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Where we got the name “Christmas”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibyur0xMeBA%5D

Where we got the name “Christmas”

WITB Tour: The Tricky Bits of Christmas

Have you ever wondered where the name Christmas comes from?  And… why don’t we just call it “Jesus’ birthday-day”?

Today, I get to talk a little about an amazing resource that’s coming out this holiday season.  Each year, I come across some tricky questions from the kids at my church, and even the kids who live at my house, as Christmas approaches.  Questions about Santa, the date of Christmas, some more questions about Santa, what the deal is with Christmas trees, and… yes… more questions about Santa.  I’d imagine that, if you’re a parent or work with children at your church, you face some of these same questions every year.

Well, I just happen to be friends with someone on a team who has developed a new tool for parents and church leaders to answer some of those hard questions surrounding Christmas.  The guys and gals who produce What’s In The Bible?  are launching a new resource this holiday season called Why Do We Call it Christmas (You can order the series at this link).  At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can win a FREE copy of this resource.

I’ve been asked to tackle some of the tricky bits that surround the lesson about where the name “Christmas” comes from.  It’s probably one of the lesser controversial lessons in the series (tackling the Santa thing sure sounds tricky, but the WITB team actually did it better than I’ve EVER seen), but it’s an important question that I want my own children, and the children in my church, to have the ability to answer.  Christmas is kind of a big deal, our kids should be able to talk about it from a place of understanding… and their answers should sound a bit different than the other answers on the playground at school.

When we work through this series at Glenkirk in the coming weeks (and at my house with my own kids), I’ll be giving my volunteers and church parents a head’s up about some of the trickier parts of this lesson.  The things I cover will probably look a little something like this:

For Volunteers and Parents

  1. In explaining the origin of the name “Christmas,” the video talks a bit about Communion.  Be ready to answer questions about what Communion is and why we take communion.  At our church, Communion is something that we celebrate once a month… but, be ready to explain to kids that some churches take communion more often and some take it less often.  At the time that Christmas originated (not when Jesus was born… but when we started celebrating Christmas on December 25), Communion was a part of each church service.  Having that information in your back pocket is going to be pretty helpful.
  2. The video talks about the fact that the holiday that started out on December 25th wasn’t Christmas.  You should be comfortable talking about this and shouldn’t shy away from the history of the date.  Try asking the kids in your group or in your family what day their birthday is on and if they’d change the day they celebrate it, if they could.  For example, my birthday is on December 27th and I’d change the day I celebrate it in a heartbeat.  I’ve lost count of how many “Christmabirthday” presents I’ve gotten over the years.  I think I’d want to celebrate my birthday in early May, if I had the choice.  Or maybe February.  How about you?
  3. When explaining the history of the holiday, it’s easy to talk less and less about the actual Christmas story.  Make sure that you point your discussion back to the birth of Jesus if it begins straying too far away.  If we spend a whole lesson talking about Christmas and forget to talk about God sending his Son to rescue us, we’re failing.  We should make sure that we make a big deal out of what we celebrate at Christmas.

Ok, here’s how to win your own copy ($79.00 value).  You can enter for the drawing by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter and by sending me an email at aprince(at)glenkirkchurch.org.  Your email should include a quick story about how you handle (or how your parents handled) talking about Santa in your home.  This post isn’t about Santa… but I’m working on one and would love to use some of your stories (I’ll keep them anonymous, I promise).

Write to me, tell me about Santa, share this link and I’ll choose the winner next Tuesday, Nov.15, and post your name here on the blog.

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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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Budget or Die

Budget or Die

Seriously, learn to budget or your ministry is toast

It’s that time of the year when many of us in ministry take a break from the things we care about and turn our attention to submitting a budget for the upcoming year. My friend Collie recently published a post (http://colliecoburnjr.com/defeating-the-budget-monster) that got me thinking through how over-my-head I felt in my first few years of ministry as I tried to create a system and process for budgeting. Now, as my friends and staff are well aware, budgeting season is one of my favorite parts of the year.  Crazy, right?

(If you read that as though you only have to budget once and then you’re good-to-go… leave me a comment in the section below and we’ll have a conversation this week where I break the news to you that budgeting is a year-round and life-long process)

The game-changer for me was two-fold – First, I developed a way to project what a program or event was going to cost without feeling like I was simply guessing and, second, I learned to use the budgeting process as a chance to cast and realign vision for our ministry.

Developing Initial Projections

I’ve found it helpful, in developing ministry budgets, to figure out a formula for an initial cost projection for a program or event. Having a way to initially project what an event or program is going to cost helped me feel as though I wasn’t simply guessing at the cost of ministry.

As a starting point in my first 2 years of ministry, I used these two quick formulas for events for 3 yr olds thru 5th graders (nursery, parenting and middle school events need different numbers… but I’ll assume that the bulk of kids’ ministers out there budget primarily for the 3’s-5th grade demographic)…

In our context, ongoing events and regular programs cost about $1 per child per ministry hour.
Large events and events that only happen once or twice a year cost about $2 per child per ministry hour.

Starting there would give me a base for my budget… it’s then up to me to go through my list of needs and wants to see if I can actually pull it off.

I’ll quickly put those numbers to the test with 2 examples:

Let’s say you have 70 kids in an ongoing program like Sunday School. And, as it once was in my case, let’s now assume that kids in your program will be with you on a Sunday for an hour and a half. That’s $1 x 70 kids x 1.5 hours… or, $105 per Sunday, giving you an annual budget of $5460 for Sunday School.

A large event, like a Halloween Festival or a VBS, will use the other formula. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you run a VBS or Day Camp for 100 kids and that the program lasts from 9am-1pm (4 hours). That’s $2 x 100 x 4 for a total of $800 per day, giving you a budget of $4,000 for a 5 day program.

Having a formula you can work from, even if it’s different than mine, gives you a way to go back to your pastor or your board to explain why a one-time event like VBS will cost nearly as much as a year of Sunday School. And, as your numbers grow, you have something to point back to to make a case for the need for an increased budget line.

Budgeting as an outflow of Vision

When I came on staff at our church, children’s ministry was getting 0.8% of the church budget.  That’s to say, for every $1 that was donated to the church, less than a penny was going to the programs and ministries dedicated to children under the age of 12.  That was a staggering number.

Now, I’ll be honest, there was a tectonic shift that occurred at our church that began to address that figure – we hired a senior pastor who had an appreciation for where the church had been and a vision for where the church needed to go.  He allowed us to begin looking at our budget numbers as expressions of what we thought mattered most.  In the first few years, a large event that our church hosted every year was canceled and I took that money and invested it in books and resources that we could hand to parents – believing that a more lasting impact would happen in the life of a family if parents were equipped to have spiritual conversations with their kids… rather than a family simply attending one more large event our church was hosting.

A few weeks ago, The Orange Tour came to our church and Reggie Joiner sat down with our Senior Pastor to chat about life, ministry and the things that matter most.  It’s a 15 minute conversation, but has some stand out moments.

If you begin watching at about 8 minutes, you’ll hear a throw away line just before the 9 minute mark about the year that our children’s ministry budget doubled.  That was the year that our Senior Pastor told the church that children’s ministry mattered.  We used our budget as an expression of the vision of the church.  The numbers were more than numbers – they were a physical manifestation of what we knew to be true – ministry to kids matters and an excellent ministry is going to cost more money than what we had been spending.

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You need to know how to budget.

Whether you’re in ministry or not, money doesn’t just happen – so you need to spend with an end in mind.  As you look over your budget, household or ministry, what does it say about the things you value?  Is there a way that you’re coming up with numbers, or are they simply hopeful shots in the dark?  Can your spouse or your senior pastor articulate why you spend what you spend on the things you spend it on?

Budgeting season doesn’t have to be stressful – but it does have to matter.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Kidmin

 

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Reaching a New Generation of Families

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Throw Away Your Cookie Cutter “Family Ministry” Strategy

This last week, I had the privilege of spending time with Amy Dolan, children’s ministry consultant and founder of Lemon-Lime kids.  Amy led a session at the conference I attended and facilitated a conversation about what family ministry will look like in 2011 and beyond.  I’ll lead with some new facts and ideas that Amy planted in my head and what I think we, as ministry practitioners, can do to revamp and re-imagine what family ministry looks like for a new generation of families.

What is a family?

In order to begin reaching families in your community with the Gospel, the first thing you need to throw out is your definition of family.  “Why?” you may ask… well, to begin with, the families you minister to are living in a world where the definition of family has changed.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s let Diane Sawyer and her team do the talking:

In my own home – we’re faced with redefining what a family is.  I have a sister who has been with the same boyfriend for over a decade.  We like him a lot.  At Christmastime, our family (my wife, 2 kids and I) buys them one Christmas gift in the same way that we send our sets of parents one gift each.  Our kids even call him Uncle Jordan.  He and my sister aren’t married, they don’t have kids, and yet – we, in all practical purposes, call them a family.

There almost seems to be a generational divide over who is and who isn’t comfortable with the loosening of the term “family” – especially in the world of Church.  Don’t believe me?  Ask an elder or board member at your church to write the definition of “family” and then ask a teacher or administrator in your local public school district to define what a family is – they’ll probably sound a little different.  And, as you reach out into your community, you need to know that the definition of family is changing – whether the church is ready for it or not.

Throw away your cookie cutters!

These are my words, not Amy’s.  However, I think she’d be in full support of them.  Over the last decade, as the church has re-struggled to engage families by tapping someone on staff to “Run” family ministries, the Church has gotten great at running “family” events.  Many churches, if you asked them what their family ministry strategy was, would point to a potluck they host or a movie night they invite families to.  Think about the way that we’ve often pitched these events…

To kids, we encourage them to bring their parents to events – but… what about kids who come to church with their grandparents?  Or what about the ones who have neighbors driving them to church?  And how about the kids in your church who are in foster care or have been removed from their parents’ home by local authorities?  Have you ever considered how those kids feel when you get a room full of their peers excited about inviting their parents to an event?

To grown ups, we announce that family events are upcoming and tell parents to bring their kids – but… do we consider the couples in the congregation who are struggling after a miscarriage and ache to be considered a “family” by those around them?  Have we thought about the message that we send to singles in our churches who already feel as though the church tells them that their life isn’t complete without a spouse… and now there’s another hurdle they’re going to have to jump over to be considered a “family” by their pastor?

I think we can do better and that we need to do better if the church is going to run effective family ministry in the changing world around us.

Practical next steps

I want to suggest a handful of next steps for those of us in the church who are looking to better serve families and the communities around us.  However, I want us to also sit and consider some of what we just read and heard.  If the definition of “family” is more fluid in the year 2011 than it’s been over the last few decades, then what does that mean for those of us who have been tasked by our churches to facilitate “family” ministries?  Where are some places in our churches that we can make room for singles and couples without children so that they know that they are a part of our church family and their voices are valuable in the conversation?

I’m going to hold off on practical application until my next post.  I feel like throwing out answers this quickly doesn’t allow the space we need to consider the changes on the horizon for Family Ministry in the Church.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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Meeting Families Where They Are

 

Meeting Families Where They Are

Family Ministry Connect Group Reflections

I had the privilege this last weekend to have spent some time in Chicago at Group’s Kidmin Conference.  While there, I led something called a “Connect Group” – a multi-day conversation and gathering of ministry practitioners who spend time connecting over a common subject.  The group I facilitated was focusing on Family Ministry – specifically answering the question, how does the church best partner with parents and families in order to pass the faith on to the next generation in relevant and lasting ways?

While spending time together, I noticed a common theme.  Those of us around the table were talking about ministry ideas that we’ve tried in order to reach and equip families – both the ideas that have worked and the ones that have failed – and the ideas that worked almost sounded like a broken record… churches are succeeding when they meet families where they’re at, rather than telling them what would be best for them.

Making the things you’re already doing count

Most of us know the story and the power of the movement behind an organization called TOMS shoes.  Their founder, Blake Mycoskie, decided to leverage an action people were already doing – buying shoes – and use that buying power to help children in need obtain a higher standard of living.  It’s a great example of meeting people where they are and making it count.  I tell high schoolers and young adults all the time – if you want to do the MOST good, your $60 can help out an organization like Compassion tremendously.  However, if you’re already going to drop that kind of money (or more) on a pair of shoes, then why not buy a pair from an organization that will pass on a pair to a child who has never owned shoes?

I say that to say this – from the conversations around our circles, it sounds as though family ministry is most effective when churches find things that families are already celebrating or doing (Halloween Parties, Christmas activities, lunch after church, parenting conversations, celebrating milestones… among others) and lean into those times to equip and resource families and often give them a shared experience alongside other families who are committed to raising up their children well.

Family ministry, it seems, is more than just handing out take-home pages.
Who knew? 😉

I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations throughout this coming year… and we’d love to have your voice in the mix – what has your church done to meet families where they’re at?  Are you connecting with parents on Facebook, spending time at school events and soccer fields to meet families in your community, or something else creative?  Use the comments section to let us know!

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Train Up Your Children

Train up your children

Holy snap, the verse you know & love doesn’t exist

I love having friends who are brilliant.  In fact, anyone who knows the story behind my wife and I falling in love and getting married knows that it all began because I wanted to marry someone smarter than I am (and… it helped that she is smokin’ hot).

So, I was sitting down for dinner with one of our brilliant friends the other night when she dropped a bomb on my world.  It went something like this:

Laura: Hey, you know that verse about training up your child in the way he should go?

Me: Yup.

Laura: That’s not in the Bible.

Me: *confused silence*

Seriously – it was like a bomb went off in the room.  When I asked her, in a stumbled and broken sentence, what in the world she meant, she went on to explain that the verse is a bit confusing in the original language and that the KJV translators sort of guessed at what the verse said.  And… most every translation afterward has made the same guess!

The verse is more likely to be a warning about how, if you let your child choose their own path, they’ll continue on that path when they’re an adult.  This makes total sense… but I’m seriously wrestling with how many people have taken this verse as a promise (which is a bit silly because it’s a Proverb, not a Promise) and how to best point them in the right direction.

Rather than go any further, I’m going to link to a post that explains all of this better than I could.  My brilliant friend, Laura Ziesel, wrote a post on the subject here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/10/train-up-child-in-whose-way.html

Not sure you want to click over?   Let me tease you with this:

I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone, but Bible translation has failed miserably in regard to Proverbs 22:6 and we have all been duped. 
Okay, now hold on. I hear you groaning already: “Oh great, she’s going to tell us what the Hebrew really says, as if the Hebrew is clear. Pulease.” I get it. I really do. If Scripture were clear, many scholars and pastors would be out of work.
So, I’m not going to pretend as if the Hebrew is clear here because it’s not. But I (via my awesome professor and a little independent verification) can tell you what Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say. Ready?
Laura blogs over at www.lauraziesel.com – a great way to break the news to the parents in your ministry is to post a link to her article on Facebook… just a suggestion.
 
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Orange Week: What’s to Come

This week, registration begins for Orange 2012.

I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly excited I am.  In fact, I’m so excited that I’m joining in on a little blog tour leading up to the opening day of registration.  To find out more about that blog tour, you can check out this link:

http://www.whatisorange.org/orangeleaders/blog/?p=5986

Over the week, I’ll be posting a series of posts in a hope to convey how Orange, as a strategy and as a conference, has shaped and reshaped the way I serve and minister to families.  I’ll be walking through the following topics this week:

Tuesday: There is No “I” in Orange: Why Orange shouldn’t be a solo experience

Wednesday: Out of Left Field: The thing I learned at Orange that I never saw coming

Thursday: Dreaming in Orange: Simple ways that we’ve become a more Orange church (and you can too!)

Friday: Orange Tour LIVE: Glenkirk is hosting the Orange Tour THIS Friday!

I’m looking forward to the week… and also looking forward to meeting a TON of Orange Thinking friends for lunch this Thursday in the LA area (details here: http://www.whatisorange.org/orangeleaders/blog/?p=5999)

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Orange

 

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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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