There is some great research to help those of us who take the point in the spiritual journey of little people. In James Fowler’s book, “Stages of Faith,” Fowler considers the faith of little people up to about age 2 a pre-stage referred to as “Undifferentiated Faith.” This is when infants to 2s form their first pre-images of God.
That said, ministry and space provided to these little people should be about the very things that we would expect: Care and Safety.
Key biblical concepts for toddler and twos include “God cares for you” and “God made everything,” so be ready to get on your hands and knees to explore the world with this child! This is what I call “Faith on the Floor.”
The best things we can do at this stage is give them a place where they can be well cared or when their parents are absent and build in regular times for individual attention and hugs. Lots of hugs. Lots of love. Loads of adult attention, praise and encouragement in a safe, secure world of familiar people and routines.
Toddlers will experience God’s love and forgiveness through loving, caring persons, develop a sense of trust, experience prayer, begin to associate the name Jesus with certain pictures and with the Bible. And they can learn that the Bible is a special book.
Fowler refers to the next stage of faith as Intuitive-Projective faith which is found primarily in preschoolers 3 through age 5 is a direct reflection of parental faith. These preschool disciples will imitate the faith of important adults in his/her life. They may talk about God in human terms and have a mental image of God based on human characteristics. They’ll learn from the simple Bible stories of people who choose to do right, to help, and to obey. They are especially impacted by stories and themes that relate to what he/she experiences and knows in his/her daily life through repetition and ritual like at mealtimes, holidays, songs, and Bible reading from a child’s Bible.
As preschoolers get older, they enter into Mythic-Literal Faith, which lasts until around 11 or 12 years old. Through sharing life with other people of faith, children learn that the faith they received from their parents is shared by other important people as well; they get a firsthand look at how older Christians live their lives and they see that all of church life – not just the kid’s part- is for them. They are interested in God’s greatness, power, and supernatural abilities.
As we recognize the way children learn to walk, we can say the general order in which things happen, but we really can’t tell WHEN they are going to happen. The same is true about faith development. Faith is a gift from God and is a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives an an amazing outpouring of grace. But these stages are important to acknowledge to be sure we are on point to how little people learn.
Parenting With A Purpose classes offer tribe-building among our families with shared values and intentionality. The 90-minute classes include a parenting hot-topic, some dessert, discussion time, and no judgment. We started in 2018 with Sharing Your Faith With Your Family. As our families are navigating COVID-world, there is an even greater need to equip parents to be disciple-making-disciples.
Promotion Information: Parents, grandparents, and caregivers of children are invited to a discussion of practical ideas to navigate holy habits at home as we lead our children to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength AND love our neighbors as ourselves on Tuesday, 6-7:30pm. Dessert will be served.
Biblical exiles who ‘won’ at following God (Joseph, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Ezra, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, Esther, Peter, John)
Plenty of personal stories
The goal of the evening was to give research and personal testimonies to the resilient disciples who continued to remain in Christian community and a growing relationship with Jesus through the remarkable moments of life at all stages and in all ages. There is more than enough information about children who left the faith or left the church once they aged into their teens or twenties. I wanted to share the remarkable stories of those who remained faithful to grow in their relationships with God and in Christian community. These exiles are the resilient disciples who lived, are living, in the tension of culture and have continued to love Jesus and His people through it all.
A person is described as resilient who is able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. A resilient disciple is a follower of Jesus who remains active in Christian community and Christian service when culture and geography would encourage them otherwise. The biblical prophets write throughout the scriptures of the remnant of God’s people who sought to live faithfully loving God for the rest of their lives no matter what their circumstances. We tell the stories of these brave few with wonder and admiration. There is not a Christian parent or grandparent who doesn’t want that for their own children, but what does it take for us to grow those muscles in our kids? What really matters, over time?
Major info to share:
Three practices of soul training which equip disciples to make the greatest strides in their faith in Jesus: – Bible Reading – Generosity – Service
The #1, by far, best predictor of spiritual health for young adults is regularly reading the Bible as a child.
That which dictates our schedules, finances, and conversations is a family liturgy. The local church can provide the resources to equip families so that whatever they do, they can do all of life to the glory of God.
What does a resilient disciple look like? (1) Meaningful relationship with Jesus: through community and holy habits they find JOY in Jesus. Bible Reading & Prayer (2) Cultural discernment: they participate in a robust learning community where they can think and talk of the scriptures. Share testimony and stories of God’s faithfulness (3) Meaningful intergenerational relationships with Jesus-loving people: the best way for kids to learn to love Jesus is to spend time with people who love Jesus. Active in community (4) Vocational Disciples: a theology of work, activity, leisure, time, learning/education Calling to honor and please the Lord (5) Countercultural Mission: a resolve to live differently than culture though a full-on participant in culture as the light of Christ.
In this season where children are part of the Body of Christ, though not together or included in many local churches, they are indeed exiles. This research is a perfect starting point to determine priorities in the local church’s partnership with parents/grandparents to disciple their disciples. Lord, let me be found faithful to equip my families to have a robust, vibrant, joyful faith that will fuel how they nurture their children into resilient disciples: to love Jesus their whole lives for the rest of their lives.
With the goal of building tribes among our children’s families with shared values and intentionality, we’ve begun offering Parenting with a Purpose classes this school year. The 90-minute classes include a parenting hot-topic, some dessert, discussion time, and no judgment. The first was Sharing Your Faith With Your Family where we shared practical ideas for holding sacred conversations, spiritual traditions, and sticky faith-formation memories for parents to initiate at home to live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
The second class entitled, Parenting Technology and Cell Phone Safety, invited parents, grandparents, and caregivers of children to a discussion of practical ideas to navigate parenting in a digital and electronic world as we lead families to live out Mark 12:30-31. Two hours before the event, I received a text. Our planned special guest was at Urgent Care diagnosed with strep throat. I had two hours to pull something together.
Once I caught my breath, I called on a prayer warrior to pray for me and with me. I had been reading several books on the very subject over the last several months and had just gotten one in the mail a couple of days before. I prepared a handout with a few of the items I’d underlined in each one. We opened with “What was your first experience with a cell phone?” and our discussions took over from there. These were the resources we spoke through:
Collin Kartchner – TEDxTalk a social media activist, TEDx talk presenter, husband and dad who travels around the country speaking to parents and kids through the organization Save The Kids.
A few questions to ask to find out if your child is mature enough to figure out the best habits for themselves when it comes to Smartphone usage:
Does my child proactively let me know where they are going and when they’ll be home?
This is a great way to gauge their sense of responsibility and the respect they have for open communication.
Does my child have a tendency to lose things?
Phones are an expensive investment and showing a sense of care for their personal belongings means they’ll also show care for their phone.
Does my child respect other rules like when to turn off the TV or computer?
Knowing your child understands why boundaries are necessary can help quiet the fear of phone addiction and over exposure to radiation/blue light.
Does my child show signs of empathy towards their siblings, animals and friends?
While we all love our little darlings, it’s important to observe the way they treat others in real life. The hope is that they will carry empathy and kindness with them with their online activities.
Does my child know that while most people are awesome, there are people with bad intentions that prey on the young online?
While this is a super scary and complicated topic, having open and honest conversation about these risks and how to spot red flags is the best way to prepare any child from online predators.
Does my child know they can come talk to me about anything?
While there are years when teens and parents can feel the strain of communication we must let our children know and show them that we can be a safe space for them when they need us, to help or just to listen—even with the tricky and scary stuff.
Though not what I had planned, the event was fine. The goal of tribe-building without judgement was met. In complete transparency, this is the second time a special guest committed to me in the last six months, but was not able to follow through at the last minute. From this point on, I’ll prepare a backup program every time because my parents who have registered see these opportunities as a priority over all the other things they could choose. They deserve the best I have to offer and my job is to make sure they get it.
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21
A Children’s Ministry colleague working on her masters in ministry contacted me last week inviting me to answer several questions for her Family Ministry class. I was honored. She was patient to give me a couple of days so I thought I’d share my responses here:
1. How do you/your church support families today?
• We use a closed Facebook group to offer daily interaction for encouragement, resource, and information such as #mondaymantra (related to christian life) #tuesdaytruth (scripture) #wednesdaywisdom (Godly parenting) #thursdaythoughts (family blog about challenges & Sunday school lesson from previous week) #familyfriday (positive message/practical ideas of spending time together as a family to start the weekend) #saturdaysmiles (encouragement to gather together for church) #welovesundays (list of what’s happening all day and when at church).
• Parenting With A Purpose initiative – 1.5 hour dessert events for parents or parents & kids with the goal of providing practical tools as well as building tribes among our families to travel through life
* Sharing Your Faith With Your Family – practical ideas to live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (I facilitate) with book takeaway
* Parenting Technology & Cell Phone Safety – invited outside facilitator with book takeaway ‘Screens and Teens’ by Kathy Koch, PhD
* Parenting Relationships & Friendships – invite pastoral and counseling staff to facilitate practical communication tools and actions for critical and crucial conversations within the family using Holy Listening Stones, Counseling Center-led conversational role-play, and book takeaway Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian
• Faith Milestones for students and parents
*Kindergarten I Can Go To Sunday school on Sunday 7/28
*K5 & 1st Grade Bread & Juice Class 5:45-6:30pm on Wednesday 11/6
*1st & 2nd Grades I Can Pray on Wednesday 5:45-6:30pm on Wednesday 2/12
*2nd & 3rd Grades I Love My Church 5:45-6:30pm on Wednesday 3/18
*4th-5th Grades Camp Glisson Fall Retreat 9/6-8
*Ambassadors 5:45-6:30pm on Wednesday 10/9
*5th Grade Rock Solid Retreat 1/25-26, 2020
*5th & 6th Grades Wonderfully Made 2/27-29, 2020
• Weekly devotion emailed to all families involved in our Recreation Ministry. When kids tell the ‘Bible point of the week’ to the concession stand, kids receive a small treat or discount on concessions like popcorn or beverages
2. Families are busier than ever these days and find less time to come to church? Are you able to bring church outside the walls of the physical building?
• Closed Facebook Groups lets us reach out to families online daily (notes above) for Kids and Recreation Ministries
• Lead chapel assemblies to local home school co-ops.
• Backpack blessings of food for weekends with local Elementary School and Middle School with printed material through out Missions Team.
• Tutoring ministries with local Elementary School and Middle School.
• Postcards and note writing each week
• Ministry of presence to show up at their game, play, performance, concert, goes to the movies, activities in the community, etc.
4. Have you tried anything that was not successful? Oh yeah…movie nights. I’ve learned that if families can do things at home, they typically don’t want to go through the trouble of coming to church to do it.
5. Any insights or advice?
• Ask a lot of questions before trying things of the connectors in your church and those who are just as involved in the community as they are at church. Many years ago, I offered an Angel Breakfast on the first Saturday in Advent promoting it for two months ahead of time among our families and no one thought to tell me the local elementary school was doing the same thing on the same day at the same time. Ugh!
• Have lots of side conversations with parents all the time at events, meals (never plan to eat…work the room!), even Christmas Caroling: When do your kids have to get up in the morning to get on the bus? What time do your kids have to go to bed during the school year? What do y’all do in the summer? When do you have nothing going on in your calendar? How far do you live from the church? What do your family traditions looks like for Christmas? Easter? Thanksgiving? Mother’s Day? Father’s Day?
• Write 5 notes each week: 3 kids, 2 volunteers…and make 3 phone calls each week: 2 volunteers, 1 family or 2 families & 1 volunteer to check in and see how they’re doing in life. Build relationships and share life.
This was a good exercise to get my thoughts together on paper, and do some evaluating. What would your answers look like?
“Without a good question, a good answer has no place to go.” Clayton Christensen
According to Barna Group research published in March 2019 entitled Who Is Responsible For Children’s Faith Formation, “In this and several other studies with Christian parents, our research has found that they crave guidance on how to educate and form their children, knowing that they are growing up in a world that is far more secular than their own childhood. Parents want to hear from their pastors on this issue,” Hempell continues. “Church leaders have the opportunity to develop a unique community for faith formation by bringing parents, school administrators and faith leaders together in partnerships for faith development. This is the basis for intentionally equipping parents through events such as Moving On Up to Middle School.
Moving on Up to Middle School is a dessert and panel discussion for 5th graders AND their parents offered the last week of April. Promotion language sounded like this:
Initial communication: McEachern Memorial UMC 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 Tuesday, April 30 6:30-8pm in the lower level of the Christian Life Center room ***
Free childcare will be provided for siblings by ***. Please RSVP for parents and 5th graders at ****.
Secondary communication: Get a free copy of Viral Parenting, get some questions answered, satisfy your sweet tooth, and enjoy some laughter at tomorrow’s Moving On Up To Middle School dessert and panel discussion event for 5th graders and their parents. Free childcare for siblings by emailing ***. Register at ***
Students and parents were invited to write down questions on index cards and get dessert. At 6:50 we played a game of how to work a combination lock. We found colorful dual combination locks with the same combination so they could help one another…we are better together. Panel discussion began at 7pm. At 7:30-45 (or when the questions were finished, students would sit knee-to-knee with their parents and discuss some items based on the questions/discussion. For example: “What does helping with homework look like to you?”, “How can I let you know that I need to talk?”, and “What if I mess up?” We dismissed at 7:55pm with a benediction and prayer.
The panel included our Youth Ministry Director, a middle school teacher, a dad with a middle school boy and a mom with a middle school girl who are navigating middle school with healthy success. Thank you notes for the panel were attached to a box of Sour Patch Kids. We chose not to take questions from the floor to ensure students nor parents would be put in unflattering, uncomfortable, or judgmental spots. One of the main goals in offering these educational events is to engage in successful and healthy conversations between kids and their parents.
Other parent-equipping opportunities which have taken place in the last 4 months included Wonderfully Made: Loved By God, John Rosemond spoke during a Sunday school shared event, and various Faith Milestone events for the lower grades. The sacred and courageous conversations have begun. This research affirms we are moving in the right direction. We’re already preparing for opportunities to offer this fall: Cell Phone Safety, Sharing Your Faith With Your Family, Will You Be My Friend?: Healthy Relationships, and more.
Testimony: I instructed students I’d give them a Combination Lock for a question written on an index card for the panel to discuss. They began writing furiously. Without instruction they struggled. Thinking they would work together, they did not, but rather continued to struggle. I let them struggle. After 5 minutes, I asked the students to hand the locks over to their parents. Hearing the clicking of opened locks all over the room, the kids were amazed, looking at their parents with pride and admiration. This was a great way to begin as they now saw how their parents knew more than they thought and would help them ‘unlock’ a whole lot more.
Note: Viral Parenting is one of the latest books to be published specifically for parents and caregivers on navigating boundary setting and living with a cell phone in a social media world. I then cautioned them on reading any book passively. Though the authors are part of a faith community, it is not a faith-based book. There is a section toward the end of the book when the author talks about their family attending church and faith-based education. Which is good info. However, they then share that though the reader may not have or believe in the Lord, they can still find hope elsewhere. I shared with my audience of 5th graders and their parents as followers of Jesus, we do NOT believe that. Our hope is ONLY in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sally Clarkson, Author of Book Girl, which advocates for the transforming power of a reading life speaks to reading everything with a discerning filter: Because stories engage my imagination and heart on a deep level, I am aware of the fact that what I encounter on their pages will teach me how to see the world, and this is why I’ve had to learn to practice discernment. (pg 9)
How else are you training and equipping parents to lead their children so they “grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man?” (Luke 2:52)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4
A colleague lent to me last June, Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building New Relationships authored by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan. I’m just now getting around to reading it. I confess, because she’s asked for it back.
It’s a fantastic little book offering practical steps to sharing faith, building healthy, spiritual relationships, and growing a healthy church. Once I read, “The average UMC (United Methodist Church) member invites someone to come to church once every 38 years,” I couldn’t put the book down.
Simply put, they present evangelism in the following levels:
Elementary Evangelism is meeting new people through service…handing out water bottles, cleaning up a park, and being intentional about “adding the Good Word to your deeds.” Good deeds are merely good deeds if not sharing the why “We want to share God’s love with you because God’s love is available to everyone, including you.”
Middle School Evangelism is sharing life and faith through small groups with people you already know. Middle schoolers rarely step outside their comfort groups, but will do most anything in a small group.
High School Evangelism is sharing your faith through testimony of recent experiences for the building up of the persons around you. You want to share your story where you are safe for the sole purposes of offering hope to those listening.
College Evangelism is inviting others to worship who you do not know. In college, I recall inviting and being invited often to group gatherings and events on campus simply because we were within earshot.
The authors go on to share that until we are confident in giving testimony, most are fearful of inviting others to church. And when was the last time that testimonies were shared in the worship setting or even in the Sunday school setting? It’s been my experience that we are more about taking in more general information and spitting it back out, rather than learning how to tell our story or His story over the last week. I was challenged early in my walk that when asked “Why God?” my story can’t begin, “Well…when I was 10 years old…” My testimony should be no older than the bread in my breadbox.
The goal is to begin “real conversations with real people to build real relationships that lead to a real experience with Jesus Christ in the gathered community.”
The challenge: Have I built in enough margin, extra white space, in my day to make a new friend? Or am I so caught up in going to the next thing that I can’t make time to be interested in new people; making sure to concentrate on the other person’s story; building trust in who they are; making sure my questions are about them; resisting making the conversation about me and my story?
The authors were kind enough to lay out steps of how to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know because, “People looking for a faith community are not looking for friendly people, but for friends.”
As in Adam Hamilton’s Leading Beyond the Walls, we’d do well to offer a short (two-minute elevator story) response to the following 3 questions:
1. Why God?“God has been active in my life from when I was a kid and has always wanted good for me, but my free will is alive and active within me…Most of the bad that has happened in my life is because of choices made for me or those I’ve made on my own when I am not paying attention to the life lessons taught in the Scriptures…My church gives me the relationships and support to keep my free will on track.”
2. Why Church? “God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community…God is best and most easily experienced in the faith community….We are the bridge to the gathered community….Then the Holy Spirit can do the heavy lifting.”
3. Why My Church?“God has designed us to experience energy when we participate in community….we need a gathered experience…we need to feel the win…going in the same direction….cheering for the same result…in the company of others with a spirit of “YES!””
A few statements stopped me in my tracks:
“97% of all newcomers to a church have had a major life transition in the last two months.” (From The Race to Reach Out by Douglas T Anderson & Michael J. Coyner) Everyone has a story. Little do we know what life transition will bring someone through the doors. Am I asking questions with genuine curiosity to learn another’s story?
“The #1 roadblock for connected people inviting unconnected people to worship is that they are not confident in the guest experience.” This is where radical hospitality comes in. Where our hospitality is going beyond expectation, beyond the average, beyond what we’ve always done, beyond the typical Sunday morning handshake experience.
“Guests arrive early or late, but rarely on time. Be prepared.” Think guest, not a visitor (when was the last time I had a visitor in my home…never…I have guests).
I’m going to start asking questions of the people I DO know at my church and the ones I DON’T. It’s the beginning of sharing testimony. And I’m ready to make some new friends in the Lord.
Lord, let me not just be friendly, but be willing and build in life-space to make new friends in the Lord. Amen
In continuing this season of blogging about Sharing Your Faith With Your Family, Stormie Omartian, author of The Power of a Praying Parent, and The Power of a Praying Wife, shares that “Things happen when we pray that will not happen when we don’t.” Pray for your family to have a bold and true faith, then good health. Lift up their friends, their enemies, their opportunities, and then their safety. Ask the LORD to pour out self-control, resilience, and a fine sense of humor. And pray for their judgment, their teachers, and wisdom in handling simple and complicated life situations.
Some other ideas about prayer . . .Use a salt or sugar packet on the car dash or over the sink to pray for someone. It always gets my kids asking, “Who’s that for?” . . . pray for your kids’ teachers during the summer that he/she would have the best teacher chosen by God for them specifically and then whoever you get, you’ll know that he/she was hand-picked by God for your child. Invite your kids to pray for their teachers all year long . . . Pray for favor in the eyes of their teachers and that they’d have good communications with them.
My all-time favorite tweener prayer was that God would “put a Holy Spirit alarm in my child that goes off like a loud, flashing siren whenever he/she steps over the line of what is right in your sight, O Lord.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children…”
Another positive routine in sharing your faith with your family is to teach and practice the holy habit of tithing with your kids. In our first worship service at our home church, the pastor shared in his sermon that “tithing is a holy habit.”
When our kids were little, they dropped a quarter we would give them every time the offering plate was passed and they saw us put in our envelope or check. Later, when they began making their own money (Baby Girl babysitting and #1 Son mowing lawns,) we taught them how to divvy up their money before it was earned and church was always first.
I happened to come across a journal entry the other day where I wrote, “’#1 Son’s first true tithe today $1 from $10 earned mowing the Carroll’s lawn yesterday.” He was so excited that when they brought up the baskets, he leaned in to whisper, “My money is in there for God.” When I asked him about it the other day, he shared that it makes him happy and a part of something greater than himself that his money is in there.
Did they always want to do it? Probably not, but they have both seen God do “His thing” for their faithfulness. God makes Himself very real in the eyes and heart of a child when holy habits are begun when they are young.
Baby Girl and #1 Son practiced this holy habit when they were young and as they grew older and made more money, it was very natural to tithe and support their local church first. It’s part of their lifestyle today.
Andy Stanley said, “Being a percentage giver ensures God’s kingdom is funded before mine.”
We have developed some bad social habits over the last two years. We think we’re friendly, but we’re really just polite. We think we are welcoming to strangers, but only if they come to us, on our timetable, in our way, to our house, on our schedule, and with the least amount of discomfort on our part as possible. We think we ask questions for conversation, but it’s really an interview.
We think we are engaging, when we are really exchanging content where my opinion is the best answer to all questions. When holding doors and accomplishing a checklist of tasks in a certain order are the epitome of satisfactory hospitality. We are setting the table for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of everyone else’s world, but it better be comfortable, convenient, and cost me nothing.
Enough of that!
Here’s the good news: We can learn the skills necessary to be a friend, make a friend, and live out the welcome of Jesus in this new world. It’s not a program, but a gentle reminder we grow in our faith better when we are in relationship with others in a healthy way. It’s personal. It’ll take humility to know I have something new to learn. It’ll be awkward. Really awkward! It’ll take energy. It’ll feel risky, be inconvenient and uncomfortable. I challenge you to make all your feelings and caution a matter of prayer and get over it. I believe our Lord has something better in mind and we’ve got the gift of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and energy to make it happen.
Even the greatest of all introverts (those who do not get their energy from being around other people) can learn the skills necessary to make a friend-in-the-Lord. Even the greatest of all extroverts (those who do get energy from being around other people) need coaching and encouragement to notice social cues and hold a good, healthy, amazing conversation with confidence. If we intend to fulfill the Biblical command to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we’d better be ready to make some new friends.
Radical hospitality goes beyond the passive receiving guests warmly but rather an unexpected interest with people inside, but especially outside, the faith community. Bishop Robert Schnase writes, “Radical means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,’ and so it provokes practices that exceed expectations, that go the second mile.” (from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations)
This is the goal of offering Radical Hospitality Training (RHT) this summer at the church I serve. We are offering this training this summer, because every Thursday this June we can practice our RHT skills at Food Truck Church sponsored by McEachern Kids.
Food Truck Church is our Family VBS. Every Thursday in June, 5-8pm in our parking lot, 5-7pm on our campus with food truck, music, games, a Jesus teaching, prayer, a kid’s table (activity each week going along with our Jesus teaching), and an ice cream truck at the end. THEN 7:15-8pm we pop into a nearby neighborhood to be a ‘guest’ in a cul-de-sac for a sweet treat on us with the ice cream truck. RHT is practiced at each table for Food Truck Church AND RHT is practiced when we’re a guest off-campus being a good neighbor. No bait and switch of coming to our church. We go to McEachern Church and we’re neighbors and it’s hot, so let’s share some ice cream.
Promotion: All ages and stages are invited to one of three Radical Hospitality training sessions in the Children’s Welcome Center. Learn to invite, engage, and offer an early sense of connection and belonging within the McEachern family and community. Two more opportunities next Sunday at 1pm and Tuesday at 6:30 for kids, youth, and adults in the Children’s Welcome Center. More than being friendly, but training in starting and continuing a conversation especially when it’s hard, risky, and awkward.
Program: After welcoming everyone we go around inviting everyone to share their name and something they’d like others to know about them. I quickly practice the conversation skills we’re about to cover so I can refer back to everyone in the room as I teach the skills.
I like to use a fill-in because it keeps me on track and hearing it, writing it, seeing it makes the information stickier. What’s in parentheses are my notes to further explain each point in story.
Radical Hospitality Training – June 2022
Be Fully Present
Listen for 3 NOTS (from North Point Community Church) NOT in church (relocated, been planning to, we live in an area of the country that WANTS to go to church but they just can’t figure out how to make it happen) NOT going well (grief, fear, struggle, relationships, loss, gain, job, lonely) NOT prepared for (parenting, care giving, medical diagnosis, living alone)
Toss the conversation ball…speak briefly, then end with a question. (toss a ball to role play beginning with the youngest in the room)
Listen = Silent (same letters) – leave space in the conversation
Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk: 10 Ways to have a better conversation without getting bored, without offending, and walk away inspired speaks to the following list.
(Goal: a coherent, confident, connection through conversation with people you like, don’t like, disagree with, admire, typically run from. As Christians, what’s expected? Make it a matter of prayer to get over my own sensitivity, being right, and being self-conscious).
1. Don’t multi-task (When the song “Taste and See” starts take your place at tables at food truck church; you’re fully present with who is sharing the table; don’t look at your phone or watch, but fully face the person you’re talking with)
2. Don’t pontificate (This is not a blog, nor a podium, it’s a table; assume you have something to learn; everyone is an expert at something….what about you? What could you talk about for 10 minutes with no prep, just not here?)
3. Use open-ended questions (What was that like?; What did you choose to eat? How did you hear about this?)
4. Go with the flow (Let other distracting thoughts come and go)
5. If you don’t know, say so (Be open to learn something new and interesting; ‘tell me more’)
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. (It’s not the same; all experiences are personal; no one-up-man-ship)
7. Try not to repeat yourself. (Assume they heard you and don’t want to go there; take the hint)
8. Stay out of the weeds (Don’t worry about names, dates, time; resist having side conversations about the details)
9. Listen (We’d rather talk 225 words/minute; but we can listen 500 words/minute)
10. Be brief (Be interested rather than try to be interesting)
Be prepared to be amazed. Amazed at the creativity of our Creator God and the stories shared because someone feels safe, heard, and cared for. It’ll take practice because it’s awkward. It’s rarely intuitive because it’s risky. It’s expected so we resist becoming lukewarm. That is indeed radical, Christian, hospitality!
Are you up for the challenge to learn how, practice with, and work diligently as if you were the last disciple of Jesus? What’s the worse that could happen? What’s the best that could happen? What’s the last risky, awkward thing you did to make a new friend?
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
The theme of the 2022 United Methodist Church Annual Conference of North Georgia is “A Place For You At The Table”. As an at-large delegate from my district, I will be gathering with other brothers and sisters in Christ in early June in Athens, Georgia to report on the fruitful work of God’s people, celebrate the faithfulness of our great God, and hear the cry of the needy from various local churches and entities sharing the gospel of Jesus.
Serving in ministry with children and families I find great delight and wonder at tables, especially the kid’s table. Remembering back to great family celebrations, the best time was always at the kid’s table because…
The common denominator on every plate was typically bread and dessert. Jesus broke the bread and gave some to each of his friends and said, “Eat this and remember me.” “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
The best stories are about family, especially those about our parents, aunts and uncles when they were young, playful, and fearless. “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2
Everybody laughs.The same table where we eat is where we play games or make stuff. It’s where we do stuff with our hands and we laugh our heads off. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 2:14
It’s more about the company than the decorations. In pre-Pinterest world the kid’s table rarely got elaborate decorations making room for as many little chairs as possible. “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.” 2 Corinthians 7:2-3
This annual conference my colleagues in ministry with children will be providing a pop-up kid’s table in the common area. Nothing formal. Nothing fancy. We’ll just randomly pop-up in places where see family and hear laughter. This is what we’ll have:
Legos – legos are tools for building with friction.
Otrio – a quick game of jacked-up tic-tac-toe puts everyone on the same playing field.
Goldfish – a snack will keep the hangries away.
Those of us serving children’s ministry rarely get seats at tables where the big decisions are made. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Angels and men, so far as we know, are the only creatures who have been guilty of this refusal to keep their appointed places.” Yet in the Wesley tradition, there is a divine partnership between laity and clergy where we live out this tension with integrity and order all to the glory of God and I can’t think of a better place to do that than with a sacred assembly at the table. Especially the kid’s table with a quick game of Otrio and a snack. Come, pull up a chair!
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” Joel 2:15