This week I had a Sunday School training with Karl Bastian, the Kidologist. The topic was discipline, and I was eager to learn. That’s one of the hardest things for me as a Sunday School teacher.
I walked out with a lot of great tips. Grace based tips. Which I love, because I’m a big fan of grace. All new ideas I’d never thought of, heard of, or tried before. I’m eager to try this out.
But the thing that struck me the most wasn’t so much a tip as it was a perspective. Which was pretty much the perspective that framed all the tips.
You know those “good” kids? You know, the ones who bring you Christmas gifts and say please and thank you and never disrupt class? You probably aren’t going to make a difference in their life. Why? Because their lives are already on a good trajectory. They usually come from good homes, homes where parents are doing a wonderful job teaching them about faith and how to live like Jesus. If you weren’t in their lives, they’d probably still turn out to be wonderful Christians.
You know those “bad” kids? The ones who interrupt your class with fart noises and start chanting “no more rules!” (The latter actually happened to me last week.) The ones who make you want to use duct tape as a disciplinary measure or pull your hair out because you can’t? This is your greatest opportunity to make a difference in a kids’ life. Not by punishing them or yelling at them – not by striving to change their behavior. But by partnering with them and being their friend and helping them understand what it means to be a Christian. By helping shape their heart and showing them that Jesus loves them—when they probably feel like no adult loves them.
Karl accomplished his goal (at least for me): to make us want those kinds of kids more than we want the “good” kids. Because if I want to make a difference in a kid’s life, it’s not going to be in the angelic kid’s life. It’s going to be in the life of an unloveable 5th grade boy that I loved anyway.
By Ali Thompson
I asked Ali if I could re-post her blog post because she got it. If you want to hear the presentation I gave at LifeBridge Church last Sunday, you can listen to a similar presentation I did at a conference by downloading this MP3: Making Your Discipline Problems Disappear! (79 MB)
Just marveling how my “little boy” is growing up! I went back through my iPhoto and grabbed the first day of school pictures since Luke started pre-school and it’s fun to see him growing up:
Luke going to first day of preschool…
Luke going to first day of Pre-K:
Luke going to first day of Kindergarten:
Luke starting 1st grade this week:
On one hand – I am amazed at how BIG he is, it seems only yesterday I had my first Father’s Day with a little baby:
But on the other had, it hasn’t gone quickly. I know parents are always saying “the time flies” but it hasn’t seem to fly for me. I have been so enjoying each and every day and the unique aspects of Luke’s personality at each age, and what he can do, and what he is learning, that I feel like it’s been going at a pace that I’ve been truly enjoying.
I’m sure when I’m at his wedding, I’ll join the chorus of “how did it pass so quickly?” But for now, it’s going at a great pace. There are things I’m eager for him to be older and able to do with me, and there are things I miss about him being younger. So along the journey of fatherhood I am just enjoying each and every day and making time every day to enjoy him.
I had to hunt this down after one of the pictures was asked about on my Facebook page. I thought I’d go ahead and preserve it and share it for fun – though hesitantly, since I need you to know, it was in HUMOR, and I myself have been “cured” of my Mountain Dew addiction since 2009. (My name is Karl Bastian and I am a Dewoholic! But I’ve been sober for five years!)
Also, please know, I never actually gave my sweet baby any Mountain Dew! But I did find it funny that a baby bottle nipple fit perfectly over the top of a soda can, and had fun freaking people out with that fact!
HOW TO RAISE A DEW BABY:
(Click to view full size.)
Here is one of my favorites. Luke sleeping with the Lion and the Lamb. (A gift from his Aunt Barbara.)
This little baby started first grade today, hard to believe it:
As mentioned on my podcast this week, my son and I spend a great deal of time each day playing Angry Birds… but not on an iPhone or iPad… but with real birds and pigs and blocks, and I might mention they are Star Wars themed too!
We take turns building towers and placing our pigs, and then trying to knock them down with the birds via the little sling shots.
There is a bit of strategy to how we build, but for the most part you are building something you know is going to be destroyed.
So while we may spend a great deal of care and creativity building, we can’t get too attached to our masterpieces knowing the whole point of the building, was to knock them down! We have to remember the real joy isn’t in the building, it is in the playing together. In fact, the whole point of the game isn’t what we build or even the shooting of birds to knock it down – it is Daddy-Son time. At the end, when the floor is a mess, it is a sign that we had a great time.
It’s kinda like kidmin. It reminds me of the effort and energy we put into building our ministries and how frustrated we can get when people mess with what we are trying to build, or when we watch what we’ve built be torn down by others or messed up, or become ruins after we leave a ministry. We must never forget – it was never about the building in the first place! It was never about creating great programs or even running great programs… It was simply about the relationships at the time, the kids, the volunteers and the parents.
So when you see things get knocked over, or find yourself needing to build all over again. Smile.
And remember, it’s all about the people and the relationships. The building is just what keeps us busy and brings everyone together.
So I was sitting at Burger King writing while my son was enjoying a kid’s meal and playing in the play area. He was delighted because his meal came with a cool Monster Truck! After a while, he noticed that there were two more Monster Trucks under the play area that had apparently rolled there. We discussed how some poor kids apparently lost their toys and probably left in tears. Luke said he wished we could retrieve them, but they were impossible to reach. One of them was extremely far away, and the other had broken into the two pieces it originally came in, wheel base and top shell. The space under the play area was locked and only accessible by an employee.
I said to him,“They are only impossible to get if you lack the will to accept the challenge and the ability to use the resources at your disposal.”
I replied,“Do you know what a challenge is? It’s when you decide to attempt something that appears impossible, using what you already have. Let see what we have available to us and try to get those Monster Trucks! The worst that can happen is that we’ll fail.”
Luke said, “Those kids’ dads failed; they left them here.”
I answered, “I bet they didn’t even try.” (Do you see the Life Principle here?)
Our first tool was a foldable “Wet Floor” sign that enabled us to get the top half of one car out, but that by itself was pretty useless. I knew we needed to get more creative to reach farther under the play area where the trucks had rolled. I asked Luke what we’d need if we could have anything we wanted – if we had unlimited resources. He said a stick would be perfect. So I said, “Great idea! Then let’s make a stick! I’ll be right back!”
I returned with a hand full of straws. We constructed a stick out of straws, and then from two different locations, with quite a bit of work, we were able to fish for the bottom half of the first car and then the entire second car.
We ended up with quite an audience of cheering kids and curious moms as we worked the trucks toward Luke’s eager fingers!
Finally, the quest was over. What had seemed impossible resulted in Luke having not one, not two, but THREE cool Monster Trucks to take home! But he also went home with an important lesson: When you accept a challenge and put your mind to something, using what you already have, you can do the impossible when others give up and leave good things behind. Even if we had failed in our quest, we would still have succeeded in trying! Life is all about attempting the impossible, and the worst that can happen is that you might fail. I want my son to know that trying and failing is better than not trying at all.
I want him to know that he can REACH FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE and that failure IS an option.
When he sees something he wants, I want him to go for it, using what he already has, instead of walking away making excuses because he thinks something is out of reach. If I have learned anything in life, it is that nothing is out of reach if you are willing to stretch creatively and reach for it.
And if you are willing to link a bunch of straws together!
You hear a lot about “child security” in kidmin today… but I’d like you to consider “parent security” for a moment. What do I mean by parent security?
Keeping parents safe?
Accounting for every parent?
Returning parents to the proper child?
Protecting parents from harm?
None of the above, actually. When I say “parent security,” I am referring to that feeling parents want to have that their child is secure. Children are rarely out of their parents care. When they are – there are certain conditions that must exist for a parent to feel secure that their child is not only safe, but that their child feels as secure as when they are with their parents.
There is a progression to parents extending care for children. Early care takers are usually family, then very close friends. Next come professionals within secure facilities. As children get older, parents must necessarily lower their standards as to who can care for their kids, or they will never get time away from their kids. They also realize their children need to grow socially independent as well. However, there is a fear that as this circle of care grows, security drops. Once strangers, non-professionals or volunteers begin to care for their children, especially in unfamiliar settings, such as a church, it can feel to parents as though they need to let go of their feeling of security in order to enjoy time away from their kids or for their kids to grow socially.
As a church leader, you need to be aware of this inner conflict that some parents are wrestling with, especially when they are new or visiting the church. It is a stronger struggle if they are new to attending church in the first place, not only are the people strangers, but they are a strange type of people… religious people!
How can a church help to increase a parents sense of security, or put another way, increase their church’s “parent security?” The answer is often to provide not only provide better child security – but along with that, is to improve parent communication of what child security policies and procedures are already in place.
Here are some steps you can take to increase your “Parent Security” at your church:
Use KidCheck for secure child check in.Or another such system that lets parents know kids can’t just come and go. You know who is there and account for every child. You will only check their child out to the person who checked them in. Let parents know they will be texted if they are needed by their child for any reason.*
Post That Your Volunteers are Trained and Screened. Let parents know that you do not let just ‘anyone’ work with their child. Right at the drop off location, post that all your staff are trained and screened workers so they have peace of mind about who is working with their children.
Have clearly posted ‘never alone’ and bathroom policies parents can see. Put to rest any unspoken questions your parents may have about any potential opportunities for abuse by assuring them no such opportunities are even possible in your programs due to proactive polices and enforcement you have in place.
Clearly identify who is staff. Use name tags, lanyards, t-shirts or somehow clearly identify staff for parents so there is no confusion over who is working with their children and who are visitors/parents and keep non-staff out of classrooms and children’s restrooms. This will greatly increase parent security.
Keep classrooms and areas where children are open and visible. Keep doors open, or install windows in doors if you need to close them for sound containment. When you have an open and visible environment where children and staff can always be observed parents feel much more secure to leave their children behind.
When you put effort into keeping kids safe and secure, you increase your “Parent Security” as well. I would highly recommend you take a look at KidCheck. They offer the fastest, easiest check-in system on the market, and are constantly innovating to make it better. If you are used to systems that create a lot of data entry work, you will find KidCheck refreshing, as it has parents do most of the entering and maintaining of family data. And unlike many complicated systems, it is user-friendly and affordable. As an added bonus, Kidology.org members get a discount we have arranged, so that makes it even easier to increase your “Parent Security” at your church.
Followers of my blog know I’m a Star Wars fan. People often laugh when they hear me say to my son in a deep voice, “Luke, I am your father.” He laughs, even though he doesn’t get the significance of the quote. Since he is only six, he hasn’t even sat through all the movies, though we have watched segments and he loves the original Clone Wars cartoons I have on my iPad before the freaky looking version came out that looks like a video game gone bad. (I’m not a fan of the current Clone Wars show – yuck!)
Tonight, Luke had trouble sleeping so he was lying on the couch down in my office while I worked and looking at all the items in my Star Wars ‘museum’ – and noticed I have a lot of Darth Vader figures and collectibles and asked, “Why do you like Darth Vader so much, when he is a bad guy?” Good question. I answered, “Luke, Darth Vader is the reason I love Star Wars so much – because Star Wars is a story of a bad guy who was saved because of the love of a son, a son named Luke.”
My Luke sat up. “Wait, you mean, THAT’s Luke’s father?” – and so the conversation began. It wasn’t that he didn’t know I’d always been immitating Darth Vader – but it kinda hit him that the bad guy was the good guy’s dad. I explained that Luke was separated from his dad when he was little, and he was told that Darth Vader killed his dad, so he hated Darth Vader. I went through a quick summary whole first movie, saving the princess and all, and how he watched as Darth Vader then killed his mentor Obiwon, and that made Luke hate him even more. And how in the next movie Yoda was training him to become a Jedi so he could fight Darth Vader but when his enemy captured his friends he ran off to save them, and battled him and it was only then that Darth Vader told him this incredible truth – that he didn’t kill Luke’s dad, he WAS Luke’s dad. My son was spell bound. We talked about how all of America was talking about this revelation when in happened in 1980. (Not until The Sixth Sense did a movie have such a great surprise, and this was still bigger.)
But then we talked about how Luke had every reason to despise or hate his father, but instead he chose to love him and feel pity for him. He even told his dad so. Even when his dad stopped believing in himself – “It is too late for me, son” – Luke never gave up on him! Luke even gave himself up in the third movie and let himself be captured to go and face Darth Vader and his even more evil boss, the Emperor! (Now Luke was on the edge of the couch.) There, the Emperor told him of the trap that would kill all his friends and that Luke would have to join the evil side, like his dad, or be destroyed. The Emperor wanted Luke to kill his own father. But Luke refused. He loved his dad, even though he had done so much bad. He refused to fight him – only defending himself as his father attacked him under the Emperors orders. But then Darth Vader got Luke angry. He told Luke if he didn’t turn to evil, he would go after Luke’s sister, and that got Luke upset and then Luke attacked Darth Vader to save his sister – he defeated Darth Vader and even cut off his hand to make his light saber fall away! Darth Vader was defenseless! Now Luke could have killed him if he wanted. Did Luke do it? No. He was good. The Emperor ordered him to kill his father and take his place – but Luke did the most amazing thing, he threw down his light saber and said, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” He spoke of his father like he was good. He spoke of the time when his father was a good Jedi, of the time when his father would have died to do the right thing, and chose now to die doing the right thing, as his father would have done long ago. He wanted his dad to see that he had raised a good son, willing to die for good, even though he himself had failed, he had succeeded in having a good son, a son willing to die for him.
I asked my son, “Would you die for an evil man?” My Luke said, “No way. I might die for a good person, but not for a bad guy.” And I said, “That is the whole point! The Bible says that a man might die for a good person, but no one would die for a bad person, but here Luke is willing to die for his father who is one of the worst men in the galaxy, the second in the command of the evil galactic Empire – out of love for him. And Darth Vader is seeing this display of love, and what do you think is going through his mind as he lays there thinking, he could have killed me, and I deserve it, because I was trying to kill him! And now he is going to die so that I can live?”
My Luke says, “He must feel very loved.” I said, “I bet he does.” The drama only intensifies from there. The evil Emperor comes down, and says, “So be it. Jedi.” (Said with condescending disgust.) “Only now, at the end, do you understand. If you will not turn to the dark side, then you will be destroyed.” It was, in truth, the Emperor, who was not understanding that a plan of Redemption was unfolding right before his very eyes. This master of evil was unable to see the conflict boiling up within his apprentice, Vader, whose murder he had just ordered – a plot that had been foiled by love. The Emperor bellows to Luke, “Your feeble skills are no match for the Power of the Dark Side!” When in truth, this act of sacrificial love by this young Jedi would prove more powerful than all this powerful master’s evil schemes!
And then the Emperor begins to electrocute him with that powerful blue lightening from his fingertips. Darth Vader rises and keeps looking back and forth between his son who is suffering in agony and this evil leader who is killing him realizing he has a choice to make. Save his son or stay with this evil Emperor, who would have had his son kill him. I’ve always wondered if this was when Darth Vader woke up and realized he would be replaced as soon as his leader found a stronger Number Two, despite Vader’s fierce loyalty.
The Emperor pauses, only for a moment, to say, “And now, young Skywalker, you will die.” During the final burst of lightening, Darth Vader looks back and forth a few more times, as if to antagonize the suffering audience some more, before making his choice. Finally breaking from his frozen state of inaction, he bursts into motion, lifts up the Emperor and tosses him over a railing and down into a reactor shaft where falls, wailing as he plummets, until finally, he dies.
Not only is Luke saved, but Darth Vader as well. When Luke says, “I must save you,” Darth Vader answers, “You already have.” Vader does not physically survive the ordeal, perhaps due to his battle with Luke or the lightening when he lifted the Emperor, but his redemption comes from his choice to save his son and turn back to the good side, and the evidence in the world of Star Wars, is his being seen with Obiwon and Yoda at the end of the film in their ghostly jedi forms from the after life. Indeed, the faith and love of a son, brought salvation to a man everyone else thought was unreachable.
I’m not really a science fiction fan – I enjoy other science fiction films, but the reason I love Star Wars is primarly the story of the Redemption of Darth Vader. There is a lot more to it than I even have gotten in to in this post. (Note that fact that Darth Vader could sense Luke’s presence on the Moon of Endor and the Emperor could not! The Emperor asked, “How do you know he is there?” Vader answers, “I sensed his presence.” – “Strange that I could not,” responds the Emperor. Not strange at all, he didn’t love Luke!)
My Luke and I ended up putting in the DVD to watch the end of the film – and then looking up Romans 5:6-8 and John 15:13
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I may pretend to have Jedi powers when I open automatic doors at the grocery store or open the garage door, but the truth is I am powerless. And I’m not a righteous person. I’m not even a good person. But God’s demonstrated his love toward me by having his Son lay down his life for me. He could have killed me for my sin – I deserve it as much as Darth Vader, for disobeying God. There is no one righteous enough to merit salvation. The real evil Emperor, Satan, has invited me to rule my own life at his side – but Jesus defeated him on the cross, dying in the process, for me.
Star Wars teaches us that there is NO ONE beyond hope. There is good in everyone – and we ought never give up hope on anyone. Love can conquer anything and anyone and that evil will ultimately be defeated by the Power of Love.
How do you help kids develop an “Attitude of Gratitude?” Every holiday seems to get derailed with the wrong focus. Christmas is about getting presents and Easter is about candy – and Thanksgiving can end up being about FOOD!
MANY many years ago I wanted to develop a game for my students at church that would help them focus on being thankful, but in a fun and engaging way. I also had the issue of it being a low attendance Sunday with families traveling and as a result I often was short on volunteers. What to do?
I ended up creating a large group game that became so HUGELY POPULAR it became an annual tradition. The game has been available on Kidology.org for over ten years in my “home made” version – but we finally decided to create a “real” version worthy of the FUN that it creates and make it available for wider use!
If you have ever played Parker Brother’s classic card game of PIT – you will already know the basic rules – and get a mental image of how fun the game is. But instead of just a few players yelling out, “One! One!” or “Three! Three!” around a card table – picture a room filled with 100 kids milling around all calling out, “Two! Two! Two!” or “Four! Four!” or “Oh, no! I got a Gimmie!”
For you see, instead of collecting commodities, the kids are collecting things they are thankful for! And instead of inserting a “Bear” or “Bull” card there are some “Gimmie! Gimmie!” cards that must be avoided at all costs. Once kids have collected a set of one item they are thankful for, they sit down. The goal is to not be the last kids left stuck with the “Gimmie! Gimmie!”s.
In the end, everyone is a winner – and the chaos turns to a short but fun lesson on how important it is to be thankful for what we have, and to avoid the “Gimmie Gimmies” – that attitude of focusing on what we can GET instead of what we can GIVE (or already have.)
If you are looking for an easy and FUN activity for this month in Kids Church or even with your family – check out Kidology’s new downloadable game, “GIMMIE GIMMIE!” It comes in full color or grey scale and includes customizable playing cards so you can modify the game as you wish! Full game instructions included.
And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Children are free from so much.
Unlike adults, their default is play not work, imagination not reality, exploration not explanation, curiosity not cautiousness, and best of all they worry about nothing other than their immediate needs and loved ones.
No thoughts are weighed down by the future or world affairs.
They can swing for an hour with no thought to the things still undone on a task list.
They accept complete dependance on those who care for them without question.
Perhaps these are a few of the reasons Jesus asked us to come to Him as children.
Luke’s day now consists mostly of watching these men work, and then going and mimicking their work in his own giant sandbox.
At lunch today be informed us, “It’s O.K. To go to lunch, my workers are at lunch right now too. I have ten workers, you know.” He’s the foreman of his backyard construction site and gives us daily reports at dinner of his workers progress each day, in creative detail.
You can only imagine his sheer excitement when a huge truck arrived today and dropped off two massive piles of rocks next to our house!
He loves imagining the house that will be built upon this foundation.
“The house will be up here, Dad!”
As I watch this boy of mine, I too wonder… What will HE hold up one day? What will be built upon his life? Some of his accomplishments and how God uses him, I will get to see, much may be after I’m gone. Such is parenting some times. My mom left to meet Jesus about the time Kidology started, but it was built upon the foundation she built into me. Kidology is as much her accomplishment as it will be mine – for I am the result of her tireless teaching and training (and patience!) as a young boy who showed giftedness and passion (mixed with hyper activity!) for kids ministry. As did my dad, who is still an active encourager and adviser.
As much as my boy loves watching this house going up and building imaginary houses in his sandbox, I love the job of building a boy. It is hard, and it is fun. It takes intentionality and spontaneity. It takes love and creativity. My legacy will not be a website or a church or a book or a curriculum – it will be this boy, so I am devoted to building him, daily.
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey