Friday, September 21, 2007

Stay on Target

Every summer my family took a 16-hour car ride to California to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The best part of the vacation was staying at my grandparents’ farm. The house was full of memories—sights, smells, textures and experiences. Mornings on the farm began with breakfast on the patio, followed by some target practice with the bb gun. My brothers and I would take turns shooting pop cans off a stump at the far end of my grandparents’ yard. Because the cans were so small, and my marksmanship needed fine-tuning, I employed the use of lawn chairs for better aim. With the chair facing me, I’d rest the barrel of the gun on top of the chair back. Then, with one eye squinted, I’d watch carefully until the aiming bead at the end of the barrel lined up with the can. A gentle pull on the trigger and—“twink,” I’d made contact. Or, “thunk,” I’d missed and hit the stump instead. The best was when the can went flying, signaling perfect aim.
In Children’s Ministries we’re also aiming at a ministry target—the target of equipping children and families to become complete in Christ and love Him for a lifetime. So we integrate bb gun wisdom in hitting the target. We use tools to help us send the can flying. Just as I needed a lawn chair to help steady my hand, we have four key values to guide each ministry decision—teaching the Bible creatively in a child targeted manner, building relationships, providing family resource tools, and safety. In in the end, the bead that we line the target with is the children.
Staying on target in ministry is essential. Because we want each shot to be dead on, we carefully reevaluate, looking for effectiveness. From our current way of doing Sunday mornings to communication with parents to extra events, we analyze what is the best use of the time, energy and resources God has given us. How can we be better stewards? A year ago we began looking at Fall Fun Fest. While it was fun and exciting and loaded with candy, we asked if it lined up with our ministry target? We found that we were actually hitting the stump instead of the target in view of our values.
This year, we will not be having Fall Fun Fest. Instead, we are excitedly planning a fun, high energy Family Experience where parents and kids can learn and worship together. Family Experience (FX) happens 6 times a year and each one focuses on a different key concept or virtue. The October FX will be looking at Outreach, specifically to your neighborhood. FX is a lot of fun and we hope you’ll join us. While it’s geared toward elementary aged kids and their parents, it is entertaining enough for a preschool aged child to have fun, deep enough for a middle school student to enjoy and relaxed so you don’t have to worry if your baby cries.
We’re working hard to keep our ministry on target. Just the phrase “stay on target” reminds me of a scene from Star Wars where the pilots are aiming for the Death Star, and one of the them keeps reminding in his monotone voice, “Stay on target, stay on target.” Without great focus, we’re going to miss our target.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Real Pain in the Neck

A week ago we were building toward one of our biggest Sundays of the year. We were prepping for a total reorganization of our elementary department, and prepping for promotion of almost all children. Three days ago I was setting up for an open house and then analyzing how many name tags we needed to print ahead of time. Two days ago we were hosting an open house for the new kindergartners so they wouldn't be as intimidated by the "big" Grow Zone. Yesterday, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock, rolled over, my neck popped and then pain hit. I couldn't move my head without a sharp pain in my neck and the muscles in my shoulder cramping. All I could think was "not today, not today."
After several attempts followed by screams and tears, my husband and I realized there was no way to get me out of bed, therefore, there was no way I'd be going to church. But of course, the show must still go on. My husband delivered the few items that were still in my car, and my team took over. They did great! While yes, quite a few things went wrong like the computer crashing right before worship, some volunteers didn't show up, and parents failed to read some of the signs and became confused. But the kids still learned and had a great experience.
All this just reminded me how important it is not to hold too tightly to control. That no matter how well organized you may be, others need to be invited into that creative zone deep within you. Jared, our Grow Zone Director, asked one of the best questions he could have thought of on Saturday before our open house. He said, "Could we go through exactly everything that's going to happen tomorrow so I can be sure that I understand all that you've been thinking?" Our conversation revealed we were on the same page. But had we not gone through it, I'm sure his confidence level when pushed into leading on his own would have been much lower.
Amy, my Early Childhood Director, thinks much differently than I do. While I'm completely global, she's completely analytical. One of the biggest lessons I've learned from working with her is that no matter how lined out an event or a project is in my mind, it does no good to our group as a whole unless I put it on paper.
While I would have LOVED to have woken up without a pain in my neck, I am thankful that things still happened. Our executive pastor has reminded me that the true test of an effective team is to have the leader gone and see if things still function. I'd say we have a great team!

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