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Songs about Jesus

Songs about Jesus

Essential words we need to say in church

A few weeks ago, the team that leads worship for our elementary-aged children on Sunday mornings had just wrapped up their set and closed in prayer when a child from our 2nd grade section called out, “When are we going to sing a song about Jesus?”

Though two of our songs that day came directly from the words of Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27 & Luke 9:23) and our third song was a song that sings of our God’s power, I had not been intentional about making sure that our kids (especially the short ones in the room) sang a song that specifically mentioned Jesus that morning.  I’ll get to why that is a big deal in a moment.

I believe that the words we speak and the songs we sing in our church’s worship services help create a reality for the community we worship alongside.  And, though I believe that statement, I sometimes forget how important it is to remember its truth each time I have the opportunity to lead from the front of the room – with adults or with children.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m going to be super intentional about saying when I have a chance to speak in front of our church.  If there’s anything you’d add to the list, feel free to add on.

The Name of Jesus

I am convinced that this is what separates the Church from being just another neat place where people go and learn to be nice.  It’s a big deal that Jesus was a real person.  It’s an even bigger deal that he died for our sins.  It’s the biggest deal that he came back to life and that we can experience eternity in Heaven because of the gift of grace that his resurrection offers to us.  With that in mind, we should probably say the name of Jesus and sing songs that specifically remind us of his name – the Name by which we are to call to during life’s storms and the Name by which we pray.

Visitors are Welcome

It’s possible, believe it or not, for someone to feel unwelcome at your church.  In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that our churches face in getting a first time visitor to become a second time visitor is helping them feel welcomed and connected during their first visit.  I was recently speaking to a group of children’s directors and youth pastors when I suggested that they always take a moment to welcome first time visitors.  Afterwards, I had multiple people come up to me to tell me that they haven’t had first time visitors for over a year at their church.

I’d encourage you, much like I encouraged them, to begin talking about visitors before they are there.  If you intentionally begin talking about first time visitors and using words that express that everyone is welcome at your church, you’ll begin to teach your congregation that (a) church is a place for visitors and (b) they need to live into the reality that it’s their job to make your services a place where they can invite their friends who do not yet know who Jesus is.

You Matter

If I could encourage you to be intentional about the words you choose when speaking in front of children, teens or adults at church, I couldn’t end the conversation without talking about this next idea.  We live in a culture where fame and outward beauty are the bars by which we measure worth.  And those who try to measure up to that world and fall short question their own worth. It’s our job, as those who have the chance to speak words of truth to our churches, to make sure that we let others know that they matter – that God loves them and created them on purpose.

Make it a point, every time you gather, to speak of a world where God loves us deeply, where our community needs us and where we are valued… because that’s the world that exists and speaking of it gives others a little glimpse into what Heaven on Earth might look like.

These are the things that I’ll be making sure that we say in our church and in my ministries because I believe that they are true and I believe that it’s our role to say them regularly.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.  Feel free to add on or ask questions below.

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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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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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There is No “I” in Orange

Orange Week: There is No “I” in Orange

Why Orange shouldn’t be a solo experience

I sat down for coffee yesterday with a great local Family Pastor (and friend) in the area and spent nearly 3 hours talking shop and drinking coffee.  My friend has recently expanded his staff and has hired a part-time kids’ ministry director to help lead their church in a more “Orange” direction.  Whether he’s meaning to or not, my friend is doing something brilliant this week – he’s dragging his Senior Pastor to the Orange Tour we’re hosting at our church.  He understands an extremely simple concept – There is no I in Orange.

2 years ago, our church did something that was a game-changer for the way way we minister to families.  I was able to cash in all of my chips with our Senior Pastor and talked him into coming out to Atlanta with me to attend the Orange Conference.  In fact, we were able to send a team of 5 of us – Our Senior Pastor, our High School, Middle School, and Elementary directors, and I – across the country for some team bonding and strategy conversations.  Because Orange is more than simply a curriculum, we needed as many of the players as we could in on the conversation so that we could tackle the future of kids/student/family ministry at our church with a unified vision.

Now, to be incredibly honest, that trip was the beginning of a process for us – we’re still not as Orange as I’d love for us to be.  I’ll also add that it wasn’t even that hard to get my Senior Pastor to Orange – the speaker line up that they have (and reputation they’re building) pretty much sold the conference on its own.  With that said, sitting in a room with thousands of other children’s ministry leaders AND youth pastors AND senior pastors began to help us own the fact that a) we weren’t alone in trying to revamp the strategy we use to reach families with the gospel and b) there was a network of other leaders across the country that we could lean on during our transition.

I’ve met guys and gals at Orange who walk around by themselves with their eyes the size of tangerines as they try to take in all that the conference has to offer.  Over and over, I hear them asking about how they will EVER get their Senior Pastor to catch the vision for an Orange strategy.

Friends, this might be hard to swallow, but you can’t make your church Orange on your own.  Orange is a strategy that works best when there is alignment between departments – when churches stop operating in silos and begin working as a team that believes passionately about passing the faith on to the next generation.

Here’s where there’s a bit of hope – you don’t HAVE to fly multiple people to Atlanta to get the conversation started at your church!  I know that part of why this is “Orange Week” is because this is the first week that you can register for the 2012 Orange Conference… but, today’s post isn’t even going to have a link to the registration page.  Instead, let me offer a couple steps you can try before asking your church to invest in sending a team to Orange (because, seriously, if your church is going to help you attend Orange… you shouldn’t go alone.  It’ll probably just drive you crazy as you wish your team was there with you to process what you’re learning and experiencing).

Step One: Meet Orange thinking People:
Cost: Free
How: In the world we live in, you can connect with people online in ways I could have never dreamed of a decade ago when I started out in ministry. If you don’t know where to start or who to connect with, send me a message and I’ll point you in the direction of an awesome Orange-thinking person in your area.  It’s that easy.
(you can also check out some other Orange Week bloggers HERE)

Step Two: Read Think Orange
Cost: $15 (HERE on Amazon)
Why: This book will give you the framework that an Orange strategy is going to ask you to consider.  Taking steps past this point without having this resource under your belt is going to leave you scratching your head a bunch.  And, in all honesty, if you just make it through the first couple chapters before moving on, you’ll at least be starting on the right page.

Step Three: Bring your team to an Orange Tour stop
Cost: $59
Why: The step we took before our trip to Atlanta was getting our Senior Pastor to an Orange Tour stop.  After a few hours of hearing Reggie Joiner speak, I could see our team starting to get excited about where this new strategy might take us next.  Now… we’re half way through the Tour season, but there are still stops you can make it to!

** Seattle, WA | Tuesday, September 20, 2011 –  3-hour Gathering

Bethany Community Church
8023 Green Lake Drive
Seattle, WA 98103

Los Angeles, CA | Friday, September 23, 2011 –  Full Day Event

Glenkirk Church
1700 Palopinto Avenue
Glendora, CA 91741

** Morristown, NJ | Monday, October 10, 2011 –  3-hour Gathering

Liquid Church
Morristown Hyatt
3 Speedwell Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960

** New York City Area | Tuesday, October 11, 2011 –  3-hour Gathering

Christ Tabernacle
64-34 Myrtle Avenue
Glendale, NY 11385

Charlotte, NC | Thursday, October 20, 2011 –  Full Day Event

Bethlehem Church
3100 Bethlehem Church Street
Gastonia, NC 28056

Indianapolis, IN | Tuesday, October 25, 2011 –  Full Day Event

Connection Pointe Christian Church
1800 North Green Street
Brownsburg, IN 46112

Jacksonville, FL | Friday, November 4, 2011 –  Full Day Event

The Church at Argyle
6823 Argyle Forest Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32244

Houston, TX | Tuesday, January 17, 2012 –  Full Day Event

Woodsedge Community Church
25333 Gosling Road
The Woodlands, TX 77389

Dallas, TX | Friday, January 20, 2012 –  Full Day Event

TBD

** Note: This is a three-hour (10:30am – 1:30pm) event focused on the Orange Strategy through the lens of Wonder, Discovery and Passion with Reggie Joiner.  The cost is $15 and includes lunch.

Step 4: The Orange Conference
Cost: $239/person (if you register THIS Thursday)
Why: Ummm… did you read the post up to this point?  Getting everyone on the same page is a big deal.  If you’re ready to make this step, it’s worth the price of admission.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Kidmin, 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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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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End of the Year Celebrations: Parent Resources

As our mid-week programs are wrapping up at our church, I thought I’d share an idea that we put into practice last year and are still in the process of refining.

A few years ago, as we handed out awards and recognition for our students at the end of the school year, I began wrestling with how empty our awards ceremony felt.  There we were, with a ton of our committed parents in the room, handing out ribbons, certificates and trophies and then sending families on their merry way for the summer months.

So, last year, I decided to turn part of the night into a vision casting session for parents.  First, we show this video:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/18984255]

this video is courtesy of Orange and 252 Basics which we use as our Sunday Morning Strategy at our church

Then, with moms in the room getting all teary-eyed because they think of their baby leaving the house in a few short years, we give them a vision for making the next years of parenting count.  We explain that our church desires to come alongside them and partner with them to raise their children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus.  With the term “partnership” in mind, we then offer them resources that we feel will help them a) catch the vision of partnership with the church and b) equip them to parent more confidently over the next year.

This year, we offered three resources for parents to choose from.
You can read about them here: http://www.glenkirkchurch.org/articles1-170/ParentingResourceList

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So… here’s my question, have you done something like this and, if so, what resources are you putting in the hands of the parents in your community?  If you haven’t… tell me why not.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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Kids in Alabama Need Your Help

Speaking of talking with your kids about death, I was just informed of an amazing organization that is coming alongside families who are recovering from the devastating tornadoes that hit the South last week.

Mitzi Eaker has put together a really neat project that is a very practical way for your family to lend a hand in bringing hope and love to kids who need to know that God and the Church are still looking out for them.  Think “Operation Christmas Child” – but in May.  Here’s some quick info I was provided by some friends who are close to the project.

“We are asking that families and children’s ministries across the country get involved by creating “Boxes of Hope” for children which will be distributed in disaster relief centers, emergency shelters, and area hospitals to storm victims. These boxes will contain a personal note to the children with scripture for encouragement, fun activities such as a coloring book, small toys or games, and a few toiletry items. “Boxes of Hope” are aimed at providing a distraction and encouragement to children who have lost everything in this heartbreaking disaster. As parents, we know that seeing our children receive such a gift in this circumstance would help put our minds at ease as well.”


Read more,  including how your family can be involved by visiting kids4al.com.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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