pilgrims along their way. He is a real Jesus follower in the trenches of life who experiences great joy, great grief, great redemption, great wonder, and has faced head-on some of life’s greatest challenges. 

A jedi is someone trained to guard peace and justice in the universe. 

Ken is one of my favorite Jesus guys. He’s just written a new book and it comes out TODAY and you can get it FREE for two days on Amazon. You can download it for free on your Kindle app on September 7 and 8, 2021. Hardcopies can be ordered, but this can get you started.

“Prayer: Simply Breathe” is a compilation of 52 Breath Prayer Devotions including a short, closing section on how to create your own prayers. “A breath prayer is intended to ‘drill’ down to the cry of our heart. It is not so easy to discern what the cry of our hearts might be though.” (pg 112) 

The book is framed around praying Scripture as you breathe. A short sentence or phrase prayed as you breathe. Repeated over time as a holy habit. Short…holy habits…prayer…scripture…it’s the perfect model for teaching and practicing prayer with little people. 

“Prayer is the act of turning our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit to God.” (pg 5)

Ken writes in short, simple sentences introducing each breath prayer with a short ‘something to think about’ as you prepare to practice each breath prayer:

Sometimes, your week gets out of hand.
There is no shortage of news related to those in power.
I have spent a lot of time out in the woods hiking and camping.
You have had it happen, no doubt, when things did not go as planned in your life.
It hurts when people lie to us.
There seems to be no end to the evil that human beings will do to one another.
Our lives are meant to show out what God is doing.

There is scripture all over. There are people quoted all over from all walks of life. Ken is deeply knowledgeable about sacred practices of following Jesus to help the people of God of all stages and all ages. He is one of my teachers. 

Ken led a workshop on prayer at a retreat for 5th graders. When Ken led the prayer workshop, the boys hung on every word he had to say.  I remember a conversation Ken and I had on our way to the dining hall. I asked him about boys and prayer. He spoke of the importance of physicality, short words and phrases, and prayer postures. I heard his words again on page 116, “It is my hope and prayer that if nothing else, you leave here with a prayer you are not bored to pray.”

Order your free Kindle edition on September 7 and 8 here.  Check it out and let me know what you think. I’d like to chat with you about how you might use this resource to teach your littles and their bigs to practice the holy habit of prayer. 

“Faith is fun.” Rev. Ken L. Hagler, Jedi Pastor Ken, Prayer: Simply Breathe, pg 116.

National Grandparents Day

As a Louisiana gal with weekday preschool roots, I’ve never met a national holiday I didn’t like and wouldn’t leverage to put Jesus at the center.  National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 12 and we’ll be celebrating and teaching the Biblical mandate found in Deuteronomy 6:20 to ‘teach your children and their children after them’ the decrees and commands God has given His people. National Grandparents Day always falls on the Sunday following Labor Day.

Before the pandemic quarantine we began a Grandparenting With A Purpose initiative in children’s ministry. With the average age of the first time grandparent in America being 47, this is a demographic and a remarkable moment of life children’s ministry can step into naturally. But, it was during the quarantine we got great traction with online through a Faith Grandparenting Facebook group offering specifically curated resources for grandparents to share their faith in Jesus with their grandchildren. We also offer in-person and Facebook Live workshops, one each spring and one each fall.

The pandemic has both separated grandparents from their grandchildren and has brought others geographically closer together. Many families have reset their priorities by relocating closer to grandparents or grandparents have moved closer to their grandchildren. Though the holiday is a secular holiday, it’s a natural invite for intergenerational worship and recognition. The Legacy Coalition, which provides weekly webinars to confidently equip Christian grandparents to intentionally share their faith notes, “National Grandparents Day is an important official marker of intergenerational relationships.”

To learn more about the history of National Grandparents Day, click here.

To ponder ideas to celebrate National Grandparents Day, check out…
The Legacy Coalition: Christian Grandparenting Ministry 
GrandparentsDay.org
The Legacy Project
Proper spelling and more

We are preparing a photo station and inviting the children to bring a grandparent or grandfriend to Sunday school on Sunday, September 12. We’ll open the Welcome Center early for the children to play games with their grandparents/grandfriends. They’ll attend a 10-minute small group time together, then all will gather in the large group to sing and dance and learn a bit. I will have a dedicated photographer to get all the shots. When the children return to their small group, the grandparents/grandfriends will come with me for a short, interactive lesson on Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78. We’ll then share how we can partner with them to confidently and intentionally share their faith in Jesus with their grands. This is what family does and we are family.

The Children’s Moment will be a ‘hands up’ blessing with copies of scriptures to pray for grandchildren (English and Spanish) found here along with other free resources found at GrandparentingWithAPurpose.com

Before you think, “What about the child who doesn’t bring a grandfriend?”, I’m thinking there is a small group or two of senior saints in your local church who would be thrilled to step in. After all, we are family!

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” Psalm 78:4

Praying Mom

Brooke McGlothlin is a co-founder of Million Praying Moms. Million Praying Moms is a community equipping parents to make prayer their first and best response to the challenges of parenting. Brooke has authored several books and resources and is known as a prayer mentor.

I was thrilled to be included on her launch team for Praying Mom because it was not about your typical book launch strategies, but rather prayer. Each day we were invited to specifically pray with a prompt through social media. After reading her other books and being involved in this prayer community I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her book. 

This book is gold.

Praying Mom is filled with multiple testimonies of parents on their knees, some on their faces, before the Lord who hears His own. The community of prayer warriors willing to share their challenges, their hopes, their disappointments, their holy habits, their tips, their vocabulary speaks to parents today. I say today because it wasn’t long ago we in the trenches needed to give testimony to God being real. Today, we need to give testimony to God being good. We know He is good in our heads, but sometimes we need to speak it regularly, repeatedly in prayer for our hearts to hear it, for our lives to live it. You can download a free chapter of Praying Mom at www.millionprayingmoms.com

Praying Mom is separated into two parts. Part one addresses seven challenges for the praying mom including “I have small children. I can’t even think, much less pray!” with a gentle breath prayer prompt in the Table of Contents, “Lord, teach me to pray in the moments of my day.” Part two offers scripture-inspired prayers for today’s Christian Mom which include specific scriptures followed by prayers to pray those scriptures right back to the Lord. Short succinct prayers for…
when you need hope
when your child needs help
when you need more joy
when you’re angry
when you’re worn-out and weary
when you’re afraid
when you need God to move
when  you need strength to make it
when you’re sad
when you need peace.

There are two appendices: The Wake-Up Prayer and The Way To Salvation. If it’s been a bit since you’ve shared with someone the way to salvation in Jesus, and you need a refresher, those three pages are worth the price of the book alone.

The prayers are all about praying scripture: declare the trust over your heart and mind, then ruthlessly apply it. “This means you might have to choose to believe God’s truth over what you can see, hear, taste, or touch over and over again until you believe it.” (pg 75) 

At the end of each short chapter is a call to action she calls Pray It Forward offering several things to remember and several cautions to overcome: Remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts. (pg 39)  Then the gold: Scripture Prayers. The scripture is first, followed by the prayer vocabulary to pray it back to the Lord. 

“There is an intimate link between God’s Word and prayer. We need both in order to be adequately prepared to face the world.”

Brooke McGlothlin, Praying Mom, pg 45

I have always had a limited vocabulary. Regularly meeting with prayer partners have helped me grow in the holy habit of prayer. There are two other well-worn, go-to books which have coached me into a deeper and more faithful prayer habit for my family and the families I serve: Stormie Omartian’s Power of a Praying Parent and A Diary of Private Prayer: John Baillie, updated and revised by Susanna Wright. I heard about the John Baillie classic from Priscilla Schirer about four years ago and is never far from my Bible.

My copy of Praying Mom is already written all over, pages folded, and been handled/wrestled. Praying Mom is a resource for today’s Christian parents written by a prayer warrior. Don’t we all need more prayer warriors to model and tell the stories of God’s goodness?

“So my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” Isaiah 55:11

Stay By The Stuff

Last week I traveled with my traveling bestie to Boston. We checked out the Monet exhibit with it’s ‘Boston stories’ and the power of visual narratives on display by the Paper Stories of Ekua Holmes at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and enjoyed some downtown Concord shopping. We were surrounded by creativity, collage, children’s books, and Christian community. I didn’t know how empty my creativity bucket was until it started getting refilled.

The best part of the trip was the radically ordinary hospitality we experienced at two dear friends’ homes. Both hostesses, and their families, embraced our presence with great food and table-life filled with sacred conversations. 

Rosaria Butterfield, in The Gospel Comes With A House Key, writes that Christian hospitality is what loved her to Jesus when she was openly hostile to the good news of the gospel. Dinner times of table-life with ordinary food and conversations regularly, faithfully offered by a humble couple were the key to opening her mind and heart to living a life for Jesus. Today, she and her family open their home, spare room, table, and crockpot in ways that would make most of us shudder. She reminds me of just how good the good news is. 

Butterfield challenges her Christian readers to be ready to assume the posture of host, obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, or the posture of guest, graciously and humbly receiving nourishment and care from our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Ordinary hospitality works on the principle of tithing. God commands we are either returning 10% to our church or receiving aid from our church because we desperately need help. Both giving and receiving bless the church.” 

There was so much laughter, so many cups of tea, and multiple conversations around the gathering of God’s people and His Word. One conversation in particular I wish to share.

Sometimes mighty warriors stay with the stuff.

In 1 Samuel 25 we read how David’s men have a run in with Nabal, a Calebite. David sends a small group of ten young men to Nabal asking for favor, asking for help. Nabal is beyond salty, but ‘surly and mean in his dealings’. When the ten return and report to David, it doesn’t go well. David tells his Mighty Men to ‘strap on your sword’. ‘About 400 men went up with David, while 200 ‘STAY WITH THE SUPPLIES.’ The KJV reads, “abode by the stuff.” 

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, goes on to save the day, but of the 600 of David’s Mighty Men, 200 of them stay by the stuff. 

Who are the mighty ones who may not be ‘strapping on their swords’ yet use their swords staying by the stuff? It’s one thing to love on those who are on the front lines of the ministry you lead, but we all have the mighty with swords who ‘stay by the stuff’.  Finance Committees who have to make big decisions for the local church as a whole. Trustees who have to answer for a whole lot of ‘stuff’. Your church saints who can surround you and your kids in prayer. Do you have a prayer team? Are we only reaching out to the local church leadership when we want something, or also checking on them in the parking lot before and after services. 

Perhaps YOU are the mighty who are called to ‘abode by the stuff.’ While the denomination and the world is making so much noise, we are staying the course of making disciples of Jesus Christ in our local church, in our backyard, from our spare room, table and crockpot. Be not distracted nor consumed by the battles elsewhere, but rather strap on your sword and abode by the stuff well. 

I’m still processing and holding dear the experiences of last week. Thanks to the hospitality of our hosts, Mr. Bob is getting to taste some new recipes, which he is all-in for. He is our family’s #1 Mighty Man. He stays by the stuff. I can not do what I do and be who I am if it were not for Mr. Bob staying by our stuff. 

Who is staying by your stuff? How can you show your appreciation and gratitude this week for the mighty who stay by the stuff?

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

Soul Training at Home

The local church has adopted the language of our education system, but not the practices,” said Rev. Jeremy Bannister at the Discipleship Begins at Home online conference. He goes on to share that our school system has metrics to measure academic standards, regular conditioning for team sports, and accountability measures for every extracurricular commitment our families engage in, but not discipleship and followership of Jesus.

As leaders in the local church our job is to equip the saints to do the good work of following Jesus and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Parents and grandparents are on the front line. Parents and grandparents know their desired outcome: for their kids to love Jesus with their whole hearts for their whole lives. It’s up to us, the Christian education professionals, to give them the tools and the metrics of what is developmentally appropriate and be honest about what it’ll take.

Be honest that one hour of Sunday school will never be enough to learn the skills necessary to beat the devil and grow a robust faith over the other 167 hours of a week.

Be honest that most Sunday school curricula offers the basic foundation of God made you and Jesus loves you over and over and over again. Repeated every year. Year after year. This will not nurture a robust faith able to engage with a loud and angry culture coming at them through every means possible.

Be honest that some parents and grandparents haven’t been trained in their own discipleship with the same standards, commitment, and metrics to confidently know what will make a hill of beans by the time their child walks across the graduation stage for that 12-year diploma or takes on their first job with a Godly resilience.

Be honest that we can do our own discipleship better by modeling our own consistent holy habits of systematic Bible reading, tithing, serving the world for the greater good, engaging in robust conversation by asking good questions, and not forsaking gathering together in Christian community in ways beyond what our jobs require.

Be honest to ask ourselves, “If every disciple of Jesus is just like me, where will God’s kingdom be here on earth?”

This is the good news. There’s no time like the present to get started.

Prayerfully consider an accountability partner to begin reading the Bible in a systematic way. How can you teach from a textbook when you haven’t experienced it as a whole to be reasonable and applicable? 

Tip: Once a child begins reading chapter books, they can read a chapter of the Bible. Not as a study, but to read. Read to learn the whole Jesus story, to learn the language of our Creator, and to recognize the voice of our good shepherd. Read the book aloud. Find an easy-reader Bible and just read. If a full bible, begin in Luke because it’s a narrative. Dr. Luke wrote what he researched from eye witnesses.

The Next Generations Ministries offers a a fabulous Discipleship for Life edition of metrics for developmentally appropriate holy habit practices beginning at birth-one year old and every year following. Not in a legalistic, check off the box way, but a gentle reminder of what starting and continuing looks like for a disciple of Jesus. They also have a 5-year plan for students and adults who haven’t begun the Discipleship for Life edition for an intentional start or re-start. These resources were shared at the Discipleship Begins at Home conference. I’ve been able to roll some of these out easily and effectively.

Prayerfully consider along with your significant other how you can grow into regular, systematic tithing. 

Prayerfully consider who you’d like to spend time with (someone older and more spiritually mature) and invite him/her to co-lead a small group Bible study for the fall. There are three seasons for small group Bible study: fall, winter/spring, summer. You will grow in deeper relationships, sacred conversations, and Biblical wisdom in community with healthy accountability. If you’re a young-married, co-lead with another who has been married for a long time. If you’re a mom, find a mom further down the road and more mature in her walk to co-lead. If you’re a more-mature, find a younger to co-lead with.

Prayerfully consider offering parents and grandparents this fall a couple of metrics for daily (Bible reading, prayer), weekly (fellowship, giving), monthly (service) soul training to be experienced at home, along the road, at the table, with conversation prompts to grow a healthy confidence in discipleship. Offer a Parenting With A Purpose class to roll it out, then follow it up with, “How’s it going?”

So. How’s it going?

“May I stand before the throne of God able to say, “Lord Jesus, I did everything I could do to make sure my children are well-founded in the person of Christ.” – Rev. Jeremy Bannister, Discipleship Begins at Home Conference, http://www.TheNextGenerationMinistries.com 

The Irrational Taco Tour

When I downloaded Kevin Williams’ book, Irrational Kindness, I didn’t anticipate the fire it would ignite in me. Kevin is the franchise operator of three Chick-fil-As in my town. We knew each other years ago as parents and active members of our home church located in nearby Woodstock, Georgia.

I always knew him as joyful, reflective, kind, over-the-top generous, and Mr. Positivity. His book did not disappoint. He reads the stories on Audible of his successes, failures, family road trips, driven competition, and experiences through a faith-in-Jesus lens and laugh-out-loud ridiculousness. The book is an absolute delight. He shared of his grandparents, his family, his Chick-fil-A Canton team, and shines the light on so many people in a Forrest Gump kinda way that he is not the focus, only the thread of all of these experiences of irrational no-holding-back, all-in plays. I was so inspired I went directly to one of the restaurants and purchased almost 20 books to give away to kidmin champions and colleagues at my local church and in my kidmin network before I even finished listening to the Audible version. In true irrational kindness and super generous fashion, each book was personally signed and included two stickers along with a gift card for a free sandwich.

Irrational behavior is ‘one of the most difficult behaviors to deal with. When someone is being irrational, they don’t listen to reason, logic, or even common sense…And until that need is fulfilled, or they snap out of it, the irrational person can be unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous.’

I was so inspired, I called a friend who is accustomed to my ‘I’ve got an idea’ and the Irrational Taco Tour began to take shape.

Every local church I have ever known has a nearby, favorite place for Taco Tuesday. Inspired by Kevin, I look at the faithful disciples leading littles and their bigs in the local church as needing a shot of irrational behavior in their lives, so we’re headed their way.

We set up a Google form with some basic questions like name, church name, district in North Georgia, and the address of their local taco joint. There are 8 districts in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. We had 9 responses within the first 6 hours with all districts represented.

Yeah, we’re doing this! 

With a copy of Kevin’s book in hand, some moustaches, sombrero headbands, and who ever wants to road trip from our district or picked up along the way, we’ll meet over a table for tacos with encouragement, no-fluff, irrational challenges to live out the life of an irrational disciple who has a platform, a local church, and influence to push through, grow resilience muscles, and make some noise for Jesus in their hometown.

This I know. Everyone wants a story. “A crazy pursuit of an extraordinary life,” writes Kevin. A big story. An Esther, Shadrach, John, Daniel story. I want stories of irrational behavior with Jesus friends who behave irrationally to love littles and their bigs to Jesus. 

Kevin writes, “Failure becomes opportunity. Frustration becomes persistence. Deformity becomes strength. Being last becomes being first. Old age becomes a second wind. Uncertainty becomes a chance to dream. Problems we can’t control become an invitation to start looking up to a big God who controls everything.”

I hope I never snap out of it!

What is inspiring you to pursue an irrational, extraordinary life? What are you doing about it? Who are you inviting on the journey?

Our first stop? Los Mezquites Mexican Grill in Adairsville!

Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

Shovels and Confetti Cannons

There has been a great deal of movement in the local church’s children’s ministry world. Relocations due to reset priorities, drastic budget changes, and the need for pioneers has opened and closed doors like nothing I’ve ever seen. Lots of open positions and a willingness to courageously grow into how we’re naturally bent has made for many conversations with clergy, laity, and staff from all over the country.

Last week I shared three areas of considerations for churches as they determine their goals for the next 1-3 years. You can read about that here.

I closed with “Realistic and reasonable expectations make for a much more enjoyable workplace. Hiring new and retaining effective staff is a disciple-making opportunity, and we must always be looking for ways to make the experience better. Next week I’ll share more about hiring a pioneer and the most important question every candidate should ask.”

Are you looking for a pioneer who enjoys starting things? Are you willing to give them the parameters and be okay with letting them creatively hit the ground running? Or are you looking for typical children’s programming? Not everyone can live and work with a pioneer, an innovator, but would prefer a project manager. No judgement here, but don’t be disappointed when a new hire isn’t both a pioneer and a project manager unless they are very experienced and have stories and evidence of such. 

When hiring a pioneer, clearly communicate shared goals, shared resources, walk alongside in the areas of your giftedness and skillset, and help unruffle feathers. Inform your pioneer that it’s okay to network, get the lay of the land, and build relationships in the first three months, six months, and touch base often both informally and formally. Offer a weekly standing meeting to be informed, offer encouragement, and coach him/her without micromanaging.

Coaching is involved in everything. What is the senior pastor or supervisor willing to coach and what are they not? Remember that people don’t quit their jobs as much as they quit their supervisors. Do your best to set up everyone to win in a candidate’s giftedness and natural bent. A teachable spirit on all fronts and clearly communicated parameters can stop the cut of stained glass beforehand. Hiring and leading staff is discipleship work. How patient are you?  It’s unrealistic to think you are hiring for a lifetime. Churches, decide what you want for the next three years and start there.

One of the best questions a candidate can ask of their future/current supervisor and the senior pastor is, “Who is the best children’s ministry person you’ve ever worked with?”  Wait, then follow up with, “What made them so great?” The first couple of statements shared right here are the lens through which the candidate/staff member will be quickly measured and these are hardly ever part of the job description. Clarity is an expression of love. Your first response bears the greatest weight.

Consider a lead in children’s ministry to be a ministry with families instead. From the research coming out of the parents we serve today (this changes every 5 years), families want to share experiences especially as kids get older whether it’s on the ball field, Disney World, camping, or faith formation in the local church and along their way. Equipping parents and grandparents to love their kids to Jesus as they go, wherever they go is what they’re asking for. And it’s what God had in mind all along. Deuteronomy 6. We’ve either gotten really good at this over the last year or we’d better start. Parents want their kids to belong, be known by name, and no longer entertained in a herd. Large group is amazing, but it’s in the small group setting where kids are known and can chat about the life questions they are wrestling with, dwell on, and take up space in their heads and hearts. They want and need to build deep relationships with people who will model what loving Jesus looks like, sounds like, and acts like. Kids drive where their families will go, but they don’t drive. Let nothing happen that doesn’t not engage minds and hearts to love Jesus and God’s Word more with the whole family in mind. 

If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God. -D.L. Moody

On August 1st, I’ll celebrate 4 years serving in full-time ministry with children on staff at my local church. I’ll also be celebrating 31 years in professional Christian education in the local church from south Louisiana, New England, and the southeast. Of all the seasons of ministry I’ve experienced, THIS season is definitely the one for which I was truly created. God’s faithfulness, His word, and the saints of seven local churches have modeled pioneering discipleship and Godly relationship for this follower’s life.

Ministry with children is done best in community as equippers of the saints. Parents and grandparents are the saints and God-ordained disciple-makers. They are the true heroes, the cape-wearers, the torch-bearers in ministry with children and families. Yeah, we can make a VBS happen, but how will we do THAT? Our Heavenly Father has only invited us to play in His sandbox. 

I’ve got my shovel.  Insert the confetti cannons!

“The idea of changing the world is utter nonsense…unless you’re a children’s pastor, then it may be possible.” – Roger Fields

Hiring A Lead in Ministry With Children

Hiring a Lead in ministry with children used to be about hiring a teacher with creative decorating skills, training in behavior management, and a Vacation Bible School coordinator. Not anymore.

In my conversations with search teams and pastors over the last few weeks, these have been just a few of the questions we have chatted about…

Do you live in the community? If the pastor’s answer is YES, then it opens the door to consider an experienced candidate who is a connector who may commute. If the lead is expected to pull daily office hours, a commuter won’t fit. Ask what would it take for the hired lead to be trusted to get the job done without daily office hours? Everyone wants someone with experience, but what kind of experience would permit him/her to work from a home office at least one day each week? I commute an hour plus from my home to the church building, typically three days per week, but I connect by phone, social media, email and more, plan, research, collaborate, and learn all the other days, except Friday Sabbath, at tables all over the place including the home office.

If the pastor does not live in the local church community, then it would be wiser to hire someone who does. It’s important to have someone on staff living in the community the church serves. That person will know the rhythm of the community, attend the local school meetings, the cross country meets, and will know the holiday parade schedule, among all the things which make that community special. They’ll know how the community shops, drives, vacations, learns, and plays. 

Hint: Go to the next couple of PTA meetings and watch who ‘works the room’, chats with lots of people with a resting face of ‘joy’, or has great kids who enjoy being in groups of people.

Story: An innovative kidmin lead was hired from a school event as she worked the room. It was discovered she was a connector who ran local political campaigns which made for a perfect fit for a new church start’s children’s ministry. She earned a Christian education certificate to get the theology part down. After 3-4 years she handed off a healthy, vibrant ministry and a new kidmin church building to a supportive church when she moved on to pioneer a new endeavor. I learned so much from her about marketing, packaging, vocabulary, and sustainable energy.

As the local church’s head disciple-maker, as clergy, willing to teach someone how to do ministry? Not as a micro-manager, but would you be willing to hire a networker personality and not be annoyed because they don’t yet know how to build a ministry budget? The amazing kidmin community of the North Georgia UMC Conference can walk alongside a teachable networker to build a candidate’s skillset like budgeting, calendar management, collaboration, Safe Sanctuary, curriculum decisions, and more. There are some skills a kidmin lead will need to be part of his/her nature like connecting outside their department/local church with other ministry leads, making new friends, team building/recruiting, gratitude, helpfulness, communication clarity, a learner, generosity, a great sense of humor, trustworthiness, a desire for other disciples to succeed, to equip the saints to do the ministry of the church, goal setting, and loving people. There is a big difference between event-planning and really loving people to Jesus. Skills are important, but personality traits may be more important. Know what the pastor team can teach, what he/she is willing to teach, and what will annoy the daylights out of them to teach. 

Hint: Whatever the job description in your hand, it’s outdated. Post-COVID has set the pace and priorities of families we serve on it’s head. 

Look at the printed job description understanding there may be too much to ask of one person, especially from the get-go. Be okay with a dream list of tasks. It may be more reasonable to bullet-point the top, most important 5-10 tasks from which to grow the job description with the natural giftedness/bent a candidate can bring to the table. You’ll be surprised at what could be fabulous. Evaluate and check-in from those items every 30-60 days. Let the job description grow into the ministry you dream about for the future for your families. I re-evaluate my job description every January because a healthy ministry is always growing and changing to the audience we serve. Read more about that here.

Hard question: Do you really want your kidmin to look just like the one that can be found at every other church? When a person serves the local church in their natural giftedness and bent, what could burnout one person might just energize another. 

What are the three most important things that have to happen in your context within the next year if the church were to start from scratch? – VBS? Christmas Eve kid’s service? Sunday morning numbers? Midweek? New people? Retention of volunteers? Folks on-ramping in the kid’s area then getting connected in another? Full programming (whatever that means)? Returning numbers? New numbers?

What about the first 90-days? – connecting with a monthly networking group, already engaging social media, in-person detail, evangelism (be specific with a definition), mission (defined), a clean database, priority programming, marketing, event planning, reading a book on ministry systems?

Hint: Break down your church year into quarters. What has to happen in that quarter no matter what? It may not look like an event to plan, but a opportunity to piggy-back, partner, share, and not even on a Sunday.  This is especially helpful with a small to mid-size church when resources feel more limited and you will need whole-church buy-in.

This we know:

There is lots of movement this year. Hardly anything moved last year due to COVID, so if nothing else, this year seems extra.

  • COVID has caused people to reassess their priorities, so people are relocating into and out of the area. Use all the means possible, not just church staffing sites, to post the position and network, network, network.
  • There are lots of open positions, many of them part-time in smaller to mid-size churches. That’s okay. Our current societal structure encourages side-hustles. You’d be surprised at the work and elegant art that can be attended to with excellence by someone trained in other fields like counseling, teaching, preschool, real estate, etc. which can rock the church house in growing a ministry with families.
  • Consider hiring for a period of one-year, then reassess. 
  • Require networking and specific continuing education as part of the job and allow time for it.

What else?

Realistic and reasonable expectations make for a much more enjoyable workplace. Hiring new staff is a disciple-making opportunity, and we must always be looking for ways to make the experience better. Next week I’ll share more about hiring a pioneer and the most important question every candidate should ask. 

Other Resources:
UM Discipleship Ministries: Recommendations for Hiring a Children’s Ministry Director
HR Daily Advisor: How to Spot Talent
StartChurch: Hiring Church Staff
8 Truths of Hiring Church Staff