Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Don't Miss The Moments

One thing about ministry that we often don't realize until you are in the thick of it, is that the things that others get excited about being a part of, we sometimes feel like we missed.  Let me explain what I mean.

If you think about it nearly all of the big events of the church involve some sort of Children's Ministry.  Easter has egg hunts and special services which include services for the children.  Christmas generally includes a children's program of some sort and various parties and events to celebrate the Savior's birth.  Summer, for most people, includes a vacation or some sort of leisure time.  But for Children's workers the programming actually increases and so do the events (Camps, Water Wednesdays, etc).  And all these things take extra planning and preparation on our parts.

Now, don't misunderstand me,  I am not in any way complaining.  I adore being a Children's Pastor, but it hit me this week that sometimes we get so involved with the prep and the planning that we sometimes feel like we missed getting to be a part of the "event."  Then I read something a friend put on Facebook and it nearly brought me to tears.  It was beautiful and it put into words things I felt, but didn't even realize I had been feeling.  I want to share her words with you.

Her name is Jennifer Coffman and she was writing this after a large Easter Event at her church:

I like to write. I write a lot, more than I talk (this may be hard for some of you to believe). I write lots of things that no one ever reads.

Every Easter, I long to write something brilliant, some tangible evidence of this intangible essence inside me. And every Easter, the words escape me. I think it's because every Easter, I expect to have THE MOMENT - that moment that opens my eyes, changes my walk, brings me to my knees. Every Easter, I yearn to experience it in a brand new way: to mourn on Friday, rejoice on Sunday, and wonder in between on the miraculous grace of God. 

And every Easter, I'm disappointed. Because I "work" for the church (and I use that term loosely), this weekend is always busy. By the end of the weekend, I'm usually spent - and wondering how I missed THE MOMENT yet again. 

Today . . .
I didn't spend time wondering.
I didn't meditate on miracles.
I didn't contemplate grace.

What I did do was talk to hundreds (literally hundreds!) of people. I welcomed them into kingdom life. I smiled at children and attached wristbands and answered questions and smiled some more. That's so far outside of my comfort zone . . . I cannot even begin to explain it. 

Maybe . . . just maybe . . . instead of wondering about God, I experienced Him.
And maybe instead of meditating on miracles, I witnessed them.
Maybe instead of contemplating grace, I practiced it.

Could it be that THE MOMENT of Easter is beyond words? Could it be that mere words are not adequate to describe this wonder? Could it be that the eternal hope of this most holy week is, in fact, so holy that it can only be experienced . . . and not explained? 

I think I just had THE MOMENT.

As we all take a breath after the last few days, which I'm certain were very busy, I hope you look back on all the things you did, all the plans you made, and all the people you touched and are able to realize that we were a part of something special.  And while "The Moment" might be different for each of us...take time to experience "The Moment" God gave you to experience Easter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Easter is the most special holiday we celebrate during the year.  It is the time where we reflect and rejoice in the amazing gift of salvation that was purchased for us through the blood of Christ.  For weeks beforehand we prepare and plan for that celebration, both in our hearts and in our ministries.

But, if I am really honest, it is also one busiest times of year.  In fact, it can be so busy for those of us in Children's ministry that we can come near to dreading this special time of year instead of rejoicing in it.  After all, there are Egg Hunts to plan, Palm Sunday/Holy Week Activities, volunteers to recruit, prizes to purchase, decorations to prepare and let us not forget the actual Easter Sunday Service which needs to be hands down the best one of the year (no pressure).  Plus, at least for my District, it is also near the end of the church year (our new year starts in April) which means reports and budgets to present as well.  It can all be very overwhelming.

So, how can we keep the focus on the proper place during the busy and yet most sacred Easter Season?  Here are a couple tips that I hope you find as useful as I have over the years.

Don't compete!
When it comes to Easter Egg Hunts, don't try to compete with the church down the street.  Do your own thing, do it well and then be happy with the results.  In my area, there are churches near us who do egg hunts with more than 30,000 eggs...one even drops something like 50,000 eggs from a helicopter every year.  There is no way we are going to top that.  So we don't try.  We do our own thing.  We focus on an area where maybe others might miss.  For us, we make sure that we have an area for children with special needs and all our games are easily played by any child of any developmental level as well.  We have a great time and we get to love on our community, but we are not stressed about trying to be as big as anyone else.

Don't neglect your own time with the Lord
Make sure you are setting time aside for your own devotions.  All the preparations will wait while you do.  It's easy to let all the "stuff" that has to get done creep into your devotional time, but especially during busy times...don't let it.  If you are focused on the Savior first, then everything else will fall into place.  Keep your time with Him a top priority.

Start Planning Early 
Start preparing for your Easter activities no later than January and sooner is better.  If you know months early that you are going to need volunteers for your Egg Hunt, start thinking about who to ask way ahead of time.  Then when it gets a little closer ask them.  I will admit that this is where I have the most trouble because I don't want to ask so early that they forget that they said they would help, but I don't want to ask so late that they already have plans.  You may need to send out reminders if you ask too early (not a bad thing to do anyway), but earlier is always better than last minute.  Will you need a game created?  If so, start working on it right away.  The important thing is that you start planning well in advance so that you know exactly what you need and who you will need to help you.  

Don't try to do everything yourself
In nearly every church, there are people who are willing to help if you ask them...SO ASK THEM.  Don't try to do everything all on your own.  I know what you're thinking, because this is by far the hardest thing for me to do as well.  But the fact is, that trying to do it all is the quickest way to burn out emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Find a group of people who you can rely on to help you and then work together.  I know that sometimes it feels like it's just easier to do it yourself, but the old adage is indeed true...Many hands really do make for light work.  

There is no two ways about it...Easter is a very busy time of year, but if we will do a bit of planning, keep our time with the Lord, and don't focus on what others are doing, we can change our perspective from one of "busyness" to one that really can rejoice in the gift of salvation that Easter celebrates.

Until next week! 



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Church is bigger than Your Church...

I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene.  I have always been a part of this denomination and I joined the church in the 5th or 6th grade while my Dad was pastoring in Lexington, Kentucky.  I love my church.  I love being Nazarene.  I love that we are a part of something so much bigger than just my local church (currently in Anderson, IN).  We are a Family that extends all around the world.  But too often, I find that churches (not just Nazarene...any denomination) often focus so much on their own local church, that they miss out of a huge blessing, not just for themselves, but also for their church as a whole.

In our denomination, we are divided in to Zones (several churches in neighboring cities), then Districts (a section of a State or sometimes more than an entire State depending on the number of churches), then Regions (several States connected to one of our Universities).  There are activities within the local church, but also some specifically for the Zone, District, or Region.  This post is to remind you that it is important that you connect with your Zone, District and Region as well as globally when you can.

Too often, churches try to be autonomous and stay within their own walls, but that is a mistake in my opinion.  We are the BODY of Christ.  We are meant to work together...not each of us hole up in our own little churches.  Whether you are a church of 20 or a church of 1000, you should be connecting with your Zone, District, and Region.  It's important for the growth of your people and your growth as well.

Why is it important?  Because your people may not stay at your church forever.  And if you want them to truly connect with the Body of Christ, they need to know that the body extends beyond the walls of your church.

Young people connect at District camps, Retreats, Bible Quiz Meets and more, but then they reconnect at more local Zone activities.  When they go to a large event like our Nazarene Youth Conference they are able to connect even more with people around the country.  More importantly, they see God move in all those local, zone, district, and global events.  They realize that God is active in more than just their little circle.  And when the time comes for them to choose a college or university, it's amazing how many people they will already know because of the activities they had been involved in since childhood.

For adults, it's very easy to get stuck in our own little world.  We can get so focused on our own lives that we sometimes forget the world around us.  Being a part of activities outside our local church helps us shift that focus away from us and "our church" and place it more on the global church.  Worshiping with others at a Zone Singspiration or at a Zone revival reminds us that we are not alone.  Attending larger events like Family Camp (or Camp meeting), District Assembly or a Sunday School Spirit Rally reminds us that we are a part of Body that is working all over our District.  And attending a global event like General Assembly allows us to see how God is moving literally all over the world.  It's hard to be of narrow focus when you see how big the work of God is. 

We are a Family in the Church of the Nazarene, but just like any family, there are sometimes members who prefer to not attend the family events.  Not because they have a conflict, but simply because they don't want to.  How sad.  It's hard to stay connected to family members that you never see.  My biggest support system (outside my family) comes from my extended church Family.  They are such a blessing to me. 

Some of you reading this, might also be Nazarene, but you might be Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Church of God, Non-Denominational, or some other denomination.  Whatever your denomination, I still think this post applies to you.  Are you connecting with your Family?  Or are you trying to stay within the walls of your own church?  We are the Body of Christ, but the Body is strongest when all it's parts are connected.  If you want to strengthen your ministry, one great way to do that is to strengthen your bond to your denominational family.  And then, make sure you connect with your brothers and sisters in the other denominations around you.  We are all a part of the Body of Christ and we all have much to learn and share with each other.

That's all for this week.