I love Vacation Bible School for a whole host of reasons: training youth, sharing the gospel with little people, dancing before the Lord, and having amazing conversations with folks. You know those wonderful conversations with folks who probably don’t need new friends, but I want to be friends with.
Conversations with those who might attend a different service.
Conversations with those who I can’t get to know from a handshake and a ‘peace be with you’ before the Children’s Moment on Sunday mornings.
Conversations with young people who see VBS as training and take instruction without offense.
Conversations with little people who want access to me so I can tell each one he/she belongs here.
Conversations with fifth graders who are invited to watch and learn everyone they meet this week so they know who’s job they want next year if they want to serve.
This is better than a survey.
From the conversations that took place this year…
I discovered who is on the hospitality committee for the local neighborhoods.
I discovered new families are moving in with younger and younger little people…..so we’re talking about planning a preschool club to get those relationships started.
I discovered there will be a Cotillion offered for local 5th graders and since it’s happening in October, I can schedule accordingly.
I discovered my 5th grade boys are already telling me what jobs they want next year in VBS leadership.
I discovered our high school seniors were handing over the reins to their younger counterparts for a smooth baton hand-off for next year.
I discovered our middle school girls can change the roadside sign in no time.
I discovered our kids preferred fresh fruit for snacks.
I discovered our kids are inviting other kids to come and see about Jesus and church.
I discovered Friday nights are better nights for specials for elementary kiddos for when we start a new life skills series for children’s ministry outreach in 2017 called “Wesley Chapel Academy”.
I discovered even folks who attend the traditional service want to, and do, dance before the Lord ‘in the Sanctuary.’
I discovered who lost their jobs over the last several weeks and who got new ones.
I discovered there are already calendars out there for 2016-2017 with dates for local organizations and I asked for copies so as not to overwhelm my families with the church calendar.
I discovered who has been thinking about serving on the CLUB345 Team for next year.
I discovered our theme for the Bible Late Night this year will be “American Ninja Warrior: Wesley Chapel style” in August and started talking with the graduating youth of how to pull it off…with their help.
What VBS conversations did you have this year? What are you going to do about it?
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4
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 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.
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.
We were flying by the seat of our pants last summer when we came up with the summer drive-in services. Our goal was to offer a weekly gathering of developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences for littles with their bigs in the vehicle so that our community wouldn’t grow accustomed to doing life without us, the local church.
Each week was a theme, a Jesus story, games to build visual, sticky memories for kids, and short teachings, with practice, for bigs to lead their littles in the holy habits of prayer, conversation, music, service, and play. At the end of the summer, we offered weekly camp chair meetings on Thursday evenings and Sunday morning programming in the parking lot. Still doing whatever it took for our families to not grow accustomed to doing life without us.
With the incredible fruitfulness of last summer of new families becoming active in our local church and already-connected-families growing more in relationship with each other and the local church, we chose to continue the summer drive-in services in 2021 in place of the typical vacation Bible school with edited criteria in mind:
Invite other ministries to be highlighted by serving and speaking each Thursday
The drive-in services we saw were for adults with kids in the car. Ours was for kids with adults in the car. 20-30 minutes in length (because it’s hot and considering the attention span of a little), at 6pm and 7pm (because families have different schedules), every Thursday rain or shine (because families need dependable and trustworthy expectations), and we just provide the environment (big visuals, kids want to come, parents/grandparents are the heroes, and we are just the coaches).
All of these have hit the mark.
It’s the bonuses which have helped us sharpen our intentions moving forward:
Every week we have new families.
Every week our families are inviting other families.
Every week we have purposeful intergenerational relationships growing through service similar, but greater than, a week-long VBS.
Every week we have current ministries growing because they’ve had a new platform to introduce and ‘work the parking lot’ in extravagant hospitality with the community.
Every week we have new servant leaders joining the children’s ministry team as they learn we are prepared, organized, have trustworthy systems, are irrational in hospitality and innovative faith formation. And we laugh our heads off.
An innovation ideation team has formed to add to our Faith Milestone initiative… Faith Milestone: I Can Worship With My Family.
We’ll start by bringing in the developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences of the summer to an indoor space filled with visually traditional elements for the first Sundays in October and December. Both Sundays lend themselves to intentionally using all five senses (World Communion, Advent).
In answer to, “What’s in our hand?”, we have the original sanctuary we can use to make a small group feel like critical mass. We will have Ambassadors leading different elements, American sign language for the Apostle’s Creed and Gloria Patri, irrational hospitality by our families intentionally inviting another family they share life with to experience worship as a family. It’ll be an intentional on-ramp to what our much larger sanctuary service offers in the weeks immediately following the Faith Milestone. Other Faith Milestones are already in place, so this would be a place to practice all of those in a teaching environment for little people. Intergenerational in message delivery, doctrinally-sound energetic song choices with motions upper elementary kids will love, and in 45 minutes. With color and interactive throughout, older kids will serve, little kids will learn, new families to our rituals will share in the experience so that we learn in a safe setting not just that we gather but why we gather: Jesus.
All discipleship programming should offer an onramp or an invite to take the next step in discipleship, another relationship within the local church. How has your summer discipleship programming made a way for families to take their next steps in your faith community?
“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18
My current pastor gently corrected a colleague recently when she referred to our servant-leaders as ‘volunteers.’ PTA recruits volunteers. We recruit servant-leaders. Most of my conversations with colleagues at other churches revolve around building their servant-leader team. Anyone else feel like a new church start? Yep, we all do!
I had a great conversation with a new-to-director Children’s Ministry champion last week and we chatted through several ideas:
Open House – Invite all kids and their parents/grandparents to a 30 minute open house after a Sunday service. Build it up, think sandwich boards worn by kids to promote. Post jumbo post-its on the walls in the kid’s area with “Sunday Morning”, “Hospitality”, “CLUB345”, “Missions”, and “Special Events” with cups of crayons below each one. Pull a Vanna White sharing a 1 minute elevator pitch in front of each one inviting those in attendance, “If you’d like more information about >>>, write your name and email/phone number on this post-it note (their choice for how to be contacted), and our team will get back to you.” Every 10 minutes, play a game of rock, paper, scissors for prizes OR pull carnival tickets for $5 RaceTrac/QT gift cards for tasty beverages. Prizes for kids AND adults in attendance. End in a fun interactive prayer and make those phone calls by week’s end. Lots of energy, music (bluetooth speaker, even), and have your kid’s space shine!
Chill & Chat or Taco ‘Bout – Promote this 1.5-2 hour event as a time to ‘get more information’ about the church’s ministry with kids/families. Put up the jumbo post-it notes with similar headings as above and offer a similar 1 minute elevator pitch followed by inviting someone in the room to share a story about their experience in that area. Lots of other voices will be telling great stories. Offer a take-away book with some meat to it that speaks to how the ministry will support them as parents, grandparents, etc.. Your current servant-leaders are your best recruiters so give time for some general chatting. Follow up with thank you notes to everyone who attends and especially those who shared a story. Offer a tour of the spaces, too. I have Ambassadors take care of this part. This is also where parents/grandparents get the first-look at what’s coming in the ministry for the upcoming season or school year.
Mission Field – Bring a suitcase and visit an adult Sunday school class. Say, “This is what I know about you. As a Christian you always wanted to be a missionary. But you had to work, had little people, or maybe were taking care of big people. Perhaps now is the time. What if I were to offer you a 1-year gig (big hairy ask!) and you wouldn’t have to take shots and you could sleep in your own bed? Would you consider it? Being a missionary, I mean?” Give pause. Say, “I’m asking you and a friend to serve as a missionary, one month on and one month off, to serve in the mission field of children’s ministry on Sunday morning for 1 year.” “I ask for you and a friend because Jesus never sent our his disciples one at a time, but in pairs or threes or up to 70 to do what He asked, and He asks in the scriptures for us to lead the littles to Him.” Oh, and come bearing goodies by bringing a box of biscuits or donuts along with the suitcase.
Church Committee Meetings – Find out when the Trustees, Staff-Parish Relations, and Finance Committees are meeting next. Leave a box of yummy goodies, a bowl of ice, cold water bottles, you get the idea. Add a note or picture signed by kids in your ministry inviting one (and a friend…see above) to serve together at an upcoming event, or say THANK YOU for making the ministry possible by the decisions they make. It will delight them to know you appreciate their hard work of ministry, too.
Lord, Who? Prayers – Write Lord, who? on your car windshield with a sharpie and as you drive pray for a name to reach out one-on-one. One-on-one invites are the best and really should be done all the time. Whoever the Lord gives you, make contact. Don’t’ talk yourself out of it. You never know how the Lord is working in that person’s life and they are just waiting for the invite to do something about it.
Youth Milestone – If you have access to your church’s youth group, make serving in Children’s Ministry a faith milestone of one month on and one month off for a year. Make them jump through the hoops necessary for training and equipping so they are aware of the expectations to be a great servant-leader. This is first-job training kind of stuff. Talk to them about what they’re doing well. You can talk to them about how they can do something better. Speak into their lives the opportunity to serve others well and with excellence and be sure to tell them WHY something is important. Remind them they’ll need reference letters for jobs and college program applications in the future and you can help them with that.
Faith Milestones and Grandparents – Faith Milestones are those once a year special events which mark a remarkable season of life with a spiritual training like Bread & Juice, I Can Pray, Acolyte, I Love My Church and the like. We require our students to have an adult with them at most Faith Milestones. If that adult is a grandparent, that grandparent is all-in to support and join in sharing sacred experiences. I will always reach out the next week to invite him/her to serve at something their grand might participate in.
“We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Romans 12:5
Everything I’ve ever done effectively has been within the community of a small group. From the local PTA to Bible study to my accountability group, I’m a better wife, mother, employee, coach, citizen, disciple of Jesus because of the efforts of sharing life in small groups. This is beyond chatting around a table. I’m talking REALLY sharing a season of life as friends-in-the-Lord or people-in-community-with-a-shared-goal. Though Jesus started the gospel of Matthew with a large group at the Sermon on the Mount, it’s what was discussed and wrestled to the ground in small group that made the content come to life, over time.
The most recent research coming out is telling us that the days of stadium preaching the gospel is giving way to sharing the gospel life in small groups. We can get great preaching and teaching beyond the 11am Sunday sanctuary ‘in our hands’ and ‘in our earbuds’, but small groups in our backyards, front porches, and parking lots is going to be the place to be for the local church’s message of the gospel to be effective as invitational, hospitable, relational, and necessary to grow in Godly wisdom and pass on our faith in Christ. It may be old school, but the local churches doing it well with systems and pre-discipleship will be schooling the ones who don’t.
I’m not responsible for small groups in my local church. I’m not even on the team that gets to have those conversations. So what can I do knowing a healthy small group system is effective ministry in my local church? I can have face-to-face conversations in the hallway, at the lunch table, and online before-hand. I toss out ideas and start conversations and ask questions. I’m interested in how others are keeping their minds on Jesus. I pray the Lord will let me show interest in how others are ‘small grouping’ in their context and within my own local church. I consider this pre-discipleship.
Pre-discipleship is walking directly into the obstacles and hurdles that stand in the way of the disciples of Jesus who want to grow in their faith in community, but are unable to because they’ve already decided their family commitments by the time we tell them what we’re doing. Just because we announce it won’t make it a win. Christianity is fundamentally a text-based religion based on an historical event: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Everything else we wrestle with, think about, discuss, practice, respond, experiment in devotional practices so that we grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man in community guided by the Holy Spirit. Yeah, but how do we fit it all in?
James Bryan Smith writes in The Good and Beautiful Life, “We live at the mercy of what we think about. What we think, determines how we live.” My families have way too much consuming their minds, but we can help if we prepare the way in pre-discipleship. Recalling the Bible account of the boy and his lunch feeding the 5,000 by the hands of Jesus, it was the boy’s Mama who prepared the way by making his lunch that morning.
Okay, enough about the why and the fruitfulness. Here are a few thoughts on how to keep the pre-discipleship conversations going….
Make it convenient – Think of ten people you’d like to know better and begin asking, “Hey, I’d like to spend more time getting to know you. If you were to be in a small group this fall, are days or evenings more convenient for you? I’m not asking you for a commitment right now, just trying to figure out what is the best timing for you.”
Make it relevant – What’s happening right now?
The Chosen TV series – This series is free on my phone with The Chosen app, I can throw it on my Roku tv for the family from my phone, and Season 1 is on DVD. For those folks who don’t like that it’s not ‘true to the Bible’ in every scene, remember that it’s not a documentary. But IT WILL start some great conversations with anybody no matter where they are on their journey. It’s a great story! Our culture is made up of image-driven beings and we can use this well-done resource for some powerful conversations. They’ve put out an interactive Bible study on season 1 which has some great discussion questions. In the words of one of my local church saints, “Three good discussion questions make for a fabulous small group.” Families could watch the episode on their own, then come together for sacred conversation. Intergenerational conversations. Another local church I know is doing this and rotating homes, locations, for a summer ‘pop-in’ small group. This could easily be rolled out church-wide.
Current sermon series – If your clergy team provides a sermon series, it’s low-hanging fruit to pull the livestream section from the YouTube channel and provide three good discussion questions on both social media and in-person. It’ll get the whole church talking about the series. Kidmin champions can locate an already-done-well video clip to make the content more developmentally appropriate for the littles and again, easy inclusion for intergenerational sacred conversations and makes mom and dad or grandparents the best sacred coaches.
Think of an August or September start up to the time change for your season. When the time changes, it’s dark earlier and it takes everyone longer to get from point A to point B. I live in the Greater Atlanta area so factoring in time and traffic are constant considerations.
Make it a partnership for a season – Plan to co-lead a small group. You’ll make a new friend or enjoy a deeper friendship with an old friend. Then, don’t take over! Be a full-on participant, but with keys. Count to 10 before you jump in. Listen a lot. Ask more questions than make statements. Support the small group by making room reservations and promoting it like you’re recruiting for VBS. I’ve discovered that when people are personally invited to be in your small group, your small group will either have enough to make OR you’ll learn why it won’t (inconvenient day/time, too long, too short, the subject matter isn’t relevant right now no matter how good the material is.)
Summer 2020 we were shooting from the hip when it came to family ministry programming. While everyone was trying to figure out what in the world was going to happen next, we were throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick so that our families did not grow accustomed to doing life without us. Not even focused on content, we were focused on connection. Not even focused on the delivery, we were focused on a reliable and consistent weekly celebration of Jesus, no matter what, which was developmentally appropriate for littles and worth leaving air-conditioning for adults. With all the safety protocols and boundaries given, we rolled out a weekly drive-in service for littles with bigs in the vehicle. Families are the ultimate small group, so we gave them tools and practice to lead their littles in the holy habits of prayer, Bible reading, sacred conversation, and play. It was crazy fun, memory sticky, and fruitful in growing our reach to our community with multiple new families now part of our church family. Insert the confetti cannons!
When it came time to plan for Summer 2021 we chose to continue riding the wave of fruitful connection and revisit the weekly drive-ins. We had time to plan and make deeper connections into the other ministries of the church.
Updates, edits, and ‘jacking it up’ looks like this:
Visual elements to resemble a VBS-look and feel * Car lot vinyl balloons lining the parking lot ‘stage’ (it’s a sidewalk) and “Welcome” feather flags in blue and red lining the main road, all assembled by a small group of retired engineers. Lightweight enough so that the 4th & 5th grade Ambassadors could safely set up. * Wild blue air dancer found in the consignment sale closet. * Winshape-Camp-welcome for extreme hospitality with hula hoops, pool noodles, people, noise, and signs. * Tshirts and McEachern Kids aprons for everyone serving.
Bold Follow-up Registration forms are on paper asking for family name, how many in the vehicle, and an email address. We roll around a huge trash can/basketball net for kids to wad up their forms and toss them in before they depart which is another opportunity for personal interaction. If we get the form, we get the email. If we get the email, we get an invite to communicate. We will communicate the next morning by asking questions and trying to make a new friend. The Walk to Emmaus teaches ‘make a friend, be a friend, introduce a friend to Christ.’ Especially in this season of post-covid, people are looking for new friends so I’m looking to make new friends. Friends share life and know their kids by name. We’ll chat almost weekly because that’s what new friends do.
Entire summer theme: We Are Family Yep, think Sister Sledge which is our ‘everyone assume your positions, we’re starting’ song. Each week we’ll honor and recognize a member of the family with a ministry connection taking place within the next two weeks for a ‘check us out’ opportunity.
First week we honored the girls and women in our families. The Bible story was Baby Moses who had his mama Jochebed who trusted the Lord, his sister Miriam who was brave, and the Pharaoh’s daughter who showed compassion. We chalked the parking lot with the names of the amazing girls and women in our families. We also scheduled a Paint & Praise Party to take place the following Tuesday evening for any little person who brings a big person with them. Not a drop off, but rather a true ‘let’s paint and praise the Lord together’ event for all ages.
The second week drive-in we will honor our senior saints so we invited our senior saints choir (who would’ve been singing at nursing homes, but can’t) to lead our music. Just heard from them they’ll be at the drive-ins all summer long…because they want to sing and they want to be together. Because we’ve already set the song list with YouTube videos with motions, those have been shared with all the members of our Joyful Singers.
It poured down rain during our first service. Our team still showed up and showed off in hospitality, dance, and story from the covered Gaga Ball pit and in the rain. Families still came. The second service was dry and we played games with beach balls and laundry baskets because families working together can accomplish anything. Families still came. More than fifty in attendance…in the rain!
With the goals of connection and reliable celebration, we practice being a family of faith. We laugh. And we dance!
What are your goals for the summer?
“He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does.'” Luke 12:54
I don’t get my feelings hurt easily. With the maiden name of Bull, you grow a pretty thick skin from the get-go. Yet there are times when I am too much. I am. I run fast, I learn fast, I speak loud, and I throw ideas at the wall like a textbook innovator. I rebuke any critical spirit and always want the best in others and myself to shine through. I’ve learned to increase my question to statement ratio and I work on not interrupting people. I’m a verbal processor, so I affirm with listening skills like, “Mmmm”, “Hmmmm”, “Yes”, and “I hear you.”
In complete self-awareness, what I intend is not always what is received. As the ‘child’ of the church staff team (think of a typical family and the dynamics involved) I get my feelings hurt when I’m too much and informed to cool my jets, slow it down, told that I could be off-putting, or when I get a “shhh!” as I jump into a conversation. Yeah. I’m totally aware that I can be too much.
It’s been my experience that the Senior Pastors are historically the ‘parents’ and carry the weight of authority and responsibility of the church-staff-family. They may invite us to have a say (staff meeting=family meeting), but they have the final say for what’s going to happen in the family. Worship leaders are the ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’. They add creativity, always sit at the adult table, and can tell the family stories through song, space, and well, they’re the other adults. Youth ministry people are considered the ‘teens’ and children’s ministry people are historically considered the ‘kids’ in the church-staff-family. Think about it. Each church-staff-family role comes with family-related responsibilities, expectations, tolerances, and nods to what is permitted as a multi-generational (no matter the age of any individual) in how the church-staff-family works.
This means children’s ministry people are typically accommodating (we’re informed what we’re doing to help and support everyone else in the church-staff-family), adaptive (we deal with what we’re told), require more set-up (ever packed up for a 3-year old for the beach or let a 10-year old pack themselves? Can’t ask a 1st grader to set up or take down tables and chairs for an event so the before and after is WAY more complicated with a greater amount of children’s ministry logistics.) We take direction, make the best of every situation (ever had the worship service end 30 minutes early/late?) and do whatever it takes thinking everything rides on our shoulders. We want everyone to be happy and enjoy the ride. Sound like kids? Yeah.
I’m always at the kid’s table and I’m good with that. It offers clarity for my boundaries and responsibilities.
So what to do when I get my feelings hurt?
Fix a cup of tea and cry. Tears are God’s healing balm and physical release of the yuck. Even if the rebuke is prefaced with “It’s not personal…,” it is. Name it, then let it go. Thank you Lord, for tears.
Go with what I know and not with how I feel. I’m a beloved child of God and He is my Heavenly Father. He hears me. He knows me. He is still working on what He hopes for me. He alone is trustworthy and can handle my feelings. He has a whole book filled with stories of His faithfulness to His children who are ‘too much’. Thank you Lord, for transforming my mind and my feelings will follow. Lord, help me to live into James 1:9, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Keep it between me and God remembering that if I lose my joy, I lose my impact. So, I do what brings me joy: Scroll through pics of the grands. Write a note of thanks to someone on my team. Help someone. Bake a cake and deliver to a neighbor. Take a long, hot shower. Watch season 1, episode 3 of The Chosen. Stay off Facebook. Practice a period of silence. Drink water. Take a walk. Lord, no matter how I feel, do not let me sin in this.
In the wise words of Scarlett O’Hara in the classic Gone With The Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”
“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13
It is an ugly, awful, terribly misguided myth that churches can’t grow during the summer. Don’t listen to it. Don’t buy into it. Don’t settle for it. Summer is the perfect time to try new things, change up each week, and be so invitational it makes your hospitality team wonder where you came from.
Summer Sundays should not just pass, but be intentionally celebrated. Making each Sunday a special event builds energy and helps people feel they belong to something alive and relevant. We’ll be taking advantage of our 2021 Summer of Sundays to serve a state of celebration in Children’s Ministry. We make a place to serve alongside the Gaga Ball Pit at our McEachern Kids entrance as families linger up to an hour after our 11am services.
May 23 – Pentecost Sunday – wear red to church.
May 30 – First Sunday of summer – serve Chick-Fil-A lemonade (pick it up on Saturday!)
June 6 – National YoYo Day – yoyo exhibition and skills with a yoyo with our kid’s logo.
June 13 – Celebrate National Ice Tea Day 6/10 – serve peach tea (we’re in Georgia!)
June 20 – Pops With Pops Father’s Day – popsicles & Father’s Day photo booth
June 27 – National Sunglasses Day – It’s cool to be at church! So wear your sunglasses (we’ll provide sunglasses) & Kona Ice Truck
July 4 – Independence Day – wear red, white & blue
July 11 – National Blueberry Muffin Day – mini blueberry muffins
July 18 – National Ice Cream Day – ice cream truck available for purchase and tickets which are given to all children’s ministry volunteers throughout the entire year
July 25 – Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy (7/24) – wear your cowboy gear & we’ll rodeo
August 1 – Let’s Roll – bring your wheels and helmets for Wild Worship & Wheels
August 8 – Promotion Sunday: Welcome Home!
Signing up at nationaltoday.com gives a great list of national and international dates to celebrate.
Each Special Summer Sunday provides an opportunity to celebrate as a family of faith. It is not my habit to let each Sunday just run into another. Nor is it my habit of thinking that people take the summer off from church. Never has. Never will. Whenever I can provide a memorable church experience for the littles, their bigs can enjoy the conversations started beyond the, “Did you have fun?”
“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son…” Proverbs 10:5
I’ve had a great number of conversations about open staff positions in local churches for children’s ministry over the last month. More than typical. Everything from half-time, ¾ time and full-time. Due to the little to no movement of church staffing over the last year, we can anticipate a good bit in the next 12-18 months. People are relocating, retiring, and making career moves. The Holy Spirit is moving!
I’ve had some experience in moving on. I started as a super volunteer in kidmin and on staff in weekday ministry at my home church. Due to a season of paralyzed vocal cords I could no longer serve in the weekday classroom, so I took on the Director of Weekday ministry at another local church while still serving as a servant leader at my home church. I was not called to seminary, but I was called to professional Christian education which was affirmed as I moved to two other local churches in part time roles until I heard clearly, “Get ready” which provided the opening to serve full-time in ministry with children and families at the local church I now serve. That’s five local churches, all within driving distance, in one district, from part-time to full-time, over the course of 25 years. Before that, I served in Christian education roles on staff in New England and Louisiana.
Through it all I was diligent to (1) ‘be faithful with little’, and (2) do whatever it took so that ‘surely goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life’.
These are a few things to consider if a move might be in your future:
Without ordination, we serve at the whim and pleasure of the senior pastor. Know you will learn a little or a lot from each one. This will build your trust muscle like nothing else. We must trust the appointment process and we must submit to the authority over us or make plans to graciously move on if we can’t do either one. Do not be the face of disunity. This close to the appointment change date, it’s prudent to wait so that the one hiring you is not moving on in your first year. It’s in your first year you get your legs under you, you build trust currency in your families’ minds, and you understand the leadership culture for a season. Be a Joseph!
Talk with other kidmin leaders a lot. Build your network of those in the trenches. The average life expectancy of kidmin leads is 3.5 years UNLESS you connect with others outside of your own house/local church. Their shared experiences can only make you better and can offer help and hope in areas you don’t even know about until you’re in it up to your neck. They’ll encourage you, pray with you, and share their stories of what is healthy and hopeful. They’ll help you persevere, learn, and affirm your gifts and calling. Be an Esther!
When you move on, you will no longer be looked at as the super volunteer you started as, but the professional Christian educator you’ve sought to become. Learn your craft and hone your skills. What are you learning today to help you move the next church to the next level? Constantly be upping your skill set so you are ready when invited to take on the next big thing. Know this: Women typically wait until they are 100% ready to make a move. Men typically wait until they are 50% ready to make a move. (She Leads Church, 2021). Be a constant, ready learner, and you don’t have to wait until you’re 100% ready. Be a Nehemiah!
Deep dive into God’s Word in preparation to hear His voice. Waiting is a time of intentional preparation. It is unrealistic to expect to clearly hear the Lord’s voice if you are not in His Word learning His vocabulary. God has a perfect design for His people. He directs His own in the midst of uncertainty with courage and joy. Only in His Word can we fully discern that every open door may not be for you. Be a Paul!
Some will. Some won’t. Everybody can. Be an Abigail!
If you are considering a move or wish to move from part-time to full-time, let’s chat. I’d love to help you be filled with health and hope as you fulfill God’s call on your life as a professional Christian educator. You were created for such a time as this! For this I know: We are better together.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24