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mjohnson

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Show Mercy – A Beatitude Devotional

There are at least two reasons we find it hard to show mercy. One is that our first instinct is to strike back. Imagine getting a poisonous snake bite. Striking back at the snake or chasing after it is foolish. You will only get upset, raise your heart rate, and spread the poison further. Not to mention that you could be bitten again! What you should do in that situation is to let the snake go, seek first aid, get the poison out, and slow the poison’s spread by controlling your emotions, and slowing your breathing and heart rate. Striking back at those who hurt us in life is like poisoning ourselves. Instead, we should control our emotions and let the pain go, by showing mercy.

Another reason we find it hard to show mercy is that we don’t think that people deserve mercy. But that is extraordinarily foolish! When you think “he doesn’t deserve mercy” you have just identified someone who is eligible for mercy. That’s what makes it mercy – it is undeserved. No one, including us, deserves mercy. Mercy is giving someone another chance when he or she does not deserve it, just like Jesus did for us and for the woman in the Bible Lesson today.
Jesus showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery despite what she deserved. The law she had broken was His. The heart she had broken was His. He knew far more intimately than her accusers what she had done. He, more than anyone else present, would be justified in striking back at her and giving her the punishment she earned. But he showed her mercy. Jesus treats us with undeserved mercy and if we are following His example we must resist the urge to strike back, and remember that we can only show mercy to people who don’t deserve it.

“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.” Zechariah 7:9 (NLT)

“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman – John 8:1-11.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Love and Justice – A Beatitude Devotional

beatitude

There are two images of Jesus that people many times have a hard time reconciling. What does Jesus lovingly sitting with the children (Mark 10:16) have in common with the Jesus that we find wielding a whip to drive out people and animals from the Temple? Those two images might seem contradictory, but really they are about the same thing: access to God. Before Jesus lovingly held the children, He angrily rebuked His disciples for standing in their way. And the system that was allowed to grow up in the Temple courts was standing in the way of God’s people being able to pray and worship Him. After Jesus drove out those who were abusing their position, the outcasts, the blind, and the lame were able to come in and worship.

Jesus cleared the room of bullies and made room for the outcasts. Jesus cared for the outcasts. He loved them. Love doesn’t just mean hugs and snuggles. It means protection. We can’t show love to others and not be willing to stand up and protect them in unfair situations. The actions we take might be less dramatic than making a whip and chasing people with it, but they can definitely make a difference. A kind word to someone who has been hurt, a firm rebuke to someone using cruel language, a vote cast to protect the innocent, or a hug around someone who has been excluded are all actions that show others God’s love. As followers of Christ, we have to show God’s love to victims of injustice and teach our children to do the same.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17 (NLT)

“You stand up to judge those who do evil, O God, and to rescue the oppressed of the earth.” Psalm 76:9 (NLT)

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Cleanses the Temple – Matthew 21:12-17 and Mark 11:15-19.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Selfless Humility – A Beatitude Devotional

humility beatitude

A lack of humility tells you a lot about people. It tells you that they don’t understand that they are a part of something bigger. It tells you that they don’t recognize the contributions and value of others. It tells you they overestimate their own importance. And most of all it tells you that they aren’t looking any further than their own benefit. The opposite of humility may be pride, but often the cause of not being humble is selfishness.

Jesus calls us to a radical kind of selfless humility; the same kind of humility that He demonstrated. Just as He set aside the privilege and power of His position and became one of us, we need to be willing to set aside privilege and power, remembering that we are not better than those around us. Just as He took the lowest place, of a servant, washing His disciples’ feet, we should take lowly jobs with joy, knowing that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving others. And just as Jesus put our needs above His own desires by dying for us on the cross, we should be willing to give up our desires in order that others’ needs may be fulfilled.

John the Baptist knew how to do just that. He knew that his purpose was to set up Jesus to succeed. What John’s disciples saw as a failure, he recognized as success. He knew that if people were repenting and coming closer to God, then his purpose was being fulfilled even if it wasn’t directly through him. John didn’t want the spotlight. He wanted the message to be heard. We have a choice. We can be like John’s disciples, selfishly wanting our own way and our own reward, or we can choose to be like John, concerned not with whether our position is advancing, but whether the message of Jesus is advancing.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

READ: John the Baptist Shows Humility – Mark 1:7, John 3:22-31, Matthew 11:11.

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

The Source of Comfort – A Beatitude Devotional

beatitude

It’s funny that some of the most ordinary things can bring us comfort. Our own bed, when we have been away from it for a while, can seem like a full body hug of comfort. Food can bring comfort too, like that special dish that our mom or dad makes that only comes out right when he or she makes it. Sometimes all it takes for the whole world to seem better is a favorite pair of jeans or a favorite old t-shirt. Perhaps getting comfort from these people and things is one reason that we sometimes forget or fail to seek comfort from the most extraordinary person in our lives: Jesus. When we go through something that shakes us, that causes us pain, we need to remember that Jesus is available to us right where we are if we will just turn to Him. Jesus came to Mary and Martha after Lazarus had already died.

Martha went to meet Jesus, and He comforted her. Then she went to Mary and encouraged her to go to Jesus, and He comforted her. Jesus felt and shared their pain and He joined them in sorrow, weeping with them. Why did He weep if He knew what was about to happen? Was He acting? Playing for the crowd? No. He was comforting them by joining them in their grief and He will do the same for us. We often only think of Jesus when we want a miracle. Martha and Mary both say to Jesus, “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But before the extraordinary and miraculous, Jesus’ actions are humble, simple, and loving. He reminds Martha of the promises of God through scripture.

He joins them in weeping. He goes with them to the grave. Then He raises Lazarus. But Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to comfort Mary and Martha. He didn’t even do it for Lazarus. He did it, “…for the sake of all those standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” (John 11:43) Go to Him for comfort before you go for a miracle. Seek comfort in prayer, by reading God’s Word, and by simply reminding yourself that you aren’t alone. Jesus comforted Martha and Mary and He will comfort you as well.

“‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 (NLT)

“Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” Psalm 119:50 (NLT)

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NLT)

READ: Jesus Comforts Martha and Mary – John 11.

 

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Volunteers

Spiritual Riches – A Beatitude Devotional

It has been said that the rich have an advantage over the poor–they already know that money can’t make them happy. Jesus was saying something similar when He said that God blessed those who were poor in spirit. When Jesus said that, it probably confused the people he was talking to in the same way that it does us. After all, how can any kind of poverty be a good thing? But what Jesus was pointing out was that the poor in spirit know that they need God.

Nicodemus knew that he was missing something. So he came to Jesus. People around us should notice that they are missing something that we have. If we have Jesus in our lives, our spiritual “riches” come from Him. They should notice the encouragement we have when times are difficult, the peace we have when things are unsure, and the strength we have to do the right thing when it needs to be done. When they see Jesus working in our life in these ways, they will come to us just like Nicodemus came to Jesus. When they do, we can tell them that in order to have what we have, they need Jesus. No one has enough physical riches that he or she could fill the needs of the poor by giving them all away, but through Jesus, we have the spiritual riches to bring salvation to anyone who realizes that they need Jesus. That is the greatest blessing that anyone can have.

“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” Revelation 3:17-19 (NLT)

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

READ: Nicodemus Speaks With Jesus – John 3 and John 19:38-42.

 

This is the teacher devotional from the Elevate series Altitude Kids. To learn how you can teach these beatitudes lessons to the kids in your ministry, check out ElevateKidsNow.com.

Current Affairs Parenting

The Star – A Holiday Movie Review

Looking for a fun movie to take your kids to this Holiday Season? One that promotes loyalty to friends, forgiveness, courage and being open to the dreams God has for your life. Then this movie is for you.

In “Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.” http://www.thestarmovie.com/site

While the animation is not quite up to Pixar standards, it is still well done and compliments the voices and action quite nicely. The story is above average, however it takes some liberties in the actual Biblical story in order to convey the narrative from an animal’s perspective. I don’t worry too much about this because as your kids grow, under your influence, they will become aware of the accurate Biblical details, (remember, contrary to most contemporary versions, even those acted out in children’s plays at church, the wise men did not actually appear on the night of Jesus birth, etc.).

If you take advantage of it, this movie will give you the chance to talk to your child about several important topics:

  • Loyalty between friends, as Bo and his sidekick Dave come to a point where their loyalty to each other is tested.
  • Forgiveness, as seen in the closing moments with Thaddeus and Rufus.
  • Courage to press on under difficult circumstances and apparent setbacks in life, as Bo struggles to follow his dream throughout the movie.
  • Wisdom in following God’s lead, as Bo ultimately chooses to help Mary.
  • Trust in God’s plan, as Mary and Joseph discover their new life that begins with the conception of Jesus.
  • Passion to move forward with your dreams, with the awareness that God may move you in a different direction that will, in the short or long run, be better than any dream you could possibly imagine.

I and my family enjoyed this movie and I think you will too. So, scoop up your kids for an afternoon or evening movie this coming weekend. When you do, you will give them a fun outing that will produce discussion opportunities long into the future!

“The Star” is now out on blue-ray and DVD!

Children’s Ministry Elevate FC Kids

How to Use Elevate’s Roanoke Jones Series for Christmas!

You may be thinking, Roanoke Jones isn’t a Christmas series. I have to use Elevate’s Professor Playtime’s Christmas Shop Of Wonders every Christmas because it is the only dedicated Christmas series from Elevate. Well, we are here to tell you that thanks to the uniqueness of Elevate’s curriculum series, you can use many different themes or lessons during Christmas time in your children’s ministry. One series FC Kid’s used last year is Roanoke Jones: Ace Detective!

Unpack God’s Word with the Animated Bible Lessons

The Bible Lessons in Roanoke Jones easily fit with Christmas and help the kids see the bigger picture of the Christmas Story. Leading up to lesson 8, Roanoke Jones Kids talks about the mystery of who Jesus is. This is a good lesson to build up to and use for the Christmas experiences at your church. Since it is the last week of the series, and it is important to go in order during this series, you will definitely want to make sure you do week 7 the week before you plan to show week 8 for Christmas. And Roanoke Jones Jr. is about God creating the world – one of the perfect tie-ins to the most creative time of year! (Did we mention there’s a weekly craft for Jr.?)

Transform The Kid’s Area Into A Victorian Steampunk Christmas

You can transform any environment to feel like Christmas with just a few Christmas trees and some snow. Here at Fellowship Church, we used Roanoke Jones during Christmastime last year in FC Kids. In order to turn this series into an old-fashioned Steampunk Christmas series, we added regular Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and wreaths to our Roanoke Jones sets. We also bought some fake snow and quilting batting and hung it around the room and on the set. Whether you go with red and green or browns and creams, we think the key to this transformation is to keep the decor simple with what you already have, but add specific elements that will make the most impact. Here a some ideas:

  • Instead of cutting out paper and foamcore snowflakes, you can cut out cog shapes to make your “snowflakes” and hang them from the ceiling or your trees with fishing wire.
  • Make one main “tree” in the entry to your kids area to tie in the theme and get their attention. We found tons of inspiring pictures of steampunk ‘trees’ online.
  • Ask your stage leaders and check-in team to change their hounds-tooth jackets into red or green fitted jackets or their black bowler hats into festive top hast, or ask them to add some small Christmas pins or solid colored scarfs to their regular costumes.
  • Wrap different sized boxes in brown butcher paper and red or white twine to place under the Christmas trees.
  • Use wrapped ‘presents’ under the tree on your set as a way for kids to “draw” how many points their team receives for each element or game played during the service. Or make/purchase simple brown tags to hang on the tree with red ribbon that have different point numbers on them.

We have many Pinterest Boards where you can glean additional ideas! We used Victorian and Steampunk decorations for our sets but you can use any Christmas theme. To learn about more decorating ideas for Roanoke Jones and for Roanoke Jones Christmas, you can pin from the following boards:

Celebrate the Season with New Christmas Music Videos

With Roanoke Jones Digital, we have included the two original Christmas music videos we wrote in FC Kids! The children in our ministry loved these upbeat songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus and the true meaning of the season. These Christmas-themed videos are simple enough to use with any Christmas theme you pick and are sure to be perennial favorites. You can also find additional children’s Christmas Music Videos on ElevateKidsNow.com.

All of this is included so that you can easily transform the Roanoke Jones series into your Christmas series. We would love to see how you are decorating your children’s environment for Roanoke Jones and/or for Roanoke Jones Christmas! We would also love to hear any life change stories from your weekend or Christmas experiences. You can share your pictures and stories with us on our Facebook page. We are praying that God does big things in and through your ministry this Christmas!

What’s your favorite Elevate series to use for Christmas?

Children’s Ministry Conferences Elevate

Q&A: “How can I extend my weekend curriculum to Wednesday nights?”

Seven Ways To Extend Your Curriculum

There are many ways to extend your curriculum an extra hour or even two. In Elevate, we’ve purposefully included additional small group activities and review games that you can use in an additional worship hour, or on a weeknight while showing the Bible Lesson again. Here are a few time-tested ideas to extend your lesson, no matter which curriculum you use:

  • Show the Bible Lesson and Main Point from the weekend – repetition is key at this age and the Bible Lesson is short enough to be seen again, even if you don’t show the Skit.
  • Use more or all of the small-group lessons – each Elevate lesson includes 4-6 activities for you to choose from and you can use whichever activities you did not use from the weekend.
  • Play the full review game – yes, this is included for each lesson in the Elevate curriculum but you can make up your own review game to play as well. We like to come up with wild ways to “buzz” in the answer (bean bag toss, catch the ping pong ball, etc.)
  • Add songs – you can add music videos to your media software, like an additional worship song or two. You can play your favorites from a past series or you can ask the kids which one they want to play. You can check out all the Elevate music videos on our website.
  • Use “Game Break” time – these Large Group games don’t have to relate to the lesson, they can just be fun themed games. You can search online for “Large group games for kids” and pick one that fits your time and space.
  • Minute to Win It – these type of games take very little supplies and are a lot of fun. You can use these at the beginning of your time as children come in or toward the end of the time as children are being picked up.
  • Make the time Game-Show style – if you are using the same lesson, capitalize on the review game style, ask the questions, and then have a spinner to spin in between each question that lands on either Song, Game, Minute To Win It, Activity, Messy Game, etc. Our kids LOVE this style as you can also make it a competition between teams and not just individuals.

Another option for your Wednesday night, especially if you have used Elevate for an extended amount of time, is to grab other lessons that reinforce the weekend lesson. For example, Elevate teaches many lessons on prayer from different Bible characters. If you learned about prayer from the lesson of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane on Sunday (Good News Kids), you can follow up with the lesson about the life of King Asa on Wednesday (To The Depths Kids).

What ways do you extend your curriculum lesson past an hour and a half?

 

This was one of many additional questions from Pastor Mike’s C3 Conference Q&A session. Stay tuned for more or click the Q&A tag to see other questions and answers.

Children’s Ministry Elevate FC Kids

Become a part of the greatest kid’s ministry on earth!

FC Kids Staff

One of the best things about children’s ministry is the team of people you serve with each and every day – and the FC Kids Ministry has a position open on our team! We are looking for someone who loves to serve kids in a creative way, and who wants to be a part of the amazing life-change happening here at Fellowship Church!

FC Kids and Elevate provide a strong Bible-based curriculum but also focus on all aspects of a child’s senses; we want to capture a child’s imagination for Christ the moment they walk into our building! The person to fill the role of Campus Children’s Pastor in South Biscayne/Northport, FL would be responsible for crafting a creative children’s experience to facilitate the spiritual lives of the children, as well as responsible for equipping the volunteers through recruiting and training. From the exciting opportunities that come up weekly, to the big events we plan for, you could be a part of the only thing Jesus ever built – the local church!

Please email your resume (or even a friend’s!) to [email protected].

Children’s Ministry Conferences Volunteers

Q&A: “What should a volunteer schedule look like to avoid burnout?”

avoid burnout

A Balanced Spiritual Life

This is a common question in any ministry, but especially for those working with children. The easy answer is balance and consistency, but the logistical answer depends on your church schedule.

Let’s start with balance. We want everyone who is a part of our church to find a place to serve so they can grow as Christ followers. That being said, we have the policy that if you are not attending church, you need to stop serving. Does that sound harsh? We have this policy to protect our volunteers. For example, we all probably have those “super volunteers” in our ministry who will say yes to everything we ask of them. Can they serve an extra service? Of course! Can they stay late to watch the staff kids? Their pleasure! Can they come Tuesday and count out small group supplies? Sure! However, the longer we ask them to do everything, the swifter they burnout, especially if they do not have an opportunity for corporate worship. It is better for us to protect our volunteers and help them learn a balanced spiritual life so they can be an example to others long-term.

On the other side, we all have the volunteers who are so afraid of committing because they don’t want to experience burnout. They may have already experienced burnout before, at a ministry or even as a PTA parent. So they try to “balance” serving with the rest of their life by signing up to volunteer once a month or just “when they can.” However, in this scenario, they miss out on true connection with the kids and other volunteers and eventually drop out of serving entirely.

That is why we talk to our volunteers about this up front during recruiting and in volunteer training. We first talk about Matthew 22:37-40 and God’s plan for a balanced spiritual life, and then we show this short video example to our volunteers.

A Balanced Spiritual Life (volunteer training video)

Hopefully, as volunteers see this modeled out by our leaders and other volunteers, they’re able to grow into consistent, thriving volunteers who do not burnout.

The Logistics Of A Balanced Schedule

Now onto logistics. As I mentioned in our Q&A breakout at C3, I’d encourage you to talk to your pastor or leadership team about having two services; then volunteers can attend one and serve the other every weekend. We have 3 services available at our Grapevine campus. When we first opened our Fellowship Church Celina campus, volunteers had the opportunity to come to Grapevine on Saturday night and serve at Celina’s single service on Sunday morning. The Celina campus has since moved to two services on Sunday morning.

If you only have one service for the foreseeable future, we have heard of churches on a 4 week or 8 week schedule – where the same teachers teach the whole Elevate series, or at least 4 weeks in a row. Other churches’ volunteers serve on an every other weekend schedule. There are pros and cons to both. Whatever your schedule, remember consistency and balance is key to connect with kids and avoid volunteer burnout.

What ways does your church help volunteers avoid burnout?

 

This was one of many additional questions from Pastor Mike’s C3 Conference Q&A session. Stay tuned for more or click the Q&A tag to see other questions and answers.