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South Jeff Family,
I sat in the preschool room at Scottsville Christian Church, organizing the classroom. It was dark outside, but I had not even noticed as the time had passed because I was caught up in thinking about ways we could improve the preschool ministry. After the years of fighting for the students I had grown to love, I realized my time was coming to an end; in 9 short months, I would be moving to Johnson Bible College to begin studying elementary education.
But, looking back, I am afraid that somewhere along the line, I lost sight of the real mission. I lost sight of my real responsibilities. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). These words stare back at me as I make plans for this year's New Years' resolutions. What does it mean to guard my heart? I think the real question needs to be this: what god am I serving? Are we serving the god of significance, the god of satisfaction, the god of safety, or the true, living God?
Most commonly in ministry, we bow to the god of significance. We pass up Sabbath because there just "isn't time". We develop strategies to save people. We neglect the Holy Spirit's leading because we feel we know best.
Other times, we bow to the god of satisfaction. While we maintain a front of godliness, we live lives far from godly behind the scenes. Many in ministry have fallen to infidelity to their spouses.
In addition, we disguise our worship of safety with "prudence". We hide our idolatry behind other labels, not being willing to follow the Holy Spirit to unfamiliar territory. We are afraid to befriend someone different than us because our goal is not God's glory, but rather the knowledge that we won't get hurt.
And somewhere in the midst of this, we have a moment where we fix our eyes on the living God. And for a moment, usually only a moment, we walk on water as we trust that the God of the Universe has the God role covered, and we, like Peter, allow ourselves to just be with Him. These are the moments that define a church, a ministry, and a person.
Pray for us in this upcoming year, that we will trust that God is God, and we are not, and he has that role covered. Pray that the students will see lives that are content to drink in his Word and to allow his Spirit to direct our lives. Pray that God will continue to convict adults to step out of their comfort zones and to trust Him enough to love on our kiddos.
South JEfPop quiz: What is the shortest verse in the Bible? I remember as a little girl in Sunday school class quickly shouting out, “John 11:35! Jesus wept.” I was so proud of myself. However, I completely missed the gravity of the statement; the God of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty God wept.
With Halloween not that far behind us, I feel like this is a great time of the year to talk about emotions, especially with kiddos. Scary costumes, silly costumes, and strange costumes fill the stores and the streets. Right behind those costumes, we feel the weight of the emotions portrayed and evoked by what we see. I believe this to be a great time to give our students vocabulary to describe their thoughts and what they feel.
The most common emotion for young children around this time of year is fear. In Isaiah 43, Yahweh tells Isaiah to not fear, for Isaiah is His and has been redeemed by Him. “But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:1-4). Yahweh validates the fear, but then reminds Isaiah of His protection and love for Isaiah. We, like Yahweh, should recognize and validate fears, but follow with a reminder of our love and protection.
The next emotion birthed in this season is playfulness. Silly costumes fill the streets on October 31. Psalm 126:2 says, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.' ” We can rejoice at the Lord's provision and protection, and enjoy the laughs and the games, knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).
The holidays, just around the corner, also commonly bring about sadness as we reflect on the people that we have lost. And this is exactly what I believe Jesus' friends felt when we read John 11:35, that Jesus wept. It was three days after the death of Lazarus, and Mary and Martha meet him in the road and ask why he did not come sooner. And I believe his response is also how we should respond. You see, he knew the outcome of the story; he knew Lazarus would come back to life. However, even with that knowledge, when he sees the pain of his friends, he does not accuse them of not having faith. He does not belittle their hurt. He himself not only cries with them, but he weeps. From the bottom of his stomach, he feels their pain and empathizes. This is exactly the response I believe is commanded in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, pall rejoice together.” If a child is hurting, our response should be to sit beside them and weep with them.
I want to encourage you to spend this time of year validating and using appropriate vocabulary to express emotions; use this time of year acknowledge the heart and its power to bring forth life (Proverbs 4:23).
In closing, I ask for prayer. Pray that we, as a church, will encourage our kiddos to grow into healthy, holy adults. Pray that we will, as adults, have the strength to model this, and that we will recognize how important our own emotional and spiritual health is to the ministry of our church. Pray that God will continue to provide adults to live healthy lives before our students.
South Jeff Family,
Greetings! I hope this post finds you well!
I just want to spend a couple moments sharing with you about the changes that are taking place in the children’s ministry and why we are making those decisions. I realize that you may not be aware of those changes, and I would like to fix that. Also, I want to answer a few questions that may arise, although I welcome any additional questions you may have.
The first major change has already taken place. We have reshaped Wednesday night to be what I believe a more organized, more engaging, and more biblically-rich. We have added a new curriculum, the Gospel Project, a three-year chronological study with each story pointing back to the Gospel. It also includes media components, such as a video that reteaches the lesson and songs that go with the lesson. We have also reshaped the intro time to a learning centers approach. Different activities are spread throughout the room that are related to the lesson, and students can freely move between activities. This means that each student has the freedom to choose that activities they enjoy, incorporating all learning styles.
The second major change is the addition of a lesson in the nursery. Developmentally, infants benefit from hearing their language being spoken by adults. They are forming their view of the world and developing a foundation with which they will need to form relationships for the rest of their lives. Therefore, by adding a lesson to the nursery, we are encouraging language development by giving the teachers something to say, as well as helping infants feel safe and learn that Jesus loves them. Also, it adds structure that visiting parents will appreciate.
Lastly, we are reworking the way we approach Sunday school. We have also purchased a new curriculum, Bible Studies for Life, that includes two hours of teaching so that the focus will be the same during both Sunday school and church. This adds a level of intentionality and will help parents engage their students in conversations about what is being taught. This curriculum also includes media to support the lesson, which I have observed as being helpful in engaging elementary students and increasing their interest in the lesson.
I pray that you will continue to support South Jeff and the children’s ministry through your time and prayer. Thank God on our behalf for all the kiddos He has allowed us to work beside, and thank Him for the amazing adults He has already provided. Please pray that the transitions, some smaller and some larger, will occur smoothly and will help us further the Kingdom. Pray that God will send passionate volunteers to mentor our students. Pray that we, as a ministry, as a church, and as individuals, will keep our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith.
South Jeff Family,
Sometimes as the American church, I think we take God’s holiness too lightly. We strive to be like the people around us, adopting their teaching methods, values, and hierarchal structures. This past month, as I have read 1 Samuel, I have felt the weight of God’s holiness, and I have been reminded that we, too, should be “set apart”.
The first time I began thinking about this was when I read 1 Samuel 5:4, “But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon [the Philistine idol], fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.” God makes fun of the Philistine idol by breaking its hands and feet. He is pretty serious about people recognizing that he THE Almighty God.
This holiness is shown not only outside of Israel, but also within. When the people of Beth Shemesh look into the ark, they are stricken down. How grateful we should be for the New Covenant, which allows us to approach the Throne without fear.
In 1 Samuel 8:5, the people demand a king because they want to be like all the other nations, and in 1 Samuel 8:7, God tells Eli that Israel is rejecting Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God) as their king, There is a human desire to be like the people around us, and to have at least as much prestige, money, and power as they do. I have questioned how many times we have sacrificed being set apart or holy so that we can be like the people around us.
So what does holiness look like in children’s ministry? Well, I’m glad you asked. It does not mean making everything dreadfully boring or intentionally not being like the world around us simply for the sake of being different. While fun and Gospel are not mutually exclusive, it does, however, mean that we choose teaching the Gospel over fun if one has to be sacrificed. It means choosing to glorify God when things go well rather than taking credit. It means praying over each child and each time our doors are opened. So with that, I want to ask you to pray for us. Pray that leaders and students will choose holiness. Pray that leaders will step up to encourage kiddos to follow Christ when it’s hard, and will demonstrate what it means to be in love with Jesus even when everyone else around us walks away. Pray that families will be impacted by what God is doing in us and through us.
South Jeff Family,
"As I sit again, trying to figure out how to make children's ministry better, my mind drifts back to my devotions this month. After the death of Moses, Joshua, much younger than Moses, is made the leader of God's people. While I am certainly no Joshua, I am amazed at how God's word applies to the present day church, and to our ministry to children.
Joshua begins by preparing the people to take the Promise Land by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” He starts by quoting the scripture Moses commanded should be stated before battle, reminding the people of God's provision and protection. It is important, in ministry, to start with the Bible and to remember that this is not about us, but is about a God who goes before us and fights our battles.
In chapter 9, Joshua's makes a mistake. The Gibeonites hear about how great Israel's God is and about their great success I battle, and they are scared. They plan a ruse, bringing old bread and old provisions to trick Joshua. Joshua 9:14 tells us that,"Israel tested their provisions but they did not inquire of the Lord." They make a treaty with people in the Promise Land because they forget to inquire of The Lord. In ministry, everything should start with prayer. We have a limited view of the world, and should, therefore, begin by humbly asking our God for wisdom.
So I want to close in asking you to pray for children's ministry. Pray that we may not be fooled and will keep our eyes fixed on that God that goes before. Pray for adults to step up and fill the slots we need for Sunday morning. Pray for Wednesday nights that will begin again in September. Pray that God will strengthen the adults he has provided, and will give them the strength and encouragement they need. Lastly, but most importantly, pray for the kiddos that enter out doors. Pray that they will encounter adults that passionately love The Lord and that they may feel Christ's love for them. Pray that the Holy Spirit will prompt them to make the decision to give their lives to Jesus.
South Jeff Family,
April was a month of awe as I got to watch what God is doing, I want to thank all volunteers for their faithful labor, sharing the Gospel with the kids that enter our doors. Thank you for opening yourselves to be used for something bigger than them.
As I sat up front leading worship, I looked out as every child was singing and doing the motions. Then something caught my eye. In the front row, there sat Jordan. Eyes closed and engaged in worship, I realized that God is moving. He is working in their lives, and I feel so blessed to get to watch as He does what He does best, making broken hearts whole.
This month has brought to the light how important prayer is to children’s ministry. My favorite small group time is when we talk about our “joy, junk, and Jesus”. While sometimes I get that their joy is coming to church, their junk is not coming to church, and their Jesus is that they get to come to church, sometimes students really share hurts and praises. Each and every child has a life outside of our walls that is filled with things that make them happy, things that make them sad, and evidences of God’s presence. And once again, during that time I just get to listen and marvel as the Holy Spirit grows and shapes our students for His glory.
I also want to ask for continued prayer for children’s ministry. We are currently in the process of finding a date to reschedule the elementary lock in, and working on setting dates for all summer activities. Please pray for wisdom, and that we will be faithful in sharing the message with which we have been entrusted.
Greetings, South Jeff!
First, I want to give a huge thank you to Mike Adams for painting the children’s room. It looks awesome! I cannot express how grateful I am for his servant heart that took that task and tackled it. Thank you so much!!!
Second, I want to make sure everyone is aware of a couple upcoming events. For infants and preschoolers, we have a party planned just for them on May 25! The activities are sensory and might be a little messy, so dress to make a mess. Sign-ups are in the hallway outside the preschool classroom.
Also, the elementary has an upcoming lock-in May 10-11 from 6pm to 8am. Please bring a sleeping bag, pajamas, and $5 to help cover the cost of supper, snacks, and supplies. Sign-ups are in the hallway beside the elementary Sunday school classroom.
South Jeff Family,
As I began planning for 2014, I kept coming back to one question: What is children’s ministry? Is it having high energy, fun games? Is it teaching Bible lessons? Is it having lots of fun activities outside of church time? Why are we here? What are our goals? So, as I sat in my office, I began to think through our goals as a church, and, specifically, as the children’s ministry.
The purpose of the church is to brag about our great God and what he has done and what he is currently doing in us. In 1 Peter 2:9, Paul writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. “ I believe that this is done in children’s ministry by having biblically based lessons, and also by sharing what Christ is doing in the lives of volunteers and myself during small group time.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:33 that he “became all things to all men so that some may be saved”. The key to doing this in children’s ministry is incorporating fun, active demonstrations, activities, songs, and small group time into everything we do. It is also placing children next to adults that are being made whole in Christ, demonstrating that following Christ is difficult, but yet fun and beautiful; while it is an invitation to come and die, it is also an invitation to find new, richer life in a God that made himself nothing and became obedient to the point of death so that we can be rescued from the kingdom of darkness.
In summary, our goals for next year center around making Jesus famous by creating a fun, engaging environment. I believe the biggest key to this is building up adults to share their experiences and knowledge of Christ with students. As the church begins planning and as we define what we want to do, please pray for more adults that really loves children. Pray that the amazing people that have stepped in to those roles may be strengthened. Pray that we may keep our focus where it belongs.
It seems crazy that we are already two months into 2013! Thanks to you all for making it such a blessing to be a part of your church family!!!
This past month, the children’s department hosted a VeggieTales party. We had a blast showing off the songs we learn in Kids’ Church to parents, spending time playing with balloons, and decorating cupcakes. I was impressed at the amount of creativity! Thanks to all who came!!!
Next month we are planning an elementary lock-in. Students should arrive around 6 pm on March 8 for pizza. We have a fun-packed night planned, including a trip off campus to an undisclosed location (parents, feel free to ask for more details). I look forward to spending more time with all our elementary students!!!