YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.
Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.
There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.
1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.
Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).
2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.
So we did a weekend of Messy Church recently, that consisted of 2 hour segments on the topic of the “I Am’s” of Jesus. I would recommend along with leaders at the stations, you have a time keeper to keep the stations and children moving. These Messy Church plans can be adapted and adjusted to meet your church’s needs and the demographics of your congregation. I will also add that you invite your older members and adults to participate and perhaps even become a child in a way to help the children stay engaged. (This can be a challenge, but it is very effective when done correctly)
Theme: “I am the vine”
Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
The Fruit of the Spirit Song 5 Minutes
Instruct Kids and Teachers
1) Bobbing for apples 20 minutes Items Needed: 1 Large basin or feeding trough
4-10 bags of apples depending on the size.
Lots of water
This station is pretty self-explanatory, tell the kids this is a timed activity.
Kids are to put their hands behind their backs and, using only their teeth, pick an apple out of the basin. Use your phone/stop watch to time the kids to determine who has the fastest time in retrieving an apple. Have the kids try this a few times (of course replace “used” or gross apples with new ones), make sure everyone gets a chance to try this activity.
After everyone has taken a turn ask these questions:
What was the object of this game?
Did you think bobbing for apples was hard or easy?
Who here likes apples?
What kind of apple is your favorite? (types of apples include: Granny Smiths, Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Golden Delicious…just to name a few)
Say: Apples are an amazing fruit that grows on trees.
Each apple grows from a tiny seed that can be found inside of these apples.
Apple trees grow from these seeds and can take up to 3 years to grow and produce new apples.
Apple Trees needs pruning from time to time in order for better fruit to develop.
Ask: What would happen on an apple farm if an apple tree didn’t produce apples?
(answer: it would be cut down and a new tree would be planted in its place)
Matthew 15 verse 4 says, “. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
God wants us to love Him and always keep His word in our hearts. If we do this, we will be able to witness to others through the way that we live our lives. And this is what it means to bear fruit!
Ask: What are ways that we can show God’s love towards others?
-At this time send the kids to the next station-
2) Vine Bracelet Craft 20 Minutes
the trick is using something called a braiding disc, or braiding loom. It’s just a round piece of cardboard with some slots in it, but it makes bracelet-weaving a lot easier compared to the bracelet-making method described in most books .
Ready? First up, you’ll need to gather your materials.
Friendship Bracelet (The whole kits are available at Michaels and other craft stores)
All you need is:
7 strands of yarn, each 2 feet long
1 piece of cardboard, e.g. breakfast cereal box
pair of scissors
Step 2: Make the Starting Knot
Line up the ends of your 7 strands of yarn, then tie a simple overhand knot like this. Make it so that there’s about 1″ (2cm) of loose ends poking out of the knot.
Step 3: Put the Yarn on the Braiding Disc
Poke the knotted end of the yarn bundle through the hole in the center of the braiding disc, like this:
Then clip one piece of yarn into each slot, except the top slot. Your braiding disc should look like this:
Step 4: Braid Your Friendship Bracelet
Braiding your bracelet with the disc is really easy. There are just two steps to learn and repeat.
Hold the disc so that the empty slot is at the top. Un-clip whichever yarn is in the bottom-right slot and clip it in to the top slot, like this:
Now the bottom right slot will be empty. So, rotate the whole disc so that the empty slot is at the top again, like this:
Now, just keep repeating Step A, Step B, Step A, Step B etc, and your bracelet will grow. It seems a bit like magic the first time but it really works!
As you continue, you’ll see your bracelet growing down through the hole in the center of your braiding disc, like this:
Step 5: Un-clip from Braiding Disc
Once the bracelet is long enough to go around your wrist, in-clip it from the braiding disc. It should look something like this:
(I used a bit too much yarn on this one, so the loose ends are quite long.)
Step 6: Tie Finishing Knots
Tie an overhand knot (just like in step 2) right at the point where the braiding ends. Then tie another overhand knot about 2/3″ (1.5cm) away. Trim the loose ends. The end of your bracelet should now look like this:
After the craft, or during SAY:
What would happen if one of these threads were taken out?
What would happen if one of these threads wasn’t included in the braid?
Would you notice? (Of course you would!)
Each thread is just as important as the next, without each piece doing its part in this bracelet, it cannot become what we want it to be.
Think about how God sees us.
He loves each and every one of us.
We are all different, with many different gifts and abilities.
A part from one another, we are all unique and beautiful…but what happens when we put all of us together like these threads? What happens when we all agree, and we have this thing called “Unity”? Is that a good thing?
Say: Just like these threads, when put together, we are so much stronger than when we are a part. Today in our scripture verse, God tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. This means that with God all things are possible, and when we are connected to Him, we are so much stronger! He wants for us to be connected to Him.
Ask: How can we stay connected with God?
(Praying, Reading the Bible, going to Church, hanging out with other Christians…)
So today, as a reminder of how we are to be connected with God, think about this every time you look at this bracelet or as you wear it. Remember that God loves you and has connect us together in an amazing way!
3) Vine Stomping Painting: 20 Minutes
Items Needed: Large Basin – enough for 1 or 2 kids to stand in.
Large Bottles of Paint – Purple, Green, Blue…etc
1 -2 large water basins for washing feet afterwards
Long roll of butcher block paper or construction sheet paper
Instructions: *this will get messy!**
One or two at a time (depending on the size of the basins of paint) have the kids take off their shoes and socks and place them to the side neat and tidy so they don’t lose them afterwards.
Roll out the butcher block paper ahead of time onto the floor – long enough so that every child can get their feet onto the long paper. Once the kids get into the paint basin, have them stomp down (but not so hard that they splatter paint out the basin, just enough for them to feel the paint between their toes). Once their feet are adequately covered in paint, have the kids carefully (CAREFULLY!!) Step out of the basin and right onto the Butcher block paper. Have them create grapes on the vine by only using their feet as the paint brush.
Ensure every child gets a chance to do this creative activity, once they have completed the painting, have each child wash their feet off in the other water basin and dry them with paper towels, perhaps have an extra adult help them in and out of the basins (both the paint and water basins)…to avoid anyone from slipping and falling.
Following the painting activity, have the kids sit down for just a few moments and ask these questions:
Ask: So what was your favorite part of this painting activity?
What was your least favorite part?
Who likes getting messy here?
Who can’t stand getting messy?
Say: So let me ask you about grapes, does anyone like to eat grapes or drink grape juice?
Did you know that a long time ago in order to make grape juice and wine people had to get into large basins like these and stomp the grapes with their feet until they made the grape juice? It must have been a sticky job, but in Jesus’ day grapes were used a lot.
The bible verse that we are learning about today is all about the vine and grapes…Jesus used this idea with those he spoke to in order for them to understand how important a life with God should be. Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches”
Ask: does that sound like they are connected?
How are the grapes connected to the vine?
(Branches from the vine connect the grapes, without these branches there will not be any fruit)
How do we stay connected to Jesus?
What do we do to stay close to Him?
4) Outdoor activity20 Minutes
Outdoor or Indoor. This game is a normal game of tag with an added twist. When “it” tags someone, the person becomes part of “it.” Then the two of them must run hand in hand and catch their next victim who will join them. Last one caught by the “Blob” is the winner! The purpose of this game is to get everyone connected. We are the branches and Jesus is the Vine. If we stay in Him, we’ll bear much fruit! Even though the winner is the last one standing, the intentions behind this game is to show that God wants us to be connected to His son always.
5) Devotional & Music 5-10 Minutes
(If time permits) Song: Fruit of the Spirit Video Item Needed: Lamp and extension cord
Ask: So what did you learn tonight?
Who is the Vine?
Who is the Branches?
What was your favorite Messy Church activity tonight?
I am sure that you all know the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” I want you to help me sing that song this evening. While we sing it, I’m going to hold this light up and let it shine all around. (Start to sing the song, but stop when you notice that the light isn’t shining.) I wonder what is wrong, my light isn’t shining. (Someone will probably notice that it isn’t plugged in.) Oh, here’s the problem, my light isn’t plugged in.
Now that we are plugged in, let’s try it again. (Sing) Oh, that was much better. The lamp was shining brightly, wasn’t it? It’s pretty hard for a light to shine when it isn’t connected to the power source, isn’t it? Well, actually, it isn’t just hard — it’s impossible!
In our Messy Church lesson today, Jesus told his disciples a story to teach them the importance of staying connected to him. Of course Jesus didn’t use a lamp to tell his story, because electricity hadn’t even been invented yet. Instead, Jesus used an example that his disciples would understand. He used the example of a vine. You know what a vine is, don’t you? It is a plant with a lot of branches growing out from it. The branches have fruit on them. If it is a grapevine, the branches should have grapes on them.
Have you ever seen a branch that has been broken off of a tree or a vine? What happens to it? That’s right, it withers up and dies. Can it ever have any fruit on it again? No, it isn’t any good for anything — except fire wood.
Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will have much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to produce a lot of fruit. Good fruit like being kind, generous, and faithful. Most of all, he wants us to love others as he has loved us.
Can we do that on our own? No way. Just as the lamp must be plugged in before its light can shine, and just as the branches must be connected to the vine before they can produce fruit, you and I must stay connected to Jesus to produce the good fruit that God expects of us.
Close in Prayer
Theme: “I am the Good Shepherd”
Scripture Verse – John 10:7-11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Introduction and Instruction:5minutes
Read the scripture with the children. Say: Today we are going to learn about Jesus the Good Shepherd and how we are to be His sheep who listen to Him and follow Him.
Dismiss to the first station together:
1) Sheep Collage craft20 minutes
Lead the kids through this simple of craft of creating sheep.
Help kids to cut out the sheep body outline, place cotton balls on the body, attach popsickle sticks to legs for support, and ensure all of the kids complete this project.
As you are creating the craft (or after)
Say: What kind of sound does a sheep make?
What kind of food do sheep eat?
Are sheep very smart animals? (The answer is no, they will often eat grass and wander around and often get lost if they aren’t watched closely).
What sort of things do sheep produce? (Wool – clothing, coats, socks…, and meat).
Say: Our scripture today tells us that the sheep hear Jesus’ voice and they will follow him, but they will not listen to the thief or the robber…why do you think that is?
Jesus can be trusted to lead us, because he loves us…just like the shepherd loves his sheep, to the point that he will lay down his life for them…Jesus did just that for us didn’t he? He died on the cross to save us from sin. As we go to the next station, I want you to think about Jesus who is the good shepherd who leads us.
2) Sheep cookies to frost & decorate20minutes Bring kids to the cookie table but encourage them not to eat or grab anything yet.
In this station we ended up using squares of graham crackers, cookie frosting, edible fondant eyes, and marshmallows to complete the ‘Sheep’ cookie creations. The other option is to make sugar cookies and create their designs with frosting, icing and other food decorating items.
Say: We just finished creating our own sheep by putting wool on it and you talked about Jesus being the good shepherd. What makes Jesus the good shepherd and not just the “okayist” shepherd? (He loves us, he died for us, He’s God’s one and only Son)…
Ask: What is your favorite flavored cookie? (Chocolate Chip, Sugar cookie, Gingerbread, shortbread, oatmeal raisin etc.)
What makes that cookie flavor your favorite?
Read:2 Corinthians 2:15 says; “For we are to God a sweet smell of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish…”
This world needs more of the sweetness of Christ! Ask: Do you know who can share this sweetness of Christ with others? Answer: You can! We all can! Say: When we share our things with others – the sweetness of Christ. When we tell others about Jesus – it is the sweetness of Christ. When we love other people even if they don’t love us back – that is the sweetness of Christ.
So as a reminder of how we are to be this sweetness of Christ for other people, we are going to decorate these sheep cookies with frosting and sprinkles…let’s get messy and creative!
3) Pin the wool tail on the sheep game20Minutes
Directions: Just like pin the tail on the donkey, we are going to pin the wool on the sheep.
Say: We need help to put the wool on the sheep, but of course, we have to do it blindfolded.
This can be a tricky game to play, but let’s give it a shot. (make sure you blindfold the kids tight enough so they cannot see, then spin them around a few times before allowing them to seek out the sheep with the wool in hand.
4) Outdoor activity
Barbarian Capture the flag:25 Minutes
Teams of 4 are competing against each other to get the other teams’ gold and to capture other team’s’ players, and put them in your jail.
Using two ropes, or red surveyor’s tape, divide the field into 4 sections. Each section has one prison area, which is marked off with either ducttape or surveyor’s tape. Each section also has a “gold depot” which is marked using hula-hoops or tape. Each team has their own color, which is a flag strip tucked into the front of each player’s pants. Every team gets an equal amount of “gold” to start the game, which is white socks, gold socks, and 1 gray work sock.
Start of Game:
When whistle blows, teams begin the attack. Another team can only catch you if you are in their section; likewise, you can only catch others in your own section (if you are “green” and you run into the “red” section, then you run across to the “yellow section, red can no longer capture you, but yellow now can). When you capture another team member, take their flag and report to the middle of the field to the scorekeeper, then return flag to the person in your prison.
In addition to capturing opposing team players, you are also trying to get their “gold”, without getting caught. You can only take 1 gold piece at a time, and if you are caught inside an opposition section, you must return gold to that team (no throwing gold into your own section).
What Happens When Caught:
Having your flag removed by another team player inside their section gets you caught. When this happens, you report to their prison area and can only get out of prison if a teammate tags you out, without getting caught themselves. If your teammate gets caught trying to free you, they must join you in the jail area. Once you successfully get tagged out, you and your teammate get a free passage back to your section. NOTE (the game coordinator may call “jailbreak” and free everyone in jail in all the sections at any given time, usually when there is a lop-sided number of players in prison).
How the Game is Won:
The game is won by accumulating points for every prisoner your teammates catch, and for each piece of “gold” left at the end of the game. You can run out of gold during the course of the game, but still get points by capturing prisoners and trying to grab other gold from enemy sections. The team with the most accumulated total points at the end is the winner.
White Socks- 3000 points each
Gold Socks- 5000 points each
Gray Socks- 10,000 points each
Prisoners- 1000 each player
Large, open playing area
2 Ropes (100+ feet each is ideal)
4 different colored flags, one for each section
White, yellow, gray socks
Bean bag fill for each sock
Scorers pad and pen
Duct tape and/or hula-hoops
Red surveyors or caution tape
The purpose of this game is to reveal the intentions behind the thief’s motives – all he wants is to steal what belongs to God. This is a great way to show that. I think the youth will enjoy this a lot.
5) Build a sheep pen10 Minutes Minute to win it block game – build the tallest “sheep pen” as quickly as possible within the 60 second time constraint. The person with the fastest time and tallest sheep pen wins a prize.
6) Devotional / Music10-15 Minutes
Ask: So what did we learn today?
Who is the good shepherd?
Who are the sheep?
Why is it important to listen to Jesus and follow Him?
BIBLE VERSE: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV
Talk about shepherds and sheep. Explain to the children how sheep are not very bright, and they need a shepherd to take care of them, to bring them to green grass and pure water to drink. A good shepherd makes sure the sheep are happy and safe.
1. What will a good shepherd do for his or her sheep?
Jesus tells us that He is our Good Shepherd. What does this mean to you?
Today our Bible story is from the book of John. Jesus is talking about Heaven with the Pharisees and how He is the only way to get to Heaven. Jesus decided to use an example to help them understand. He compared Himself to a good shepherd and all of us to sheep. However, the Pharisees probably still didn’t understand. Let’s read the story, and find out what Jesus is saying to us.
Read John 10:11-15 (The Good Shepherd and His Sheep)
What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
Do we have a good shepherd? (Yes.) Who is our Good Shepherd? (Jesus.)Close in a song (optional) and a word of prayer.
If we end early, a video will be put on for the kids to enjoy, or we will play the above outdoor game again.
Saturday Evening PM
Theme: “I Am the Light of the world”
Scripture Verse – John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Introduction & Instruction time: 5 Min
Reiterate the weekend theme again, ask what the children have learned by recapping the sessions.
Then introduce today’s theme and sing a song or two (optional).
1) Stained glass mosaic craft 20 Min
Using a card stock frame, kids are to layer the bright tissue paper across the middle of the frame using glue or tape in order to make the faux stained glass. Encourage the children to use as many colors as possible or if there are some really creative/artistic students, have them design a dove, cross or other symbol within their stained glass frame.
As the craft is taking place engage the students in this conversation piece: Ask: What is your favorite color in this stained glass craft and why?
Which would you rather experience, complete darkness or a sunny day?
Is anyone scared of the dark?
What scares you about the darkness?
Why does having a night light or flashlight help?
(See where you are going, safety at night…)
Say: When stained glass was first put into churches, it was during a time when most people couldn’t read and only rich people owned books because they were very expensive. So people would come to church and look up at these amazing stained glass windows, and it wasn’t only that they were beautiful to look at, but each window told a story. There were shapes and colors that made up the image of Jesus on the cross…and then next to it would be another window with Jesus standing at the open tomb…and all of these windows could be seen because the light was shining through them.
In our scripture verse today, Jesus tells the listeners, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus was telling the listener and even us today that the true light of Heaven comes only through Him…when we choose to follow Jesus, and when we choose to let His light shine in our lives, we have His eternal light in us that will never be extinguished. His light will guide us each step of the way. So as you look at your stained glass creation, may it remind you of the Light of Jesus, and may it help you to walk in His light!
2) Star creation craft 20 Min
Kids will glue/tape popsicle sticks together to make a star:
After securely gluing or taping the sticks into a star shape, kids will paint, bedazzle and design their stars. Glow in the dark tape will also be available, but use this sparingly. Ask the kids to name different stars and constellations.
(Star example: Northern Star, Sirius, Vega… Constellation Names: Milky Way, Andromeda, Aries, Aquarius…etc.)
Ask: Can somebody tell me how many stars are in the sky? Answer: In the Milky Way alone there are over 250 Billion Stars… Say: That’s like saying how many grains of sand is on a sandy beach or on the ocean floor. That is a really, really HUGE number!
It is amazing to think that God created the Heavens and the Earth and He created all of the stars including the 250 Billion Stars just in the Milky Way Galaxy!! And even with so many amazing things in our universe, God shines His light on us because we are extremely special to Him! Out in space there are places that are very, very dark, but we are in a place in the Universe that is just right for creation and for all kinds of life. We have a great big fire ball in the sky called what? (Answer: the Sun) that is out in the day time, and a moon at night.
Also the stars in the sky have been used for thousands of years to give travelers and explorers direction on this earth. Isn’t this an amazing thing that God has created? May this star that you just created remind you of the light of God and the fact that He guides us with His light. Also may we recognize just how big our universe is and how much God comes to our tiny corner of the world and shines for us. Because He loves us!
3) Game: The Light of the World 25 Min
Scripture : Matthew 5:14
YOU WILL NEED: A bag with slips of paper that tell something to do. Samples are on the last
Choose a volunteer—This volunteer will reach in the bag and pull out a slip of paper. The slip of
paper will instruct the student what to do. This student will be the “Light,” showing everyone else what to do. The “Light” may not speak (unless the instructions say so) but should lead everyone in accomplishing what is written. Once you, as the station leader, sees that the instructions have been followed, tell everyone to give him a hand, then point to someone else and say, “Be the Light.” They’ll come forward and thus the game continues. If a student doesn’t want to lead, don’t make them, but let everyone who wants to go have that opportunity.
After the game: Ask:
What was hard about being the Light?
What was fun about being the Light?
Did anyone feel embarrassed about being the Light?
Was anyone concerned about looking silly or foolish?
Read Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
How does this verse remind you of our game? (Both of them talk about the light; everyone
can see a city on a mountain, and everyone could see us doing the instructions.)
What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the light”? (That we should live in such a
way that our lives are like a light that guides other people to God; and shine, or show them, His
life and love.
When you’re at school, why is it sometimes hard to be a light? (I don’t always want to do the
right thing; some people think you’re weird if you’re a Christian; I might be embarrassed? I’m
afraid I would look silly; my friends want to do wrong things.)
SAY: It can be hard to be a light. But when we shine Jesus’ love to our friends, we’re doing the
best thing we can, which is showing someone about Jesus. By being a light Jesus isn’t asking
you to do silly things, like what we did in our game. Jesus wants you to bring hope, courage,
and joy to people. He wants you to follow God’s Word and tell everyone that Jesus saves us. SAY: It’s both easy and fun to tell other people about Jesus. It’s as simple as saying, “Jesus
loves you,” or “Jesus will take care of you.” You can shine Jesus’ light to anyone you know
by your words and by how you live.
How can you shine your light so others can see Jesus in you?
What do you think would be some things people do on a playground or in sports
that show they are following the light? What are things people might do when
they are living in darkness?
What would happen if you stood up for someone being picked on in the
playground? How would that person feel? How would the bully feel? How would
you feel? How would Jesus feel?
What would stop you from telling a friend, “Jesus will take care of you,” the next
time they are afraid or upset? How do you think they might respond?
When you see someone at school get hurt, do you ever think about praying for
them? When you hear someone at school say a cuss word, do you ever think
about asking them not to use that kind of language around you?
Is there anything in your life that you do that Jesus wouldn’t like? Does that feel
like darkness? Who can tell more about how it feels when you feel guilty for
something? How can Jesus’ light that guides you help?
5) Camp Fire and S’Mores time. 15 – 25 Min
6) Devotional/ Music 10 -15 Min
Around the camp fire have the kids sit around the pavilion tables. Ask: What was your favorite part of the tonight’s Messy Church?
Theme: Reflecting the light of Christ
Song: This little light of mine..
Object: A mirror and a flashlight
Read Scripture: There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1: 6-9 (NIV)
Say: Have you ever sat outside on a bright sunny day and used a mirror to reflect the sun’s light? If one of you will take this flashlight and shine it on me I will show you what I mean. You see, as the light shines on me, I hold up my mirror and I can reflect the light to shine on you. I am not the light, I am just letting my mirror reflect the light to shine on you.
Say: If I am going to reflect the light on you, there are a couple of things that are very important: I must keep my mirror facing toward the light. If I turn away from the light, I cannot reflect the light. I must make sure that nothing comes between the light and me. If that happens, I cannot reflect the light. The Bible tells us that “There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Who do you think the true light is that the Bible said was coming into the world? That is right! It was Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. In our focus verse today, Jesus even declared to the listeners “I am the Light of the world…”
So, if we accept Jesus as our light then you and I need to be like John. The Bible says that we are to let our light shine, but we need to remember that “Our Light” is Jesus. We are not the light, we are just mirrors that reflect His light. If we are going to reflect the light of Jesus, we must remember a couple of things:
We must keep our faces turned toward Jesus.
We must not let anything come between us and Jesus.
When we remember those two things, we will reflect His light to the entire world.
Pray: (something to this effect) Dear Jesus, we want to reflect your light in the world. Help us to keep our faces turned toward you and help us to keep anything from coming between us and you. Amen.
Theme: “I Am the way”
Scripture Verse – John 14:6
Intro to today’s Messy Church (DYS or Assigned Officers will lead this) 5 Min
Today we are going to begin our Messy Church with a scripture verse of John 14:6
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Suggested Themed Music Videos you could play at the beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueMQV2Ax-MM
So in just a few minutes we are going to begin by heading to our first station, but first I want us to say our scripture verse together out loud, let’s read it together:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Are you ready for Messy Church today?
Let’s open with a word of prayer and then we will go off to our first station.
Pray and Dismiss
Pitcher of Water
Directions: Pour the water into the bowl.
Then rub the needle on the magnet about 10 -15 times
Place the small cork piece into the water, then place the needle on top of the floating cork.
As you do this, explain to the children that the needle, having picked up some of the magnetic attraction from the magnet is now starting to face magnetic north. So it spins until it points north and south. Tell the kids: Now, the Bible is a lot like this in our lives too. When we read about Jesus and what He did while on earth we begin to know more about God, and when we begin to know more about God, we begin to live for Him and we start to point others toward Him through our Godly examples.
Ask: What does it looks to live for God?
(get some of the kids to answer).
Why does it matter if we live for God or we don’t live for God?
Read: Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26 Message Version)
Jesus wants us to point others to God while we follow Him.
If we don’t listen and we don’t care about other people, they may not see God through our lives. So today, I pray that God will give you a love for others in your heart. Let God lead you, and may your words and your actions point others to God.
Let the kids take turns in re-trying this experiment while comparing it to the compass to make sure it is pointing to magnetic North.
2)outdoor game 25 Min
Blind fold obstacle course:
Create an obstacle course (a playground works GREAT) and get your students or leaders to go in pairs. One from each pair is blindfolded, and the other will lead him or her through the obstacle course by using only their voice.
The purpose of this game is to help the person who’s blindfolded navigate the course by only hearing the voice that’s directing them
We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale
Circle up the kids and ask them about the game – Ask:
How did you feel when you were blindfolded?
Did you trust the person who was leading you through the obstacle course?
How many things did you run into?
Does it help to have someone there who is looking out for you and helping you?
How confident are you that you could have made it through the obstacle course on your own?
Sometimes life is a lot like this obstacle course.
We often do not know how things are going to go in the future, or even in the next hour. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing. Trusting God can seem like a scary thing at times, especially when we have some big decisions to make in life. But do you know what? God promises to never leave us or forsake us. So sometimes, during this obstacle course we may have doubted the person who was leading us, and maybe we even tripped or ran into something because they didn’t lead us very well…But God isn’t like that. He loves us very much and He will lead us through the good and the bad times. So as we think about Jesus being the way, truth and life today, remember the God leads us and wants what is best for our lives.
3) Devotional / Music (20 Minutes) 20 Min
What was your favorite station today?
Which station did you not like and why?
Can anyone tell me what our theme for today has been?
Recap Scripture Verse (or if time allows, have one or a few of the kids stand and read it for the group)
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(Suggested Text or can be adapted)
A map and a portable GPS (Even a phone with a map app on the screen)
There was a time when a person going on a trip wouldn’t think of beginning their journey without a road map. (Hold up the map for the children to see.) The map was very helpful to the traveler in finding the way to where they were going. Today we seldom ever use a road map. Do you know why? Most of us who own a car also have a GPS in our car. (Hold up the GPS.) How does the GPS work? When you are ready to go somewhere, you type in the address where you want to go and the GPS connects to a satellite up above the earth and computes the path to your destination. As soon as you start driving, a map appears on the screen and a voice from the GPS gives you turn by turn directions. “Turn right on Main Street in one mile, turn right in one half mile, turn right in 150 feet, turn right.” What happens if you miss your turn? The GPS says, “Recalculating” and immediately computes a new route to get you back on the right path to your destination.
When we are trying to follow Jesus in our daily life, it would be nice to have a GPS to lead us in the right direction, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to have something to keep us on the right path and keep us from getting lost…something that would help us get back on the right track when we made a wrong decision.
That is the way Jesus’ disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that he was going to leave them. Jesus said to them, “I am going to prepare a place for you and when everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me. You know the way to where I am going.”
One of the disciples whose name was Thomas answered Jesus, “No, we don’t, Lord. We don’t even know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Another disciple named Philip joined in, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
“Philip,” Jesus answered, “Have you been with me all this time and you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show you the Father? Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Anyone who believes in me will do the same things I have done.”
That was all the disciples needed to know to get them on the right path to the Father.
So, how do you and I find our way to the place where Jesus has gone to be with the Father? We have not seen Jesus as Thomas and Philip had, but we can follow the teachings that he has given to us in the Bible — God’s Holy Word. That is our GPS and it will keep us on the right path!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to provide the way to eternal life. Thank you for your Holy Word which will keep us on the right path in our journey through life. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo
This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?
What is our vision?
What should our vision be?
How do we make that vision a reality?
What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?
Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?
How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?
How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?
I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?
-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.
We look forward to your responses!
Something more for the Army to ponder today!
Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison
*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*
Let’s face it, the role of a Salvation Army Officer is difficult. I know…understatement of the century!
There are certainly joys…along with heartache and sorrows – it’s a mixed bag sometimes. We all wish that things would go according to plan, but most of the time we look like this:
And, we hope nothing gets dropped along the way…
The question doesn’t become what can we do less of, but rather how can we do the good things better? How can we begin to focus on the strengths of our corps and our corps people?
If I have learned anything from Officership it is that we are very, very good at doing many things, but we do not do many things well. Perhaps it is time to stop meeting the average expectations, stop doing mediocre work because we’re spread far too thin to do anything well; and instead, focus on the things that make our corps or ministry unique and successful! To do this, sacrifices might have to be made, we might have to eliminate or reduce the amount of ‘spinning plates’, but we do no one any good if we implode from over-extending ourselves.
It would be so easy to simply offer you some amazing new Apps that will help you in your ministry. It would be simple to offer this new thing I found of the internet that other pastors are using…instead let me offer you 3 Resources that you already have and will not cost you a dime (except for your time and effort).
The unfortunate side of ministry, it would seem, is that many churches and pastors are in competition for parishioners. It isn’t always intentional, but many churches have created their own silos, including The Salvation Army. Sometimes it’s pride, and self-reliance, but these silos prevent us from truly experiencing the fellowship of other ministries and resources because we cannot work with others. Visit other pastors in your community. Go to their churches (but not on Mondays = Universal Pastoral day off) and meet fellow workers in the fields of souls.I recently visited the pastor of our local Wesleyan Church. He called me up to donate some food to our soup kitchen, and I had not had the chance to meet him yet…so I personally went to see him. What I experienced in talking to him for only 45 minutes was not only refreshing to my soul, but it encouraged me greatly. We also struck up some commonalities, and resources were exchanged for the development of future partnerships together.
Fellow Officers, we are so much stronger together than we are by remaining in our individual denominational silos.
2. Community Connections
This resource is closely related to #1 as well as the continued need to get out of the silo…(perhaps you are picking up on the theme of this particular article). There are many people in your community right now that love The Salvation Army and they just need an invitation to help out. Be mindful that business professionals are very busy, so make sure the buy-in request is tangible, well thought out, and clear. You are looking for pieces to the puzzle to help with the over all mission, that Bank president can help in great ways provided that you put that ‘piece’ into the right place.
3. Leadership Development, Empowerment & Delegation!
The last resource (at least on this list, because there is SO much more that we could cover) is, in my opinion, the most important resource that your corps or ministry has – people who are already invested in the mission!! We are only as strong as the team around us. We as Officers are good at trying to do everything on our own, so much so that we often face burnout. In Exodus 18, we find a workaholic named Moses who is wisely counseled by his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro tells Moses; “what you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)
This is extremely wise advise to Moses and to us. We cannot do it all ourselves, so why do we try to be SuperOfficer? Why do we think it all has to get completed by us? This is where leadership development, empowerment and delegation comes into play. We owe it to ourselves and the future development and growth of our corps to raise up leaders who can help us. Perhaps those leaders are already there, they just don’t know it yet. This type of development and action will take time and patience, but your ministry will be stronger because of it.
Just think, every time we ‘go it alone’ we are potentially robbing someone of the opportunity to learn, lead and grow! Do you need help developing your team? Having struggles figuring out how this ought to be done? Consult your divisional staff, ask for help from other pastors, and perhaps do some research on how other corps are appointing leaders and developing them. Here is one resource that the Central Territory is using, and I know that there are other resources just like this in other territories.
Do not leave your corps members behind while planning for the future! Raise up others to help you accomplish the mission of the Army! It might be easier to do everything yourself, but entrust, empower and lead others to become better invested in the mission of this Salvation Army!
These are just three resources to help you become a better Officer, naturally, never discount or take for granted the power of the Holy Spirit in all of these ventures! He will empower you to do what must be done, so above all else, humble submit yourself to Him daily!
Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
God bless you!
Dear Salvation Army,
is our mission still for souls?
Are we stubbornly standing between souls condemned and the gates of hell itself?
Are we still the voice calling out for justice when all other voices are silent or too broken to speak? Can we boldly declare in faith that “we’re going to fill, fill, fill the world with glory?”
Dear soldier, no matter who you are, no matter what rank you hold, no matter if you hold a position of power and prominence or you simply come to your corps hall on Sundays – we are all equally vital not only to The Salvation Army, but to this mighty Kingdom building process that the Holy Spirit is doing in our world today! This require faithfulness and diligence on our part. If we merely offer lip service to God and don’t believe that He will provide the way, then we already defeated. Where ever your ministry is located in our world, without faith, hope and love we are doomed to only good works which isn’t enough! No, we must still be willing to storm the forts of darkness. We must be prepared to stand firm even when the ground of culture and morality erodes at our feet. We cannot lose ground and cave to becoming complacent or comfortable. Our calling has never been one of apathy but empathy, compassion and grace.
A Word Of Warning To Empire Building:
Dear soldier, I will also caution you that if you come to this army seeking notoriety, position, power and to establish and build your empire, these efforts will severely damage our mission as a movement. This is not a platform for showboating or ego stroking. This army should never be about climbing the ladder of corporate success or vying for places of authority…and yet I fear it has happened and currently does happen. Some will contend that these are isolated incidents, but it boils down to matters of the heart and depth of our surrender to Christ himself. John the baptist even declared about Jesus – “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) And when the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest disciple – Jesus pointed to the little children and told them “…For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)
Jesus had a way of turning common practice on its head.
Perhaps as an Army need to do this from time to time; to buck trends or notions of common practice in order to experience full surrender and lead with compassion and grace.
Dear Soldier, if you are currently building an empire – perhaps it’s time to seek repentance and reconciliation or depart this movement altogether. This may be strong words to read, but you are not helping to spur on this movement, you are attempting to subvert it with selfish ambitions and sinful pride. Either humble yourselves or you will be humbled by God. I say these words first to myself and then to anyone else this may apply to. Without the constant and compassionate correction of the Holy Spirit how can we ever expect to grow and mature into this faith? And what is this faith, but a transformation of our selfishness into selflessness and the image of Christ in and through everything that we are and do.
Lastly, let me encourage you.
Each and every one of you are important to God’s kingdom.
Don’t ever forget this. Regardless of how human leadership has treated you in the past whether within the Army or from outside (for we know that all forms of leadership has its flaws and imperfections but for the King of kings and Lord of Lords) YOU. MAKE. A. DIFFERENCE!You matter!! Do not listen to anyone who only has criticism or harmful things to say to you that does not help build to you up. Surround yourself with encouragers who will challenge you to be all that you can be for Christ Jesus. Live for Him. Die to self, and know that we serve a mighty army that is so much bigger than any one person, name or rank. We have to get serious about making disciples in our Army. We have to tear down walls of division and bring reconciliation to our corners of the world.
Do not become overwhelmed in this work that you do…one day at a time, one heart at a time…when we are faithful to Him, He will provide the strength and wisdom that we require in order to march on. Stand firm, Dear Soldier…Stand firm.
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!
Disclaimer: “The thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army, but are that of the author of this blog, reader discretion is advised.”
“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”- John Maxwell
There are many leaders in our Army.
Leaders can be found in our corps, in our social service departments, in our thrift stores, in our headquarters…all the way up to IHQ and the office of the General.
But, like most things, not all leaders are the same.
Today I would like to delve into the qualifications and characteristics that make a good leader trustworthy. What are these qualifications? What sort of characteristics would you expect from such a person? I’m so glad you asked.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “trust is earned”.
Sometimes though in our Army, and in any organization for that matter, we are expected to trust those who lead, but can this be done consistently? Have you ever had experiences that left you second guessing that trust? I am certainly not advocating a spirit of paranoia and doubt, but I would caution that not everyone who is placed in a leadership position has the same motivations and agendas.
3 Leaders You Can Trust:
1. Leaders Who Have Integrity
The Salvation Army needs more leaders to be men and women of integrity. I say this for all areas of leadership. From the local officer position all the way up to the General. We need people who will do what they say they will do while being men and women of Holiness. Without the characteristic of holiness, a leader’s integrity cannot be completely fulfilled. Thus, leadership must begin on our knees before our heavenly Father. Because we will be held to account for what we do on earth. Leaders who operate with ulterior motivations and do not have holy integrity, will falter and perhaps inflict casualties within our body of soldiers. We are very good at pointing out the bad in others, but this godly principle of living must begin with us! Without holiness and integrity our sphere of responsibility and leadership will crumble and find a limited impact for the Kingdom.
2. Leaders Who Are Authentic
Not only is it crucial to have trusted leaders who possess integrity, but those who also have a level of genuine authenticity. Do you know leaders who act one way while in the pulpit or place of leadership and conduct themselves contrary to that place of authority? What we say and what we do should line up, and with it our REAL responses to the world around us. There is no time to be a phony leader or a phony Christian. We cannot have leaders of any level merely giving lip service to God, but their motives and conduct are completely contrary to their bravado. This Army needs more authentic leaders! We need people who are real, people who know what it means to struggle with life, people who get it. This army is in need of leadership that has empathy not apathy. We need more candid conversations and less brow beatings and starchy high pulpit speak. We have to have a spirit of trust and an understanding that our Army is made up of people who are fallible and require compassion and grace. We need more leaders who will go to the gates of hell for people and soldiers in need instead of delegating or sending others to do their jobs. The leader that can be trusted will come to your level and spend time talking with you about the things that matter. Can you be a trusted leader? Do you have a heart to serve? Are you moved with compassion for those you lead? Then be authentic, and leader with authenticity, this Kingdom of God doesn’t have a place for two-faced leadership.
3. Leaders Who Are Accountable
Leaders who pass the buck are not leaders of accountability.
If we as leaders do not possess a spirit of accountability in us, then we cannot be trusted.
James 3:1 tells us that the higher our area of responsibility goes, so does our level of accountability to God. “… let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1 NKJV)
They say that power corrupts absolutely. This does not end at places of political power and in government, this is true of the Church and of The Salvation Army as well. Be aware of the power that is entrusted to you. Know that final authority is not you – but rather God. Even if you do not have someone who is currently over you in authority, your actions and motivations will be judged in accordance to Godly principles when we stand before Him. I do not say this to sound threatening or vindictive, I say this because I believe there are those in numerous places of authority who are power hungry and motivated not by a spirit of service but to be served. This is a very real danger in all levels of leadership. If we are to be leader who can be trusted, we must possess a level of accountability towards those we serve in leadership both above and below us (for lack of a better term). Is it still Thy Kingdom come, or has it come “My Kingdom come”?
Questions to Ponder Today:
Can we be trusted leaders?
Who are we accountable to?
Do I struggle with authenticity in my ministry and place of authority right now?
Is integrity and holy living a part of my identity as a leader?
Am I currently giving lip service to God, but my spiritual life is a wreck?
IF I struggle with these areas of my leadership, how can I correct that?
These are just three qualities of Godly leadership…I know that there are more and that this is just a primer. What do you think? What list would you suggest? We look forward to reading your comments, thoughts and concerns!
Something more for our Army to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!
**Disclaimer: The thoughts written here are not necessarily the thoughts and expressions of the Army (But I hope they are), but are the thoughts and expression of the author. Reader discretion is advised.**
“There’s no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”
― E.B. White.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Today I would like us to ponder policy and if we have become so policy heavy that as a movement, are we at risk of killing our forward momentum and even our mission?
Like any organization, church, or movement, as they grow they develop more investments to protect and preserve…is that where we as The Salvation Army are today? Could it be possible that we are more concerned with the progress that we have already made as an Army? Are we afraid to push ever forward because of past investments, government monies and grants that have tied our hands and now prevent us from serving God to the fullest? Are we to the point that we must protect dying programs because they have always existed instead of risking it all and doing what the Lord is calling us to do?
And what of policies, regulations? Have we internally bound our hands so tightly within rules and regulations that we can no longer effectively be “Saved to Serve”? Now, before you write me a nasty note (again) and chastise me for this question, please know that I am in no way seeking anarchy within our ranks. I know we have rules and orders that we must abide by, but sometimes I wonder if we have made our organization SO complicated with regulations and rules that we have become like the ancient Greek Senate that could never make a rapid decision as their kingdom fell around them by outside forces.
I don’t believe we are there yet, but could this path that we are on currently be killing our movement? Has policy become the passion killer in our Army…and just like a stringent weed-killer, has it killed the fruit-bearing plants along with the weeds?
There was a time that William Booth would pull up its corps/outposts because it wasn’t working in that community…today it would take over a year (at least) to close a dying or dead corps and plant a new one elsewhere. I understand that there are many variables to consider, I know we have so many more hoops to jump through, and the right forms must be submitted, and the right studies have to be done…and the list goes on…and it is far too complicated, perhaps more complicated than it ever should’ve been. I wonder if this is why we aren’t growing anymore? Because our hands are bound by massive amounts of red tape and far too many hands have to touch the paperwork as it passes over many desks at various levels of responsibility. Is it no wonder that some just given up? Is it no wonder that some grow frustrated at the snail’s pace? Granted we ought never make rash, uninformed decisions, but are there times when the amount of red tape becomes utterly ridiculous?
Could this be why younger evangelistic churches seem to be having more success in growing their church plants – because they have far fewer restraints and hoops to jump through? The building process doesn’t take 3-5 years, instead they work a church plant that tithes and contributes to the building campaign? I understand we are not just a church (we are so much more – we are a movement)…but are we a stalled movement in this regard? Or is this the proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare, where wisdom and time win out?
Policy Keepers & Creative Challengers Sometimes I feel that we as an Army have become so policy heavy that we strangle creativity and the potential for real, sustainable growth. The problem is like this scale, too heavy a balance of policy keepers will lead to a diminished level of creative challengers. On the other side of the scale, too many creative challengers will lead to a diminished level of policy keepers and lack of order and policy.
We need both!! Without a healthy level (and balance) of both types of people in our Army, we face a lopsided army and a potentially failed mission.
I hope I am not painting a dismal picture within this pondering today, because that is never my intent. I am simply curious if we will reach a turning point where we think smarter instead of working harder within our structure of this movement. This Army of Salvation should be a powerful tool for Christ in this world, but I fear there is a tipping point of balance happening. The kind of imbalance that places restraints we that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Have we presently become an army too afraid of upsetting our investments and our previous accomplishments? There must come a point in which we admire the past and our rich heritage, but also press forward as a movement and focus on generations still in need of help, hope and salvation! A healthy balance of both the policy keepers and the creative challengers must be present.
Perhaps we have taken our focus off of the mission and exchanged it for regulations and rules.
Perhaps, in some places, we have exchanged mission for overly creative risks that have created a polarizing mission and have completely missed the mark.
Could it be that we are not fully relaying on the Holy Spirit for our guidance?
Perhaps we must reevaluate why we do what we do within our mission and purpose.
I hope this makes sense to you. I hope this finds its mark.
If we are not serving suffering humanity in the name of Christ through the things we do then we must shift our priorities and refocus it. Perhaps it’s time to uncomplicate things.
Tell us what YOU think? Do you identify as a Policy Keeper or a Creative Challenger…or Both?
How can we uncomplicate things? In your opinion, does policy sometimes overrule and supersede mission, or do you find that the opposite true? Let us know what you think, we value your comments!
Something more for our Army to ponder today.
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army’s but the writer’s own opinions…reader discretion is advised.
The Salvation Army is modeled after the British Armed Forces…its model from uniform to leadership is very similar. Officers, when under orders, must move to new appointments based on need and abilities. When orders are passed down, by and large they are expected to be followed. This is understood entering a college for officer’s training to become an officer. Cadets and Officers are expected to submit to authority…but what happens when that authority is abused or misused? Does that happen in The Salvation Army? Like any organization or movement, we openly acknowledge that people, even leaders are fallible and are still vulnerable to making mistakes. But what happens when mistakes go unchecked or unaddressed? Who holds leadership accountable?
This style of leadership can be useful, especially when decisions must be made and the movement is at risk. It is most effective when it is used to empower, encourage, validate and serve those that leadership leads… Autocratic or Authoritative leadership can provide a clear, concise direction and vision. This style is evident not only in a Divisional or Territorial, National or International setting, but it is also evident to some degree in individual corps, harbor lights, ARC’s and other appointments. Each of these locations autocratic leadership is usually found – and with it at times, abuse of that model can take place. Please note that I don’t say “will” but I merely leave it open to the possibility.
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”
― John Steinbeck
But what happens when autocratic leadership does fail and/or is abused?
4 Dangers Of Autocratic Leadership In The Salvation Army:
1. Disagreement Leads To Punishment “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
In an absolute authoritative leadership model, if followers or those subservient to the leader disagree and are outspoken about it they are punished. Even in The Salvation Army, this can happen. New appointments are given or created to mute or limit those voices of dissent. It must be noted here that our army has many instances in our brief history of dissension among the ranks from the very beginning. Historically, even in the founder’s day Ballington and Maud Booth were practically excommunicated from the army when they refused to take another appointment away from the U.S. Thus they left The Salvation Army and began their work as the Volunteers of America. Understandably there is more to this story, but even then family couldn’t disagree with the authority of the Army without fear of reprisal or punishment. Does this still happen today if one were to disagree with the current vision or a decision made by leadership?
In the autocratic model of leadership, a chief danger of such a model is the fear of ever having a dissenting opinion because it could be construed to mean one is insubordinate or perhaps lacking submission altogether. But perhaps there are times when disagreement proves commitment to mission over authority. By that I mean there are times when boots on the ground understand situations of community needs and the furtherance of the movement far better than those in leadership because they have a front row seat and they have their hands directly in those community pots and engage daily with direct services.
The abuse of the autocratic leadership model begins with a zero tolerance for disagreement and the repaying of such engagement with punishments or reassignment or appointment.
2. Talent Flees and Mediocrity Remains
When this abuse is allowed to continue, and it does from time to time, there is inevitably a loss of talent. By that I mean some within the ranks of soldiers and officers alike might leave. Why would they stick around when abusive leadership would seem to go unpunished or addressed and instead is rewarded and only those who are completely complicit to that leadership style are given appointments of authority themselves? In essence an abusive autocratic style will promote the “yes” people, while those with talent (and who had the passion and zeal) but did not always agree might never be rewarded or acknowledged. What could remain would be a hollowed out version of an organization. It wouldn’t be the vision that failed but rather the internal issues of the organization that cannibalized itself.
3. Buy-In Is Limited “Growth inside fuels growth outside.” – John Maxwell
When abused, autocratic leadership limits the buy-in for the follower or subordinate. In our Army the buy-in for a soldier at a corps who is not invested in but instead ignored would be grossly limited. Why would they want to participate or engage in the vision if they were not included in the initial vision casting in the first place, but instead the authoritative officer controlled everything? The buy-in on such a model is a malnourished form of commitment to those in the corps council and anyone else wishing to make a difference in this movement.
This example is true from the soldier in the corps all the way up to IHQ.
If corps members, office staffs, corps officers, divisional officers, territorial officers aren’t allowed some investment and ownership within the movement and have some say in how it can continue to be relevant and innovative then disillusionment and abandonment could soon follow. Why waste their time when the decision will be made for them? Why invest of themselves when they will inevitably be told what to do anyway?
An abusive autocratic system will leave constituent left behind and or abandoned altogether.
4. Generational Losses “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton
Dictators of militant nations who rule by fear, will eventually have a younger generation growing up in anger and frustration and eventually revolt will ensue. This is an extreme example, but the iron-fisted autocratic leadership model might bring along a generation or two, but eventually a younger generation will rise up and consider this model to be antiquated and disconnected with reality. They might become disenfranchised and disillusioned and seek out other ways to serve and be useful in society. In The Salvation Army, perhaps the style of leadership that was once useful to us as a movement in its infancy is not longer what is needed today. Some might say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but what if it is in some ways broken and in need of fixing (or modifying) but we’re just ignoring the systemic issue because it seems a titanic, daunting challenge? Could it be that the younger generation is leaving the Church (big C) in general because of disillusionment and inconsistency in leadership and vision? Is society just the scapegoat?
Could abuses of the autocratic or authoritative leadership model be affecting our movement today? This is a very big question, I know that, but isn’t there a part of you that wonders if we shouldn’t even ask the question in the first place? Why is that? Do we fear that if we ask it we might face punishment or be considered “rebels”? I believe a healthy movement is one who has innovative, creative and outspoken members. A movement is just that, something that continues moves forward, not backward. A healthy movement should be one that accepts constructive criticism and takes corrective steps when needed. A healthy movement is propelled not by unhealthy models of leadership and fear, but by the Holy Spirit prompting and leading His followers onward into the fray.
Can abuses happen in our Army? Yes, and I believe they still do! From the lowly corps ministry all the way up, but I do not believe it is the norm and I am hopeful that such trappings can be avoided with prayerful consideration, holy living and servant leadership always at the forefront.
“If we are growing we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell
Something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the Glory!
Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed here are the writer’s own thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army as an organization and movement…reader discretion is advised.
I am certainly not advocating trying these out today in your corps, actually I’m pleading for all of us to do the opposite. Our various ministries can, and should be paramount to our faith and to those we serve. How we lead others, how we conduct ourselves in our corps makes a difference!
With that being said, dear Soldier, here are 5 ways to kill a Corps!
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
The Fastest way to burn your corps down to the ground is to strike the match of the malicious tongue that wags and pierces hearts. Be aware of what you say and how you say things. No one likes to be around people who are asinine in their speech and malicious in their actions and opinions of others. Gossip has no place in the corps, unless you long for it to die a slow and agonizing death.
We know that gossip shouldn’t be, but why do we tolerate it and even entertain it in our halls? Dear Salvationist, have nothing to do with idle chatter and people who only want to slander and smear the truth. (2 Timothy 2:23).
“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into yourassembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you andpersonally drag you into court?7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (James 2:1-6 NASB)
It even happens in Corps buildings.
It might not necessarily be about rich and poor, but perhaps personalities and someone’s available gifts. An Officer can favor only a specific few corps members and by doing so, unknowingly cause dissension, envy and strife. The same can be said for local officers who choose corps members to help them in their daily duties. Be fair to all who come into your halls! Show love and compassion and be aware that favoritism can happen even if we’re not cognizant of it. Favoritism is a true, perhaps unseen danger in our corps, and if left unchecked will cause jealousy, anger and disharmony to occur which can lead to a terminal corps.
3. Lording Power “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder andwitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will ofGod; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1-3)
This Salvation Army was founded upon a militant structure and sometimes we can get carried away with ourselves in places of leadership and authority. Many of us have heard story after story where, one who was entrusted with power and authority, has used it in very unbiblical ways to hurt others. I would hope that this is not the norm, but rather isolated incidents of worldly ambitions becoming visible to all.
Dear Soldier, be keenly aware of the pending dangers of authority and power. If you are or ever become entrusted with any kind of power – use it wisely and with every amount of Holiness that you can muster! What you say, how you lead, what you do – makes the world a difference! Although we have a militant structure, keep in mind who is the head of our army – it certainly isn’t me or you, or even the General – It is the King of kings and Lord of lords!! Be good leaders! Be kind leaders. Be wise leaders. Set a godly standard by exercising grace, love and hope.
2. Find Fault In Everything and Everyone!
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” (Romans 14:1-2)
I have met some deeply cynical people in my day. Many were housed within the corps…these individuals could never be pleased no matter how hard one might try. No matter what took place, these individuals always saw the negative and very rarely the positive. After time, no one wanted anything to do with them, because bitterness tends to bleed into the very fabric of our corps buildings if we let it.
This blazing fire that could consume your corps, is like that of gossip. It can invade and taint everything it touches. People become disillusioned by it because no matter how hard you try fault and imperfections are always seem instead.
Examples (just to name a few):
“Well Captain, the service is just too dry for my tastes…”
“That worship band plays too loudly and I hate that sort of music…”
“We’ve never done it that way before, and we’re not about to try!”
“That man in the back has been coming to our corps for three weeks and he smells…”
“I might stop coming to the corps because _______(name here)___ is still there and they are horrible people!”
Sometimes, these nay-sayers use the old phrase “This and better will do” to justify their salty – never satisfied – fault finding attitudes that they have. The problem isn’t everyone else, the problem stems from these individuals who can find nothing good to say…ever! Don’t the the corps burn to ground because of fault-finders and judgmental people!
1. Abdicate All Leadership and Responsibilities
“Let someone else do it!”
“I don’t have the time to come to corps programs and activities…”
Corps Officer – “So, who will lead adult Sunday School for the next three months?” (silence fills the space…no one volunteers even though there are many capable individuals in the room)
This Army isn’t fully functional until ALL capable members of our corps are engaged and serving! Officers – you cannot abdicate your calling and role in the corps! Soldiers, you cannot let or conceive that all things done in the corps is the sole responsibility of the officer!
If we want our corps to die – then never step up.
If we want to preach to empty pews during holiness meetings – then never lead.
We can die by not taking responsibility. We can allow stagnation to set in and wilt away as one generation dies and there is no one left to take their place.
If you suffer from self-esteem issues or you question if you’re good enough to lead – you can do it! You just need one person to believe in you. We all make mistakes, it comes with the territory of leadership. Being responsible means we own up to our victories and our failures…and then we keep going and we don’t quit simply because the going got tough. We need more soldiers and officers with backbones – there I’ve said it. It’s not a slam again those who are faithfully serving (Thank you for what you do both behind the scene and in front of everyone!)…we cannot afford to abdicate our authority and leadership IF this is where God has called us to! Be faithful in the good times AND in the not so good times! This Army needs you! It needs good leaders! It needs consistent, prayer driven leaders.
Wrapping it up.
So this is my top 5, it’s a primer…what’s yours?
Share with us your top 5 things that will kill any corps from your experiences!
Together, we can avoid these pitfalls!
Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The Salvation Army’s thoughts and opinions, reader discretion is advised*
Yesterday, we pondered on the topic of 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do
Today, we’re going to flip the proverbial coin over and explore 5 things Leaders SHOULD do in their ministry and in their lives.
I will not simply “flip” the list we already have explored, but it should be obvious that some of these done in reverse will greatly impact your flock! Don’t ever negate the fact that as an appointed leader you HAVE a flock to tend to! Leadership isn’t easy, it never is. There will be times when you will have to the do the difficult things that will cost you! Leadership might impact your friendships, your family and your relationships in general. I am not deterring you from leadership, if you are about to take up some sort of mantel, but be mindful that there are no short cuts to becoming a good leader; hard work, planning and perseverance are qualities that are required!
5 Things Leaders SHOULD Do!
5) Lead By Example “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” -John Maxwell
Leaders, don’t just bark orders and expect those they lead to fall in line. Some will follow, but others will down right rebel! Strong, qualified leaders set the trend by their work ethic and physical practice of that work ethic! NEWS FLASH: You don’t need a degree to be a good, qualified leader!
Good leaders will show you how it’s done before ever expecting you to perform. How can we expect laborers in the field to cultivate a harvest if we haven’t first shown them how to work? This cycles back to being good disciplers of those you lead! We can’t expect amazing results if we do not first feed the sheep we have and display for them what Christ-like leadership looks like.
4) Set Realistic Vision THEN revisit, regroup and Persevere!
“People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.” — Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Setting goals and a vision that is realistic is only one piece of the pie. The planning and casting of a vision has to have an end game, or an “outcome”. What do you want to see accomplished? How will you get there? What sorts of goals can you set (realistic) that will help you get there?
Once this vision is cast, you MUST include your flock, your people! They have to be invested in the vision too! It can’t be your vision, because your vision will never move the congregation (your people) forward into realization of that vision. Vision HAS to be share and invested! Once the vision is shared and invested in, good leaders regroup and revisit the goals and steps along the way. Once something is accomplished, celebrate the accomplishment but also analyze and study why and how it became successful…do the same thing with failed goals or visions – assess why they failed or didn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish. THEN, work harder and keep going!
3) Servant Heart – Compassion!
This goes back to # 5 – Be the servant leader!
That doesn’t mean you get walked all over and you allow those you lead to get a pass on being invested in the mission, it means you place the needs of the many before your personal needs. It means you consider others before yourself and what you want others to remember about you…NEWSFLASH – It’s not about you!
If we serve out of some erroneous notion that it’s about our abilities, passion and notoriety, then we have been sorely mistaken AND perhaps we need to check our egos at the door. Jesus told His disciples that if any of them wanted to be first they had to be last. If they wanted to be a leader they had to first become a servant of all. (Mark 10:42-45) When we remove self from the equation, it becomes much easier to love those you lead because the inward focus of love has been refocused towards others and the vital mission that we as Salvationist believe in – “Save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity”
2) Take Risks!
The plan of William and Catherine Booth for the Christian Mission which eventually became the Salvation Army was extremely risky. They would devote themselves completely to it. The founders left their previous ministries and began something completely new and different. They risked a lot. They tried things that did not always work. BUT they took risks along the way.
I think that today our Army has become a sort of playground for the “play it safes”, if you know what I mean. We invest in the programs we have already done – because there is funding or there is an insulated safety net in place, but when it comes time to wander out of the comforts of that safety net – we withdraw, we shy away. In part it could mean reprisals and discipline from leaders in authority over you, and it could mean loss in possible membership because you were willing to upset the apple cart (so to speak).
Albert Einstein once said,“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” Let me amend this quote for our purposes here today – “An Army is always safe in the comforts of its corps buildings – but that is NOT what it is built for!” Good leaders not only help set the team vision, but good leaders take calculated risks in helping to build the Kingdom, because this is ALL kingdom building work! Take chances, take risked – worry less about reprisals from your divisional headquarters (gasp) and more about not listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads your corps or ministry! Obviously communicate your plans to your leaders but don’t hamstring yourself because you’re afraid to risk.
1) Plan Ahead – Be Proactive!
Knowing your community and assessing what your community needs is a tool that helps you to become a proactive leader and participant in Kingdom building! When we begin to study our surroundings and surroundings of our ministry demographic we can begin to recognize trends and needs. When we are better in tune with our community and our corps people, we will be more prepared to “meet human needs in His name”.
Do you remember the parable about the Bridesmaids and their oil lamps in the Bible? (Matt. 25:1-13) You know, the one where some of them were unprepared and ran out of oil before the Bridegroom returned? They begged and begged the ones who had prepared to lead some of their oil to them…but it was too late. In order to prevent this from realistically happening to us in our ministries and preparation to usher new people to Christ, we have to plan ahead! Pulling something out of your butt (sorry for the imagery) at the last minute will only be so successful. True success in our ministries, and growth in those we reach is defined by how well we know our audience and how prepared we are to meet them where they are at. Good leaders will prepare and plan ahead. Good leaders won’t always be last minute and harried in the process.
Some of you might contend – but I’m already busy…I have too much to do already – I’m right there with you. I’m also not quite to the point where I would consider myself (by this specific qualification) a Good leader – I still have to work on this in my ministry. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to become better at it! We all have room to grow in this. Other “reports” may have to take a backseat sometimes in order for leader to get back to the important work of planning and meeting needs – by listening and studying their communities and those they love and serve!
These are just 5 Things Leaders SHOULD be doing…it’s a primer, something to spur and spark our thoughts and our imaginations. None of this can be fully accomplished unless we are fully submitted to God’s will for our ministries. Dear Salvationist, you matter to this Army! You set the trend and the motion forward! We continue to need strong leaders who are willing to take up this mantel and to share the burden & passion of ministry! My hope and prayer is that we recognize that we all have room to grow and that we begin to prayerfully consider how we can accomplish this through the power and strength of the Lord.
Something more for our Army to ponder today!
*Disclaimer: The writings and opinions of Pastorsponderings are not necessarily the opinions of the Salvation Army – Reader Discretion is Advised.*