Christian educators are everywhere and it thrills me to spend time face-to-face and across the table with folks from other parts of the country. I was invited to Minnesota to share ideas to get some creative conversations to take place. Totally in my element and among friends, I walked through our discipleship plan for K5-5th graders of Meat, Milestones, Mountaintop, and Marvelous Moments. Each of these four Ms are laced with Bible reading, generosity, and serving elements. Why? Because of all the spiritual disciplines we practice as followers of Jesus, research tells us that these are the three that cause us to make strides in spiritual maturity. (Ken Willard, “STRIDE”) I want to be about making strides and moving beyond baby steps in building the faith of little people. Oh we include other spiritual disciplines in our teachings, but these three take priority in our filter for what makes a true partnership with families.

Partnering with families means we only offer what is excellent, not filling up the calendar, offering low-hanging fruit and easy wins for parents in the eyes of their kids, and Jesus in everything we do.

Meat elements – That which happens on Sundays. It’s our bread and butter. It’s what we’re known for. Sunday school, Childrens’ Church, CLUB345, Ambassadors, Parenting with a Purpose, and I’m currently working on Grandparenting with a Purpose. The average age of a new grandparent in the USA is 47 years old. This is a whole area and season of ministry that I’m deep-diving into right now.

Milestones – Those intentional teaching moments that are developmentally appropriate for specific ages/grades which are foundational to building a relationship with Jesus in the local church and at home. Holy Communion (Bread and Juice), Prayer (I Can Pray), Church language (I Love My Church), Wonderfully Made (faith and sexuality education), Moving On Up to Middle School, transitioning from nursery to children’s ministry.

Mountaintop – These are those full-on-sharing-the-gospel-experiences like VBS, retreats, and Ambassadors.

Marvelous Moments – These are the one-offs, the once-a-year or once-every-two-years specials which are invitational for next steps in discipleship including shared events like Faith Field Trips, Winter Ball Invitational, Splish Splash, Messy Church, Bible Ninja Warrior, etc.

Each local church has a culture and sustains a community, so how do you choose what might be a successful marvelous moment? (1) Dashboard research, and (2) lots of personal conversations.

Dashboard research requires a drive around the community at different hours of the day to find out what businesses are plentiful, what are the traffic patterns, how far will people drive to remain in the community, and find out what other ministries are already available by checking out online the closest churches to your church.

Engage in personal conversations asking questions of the connector folks in your church, but also the locals: grocery story clerk, the deli clerk, the coffee shop barista, the UPS store, the dry cleaners, librarian. Ask questions about what evening nothing is happening (when), when do the school buses run (start time), when do your kids have to go to bed on a school night (end time), what tv shows do you like (themes), where do you go out to eat (favorite foods), where do they go to church (tell me about your church), extracurricular activities (over scheduling is not partnering with parents, but rather burdening families), where does the local school need volunteers (outside service), and the possibility of fee-based ministry outside of Sundays and Wednesdays (recreation, fine arts, music, tutoring, relationship-building).

With the knowledge that people are always interested in new things and meeting new people, shoot some bullets before you shoot cannonballs. (Jim Collins from “Good to Great”) Try something based on your dashboard research AND your personal conversations with a specific goal in mind and JUST DO IT! Give yourself lots of grace and an understanding that you are in it for the long haul. Gather a partner or two to share in the labor because as we labor and serve together, there’s a lot of laughter. And we all need more laughter in ministry.

I woke on presentation day in Minnesota with the temperature of -11 degrees. Yeah…11 degrees below zero! But inside the home of my hostess and the church where I met these amazing Christian Educators, was the warmth of the Holy Spirit on fire for sharing Jesus with little people. Thank you Minnesota CEF for the lovely invite and your amazing hospitality.

“Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” Proverbs 9:9