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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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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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Raising the Next Generation of Leaders

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My first church leadership position was as a student crew leader at a VBS a small church in Northern California nearly 15 years ago.  You might not think of a student crew leader at a VBS as someone on your church leadership team, but that church did.  I still remember hearing the pastor tell us that we were on the church staff for the week of VBS and that we needed to live into that reality.

It was a HUGE responsibility… and, looking back, it was my first step toward a career in vocational ministry.

I think of that summer every time that I look at pictures like the ones above.  You see, each year I give that same talk to our group of student leaders at VBS.  And, each year, that group grows.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

This last July, I sat in a room with 300 student leaders, preparing them for their 2 week commitment to VBS at Glenkirk.  For many, it was their first time attending our week-long training session for Student VBS leaders.  Many had once been children jumping on the pews during opening VBS worship, some were simply youth in our community looking to make a difference in the world around them – all of them were joining the ranks of our church staff for the better part of a month.  They were given the chance to live up to great expectations and to share God’s love with the kids who would be entrusted to their care.

As I watch many of them taking on greater leadership roles in the church (we have students serving on worship teams, leading kids’ ministry, on our church’s finance committee, leading mission trips and serving in countless other areas), I can’t help but dream about the next generation of leaders that God is raising up in our midst.

This past weekend, students who were once just VBS counselors were leading our church’s largest kids’ ministry service while I spoke in a different location on campus.  Without a single paid staff person around, that service had one of its highest attended Sundays in its history… and it didn’t miss a beat.   When we look to duplicate ourselves in ministry, I think the wise investment is often found when we pour our lives and energy into equipping our youth with the tools and knowledge it takes to make ministry happen.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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What to do with a Brett Favre

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So, Brett Favre is on your children’s ministry team… what should you do?

First, and foremost, don’t panic!
Your Brett Favre wants to succeed… it’s now your goal to get this leader to a place where they are helping your team and not distracting it.

Now, you may not be able to get your Brett Favre to a place where he can ever beat the Dallas Cowboys (Jonathan Cliff… I’m not sure what the ministry parallel is to this. We await your wisdom in the comments section),  but you can get to a place where having Brett Favre on your team makes your ministry better and more effective.

Brett Can’t Be the Best Player on Your Team

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As long as your Brett Favre feels as though they are carrying your team, they won’t be able to take direction from you and they’ll maintain a diva-esque personality.  If you are committed to keeping this leader on your team, you need to invest heavily into another team member and give them the keys to an area of your ministry.  In the same way that the Minnesota Vikings’ offense will continue to showcase Adrian Peterson… you need to be able to showcase someone on your team that you trust can carry the load.  This will help define your Brett’s role in your ministry area – it’s not about them… it’s about the team that they are a part of (and, ultimately, it’s about serving Christ).  Surround Brett Favre with talent, and he’ll be more likely to conform to the team.

Brett Favre Needs to Win

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Brett Favre has always been the happiest and most effective when he’s on a winning team.  Your Brett Favre is no different.  If your Brett isn’t following your directions, try redefining what a “win” looks like for your ministry team.  When defining a “win” for your team, make sure that the results are things that your leaders can observe.  Maybe a “win” for your team is when a child can answer the two questions parents often ask when they pick children up: “Did you have fun?” and “What did you learn?”  Whatever your criteria becomes, make sure that you point out these victories to your team in large settings.  Brett Favre wants to be a winner.  He wants to be contributing to a winning team – you need to show him what a “win” looks like.

Brett Favre Needs Your Encouragement

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At the end of the day, Brett Favre is just like any of us.  When Brett feels like he’s the only one playing the game the way it should be played, the world becomes a lonely place.  You need to find out if your Brett Favre is in a Small Group, a Bible Study, an Accountability Group… whatever it is that your church has to keep its members engaged in the church community – your Brett needs to know that he’s not alone.  By building strong friendships in the church, your Brett will be less likely to leave your ministry for the one down the road.  With a commitment to the church community, your Brett will be more willing to put his ego aside for the sake of the team.  However, if your Brett feels as though he is on an island, expect him to operate outside of your leadership.

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Your ministry team is made up of an assortment of characters and you have been called to work alongside them.  At times, that means we need to invest more heavily into team members.  Other times, we need to set high expectations and hold our team accountable.  There are even times when we need to have a leader over for dinner to let them know that we care about them and that they are not serving in a bubble.  Whatever the next step is for you and your team, hopefully this series has helped you out.

What are your experiences with having a Brett Favre on your ministry team?  Are there other tips that you’d like to share with the community?

Post your thoughts and comments in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Kidmin

 

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Napkin 2010

napkin front page website

My first job offer was written on a Burger King napkin over 12 years ago.

My 1st rough draft of “Things I might say when I propose” was written on a yellow napkin from Susanville’s Frosty Mill 8 years ago.

It was nearly 3 years ago when I wrote my 5-year ministry plan on a napkin I found in our kitchen after moving to Southern California.

In February 2010, I’ll be bringing a handful of napkins to Las Vegas.

Why?

Well, as my friend Gina McClain puts it, “The journey from napkin to reality can be challenging.”
At the Napkin Conference 2010, I plan to hear about that journey from guys like Sam Luce and  Jim Wideman.

I also look forward to meeting this guy:

If you’re on the West Coast, you need to get to this conference.
We’ll meet up and share ideas.
We’ll even share some napkins.

It’s not too early to plan.
Are you in?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Orange

 

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What it takes to be a Leader

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Our youth leaders don’t have one look to them.  They might be jocks and cheerleaders from the local high school across the street. Some are youth group junkies from our church’s ministries or elsewhere in town. Others are lonely kids who need to be somewhere where people love them.

Our VBS is as much a ministry to the youth leaders who run the camp as it is to the campers.
We believe this with all of our hearts – which is why we have no faith restrictions when is comes to kids who want to serve on our leadership team for VBS.

You may think we’re crazy for doing this.  Let me walk you through our process… and let’s see if you call us “crazy” on the other side.

STEP ONE: JOB PLACEMENT

During the application process, students fill out what is essentially a full job application in order to be considered for a position on our VBS team.

On that form, applicants list, among other things, their home church (if applicable), whether or not they have a personal relationship with Jesus, they must then describe that relationship, and they list an adult as a reference.

From there, we sort our LEADERSHIP kids in the following way:

To be a Crew Leader (lead a group of 8-12 children and coach a crew of 1 Co-Leader and 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The student must be able to articulate a statement of faith.

To be a Crew Co-Leader (help coach a crew of 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The student’s reference must be able to easily confirm that the student has placed his/her faith in Jesus.

We try to make sure that every VBS team has at least 1 Crew Leader and 1 Crew Co-Leader.  These are the leaders that are appointed to answer questions children may have about Jesus during the week and they are the first responders during the time when children are given a chance to give their lives to Jesus on the 4th day of camp.

Here is how we sort our ASSISTANT kids:

To be a Crew Assistant (provide oversight for 2 children. makes sure child is engaged and having fun) – The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.

To be a Crew Buddy (travel with group during rotations. in charge of head counts. helps decorate classrooms and campus) – Turn in a completed application.  Shows interest in working with children. Has a friend in the crew who is an Assistant, Co-Lead, or Lead.

To be a Rotation Buddy (assist rotation leaders) – Turn in a completed application.  Does not work well unsupervised.  Great worker if given direction from an adult.

To be on the Facilities Crew (assists facilities team) – Turn in a completed application.  Does not fit any other position.

STEP TWO: TRAINING

We spend 20+ hours training our youth leaders to ensure that every leader knows our policies and procedures as they relate to children on our campus.
To see what this training entails, read this post.

During training, our primary goals this year shifted from policy education and campus decoration to a focus on spiritual development of our leaders.  We wanted leaders who already had a relationship with Jesus to go into the next week EXCITED about their faith.  We wanted every leader who did not have a relationship with Jesus to go into next week WITH a relationship with Jesus.

STEP THREE: ACCOUNTABILITY

All along the way, there is a person directly in charge of each youth leader.  We try to avoid putting our youth in situations where they can fail.  Ultimately, the success of each youth leader is something that my VBS coordinator and I are directly accountable for.  We believe that with proper training, lots of prayer, and a structure of accountability, that our camp can be successfully run by students who may or may not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Our Basic Structure is: Children’s Ministry Director -> VBS Coordinator -> Adult Rotation Leaders -> Crew Leader -> Crew Co-Leader -> Crew Assistant -> 2 Assigned Campers.

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I understand that not everyone will agree with the way we do things.
Every year, we have parents who initially push us on the fact that we have youth leaders at camp who may or may not have a relationship with Christ.
But, quite honestly, I think it’s one of the best things we do.

I think that the 29 counselors who accepted Jesus as their savior during training this year would agree.

Agree with what we do? Disagree?
Share your thoughts in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Orange

 

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VBS Training Recap

We rely heavily on youth leaders (Jr. and Sr. high students) to run our church’s annual Vacation Bible School. As a team, this is our third attempt at putting together the best program possible… and we’ve made some pretty serious changes over these last years.
Here’s our basic training schedule for the week before our event:

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Monday: Adult leader training.
2 hours of walking adults through their roles for the week. Mostly Preschool Leaders (our preschool VBS program has an adult lead for every group) attend this event.  We want the adults on our campus to have a consistant voice as they interact with student leaders, children, and parents during the week.  This training session helps us all get on the same page.

Tuesday: 2 training events.
We split up our Jr. High and Sr. High leaders for training on this day.
For three hours each, we go over procedures with our students and drill into their heads their responsibilities for the next week. Every leader should know what we’re doing in the event of an emergency.  Every leader should know the system we use to color code our campus during VBS.  Jr. Highers should know that they’re primary responsibility at VBS is making sure that the campers are engaged and enjoying themselves.  Sr. High leaders are primarily in charge of directing their group and coaching their Jr. High team.  Our Pastor of Family Life gives a talk at each of these events to encourage the students as they get ready for the week ahead.

Wednesday: Worship team training
We use live music to engage our elementary aged kids at the beginning and end of each VBS day.  The band that provides the music is made up of a handful of student leaders, some of whom are Jr. and Sr. High leaders, all of whom are actively involved in our church and our youth groups. They spend 4 hours tightening up the music they’ve been practicing during the weeks leading up to VBS.  Our church’s Worship Director leads this team and is in charge of this training event.

Thursday: Full team training
We kick into high gear from 9am-5pm on Thursday.  This is the day we assign groups, rotations, and space on campus for the following week.  Our teams begin to tackle decorating our sanctuary, our church’s lobby and their classrooms.  Teams develop a mission statement for the next week – something that they’ll be able to point to during VBS to evaluate if they’re doing what they want to be doing.  Students hear a message from our Director of Student Ministries on this day and a BBQ lunch is provided.  The Swamp Staff 09 Blog is also launched on this day to provide a community space where students can share their thoughts over the next week and a half.

Friday: Full team training
This year, Friday is the last day we have to makeover the church’s worship spaces before the weekend worship services.  Students arrive at 10am and leave at 4pm on this day.  We are clearly presenting the gospel message in order to provide student leaders a chance to make a recommitment of faith or decide to follow Jesus for the first time in thier lives.  Though we do ask if student leaders have a relationship with Christ on their applications, our leadership positions are open to any and all who want to serve.  This is one of our chances to intentionally minister to students who have yet to decide to follow Jesus.  Also on the agenda for Friday is a giant pizza party and some fun activities to faciliate team building.

Sunday: Full team training
After church services on Sunday, students spend the afternoon putting finishing touches on the campus.  We answer FAQ’s that have arrisen during the week and provide some encouraging words before the students leave for the night.  This is the calm before the storm.

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And there it is!  One of the changes I’m most proud of this year, as I read back through our schedule, is the choice we made to intentionally have a the gospel clearly presented during Friday’s training.  In the past, we’ve had students make faith commitments during VBS, when the children are asked to do so… but, how much greater will this year be if those students know Jesus before the week gets under way?  I guess we’ll see.

Talking to leaders of other VBS programs around town, I’ve noticed that we’re one of the few programs that takes training our youth leaders this seriously.  After this week, our student leaders will have put in more than 20 hours of training time – and that’s before the 20+ hours they’ll be spending on campus next week during camp.
We’d love to hear what others around the country who run programs like this are doing to train their leaders.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Add yours to the comments section!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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