A Pastoral Pondering on Life, Death and Hope…

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The telephone rang in my office. It was a darkening, rainy afternoon. The billowing clouds hung ominously outside, and in my heart there was also a tempest that was threatening to spill out into my life. It had been a hard couple of years in the ministry, and I had been contemplating my resignation as a pastor. I was frustrated, hurt, and very ready to pack it all in and call it quits. It was with a heavy heart that I picked up that ringing telephone and answered.

Little did I know that the prayer that I had been repeating in my mind and on my lips was about to be answered. – A local pastor was calling to donate some food to our corps because we had a large soup kitchen and we could always use the extra meals. I politely told the pastor that I would drive over to his church right away and collect the food. Isn’t it interesting how God knows just what we need even before we recognize it?

I made my way to his church and pulled into the driveway. The church was an older gray stone building with a traditional cross at the top, and the customary blue and red stained glass window that faced the busy street. I parked at the adjacent gymnasium structure and knocked on the front door. The pastor ambled to the door and upon seeing the uniform, welcomed me in. He led me to the kitchen where the food was all nicely wrapped and ready…but something truly remarkable happened. I had come for food to feed others, but the Lord had other ideas in mind. I needed nourishment of the heart – for I was worn, weary and at the end of my rope.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit, but I am certain that the Lord had given me a divine appointment that day in order to help heal my wounded heart. The pastor began to talk to me about his ministry, and gave me a brief tour of the building. He described the basketball program and the youth ministry. We chatted for a few more minutes and then it all spilled out…It felt like I was in a safe place, far away from judgment and ridicule…and so I shared with him my hurt. It was like unloading a burden I had been carrying around for far too long. I told him about my heartache I had experienced in the ministry, and the wounds that had been inflicted while on the pastoral battlefield. He understood. He didn’t say, “well you just need to try harder“, or “perhaps you just aren’t walking with the Lord enough“; or even “maybe you’re just not cut out for ministry.

No, rather, he just listened.

He let me expose the festering wound of my heart that refused to heal. I had not been able to articulate it, let alone face it before. But here in a gym kitchen, I felt led to bear the wound and let the infection be seen.

Finally after I had finished talking, the pastor told me about his own hurt. How years ago he had moved to this town. He had left another ministry that had been difficult and it too had wounded him. Leaning on a stainless steel island in a small kitchen, he then prayed for me, and the power of the Holy Spirit began working in my heart. I can’t tell you that I was miraculously healed in a single instant, but the pain, bitterness and hurt started to be addressed by the Lord. I was a broken vessel in need of repair, and the hands of God were more than willing to remold me again. Dare I say that the Pastor was only being faithful to the Lord, while the Lord applied the much needed salve to a wounded life. Isn’t it funny how God has a tendency to do that – use the faithful at the most unlikely of places, and just the right moment?!

After the Pastor prayed with me, he asked me if it would be alright if he contacted a couple of other pastors that he knew, and if we could all meet over breakfast sometime soon. I accepted the invitation and promptly left with the food in my hands. Again, I had come to receive food for people in need, when I was also in need myself – in need of spiritual nourishment and hope. I walked away from that encounter a little lighter.
I told my wife about my time with Pastor Steve, and explained that I felt the Lord had placed him in my path.

A little while later I received a phone call from Pastor Steve, and true to his word, he was inviting me to a breakfast with his group of pastors. I had been in other pastor groups before, and sometimes it felt like it was a forced fellowship. I went to the first breakfast with that thought in mind, but I was extremely surprised to find a group of guys who loved being with each other. The laughed together over coffee and toast. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a fellowship I didn’t deserve…and yet here they were warming my heart.

Over the course of the next few months I met with this pastor group. We met every couple of weeks, and there wasn’t any agenda except to encourage one another, to pray for one another and share the in the journey. I came to pick up food only to be fed…

Pastor Steve helped to pick me up, a wounded pastor, on the way while traveling on the same journey…and I am forever grateful for that divine appointment. It was just before Thanksgiving last year that Pastor Steve went in for a routine gall bladder surgery only to discover that it wasn’t gall bladder at all, but rather terminal cancer.
I recall the sheer shock of that horrific news. Yet, through it all Pastor Steve remained a faithful servant of God.

Just today, mere weeks before Thanksgiving – almost one year to the day – Pastor Steve went to be with the Lord. I mourn the loss of such a man of God. This world is better because he walked it. My life is better because he journeyed for a time along with me. He shared in my hurt, and helped to heal the deep wounds of my heart. I know that I will always be thankful for his ministry in my life…even though it was for but the briefest of times. Just like markers in life – where we remember the turning points and milestones – Pastor Steve stands there on one of those points in mine.

I came to pick up food for others only to be fed…and that was a divine appointment designed by the Lord and enacted upon by a faithful servant…thank you Steve! And now while I continue to travel this path, may I too faithful recognize those divine appointments that must enter and help those who walk behind me.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis.

10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

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.
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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.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Messy Church – Weekend VBS…”I Am’s of Jesus”

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)

 Friday:

7:30pm-9:00pm

Theme: “I am the vine”

Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.

“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. 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.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“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
Welcome
Read Scripture
Instruct Kids and Teachers


Stations:

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

Instructions:
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:

Ask:
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, “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.

Materials Needed:
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.

Step A:

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:

Step B:

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!


Note: add some dish soap to tempera paint to make it washable…It’ll save you in the long run (we found out the hard 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
Paper towels
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 activity                                                                                                     20 Minutes
Blob Tag:

  1. 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? 

Say:
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



Saturday AM

10am- 12:15pm

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:


Stations:

1) Sheep Collage craft                            20 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 & decorate                                                                    20minutes
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 game                                                  20Minutes
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

 

  1. Overview:

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.

Set-up/Boundaries:

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.

Score Keeping:

White Socks- 3000 points each

Gold Socks- 5000 points each

Gray Socks- 10,000 points each

Prisoners- 1000 each player
Supplies Needed:

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

  1. 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 pen                                                                                      10 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 / Music                                                                      10-15 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?

  1. 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)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
  2. Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
  3. What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
  4. What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
  5. What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
  6. In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
  7. Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
  8. How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
  9. 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

7:00pm-9pm

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).



Stations:

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.)

We purchased glow in the dark tape from Amazon for $7 and it was a HUGE hit with the kids, and reinforced the Messy Church theme

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

page.

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.

Other Questions

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.



Sunday

10:30am-12:00pm

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
Say:
Hey everybody!
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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbCkzx9jJaE

 

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

Stations:


1) Needle compass activity                                                                                       20 Min
Science experiment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=QiSp6pGe0w0

Items Needed:
Bowl
Needle
Magnet
Pitcher of Water
Cork
Actual Compass

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?

ReadThen 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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale

Game Recap:
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?

Say:
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

Questions:
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)

Object: 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!

Prayer:
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.

 

rotations should be 20mins + each

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“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.*

3 Resources to help you become a better Salvation Army Officer…

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:
spinningAnd, 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).

  1.  Pastoral Partnerships: 
    pastorsThe 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  Puzzle
    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.  MinistryHere 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!
    officer.jpg

Dear Salvationist, 5 Things Leaders SHOULD Do!

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.  love

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! army3 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!

nelson5) 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.

max4) 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!

leader13) 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! leader2
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.

oil1) 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.*

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Ministry Life Hacks That Can Improve Your Ministry

You’ve seen all of the life hack ideas out there.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were Ministry Life Hacks?  Well, there are.
I’ve done a little digging on the web as well as thought of some realistic ministry hacks on my own.
I should point out though that ministry hacks are necessarily short cuts or a means to short change your ministry…it still takes hard work and determination, but perhaps we should be thinking smarter about the way we do things instead of making it harder when there could be a simpler way.

5 Life Hacks That Can Improve Your Ministry
These might be some obvious and/or not so obvious to you.
The key in our ministries is to be relateable, realistic and holy.
How do we do these things?
-Consistency
-Be Real
-Be Honest
-Be Available
You get the point.
Anyway…here we go…

1.  YouTube Mini Webisodes icon
Here’s a hack within a hack – 

Your corps could do these type of videos in your services as well…it’s really very simple.
You might also consider doing these videos instead of your regular “announcement time”.

Most smart phones these days are affordable and relatively easy to navigate.
The world becomes closer to your fingertips and using it for the right reasons makes all the difference.  We ought to take advantage of these media platforms.  It’s really not hard.  The hard part is adding content to places like YouTube that people will actually watch and/or be interested in.  Make sure the videos you post are well thought out, planned and creative.  YouTube channels are free.  You can add one yourself with just a google e-mail account.  With the use of a smart phone you can now upload simple webisodes and/or informational content to your YouTube channel.  You don’t have to have a big budget on video editing equipment to get your message out to the masses.  Experiment and give it a try for yourself!

calendar2.  Keep And Sync Your Lotus Notes Calendar to all your (approved) devices
(Or Google Calendar)
Again, the nice thing about modern technology is that you can organize your life.
I have a confession, I’m not the most organized person in the world, in fact I’m far from it.
I need this kind of help on a daily basis in order to keep track of my schedule and calendar of events.
You can use IBM’s Lotus Notes Calendar and have it synced to your phones…it works!
If you’re more of a web-based calendar person, you can use google calendar (Note: I really don’t work for google, seriously, it just stuff that I’ve found through trial and error that works).

Maybe you’re like me and you’re unorganized and you need help.
Try using a calendar for a month…stick with it.  Any new habit has to be formed and it takes time.

3.  Media Saturated Social Media Posts

Image of male touching virtual icon of social network
There will undoubtedly be someone out there who will say (and comment)  “Well, what about just using the Bible and preach the gospel, we don’t need all of this stuff!”  If that’s the case then don’t use all this stuff.  This is just a means to make our ministry smarter, better prepared and sharper.  

If your corps/ministry uses social media then use it well!
Put your phones to use by taking photos of events and posting them.
Put thought provoking content on you Corps facebook page, twitter account, tumblr and any other media platform you may use.  Keep your corps members engaged through out the week.  If your sermon on Sunday can spill over onto your website or social media page then do that!  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to stay connected and be a source of hope and challenge to your corps members and community!

It’s really taking the quote “Why should the devil have all the good music” and bringing it into the modern generation.   Why should the devil have all the good media content (other than the occasional “if you love God then click ‘like’ if you don’t then ignore” dumb posts you see sometimes on places like Facebook)?

Being innovative in your ministry doesn’t mean selling the truth of the gospel out.
I. Am. Not. Saying. That.  (But someone will certainly accuse me of this today…just watch)
What I’m merely suggesting is we ought to use the tools that we have at our finger tips to get that message out more and in a more accessible and visible way.

4.  Be Prepared!  prepared2
It’s really not a new life ministry hack.
Do you remember the old Colonel or Major that used to tell you “keep an extra sermon in your bible just in case” THIS STILL APPLIES!   Preparation is King!  Always have a message to speak.  Be creative, be innovative, be prepared!  It’s so much more than the Boy Scout motto.  It ought to be the Christ-follower’s motto as well!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...” (1 Peter 3:15)

remoteMaybe put down the tv remote and refrain from watching another hour of programming.
Maybe put aside that video game that you’re totally immersed in.
Maybe get up a little earlier each morning and get some spiritual preparation under your belt by spending time in prayer and meditating on God.
Maybe put aside any other distractions that might get in the way of your preparation as a minister/Officer/Soldier/Evangelist/Worship Leader/Corps Sergeant Major/YPSM (the list goes on)…

Maybe read a challenging book about the Christian faith.  challenge
Maybe do something that stretches you.
Do whatever prepares you to engage our world and those we have the privilege to minister to.

5.   Connect with Corps Members Through Intentional Social Events. 

Group of people at lunch table outdoors, smiling, portrait

If food is the way to a man’s heart, then social events are the way to your corps people’s hearts.
How else will we connect on a fellowship level if we don’t intentionally schedule events that will allow us to “let our hair down”?  All families, singles, divorcees, seniors, middle agers, young adults crave some sort of social connection other than Sunday morning worship times.  Don’t skimp of the fellowship times because you think it’s a frivolous waste of time.  Schedule.  Connect.  Don’t make it all about some sort of additional bible study time.  Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your corps members.  This allows them access to you as a person and not just their officer or local officer.   Be real.  Make the attempt.  This ministry life hack is the grease to the ‘cohesive body of Christ’ cog.

These are a mere five suggestions to help improve your ministry.
Do you have additional suggestions?  Comment below and share with us your insight!
Join the conversation, that’s what these ponderings are all about!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Failure Is Certain Unless…

We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.
― John Maxwell

Have you heard of the phrase “less is more”?
How about the phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?

monkeyOne more idiom or parable – Do you remember hearing about how to catch a Monkey?
According to the old parable, Monkeys are selfish animals who will take as much as they can carry.  As the story goes, various tribes figured out a way to capture Monkeys.  They burrowed out coconuts and filled them with rice and other foods which are attractive to the monkey.  Once the monkey reaches into one and grabs what they desire, the monkey will not let go.  The monkey will reach into the coconut and latch onto that rice and will not un-clinch   its fist.

I think we, as an Army can sometimes become a little like those monkeys…please don’t stop reading…I’m not calling anyone a monkey, rather our attitudes and activities can resemble their behavior.  We can become so good at many things that we become good for nothing.  We take that phrase from the Apostle Paul “I became all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) to extremes sometimes even to the point of arrogance.  I believe at times we think that we are the only ones who can help people in our communities.  I believe that sometimes, in that arrogance, we have reached into far too many coconuts and we are unwilling to relinquish our fists on the prize inside.  We, at times, are unwilling to share the resources or allow others to help.  Sometimes, the “Army Bubble” is perceived as the ONLY way to do things…and we become blinded to alternative methods and agencies who are determined to help others just as much as we are.

Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.
― John Maxwell

**I believe, dear Army, that failure is certain unless…we can be willing to let go of “the more” and focus on “the most“. **

What do I mean by that statement?
I’m glad you asked:

thinI believe that we as an Army of Salvation is spreading itself so thin because we are attempting to do too much.  I believe that because of this, we are becoming worthless to anyone, including ourselves.  We, in our arrogance (sorry I have to say it), do “the more” programs…and we add more and more to our heaping plates…because “We’re the Salvation army, and people respect us“…yet we are ill-equipped, understaffed, unprepared and not properly trained.

Now, before you shoot the messenger, please hear me out.
(*sigh, I just compared everyone to monkeys and now I talked about arrogance…I am sorry, it’s not my intent to insult anyone!*)
Instead of doing “the more“, shouldn’t we be focusing on doing “the most“?
The Most Effective Ministries to help reach souls for Christ.
The Most Needed Helps for the Lost.
The Most Aggressive uses of our time, talent, treasure to impact those lives in the long-term for Christ.
The Most wealth of resources spread amongst other agencies (gasp) instead of trying to be an Island unto ourselves.

thin1We have to stop presuming that The Salvation Army is better than any other agency (if that is an issue for you) and begin with simplicity, humility and grace.  Sometimes I feel as if we enter our communities with a perceived “power house” mentality and with it comes a kind of pride and arrogance that should never be present in a uniform.  Our deeds ought not have ulterior motives to conquer and claim leadership in the community.  Our actions ought not be led by a superiority complex because we’ve been doing this for over a hundred years (or more) in our respective communities.  Rather, we ought to be present at community events, seeking to bridge gaps that may be present, helping in anyway that we can.  Let’s avoid the arrogance of “knowing it all” and presuming we always have the answers.  Rather, we ought to be humble servants of the Most High and reflect that grace in our words and actions.

Can we stop focusing on “the More“?
Can we take a step into “the Most“?
I don’t just mean that we assume that branding of “Doing the Most Good”…but we ought to live “the Most Good” both in and out of uniform.  It boils down to our attitudes.  How will we serve?  How will we succeed?  How will we love?

We will not succeed by doing more.  others
We will not succeed by spreading ourselves too thin that we can’t make ends meet.
We will fail if we attempt to exclude or isolate ourselves from others who are helping people too.
We will fail if we allow arrogance to close our fists as we grasp at things (and money) that are not ours.

I don’t want to fail.
I want to succeed.
I want to be an aggressive Army, hell bent on winning souls for Christ by any and every available tool.
I don’t want to settle for doing more, but rather doing the most with the best of our gifts and abilities.
If we could just stop focusing on doing everything and instead focus once more on doing the most important, most meaningful things that will impact lives for Christ…we will win, we will succeed in this mission.

Questions to Ponder: 
What 2 or 3 things does your Ministry do well at?
How can you eliminate “the more” so that you can focus on “the most”?
What tools will I need to make this happen right here and now?
How can I let go of my clenched fist full of pride and “stuff” so that I can refocus on the vital and the truly needed?

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, help me to let go of the things that don’t truly matter to the mission that you have me here doing.
May it not be about my pride and my arrogance, but about your love for others.  Help me to serve You by doing “the most” not “the more”.  In Your name I pray these things.  -Amen.

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