FREE Christmas Resources From OneHope

OneHope Christmas

Hey everybody!  Christmas is only one week away!  Can you believe it?  I know that many of you are working hard at putting the fine touches on your Christmas service this Sunday!  My friends at OneHope.net want to help you out by providing FREE resources for you.  Just go to http://onehope.net/feature/christmas-resources/ and check out what they have provided.  There is everything from coloring pages to parent resources.  Merry Christmas, everybody!

What Does God Think About Your Child?

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In each of the gospels, we find Jesus pouring himself into the lives of children.  Many times, the disciples and religious leaders tried to chase the kids away and pull Jesus back into “real” ministry.  But Jesus corrected them: “Let the children come to me, do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  Even when crowds of people gathered around Jesus to be touched and healed, He stopped to lay hands on children, hold them in His arms, and bless them.

We sing “Jesus Loves The Little Children” for a reason.  Throughout Scripture, it’s very clear that God values children much more than the adults do—especially the religious leaders, but also the disciples.  Jesus warned them, “If one of these little children believes in me, and someone causes that child to sin, it would be better for that person to have a large stone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea” (Mark 9:42).  Jesus was serious about protecting, loving, and nurturing children.

In the culture of first century Palestine, people considered children to be a nuisance, but Jesus recognized the value of each child.  He knows that there is more to children than just their playful nature and innocence.  Inside each one is the soul that’s precious to the Father.  When I speak to parents and other adults, I often challenge them with these words: “Whatever is important to God should be important to you.  Do your actions demonstrate that you believe children are important to God?”  I encourage adults to ask themselves:

— Is my schedule too full to take time to show love to a child?

— Am I too busy with “real” ministry to get involved in training children in God’s Word and ways?

— When I see a hurting child in the hallway, do I stop and put my arm around him or her, or do I just keep going?

It doesn’t take a “special calling” to demonstrate God’s love to a child.  If we’re truly Christ’s followers, His priorities become our priorities, and the things that break His heart break ours.  Children are important to God, and they should be important to each of us.

3 Things I Tell EVERY Volunteer

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Part of the process for joining our Kids Ministry team is a personal sit-down interview with me, the Kids Pastor.  I want to personally know every person who serves on our team – whether that is in an up-front or behind-the-scenes capacity.  During this interview, I always stress three important principles that I hope will guide their decisions while serving in ministry:

1)  Always Strive For Excellence

We try to live Colossians 3:23 on a daily basis:  “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.”  In every part of Kids Ministry, our goal is EXCELLENCE.  That means we arrive early, we give 110% energy during service, and we go above and beyond what would be “expected of us.”  When you have a lesson to teach, skit to perform, or song to sing – you are expected to practice and be well-prepared.  No “winging it!”  God deserves our best, and so do the children.

2)  Never forget:  “The little eyes are always watching.”

We have over 800 kids that attend our church regularly.  It’s impossible to go ANYWHERE in our city without running into one of them.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:6: “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  We have to be conscious of every word, action, reaction, and attitude we display whether we are at church, in the grocery story, or at the movies.  You never know when one of these kids’ eyes are on you.  You want to set the RIGHT example for them – whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This goes for Social Media posts as well.  I remind our leaders that the parents of the children in our church (and, sadly some of the kids themselves) are on Social Media.  I want my leaders to make sure that EVERY post reflects the character of Christ.  I ask them to refrain from “rants,” pictures, jokes, etc. that may seem to be the norm on Social Media.  As a leader of children, I want them to realize the impact that a seemingly “harmless” (yet inappropriate) post can cause.  I don’t want them to do anything that would damage their reputation, their leadership, or the Kingdom.

3)  Ministry Moments Can Happen At ANY Time

Don’t think that ministry can only happen in the Kids’ Ministry Service Time.  You never know when God will open a door for you to minister to a child.  You might see the child in the Party Zone sitting by themselves, and you can go over and talk to them and cheer them up.  You might see the child walking through the church halls and can tell they need encouragement.  You might even feel like God is leading you to send the child a card during the week to let them know you are praying for them.  There are MANY opportunities to make a difference in a child’s life.  Look for those ministry moments, both inside and outside the service.

I share these three things with EVERY person who serves in Kids Ministry.  How about you?  What are the principles that you hope will guide the decisions of your team as they minister to His children?  Please SHARE those in the comments section of this post!

Family Advent Project: “Christmas Prayer Chain”

Christmas Prayer Chain

Looking for a great and easy-to-do project for your family this Christmas?  My wife, Cherith, started this Christmas tradition in our family when my kids were just babies.  It has meant a lot to our family, and I hope you will find it meaningful as well.  I have had several requests to post this again, so here you go:

“CHRISTMAS PRAYER CHAIN”

What you need:

25 strips of construction paper (approx 2 inches wide and six inches long); a sharpie marker; glue

What to do:

1)  Prior to Dec. 1st, gather your kids together and take turns naming the name of someone the family will pray for (friends, family, pastors, teachers, and others)

2)  Write one name on each strip of construction paper, then glue each strip together end-to-end, linking each to make a long paper chain (see graphic above).

3)  Place the Christmas Prayer Chain on the mantle or on the Christmas Tree

4)  Starting Dec. 1st, gather the family together to remove one link of the chain and pray together for the person listed on that link.

5)  This is a wonderful way to countdown the days until Christmas and have meaningful family prayer time.

May you and your family enjoy your Christmas holiday!

How To Kill An Invisible Gorilla

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OK, now before the folks at PETA start picketing my blog – let me explain.

Ever heard the expression “monkey on my back”?  It refers to a problem or irritation that just won’t seem to go away.  A looming deadline, a staffing issue, a recurring problem.  These “monkeys” can be irritating.

However, I am not talking about those little “monkeys” in this blog.  Have you ever woke up with such heaviness, such a weight bearing down on you it’s like a 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  You know that you have something huge to face today – a huge interview, a confrontational conversation, a major report or writing project.  It is such a BIG DEAL that you almost have to give yourself a pep talk just to get out of bed and face the day.

Those “invisible gorillas” can steal your joy, distract your thinking, and zap your motivation.  The obvious answer to kill this gorilla is prayer.  When I hit my knees and “cast my cares upon Him” (Psalm 55:22), I feel that load lift.  God will take the weight of that “invisible gorilla” and replace it with His comfort and peace.  After all, Jesus promised us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Another secret weapon I have for killing those “invisible gorillas” is music.  There’s something liberating and joyous about music that gets me fired up.  I have one song in particular that has been a “gorilla killer” for many years.  It is Donnie McClurkin’s “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” (click on the link to find it i-Tunes).  Although I am definitely a ROCKER at heart, this black gospel song just gets me revved up – and the invisible gorilla just disappears as I remember that God is in control!!!

What about you?  What do you do to kill the invisible 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  What song do you play that just instantly changes the mood and gets you motivated to slay the gorilla?  Share your comments below.

The Most Rewarding Ministry Program I Have Ever Started

CIA 2001

I was looking through some old photos this weekend and came across the picture above.  It’s a shot from thirteen years ago that features our 2001 C.I.A. team.  C.I.A. stands for “Christians In Action.”  C.I.A. is our Summer Discipleship/Leadership Program for 4th & 5th graders.  As I looked at it, I realized that two of the eight members of that team are on our Pastoral Staff here at First NLR.

C.I.A. has been one of the most effective programs I have ever started in my 23 years of Kids Ministry!  We just celebrated our 15th graduating class.  The graduates of CIA go on to be some of the TOP leaders in the Youth Ministry. In fact, we have THREE pastors on our staff currently who are graduates of our CIA program.  We also just launched a full-time Missionary to East Africa who was a graduate of our very FIRST C.I.A. class at my current church.

“So, what does the C.I.A. program consist of?”  It’s a hand-chosen team of 4th & 5th graders who have shown an aptitude for leadership.  There is a stringent application process.  They meet every Thursday for 6 weeks during the Summer.   They commit to spending time with God in prayer and Bible study EVERY DAY for the six weeks.  They fast something each week (candy, desserts, cokes, video games, secular music, etc.)  On the Thursday meeting days, they pray for one hour, study/memorize God’s Word for one hour (tested on 2 memorized scriptures per week), learn a leadership lesson from one of our pastoral staff, and then spend the afternoon doing “ministry projects.”  These projects vary from working with the homeless, stuffing the church bulletins, cleaning the church vehicles, visiting and praying with shut-ins and Nursing Homes, etc.

It is a powerful ministry experience and leadership training! It has been THE most strategic and beneficial ministry I have ever started in Children’s Ministry.

What about you?  Do you have a Discipleship Ministry like C.I.A.?  Are you raising up the next generation of leaders?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section!

The Unmistakable Benefits Of Longevity In Ministry

Brian 1999

Me and my daughter, Ashton, in my office at church circa April 2000

Today is October 31, 2014.  It was exactly 15 years ago that my wife, Cherith, and I came to Arkansas to be the Kids Pastors at First NLR.  What a ride it has been!  We have been blessed to serve under two incredible pastors, Dr. Alton Garrison (the first 18 months) and Rod Loy (the past 13.5 years).  To serve on such an incredible team (many of whom have been along for MOST of the ride as well) is more of a blessing than I could describe.

There’s something to be said about longevity in ministry – especially longevity in ONE place.  I am so thankful to have been able to remain in one place for this long.  Sadly, this is not the norm.

Probably all of us in ministry have heard the stats, and they are troubling.  The average Children/Youth Minister only stays at his current church for about 18 – 24 months.  Some studies have stated that it may be more like 3 years, and others I have seen say it’s more like 9-11 months.  But suffice it to say, the tenure of the average Children/Youth Minister is way too short.

When you move on too quickly, you miss out on the incredible benefits of longevity in ministry:

  • Improved Perspective – the longer you stay in one place, the greater perspective you have.  You know the history of the ministry – what worked and what didn’t work.  You know the struggles and victories of the people in your ministry.  You are able to minister from an increased awareness of their needs.
  • Deeper Relationships – it takes time to get “beyond the surface” in relationships.  The longer you stay, the more highs and lows you experience with people.  The longer you stay, the more they trust you to “stick it out” and be there for the long haul.  When they trust you, relationships go deeper.
  • Increased Wisdom – the longer you stay, the more mistakes you will make.  Hopefully, you will learn from those mistakes and grow.  Then, you will gain wisdom and not make those same mistakes again.  In addition, it seems that around the 6th or 7th year of being at a place, suddenly people begin to see you as smarter.  You may not be that much smarter, but their perception of you begins to become more of a wise mentor than a “new pastor on staff.”
  • Sharper Skills – many people claim to have “ten years of Children’s Ministry experience” when in actuality they have “2 years of Children’s Ministry experience in five different churches.”  Too many leave a church and move to the next one once they have run out of ideas.  Then, they move to the next church and put the same two years worth of ideas into that church – and so on.  When you commit to be at the same spot for the long haul, it FORCES you to develop your skills beyond your comfort zone.  Your communication skills, leadership skills, and relational skills are stretched when you choose to stay beyond the “itch” for something new.  Don’t go looking for that “something new” elsewhere, develop that “something new” right where you are!
  • Unparalleled Fulfillment - there is nothing that compares to being able to watch the children you minister to grow up and become strong leaders in the church.  I now have had the privilege to perform marriages of kids who grew up in my Kids Ministry.  My right-hand man, our other Kids Pastor here at First NLR, was a 3rd Grader when I came to the church.  In fact, three members of our Pastoral Staff were once kids in my Kids Ministry.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your ministry come full-circle.

Longevity in ministry may be rare, but I believe that is slowly changing.  As Kids Ministry Leaders begin to recognize the benefits of longevity, this will begin to become the norm instead of the exception.  I am so thankful to God that I have had the opportunity to serve First NLR for the past 15 years, and I pray that I have another 15 (or more) left in me!

What about you?  What are some benefits to longevity that I may have missed?

Take This Short Survey – Be Registered For $100 Gift Card

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I am working on a project that I hope will be a blessing to you!  I need your help, though.  I have a SHORT 3 Question survey for you.  If you take the time to take this survey, I will enter you into a drawing for a $100 Chick-Fil-A gift card (think of how many orders of waffle fries and nuggets you could get)!

Look for the results of the survey in an upcoming blog post!  CLICK HERE to take the short survey!

Also, check out the amazing deal I am offering on Only144.com ($1400+ worth of curriculum for only $97 – deal ends this Thursday)

Why Friday, October 17 Is So Important If You Serve in Children’s Ministry

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Mark your calendar for Friday, October 17 at 12:00 p.m. (Noon, Eastern time)

Okay, so this is big news.  I’ve been waiting to share this for over six months now, and the time has finally arrived.  As most of you know, I am the founder of High Voltage Kids Ministry Resources.  This Friday, we are launching the biggest deal in the history of Children’s Ministry curriculum on www.only144.com.  It’s going to be amazing.  You can read more about the deal by clicking here.

Only144 Deal2

In a nutshell, it’s $97 for $1,454+ worth of Children’s Ministry Curriculum from High Voltage Kids Ministry.  That’s 97 lessons for $97…that is unheard of and has never happened before in the history of Children’s Ministry.  We’re only offering this one time for 144 hours.  When it’s over, it’s over forever.  So many churches are on limited budgets, that we wanted to make this something that will bless everyone serving in Children’s Ministry on a limited budget.  Plus, there’s big prizes for the first 100 people who order.  Like a $1,000 gift card from Children’s Ministry Deals for the first person who orders and $100 gift cards from Children’s Ministry Deals for the first 100 people who order.  That’s why Friday, October 17, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. (Noon, Eastern time) is so important if you serve in Children’s Ministry.  Do not miss this.  You will kick yourself if you do.

Do me a favor, and share this blog post with anyone you know who serves in Children’s Ministry.  I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday, October 17!