Moving On Up to Middle School: A Faith Milestone

Moving On Up To Middle School is a Faith Milestone with dessert and a panel discussion for 5th graders AND their parent(s). The panel is made up of a dad and his daughter, a son and his mom who are living in a 6th grade spring. Though many of our 7th graders just started this year in a typical middle school setting, we focused on the students and faces of those who aged out of children’s ministry most recently. Our 5th graders remember them and they have shared experiences with those who just aged up.

Initial communication: 5th graders and their parents are invited to join us for dessert and a panel discussion about Middle School on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, 6-7:30pm in the Children’s Welcome Center.

Secondary communication: Your home church wants to help your family navigate this big move to middle school with confidence, information, and tools for success. 5th grade students AND parents are invited for dessert to a panel discussion and Q&A on Wednesday, March 30, 6-7:30pm in the Children’s Welcome Center of the Christian Life Center/Gym building. Park and enter at the McEachern Kids entrance. 

Promotion: Social media, bulletin, mailed full-page invites to all 5th graders, emails from church database.

Arrival activity: Student chooses a combination lock; parent chooses a Prayer Book. Students attempt to open the combination lock with NO help from their parents. No help. No words. Nothing. Just smile.

6-6:30pm: Panel discussion with surprises and wins of going to Middle school. Instruct the students to hand their combination locks to their parents for opening, which they do quickly much to the surprise of their students.

6:30-7pm: Youth Group take over with golf pencils and People Bingo game
In order to familiarize our 5th graders/parents with the youth space, we made arrangements with the youth leadership to ‘take over’ with a game to get to know one another. After the chaos of getting each space filled with a name with all ages and all stages participating, we invited each person to stand who met the criteria of the space. So much fun getting to know others who shared in those attributes/experience criteria. I then shared what to expect for them all working together this summer at the summer drive-in services (our family VBS weekly Thursday night in June experience). The youth group gave the 5th graders a silicone verse bracelet as they left.

7-7:30pm: Offered dessert with water. We took questions and some encouragement from the parents who’d navigated middle school with older siblings; offered confetti tubes to the students to save for a future day of celebration and wooden palm crosses for the students to use in prayer.
I shared that just like their parents knew how to work a combination lock, their parents know WAY MORE than a middle schooler thinks they do. Their parents love them best and will help them navigate a life lived for Jesus in combination with their home church. This is where they belong!
The Stormie Omartian book has 30 short chapters ending with prayers which I used each day of the month when my kids were in middle/high school. It’s the best book with scripture prayers for their children and their children’s friends I’ve ever used. The chapter on praying through a child’s room is gold and the book is our gift to our parents.

This is the first step in offering a fun and engaging bridge from children’s ministry to student ministry. Next stop: Summer drive-in service training together for neighborhood pop-ins coming in May. 

How do you begin to bridge your students from children’s ministry to student ministry?

“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Hebrews 3:4

The Bible Food Truck & A Soul Food Summer

This summer’s month of Thursdays in our parking lot will be a blended model of Fresh Expressions’ Dinner Church and family Vacation Bible School. How did we get here? It all started with learning last fall that Vanessa Myers was publishing a children’s devotional entitled The Bible Food Truck: Serving Up 75 Devotions for Kids About Food in the Bible.

Vanessa Myers is the creative Director of Children’s Ministry serving the families and community of the Dahlonega United Methodist Church located in Dahlonega, Georgia. She’s authored both Rise Up: Choosing Faith Over Fear in Christian Ministry which equips a ministry leader navigating the trenches of effective ministry through the Bible accounts we know and love, and Breakfast With Jesus: 100 Devotions For Kids About the Life of Jesus. Vanessa writes clearly for the middle to upper elementary reading level which is perfect for a Jesus gal like me who serves that demographic. 

Vanessa has a passion for bringing the Word of God to life for little people and their big people to know the Jesus of the Bible. She is a wife, mom, and a blogger offering printable tools to resource families (and local churches) to grow in their relationships with Jesus wherever they go and as they go through the rhythms and hectic schedules of life. 

When I discovered The Bible Food Truck would be in my hands this spring, our kidmin team knew it would be the perfect resource to help us take the last two summer’s drive-in services to the next level. Her book did not disappoint. The bonus is the book invites a child/family to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit by walking them through the development of their own food truck ministry and business. About every eight devotions, Vanessa walks through next steps for a food truck ministry with guidance for a menu, a truck name & logo, a mission statement, workers, a grocery list, and even a food truck prayer. This is not your typical kid’s devotional book!

Vanessa’s book has prompted my team to consider adding an entrepreneurial class this fall with a product fair for our students just before Advent. Think of a blend of Junior Achievement and a way for us to include our business leaders and owners on the Titus 2 leadership team for our students for the next school year for the community.

This is where we are in ideation for this summer’s Soul Food Summer: 

  • each of the five Thursdays in June
  • a scheduled food truck 5-7pm in the parking lot
  • music
  • trained intergenerational conversationalists for each table
  • a VBS program for littles with bigs in the car beginning at 6pm
  • ice cream truck arriving at 6:45pm
  • we load up our Ambassadors and youth team at 7pm to escort the ice cream truck to pop into a nearby neighborhood offering free ice cream and chat with our neighbors
  • return to church parking lot by 7:45pm to discuss two needs we heard that we could creatively meet (do for two what we wish we could do for everybody) before the next week’s Thursday’s VBS. 

Vanessa will be at the first Thursday’s event of the summer to sign books we’re giving to each family in attendance and take pictures-with-the-author. She made it super easy to order books in bulk directly from her!

We’re using five of her devotions specific to Jesus and the tables He set: (there are five Thursdays this June)

  • Breaking Bread Together – Acts 2 (word of the day: Together)
  • Zacchaeus – A Wee Little Man (miniature games; word of the day: Welcome)
  • Feeding the 5,000 (word of the day: Multiply)
  • Breakfast on the Beach (word of the day: Invite)
  • Last Supper with Friends (word of the day: Remember)

Stay tuned for how the summer will roll out. In the meantime, pick up a copy (or two or more) of The Bible Food Truck and see how you could use it at home or at church to add a little surprise and delight to your summer programming. Grandparents, this would be a great ‘summer read’ to share and read alongside your grand!

Vanessa is generously offering a free copy of The Bible Food Truck to one of my blog families. Simply comment on this post on Facebook or Instagram with how you share Jesus with your family around your table, whatever that table may look like or wherever that table may be. I’ll announce the winner on my Facebook page before next Tuesday. The Bible Food Truck blog tour continues on April 11 with Mindy Jones who has some great Easter printables.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Setting the Table: Progressive Dinners

When Mr. Bob and I lived in south Louisiana there were so many amazing restaurants we learned we’d cover more ground if we made a special night out like a progressive dinner. We’d stop at one restaurant for sausage gumbo, another for crawfish etouffee’, and still another for bread pudding and cafe’ au lait. The food was a delight, but it was the varied tables and settings along with the travel in-between which added so much more to the meal.

A progressive dinner is an occasion at which the different courses of a meal are eaten at different locations. A progressive dinner invited our 3rd-5th graders to enjoy some intergenerational table-life with each other and their church family for our last gathering of the school year. 

April has Easter and Spring Break. May is December-in-the-spring for our families. The end of March is the last monthly gathering of our 3rd-5th graders for the school year.  If we say we’re partnering with families, we offer them margin in April and May by finishing special, ongoing programming in March.

Progressive Dinner, Sunday March 27th, 3:45-7pm
Start with a 20 minute review at the church of the specific liturgical holidays studied over the school year and how each one reminds us of Jesus. This allows space for review and late-arrivers.
Stick-on name tags with first names let our hosts call the children by names.

Three locations were arranged as follows:
* Appetizer was nearby – various hot and cold (served by young newly weds in their first home)
* Main course was further away from the church – all things taco (served by a parent and their adult Sunday school class)
* Dessert was the furthest away from the church – homemade family recipe of pound cake, cookie bars, and ice cream (served by a couple who’ve been part of the church family for more than 30 years).

At each home we asked our hosts before we ate to tell how they’d come to be part of our church’s family and where they serve at church and in the world. Our hosts then blessed the food and gave instructions. 

Our hosts decided what to serve. I contacted them on Saturday with an attendance estimate. On Sunday I texted an estimated time of arrival and when we were headed their way.

Other details: Water was the beverage of choice. Multiple tables along with some standing space to learn to hold a plate and eat standing up. The party number grew as we progressed to the locations. Our two bus drivers serve as leaders on church committees and looked great in their McEachern Kids’ t-shirts they’d been gifted with at prior events – I didn’t even have to ask, they chose those t-shirts on their own. 

I brought games with us for down time, but we never had time as the conversations were plentiful and the laughter over-the-top. Some parents took us up on our offer to join the ride and they, too, were able to get to know new friends and enjoy some great food. Even our pickiest eaters were delighted.

Lagniappe (extra) delights? Our two bus drivers are granddads and will be talking about driving the children and their families when they gather at their next committee meetings AND our older littles spent time with the Titus 2 men and women of their home church in their homes around their tables. Sticky faith memories for everyone!

If you grew up in the local church, especially a smaller to mid-size local church, what intergenerational experiences do you recall which could be re-introduced in a fresh way with your church family?

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7

An Uncontrolled and Uncomfortable Ride

Two books have me fired up right now.

One Body by Sam Halverson was passed along to me in a stack of books about family ministry. There are almost as many words underlined in blue ink (my signature ink color) than there are black-inked words in the book. I had to rein in my blue ink. Sam is an elder in the United Methodist Church who leads a North Georgia local church with a bent to integrate children and youth into the life of the WHOLE church. He articulately explains the slow fade to silos of the last decades’ church growth model built around charismatic leaders and attractional events. His onramps for youth (and I’ll include children) into the life of the church are not just to look cute and sing a song in worship occasionally, nor just serve a breakfast and set up/take down tables for a big church event. It’s all about time and space to build intergenerational relationships.

Children and youth learn best how to love Jesus and commit to the Christian community by spending time with adults who love Jesus and are committed to Christian community. Where are we guaranteed to be in Christian community? The local church! Sam invites us to look beyond paying a young adult to be our kid’s Christian event coordinator and Christian friend. Rather, let’s empower the director of children and youth ministries to make space and intentional invitation for the intergenerational congregation with onramps to, as we claim in our baptismal vows, so order our lives after the example of Christ that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be ESTABLISHED IN THE FAITH AND CONFIRMED AND STRENGTHENED in the way that leads to LIFE ETERNAL. (emphasis mine)

How’s that working for you?

Sam explains that when we hire leaders of family ministry outside the denomination, these leaders don’t know how the denomination views the body of Christ. They certainly don’t have time to include that framework in their first year learning curve of database, community, personalities, and room reservations. They might not know how music should be so diverse as to articulate our faith story and our faith history. 

As Michayla White, CEO of International Network of Children’s Ministry, reminded the church innovators at the 2022 Exponential Conference for church innovators, the Deuteronomy 6 passage we throw at parents all the time is the marching orders of an entire nation (body of believers), to teach God’s commands to the children and talk about them as you go, bind them on your hands, and write them on your doorposts.

How’s that working for you?

Sam does a fabulous job of reporting the obstacles we face, but also the many ways to live into our Christian adoption in our commission to make disciples of all nations (and ages) for the transformation of the world (in it for the long haul). When we live into adoption, some become children and some become parents. All of us!

Which brings me to the second book: Sailboat Church by Joan S. Gray. Joan is a teaching elder living in Atlanta of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) She explains rowboat churches as doing what they can with the resources they have. A rowboat church dismisses any spiritual realities and functions in the belief that the ultimate responsibility for everything rests on us. Instead, a sailboat church tends to focus not on their own situation, resources, or limitations but rather on discerning God’s unfolding will. They engage in intimate partnership with God, trusting God to provide and do what only God can do.

Sailboat churches train sailors who can navigate their way into God’s will. There is so much good to chew on and live into in this little book, but what jumped off the page was a bit about two things which consistently block God: the need for control and the need for comfort. Adopting a posture of sacrifice, of letting go, in these two areas will go a long way in helping the church set sail. (pg 55)

The struggle to control isn’t with malice, but rather a dismissive and disregard for creatives on the steering crew. Where in your local church is traction tended, taught, and energy happening where organizational goals are being met in creative and sailboat ‘led by the Spirit’ ways? Are those leaders invited to the table for ideation or treated with a pat on the head with a ‘You do you, Boo. We’ve got this’? 

The other element to sacrifice is that of comfort. We all have our personal routines aka taking the summer off, zoning out at staff meetings until I get to talk about my area, having an opinion for every area of the church as the expert on absolutely everything, speaking/guarding things for others so they aren’t uncomfortable, keeping information to myself and not sharing it for the good of the whole body, unopen to negotiation and unwilling to see the value of changing something up for a bit, etc.

Today I choose to come to every table with a spirit of YES and trust God’s provision He’s given everything needed to accomplish the goals He’s set. I want to move to CATCH the wind and in a state of anxious expectation the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our midst. I want to live in a state of risk and imagination for the whole body to proclaim the truth of the gospel to the parish the Lord has called me to serve. And I’m taking people with me to work and power that sailboat as God sees fit because we’re better together, one body, rethinking and pioneering the practices that will invite others on this very uncontrolled and uncomfortable ride. Our great God is trustworthy! Who’s in?

“I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, than in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare, unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to. And sure I am that His blessing attends it.” – John Wesley

Stories of Sacred Spaces

Having served on staff at several local churches there are interesting stories attached to furniture, windows, and land. There is unique vocabulary attached to spaces and places on campus which most people have no idea what you’re talking about, especially those new to the church. This is why we offer I Love My Church, a faith milestone for 1st and 2nd graders and their families. 

This age group are good readers, so they can follow signage inside and outside the buildings on campus to lead us (leaders and parents) to various locations. This age group can articulate and re-share a good story, too. The event covers all of 45 minutes.

I learned early on in family ministry that families will make certain faith training a priority because they are milestones like Confirmation. For this reason we chose very specific holy habits to teach and practice which are developmentally appropriate for each age level. To make it even stickier for our littles, they must attend with a big they love and who loves them. If they do not have a big, we will get them one and we do. The holy habit is important, but an intergenerational relationship with another follower of Jesus  is even more important. A great by-product is that a little attending with a big who loves them will take care of Safe Sanctuary compliance and all class management issues.

We start in the Children’s Welcome Center with a resource for the parents and give a packet with stickers for each little person to keep track of where we’re going. We talk about the difference between a church year (liturgical) calendar (round) and at their home (rectangle). We talk about liturgical colors and names for spaces, then head out to explore.

Our first stop is the original chapel (celebrating 90 years open this upcoming Pentecost Sunday!) and compare what they see with what they’ve seen in the spaces they know: aisle, books, pews, altar rails, organ, piano, choir loft, etc. Then I tell stories I’ve gathered from the saints of the church who were more than happy to supply me with dramatic stories of that space oh so many years ago. Our chapel has been in several movies! We share how it’s used today: weekly prayer groups, bi-lingual worship on Sunday, weddings, funerals, and other remarkable moments of a follower’s life.

We moved on to see the pastor’s office and to my office. We took a fire escape downstairs (an element of surprise) to explore the current sanctuary/worship space. We travel and define words like narthex, vestibule, pew, pulpit, communion table, etc. We read a couple of the honor-plates on furniture and I tell stories. Lots of stories. Lots of exploring and touching and laughing and running about paraments, symbols, and how they all point us to Jesus engaging all five senses.

When we return to the Children’s Welcome Center I ask questions about new spaces, new vocabulary, and the new friends they met. I give out certificates, offer a take-home coloring book, and we take a ‘class photo.’ 

Bonus: While all the littles’ teaching is taking place, their parents are chatting to get to know each other and learning the stories of their church family all along the way. Relationships with their children and age-level in common!

How could you set aside a time to teach of the sacred spaces and places where you lead littles and tell the stories which invite them to belong?

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1

Chaos Coordinator or Chief Confetti Officer?

T Shirts are the best advertising you can do for a church. Not only does a t-shirt mark an event, but it also marks you and me telling the world something about you and me.

Oh the possibilities of colors, styles, and even fabrics. My guidelines for t-shirts are to order a size up to make space for fabric choice and cut, a color which is easily washed (not red/black), and white ink because the image or print looks sharp and clean. I don’t typically put a date on a shirt, but I am all about inking tees in the holy scriptures.

As the credits rolled following a great Children’s Pastors Conference online event, the amazing team members were marked with not-your-typical titles. It got me thinking about my team and what titles would make my team smile. A quick search for creative job titles and it got me thinking.

Who on your team would enjoy these titles on a t-shirt?
Head Unicorn Wrangler
Calculating Connoisseur
Creator of Opportunities
Professor of Adventure
Chaos Coordinator
Ringleader
Executive Sherpa
Answer Captain
Soul Shepherd
Video Visionary
Tech Ninja
Messaging Maestro
Chief of Chat
Sitting Ministry Lead
Number Ninja
Vice President of Miscellaneous Stuff
Head of First Impressions
Energy Ambassador
Director of Fun
Chief Inspiration Officer
Happiness Hero
Ambassador of Buzz

I’ve just ordered a 4-pack of lightweight t-shirts from Amazon and will be delivering them to a Jesus gal on my team who has a machine to prepare some t-shirts for this summer’s Food Truck Church season. It’s Dinner Church, but with a Food Truck. Drive-in services in our parking lot for kids with adults in the car every Thursday evening for families.

What would you choose for your t-shirt?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

A Season for Learning

“Thank you for investing in me as a professional Christian educator and as a sister in Christ. Thank you for providing the means and support for continuing education so that we are always serving at our best.” This is the text I sent to some members of our church’s Staff Parish Relations Committee and my supervisor the week I gathered with other professional Christian educators for an online conference I shared with other kidmin leaders.

If ever there was a time to model Christian community and deep dive into learning the best practices for reaching our community for Jesus, this is it. Travel days at the beginning and end of a conference invite us to share how and what we offer the families we serve. We talk about curriculum, special events, and tell stories of God’s faithfulness among our families and our community. We laugh, we snack, we get caught up in one another’s lives in faithful Christian community. We visit sacred spaces along the way. We laugh our heads off. (The picture above is of the Augusta Wesley Foundation’s worship space in downtown Augusta)

We work together to prepare and share meals, we chat about books we’ve read, people we’ve met, and which blogs/podcasts we are gleaning from to be catalysts for organizational health, to be better teachers and team members. We talk ministry in the local church 24/7. Really. 24/7. If we’re awake, we talk about Jesus and how we’re living a disciple’s life. We share struggles. We pray. 

The online conference provides the content and direction of conversations and ideas for how to roll out the best information in our contexts. We push back and wrestle some stuff to the ground. We stay at the table.

When the conference content is finished for the day, it’s time to process what we heard. We take care of our bodies (bike rides and coffee…more table life) and talk through the best of what we can take home to steward the ministry and families to the next level which may prove effective, relevant, developmentally appropriate in partnership with the families and staff team we serve.

So many holy habits practiced (prayer, Bible reading, serving, worship, learning, giving testimony, Christian community) as we model and live a disciple’s life in Christian community alongside other faithful disciples.

At the 2022 Children’s Pastors Conference we chose the online platform offered. CPC+ is presented by the amazing disciples at INCM, International Network of Children’s Ministry.  The online platform was less expensive for registration, housing, and transportation in good budget stewardship this year for several of us in February while other colleagues were able to participate at the in-person event in January. 

We’ve planned a CPC Recap event to share with our family ministry colleagues this week about bummer lambs, evangelism in any environment, tools to invite, incite, and equip families, as well as toolbelt tools to fight spiritual warfare and the differences in offering Bible knowledge and Bible wisdom for littles today. That was just the first day! In-person and online participants will be sharing at the recap hosted by an Alpharetta local church kidmin team for we are better together.

At the Child Discipleship Summit in Charleston two weeks later, we worked in small groups on how and why we must advance our maps for church growth of edu-tainment to the ‘twin cities’ of faithfulness and lasting faith as we fight secularism and teach our kids their truest identity is as a child of God. This room of leaders are pushing the doors and windows to lead littles into a radical pursuit of God, the total annihilation of idols, the resetting of altars in the home, at church, and in the community, wholehearted obedience to God’s Word, and the restoration of redemptive practices. We are missionaries in a land hostile to the things of God! Let’s draw new maps together.

The more I’ve chatted with others about what I’ve learned, the easier it is to bring a lot of great content into chewable pieces to implement and filter in my context. The Lord is setting the table today for what effective discipleship looks like, sounds like, smells like, and feels like in 2030 and beyond. I’ll bring a folding chair to the table the Lord is setting if I have to.

What are you learning? How are you processing what’s coming into your brain and getting lit up by the fire of your Holy Spirit? What’s the barrier for family discipleship in your context? What could be the greatest accelerator for family discipleship? 

“You can hold confetti and kleenex at the same time.” – Michayla White, CEO, INCM, CPC+2022

“Our children will look back on their childhood and find we created a lukewarm church. We’ve been asleep at the wheel.” – Rev. Jon Tyson, Child Discipleship Summit 2022

Hiring Next-Level Leaders

Staff-Parish Committees work overtime when staff teams shift. Local churches are paddling like ducks below the surface with remote staffing, the Great Resignation, and families shifting to be closer to their loved ones. Including the children’s ministry leader early on in the search for a youth/student leader or weekday preschool director would be of great benefit to a local church’s organizational health.   Those who lead littles and not-so-littles serve the same families, share much of the same spaces, require coordinating calendars of special events with the same leaders, and overlap in developmentally appropriate discipleship for entire families. How they work together can make or break a discipleship pathway, and do unnecessary harm or incredible good to a local church staff culture.

This we know: 

  • If someone is applying for a professional position in a local church, it’s a given he/she loves the Lord, is in love with His Word, and desires to set the table for spiritual growth for those they serve.
  • We have an enemy who will do his darndest to mess that up. 

How the table is set for the start of a great relationship between the kidmin lead and the youth or preschool/nursery leads would include inquiries to how people work, how people learn, what sucks the life out of someone, and how people feel appreciated.

If I were invited to be on the search team, I’d ask questions that related to their systems, logistics, communication, tools, their experience in sharing spaces, accessibility, budgets, and Safe Sanctuary. These are the items that can make or break a working relationship. The hard reality is that the lovely folks who make up the search team are not the folks the new hire will work alongside day in and day out. 

If I were invited to the table early on I would ask…..

What jobs did you do before going into professional ministry?
What tools do you use to communicate with leaders? Students? Parents?
What tools do you use to set your personal calendar?
How far in advance do you calendar? Communicate an event?
How do parents fit into your idea of ministry?
How does children’s ministry fit into your idea of ministry?
What ticks you off? (pet peeve?)
What blogs and podcasts are your first choices? (invite him/her to pull out his/her phone)
How do you learn to be a better director/leader?
How do you network with other directors/leaders in your profession?
What do you know about us/this organization?
Tell us about your ministry/professional friends.

What are your thoughts on Safe Sanctuary?
How do you get your worship on?
What do you do when you’re frustrated?
How do you celebrate a win in ministry?
Tell about a time you had to get something done even though it wasn’t your responsibility.
Would you consider yourself to have a strong work ethic? Share about a time you had to go over and above in a work situation.
What is your least favorite thing about leading in your ministry? What is your favorite?
Tell about the best boss you ever worked for? Best kidmin lead you ever served alongside? Best ministry partner?
When is your Sabbath?
Tell about your youth leader when you were in middle/high school.
Tell about the small group you are involved in right now.
What continuing education do you engage in?
What was a recent small group study you took?
What did you do during the quarantine?
How you do ministry today, why did you set it up that way? (middle & high together; middle with high)
What are your thoughts about Confirmation? (for student leaders)
What is your favorite season of ministry?
Tell about a time you got into trouble.
What is a favorite scripture passage to teach from?
What time do you typically wake up in the morning? Go to bed? Early riser? Night owl?
Tell about a time you had a major win in ministry.
What is your family tradition for Christmas Eve?
How do you feel appreciated at work?
What is your favorite board/card game you play right now?
What do you wish you knew when you started in ministry that you know now?
Tell about a couple of your dearest volunteers where you currently serve?
How do you serve as a volunteer today?
What do you want to be known for?
How often do you meet with a mentor?
What is the best way to communicate with you?
What have you learned about leading others through the last 18 months?

I want to be in his/her corner, not just in their circle. I hope they have questions for us. For me. Candidates for professional staff should have lots of questions for us, too. They are interviewing us as a team as much as we are interviewing them. I’d expect them to come prepared. I’d also expect the challenge of more than one candidate so those new on a search team have something to compare. Otherwise, everyone who loves the Lord is ‘impressive’ and there’s not an opportunity to adequately discern the ‘best candidate’ to take the organization to the next level.  Ministry is work and it’s the best work you can do with a healthy, collaborative and innovative team sharing the journey well from the get-go.

How a team works together and appreciates one another can make or break a local church’s impact on the community. It all starts with relationships of honor, trust, consideration, and safety. Let our yes be yes and our no be no as faithful disciples who serve a great God.

“The Israelites sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” Joshua 9:14

I Can Pray: Faith Milestone

Faith Milestones are those teaching workshops offering developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences for kids shared with someone they love and who loves them. Children’s Ministry offers multiple faith milestones each year specific to holy habits such as prayer for 1st and 2nd graders and their families.

Promotion: FB event (2 months out), bulletin (1 month out), posters (1 month), personal mail (3 weeks), fliers home from Sunday school (1 week), large group announcement (2 weeks), talk about it everywhere (3 weeks), email (2 weeks)

Set up a quiet room with two chairs at each station

  • Photo station with Jesus
  • Names of all registrants on a jumbo post-it note where I can see it (prompts me to use all kid’s names in attendance; know who’s not yet arrived)
  • Start on time; end 5 minutes early
  • Starter activity: kids pick up an empty bag; squishy Jesus; handout; ink pen

Schedule

5:45-6pm             Welcome; write-in the blank handout (big fills out the blanks while littles watch/listen and hold squishy Jesus); act out 2 prayer stations; surround room with pictures of kids praying artwork
6-6:15pm             Self-directed remaining stations
6:15-6:30pm       Review 4 steps of prayer (Greet God, Thank God, Ask God, Close in Jesus’ name); invite each child forward to receive their certificate (read one aloud so they know what the certificate says; students receive their certificate AFTER they tell me aloud their favorite station – as they speak aloud I tell them “I LOVE hearing your voice! God wants to hear your voice EVEN MORE!”; close in repeat-after-me prayer and group photo

Handout: How To Pray

Prayer is t_____________________ and l__________________________ to God. (talking; listening)
Prayer can be shared

  1. In your m_________________ (mind)
  2. Out l__________________ (loud)

For meaningful prayers, it is best to pray

  1. By yourself and in a q___________ place. (quiet)
  2. With someone you t__________ and love. (trust)

When we pray we speak to our Lord God, three in one:

God the Father Creator.

                Jesus, God’s only son, our Savior and friend.

                                The Holy Spirit, our helper and comforter.

G______ the Lord. (Greet) – who are talking to?

T______ the Lord. (Thank) – grateful for God the giver of all good things

A______ the Lord. (Ask) – after thanking God we can ask for help

Close in Jesus’ n_______. (name) – We do this because Jesus is our Savior, our mediator and go-between between death (physical and spiritual) and eternal life. We also close with saying AMEN because it means we accept or agree with what’s been said.

Pray for f___________ (forgiveness)

Pray in a g__________ (group)

God will answer prayers with a Y____, N_____, and a N______ Y_______. (Yes, No, Not Yet)

Prayer Stations (stations prepared from ‘What’s in my closet? What’s already in my hands?’)
Prepare signs for each station AND prepare a take home paper with same info/images to their take-home bags so they can implement clearly at home.
Journals – composition books; trace hands of those you love (as you pray, place your hand on the traced hand)
Glory celebration bells – celebrations of ‘glory!’ to praise the Lord (place in a room where everyone meets)
Berenstain Bears book on prayer to take home (read aloud book is super kid-friendly)
Prayer cubes leftover from last Easter (hardy, hand-held item with prayer language)
Fidget spinners – thankful prayers while it spins until it stops; waiting prayers for in line or waiting on appointments (encourages longer, unrushed times of listening and talking with God)
Mini scented playdoh (aka prayer-doh) – when hands are busy, minds are calm (God’s favorite smell = our prayers! Psalm 141:2)

What’s already on your shelf or in your supply closet? Make it simple, limited text, add an image of what you’re doing and kids can take it from there with someone they love sharing the teaching and practice.

“I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense, may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:1-2

Is Email Still King?

Want to get something rolling? Sending out an email or posting an upcoming event in a newsletter will not get you the results you want. Necessary? Yes. Enough? Absolutely not!

First, roll it out 60-90 days in advance. Why? Families need the time to budget margin, head space, and money to make something happen. Love them well enough to give them a heads-up in lots of ways that something important is coming up and they won’t want their kids nor themselves to miss it. They may wait until the last minute to register, but partnering well means giving them lots of notice.

Second, promote the ‘something special’ as an invitation. Why? Families don’t want their children to miss out. FOMO is real for everybody. Snail mail the invitation, then use emails, bulletin announcements, posters, pre-service slides, and parent text messages as reminders. Prepare postcards for invitations because (1) the postage is cheaper, and (2) it will hang on the family bulletin board or refrigerator as a reminder alongside the team schedule (recreation; sport; scout) and school schedule. That postcard/flier will set as a visual reminder that something important is coming up.

Third, if you charge for an event, reward the early registrations with a cost that appears as a discount. Be a good steward and know your costs, but have a soft registration deadline at one rate and a hard registration deadline at a higher rate. Charging an additional $25 for a retreat fee will soften your edge for that late registration. Incentivize good registration habits.

Fourth, use every means possible to promote your event. I have a jumbo post-it note in my office to remind me of all the ways I can promote ‘something special.’ I don’t have to think about it or wake up at 3am wondering if I forgot to send in the pre-service slide. If you plan a year in advance, and we all should, we know what’s coming up. Prepare your marketing and promotion materials 60-90 days out and roll it out appropriately. Think creatively: Invite a youth to come to kid’s large group to be interviewed about when they participated in that ‘something special’ to give testimony to the other kids, let kids wear a sandwich board in the Narthex or on the front lawn, place fliers on the sanctuary clipboards, mail a hand-written personal invitation, mail a full-page flier, always say ‘bring a friend’, send a personal invite to someone a kid loves (grandparent, parent, teacher, neighbor, etc.) Put it in the bulletin. Everyone knows that if a new person comes on campus on Sunday they WILL read the bulletin, every single word. Think 7 hits to knock it out of the park. Once registration begins, send out an email to the early registrants to invite their teammates, schoolmates, and neighborhood friends. It is not intuitive to invite a friend for real until AFTER the parent has already registered their own child. A gentle reminder to ‘bring a friend’ is much more personal after the initial registration.

Fifth, tell the stories of why this upcoming ‘something special’ is special at every table and in every hallway. Use every table space to further the conversation with personal invites. Your social media space is another table where you sit with friends and family. Push it on your personal social media feeds. If you are on social media, sharing what you’re doing at your local church should be all over your feed. Your involvement at your local church is a major part of your life as a disciple. It’s not just your job, it’s part of your personal discipleship. 

Our jobs, our discipleship, our message of hope in Jesus depends on His disciples using every tool at their disposal to get the word out. Go tell. Let’s do this!

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15