Schematics

In general, I like to plan things.  I like to know what’s going to happen next.  Even when I was younger, I preferred to have some direction in my life as to where I was headed. When I didn’t have clear directions, I would become frustrated.  Even today, I would prefer it if Siri would tell me the next two steps instead of just one when using GPS.

This is not only true in driving.  It applies in every area of life.  If you have a goal, of any kind, it’s useless without a plan to get there.  If you have a direction, it should determine your days, how you spend your time.  That is the importance of setting goals. But goals come from a vision that God will give you.

For followers of Jesus, sometimes we make this much muddier than it needs to be.  We can fall into a trap of praying for God’s will to be revealed to us while twiddling our thumbs and never really doing anything.

In Proverbs, a really wise man wrote:

“People make plans in their hearts. But the Lord controls what they say. Everything a man does might seem right to him. But the Lord knows what that man is thinking. Commit to the Lord everything you do. Then your plans will succeed.”

Just a bit later, he adds another statement:

“In your heart you plan your life. But the Lord decides where your steps will take you.”

From these two statements I know a few things are true.

  1. Plans for life come from the heart.
  2. Plans only succeed if I commit them to God (a matter of my heart, that He will weigh out, because He knows my thoughts).
  3. God decides where my steps will take me while that plan is being worked out.

There seems to be the idea here that I’m not going to plan out every step, but if I’ve committed what the plan is to God, and allow Him to weigh my motives out to make sure my thoughts are more in line with His, then I can trust Him to take me where He wants me.  I may not know every detail along the way, every little turn, every person I may have to interact with, or task I’m going to be asked to accomplish, but I know that ultimately He will be guiding me.

While I was thinking about this, the word “schematic” popped into my head.  And, I wanted a better idea of just what a schematic is.  So, I did what any 21st century kid would do, hopped on my bike, went to the library, searched the card catalog…of course not.  I went to Wikipedia:

A schematic, or schematic diagram, is a representation of the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic elements that aid comprehension. For example, a subway map intended for riders may represent a subway station with a dot; the dot doesn’t resemble the actual station at all but gives the viewer information without unnecessary visual clutter.

And isn’t that the truth?

God gives us what we need “without unnecessary visual clutter”.  He allows us to stay focused on Him, to tune our hearts to His heart, and He takes us on a wild journey.  All we have to do is trust Him.  He guides our steps.  He reveals things to us as we need them.

So, what are your plans?  Do they reflect His heart?  Do you trust Him to guide your steps?

What I do see in all of this, that there should be movement in my life if I am a follower of Jesus.  Followers, after all, follow.

 

connected

“It’s Kind of a Cute Story” – Takeaways from the Book

ItsKindOfACuteStory-FrontCoversmall

 

It’s no secret I enjoy nearly all things Disney.  I enjoy the parks, the movies, and the commitment to excellence woven throughout all of their projects. So, when I come across a book that reveals a bit more about some of the people that helped establish the company in it’s early years, I like to put it on my reading list.

Most recently, I read It’s Kind of a Cute Story, written by Roland Crump and Jeff Heimbuch.  Roland, known as Rolly, was one of the early Imagineers who worked first at the animation studios, and then at WED.

While it’s filled with tons of interesting stories, there are some takeaways as well.  As always, whenever you set out to read a book, you should also make a point to learn something from it.  Don’t waste the investment, right?

Here’s a few ideas/quotes:

 “If it’s a ton of fun and an ounce of information you’ll reach the teachable moment.”  – Dr. Charles Lewis, on working on EPCOT

Without going into the great history of EPCOT (what it was going to be and what it now is), this singular idea was the driving force for the project.    It’s a similar idea to what we see in kids educational television today.  A simple idea, or a basic truth, wrapped in a creative, engaging method or form can have an amazing impact.  This applies to kids, students, and adults.  By no means does this mean you can present a “watered down truth” in your kids ministry.  It actually means the opposite.  It means you have to find the one, singular, most important idea, and present it in a memorable way.  This is one of the reasons I like Orange curriculum, among others, for kids at Journey.  Blowing up soda  or sliming your small group leader can, in fact, have eternal value.

 “Every student is different.  You have to talk to them differently because everyone has different styles…Don’t make them do a project that would be hard for them to grasp.  You have to get their confidence up first and then nudge them along into these new areas.”

There are many ways to apply this idea.  I think it applies to a new believer growing in his/her faith, helping him to see the successful simple steps.  Trusting God in the small things leads to trusting Him in bigger things.  He leads in steps so we should shepherd the same way.  We can also see the value in applying this to the teams we lead.  When someone begins serving on our ministry team, we have to celebrate the success along the way, and where they excel in areas.

We have help people walk out in their gifts.  Then, we can confidently go into anything that God is calling us to.  I’ve seen this first hand.  We recently had a kids’ team leader from Journey make the step to move to Uganda to help deaf children.  When I talked with her, I asked, “Six years ago, would you imagine that you would be doing this?”  “Never, “ she said.  But saying yes to the steps along the way prepared her for this amazing new adventure.

  “He had a vision, he knew exactly what it was going to be and how he was going to get there.  It was almost like he’d slice through it and he knew every ingredient that was there because he lived it himself to create it.” – speaking of Walt Disney

We have to believe God for a bigger vision.  I’m always amazed at what people can do when they have a clear vision. So, we should pray for this in our own lives.  It doesn’t mean you’ll end up building a theme park.  But having God’s vision for your life certainly means you’ll live the abundant life He promises.

 “No matter the project, Walt clearly saw its common denominator.  He recognized the essential skills and talents of people he assigned to work on his projects.  He always picked the right people.  He never talked down to you.  He always spoke your language and he always kept your interests in mind.  It amazed me how he could talk to anyone about anything, without skipping a beat, and with perfect sincerity.”

In everything, no matter who you are, it’s always about people.

 

 

*I should note that while the book is a fun read, it has some objectionable language and  material.  Please use discretion for that reason.

Easter: He’s alive?!

Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. I love this because it’s guaranteed that we are going to explain Jesus’ sacrifice and what it meant for us in our Journey Kids environments.  We often talk about it throughout the year here and there.  Jesus and His Word is always at the center of what we do.  But we really got to spend some time on it yesterday.

Whitney and I were talking about the morning and one story she shared really stuck with me.  Whitney leads the worship time in our second service with our MiNi CiTy (preschool) age kids.  It’s always a blast, and a party to see kids worshiping God and learning about His love for them.  Whitney would ask, “What is Easter about?” One girl, about 4 years old, would say “Jesus died.” Whitney would ask the question again a little later and the same response would come from her. “Jesus died” she would say, sadly.  After this happened a few times, Whitney was able to get down beside her, eye to eye, heart to heart, and asked her,

“Hey.  Do you know what today is?”

“Easter.”

“Do you know what Easter is about?”

“Jesus died.”

“Well, that’s true.  And that’s sad.  But did you know that He’s alive?  He came back. He’s risen!”

A smile came across her face and she said, “He’s alive?  He’s alive!”

Somewhere along the way, that girl picked up that Jesus had died for us.  But we celebrate that He is risen!

 

Some other highlights for me from the morning:

  • Our team members who were flexible and willing.  I love people who are willing to change rooms, and jump into places they might not normally be.  They get what it’s really all about!
  • Kids engaging with the story of the empty tomb.  It’s a wonderful thing to see on the faces of children.
  • Leaders cheering when we find out that the tomb was empty!
  • Breaking down what sin is and how Jesus paid the price for us.
  • Celebrating in worship!  Yesterday in UPTOWN we sang, “God is Alive”, “Take Heart – John 16:33″ and “Happy Day”.  TheBLOCK and MiNI CiTy sang “Hosanna Rock”, “Good Good Friend” and “We Can Praise Jesus”
  • Answering questions about what Jesus did.
  • A girl holding up her Bible, and pointing to pictures of what I was teaching about.
  • Seeing a room full of second and third graders being prayed for by their leader.

There are many, many more stories from the morning that I could share.  So many people did so much to make yesterday special.

 

Kidmin Plants

This weekend, I had the great privilege of going to Relationship Church.  Tim Epling, pastor of Relationship Church, interned with Jimmy Carroll through the TCPN.  So, Journey had invested some people, time, and resources into planting Relationship Church.

 

Additionally, the children’s minister there, Katie, once served in Journey Kids.  So, it was great to see her and see what God was doing there.  When she asked if I would come and be with them for the morning, and then hold a little meeting after the services, I was humbled and excited! Fortunately, we have a great team in place at Journey that allowed me to go visit with them.

 

In just a few short months, this church plant has grown from about 10 kids to 40 coming rather consistently.  Also, they have a tremendous team of volunteers in their kidmin that arrive early, set-up, prepare, love and teach kids, then tear down again.

 

It took me back a bit to remember when Journey was a church plant.  I recalled when we had “27 kids!” and how that seemed like a big Sunday.  Since then, I’ve learned that “big” is entirely relative.  So, I try to toss it out of my vocabulary!

 

The number isn’t important unless you tie each number to people, and realize those are children whose lives are being shaped in your ministry.  Those kids have parents or guardians that are influencing their lives as well.

 

Whether a church plant, or a church body that’s been around for 70 years, the real question is what are you investing in people?  Does it carry eternal weight?  Does it make the name of Jesus famous in the lives of children, parents, and families?

 

in·gen·ious

I had every intention of writing every day this week while at CPC, exploring some new component of the conference or highlighting some great sparks of “wow!”

Those moments came, but not in the way I have usually received them from conferences.  I lost my conference book at the end of Thursday, and with many of my notes so I can’t recap anything from sessions here.  In fact, I’ll likely be filling out an order form in the next hour for some audio files.

I came to CPC to work in the booths for JimWideman.com and the Kidmin Genius Bar. You see I grew up telling my parents I was a genius.  Now I have a t-shirt that confirms it.  It’s common knowledge, of course, that to make anything “official” you simply need acquire a logo and a t-shirt.

The Kidmin Genius Bar was simply set up to field questions related to anything in children’s ministry, or life, or just a place to come and talk with someone else in children’s ministry.  It’s a great forum to start some of that discussion talked about in the networking general session.

I had conversations that I will remember for a long time and that I hope were just the beginnings of a much bigger discussion.  It reiterated to me the importance of having partners in ministry to share victories and hardships, prayers and blessings.

This week, I’ve made some new friends and have fortified some other friendships.  I’m going home encouraged, strengthened and renewed.  This week, I’ve learned from people who have been open, honest, and who simply said “yes” to Jesus when He called them to do step out in faith.  This week, I’ve also heard incredible stories and met incredible servants that have challenged me to be a better leader, follower, and disciple of Jesus.

 This week I met:

  • A woman who has been teaching kids for about 40 years.  Her heart was passionate about kids loving God’s Word and knowing Jesus.
  • A man who tried saying no to children’s ministry but God wouldn’t let him and instead has used him to see church’s families through some transitions ahead.
  • A family that serves together and is determined to impart truth to kids and to parents despite meeting some big obstacles along the way

This week, I sat with fellow children’s ministers to talk about:

  •  Reaching parents of kids when the kids walk themselves to church
  • A man who is 80 years old, teaches 4th/5th grade boys and cared so much about reaching those boys that he sought out new and more relevant lessons…and it worked.  That man is a hero and a grandpa to those boys and he is teaching them to live the Bible.
  • A community in America’s southwest where the graduation rate is extremely low and what local church’s are doing to help (and sometimes hinder)

God is using so many people to make Himself famous in the hearts of children all over the world.  What an amazing privilege we have to see His hand move in our lives.  Let’s never, never, take for granted that His grace allows us to be a part of His Story in the lives of kids and families.

 

Connections: #CPC12

One of the things that is absolutely essential to success in any business, ministry, hobby, anything of importance to you, is networking.  Someone, somewhere, just scoffed when they read that, but it’s true.

Isn’t every Sunday at church a networking of believers to celebrate what Jesus has done in their lives?  Isn’t every small group a network of people living out their faith together, sharing stories of what works, what struggles there have been?  Visit a playground sometime and you will see it happen before your eyes – moms sharing stories of discipline, bath time tricks, and where in town has the best deals on kids’ shoes.  So, now that we understand a bit more about how networking is already a part of our every day life, let’s just accept it.

This week, I’m at a conference in Orlando, Florida (well, let’s just be honest about it) at Walt Disney World.   This is a gathering called CPC (Children’s Pastors’ Conference) and it’s hosted by INCM (the International Network of Children’s Ministry).  It is not entirely random that I’m here, but at the same time, it wasn’t originally on my 2012 agenda until November. But after being here and speaking with INCM’s director, Michael Chanley, I’m even more excited about the week ahead.

There are some great speakers lined up, but I think I’m more excited about the speakers who aren’t lined up.  I’m more intrigued about the conversations that are going to take place around tables, conversations that will happen out of the collision of interests, and discussions that arise out of the calling God has placed on people’s lives.  It’s very apparent in the rooted philosophy of this organization that no one person or group, or curriculum holds the key to making “it” work.  God has gifted every person and equipped each for his/her calling and as such everyone has something to contribute to another person and to learn from another person.

Shouldn’t we be excited about that when we go to small group?  When we teach students and kids about what it means to follow Jesus?  When we sit in a room with families and talk about the discipleship of kids?  We always have something to learn from and give to another believer.  As we say a lot, “Growth happens best in the context of community.”

I’m excited about what I’ll be taking home at the end of this week’s CPC.

 

…and I don’t just mean the Vinylmations