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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Everything’s Just Ducky. . . Or Is It? (A Lesson Learned From a Day With a Decoy)

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My husband, the amazing Mr Tim and I both had the day off today! That’s pretty big stuff considering my job for a church involves working on Sundays, and he works the other six days of the week as an engineer.

To celebrate, we decided to grab our kayaks and head to the river near our house for a little cruise along the banks of the mighty Mississippi. In the back of Tim’s truck is an old duck decoy, and we decided it would be fun to tie it onto the back of my kayak, letting the little guy experience the water again.

Not long after we had taken off, some kids were near the river bank and they shouted to us, “Is that a real duck?” I didn’t tell them yes or no, but instead responded with, “He’s our little pet.” I mean, he is, kind of–kind of like a tamagotchi or a pet rock.

Next, a dog followed along the bank longingly looking at my newly acquired friend. . . .like it might be his lunch. He obviously didn’t realize his potential lunch was made of plastic.

Then later that evening, we went back out when a co-worker of Tim’s came by on his motorcycle and asked, “Is that duck real?” Tim laughed and told him, “Yeah, we’ve got him trained to follow us, now.” Of course, he told the guy the truth that he was a little decoy and we were just having some fun.

But it sure made me think.

How often are we fooled by a decoy instead believing in the real thing?

How often does the deceiver allow us to think what is untrue is true?  How quick are we to buy into lies?

If today’s society is any indication, pretty often.

So let our little duck remind you to look a little more closely at things. Don’t be so quick to buy into what looks real. Investigate, ask questions, and see for yourself. Don’t just trust the words of others.

I mean after all, the real purpose of the decoy is not fun. It’s to lure in the hunter’s prey, resulting in its death. So be careful little eyes what you see, or everything won’t be “just ducky” after all.

(I can’t wait to make this an object lesson for KidZChurch!! Feel free to use it with the kids you are influencing!)

19209679218_e114957d4b_o-2 He looks so real. . . .but he’s not.

19208527488_ba089f0393_m  Be careful, at times, deception can seem fun.

Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down (or What to Do When People Don’t Like the Decisions You Make)

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Anyone else remember the saying, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” from somewhere in their past. Truth is, I hadn’t thought of it since, well, since somewhere in my past, until Thursday morning when I came out of our laundry room in a rush to get off to work.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when the two little guys pictured above startled the kajeebers out of me! That wonderful man of mine was getting ready for turkey season and left his “supplies” sitting out in the open without any warning to me, his unsuspecting wife.

After regaining my composure, into my mind popped the phrase, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down!”  I took that to be a  little good-natured Holy Spirit advice, and went on about my way–after taking a picture for a blog post, of course! After all,

“When life gives you turkeys, write a blog post.”

Why a blog post? Because those turkeys reminded me of several conversations I’ve had lately with people dealing with stressful situations in their jobs, relationships, and circles of influence. It also reminded me of some great advice that turkey hunting husband of mine gave me when I started out in children’s ministry.

You know, seriously, what do you do when you’ve made some decision or said something or done something that some people don’t like?

I mean, c’mon, you’re sincerely trying to do your best. You’re not purposefully trying to irritate people or make bad decisions. Yet, some people just can’t seem to be pleased, and they seem to want to roost in your territory! (I know, I know!)

So what are you gonna do?

Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Instead, you might gobble up these two plans of action: (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)

1) Consider that the person may be right. They are not a turkey at all; they are actually trying to help keep you from looking like a turkey. If this is the case, you will probably need to try one of these ideas:

  • Humble Yourself.
  • Admit you are wrong.
  • Make things right.
  • Be thankful someone helped you realize your mistake.
  • Press on.

2) Reconsider your position and why you made the decision/statement/policy you did. If after going to God, you still feel confident that your decision was the best choice for the time, then try one of these ideas:

  • Stay Humble–don’t gloat about being right
  • Stay the course, good leaders often have to make hard decisions.
  • Be thankful for the opportunity to be sure of your decision.
  • Keep focused on God.
  • Press On with confidence in your decision.

No one is ever going to please every one all of the time, and just because someone doesn’t agree with your decisions doesn’t make them a turkey. God can use even the most stressful people and situations as opportunities to show us where we are wrong, and remind us of where we are right.

Make it a policy to continually inquire of the Lord and wait on Him as you lead. Let Him guide your words, decisions, policies and practices as you humbly rely on Him so that even if people don’t agree with you, they will respect you.

They who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength and soar with wings like eagles — far above the turkeys!

Undefeated–Worship by Elevation Kids (EKids) Worship

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Undefeated, Elevation Kids Worship’s new CD for children’s ministry is coming out on iTunes any day (like, probably tomorrow) , and I have to say I’m just a little excited.

Leading kids to worship through music is one of my all time top favorite things to do, and so I’m continually on the look out for great song of all kinds. HiSKidZ at our church sing old songs, new songs, fast songs, slow songs, silly songs, hymns, choruses and yes, even a little country, because we know that not every kid connects to the same kind of music.

We have a saying that goes something like,

“Everybody might not like every song, but there is a song for everybody to like.”

Elevation Kids has given us a sneak peek at two of their songs “I Am Yours” and  “Undefeated”,  with lyrics that say things like:

“Cuz I know who you say I am, and You say I am Yours.

It doesn’t matter what I feel in You I am secure

I will trust in You

Don’t have to worry anymore cuz I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.”

Focusing kids on God, who He is, reminding us that we live by His truth over our feelings is a very rare song these days, and it makes my heart want to sing it out!

If your kids, leaders and parents are anything like mine, I think they will love these new songs. So spread the word and enjoy singing to the Lord a new song! (Psalm 96:1)

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to Elevation Kids and was not compensated for this review in any way. I just like their songs!

I Don’t Like to Eat Bananas In Public (One of Many Things You Learn When You Work With Kids)

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Each year at our church my husband, the incredible Mr Tim, and I disciple a group of 6th graders. Recently, we were planning an end of the year activity with our group. In order to get a better idea of what they might like to do, we used a little reverse logic and asked, “What don’t you like to do?”

Trust me when I say we were not at all prepared when one of them said with all sincerity, “I don’t like to eat bananas in public.”

Well, ok, now.

The rest of us sort of looked at each other with one of those, “Well, where in the world did that come from?” looks when she, obviously noting our confusion, went on to say, “Well, I don’t. I don’t know why, but I just don’t.”

Readily reassuring her that nowhere in our planning was a day of public banana eating, we all had a good chuckle about it and continued our planning concluding with a plan to camp out on the church property–bananas not included.

Silly as it was, through that conversation I was reminded of a few important things about working with kids:

1) Never assume you know what is going on in a child’s life or mind.

2)  Do your best to make time to listen to the children you serve.

3) Don’t forget to ask them what they like and what they think about things.

4) Laugh. Have fun. Make adventures and memories–they build trust and relationship.

5) Accept them where they are, while helping them move forward in their walk with Christ.

This week as you or your volunteers lead in your small group or Bible study times, I pray that you will learn something new about your kids, their hearts, lives, likes or dislikes and that your time together will be as sweet and refreshing as a banana (eaten at home, in private, of course!)

**On an added note, this student arrived this week to tell me that she has overcome her fear of public banana eating because of our talk in our small group time last week. Apparently, they had bananas at school and she had forgotten her lunch and was very hungry so she decided to take the chance!!  Gotta love it!

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!

HiSKidZ Top Twelve Favorite Easter Songs

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It’s three weeks until Easter, and we are bustin’ out the Easter songs! Ok, to be completely honest with you, I’ve been singing them for awhile now, but this week we brought it to church!

HiSKidZ did an awesome job singing their hearts out to Fee’s “Rise and Sing” and as we finished, I mentioned how much I loved that song and considered it one of my favorite Easter songs.

“Easter songs?”

Their words and their faces both told me they had no idea what I was talking about, and it was then that I realized that although we had been singing Easter songs for years, we didn’t really talk about the fact that we were singing Easter songs.

Seein’ that Easter is a pretty big deal to Christians, and that we start singing Christmas songs in October, it’s really only fitting that we begin preparing the hearts and minds of the children of God for the celebration of the resurrection of our King, Jesus!

So, in case you are ready to jump on the Easter Carols bandwagon with me. Here are 12 of HiSKidZ favorite Easter songs:

1) Lord I Lift Your Name on High (Go Fish Guys)
2) Jesus is Alive Right Now (Kids on the Move)
3) Rise and Sing (Fee)
4) Take it All (Hillsong Kids)
5) Hosanna Rock (Yancy)
6) God So Loved (Hillsong Kids)
7) Celebrate Jesus (Jeff Moody)
8) Tell the World (Hillsong Kids)
9) Happy Day (reThink-Amber Sky Records)
10) Jesus is Alive (Promiseland Kids)
11) My God (Go Fish Guys)
12) My Redeemer Lives (Hillsong Kids)

What are your kids favorite Easter songs? I hope you will share, because your favorite may become our next favorite!

The above created art contains lyrics to Fee’s “Rise and Sing.”

Getting Jesus in the Center of Our Lives–An Object Lesson for Kids

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This week as HiSKidZ learned about living for God rather than living for ourselves, we used this simple object lesson to help bring the heart of our teaching into the hearts of our children. Our lesson was about how King Solomon realized that living for self is meaningless.

To bring this point home, I found some things at the church–baby food jars, macaroni, and ping pong balls. I used two empty jars, two ping pong balls and enough macaroni to fill the baby food jars. Can I add that I love that I didn’t have to spend a dime? Woohoo!!

Each jar was filled with macaroni with a ping pong ball placed on top. On the balls was written the word “God” and on the jars was the word, “You.”

I asked the kids how we could get the ping pong balls into the jars. We were all in agreement that the only way was to dump out the macaroni. So we emptied one of the jars and put the ping pong ball inside.

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Then we added the macaroni back in.

Almost all of the macaroni fit in, but there were a few pieces that we just couldn’t get back in the jar. Perfect!

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Then I turned the jars around and explained to the kids that the jars represented our lives and the macaroni represented the things that are important to us–friends, family, school, sports, hobbies, electronics, media, etc., and the ping pong balls represented God.

We talked about how if we want Jesus to be the center of our life, we will have to empty ourselves of what we want and give Him priority. With Jesus at the center, many of the things that mean so much to us will still fit into our life, but they will fit around Jesus, not the other way around.

We also saw that some things will have to be left out if God is going to keep His place at our center. But as the kids saw the two jars, they readily agreed that in order to have Jesus at the heart of their life rather than an extra part of their life, it would be worth it to give up whatever they had to.

Together we were reminded that if we aren’t careful we can fill our lives with so many things that we want, that we squeeze out what He wants.

We also decided that if the wisest man ever, King Solomon, had a hard time getting this right, then we, for sure, better keep relying on the Lord to help us keep Him in the rightful place He deserves.

Last night in our mid-week program, I got to share this object lesson again with a group of 6th grade students, and was so excited to hear them talk through how to keep God at the center of their life by asking Him to lead them, spending time at church with other believers who have Christ as their center, listening to Him through the Word and prayer, obedience and by saying “no” to things that squeeze Him out of their lives–a good lesson for us all.

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!

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