Wednesday, February 29, 2012
But the "no pictures" and "no energy" feeling is offset by a very full and filling day. If there is one thing I've learned about CPC, it's that one goes away with far more than one had upon arrival. I'm going to (try to) break down Tuesday's events with just a few phrases:
General Session: great opening worship. Michael Chanley interviewed three children's pastors-- Mike Johnson, Brad Tate, and Mindy Spurrier--about providing a safe and relevant children's environment. M.C. was master ventriloquist Dennis Lee...never fails to have me doubled over in laughter.
Breakouts: "Ministry Seasons" and "Doing Good Leading to Bad" with Craig Jutilla and "Dealing With Difficult Parents" with Kurt Goble. All breakouts were good....I especially appreciated Craig's vulnerability and Kurt's down-to-earth approach.
Networking Lunch: boxed lunch containing something wrapped in a green stuff. Apple good. Meeting other warriors at one of the "leadership" tables better.
Afternoon general session: the legendary Jim Wideman received INCM award. His daughter Yancy sang (I'm one of only three people in the field of cm who hasn't actually never heard Yancy sing before). Keynote speaker was Reggie Joiner on working with families.
Dinner on the Town: Kelly's Steakhouse. At the table next to mine was a virtual Who's Who in the CM world.
Late Night With Lee: Dennis Lee showcasing great children's ministry talent: Rob Biagi, Miss Patty Cake, and Jana Alarya. Fun evening.
Kidology Gathering: laughing and sharing with Karl Bastian (the Kidologist). Received some great counsel regarding my "between ministry" situation. One of the greatest things about CPC is that I can open up and talk about what's going on in my life. Very refreshing.
And so, late at night, I finally arrived back in my room...physically and maybe a little mentally tired, but my spirit was full. No, I didn't get a lot of pictures, but I ended the day with far more.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I don’t always do that deliberately, but sometimes I get dragged into it. And then I wonder, “What is God trying to teach me through this experience?” Well, maybe I don’t wonder that all the time. Indeed, at times I react with less than a Spirit-filled reaction. Thank the Lord for grace and mercy and lessons learned, even if I get taken out of the comfortable and predictable and I have no idea why.
I’m in San Diego waiting for the start of CPC12, the premiere conference dedicated to children’s ministries. Because I have no idea what the future holds (long-time blog readers know the story), I’ve jokingly referred to this as my “Farewell Tour.” Being as this is my seventh time at CPC, I know the routine of the conference, and I know my personal routine. I’m ready, I’m set, I’m pumped.
As often happens, I had a flight delay on my way. No problem. That, in itself, is part of the routine. I expect that. I plan a “travel day” just for that. That way, when I arrive at the hotel that evening, (hot, tired, sweaty, and hungry), I can just give my plastic to the front desk clerk and I’m soon in my room.
For the first time in seven years, my card was declined! I won’t bore you with all the details of the problem, but I spent a fairly good amount of time on the phone with the credit card company trying to get this fixed. The front desk clerk at the Town and Country was incredibly helpful and patient and understanding of the problems and figured out a way to keep me in my room until I could fix things (I always like to applaud great customer service!). Still working on details, but I thought at the time, “This is not part of the plan! What a way to start my ‘Farewell Tour!’”
As I went to bed, I knew I could at least look forward to the breakfast buffet in the morning. It has always been one of the highlights of my trip. I awoke with a headache, but even that did not deter me from doing what I have always done on my first morning in San Diego: get the buffet! As the hostess sat me at my table, I said in my cool, casual voice, “I’ll just have the breakfast buffet.” The hostess said, “I’m sorry, they did not put the buffet out this morning.” My cool, casual voice caught in my throat like a cat with its tail stepped on. No breakfast buffet? But…but….I’m Tim. This is my “Farewell Tour.” Oh, the humanity! For the record, what I did order was very good, but for the first time, I was unable to get the first morning buffet. Sad face.
Okay, nothing here is worthy of being called “dramatic life challenges,” but my routine has been disrupted! While I pride myself in thinking outside the proverbial box, my friends and family will tell you I will usually step out of that box when I’m good and ready. I don’t mind being unpredictable, as long as I can plan for it. But ever so often, it feels like God comes up behind me, places His loving hand on my shoulders….and shoves! And then I’m out of the box, outside the lines, out of my comfort zone, etc. I’m having to do what I’ve never done before, so that…hey, wait a minute! So that maybe I can have what I’ve never had. Hmmmmm.
I knew my “Farewell Tour” would be different this year, as I’m looking at things as one who is between ministries. Michael Chanley, the director of INCM, has said that there are new innovations this year in the conference. So the routine, which has already been different, will be even more so. And my “Farewell Tour” may just be the thing to force me to do what I’ve never done in order to get what I’ve never had.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
In a very short time, I will be heading off to my 7th (but not in a row) Children's Pastor's Conference in San Diego. This is somewhat bittersweet, as my church leadership recently changed directions in such a way that I was somewhat forced to resign from children's ministries. So I'm heading to CPC without the CP part (the church had already paid for me to go before the changes, so I still get to go!).
I was thinking about this year, and how my expectations will be different without a local church on which to try out all the new stuff. But the more I thought about why I go to CPC, the more the same reasons I go every year still make sense to me.
*Refreshing. Contrary to popular perception, children's ministry involves long hours of hard work. Everyone needs a break and CPC gives me just that: a much needed, much appreciated departure from the routine. When I arrive at the resort in San Diego, often the first thing out of my mouth as I gaze at the impossibly blue sky is a sigh of relief.
*Recharging. Electric razors, cell phones, and children's ministers have one thing in common: they all need to be plugged in from time to time for a healthy dose of new energy. I don't know how to say this, but CPC vibrates with energy. Whether it is like-minded people who share the same struggles as me, or the bustling Resource Center that makes me wonder how I ever got along without some of this stuff, or the workshops that inject new ideas and concepts, or the general sessions that lift me up, CPC buzzes with what I need to keep going another year.
*Renewing. There are so many levels to this. I think of things like renewing my spirit--there are times I can just lock myself in my hotel room and pray and study and meditate on God's Word, or cry out to the Lord during worship in the general sessions. Or there is renewing my mind--learning new ideas, new ways of doing things from men and women who are smarter than I am about certain things. Or there is the renewing of relationships: over the years, I have come to regard my fellow conference attendees as family and CPC as one giant family reunion.
*Rewinding. I hate it when I'm trimming the lawn and the line on the spool runs out or gets out of whack. Sometimes, the line of my ministry runs out or doesn't quite feed out the right way. CPC helps me diagnose the problems, then gives me the right tools to wrap my proverbial thread tight enough to feed out and benefit the kids and families we serve.
*Recreating. Okay, that sounds like a stretch, but really, recreation is just that: re-creating. And I will fully confess before all assembled: CPC is FUN! Sure, I'll impress the "powers that be" with tales of "classes" that start at 8:00 a.m. and sessions that can last until 10:30 or 11:00 at night. But honestly, I don't think I ever laugh as hard as I do at CPC or smile as broadly or weep as profusely or just plain enjoy myself as much as I do when I'm at this conference. It's San Diego in late winter, people....what's not to enjoy?
Is it worth it? YES. Even for someone who is between ministries. See you in San Diego!
Friday, February 17, 2012
I've been sorting through files on my computer. Pictures, notes, power point presentations, and lesson plans of all shapes and sizes. One of the power point presentations (a rather creative re-telling of the story of Esther using concepts and characters that were popular with the kids at the time)caught my eye. Speaking as one who does not like to "toot his own horn," I had to honestly conclude something about the presentation.
It was good!
And then I remembered the work that went into it. Hours of studying the Biblical text itself, finding the right graphics, putting everything together for a presentation that lasted maybe seven minutes. And why? Because I believed the kids deserved something more than a lesson I read over the night before during commercials for my favorite television show.
I'm not against easy-to-prepare lessons, mainly because I know that hours of hard work went into making these lessons easy to prepare. I'm not saying that I've never used low prep curriculum or that I've never (perish the thought) "winged it" with a teacher's manual. But even the simplest of curriculum still propels me to study the Biblical text, to understand how it fits into the scope and sequence, to practice the lesson, maybe even come up with a better way to present the lesson.
I concede that this approach means the lesson isn't as easily transferable. I can hand another teacher the curriculum, but I can't transfer the study and preparation and creativity and prayer to that teacher. I know of churches that think this a liability. I believe it is a strength.
Teachers of kids: PREPARE.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
The portal to a strange, new world
Just like you never forget your first kiss, your first tricycle, or your first car, you never forget the first time you attended Children's Pastors' Conference.
I recently watched the highlight video from my very first CPC back in 2003 and the memories and feelings of that week still churn within me. It was as though I had stepped onto the surface of another planet in a another galaxy, surrounded by fellow astronauts who were either seasoned (but no less excited) explorers or those who, like me, were lost and amazed at the same time.
Of course, it didn't help that my first activity was the church tour and that the first church we toured was Saddleback Church! I knew about big churches--I used to attend a mega-church--but to discover that my current home church could fit comfortably within the "footprint" of just their children's building with room to spare put a whole new perspective on what was possible. The other churches were no less impressive, but the two lessons I took away from the church tours were 1) We may not have the money to do that, but we certainly have the creativity to do this, and 2) The problems that kidmins face are the same everywhere, only the scale is different.
By the time we returned to the Town and Country Resort, I felt I had successfully acclimated to this strange, new world. And then I entered the Resource Center...
I'm not sure if I actually did this, but I felt as though I was standing there, my jaw open, unable to breath for several moments. It was like a carnival had landed on the planet. Vendors and providers of every size lined up in row after colorful row. Resources I had never known were available called my name. Many of the booths were staffed by people whose names I had only seen on the covers of books or cd's. The experts were right there...and I could actually talk to them! As the week went by, the Resource Center was the place to hang out. I didn't have to buy anything (although I did), I could just soak it all in, ask questions, and get ideas.
To be perfectly honest, the rest of the week is kind of blurry in spots. Not that it wasn't excellent--it was phenomenal--but it was so BIG that my mind has a hard time summarizing the experience. I remember during the general sessions that I never laughed so hard or wept so much as I did during the music, the skits, and the messages. The workshops were great and I still refer back to my notes from time to time. The big amusement park party was great. While I chose not to risk severe injury in some of the games, the pure fun (and great food!) made it a night to remember. And, of course, the opportunity to meet so many co-laborers for children, men and women who made me feel for the first time that I was not alone in my own struggles. I kept in touch with many of them...and many I confess, I have lost touch with. But their faces are also part of my memories.
The most interesting observation about my experience at Children's Pastors' Conference is this: the thoughts and feelings have never changed. I will be attending my 7th CPC in San Diego (not in a row) and every year, I still have that same "frontier planet" excitement. Oh, sure, I'm one of the seasoned veterans now. I can make my way around the resort without feeling like I'm lost. I'm a little more selective about what I look at in the Resource Center (being perpetually broke helps!). But I still feel every single emotion of the previous year come out for a good scrubbing at the first general session. I still feel the warmth of handshakes and hugs from colleagues new and returning. And I still get a lump in my throat during the last general session, knowing that it's time to head back to earth.
Because my ministry situation has changed (at this writing, I'm no longer the Children's Pastor at my church), I don't know if the 2012 CPC will be my last or not. But regardless, I'll never forget my first in 2003. Or my second (04), third (07), fourth (08), fifth (10), or sixth (11). Come to CPC...you'll never forget either!