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?

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Life’s a Happy Song?

It pains me to think how easy my life is and just how smoothly I live through it. I have bumps in my own life, but rarely do they stop me or send me off course. As I drive around and I live my life I see people’s needs but they rarely unsettle me either. But as I think about the World I am slowly exposed to its harsh realities; to the suffering and struggles of people every day. When I contemplate the vast extent of the need in this World; I realize I  should be shaken and it should be difficult for me to live as I do.

I am learning more and more that there is OBVIOUS need and INDISCREET need.

Obvious = We see it & can’t escape it. It slaps us in the face as we live our life; we soon become Numb to it!

Indiscreet = What you can’t see; can’t hurt you! Hidden, rarely thought of and hardly ever considered.

In many ways our role as the Church should be to make the INDISCREET —> OBVIOUS! In the poorest area of our town we are acting to do this; first through our Thanksgiving Big Give and now through ‘Project Angel Tree’. We have identified 30 families (around 66 kids), in one area of the City, where at least one parent is incarcerated and we are seeking to make their life that little bit easier at such a commercial and expensive time of the year!

We are throwing them a Christmas Party; providing them with groceries, Christmas decorations and a gift for each Child. As I rang around and spoke to Parents I began to realize the difference this will make. It’s eye opening to realize that not all people approach Christmas with excitement and not all people expect anything special!

As I asked Parents what their Children would need/want I was shocked when a number asked for ‘sleeping bags’ or ‘diapers’ instead of shiny toys or video games. We rarely appreciate the NEED around us. We are blind and ignorant to what people go through! But we must learn to SEE NEED; not just blind ourselves to it. And we must learn to see the NEED as the CALL.

‘Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.

Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.’  (Isaiah 1:17)

We must seek to make the NEEDS of this World Famous and we should Fight to do something about them!

BEING BEFORE DOING

I have been in America a month and already I have experienced so much. In a weeks time I will be in Indiana experiencing my my very first All American Thanksgiving. I’m sure it will prove to be a wonderful time but before it comes we have plenty to do!

Thanksgiving is a massive family celebration in America where food is at the center. Yet as I live in one of the most affluent nations of the World the sheer level of poverty continues to amaze me! In order to provide for the poorest area of our City, Stone Creek Church, set out to host a thanksgiving give away…The Big Give. We are aiming to provide thanksgiving meals for 1000 low income families; which would include a turkey and 1-2 bags of groceries.

Almost 800 families have signed up so far with a week to go and this past week I joined a team which hit the local estate to tell its known disabled residents that we would be personally delivering them groceries even though they hadn’t asked for them. People were so thankful and you could tell the small gesture would make a major difference to their holiday.

When we were signing up one woman she suddenly started to sob as she told us that it must have been God who brought us there at just that moment. She explained that her son had just visited and told her that his pregnant wife, who is 5 months gone, is facing complications over her pregnancy and considering abortion. She was devastated and shaken; and after a short chat we were able to pray for her.

I mention this to say that what Stone Creek Church is DOING is unbelievable but I am learning its easy to pass through life and just get caught up in the doing. But in life it’s important to focus on who your BEING not just what you DOING!

I was so focused on what I was DOING for God; that I almost forgot what I was meant to be BEING for God. I find that when we concentrate on BEING…we can’t help but be DOING! I love DOING social action; but I prefer to be DOING it as a product of my BEING! Otherwise you get so caught up in DOING that we miss the opportunities where we need to be BEING!

Open to Anyone

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Last week I spent a week helping lead the kids ministry for a Christian camp. Such a ministry can often require a sizeable team and we therefore had to look further a field for volunteers who would be willing to take the week off work. Two of the recruits were a young non-Christian couple; one of whom had grown up in the Church. Both excelled throughout the week, showed a real love for the kids and by the end of the week had given their lives to Jesus.

 

How amazing is that!? It was a great week…but one thing caused me sadness. Before the week had even begun I separately spoke to two mature Christians who were both unhappy that the Church leadership would allow non-Christians on the team. Their concerns were understandable and they weren’t out to hurt anyone; but I was struck with the thought that at times the Church is so hesitant to allow people to belong that we end up hindering people from experiencing God’s love.

 

The Church community cannot afford to be a closed community with a member’s only lounge that others can’t access! We must allow people to get up close to see our lives and experience his love. When we allow people to belong before they believe or behave; we simply model grace. Jesus’ perfectly modelled it with Judas. A man who has robbing him and who he knew would betray him… yet a man he allowed in his life from dawn til dusk, for 3 life changing years. Jesus withheld nothing from him, treated him like the others, sending him out to heal (Mark 6), embracing him instead of rejecting him…he even washed his feet.

 

The challenge is to make a way for people to belong in your life and your Church. What people experience through belonging will soon break what they believe and bring their behaviour into line. Lives will change when they are allowed to get close enough to experience God’s Love.

Down and Dirty

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After a week on a youth camp in Wales I have possible just had one of the messiest times of my life. A side from the sweat that comes with grafting at such events; I have giant scratches from a water slip n slide and the smell of fish trapped in my clothing from fish-gut infested water we dunked the kids heads in! I saw teenagers hurl up their entire weeks food in front of me due to the games we played and others just constantly caked in mud from rolling down hills. Yet not everyone got messy; some people held back  as they were afraid to get their hair wet or their clothes ruined.

It all got me thinking though that as Christians we are called to get messy! We are called to lead messy lives! But some of us don’t…we count the cost & decide its not worth it! You see the truth is that people are messy; their lives don’t fit in the box that we would put them in.

For the non-Christian that if fine because they can care about number 1 and number 1 only! But as Christians we are purposed and called to enter the mess of other peoples lives to bring life and peace! We are called to get down and dirty! The cost may be great but the rewards are worth it! When we choose to get involved; we choose to make an impact in the lives of others! We get messy to bring hope to the hopeless!

Chaos Creates Opportunity

When the world sees the devastating reality of what the flesh can do
they are often shocked to their core.
When we remember the riots across the UK last summer we see that
most people found it completely disgraceful. When we saw terrorists
kill thousands on 9/11 the World stood still in shock that anyone could act
in such a way. Sadly it is often only in these times that we see the true
unattractive and repulsive nature of sin.
Yet through the chaos of these devastating events an opportunity was created and was taken by the Church.
An opportunity to take our light and our Hope to a broken world.
On 9/11 pastors around North America were invited to lead the nation through their mourning.
Through the riots in the UK the Church responded by cleaning up the streets.

I like the idea that for every action from the World, the Church has the ability to give an equally powerful but opposite action that can often restore the chaos that sin creates.

Its a challenge to the Church to take the evil of this world & to show the Love of God.
Chaos creates an opportunity for the Church to Restore & Heal.
Are we seeing & taking our opportunities?

The Hidden Weapon

The hidden weapon the Church holds in this broken World is the Love of God.
When actioned it will lead to restoration and new creation.
But more importantly it radiates everything at the core of the Gospel.
The problem is…it is often hidden.
Do you ever wonder what could happen if we practiced the Love of God in Church community?
Love actioned is loud. Like a fat woman singing at the opera. People hear of it and it takes them by surprise.
We talk a lot about reaching the community. But until we model a community of love for the unbeliever
we will only move them from one mess to another.
When one hurts, we should all hurt. When one rejoices we should all rejoice. When one grieves, we all grieve.
That is the loving community God desires us to model. That is the community which will shine the brightest.
Because whether we hurt, rejoice or grieve. We do it together. We don’t just feel. But we act on how we feel.