Thoughtless Words

Yesterday in UPTOWN, we our team was teaching about self-control. Every parent I’ve met this month has been giving me high fives when they learn about the virtue this month!

Our first hour 4th/5th grade team put together an object lesson that tied in well with our thought for yesterday.  This week, we learned about Proverbs 12:18.

“Thoughtless words can cut like a sword. But the words of the wise bring healing.”

They brought in a board with a low-powered drill and some wood screws.  Three hearts were on the board.  The kids took turns drilling the screws into the board (using some self-control to stay safe!).  Some screws were in the hearts and some were around the hearts.  Then the leaders explained how sometimes our words can hurt when we don’t use self control.  Kind words can bring healing, but sometimes even then, a scar remains.  So, we need to select our words carefully.

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

 

Connections

Last night at Journey we had a great evening connecting people with each other and beginning a new four months of connect groups, life groups, classes and triads. I love it when people spend some extra time being intentional about the connections they make.  What if we were intentional about our connections all the time?  What if we were intentional about making connections in our relationships with our spouse or with our kids?  What if we were more intentional about how we represented our faith in Christ with the cashier at the checkout line?  What would that look like?

It may look like:

  • Deciding that no matter the service or attitude, we leave a good tip on the table.
  • Opt out of the self-checkout line and actually put yourself in a position where you have an opportunity to show God’s love to a person (or people) in line.
  • Striking up a conversation at the vet’s office about church.  (That happened this weekend!)
  • Setting aside time each day or each week to read God’s word and pray together as a family.
  • Driving the extra 30 minutes across town to spend time with people God has kept in your life.
  • Writing a note of blessing to someone who needs it.
  • Picking up the phone instead of waiting for it to ring.

Being intentional doesn’t always require a big change of routine. It’s usually just a step here and a step there.

What other steps can we take?

Imagine

Looking ahead to 2012 is more fun than actually being in 2012.  When you look ahead, you can see your “future self” and he/she is all that you want to be.  Once January 1st rolled in, you realized that in order for you to become your “future self” you had to confront “every day self” first – and not just once.  You have to meet “every day self” 365 times (plus one – it’s Leap Year).

So, it’s not enough to imagine, is it?  At some point we have to put steps into action.

What’s your plan this year?  What will it take for your imaginary “future self” to be your every day self?

  1.  Ask, “What is my future self doing that I’m not doing?” Then, start doing it!  If your future self is exercising every other day, then start doing it now.  If your future self is reading  eight pages of a book every day, then you better start now.
  2. Whatever you do today, you have to do tomorrow.  I was listening to the radio the other day and a fancy, smart, research, doctor, person was talking about how to spend less money (if that was your problem).  She suggested you make a rule for one week that if you spent $15 today you have to spend $15 tomorrow (which means you would have to spend $15 the day after that).  At the end of the week, you’d be in bad spot.  So, you shouldn’t even spend $15 on the first day!  The opposite would also be true to integrate something positive (rather than reduce a negative).  If you want to read God’s Word more, then make a rule that whatever you read today, you have to read tomorrow.  Also, anything more than you do today is already an improvement!
  3. Pray for vision, guidance, and help.  When you ask God for help, He promises to come through.  If you were going to start a business and didn’t have a clue on how to do it, but Donald Trump told you he’d help you out, would you take his advice?  (Some of you might say no.  I think I’d say yes!)  God has told us that He will help us if we are following His plan, so I think I’ll take Him up on it!
  4. Evaluate your progress.  I downloaded an app for dieting.  I can track my progress over the course of the last month and see where I started, and if I’m on target to get where I’m going.  Evaluation is key for course correction, alignment, and for encouragement.

So, keep imagining but also take some steps to be all God has called you to be in 2012.

Talking to Kids about Baptism (Part Five)

At our church (Journey Church, in Raleigh NC) the baptismal was a big box on wheels. We have since upgraded to a big round pool type tank that looks like a hot tub.  I usually take kids who have made their personal decision to trust Jesus with their life, to see it.

It’s there that I can explain what will happen.  Most kids have seen someone be baptized before.  (By the way, as a side note, I think that it’s important for kids to see others being baptized.  At Journey, we do a service called “Refuel” which includes baptisms as well as a few other services in the year.  I always encourage families to attend!)

Understanding baptism is important because it’s a picture of how Jesus died and rose again.  When we are baptized and go in the water, it’s like we died with Christ.  But you know it’s true – Jesus rose again!  So when we come out of the water, it’s a picture of us rising with Him in a new life, a life that is centered on following Him.  In fact, it’s not our life anymore, it’s His.

When I explain this, kids usually get a BIG smile on their face.  They LOVE the idea that Jesus loved them that much.

I also explain that going public also means that the church is going to help them follow Jesus.

And that brings us to discipleship, which is spending the rest of your life following Him.  It’s dying to yourself every day and living for the one who rescued you – Jesus.

Talking to Kids About Baptism (Part Four)

Baptism. Getting dunked.  Taking the plunge.  Going under.  Getting wet.  Taking a bath.

It’s so much bigger than all of that!  Why?  Jesus told His disciples to “Go and make disciples, and baptize them…”

It’s a way of showing everyone that you have decided to follow Him forever.  You are not your own anymore.

When I talk to kids about baptism, I usually ask them him/her first: “What do you know about baptism?”

Usual responses: “Well…you get in this thing, and you go in water.  And when you come up, it’s like you are clean.”

Not bad, right?!

That’s so close!  So, I usually think it’s best to explain a little further with things they understand.  For example

“What is this on my finger?” (I point to my wedding ring.)

“A ring.”

“Yep.  But because it’s on this finger, it means something special.  Do you know what?”

“You’re married.”

“Yep, that’s right.  I’m married.”

At this point the kids that know me say, “Wait a second?  You’re married?!  How old are you?!”

“Yes, I’m married.  I got this when I got married to my wife.  Now let me ask you something.  What happens when I do this?”  I take off my ring and ask, “Am I still married?”

“Yeah…” they say.

“Yep.  But when I put it on, and other people see it, what does that mean?”

“You’re off limits.”  (No lie.  I’ve had kids say those exact words.)

“Yep.  It means I belong to someone else.  When I get baptized, it means that I belong to someone else.  You know who that is?”

“Jesus!”

“Yep.  And it means that I’m telling everyone ‘It’s not about me anymore!  I belong to Jesus and I’m living for Him now.’”

“Cool.”

After that, I usually take the child to see the ‘dunking booth’ also known as the baptismal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking to Kids about Baptism (Part Three)

Hearing a child pray to accept Jesus into their lives is a great thing.  Their words are sweet, and real, and amazing.  Sometimes a child may ask for some help in the words to say.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes when I pray, I feel like I don’t know the words to say either.

What is important is that they write down what they did or else record it somehow immediately after.  Why?

Well, seeing something in your own words is always more impactful than relying on memory.  Again, if there is ever a moment in a person’s life where he/she is trying to remember their decision to follow Jesus, it’s important that person remembers if it was his/her decision or someone else talking them into it.

Trusting Jesus is a personal decision. Parents can’t make it for their children.  But they can (and have the responsibility to) share with them how they can know Him.  It’s also important that they pray for their children and commit to guide them in their growing relationship with Jesus.

This brings us back to baptism.  Baptism is that next step.  And this where it sometimes gets confusing.  As adults, we may understand that Jesus wants us to be baptized when we decide to trust Him.  It’s a way we “go public” with our faith.  It lets everyone know we have died to ourselves and are living for Him.

Some kids may trust Jesus at one point, but struggle with being baptized.  Some aren’t ready, and some may not understand it.  I have known kids who trusted Jesus at eight years of age and then two years later asked their parents if they could be baptized.  That’s not a bad thing.  That’s a great thing!  It means that the Holy Spirit was working in them all that time to help them trust Him even more!

So, how do you explain baptism to a kid?

 

(to be continued…)

 

Talking to Kids about Baptism (Part Two)

I firmly believe that parent’s are responsible for the spiritual discipleship of their children.  That’s the way God set it up.  Long before the church was instituted, the family was how faith was passed from one generation to the next.  Parent’s have influence like no other force in child’s life, despite what you may have heard on the news, television, radio, or read in some Parenting Perfect magazine.

So, having a conversation about trusting in Jesus is really just one of many conversations in life-long discussion about living in faith.

Sometimes, as adults, we can overcomplicate this very simple gospel message.  There are lots of tools out there a quick Google search will bring up.  There are little books you can make of different colors, or bracelets, and each color has a verse, and a quick note about trusting in Jesus (black is sin, red is Jesus’ blood shed for us, He makes us white as snow, so we can be with Him in heaven-yellow, and be baptized in blue water, and grow green in Him every day).

There are ABC acrostics (Admit you are a sinner, Believe in Jesus and what He did for you, and Confess Him as your Savior).  You can even use John 3:16 and your fingers.

The bottom line is, we need to share Jesus with our kids.  You may not have shared Jesus with anyone else in your life, but that’s what Jesus wants us to do.  So, why not start with your family?  I know one thing: if I go through life and lead others to Jesus but never give that opportunity to my own family, I’m going to get it one day.  That’s kind of irresponsible, isn’t it?

Help kids understand they are a sinner.  Ask them if they have ever done anything wrong.  They will probably tell you about some stuff you didn’t know about.  They will also compare themselves to others and tell you how what they did wasn’t that bad.  But it was still a little bad.  And a little bad is still sin.

Help them know that God is holy and perfect.  God is so holy that our sin is like taking steps away from Him.  Because He is perfect, and we aren’t because we make mistakes, we keep moving further away from Him.

Our good works don’t bring us closer to Him.  Being good is nice.  But it isn’t good enough.  Our sin is like building a brick wall.  Nothing good we do can tear it down. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus came to rescue us.  God knew we needed to be rescued.  In fact, He wanted to rescue us because He loves.  So Jesus, who is God’s Son, and is God, and is also perfect, came to pay the price for us.  The penalty of sin was death, and Jesus died on the cross for us.  But – he didn’t stay dead.  What happened three days later?  He rose again!  Because He’s alive, I can be alive too if I ask Him to forgive me and I follow Him forever!

Jesus promises to forgive us if we ask Him.  Asking Him to forgive us means we trust Him completely.  We decide to follow Him and instead of doing what I want, I’m going to start doing what He wants.

Following Jesus means following Him forever.  Following Jesus means that when I mess up, when I sin, I can ask Him to forgive me and to change my heart to not do those things anymore.  It means that I can show love to people who need it.  It means discovering God’s word, the Bible, to find out what He wants.

It’s at this point that some kids will understand and others may not be ready.  I’ve talked with kids to this point many times, and I always ask, “What do you want to do now?”

This is an important wording, because you can talk a kid into almost anything.  If I were to ask, “Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart and live with Him forever?” with a big smile on my face, I think every kid would say yes.  But they may not be that child’s decision.  And one day, when he/she is 20, and questioning everything as 20 year olds do, he/she may look back at that moment and remember it wasn’t their decision at all.  Instead, they might look at that moment and say, “that wasn’t my decision.  I was talked into it.”  And I don’t want that millstone burden on my neck!

So, asking, “What do you want to do now?” leaves it open.  Sometimes, I’ve talked to kids and they say, “I want to go outside and play.”

Sometimes they say, “I want to ask Jesus to forgive me.”  Then we can talk more about that.

(to be continued…)

 

Talking to Kids about Baptism (Part One)

One of the most common things parents ask me is, “How do I know my child is ready for baptism?  They keep bringing it up!”

If they are the ones bringing it up, that’s usually a good sign they might be ready for baptism!

But first, let’s remember what baptism is:

It’s an outward picture of an inside change.

It’s going public with the decision to be follower of Jesus…for life.

It’s being obedient to what Jesus said His followers should do.

One important thing to remember is to help kids understand that getting dunked in water is not salvation.  Salvation is trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and surrendering to Him.  Baptism is something we do after the Holy Spirit has worked in us to bring us to the point that we have trusted Him.

So, we have to ask our kids, “When did you trust Jesus to forgive you of your sin?”

Some kids don’t know because they never have.  They just saw some friends or loved ones get in a pool of water and everyone clapped for them.  No one said anything about sin!

One time I asked this question to a girl at a camp once and she said, “When I was in the shower!  I went back to my cabin and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me.”

You never know what God is doing in the life of a child.  One of the coolest things a parent can do is lead his/her child to Christ.

 (to be continued…)