Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blogging in my head

I must have been blogging in my head the last month because I just checked in the site and guess what ... no blogs in the last 30 days. I have a book review I planned to post and some other things regarding the ebb and flow of children's ministry. Everyone in our family has been sick! And we've had one birthday, River turned 8. Reese will turn 2 next week. Basketball. Church activities. Girl Scouts. Intern recruitment. It gets busy fast!

Two things I was going to share today:
1) is running a sale on their certificates. The code is "MEAL" at check out and the certificates are $2.00 each. It doesn't show up until you check out! I just got $125 worth of gift certificates for $10.00.
2) Groupon has a great deal on oil changes at Sullivans. 2 for $18.00. Yes, that a great deal. One per family and only good on one car. I haven't even been to the store yet today and I've saved money!

And, my bonus freebie, my friend just told me about another way to save money when I go shopping. I'm an avid coupon-er in my not so spare time, but, I'll let you know how this deal works out with our schedule and budget soon. $$$ saved is $$$ in the snowball to get out of debt ... maybe even before  for the kids go to college :-)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Spiritual Use of a Cricut

I could write a whole series on the subject of the many ways a Cricut could bless our lives. Click the link if you just thought, "huh"! I got my Cricut Expression with one goal in mind, a spiritual, family centered, Deuteronomy 6, type of goal, 6 months ago, that I've yet to accomplish.

I've read several books that talked about praying scripture over our children. This was a new concept for me. But, from that grew an idea to put a Scripture/blessing on each of my children's walls. I've been trying to decide just which verse to go in each of their rooms ... for a year. It would be easy to stick with praying Scripture, I wouldn't have to make a decision on one verse that will stick on their wall semi-permanently.

I want the Scripture to be in the form of a blessing ... a direction for their lives to take, a glimpse of their future spiritual selves. Otherwise, a self-serving verse such as Exodus 20:12 would work great in large 6 inch bold letters.
"Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you".

So, my goal is to make a decision on the verse in the next day, cut it out and put it up in their rooms. What a great way to start the New Year for each of the kids! Well, at least the one that can read. The other one will probably use it as a target. But, it will be a good reminder that David and I are purposed by God to raise our children to love God with all their hearts, soul, mind and strength.

Christmas Break

This week the kids are both out of school and we don't have any Bible classes at church so I'm taking my own Christmas break. I find it helpful to take full advantage of the "down-time". When January comes, we begin planning all sorts of fun things: Art Camp, Leadership Retreat, Vicki Courtney Simulcast from Moms and Daughters, and we get to decorate "The Park" and finish some other decorations. Part of me keeps thinking of little things I could go to the church building and do now, but, then I remind myself that the kids will be back in school in 8 days, we will be traveling for part of that, my bedroom needs to be organized, and River needs to finish her Science Fair project.

Yesterday, I bought a bike. I started spin class last year and love it but I'm needing to ditch the costly gym membership so David convinced me to use my Christmas money to buy the bike I've been wanting. Reese used his money to buy his seat. This is important. My only free time is free time with Reese. I used to be able to take Reese to the gym and get to work at a reasonable hour but now that River is at her new school, I spend a lot more time dropping off and picking up. I've been paying for the right to say I am a member of a gym over the last few months. Unfortunately, the benefits only happen if I actually use the gym.

River's science fair project is on Geocaching. Geocaching is a super cheap, family fun, outdoor activity. Geocacher's hide objects all around the city and put the coordinates on a website. Other cacher's use the coordinates to find the caches and log them. For the kids, there are fun little treasures to trade. I'm thinking about hiding one at the church building as yet another way to encourage families to spend some time together.

My goal for Christmas Break is to organize a couple of seriously neglected rooms in our house so I can have people over again. Yeah, we'll see if that happens. Organization and children really don't go well together.

Today it is freezing outside. The high is supposed to be 50-ish. That is way too cold for me. There was ice in the dog bowl this morning. Tomorrow though, we should be near the 70's so the kids and I are going to go look for treasure ... and do the Science Fair project. If you see my family wandering around a greenbelt holding iPhones and GPS units, don't worry, we know what we are doing! We might be lost but we have technology to save us :-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"What I Wished They Told Me In College" - Volunteers

So, I've been thinking about this one for quite sometime. If you are a children's minister, you do A LOT of recruiting. And, not only recruiting, but the eventual volunteer management that comes with the job of overseeing a ministry with lots of volunteers. Depending on the number of classes we are staffing and the number of children attending some of the younger classes, we have 40-60 volunteer positions to fill each week. That is a lot! A WHOLE LOT. And since some of those positions are filled by someone that only serves in that one position every 13 weeks, I've estimated that it can take 100 people or more a month to do everything that is needed to be done in the children's ministry. One last statistic and then I'll move on. In a church that has an average attendance of 400-450, that means I use 25% of those in attendance to staff a months worth of classes. And remember, we, in the Church of Christ, will count EVERY HEAD when we count our attendance, and I dare say the heads under 13 years old are  not eligible to serve many of the volunteer needs in their own classrooms. And, we have a few heads with pretty silver hair or even no hair that really couldn't serve in the ministry even if they wanted to (and some really want to) so our pool of possible "volunteers" quickly dwindles from 450 to 400 to even 350.

What am I saying? No one ever said that recruiting volunteers to staff a children's ministry is not only a HARD task but is an almost IMPOSSIBLE task at times.

I know, you are probably thinking, "In God, nothing is impossible". Yeah, your right. It's not impossible. It's almost impossible. And anything that is sticking it's little toe over into the almost impossible category can be a lot overwhelming for, well, anyone that is a Mom, Wife, and Minister.

So, what would I tell anyone fresh in ministry about the almost impossible task of recruiting volunteers.
1) Develop a list of priorities for your ministry. What is most important to the spiritual growth of children, the churches numerical growth and to the parents? Rank it. Be ready to let go of what ranks lowers so the most important tasks receives both the financial and human resources that are needed.
2) Start from a resource management point of view. We all know it, but, hate to admit it. Sometimes we just have more classes than our church is able to staff. Some special events pull volunteers from places they are needed. Do what you can and let go of the rest.
3) Pray, pray, pray. Probably should be #1. You get the gist. God is in control.
4) Develop an Ephesians 4 culture. God has given each person a ministry. Don't look at the holes to be filled. Look at the giftedness of the person and ask them what they need to best serve God.
5) Understand that everyone is in a different place. That's ok. Maybe someone feels that they have "done their time". Could they give a Sunday a quarter in the nursery? Maybe someone is an excellent teacher but has little time. Could you use a curriculum system that minimizes preparation?
6) Be flexible. We can't have all the classes we want to have. We can't go as "all-out" as we want to go. Let go of what must be let-go of so that the tasks that are within reach are done well. Then, take the next step.
7) Don't be afraid to ask. Most people just want to be noticed. They may not know that they are qualified for a particular volunteer position. Just ask. Talk. Encourage. Equip. Speak God's blessings into their lives. You will only get a handful of "ready" volunteers. The rest, need your investment.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prayer Retreat for Women "Pastors"

This past Friday, I had the privilege of attending a prayer retreat for women "pastors". I put "pastors" in quotes, because, in our faith tradition we reserve this title to be interchanged with "elder", a man's role.

But, this prayer retreat was for women in many different faith traditions, and for most of those traditions, pastor is the title given to the women leading the church or serving in a ministry role.

Now that I've helped my one reader, if that, understand the audience of the retreat, I'll explain some things I took away from the retreat.

The prayer retreat was held at Cenacle House, a spiritual retreat center in Houston. Lead by the nun's (I guess) of the Cenacle tradition that founded the retreat many years ago with a primary mission to serve others women, the Cenacle is now a place for any Christian to come and center themselves in God.

While I've been exposed to the idea of spiritual guides and personal spiritual retreats, it's still a concept I'm not very familiar with and I'm clumsy with the terminology. However, I love some very basic ideas of 1) going with there are no phones 2) having a place to focus only on the personal relationship with Christ 3) having mentors as resources to help one pray more deeply, commune more thoroughly and even understand the idea of personal and community discernment.

So, I was invited to this retreat at the Cenacle. The retreat was interesting in that many faith traditions were represented so worship was very different. Responsive reading and singing. Candles. Exhortation gave way to discussion which gave way to personal meditation and then the cycle repeated. And before I knew it, the hours that I was certain could not be filled up with prayer (almost 6 hours in total) were done and I felt that I'd barely scratched the surface. We even used a "visual aid", a bowl, cluttered, that we emptied and re-ordered throughout the day to symbolize how God can be lost among the clutter and we have to let go of the clutter to find Him, center on Him, and then place the clutter with God in the center.

I also felt, that I had a few defining conversations with women I don't even know and may never see again. One, was about the "role of women". These two women did not grow up CofC, they grew up in another faith tradition. They are not CofC now. In fact, they talked of the pain of leaving their "home" to seek out a tradition in which would allow them to minister, pastor, preach, teach, and lead the way they feel God had gifted them lead. The pain of choosing to leave was still in their voices, many years after the decision. Their conclusion, should they had stayed, and not used their gifts, they would not be in the will of God for their lives. So they felt they had no choice, though the sadness was still there.

Then, as it has other times, the question was turned to me, "will you leave?". "No", I answered, almost immediately, with perhaps a sound of guilt in my voice that had come from hearing their pain and not wanting to sound better, or, entrapped. "Why?", they ask. Almost apologetically, though not quite, I said, "because this is my home, God put me here to carry out His Will to the best of my ability." I wonder how they felt, I felt awkward. As if I could have been seen as passing judgement, though, I know they did not feel that I was doing any such thing. "Maybe it would be different if I was called to preach. But, I am not. I feel very strongly about my ministry calling, to help children love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. In order to fulfill that passion, though, I do have to teach and equip parents, teachers and church leaders. That can be a quite confusing task. Sometimes it doesn't seem fair, but, it is where God has put me. Maybe I would have arrived at a different place if I was not clear about my task in life. But, I am clear about it, and, I cannot confuse one issue with another".

In a church that has seemed to become "label friendly", I hope that no one ever tries to guess which label I wear. Because, they will find out that I do not know. I arrived to a decision many years ago that God knew, in His infinite wisdom, that the teachings in the Bible are going to be hard. He knew, that Paul, writing those oft-discussed topics a woman's place in the church would set off centuries of discussion, inquiry, hurt. God had to have known. Sometimes, I think He did this to keep us interested, for, if the Bible was "easy" we'd master it in the early years and never look back. But, it is not. So, if it is not possible to understand God, His every command and desire, through the text ... if we will always have questions and decision ... then we have to decide where to stand. For me, I stand with my calling, to be missional in my life, and to fight for the next generation and the next. For everything else, I submit to those that God has raised up to lead us, to discern with them how to best carry out my role, and to continue to be part of the tradition that is like family to me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Ode to My To-Do List

A girl's best friend
may not be diamonds or gold
that's quite a bummer
so, I'm told.
But, they don't  know
how it feels to dig oneself out of a mountain
of things.
At home, at work, and even in my sleep,
I often think of all the items that make me feel
like I'm in too deep!
So, I have a new best friend
my yellow pad that isn't far
from where I'm sitting at all.
And when the mountain feels too high to climb,
I scribble on this little notepad of mine.
All the things that I need to-do!
Funny, that didn't take so much time.
But, now, I have, conquered the biggest problem of all.
Realizing that God hasn't made any task too tall.
It's a matter of perspective, and now that it's organized, I find
That those lines through each item gives me peace of mind!

Bad poetry. You are right! Back to work now ...... Just thought I'd have a little fun.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Part 2 - What I Wish They Would Have Told Me In College

That the spring and summer are so crazy busy that Mom, Wife and Minister is three full-time jobs and we should give up the ideas of dating, scrapbooking or blogging. I gave up cleaning house too but that gets a little disgusting after awhile! The last post dated in March is now full explained.