I had the incredible blessing of being able to participate in an online Bible Study this summer on the book of Acts. I felt as if it had a lot of relevant lessons to teach us as the Church is navigating through COVID 19. One of the areas that stood out to me was the amount of traveling that Paul and the early church did to make disciples and share the good news of Jesus. What if I applied that same concept to Children’s Ministry? What if instead of the children traveling to me, I traveled to them?
During the month of August, we invited our families to host a Popsicles and Praise Pop-in. First, we set it up in our church’s registration program to invite families to host the Popsicles & Praise Pop-ins. We asked our host families to sign up for a morning or afternoon session on the date of their choice. We provided several different date opportunities. Each session consisted of praise music, a specialized lesson, and fun activities right in their own front yard. Social distancing was incorporated into the fun.
With our current curriculum we use for kid’s worship, we offered a lesson with supplies in individual brown bags which included a clipboard, construction paper, coloring sheet, set of four crayons, leftover VBS bracelets, and a special light since the lesson was about Abraham. We also provided poster board, post-it notes, hula hoops, a pool noodle, a fun umbrella, and popsicles. The umbrella provided shade so the musical guest who traveled with me didn’t have to stand in the sun.
Each parent/host was responsible for obtaining signed permission forms and the kids brought a towel to sit on. The host family provided the front yard and invited friends from the neighborhood. We noticed how several families had chosen a couple of friends, cousins, and neighbors they felt comfortable being around to socialize during COVID-19, so the host family would invite them to the Popsicles & Praise Pop-in. We did ask that numbers would not exceed 10 children per location to ensure social distancing during the lesson. The host family let us know the exact number a couple days before the event.
I arrived at the host families’ house about thirty minutes early to meet with the family and setup each area. Every student got their own hula hoop and bag of supplies. My Senior Pastor was one of my volunteers and brought his guitar to open up the service with music. With a lesson on Abraham, of course we had to play “Father Abraham”.
We started with a couple of songs and followed it with our lesson. After the lesson, we passed out yummy popsicles. The entire program lasted between 30-40 minutes. The parents enjoyed the time of fellowship and the kids loved getting to see everyone.
Hannah Harwood is a wife, mom, and loves her coffee. Hannah can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.'” Acts 15:36
The Sunday school hour is a priority. It’s when children are involved in large group, then break up into developmentally-appropriate small groups by grade. If we run a ‘special’ on a Sunday, it always happens at the Sunday school hour because I want families to get into a new habit of joining us during that time. If Sunday school is a priority, then we want to do something memorable for the first Sunday school of the season. My colleague and dear friend, Katie Atcheson, who also leads ministry with children is part of our children’s ministry network in North Georgia and the POP INTO SUNDAY SCHOOL was her original idea. Thanks for sharing, Katie!
We prepared parent packets similar to what families receive when they go to their kid’s school for meet & greet. Ours included: school year calendar, parent/family interest survey to be completed and returned (family info and ways to serve in the ministry this year…think: parent volunteer list similar to what families get at meet & greet again), God Loves Your Family brochure, postcard for upcoming Glee Club & Cherub Choir open house, and pop-rocks (thanks for popping into Sunday school).
We had jars of Ring Pops and Mini Tootsie Pops for kids on Sunday as well as lined the main hallways with 1/2″ 24X250 (ordered two rolls) bubble wrap. When you step on it, it sounds like firecrackers! Can’t help but step on it. Can’t help but laugh. Can’t help but be surprised! I actually got an email from the church receptionist when it was delivered by Uline.com that the bubble wrap was too big for the church office door! We didn’t need all of it, so we cut the remainder into strips for the kids to pop upon arrival while in the Children’s Welcome Center.
The sounds of the kids popping and laughing were better than I imagined. It was noisy and made the morning a very special way to begin a new season of Sunday school. What did you do to begin a new year?
“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story.” Acts 11:4
Here are five things you can do now to take down the intensity of Advent making this sacred season less overwhelming for you in ministry with children and families.
Prepare Christmas cards for your church families before October 15th, then mail the first week of December. Personal Christmas cards to your church families will give you a big bang for your buck and relationships. a. Purchase deeply discounted Christmas cards from Big Lots, Ollie’s, etc. with Baby Jesus or nativity images only. Write a short Christmas letter about your family and how you’ve seen God’s goodness and faithfulness in your home, your work, and your world. Overbuy to have extras for guests who offer their contact info between mid October and Christmas Eve. I invite the 3rd-5th graders to write a personal Christmas card to their parents and other church leaders at October/November’s CLUB345. b. Take a picture of your team or church staff dressed up/ugly Christmas sweater or wrapped in Christmas paper (check out the pics down a preschool hallway for inspiration) or tangled in Christmas lights based on your Advent theme for the season. Prepare like you would family photos adding a blessing. c. Enlist the beautiful handwriting of a senior adult or two to hand address the envelopes, affix the Christmas stamps, and prepare by mid-October, hand signing each one to make it personal.
Ask your personal family, “What three things will make Christmas Christmas for you?” This gives you the prioritized task list ahead of time to set the Advent table with your personal family as you are setting the table for your church families. We ask this on Team Reilly every year around this time leaving the list on the fridge. Last call is November 1st to give time for ordering and planning.
Place your order for your take-home resources now like a pop-up Advent calendar, craft supplies for your family Advent event, and anything else you need for Advent AND January. If you’re handing out birthday candles to attach to cards on Christmas Eve so families can put the candle in a Christmas dessert on THE day, purchase the candles, glue dots, prepare a cardstock notecard, and invite a ladies or men’s group to put them together at their October/November meeting time.
Decide and prepare or order your team’s volunteer/staff appreciation gift now. Consider possible supply chain issues and guard your head space. Consumables? Gift cards? Handmade items? Don’t wait. Unsure? Type “gift” in the search bar on 2-3 kidmin Facebook groups for inspiration and make your decision. Plan to gift by mid-December to be sure to reach everyone before THE day.
Pull out the large laundry baskets and label what event the supplies inside are for to stage throughout Advent/January. Locate a space on campus where you can begin to stage supplies for all the specials which is safe and secure. I typically pull out the floor-length table clothes and begin using the space under the Welcome Center tables for Advent/January labeled staging since we share space with other ministries.
BONUS: I love all things Advent, but can get easily overwhelmed with every great idea I see. I fill a google doc labeled “Advent Ideas” with links and pics of all those great ideas to look through next September.
I’m praying for you. Not only are you preparing for this year’s Advent, but you’re also looking ahead to the possibilities of 2023. Set aside some time now to plan for Advent, so you have the margin to set aside some head space for 2023 dreaming AND some Advent time with your own family.
BONUS PLUS: Get those sizes together now for the family Christmas jammies so when they show up on the shelves you are ready!
At Sunday’s Administrative Council meeting, committee chairpersons and staff leads were invited to offer celebration reports. In the midst of all the ‘what ifs’ it felt good to be in a room filled with folks who are cheering on the mission and ministry of the local church. I have never felt more encouraged and optimistic for the bride of Christ.
No matter what’s reported by the local, national, and denominational news agencies, there will always be a remnant of God faithfully living in this world though not of this world. Always. I believe I know how the story of the world ends and God will always be with His people here and beyond in Glory. I’ve got my marching orders. Thank you Bible Study Fellowship study of Revelation.
The local church is an historical organization which has endured more than 2,000 years of chaos, strife, conflict, and the horrors of evil openly hostile to the things and people of Jesus. Yet the Bride of Christ still stands as a critical means of growth for the health of all Christians. So I will serve with all the creativity, gusto, and vigorous joy of one who is saved as if I’m serving my Savior Jesus, because I am. Theologian Krista Bontrager shares, “When you are born into the family of God, the local church is your family. You have a weird uncle, a crazy aunt, and brothers and sisters you didn’t ask for. But these are your people!”Thank you Theology Mom.
I’ve got plenty of stained glass scars, yet I’m still standing. Though sometimes limping or dragging a leg, I keep moving forward. There are saints in Glory who personally outright pushed me modelling a robust faith in Christ like Rowena Stephens, Bev Wing, and Linda LeSeur. I’ll be facing them one day standing alongside Jesus beyond those pearly gates and I fully intend on finding them and hugging them until their eyes pop out. Disappointing them and Jesus is not an option. Thank you Stephen Ministry and Preschool Directors Assn. of North Georgia.
My table just got bigger. I’m now leading Children’s Ministry K5-5th AND Women’s Ministry which offers a much bigger and cohesive family table. When our local church lost two elders due to family circumstances and reappointment mid-summer, our church leaders invited the current staff leadership to take on some of their roles which could offer greater connection and impact through systems and processes. After praying through it for six days with trusted prayer warriors, I didn’t wait to be assigned something, but rather offered to sit at the table for the Women’s Ministry because trusted relationships were already in place, effective systems and processes for communication and leadership could smoothly transition, and language would be similar. In the last month the Lord has provided prayerful leadership in twos for Women’s Bible study in-house and in-neighborhoods with weekly check-in support; the ladies retreat design team has formed, set a date and contracted a location for 2023; marketing efforts have been accelerated supporting book club, the holiday brunch, a heart & cookie exchange in February rather than December; intentional assimilation strategies of high school ladies; and a new Secret Hallelujah Sisters ministry has begun led by a high school gal and a local attorney. There’s still a learning curve, but I’ve joined several closed Facebook groups and I’m reading two books. I can learn what I don’t know. The Lord is alive and active in His local church!
Studying the book of Haggai in the fall of 2020 I heard this prayer, “Lord, give me fresh traction under my feet.” Always appreciating some good, new prayer vocabulary, I’ve been praying ever since, “Lord, give me fresh traction under my feet for discipling families.”
What does ‘fresh traction’ look like for you?
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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 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