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!

5 Things Every Ministry Leader Should Be Doing With Their Family

Family

This week I got an email from a fellow Kids Pastor.  It said, How hard do you push your children? On those days when someone from the church has been extremely rude, or when a party took place on a Saturday night and Sunday morning my kids show up and have to clean before worship service can even begin, or when they are just plain TIRED. Everyone gets frustrated from time to time because we are dealing with humans.  How do I, as a mother, know when I’m pushing them too hard.  The LAST thing I want is for them to look back one day and resent the time and energy that the Children’s Ministry takes.”

I totally understand the difficulty of this delicate balance.  My wife and both of my kids (12 and 14) are VERY involved in our Kids Ministry.  They LOVE it!  But, I don’t ever want to take that for granted.  I want to be proactively working to preserve that spirit and excitement for God, the church, and the ministry.  Here are 5 things I do to help make that happen.  Perhaps you can apply these to your family situation…

1)  Always talk positively about the church, the leadership, and the ministry.

I don’t mean wear rose-colored glasses and act like there are never any challenges.  I think if you act like nothing is ever wrong or difficult, then your kids are not fooled and they start to see you as “fake.”  Acknowledge the difficulties (cleaning up after a party when you didn’t plan on it, having to get up early to set up, etc.), but remind them that God has called your family to do an incredible task – lead kids to Christ.  Remind them what a privilege it is – and always make sure your tone and verbage communicate that YOU count it as a privilege.

2)  Guard them from “church drama.”

I know too many pastors and church leaders that come home speaking negatively and “dissing” the pastor and other leadership when there is a disagreement at church.  They do this to their spouse and in front of their kids.  Listen – your kids pick up on that.  When they see you hurting because of what church leaders or other pastors have done and said, it clouds their emotions and it is difficult for them to let go.  Don’t bring your “offense” home to your family.  They may end up carrying that bitterness LONG after you have already “made up” with the person you were feuding with.  Most of the time you don’t go back and tell your kids about the restoration of that relationship.  They are left feeling the effects of the bitterness that you ended up seeding in them (however unwittingly).

3)  Treat your kids just like everyone else.

 Although obviously they have to get up earlier than most and also tag along with me at times – other than that, I treat my kids just like any other worker on my team.  I expect the same out of them (not more, not less) than anyone else on the team.  I NEVER say to them, “You are my kid, so I expect you to do more than the rest of the team.”  Instead, I say, “Remember, you are a leader on this team – others are watching your example.  Let’s set the best example possible and lead people in the right direction.”  When you apply additional pressure to them simply because they are your kid, they will soon begin to resent the reason for that pressure.

4)  Pray as a family – for your pastor, your church, and the ministry.

It is very difficult to pray for someone or something regularly and be angry or discontented with them.  My family and I pray for my pastor and his family regularly.  We pray God’s blessings on him, the leadership, and the church as a whole.  This endears my pastor and the church to my kids.  Rather than driving them further from the church, it does the opposite.  There’s an old saying, “If you talk about someone to others, you will grow to hate them.  But, if you talk about someone to God, you grow to love them.”

5)  Serve with joy.

Let them see you smile as you pick up after the party from the night before.  Let them hear you rejoice about the opportunities to serve the Kids Ministry.  Talk about it as a FAMILY ministry.  Don’t let them feel like they are just “helping Mom” or “helping Dad.”  Instead, talk about the difference WE are making.  Include them in the joy that comes from serving God and His church.

It’s a blessing to have your family serving with you in the work of the ministry.  But, never leave the health of your family to chance.  Be PROACTIVE and PURPOSEFUL in planting the seeds of a healthy spirit of gratitude and love for God and the ministry.  It won’t happen by accident!

So, how about you?  What are some of the things YOU do to help your family stay healthy in their spirit and their attitude toward the ministry?  Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post!

How Do You Say “Goodbye” To Your Ministry Kids?

Pray-For-5th-Graders

“Don’t leave me!  You’re gonna be sad you’re not in Kids Ministry anymore.  You’re gonna miss me so much you will hate Student Ministry.  You’re gonna want to be back here!”  These are the words I once heard a Kidmin Leader tell the 5th graders who were promoting.  I don’t think he realized just how insecure this made him look.  It was all about him, not the kids.

We all go through it:   the bittersweet moment called “Promotion Day.”  All of the children you have poured your heart and soul into are now too old for Kids Ministry.  It is time for them to move on.  Promotion Day is a bittersweet moment for most Kidmin Leaders.  It is difficult to say, “Goodbye” to the children we love.  I have seen some Kids Pastors and leaders handle Promotion Day pretty poorly.  They turn it into a “cry fest” and begin to mourn the loss of those who are “moving up”, and the entire process becomes a sad event.

Instead, we need to make the transition from Elementary Ministry into Student Ministry a positive and exciting experience for our kids.  This past Sunday, we said, “Goodbye” to 85+ 5th graders that were promoting.  We sent them out like missionaries to the mission field of Middle School.  We brought them to the front, lay hands on them, and prayed a commissioning prayer over them.

I told each of them, “I can’t wait to hear what incredible things you will do for God in Student Ministry!  Don’t wait until you are one of the oldest in the group to be an example.  Instead, from day one, be a leader in worship, prayer, energy, and passion for God!”  It was an incredible experience!

How about you?  How do you handle the “last service” for your graduating kids?  Is it a sad experience?  Or is it an incredible, moving experience that launches kids into Student Ministry?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.

5 Keys To Remember When A Child Has A SERIOUS Prayer Request

Child-Pray-For-Me---blog

“Pastor Sharon, will you pray for my Dad?  He just got arrested for doing something really bad to my sister.”

These words are devastating to any Kids Ministry Leader.  Sadly, in the society in which we live – these words have become much more common than any of us want to admit.  How you and your Kids Ministry volunteers handle situations like this could be absolutely KEY to the long-term spiritual, physical, and emotional health of the child involved.

This past week, I taught my Kids Ministry staff about communicating with kids one-on-one.  One of the questions I covered was:

“Pastor Brian, how do I handle it when a child requests prayer about a very serious issue – no food, abuse, bullying, divorce, moving?”

 Here are the 5 keys I taught my team:

  1. Discern the sensitivity level of the issue at hand.

The child obviously doesn’t mind sharing it, but it may be a very sensitive issue.  Your reaction will be different for “my parents are divorcing” or “we are moving” than it will be to “my brother has been touching me inappropriately.”  If the situation warrants it, try to stop the child from sharing too many details in front of the class.  Sensitively say, “Thank you for sharing that.  We will be praying.”  Then, you can ask the child for details when it is not in front of the class.

  1. Don’t freak out!

The kids will take their cue from your response.  Don’t raise the level of emotion in the room.  Your response should be calm and measured.  Simply thank them for the request, then YOU lead in prayer over the needs and mention their need in a very discreet way.  “Father, I pray for Johnny’s family situation…”

  1. Communicate to the Kids Pastor as soon as possible.

We can’t minister to a family in their time of need if we are not aware of the need.  Please e-mail us (if it is not urgent).  If it is urgent, please immediately come get the Kids Pastor.  NEVER assume we know about something.  Always better to over-communicate.

Please do not communicate to the parents directly on any sensitive issue unless approved.  Each situation is delicate and must be handled with care.  Allow the Kids Pastor to be the main ambassador of the church to the family.

  1. In the case of physical or sexual abuse, kindly and gently stop the child’s flow of information immediately.

Once you begin to receive details, you are likely to be called as a witness in court.  You don’t want that.  We don’t want that for you.  Allow the Kids Pastor to handle it so that everything can be done properly and sensitively.

  1. Continue to direct the child to the Kids Pastor.

In many cases, the child will want to continue coming back to you for prayer requests and updates.  Encourage the child not to share publicly.  Let them know you are praying for them and their family and that all future conversations about the issue should be with the Kids Pastor.

I ended my talk with them by encouraging them.  I told them, “It’s awesome that the children you serve feel comfortable to share painful details of their life with you.  That means you are connecting to them.  That means they sense your love and compassion for them.  Let’s be diligent in making sure that we always handle each situation with the care it deserves.”

How about you?  Have you found yourself in this situation before?  Have you taught your team how to handle it?  Do you have something that you feel should be added to this list?  SHARE with everyone in the COMMENTS section!  Let’s learn together!

Have You Prayed For Your Pastor Today?

pastor-stress

Last week I had the privilege of traveling with my Senior Pastor, Rod Loy, for a very important trip.  We were meeting with some of the leadership of our denomination to discuss the possibility of a VERY cool project that could make a major impact on Kids Ministry.  It was exciting!

During that quick, 24 hour trip, I was able to be a “fly on the wall” of sorts and get a glimpse into the kind of pressure my pastor faces on a daily basis.  While I drove, his phone rang almost nonstop.  In that short amount of time he had to handle phone calls and emails dealing with several people’s health crises, someone’s job loss, talked another pastor who he is coaching through a crisis in their church, and dealt with several emails from people who were personally attacking and criticizing him.

All the while, he never complained or showed any signs of frustration.  He graciously prayed with, counseled, and shared with each person – giving them individual attention and care.  It was amazing to see.  I wasn’t sure I could have handled it as well as he did.

I began to think, “If I hadn’t been right beside him, I wouldn’t have known this day was as tough as it was.  He never would have told me about it.  He never would have come crying or complaining to the staff about how tough things are.”  That convicted me.

Too often I am guilty of assuming that just because I don’t hear about the stresses and pressures my pastor is dealing with, then they must not be happening.  I assume things are fine and dandy, all the while he is battling tremendously in the spirit realm with all sorts of crises.  He needs a solid prayer covering DAILY!

I committed that day to step up my game and pray even more earnestly for my Pastor, my leader, my mentor.  He and his family are under constant attack of the enemy, and they need prayer to withstand these attacks.   I repented for not praying enough for him and committed to change that.

What about you?  Are you praying daily for your Senior Pastor and his family?  Are you praying earnestly for them, doing battle in the spirit realm?  God has placed you under his leadership.  It is your responsibility to cover your pastor and his family in prayer.  Let’s commit as Kids Ministry Leaders to pray DAILY for our pastors.  You’ll be glad you did!

“Developing A Heart Of Worship In Kids” pt. 1

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“We usually do sets of 3 songs, 2 fast and one slower.  We’d like to have extended worship occasionally but how best can we handle that when some of the kids are not mature enough spiritually for more than a few minutes of worship?”  submitted by Dorrie Champagne – Agawam, Massachusetts

Worship is an important part of the Christian life.  It is a time of devoted focus toward God, expressing our love to Him.  In order to develop a heart of worship in children who are new in the faith (or young in age), there are some practical steps you should take.

1)  Understand each child’s journey into worship

As Children’s Leader, we need to take the children on that Sunday’s journey to the place of worship.  Understand that every child is coming from different places into kids church.  This includes the personal atmosphere that each child brings in with them.  Some kids are coming out of Sunday School or small groups where they have heard a lesson, played games, done crafts, ate snacks.  Other kids are coming from a home where there is major stress, may have witnessed an argument that morning, didn’t have breakfast, had too much breakfast, didn’t get enough sleep, don’t feel well, etc.  Be sensitive to each child’s journey, and do your best to help them along the way.

2)  Teach regularly about worship.

Explain the reason for worship – “to show and express our love to God.”  As often as possible, teach on the meaning, the methods, and results of worship.  Why do we raise our hands?  Why do we close our eyes?  Is there a “perfect” way to worship.  We tell our kids “It is not so important HOW you worship, but it is important THAT you worship!”

3)  Make sure you and your leaders actively demonstrate worship.

When you are actively engaged in worship, the kids see this, and it sends a strong message to them that worship is important.  If you or your leaders are not actively engaged in worship, this sends the opposite message.

Kids will imitate what they see.  Actively engaging in worship for kids often starts here, but it needs to move to the arena of inner purpose.  Kids are great at reading the group acceptance of worship.  Many kids lift their hands and go through the motions only because that is the accepted thing to do.  Do not be blind to this social reason for worship.  Let it begin here, but help them move to making it personal.  It’s not about imitation and duplication.  It is about adoration.

MORE TO COME in pt. 2…