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Rethinking our assumptions

June 24, 2008

We were on our biannual staff retreat last week. One of the passages we looked at for our discussion times was Micah 3.

In essence, Micah is blasting the Israelite leaders for assuming that they are following God when they really weren’t. The passage uses some very strong language to suggest that they should’ve known better, but they really thought they were following God.

How many times do we assume that we are following God when we really aren’t? How do we know? I mean, Micah then goes on to say how he is following God. How does he really know? OK, he was a prophet, but still…

I think many times we go about our lives assuming that we are following God and doing what he wants. We assume this because things are going well: no major bumps at home, church programs are running well, house over our heads, etc. We, then, take less risks and seek out calmer waters rather than jumping into a potentially dangerous adventure.

I wonder if we’ve done the same thing with children’s ministry. What if we are simply assuming that the way we do children’s ministry is THE WAY it’s supposed to be done? What if we are so used to thinking that we are hearing from God that we are completely missing “it” when it comes to children’s ministry? Some of us will point to “family ministry” and say that is the answer… What if it isn’t? Is there something else that we are missing?

Just some random thoughts and questions I’ve been mulling over. What are you doing in children’s ministry? What are your ultimate goals? What are you doing to evaluate whether or not you are actually hearing from God about children’s ministry?

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Need Some Help With That?

June 12, 2008

(photo by sean dreilinger)

My answer to this, most of the time, is “No, I’m fine.”

Last week, my son broke his leg playing soccer, and ended up needing pins and a frame on his leg to straighten the bone. When we were headed out of the hospital on Tuesday, I was pushing him in his wheelchair and carrying two pillows, crutches and a heavy duffel bag. Along the way to the entrance to meet up with my wife, three people had offered to help me: his nurse, another random hospital employee, and someone from our church who saw me walking down the hallway. My answer to all three? “No, I’m fine.”

This morning as I looked at my daunting to-do list (June is CRAZY!), I was hit with what I did in the hospital… There were people all around me who were offering to help, and I declined because “I’m fine.” I realized that is my mantra: “I’m fine… I can do it… It’s OK… I don’t really need help…” Isn’t that the mantra of every leader, though? We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without that self-sufficiency and work ethic.

What I think many of us get stuck on, though, is that as a leader it is our job to empower people around us. Yes, we all know this. I know this! But, still I say, “No, I’m fine.” I need to start forcing myself to say, “Yes, thank you for the help.” I need to make my knee-jerk reaction when asked if I need help to say, “Yes” rather than, “No” unless I have a really good reason to say, “No.”

Even if “I am fine” I still need to allow others to help and empower others to help.

This is going to be hard…

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Ministry Focus

June 5, 2008

(photo by Balakov)
I was in a conversation with a children’s pastor a while back who was looking for good web content to put into his website so kids would come visit. My question was, “Why?”

Why are you spending time, and lots of it because websites take TIME, putting a website together for kids to go to? That time and money can better be spent elsewhere… like equipping and empowering volunteers to reach children and families. His answer? “Yeah, I know… but I want a place for kids to be able to access Christian content. Aren’t we supposed to provide as many opportunities for kids to encounter Jesus?”

Why do we children’s ministers continue to fall for the myth that the more opportunities we have out there for kids to interact/hear the Gospel the better?

Oh, I know that we all know that we need to simplify and focus on only what we do best. But most of us never really do that. We claim that we need all our programs (and more) and that we do all of them well!

We need to start being more honest with ourselves and realize that we can’t do everything we do well. We can only do a few things well, and we need to focus on those.

Imagine what we could do if all of our resources (time, volunteers, money, creativity) were used on only one program or initiative… Imagine focusing on the one thing that you do better than anyone else…

Imagine what we could do if each of us took those flashlights called children’s ministry and focus those lights into laser beams… Talk about making a lasting impression.

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Great Place to Get T-shirt Screen Printing Done

June 4, 2008

If you are like me, then you like to get T-shirts done for various children’s ministry things like camp or volunteer drives and other things! I remember starting off in CM and not knowing where to go or what to do. A friend of mine, Brian Marshall, referred me to someone at his church at the time. The guy’s name is Terry Matthews.

Terry runs Terry’s Tees out of Owensboro, KY. He is a great guy, who has since become a friend of mine as well. He does quality T-shirt screen printing for a reasonable cost and even has someone on his staff who can help with graphics!

You might be wondering why I am promoting Terry. Well, Terry is one of those guys who still understands what customer service means and I’ve enjoyed working with him over the past 5 years. So, if you need someone to print T-shirts (or hats, or sweatshirts, or whatever) for you and you don’t already have someone you work with, give Terry’s Tees a call at 270-683-9369. Andrea, Terry’s wife, usually answers the phone and helps you with the initial order. Say hi to her and Terry for me if you do call.

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The Importance of a Personal Support Team

May 29, 2008

(photo by Clearly Ambiguous)

I ran across a post on Scot McKnight‘s blog Jesus Creed by Father Rob Merola, an episcopal priest in Virginia. He shared his insights into being able to thrive as a pastor. He suggests that it is important for pastors to have a personal support team. For him, that is:

  • spiritual director to help spritual growth
  • mentor or coach to help vocational growth
  • counselor or therapist to stay mentally healthy
  • trusted friend to be completely honest with

He doesn’t give this list as prescriptive. He simply states that it is important not to do ministry alone and that it is not selfish to have this kind of team. On Father Rob’s blog, he does talk about how he found a coach without having to fork out major amounts of cash for one.

One of my favourite things that he says in his post is:

If you try and do it on your own, no matter how bright or clever or talented you may be, you’ll wear yourself out. You’ll be resentful of those who aren’t helping.

How many times have I been resentful of people not helping? Wow! This made me think that maybe it’s more my fault and not the people who aren’t involved.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about empowering people to do the work of ministry and the importance of not “doing it all.” There wasn’t much in the way of how to do that. I’m encouraged at seeing more of the how to empower people to do ministry, especially volunteers. But add to that building a personal support team… wow, I can only imagine what that would do for my growth and Kingdom impact. I’ve heard Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, talk about having a personal board of directors and thought it was a great idea but didn’t really know how it translated into my context of being in vocational ministry… this idea of a personal support team gives me better context.

As I look at the people around me, I do have a personal support team. I have a couple of friends I am honest with. I have some peers in ministry that keep me sharp and growing. I have those who I consider mentors that I look to for growth. I think it’s the only way I’ve been able to stay sane. I am challenged, though, to see what might be missing in my support team. Where are some places that I haven’t thought about that need support?

How do you keep from “going it alone”?

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Barenaked Ladies now has a Kids’ Album “Snacktime”

May 28, 2008

The other day I was listening to a CBC radio program called Q. The host was interviewing the Barnaked Ladies about their new kids’ album. I was excited because I like the fun and whimsical style of Barenaked Ladies. On my trip south of the border (that’s to the United States for those of us who live in Canada), I picked up the CD at Best Buy. My friend and I listened to it on the way home and loved it.

It is full of fun tunes and lyrics that kid and adults can enjoy.

Here are some of my favourites and why:

  • 789 – It’s a song about that fun joke “Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 789!” Oh, so much fun!
  • The Ninjas – It’s about ninjas who speak Japanese and are “unspeakably violent.” What else is there to say?
  • Eraser – Gotta love a song about the great uses of an eraser!
  • Food Party – I never knew foods had personalities.
  • Snacktime – My favourite part of this song is they had some celebreties from Canada call in to share their favourite snacks like Weird Al Yankovic, Jeanine Garofalo, Geddy Lee…
  • Allergies – an ode to the paranoia around allergies
  • Bad Day – I was having a bad morning today, played this song, and I felt better 🙂
  • Things – a touching song for dads… “There are things that make me dad… You seem to be all of them.”
  • Crazy ABCs – one of the funniest and most creative ABC songs I’ve heard in a while (other than They Might Be Giants version called Alphabet of Nations)

This is an album well worth checking out and purchasing!

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Top Toy Trends according to Toys R Us

May 27, 2008

Kidscreen has an article on the top four toy trends that Toys R Us thinks will dominate this summer.

  • Backyard Bands: merchandise relating to the Naked Brothers Band and Jonas Brothers as well as games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band
  • Nature First: environmentally themed toys/products
  • Get Your Move On: products that promote physical fitness, namely the Wii Fit (I got one and it is cool!)
  • Techno-cation: electronic educational toys like the Leap Frog toys

So, it looks like the theme for the summer is interactivity and the environment. It just goes to show that kids are wanting to be more involved in what they do rather than just watching. I plan on taking advantage of some of these trends like making sure I watch Camp Rock starring the Jonas Brothers as well as making sure that we are giving kids opportunities to move around and play quite a bit while learning. Day Camps, VBS and summer camps can really benefit from these toy trends.