It’s been a bit and I’ve missed the faces of my ministry friends from around the country, so I set up two zoom calls. One for Advent ideation and another for Innovation into 2022. So many great ideas were shared, but here are a few of my own takeaways:
- Don’t just prepare for Christmas, but be intentional about those two weekends following with a Blessing of the Toys, a cereal bar, a Pancakes & Pajamas, or other such special experience.
- Use November and not wait for December for Advent.
- Prioritize the one thing which will have the biggest bang for your buck and throw your greatest creative energies and budget at that.
- Address Christmas cards with a nativity image now (November) to your families. Ask a church saint with beautiful handwriting to hand write the addresses on envelopes, get the cards signed by the clergy/church leaders, yourself, or kidmin team. Stamp now to be ready to mail the first week of December. Personal touches at Christmas are powerful.
- Offer at-home popup advent calendars for church families and a small take-home for preschool/recreation ministry families to hint what can be shared if they come to church. We want folks to come to children’s ministry programming, so don’t give away the whole thing of what you share at church. Giving them a cut out star or birthday candle is easier on the budget and can be prepped now (November).
- Nativity is the priority. Keep all things pointed to Jesus. It’s CHRIST-mas….much about Christ.
- Go ahead and give your servant/leaders/volunteers a schedule of what’s coming up for Advent. They want to be there and though they might not sign up early, they need to know early to move some pieces of life around to make things work.
- Advent is for you and your family, too. Build in margin for your own family to celebrate Advent. Pre-set priorities now for you and your family’s calendar and budget.
Innovation into 2022 – The ZOOM Call Rules: No mention of VBS or Sunday school referring instead to ‘Sunday morning’ or season of faith formation experience.
Facts to consider:
- Families are looking for experiences over stuff.
- Faith formation on other days of the week offer greater relevance to those with work rhythms where Sunday is a work-day.
- Parents are asking for help with life skills.
- Kids have grown and look different than last we saw them. One church made a grade-level church directory to use to pray over the children followed by notes home which read, “Your name was on my lips when I talked to God this morning.” Start with your oldest in your ministry since your remaining time with them is shorter.
- Hospitality on the front end is what we’re good at. Evaluate the last experience and intentional hospitality on the back end with an edited dismissal, a Chapstick or oil-roller blessing on the back of the hand, a free-time-to-chat-to-build-relationship experience, greeters with smiling resting faces at the end of a service and not just the beginning.
- Parents and grandparents receive online newsletters and calendars, but kids love mail and get very little. Mail a monthly paper newsletter specific to youngers and another specific to olders with dates for upcoming events, but also riddles and easy faith formation experiences to do at home. This is the stuff which makes the refrigerator or family bulletin board. Rather than monthly, I’ll be looking at doing this quarterly.
- Go in for the big asks: money, space, calendar, resources, budget. You might get a ‘no’, but it’s only the first ‘no’. Keep sharing the vision for reaching families where they are. Build in room for negotiation by going in large.
- When a person leads a small group or Bible study, they also agree to recruit from their circle of relationships OUTSIDE the church to participate. Promoting in the bulletin won’t reach new people like the circle of friends a leader already has outside the church. Co-lead with that person to take care of promoting inside the church as well as offer any administrative and follow-up support. Model what you want from your leaders.
- Tap into the faith formation skills and experiences of Christian grandparents in the church. These are the untapped volunteers to hand-address Christmas cards, birthday postcards, pour hot apple cider, serve at the Eggo waffle station on time-change Sunday, be present for hospitality at the beginning and the end of, and transport their grand to/from children’s activities/events at church.
How does Advent look differently for you? What are you hoping for in 2022? The seasons are on top of each other. Carve out a bit of ‘balcony time’ for each (looking from above at the greater picture) then put on something sparkly, pick up a medicine-ball tea from Starbucks, and let’s get this advent and new year party started. How can I help?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13