Without a vocal nap or recovery time, my voice only lasts so long. This last weekend was the perfectly awesome and glorious storm: 3rd-5th grade SPARK retreat at Camp Glisson shared with 350 of our North Georgia best friends laughing, singing, talking, and more; CLUB345 gathering two hours after our return from retreat; Acolyte Training class for the fabulous 3rd graders who want to serve in worship. Our leaders are amazing and they do most of the talking, driving, small-grouping, game-coaching, retrieving flashlights and all. I just can’t be quiet and I LOVE their company. So I woke up on Monday with absolutely no voice. Nothing. Nada. With only a whisper, I spent the day online and texting. I missed my small group as well as our monthly children’s ministry networking lunch on Monday because I didn’t have the self-control to stay quiet.

So the day was filled with random thoughts and sweet memories like these:

Borrowing two catapults and a 10-foot-tall cardboard Goliath, both girls and boys are all-in to try new things. We are better together to share ministry tools and hearts partnering with other churches. The catapults and slingshots shooting dog food in the parking lot are sticky memories when teaching the life of David and how God can and will use a kid if that kid is willing and all-in. So grateful we tell kids, “Your home church wants to help you GROW in your all-in-faith.”

Acolyte training has been led by this amazing couple for more than 15 years and they are still at it. Giving fire to little people to carry in and fire to little people to carry out of worship takes huge levels of trust. It tells our kids, “Your church trusts you. Your church believes in you. Your church invites you to be an active part of the Body of Christ here in your home church.” So grateful we tell kids, “Your home church invites you to SERVE.”

Watching our students carry yellow fabric up to the stage area on the first night of worship at retreat (provided by our Tucker First UMC friends’ church closet), they walked and worked together to accomplish a task with no other direction than, “Take this upfront together and set it as an offering to the space.” I also saw them dance, sign language, pray, cheer, motions, sing, jump, “AMEN” the speaker, all in full-participation-worship. So grateful we let our kids WORSHIP the God of all creation in developmentally appropriate ways.

On the ride home from retreat, the children wrote down on paper and role-played how they would answer their parents when asked, “How was the retreat?” I got a glimpse of what they were thinking and what they took away from their experiences. Their response to share with their parents should include (1) Who did you meet and what did you learn about them? (2) What did you do that you’ve never done before? (3) What did you learn? So grateful we let our kids TELL their stories.

Walks through the creek, scones and devotions at the falls (provided by our Acworth UMC friends), platform jumps into the lake, flashlight-sharing, star-gazing, hikes to the cabin, stories read at night (girls cabin), talks through the first-night-home-sickness (boys cabin), seat mates, bunk mates, family style meals, and cheering one another on and overcoming our fears at the big swing make for deeper friendships, shared sacred memories, and tons of stories. So grateful these friendships impress on the hearts of our kids, “We are family and we are in this life together, fearfully and wonderfully made. This is where you BELONG.”

Lord, let me always look for ways to intentionally invite your kids to grow, serve, worship, tell, and belong. Thank you for the memories filled with YOUR voice and not my own. Thank you, Lord!