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

cheese balls

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

snake single

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!

plate of snakes

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

plumbline1

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)

Using worms for bait (1)

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

strengthen my hands

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

Be Strong and Do The Work–Dadderday

dowork-1

Wow! I can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve had/made the time to blog. Thoughts are continually swirling in my head, but the tyranny of the urgent often takes over before I get them into print. I think that’s how it is in parenting sometimes. Little things keep popping up that keep us from other things that really need to get done.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not in any way saying that writing down some thoughts in a blog is equivalent to the task of parenting children. Yet the principle still holds true that we often let things that seem bigger trump things that seem smaller, and as my small group and I are discovering this summer, the small things often are the big things, we just don’t always realize it.

So Dads, (and the moms who read blogs for dads!) today I want to give you a small reminder of the importance of parenting your children and “doing the work” that needs to be done. It comes from a couple of small verses of Scripture tucked away inside of the book of I Chronicles–yeah, I know, it’s not the normal source of our Bible verse  of the day–but it should be! Anyway, here’s what one dad said to his son:

Any you, my son, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with a wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”  I Chronicles 28:9-10

And then he continues a few verses later with:

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I Chronicles 28:20

David was talking to Solomon when he was about to become king about building the permanent temple which would include the place where God would reside. As believers, we are now the place where God resides, and the task of training up our children to know the Lord, follow Him, and to live as His dwelling place can be a daunting task.

But don’t be discouraged. God will not fail you. He will not leave you. You’ve got the this.  Simply remember the words of David and acknowledge God, serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; seek Him; be strong and courageous and do the work. And have a great Dadderday doing it!!

How Do You Eat An Elephant?–Dadderdays

elephant

Before retirement, a friend of mine was a teacher and school administrator. When his students were faced with what seemed to them to be an overwhelming challenge, they would tell him that they couldn’t do it–it was impossible, and he would ask them this question, “How do you eat an elephant?”

Perplexed, they would give him the, “I have no idea,” look and after many wrong guesses, he would tell them, “One bite at a time.”

Today I was reminded of these words as I was listening to a Mark Driscoll podcast entitled, “Kiss the Feet,” where Driscoll explained that when he first became a Christian he asked a pastor what he should do now that he had made his decision. The pastor told him to go home and read the Bible–which Driscoll did. When he finished, he went back and asked what the pastor what he should do next.

The pastor told him to choose a book of the Bible and begin to study it. Read the book, read about the book, ask questions, and figure it out. Driscoll did just that. When he finished his first study, the pastor told him to keep doing that until he died. Good advice.

Reading and studying the Bible often seems to be a task equivalent to eating an elephant. I mean, really where do you start. I think my friend has the right idea–one bite at a time.

Bible study begins well, it begins with a beginning. Like any daunting task, you just have to start, and then you keep going.

Dads, if Bible reading and Bible study are a challenge for you, today I want to encourage you to rise to that challenge. The Word of God will change your life. It will change your family. It will change your children, and your children are looking for and are hungry for a dad who will lead them and guide them in the ways they should go.

dad and bible

It may not be easy for you at first, and you may have to admit that there is some stuff you don’t know. You may want to give up. But, please don’t. It will most likely lead you to places, decisions and experiences you never imagined, allowing you, your family and even those in your circle of influence to know God in new and deeper ways. As you seek out His Word and His heart, the chances that your children will grow up to do the same increase exponentially.

So take the challenge-one bite at a time, (or one book at a time), and have a great Dadderday today and in all your Dadderdays to come.