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Today, I want to share a thought that I got via e-mail from a friend of mine – a CP in Florida who is an “off the charts” super kids pastor. Not because she is well known, or runs a huge ministry, or for any of the reasons we tend to look for in the “Kidmin Who’s Who’s” – but because she has a HUGE heart for kids and Jesus. I talked about Shelly in the Kidmin Podcast, “It’s All About Jesus!” I love her personal motto, which comes in handy quite a bit in kids ministry. When things don’t always go as planned, you’ll hear Shelly say, “It’s All Good.” She even has it up on the wall of her office as a constant reminder, when God is in control, and you are trusting Him, “It’s All Good!”
“It’s All Good!”
I want to share something that God whispered to me the last two minutes before I walked out the doors of a conference our staff recently attended.
I was in the bathroom… the conference was over and I had dashed back in before we hit the road home. As I was washing my hands, I noticed a piece of paper towel on the floor. After I dried my hands I bent over, grabbed that paper towel and threw it in the waste can. As I was throwing it in, I was smiling as I was hearing the words, “leave it better than you found it.” (This is a saying I have carried with me my whole life.) As I was smiling God whispered to me, “That is what you do with the children each week.” And I stopped cold. I was the only one in the bathroom and I was so happy about that because I got to relish the moment and soak in it.
It’s true. Let me explain.
Do you remember our philosophy of ministry from wayyyyy back when you first read the CM Manual? Our Children’s Ministry ministry is W.I.L.D.E. about kids! When they are with us our goal is the following:
That we ARE:
- Worshiping with Joy (Reaching Up.. we teach this and model this with them)
- Intentionally seeking God’s Truth (Reaching In. discipleship. Teaching the Word)
- Loving kids and leaders right where they’re at (Grace. All the way around. Patience. Compassion)
- Developing and Deepening our relationship with Jesus and others (Reaching In. Discipleship. Fellowship)
- Exploring new and fun ways to tell about our Faith (Reaching Out. teaching kids to share their Hope! (Keeping the Good News fresh for the kids.)
When we do the above, we are leaving the Kids “better than we found them,” or “better than when they walked through our doors.” Every time you are a part of loving them, teaching them, guiding them, speaking and correcting with LOVE, modeling grace and patience… you are “leaving their hearts better” than when they walked in. You are nourishing their souls. They don’t know it, but we do! No matter your role in CM, you are a part of this beautiful impartation!
Someone asked me this week what my vision is for children’s ministry. That is such a complicated question! But the bottom line, as God whispered to me, is that we, as a team, bound together with one vision from God, is to “leave them better than we found them,” filled with TRUTH… and as they look back with us, they will remember there is a place of safety and of love and that place is Jesus.
I will leave you with one more thought…..
If you are tired, find time to get alone with Jesus. This should be a priority for us, not an afterthought or the last thing on our list of a busy day. It is so life giving! I love this line from a new song I learned, “There’s a calm that covers me when I kneel down at your feet. It’s a place of freedom, It ‘s a place where I find healing.” (Highlands Worship)
Leave Em Better!
Me and Shelly from “way back” when I first met her at a CPC.
I think that’s some pretty good advice that we all can take to heart and think about this coming Sunday. Thanks, Shelly, for all your encouragement over the years and for loving Jesus and Kids so much, it’s contagious!
One of my favorite iPad Apps for passing idle time (like on the airplane right now) is CardTower. I get to build a “real” house of cards with playing cards, and it is amazingly realistic for being on an iPad (plus its free!)
I can grab either two cards from the top of the pile to form a triangle or just one to drop a flat one, but the physics are amazing! The best thing is that there are unlimited ‘undos,’ which I really need. I try to be disciplined and only do one redo, but I watch the entire thing collaspe, and then just undo the last card I placed. Or… I go back to a time when it was sturder and build from there. But don’t be fooled, that doesn’t make the game easy. It still took me a while to build this six level tower.
One Hint: See my little stack on the lower right side? If you want to make minor adjustments to slipping cards or even nudge in a flat card in the middle, grab a solo card from the top, use it to make adjustments, like you would with your hand in real life, and then just drop it on the table.
Pretty cool picture huh? The App has a feature that lets you take pictures of your progress and save to your Pictures on the iPad.
Well, I have a little confession to make. That pic was snapped nano-seconds before the whole house came crashing down! No matter how many redos I did, I could not get that final 6th level to stay. While it was fun to watch all the various ways it collapsed, it was a lot of hard work to get to that 6th level. I finally had to accept that my work on the lower levels had made a 6th level impossible. As hard as I worked, I had to accept that I would never get a perfect card castle. I would have to settle for a nice picture to show, and get back to work. My only choice was a ton of undos and reworking. I may never have a solid card castle that stands all on its own, and when (if) I do, it probably won’t be that pretty, like the ideal I have in my head.
No matter how hard I try to build this ‘perfect’ castle, it always ends up crashing down! Undos and start-overs are constant.
It reminded me a lot of Children’s Ministry.
We can print some pretty nice brochures for the Visitor’s Center and put up some great CM websites for prospective families to check out, but the reality is, we are constantly building, experiencing crashes, and redoing. Once in awhile we are able to snap a great picture to show the world. I’m not saying we are dishonest, just that those are the highlights. Those rare moments of feeling like we’ve really acheived something, when the rest of the time we are nudging and adjusting and just trying to keep the whole thing from coming crashing down.
I just want my kidmin friends out there to know, I see your perfect looking pictures and websites and brochures, and I celebrate those moments with you. But I also know that feeling of hoping no breeze will come along that might knock it all down. Breezes like volunteers quitting, pastors adding more levels your foundation can’t support, card (budget) cuts, dropped cards (balls) – and the list goes on and on.
I’m praying for you. My house is in constant repair and a little shaky too, as I seek to help build the Kingdom.
But it’s fun at the same time. Keep on keeping on!
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #22: Tennis Balls
OK, this post isn’t really about tennis balls, it’s about my grammy, but I knew that title might generate some curiosity and therefore some clicks!
I am Thankful for My Grammy! (and Tennis Balls… keep reading!)
I do not mean to elevate any relative above any other… I am thankful for ALL my relatives, and love them all differently and in different ways. But my Grammy B will always hold an extra special place in my heart. One of those reasons she and I kept secret. It wasn’t until after she passed away, that I finally let the secret out. In fact, at her grave side service, they let the children draw on her casket, and I drew a tennis ball on her casket with the words, “I win.” Relatives looked at me a little confused (and perhaps slightly shocked!) Here is why.
One of my “Kidologist Secrets” of relating to kids is to have fun games or “inside jokes” with the kids who I love. It makes them feel special – and let’s them know they are more than just another kid to me. They are unique. They are one of my favorites. I’ve always had a running joke that I was my Grammy’s favorite of her nine grandchildren. Of course, I assumed every grandchild believed that! But it was a theory I loved to humorously defend. In fact, at my grammy’s wake, in one of the photo albums featuring full sized photos of her grandkids, when I discovered I was on page one, I proudly declared, “See!? I was her favorite!” and was greeted with groans and rolled eyes.
Imagine my surprise when during the memorial service my father read a note written by my Grammy where she wrote,
“To set the matter straight as to my favorite grandchild, not withstanding Karl’s claims to whit – I loved all my grandchildren the same.”
Everybody laughed. I had no idea my claimed to favoritehood had gained Grammy’s attention to the point she decided to set the record the straight in her service! It was all in good spirit, and the teasing I got afterward was well deserved!
But there was a reason I felt extra special I can now reveal that I shared during the service that began some thirty years ago, and that applied to children’s ministry and what I mentioned as I began… the power of secret game that makes a child feel extra special, even for thirty years!
When I was ten years old I saved up my money and bought my own ticket to fly from California to Indiana to spend a summer living with my grand parents. (I did this several times actually.) During the first visit they set up a room for me in the basement that became my home-away-from-home. And I loved these stays with Grammy and Grandpa!
I went to Cubs games with Grampa and learned to sew from Grammy. (That Garfield puppet was the beginnings of making puppet costumes, though Grampa didn’t really approve of that.) I went downtown Chicago on the train with Grammy often and in the evenings watched Columbo and played Rummy – a card game. However, one of my ways of entertaining myself was to toss tennis balls at the stairs in the basement like a pitch back and one time I left them on the stairs and later, Grammy gave me a very gentle scolding not to leave them on the stairs lest she step on one and fall down the stairs. But the next day, I accidentally left all four on tennis balls on the stairs again. Instead of just scolding me, she instead humorously reminded me by saying that she thought my tennis balls were out to get her as they looked like they were coming to get her, because they were higher up the stairs this time, each on a separate stair, and I’d better lock them up, because obviously, I couldn’t have left them there, since she told me yesterday to put them away after I played with them. I played along and said I had put them away and that they must be alive. (I said it in a way that she knew I wasn’t lying, I was playing along.)
The next day, to keep the joke going, after I played with the four tennis balls, I remembered the kind way she had reminded me, but instead of putting them away, I put them in the kitchen, at the top of the stairs, four in a row, across the kitchen, as though they were “alive” and heading toward her room. Instead of her making a joke about it, she simply moved them later, placing them four in row in the basement heading toward my room.
This began an unspoken joke, that lasted thirty years. All that summer, the tennis balls continued to be placed, when the other wasn’t around, four in row closer and closer to the others room, until they were in each other’s bed. Then in our clothes, and then finally just being hidden in places we were sure to find. When I finally flew home, I found the tennis balls packed in my luggage. Grammy assumed the game was over. Little did she know!
When I returned the next summer, the tennis balls returned with me! Any time I came to visit as a young college man, a tennis ball was hidden in her home. I once lived with her for a summer in college and the tennis ball war was resumed though we never spoke a word of it! When she came to visit me, as a young married man, soon after, I would find a tennis ball somewhere in my house. Even as she lived in different states around the country, and me too, the tennis ball war continued, often with years between the secret placement, though over the years, it had at some point gone from the original four to just one strategically placed tennis ball. Many times we simply had to just buy a new one. It didn’t matter. It was more about leaving a tennis ball behind. It was our way of saying, “I love you, you’re special.” It was Grammy’s way of saying to me, “You’re still that little playful boy to me, and you always will be.”
I’ll look at tennis balls and cry sometimes now and people will think I’m nuts. But you will understand. A silly yellow ball holds a lot of love for me. All because my Grammy decided to be playful with a child, and then just decided never to stop. And people wonder why I thought I was her favorite. I’m O.K. with all her grand kids thinking they were her favorite. They all were, in different ways.
The same can be true in your kids ministry. You can have favorites. EVERY kid can be convinced that they are your favorite. And they can all be right!
People ask me all the time what’s the secret to connecting with kids. Have you figured it out yet? YOU are the secret.
(Originally Posted this story in September 2010 as Hiding Tennis Balls)
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #9: Mercy and Grace
Mercy and Grace are two words that are often used inter-changeably, but while similar, are actually very different – but I’m thankful for both of them today.
I was recently somewhere where the guest preacher’s sermon was titled, “The Power of Mercy” but the entire message was on Grace. While it was a GREAT message on Grace, he kept using the word “Mercy” to describe “Grace,” – I wondered if he had gotten any formal training for the pastorate? He had shared that he had been a worship pastor and that the former senior pastor had appointed him to replace him, so perhaps he never went to seminary or had any biblical training. I’m not trying to be nick-picky, just pointing out that often these words are confused, even by senior pastors!
So what IS the difference?
I explain the difference, even to children in “kids church,” because I think the difference is important to understand, so that we use the words correctly. They are wonderful concepts to appreciate! (and to be THANKFUL for!)
MERCY – is NOT getting what you DO deserve.
GRACE – is GETTING what you DO NOT deserve.
Both of them, is a gift of God, but they come in a different direction. You can actually be given one and not the other, or both!
Before I relate it do salvation, let me relate it to our real world. Let’s suppose my son was going to go his friend Nathan’s birthday party on Saturday, but then he does something really disobedient and the discipline is usually a spanking and three days without outings, and the birthday party falls within those three days.
I have a choice as his father. I can show mercy, and choose not spank him, but just give him a talk. But he will still miss the birthday party on Saturday, as that is part of his discipline. But when Saturday morning rolls around, and I have seen the change in his attitude, and that he is truly sorry, I can say, “Son, I see that you are truly sorry for what you did, I am going to extend grace and let you go to the birthday party today.” Mercy was not getting a punishment, grace was getting something he didn’t deserve. Mercy is something withheld, Grace is something given.
When it comes to my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I too have sinned against Him, and he has done the same for me! I am guilty of being selfish, greedy, prideful, (and other things I care not to list on my blog!) but God in His mercy has chosen to withhold my punishment because of His Son, Jesus. Being a Just God, he can not let sin go unjustified, so it has been paid for, but I have accepted that payment by acknowledging my sin, and accepting that payment for myself – in exchange for that acknowledgement and admittance, God extends Mercy, and my punishment is withheld! THAT IS MERCY!
But it doesn’t stop there! That would be enough! However, God goes even further! He THEN, because of His great love for me (and you too, by the way) decides to also extend Great Grace as well! It is simply amazing! That is why the Bible says so much about Grace! Mercy would be enough! I would settle for Mercy! To get out of my deserved punishment would suffice! But God says, I want to bless you also!
That is what Grace is – God then, after mercy, GIVES ME WHAT I DON’T DESERVE! A daily relationship with Him, forgiveness, peace, answers to prayer, and ultimately eternal life on a new earth (and heaven, but if you read Scripture carefully, we wont be floating around in heaven, we will be on the new earth folks!) It is just too incredible to to believe. Yet, it is!
So I am not just thankful for my salvation, I am thankful for BOTH Mercy AND Grace, they are two separate and different things!
I first of all, DIDN’T get what I DO deserve, and THEN I got what I DIDN’T deserve, and it is just so amazing and incredible!
It is why I marvel at God and serve Him every day.
Next entries »
How could my dad give MAGNIFIERS to my sisters?!?!
(Close to what my gift looked like)
It is one thing to talk about something in the abstract. Kids need real stories from real people they know. Have you ever had a bad attitude that cost you something? Too often we give the impression that we have always done everything right and it is only the children we teach who make mistakes. Telling our students real stories of times we have blown it can help encourage them in profound ways.
I remember a time when my dad came home with a gift for all three of his children. To each of my sisters he gave a gift of a different type of magnifying lens. I was in shock! Didn’t my dad know, it was I who collected magnifying glasses?!?!
My older sister got a magnifying sheet the size of a full page of paper! Then my younger sister was given a magnifying ruler. You could place it over what you were reading and as you moved it down the page the words would magically grow as it passed over them.
I was so jealous! How could my father DO this to me? Again, didn’t he understand that it was ME who collected magnifying lens, not my sisters?! They were girls, after all. They needed dolls or something of the sort. I was so caught up in my anger and jealousy and wanting what they had been given that when he handed me an old two inch long cylinder object that I didn’t recognize instead of asking what it was, I just threw it on the ground, breaking it, and yelling, “I don’t want this dumb thing, I want a magnifier!”
My dad simply left the room obviously disappointed in me. Later, after I calmed down enough to ask about the object I had cracked, he explained that what I had thrown down and broken in my anger was actually a very valuable and high powered magnifier he had found at an antique store. In his desire to bring a little treat for my sisters as well, he had stopped at the five and dime store bought them cheap magnifiers so he could have a gift for each of his children.
My impatience and disrespect cost me that precious treasure.
I have kept that broken lens to this day as a reminder that my Father knows me best and delights in giving me what my heart desires if I will just be patience and wait to hear His explanation.
This is from the Connect with Your Kids
component of the next DiscipleTown
unit I am current writing, How to Show Respect,
due out October 20th. I always include a section helping teachers connect their real lives to the lessons they teach, which I believe is critical to being an effective teacher. I enjoyed writing this, and thought you might enjoy this story too.