Mar 21
2011

The Real Reason You’re Here

Posted in: Devotional, Groups, Programming

I stood up on stage explaining communion to a group of 3rd – 5th graders, but even as the words came out of my mouth, I knew they were more for me than for them.  “You see guys,” I said.  “God loves you.  He loves you when you come in first place.  He loves you when you come in dead last.  He’s loves you when you ace your math test.  He loves you when you’re totally flunking out.  He loves you on the days when you feel like you have a million friends.  He loves you when you feel like you don’t have a friend in the world.  He loves you when you do what’s right.  He even loves you when you do what’s wrong.”

I was going through one of those weeks when I desperately needed to be reminded of the Father’s love.   And there, teaching a bunch of kids, I got it.  This is just one of dozens of experiences I’ve had over the years in Children’s Ministry when I’ve received far more than I’ve given.

  • When I see a kid’s faith come to life, it reignites my own faith.
  • When I see a kid give generously, it spurs me to action.
  • When I hear a kid say something really profound, it deepens my understanding.
  • When I see a kid going through trials, it expands my compassion.
  • When I connect with a tough kid, it melts my heart.
  • When I have one of those cute or hilarious kid moments, it fills me with joy.

I have grown in spiritual depth because I serve in Children’s Ministry, grown in ways I never could have experienced outside of this place.

So, it’s started me thinking.  What if we have it all backwards?  What if it’s not as much about the kids as we thought?  What if it’s really about us?  Oh, sure, the kids probably have something to do with it too.  I’m sure they’re a close second.

But what if God has you in Children’s Ministry for a totally different reason than reaching kids for Jesus?

What if it’s not so much about what God wants to do through you.  What if, instead, it’s about what He’s doing in you?  What if Children’s Ministry is the laboratory where God wants to work on your heart?

Several years ago, a guy named Gary Thomas wrote a book called “Sacred Marriage” and asked the intriguing question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  His whole point was how God can use the relationship of marriage to shape your soul and build your character.

What if Children’s Ministry is like that too?  Ironically, as God molds our spirit, as we become more like Jesus, we become more useful, reach more kids and influence more lives than we ever possibly could have before.

Here are a few questions to help you take full advantage of how God may use the anvil of Children’s Ministry to forge your character into something holy and pleasing to Him.

  1. How does this week’s lesson speak to your own life and walk with God? Maybe we’re teaching it this week because you need it more than the kids.
  2. What’s hard about Children’s Ministry? God loves to use adversity to grow us.  James said “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)  Got a tough group of kids?  Maybe God wants to teach you patience, or kindness or the ability to deliver the truth in love.  Pray for God to use that trial to accomplish His work in you.
  3. What are the kids teaching you? See how that preschool girl clings to you during group time?  Are you that dependent on Jesus?  Notice that fifth grade boy who’s too cool school for school?  Do you ever hide behind your personality too?  What can you learn about childlike faith, about wonder, joy and play from the kids you lead week after week?

Okay, maybe it is about the kids.  But I can tell you it’s not just about them, because God will use everything at His disposal – especially the place you serve – to transform you into the amazing creation He made you  to be.

Mar 15
2011

Zeroing In

Posted in: Programming, Vision, Weekends

Last weekend my friend Adrienne delivered a power message to our 3rd-5th grade kids in Club Orbit.  I watched her communicate the salvation story with an energy and skill that few teachers possess.  Even the fifth grade boys were engaged.  She really is the best of the best.

But Adrienne did something this weekend that reminded me of why she is one of my all time favorite children’s leaders, and it had nothing to do with her teaching skills.   I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but when you hear this story, you’ll understand. 

During the Saturday night service,  Adrienne noticed a girl who happened to be visiting from out of state.  Her grandmother had brought her to church, and she obviously wasn’t connected yet.  Adrienne told me that the whole night she had just felt drawn to her for some reason. 

After she had finished her lesson, she hopped in her car and headed for home, but little did she know that God wasn’t done with her yet.  All the way home, God kept bringing that girl to her mind.  The farther she drove, the more she was convinced she needed to talk to her.  So, she turned around and headed back to the church not even sure if she could find her. 

Adrienne asked God what He wanted her tell the girl.  He reminded her of a Bible study she’d done earlier in the day about being God’s masterpiece creation.  Tell her that, God said. 

The girl, of course, was still there when Adrienne arrived, and Adrienne sat down with her and struck up a conversation.  Eventually she told her, “Hey, I was reading something really cool in my Bible today.   You want to hear it?” 

“Sure,” the girl said. 

Then Adrienne began to talk to her about the truth of who God made her to be, that she is precious to Him, a work of art, no matter how she may feel about herself day to day.  The girl connected with what she was saying, and God used Adrienne to deposit truth in this girl’s heart that will bear fruit that we can’t even imagine. 

Adrienne teaches several hundred kids every time she’s on.  I love that she paid enough attention to God to zero in on this one kid who needed an extra touch.   I also love that she was obedient to the prompting that urged her to turn around.  It was obvious God had something to say to that girl Saturday night.  Without Adrienne there, who else would have said it? 

After hearing that story, it struck me that our programming volunteers – teachers, actors, worship leaders and techs – have a unique opportunity that our Life Group leaders don’t.  They don’t have a group of 10 – 20 kids to keep up with after the large group program.  They are free to notice and make a one-on-one touch that no one else can make. 

So my challenge this week is for each of our programming volunteers:

  1. Ask God to help you see your ministry beyond what happens in the program.
  2. Spend some time in the Bible  the next Saturday before you serve and ask God to lead you to some truth one of our kids needs to hear beyond the stage.  What encouragement or comfort does He want you to deliver?
  3. Pray for God to show you which kid needs to hear it.  Keep your eyes open and see who you feel drawn to.
  4. Follow Adrienne’s cue, and obey God’s prompting.  Feel a nudge in your spirit?  Don’t be shy.  Go for it and share what God has given you. 
  5. Send me your story so I can share with others about how God is using you to reach out to His kids.

I love leaders like Adrienne who make themselves available for God’s purposes.   I know that if it were my daughter sitting in Club Orbit, how incredibly thankful I would be that a leader cared enough about her to turn around and bring her the truth that God wanted her to hear. 

Paying attention and obeying.  That’s what ministry is all about.

Mar 9
2011

Don’t Miss Out

Posted in: Groups

I have a bad habit of multi-tasking in my head. While I’m busy doing one thing, I frequently am thinking about the next thing (or the thing after the next thing) that I need to do. The result? I often find myself forgetting what in the world I’m doing. Now why did I walk into the kitchen? Who was I supposed to call today? Did I already take that medicine?

I’m sure senility will be an easy transition for me.

By trying to think two steps ahead, I end up taking three steps back. Worst of all, I let my busyness and distraction cheat me out of the opportunities God puts before me.

My friend Tim told me a story about one of our Children’s Ministry leaders who faced that same struggle. Maybe you can relate.

Tim was observing one of our environments one weekend for a class project he was doing at Asbury Seminary. He told me about a Life Group Leader he saw who had her hands full with her kids. She did a great job of leading the morning’s activity, but when it came time to pack up her basket of supplies, she missed a major opportunity.

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Mar 4
2011

Am I Really Making a Difference?

Posted in: Vision

Have you ever asked yourself, “Does serving in Children’s Ministry really matter?” 

Maybe you’ve wondered how big of a difference you could actually make in the life of a child.  You only see them once a week.  You only have them for fifteen minutes in a Life Group or twenty minutes during  a large group program.  Or maybe you work a guest check-in desk or tech. 

How much could that really impact a kid’s life? 

Well, the truth is you are making a bigger impact than you could ever imagine.  I know this because of the stories I hear of what is God is doing in the lives of our kids.  Listen to this story from one of our staff members, Nicole, about how her son’s weekend experience equipped him to face a weekday challenge.

This weekend in 3rd through 5th, we taught about overcoming fear with the knowledge that God is ALWAYS with us.  My son Jacob was at a doctor appt and had to be in the waiting room alone while we talked with the doctor.  He said, “I finished coloring and got really nervous, then, I looked up and saw a Bible.  I remembered that God is always with me and I said a prayer.  When I opened my eyes, Daddy was coming out the door to get me.”  A great moment that Jacob (and mommy) will remember forever!

I only hear a small fraction of the stories like this that I’m certain are happening all over our church, and it reminds me that what we are doing together matters.  IT MATTERS BIG TIME.

You are helping kids discover a God who loves them who wants to prepare them for the challenges they will face every week.

Every player on our team, from Check-In Hosts to Life Group Leaders to Worship, Tech, Actors and Teachers – even the people who prepare supplies during the week – all contribute to helping kids experience life changing truth. 

So whatever your role is I want to challenge you this week to do three things:

  1. Pray for the next weekend as if a kid’s spiritual life depends on it.   It does.
  2. Prepare like you’re looking down the barrel of a college final.  Know what you need to do this weekend like the back of your hand and show up early, ready for action.
  3. Plan to see God at work through you.   Go in with great expectations of what God will do and listen close for stories like Jacob’s that remind you what you are doing changes lives.

Thanks for making yourself available for God to use you to build huge faith in lives of our kids.

Feb 21
2011

3 Benefits of Long Haul Ministry

Posted in: Groups, Programming, Vision

This past weekend I was talking with Travis, a seventh grader I used to have in Children’s Ministry.  His mom has been an amazing leader in our ministry for years so I know him pretty well.    What I didn’t know, though, was that he’s now helping with a group of kindergarten boys. 

I asked him how he liked it. 

“I love it,” he said.  “I plan on moving up with them every grade.  By the time they’re fifth graders, I’ll be a senior in high school.  I’ll really miss them after they go to middle school.”  

Wow, I thought.  How incredible is it that a kid this young has this kind of a powerful vision for ministry?  But it’s really no surprise.  He grew up in the Children’s Ministry watching his mom build into kids year after year. 

I’m certain that this vision was both caught and taught. 

Travis and his mom both get the big picture of long haul ministry.   After leading for eight years at Southland, I can tell you that I see it too.  Some leaders come and go.   They play their part, and we’re grateful for the season they served. 

But the folks who really get traction, the true hall-of-famers, are those who have stuck with it year after year and reaped the benefits that only experience and perseverance can yield. 

So if you’re new in Children’s Ministry or have been serving awhile and questioning whether or not to continue, I want to challenge you to pray about God planting you for more than a season or two.  Imagine what could kind of impact you could have over five years or ten or twenty.

Those who lead for the long haul gain at least three huge benefits.

1.       Long haulers build history with kids.

Ministry is all about relationships, and like it or not, relationships take time.  The more time you’re in the life of a child, the more they trust you and give you an opportunity to speak into their lives.  This trust translates into influence.  You can become the biggest and best influence in the life a child outside of their family.  For kids with less than ideal spiritual role models at home, you may be the only godly influence in their lives. 

2.      Long haulers earn trust with parents.

Just as long haul leaders build more meaningful relationships with kids than short-termers, they also earn trust with parents because of their commitment to sticking with their kids. 

Last summer when our kids promoted up to their new grade, I watched several hesitant parents bring their new third graders up to our third through fifth grade ministry for the first time.  They were thrilled when they saw that some our second grade leaders had moved up with their children.  Having these leaders in place spoke volumes to the parents about how much their kids mattered to that leader.

3.      Long haulers learn from experience.

I have a friend who is a Children’s Ministry legend.  He is known and respected by Children’s Ministers across the country.  He once said to me, “It’s not that I’m that good at it.  It’s just that I’m old.  I’ve done it forever.” 

He’s being humble, but there is some truth to what he said for all of us.  We gain so much wisdom and continue to improve just by sticking to one ministry and remaining teachable.  I’ve personally grown the most from years of failing and learning from my mistakes and observing what others are doing well.

Yes, short termers can serve a valuable role during a season or two in Children’s Ministry, but selfishly, I’d rather be like Travis and stick around to reap the long-term benefits that only come from staying put.

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