Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stepping Down

For the few of you who actually take a look at this blog or still subscribe to something that hasn't been posted on in over a year: I haven't been blogging about Children's Ministries because I have found my part time hours so limited that I can only focus on getting my weekly tasks done. It doesn't mean the work hasn't been happening though. And for as much as I have LOVED my job, I have found myself loving the idea of being home all the time with my son even more. Here is the letter we sent out to the families of our church this evening:

Dear Parents,

I am writing to tell you that after much thought and prayer, I am stepping down as Morning Star’s Children’s Ministries Director in order to stay home and be a full time mom to Jace. This has been a hard decision to come to as I love my job at Morning Star, I love the staff, and I love you—our families. But I feel so confident in this choice and am excited to spend my time with Jace (and Nolan too!).

I am so thankful for my time on staff at Morning Star. I feel as if I truly “grew up” here, joining the staff just after graduating college. This is where I discovered who God called me to be, met my husband and dedicated my son. Our leadership has blessed me so much by giving me opportunities to use my gifts, encouraged my growth, and cared for my family. I respect our pastors so much and Nolan and I look forward to continuing to learn from them as we discover what it is like to simply be members of this church.

The transition ahead for Children’s Ministries has been prayed over and taken very seriously. You won’t notice any changes in the care and teaching your children receive each week—unless it is the continual growth and improvement we always strive for in our program. Lucy Younis, our Early Childhood Director, has agreed to step into the role of Interim Children’s Ministries Director for the next six months. During this time the leadership will continue to look at what the best plan for our program is and address any staffing needs. Jared Boltman continues to pastor our elementary students while Justine Sowers helps him lead Adventure Mountain. Lucy, Jared and I have always felt that we have an incredible team, and I know that their talents and strengths will continue to complement one another well.

I gave the reigns over to Lucy on November 1, but will continue to be around this month acting as a consultant/advisor; handing over my responsibilities, helping her understand the history of our program and wrapping up some of my ongoing projects. You’ll also still see me around at check in on the weekends for the rest of November—I’m not ready to say goodbye quite yet! And then, after that, Nolan, Jace and I will join your ranks as attendees of this church we love so much.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your family for these past several years. It has been a joy and a blessing to watch your kids grow spiritually and physically.



Friday, July 30, 2010

What's in the Bible--Using it for our Summer Program

I've been meaning for a long time to write about how much I LOVE Phil Vischer's "What's in the Bible." I got a sample copy of the first video a few months ago and my husband and I enjoyed one afternoon of my maternity leave watching it. He and I both laughed through the whole thing and were so impressed by how educational and entertaining it was at the same time. In fact, I was so impressed by it that I tucked it away as a summer time option for our elementary program.

In order to give our volunteers a bit of a break, and to make up for a lack of help, we simplify our summer program. In the past that's meant using Kidmo or Elevate video curriculum. Our kids have enjoyed them, but we've found that they just weren't as simple as we would have liked as far as small group time goes. And while a team is working on creating a curriculum to use in churches along with the What's in the Bible videos, that curriculum isn't available yet (and it sounds like it'll be amazing, but also not be quite as simple as we're looking for during the summer).

And then one night during my maternity leave, while feeding my son at 3 am, I had a thought. What if we used the What's in the Bible videos and wrote simple lessons to go with them that fit the exact needs of our program with a light volunteer staff? I started thinking about what a good job my husband always did with making the "games" in curriculum actually competitive (kindergarten boys quickly figure out that a game really isn't as fun unless there is a competitive element, and why is it that so many curriculum's games lack that element?). And I thought about how fun the challenges in "Minute to Win It" are. And I remembered how much I liked Willow Creek's Metamorphosis curriculum and how we were able to use so many of their activities as games using two teams instead of small groups with the right up front leaders a few years ago.

All those thoughts lead to what has been our best summer program yet. Each What's in the Bible video has two chapters to it, and we only show half of a chapter each week, meaning the three videos available are able to get us through 12 weeks of curriculum--our entire summer! We watch half a chapter (usually about 12 minutes long), have a large group facilitator intro and review a bit of what's in the video, and then divide the kids into teams. Typically, we have a girls team and a boys team (that way we have a variety of ages on each time), other times we've had as many groups as we have leaders that day. All but a few of the weeks have had a competitive element, yet we don't give out any prizes. The kids compete purely to compete. We've played a giant game of Connect Four, navigated mazes, filled in the blanks of a work book, assembled a giant puzzle, and all the while, answering questions about what was taught in the video.

Our kids LOVE watching the videos (just don't tell the 4th and 5th graders that they're watching the same thing as the first graders or else they might start acting too cool for it). When I ask kids who their favorite character is, the most common answer is, "The guy who likes ponies!" And better yet, my leaders are learning right alongside the kids. This past week, one of the high school leaders told our elementary pastor, "I don't think most high school kids would know what the canon is, yet our kids can tell you what it is and how it's used."

So, all that to say, I love What's in the Bible. The kids in my ministry love it. And I am so excited to think about how we can keep using the videos in the future.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Living as a Believer

I think Wednesday will be one of my favorite days of VBS. We'll be looking at what it means to live as a believer among other believers. I remember first falling in love with the Acts two church back in high school when I read the book, Rediscovering Church. I loved their example of learning and worshiping together, as well as the love that they showed in meeting the needs of their fellow believers. I love it when our weekend curriculum covers the early church, and the kids in our classes also love hearing about the way that the church supported each other in its early days. People loving people is easy to love.

On Wednesday, each child should walk away understanding that:
-When you are a believer, you share a special connection with other believers.
-We can look at the early church to see how believers should live with other believers.
-We see that we should have fellowship (time together as believers), we should listen to teaching from God’s Word, and we should worship God together.
-The people in the early church really cared about each other: they shared what they had, sold their property and possessions to help the new believers in the midst who had no where to go, and they praised God and enjoyed the goodwill of all the people.

Every year we challenge our kids to raise money for a special giving project. We've helped build a water tower in Tonga, rebuild a home for a family whose house burned down in Tonga, purchased supplies for a VBS in Hong Kong, supported a mission trip to Latvia and supported an outreach festival within our own town. Our kids typically bring in between $2000-3000. I love the enthusiasm they show in supporting a need--I've heard great stories from parents of their kids selling seashells to neighbors, doing extra projects around the house, even giving up money they'd been saving for a trip to Disney Land.

This year our giving project will be our church's benevolence fund. This fund meets the needs of those within our body on a daily basis--helping pay utility bills for people who have lost their jobs, buying groceries for a single mom, assisting with medical bills, the needs met range from large to small but are always great. Helping provide for these needs fits perfectly with the overall theme of our VBS in that we're wanting our kids to understand what it means to be a believer and be a part of the body of Christ. Wednesday's lesson goes hand in hand with meeting this need as our passage talks about how the church in Jerusalem was growing daily. Many of the numbers being added were from outer areas, but because of accepting Jesus as their Saviors, they would be unable to return home. They had great needs and their new family met those needs.

Wednesday’s teaching takes what we learned the day before about how to live personally as a believer and builds off it on how to live in community with other believers. We’ll use the church in Acts 2 as our example. In Acts 2 (but focusing on 2:37-47) we see that the people in the church had a special relationship with one another, and their church was growing! They devoted themselves to learning about Jesus, to fellowship, sharing meals, and prayer. They met together and shared what they had. Not only did they share, but they even sold their property and possessions to help other believers in need. The worshiped God, praised God, and enjoyed the goodwill of all the people. It was a special group of people, and we can learn from them, and learn to live like them.

In the skit, the toys will go on a mission to rescue a missing toy. They toys will have to work together, support each other and help each other on this mission.

As each day gets closer, I check more and more items off my list and get more and more excited! I can't wait to see what God will do!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Learning as a Believer

[Check out this post for an explanation of why we write our VBS curriculum.]

On Tuesday of VBS we'll be looking at how the Bible teaches us what it means to be a believer. Our key word is learning. Learning to live a life that honors God is not something that just happens over night or naturally. It takes work and practice, but thankfully, the Holy Spirit will help us. We hope that the kids will walk away from this day understanding that:
-We need to live in a way that honors God, and this way of living will make us stand out as believers. To know how to do that, we read the Bible.
-We need to let the Holy Spirit change us into a new person--put off the old self and put on the new.
-The Bible tells us specific things we should not do: lie, be controlled by anger, steal, use bad or mean words, be bitter or have rage.
-The Bible tells us specific things we should do: work hard, give generously, say good and helpful words, be encouraging, be kind, be tenderhearted, forgive.

In Tuesday’s teaching, we’ll be looking at Ephesians 4:17-32, but focusing in on 4:25-32. We’ll begin by building off of the point made the day before that we need to live in a way that shows we are different, that shows we are believers. But how do we know what that is? We look at the Bible. We’ll hear about how we need to put off the old self, and put on the new. We do that by letting the Holy Spirit transform us into people who do things that honor God. Things that honor God are: hard work, giving generously, saying good and helpful words, being encouraging, being kind, being tenderhearted, forgiving. The things that make God sad are when we: lie, are controlled by anger, steal, use bad or mean words, are bitter or have rage.

In the skit the GI Joe will be determined to teach the toys what it means to be a soldier. He’ll continually refer to his Army Manual, while the toys try to teach him what it means to be a toy by referring to their Toy Manual. At the end of the skit, they'll overhear Andy talking about how Slink is missing. Our soldier will leave to do some recon work.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Being a Believer

Our Elementary Pastor, Jared, describes what we're learning this week at VBS best in his letter to the volunteers in our leader's guide.

“We are going to explore “Your Story” as we see what it means to be a believer, learn how to follow God, live a life devoted to God, reach out to others with the Good News of Jesus, and celebrate our lives lived for Him. We want everyone to see that God's story didn't end when the book of Revelation was written over 1900 years ago. God's story continues today, it is ongoing and includes each of us who know Him.”

On Monday our key work is being. In our elementary program, we'll learn about what it means to be a believer and what our identity is as one. Each child should walk away understanding that:
• God chose each of them before the world began, which shows that He loves us all very much.
• You become a believer when you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He saved you from your sins. You have faith, or believe, and put your hope in Him.
• God does not have favorites—He loves us all, but also judges us all equally, so we need to live in a way that shows we are different and believe in Him.

In the large group teaching, we'll look at 1 Peter 1:17-21 and what it says about what it means to be a believer. We will talk about how you become saved as well as about how special each child is to God. The kids will hear that being a believer means you are a child of God--chosen by Him and precious to Him. We will also look at how this passage tells us to live in a way that shows that we are different because we believe in Jesus.

Our ministry is blessed to have Rocky Wing be a part of our skits. Rocky is a phenomenal actor and two of his greatest strengths are becoming a character and doing improvisation. Each year we create a general outline for what needs to happen/be said at some point in the skit, and then Rocky leads the show while the rest of our actors follow his lead. You might remember his acting skills from the video in which he played Lord Maestro Alfanzo Caballero III. In Monday's skit, we'll meet the characters (all familiar to anyone who has seen Toy Story): Buzz, Woody, Jane, and Mr. Potato Head. A new toy will arrive, a GI Joe who doesn't realize he's a toy and thinks his purpose is to whip his new troops into shape. The concept of a misunderstood identity will be introduced.

I can't wait for the start of VBS. After a bit of a melt down with my husband over everything I need to get done, I've made my to-do lists, started checking items off, and now am feeling like we'll get there without too many troubles! We already have all of our adult and high school volunteer holes filled (Wow!), so any others who sign up will be extra support, and only need about 10 more middle school volunteers to sign up (normally we have too many to know what to do with). I'm so excited for the Monday of VBS when the first song starts and all the excitement fills the room!

Monday, June 7, 2010

VBS is 2 Weeks Away!

VBS starts two weeks from today! I am so excited about this year's them, "Your Story: The Adventure of a Lifetime." We came up with it when we realized Toy Story 3 hits theaters the Friday before VBS starts. We figured that common Toy Story themes are identity and teamwork, so we will be teaching the kids about what it means to be a believer. We'll be learning about being a believer, learning as a believer, living as a believer, reaching as a believer, and celebrating as a believer. I can't wait, and I know the kids can't either! This week I'll be doing posts about what specifically we'll be learning about each day.

And if you're visiting this blog looking for information about signing your kids up for VBS, here's what you need to know:
  • VBS is June 21-25, 9 am - noon.
  • It's for kids 4-years-old through those entering 5th grade in the fall.
  • Price is $20/each for the first two kids per family, $15/each after that.
  • We'd love to have your family join us at the theater watching Toy Story 3 on June 25. Tickets are $8/each and will be for sale through the Monday of VBS. We'll be attending the showing in the 6 pm hour, but won't know the specific time until the week of VBS.
  • Registration forms are available during the week at the church offices or in the south lobby during weekend services.
  • Questions? Call 503.581.2477.

Happy Birthday CPR

This week is the anniversary of the CPR method, so The Red Cross is doing all sorts of training events to help people become more aware and to be equipped to even just do chest compressions should an emergency happen. Hearing about this made me thankful for the training we are able to provide our volunteers. A man in our church is a certified trainer in CPR, AED, and First Aid. He provides multiple trainings each year at no cost to any of our Children's, Youth, or Safety and Security volunteers and staff. I'd say at least 90% of our elementary volunteers are certified, and several of our early childhood volunteers are as well.

While we haven't needed to use CPR or an AED in the six years that I've been on staff, an incident in our Saturday evening elementary class made me thankful for the repeated First Aid training our volunteers have received. During activity station time, a few girls were doing ballerina twirls in an open area of the room. What they were doing wasn't rowdy or rambunctious. But one of the girls tripped on her own feet mid twirl, fell, and naturally put her arms out to catch herself. She happened to land just right and broke her arm. The girl was amazingly calm. She looked up at her leader and said, "I think I broke my arm." It was evident in the awkward bend in her forearm that the bone was broken. Our leaders didn't panic. One went for help from a staff member, another kept kids away from the injured girl, while the third leader kept the rest of the group distracted and having [safe] fun. I should note that most of the kids in the room (including the girl's brother) weren't even aware anything happened.

The leader who went for help immediately got the first aid kit out when the staff member joined her, and was able to help fashion a sling and a brace for the broken arm. The girl's parents were surprised by how calm everyone was. I really think the calmness of the leaders helped the girl not react as badly as she could have.

While you would hope that any situation would be handled this well, what makes it even more impressive to me is the age of our leaders--we only had one adult in the room when it happened, and she's only 18 years old. The other two leaders were 17 and 14. They all responded with maturity, and I know the regular training they've all undergone was a huge contributor to that fact.

I think it essential that churches have CPR and first aid trained leaders throughout their ministry programs. And not just leaders who have had one time training, but regular training. My elementary pastor keeps an updated list of which of his volunteers are trained and when their certification expires. This list helps him not only know who to call on in case of emergency, but also who he should emphasize upcoming trainings to.

What are you doing to ensure that your volunteers are prepared should a medical emergency occur?

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