Monthly Archives: November 2010

Hallelujah Chorus @ a Mall Food Court (video)

source YouTube


Story of the Ark (story & video)

y2_w13 - Story of the Ark

Eli and his two son, Hophni and Phinehas, get judged by God (according to Samuel’s) conversation with the Lord the previous chapter. Along with their judgment comes the Israelites’ as well as the Philistines’.

I wonder if we treat God like He can be contained in a box?

Halfway Herbert (review)

I enjoy a good children’s book. That’s why I picked up “Halfway Herbert” by Francis Chan when I saw it available online. The book has stunning graphics and a pretty good story line. Halfway Herbert is known for doing things halfway. Herbert brushes his teeth, doesn’t finish his food, and approaches his schoolwork, all halfway. My daughter especially loved the page where it shows a shot looking out of Herbert’s mouth at the dentist with the top row of teeth perfectly clean while the bottom half are green and cracked and have green leaves sticking out of various cracks.

This halfway approach to life lands Herbert in trouble after he crashes into his dad’s car and then tells a “half truth.” He is quickly found out by his dad (thanks to an observant neighbor) and informed that telling a “half truth is a whole lie.” Herbert’s dad shares one of Jesus’ stories about a man building a tower who counts the cost ahead of time and plans to finish it all the way, instead of halfway. Herbert honestly tells his father that he doesn’t know if he is capable of doing things all the way. He is encouraged to ask God’s Spirit for help.

I used this book for the middle school youth group last Wednesday. It was a good illustration of the book of Joshua (and intro into Judges), where the Israelites are obeying God only halfway some of the time. Our saying for Joshua is: “some good, some bad.” I think God had bigger plans for his people, and he does for us as well.

“Halfway Herbert” is a good read and a worthy book to have on your bookshelf at home.

Skate City Trip | Youth Group (video)

We took the middle and high school students to Skate City in Rice Lake, WI on Sunday, November 14, 2010.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

About 3 years ago, our small group read and studied through the book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. The book walks the reader through the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). While it was a fascinating and impactful study for our group, the title of the book has always stuck with me in regards to the endurance of discipleship in Christ and staying consistent in our lives.

It also reminds me of parenting–a long obedience in the same direction. There are times when want to deviate from being consistent in regard to discipline and expectations… you know, because it is easier.

It’s funny, sometimes staying consistent brings out some interesting effects on kids’ behavior. For example, Amanda told me the other day that Sari said “Sorry” as she hit Macie. Sari knows that we make them apologize and forgive after things like that, so she thought: “If I just say ‘sorry’ then I won’t get in trouble.” Macie does the same thing, although a little differently. She’ll hit Sari, then she’ll try to hug her and say: “Sorry.”

Another thing that we are pretty consistent on is saying “okay” to Mom and Dad instead of “No.” I find it fascinating that they have learned to say “no” so easily. Anyway, I think the girls have picked up on if they say “okay” that the “get out of jail free card.” It seems we praise them a lot when they say “okay” instead of “no.” A good thing, right?

Well, Macie does this currently (and Sari used to), but when she does something that warrants a 2-minute visit to time-out, as I am carrying her in to her room, she is screaming: “Okay! Okay! Okay! Okay!”

It’s during these interesting and humorous interactions with our kids that remind me that parenting is a “long obedience in the same direction.” It’s also really funny!!

Birth of Samuel (story & video)

y2_w11 - Birth of Samuel

The Judges was a dark stain on the history of the Israelites. Doing what was right in their own eyes was a 400-year problem for the Israelites. The story of Ruth is the only bright, shining light during this chaotic time.

Enter Samuel. Samuel will be the last Judge of Israel. Pretty soon Israel is going to reject God as their King and will plea for a human king. Samuel is both a Judge and a kingmaker. It’s only fitting that this special figure in the Old Testament narrative have a special beginning.

This is the story of Samuel’s birth and the prayer deep within his mother’s heart. Here is Hannah’s story:

77 hours a week

This past Sunday, I shared with the church a little about some math I had done:

24 hours a day x 7 days in a week = 168 total hours in a week
8 hours a day for SLEEP x 7 days = 56 hours sleeping per week
7 hours a day for SCHOOL x 5 days = 35 hours children are in school per week

equals = 77 hours a week.

77 hours. That’s a lot of time each and every week we have with our children. Now I know that we’ve got to eat (and prepare the food), travel to and from various things, go to sporting events and practices, watch football, etc.  But think about it: how do we spend and invest that 77 hours a week into our kids?

  • how much are we emotionally investing in our children?
  • how much are we physically/playfully investing in our children?
  • how much are we spiritually investing in our children?
  • also, how much are we investing in our own emotional, physical, and spiritual health?

Parents have a significant amount of influence and impact on their kids. I know that sounds obvious, but how many of us actually act differently and intentionally in regard to raising our children. It seems to me that we will either raise our children accidentally or purposefully. That doesn’t mean go crazy intentional and structure EVERY hour of every day to get the maximum whatever.

What that does mean is: are we thinking about our parenting with an end in mind? Do we know what we want our children to look like when they leave our home? What values do we want to instill? What characteristics do we want to send them out into the world with?

Big questions. Significant impact. What will we do with those 77 hours each week?

Story of Ruth (story & video)

y2_w10 - The Story of Ruth

Wow. The book of Judges had some really interesting characters in it. Especially one of the last ones, Samson. He just couldn’t figure out how to be a stable “image of God” bearer. It seemed like he always was in a rash state of mind – unstable is a word I would use.

The Main Street students have heard about “The Cycle of Sin” over and over again. And not only was it a vicious cycle the Israelites experienced for around 400 years, it also progressed downward, meaning: more and more sinful. At the end of the book of Judges, the stories tell of an Israel (who’s supposed to look like the God of heaven and earth) that looks more like Sodom and Gomorrah (whom God destroyed in Genesis 19). Judges is a depressing book. It’s almost like the author wants the reader to be thinking: “Man! These guys are idiots! Don’t they get it! God wants them to look like Him. What’s their problem? Doesn’t it eventually sink in?” In Judges, no, it does not.

It’s not until the next book, Ruth, does a little ray of light shine in this time of “badness”. The book of Ruth opens with this line: “In the days when the judges ruled…” (Ruth 1:1). And then there’s this beautiful story about a man who cares for a foreigner and redeems her (kinsman-redeemer) and does the right thing in God’s eyes, instead of the wrong thing in God’s eyes. This story shows that God is working out his purpose for Israel even when Israel is doing (overall) some really bad things. God is working in subtle and small ways.

Hmmm… maybe that is how the kingdom of Jesus works: small and subtle ways.

Beyond Atlanta | Conclusion

Whenever I read a book, I get excited. Whether it’s a novel or a how-to book, the author pulls me into this grand and ideal world, full of possibilities and vision. The characters are larger than life. Concepts leap off the page and what you once thought was impossible suddenly creates a desire to engage in risky behaviors! I leave the pages of a book expectant to see change. I expect myself to adopt the book in its entirety, and if I don’t, then all is lost. It seems like it is either all or nothing for me. So, if I believe in something, I want to grab it all.

What happens in reality, however, over time, is a softening and a saturating of those ideas and concepts and possibilities. I realize that I am changed, ministry with children is different, my parenting is growing, in subtle and small ways. Most books capture larger-than-life stories meant to inspire and call-to-action. But in reality, things happen subtly. When a learner subjects him/herself into the literary world of ideas and concepts and possibilities, they soak into a person and seep out when necessary. Without that subjection, though, there is definitely nothing to “seep” out!

Adventures like this trip to Atlanta, GA are like a book that influences you over time. While I saw some neat things and talked with some stellar people, the impact will not be seen in the immediate, but hopefully, they will be seen and realized over time. I’m excited and anticipatory of a day in the future (perhaps another 5 years from now) where I look back on what things were like 5 years ago (now) and celebrate the growth and change to get it to where it can and should be in the future. Who knows what that is… God does. And it is by His grace, power and involvement (Spirit), that will really come to realize what ministry with children and youth look like @ Hayward Wesleyan Church and beyond in the years to come.

Beyond Atlanta | Rhythm

realizing and engaging a rhythm to ministry and life

Shannon Whaples shared this via his Senior Pastor, Kevin Myers. Shannon said that Kevin communicates it is important to take 2 days off a week, but work hard the 5 days you are in the office. Don’t take your work home with you. Take vacations. Realize the natural rhythms in your community and flow with those. In the summer, the NexGen Ministries slow things down (primarily because their attendance takes a dive). They are encouraged to slow things down in their lives, too. I like this idea of a rhythm of life. My wife likes the idea of a rhythm to our life. She not only likes the IDEA, she likes the idea realized!

I think over the course of my tenure @ Hayward Wesleyan Church thus far, I have realized a certain rhythm to ministry and the community. I think our ministry calendar is sustainable for our volunteers and the children, particularly. I really like that we do Followers every other week. There is an anticipation built in to that for the kids, meaning on the Mondays when we don’t meet they look forward to the next Monday that we do. They don’t realize this, but due to the fact that we only program every other week, it is keeping it fun and fresh, not semi-fun and stale!

I like the simplicity of Main Street and our curriculum. I like the consistency of our Nursery and the content and care we provide as well as our Preschool and Kindergarten class.

The one area that is lacking in simplicity and a particular rhythm are the middle school students. I have not yet realized a wise and healthy cadence to our msy YOUTH. I try each and every year, but I always seem to get thwarted. This is one area where a meeting with wise and discerning parents of some teenagers would be helpful.

Beyond Atlanta | Simple, Focused, Sustainable

keeping things simple and focused and sustainable

Colleen Derr (Children’s Ministry Leader via Spiritual Formation Department @ The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters) shared along with Shannon Whaples about this concept of church ministry called: “Simple Church”. The idea is to do a few things and do a few things well, rather than try to accomplish many things and do many things poorly. I’m intrigued by the concept and the examples of what we saw in Atlanta (i.e. Mountain Lake Church and 12Stone Church). I wonder what the consequences of this area for the church overall. What if all churches bought into this model? What would that mean for lots of different ministries a church typically does? It seems that these “simple” churches know what they can do (and they do it well) and it seems they know what they can’t do well (so therefore, they don’t do ‘em). I heard this remark a couple of times: If people want that, then they can go to other churches that do those (i.e. Christmas Eve service, VBS, Kids Camp, MOPS, etc). Interesting concept… I don’t know what I think about that yet.

There is a book called “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. In this book they highlight, Andy Stanley (from North Point Community Church). It might be worth a read.

Beyond Atlanta | Thanking Volunteers

celebrating and thanking volunteers regularly

Shannon Whaples (Next Generation Pastor @ 12Stone Church) had a volunteer appreciation event called “Ovations” on the second night we were in Atlanta (Friday: 7-7:3o coffee and cupcakes, 7:3o-8:15 celebrate spotlighted volunteers at each campus [with awards and gift certificates], 8:15-9:oo comedian). It was a simple way to celebrate and thank their many volunteers that serve in the areas of nursery, preschool, children and youth.

Chad and Autumn Ward (Next Generation Pastor @ Watermarke Church and writer of reThink curriculum, respectively), commented on doing 3 rhythmic volunteer things (they probably have a better reference to it than: things!):

  1. a vision casting event/connection with your volunteers in the fall (i.e. August)
  2. a refresher in January (middle of the winter) to keep them going (encouragement and endurance)
  3. a celebration in May (to thank and celebrate and share stories of what was accomplished)

I think that is something we need to build into our calendar/rhythm. Perhaps it would be fruitful to combine some of these (not all) across the board with youth and children’s ministries. Maybe the celebration at the end should be together. Maybe the refresher in January could be together but broken out into separate “breakouts” at the end or beginning. Maybe the beginning vision-casting should be done as individual ministries.

Beyond Atlanta | Family Ministry

capturing and capitalizing moments when you have a captive, parental audience

Chad and Autumn Ward told me this @ reThink. After our meeting and question/answer time, I asked Chad about reThink’s family ministry strategy. I wondered if it was just informing parents about what their children learned during the children’s ministry hour on Sunday morning. Was that as far as it went? In a word, yes. Amidst a strategy and an ethos, no.

Yes, 252 Basics and First Look curriculum consists of parental connection resources. It has things such as “Drive Home” cards, which give parents a chance to ask more pointed and informed questions other than the basic: What did you learn? And did you have fun? Additionally, the reThink curriculum adds in podcasts, devotionals, and others (that I don’t know about), all that go hand-in-hand with the “virtue” and stories the weekend teaching/worship experience touches on for the kids.

I’ve started doing things like this with Main Street and Followers. After every ministry program time, the parents (who have email) get an email “campaign” sent out via “MailChimp” that contains the lesson, some of its content, most likely a link to the videos and printed resources, and other important connection/information. I currently have no idea how this is being used by parents, or whether it is worth the work or not. But at least there is an attempt at doing the basic: informing parents what the church is teaching their children when they are here at Hayward Wesleyan Church. There definitely needs to be more… but what?

reThink’s ethos and strategy bleeds family. What I’m discovering is ministering to families is difficult to “program.” Events like Trunk or Treat or the Easter Eggstravaganza are great, but they are a program. What Chad and Autumn shared with me was to take those moments when there is a captive audience and communicate, in 10 minutes or so, personally what I’m learning as a parents. Chad was cautious and said he doesn’t share beyond what he himself has experienced. This is the inherent obstacles I have run into, more mentally and preemptive, than anything anyone has said. I’m careful as well not to tell parents of middle school students (or even elementary students) how to parent. I HAVE NO IDEA! Well, I might have an idea, but my kids are only 3½ and 2; they are preschoolers. I feel like I have gained enough wisdom to communicate and share with first-time parents as well as preschool parents, not as an expert, but as a fellow sojourner on the path of parenting little ones. For children and youth beyond what my parenting skills have been honed for, my only area of expertise is in surviving a couple of hours of programming time where I need them not to kill each other during that time. Strategies of control and discipline are entirely different when you live with an elementary student and an early adolescent 24/7.

What I learned from that 10 minute conversation with Chad and Autumn was this: family ministry is bigger than a program, waded into with experience and report, grabbing moments when the audience is listening, and very fluid. Another thing Autumn said as I was leaving was this: parents of first-time children as well as preschoolers are very much interested in learning all they can to better their child (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually). Not until parents’ children get into elementary do they “settle” down from all the seeking for the “perfect” tools to better their children. I found that to be profound. It seems, based on that simple advice, that another extremely captive audience are parents of children in the first 4 years of procreating. It might be more likely, additionally, that that “captive” audience might include the father!

Beyond Atlanta | Milestones

milestones (faith, social, physical, etc.) in a child & youth’s life and connecting with families (family ministry) at those natural, stages of life

This is cool. Milestones: kind of like rocks, or significant moments in the life of a person. First time parents, baby dedication/infant baptism (depending on faith tradition), believer’s baptism, confirmation/catechism (depending of faith tradition), rite of passage (from child to teenager), graduation (from teenager to adult), are some examples of “milestones” in the lives of children and youth. Some of these can be natural, some can be contrived. I wonder what this would look like in the overall development of spiritual formation @ our church? I wonder what it would look like to call parents to engage (spiritually/holisitically) in the lives of their children at each of these milestones.

It’d be interesting to see if it is worthwhile to think about crafting “classes” ahead and in the middle of these “milestones”. I wonder if people would care or be interested… you know, first time parents (having veteran parents sharing along with grandparents), people already have families and are (hopefully) connected with them for wisdom and direction and help. However, are they? Do families depend on each other for wisdom? Are families intentionally passing along parenting wisdom and strategies to first time parents? I don’t know. In my case, with my family support system between 1500 and 2000 miles away, it’s difficult for us (we have to “adopt” local grandparents, which has been fun!). I would have loved an interaction time with veterans in parenting. I wonder how many others feel the same way.

Is it worth crafting these “classes” as a sort of spiritual formation framework to start on with families. Even if only a small percentage of learned behavior and concepts stick, is it still worth it?

This is the thing that I picked up during this tour that I think might have the most promise, mainly because I’m a teacher and I think in categories and frameworks. If I’ve got a room to play in, or a house to live in, for me, having boundaries (i.e. walls) are important because it communicates limits and freedom within those limits. Again, for me, when there are no limits, I’m scattered, so a loose “spiritual framework for faith formation” would be extremely helpful. This concept of “milestones” so intrigues me…

Beyond Atlanta | Leaders Leading Leaders

creating a continual layer of leading leaders leading leaders

As I said earlier, I have “evolved” into leading leaders rather than just doing the ministry myself. The thing that really gets me in trouble is my lack of understanding administration and organizational flow charts. I don’t mind the details and planning side of administration, but asking someone to coordinate volunteers, sounds like something the children’s pastor is supposed to do because I’m paid. I know I need to get over it and get on with doing it more and more.

What’s interesting as one begins to lead leaders and not just hang out with kids is this: the deeper you get, the wider you need to get. This goes back to organizational flow charts and my lack of understanding them. I try to manage all these various teams of leaders. And what I need to figure out is how to train and inspire a few leaders to lead those leaders. I will never be good at caring adequately for volunteers, myself. However, with a few others leading those teams, I can be, because I’m not solely responsible for the continual depth of volunteers I hope to get in the coming future. I can connect and care for those leaders who then lead others.

Again, I don’t necessarily know how to actively implement this, but it will be an ongoing conversation/discussion piece with the people I serve with.