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Archive - July, 2009

What Ever Happened To “I Don’t Feel Well, Mom”

I’m sure most of you have heard of this or seen the clips on YouTube. I first heard about it from a tweet by Larry Shallenberger this morning. Then, I saw Kenny Conley tweet it, and it showed up on Dan Kimball’s blog.

Just thought I’d share it with the Elemental Children’s Ministry community.

I like Meredith’s comment at the end of the above clip, “I here he’s still running.”

Oh the things that go on in the mind of kids to get out of things they don’t want to do.

A Parent’s Plea of What Not to Send Home With a Kid From Church

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Carissa GoodNCrazy)

I read this today on Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like blog. Go ahead and hop on over there. It’s pretty funny.

The list includes things like marshmallows, wet paint and glitter (the herpes of the craft world).

Putting the humor aside for a short while, we should be asking ourselves the questions:

  • What are we sending kids home with?
  • Are parents equipped to know what their kids are learning about at church and carry on those discussions at home?
  • Are we simply sending kids home with cutesy, yet annoying, take homes that end up in the trash or on a list on someone’s blog?

OK, back to being humorous… I echo Jon’s cry, “Long live Crayola!” Yes, they’re more expensive but there’s just something about those wonderful crayons…

BTW, Jon, one sure way to make those changes is to maybe volunteer more than twice in children’s ministry ;)

On a side note, Stuff Christian’s Like is an amazing example that content is king. It’s a no-frills Blogger blog but has great material. It’s not how the blog looks as much as what is in it.

Competing With Culture

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Parka81)

Last week, I was jealous to find out that Christine Yount-Jones and some others from Group Publishing were at Comic-Con to do research. (BTW, Group Publishing, if you are looking for someone to go next year and do research… I’d love to!) I also read a few other tweets and Facebook updates from other children’s ministry people who were at Comic-Con.

I think Christine asked some good questions about being an “outsider” looking in and how we can translate those feelings into how we communicate church to “outsiders.” I think we need to ask ourselves those questions more often.

One question, though, that comes up over and over again when we look at entertainment is trying to figure out how we can compete with it. OK, we don’t word it that way. We say things like, “What can we learn from how that place or movie or product or company markets itself to make church more interesting?” or “How can we produce material that draws people in like they do?” or “How do we capture the attention of people so they would rather do church things instead of ?”

I understand the need to be a student of culture. It’s what I do. I love looking at culture, studying it, finding ways to redeem it, exploring the bits of Truth that might be found in it, using it to communicate to people… What I don’t understand is our felt need to copy, compete, or co-opt culture by trying to create “alternatives” to what is out there.

We have a unique message and a unique mission. Yes, we take and use the cultural container we live in and use that to convey that message, but we don’t recreate our message to look like the culture around us or create a “better, more Godly” version of culture to sell to the masses.

The call to follow the Greatest Commands to love God and love others doesn’t always mean we have to have the better website, the better show or the better coffee (although, good coffee is a plus!). Yes, those things help, but we should be known more for being better community, more generous, and more loving.

Toddlers on Mission!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on how families can be on mission together… how families can serve and have meaningful opportunities for all ages to be a part of serving. One person I’ve been inspired by is Gina McClain and the opportunities they have for families to serve in the community together. I, then, ran into this post from Emerging Kids that talks about a serving opportunity an organization called Heifer International had that included toddlers digging up sweet potatoes to be donated to local food banks in Dallas, TX! The article states that the kids helped collect more than 60 pounds of potatoes that day!

Wow! Toddlers serving alongside their parents. I was even impressed with the group that Heifer International worked with: Small Change, which is a group of families with 2- and 3-year olds that come together to learn about serving others.

While I think through multi-generational serving opportunities, this gardening thing is another idea to throw in to my pot.

Do you provide opportunities for families to serve together? How do you include younger children?

Here are some ideas from Emerging Kids on getting toddlers involved.

I know it takes work to find ways for young kids to be involved because we aren’t geared for that, but it is well worth it for families to be on mission together.

Group Blogging Project: Too Small To Ignore – Chapter 15 – “‘Just’ Children: A Call to Arms”

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by 27147)

For more info on what this group blogging project on the book Too Small To Ignore, read this.

Review of Chapter 15, “’Just’ Children: A Call to Arms”
by Penny Hunter

I often have the privilege of eavesdropping on the conversations of children’s and youth pastors. My son, Zach is a 17 year old author and speaker. When he speaks, I get a fly-on-the-wall view of ministry to children and youth. I have heard how people don’t feel appreciated by senior leadership – how they often feel like their ministry isn’t respected, but instead is a glorified babysitting service – an effort to keep noise and disruption out of “Big Church.” Or, in the case of middle and high school ministry, to keep kids out of trouble and offer an alternative to the challenging fare the world is offering.

It pains me to see people gifted and called to minister to kids feel like the only way to be involved in “legitimate” ministry is to “graduate” to the role of single’s ministry pastor, or to a preaching or discipleship position with adults.

In Chapter 15 of Too Small to Ignore, Wess Stafford tells the story of Tony Campolo’s visit to his childhood church. Upon arrival he discovered a church where “deterioration was on every side.” Curious, he asked if he could delve into the archives and study the life span of the church to try to determine what had happened. He started with the church records the year he gave his life to Christ.

“That had not been a particularly good year for the church, the author admitted. Giving was down from the previous year. Mission activity was subdued. Attendance had declined. There were only three conversions over the course of the year, and they were ‘just children.’

Dr. Campolo stared at the page in disbelief and irritation. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said out loud. ‘I was one of those three! And I know the other two. One spent his life in mission service in Africa, while the other became president of a seminary here in the United States. And I’ve given my life to Christian higher education. What do you mean, just three children came to Christ that year?’”

Hmmm. I wonder how many in leadership still view childhood conversions with such limited interest.

One of the things I love about Wess Stafford is that his theology of childhood evangelism isn’t just rhetoric. He lives it. I’ve watched him invite a young man into conversation about deep spiritual things – and listen closely to his thoughts. I’ve seen him lay hands on a teenage guy’s shoulders, look him in the eyes as tears pooled and shared that he felt God had incredible things in store for this young man. I’ve listened as he’s passionately prayed for this teen to take up the work Wess has begun and continue it. This young man is my son. Stafford continues to invest in the lives of young people – not only in the most remote corners of the world where others are too fearful to tread. But, also in his backyard, his office, at music festivals and anywhere else his work with Compassion International takes him.

What about us? In Chapter 15, Stafford issues a challenge to find children in your life who could benefit from your investment. He suggests looking for parents you can affirm for their care of their children. As Stafford puts it “In my experience, most of what we do to bless children enrages the hosts of hell. We are paddling our boat upstream against the swift current of a world that has lost most of its heart. But the rewards will last for eternity. Every child who enters the gates of heaven will trigger a cascade of cheers and joy.”

Group Blogging Project: Too Small To Ignore – Chapter 14 – “Imagine”

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Cocoabiscuit)

For more info on what this group blogging project on the book Too Small To Ignore, read this.

Review of Chapter 14, “Imagine”
by Anthony Prince

Imagine a world where kids matter…

That’s the world Dr. Wess Stafford wants to see ushered in. That’s the world that this chapter (Too Small to Ignore, Chapter 14) wants us to talk about.

So, here we go:

Stafford wants us to let go of the world in which we exist, in order to create a world where every decision is made with us first asking, “What about the children?”

Far too often, books like this live in fantasy. They speak the language of professors and pompous theologians. Books like this never talk about practical application, they simply tell us to do better – then leave us to define and create that “better” world.

This book is not those books.

If you want some real, bold, practical take-aways from Too Small to Ignore, turn to chapter 14. It’s all there.

Stafford wants your church to care about children. He doesn’t think it’s enough to say that we care… he wants us to show that we care. We should live like we care. And he gives examples.

“What if every senior pastor was absent from the pulpit two Sunday mornings a year because he was working in the church nursery? Wouldn’t that send a message to the congregation!”

I know a handful of student ministry and children’s ministry pastors who yearn for their chance to preach during a weekend service… the message it would send to the congregation of your church, if your senior pastor served in your ministry twice a year, would preach louder than your best sermon.

I dare you to try to prove me wrong.

“What if Children’s Day was as big a deal in our churches as Mother’s Day or Father’s day?”

Did you KNOW there was a Children’s day?! The ideas Stafford talks through in his 120+ words dedicated to this holiday get me excited about marking this day on my calendar. I wrestle with celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in church … so this idea resonates with my soul.

Out of the nearly 30 ways Stafford imagines us changing the world around us, 11 are changes that those of us in church leadership can work toward and actually achieve tangible results.

A sidenote:

Stafford talks about the world AS IT IS for children in war torn and impoverished countries around the world throughout this book. This chapter is no exception. If you’re like me, and the idea of children being harmed makes you ill, you’re going to want to pace yourself through this book – and this chapter… especially the section marked “A World Where Kids Count.”

You still need to read this book.

The world Stafford speaks of CAN exist, all we are missing are the vision and the heart. This book can give you both.

Group Blogging Project: Too Small To Ignore – Chapter 13 – “When ‘Follow the Leader’ Isn’t Child’s Play”

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by keli h)

For more info on what this group blogging project on the book Too Small To Ignore, read this.

Review of Chapter 13, “When ‘Follow the Leader’ Isn’t Child’s Play”
by Henry Zonio

In this chapter Wess Stafford continues to push his overwhelming belief that children are key to changing the world by pointing us to examples from the Bible and from today of where God chose to use children instead of adults to accomplish great and important things for his Kingdom.

“So far as we see in reading the Gospels, Jesus never admonished children to become more grown-up. he did, however, exhort grownups to become more like children (Mark 10:15). How often have you heard an exasperated parent (maybe yourself!) growl at a child through clenched teeth, ‘Would you just grow up?!’ Jesus said the opposite to his adult followers: ‘Would you please grow down? That’s what it will take for you to enter my kingdom.’”

Dr. Stafford uses the stories of Miriam protecting her brother Moses (Exodus 2), Samuel being called to take up the mantel of being the high priest of Israel when he was a child (1 Samuel 3), David showing more courage than all the adults and defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17), the faith of the servant girl of Naaman’s wife that God could heal Naaman through Elisha (2 Kings 5), the generosity of a young boy giving his lunch (John 6), the stark honesty of a servant girl calling Peter out when he was trying to hide (Mark 14), and Paul’s young nephew is exposing an assassination attempt on the life of Paul (Acts 23). There are even more stories of God using children throughout the Bible for important tasks requiring great courage and faith.

Stafford also points to two stories he’s encountered in his work with Compassion where children were greatly used by God.

One of those stories was a group of Albanian children in the late 1980s. At that time in history, the government had restricted most outside communication into the country including jamming radio signals. A small group of children happened upon a radio, though, that was receiving transmissions from a Christian radio station outside the country. At certain times of the day there was programming in Albanian. Through that programming, the children eventually heard about Jesus’ love for them and began for follow Christ. At one time, they heard about Jesus as healer so they decided to visit the local hospital and pray for Jesus to heal people.

“As they worked their way down the hallway, door by door, a commotion began to build up behind them. Starting back at room one, patients ere discovering that they had been healed and were getting up out of bed in wonder. Oblivious to the distraction they were creating, the children continued their prayer trek down the hallway. Door by door they prayed, and miracles kept happening.”

The children weren’t even phased by the fact that people had been healed when they prayed. Their answer to an Albanian child-worker when told what had happened to the patients was, “Yes, Jesus is the Great Doctor. He can do that.”

Another story was of a time that a Compassion sponsored child was hit by a car and died. At the funeral, a large number of children were present, which is uncharacteristic of Ecuador. Culture there dictates that children do not attend funerals. When asked about their attendance “Child after child had said, ‘He was my friend. He is the one who told me of Jesus’ love. He helped me invite Jesus into my heart. I’m sad, but I’ve come today to send him to his heavenly home.’” This child had lead over fifty of his friends to Jesus by the age of six.

Again, I found myself in tears as the stories of how God used children connected with the passion in my heart to connect children with the living God and letting them know they can be used by God today… now. When will we, as leaders, truly understand that children can and do have real relationships with the Creator of the universe, can hear His voice, can commit themselves to following him, and can follow through with great and mighty things for the Kingdom? When will we stop putting age limits on when we can take the relationship a child has with God seriously? When will we actively help children to pursue changing the world around them through the power of the Holy Spirit who can actively live within them?

Stafford reminds us that God can use children, not just in cutesy, sing-songs-in-front-of-the-church, ways. God uses children to do real things, important things, life-changing things. And sometimes God actively chooses children over adults to do the most important things for the Kingdom.

Group Blogging Project: Too Small To Ignore – Chapter 12 – “The Children’s Champion: A Righteous Rage”

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by miguel.1983)

For more info on what this group blogging project on the book Too Small To Ignore, read this.

Review of Chapter 12, “The Children’s Champion: A Righteous Rage”
by Bonnie Deroski

In this chapter, the author shifts our focus from the details of his own life, to the times that Jesus related with children. I feel that this chapter really gets to the crux of the matter. Stafford makes it clear that Jesus’ attitude toward children was extraordinary, even in light of today’s culture. This chapter probably will hold no real surprises to those of us in ministry to children. However, it may prove to be a reminder of what it truly means to be a servant-leader, and may pose a challenge for those who find the behavior of children to be a disruption.

By providing background information, the author sheds some light on the passion behind the oft-quoted statement, “Let the little children come to me.” He walks us through the three other times that Jesus became so strongly adamant about his values: when he healed the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers, and when he put some children’s needs before those of his adult followers. He shows us Jesus, teaching in a large group and answering questions about the ‘adult topic’ of divorce. This Jesus is not concerned that adults are being distracted or interrupted by children during this serious, spiritual discussion. In fact, this Jesus becomes incensed and ultimately asks adults to do an about-face and look to the children for their example. Stafford reminds us that Jesus has now elevated the smallest child, with no rights or privileges, to a place of high esteem, and asks the ‘greatest’ among us to change our ways and become like this child.

Partway through the chapter, though, the author interjects several pages about child trafficking. I found the discussion to be a deviation from the point of the chapter. While this is certainly an important global issue which deserves attention, it might well have warranted a stand-alone chapter. The seriousness and enormity of the subject took away from the simple point that Jesus (and the author) seems to be making: Children should be cherished for their own intrinsic worth.

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