Lessons from the Life of Robin Williams

Robin williams

 

Last night I was devastated to hear of the news of Robin Williams’ death. However, what saddened me, almost as much, was to see Christian friends writing Facebook posts about what we can learn from his death. Sometimes I think we have to be careful trying to win points off of tragedies. 

Robin Williams was a man I have always admired, despite his obvious struggles. For years I have watched and re-watched clips of him on chat shows and stand up; not even mentioning the numerous times I have seen many of his hit movies. He truly was an entertainer and people were always drawn to him.

So rather than lessons from his death, I would like to instead focus on lessons we can learn from his life:-

  1. We should always be transparent

One of my favorite Robin Williams interviews is from 2007 with Michael Parkinson. Although he entertained as usual I also noticed he freely spoke of rehab and his alcohol addiction. Although his death was unexpected, he made his struggles well known. As leaders we must have transparency in our lives in order to fully steer through the storms of life.

  1. You can always be the life of the Party

His life may have been marked with struggles, but he never let it interfere with his calling. He entertained and was the life of the party no matter what he was going through. As leaders we can admit our brokenness and struggles, but we should never let it get in the way of our calling.

  1. A sense of Humor always wins hearts

Many, many, many people today will mourn the loss of a complete legend. Of course he gave us Good morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doutfire, Good Will Hunting, Hook and many, many more…but I believe it was his spirit and sense of humor that drew people in. Sometimes as leaders it’s important to lighten up, to joke and spread a little joy. This will win the hears of many.

  1. Live with No inhibitions

In his interviews with Michael Parkinson, Robin just oozes confidence and you can see that he thrives off the attention of the crowd. He excelled in the spot light where many people shy away. To remove self awareness and shyness is so important to the life of a leader. We live with eyes on us, especially when on a stage, and while nervousness and fear are natural, they are things we must learn to shake off.

  1. Be a Greater person than you are performer

There are many great performers, of which by far he was the best, but there are few truly great people. Reading through the tributes of the hundreds of people who knew him it is clear to me that he was a humble, kind, generous and sincere man. Many commented about his talent, but all commented about his character. We must learn to excel in Character, rather than rely on our charisma.

Children’s Ministry Nightmares

gordon ramsey meme

One of my favorite shows right now is Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares…in fact…I may be slaughtered for this…but I love anything Gordon Ramsey! On my last two vacations I have visited Las Vegas and eaten at two of Gordon’s restaurants there…the Pub & Grill and Steak. BOTH the meals I had were incredible.

For those who don’t know, the premise of the show is that each episode Gordon tackles a failing restaurant and tries to work with the staff to turn it around. Without fail every week there are arguments and fall outs as Gordon Ramsey tells the owners and chefs just how bad the restaurant and food are!

And without fail EVERY episode either the owner or the Chef is in denial…they are often caught saying, ‘I would rate my food 9/10’ or ‘my restaurant is one of the best in the area.’ The truth is the owners of these businesses become BLINDED by their PRIDE.

In fact, although the general staff ALL knew how bad things were, the owners never heard their complaints. They were always deaf and blind to those close by them. Each week it took Gordon Ramsey, an expert from outside, like a bull in a china shop, to force changes and show the owners a better way!

Last year I invited a children’s pastor with tons of experience to visit my children’s ministry and give feedback on what he saw. We were looking at the best way to renovate our facilities and he had experience in this area. What I received was a ‘Gordon Ramsey’ style review of my children’s ministry that knocked me off my perch. In many ways it was like salt was being poured into my open wounds.

Although the critique was harsh and painful I learnt a lot from it and it gave me the kick in the teeth to get things moving!

So here are some things we can do to keep pride outside:-

 

  1. Always ASK questions
  • It is never the ‘learners’ who are full of pride
  1. Be your biggest critique
  • Remember nothing is perfect and changing is always necessary
  1. Remember where you were without God
  • Its hard to be prideful when your thankful.

 

What are some ways you safeguard yourself from Pride?

 

The Neglected Necessities

I have noticed recently that across the children’s ministry circles I am involved in that a huge area of concentration for most ministries is CREATIVITY. As children’s pastors I think we try as hard as we can to find ways to make the message of the gospel penetrate kids minds. I think the dream of EVERY children’s leader is that their message each week would STICK and that kids would remember it!

A few months ago I began a journey that has slightly distanced me from this though. Don’t get me wrong, I highly value creativity in children’s ministry. We have to work hard to be relatable and relevant to the kids in our ministries. However, I’m fed up of trying to penetrate a kids mind when they primarily need the message of the Gospel to hit their heart.

I strongly believe that kids need to find wholeness through Jesus. They need to experience God in a way that will stick with them forever, but I don’t think that comes through just information but through relationship.

I grew up in a small church Sunday school…every week I learned more about God…I knew of God…but I never KNEW him…until he penetrated my heart with his love. You see we can try hard and work with incredible creativity to help capture kids attention…but if it ends up in their heads and not in their hearts then it’s all pointless.

I believe there are two things, that we often overlook and neglect, that can help move the message of the Gospel beyond the head and to the heart…

  1. Pastoral Ministry

When kids enter our ministry often they come guarding their heart. Especially kids who had been bruised a little by life. God can work through any barrier but I believe that there is something powerful about pastoral care that enables kids to open their hearts for us to speak life into. Too often this falls into the background…but don’t forget we are called to be ‘CHILDREN’S PASTORS!’

  1. The Work of the Holy Spirit

I finally realized a few months ago that I can’t change a child with my words. I can’t teach them to be a better Christian and then just watch them magically do it. It never worked like that for me and it won’t for them. Instead the Holy Spirit is the true teacher and the one who enables us to do that which we couldn’t do on our own. Sometimes I think we ‘save’ the Holy Spirit for camp or special times of the year but I think its imperative that we make space for him to minister to our kids each week in our services.

How do you incorporate these important elements to your children’s ministry?

Summer Outreach Ideas

Children’s pastors today have more resources than ever before to reach children who live in the shadows of the steeple. However, based on the stories I hear children’s pastors tell about their summer outreach, I get the feeling we are missing the mark by only reaching kids who are already attending another church.

There are 22.7 million[1] elementary children within the US. Certainly there are more children to reach than those who are already churched.

Since there is no shortage of “outreach” resources available at the local Christian bookstore, what’s missing? I’m glad you asked… It’s strategy.

Even the best outreach resources will fail at truly reaching the lost if a few key strategic questions are not answered.

 

  1. WHO do you want to reach?

If you want to do outreach, you need to know who you want to reach. Different events will attract different people. For instance, if you’re interested in attracting the local Muslim population, you’re best not hosting a pig roast. Just saying!

We are located in a university town, which means a huge percentage of our parent population is drooling at the thought of their 5 year old child one day receiving a sports scholarship…so in the past we have hosted a sports camp VBS and saw 350 kids attend.

Figure out WHO in your community you want to reach and decide where exactly those people are located. The more specific you are about who you want to reach, the more effective you can be at reaching them!

Keep in mind, that sometimes to reach the WHO in your strategy may mean you need to go to them instead of trying to get them to come to you.

 

  1. What are their NEEDS?

Once you identify your target, you need to get to know your target. Learn their population makeup, their routine, their likes, dislikes, wants and most importantly their NEEDS.

The greatest outreach you can do is one that meets a need. This past summer our church began a summer long kids feeding program in an especially under privileged part of town. Why? It was birthed out of a need. The local school has an extremely high percentage of kids on the free lunch program, so when summer hit the parents of those kids didn’t buy more food for their kids to eat lunch at home. Through that summer we would feed up to 60 kids a day.

By getting to know the people you want to reach, you can decipher what you can do to reach them effectively.

 

  1. What is being MISSED?

A good question to ask yourself in prayer is “What are the needs of kids in my community who are most overlooked?” Consider crafting a special outreach just for them. Find creative ways to show them the love of Jesus and build a relationship.

Sometimes I get the feeling that churches are in a bubble & are blinded to what is around them! It is important to understand what is already being offered for families when strategizing your summer outreach.

VBS is the most commonly used summer activity. While there is nothing wrong with a church doing a VBS, we often fall into a rut of doing the same activity each year simply because it’s known and easy.

I would challenge you to think about where the children are who truly need Jesus this summer and find ways to go to them, throw a party in their honor, and let them see just how much Jesus loves them.

 

  1. What comes NEXT?

If your outreach has been a success and children have made a profession of faith in Christ you will need to be ready for the next step — integration into your church family.

Don’t forget to think about what the child/family’s first service experience will be like. Will their outreach leader be there to greet them at the door? Will they need a ride? Who will go out of their way to ensure each and every child continues to feel special? What if they do not have a Bible, or a friend?

 

I could of written a blog full of ideas for you and your ministry, BUT without a strategy you won’t find your niche and you will never be truly effective at reaching the people your church are called to reach.

 

Now it’s your turn…what do you think? What have I missed? What has worked for you?

[1] http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop1.asp

Lessons from a Karate Kid

karate kid

One of my FAVOURITE hobbies is to watch some of the classic movies of the 80’s and 90’s. Born in 1990 I missed out on being an 80’s kid BUT having 3 older sisters definitely meant I was forever enchanted by movies from that era.

Last night I had a lazy night at home and as I scrolled through netflix one movie stood above the rest…The Karate Kid…the original of course!

There is so much depth to that movie…and Mr. Miyagi is just so freaking cool…although sadly I only just realized the actor who played him died in 2005!

I want to look at 3 key lessons that we can learn from that film:-

 

  1. Never take ‘disciplines’ for granted

Clearly Mr. Miyagi was a man of focus. At times in the movie he is seen praying, meditating, balancing and even trying to catch flies with chop sticks. Mr Miyagi knew it wasn’t about being the greatest fighter but the best person he could be.

Too often I think Kidmin can take ‘disciplines’ for granted. Prayer, reading our bibles and fasting are KEY to the Christian life. We must remember its NOT about being the greatest children’s ministry but about being the greatest Christian we can be. This is most important.

 

  1. Real lessons are learnt out of the classroom

I love how Mr. Miyagi uses the sanding of the floor, the waxing of the car and the painting of the fence and house as training for fighting.

Anyone can pass a degree in a classroom but the most important and deep rooted lessons and skills can never really be taught in a ‘classroom’ setting. Character is forged through discipline and unfortunately the struggles of every day life. You can’t shortcut God’s growth plan for your life by going to seminary….just saying!

 

  1. Don’t ever assume your Leaders intentions

In the movie Daniel was instructed to do some pretty crumby jobs…from his perspective it probably felt like he was being marginalized and used as a slave to get Mr. Miyagi’s odd jobs done. There is a turning point in the movie (probably my favorite part!) where he challenges Mr. Miyagi about the things he is making him do. At that point Mr. Miyagi reveals his full intentions/motivations behind getting him to do those things…and all of a sudden the tables are turned and Daniel is shocked that he has the makings of being a great Karate fighter.

Sometimes as Kidmin we can feel marginalized by our senior pastors. We feel like we are given the difficult jobs or are treated unfairly by our pastors. Sometimes we may just feel their expectations/critiques are too intense. However, its important we don’t make assumptions about their intentions, because often they are working for you rather than against you! Speaking to your pastor about your struggles will always bring more clarity.

 

So….what lessons have you learned from Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid!?

The Art of Simplicity

This Saturday our Church rocked an incredible outreach block party in the roughest area of our neighborhood. It was our third year doing this and by far our best year, especially as far as our kid’s activities!

The outreach was a huge success reaching at least a 1000 people in the neighborhood. We handed out 300 backpacks with school supplies and we had hotdogs, chips and drinks for everyone. However, my favorite part was seeing the CROWDS of people hoarding around the kids activities. Everything we did was a HUGE success and it was all incredibly SIMPLE.

So here is a list of what we did:-

  • Face Painting (ONLY small & simple cheek designs though!)
  • Colored hairspray
  • Removable Tattoos
  • Balloon twisting
  • Old kids Craft – DUCT tape art – Decorating composition notebooks
  • Younger kids craft: chalk & black paper, bubbles & play dough
  • Obstacle races
  • Free play (hula hoops, ropes, balls)
  • Kids fun run

As you can see there was NOTHING groundbreaking! Everything I needed fit into a car and really once you have a base of supplies the cost of maintenance is pretty minimal.

With just a 10 volunteers we were able to bring TONS of smiles to kids faces! I’m learning more and more that Children’s ministry isn’t rocket science and that simplicity carried out with a high standard is often the key to success.

I believe without the free meals or the free backpacks I could still go out with gazeboes, tables and all these activities to any local busy park and draw a crowd!

After all what parent would deny their child free face painting or a free balloon animal?

 

So what simple things do you do to reach out to your neighborhood?

 

Check out our awesome recap video from our days events!