Ten Ways Kids Can Show Appreciation to their Pastor(s)

pastor-appreciation2October is here and besides being the month of all things pumpkin spice, it is a month set aside for Pastor Appreciation. Although I work as a children’s pastor, this is not a plea for gifts or appreciation.  Instead, it’s just an quick help guide for parents or teachers to help practically model, lead, and teach kids to appreciate their pastors. As we teach our children to appreciate their pastors, we are teaching them to appreciate others in general, and a thankful, appreciative heart is honoring to God who placed these people in our lives.

As we teach children to appreciate their  pastors, we are teaching them to appreciate others in general.  A thankful, appreciative heart is honoring to God.

Here are 10 simple and mostly free ways kids can show appreciation to their pastors this month or any month:

  1. Tell them. Words go along way. Simply have your children tell the pastor they are thankful for him/her and why.
  2. Send or give them a card. It can be purchased or hand-made, but have your children write in it and address it (if you mail it). In doing so, you are also teaching your children the life skill of how to address and mail an envelope–a lost art.
  3. Bake something and deliver it personally. Is your child the next Bobby Flay? Then let them have at it, with your help, of course. Make something special and go with them to deliver it to your pastor. This is especially great if you know what he/she likes. Watch out for food allergies or dietary restrictions if you can. Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven and personal delivery makes it, well, personal–even better!
  4. Draw a picture. I have a file folder and a binder filled with pictures from kids in our church. It makes my heart sing when they bring me their heart-felt art.
  5. Write a poem. Some children are the best at putting their feelings into words. If that describes your child, encourage them to use their words to bless the pastor.
  6. Make up a song, or sing a favorite song and video your child singing it and then send it to your pastor. A little girl from my church once was in my office singing about me while sitting in my chair. It was the most precious thing ever. It makes me smile even today.
  7. Do an act of service. Could your pastor use some help raking leaves, setting up something in the church or washing his car? Brainstorm with your children some things they  could do to show appreciation. (Get permission from the pastor first, though!)
  8. Find a super creative idea on Pinterest, but let your child do it. Honestly, Pinterest is filled with great ideas, just be sure you don’t take over for your children and rob them of the opportunity to learn to show appreciation on their own. You can do another pastor appreciation idea yourself. Pastors need lots of appreciation!
  9. Invite them over for dinner or dessert. Having people in your home is a lost art. It not only  helps nourish someone, but it also builds community and allows us to show hospitality–a Biblical mandate. Maybe neither you nor your pastor have time for a meal, but what about a dessert night or s’mores around the fire pit? Kids need to see that pastors are people, too, and time together as families can often help make that happen.
  10. Pray for them. Every day. And let them know you are doing so. Encourage your children to commit to pray, every day, and pray with them. Our pastors spend a lot of time in the trenches doing battle on our behalf. Teaching our children to pray for pastors teaches them to not just hear the word of God, but to do what it says.

Once you have looked the list over together, sit down with your family and decide if one of these ideas will work for you. Maybe this list is just the catalyst for another idea or maybe you already have an idea, and this is the reminder to put it into action. (James 1:22)

Then, set a completion date and commit to doing whatever it is you chose before that date. I know late is better than never, but on time teaches our children to be responsible! One of the main reasons people fail to feel appreciated isn’t that they aren’t appreciated, it’s that we just don’t get around to telling them they are.

One of the main reasons people fail to feel appreciated isn’t that they aren’t appreciated, it’s that we don’t get around to telling them they are.

I hope you and your children find great joy in showing appreciation and blessing to the pastor(s) in your life this fall.

“And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love”  I Thessalonians 5:12-13 (The Message).

Ten Truths I Found Watching Old War Movies with My Dad


Due to the circumstances of life and death, I am currently living with my father. We’ve gotten ourselves a little routine going, and part of it includes watching old movies together at night. Thanks to Amazon Prime, we have a veritable plethora of old films to choose from. Our favorites are westerns and war movies from the 1940’s and 50’s. I say they are “our” favorites because although they were his favorites first, they are now becoming some of my favorites, too.

We were a military family. My dad served over twenty years in the U.S. Navy so I know a little about military life. But military life as a military kid in peaceful times is not at all the same as military life in a unit during combat.

I have a new appreciation for actors like John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum–such grown men! They were gallant, chivalrous, tough, strong and loyal, and if you watch enough of their films a few basic themes will quickly make themselves evident.

Here are my top 10 favorites:

Truth #1: You did what you were told even if the commanding officer was wrong.

Truth #2: You held your tongue out of respect for the office, and you spoke only when you had permission to speak.

Truth #3: You gave 100% all of the time even if those around you did not.

Truth #4: You did what you could for the best outcome, yet realized you are not  responsible for the outcome.

Truth #5: You dug the foxhole together and you were in the foxhole together.

Truth #6:You took time to laugh. (And smoke alot of cigarettes!)

Truth #7: You kept your word.

Truth #8: When you fell down, you got back up. When someone else fell down, you helped them back up.

Truth #9: You cared for those you served with even at the expense of your own life.

Truth #10: You never gave up.

My dad was an example of many of these truths. I am thankful for his influence in my life, for the things he has taught me and for our time together.  Being the strong, silent type himself, I doubt he would ever sit me down and tell me these things over his cup of coffee and my Diet Coke. But in nightly choosing movies that have resonated with the traits he has valued in his lifetime, he is, in essence doing that very thing–for which I am grateful and humbled.


My dad and I while stationed in Hawaii in the early 1970’s.

The Interrupt Rule-Teaching Our Children to Honor Others by Waiting


“One of the most important ways I can love my children is by refusing to let them interrupt my wife and me when we are talking.”

This morning I ran across this quote in my twitter feed, and it reminded me of one of the most valuable principles Tim and I learned when we were raising our boys:

Our children can learn to wait.

Even more, it’s important they learn to wait. It’s part of life. It’s respectful. It’s self-control. It’s patience. It’s loving. It’s about others.

When we were raising our boys, we had the opportunity to both take and lead parenting classes where we could learn and pass on valuable tools and heart principles. One of those tools was “the interrupt rule.”

We then taught our children that if they needed to speak with us and we were in another conversation, they should simply place their hand on our arm and wait patiently.  In placing their hand on our arm, we would know that they needed us, and we would take a break in our conversation as soon as possible without being rude to the person we were talking to.

This worked whether we were in person or on the phone, and it helped us teach and train our children that their thoughts and needs were important to us, but so were the thoughts and needs of others.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

When we specifically applied this principle to our marriage, our boys learned that our marriage relationship was our priority. They were not the center of our world, but rather a valuable part of it. Knowing mom and dad loved each other and put each other first added to their sense of security. They grew in patience and respect for us and others as they realized that they could wait and still be heard, and that others needed to have their chance to be heard as well.

I’d love to know:

What tools have you used to help your children learn to wait without interrupting?

Why I’m So Excited About Jumpstart3


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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Dear Moms and Dads,


Moms and Dads,

I’m not a big one to write any kind of “open letter,” but I don’t know how else to say these things that are on my heart. You see, I spent the last week with some of your sons and daughters, teaching through the Old Testament. We talked about God’s love and protection and how from the beginning of time, He’s simply been calling us back to Him because of His great love for us.

We talked about how there is really nothing more loving and caring than the truth that because of God’s great love for us He has spent all of time warning us of the danger of His judgement and wrath, and showing us the way to be saved from it through our  faith in and allegiance to Jesus.

As we talked about the times of the prophets and how God sent them to His people for over 400 years, we reasoned together that it really made no sense for someone to hear a warning for their entire life and not respond to it. In fact, they thought that seemed just crazy!

They also reasoned that even if the time was 300 years, or 200 years or 50 years or 10 years, the only logical response to a warning of this magnitude was to respond, run to and stay in the care of the One who could save you from the impending danger.

And so they responded. They shared their hearts about how they were like the people of the Bible. They, too, knew these things of God, but weren’t responding. But now, they wanted to be different. They no longer wanted to be like those who knew, and did nothing.

As we shared about their lives when they returned home, a common thread could be found woven into their stories. They felt as though even though they knew God was with them, they would be humanly alone in their families.

I heard student after student share that their families were no longer following the Lord. Parents and grandparents who love their children, know God, and are connected in some way to a church have lost their way–so much so that commitment to God and His church have become an afterthought in their lives. The same parents and grandparents who sent them to church camp are not camping out with them in church!!!

Parents, hear this. Your children want to go to church. They want to be a part of what God is doing. They want lives that are different, they want to be a part of making a difference, and they want to do it with you!

Please, please, for the sake of your children, your children’s children and for yourself–I want to remind you and warn you that you will be held accountable for your actions–COME BACK TO THE LORD. Put aside your hurts, busy schedules, sins, fears or whatever it is that is keeping you from walking with the Lord TOGETHER WITH YOUR CHILDREN and start walking with them, beginning today.

Your kids hearts are breaking. They are breaking for you. Your kids need you. They want their families together with Jesus, forever. They want to be with you!

Think about it. High School students who want to go to church. With their families. They want to live for Christ. They want your help.

It seems like to not give it to them, would be, well, just crazy.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done.” Romans 1:28 NIV

Eye Spy Christmas Ornaments


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:

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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.

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.

The Fine Art of Appreciation

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Recently my boss retired after 40 years of ministry in the same church. You don’t often see longevity like that any more, and I am so blessed to have worked with a man who taught me so much through his words, but even more through his life.

However, my life wasn’t the only one touched. We asked some of our children and students who attend the Christian school at our church to create artwork and write notes of appreciation.

Precious doesn’t begin to describe some of what they shared.

“So sorry that you are retiring. You were at the church for 40 years I think. What are you going to do in your free time? I’d probally go ice-skating or do gymnastics. You are the longest preacher I have known for like my whole life. We had some good times, but you’ll always be my favorite.”

“Were so sade your leaving.”

“I hope you have fun man.”

“Good luck in your future and now God is with you.”

“I’m sorry that your going to a different church. I hope you like it. Good Luk. I hope I’ll see you Sunday.”

“Good Luck. Congratulations for retirement. You were nice.”

“Thank you. Friend of God. Preacher of God.”

“Happy I love you.”

“Thanks for the encouraging words you give me. The sermons you preach at school are easy to understand, which helps me apply it to my life. I appreciate the smiles you give me. Hope your retirement is as good as can be. God Bless you, good luck.”

“We are very sad you are going into retirement. You were my favorite preacher and you always made me laugh. One of my favorite sermons was when you put on a wig and became Sampson. Thank you for making me a servant master. I really think you brought me closer to Christ Jesus in your sermons thank you very much.”

Children may not always understand everything. They may not get the grammar or the spelling right. They may not have the best penmanship, but my-oh-my what a great job they can do making someone feel loved and appreciated.

It’s a fine art, appreciation. One worthy of the short time it takes to jot down a note, draw a picture, make a call or yes, even send a text.

With Christmas beginning in October, (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post) be sure to take some time in November to allow your family to share together in the fine art of appreciation. You’ll be thankful you did.

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