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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Guest Post: The Price of Privilege

The following is a post from our Middle School intern, Kailyn King (@kailynking).  You can share your thoughts about the book, or questions about this post, by commenting below.

I have to say I was really excited to start this book. I’m not a parent, or a teenager anymore (granted only by a few months) but I have known and now know plenty of teens that fit the demographic of this book (including my previous self) and I was really interested to see what Dr. Levine had to say about privileged teens and their emotional problems. I have known all kinds of teens struggling with the challenges of growing up, but this is the first time that I have read a book specifically about the particular needs of teens growing up in affluence. I grew up in an affluent home in an affluent town and am now graduating from UCSD with many more affluent young people raised all over the state. This book didn’t trivialize these kid’s needs, or the challenges presented to their parents and never reduced the root of the problem to some sort of “poor rich kid” syndrome. Dr Levine was able to talk about some of the challenges of raising kids in tactful and honest way that called particular attention to the difficulties in raising kids in an environment where money is no object.

The chapter on the formation of “the healthy self” stood out to me as particularly relevant to what I have seen. With statements like “It is hard to develop an authentic self when there is constant pressure to adopt a socially facile, highly competitive, performance-oriented, unblemished “self ” that is promoted by omnipresent adults” (page 65) it was hard for me not to see a little bit of myself, and tons of other teens I grew up with being described to some extent. I know young adults who were so over scheduled as kids, so encouraged by parents and adults, so socially crafted that they get to graduation and honestly have no idea who they are. I have seen people I love go away to college and have no idea how to self regulate, how to make decisions like picking a major or class schedule for themselves. They become literally paralyzed with indecision and with lack of self awareness. Having seen this in action, Levine’s book becomes an important resource for me to understand how being raised in affluence may be a risk factor for emotional difficulties instead of being a buffer as has been suggested in most of the other sources I have read.

The next chapters of the book focus on different aspects of parenting that are affected by money and the kinds of societal norms that may emerge in areas where there is money. I won’t go into details about exactly what she covers, but I will say that I would strongly recommend giving this book a read. I think parents, prospective parents, people who work with teens or their parents could really use this book as a starting point (or a continuation of) taking a hard look at the effects of monetary comfort on their kids and teenagers. Levine is understanding and sensitive to the challenges parents face while still managing to get real about how important it is for parents to understand how what they do influences the emotional state of their kids. I know my parents fought hard to make sure to cultivate in me a sense of self and of personal ownership and responsibility and I so appreciate their hard work. I know it wasn’t easy for them to do but I have to say everything they did then is greatly appreciated by me now! This book seems like it would be a resource I would want to have if I were looking at the incredible challenge of raising kids.

I hope this was helpful, either in encouraging you to read this book or helping you decide it’s not for you.

 

 
 

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Lockdowns, Medical Teams & The Mom Squad

I care about safety.

And… anyone who knows me knows that that’s an understatement.  I live a life that’s built on rules, strategies, formulas and procedures.  So, for better or for worse, I bring my crazy-love for safety to the kidmin world that I work and live in.

While visiting a nearby VBS recently, I was once again reminded that not everyone in kidmin shares my same passion for keeping kids safe (it’s not that they want kids to be “unsafe” – I’m just pretty sure that they are living in a world where nothing bad ever happens, so they don’t plan for worst-case scenarios).

I had tried to contact the church for weeks to set up a time to observe one of their programs, but never received a reply.  So, I decided I’d swing by and try to meet someone during the program who could walk me around and give me a behind the scenes look at things (annually, we offer campus tours during VBS for parents and church leaders who want to hear what goes into putting together our camp… I was hoping for something similar from them).

During my hour-long visit, without any identification or uniform, I was able to walk freely across a church campus while programs were running. I was next to children during their opening worship time, I spoke with children and gave high-fives, I walked to and through small group rooms where pictures and names of children in those rooms were plastered on the windows, I took pictures and even walked past check in teams that were supposed to stop random guys like me who are walking onto the church campus. I know, that’s a long sentence and I’m pretty sure the grammar is pretty weak – but, you get the point.  I did all of that – and I was never once stopped.  Nobody said a word to me.

Now, I don’t bring that up to say that our church and our programs are perfect.  I bring it up because many people in kidmin don’t think through safety procedures unless you make them… and, many don’t know where to start.  So, today, I want to share with you 3 things that you can do to begin taking safety seriously during large programs that you run.  You can plug these into your next camp, VBS, whatever – with little effort and HUGE reward (in my world, keeping kids safe is a big deal – in fact, I’d say it’s priceless).

The Lowdown on the Lockdown

During our large events, we have Lockdown procedures for a variety of incidents that might happen while kids are at church.  Because we go out of our way to train our team on the methods and reasons behind lockdowns, we’ve been able to successfully lock down our church campus on multiple occasions over the course of the last few years.

We teach our lockdown procedures through story and examples and spend about half an hour of our VBS training talking through our expectations of our leaders and staff during an emergency.  We cover examples of what to do in the event that a camper is separated from their group (Level 1), what to do if an unescorted adult comes on campus (level 2) or if wildlife or another dangerous threat is within the immediate surroundings (level 3).

You can download the PDF of our emergency procedures (Lockdowns are on page 2) by clicking HERE.

Putting a lockdown procedure into place isn’t something that takes a lot of effort or money, but it saves you time and energy when everyone is on the same page during an emergency.

We need a Medic!

One of the major upgrades we made to our VBS program last year was the addition of a volunteer medical team and a medic station.  I actually stole the idea from another church who had done something similar – and… now you can steal it from me!

As a church, we have a pretty good sense of who our medical, fire and law enforcement personnel are in our congregation.  We have an idea of where they sit in church and what service they attend.  We know which officers are required to carry firearms while off duty and which ones have kids in our program.  So, building a medical team to be present during our large programs became as easy as phone calls.  In fact, that’s all it took!  We had nurses, doctors and firemen spend their days off with us in the church office tending to injuries that a bandaid and a hug couldn’t quite fix.

Parents LOVED the fact that we had trained professionals looking after kids with bumps and bruises and I loved the fact that I didn’t have to be the only qualified first responder on campus.  A week before VBS, we asked for a shopping list from one of the nurses so that we could have any supplies our team would need during the week.  We made one more trip on Monday to get some last minute items – and, from there, the process worked without a lot of intervention from me.  Kids were safe and their parents knew it – there aren’t many bigger “wins” in my book.

The Mom Squad. It’s like an Easy Button.
But Better.

Do you have moms who just kind of “hang around” during an event?  Give them a role!  A few of my favorite moms have figured out that, by the time they drop off their kids and get settled in back at their house, they’ll need to start getting ready to come pick them up again.  So – they became our Mom Squad.

Our Mom Squad patrols our campus during an event and serves as extra hands, feet and voices for the staff running the event.  Random guy walking on campus?  The Mom Squad knows to intercept him and walk him to the front office to check in.  Child wandering away from his group?  The Mom Squad can call in a lockdown until we reunite him with his team.  Parents trying to force their way in to see our closing ceremonies?  The Mom Squad has that covered and might even recruit a couple volunteers in the process.

I joke around that having a Mom Squad is like having an Easy Button.  Our programs flow better when I don’t have to be everything and everywhere at once.  Having a group of moms who are patrolling our campus to watch for and care about the safety of our kids frees me up to give guided tours to other kidmin leaders in the area while we have 1400 minors on campus.  They require very little training, cost nothing and make our program 100 x’s better.

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Some might say that 1200 words about safety is a little much.  I could write a short novel – there’s so much more to say.  However, I’ll end with this – all 3 of these ideas were things I’ve picked up along the way because I visited other churches, met with other church leaders and constantly take the brilliant ideas of others and make the best ones fit our setting.  If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.  Without your voice in the conversation, we are all at a disadvantage.

I think safety matters – what do you think?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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Calling All Youth Pastors

(Here’s a picture from our morning session on the first day of Middle School VBS Leader training)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, keeping the Kingdom in mind (and not just your own castle) is essential to lasting, effective and sustainable ministry.

As I wrote earlier this week, we spend a week each summer training hundreds of middle school and high school students in preparation for their work at our annual Vacation Bible School.  By opening the invitation to serve at VBS to all students in and around our community (we even have a couple that fly in from out of state to serve on our student leadership team), we find ourselves with an interesting mix of students.  The majority of students serving at VBS do not call our church their “home church”.  In fact, many have no church affiliation at all – they’re serving because they like kids and a friend invited them.  For many, it’s that simple.

During our training, we give our students a chance to commit or recommit their lives to following Jesus.  It’s been a conviction of mine that we give students a chance to own their faith in a new and fresh way before 1,000 little kids come onto our church campus to hear about God and the call that has been placed on their lives.

However, our staff has struggled with the follow up aspect of these decisions.  For years, we’ve followed up with parents and children’s pastors who have campers making decision to follow Jesus during VBS.  I spend the week after VBS calling local churches who were listed at the “home church” for campers who make commitments at our camp. Yet, we’ve never done that with our students – until this year.

For the last week, our Jr High guy, Scott Boss, has been contacting the nearly 40 churches who have students serving at our VBS this year.  He’s inviting the youth staff and ministry teams from those churches to come alongside us at our Saturday training event in order to connect with and pray for the students serving on our campus next week.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while for a couple reasons.

Jesus is bigger than OUR building

By making these calls, and inviting other youth pastors onto our campus to help own what’s taking place here, we’re sending a message to our community – following Jesus and being a part of the Church has nothing to do with what building you meet in.  Jesus’ Church is bigger than any one building, denomination or church staff.  Our facilities might be hosting this event, but we don’t own it.  Jesus does.

Maybe other churches might try it

I know that kids from families who attend our church attend other church programs in town.  Odds are, some of the kids from our congregation have made important faith-commitments at the programs of other churches.  Yet, I’ve never received a call or email about it from another church in town.

I do know that “evangelism teams” from other churches have shown up at the houses of some of our kids and invited them to their church the following Sunday.  My guess is, if other churches are coordinating a follow-up process that includes door-to-door visitation, they could probably find the time to send me an email.

Because a lot of church’s senior pastors grade their kids and youth programs on attendance numbers, I can totally understand why return attendance would be something that children’s ministry teams would want to invest in.  However, I’m not convinced that partnering with other churches would hurt attendance – I’ve only experienced it fostering a community and posture that encourages the growth of a ministry.  With that said, maybe we’ll see other churches try it out.

We’ll let you know how our little experiment goes.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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VBS, Trust & Skydiving

Last year, as we trained our 300 VBS Student Leaders, I shared a story of the first time I went skydiving.  What does skydiving have to do with VBS?  Well… here’s my story:

During my community college days, my buddy Forrest and I decided to take a day off of work and school to go jump out of a plane.  I wish I could say we put more thought into it than that… but, I don’t think we did.  It was a two hour drive from our small town to the nearest skydiving location and we used the drive to talk about life, music and what we might say at each other’s funerals if our chutes didn’t open.

When we arrived, all of my expectations for what a skydiving location might look like were shattered.  The guy running the place seemed a bit aloof, there was one tiny airplane on a runway that ended with a cliff and the “training” we went through to prepare for our jumps consisted of watching a VHS tape that cut in and out as it told us how our jump might go.

It hardly helped my fading confidence in our plan when I met our pilot – a student from another local community college who was working toward his pilot’s license.

Fast-forward to a little less than an hour later and I found myself staring out of the open door of an airplane at 10,000 ft above the ground.  At that moment, as the man strapped to my back began to rock back and forth and scoot me toward the edge, I had to decide where I was placing my trust.  Everything in me wanted to grab the sides of the doors and stay inside of the plane.  Yet, I had someone strapped to me telling me that it was all going to be okay – I just had to trust him.

And then he began to count down: 3, 2, 1…

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Our instincts aren’t always trustworthy when we’re facing a new or scary challenge.  Sometimes, as I told the student leaders we had at our VBS last year, you have to trust the sweaty guy strapped to your back.  You have to trust that things aren’t always as they seem and that there is someone in control who has a bigger picture of what’s going on than you do.

So, this week, I’m thinking about the plane that Jesus wants me to jump out of and I’m trying to remind myself to trust that God has a bigger view of the picture than I do.  When I learn to trust and rely on the others that God has placed in my life, the blessings always outweigh the frustration.  I just have to remind myself of that the next time I want to hold on to everything I can get a grasp of.

I challenge you to do the same.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Getting ready for VBS

Less than a week from now, our church will be packed with kids and youth – all expecting one of the best weeks of their entire year.  At our church, VBS isn’t simply a fun week where kids spend time away from video games and television for a week.  Instead, it’s a rock concert, it’s Bible stories brought to life, it’s water slides, crafts, games and time when kids learn that there are people in their lives that love them and there’s a God who created them on purpose and for a purpose.  It’s such an amazing experience for kids that we have a handful who travel from out of state in order to spend the week with us.  Here’s a quick video of what last year looked like:

When I have a chance to talk with other ministry leaders about why and how our VBS has tripled in size since my friend, Staci Travisano, and I took the helm I often point to three things I think have worked in our favor:

Our Community Trusts our Church

We have a Senior Pastor who believes that our church should function as a resource center for lost and broken families in our surrounding communities.  Because of that, we’ve been able to launch after school clubs at local elementary schools that reach out to kids and families who may have never stepped foot onto a church campus before.  By bringing our programming to them, and doing so in a way that shows that we care more about those families feeling loved than pushing kids into crisis conversion moments, we’ve built trust in our community.

Now, when a Glenkirk family invites a friend to church or VBS, there’s less hesitation on the part of families who aren’t connected to our church – and that, my friends, is priceless.

Our VBS is Youth Driven, Church Supported

Today, 400 Middle School and High School students will begin arriving for a week of intense training as they prepare to be VBS counselors next week.  All in all, they’ll spend around 30 hours getting ready for their chance to lead a group of campers through VBS.  Every year, that number grows and I believe that our VBS grows because of it.

If you spend just a few minutes watching Nick or Disney this week, you’ll discover that programming aimed at elementary aged kids is primarily dominated by characters who are in Middle School and High School.  I know a ton of 3rd grade boys who are reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books – a series that documents a boy’s experiences in Middle School.

By running a VBS that’s Youth Driven, we provide our campers a week in a program that feels like a show you’d watch on the Disney Channel… and we get to talk about Jesus, which is something that makes what we do a little more lasting than Disney.

If you want to get a sense of what our leader roles look like at VBS, check out this post https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/to-be-a-leader/

We Keep Unchurched Families in Mind

I cannot stress this idea enough – many VBS programs only pull in churched kids because they only program with churched kids in mind.  This philosophy starts from the top of our church – our Senior Pastor is constantly reminding us that what we do is not about us… we run programs and gather as a community in order to show lost people who Jesus is.

This frees us up to do all sorts of cool things.

Our church’s “Sanctuary” is transformed during the weeks leading up to and following VBS.  And, I’m not just talking about a backdrop that we purchased from Oriental Trading Company.  I’m talking all out transformation – we’ve built pirate ships, castles, science labs, swamps, full-size swinging rope ladders, larger-than life Swiss Family Robinson-esque tree houses – all in order to create a space where kids feel like they’re in a whole new world.  Church kids are (sometimes) comfortable in a church’s sanctuary… but, for an unchurched kid, churches often feel a little stuffy.  For about a month every summer, our main adult worship space on campus is the least “church-y” room at our church.

We also never assume that kids have heard a Bible story before – we never begin with phrases like, “We all know who Peter was…” because we expect that not everyone knows what we’re talking about.  We spend twice as much time playing games than we spend doing any other one thing – because we know that kids like games and don’t spend NEARLY enough time playing outside in the summer.

And we tell our church families, over and over and over, that VBS isn’t just for their kids – it’s for their friends.  We have families who are out of town for VBS inviting their friends because they know that it’s an experience that’s been created in order to change lives.  And it does.

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As much as I can over the next week, I’ll be posting more thoughts and updates on VBS at Glenkirk.  It’s one of my favorite seasons of the year – and I can hardly wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Kidmin

 

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Big News for the Prince Family

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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