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Our New Baby Dedication Celebration

13 Feb

We have traditionally incorporated baby dedication in our Sunday morning services, which basically resulted in a baby parade and a quick repeating of promises of dedication.  It was ok, but it wasn’t the best for our parents.  In fact, when we were rushing to get to our second daughter’s dedication, we were in such a hurry that we almost left her in her carrier in the kitchen.

We wanted to be more intentional about beginning this partnership with families and providing a quality event for this first milestone in the baby’s life.

So, we stole lots of ideas from Kenny Conley and Kendra Flemming, two of my favorite peeps to steal ideas from.  We also used a lot of the materials provided in ReThink’s Baby Dedication material.

Here’s what we did:

–  Parents chose between one of two dedication orientations to attend.  I love this because I got to really connect with families, most of whom I had never met before. We cast the vision for our family ministry and gave instructions for the dedication.

–  We set the event for 4:00 on Sunday afternoon.  We actually had it at our student building so that we didn’t have to transition the worship center and so that we could have a smaller environment.

–  We did a little worship, our pastor gave a message of encouragement, families shared with each other what they dreamed for this child, and prayer partners from our ministry led each family in prayer.  Then our pastor came back to lead in dedication vows.

–  We had very yummy cake and snacks.  We also had a photographer who took family pictures.

Here’s what I loved:

–  Loved connecting with the families.  We are also big on helping people take “next steps”.   Through the orientations I identified 8 families who were not connected anywhere else.  I’m now going to stalk them for a parenting class I will do with the intent of connecting them.

–  Loved seeing families praying together for these little ones.  Grandpas were crying.  Good stuff.

–  Loved taking time to worship the God who gave us these babies.

–  Loved seeing our preschool leadership team, baby class small group leaders, and staff partner with parents to pray for them.  I had a baby teacher who was “honored” that he was invited.  I was honored he would come!!!

Things to fix:

–  Who would have thought that there are no changing tables in the student ministry building? 🙂

–  We needed kleenex.  I underestimated the emotions of the moment.

–  Because of space, we might need to reconsider our venue.

I’m sure there were more, but overall I am so extremely proud of our preschool team for pulling this off.  They did an absolutely incredible job!!!

Seeking Wisdom

31 Jan

I think one of the greatest leadership lessons in the Bible comes from Solomon. He has the option to ask God for anything in the planet and he asks for wisdom to lead.  And God was obviously very pleased with that.  Several years ago I memorized most of Proverbs 3.  I don’t really even remember why, but ever since then God has really hit me over and over again with the idea of seeking wisdom.  And though I can no longer quote the passage word for word, I refer back to it often.  Especially on days like today.  Today was a day where leading was not easy and I needed God to pour out His wisdom.

So, how do I not lose my mind on days when significant issues arise?  Here are some lessons I try to remember from Proverbs 3.

1.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you. (Proverbs 3:1) My actions and words must be in love and must reflect faithfulness to God’s Word and to the leaders above me and to the people who I serve.

2.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (3:5) We teach this verse in kidmin all the time.  But when crisis moments hit, I tend to default to what I know and what I can do – and then I panic.  God is not surprised by anything that comes our way.  He is in control.  He is bigger.  Panicking helps no one.  Trusting in God’s sovereignty helps put the situation, no matter how big, into perspective.

3.  Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and shun evil. (3:7) I can’t think for a minute that I’ve got it figured out or even worse. be too prideful to admit that I need help.  I need wise counsel from people I trust.  Don’t make any big calls on your own.

4.  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke (3:11) If God shows you something that you have handled incorrectly or something that you are ABOUT to handle incorrectly, don’t ignore it.  Acknowledge it and make it right.  Again, don’t pretend you have it all together. None of us do and we make decisions on the fly.  Sometimes we have to correct our own decisions as well.

5.  Her (wisdom) ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. (3:17) One of the greatest tidbits that I have learned from Jim Wideman is to always follow peace.  God is the God of peace (Romans 16:20).  When making difficult decisions, I have to follow peace.  That is different from doing what is easy.  When evaluating options, the Holy Spirit may give peace about what is the right thing to do. It might not be the most popular or the most comfortable or have immediate happy results, but it is the wise option that will bring peace.

6.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet (3:24) I like to sleep.  There’s nothing worse than being tormented by decisions or situations.  What a kind God to care about our sleep.  When I trust in His wisdom I can rest in knowing that He’s got it.  When I trust in my wisdom, I lay awake wondering about “what ifs”.

I wish I got it right all of the time. I certainly don’t.  But I thank God that He doesn’t leave us to solve problems on our own.  Not only does He offer wisdom, He delights in us asking for it.  What a good God!

Two Adults in a Room Cannot Be Optional

28 Jan

This week I had the opportunity to chat with a friend who has recently planted a church in our area.  As we discussed his challenges of building a church and children’s ministry from scratch, he asked me to tell him again why I was so adamant that there always be two adults in the room.  There were only 3-5 children after all.

This is one of my non-negotiables in kidmin, particularly in preschool ministry.  Safety and accountability is huge on my list in preschool.  I am a little bit of a freak about it.  Here’s what I communicate when I share why I’m passionate about this issue:

–  Basically I don’t really trust anyone.  I’m sure on some level I need counseling, but let me tell you the story that ruined me.  When I was in middle/high school, I had a student pastor who I adored.  He was very foundational in my growth as a new believer.  He moved on before I graduated, but I kept in touch occasionally with him and his wife.  He ended up pastoring a church within a few hours of where we live now.  Imagine my shock when my best friend from home called and asked if I had watched the news.  This pastor (who I would have written you a glowing reference for, by the way) had been arrested for molesting friends of his daughter when they spent the night.  Wow. I remember asking my husband, “If you can’t trust sending your child to your pastor’s house, who do you trust.”  I’ll never forget his response: “No one.”  Again, our response is probably extreme, but that story rocked us.

–  1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.  When it comes to our kids, we can not be too careful because all it takes is one moment of stupid and even a great person can be devoured by temptation that devastates lives.

–  It is our responsibility to protect our kiddos, no matter what.  Two adults in the room provides accountability and protection for the kids.

–  This policy also protects the volunteers.  Kids can make up some crazy stuff or  parents can jump to wrong conclusions. If a volunteer is falsely accused, who will help them if there is not another adult in the room.

–  Volunteers will often wave away extra help, insisting that they can handle the class themselves.  I’m sure they can, but we just can’t let them.

–  One of the adults needs to be a lady.  We have been blessed with incredible men volunteers who I love dearly.  And I’m sure it is extremely sexist, but I don’t want a man having to change my little girl’s diaper or help her go to the restroom.

–  Husbands and wives in the same room really need a third person.  A spouse is going to side with a spouse in any situation.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Local Family Mission Opportunities

15 Dec

So, as I’m working on our family mission trip to Belize,  I’m pretty convicted about offering missional opportunities for families to serve together in local settings.  One of our core strategies for our family ministry is for kids to have “challenging spiritual experiences”.

To be honest, though,  it was my almost five year old who God used!  She started crying when I was talking about Belize saying that she wanted to tell boys and girls about Jesus too.  Wow.  Well, I’m not sure Belize is ready for my Kaylie, but I assured her that we can certainly find some ways around here to tell people about Jesus.  So, I need your input again!

Here are the few ideas I’ve thought of:

–  visit local nursing homes

–  visit laundry mats and hand out bags of detergent and quarters

–  There is a homeless shelter downtown that is just for mama’s and kids.  They have times to sign up to take food.

–  delivering cookies or other treats to local police departments or fire stations.

–  Helping at our county’s Baptist Association’s food pantry/clothing closet.

– Handing out hot chocolate at next year’s Christmas parade

–  Doing a workday at local schools

Ok, your turn!  What do you do that families can do together to live on mission?

We’re Going to Belize!!!

14 Dec

Over spring break our ministry is sponsoring our church’s first family mission trip and I’m so excited about it.  Awhile back I was introduced to David and Karen Rhodes.  You might have seen them highlighted at Orange.  Their ministry is called Kidz Konnect 4 Jesus.  They seek to partner children’s ministries in the United States with schools and churches in Belize.  We partnered with them about a year ago.  Our sponsored ministry is in Light of the Valley. Our goal is to continue to build connections and relationships between our kids and theirs.

One huge step is coming in March!  Five families from our ministry are going on a mission trip to Light of the Valley, Belize! We will be spending the week with the Rhodes and with our adopted church!  We are taking kids that range from 1st grade – middle school.

I’m really excited about kids catching a glimpse of what missions is about at an early age.  Here is why I think Belize is a great fit for our ministry:

–  It is only a couple of hours away via plane.  I can’t imagine taking kids on an extremely long flight!

–  The kids there speak English.

– Because we aren’t going as far, it is not AS expensive as some trips.  It works out to be about $1200/person.

–  We have an opportunity to develop lasting relationships.  Our kids can see firsthand what their offering money goes towards.  Because of our partnership, we can continue ministering to the church even when we are back home.

–  David and Karen are doing a great job of developing activities for everyone to have the opportunity to minister, especially the kids.

–  I’m excited that some of my best friends are going, all of whom have a heart for missions and to see their kids serve alongside of them.

I’m praying that there are families here and in Belize who will never be the same because of this trip!

Have you ever organized a family mission trip?  Do you have any advice to share?

Do You Have People?

5 Dec

My husband and I are in the greatest small group ever.  But just a few weeks ago, I was lamenting how busy Sundays were and would be getting worse.  I even asked my pastor if he would be upset if we dropped out for awhile (small groups are of super high value at our church).  But God has really shown me big time that we need our people.

1. Are you ok?

2.  Would you tell me if you weren’t?

These are the two questions buzzing in my head this week for the people I love.  The past several weeks have brought story after story of hurting families and tragedies.  I need people who will ask me those two questions and I need to be in others’ lives that I can ask.

In ministry we can become isolated.  Sure we interact with hundreds of volunteers, parents, and kids each week.  However, it is easy to do all of that and not develop true relationships.  But we need people, just as much if not more than the average church-goer.  Sometimes we are afraid to open up or to take off the “Super Invincible Staff Member” mask.  But I don’t see that mask in Scripture.

So, find a friend.  Get in a small group.  Form an accountability group.  Do something. Have people.

Who are your people?  Who asks if you are ok?  Who would you talk to if you weren’t?

Feedback and a Little Bribery

29 Nov

I love surveys and evaluation.  Without knowing what people are really thinking/feeling, we are doing ministry with blinders on, seeing only what we want to see.  Sadly, though, people do not get as excited about filling out surveys as I get about sending them.  We have learned that a little bit of bribery goes a long way in getting the feedback we need.

Over the past few weeks we have been evaluating the culture in our preschool ministry.  We wanted feedback from parents and from volunteers.  We went two different bribery routes with them.

Our best form of bribery was for our parents.  We offered two choices of Parents’ Night Outs.  The only way to get the link to register for them was to complete our online survey.  We filled both of the nights within 3 days!  We probably had 25 responses within the first couple hours after the survey was released.  We used our paid childcare workers to cover these nights but if we do it again in the future I will use volunteers and students to keep the cost down.

For volunteers we offered a contest between the various service hours.  Whichever hour had the highest percentage of response was awarded a pancake breakfast before they served.  It was fun and light-hearted, but it also gave us a chance to connect and encourage them. We got a great response, though not quite as great as when we were giving out free baby-sitting. 🙂

Compare these responses to the survey I sent to my elementary volunteers this week.   I offered no bribe, mainly because I was out of money. 🙂  And I’ve gotten about 15 responses total.  That was ok – I wanted a general feel for what was going on.  In the other surveys, I wanted more of an in-depth analysis.  You get what you put into it, but you have to balance because you can’t over-bribe for every single thing.

You can see our volunteer survey here (but please don’t fill it out).

You can see our parent survey here (but please don’t fill it out).

What do you do to get feedback from your people?  What have you found that works?