Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bear at the End of The Street...

I sometimes wonder why I live in Michigan. It is freezing cold. Several feet of snow cover the ground. And although there is nothing more lovely than sunshine sparkling on snow, our sunshine is in short supply. And winter days are long. But without the snow, I never would have seen the wonderful bear who took up residence one day at the end of our street....

Quietly, the snow bear sits in his front yard and smiles at passers by. Cars slow down, and windows open as children point their little fingers and marvel at him.

And I wonder at the ingenuity and creativity of the one or the ones who made him...
I do not know how many hands worked together to fashion and mold that bear. I do not know how long it took to smooth and reshape the snow until that bear looked just the way its creator intended. But what I do know is that every time I see it, it makes me smile. That bear brings a little bit of sunshine into my winter day.

And as silly as it seems, as I work in children's ministry, I want to be like that bear. I want to be fashioned, molded and shaped until I look just the way God intended.... so that when people see me, they will smile.

And maybe, like that bear that is so wonderfully made, I might be able to bring a little bit of sunshine into someone's winter day.

I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Do Your Children Take Away From Worship?

What is worship to you?
Why do you attend worship?

These were just two of the many questions that our pastor asked in church this morning as part of her challenging, thought provoking, and eloquent sermon. She had just finished explaining to our youngest children what frankincense was, as they gathered around the altar in the quietness, and smelled its sweetness, and watched as the smoke curled and climbed slowly up to the heavens.

Do we see the enormity of what we're doing here? She had asked the congregation later.

And I would guess that for most people, the answer to that would be no. After all, don't many of us come to worship because it is our weekly routine? For me, growing up as the daughter of a preacher, and then later being married to a pastor, attending worship every Sunday has been a weekly routine of mine all my life.

But while worship might sometimes be routine, it should never be mundane.
When we come to worship we choose to take our place in the ancient story that will reveal to us who we are, our pastor had said. Wow! You mean that I am part of God's ancient story? That I have a place at God's altar where incense rises like sweet perfume to God Almighty, the maker of the whole earth?

I do. You do. All of us have a place there. And so do each of our children. 

Let us never attend worship to be entertained. Let us never attend worship because it is our routine. Let's attend worship ready to meet with the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent maker of the universe, who has a purpose for each one of us and whose earnest desire is to send us out into the world to be a light to those who walk in darkness.

And this is my prayer, for the little ones we bring to worship each week...that they might have a glimpse of the enormity of what we really do when we gather together as God's family, and know, deep within their being, as I suspect our children did this morning when they watched that sweet perfume rise, that, in the words of our pastor,
worship is a moment in time, a gift of God's grace shared by God's beloved....
that they are indeed part of God's ancient story that will slowly but surely reveal to them who they are.

Is this part of what your children take away from worship each week? And if not, how can we make that happen?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

3 Lessons You Can Learn From The Megachurch

A repost from 2010...but the lessons are still current!

Have you ever wished you were serving in ministry somewhere else? Several years ago, my husband and I took our team of teachers to visit a 'megachurch'. It was amazing! As I watched hundreds of excited kids zooming down tubular slides into their 'classrooms' below, I couldn't help but covet what I saw. All I could think was, I want to be in ministry here. But God did not call me to serve in a 'megachurch'. God called me to serve in a 'minichurch.'

The next day, as I stood forlornly in our children's ministry space, looking around at the drab furnishings and out of date supplies, I realized I had a choice.

I could either forever covet what the megachurch had, or I could learn from them, and do my very best in the place to which I had been called. I chose the latter, and in doing so, learned 3 important lessons:

  • It's not about how many resources we have, but how resourceful we can be.

  • It's not about being big, but about being our best.

  • It's not about how many kids we bring to our programs, but how many kids we bring to Christ.

That experience served to rejuvenate our space, our teachers, and our passion for children's ministry. Today, even though I still love the energy of the megachurch, I no longer covet what they have. Instead, I try to look to them to see what I can learn. I love what Pastor Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church in Australia said:

I actually think we have a responsibility to represent God with excellence, and that doesn't mean perfection. It just means that we give our heart and our soul and that we actually represent him well.
Serving with excellence is not the prerogative of the megachurch, but the priority of every church. Whether we serve in a megachurch or a minichurch does not really matter. Are we representing God with excellence? Are we giving our heart and soul to our Children's Ministry every single week?
Because if we are, then that's all that really matters.

Monday, January 6, 2014

3 Things To Remember When Ministry Gets Hard...

Don't give up now Mum! my son yelled cheerily, as he jumped over me like a mountain goat. I was sitting on a rock, out of breath, perched halfway above the world. It was 1998, and we were climbing Stickle Tarn in Northern England.

The Lake District was one of our favorite places of all time. I can still close my eyes and see the little villages, the cobbled paths, the sheep dotted on the hillsides, our four young sons running ahead of us. I can still smell the rain on the grass and hear the rush of my favorite waterfall as it tumbles over the rocks. 

I can do this I kept repeating to myself, as I picked up my backpack and dragged my weary body back on to the hillside path. This was only 1500 feet...a mere 1500 feet my son had said. I looked around at all the other families who were cheerfully climbing this monstrous mountain. They all seemed to be doing fact, they were all passing me by. It was discouraging.  I wished I were somewhere else. I looked up to see how far ahead my sons and my husband were...but they were out of sight.

I contemplated sitting down, and just admiring the view from where I was. Maybe I could just meet the rest of my family on their descent?

But I didn't give up. And as I puffed and panted my way around the last peak, I saw something that truly did take my breath away. Nestled quietly on top of that peak was a little lake, shaped like a tear drop, totally hidden from view to climbers below. Who knew it was there? It was an unbelievably beautiful sight, a true reward after all my hard work. And if I had not climbed, I never would have seen it.

And this is what I try to remember when I am feeling weary in ministry, or wishing that I served somewhere else:

  • Don't compare yourself to others, especially when they seem to pass you by.

  • It's okay to take a break, as long as you get back on track.

  • Never quit. Keep climbing- because you don't know what will be there when you reach the top.
And if you give up, you'll never get to see it.