Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Transitioning: Steps Taken--Handing Things Off

There have been two types of steps I've taken in order to prepare for going part time, as well as for being gone for two months: handing projects off to others and getting projects done myself. This post will be about some of the projects and duties I've handed off to others.

Over the past several months, I've been giving many of my daily and weekly tasks to other members of our team. One way that I've helped support Jared (Elementary Director) because of his limited time in the office was overseeing the prep work for the elementary classes. I didn't do much of the prep work myself--I have an AMAZING volunteer named Mary who spends about 20 hours a week in the office helping Children's and Women's Ministries. Mary oversees a team of volunteers who come in and take care of the copying and cutting and tub stocking from week to week (each of these volunteers only do this once a month, and Mary oversees their rotation). Mary's job is to make sure they have everything they need to prep fully, and when they aren't able to make it, she takes care of it herself. Up until this fall, I was the one Mary asked questions to, made sure it all made sense, etc. But now, Mary meets with Jared each Tuesday to make sure she fully understands all the prep that's needed for the weekend. There have been many times where I haven't even known what the lesson would be about going into the weekend!

Another task I've handed off was the planning of our Family Movie Nights. For the first six months to a year of having them, I took care of making sure we had the money, the publicity, etc, and Jared took care of getting the food (food service is his thing--he's done catering in the past). But then Jared offered to take over the events (seeing as he is also really into movie stuff, he used to manage a movie theater). Since then, he's been making sure the fliers and announcements are out two weeks before an event, and that everything gets managed with money, etc. He's even recruited more volunteer help.

The most difficult task to hand off has been my role of leading worship in our kindergarten-third grade class during second service. We've been recruiting and praying, and finally had someone express an interest! She'll start training this week and hopefully be ready before this baby comes! (Now we're just praying for a guy who will step up to take my husband's place as a kindergarten boys small group leader.)

My biggest responsibility on Sundays that would be too much to hand off to a volunteer or Jared and Lucy while I'm gone for two months is managing our check in team and system. My volunteers are amazing at welcoming families and checking them in (they show true hospitality), but it's common to have a glitch with either the computer system or a family, and that's where I come in. My boss agreed to having Jan, my assistant who runs the behind the scenes work with our check in system mid week, add a few hours to her week and be present on Sunday mornings. It'll be such a relief to know she'll be there to make sure everything runs smoothly. She'll join me the first two weeks of January to be trained on all I do. She'll take over the first Sunday I can't be at church, and will go back to her normal hours the first Sunday I'm back after maternity leave.

As our transition dates gets closer and closer, it's so wonderful to not be stressed by it! We've been working toward this goal for so long that I'm confident things will go smoothly. I've handed so many duties off that I'm almost struggling to fill my time here at the office. Which will lead to my next post about the projects I've been working ahead on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Transitioning: A Staffing Plan

I mentioned in my last post that I created a staffing proposal for my Executive Pastor prior to getting his approval for my going part time. This proposal has been slightly modified over the past 7 months, but the core of it has stayed the same. To understand where we're going, though, you need to understand where we've been.

Our staffing structure has been:
Position: Children's Ministries Director (Myself)
Hours: Full Time, Tuesday-Friday 9-5, Saturday and Sunday services
Job Description
-Oversee the vision and direction of Morning Star’s children’s ministries.
-Meet weekly with the team to go over what’s happening in the ministry, assure that the departments are fitting together, give direction, budget needs and planning for future events.
-Stay updated on what’s happening nationally in Children’s Ministries to make sure our ministry stays current.
-Report to the church leadership on what’s happening in Children’s Ministries.
-Be present for weekend services to interact with families, volunteers, etc.
-Assist with the planning and implementation of curriculum as needed in the Elementary program.
-Plan and implement special events.

Position: Early Childhood Director (Lucy)
Hours: 30/week
Schedule: Monday-Thursday 8-3 pm, 5 hours +/- on weekends
Job Description
-Oversee nursery, toddler and 2’s & 3’s classes
-Schedule and train volunteers
-Ensure cleanliness of classrooms
-Oversee weekend preschool classes.
-Schedule and train volunteers.
-Select, oversee and adapt curriculum for weekend classes.
-Plan and create additional programs for preschool aged students.

Position: Elementary Director (Jared)
Hours: 20-25/week
Schedule: Generally in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (hours vary), 5 hours +/- on weekends
Job Description
-Oversee the weekend elementary classes.
-Schedule and train volunteers.
-Oversee volunteers to ensure proper prep is done for weekend classes.
-Select, oversee and adapt curriculum for weekend classes.

Position: Children’s Ministries Assistant (Jan)
Hours: 12/week
Schedule: Flexible throughout the week—Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
Job Description
-Maintain and update database/registration system
-Assist the directors and pastor as needed

Jared, our Elementary Director, joined our team first as a volunteer (about 4 years ago), then became an intern, and was then moved into the role of Elementary Director. He's always been part time, and was working on getting his MDiv at the same time. He graduated this past June, which was key in the implementation of this plan. We knew that he'd be wanting a full time position, and that with me going part time, that position would open up! On January first, his title will change to Elementary Pastor and his hours will increase to full time. He will still just be in charge of the Elementary program, but many of his responsibilities will increase, not to mention he'll be utilized more as a pastor on staff--for pastoral care, etc. Since Jared has just been part time running a large program, I've been very involved in helping where needed with the elementary classes. This included overseeing prep work (until recently), being involved in selecting curriculum, teaching, leading worship, etc. Jared was the one responsible for everything pertaining to volunteers and running things on the weekends. This involvement will completely change come January 1.

My new job description is:
Children’s Ministries Director
Hours: 12-15/week
Schedule: 6 hours/weekend, 9 hours to be spent during the week (three mornings)
Job Description
-Oversee the vision and direction of Morning Star’s children’s ministries.
-Meet weekly as a team as well as individually to go over what’s happening in the ministry, assure that the departments are fitting together, give direction, budget needs and planning for future events.
-Stay updated on what’s happening nationally in Children’s Ministries to make sure our ministry stays current.
-Report to the church leadership on what’s happening in Children’s Ministries.
-Be present for weekend services to interact with families, volunteers, etc.

Jared's new job description is:
Elementary Pastor
Hours: Full Time
Schedule: 5 hours +/- on weekends, four 9-5 office days
Job Description
-Oversee the weekend elementary classes.
-Schedule and train volunteers.
-Meet with and direct interns.
-Select, oversee and adapt curriculum for weekend classes.
-Plan and create additional programs for elementary-aged students (i.e.: VBS, Family Movie Nights).
-Be available for families who need advice/direction.
-Check on elementary-aged children who may have difficult situations in their lives.
-Help create curriculum/classes for baby dedications, etc.

Lucy (our Early Childhood Director) and Jan (our assistant) will continue with their roles as before.

In my next post, I'll talk about the steps we took between July and November to make sure we'd be ready for this transition in January.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting Ready to Transition

When I took over Children's Ministries at Morning Star three and a half years ago, my goal had been to develop my team to the point of me stepping back to part time to start a family in three years. I think the reality of reaching that goal still hasn't struck me. There were several times over these past few years that I didn't think we'd make it. The thought that I'd never be able to have kids crossed my mind a few times. But now, I'm just two months away from working only 12-15 hours a week (and then one more month until I take a two month maternity leave). Wow.

While the official transition has just begun, we've really been transitioning for three years. In that time, we've had four different staffing combinations. But each change has moved us closer to our next transition. My team is amazing, and I fully trust their abilities to run their programs. But no matter how great Lucy, Jared, Jan and Mackenzie are, our change would be impossible without the support of my Executive Pastor.

In January, I brought up that Nolan and I would like to start a family, but needed to know if I'd have a job after having a baby. Ken wanted to know how soon I was talking about. The next week, I brought it up again, asking if he'd thought about it at all. The response was, "Wait, you're meaning you want to do this soon?" The next week his answer was, "Why are you in such a hurry? You just got a dog, enjoy some kid-free married life a little longer. You're young." (All this was said in a lighthearted tone. I could tell Ken liked things the way they were.) The next week I provided him with a staffing proposal that lined out what each of our current salaries are, what they would be after the change, and what our job descriptions would be. And the week after that, Ken told me he was ok with my plan, but he wanted me to do research on how other Children's Ministries directors have transitioned from being a kidless director to a director and a mom.

As I looked around online (Kidology, google searches, blogs, etc.) I found that there are very few things written about this kind of transition in Children's Ministries leadership. So, either most women in my role began it after having babies, stopped working when they had babies, or just haven't posted their experience online.

Our transition is obviously very unique to Morning Star, but I think I've learned some valuable lessons along the way, and maybe someone else can benefit from them. My next few posts will be about how we're transitioning. And oh, does it excite me to be writing these! It's all a testimony to what God has provided for us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baby Update!

Our ultrasound went well yesterday--Jace was very cooperative and didn't cover his face at all! The tech was able to point out to us that Jace's lip was complete and showed us how there would be a black line if Jace had cleft lip. And then we just got the call from our doctor that after looking at three different angles, it looks like Jace's palate is complete as well! So, unless there's a surprise when he's born, it looks like he doesn't have any clefting.

We're praising God for it. I'd rather give God the glory and say He healed my child than blame it on a faulty first ultrasound. And I know that God is going to use all this knowledge we've gained about it for a reason.

It's actually kind of strange to think of Jace as not having a cleft now. For the past four weeks, the entire time I've been able to identify him as a boy and with his name, I've envisioned him with cleft lip and palate. My looking forward to the future with him always involved a cleft. When I looked at pictures of babies, my mind would then imagine that same child with a cleft lip. I embraced the cleft possibility, knowing it would be better for me to be ready for that result rather than so hopeful that it wouldn't be there that the news of a cleft would be devastating. So now, it's almost like there's a different child inside of me. I am thrilled his lip and palate are complete. I am so thankful that he won't have to have the surgeries. But I would have loved him just the same regardless of the outcome from this ultrasound.

I've already been asked if we're still keeping the name Jace, and the answer is yes. We chose that name because it meant healer, and I know that God healed him. I've been so blessed by all the notes of encouragement from our friends and family. This experience has meant my child has been lifted up in prayer more than he would have been otherwise. I'm just sure God has great plans for his life, and if it's to be a healer in relationships with other people, then this name must stay. And who knows, maybe he'll be a very rough and tumble little boy who gets hurt a lot!

Thank you for all your prayers! God is good!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Let's Get a Little Personal

As I've posted before, I'm pregnant and due February 1. Nolan and I are so excited to welcome our little boy into this world in just 4 months! We went in on September 9 for the ultrasound to find out his gender and make sure he's growing properly. Our doctor called the day after the ultrasound saying that when she took a look at it, they saw that he might have a small cleft lip/cleft palate, if one at all. So we're going back in for another ultrasound on October 5 to hopefully get a better look. She's thinking that a month of growth between ultrasounds will help them see clearly if he has it or not. We're glad to hear that it isn't distinct enough or big enough for her to be conclusive at this time (from what I've read online, you can spot cleft lip as early as 16 weeks, and this ultrasound happened at 19 weeks). So we're hoping and praying that 1) if he has it, God might heal it before the next ultrasound or by time he's born, 2) he doesn't have it, or 3) if he does have it, we're praising God for medical advances and what they're able to do for this these days!

Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate is most common in boys, and 1 in 700 babies born in the US has it. So it's much more common than we thought it was. This in itself is a testimony to what a great job doctors are doing with it, in that you'd never realize how many people have had it.

If he does have it, we'll get set up with a team from Dornbechers up in Portland. Cleft lip is typically repaired when they are 10 weeks to 3 months old, and cleft palate repaired around 9 months. So while it's so treatable, he could still have quite a first year of surgeries in store for him (and potentially many more surgeries ahead of him if it’s cleft palate).

All this made me REALLY want him to have a name already--to give him more of an identity. And I wanted his name to mean something, since he'll have so much to face at first. I started looking through names that meant things like strong, God heals, etc. Finally, we decided on "Jace" (which comes from Jason, but that won't be his name). Jace means healer, and on some websites, it also meant God is my refuge. Both fit well we thought. Plus, Nolan loved that it's unique, since he likes names that he hasn't really heard before. So as of now, baby's name will be Jace John Nelson (Nolan’s middle name is John, it’s also his father and grandfather’s and great grandfather's name).

We really have an incredible peace about the whole thing. I’m so thankful for a doctor who’s thorough and spotted this. From what I’ve read, not all doctor’s catch it. What a blessing to be able to know what we’re heading into and to be prepared for it! We're sad for the pain he could potentially face at such a young age, but at least he won't remember it as he gets older.

He'll be beautiful no matter what. And I'm just sure, if he does have cleft palate/lip, he'll be a much stronger person because of it. Please be praying with us as we go in on Monday. We are confident that God's plan for our baby is perfect, so cleft or no cleft, we're content. Our biggest concern at this time is that he actually let us see his face during the ultrasound. Please pray that his face will be easily seen and that the doctor and technician will be able to correctly diagnose him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bridge 45 is Still Alive and Well

I haven't posted anything on our blog about Bridge 45 and what we're learning in 4th & 5th grade ministry for a long time... but it's still running and doing well, and we're still learning. Hop on over to that blog so read about an encouraging conversation I had today!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One Downfall to being a Children's Ministries Director

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but Nolan and I are expecting our first child on February 1! We find out tomorrow morning (Wednesday) whether we're having a boy or a girl *hopefully*. Ever since we found out that we'd be having a little one, I've been pouring over baby names, making my lists, and then having Nolan go through and pick his top 5. The biggest problem I've run into, though, is how many kids I already know with different names. Working with about 300 kids a week really limits my possibilities! While a name my sound great or have a wonderful meaning, I just can't help but place faces (or personalities, or behavioral flaws) with the names!

But--if that's one of the only downfalls to being a Children's Ministries Director, I guess I can deal with it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

An Identity Crisis

I haven't blogged in a long time. I even had promised in a previous post (it's been too long to say "recent") that I'd be blogging a whole lot more. But it seemed like every time I considered going to to type up a new post, I couldn't get myself to write. It seemed odd, after all, writing is what I love to do. It's what I've always wanted to do. I have spiral notebooks full of stories I created as a child about Anna Bunny and Daniel Cougar (the story starts when Anna was a child, but over the course of my second grade year, she grew up, married Daniel, and they had children). I also have all the books I "published" in elementary school--where I wrote a story, took it to the computer lab, typed it up, colored on a sheet of card stock for the cover (which was then laminated) and finally comb bound my masterpiece. Anna Bunny made it to the pages of one or two of those. I have saved my favorite papers from college, and even have a book on my shelf that contains a short story written by me. This book was sent to me by the publisher, but there were more copies of it in Borders (I know, I checked). I love to write. So why is it that the thought of blogging has left me utterly wordless?

I've been going through a devotional guide by Beth Moore on King David. One day's study looked at how David knew who he was, and because of that, he was able to refuse King Saul's armor when going out to battle Goliath. Through some of her comments, I began to think of who I am, what makes me me, and then went to how that translates to my blogging. I realized that I've been having a blogging identity crisis.

I follow a lot of blogs, and the majority of them are about Children's Ministries. Several of the "top" blogs I follow are updated regularly--sometimes even multiple times in one day. And the tone of many of them is how-to. Some of them have even gone so far to actually say that unless your blog is teaching someone how to do something, what's the point of it? As I read more and more posts about how to communicate with parents, how to teach kids about baptism, how to recruit volunteers... the list goes on and on, I began to feel like my blog was less and less valuable. After all, what do I have to teach? What am I an expert on? My blog is so full of personal stories about our experiences. I write stories, not how-tos. So as these thoughts filled my head, I felt less and less like I could come up with something worthy of posting for all to see (or at least for all those who Google "morning thoughts for children" from India).

But what Beth Moore beautifully made me realize, was that I am not a how-to writer. I am, and always have been, a story teller. I created this blog to first communicate with parents about what was going on in our ministry, and then it became an outlet for me to process what was going on in ministry. And amazingly enough, people started reading it. Now, looking back, it seems like it's the most heartfelt posts that received the most comments too. My blog was never intended as a teaching platform. It's not a discussion starter. And it's certainly not the masterpiece of an expert. But it is full of the musings of a Children's Ministries Director who loves to write. And that's how it'll stay.

Maybe now I'll start writing more...

Friday, July 17, 2009

VBS Recap Video

I'll be posting pictures soon from VBS, and our video was just finished yesterday!

VBS 2009 Recap from Morning Star Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two Down, Three to Go!

We had another great day at VBS! Some of the highlights were:
-About half of our volunteers showed up 15-20 minutes early (mostly so they could get in the food line early). Many of them were quick to help set up the breakfast.
-We have more breakfast foods than we're able to put out each day!
-The day started and finished smoothly, oh, and was smooth in the middle too!
-I was standing in the lobby about 3 minutes before I needed to be on stage to start worship when suddenly I noticed all the kids were standing near the stage, just waiting for the band to begin. The band, thinking it'd be good to be ready on time, had simply gotten into place and were going to wait a little while. All the kid saw them and couldn't wait to get started!
-We have three guys from the Surge Soccer Team (a semi-pro team that plays in Salem in the summers--they're a Christian team that does great outreach) leading our games and they're doing an incredible job. It brought me so much joy to listen to one of the guys talk to the kids as they played their game, "Remember, you need to have patience for this to work. Just like David showed patience in waiting all those years to become king, you can show patience too!"
-Our guy leaders have been great! Usually, there are a few we need to talk to for improved behavior. This year they're all outstanding. Such a blessing!
-Lucy was sick today and had to go home early, but the preschool department continued to run smoothly.
-We increased by 12 kids today! And most of those were from our kids bringing friends.
-Once again, I can't wait to see how the rest of the week goes!

Monday, June 22, 2009

One Day Down, Four to Go!

Day one of VBS was great! We had a few glitches to work out at the beginning with getting the all the volunteers in their places, but once that was in place, it was smooth sailing! Here are some of the highlights:
-We had about 125 volunteers for our 231 kids. What an incredible ratio!
-Those volunteers showed up on time if not early! (Which I credit to the fact that we provide breakfast for our volunteers each morning.)
-Ladies in the church have helped out in a wonderful way by bringing in baked goods each morning--egg dishes, home made muffins, and one lady even came with a waffle iron and waffle batter to make waffles to order! That, added to the muffins and pastries and fruit we provide, provides a wonderful spread for everyone!
-The kids showed up with excitement, and the enthusiasm only grew as the day went on.
-We had to do some shuffling thanks to an unusually high attendance with our fourth graders. Usually, fourth and fifth grades are our smallest groups. This year, fourth grade is the largest!
-Lucy, my Early Childhood Director, is experiencing VBS for the first time and is doing a great job.
-One first time volunteer told me she's so impressed by how organized things are. I see it as we've figured out a great system, and organization comes naturally with that.
-My niece, Madison, is staying with me for the week so she can come to VBS. This is her first church experience. Her high school counselor is doing a great job with her! We worked on memorizing her verse tonight, and she had fun searching through our house for coins to take for offering. We're planting seeds!
-The week can only get better from here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vacation Bible School 2009

Wow! VBS stars Monday! I feel like I've been either so busy getting it ready, or knowing I need to work on it and feeling guilty about doing other things instead (blogging). I am really excited for VBS this year!

This is our fourth year of writing our own program. When I took over our Children's Ministries program, I wasn't too impressed by what our church had been buying. It wasn't that the published curriculum wasn't creative or well done--we just needed something different. I'm curious what the average size of a Vacation Bible School is. We see about 225 kids, and all the material and supplies that a published curriculum required got really expensive really quickly (not to mention took forever to prep!). Beyond that, we never actually used the songs or skits recommended by the curriculum--one of our pastors always leads worship and the skits and he has an amazing creative mind and is a phenomenal actor! I had also observed that the boys never seemed to really enjoy crafts--which was our biggest time and money consumer. And along with all of that, every other church in our town did the same thing. We wanted to stand out with something different.

So after evaluating all of those factors, and knowing what a wonderfully creative team we have, we began writing our own program. The first year I was so excited to see it all work out, but also very nervous that what I was so confident in wouldn't actually work. But it did! It was great! Our first year's theme was "Galaxy Quest" where the kids went on a space adventure to learn about the Armor of God. The skit was something like Star Trek meets Star Wars meets Space Balls. We did away with crafts for the elementary kids and replaced them with activity stations--legos, beads, clay, craft items, and taking apart electronics. The kids got to pick what table they wanted to participate in each day. Games were a lot of fun, snack was simple, and the week went great!

The next year we looked at the Fruit of the Spirit with a theme of "Willie Wantcha and the Character Factory." Once again, we had an amazing week! Last year we went on a great journey in learning all about the Bible in our "Follow the Golden Road" week. Each year I've felt was our best program and this year is no different. I can't wait to have kids to be inspired to think of all the places God will take them! We're learning about how God used kids in the Bible to do great things--how Samuel was used for great things because he listened to God, David was used for great things because he was patient in waiting for God's timing, Josiah was used for great things because he honored God, Jesus was used for great things because He obeyed God, and the boy with the loaves and fishes was used for great things because he was available to God. It's going to be great!

God has blessed us so much through giving us ideas and bringing it to life. And it all just excites me even more for what we'll do next year!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's in a Name II

In January I blogged about our new name for our Children's Ministries program. We've seen the great benefits giving ourselves a new name among our kids--the elementary students loving going through our weekly routine of saying, "Welcome to.... (insert arm motions of throwing them in the air like you're on a roller coaster and calling out with great excitement) Advennnnnture... (insert arm motions in shape of mountain above head, and using a very deep voice, because a mountainous voice is, of course, deep) MOUNTAIN."

But the greater benefits of becoming Adventureland come from our visitors. As each new family stands at our main registration table, their kids stand and look at this sign. As they stand their, older siblings excitedly tell the younger ones, "You get to go to Adventureland Cove!" Or they ask, "Do I get to go to Adventureland Mountain?" Having a Disney-like name really helps newcomers feel a greater sense of excitement as they enter our program. If we can get them excited at that first moment, they are less apprehensive about entering their class. If we get them excited to enter their class, they more readily engage in our lessons and small groups. And if they engage in our lessons and small groups, they're more likely to tell their parents the had a great time. And if they had a great time, I'm pretty sure they'll return!
We had a good program before we had a good name. But this name makes a strong, lasting first impression. But as good as a name is, it would be meaningless if it didn't represent what they experience once the classroom is entered. So what is in a name? A great first impression, but even more, the representation of something better.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vacation Bible School is Getting Closer!

This year's Vacation Bible School is June 22-26 and we are so excited for it! Our kids will be learning that God can do BIG things with someone little, just like them! We'll be learning about how God used kids in the Bible for great purposes--Samuel, David, Josiah, Jesus, and the boy with the loaves and fishes.

Pick up a registration form at the church offices during the week, the VBS table on the weekends, or click on the link below to download a PDF copy of the form. Register by June 7 for early bird pricing!

Questions? Call the church offices or leave a comment on this post and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!

Registration Form

More Posts Coming Soon...

I have a long list forming in my Blackberry of blog posts I want to write. However, I don't seem to be very good at making the time to actually write them! So more posts coming soon...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

VBS is just 2 months away!

Two months from yesterday VBS will have started! I'm so excited for what we'll be teaching, the kids we'll be reaching, and the volunteer's who'll be serving (too bad I didn't have another -ching word to use, that would have been cool!). Our theme this year is "Oh the Places You'll Go!" Our tagline is "God can do big things through someone little, like you." We'll be looking at five kids in the Bible that God used to do great things--Samuel, David, Josiah, Jesus and the boy with the loaves and fishes. Today I sat down with our receptionist's eight-year-old son and he helped me think through/plan our games. It's going to be fun!

Registration starts the weekend of May 2 and 3!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Favorite Elements of Easter 5

Typically, our first two adult Easter services run like clockwork, ending exactly on time. And typically our third service always goes longer (no need to empty the parking lot for another service, so why rush, right???). This year was no exception. Because of that we ended the K-3rd class in small groups even though the previous two hadn't. I simply instructed the kids and their small group leaders to talk about what they heard in the lesson and what Easter means to them. I also invited any kids who hadn't asked Jesus to be their forever friend to talk to their leader about it. The kindergarten girls leader later told me that four of her girls asked Jesus in their hearts, and the others had already done so!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Favorite Elements of Easter 4

Midway through our 9:30 service I had the opportunity to show a visiting mom to our nursery. I was greeted by a room full of frills! We had 10 baby girls and no boys in the room. Each of the little ladies was wearing a fluffy skirt, filling the room with pastels. So cute!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Favorite Elements of Easter 3

One of our visiting families had cautioned us that their preschool boy and girl wouldn't do well without their older brother. I encouraged them to give it a try first, because all the kids would be better off in their age appropriate classes. I later peeked in as one group of our preschool kids were going through their craft/activity stations. The little boy who had been reluctant was standing and watching all that was happening and the shape of his open mouth made it look like he was crying. But when I stepped in the room, I discovered he was simply making that face to show he wasn't happy but not actually crying. But the end of the service, he was fully engaged in the class. Preschoolers crack me up!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First AND Last Impressions

I love food. So when our team traveled to Chicago for the Conspire Conference, I had all our meals planned out. I knew which restaurants we'd eat at, and had addresses saved so I could easily program them into our GPS. We had eaten at these restaurants last year, and I couldn't wait to eat at them again.

Our first must-visit restaurant was Gino's East Pizza. We drove straight from the airport to their restaurant. They have amazing Chicago-style pizza! Our server was great at his job. He welcomed us to the Chicago area, and was even honest at recommending foods. We asked him which appetizers were the best, and he reviewed each of them, honestly telling us which ones are a Gino's specialties, and which ones are in the same class as any other restaurant. The great food combined with great service represented Chicago well as a great first impression.

We ate more great food, had a wonderful time at the conference, and were excited to head home with all our new information and renewed excitement. But we couldn't leave without eating one last time at the airport (after all, who knew when we'd eat next?). We stopped at one of the little restaurants in the airport hoping we'd get a good burger. Not only was the food good, but the service was great! The lady taking our order was quick to tell me and Lucy that the burgers we'd ordered were HUGE and we might prefer the smaller (and cheaper) burgers. We appreciated that she placed our needs ahead of her profits. Then when she brought the food out, we noticed that our order of fries was much larger than the other patrons, even though they only had one size to offer. We were so impressed by such great service!

Our team returned home loving Chicago. We were greeted with great service, and bid farewell with the same quality. Chicago gave us not only a great first impression, but a great lasting impression as well. This got me thinking about our ministry from week to week. We strive to make sure each family is greeted kindly, questions are answered, and that they know their children are in good hands. We want to give a good first impression. But how often to we make sure that they receive the same treatment as they exit the building? A good first impression is important. But wouldn't the last impression be what lingers longer?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Favorite Elements of Easter 2

Another element of our Easter weekend that I loved was being able to lead worship for our K-3rd class during all three Sunday services. The 8 am service only had 14 kids in the class, but they all did a great job of making up for their numbers with enthusiasm. The 9:30 group of 55 kids was so passionate! I love the energy that was in the room, and I'm sure that if the adults in the auditorium had listened carefully, they would have heard us. The 11:00 group of 52 kids wasn't quite as loud, but their love for the Lord was evident as they sang and did motions to "How Great is Our God."

Favorite Elements of Easter 1

One of my favorite elements of this Easter weekend was the additional help we had for our new family registration. Not only did I have a great team of ladies who were quick to make name tags for all of our visiting kids, but I also had wonderful escorts to show families to their classes. Each visiting family was personally shown where their children's rooms were, and several of these escorts stood in line with the families, chatting, as they waited for their turn to enter the room. Watching these friendly volunteers make families feel at ease blessed me beyond what I could have expected.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who'da Thunk?

We had another Family Movie Night on Friday and it was a big hit! It was our second highest attended out of the four we have now had, which was pretty surprising considering it was Spring Break week. Our snack bar has served items such as candy bars, popcorn and Capri Suns, but we've been looking for an additional unique item to sell. While at Conspire, Lucy and I noticed that their coffee shop sold a "cup of dirt," or a cup of pudding with crushed cookies and gummy worms on top. We loved the simplicity of the idea! Jared was on top of things and found all the materials we needed for a minimal cost (did you know you can buy large cans of pre-made chocolate pudding??), and we started promoting it at church the Sunday before.

100 people (children and adults combined) attended on Friday, and we sold 25 cups of dirt. One mom told me that her kindergartner daughter was ready to skip going to Grandma's house and come to the movie night just so she could have a cup of dirt.

Who'd have thought that such a simple, inexpensive snack would create such a draw for our event? We'll definitely keep serving dirt, and be looking for any other toxic, gross, or filthy snack ideas for future times!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Conspire Day 2, session C

Cultural Trends that Affect Children's Ministry, Larry Shallenberger

Why pay attention to culture? It's what you do when you love someone. You get into the culture of someone you love.

Trend 1--Outsiders view Christianity as the disease and not the cure
-It's socially acceptable and profitable to attack God. Organized religion is thought to create the problem.

Themes from Unchristian
-Too Hypocritical
-Too focused on getting converts
-Perceived as anti homosexual
-Too sheltered
-Too political
-Seen as being judgmental

These people had tried church but it didn't work out.

They doubt that we really love people the way we say we do.

Don't teach kids isolation, teach them love.

We've been given a theology of engagement--go into the world, love people.

Teach kids to bring their friends because they love them.

Try to create new heroes for the kids.

Emphasize servant hood.

Let the kids know there is a right and wrong.

2. Changing Face of the available Volunteer
The church once depended on moms because that was who was available. But who's available now?
-Retiring Boomers
*Want to make a difference not a contribution
*Not afraid to make a commitment when they see there is a payoff (what's in it for me?)
*They want flexibility

*Don't go the library, they google info for it
*As apt to shop online as go the store
*Video game expectations
*Multi Taskers
*Media Multitaskers
*Think digitally
*Looking for Causes
*Team players but want to make a unique impression
*Want to be mentored by adults they trust.

Trend 3: The falling Price of Video Technology
We cannot use video to replace volunteers
"Electronic Flannel Graph"
Kids are becoming passive learners
Technology expands one thing, amputates others.
-People only remember 10% of what we hear and see in a month, 40% of what we discuss, 70-80% of what we do and 90% of what we teach someone else.

God made human beings to grow in community.
Use video, but evaluate on its ability to launch a conversation, he personally never uses clips longer than 5-7 minutes.

Conspire Day 1, Session 3

Discover Each Child's Strengths, by Jennifer Fox

Children need us to teach them to love themselves so they can know how to love others.

Our world needs strengths to be discovered and loved.

It's a matter of perspective.

We're so drawn to weaknesses in kids that we often overlook the strengths.

There's something we are born with and will go back to again and again.

Talents are what you're good at. Strengths area feeling you have inside. We're energized by our strengths.

Find talents that are also strengths. The problem is so many people are pushed to develop talents that are not a strength.

3 types of strengths

Peel back layers of specifics to get to the heart of the matter.

Being good at something something isn't a strength. A strength is where we'll make the biggest, most meaningful difference for the longest amount of time.

Kids know they're good, but they don't know where to take it.

Customize it to allow kids to work together with their strengths to make a meaningful contribution in life.

Conspire Day 1, Session 2

Spirital Formation of Children--Dr. Ivy Beckworth & Dr. Donald Radcliff

How do you define it?
-By encouraging children to be Christlike--connecting child and God, see that they're growing and learning, we are not the ones doing the forming, God is. We can facilitate.
-Helping children to love God and live in the ways of Jesus.

How do we know we're spiritually forming kids?
-Watch and listen to them--see God working
-You can't measure it. Not a test, but a testimony. Have them tell their story.

Forming children is a process, a journey, and we are the beginning of it. We get to watch for the little moments.

We continue each day with faith that God will continue to work in that child.

"Church is good at doing things for children, but not as good at doing things with children." John Westerhoff

Conspire Day 1--Session 1

I meant to write and post this last night, but Lucy and I were having too much fun talking!

Here are the points that stood out to me from Session 1, "Discipled by Culture," by Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales).
-More people in America have a TV than a fridge or indoor plumbing.
-"Electronic media in our lives is not optional--it's a necessity."
-2 out of 3 8-18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom.
-1 out of 3 0-6 year olds have a TV in their bedroom.
-1 out of 5 children under the age of 1 have a TV in their bedroom.
-Most kids have most of the media, most of the time.
-8-18 year olds have 7 hours and 50 minutes of daily media content in 5 hours of media time--kids are using multiple forms of media at a time.
-25% of 8-18 year olds come from homes where the TV is unrestricted and always on.
-Kids engage in media more than anything else except sleep.
-Kids today spend less time watching programs w/ clearly adult themes. There are more programs designed specifically for them.
-But, there's less motivation to create family programming because of this. There isn't a family to watch family programming0--they're all watching TV in separate rooms.

So how does this affect kids?
-As they get older, they're wanting to move on, they're wanting to grow up.
-"By segregating kids, when they decide they're too old for kids shows, they fall off a cliff."
-We are compressing childhood. They're outgrowing kids shows before they're ready for adult themes.
-They are losing a sense of adulthood. Adult programming is shaping a kid's perspective of what adulthood is. We have idealized a point in the lifestyle of humans-giving them a spring break mentality. They are between obeying parents and having responsibility.
-Compartmentalization of faith--Go from church all about God to shows where there is no God and there is no church. Kids see that God exists only on Sunday and the rest of the week He is gone.
-Advancing a new religion of fun. Everything is about fun. Fun, as a concept, is absent from the Bible. Kids think they have to be having fun every minute of the day.
-"Kids [TV] programming is marshmallow peeps--empty calories."

Things We Can Do
1. Do we need to fill our churches with media? It's all about content. The most affective teaching device in a class environment is you. You can love, have relationships.
-Help parents--they are clueless. We have to help the parents. the Kids' brains are overweight stuffed with peep media.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Change of Format

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was inspired to try a new format in Adventure Mountain second service. We've had quite a few kids start attending two services because of the addition of adult education classes on Sunday mornings. So this week we gave the new format a try, and it worked great!

We've been using Promiseland's "Making it Connect" curriculum. We're still using it during both services, but now implement it differently second service. After activity stations, the kids were dismissed to small groups for Kid Connect time. Then we had worship, followed by the pre-teach of the large group lesson. A minute or two into the teach portion, the curriculum called for the teacher to read that day's Bible story. Instead, we had the small groups go over the Bible story themselves by looking it up in their leader's Bible (and kids who brought their Bibles looked it up too). Then the large group teacher continued the teaching until they were supposed to read the memory verse. Once again, we had the small groups look it up instead. The teacher finished the lesson (omitting the post-teach), and the groups were supposed to do their small group activity. Then we'd end with the post teach for large group.

We figured it would take extra time for the additional breaks, and began things 5 minutes earlier than normal. But our kids got so into the new format that we ran out of time to do the small group activity at all! The response from the leaders was great. Their kids loved looking up the lesson in the Bible. And the large group teacher had a much easier time keeping the kids' attention because they didn't have to listen for such a long period of time. The only improvement that needs to be made in that area, is have the small groups not spread out as far when it's time to do the verse look up, or remind them to come back in closer for the teaching time.

I'm excited to see how this new format continues to improve!

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Image Means New Signs

Back when we launched our new name, Adventureland, and the new logo, we also had new signs made. I've been meaning to take pictures for a while and finally did!

Church Wide Garage Sale

Our Student Ministries are in the middle of running a HUGE church wide garage sale. They use this event to raise money for their Spring Break Missions. Last year (from what I heard) the garage sale brought in $10,000. And that was with 2 semi-truck trailers full of stuff. This year, they filled 3 trailers. We were almost expecting less stuff because of how the economy is doing, but have been amazed by the generosity of those in our church (not to mention, partnering with a lady who runs estate sales--she's given all her leftovers to us).

The garage sale takes a lot of work, but it's been amazing to see how much support it can bring in.

This picture is of our south auditorium (the old sanctuary).

This is our north lobby which became the furniture showroom

And there was even more in the south lobby and outside! And another blessing--God gave us good weather!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two Weeks From Today...

I'll be on my way to Chicago! Jared, Lucy, Caleb (our Bridge 45 Intern) and I will be on our way to attend Conpsire. Last year I blogged here , here and here about what a journey it was to get to Conspire. This year's journey is an addition to last year's and so much more.

When I was a sophomore in high school (11 years ago) my mom went to her first Promiseland Conference. She was new to her position as Children's Ministries Director, yet not new to being innovative in ministry to children. At that time there were different locations for the conference, and she went to one in British Columbia. I remember her calling me and telling me how amazing it was. That she was so excited to find out she wasn't the only one who knew church could be more than the traditional Sunday school I'd grown up with. She told me about their amazing sets and props she saw. She told me how much I'd love to see it.

I can't remember how many more Promiseland Conferences she went to. Even though I didn't think a job in Children's Ministry was in my future any time soon, I thought it would be too cool to go to one too. In 2006, my mom and I attended the Promiseland Conference together. It was like a dream come true for both of us. We were less than 3 months away from my mom handing the program at Morning Star off to me. It was like a great passing-of-the-baton event.

Sitting in the main sessions as well as the break out sessions, the English/Communications college major in me dreamed of a day where I might be one of those presenters. Not because I wanted acknowledgement or accolades for my job. But because that would fully encompass two of my dreams--leading children's ministry and being a speaker. I also feel like I've had such great people to learn from (especially my mom), and have already experienced so many valuable lessons, that I'd just love to share!

Knowing that background, imagine my reaction when I received an email asking me to be a presenter in two training experiences at this year's Conspire Conference (the new name for the Promiseland Conference). I literally went tripping out of my office to tell Lucy my exciting news and couldn't keep my words straight when I called my mom.

Two weeks from tomorrow, I'll be soaking everything in. I'm sure I'll feel encouraged and rejuvenated by the main session speakers and the worship. And two weeks from Thursday, a dream will come true. With two children's ministries people whom I greatly respect and am impressed by (honestly, I don't feel worthy to be sharing alongside them), I'll talk about what we've been learning about small groups and 4th and 5th graders here at Morning Star. And two weeks from Friday, I'll once again be sitting in the audience, soaking everything in. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Great Movie Night

Friday night was our third Family Movie Night and I'd say it was our best so far! We had almost double the attendance of last time (110 compared to the 60-some from before) and everyone had a lot of fun! We sold over 50 bags of popcorn at the snack bar, and all sorts of candy.

We started the Family Movie Night as a replacement event to the Family Experience we did over the past year and a half. As much as I loved doing FX, it became too much to pull of with the addition of Saturday service, and our families didn't respond with as much interest as we'd hoped for. Family Movie Night has quickly filled a need for those in our church--an inexpensive (if not free), safe, fun outing for families. But we don't just end the movie and say goodbye, we also provide the families with a discussion guide that leads the parents in a conversation with their kids about themes and concepts from the film.

I love how the families in our church are responding to this event. And I love how simple it has been to pull off. We obtained a license through CVLI for a great price, which gave us unlimited showings of movies from authorized producers for a year. What I appreciated about CVLI, as opposed to other companies, was the extensiveness of the producers they work with. Then we just had to purchase candy and drinks (we only provide Capri Suns and water to avoid messy spills) to sell at the snack bar to cover the costs. One of the best elements, though, was the gift of a popcorn machine from one of our volunteers. It fills the building with the smell of popcorn, and has the taste of that from the movie theater. And reading through the movie reviews on Kidology also helps inspire the discussion guides we give out.

So we've found and easy to provide, fun, cheap, well received event for the families of our church. Can't wait for the next one (which is March 27 in case you were wondering)!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Favorite Volunteer...

...would have to be my husband. I couldn't do my weekends, let alone the rest of my week, without him. Not only does support me throughout the week by listening to all my stories, giving me feedback on my ideas, working hard at his full time job and washing most of the dishes, but he also sacrifices his days off to help at church. He runs the slides in Bridge 45 during the first service (and plays hearts on the computer the rest of the time). He's a division leader second service in Adventure Mountain (K-3rd). He welcomes kids, looks out for the loners, assigns small groups, escorts boys to the bathroom, and takes care of the occasional (or in today's case, regular) discipline problems. And then to top the day off, each week, he carries my coat and my purse (although the purse is carefully cloaked under the coat) downstairs to patiently wait until I'm ready for him to haul our 45 pound crate of registration materials back to the office. But he doesn't just volunteer for my ministry--he also runs slides and leads a small group on Tuesday nights for our college/career group, and leads our young & marrieds community group.

We've learned a lot over the past (almost) three years about how to avoid burning him out. And more than that, I've learned a lot about submitting to my husband despite having the more dominant personality. Morning Star is blessed to have him at our church. I'm blessed to have him as a volunteer. But most of all, I'm abundantly blessed to be his wife.

What I Love to Hear

This morning my Executive Pastor, Ken, called me over to meet a lady. I recognized her as a mom in our ministry, but wasn't sure we'd actually met. We shook hands, etc. and then Ken explained why he called me over. The mom had just been telling him that their family had attended our church off and on for the past few years. But they just became consistent in the past couple of months because her kindergarten daughter loves her class so much.

"Aleah is up, dressed and ready, every Sunday morning," the mom told me. "She never wants to miss a week. It's because of her that we're coming regularly."

Reminded me of a time when a family greeted me in the lobby before service. "Thanks a lot," the mom said. "My husband and I wanted to skip church and just sleep in this morning, but the kids wouldn't let us."

I love stories like this! We know that the child's enjoyment at church greatly influences a family's attendance. If the child hates it, they'll fight it. And parents will get tired of the fight and eventually give in. But if the child loves it, there's no stopping them from being at church each week.

Just one more reason why Children's Ministries is so important!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I am officially a Twitterer. I've heard it mentioned frequently on blogs, Kidology, and Facebook. I'd even been told at times that I should Twitter too. But I never really felt like I'd have that much to say... "Sitting at my desk," "watching TV," and "walking the dog," didn't seem like anything that would interest anyone else.

Then I heard of a new Children's Ministries hash tag so people could follow conversation about Children's Ministries on Twitter. Still didn't really understand what would be so necessary about it though. Then I sent a blog link to Chris, our media guy at work, and he noticed other twitter posts on this blog. He asked why I wasn't on Twitter. I finally admitted the core of why I hadn't joined in yet: I didn't know how to Twitter. So he sent me a LONG instant message (should have been an email) on how to do it. And now I'm hooked. I can follow some of my favorite Children's Ministers from all over the country. And I've discovered so many more!

So, that was a very lengthy version of what could have just been: @jill_nelson joined Twitter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Power of Suggestion

I'm a sucker for the kiosks by the check-out stands at the grocery store. I will have crossed off every item on my carefully prepared list, but suddenly, I just have to have that lint roller. Or that chapstick. Or that flavor of gum sure looks good... My husband says that those stands were designed just for me. Store clerks see me coming and stock up with plenty of not-quite-worthless items that I surely cannot live without. And don't get me started on what a food commercial can do for me. I will have just finished eating a very filling dinner, turn on the TV and suddenly I have an intense craving for Dairy Queen Blizzards, or french fries, or Starbursts, or _____ (you fill in the blank). Oddly enough, this sea-food hater found herself craving fish 'n chips after a Long John Silvers commercial. And don't get me started on the mere mention of cookies.

But despite how dissatisfied it makes me, I love the power of suggestion. Thoughts that might not originally occur to me become real. Foods that I may have forgotten my enjoyment of are savored once more. Or, that cat-fur covered sweater may finally have the chance to look new/clean again. But what if we turned this masterful marketing tool around and used it for good in Children's Ministries (or the church at large for that matter)? What if rather than blatantly telling people of our need for volunteers, we suggested it instead? What if there were subtle reminders throughout the building? What if people attended a service and left with the quiet thought of, "I should really start serving,"? It would just be gentle reminders that their experience that Saturday or Sunday wasn't complete. I have a feeling it would work on someone like me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Iron Sharpening Iron

I'm excited to be presenting in two workshops at the Conspire Conference this year. One is on new practices for small groups. I'll be sharing about how we're approaching small groups differently in Bridge 45. I've loved the conference calls with Mindy Stoms and Chris Boss and hearing about what they're doing. I've even been able to put some of their practices to good use!

With the start of Adult Education Classes on Sunday mornings, we're now having quite a few more children attend multiple services. For our Adventure Ranch (preschool) classes, Lucy is using the Promiseland "In the Beginning" curriculum first service and is creating a simple, activity and game based program for the second services. In two months, the two services will swap what they're doing, and so on. We've found that preschoolers have a really hard time sitting through the same thing twice in a row. So far the new system is working well (even though we've only been doing it 2 weeks).

But figuring out a way to change things up in Adventure Mountain (k-3rd) was a little more complicated. Each lesson builds on each other so much, and a lot of our kids go back and forth between which service they attend, that we couldn't just do something completely different in the two services. We've been using Promiseland's "Looking at the Pieces" curriculum written for 2nd/3rd, and we make a few adjustments here and there to help it reach the kindergarten and first graders.

That was when I remembered what Chris shared about how they approach small groups at his church. They still have large group teaching and small group time, but not as segmented as we do it. The kids sit in their small groups during the teaching, and as each point is made, the groups do an activity, have a discussion, or look up the story in the Bible. This way, each point is presented and immediately applied, rather than expecting the kids to remember 3 points 20 minutes later. I don't think it should be too hard to use this concept with our current curriculum. We'll just break up the teaching and slightly adjust the activities. So the elementary kids will still get the same message twice, at least they'll experience two different methods.

I love being able to learn from other people who do ministry to children!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Look Back

This past year has been one of intense growth for Morning Star. I think I've seen more new things happen in the past 12 months than I've seen in the past 5 years of working there. I've been meaning to write this post for the past month, and am finally doing it, but here's a look back of all that's happened since January 2008.

Saturday Service We started our Saturday service and it's still going strong. We've had some ups and downs for staffing Children's Ministries, but I am now pleased to say that if your child attends on Saturday, they'll have an equally quality experience as they would on Sunday. We've had so many people visit and the commit to attending our church based on the Saturday service. We've been confirmed over and over again that this was a good choice to make.

Neighborhood Prayer Outreach We've spend four Saturday mornings walking through neighborhoods near our church, knocking on doors and asking if we could pray for people. Many were uninterested, but a few families have ended up joining our church family because of it! We've prayed for our neighbors whether they wanted it or not, and been able to reach out to people in their time of need.

Staffing In an effort to be wise with our finances, we had to cut some positions in the spring. While it was sad to part with our friends, we've seen the staff we do have step up and work aggressively to make sure ministry is done well. While we're lean, we've seen our staff become even more passionate about seeing people reached for Jesus.

Early Childhood Our Early Childhood department has seen some changes. We lost our dear Amy to a husband and Paris (I guess that's a good enough reason), and have welcomed Lucy to our team. It's been great to see how God answered Amy's desire to be a wife, and brought Lucy to us with all her experience. But not only has she blessed us, but our pace and way of ministry have been a blessing to her. We also were able to add Mallory to our team and love having one staff person solely focused on our Nursery, Toddler and 2's & 3's classes on Sunday mornings.

Modulars We mentioned an idea and it caught on! In July we brought up the idea of adding a modular unit to our space for a class for our Fourth and Fifth graders, and in December we opened the new space! Not only were we able to get the room for our older elementary students, but also get two additional units for adult class space.

Adventureland In December we also launched the new name of our Children's Ministries... Adventureland!

And let's not forget, Bridge 45 In April at the Conspire Conference we felt called to reach our fourth a fifth graders in a new way, and now we're half way through the first year of Bridge 45. We've been creating our own curriculum, and love seeing the excitement in our kids for discovering God's Word for themselves.

2008 was so great, I can't wait to see what God has yet to do in 2009!

More Changes

This past Sunday we launched Adult Education classes on Sunday mornings. For the first time in 26 years, Morning Star has classes for adults during our services. This wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the new modulars. With the expectation of more families attending both Sunday services, the thought of opening a cafe arose. People would be hungry, kids would appreciate a snack between services, and a place to socialize as people stayed around for more would be apparent. So we also opened "Grace Cafe" on Sunday morning.

Grace Cafe is in the same lobby where we check in new families and our Infants, Toddlers, and 2's & 3's classes open into it. I was a little nervous about adding so many people to the space. Concerned that we wouldn't be able to control our environment. Apprehensive about feeling run over. But all these hesitations disappeared the moment the lobby filled. People were standing around, sitting at tables, leaning against walls. And they were talking! Not only that, new families were being introduced to the old timers. The lobby was louder than I've heard it on a Sunday morning. But it was good noise. I loved the sound almost as much as I love the sound of little kids worshipping. It was a beautiful song of fellowship.

Not only are our adults having more opportunities to strengthen their marriages, improve their money management, expand their understanding of the scriptures, and study with fellow single moms, but they're also just hanging out at church. I was reading the Facebook profile of one of our teens, and she made the statement, "I love church. I'd spend all my time there if I could." I love seeing the body of Christ be filled with love. And filled with food is pretty nice too.

A Good Night

I'm sitting in my recliner, groaning and complaining about every five minutes that my feet, ankles or hips hurt. It's because I spent over 5 hours on my feet tonight (in shoes that aren't that great I've discovered). But deep down, I'm happy. I had a great evening! Tonight we had our second Family Movie Night. Our first was in October, and we're now hoping to have one the last Friday of every month. We started the movie nights as a replacement for our Family Experience Services we used to do (since the start of Saturday service it's been too much to pull off). And this event has proven to be the most popular of any outside event we've offered to the families of Morning Star.

We obtained a license that gives us the right to show movies as long as we don't charge people to attend. So free admission, combined with a low cost snack bar (each item is $1.00 or less), has created a great, affordable, fun, family night. We've stocked up on M & M's, Skittles, and Capri Suns. And a lady in our church recently donated a brand new popcorn popper like you'll find at carnivals or the movies. With the show on the big projector screens, it's like going to the movies!

Tonight our film was "Kit Kittredge." Though it's an American Girl movie, the boys loved it too! I was putting together a family discussion guide today (thanks to Kidology), and was struck with what a fitting movie it was, especially with why we're doing this event. The movie takes place during the Great Depression and has several themes about not being too prideful, making do when you have little, and still helping others even though you also have need. Such fitting themes for our economy. And with the economy being what it is, we're finding that our families are loving an entertainment option that doesn't hurt their wallets.

So while I'm hurting and tired, I'm so happy. This event was worth every minute I stood. Seeing the excitement in the kids as they entered the building. The joy on parents faces as they paid $6 for a fun evening that would have otherwise cost $50 at the theater. The little girls who danced across the front of the room as music played in the show. The family who just visited our church for the first time on Sunday and joined us. All of these things show why tonight was worth it. And I can't wait until the next one!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's In A Name?

For years, Morning Star's children's ministries has been called just that--Children's Ministries. While the individual age group departments had titles (Wee Zone, Wonder Zone... etc), but no all encompassing title for the ministry. The elementary kids were aware of their department name, but other than that, our kids just called their Sunday morning experience "church."

We've wanted to find a name for the past three years, but nothing really fit. We pretty much discovered that it's hard to find a title for something a "zone" fits in. But with the addition of Bridge 45, Grow Zone (2nd-5th) became obsolete. We finally had a chance to completely rethink what you call us.

Along the way I found that while the involvement of several people in the brainstorming process was good, in the end, I had to make a final call. We'd probably still be debating otherwise. So just what did we come up with?

"Where kids adventure through the Bible and discover that God’s Word is exciting."
Our infants, toddlers, 2's & 3's are now in Adventure Ranch, the preschoolers and Tender Hearts is Adventure Cove, K-3rd is Adventure Mountain, and Bridge 45 for the fourth and fifth graders. John Nissen, a dad and graphic designer in our church, did an amazing job of creating our logo! He reflected our home, the Northwest, in the design and made it look like it belonged at Disneyland!

We knew that if we wanted the name to be remembered by the people in our church, it'd have to be promoted well. On December 7, our launch date, Morning Star families were greeted by a beautiful free standing sign directing them the different areas, a "Welcome to Adventureland" banner, and banners for each Adventure in their areas. Not only that, we also had a great opportunity to share the news with the church in the Morning Star 411, our video announcements.

411 - Week of December 4th from Morning Star Church on Vimeo.

We've had a lot of fun launching a new name--especially one that unifies our departments!

Sony Style USA