Each January we gather for a pasta dinner as a leadership team before the first Sunday of the year. We met at Olive Garden last year, but our team continues to grow so we met at a team member’s home this year. We picked up fabulous take-out of meat lasagna and spinach tortellini with all the yummy bread and salad from a local Italian restaurant so we could easily move around, chat, share holiday news, and enjoy each other’s company.
To open our leadership conversation, I passed out several index cards, the 2020 Super Summer Sunday idea list, and the five major celebrations of the previous year to toot our horn about. We invited everyone to write on the index cards any thought, idea, or suggestion which came to mind to turn in at the end of the evening. Included on the celebrations sheet were our planned and scheduled experiences designated as Meat, Milestones, Mountain Top Experiences, and Marvelous Moments for McEachern Kids.
– 5 major 2019 celebrations (toot their horns) See last week’s blogpost
– June through August Summer special Sunday brainstorming (why?)
– Idea of a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly thirty-minute Children’s Ministry Open House immediately following the last Sunday service to enthusiastically introduce how we can join in a family’s quest to grow closer to Jesus AND offer a tour of our environments, spaces, and routines.
– Idea of a Summer Book Club for K5-3rd grade (index cards came in with book suggestions and people to talk to)
– Ideas of more inter-generational opportunities (index cards came in with suggestions and people to talk to)
– 2020 Family Christmas event
– Ideas for topics for Parenting With A Purpose classes
The stack of handwritten index cards were filled with ideas, drawings, dreams, and requests to get together soon to discuss further. I read them over tea the next morning and I couldn’t quit smiling. I share life with the most amazing Jesus disciples.
Next Monday I’ll be making a bunch of phone calls to reserve foam pits and Ice Cream trucks. Now I’m ready for the Family Ministry team meeting next Tuesday to calendar the summer and much of the fall with room reservations and online registration forms ready in February. Wednesday and Thursday we will gather images and map out the communications plans for the year for those Marvelous Moments especially.
How do you get to brainstorm and celebrate all of your children’s ministry team’s pasta-bilities?
“They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27
Messy Night is one of my favorite ways to start a new CLUB345 season. CLUB345 is a monthly gathering of 3rd-5th graders. Our CLUB345 time is filled with practicing holy habits, Bible study, and shared developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences which grow our relationship with Jesus AND with one another. The goal of CLUB345 is to set in motion deeper church-friend relationships that remain when they head off to youth.
Our focus this year will be the Ten Commandments. We started Messy Night with our Bibles and our towels because following Jesus is messy. We chat about the importance of setting clear boundaries in life (house rules; game rules) as we live to please the Lord. When we choose Jesus, we choose to live set apart as different from the world, but in the world. The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostle’s Creed are critical to the faith development and teachings for upper elementary because they set the stage for living set apart.
Fruit by the Foot – hang over pvc stands and kids have to eat the whole thing without touching it from the bottom up. Tip: Make it only as tall as the kids can reach when standing upright.
Donut fishing – white donuts are tied onto string tied onto sticks/pole. One friend holds the pole while the other tries to eat the donut without using their hands. Tip: Poke a hole in the middle of the donut (use a pencil if needed) to string it up.
Chubby Bunny – how many white marshmallows/cheese balls can you hold in your mouth and still say, “Chubby Bunny.” It’s a one-on-one game with a friend. Tip: Stay close to guard against choking.
ABC Soup Spelling – using vegetable soup, spell words using the pasta onto paper plates. Tip: cover the table since the tomato sauce will stain.
Condiment Twister – tape 4-6 Twister game mats together on both sides’ seams with colored duct tape to make a huge mat. Then let the kids use the squirt bottles of each condiment for each color: mustard/yellow, grape jelly/blue, relish/green, ketchup/red. One of our boys suggested Blue Plate Mayo for the blue dots which was brilliant, but plan for mayo to be super greasy. Tip: A spinner is not necessary, just call out the directions. Wash the mat off with a hose and a sponge afterward then set to dry over some bushes for a few days; roll it up for future use.
We book a dual water slide through Jumpy Fun to wash off everything. Tip: The slide is faster when you periodically squirt dishwashing detergent like Joy (lots of bubbles) or Baby Shampoo (easier on the eyes) midway on the slide.
What else would you add to a messy night?
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2
What is YOUR plan for this next school year to move closer to the center?
The holy habits listed around the target are the most impactful holy habits which grow our love and faith as followers of Jesus. Practiced by the saints who came before us, we have amazing tools today easily accessible to practice every single one.
Mark where YOU think YOU are around the target in practice. No judgement here, just a realistic place from which to start.
Then choose one area/holy habit to make the move closer to the bullseye over the next school year. Moving one step closer to the bullseye is reasonable and realistic and achievable.
What next? Make a plan to take a class, read a book or two or more, grow a deeper relationship with a colleague skilled in that area, subscribe to a podcast with that specialty, wake up or go to bed an hour earlier to make margin, and stick it out until the end of May 2023. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at your movement over time because following Jesus is a lifetime journey, one intentional season at a time.
My volunteer/servant-leader team goes through this exercise every year as part of our Taco ‘Bout, Chill & Chat, or Winter Pasta-bilities Dinner. They don’t turn it in. Each leader keeps it for themselves as a reminder they are on their own discipleship journey and get to choose how it will go. This year we’re using Top Gun vocabulary since it’s part of our church’s Basic Training fall campaign.
Top Gun Training Officers are always better than their students because they practice their skills more. What skill will you take to the next level this school year? Share this as part of your team training, but this is also about you as a child of God growing in your own Jesus muscles as a way to beat the Devil who will be at you like fleas on an unprotected, unprepared dog. (I’m from the South and we like using dogs in our expressions for emphasis.) Remember you are a child of God, not His employee.
May 2023 will be here eventually, short of the Rapture. We’ll get closer every day we wake up. Thank you, Lord! Let us not look back and hope we just float into a robust faith and trust in Jesus when life hits us hard. Be ready. Be prepared. Join the holy habits of the saints who have gone before us with the tools the Lord and the Body of Christ has provided today.
How can I help?
How can we help each other?
Tell someone, so you can celebrate together. Jesus never sent out His disciples one at a time, but rather, two, three, or seventy.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7
Pray for and chat with your children’s/family ministry leaders. Set the table for some facetime with your top, committed leaders who are the face, hands, feet, and heart of the ministry with families in your local church. Ask how they are. Ask what they hope for in the year to come. Invite yourself into their lives to partner with them to take the next steps in their discipleship. Ideas: Pastability Dinner, tea, coffee, join their morning/afternoon walk. Gentle Reminder: As church staff our job is to equip the saints for the service God has called them to do. Ephesians 4:11-12
Pray for and chat with your littles. Set the table for some facetime with the littles you serve. Ideas: Play a game, ask what they got for Christmas, find out what they are doing on Saturdays. Gentle Reminder: If the littles you serve are Christians, they are your full-on brothers and sisters in Christ with a full-on Holy Spirit. You’ve only got a few more months with your 5th graders before they transition to student/middle school ministry. Ecclesiastes 3:1
Pray for and chat with their bigs. Set the table to be available to the disciple-makers in the trenches of your student’s every day. Ideas: Ministry FB group posts, Family Resource station, Parenting workshops, arrive early and stay later in the Narthex. Gentle Reminder: Partnering does not mean overloading their family calendar with church events, but rather ask good questions so you are aware of the rhythm of their days, weeks, seasons, etc. and plan accordingly.
Pray for and chat with your grandparents. Set the table for intergenerational conversations, story telling, intergenerational social spaces and places. These saints of your church have stories to tell and every kid loves a good story. Ideas: Add kid entries to the adult chili cookoff or bake sale, one-on-one invites for a very specific role, call them by name often in front of kids. Relationships are key. Gentle Reminder: The average age of a first-time grandparent in the US is 47 years old. This generation is the team of worker-bees and well-trained super volunteers of 15 years ago so make their commitments shorter, smaller, super enjoyable, trustworthy, and resourced.
Pray for and chat with your church leadership. Rev. Rhoda Howell is a prayer warrior. I’ve asked her for help with better prayer vocabulary to share with other family ministry leaders at a Children’s Ministry Hot Topic Table Chat in North Georgia last December. With her permission…..
When DeDe asked me to offer a prayer that might encourage you when you are frustrated or discouraged, well, it is a big task. I don’t know you all, but I know that you all have big hearts for making sure little people know Jesus and you go well beyond what ‘has always been done’.
I am thankful for you.
As a pastor of 25 years, I have sat with several Children’s advocates, directors, ministers, and heard you.
So I humbly offer this rambling to help you, encourage you and expand your vision.
Thank you for these folk who love you and love your children. Thank you for their willingness to do what no one else would think of doing so that these littles grow in the likeness of your Son. I am thankful that their vision is laser-focused so that they don’t miss an opportunity to talk about Jesus. Continue to give them courage to speak and wisdom to be silent.
Teach them that their strength comes from You not how many battles they have endured. May they remember that you carry their burdens so they can release their heavy burdens to You. May they feel Your presence. Amen
DeDe also asked that I share some language for you to pray for those that support you and those who do not. So, I will bullet point these:
Pray that your antagonists may be blessed today. Period. That they may be wowed by God’s presence. Do this every day.
Remember, they have hurts and wounds just like you. The antagonists have had to fight for their place at the table at sometime in their career.
Give thanks for their year(s) of service in their area. Remember, that they have reasons for the way they do things, just as you do in your area. They have seen lots of changes…the good and the not so good and are shaped by all.
Remember, some are a long way from the raising of or ministering to children. Let us not hold it against them.
Ask God to send you encouragers. You need more than one.
Pray for your pastoral leader. Pray specifically that he or she might hear God’s voice above all other voices, including yours. Remember, if someone is coming to you to tell you how to do ministry, there are probably a ‘gaggle’ of folks telling the Pastor that they don’t know how to do anything.
Remember, the pastor is over the whole church and has to manage every single ministry, special interest group inside and outside the church.
Ask questions instead of assuming. Ask the Lord for a Spirit of curiosity.
Be open for unusual ideas. Resist setting up or speaking obstacles. Ask the Lord for a Spirit of YES.
Don’t attend every fight you are invited to. You choose how you will rise to the occasion.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7
Children’s Council last Wednesday evening was a thrill as we looked at the summer programming AND the last month of “the good, the bad, the ugly, and stuff we gotta look at next month.” Made me laugh. Only a few things were tabled and we have begun our summer reading of Rick Chromey’s “Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Smaller Church.” When Rick signed my copy a few years ago, he wrote, “Dare to be a David.”
“David wasn’t concerned about what other people thought or what he couldn’t do. Instead he concentrated on what God could do through Him.” (page 60) We serve a can-do-through-you kinda God and when it comes to kids, He shows up and shows off all the time.
Our 2nd Fantastic Friday/Parent’s Night Out was themed “Noodle Night.” Dinner was multishaped pasta, butter, parmesan cheese, carrots, and watermelon. The children played a game where they had to “use their noodle” to figure out what their back-tags said they were, noodle baseball, and other pool noodle games. Then off to the sanctuary to watch “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” We will take a break for the summer and use “our noodles” in July to plan for the next school year.
Summer Jubilee is planned for the regular Sunday School and Children’s Church servants. We already have June covered; now to prayerfully recruit for July and August.
Servant-Leadership applications are out for folks 7th grade through adult to serve with children, 3 Safe Sanctuary trainings on calendar, mass emails to winter basketball leagues about Art Camp and Puppet Camps for June & July, and VBS volunteer signup boards in the narthex are now sitting on the floor in my office.
Scripture claimed for the summer . . . “SO, whether you eat or drink, or WHATEVER you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 Keep a lookout for the tshirts to come.