Thursday, October 25, 2007

Being the Dreamer God Made Me to Be

I've always been a dreamer. As a child it meant I lived in imaginary worlds where I was the mother of twelve children, or the teacher to a class of third graders, or even living in the "olden days" helping with the underground railroad. As an adult, my imagination has transferred into dreaming for the future. In college, a speaker once said that her most frequent prayer is, "What dreams do You have for me, God?" Since then, I have been asking the same question, and have loved the response from Him!
It was God's dreams that showed me that I can be a Children's Ministries Director, even though I'm young and don't have children of my own. It was God's dreams that made it possible for me to be at a church that was willing to invest nine months of training into me in order to prepare me to lead this ministry. It was God's dreams that allowed my Executive Pastor to recognize that I am a dreamer and give me the freedom to do so.
For the last month I've felt like my dreams were slowing down. Life became full of the day to day without a passion and excitement for what could be. While that meant a lot of needed business was accomplished, there was so much desire for the future that lacked. But the dreams have once again started to spark! I've found how essential it is to have conversations with other dreamers. To be reminded that so often what could be should be. To see that excellence requires endurance--a willingness to tread through the challenges that come with making a dream a reality. But above all that, to be who God has created me to be--the dreamer He has created me to be, and to lead this ministry in that way.
I feel like God has Morning Star on the cusp of something great. For some reason, my mind went to the scene at the end of Mary Poppins when the winds change, signaling that it's time for Mary to move on; signaling a time of transition. The winds of dreams are starting to pick up, and oh how that excites me!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Equipping Our Kids to Change a Nation

While the show Kid Nation on CBS has received mixed criticisms, my husband and I are really enjoying it. It’s fascinating to watch kids of various ages problem solve and analyze their issues in the ghost town of Bonanza City. While I expected to find a variety of ideas from the show regarding cool VBS games and methods for grouping kids, little did I know there’d be a powerful lesson for Children’s Ministries.

In this week’s episode, the issue of religion was brought up. While I’m sure quite a few conversations hit the editing floor, I was sad to see how Christianity was represented by some of the children. Some said they were Christians and used that as license to mock the Jews. Other said they were Christians yet struggled when asked to explain it. And some claimed Christianity yet were eager to participate in ceremonies worshipping other gods.

If we are properly equipping our Children to be life-long followers of Christ, we need to be giving them the tools to not only understand their faith, but defend their faith at a young age. 1 Peter 3:15, 16 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

We need to be helping our children discover the answers about their faith so that when asked to defend it, their answer is personal. They know what they believe because they’ve discovered it (with help and guidance) for themselves. And not only do we need to be giving them the tools to answer, but the instruction to do so with respect. A respectful defense of your faith doesn’t mean not allowing the other to speak. It doesn’t mean cruel words. It doesn’t mean maliciousness. It’s gentle.

I would hope that if a kid from my program went on Kid Nation, they’d be a strong witness. And that hope serves as a challenge for me and the parents in my church. Our kids could change a nation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October

I just have to say that October is proving to be every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Making It Sticky--Simple and Unexpected

Our team has been reading the book Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It's a great resource! We've been using it to look at how we can market our ministry to the church in a way that really reaches people. This week I posed the question of what can we be doing to genuinely reach people? How can we help them see, experience and understand our mission? What can we do to make Children's Ministries at Morning Star really stick? How do we communicate the core (mission)of our ministry?

The Heath brothers' give a wonderful acronym for sticky ideas, SUCCESs.
Simple
Unexpected
Concrete
Credible
Emotions
Stories

Since we're only through the first two chapters of the book, our focus was on simple and unexpected. Parents in our ministry (as I'm sure in all Children's Ministries) are bombarded with paperwork each week from school newsletters to advertisements in the mail box. How can we make it so that what we send home doesn't get classified as another piece of paper? We need to keep it simple and to the point. "Compact ideas help people learn and remember a core message" (Made to Stick pg 48).

I love to talk, write, read--anything dealing with words. I wish I could write a long, newsy note to parents each week and have it actually be effective! So while the temptation for me would be to give every parent the long version of what our ministry stands for, it wouldn't stick with them. It needs to stay simple. In the same way a catchy, repetitive song sticks in your head, a simple message will carry with a parent despite a paper overload in all other areas of their life.

"The first problem of communication is getting people's attention" (pg. 64). It doesn't matter how wonderful my simple message is unless I communicate it in a way that catches someone's eye. The unexpected message doesn't blend in. Whether it's a flier of a different shape, a video instead of a spoken announcement, or a child wearing a sandwich board instead of a sign on the wall, it stands out. A sticky idea not only gets attention, it holds attention; it's valuable. The Heath brothers explain that surprise gets attention and interest keeps attention.

My message to families needs to be worth their time. My unexpected message gets me a listening ear (or a watchful eye). My simple message gets them to pay attention to the point of understanding. Say I want a family to attend an upcoming event. In our world of electronic communication, a hand written note is unexpected. And not only that, a personalized note is endearing. Keeping it short and to the point not only saves me from a lot of writer's cramp, it leaves my main message in their minds.

I'm looking forward to next week as we look at the concrete side of sticky ideas and making sure people get what I'm talking about. I hope to see a transformation in the way our communication sticks to those in the church. This book is sticking with me :) What sticks with you?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

October is Finally Here!

I love the month of October. Beyond the joy brought by watching trees change colors, the weather turn cool, and a change in wardrobe, it's my favorite month in Children's Ministries. September is a crazy month of finding the right people for the right roles, training new volunteers, and children going crazy with the weather change. Then October comes and I breath a sigh of relief. People know what they're doing. Kids are becoming accustomed to sitting for longer periods of time but aren't tired of learning yet. October is the time where I get to analyze our current effectiveness, make improvements to the look of our lobby, start visiting with parents who disappeared over the summer. And I relax, knowing November will come soon enough, and with it illnesses, holidays and anxiety from the kids for a vacation. But for now, it's October and I love it!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Numbers Aren't Everything

For as mathematically declined as I am, it's surprising that when it comes to Children's Ministries, I love numbers. Every Monday I take the numbers from Sunday's attendance and input them in an Excel document to chart our growth/loss and track what times of year are busy/slow. I have three years worth of Sundays recorded for each department (nursery, preschool, elementary, etc.). I love comparing the numbers! The problem happens when I start to judge the success of an event by the numbers. The perfect example of this happened Friday night.
A year ago we started doing a family service six times a year called FX (Family Experience). I'd LOVE to see it become a must-schedule for all the families of Morning Star. Last year our highest attended FX was in January with 95 people. It was amazing because it was only our second FX, and had doubled the first one's attendance. Friday we had our first FX of the year and 40 people attended. It was the most enthusiastic crowd we've had yet. They kids participated passionately, the parents joined me enthusiastically with motions for worship. Each family acknowledged to how much they love coming to FX. And if you were to ask me what kind of families need FX the most, three of the perfect candidates were there. Sounds like a success, doesn't it?
Then why do I look at the number 40 as a flop? Why do I keep measuring the success in numbers rather than family growth? When I start looking at the number, I don't think about the family that desperately needed encouragement and felt called to come join us for pizza and a program. When I start looking at the number, I don't recognize the father who doesn't join his family on Sunday but came for FX. When I start looking at the number, I don't remember the sweetness of two little boys making an invitation to give their father for the next FX. When I start looking at the number, I forget about the family that supports me and encourages me through everything I do. And, when I focus on the number 40, I loose sight of the fact that that 40 was more enthusiastic than our crowd of 95 ever was.
While numbers can make a good gauge for tracking what works and what doesn't, and they help watch for patterns, the true evaluation should come from the stories seen and heard as a result of our efforts. And if I'm evaluating off of those stories--FX was a HUGE success.

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