Category Archives: Ministry

3 Part Summer Challenge for 1st-5th Graders

This is a challenge for our 1st-5th grade children’s church kids.

IMG_0090Complete one part: Choose “big” prize from children’s church
Complete two parts: Kiwi Loco gift card
Complete all three: Trip to Roaring Springs in August (day TBD)

Scripture Challenge:
Memorize Philippians 2:1-18. You may choose the version of the Bible you would like to use. It does not have to be word perfect, but it needs to be very close. You must recite it all at one time.

IMG_0001Creed Challenge:
Memorize the Apostle’s Creed. This creed helps state what we believe as followers of Jesus.

Mission Challenge:
Read 2 of our missions books and turn in a short report on the books. The report should answer questions like, Where did the story take place? Who are the missionaries involved? What was your favorite part? What did you learn from the story?

You have until August 4th to complete the full challenge. You can use the whole summer to work on each part of the challenge at a time. You do not have to do all three things at once. For example, you do not have to recite the scripture and creed at the same time. Whatever you complete by August 4th will determine your prize.

Your parents can help you along the way! Examples of how they can help are by listening to DSC_0081you practice your memorization, helping you come up with memorizing tools, reading the books with you, thinking of a good question to answer in your report, or reading your report before you turn it in.

If you have any questions, ask!

The Yo-Yo Lesson

Recently, as an introduction to a lesson about knot tying, we were discussing Proverbs 5:22 in one of the children’s classes I teach. It says,

The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;
    the cords of their sins hold them fast.

My question (what is this saying?) after reading the verse was immediately followed by that “deer in the headlights” looks from about 95% of the group.

Awesome. Let’s try this again, I thought.

We read it again, and again I asked, “What is this communicating?” I got a couple of answers this time and then the thoughts started coming…

“I think it’s saying the more you get in sin, the harder it is to get out….” Good.

“Oh, it’s kind of like evil will tie you up.” Yes- now you guys are on track…

Then a couple thoughts (and a lot of distractions) later, I noticed the demeanor of one of the girls change… her eyes lit up, she sat a little taller in her chair, and as soon as she made eye contact with me, she raised her hand up in the air. “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed.

“So my brother used to do yo-yo- like A LOT. He would do yo-yo tricks all the time. Well, if he got a knot in the string, the trick just would not work. It just doesn’t work to have a knot in the string. That’s what it’s like for us. If we get sin in our life, it just makes life not work. We can’t do things like we are supposed to. That’s what it’s about. Sin messes us up.”

“That’s brilliant,” I said. There really was not much more I could add to that. I think they figured out the proverb….

More than sports

Tonight is the celebration time for our Upward Sports league here in Ontario. The last 11 weeks we have been practicing and playing basketball or cheer leading with a huge group of elementary kids. All of our coaches and referees are volunteers from our church and our community. They give a lot of time and energy to their team to make the experience great! Our goal is to use the sport as the avenue to share what we believe is the most important thing: God’s love demonstrated through Jesus. We love the sport- but the sport is not the only thing we are after.

I have a confession though. During the season, I can get a little too into the sport and the details of the league, and forget that it’s the moments beyond the sport experience that really matter. That is generally when God orchestrates a moment to remind me that this is so much more than just basketball or cheer. One of the those moments happened last week at the last game day.

IMG_2214We have a young man on our coaching team named Jeremy. Jeremy is a guy with special  needs. A few years ago, he started helping coach and has been a part of the coaching team since. During the off season he will stop those who he knows involved with Upward and ask when practices start! He is so excited about basketball!

This season he was part of the Liberty team, a 4th-6th grade girls team. It is really fun to see him at practices and games on the sideline cheering and coaching. And he is very faithful to come to practices and games! He even got a group of friends to come watch his game one week. That was pretty awesome.

So last week was our last game day and Coach Jeremy had something IMG_2208special for his team. He brought every player a homemade card with a message from “Assistant Coach.”


IMG_2209I got to watch as he handed out each card to each player- he even brought candy to give them. Each card was handed over, on purpose, to each girl from his team… It was a cool thing to watch. Each of the girls smiled, said thank you, and beamed as they read their cards from Coach Jeremy.

It made me think again that this is so much more than just a sports experience. We are creating a place where Jeremy can be part of a team; a place where kids can build friendships with a guy like Jeremy; a place that, hopefully, shows God’s love no matter what walk of life we come from.  It has got to be more than just basketball and cheer… This is why I like being part of Upward Sports. When we do it right, it helps facilitate (through sports) an atmosphere that pushes us into what really matters in life.

Words Are Important

Something really awesome happened on Sunday. We were reading from John 13 and one of the kids caught what seemed like a very little phrase… Here is what happened.

We were going along, reading a little at a time, and asking questions; Who are the characters? What is happening? What is the setting? We started at verse 21 and we were headed to chapter 14 verse 1, when one of the girls suddenly had a very perplexed look on her face.

“Wait!” She interjected, “Wasn’t it already night time? Aren’t they at dinner? Why does it say ‘and it was night?’ Why does it need to say that?”

Enter awesome moment!

“Well,” I said, “The writer is using his words on purpose, every word is trying to help us understand something. So what would ‘it was night’ help us understand about what is happening?”

This led us into a whole discussion about what “night” communicates to us…. Our basic conclusion: the things we are generally the most afraid of seem to happen at night, when it’s dark. We tend to be the most nervous and scared at night. DSCN5705.JPG

At this point of the story in scripture, we decided the author is trying to help us understand that this is one of the darkest, scariest moments for the disciples… Jesus is even described as “troubled.” Jesus knows what is happening next, but the disciples are still clueless! But they are getting nervous about things… they are headed into one of the scariest times of their lives. But that is what makes Jesus’ words in John 14:1 so amazing.

In the middle of the scariest moment, Jesus says this:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

When we understand and really look at the words in the passage, I think it brings a new significance out for us. I’ve seen and heard John 14:1 a lot. But the time on Sunday really paying attention to the words around it was significant.

IMG_0530As we wrapped up on Sunday, I asked one last question, “What does this mean for us?” This is what we concluded: In the middle of the night, when everything seems to be the most threatening, the scariest, the darkest, we need to hear Jesus say, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” We don’t need to be overcome by fear; we can trust Jesus even in the darkest time.

It was a really good lesson in children’s church on Sunday…

Familiar Stories

One of the challenges I have is to keep the stories of scripture fresh and exciting in my life. It is an interesting challenge. I’m glad I know them, but I don’t want to be so familiar that I am no longer in awe of the truth they convey.

I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago while teaching Sunday School. Even some of the kids in the little class I have are pretty familiar with some of the stories. But we have a new girl in our class who has never hear the majority of these stories.

We’ve been reading stories from the book of Acts in the last month or so. Well, in Acts 8 we are introduced to one of the main characters in the book, Saul. Then in chapter 9, we learn a lot more about the guy. When we first meet Saul, he is in full support of doing whatever it takes to stop believers in Jesus from talking about Jesus.

So we get to chapter 9 in Sunday School and I’m explaining this to the kids as we start to read the chapter, and this girl just cannot believe it! Why would this guy be so mean??! All the other kids are getting into it- describing how mean and nasty Saul must have been, and what God must have felt when God looked at his life.

Then we keep reading and get to the part where Jesus actually comes to Saul and talks to him. At that point, I’m loving watching this girl’s face as she reacts to the story. Why would Jesus talk to him? He’s too mean! But where it becomes amazing to watch and listen to her reaction is when we read that Saul really does change his mind about Jesus. She could hardly believe it!

Why would this man change so much? Why would Jesus care about changing him? Why not just throw him in jail??

But that is not how the story goes. The story is that Saul does change… that Jesus is really still interested in him… the story is that Jesus radically changes this guys life.

It was amazing to watch as this girl experienced the story for the first time, and how that experience shaped part of her understanding of who Jesus is.

Jesus is not just interested in “right and wrong,” but Jesus is actually interested in changing lives. Jesus still loved Saul. Jesus still wanted Saul to be part of His family. Saul’s life really did radically change after meeting Jesus.

You know something… I kind of knew all of that, but I had forgotten it in the familiarity of the story. I am glad someone helped bring it back to life for me…. and I can hardly wait for our next Sunday School lesson!

Fat Tuesday

Welcome to the big day before the big day! Redundant statement? Yes. Kind of fun to put together? Absolutely. Moving on now? Affirmative.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Today is known as Fat Tuesday. It is actually a rather interesting day. The tradition of Lent is to prepare for the celebration of Easter through prayer, deep reflection, and often, sacrifice. For some, Fat Tuesday (and the time leading up to it) has turned into an opportunity to go crazy before making a sacrifice on Ash Wednesday. But really, that is not what I am thinking about today.

Today, I am really curious as to what the season of Lent may hold. For me, there is something important about these seasons. They really become times that help focus my attention. So what might I learn this season? I’m not sure, but I am looking forward to it with anticipation!

Favorite Quotes and Smoothies

I have to tell you my favorite kid quote from this week. Over the last week we have been holding special worship services at church. In our kids’ lessons we have been taking a closer look at the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control). It was a good time! We had a few kids coming back each night and reporting how they were thinking through their day and how they could really show love or kindness towards their siblings. Some of them have really started to think about it!

To wrap up our lessons, we did an activity that has turned into one of my favorites. We made fruit smoothies. Here’s the connection: We really can’t have one characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit without another. It becomes fairly impossible for us to develop love without developing patience and kindness or self-control. If we are going to pursue life in the Spirit, then all nine of those characteristics will begin to develop. So really, it’s not nine different fruits that are growing- it’s more of a mix, like a really good smoothie!

So we put all our ingredients in- strawberries represented love, pineapple was joy- and mixed it all together. Of course, you have to enjoy life in the Spirit, so we all enjoyed a bit of smoothie! As everyone was slurping down their smoothie, one of the five-year-olds declared very excitedly, “I can taste the Faithfulness!”

Of course, I laughed. It was so unexpected and his face was so excited! It was so funny! But then I started thinking: isn’t that how it should be? We pursue life in the Spirit and watch all the characteristics develop, but at certain points in life, there are characteristics that stand out more than others. My hope is that whoever is around me at that time the characteristic is needed can declare very loudly, “I can taste the Faithfulness!”