Why I’m Still Jumping for Jumpstart3! (A VBS Story)

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Last week we had the privilege to host Vacation Bible School at our church. Many of you reading this understand that VBS is a crazy, exhausting, wonderful, glorious week–most of the time.

There are, of course, the years when all goes right, and the years when all goes wrong. Then there are the years like this one, when God does the things you could “never ask for or imagine.”

We invited Jeff McCullough of Jumpstart3 Scripture Memory Ministry to our VBS this year because we believed with all our heart that we need to get kids and families excited about the Word of God. Although Jeff and I had talked about the structure of our VBS, I think he was still a little shocked at the intensity of what we do and how we do it.

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Each morning we host our preschoolers (3 yr-K) for a morning VBS. Jeff led the music sessions for 4 groups of preschoolers each day. Each group ranged in size from 6-14 children. Each evening we host our “Big Kids VBS,” where Jeff led 3 groups of children in grades 1-6.

In just 2 days our preschoolers were saying their verses. SAYING THEM–not just singing them. As the teacher for the week, I got to review with them as part of our lesson the words of Matthew 7:24. They would speak to me the words,

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down. The streams rose. The winds blew and beat against that house. Yet it did not fall.”

Not only could they sing the words, and say the words our littlest HiSKidZ were grasping the meaning as we taught that these words weren’t about houses or rains or rocks or sand, but about us, and Jesus.

And our big kids were crazy for Jumpstart. Jeff helped us to be able to give each child who attended a CD of the songs we would use at VBS. In fact, we gave them one and offered them one to use to invite a friend. So, the kids in our town were blasting Jumpstart from minivans and pickup trucks all around town! Our “bigs” learned at least 5 verses this week, and could also not just sing them, but say them!

Jumpstart3 literally gave our children the Jumpstart on putting more than God’s Words into their lives. Jumpstart helped give our kids a passion for God’s Word.

God was at work in so many amazing ways this past week, and I’m looking forward to sharing them in the days ahead. If you have any questions about how Jumpstart3 could benefit your ministry, feel free to message me, or get ahold of Jeff through Jumpstart3’s webpage.

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Kids and parents at our closing night family experience with Jumpstart3. Can you tell what song they are singing? (Hint–They are pointing to their ears, the next motions are to make a Bible with your hands and to cover your face.)

Why I’m So Excited About Jumpstart3

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So, why am I so excited about Jumpstart3??

Because they are coming to my town. In just 2 weeks. Wow! Just 2 more weeks!

That fact, in and of itself, is more than enough reason to be excited, and we are excited to be hosting Jeff McCullough of Jumpstart3 for our upcoming week of VBS. But, there’s more!

This past February, I met Jeff at the Children’s Pastors Conference in California. We actually just “passed” each other and that was about it. I was walking into the vendor room to meet up with the crew from Kidology while Jeff was setting up his booth for Jumpstart. We shook hands, I asked him if he had seen Karl Bastian, and then I didn’t really see him again to talk. Although, I did get to watch him lead some super fun worship at CPC one night!

Jeff seemed to be everywhere and wherever that everywhere was there were people around getting excited about Jumpstart3’s Scripture memory songs. I have to admit I never really made it to his booth, but I’d already downloaded some of the songs on iTunes before and liked them. However, it is just recently that I’ve really began to love them.

This spring, God put it on my heart while planning VBS to invite Jeff to come to Iowa to share with HiSKidZ here. We have had some fun conversations and quite a bit of phone tag as we have planned and prayed about the week. He has gone out of his way to make sure that this week will be one our families will never forget.

Last Friday and Saturday, we used the “Matthew 7:24″ song with a group of 3rd graders at our church camp’s Overnighter Camp and, well, words just can’t express what we experienced. Not only did our 65+ 3rd graders learn the verse by song, they learned to say it, and they loved it.

Requests to play it again and sing it again and again and again resonated through the camp. When parents came to pick up their kids and saw them singing Scripture with all their hearts–it was a beautiful thing! Volunteers are still texting me lyrics and breaking into song when they see me! (Ok, that’s not super unusual for me, but I LOVE IT!!!!)

Kids were singing with reckless abandon, eyes closed, motions movin’ and groovin’ as we sang together, “Therefore anyone who hears these words of Mine is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

It didn’t hurt that it rained like a big dog most of the session!! So that when we sang, “The rains came down; the streams rose, the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, yet it did not fall, yet it did not fall. –Because it had it’s foundation on the ROCK!” with the rains coming down in full force on a metal roof with the winds blowin’ and beating against our building, we all knew we wanted to be like wise men who built our houses on the rock!

If you haven’t discovered Jumpstart3 yet, I can’t encourage you enough to check them out and begin to let the Word of God soak into the hearts and minds of your kids.

If you happen to be around my neck of the woods in Southeast, Iowa, we’re inviting area pastors, children’s pastors and volunteers to a meet and greet with Jeff on Tuesday, July 28 anytime between 1 and 3pm. We’d love to have you stop in for some encouragement, blessing and to learn a little more about what Jumpstart3 is all about!!  Got kids? Consider joining us for VBS at New Testament Christian Church.

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Cheeseballs–Just another fun and easy way to get kids excited about the Bible

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As the director of the children’s ministry at our church, I generally lead the Wednesday night program. This year, I have several other amazing volunteers filling in our large group spots and allowing me the privilege to get back into leading a small group of 6th graders. I love the chance to spend some time in small groups because serving as a small group leader allows me to:

1)  Gain a better perspective of what it is like to be a small group volunteer

2)  Connect with kids on a different level

3) Rediscover the simplest things to connect kids to Jesus and His Word.

Things, for example, like cheese balls.

Personally, not my favorite snack. You might as well eat styrofoam covered in popcorn cheese. I tend to use them for games, but this week they were a reward for the small groups that won last week’s game of “Reverse Egg Hunt.” (See Future Blog Post)

Our small group happened to be one of the winners and so as the kids practiced tossing cheese balls into their own and each others mouths while enjoying what they decided was one of the best prizes ever, an idea came to mind. Still having plenty left (because there are like a million cheese balls in a container), we decided to use them as an incentive for a Bible search time.

We are studying Psalm 23, and as part of our small group time, we were looking up verses that referenced God as a good shepherd.

We divided up into groups of two, pairing a stronger skilled student with a newer student, and set the following rule. First group to find the verse got 3 cheese balls, 2nd place got 2 cheese balls, and 3rd place got 1 cheese ball.

Win – Win – Win

I mean, kind of. They are after all, just cheese balls, right?

Obviously not. Because I completely underestimated how excited they would be to win cheese balls. From our least to our most experienced, every student was looking up verses. There did not appear to be any insecurity, fear, or timidity. Just a reckless abandon to find that verse and get some cheese balls!!

We laughed as they raced to find these precious nuggets of truth as well as some (well, to them, anyway) precious nuggets of cheesy goodness.

At the end of the night a team of boys beat out one of the girls groups by one verse, thus winning the remaining bag of cheese balls!! Joy unspeakable!!

Cheese balls? Who knew?

My co-leader, Heather, and I went away reminded again that God often uses the simplest things to draw us to Him and His Word.

So if you’ve been on the lookout for something to spark your kids interest in God’s Word, consider grabbing a buck fifty for some cheese balls and see if your kids love this idea as much as ours did!

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

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)

Using Worms for Bait (and Other Great Stories to Help Kids Dig Deeper into God’s Word)

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In some ways, the church where I serve isn’t that much different than a lot of other churches. Although we encourage children and their parents to read, study, know and live out God’s Word, it is often a challenge.

As a result we work at finding creative ways to help kids want to dig deeper in the God’s Word. One method way we use to move kids to want to read the Bible for themselves is to point them to some of the slightly unusual things that are in the pages of Scripture that they may not have seen or heard about before.

For example, our 6th graders are currently studying the New Testament. As we went digging into the pages of Acts we found worms. What preteen doesn’t want dig for worms–especially in the Bible? So we used that time to be sure to share with them Herod’s story from Acts 12:21-22 and the important truth of giving glory to God.

“Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”

There are so many other great or at least slightly unusual stories that can peak kids’ interest in the Bible causing them to go home and read more for themselves.

Here are a few of the favorites with our kids:

Elijah Runs Raster Than a Chariot
I Kings 18:46

Elisha and the Bears
II Kings 2:23-25

The Really Big King with the Really Big Bed
Deuteronomy 3:11

The Man With 12 Fingers and 12 Toes
II Samuel 21:20

Going to the Bathroom Bible Style
Deuteronomy 23:12-14

Almost Any of the Judges
Book of Judges

Shipwrecks and Snakebites
Acts 27:13-28:6

Grabbing kids’ attention and directing them to the Word is a calling of such great importance. While it may not always be a good idea to use shock or disbelief just for the sake of it, sometimes it can be a very good thing to use to instill a desire and hunger to know more about the Bible.

C’mon, dig in, and let’s get ’em hooked on God’s Word!

When Your Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Left

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I’m wrote this as we headed into our last day of VBS, and for those of you who lead or direct the VBS in your church you know that means it is almost time for celebration for all that God has done and it’s almost time for REST!!! (Maybe I needed a little rest more than I thought because I forgot to click “publish” after I finished this!)

REST is not a four-letter word. Ok, well, maybe it is, but not that kind of four-letter word!! Rest is a word ordained by God as a way to reflect, remember and restore. But, sometimes rest really isn’t an option. There are circumstances out of our control. There are deadlines to meet, responsibilities to be kept, and commitments to be fulfilled. Just saying, “No!” isn’t always an option.

So what can you do when your “get up and go has got up and left,” yet you still have work to do?

Here are three things that have been helpful as I push through exhausting times.

1) I pray the Nehemiah prayer from Nehemiah 6:9: When people were tired and facing discouragement, Nehemiah prayed, “Now, strengthen my hands.” For sure, sometimes we need to step back and take a break, but sometimes, for a short time, we need to pray and have others pray with us, “Lord, strengthen my hands.”

2) I consider what David told Solomon as Solomon prepared to become king in 1 Chronicles 28: “Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart, and understands every motive. . . Be strong and do the work.” When I’m tired, I think back to these words, and realize that if God has called me to this work, He will give me the strength to complete it. Then I get back to work!

3) I think about Paul and his words in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: Often when I am feeling tired, overworked, stressed or depleted, I look over Paul’s words and realize my “hard” circumstances can’t compare to his. Paul saw his challenges as opportunities to bring glory to God. When I remember this I begin to get my praise on, my prayers focused, and my priorities centered and “do the work.”

How often you might need to use these tips may depend on your circumstances, temperament and work or ministry situation. But you can be fairly certain that a time will come when we will want to give up when God will want us to give in, take on His strength for our hands, do the work and give Him the glory.

Image taken from google images