Monday, April 7, 2014

Salvation: leading kids to Christ

Salvation: Leading kids to Christ

Teaching kids about Jesus is something that I love, getting to introduce Him to their world and see them form their thoughts about God, church and faith is one of the things I love most about what I do. But as a Children's ministry leader, I also recognize that this is in fact what I do. Our team is comfortable having conversations about salvation and baptism on a kid level and answering all their questions. But what about the parent or grandparent who fully understands salvation and baptism for themselves, but has a hard time getting it to the level of a kindergartner? Or what about the parents who might still be learning this information for themselves? 

This month we will look at salvation discussions that can happen in the home. While we know they hear it at church, we want to know our families are also prepared to talk to and even pray with their kids.  Praying a prayer of salvation with our ministry kids is amazing, but the ability to share that moment as a parent is a memory that is a treasure. 

Most kids with a church background know that:
1. God created everything
2. Jesus is God's son
3. Jesus died on the cross for our sins
4. That we cannot experience heaven or grace without Jesus

It is in the next area that kids have the basic understanding, but need to know that we must ask to be forgiven, and make a decision to commit our lives to following God. The place I often see a lack of understanding of kids, is the knowledge that there must be a time they have decided to follow Jesus. Many kids think that they were born this way, since they have Christian parents and are growing up in the church. I love to ask kids when they were saved, and hear about that experience. When they start with "I have always been a Christian" I know we need to talk. One of the key moments of salvation is repentance, we must acknowledge that we are sinners, and no matter how many times we go to church our how great our behavior, we must admit this before God and ask for salvation. I love to teach this with a gift, I have a kid hold it out to give it to me. And I tell them that it's mine (while refusing to take it) but insisting it belongs to me. This helps them see that salvation is freely given to those who believe, but we must choose to accept it. The beauty in this is the ability to teach that there will be times we mess up and need to ask forgiveness, for a child who didn't do that in the first place, this doesn't make sense. 

Another area of confusion for kids is when they are simply given a prayer to repeat and then left to go about their life, it communicates that this was an action, not a lifelong commitment. So how do we teach kids that salvation is more than a repeated prayer? They need to hear it, and see it.  Below I have included some ways to get the conversations going in your home. Maybe you will find that your kids are more spiritually mature and understood than even you know! Maybe you will find there are some things they need more help understanding. And maybe you might be able to pray with your child as they come to a full understanding of God's grace through a discussion with you. (how exciting!)

Testimony Time: Your kids may know you to be a Christian, but have they heard your testimony? Spend a week sharing these! Maybe around a dinner table, allow one person a night to tell their story. How they came to know Jesus, where were you when you prayed? Who was with you? What God has done for you since that time? And don't forget to share the relationship you have with Him now. Kids love to know these things about their parents!

Verses to know: As we know, salvation doesn't stop. Once we have given our life to Jesus, we are to share that with others. It's important that kids know that too. One way to help kids (and adults) prepare to share their faith is to equip them with the too
ls to do so. Here are some very important verses that you can learn as a family this month to strengthen those sharing muscles. (Matthew 8:8-12; Matthew 19:25-26;  Romans 3:8; and Romans 10:9-10)

If you find your self in a position to lead a child to Christ, don't over complicate it. Salvation is intended to be simple, as simple as A,B,C's. A brief discussion of making sure they understand that they Admit that they are a sinner, and this separates them from God. Believe that Jesus paid God's price for their sin by dying on the cross. Confess and repent of their sin and come to Jesus by faith. And Decide to live for Him. Some kids just don't know how to start, when you bow to pray, ask them if they want your help with the words or if they are ok praying on their own. Most kids will formulate the sweetest prayers on their own once they have a full understanding of what they need to do. And if they need help, that is ok too. 

I would love to hear of some great family discussions this month!
Friday, April 4, 2014

AHA: the God moment that changes everything

Aha: The God Moment That Changes Everything

Bestselling author Kyle Idleman reveals how three key elements can draw us closer to God and change our lives for good.

by Kyle Idleman

Kyle Idleman's new book AHA (by David C. Cook) is a great read. As a seminary student, I am doing my fair share of reading these days, and I am appreciative of this book. AHA is well written and "real", when we as people of faith seek something that will push us and help us grow, it can be frustrating to thumb through an overwritten book. Idleman did a great job of making it to the point and easy to follow. I think what I appreciate most about this book is the fact that it can be picked up by a very new Christian and fully understood. The Biblical references and principals are aligned well with life application.

In his book, Idleman outlines the process of Biblical transformation and explains how it is profound yet so simple. He explains the three elements of an aha moment; Sudden Awakening, Brutal Honesty, and Immediate action. His no-nonsense approach is refreshing! 

As you read, you are taken through the journey of the prodigal son. I appreciate Idleman's ability to connect to scripture. I personally felt like I had just finished a Bible study, and less like I had just read another book. AHA calls for a great level of personal inventory and is very thought provoking. The use of many real stories of other believers is done very well, illustrating that we are not alone in some of life's trials. Without giving glory to these,  Idleman shares the progression to find grace and move forward. 

If you are a new Christian, you should read it! If you are a person of many years of faith, you really should read it and allow yourself to be challenged. 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teaching Families to Worship

As we unpack what worship is, it is important that we understand that worship is about God; it has nothing to do with us. More than being a part of the congregation or singing, worship is what we were created to do. Teaching kids that worship is a constant motion within us that doesn’t cease can help them better understand that it is more about our relationship with Christ and less about actions.  Worship is our inner (and sometimes outer) response to God that displays our reverence, honor, respect, love and joy for Him. 

Worship begins with salvation. When we can humbly come to accept Jesus and the gift of eternal life we begin to worship Him for loving us, the debt He paid, and accepting us into His kingdom. This form of worship is personal, and can only be truly expressed by a transformed heart.
·       If your kids have prayed the prayer of salvation, encourage them to tell you what God has done for them. And help them identify that their joy and love in these words is representative of their worship for Him.

The Bible has many scriptures about worshipping God with others. Worship within you is very important, but worship as a family and church is too. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Coming together to praise, learn and encourage each other are all things we do as worship to God.
·       Help your kids understand why we come together, and then prepare. Arriving at church late and rushed can throw off the day and most often attitudes. Get to church on time; consider grabbing something from the cafĂ© and having a few minutes to talk before kids go to class.

As parents, we can teach our kids to be mindful of worship. Kids need to know that they can worship God anywhere, at any time, in any circumstance. We also need to remember that worship happens in the good and hard times of life. Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever.”
·       Encourage your family to take a mental note of things that are in their day. Things like, a beautiful day, being at school, God’s continual care as we travel etc. Over dinner ask what they noticed. Kids (and parents too) will begin to see the creation around them differently and can be encouraged to worship God for it.

In January we focused on prayer, continuing with that article, remind kids that prayer is also a form of worship. Teaching them a few more ways to pray like:  “God you are great because… I worship you because….” Will help them put worship into words. As you do this, read through some of the Psalms to see how others spoke praises to God. Taking in God’s word and reflecting on the scriptures is a form of worship too.
·      Read a Psalm a day as a family.

How is your radio? Music is an amazing tool for worship! We all know the song selection at church glorifies God, but what about the car? Or the house? Encourage kids to sing and listen to music as worship.  Finding music everyone enjoys and making a playlist for the car is a way to get the whole family singing along.
·       Let kids choose some music. There are great bands with every sound for worship, look online or at the Bible bookstore and let kids make a selection for their use.  Be willing to let them play it in the car or when chores are being done, involvement in this choice will keep them motivated.

Lastly, giving is worship. Giving God our everything, our time, our talents, and even our tithe, are all acts of worship. Teaching kids to give through serving and through financial stewardship will lay the foundation for them to understand that these are acts of faith that God will provide and worship for what he has provided.

·       More than likely you are already serving others in some capacity at church. Verbalize why you do this, many kids know their parents serve as a teacher or sing in the choir, but do they know why you do it? Once explained, encourage kids to find ways to serve as well, helping them identify spiritual gifts that can be used to worship God.

Use these small steps in the month of March to focus on all the many ways of worship. 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beyond Background Checks

If you attended this session at CPC, thank you! You made it so much fun.

Below you will find the slide show as promised. If you didn't attend the session, you can get a copy of it on the incm website and use these notes as tips.

Remember, what we do requires us keeping kids safe. A safe loving, well thought out atmosphere allows families to go to church together and grow without worrying about safety.

Here is the link to my volunteer application as well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Session 2 at CPC14 with Matthew Luhn

Great worship to start the morning, followed by Todd Burpo sharing a bit about "Heaven is For Real".
The book has been out, and the movie will be released Easter 2014. I will be doing an upcoming review of this material, curious to know everyone's thoughts.

Today's initiative is "Providing a safe and relevant atmosphere"
Speaker Matthew Luhn

Matthew Luhn began his career at Pixar Animation Studios in 1992 as an Animator on the very first CG movie, “Toy Story”. Since that time, Matthew has worked as a Story Artist on “Toy Story 2″ “Monsters Inc.”, “Finding Nemo”, “Cars”, “Ratatouille”, “UP”, “Toy Story 3″, and “Monsters University”. Prior to Pixar, Matthew attended the California Institute of the Arts, and would later be hired as an Animator on “The Simpsons”. Matthew grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his family has owned and operated “Jeffrey’s Toys” toy stores for over three generations. Along with working at Pixar, Matthew teaches children and adults all over the world how to draw and create cartoon stories, characters, perspective, and animation.

Notes from session 2:
Being raised Jewish, Matthew first heard about Jesus when working as an animator on the Bart Simpson show at the age of 19.

The characters he draws affect people, not because they are cute or bright, but because the stories they tell have connection. 

Story structure and character development should be key components in developing your stories. 
Quality characters paired with a great story line is a win. 

(video clip of early Carl & Ellie from the movie "Up" was shown)
 This clip had no verbal dialogue, people laughed….cried…it makes us feel. 

Story is a powerful tool. 

Story works, nobody is telling you to feel a certain way "you just do".  Jesus used story telling. 
Story has a big part in how we vote, how we buy, how we believe.
It's not trickery, it's a common connection to persons story. 

Structure and character are the 2 most important things when telling a story, it's naturally in our DNA to tell stories with structure. It's a universal language language across the world. Make sure you have a beginning middle and an end. 
When telling a story, your testimony, a sermon, make sure they have these 3 elements. 

Character is what creates what your story is going to be about. You cannot have a story… a good story, without a character. Your character needs to have identifiable human traits. People have to able to connect to them. Whether they are an animal, and object or anything else., they need to have identifiable traits. You want to make sure your character changes, they start off one way, and become a different character by the end.  

Your story, must have an embedded redemption story. The ability to connect and insert ourselves in the story as we watch, communicates hope. We connect to that character. 

1 practical thing you can do when you prepare…
Write 1 sentence that describes what you want to communicate for what you want to communicate. 
We all have the natural storytelling instants, we need to be reminded of them. 

Form a sentence with the beginning middle and end, and showing how the character changes. 

The most common mistake is to give too much information without the common theme, leaving you bored and confused. 

Stay focused on having one theme, one character that goes through a change. "I want to communicate hope, forgiveness, etc… pick one and stick with it..and stay focused on it. 

This is why kids are drawn to the movies, story is powerful. So why not use story to communicate the message of Christ to kids. 

GO question : On a scale of 1-5 how is your team doing on storytelling? And what can you do to improve that?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Families that encourage

Encouragement! A gift that can be given at any time, to or from or any age. If you are a mom, a wife, a leader or a human being in general….you know that words of encouragement can completely change your day and outlook. We see time after time in scripture where believers work to encourage each other in faith, just as we are also called to do.

Last month we focused on prayer, this month we will look at ways to teach our families to be encouragers themselves. By no coincidence, one of the easiest things to do for someone as a method of encouragement is to pray for them! And since we covered that last month, we will use it as we go this month.  For the month of February we will be looking at three different aims of encouragement.

1. In the home

2. Among peers
3. To leaders

For most of us with kids, we realize that reality is there will be moments kids argue, fight, and worst of all.. cross that imaginary line in the backseat of the car into each other's space. These methods will not be a bypass for any of that, but will create moments that can become life long investments and teachable times for your family.

There is also interaction with peers, these days this can be everything from fellow workers, students, teammates, and our online communities. Especially in the online world, giving gifts of encouragement can help kids with the temptation of cyber bullying and understand that social media can be used in a positive way.

As for our leaders, over and over in scripture we see leaders encouraging one another. As leaders would become discouraged or work grew heavy, the received letters or visits encouraging them to continue their good work for the Lord. Leadership in any form is hard, and having someone pray for you or even just speak words of encouragement can be priceless. 

How we speak to each other can determine the mood of our home, workplace or online communities.

  • A younger sibling often beams with joy when an older sibling shows their approval. Encourage older siblings to vocalize something good that their younger brother or sister has done or is improving in. 
  • As parents, we lose access to our kids for about 7 hours a day while they attend school. Little notes of encouragement in lunches, backpacks or on bathroom mirrors as they start their day are great. 
  • Routine things like chores or homework, offering a kind word or even a helping hand can be encouraging. Often times we as parents are so happy it's simply done, that we fail to mention a job well done. Our kids need to hear these words. 
  • Say thank you! Every morning my 17 year comes downstairs and I have made some form of breakfast. Even if we are late and its a banana and a granola bar, he says thank you for whatever it is. It simply tells me my efforts didn't go unnoticed. Encourage everyone in your home to say thank you for every little thing, and watch the family interaction change. 
  • Encouragement in general is important; but spiritual encouragement is also needed. Praising your kids for noticing that they are in the word daily, or thanking them for praying at mealtimes will encourage them to keep going strong. 
  • Thanking a leader for being faithful, this speaks volumes

 Hebrews 3:13 says "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Finding ways to lift each other up in all areas of life  is an investment that will pay off as your children enter adulthood.  The question is how? Here are some ways to become a family of encouragement:

Here is the challenge for February:

1. Pick a leader to pray for, and let them know they are being prayed for, let kids choose a teacher or leader as well.
2. Offer 1 messages of encouragement a day on social media. Most Americans are on social media for an average of 17 minutes a day. Why not use 1 or 2 minutes to post a verse of encouragement or kind word to a peer.
3. Draw a name! Much like the "secret santa" concept, exchange names in your home and pray for your person, offer kind words, most families find that kids have a very natural gift of encouragement. 
4. Challenge your kids to offer one statement of encouragement to their siblings… this is amazing in action.

Random acts of kindness can be so encouraging, and many of us are great at them when it comes to strangers. I can't help but wonder what homes and workplaces, and schools would look like if the same effort was extended to those we love on a regular basis. 


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ready, Set, CPC!

What a week! Have you ever gone into an intense week of life with your exact plan mapped out, only to discover that it wasn't going to look anything like you planned?

As I started this week, I had intended to have some fun (since it was in fact a vacation) and get to share tons about CPC East! As we arrived at Disney, I became keenly aware of just how tired I was. My family had been running as hard (if not harder) than myself… and we needed a break! Thankfully, I took it! My husband and I ran all over Disney laughing and cutting up with our boys and we simply exhaled.

We did get to teach a couple breakouts, which was the intention, and do the Saturday morning coaching session. So, while I must apologize as a blogger for my lack of…..well, blogging, I can pass on to you a couple valuable lessons from CPC East! And hopefully you will be joining us at CPC West where you can cash them in! I will be there, with my team, and will be blogging. (seriously!)

At CPC East I caught myself needing to exhale, and simply be reminded that ministry is NEVER done. As a mom of a kid that will be a college student in the fall, I can tell you the time goes by quick!

Don't assume that I just skipped town and left tasks (ha!) I am thankful that by nature I am organized, my "work ahead" mentality allows me to set things down and rest from time to time. And this week as a leader, I was able to watch my family play, eat ridiculous things dipped in caramel and have moments of quiet to get closer to God and my family.

As I watched the fellow leaders at CPC, I wondered what state of mind they were in, sitting in the foyer many were on the phone and I was overhearing work talk from home. For some I spied them early in the morning out by the lake for what seemed to be their quiet time. (what can I say, I'm a people watcher)

My question to you leader, is what do you do to get conference ready? Do you come to CPC with a loaded mind that can't fit anything else in? Or do you go with your desk left clean at home and a brain ready to absorb? CPC is a place for many to relight a fire, to find fellowship among those that we share experiences in ministry with, and for some it can be a last hope in ministry as they seek God.

Here is what I am challenging us (including myself) to do before CPC West, ready?

1. Clean your desk - tie up all those loose ends, return those calls, all those little tedious tasks that consume our minds when we lay down at night. Just get them off your plate!

2. Get your programs covered - while ministry emergencies and issues do come up, make sure you are well staffed and your teachers have everything they need for any programming you may miss.

3. Make a wish list - Make a list of at least 10 things you expect to get out of CPC. Things like ministry questions answered, a contact who has expertise in a certain area etc.

4. Make an appointment with yourself - this is a great time as a leader to have a moment of quiet prayer and self assessment. For me, it has become my yearly self review.  It's also a way to find rest, a simple 30 minutes alone with yourself and God can make a huge difference.

5. Pray! - Go online and download the speaker list. Pray over those names and breakouts and sessions. Leaders like me appreciate it,,, I know I simply want to be used by God, and having people partner in prayer for that is awesome!

6. Leave a clean house - Well, not literally, but if you do literally…bonus points! Make sure your spouse and kids are good to go! When I come to CPC with my team, to work, I love to get a new movie and a special dinner for them. Happy homes :)

7. Schedule a coaching session - this year you will be allowed to schedule a coaching session at the end of the conference with the breakout presenters. This is an awesome opportunity! Take advantage of this free leadership training peice. 

8. Prepare to come, and have fun!! - bring your funny bone, and come ready to learn,
fellowship, worship and laugh as we grow stronger as spiritual leaders!

I hope to see you there!!