Does Your Children’s Ministry Got “Cred?”

Does Your Children's Ministry
Coming from a small town in Iowa, “cred” is not a word I use often. But I think I’m going to start using it more.

Defined as the quality of being believable or worthy of respect, especially within a particular social, professional, or other group, our level of “cred” is more important than ever as we face those who doubt our sincerity from inside and outside the walls of the church.

As we look at our ministries, it is imperative that we continually check in with the Lord to be sure that what we are doing is on track with what He is doing, and what He wants us to do. Otherwise, it’s all in vain and we lose our “cred.”

We lose it with our kids, our families, and the culture around us.

Karl Bastian, founder of Kidology, published an ebook called, The Kidology Way: The Four Pillars of Children’s Ministry, and although he didn’t use the term “cred,” it’s definitely there.

As we form our vision, mission and purposes for our children’s ministries, we are wise to include a healthy dose of Biblical “cred” along the way in the following ways.

C–Child focused. Is what we are doing, done in a way that kids can relate to and understand? We have to use the words they understand, the way they understand them so that they truth and heart of Jesus’ words can transform their lives.

R–Relational. Children’s ministry has to take place in more than just the church. Home visits, bleaching sitting, trips and fun days speak into a child’s heart and say, “I love you even outside of the church,” and “I care about you and what you care about.” We have to get away from our desks and out of our rooms and walk like Jesus walked.

E–Evangelistic. The message of Jesus needs to be shared, and often. Continuing to present the gospel not only allows a child to hear it and respond, but it helps prepare them to know how to share it with others. You’ve heard it said, “More is caught than taught,” and this certainly rings true in the how children learn to share their faith.

D–Discipleship Driven. We can be tempted to forget the steps that come after conversion. Solid teaching and opportunities for children to discover, worship, serve, give and share must be part of what we do on a regular basis as they grow to follow Jesus forever.

As we intentionally keep what Karl calls “the Four Pillars” at the heart of our ministries, our children will be building their lives on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ and He’s really all the “cred” we need!

So how ’bout your ministry? Got C.R.E.D.??

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Shaking off Snakes and Other Helpful Hints for Those in Ministry

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God is with you everywhere!

That’s been our preschoolers’ theme this month. If you who know me, you know I love a good theme snack–especially when it comes to preschoolers. So before we dig a littler deeper, I hope you get a kick out of these snakes snacks we made our “littles” had this week. So simple, just a bread stick wrapped around a skewer. I sprinkled them with a little cinnamon sugar and used raisins for eyes!) They were super fun and, well, and they were super delicious! Thank you, Pinterest and Pillsbury Dough Boy for another preschool snack win!

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Anyway. . .

Today’s lesson was about Paul when he landed on the island of Malta–hence the snake snacks! The Bible says that,

“Welcomed by the unusual kindness of the islanders, Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (Acts 28:1-4)

Yikes! There are vipers on the island!!

The superstitious islanders wrongly conclude that Paul must have been a murderer. They reason that even though he escaped alive from the shipwreck at sea, for cryin’ out loud, someone’s pretty upset with him because he’s about to die from viper bite.

But, no, it was not to be, because then Scripture tells us,

“But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” (Acts 28:5)

The islanders watched and waited.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

I can see that. In fact, I’d like to have seen that.

This leads those hospitable islanders to invite Paul and some others to the home of the chief official of the island. Here, Paul winds up healing the man’s father along with the rest of the sick on the island. When they were ready to sail again, the kind folks on Malta gave them everything they needed.

In other words, Paul after being bitten by a viper, just shook that snake off and kept doing ministry.

What??? That’s awesome!!! Completely and totally awesome!!

Now I’m just tellin’ ya, that’s not how I would have handled it. But isn’t his way so much better than mine?

Snakes alive, you bet it is!! So here’s the helpful hint for ministry:

Ministry can be tough. Using the term “ministry” for those who are in paid and non paid ministry, I have always believed we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. And when we follow Jesus, snakes bite. It would do us well to learn to use the viper response method of the infamous “Mr. Paul.” But paid or volunteer, I’m pretty sure that if a viper bit me, I would be running around screaming, and then sitting down waiting for the ill effects to take place hoping someone is praying and someone else is calling 911.

Oh, but not Paul. He just shakes it off, and goes on about his business. (I’m so sorry if a T-Swift song just started playing in your head.)

When spiritual snakes bite, I’m afraid that many of us, myself included, forget the simple, yet profound, message of our preschoolers’ lesson: “God is with us everywhere!” He is here. He knows the danger of the poison, but He’s got our back and we can go on walking in trust.

Because when people see us walking in faith and victory, although they may be a bit confused, they will be able to see firsthand the power of God at work.

So when the snakes bite, and they will, remember that God is with you everywhere, and He is more than enough to enable us to shake it off and continue serving in ways that bring Him honor in all we do.

“I will be with you always.” Matthew

Finding Freedom in Finding Your Focus

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My husband just told me I’m kind of “anal” about certain things. Hmmm. Insight.

In his defense, you should know that he didn’t just randomly share that information. I asked him if he thought I was a focused person. You see, I had just started this post out with a sentence that said, “I’m not really what you would call a focused person.” (Then backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace. . . )

Let me explain further:

Sitting in an airport, I asked him, “Would you say I’m a focused person?” He gave me one of those looks that said, “Is this a ‘Does this make my butt look big?’ kind of question.”

So when he cautiously replied, “Yes, yes you are,” I was kind of taken by surprise. And then he added, “You’re kind of anal about certain things.”

Nice.

After 30 years of marriage I have learned to listen to him, (Now, I want to say in my own defense, I learned that well before the 30th year). I realized that he was probably speaking truth (although I’m not sure “anal” is exactly the right word.) As we talked, it didn’t surprise me when he said one of my areas of “focus” was ministry.

In the past few years I have tried to spend more time seeking God as to the things He wants me to do, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to reach, and the ways He wants me to spend His money.

Then this January I set a focus. Like, I penned a “woman on a mission” statement. I made myself a little piece of art. Cruised to Wal-mart and invested $1.99 on a frame and hung it on a wall directly across from my desk where I can see it every day.  It says simply:

“Teach people about Jesus and teach people to teach people about Jesus.”

So each week, I determine to do just that. It may be through training or speaking, or my regular teaching as the children’s director at my church. It may be through writing or coaching or leading a small group of kids or women. It may happen over a beverage or breakfast or a power walk or during kids’ worship practice. Although it usually happens with words, I hope it also takes place every day through my actions.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I have determined that I will not be deterred. I’ve found the freedom to be able to say “Yes,” and “No,” when necessary, and to walk in joy and awe of God.

Like Paul, I find myself compelled to share the gospel so that people will know the One who knows them, loves them, died and rose again to set them free to walk in hope, grace and victory, and to teach others to do the same.

If the Spirit is leading you to set a focus, let me encourage you to listen to His leading. Get some away time and let Him show you how He wants to use you and enjoy the freedom and adventures that lie ahead.

Oh, and if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear where God is focusing you!

Let’s Paint a Memory (Verse)

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I wanted to take a quick sec and share this little memory verse artsy/craftsy that we did this morning with some of HiSKidZ. We have a pretty small group during our first service which allows us the chance to do things that can’t always be done in bigger settings.

Since I’m hugely passionate about discipleship and helping kids with Scripture memorization, I love it when we can come up with something new.

This was so simple and takes just absolutely no time at all.

Step 1)
Start with your verse and make a print out of it using some fun fonts. I chose to do mine like this because of step 2.

O my people

Step 2)
Grab an empty 2 liter bottle of pop, a paper plate and some paint. Put the paint on the plate. Dip the bottom of the 2 liter into the paint and press the bottle onto the paper. After we made the first press, we rotated ours to give the appearance of more petals.

Step 3)
Grab some markers and draw a stem, some leaves and a center. (you can also do this step before you paint.)

Step 4)
Step away from the table. Grab a Bible, look up the verse, say it together, and get back to business while your creations dry. It should be done by the time church is over if your team didn’t get overly aggressive in the paint department!

Success! In less than 10 minutes, we created art, made a memory, and learned our verse! Oh! Did I mention that even the boys loved it!!

Woohoo! Do you have a great idea that you can share? I’d love to hear it.

Plumb Bobs, Plumb Lines and Teaching Kids to Hear God’s Voice

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It hangs on the front wall of our KidZChurch room from an orange string. It’s unchanging. It doesn’t move and it’s always in line.

What is it?

A Plumb Bob. A simple weight attached to a string that is used as the vertical reference line or “plumb line.”

It’s one of the few things that doesn’t change in our room. Posters, and paint and staging may change, but the plumb bob remains.

It remains because it is one of the best visual reminders I know to constantly bring HiSKidZ back to the truth that God’s Word is our plumb line. He has set a standard for us that includes truth, righteousness and justness.

We regularly talk about all the different messages and standards broadcast into their lives and how they need to be careful to check and see how they measure up against God’s standard. He is what is true. His ways are right and we need to adjust our life to His reference line, and not expect it to be the other way around.

Here are a couple of ways we have used the plumb line analogy with HiSKidZ:

1) The world says you need to take care of yourself first.
God’s Word says to prefer others before yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

2) The world says you matter because of your accomplishments.
God’s Word says you matter because of God. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

3) The world says you need to fit in.
God’s Word says don’t be conformed to the pattern of the world. (Romans 12:2)

4) The world says there are many ways to heaven.
God’s Word says there is one way to heaven through Jesus. (John 14:6)

And so it goes. . .

and as we continually refer back to the plumb bob and the plumb line it represents for us, HiSKidZ are reminded of the sacred value of God’s truth for their lives. It is our desire that when they hear a message, a voice, or have a thought or an experience or situation where they need to know if it is God speaking, they are gaining the ability to measure what they hear by the plumb line of God’s Word.

Oh! And did I mention that they think it’s really cool to know what a plumb bob is! If we could just get some square pants for it!

I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line. (Isaiah 28:17a)

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. (Amos 7:7)

The Ugliest Cookies I Ever Made and What God Taught Me Through Them

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I had visions of the most beautiful cookies. Tiny little hand prints to remind lil HiSKidZ that Jesus healed a man’s hand.

However, my husband couldn’t decide whether they were supposed to be bird prints or animal tracks. He also thought they looked like a good opportunity to try out his new camera lens.

Hey! What?????? Leave my animal tracks, I mean, hand print cookies, alone! OK, maybe he had a point. These may have been the ugliest cookies I had ever made.

And God taught me a great lesson because of them.

Like I was saying, our preschoolers were scheduled to have a lesson entitled, “Jesus Heals a Man’s Bent Hand,” as part of a series we are doing on Jesus Makes Us Well.

In choosing a theme snack, I thought to myself, “Hand print cookies! That would be awesome!!” So I borrowed a hand print cookie cutter and off to work I went. Never mind the fact that I don’t make cut out sugar cookies, or that I don’t own a rolling pin or have any all purpose flour. I was not to be deterred.

Betty Crocker and I got mixing things up and life was good. Since I didn’t have that rolling pin, I just scooped the dough out and patted it down in my whole wheat flour blend and then cut out my now slightly speckled little hands, laying them carefully down on the cookie sheets. Sure they looked a little lopsided, and perhaps they looked like they needed to be washed. Maybe the fingers were bent a little here and there. I mean, c’mon, it was a lesson about a man with a bent hand after all.

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As I scooped, and patted and cut and baked these cookies were, ummm, well, they were not exactly looking like little hands. Rather, they were crooked, bent, a bit disfigured animal tracks. They did taste good, though!

The more I baked, the more I laughed. I sent texts to some friends, and we laughed together as they tried to console me.

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But the coolest thing is, I didn’t need to be consoled. I was perfectly fine with my perfectly imperfect cookies. Something that may not have been true about me a few years ago. In fact, you would be correct to assume that I would have been out at the store late on Saturday night to buy more ingredients, starting all over until everything was just perfect.

But because a man’s hand wasn’t the only thing Jesus healed, I stayed at home, finished my baking and thanked God for doing miraculous things in the lives of imperfect people.

My imperfection may not have been physically obvious, but it was still there. Because Jesus had healed my striving, perfectionist heart, I was now free to laugh at mistakes and creative oversights, confident knowing that He cares more about my heart than my perfection.

Because of Jesus, I was able to be happy, joyful even, with the decision that the cookies would simply be hands before the healing, rather than after. Either way, the kids would love them and they would learn that Jesus had the power to heal a man with a bent hand, and I was reminded that He had the power to heal their imperfect leader, and that’s what really matters.

Oh! One more thing: Tonight during our 6th grade discipleship group, we shared some of the left over cookies. The kids thought they were jellyfish (just turned upside down), and my husband did this:

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He called it Wilson!

Taste and See the Lord is good!

God Speaks

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God Speaks!
Uh-huh! He does! You betcha!

HiSKidZ in our KidZChurch are finishing up a series of lessons entitled, “God Speaks” from the folks at High Voltage Kids Ministry. Personally, I’ve been loving these lessons, and from what I’m hearing the kids are, too.

One of the highlights of a great series for me is when it becomes more than just a series or a great teaching for kids, but when God really speaks to me through it.

So, of course, it’s been super fun to see (or hear) how often and, all the ways, God has been speaking to me lately. I’m not completely sure whether He’s talking more or I’m listening more, but either way, it’s been so much fun!! Even when it’s not been so much fun–discipline isn’t always pleasant at the time, BUT. . . . in the end it’s soooo good, and it reminds me of how much I am loved.

It’s kind of funny, because with the exception of a few really dry times in my spiritual life, it always seemed to me like God has made His presence very real in my life. But this week, it’s like we went on a trip together and have just gotten in some extra great, extra good quality time.

Throughout the last couple of weeks we have taught that God speaks through people, circumstances, thoughts and the Word to correct us and direct us and comfort and encourage us. I think that in just this week alone, He has revealed Himself in all of those ways.

I’ve been encouraged, inspired, instructed, directed, corrected and cared for by the King of Kings, Father God, the Savior of the world, and I love, absolutely love, that it’s so personal.

What about you? Has God been speaking to you lately? If so, I hope it’s something you can share with someone so that He can speak to them through you, or share here, I’d love to hear how God has been speaking to you lately.

If you haven’t heard him lately, don’t give up, friend. Continue to seek Him, wait for Him, surrender to Him and praise Him until you hear Him speak again. As we say in early childhood, “Put on your listening ears!” God is here. God is real, and . . .

God Speaks!

Artwork courtesy of High Voltage Kids