Gaining Traction…With Kids!!

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”
– Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)

I recently had to replace the tires on my Yukon. I first noticed that I needed new tires when I went through a water puddle and my tires slipped a little. It was then I realized that I am going to have to do something soon or else I’m in big trouble. If you’ve ever had to replace the tires on your vehicle, you know how much of a difference new tires really make. It feels so good after you get that fresh tread! No more slipping, the tires grab the pavement and pull you forward with ease.

Well, if you’ve been working with kids long, I’m sure you’ve felt the same kind of slipping. You’ve probably felt that some days you are just not connecting at all with certain kids and others are full of conversation and connection. How do we gain traction with kids? How can we put some new tires on our ministry to kids and move forward with ease as we try to connect, build relationships and ultimately make a huge difference in their lives? Here are a few quick and easy tips:

  1. Pray for the kids that you will be hanging with that day (even if you don’t know them yet, God does!).
  2. Be prepared with the lesson for the day. The more prepared you are, the better you can apply it in conversation.
  3. Take time to talk and hang out with kids. Ask them how their week was. Play “high/low” with them (explain 1 high point of the week and 1 low point of the week).

These are just 3 ways to gain some traction with kids. Are we going to connect deeply with every child? Probably not. Will it take time to build these relationships? Yes, absolutely! Can we really see a difference by applying some new tread? Yes! I guarantee you will!

Which ones have you been doing? Which ones would you like to begin doing this week? I’d love to hear what’s working for you and how you’re gaining traction with kids!

Words Are Powerful…Be Careful!!

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
– Proverbs 12:18

I am a people watcher. I love having the opportunity to sit on the outskirts of a large crowd somewhere and just observe others. Whether it’s a beach or a theme park or a restaurant, I am fascinated by the actions and words of others. As I’ve people watched over the years, I’ve noticed a few things…

  1. People often say unkind things to one another.
  2. Parents belittle their children a lot.
  3. Spouses can be really rude to one another.

Now, I’m sure these observations don’t reveal anything new or surprising, but, they occur so frequently that I can’t help but notice the nastiness that can come out of our mouths at times. It’s no wonder this proverb tells us that our words can pierce like swords. I know that holding your tongue takes self-control and a certain degree of humility, but, people, the results are amazing! When an emotion is triggered in us and we want to cast a verbal dagger…don’t! When someone exhausts your patience and a strong reaction would make you feel better…don’t!

As a spouse and parent, I’ve learned that I don’t need to say everything that I think. When I slip up and allow certain things to escape my mouth, I end up wounding others, triggering more reactions, demeaning those I love, and creating negative memories.

Here’s the deal. Words are powerful. But, misguided words can hurt deeply. Think about your misguided words as stabbing another person with a sword. We might be more apt to use wisdom before speaking so that healing can take place instead.

Try this today: don’t say everything you think! Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it. Use your words for healing today!! God bless you, my friends and have a great day!!

Hey, I Know You!!

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
– John 21:3-7a

So, Jesus’ disciples had been through a pretty rough few days. They witnessed Jesus’ torturous death. They assisted in His burial. They were witnesses to His resurrection. But now, Jesus was nowhere to be found. So, what to do? Peter decides to go fishing. While that may seem like a strange response to us today, before Peter became a follower of Jesus, he had been a fisherman by trade. He simply returned to what had been so familiar to him. He went fishing, and his friends joined him.

An unsuccessful night of fishing must have seemed like an appropriate end to the events of the previous days. Then, at daybreak, as the tired fishermen brought up their nets and the boat to come in from the sea, divinity broke into humanity. A question rose across the water from the shore. “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered, likely filled with frustration, anger, and hunger. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” came the reply from the stranger on the shore. I can only imagine that this was met with mixed responses on the boat because the nets were heavy, the men were exhausted and ready to come in, and to do this would mean more work, more time on the boat with no guarantee of a catch. But, they decided to try again and their efforts were rewarded.

Is that when the pieces began to fall into place? Did Peter’s heart begin racing as memories of a similar event years ago flooded his mind? At what point did he realize that was Jesus? Well, if you read on in this passage you’ll learn that Peter jumped out of the boat and he is infused with new life as he swims to the shore and realizes the man is Jesus himself.

This passage is rich with meaning and learnings. But, today, I am drawn to the realization that God often times meets us in both the unexpected and the familiar places of our lives. I’m encouraged to pay attention to God at work all around me. We never know when Jesus will show up and want to bless our lives and show us who’s boss. Be alert and ready to receive that blessing!!

Keep Running!!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

I like to run. I wouldn’t call myself a runner, but I do enjoy running…most of the time. A few years back, some of my friends challenged me to run a marathon. I hadn’t run in high school and really had no history of long distance running so this was pretty new to me. But, I’m always up for a challenge, so I said yes.

As we began the training, I would be lying if I said it was easy. There were days that wouldn’t have got out of bed if it weren’t for my trainers and fellow runners pushing me. I hated the interval days. On the longer run days I would come home and feel like I was going to pass out. But, I kept pushing. Mile after mile. Day after day.

All of the sudden the day of the marathon arrived. It was just me, my friends, and hundreds of other runners. I thought to myself, “if they could do it, so could I!” The first 13 miles were an absolute breeze. In fact, I might have begun to get a little too confident, thinking this whole marathon thing was going to be easy. Well, along came mile 20. To say I hit a wall would be an understatement. My mind was telling my body to keep going and my body was telling my mind, “NO WAY!” I was hurting all over, my pace was slowed to almost a crawl and I didn’t know how I would get through the last 6 miles. As people were passing me right and left, I tried not to worry too much about my pace and just keep moving. When mile 22 and 23 came along, I felt like all my practice had paid off. I suddenly got a bit of a second wind and finally ran through the finish line with bands playing and my family cheering.

The first thing on my mind was, “I never want to do this again!” I was tired. I was sore. I was in pain. I was sweating. After a brief rest, my feelings changed from exhaustion to pure excitement. My months of practice paid off. It worked. Discipline works.

God wants us to keep on keeping on. He doesn’t ask us to do great and grand things for his Kingdom. He asks us to be consistent and faithful. A consistent, faithful person is the one who gets more accomplished over the long haul. If you are struggling with soreness, if you’re tired, and if you’re motivation is just not there, I want to encourage you to keep running. Even if you have to slow your pace. God is faithful and He will help you!

Our Stabilizer!

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
– Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

For thousands of years, rolling and pitching due to rough seas plagued ships and the passengers onboard. Seasickness was a common symptom for travelers. Today, cruise ships are incredible. Royal Caribbean has a ship that can carry some 6,400 passengers. At 1,187 feet long, it is only 63 feet shorter than the Empire State Building. As large as a ship like this can be, it is still vulnerable to the natural conditions of wind, weather and seas. Yet, all modern cruise ships have these things called “stabilizers” onboard, which counteract the motion of the ship by changing the angles of underwater fins attached to the hull. I don’t understand it all, I just know that it makes people who are prone to seasickness much more comfortable.

For all, the storms of life come. The rains fall when a loved one gets sick. Winds blow when a friendship turns sour or we lose a job. The seas grow angry when an expectation we were counting on falls through. No one escapes life’s storms! But, when the storm rages in our lives and we are struggling to keep our balance, we have a “stabilizer” that counteracts the effects of the trial we are going through. As followers of Jesus, our stabilizer is called trust in God. As a ship’s stabilizer works to counteract motion (note that it doesn’t calm the sea!), trust in God works to calm our fears, even when the storms of life are at their strongest.

But, trust is active, not passive. Trust is not just a belief, but belief in action. Trust means that even though life doesn’t turn out the way we hope, we know that God loves us and is still with us. Trust means that even when we don’t see solutions to our problems, we are still confident that God keeps His promises.

Today, when a storm comes your way (might be a passing shower, might be a hurricane), I encourage you to choose to trust God. In trusting, God may not calm the storm, but I am confident that He will calm your heart.

Go and See!!

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” Mark 6:37-38

On that shore on the Sea of Galilee so many years ago, standing with hungry people, this incredible question was asked, “How many loaves to you have?”

Of course, Jesus’ disciples were thinking that he was crazy for even asking. They basically replied, “We don’t know. And even if we did, would it matter?” What they didn’t realize was that the solution was in their midst, maybe even within their very hands. They failed to acknowledge this because they were so blinded by the need that they couldn’t look beyond it.

I think what Jesus said to them, He says to us…Go and see.

Maybe what we are looking for – the very solution – is closer than we ever imagined. It might be in our own two hands. I’m not meaning to sound simplistic, but it’s true. As Christians, we are the hands and feet of Jesus!

Like the disciples, it’s easy for us to stand on the side of impossible. It’s easy for us to see the needs and be overwhelmed with all that we are not able to do. But, if anything is clear from the life of Jesus it is this: The world of the impossible has been overthrown, and possibilities are what conquers when He is involved!

Christianity, at its core, is not about sitting around and waiting for some event to happen. It’s about taking action and allowing God to work in us to change the world around us. We’ve not been called to sit and be spectators, but active participants, partnering with God to transform the world. You are a part of this process as you work in children’s ministry. God takes our loaves and turns them into miracles in the lives of kids. Remember that!

As Jesus invited the disciples in to join Him in this miracle over 2000 years ago, He is inviting us to partner with Him to meet the needs of a broken and hurting world. Let’s not sit on the sidelines today. Instead be an active participant and “go and see” how you can be involved…in your workplace, in your home, in your community, in your church!!

Have a great Friday, my friends!!