Celebrating, Capturing & Remembering Life's Special moments
 
Another Awana Grand Prix is done. We followed last year's formula, because it was the first time in the history of our church (that we know of) that it went off without any major hitches. We also prayed fervently for another smooth year. Thank you God for answering those prayers! Not only did our 40+ kiddos race their little wooden cars down our ancient pinewood derby track smoothly and successfully, be we fed 150+ people their fill of pizza, lemonade and chocolate cookies. I ordered 43 pizzas this year and had three leftover. Pretty close if you ask me!
Ahh so good to have a major event like that successfully copmleted.
 
 
In my devotions this morning I was reading about Moses and the 10 plagues and something struck me as funny that I don't think I've noticed before.Exodus 7:22
"But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharoah's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said".
Exodus 8:7
"But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt."
Did you notice it too?...If the land was already full of frogs and bloody water, why in the world did the magicians make more!? Just makes me giggle inside, thinking about how they really just made their problem worse by trying to downplay God's power. But then in the end, only God could get rid of the plagues.
I love when I notice new little funny things in the Bible stories I know so well. We humans sure can be silly sometimes.
 
 
Yesterday in the Tru curriculum we explored the story of the judge Ehud who was an unlikely hero, due to his being left handed. I love stories that appeal to the boys, and this is a lesser known story that I knew would be new to most of them. However my search to find a coloring or activity sheet that the kids could do during our first service resulted in 0 material. Hmmm, very interesting that no one has made a coloring sheet about this story yet. Do people think it is too gruesome for kids? Yet the kids sure loved hearing the weird grossness of this story. I wish my drawing skills were better.
Anyway, I thought up a fun activity for the kids to do instead of a coloring page (coloring pages get old when used too often anyway). The craft ended up being a huge hit with the girls AND boys. I've never seen the craft station so full during the free time between services. I had to spread out the supplies to another table so that more kids could get in on the fun. Not only did the kids create swords, but the little boys also created pretty awesome mini spears and daggers. The little girls also used their creativity, veering away from the story material by creating little people and flowers with their Popsicle sticks.
For the craft I simply set out Popsicle sticks in different shapes and sizes, glue, jewel stickers, markers and electrical tape. I also made an example to inspire the kids (and because I still like to play with glue and stickers too). I really wish I would have gotten some pictures of all the fun things kids came up with, but alas I don't think of things like that on a Sunday morning.
Being such tiny swords, I didn't have to worry about the kids engaging in play sword fights, because even a plastic toy swords does more damage than these little things.
Wait, I just found that I did accidentally get few of the kid's creations in some pictures. I was taking pictures of small groups to send with their Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and I love seeing kid's creativity and uniqueness expressed in the things they make.
 
 
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This week our Awana storyteller is on vacation in Mexico, so I had the wonderful privilege of sharing the story of Noah with our kids yesterday night. This year our incredibly talented Awana storyteller has made it a tradition to involve kid volunteers in the storytelling each night. This is super awesome, but the idea was a little daunting to me. The kids LOVE it, but there is always that unpredictability piece involved. As apprehensive as I was about the idea, I had to go forward with the plan. There were already 5 kids signed up to help, and the waiting list was already full for the next week.
I prayed for inspiration, and grit my teeth as I headed down to our supply closet to look for costume or prop ideas, that would not require explaining as the children's involvement is almost completely improvised (except for a few whispered instructions as the groups wander in).
I ended up making some funny improvised "costumes" for Noah, his wife and 3 sons, which I ended up pretty excited about. They were basic enough to throw together quickly, yet very fun for the kids to wear (maybe because they were so ridiculously simple). With the current trend of  beards and mustaches going around, I knew that any facial hair prop was sure to be a hit (even for the girls).
I found funny beard templates from the family fun website, which I traced onto different colors of construction paper (you can find the same templates here). I ended up having to use some masking tape pieces to hold the side burns in place as well as yarn to tie the beards onto kid's heads.
When I was digging through a box of yarn looking for something to tie the beards on, I found some delightful fat yellow yarn that looked to me like tight blonde curls. I decided to also improvise a wig so as not to leave Noah's wife out of the costuming fun. The yarn was already cut, so I laid the pieces out on some masking tape to make a perfectly silly wig.
I ended up really having a lot of fun including the kids in the story. The kid volunteers did an awesome job acting out even the parts I had not given them any instructions on. Of course, there was the element of chaos, as would be expected. Even the chaos, however occurred at the right and expected moment, during the flood when Noah and his family got to squirt the audience with spray bottles. Let's just say, the "flood" didn't want to stop, and could have very well last for 40 days and 40 nights without a little intervention. Also, only one of the beards survived said flood for me to take a picture of it the next day. :-)

 
 
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So it's that time of year. The rush before the start of a new school year. Full of curriculum printing, people scheduling, worrying about recruiting, praying about recruiting, bulletin boards and oh yeah I need to prep the lesson for this week too. Oh look! Nursery training is this week as well. Deep breath. I'm writing this to get in a little venting without stressing out my husband who is really busy right now answering phone calls for his work and stressed out because of non-stop calls, hour and a half commuting and overtime (not to mention putting up with a stressed out wife who remembers things she needs to do in the middle of the night).
I'm also writing this just in case someone happens to be reading it and might possibly do some praying for me.
Today I forgot my phone. I really wanted to take a picture of my office. It looked like somebody had run through, opened all the drawers and tossed the contents all over the place. Really. I had piles of old curriculum, that I was replacing with new, strewn across the floor. I had 3 file drawers on 3 seperate desks open so that I could organize new curriculum into folders. My lunch stuff was on my desk along with schedules, name tags a few bulletin board borders, notes scribbled on scratch paper and a few file folders full of people who signed up to help this year. There was probably some other stuff I'm not even remembering that I left out from yesterday. I'm so glad I had my nice big office all to myself today. A large floor space and 2 other desk tops (and file drawers) come in handy when there is no more space on mine. :)
At least I'm getting my exercise this week. I don't know how many times I went up and down, to the copier, to my office, down to the supply room, climbed a ladder to pound a staple into a missing letter over and over again.
I still have lots to do, but I accomplished so much today! It's 7:30 and I'm not done yet, but I will be done tonight! Tomorrow I will rest knowing I am ready for Sunday as I cut my coupons, grocery shop and photograph some senior photos.
Thanks for listening (reading)! I'm feeling better now.

Revolutionize your Classroom: Fast, Easy, and Safe Websites
 
 
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I'm busy getting curriculum printed, copied and organized for the fall. I was having some trouble finding a fun sheet or coloring page in my books to supplement the story of Deborah the judge, so I googled it. Maybe you groan inwardly like I do at the thought of the coloring pages that come up when doing an internet search, but I was desperate.

To my pleasant surprise I ran across this site that actually has some pretty cool pages. The boys at ParkSide are becoming fans of "The Action Bible" and these remind me a little of that action packed comic book style. Need a coloring page supplement that will also please elementary age boys? Check these out: http://www.christian-resources-today.com/free-bible-coloring-pages.html

Note: I think the coloring pages are great but did not explore the site they are on further than the first few coloring pages. Posting this link does not necessarily mean I agree with other stuff on the site, just saying, just case...

 
 
I put my new recruiting strategy to the test and I wanted to report on the results. All the key leaders are in place for VBS (2 weeks ago)!
It is funny how I am almost surprised by that. Not only have I been praying for those leaders, I've asked friends, family and some other VBS volunteers to join me in prayer. The funny thing is that just this week, I have had a second person come to me volunteering for each of the positions I was worried about before. Sure it all came about a little later in the summer than I would have liked, but God's timing is perfect. It seems like God is telling me: "see, you can trust me, I can provide double what you need, just don't forget to ask"!
 
 
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I finally got around to making the workbook for the summer 2012 Sontown memory challenge. It is not nearly as intensive as last year's (which included 3 challenge options, including a reading challenge with Bible study questions). This is a really busy summer, so I kept it nice and simple. I was thinking about forgoing it all together, but I figure if a few kids commit to memory a passage that contains so many amazing truths about God, well, that is probably worth the couple of hours it took to put the challenge together.

This challenge is simply a memory challenge for Psalm 139. The workbook contains the chapter in a large legible font, tips on memorizing, a suggested schedule for memorizing to finish by the deadline and a few blank pages with lines for writing the verses by hand.

Download the workbook here:

godandmememorychallenge.pdf
File Size: 446 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

 
 
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Last summer I did a teaching series on Hebrews 11 "racing" through the stories of the Bible in chronological order based on the stories of the people found in that chapter.

Because God had been placing the vision for equipping parents to be more involved in their children's Faith (this was when God was getting me ready for the philosophy behind Tru), and I wanted kids to get the benefit of the series despite missing Sunday services due to vacations I issued a special challenge. We name it the Sontown 500 challenge.

There were 3 parts to the challenge. One part was to read through Hebrews 11 and the stories mentioned in the chapter (parents could read it to their kids) and then answering some questions about the stories. The second and harder part of the challenge was to memorize Hebrews 11. The third part was to complete both challenges. I was surprised to have 5 kids complete the third challenge and they got a really awesome grand prize. Even the parents of kids who didn't finish thought the challenge was a great idea.

I was asked recently if I would be doing another memory challenge this summer. I had almost completely forgot about it as it is gearing up to be very busy summer. I might have to work on it more in my spare time, but I think I would like to do another challenge.

Thinking about the challenge made me think it would be fun to post the PDF of the booklet here since I put so much work into designing the challenge last summer. Maybe someone besides the 5 kids who completed the challenge last summer would benefit as well. I updated the planning calendars to 2012, and put in blanks where before I referred to specific due dates and prizes. Maybe it will come in handy with your kids or ministry.

The document includes a description of the challenges, the text of Hebrews 11 (so that it can be taken anywhere), some memorization tips as well as the reading and questions. A kid who finishes anyone of these challenges will have a pretty good coverage of their Old Testament stories and better yet, how they all fit into one story.

Download the file below:

sontown_500.pdf
File Size: 827 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

 
 
kidmin tightrope
Recruiting...by the first month of my college internship I had learned well that this named the nemesis of all Children's Ministry Directors. Of course at that point I was in observation/learning mode and hadn't yet experienced the full burden of finding enough people to staff nursery, preschool and elementary programs not only on Sunday mornings, but for VBS in the summer, Wednesday night clubs, plus any time there is a special Holiday service or any other fun event that could be beneficial for the children and families of a church.

As I started my job as Children's Ministry Director with only two weeks between start and the Fall launch of school year programs I started to feel it, even though it worked out. Ever since that first day of work in my present role I have experienced the tension of the strange tight rope walk that is Children's Ministry.

I might be paid to keep the children's ministries running, but at the same time the ministries are completely dependent on volunteers. If five people decide their lives are too busy for the commitment of children's ministry, there's the end of one of our key programs that kids and parents depend on.

I've been struggling with these worries and the stress of recruiting. I hope that awesome, passionate, talented people will be drawn to Children's Ministry, and I want to do all I can to make that happen. I've read numerous articles, book chapters and blog posts about recruiting. There are so many strategies out there, but I have developed this nagging realization that there must be something more. This is because I know that even if I called 100 people in my church, or put out an announcement every Sunday, offered bribes or tried to do everything short of breathing for volunteers there is still the possibility that no one would want to do it.

Now, with VBS coming up in a couple of months, the leadership gaps are coming into focus, and my chest tightens just a little. I have recently had five people decline for key leadership roles, and when I think about VBS it gets a little harder to breathe.

That's when I remind myself of the verse that is so key to my sanity "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7  I take a deep breath and start presenting those requests and thank you prayers. Then I remember what God has taught me this year about about the basics of recruiting. Which can pretty much be summarized in the above mentioned verse and this next verse: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

I had the duh! moment of applying these verses to recruiting when I attended a dinner for children's ministry workers put on by my denomination a couple of months ago. I had all but given up on gleaning any helpful insight from the dinner because everyone at the table started ME questions about how to do Children's ministry (and I'm just barely 2 years into the job)...until I heard the speaker say "don't act desperate". My attention was piqued, because then (similarly to now) I was feeling VERY desperate. Her words could have been from God himself to my heart. She said "don't act desperate, because YOU NEVER ARE DESPERATE. If God wants a ministry to happen he WILL provide the volunteers to staff it."
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She went on to explain that this doesn't mean that we stop doing our part and not asking anyone. Her suggestions was to go ahead and ask five people. If FIVE people say no that you have personally asked, then maybe that position needs to be re-evaluated. I could have slapped my forehead at how obvious this was. I had been worried and anxious about something that I need to depend on God for. I need to trust that he will provide if it is something he wants to happen.

That sentence spawned the beginning of my new recruiting strategy (that I should have employed all along). This is how the strategy works.

Step 1: Pray hard that God calls people to work in Children's Ministry. Not just warm bodies to meet ratios, but the RIGHT people. People who are talented and that will be wildly passionate about what God lays on their hearts.
Step 2: Pray that God would direct me in some way or another to those people.
Step 3: Ask five people whose names God has put on my heart. Five people is manageable. Five people is a lot to ask for one job, but it is so much easier to wrap my mind around than wondering if I will have to end up asking every church attender (anxious minds create crazy scenarios).
Step 4: Keep praying as I wait for answers.
Step 5: TRUST. I'll then leave the outcome in God's hands.I will trust that he cares about this ministry more than I do. He has made me passionate for it, because He is passionate for it. If for some reason, once I have faithfully done my part, He hasn't provided the people, then I need to seriously evaluate that position or program.

Easy enough to say, a lot harder to do. So I take a deep breath, and try to release the worry by trusting, asking and thanking the One who really has the power. Perhaps all these polite declinations are just Him whispering: "trust me. No, REALLY, just trust me".