Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Making Memorable Moments...

Every time we put together a service, we want to make what we are doing memorable for those in our congregation.  Whether it is a child, a teen, or an adult, the goal is the same.  We want the lesson we are teaching to stick with those who are hearing it.  And more than likely it won't be the whole lesson they remember, but it's very possible that one moment will stick.  So we have to make as many memorable moments in our lessons as we can.  Now, there is no sure fire way of doing that.  After all, we have all prepared lessons that we thought were going to be awesome only to see them fall flat, or taken a lesson that we were not sure would work and see people really respond to it.  So, there isn't a foolproof way to make memorable moments, but there are a few things that when incorporated generally help.  And though, we usually deal primarily with children, they can be helpful for any age group.

1) Don't just read...make the lesson fun.
I know, this seems like a no brainer, but how many times have you seen someone stand up in front of a group and then just simply read a lesson.  Or perhaps the teacher doesn't have much inflection in their voice.  These are things we have to work hard not to do.  Now, I'm not saying you can never read something.  Sometimes there might be a brief passage that you want to quote properly and so reading it is appropriate, but just standing and reading for an entire lesson simply isn't memorable.  Move, smile, change your voice, change your inflection.  The lesson should feel like you are chatting with a friend, not performing and essay. If what your teaching is fun, there is a great chance that it is also memorable.

2) Incorporate more than one of the senses. 
The more senses involved in a lesson, the better someone will remember what is being taught.  Is your Scripture focused on the woman with a jar of oil?  Perhaps you can bring in some oil and let the kids touch it.  Will you be learning about John the Baptist?  Bringing in some wild honey for the kids to taste will bring the lesson to life.  Will you be talking about faith the size of mustard seed?  You can buy small containers of mustard seeds at nearly any grocery store.  The kids will love seeing how small they really are.  Don't be afraid to use multiple senses in your lesson.  The more you use, the better they will remember what they are being taught.

3) Teach the point through many avenues
Let's say that your lesson focuses on caring for each other as Christ cares for us.  Your game could be a cooperation game where the team has to work together in order to win.  There could be an activity where the kids all have to complete a task (such as throwing a ball into a basket), but give each group a problem they have to overcome in order to complete the task (like making one of them pretend to have two broken arms, or blindfolding one).  They will have to figure out a way to help the person who has the challenge so that they all can finish the task.  You could even choose songs for the day that focus on how God cares for us such as Jonathan Shelton's "Counting on God" or Group Music's "His Great Love."  All these things together add to and build up the teaching time where you will bring out the Scripture of the day and help continually focus the listeners attention on what the lesson is...which will lead to more opportunities for memorable moments.

It takes a lot of planning an preparation to bring about memorable moments, but it's worth it.  Why?  Because God often brings those memorable moments back to our minds just when we need them most and they help us draw ever closer to Him. 

Until next week... 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A New Vision...

As you may have noticed, I have not been as regular in posting to this blog as of late.  I apologize for that, but God has been doing some incredible things in my life and I want to share with you what's been going on.

I started my 12th year as a Children's Pastor this summer. Prior to that, I was actively involved in Children's Ministry as a volunteer for about 5 years.  So for about the last 17 years I have lived and breathed ministry to children and families.  But this year God started talking to me about a different sort of ministry path and yet in some ways...it's not different at all.

He has called me to plant a church, but not just any church.  This church would be geared to reach people who have never really ever been to church before.  It would strive to remove the common barriers that tend to keep people from attending church if they have never been a part of a congregation or once they are have gotten out of the habit of attending. It would be basic in it's teaching so that the entire family could learn together and no one feels "talked down to" or out of the loop.  The environment will be fast paced, active and totally family friendly.  Everyone learns together.  The family unit is taught as a whole in one place in ways that everyone understands.  We will sit at tables and chairs and the tables will be covered with butcher paper and manipulatives, allowing for activity even during times of listening.  The service would be multi-sensory so no one type of learning is excluded or, for that matter, exclusively used. It's a whole new way of doing ministry and I am beyond excited about it.

God called and I listened, but I will admit that I was terrified at first.  I mean, I never expected to be a senior pastor...ever.  But when God speaks we have to listen so I started out on this journey.  I started praying...I started talking about what God was impressing on me with friends who immediately jumped on board and started encouraging me.  Then, I started talking to my District Superintendent about this a few months back and he also could see the vision I was sharing and encouraged me.  Every door that I expected to close in my face has opened wide as I have continued to walk down this path.  Last week, our District Advisory Board approved the plans for this church plant.  Yesterday, I got an email from my General Church telling me that the plant was officially registered with the denomination.

So, I am excited to share with you all that I am now the Pastor of the New Vision Church of the Nazarene in LaGrange, IN.  We will have our Open House/Launch Party on December 17th and then on January 8th, 2017 we will hold our first service.  If you'd like to check out New Vision, please see our Facebook page.

This journey has been more amazing than I could ever put into words.  I have never in my life had such an experience.  I know the days ahead will be challenging, but I also know that God is going to do some incredible things and I'm thrilled to have even a small part of His plans.

Next week, I'll go back to my regular "Tuesday's Tips", but this week, I just had to share what God has been doing.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Transitions and Saying Goodbye...

Change happens in ministry...and sometimes the change is you.  Part of being a pastor means changing churches when the Lord leads you to do so.  However, leaving the children and families that you have gotten so close to can be very difficult.  Personally, I am in the midst of such a change as I leave my current congregation to become a church plant pastor. (More about that another time)  But this is not the first time I've changed churches and though each time the situation is somewhat different, there are a few things you can do to make the move as easy as possible for all those involved.

First, plan for the day when you will resign to your children.  For me, because I am teaching children's church during the adult worship service, the senior pastor will generally read my resignation to the adults, but I tell the children myself.  I feel it is important that they hear the news from me.  So, I prepare a lesson all about following the Lord's lead in our lives wherever that path might go.  When the children understand how important it is to follow the Lord's leading, it makes it easier for them to understand why you are leaving.  That is not to say that it makes them miss you any less (or you them), but they do understand.  It's important that they realize that you are not just "leaving them", because some children will feel like they did something that made you leave or that you didn't like them enough to stay.  But when they realize that you are simply going where the Lord is sending you, that is a very different thing.

Second, sometimes when we leave, there are reasons that we can not discuss with the church body.  There will always be people who will wonder why you are leaving and if something or someone influenced your decision.  And at times, that might be the case but, and this is really important, even if you have a reason to make waves about why you are leaving...don't.  This is not easy if you feel like you have been wronged in some way.   In fact it might be the hardest thing you ever have to do in ministry, but it is the better path.  Making someone else look bad is only going to make you look worse...even if you are in the right.   Leave a legacy of love and understanding.  Not one of hurt feelings and pain.  Our job is to always leave the church better than when we arrived.

Thirdly, prepare for your successor.  Are there quirks about your area that a new person should know? Are there some helpful hints or lists of workers you can leave for the next person who has your position?  If so, it might be a good idea to leave them a note.  At one church where I served, the children's area had 4 thermostats of which only two worked and a huge set of closets full of supplies that I didn't realize had been there when I first arrived at the position.  So I made sure I left that information in my note.  Printing off lists of volunteers and any schedules you have available can also be a huge blessing to the next leader.  Leaving behind a list of events is helpful as well.  When I was the newbie at one of the churches I served, there was a huge event that I didn't realize I was supposed to have a children's program during until about two weeks before the event.  Because it was an event that had happened for so many years, people didn't realize that I wasn't in the loop for the details.  So, when I left, I made sure I left behind a list of all the main church events and what the children's department was responsible for at each of those events for the person who followed me.

Lastly...once someone else has your position, don't visit much for a while.  I'm not saying don't visit at all, but if it is in your means to wait until the new person has been there about 6 months or so, that will help the children attach to that new leader much easier.  If you keep showing up, the children will automatically look to you and not to the new leader and that is not fair to the children or your successor.  If you do decide to pop in for a visit, don't go back to the children's area until after church.  If you go there before service starts, it can be difficult for the leader to get the children's attention again and can disrupt the service flow.  After service, is a much better time to connect with everyone.

These are a few things that I've learned over the years.  Transitioning can be a challenge, but when God calls us to a new position, He will also lead us through the transition. 

Until next week!