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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.

Uncategorized Volunteers

Going Fishing: Recruiting Volunteers Part 3

Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about recruiting volunteers. I’ve talked about not neglecting all types of potential volunteers. I’ve talked about why, biblically, we are to serve others and involve others in serving as an administer even more than as a minister. And now, for the practical side of recruiting volunteers. Fishing.

There are three types of fishing and each type snags a different type of volunteer.

#1. Go fishing with a Net

It’s basically a large call out to the people of your church. It could be an announcement in the bulletin, it could be a flyer you hand out at the door, or a booth in the lobby. This is getting the word out for vacation bible school, or summer camp, or a build project. Make sure they have a way to respond or a call to action.

Example: After one of our campaigns to increase awareness we handed out volunteering cards to everyone in the service. We had talked about it, been praying for them, and we got back 150 cards from people interested in volunteering. So that gave us a hot list to start calling to plug people into volunteering.

#2. Go fishing with a Pole

You are going after a specific type of fish or volunteer. To get this specific type of fish, you need to go to the ‘pool’ where these fish are swimming. If you need a builder, go to the men’s ministry to a bunch of guys to help build. If you need someone on stage in a kind of ‘ra-ra’ get kids excited way, go to the drama team. You need to be strategic when recruiting volunteers for a specific role.  We even use our database and print out a list of people based on their hobbies or jobs to call about specific opportunities in our ministry.

You can also create a pool to fish from! Example: We have a class called the Newcomers Class for people interested in joining our church. That is a pool we want to fish from because those people are obviously interested in finding out more about the church, so they may be interested in serving once they hear about the different ministries. Another thing we do is called our Volunteer Tour. We take people behind the scenes to see the different areas within the church in action and to answer the question, ‘what type of ministry do I want to serve in?’ Then we take the list and find out exactly where they want to serve.

#3. Go fishing with a Spear

This is when you make a deliberate effort to go after a specific person. Maybe you’ve noticed a man or a woman or teenager that you want to get serving. They may be one of those that you have been praying for for a long time. Or you may not even know them and may have watched them and noticed them. Usually these types of people do not respond to the net or pole, they only respond to direct conversation with you when you share the vision of your ministry. And they can turn out to be the best volunteers.

So there you have it. The who, the why and the how of recruiting volunteers. Every principle I’ve talked about is a principle we use at Fellowship Church to involve everyone in loving God and loving others. You can’t be a week at Fellowship without hearing about volunteering and you can’t be here a month without expecting to be asked. Again, volunteering is not about you, or even the kids, it’s about involving everyone in God’s kingdom so they can grow into fully mature followers of Christ. So be bold, and as we say at Fellowship Church, “Go for the ask!”

You can download our recruiting campaigns for free on ElevateAtChurch.com.

Children’s Ministry Uncategorized

VBS Is Almost Here, But What About The Weekend?

Vacation Bible School

With all your VBS planning, don’t forget to plan the weekend!

Summer is right around the corner and with summer comes Vacation Bible School! Do you already have a plan for what theme or series you are doing this summer? Whether you do or don’t, Elevate can help. There are 5 years worth of Elevate Kids and 3 years worth of Elevate Jr. curriculum to choose from that can help enhance your weekend experiences surrounding and supporting your VBS material that you utilize during the week. And then you can decorate once for the whole summer!

Below are a couple examples of VBS curriculum and their suggested Elevate series by theme, in alphabetical order. Special thanks to Kidzmatter Magazines VBS 2014 Showcase in their January/February issue that we used to create the chart below.

VBS Curriculum Elevate Series
AgencyD3: Decide, Discover, Defend Spy Chase or Roanoke Jones Ace Detective
Arrow Island: Choosing God’s Way Treasure Quest or Shipwrecked
Basic Elements Adventures in Science
Blast Off Starlight Station
Faith Expedition Journey Below The Earth, On The Trail, The Great Race
Game Plan Super Sports Spectacular or Goodman’s Global Games
Gangway to Galilee Shipwrecked, Port of Call, To The Depths
God in Action Heroes of Mega City or Epic
Gotta Move Center Stage
High Power Sports Super Sports Spectacular or Goodman’s Global Games
International Spy Academy Spy Chase
Jungle Safari Treasure Quest
Living Inside Out City Streets or UpsideDown Town
Praise Break Center Stage
SHINE Center Stage or Entourage
SonTreasure Island Shipwrecked or Treasure Quest
Under The Stars Allaso Ranch
Weird Animals Zooplosion or To The Depths
Wilderness Escape On The Trail
Workshop of Wonders The Great Skybridge ShowdownRobot Repair Shop, or Make Things Industries

Are you planning your own VBS? or using another VBS not mentioned above? Let us know or use some of the series below:

Are you doing a circus-themed VBS? Check out Under The Big Top

Are you doing a medieval times-themed VBS? Check out Kingdom Tales

Are you doing an undersea-themed VBS? Check out To The Depths

Are you doing a round up or rodeo western-themed VBS? Check out On The Trail!

You can base your VBS around an Elevate series or you can purchase an Elevate series to go along with the VBS you have already selected, whatever you choose, we would love to help you Elevate your VBS!

 

Also, check out our Pinterest boards to see great decorating ideas from these series and more!

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Moms' Night Out – The Movie

Last night my wife, two daughters, and parents sat down and watched a pre-screening of the movie Moms’ Night Out. I’m not sure what is happening in Hollywood as of late, but three great Christian family films have hit the theaters recently. Heaven is for Real, God’s Not Dead, and coming Mother’s Day – Moms’ Night Out. To me the most exciting part is that, like Christian music, there are finally some high quality, faith-based films entering into the mainstream genre. And, with the success of Heaven is for Real debuting as the top new release this past weekend and number two movie overall, I hope that the trend will continue.

Here are my thoughts on Moms’ Night Out:

When I looked at the cast of the movie and saw that my favorite hobbit, Sean Astin, was going to be in it, I was immediately impressed. Add to this Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Sarah Drew (Gray’s Anatomy), and Trace Adkins (Country Music star) and this had the making of a top-notch film. I have to admit however, that when I sat down to watch, I still had a lingering doubt…is this just going to be a Hallmark movie gone to the big screen? Is there a way that someone is still going to mess this up?

What I discovered from start to finish was a well thought through plot and a hilarious story line. The verbal and slapstick humor caused all of us in the room to laugh out loud more than most comedy movies we’ve seen (we just watched the Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of nights earlier, and although we did laugh quite a bit throughout, it wasn’t near as much as we did during Moms’ Night Out.) Just for the fun factor alone this movie will be well worth the price of a movie ticket, both for you and all the members of your family. However the greater thing about the movie is that there is a deeper purpose to it than just making you laugh. The message is a heartwarming story of a discovery that we all should put aside our expectations of what we think a successful life looks like and just live the life that God has given to us, to the best of our ability, and look for the joy that can be found within it’s design.

In Moms’ Night Out the main character, Sarah Drew, feels like a failure, she has everything that she’s ever wanted in life and yet she still feels like she is not as happy as she thought she would be, or should be – her life is crazy. But, by the end of the movie, and a night of hilarious antics, she realizes that although her life will never be perfect, if she can keep the perspective that what she is doing is exactly what God wants her to be doing, she will find joy in whatever situation she find herself in.  That sounds like a message we all could learn from.

Moms' night out movie trailer

Take Home and Application:

1- Husbands take your wife, and your mom, to go see Moms’ Night Out, and then take a moment to affirm in them that they are very, very important.

2- Parents, take your kids to this movie and afterwards talk to them about the fact that our lives on this earth will never be perfect. Don’t set expectations on how you think your life should be, take your life as it is and do your very best to enjoy the many wonderful moments that come along with it. Teach your kids that if we only look at the negative things of life and the failures that come with them, our Christian life will fizzle. But, if we instead thank God for the life that we have, looking for and treasuring the positive things in it, our Christian life will be a sure success.

I highly recommend Moms’ Night Out. Go out and support it and let Hollywood know we want more of the same…the cool thing is, if that happens, it will only get better and better as it goes.

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Elevate Uncategorized

I Failed David Wakerley From Hillsong

Elevate Kid's Worship Music

Recently, David Wakerley said that I failed him. Well David, I only have one thing to say to you…you’re right, and I’m sorry.

David is the awesome Kid’s Pastor at Hillsong Church and is the creative director of Hillsong Kids. He has a blog well worth reading at DavidWakerley.com. For the last several months, David has been reviewing children’s music designed for Christian kids and I would highly recommend looking at his blog for the latest in such resources.

David and I have had multiple conversations over the years, the most recent being at a CPC conference in San Diego. Unfortunately, in our conversations, the children’s music that we produce here at FC Kids never came up. So, as he was scouring the Internet, he just happened to stumble across our kid’s worship music and was hurt that I had kept it from him. 🙂 Obviously, his ribbing me about not telling him about our music was done in jest, and he went on to give our children’s music a very kind review. For that I say a big thank you.

So, to make sure our children’s music is not a secret, if any of you are looking for creative kids music that can be downloaded as MP3’s and as music videos to use in your children’s ministry you can find them at ElevateAtChurch.com/Music. In fact, we have a free music video download for Easter – to download Hosanna, enter the code EASTER at checkout before Good Friday.

And, of course, to find the best kids music in the world, be sure to check out Hillsong’s Kids Music.

Now, all I can hope is that David will forgive me.

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Heaven is for Real – The Movie

A month or so ago a good friend of mine, David Almgren, asked me to do a preview screening for the upcoming movie “Heaven is for Real”.

I’m sure by now many of you have seen this movie trailer at the theater and when you saw it you probably said to yourself, “Hey that looks like a pretty good movie…I wonder if it’s done by Christians?”

Well no, not necessarily, and yes, that’s okay!

The movie, directed by Oscar-nominated Randall Wallace, is being released by Tri-Star Pictures and contains some pretty heavy hitting actors such as Greg Kinnear (also Oscar Nominated) and Kelly Reilly (of Sherlock Holmes fame). The movie has been given a hefty advertising budget which Sony has used wisely (unless you haven’t heard of it – then for you, not so much).

Heaven is for Real - Official Movie Trailer

For those of you who may be unaware, “Heaven is for Real” is about a little boy (Colton Burpo) who went to Heaven and came back to tell about it. Here is a brief rundown:

Heaven is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small-town Nebraska pastor who experienced Heaven during emergency surgery. This boy, Colton Burpo, talked about looking down to see the doctor operating on him and he also saw his dad who was praying in another room. The family didn’t know what to believe, but soon the evidence was clear.

In Heaven, Colton met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about. He also met his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by Colton’s father, often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is that Heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and to be ready because there is a coming last battle.

The book “Heaven is for Real” has sold over 8 million copies and has spent numerous weeks as #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Recently I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Todd and Sonja Burpo and I came away thoroughly impressed with both of them (they’re Elevate users by the way!). Their genuine heart for getting this message out is very inspiring. After talking to them, I came away renewed and refreshed by their passion for Jesus that has survived amidst the negativity from some within the Christian body. I can honestly tell you that they are great people, with a great heart, and a great love for reaching others with the love of Christ. They are REAL people with a REAL story and I was honored to meet them both.

Now on to the movie itself – here is what I wrote as a review:

     “Heaven is for real is a gripping movie regarding human doubt and the ultimate reconciliation of belief with every day life. From the pulpit, Pastor Todd Burpo has preached on Heaven his whole career. However, when his son, Colton, makes a claim that he actually went to Heaven, there comes a gut wrenching reality check as to whether Todd believes in Heaven enough to make an alteration in the way that he lives. Once he does, he must then convince his congregation to do the same.

    I believe this movie will cause each person in the audience to think more about Heaven in his or her day-to-day life. I also believe that it will bring the viewer to a realization that everyone needs to have an eternal perspective on their life; to understand that there is life beyond the grave, found in Jesus Christ, and that our actions on this earth will ultimately affect our eternity.”

Movie Review – Mike Johnson

Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely! “Heaven is for Real” is a wholesome movie that will open up dialogue within your family about Heaven and the joys that await us when we get there. When you arrive at the theater don’t expect a Salvation Message, because you won’t find it. However, you will see Jesus Christ clearly presented as the Son of God.

As a parent I would use this movie as an opportunity to talk to your child about the glorious gift that Jesus gives to us when we accept Him as our Savior, and that gift is Heaven. Also, be sure to ask them questions about what they think Heaven will be like and what they want to do when they get there. Let their imaginations fly, and listen carefully, because after all, children in their innocence may know more about the Kingdom than any of us.

In closing, take a look at this clip of Colton singing (he’s got a great voice). I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs FC Kids Leadership Parenting Uncategorized

They're not "JUST kids", they're future leaders

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a message at Fellowship Church entitled They’re Not “Just Kids”. In it I presented the fact that our children are our nation’s and world’s future leaders, and the qualities and values we invest in them now will determine their success in life, and the success of our future.

This message is one that EVERY PERSON who has a child in their life needs to hear! For those of you who work with children within a ministry, or for a living, I hope this encourages you and reminds you again of the importance of what you do. For everyone else, I promise you, it will forever change how you look at children!

Children’s Ministry Uncategorized

The Smell of Virtue

Poopie diapers or citrus? Why yes, smell matters!

Still think environment doesn’t matter? Well it does. It’s science!

A recent study, “The Smell of Virtue,” published in Psychological Science, concluded that a clean, citrusy smell encouraged people to be more trustworthy, more inclined to volunteer, and more likely to donate money to a charitable cause. Seriously!

Go into your children’s areas, walk around your church, and give it a good sniff. Is there anything you could do to help the people you minister to be more trustworthy and charitable?

Behind the Scenes Elevate Uncategorized

Sometimes Our Work Looks Like Play – Paper Airplanes

Can you really complain about a job where you get to make paper airplanes? I can’t! Here we’re testing an activity for an upcoming Elevate Family series (now ElevateAtHome.com). The point? We need to hang around friends who will help us make wise decisions and keep our lives soaring for God.

We get to make paper airplanes and teach families about God, all at the same time! How great is that?! Guess who’s plane went the farthest? All those years sitting in the back pews making paper airplanes out of church bulletins finally paid off!