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Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Miracles From Heaven – The Movie

Recently I was asked to review the upcoming movie Miracles from Heaven set to be released on March 18, 2016. The movie is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl named Anna Beam living in Burleson, Texas. In the movie, Anna is suffering from a physical abnormality where her intestines are unable to digest food properly. Because of this, she relies on feeding tubes to keep her alive and active. Without giving away the full plot (see the trailer here), Anna falls into a large, hollowed out tree and has a near death experience. When she awakens she discovers that the fall has cured her from her disease. This is a story about faith in God and the many ways that He moves in the life of the Beam family as they live with the diagnosis that is given to Anna by her doctor.

The film stars some big names in the film industry including Jennifer Garner (Television series Alias and various movie roles), Kylie Rogers (The Whispers), Martin Henderson (Off the Map) and comedienne, Queen Latifah.

I must admit that as I began the movie I was doubtful about its direction (it begins with a church service that didn’t feel quite right. I think maybe it was the unrealistic congregation that responded in a way that was just a bit off). However, after the first 10 minutes the movie quickly gained momentum and I was thoroughly moved throughout the film by it’s touching, and often heartbreaking, story line. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen (Disney Channel’s original film Lemonade Mouth) who does a fantastic job keeping the emotions stirred by focusing on:

  • The faith struggle of Anna’s mom, Christy;
  • The strong belief by Anna that Jesus is with her throughout her struggles (especially in a very emotional scene between Anna and a cancer-ridden little girl in the hospital);
  • And the strong belief of Anna’s father, Kevin, who’s faith in God assures him that somehow, everything will work out.

In the last 15 minutes or so, the movie touches very briefly on Anna’s experience where she goes to Heaven and sees some of the wonders of what Heaven will be like. The primary focus of the movie, however, is on the emotional bonds shared between a God-fearing family (primarily between Anna’s mom Christy, and her) who deal with a real-life crisis that defies a worldly explanation as to its purpose.

I would highly recommend this movie. Miracles from Heaven provides a dignified, real world look at how Christians struggle with life’s difficulties and, in the process of these difficulties, see God move in miraculous ways. I left the movie feeling inspired with the hope of Heaven, assured of the goodness of God, and filled with a renewed passion for my faith. A faith that tells me that even though God moves in ways that I often do not understand, I can be assured His ways will ultimately bring glory to Himself and will bring light to a lost world.

Oh, and by the way, don’t go into the theater without a healthy supply of tissues. You’ll need them!

FC Kids Uncategorized Volunteers

I Serve: Recruiting New Volunteers!

As a leader of a children’s ministry, one thing you need to be comfortable with is the fact that you will always be recruiting new volunteers. If you’ve been in children’s ministry long enough you realize that volunteers come, and volunteers go. No matter what you do, the back door to volunteering will always be open because people enter into different seasons in life, people move away, or life circumstances simply cause your volunteers to step away for a while. Knowing this, it is imperative that you always keep your front door open. In other words, if you’re not constantly bringing in new volunteers, your ministry will suffer. You need to make sure that as one person goes, you have another person coming in.

To help us do this, we promote volunteerism here at Fellowship Church every weekend. One of the ways we do this is through promotional campaigns. Our latest volunteer campaign is called “I Serve FC Kids”. In this campaign we used flyers, posters, and standup cutouts to keep in the forefront of everyone’s mind that the programming in FC Kids only happens because of volunteers, and that those volunteers are people just like them.

Our goal is that, when people walk into Fellowship Church, they understand that we value volunteering as a major tenet of our church. Therefore, when the ask is made of them to volunteer, it doesn’t catch them by surprise. We want them to think, “Volunteering is important here, so I’m sure someone will be asking me to volunteer soon.” And believe me, we will.

Scroll through the pictures above to see some of the ways we promoted this campaign.

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Leadership Uncategorized

Tweetable Leadership – A Review And Thank You To Jim Wideman

One of my all-time favorite books in the Bible is the book of Proverbs.  What I love most about it is that there are hundreds of bite-size nuggets that give you so much to think about in just a few words, nuggets that are key to living a successful Christian life.

Over the last couple of days I have had the privilege of reading through the new book by Jim Wideman entitled, “Tweetable Leadership”. When I received it in the mail, I opened it up and immediately felt right at home as I saw literally hundreds and hundreds of bite-size statements packed with wisdom and knowledge on how to be a successful leader within Children’s Ministry.

This awesome book is divided up into seven chapters dealing with a wide range of leadership topics such as leading by example, how to keep your life simple to do more, how to stay spiritually healthy, and probably my favorite chapter entitled “What old Jim wishes young Jim knew”. In addition to the bite-size sayings within each chapter, each chapter also concludes with 5 to 6 pages that are traditionally written and packed with insights from Jim.

I would highly recommend that you pick up this book, but I must say that you need to be careful with it. Go ahead and sit down and read through it once, but don’t let the overwhelming amount of information discourage you. This is a lifetime worth of information that you will need to take some time incorporating into your ministry. Take a few of the principles and apply them over a month or so, then continue to add along the way. Trust me, I can honestly say that after 22 years as the children’s pastor here at Fellowship Church, these are the things that will make you very successful over time.

Thanks Jim, for taking the time to put this great book together. I appreciate all that you’ve done for kids ministry in the 19th, 20th and 21st century…just kidding, you’re old but not that old. 🙂

You are an Absolute Children’s Ministry Rockstar!

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

A Parent’s And Childrens Pastor's Response To The Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

gay marriage

Yesterday my good friend, and fellow children’s pastor, Brian Dollar wrote up a fantastic article on how we as parents, and children’s pastors, can respond to questions our kids may pose to us about same-sex marriage. I was thinking of writing an article like this myself, but, to be honest, I couldn’t have done a better job, so I asked Brian for his permission to re-post it here. You can check out the link to his blog at the bottom of the article for more great stuff.

Hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

How do I talk to my kids about this?

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that marriage between homosexual couples would be legally recognized in all fifty states. No doubt, our kids are hearing all about this topic both on the TV and, many times, on the playground.  It’s hard for any parent to control the context in which their child may have conversations regarding this important topic.

Many Christian parents have struggled with the question, “How do I talk to my kids about this?” Likewise, many Children’s Pastors have struggled with the question, “What is my responsibility in this? Should I discuss ‘Gay Marriage’ with the children in my Kids Church?”

Some thoughts for Children’s Pastors:

I think you have to be careful what issues you are addressing in Children’s Church “as a group.”  So many children are at different points in the journey regarding both mental and emotional maturity.  When you address something as weighty and serious as homosexuality and gay marriage to a large group of kids, it is very difficult to do so in a way that is appropriate for EVERY child.

In addition, many parents (as they should) want to be THE ones to discuss topics such as this with their kids.  I understand, many parents DON’T ever discuss it with their kids.  That’s unfortunate.  However, you don’t want to undercut parents by addressing it publicly in a large group of kids.  This should be something that parents include in their general talks about “Biblical Sexuality” with their kids.

Of course, if a child asks you a direct question about it – treat that just like you do any other question about sex or sexuality.  Answer with, “I would be happy to share my thoughts with you about this subject.  Let’s talk to Mom or Dad when they come to pick you up.  Perhaps together, we can answer your questions in a healthy way.”  Then, follow the cues of the parent.  If they do not wish to discuss it right then and there, follow their lead.  Allow them to do so on their own terms and in their own timing.

An alternative to discussing this with the large group is to offer a special class or “discussion” in which you allow parents to sign their kids up to attend.  Encourage parents to attend with their children.  Rather than coming at the topic in a negative manner (i.e. “We are AGAINST gay marriage”, etc.), discuss the topic within the overall umbrella of God’s plan for our sexuality (“God created male and female to complement one another.  Marriage is the life-long commitment between one man and one woman.”).

The topic of “gay marriage” and “homosexuality” is a difficult one for kids.  Yes, it is becoming much more commonplace and a topic that they are hearing more and more about, but it is also very polarizing.  While we don’t ever shy away from the Truth, we also must be wise and careful when dealing with the youngest among us.  We want clarity, not confusion.

Some thoughts for Christian Parents:

Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not be aware of the Supreme Court decision. They may or may not be aware of the subject of “Gay Marriage” at all.  Don’t feel pressure to bring the topic up to your child simply because it is in the news, all over Social Media, etc.  Your child may be too young to even consider the conversation.

If your child asks you a question about it, address it. However, if your child is in the 4th Grade or above – they are GOING to hear about it. Kids love to talk about things that seem “taboo,” so it is better for you to be the FIRST one to speak with your children about this issue. It’s a lot harder to deal with when you are having to UNDO the misinformation your child may have already received from friends or the media.

As you have this conversation, remember:

  • Don’t freak out! – Don’t overreact and freak out! I see too many parents flip out over things like this. Don’t go on a diatribe about the “liberal agenda” and the “LGBT Conspiracy.” Just calmly share with them how, although some people choose to live their lives in contradiction to what God planned and the Bible teaches – our goal should be to pray for them, show them God’s love, and display God’s character in everything we do. Don’t flip out! Children take their emotional cues from you, the parent. Although there is reason to be concerned about our nation and community regarding this issue, God is STILL on the throne. There is no need to panic!
  • Don’t only give PART of the story! – Don’t simply say, “We believe that Homosexuality is a sin.” Explain to them what “sin” really is – “CHOOSING to live outside of God’s plan and purpose for your life.” Sin is the willful choice to disobey God’s commands. Revisit the story of Adam and Eve and how sin and temptation has been a problem for human beings since the beginning of time. Remind them that, although people make choices that are the opposite of what God has commanded, Jesus came to die on the cross so that ALL sin can be forgiven. All we must do is admit our sin, receive forgiveness, and CHOOSE to follow Jesus every day!
  • Don’t focus on the DON’T! – More important than the fact that “We DON’T believe that ‘Gay Marriage’ is right,” children need to hear what we DO believe. They need to hear that God has a plan for marriage. He created male and female and desires that they come together for a life-long partnership with God as the Head. God wants to bless the family unit with His presence on a daily basis. It is a sacred institution, and no law, decree, or court can change what God has planned since the Creation of the human race.

A reminder for us all:

Children are watching you during this critical time. In fact, THE WORLD is watching Christians during this time.  If they see you addressing this issue with anger, bitterness, or (God forbid) hatred in your words or tone of voice, that will send a confusing message to them.  After all, God is Love.  He created EVERY man, woman, boy, and girl.  He loves them ALL!

Remember that Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT) states, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

That is our mandate as the Church….to speak God’s truth with love.  Just because the truth of God’s word is different from the beliefs of others or the ruling of a court doesn’t mean we should join with others who choose to resort to name-calling, picketing, belittling and hate. As children of God, we need to be careful that our speech, tweets and posts are speaking the truth in love. We need to T.H.I.N.K. before we tweet.

The Church should respond in the same way that God instructed the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We can’t force others to be humble – but we can be humble.

We can’t make people pray and seek His face – but we can.

We can’t force people to turn from their wicked ways, but we can and should clean up our ownlives.

When we do, God promises, He will hear from Heaven and heal our land.

The answer to this world’s problems and America’s problems is Jesus. Share Jesus. Share His love. Share the difference He has made in your life. Trust that when people encounter His grace – they, too, will be changed!

For more great parenting or children’s ministry posts check out Brian Dollar’s Blog!

DIY Uncategorized

How To Build a Spinning Wheel

Why Build a Spinning Wheel?

For our recent reboot of the Elevate series, Berry Blast Theme Park, our staff and volunteers took time and effort to make a “point system” that would energize the kids and match the theme of our environment in FC Kids. The result: The Berry Blast Spinning Wheel! Our kids loved getting to come up and spin the wheel when their team won. It also gave them motivation to participate. Below are the instructions to make one for your environment, though you can adapt it for your own purposes.

BBTP Spinning WheelMaterials Needed (and found at your local hardware store):
1/2” Sheet of Plywood or MDF
4×4’ Post
2 2’x4’s
BBTP Spinner Art (optional)
8 1/4” dowels
A Lazy Susan with the top removed
3/8” x 5” Bolt with a lock nut
3/8” Washers
Wood Trim
Thin Piece of Stiff Leather or Plastic
Box of 3” Philips Wood Screws
Plastic Screw Head Covers
Nail Gun and Nails for Nail Gun (optional)
Wood Glue
Wood Puddy
Drill
Paint and/or Print Pieces for the wheel
Paint for the base and trim
Pencil

How To:

1. Use a 1/2” sheet of plywood or MDF to create a 30” circle, with a hole in the center of the circle for a 3/8” bolt.

2. Divide the circle into 20 ‘pie’ wedges, more or less, for the points. (Note: There are twenty wedges exactly on the BBTP Spinner Art). Mark with a regular pencil.

3. Drill twenty holes for the 1/4” dowels about an inch inside all around the edge of the circle and evenly spaced apart. They need to be aligned with the edge of each ‘pie wedge’.

4. Cut the 1/4” dowels to about 4” long and glue them in the holes you just drilled. We used wood glue. These dowel rods will be used as handles to spin the wheel, as well as the stoppers for the flapper.

5. Paint the circle and the stoppers the same color. We used Behr® Ultra, Satin Finish “Glidden Fresh Tangerine”.

6. Print the “BBTP_Spinner_Art.jpg” from the Environmental Graphics folder (available when you purchase the series) and adhere to the inside of the circle with screws. We used plastic screw head covers to disguise them. You can also create your own art. You can decorate your ‘pie wedges’ with different colors, different point amounts or whatever you are having the kids try to win. You can do this by painting, or by printing pieces, to adhere to the ‘pie wedges’.

7. To mount the circle to it’s stand, use a 4’x4’ post that’s at least 4’ tall. Mark a hole centered 20” down from the top the post, and drill a 3/8” hole all the way through the post. This is for the bolt that goes through the post and the center of the circle. We used washers to create space between the post and the circle so that the wheel can spin freely. We also used the base and ring with ball bearings from a lazy susan to help the circle spin. So the end result on the bolt went in this order (from back to front):

Bolt -> Washer -> Post -> Washer -> Lazy Susan base (with ball bearings facing the circle) -> Circle (with Art Attached) -> Washer -> Lock Nut

Note: Do NOT screw the Lazy Susan Base to the circle, instead, tighten the Bolt and Lock Nut just enough so the wheel spins freely and the ball bearings stay inside the Lazy Susan Base.

8. Use 2×4’s to create a base for the post and spinner. Screw the 2’x4’s to the bottom of the post first, in a radiating pattern. Then attach MDF around the edge in the form of a box. Then use the remaining MDF to form the top of the base. Finally, attach the trim with a nail gun, or other method, around the sides and edges of the base.

9. Use wood putty to fill the nail holes. When dry, paint the base and trim.

10. About an inch above the top edge of the spinner, drill a hole in the post for a 1/4” dowel that is at least 3 inches long. Using a jig saw, cut a narrow channel through that dowel and attach a thin piece of leather or plastic that hangs down. This creates the flapper that needs to be long enough to hit each of the dowels on the spinner.

11. Now you are done! Place your Berry Blast Wheel on your stage for the lessons and let the fun begin!

Elevate Uncategorized

Elevate Is Going Digital!

Treasure Quest Set

Digital, Downloadable Curriculum

Recently we started re-visiting some of our favorite Elevate series here at Fellowship Church, transforming them into a downloadable digital format and including a ton of new elements never before available in Elevate! I think you are going to be excited to see what we have done to make each series even more fun and exciting for the kids in your ministry. If you currently use Elevate this will freshen up each series when you perform them again. If you don’t use Elevate yet, please take a look at the elements below, then check out our website at ElevateAtChurch.com. You will see that we provide elements that no other curriculum on the market provides.

Here’s what we added:

MediaShout® and ProPresenter® Files – All you have to do is download the MediaShout® and ProPresenter®  file. All the audio and video elements for the lesson are already in the Media Shout or ProPresenter program, ready for your media person to hit the space bar to advance each individual element as the script calls for it. Simple!

Higher Resolution Video – Because these downloadable video elements don’t have to be compressed onto a DVD, the quality is much closer to HD.

Updated Teacher and Co-Teacher Scripts – We’ve gone back and tweaked the scripts to add even more application and fun! If you have used the series before, I think you will readily agree! Here is an example from our Elevate series, Treasure Quest: TQ_L2_Teacher_CoTeacher_Digital_Media_Script

Drumrolls and Winner Songs – We’ve added a competition element to the lesson and given you a fun way to let your kids celebrate when their team wins. Each team is given a song with motions to that song. Then, every time you announce a winner, the song of the winning team plays, preceded by a six second drumroll. Here is an example: https://youtu.be/MA_S2Yp7jpU

Countdown Video – A countdown video announces the hour is about to begin. https://youtu.be/rJIJd2PsKPQ

Environmental Music – You can play this music in your hallways in order to get families excited about the themed series you are in.

 

Video Training Tips – Specific training tips given by myself and the FC Kids team for the leaders of your children’s hour. https://youtu.be/po39A-qL9t4

New Opening Games – Fun alternatives to the great activities Elevate already offers. https://youtu.be/wxJDijNj-WY

Elevate Copyright – All print outs, posters and artwork will contain the Elevate Logo, rather than the Fellowship Church logo.

Teacher and Co-Teacher Training Video – This is the new element I am most excited about! Here’s why…

I have found that the very best way to train someone is not to tell them how to do something, nor to have them read what I want them to do. I have found the best way to train someone is to show them what to do! That is why Elevate, with its many weekly video training components, is so successful. However, looking back, I was always sad that our video training was missing the Teacher and Co-Teacher element of the program. This element, in the past, only had a script and therefore left A LOT open to interpretation. With this new format we have taken the time to film the Teacher and Co-Teacher element.

Now you, or your teachers, will know exactly what to do each week in front of the kids.

This has made such a huge difference for us at Fellowship, as our teachers now feel much more confident in their presentation, and they can learn their script in much less time. Here is an example of what the weekly Teacher and Co-Teacher Training Video looks like: https://youtu.be/NEYsuAhmDU4.

Digital Series Now Available

Having made these changes we have made Elevate even better than before and we are excited to be releasing each series as we complete them here at Fellowship Church. Here is the order of the next several series we will be doing:

THEY (Tough. Honest. Encouraging. Yielded) – Available NOW

Berry Blast Theme Park – Available NOW

Treasure Quest – Available NOW

Heroes Of Mega City – Available NOW

Adventures In Science – Available NOW

Winter Extreme – Available NOW

Allaso Ranch – Available Summer 2016

Professor Playtime’s Christmas Shop of Wonders – Available Fall 2016

Ten Hut – Available Winter 2016

All Elevate series are still available in the traditional DVD Base Pack format. Contact us to find out how you can upgrade to the digital Base Pack version if you have already purchased the series!

Conferences Uncategorized

Join Me At C3 Conference 2015!

C3 Conference

It’s almost time for my favorite conference of the year – C3 Conference 2015! C3 Conference is for everyone and I wanted to extend a special invite to you! By watching the video below, you will learn about a FREE Children’s Ministry resource we will provide you at the C3 Conference at Fellowship Church this year.

C3 Conference

At C3 you will have the opportunity to:

  • Attend breakouts by myself and the Children’s Staff of Fellowship Church.
  • Meet the Elevate Staff and see Elevate in action.
  • Connect with Children’s Ministers from around the world.
  • Be inspired by the Worship and Creativity of Fellowship Church.
  • Learn from speakers Ed Young, Steven Furtick, Mark Batterson, At Boshoff, David Hughes, Brad White and Chris McGregor.
  • Get a hotel discount when you book your accomodations through the conference website.

Register now on C3Conference.com and come connect with me and the FC Kids Staff at Fellowship Church! I look forward to seeing you in person February 11-12 at C3 Conference 2015!

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Uncategorized

A FREE Kid’s Website Teaching Biblical Leadership Values To Kids!

a free kid's website

As I discussed in my last blog, Children’s Ministry Leaders and Parents must have vision when teaching and raising kids. You must have the vision that, what you pour into a child today, makes an impact in their life tomorrow. At Fellowship Church, we have a firm commitment to reach the next generation of leaders and we feel like the best way to reach 3-13 year old’s is through technology, specifically, a free kid’s website they can access any time, anywhere, and on any device. For us, that is LeadershipForKids.com. While in the past we offered this tool for a small cost, we decided, in order to reach the widest audience possible, we would make the website free. Yes, FREE!

As a parent myself, I cannot stress how important the Bible lessons on LeadershipForKids.com are to the life of a child. Most parents will download apps for their children to keep them distracted, or entertained, but these apps are not necessarily teaching children valuable lessons they will need in life. Instead, I encourage parents to go to LeadershipForKids.com, hand the child the phone or tablet, and let them watch a video based toward their specific age group. LeadershipForKids.com will not only keep your child busy and entertained while you, as the parent, are driving to school or making dinner, but LeadershipForKids.com will also help your child learn valuable Leadership Traits from the Bible. These Leadership Traits will ultimately help your child become a leader who makes a difference in this world.

When you go online to LeadershipForKids.com, your child will have access to Music Videos, Bible Lessons, Leadership Videos, and Bible Plans that can be accessed anywhere and at any time! On LeadershipForKids.com you’ll discover more than 400 of your child’s favorite Bible Lessons and Music Videos and over 60 unique Leadership Traits for your child to learn from! Is your child struggling with patience? Watch the Leadership Video “I Will Be Patient!”. Is your child good at encouraging? Watch the Leadership Video “I Will Keep On Telling Others To Do What Is Right!”.

I have been doing Children’s Ministry for over 21 years here at Fellowship Church, and I have discovered that there is one truth that will always stay the same: Learning about God is life-changing! So help change the lives of the children around you by registering and using the site today, and by sharing LeadershipForKids.com with everyone you know!

LeadershipForKids.com is the at-home portion of the Elevate curriculum. To learn more about the curriculum itself go to ElevateAtChurch.com

Children’s Ministry Leadership Parenting Uncategorized

Vision And Legacy: Seeing Kids As Leaders

Children’s Ministry leaders and parents, more than anyone else, understand vision. You must have vision when you are working with kids because although you teach kids to love God and love others, you won’t always see immediate results or changes in their lives. As parents and as Children’s Ministry leaders, you need to have the vision that what you are doing now will make an impact in a child’s future. You have to trust that, over time, everything you pour into the life of a child will come out in a positive way.

I saw an example of the legacy left in the life of a child this summer at FC Kids Camp. This year at Allaso Ranch, more than 50 students and adults who attended Kids Camp as a child over the past 21 years, returned to volunteer, as seen in the video above. Why? So they could share their passion for loving God and loving others with children 2nd through 5th grade, so they could hand the legacy off to the next generation. When these students and adults were young, we looked at them and asked ‘are they really getting it?’ and now we can see that they did. These volunteers, because they have lived it, understand why we do what we do in the lives of children and they want to do their part in helping continue the legacy to make a difference in the life of a child.

Because I’ve been doing Children’s Ministry at the same church for 21 years, I was personally able to see these children grow up in the church and come back to serve at camp. However, I know this group of 50 people is only a small portion of those we poured our time and knowledge into. I know there are hundreds or even thousands of kids that have moved elsewhere, who I won’t ever see the fruit of our labor in their lives. So although it’s about leaving a legacy, even more, it’s about having the vision to understand that you are making a difference in the future of these kids, even when you don’t see the fruit now. You need to persevere with the great calling you have been given as a parent and as a Children’s Ministry leader because what you do in the life of a child does matter.

You may not always see the fruit of your labor on earth, but you will when you get to heaven. When you stay committed to God and to church you will be able to more successfully stay focused on the vision God has given you. When you invest your time and knowledge into the life of a child, that child will grow up and have the opportunity to impact others. And before you know it, the legacy of loving God and loving others that you left with one child is being passed down for generations to impact hundreds and potentially thousands of people. Stay committed to the vision and know that you are making a difference.