Friday, November 26, 2010
“We learned about Moses!” Toby exclaimed, his eyes lighting up with excitement. “The wicked king was holding the Israelites hostage, but Moses and his squad rescued them and brought them out of the bad kingdom. But the bad guys chased them until they got to the Red Sea. Moses sent his squad to the hillside, where they planted a hundred sticks of dynamite. They blew up the mountain—KA BOOM!—and all the rocks that came down formed a bridge that the Israelites could walk on. The bad guys started to chase them, but Moses radioed for air support and then all the fighter jets ZOOMED in and launched missiles on the bridge. BANG, KA-POW, CRASH! All the rocks blew up and the bad guys drowned in the Red Sea and Moses and the Israelites were safe!”
The mom frowned. “Is that really how your teacher told the story?” she asked with concern.
“No, not really,” Toby shrugged. “But the way she told it, you’d never believe it!”
How many times have my Bible stories taken on the look and feel of a fable, or worse, an irrelevant and maybe even boring tale? A sixteenth century clergyman is said to have asked famed English actor Thomas Betterton why the theatre was so successful, while the churches were not. Betterton replied, “Actors speak of things imaginary as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things real as if they were imaginary."
So how do we present Scripture so that what is real is spoken of as real? Here are three suggestions:
1. Get struck with the awe and wonder yourself. It seems like such a basic question, but I always have to ask myself, “Am I just telling a story, or do I know deep down that it’s real?” Yeah, sure, I know that the story of David and Goliath teaches me that, with God’s help, I can handle any giant of my life. But then I start reflecting on the fact that the encounter between David and Goliath is true. It really happened! And when I relive the amazement and excitement of this historical battle myself, the lesson it teaches me becomes all the more real.
2. Use your voice, use your body, and get into it. Did you ever watch as a hunter talks about his expedition? Ever observe an athlete recalling a recent victory? They don’t just tell what happened; they seem to re-live the experience. The hunter’s voice drops to a whisper and he bends lower as he recounts how he snuck through the brush. The football star’s hands push aside invisible rushers until he throws for a touchdown, at which point he raises his hands in victory and simulates the sound of the crowd.
A children’s lesson is not a time for a dry lecture on Biblical history. The living, dynamic Word of God should be presented in a living, dynamic way.
3. Ground the incredible into reality. You may be absolutely convinced of the truth of the Scripture stories, but the kids need to make that connection as well. The feeding of the 5000 is an amazing story, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it took place in a real place at a real time. Was it sunny or cloudy? Were the clouds shaped like animals? Were there ants? A solid basis in what kids experience every day will go a long way to show how eternity intersected with our world.
As we approach our kids over the weekend, may we learn more and more ways to make reality real, to the glory of God.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
When my wife and I began attending the church, we were introduced to the adult Sunday School class by a guy named Gordon. The teacher was an easy going man named Bob. I was impressed with how casually the group interacted with one another over the Word of God. It was like a smaller family unit within the larger family unit of the congregation.
I don’t know how long Bob had been teaching the class, but he eventually left the church. I had spoken a few times in the worship services, so Roger (the associate pastor) asked if I would teach the class. I agreed…and the adventures began.
The greatest thing about teaching this adult class was the insight and observations of the class members. The group was not about passive listening, but active participation. Their questions, feedback, and even disagreements forced me to become a better student of the Word and hence a better teacher. To borrow (and freely adapt) a line from Veggie Tales: “we laughed, we cried, it moved us.” I honestly believe the Holy Spirit was the Teacher and I took far more away than I ever gave.
So why give it up? Two reasons:
1) I want to focus more on Sunday morning children’s ministries. As it exists now, I often end up being late to my group in order to attend to a last minute situation in the kids’ Sunday School. When my adult class is done, I make way to the back, but there are already kids there that I would have liked to “meet and greet” when they and their parents first arrived.
2) A speaker once said, in order to grow, you have to first subtract. He used the illustration of pruning. Interestingly enough, I had been trimming back some flower bushes the very morning I heard that message. It confirmed what I had been feeling in my soul for several months. I don’t know what the Lord has for me, but right now, I wear a lot of hats at the church. I rejoice in and enjoy each and every task, assignment, and ministry I have. But as the erstwhile philosopher/prophet Bullwinkle says, “I think I need another hat!” I’m convinced that I need to turn over a hat to someone else before I find out what the new hat will be.
This is not the end of teaching adults. Far from it. I may put together a limited series type of study. A couple of people have asked me if when I’m going to present my “cults and isms” series again. I’ll still fill the pulpit on occasion. The weekly study and preparation may not be there, but I’m still a student of the Word with a desire to communicate the Scriptures.
So if you are in my group, thank you for being a part of the last seventeen years. I know that whoever leads the group starting in November will bring his own unique style and perspective (and set of jokes) The Word of God will continue to go forth.
Let the new adventures begin...
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
So if you are part of this great adventure known as "children's ministry", check it out.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
"So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword."
There are some children's ministers who are among the uber-talented. You know the kind...they can play guitar, operate puppets, coordinate half a dozen events, wow a group of kids for a full hour, and, like Fonzie of Happy Days, get recruits by a snap of the fingers (note: younger readers will have to ask parents about Fonzie). Yes, some children's ministers can do it all.
For the rest of us, we need Aarons and Hurs. For example, one of my weaknesses is in the area of recruiting. I'm getting a lot better at it, but there are those who can do it a lot better. One of my critics suggested that, because I couldn't get people to join me, that I was unsuited for children's ministries. I recoiled a bit at that. Just imagine Aaron and Hur saying, "Moses is clearly unable to do the job; therefore, we need to take over." Moses did not need someone to take over leadership of the Israelites, he needed someone to help him. My greatest need is for someone who has the talent, the personality, the skills of a master recruiter to come alongside me and hold my arms up in this area.
Maybe you are an underachiever in the area of crafts, the kind who ends up gluing his shirt sleeve to the popsicle stick. It doesn't mean you're a failure in children's ministry, it just means you need an Aaron or Hur to coordinate your craft time. Kid's music DVD's have held the arms up for many children's workers whose musical talents are lacking. And if you're the kind of kids' worker who blows things up when you mix two ingredients together, you need a Hur and a Moses to whip up tasty treats for your refreshments.
My goal for this new school year is to recruit at least one master recruiter to hold up my arms in children's ministries. What about you? Where do you need an Aaron or Hur this year? You are not a failure if you can't do it all (and it demonstrates a very limited perspective if anyone suggests you can't be a children's worker if you can't do it all!). Ask the Lord to help you find people who can pull up a rock, grab your arms, and help bring in the victory.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Tony Kummer and his team have been publishing Ministry-to-Children.com since 2007. In addition to the free ideas and resources, the website also keeps a finger on the proverbial pulse of modern children's ministry. One of the ways they do this is by calling attention to children's ministry blogs from a variety of individuals. And periodically, Tony assembles a list of the top blogs, a virtual library of movers and shakers in the field of children's work. The latest "Top 100 Children's Ministry Blogs" was recently released.
KidServants Log: Musings from Teacher Tim is on the list.
This is a humbling honor in so many ways. I did not go to school to become a children's pastor; indeed, I had no real urge to get into children's ministry (although I had been doing it off and on since high school). But as the Lord transitioned me from being a senior pastor to a children's pastor, I realized I needed to become a student of ministry to kids. The classroom of the internet has become a major force in learning modern kids' ministry. And the giants of the faith, the ones I've gleaned from and whose philosophies and approaches I've absorbed and, in some cases, utilized, are on this list. And deservedly so.
I have never claimed to be in their league, so to be in the "top 100" is incredible. It is also strangely motivating, a needed kick to clarify, study, and post the benefits of my own experiences and learning.
To those who regularly read this blog, thank you. I encourage you to go to that list and check out the other sites. Thank you, Tony and the team for the inclusion.
Monday, August 02, 2010
It's hard to believe that another Vacation Bible School has come and gone.
VBS '10 was phenomenal. Our theme this year was Backstage With the Bible, featuring music and video from Go Fish. I had the privilege of meeting the Go Fish Guys at the San Diego Children's Pastor's Conference and some of the materials I purchased, along with their answers to some lingering questions, went a long way in convincing me that this was the VBS for us.
Was it a good decision? As you can see from some of the pics below, we had a BLAST! There were over 100 kids throughout the week, but that doesn't even begin to equal the spiritual impact. For instance, 12 kids made professions of faith on Thursday night, indicating that they had trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord. Another blessing took place before our evening session. My assistant nudged me to look at some boys in the next aisle. They had their Bibles open, looking for and sharing verses with each other. There were no leaders or other adults around prompting them to do this--just a few kids getting into God's Word before VBS began that night.
Thanks to everyone for their prayers and support. And thank you to the Go Fish Guys for making cool music that kids and their parents love. Enjoy the pics.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
And before you write me, yes, some of the points are a bit of a stretch. Okay, some of them are huge elastic tethers of credulity! But I figure if Jack Bauer isn't dead or in SuperMax prison by now, I can get a little leeway for my nuggets of wisdom.
1. Everyone has a role. Every technician and field agent at the Counter Terrorism Unit had a job, an assignment, and a function. It is very important to recognize that all members of our teams, whether paid staff or volunteers, has a vital role to play in our children’s ministry.
2. Delegation. Chloe often had a hard time handing off extra work or responsibility to someone else. We need to be able to divide tasks and bring others in as needed.
3. The clock keeps ticking. The often cited statistic from Barna--that most kids trust Christ before they are teenagers—should be an incentive in our ministry to kids.
4. Endurance. It is amazing how Jack Bauer can go through a 24 hour period (more, if you consider that he’s already been up before the season started), get blown up, shot at, tortured, stabbed, and beaten, yet still have energy to burn. Sometimes, we as children’s ministers are called upon to endure, to persevere, to press on in what seems like a marathon.
5. Rest. This is the corollary to the previous point. Jack doesn’t sleep, doesn’t regroup, doesn’t even take time out to use the restroom (not that we would want to see that). Yes, at times we need to push forward, but too many Jack Bauer days will destroy our effectiveness as children’s ministers. God gives us the grace of rest…take it.
6. Commitment to the mission. Jack and the agents of CTU bring their skills and resources to bear on the mission at hand. Does our church have a well defined mission and are we committed to fulfilling it?
7. Communication. Everyone at CTU either has an agency communication device or a personal cell phone through which a steady stream of information is being shared. Trouble usually comes when the communication breaks down. Our children’s team should be regularly communicating with one another about the progress, needs, requests, and praises of the ministry.
8. Use technology to update. CTU can triangulate positions, share maps and blueprints, and dispatch field agents with just a touch of a button. As we communicate, we can take advantage of some great tools like Twitter or Facebook to keep our team “in the loop.”
9. Screen workers. One of the frequently used plot devices in 24 is the “mole”…a trusted CTU worker who is secretly a bad guy. Basic protocol in kid’s work: screen and check your volunteers and staff!
10. Depend on one another. Whenever Jack is in a bind, he can call Chloe, who often has the solution or data he needs. Everyone in children’s ministry should either have or be the kind of friend who can provide the encouragement and support you need.
11. Everyone has a story. Every season of 24, we meet some new CTU personnel. At first, they are random faces, but as the story progresses, we learn more of their background and quirks. Each one of our volunteers and staff are unique, each one has a story. It is worth the time to learn those stories.
12. Respect for those in authority. Jack is very much a maverick, but he is very consistent in addressing those in authority (especially the President) with respect for the office.. Even if we disagree with their actions, the pastor and leadership of our church are deserving of our respect and support.
13. Respect for those who labor. Another character trait of Jack is his respect for the “common laborer.” He will efficiently dispatch bad guys left and right, but he gets very protective and concerned with an innocent bystander, a regular beat cop, or a store owner. No matter our rank or privilege in the field of children’s ministry, we should never forget that a whole team of folks labor in this field with us.
14. It’s not all about the leader. 24 begins with “previously on 24”—scenes from earlier episodes, punctuated with pictures of the different characters. If you watch carefully, you notice that Jack Bauer’s picture is not always the first one shown. The Children’s Pastor or director is not always the star of the team.
15. Creativity. Whether it’s disarming a bomb or finding his way out of a trap, Jack has to think on his feet and find innovative solutions. Whether it is staffing or crafts or games or curriculum, it is important to tap into our creative side when working with kids.
16. When something doesn’t work, try something else. Can’t disarm a bomb in time? Shove it in a blast proof chamber. Bad guys took a different route? Take another route to intercept them. If a game isn’t working in your children’s program, stop the game and try another one. If a craft fails, learn from the problem and try something else.
17. Network with those who have similar missions. They did not always do it well, but CTU made it a habit to share information with other agencies such as the FBI and CIA. One of the greatest sources of encouragement is to network with other children’s workers in a local association, or through conferences, or even online. You quickly learn that you’re not alone in your mission.
18. Smile. Jack Bauer doesn’t smile a lot. In fact, few people at CTU smile very much. This should not be true of those who work with children, so smile!
19. Plunge ahead with confidence. Why do most characters instinctively follow Jack Bauer’s lead? Because he carries himself with the confidence that the course he is taking is right. Although we should always get input and be open to correction, there comes a point in our children’s ministry when we have to proceed with the confidence that what we are doing is the correct course of action.
20. Don’t be afraid to look different. This last season of 24, everyone had a stylish Bluetooth headset secured snugly to their temples. Not Jack Bauer. He had something that dangled loosely from his ear and looked rather awkward.. Whether it’s the Looney Tunes tie, big red shoes, over-the-top impersonations, or wacky voices, don’t be afraid to look different in the course of children’s ministry.
21. You never truly retire. There have been seasons where Jack has left CTU, only to discover his experience and training is still needed. I’m grateful for the seasoned children’s ministry workers like Jim Wideman and Barney Kinard who are still allowing us to reap the benefits of their experience.
22. Time has a way of slipping by. In the early seasons of 24, Jack would say he’d be at CTU in 20 minutes and sure enough, 20 real time minutes later, he would arrive at CTU. But as the seasons went by, the “real time” scenario has not been as sharp as it was previously (e.g. car blows up before a commercial. Two minutes later, the fire department is mopping up the scene!). The lesson is this: if we fail to manage the use of our time effectively, we will soon discover that it’s probably later than we think
23. We’ve all had days. Jack has had several, usually bad. But we’ve had days of great victory, great spiritual breakthrough, wonderful days when we realize that yes, God reigns. Those are the days that don’t get made into tv series, but they are the ones that make memorial altars in our lives.
24. And did I mention, the clock keeps ticking.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
"President Obama has decided that there will no longer be a "National Day of Prayer" held in May. He doesn't want to offend anybody. Where was his concern about offending Christians last January when he allowed the Muslims to hold a day of prayer on the capitol grounds. As a Christian American "I am offended." If you agree copy and paste no matter what religion you are, this country was built on Freedom!!AMEN"
I feel compelled as I read this to throw out some quick points for everyone's consideration:
1. In 1952, President Truman signed into law (unanimously passed in both houses) a National Day of Prayer. This was standardized to the first Thursday of May in 1988 and recognized by an annual presidential proclamation since.
2. President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer last year. According to White House and news sources, He will also be issuing a proclamation this year. Important point: President Obama has not cancelled the National Day of Prayer.
3. President Obama will not host a formal meeting for National Day of Prayer. In fact, not every president has been a part of a formal National Day of Prayer event. In my opinion, we should not read a "hostility toward Christianity" into this, anymore than we should interpret Ronald Reagan's lack of church attendance as a statement against Christianity.
4. Ironically, President Obama was sued in U.S. District Court for issuing the National Day of Prayer proclamation. The judge in the case said that it was unconstitutional. President Obama is going to issue the proclamation anyway. Is this not a good thing?
5. Even if the President had the ability to cancel the National Day of Prayer (the President cannot, on a whim, ignore an act of Congress), the National Day of Prayer would still be held. Every single piece of literature and information I have recieved about the National Day of Prayer has not been issued by the government, but by private organizations. To my knowledge, most groups observing the National Day of Prayer go through the same channels as any other group in order to hold a rally in public places. Even if the President refused to issue a proclamation, you will still see thousands of people rallying in the mall in Washington DC on May 6.
President Obama has actually said and done many things with which I disagree. But he hasn't cancelled the National Day of Prayer. Let's take a deep breath now.....
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I brought a second bag this year (CPC survival tip #14), but with airlines charging more and more for extra luggage, I was determined not to use it if I could help it. So as I packed my bag, I started stuffing every square inch with catalogs, brochures, cd’s, dvd’s, toys, props, illusions, everything I got from my week in San Diego. I was satisfied with my progress, until I looked over at the corner of the bed and saw another pile of items. Not to be deterred, I began stuffing some more…reorganizing, shifting, pushing. My now rock solid bag groaned under the strain. I grabbed the zipper and laboriously sealed the cover. I smiled, satisfied that I had bested the airline in the baggage wars. Until I looked back on the desk in my room and saw yet another stack of materials I had overlooked.
INCM’s Children’s Pastors’ Conference has often been compared to getting the proverbial drink of water out of a fire hydrant. Its significance strikes on so many levels, tangible and intangible, that describing it can be challenging. As a matter of fact, as I made my way across the courtyard following the final session, a cameraman stopped me for a sound bite. He asked me how I liked CPC. He said “action,” the light went on, and for a split second, my mind went blank. I think I mumbled something about being “incredibly full” (ahhh, adverbs: love ‘em and lob ‘em!), but honestly, I don’t remember. I wish I had thought of my overstuffed bags, because that’s exactly how I felt all week: filled to capacity and just when I thought I couldn’t handle anything more, another thought, concept, blessing presents itself.
So for this post, I’m going to take a few moments to unpack. Please join me:
The church tours were fast…almost too fast. But even though I have been to all three churches before and even though a half hour is not enough time to even scratch the surface of these facilities, I can’t help but ask, “If my church was on the church tour, what would visitors see?” The point isn’t what one can do with a humongous budget, the point is, what can one do to make children and their families feel welcome?
The general sessions were, as usual, excellent. I appreciated the music of Danny Oertli. There’s something about opening night that siphons out every single emotion in me. I feel totally alone with God, just as I feel so connected with two thousand others. Some of the songs, by coincidence or design, were songs we sing in our children’s ministry. To sing them with adult arrangements with adult voices was incredibly moving. And then, to make sure all emotions were laid bare, the comedy of Tim Hawkins had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt. I went to bed that night exhausted. But the week went on with more general sessions. Josh Wiedemann on faith, Michelle Anthony’s challenging thoughts (as one online observer said, every parent needs to hear it), Austin Gutwein’s vision at age 9 to make a difference in the world, the moving testimony of CeCe Winans, the basketball prowess of Dan Wetzel—every presenter brought a unique element. Add the amazing and moving chalk art by See the Light and the prayer for the continents with Jeff Smith and Rhythm Café, and it’s no wonder I was filled to overflowing.
Breakout sessions (aka workshops, aka classes) brought the best of the best for the purpose of information, inspiration, and infusion of ideas. I have been long toying with the idea of letting kids lead in worship, so Jill Anderson’s breakout on Kid’s Worship Teams seemed like a good place to start. Not only is Jill a dynamite presenter, but she led the whole group in some of her songs…and motions. The tiredness of the night before gave way to some renewed energy. Throughout the week, I listened to Bruce Barry of Wacky World Studios talk about design and the Kidologist, Karl Bastian, on the subject of discipline (thank you for providing your notes!) And there were others (if I attended your breakout, but didn’t mention it, please don’t be offended. I’m still reviewing my notes).
One of the greatest things about CPC is connecting with people. Some I know personally, some I know from their writings or by reputation. But there is an instant bond among us all. Joni Lum’s posts on the Kidology.com forums are always a blessing, but I finally got to meet her in person, as well as others during the Kidology gathering. It was good to have a mini-reunion with Mike and Karen Puckett of Amazing Truth ministries. They are fellow grads of Christian Heritage College (now known as San Diego Christian College). And to show that it’s a small world after all, Janet, the director of our local children’s ministries network, was at the conference (we attended the reception for those who have attended multiple CPC’s). There are so many more…the “who’s who” in kids’ work and the ones not so famous, all there to encourage and support one another.
So yes, I needed a second bag. As the final session came to a close, I commented to one of the people at the table that one of the hardest parts of CPC is the end. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and nodded in agreement. Yet with the sadness that this must end comes a renewed vision, a refreshed passion, and a rejuvenated energy. As I unpacked my bags and looked at the resources, I remember thinking, “how can I put all of this into practice this Sunday?” Of course, I can’t. The bags are unpacked, but I still have to sort through the stuff.
And that may take me until next March.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
My friend Karl captured this picture right before the first general session at CPC10. The pic is easy, but capturing the essence of this conference in a short blog is extremely difficult, so I'm going to settle for some more pictures and random observations.
Welcome to San Diego
My home away from home for the week. This is the first year that I've stayed at the tower.
This is Rob Biagi and his family performing. INCM arranged entertainment in the foyer before the general sessions began(Sorry for the blurry picture, but we're all packed pretty tight waiting for the doors to open).
Waiting for the general sessions
Jill Anderson's workshop on developing a kids' worship team was very informative and motivating. Jill describes herself and her family as "musical missionaries." I will say that singing with that much energy at the first session on Monday morning is an accomplishment...and to get a whole room full of people to do the same is just amazing.
Karl Bastian, the Kidologist, complete with lab coat, sharing his passion. One of Karl's breakaways was on discipline...but it's not what one would think!
A picture I didn't get was that of Mike and Karen Puckett, with Amazing Truth Ministries. Mike and his family are gospel illusionists and are being used of the Lord to reach families with the good news of new life through Jesus Christ. Mike and Karen and I were all at San Diego Christian College together (back when it was known as Christian Heritage College). I've followed them on Facebook for a while, but it was nice having the "mini-reunion" at CPC.
I've come away with so much at the Children's Pastors' Conference...far more than I went in with. In a future blog, I'll share some more of my heart and personal observations.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The alarm went off as scheduled. I shut it off and thought how grateful I was to be able to attend the premiere conference of its kind. I thought about all it took to get here, about the great resources and networking opportunities I would have...about...how...I......
My eyes opened and I turned my head to see I had less than 30 minutes to report to the foyer! I sprang from the bed with all the nimbleness of a gazelle (with a broken leg), showered, dressed, and headed out the door. No time for breakfast. I got to my destination on time and....waited. I probably would have had time to grab a bite before we got on the busses, but one never knows these things. Besides, I was anxious to get started on the church tours...an opportunity to visit different facilities and see how they have set up their environments for maximum effectiveness.
First up was Mission Valley Church of the Nazarene. I've actually been here before at a previous CPC church tour. Then, their sanctuary looked like this:
Now it looks like this:
Because it was Sunday morning, we attended the early service at the church. It was rather amusing to see the expressions of some of the people in the parking lot: "Uhhhh, what are these big tour busses doing here?" The service itself was what I would call modernized traditional (the hymns had a bit of a beat to them!). Excellent message on Zaccheus. The pastor even asked all of us to sing the song. Following the service was a very quick tour of the facility, followed by a nice lunch.
Then it was up north to our next destination: Saddleback Church.
To tour Saddleback adequately takes awhile. We had thirty minutes. But it was still worth the visit. Yes, they have a lot of money to spend on totally involved children's ministry environments, but that does not rule out the creativity and ideas that must flow through all children's ministries regardless of their budgets.
And then we hopped on the bus and flew south to visit one of my personal favorites: Shadow Mountain Community Church. I have a soft spot for this church, because it is the home of San Diego Christian College, my alma mater (back when it was called Christian Heritage College). It is amazing to see what all they have done with the place...and again, the short time we were there does not do it justice. The creativity and ideas were there, but so was the honest admission that some things are still in progress. Just like us.
Yes, the church tours were fast. Having them on a Sunday kind of limits what time a large group can do a tour. But my commendations to the host churches for their excellent job in showing us all around in a very short amount of time, particularly after ministering to all of the kids in their own congregations that morning. It was a fun (and tiring way) to start the morning. The big take-away (besides great ideas and maybe a little envy) is that our challenges in Children's Ministry are universal. I met a nice woman who ministers in Hong Kong. Her challenges: volunteers, facility use, networking. Hey..same as mine. One of the best parts of being at CPC is discovering that we're all in this together. And that's worth a bus ride punctuated by whirlwind tours!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
As my trip ended…it almost did. More later, but first….
People sometimes ask me why I try to book a separate travel day when I go to the Children’s Pastors Conference. After all, it’s one more night and more down time. I don’t mind the “down time” so much, because it allows me some solitude to pray, think, read, and relax without distractions. Still, there’s the cost…so why not save myself a night’s lodging and plan to show up on check-in day?
Answer: because of days like this.
My adventure began when my wife dropped me off at the airport at 9:30 a.m. Shortly after I checked in at the automated kiosk, an attendant asked me to go to the ticket counter. They explained to me that bad weather in San Francisco was causing delays and cancellations. It was then that the Biblical injunction to take heed when you think you stand, lest you fall came to mind. In all the weeks prior, I kept saying, “no bad weather when I travel. It can snow all it wants…up until the day I leave. Then let’s clear it up and I’ll be fine.” I’m sure my co-workers got tired of it. And when travel day arrived, it was raining…but at least it wasn’t snowing!
But I hadn’t calculated what bad weather would do at my connection in San Francisco. The attendant presented me with a backup plan. I struggled to follow: “you have a boarding pass for flight A, but if they call you as a stand by for flight B, then take flight B, and then your connection will be for your original flight C, unless they put you on standby for an earlier flight D that leaves later than C, and I before E, except after C.” (All kidding aside, the United counter staff at the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport were phenomenal in dealing with the vast amount of passengers who were inconvenienced by this situation. With patience and good humor, they helped weather the storm (no pun intended).).
My flight was scheduled for 11:00, but was bumped to 1:00 (it turns out that the 8:00 flight had to leave at 11:00). The flight to SF only took about an hour, but since SF had only one runway open (due to heavy rains and poor visibility), we “approached” for another 45 minutes. By this time, I had no idea if my original connection (which the counter agent said had been delayed as well) was still viable. At least I had plan B! I checked the board when I got off the plane and…big surprise! My original connection was so far gone, it wasn’t even listed anymore. I checked my plan B itinerary and was instantly confused. It looked like I wouldn’t be able to make plan B either. So I went to an automated kiosk and punched in my confirmation number. The nice machine informed me that due to weather delays, I had been rebooked on a 6:20 p.m. flight! I printed my boarding pass and rejoiced that that detail was settled. All I had to do now is wait. I watched the rain pelt the windows of the gate area. I watched as big jetliners pulled in and out, doing a delicately timed ballet with the baggage and maintenance vehicles. I could hear a waltz playing in the background as men and women in yellow and orange dayglow suits nimbly guided the planes to their havens (okay, by this time I was tired, hungry, and working on a king-sized headache, so forgive me a little loopiness).
My flight was on time. It left the gate on time. It stopped on the tarmac on time. This was good. And then the captain said, “Ladies and gentleman, we’ve just learned that the computers at the airport have gone down, so we need to wait here a little longer.” Uh huh.
Yes, I made it to San Diego. And incredibly, my luggage followed me! So with briefcase and laptop and big bulky duffle bag, I was ready to tackle the final obstacle: the Skybridge at San Diego International Airport. In order to get to the shuttles, one has to take an escalator up to a glass enclosed bridge, walk across the Skybridge, and then down the escalator. I have never enjoyed this part, because, while one or two of my items aren’t too heavy, three of them together are rough. And then, to navigate an escalator on top of that…..and that is where my journey almost ended!
I stepped onto the down escalator. My hands were full, so I couldn’t grab the rail. I was slightly off in my step, so I adjusted my feet. But the weight of my luggage threw off my balance and I started to fall. And I might have just ended up with a broken or sprained limb (or worse) if it hadn’t been for the guy behind me catching me (don’t know who he is, but the Lord knows!). I breathed a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks, that after this very long travel day, I was spared another delay.
I arrived at the Town and Country Resort and got into my room at about 9:30 p.m., about twelve hours after my journey began (for the record, my original itinerary would have put me in San Diego about 2 p.m.). Tired and grateful, I prepared for a good night’s sleep. I’m looking forward to everything that I will experience at CPC, even starting with check-in time. And thanks to traveling the day before, I will not miss check-in time.
As our local meteorologist is fond of saying, “Stay tuned for updates….”
Thursday, March 11, 2010
1. Two thousand of my closest friends. We laugh at that, but I feel a connection with all the people there. I may not know who they are, but I consider them brothers and sisters in the service of the King. I usually have to resist a lump in my throat during the closing session, because I and my friends are parting ways.
2. Opening night. For me, the first few songs of worship and praise are incredibly liberating for me. It's almost as if I can feel the stress, the pressure, and the sheer lonliness of the past year siphon out of my whole body. Joining in glad song with two thousand of my closest frineds is very freeing.
3. Education. Whether it is in the general sessions or the individual workshops, I always feel I'm getting the proverbial cream of the crop in children's ministries.
4. The church tour. I like signing up for the church tour. It's interesting, inspirational, and challenging. Whenever I complete a church tour, one of the things I ask myself is, "If a tour stopped at our church, what would they report about?"
5. Resources. Sure, I get catalogs and novelty items, but if you are standing in the right place at the right time, you might walk away with a free book or dvd or action figure. And even if you don't, you can still get a jump on your budget list.
6. The Nap. Yes, you read that right. One of the CPC leaders once counseled that if you need a nap, go take a nap. One year I took his advice. Mid-afternoon, I was tired and felt a headache coming on. So I went to my room, crashed on my bed, and took a two hour nap. I was refreshed when I got up. Besides, when was the last time I took a deliberate snooze?
So there you have it... a quick half dozen reasons why I like to go to the Children's Pastors Conference. As the car commercial goes, "your mileage may vary." So come see it for yourself.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
To understand the significance of that statement, I invite you to read my previous blog post on the subject:
I Do Not Own a Cell Phone
After church one delightful Sunday afternoon, my wife and I stopped at Subway for lunch. Feeling fiscally empowered by the fact that we could buy a five…five dollar…five dollar foot long, we figured we could afford cell phones.
Okay, it wasn’t that simple. We’ve actually been kicking around the idea of cell phones for quite some time. In my previous blog, I listed all the reasons why we were still hold-outs in this communication-crazy age…and cost was at the top of the list. But as we discussed and prayed and debated, we grew increasingly convinced that the cost of owning a cell phone was simply the cost of having what was rapidly becoming a standard vehicle of communication. We agreed to have a look after lunch; besides, looking costs nothing.
We had plenty of time to look at the various models available, since a couple ahead of us was in the process of adopting a pair of cell phones. My wife and I were weighing the options of two different models, when the customer ahead of us leaned over and said that he was getting one the phones we were considering. He was a long time cell phone owner and was very impressed by the features and usability of this particular brand. We thought maybe it was a sign (either that, or he was a plant from the company placed there to reel in naïve, undecided customers). This phone had a good look and had the features we wanted. But one of the best selling points was in how easy we could get a couple of these phones. You see, my youngest daughter bought a cell phone back when she was still a minor. Although my daughter pays the bill herself, the account was set up under my wife’s name. So getting two cell phones was a simple matter of adding two numbers to an already existing account! And doing that was even less expensive than if we were starting fresh. Is that cool or what?
So here we are, cell phone owners. I will not divulge the type of phone or cost or anything, mainly because I don’t want to launch a massive debate of passionate cell phone owners who will say, “You bought what? You paid what?” We got valuable intel after my last entry and we used it in our deliberations. And now, the deed is done. Our phones work quite nicely and are meeting our expectations so far.
As I was sitting at my desk one evening, my phone chimed and vibrated with news that I had received a text message from my wife. I happily responded with a text of my own. I reflected once again on how good it is that we finally had cell phones. And as I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting on the couch across from my desk, I smiled.
Yup, welcome to the 21st century!
Monday, February 15, 2010
The "funky" cabin
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
When I started doing children’s ministry at my current church, there was a young couple who was surprised. You see, even though I had been involved in various forms of children’s ministry starting in high school, my professional ministry background was with adults. I was a senior pastor at two small churches and I was used to teaching grown-ups. So this couple, who had previously served in the children’s department at a mega-church in California, took me aside in the spirit of Christian love and said, “Kids today are not going to sit for a sermon. You can’t reach them with dull theology. They need excitement and fun and activity.” Which was their way of telling me that they were afraid I would handle kids like I handled adults.
So I strove to be innovative and fun. I introduced things that pushed the envelope of what a “children’s ministry” was all about. It was certainly not the flash-bang approach of modern kid’s ministry; in fact, I was only beginning to learn what modern kid’s ministry was supposed to be. But it was a start. And we were starting to get people’s attention. That’s when another wise person approached me in the spirit of Christian love and said, “You don’t need to do all this fancy stuff. All you need to do is give them Jesus. Pay attention to them and open up the Word and they’ll respond. “
Feeling so much of this Christian love, I pondered what the gentleman had told me. Was I selling out the birthright of meaningful children’s work for a bowlful of pizzazz? I went through a time of deep introspection, wondering if we really needed to scale down the delivery vehicle and concentrate more on instilling a more serious understanding of the Christian life to these kids.
It was then that someone approached me and said, “Tim, you need to find some people who can add ‘Wow’ to your program.” Sigh. And thus it continues.
Since then, I’ve come to a basic understanding and acceptance of what we do. It comes down to two fundamental principles:
1) The Word of God is core and does not change. It is the heartbeat of what we do.
2) Everything else is up for grabs.
In other words, the message doesn’t change, but the method does. The medium does. The delivery system does. And when I wrapped my brain around this concept, it became easier to ride the wave of children’s ministry programming.
Are we there yet? Nope. I love the testimonies of children’s workers that talk about the dynamic worship, the spiritual depth, and the life-altering decisions during children’s church. I truly rejoice in that. But then I look at my 4th & 5th grade boys who sit with their arms crossed, refusing to participate, daring me to engage them. I think of the little girl in back who loudly complains, “This is boring” (a phrase which always feels like a body blow whenever I hear it). And I start to wonder, “maybe more bling, maybe more ‘wow’, maybe more pizzazz would turn this around.”
But then one of those boys approaches me afterwards and asks if I would pray for his grandmother who is dying. And three others profess their desire to let Jesus be Lord of all of their life. And when a mom asks the bored little girl what she liked best about the service, she says, “The songs and the video and Teacher Tim was silly.”
Fifteen years ago, I didn’t even own a video camera. Now we’re shooting and editing some of our own stuff. We still don't have a kids' praise band, but we do have kid-centered music dvd's which are miles ahead of trying to croon out an acapella chorus from the 70's. We won't be mistaken for being "cutting edge", but we're still pushing to be fun & innovative with enough bling and pizzazz to drive home the real reason we're there: the Gospel. The next fifteen years will be bright.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
So now that we’ve eliminated the “scared and distrustful of cell phones” arguments, what are the real reasons why I’ve never gotten a cell phone:
1. Cost. Sorry, but price is a factor. Oh, sure, I know I can get a brand new phone for free or practically nothing if I sign up for a great plan. But plans are pricey. By the time I read through the fine print, I’m racking up money that could be better spent on a dinner out with the missus or an out-patient procedure. I don’t know how people with low or no income manage to have cell phones. It’s a budget-strainer for us.
2. Necessity. Confession time: I used to have a cell phone. I inherited a “pay-as-you-go” phone from someone who upgraded to a fancier unit with a great (read: “more expensive”) plan. And it was simple: all I had to do was “top it off” regularly.
During the six months I had the phone, I believe I made two phone calls and received one. Meanwhile, the money in my “top off” account slowly dwindled until I got an urgent message on my cell, email, and home phone reminding me to “top it off” again. So I topped it off. And over days and weeks of not using it, my phone balance would continue to fade into oblivion until I put more money into it.
The conclusion was simple: why keep throwing money into a phone that I never used? So I quit using it. The company eventually quit reminding me to “top it off.”
3. Necessity 2. Do I need to be accessible 24/7? I am a children’s pastor, true. But rarely has a need arisen in which I had to be tracked down instantaneously. I’m still as busy as ever, but those who need to get a hold of me know how to get a hold of me. And if I’m not there, just leave a message or drop me an email or dm me on Twitter. After all, if I was driving, in a theatre, or in a church service, you’d have to wait for me to retrieve a message anyway.
4. Inconvenience: I remember the days of television antennas that, through diverse contortions and configurations, had to be adjusted for the best picture. I’ve seen people in grocery stores go through similar gymnastics with the ubiquitous “Can you hear me now?” catchphrase echoing up and down the aisle. I don’t want to get to the good part of a conversation only to lose the connection.
As I mentioned above, I will likely own a cell phone one day. As my wife and I have discussed, there are some great reasons to own a cell phone:
1. Accessibility: True, I rarely need to be reached right away, but there are times when I’ve forgotten to put something on the shopping list and my mental telepathy to my wife doesn’t reach. It would be nice to simply call her up. Ditto with schedule changes or last minute visits.
2. Emergencies: The best reason for a cell phone is for the unexpected crises that come in our lives. No debate here.
3. Convenience: I was on my way to do a wedding at a residence, but I got lost. It would have been nice to be able to call the family and ask for directions.
4. Instant communication: As a computer-based Twitterer, I often have to wait until a break in my schedule or time at home in order to update my friends on what I’m doing at the moment. I have long admired my friends who write things like, “Stuck behind a rock waiting to shoot my paintball rifle” or “The speaker just made an incredible point.” Being able to update everyone in real time would be fun.
5. Camera: Not sure I need everything that the modern cell phone has to offer, but there are times I just want to take a picture, upload it, and write a funny caption like “Eating at a restaurant with BibleMan and the waiter can’t tell us apart LOL”
What do I want in a cell phone?
5. Something that doesn’t cost a lot of money to maintain
Recommendations? Rebuttals? Free offers?
Stay tuned for updates.