Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Encouraging words

You walk into the church on a Sunday morning and find that you've forgotten the prop you needed for your object lesson.  You quickly go to your plan B which is a craft to reinforce the lesson instead.  Then, when you go to make the copies you need for the craft, you find the copy machine is down and you have no way of fixing it.  Once you finally get your Plan C in place with 30 minutes left before the kids arrive and you walk into the Children's Church room to find that all the chairs that you had set out for service the day before have vanished because someone needed them for their event the night before and didn't return them.  So, you run to the other side of the building to get your chairs back and finally get them in place with just enough time to get the computer up and running with your pre-service videos.  Finally...ready for church...then you get the text from your Preschool teacher saying that she won't be there because she woke up vomiting.   You quickly put Plan D into action, which includes the preschool staying with the rest of the children for Children's Church, plant your smile on your face, say a quick prayer asking God for help to get through this crazy day and march on with Children's Church.

This, my friend, is Children's Ministry.  And while, thankfully, it is not always that hectic, those days do come. And when they do, sometimes all we want to do is go home and hide.  Or perhaps throw in the towel and get a less stressful job (like joining the bomb squad as an old cartoon once said).  But really all we need is a little encouragement.  A few words from someone to remind us that we are doing a good job and that things are not always as crazy as they are at the moment.

Several years ago, someone I was working with passed along to me some really good advice that had been given to him years before.  He told me to put together an encouragement file.  Basically, it is a place where you put things that you have been given that encouraged you.  It could be a picture from one of the kids that says, "I love you Pastor," a Scripture that really spoke to you,  or a card you received from a parent telling you that they appreciated the work you did on an event.  Perhaps an email that you printed out from your Senior Pastor telling you that he/she appreciated the extra hours you put in for such and such a program is in the file or maybe it includes a note you wrote yourself reminding you of the date that a specific child found the Lord.  It really can be anything, but it must be something that you can go you and it reminds you why you are in Children's Ministry.  Then on those especially hard days, you can go to your folder and flip through those words and allow God to use them to encourage you once again.

Then, you can sit down and write a note encouraging someone else.  After all, you have just been a recipient of how positive words can turn your day around.  So maybe now it is your turn to add to someone else's "Encouragement file."  Words are powerful.  We should use them to encourage one another often.

Until next week!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Bullying...We Adults are part of the problem.

There are many things that we try to teach as Children's Ministers.  But, more an more I am seeing that we, ourselves, have to be very careful, especially online, if we do not want to harm our own witness.

If you have been online, listening to the radio, or watching the news over the last few years you would see that there has been a huge surge of people speaking out against bullying. And rightly so because it is a huge problem in our society.  Those of us who work with children and teenagers know that it happens.  It's terrible and it's hurtful and it MUST STOP!  Everyone seems to agree with this...until it is time for the elections.

Then it seems that adults all across the country decide that bullying is ok.  After all, the people they are talking about are politicians.  They made themselves fair game, right?  WRONG!  They decided to run for a political office.  They decided to try and make a difference in our country.  They did not decided that they and their family were just going to be "ok" with being bullied.

No matter what our political affiliation, this blog applies to everyone...and I'm talking to the politicians and even the news reporters too. There is a difference between a news story and a smear campaign for ratings.  If we want to teach our children that bullying is wrong, then we have to stop it ourselves.

And while I'm on the subject, this applies to sporting events too.  How many times have we seen someone post something about how they are so glad so and so was fired, or how "Mr. Sports Star" is doing such a lousy job in their sporting event.  Seriously???  

How do we explain why it is ok for us to verbally torture, tear down, and post embarrassing pictures of a politician or a sports star, but it's not ok for our kids to do it of a classmate?  Do we realize what we are doing to the family of that person?  How would you like it if your Mom, Dad, Aunt, or Uncle was being torn down all over the internet by people who had never even met them?  Do you know for an absolute fact that what you are saying is true?  Even if you do, why is it ok for you to post such things about this person while at the same time you are trying to teach your children and teenagers that it is not ok for them to do the same to others?

This is a horrible and tragic double standard that MUST STOP.  Children learn by example.  What kind of example are we setting?

If you don't like a particular politician, don't tear him or her down.  Build up your candidate.  Show off all his or her good points.  I don't care why you don't like the other candidate...tell me why you DO like yours.  Is that so hard?  Or do you really not know enough about your candidate to do that? 

If you are unhappy about how a sports personality is playing their game, don't tear them down, focus on something positive you can say or simply don't say anything at all. Perhaps highlight someone else on the team who is doing well.

We are being watched and our online lives are often have an even bigger impact than our offline lives.  Why?  Because people all across the world have access to seeing what we put online.  But only those literally around us see our real life actions.  How does it look if they see us praising God with our mouths at church and tearing down people online?  What about those who post Scripture about how God loves everyone one minute and then how they hate such and such a candidate the next?  Do we not see how our witness is being damaged?

Before you post something, put your name, or better yet, your child's name in the place of the person you are ready to post about.  Would you still post it? If not, then DON'T POST IT.  Don't SHARE it.  And just because you think it's funny doesn't mean it's not cyber-bullying.  Remember...that person is someone's child, so don't do to them, what you wouldn't want done to your child.  Is that really so hard? 

I know this is different than  the tips I usually post, but this is a topic that is simply too important to ignore.  And as we all know, our actions speak much louder than our words and that applies both to Children's Ministry and to life in general.

Until next week...

* This is an updated version of posts I wrote for my other blog a few years ago.  However, with this ever increasing social media world, I felt it was important to share my thoughts here as well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Choosing Bibles for Kids...

One question that I am often asked is "What kind of Bible should I get my child?"  It's a really good question, but the answer is going to be different for every child.  But here are a couple tips that I have found useful.

1) No matter the age of the child, if they are planning to take the Bible to church with them, buy them a regular Bible.  By regular, I mean not a "Story Bible".  Here's why.  In most Children's Church services, the Pastor or Leader will read from a certain verse or passage of Scripture and invite the children to follow along.  If the child brings a storybook Bible or toddler Bible to the class, there is no way for them to find that verse or for anyone else to find it for them in their Bible.  This often causes the child distress because they were so excited that they had a Bible with them, but now they are being told that they can not use it because it doesn't have the scripture being read in it.  It is very confusing and frustrating for them.  A kid-friendly Bible is wonderful, just make sure it has all the books and verses in it if they are planning to take it to church.

2) Storybook Bibles are great for use at home or in your devotional time with your child.  Young children enjoy the pictures and are much more likely to read that kind of Bible on their own.  There are lots of different kinds.  I encourage parents to check out a nearby Christian Book Store and simply read through some.  The parents will know which type will appeal to their child better than I will.

3) Comic Book Bibles are awesome for kids who are just learning how to love reading.  They bring the stories to life in a new and different way and really engage them in reading Scripture.  I highly recommend them for children in 1st - 4th grade.  Even some preteens really enjoy a comic book Bible.  There are several versions out there and some look more like a graphic novel than a comic book.  The graphic novels tend to have a darker look and feel to them, so be aware of that if you choose that kind.  It could be a little scary for young readers.

4) As for the version of Scripture to choose...Honestly, I think you should choose whatever your child will understand best.  Most 8 year olds probably aren't going to be very excited about reading the King James Version because it's hard to understand, but if that is your choice, then that is fine.  I generally recommend the New International Version or the Contemporary English Version because they are easily understood by most children.  If you go to www.biblegateway.com you can put in any Scripture and easily see how it is read in many different versions.

Choosing a Bible for a child is awesome, but if they are old enough to read, you might consider taking them with you and letting them pick out their own.  It is more likely they will read a Bible they got to choose themselves.  But whether they pick it out themselves or you surprise them with one, owning their own Bible is very special and opening the mind of a child to the Word of God is priceless!

Until next week!