Eye Spy Christmas Ornaments

ornament

Every year, HiSKidZ at our church make an ornament for the Christmas tree that goes in the foyer. What began as an activity has become a tradition and through the years we have created some really precious treasures that help HiSKidZ relive the spiritual markers of their lives at our church.

Each ornament retells or symbolizes a spiritual truth or Bible story. Since our theme this year has been “Take Me to Your Leader,” we made “Eye Spy” ornaments. Each ornament is filled with 10 items that can help a child lead someone to Jesus.

The ornaments were easy to make and relatively inexpensive. We started with plastic snap together balls from Amazon and filled them with either colored sand or colored rice, depending on the age of the children (It was a major win that we already had both of these items at the church so there was no cost or work for us to do here!) We found the rice much less messy for the younger children to work with.

We made this during our Wednesday night small groups and as each item was added to the sand/rice, our small group leaders talked HiSKidZ through the symbolism behind each ornament.

Here’s a list of our 10 items:

ornament tag

1) Star–led people to Baby Jesus
2) Heart–God loves us so much He sent Jesus
3) Baby Jesus–born so we could be reconciled to God
4) Dove–Came down and rested on Jesus when He was baptized
5) Pearl–Jesus used this to teach us about the Kingdom of God
6) Mustard Seed–Jesus used this to teach us about faith
7) Nail (tack)–Jesus was nailed to the cross with this
8) Die–Soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes
9) Cross–Where Jesus dies
10) Crown–What we will receive some day in heaven

After putting all the items in. We shut them tight and tied a ribbon with a card that explained what was in our ornament. Both HiSKidZ and their leaders agreed this is one of our favorite in recent years. I love all the symbolism and the super fun way kids engage in learning about Jesus and being able to share Him with others through this year’s ornament!

Each year these ornaments hang on our tree at church. After Christmas we take the ornaments down and send them home with the kids for use on their own tree next year.

Note:
We chose and purchased items based on what we could find. If we had something in particular in mind and couldn’t find it, we just asked the Lord to show us something else we could use to tell others about Him. We used Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, JoAnn Fabrics and the upstairs resource room the church to find everything we needed!!! So don’t be afraid to switch things up a bit, creating your own eye spy ornament.

Growing in Times of Ministry Drought—A Family Vacation Object Lesson

Growing in the Seasons of Drought blog picture

Children’s Ministry, like many other forms of ministry, can be prone to seasons of drought. Many of us who serve as children’s pastors or volunteers often endure long seasons where we don’t attending worship services (because we are teaching), aren’t being poured into (because we are pouring into others), face continual shortages of team members (because of enough reasons to warrant another blog post), wear too many “hats” serving in too many places (because of the same shortage of team members), and are often overlooked by leadership and adult ministry with an “out of sight out of mind attitude.”

While many times creativity, enthusiasm and growth are the song we sing, many other times fatigue, discouragement and disillusionment take over. We can become dry, weak and in danger of burn out.

This past week I have been on vacation with my family, and we have been driving through many areas affected not only by drought, but also by the stress of high temperatures. Grasses in most areas were dry, brittle and brown. But in a few places we saw patches of lush, green fields. The reason? Irrigation systems.

Some farmers were using irrigation to ensure that their crops were being taken care of and continued growing in the midst of harsh, hot, dry, stress inducing times.

As a kidmin leader, I love a good object lesson, and this one was too easy to pass up. In the dry, drought or stress filled seasons of ministry we need to be sure that we are being spiritually irrigated.

So the question of the day is, “How do we keep growing in desolate times?” Here are a few examples of how we can stay hydrated in dry times gleaned from our family vacation.

1) Faith–Trust God to fill you. Stand on His promises that He will care for you in hard times. Don’t give into the temptation to believe that your circumstances can’t or won’t change. Those plants weren’t worried about being watered, and we can trust God to take care of us in dry times as well.

2) Prayer–Pray for wisdom, strength, and refreshing. Then keep praying that God brings workers for your fields, encouragement in these end times, and joy through your trials. Just as God provided a farmer to hydrate the fields we can trust God to provide people in our ministries—after all, He was the One who told us the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few and that we should ask Him for workers for the fields.

3) The Word–Take in the living water of God’s Word DAILY. It’s so easy to skip a little time here and there and not even realize it. Like the farmer daily irrigates his crops, be sure to take time, and make time to let God’s Word refresh you.

To be honest, sometimes droughts pass quickly, but there are times when it takes a while before the drought will pass. But we can still grow, and even flourish when we allow ourselves to be spiritually watered through on a consistent basis through faith, prayer and the Word of God.

Using The Corn Harvest to Share the Gospel–Taste and See Sunday

indian corn

This morning I had the opportunity to share a short message in our church’s main service as part of what we like to call “Harvest of Praise Sunday.” The service is centered around our praise and thanks to God for all He has done in our church through the year. My portion of the service centered around giving God thanks for the baptisms and decisions that took place. Having the double advantage of coming from a farming area and having a harvest theme service, I tied in the “wordless” book idea to corn.

It started with, what else? Yellow corn.

yellow corn

Yellow corn represented heaven, and the home Jesus is preparing for us there. (John 14:3)

black corn

Black Corn represented the problem–sin, and how our sin, if not dealt with, can keep us from heaven. (Romans 6:23)

red corn

Red corn represented the blood of Jesus which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. (Hebrews 9:22)

blue-corn

Blue corn stood for the waters of baptism that wash us clean. (Acts 2:38)

White Corn

White corn reminds us that when we accept God’s offer of salvation, we are washed clean and pure. (Isaiah 1:18)

green corn

Green corn represented the growth that needs to come after we have been saved.  (2 Peter 3:18)

indian corn

We finished up with a picture of mixed corns to remind us that we need to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all God has commanded. (Matthew 28:19-20)

It was just a short, simple message,and I’m sure that in one form or another had been heard before by many. Then tonight, at our 6th grade discipleship group as we began our New Testament study, we got hung up on a question about sin. The kids were struggling to come up with answer to what we called the “problem,” because they weren’t sure what the problem was. When I uttered the words, “Black corn,” immediately they responded, “Sin!”

We were all pretty excited to realize they remembered practically every word of the morning’s talk, (I was really excited!) What I thought was so simple had stuck in their hearts and minds.

Why do I so often forget that the message doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy or entertaining? The message, quite simply, just needs to be the message. The message combined with the power of God, is all we need for a great harvest.

Corn? Who knew?

God did.  .  . Taste and See. . .the Lord is good.

 

And Sow It Goes–Taste and See Sunday

sower_1
Popcorn. It’s a pretty incredible food. I mean this little hard kernel becomes a big fluffy snack. It’s totally incredible how big it gets, and so fast, too. So are some of the thoughts and thinkings of one of the elementary classes at church anyway.

Today we used popcorn to help us understand a parable. Parables, we shared are “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” Our parable today was about the sower from Matthew 13. The popcorn was a great addition to the lesson. After all, few things liven up a class of elementary students like a microwave full of corn popping!!

Thanks to the folks at 252basics, we took their original premise of comparing popcorn to the things that happened to the seed planted in different types of soil. We helped kids make the connection to their own lives, ultimately recognizing that we need to take care that the “soil” of our hearts is ready for the word of God when it gets planted in us.

We want to grow like popcorn. We want to “pop” with the passion of God. Just like popcorn pops because of the water inside of it, we, too, are filled with the living water of Jesus. It’s this living water which changes us into something completely different than when we were at first.

sower1

As the kids spent time drawing out the different parts of the parable, we, of course, snacked on a bit of popcorn taking note of the fact that as we are changed and begin to grow, we need two share what we’ve been given just like we shared our popcorn.

And sow it goes. . . .We sow God’s truth into the lives of the children He brings our way, praying for good soil in their hearts and He grows them into believers who in turn sow the truth into someone else’s life.

There is work to be done, and seed to be sown. So c’mon, let’s get poppin!

popcorn

Taste and See. . . .The Lord is good!

What a Leech!–Freaky Fridays

leech

Who doesn’t love a little freakiness? Ok, well some people don’t, but I do. I have to admit, I can be one of those people who doesn’t want to look, but can’t seem to stop. I thnk one reason for that is as the mom of two sons, we have experienced our fair share of snakes, lizards, injuries, etc. together and in so doing my tolerance level for all things freaky has definately increased. But another reason is the Word of God. God’s Word is filled with some freaky stuff. When the boys were growing up, I loved to use some of those freaky things with them, but even more I LOVE to share some of God’s sense of freaky in my ministry to kids, well, because as Sy Robertson says, “It’s a fact, Jack!” Kids like freaky!!

So Fridays on the blog have now become Freaky Fridays. Just a quick stop at some freakiness that you might be able to incorporate into your next attempt at family devotions, small group time or kidmin teaching. And so for today. . . . drumroll please. . . ..

Leeches.
I really don’t like leeches. At all. We used to have a pond at our camp that years ago, they tell me, campers actually swam in, and it was filled with leeches. It’s nothing personal against God’s great creation, but I don’t want anything attaching itself to me for the purpose of removing my blood. Leeches are well, leeches. Greedy, little guys who want a piece of me, and they are in the Bible.

Proverbs 30:15 (yeah, leeches come right before the virutous woman chapter) says,

“The leech has two daughters, “Give! Give! They cry.”

End of leech verse. But this little verse lends itself to a lot of application especially in the areas of greed, generosity, relationship boundaries and even how we are raising our children. Maybe the saying shouldn’t be, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” but more like, “The leeches are just like their mommas.” Ouch!

Anyway, tucked inside of the most amazing book ever written are some pretty cool verses just waiting to be served up to a kid near you. Maybe you can use one this week, as you enjoy a little freakiness in your next Bible study!

Vitamin D-ilemma


This morning at church one of our elders, who happens to be a doctor, gave us a little free medical advice. We need to be getting our Vitamin D. The point of our free medical advice was this: if you aren’t getting your sunshine, then you need to be taking yourself a supplement, because we need this Sunshine Vitamin to grow strong and be healthy. I take one of those little pills, every day. No sunshine? No worries–take a pill. It’s the remedy to our deficiency. Now, there may have been more on this, but I missed it when we dismissed for our Junior Worship session and I was busy lowering a cardboard cutout of my son down from the roof in order to teach HiSKidZ that friends work together to bring other friends to Jesus. Anyway. . . .

The application on this one is pretty easy. We need the SON! Not only are there problems in the U.S. because we aren’t getting enough sun, we are also facing some pretty big issues because of our lack of exposure to the SON. Even though the sun is still shining every day, there are things (like sunscreen, work or too much time spent indoors) that block our exposure to it. The same is true with Christ. He is still shining every day. But “things” block our exposure to Him. And it’s causing some pretty big problems. Individuals, families, and truth are being compromised. Fear is on the rise, and hope is in a downward spiral, and people are spiritually dying. We need to get back into the SON because there is no pill that is going to take the place of Jesus. He is the remedy to our deficiency. So if you are finding yourself suffering some of the effects of a lack of SON SHINE, today is the perfect day to spend sometime soaking Him in.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

And that’s my free advice for you for today!

The Lesson of the Broken Glass Jello

I am on this journey back through all the things I’ve learned in children’s ministry and today while making jello for our Thanksgiving mini feast, I was reminded of one of THE BEST THINGS God has ever taught me. Now this is not just a kidmin thing. This is a life thing. Here’s it is, or as we say in children’s church, “Open your hand and get ready cuz I’m going to give you something you need to hold on to!”

God is simply in everything. Yeah. That’s it. Hope you aren’t too underwhelmed. But that is a powerfully simple truth. God’s presence, His evidence, His Spirit is at work all around us reminding us of who He is and all He has called us to. So in your ministry or in your parenting or in your teaching or in your day to day life, be looking for God in everything, and then share it. A couple of weeks ago it was body parts in a jar. This week it’s jello.

Yeah, jello:

But not just any ordinary jellow. This is Broken Glass Jello. It’s a fun and simple recipe where you take multiple colors of jello, cut them into squares and then mix them together in a pan and cover them with some more plain jello mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Throw it in the fridge, let it do it’s jello-y thing and when it comes out it is BE-YU-TI-FUL! It looks like pieces of broken colored glass! And the thing is, there’s a BE-YU-TI-FUL lesson in there as well. Each one of us is a bit broken, yet beautiful, in our own way. But when put together in the body of Christ, held together by the bond of His Spirit, well then we become something really beautiful. Kids will eat it up–the jello and the object lesson.

Sometimes in teaching you just need to chuck the curriculum for a few minutes, days, weeks, or years–yeah I said that. And let God be your curriculum. (When I start marketing curriculum someday I may deny I said this!) We serve a super creative God who has promised to remind us of everything we have been taught. So never forget to just open your eyes and take a good look around you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Rely on God more than a book. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Don’t forget to remember the joy in discovering and sharing the awesomeness of God found in your own day to day adventures with him.

And yes, you can have the recipe. I found it from “The Food Librarian.” You can check it out here. http://www.foodlibrarian.com/2009/03/broken-glass-jello