Showing posts with label Complementary Studies to KidMin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Complementary Studies to KidMin. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

Seeing God in the the Giggles of Your Summer Binge Watches


While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly obsessed with well-written comedies. So much so, that my friends threw me a shower that was themed Saturday Night Live. There was a “Mom Jeans” skit and more Chris Farley impersonations than one could imagine.  My utmost respect & admiration is given to comedic writers. Laughter is the sweet fruit of the highest form of happiness and these literary geniuses bare this in a simple sentence. Ha! Just like that, that stressful work memory is now silenced by the sound of one’s own glee.

As Proverbs 17:22 teaches, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Studies have pointed to the healing power of laughter time and time again. A few belly laughs naturally open the floodgates of oxytocin in the brain. This hormone (found in both genders) not only fills one with love and joy, but it is also a bonding agent in relationships. Sharing a good laugh biologically binds us together. Chuckling is a day at the spa for your psyche, i.e. it’s a natural de-stress tool -and it’s way cheaper than therapy!

So if you are seeking some R&R from your vocational ministry, I would like to share with you one of my greatest loves. While the church realm can be a tense place to serve, it can also be quite humorous, and nothing makes that more apparent than the shows below. They each serve up some freshly diced chuckles and some pippin’ hot theology. And if you’re like me, you have an appetite for both.

With this list, please know I am not suggesting the following:

  • The theology presented in these shows is 100% sound.
  • These shows should be watched by your students. Although, they are full of quality clips for sermons or lessons.
  • Binge watching all 5 of these shows before school returns should be a goal.  #challengeaccepted

All of these can either be streamed on Hulu or Netflix. Along with the links to the show’s page, I have added some of their main theological themes. Feel free to add any that I missed in the comment section.

    • Spiritual disciplines
    • Christology (the study of Jesus Christ)
    • Pneumatology  (the study of the work of the Holy Spirit)
    • Communal living
    • The cloud of witnesses of our faith
    • Vocational calling
    • Forgiveness/Mercy
    • Justice
    • Theodicy (the problem of evil)
    • The separation of Church and state #giveuntoceaser
    • God’s Sovereignty

    • Soteriology (the study of salvation)
    • Grace (God’s unmerited favor)
    • Works righteousness (Can grace be earned?)
    • Vocational calling
    • Immortal Souls
    • The religious pluralism of our culture

    • Vocational calling
    • The Domestic Church
    • Stewardship
    • Grace

    • Eschatology (the end of days)
    • Our fallen nature/Sin (The destruction that can be done with the misused power of religion is quite sad in this show.)
    • Forgiveness/Mercy

    • Is this finally a Protestant example?! (yes.)
    • Although this show is laugh-till-you-hurt-good, one specific episode puts it on this list. It is the first season’s fifth episode, called “Godfellas”. This hilariously portrays a praise band forming and the lead trying out for altar boy. Holy Moly! Talk about funny!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

One-Year Anniversary of the Bluebonnet Child Book


A year ago today, the Bluebonnet Child book was printed for publication by Wipf and Stock. I viewed this as an omen of sorts since July 7th is my best friend's birthday. While seeing one's idea printed on paper is exhilarating, hearing folks share of how this lil' book has enhanced their serve to kids truly takes the cake! In honor of this day, I suggest that we all eat cake and that I repost the original PR blog that was shared many moons ago. 

Can you picture a child who has fallen through the cracks? You know--that student who makes your job ten-times harder, but it's impossible to stay mad because you know what darkness awaits him at home? Though we don’t quite know how to address it, there are kids like this in every church and I call them Bluebonnet Children. This is their book, and if you have a heart for kids, this books is for you.

The renowned bluebonnet flower grows in poor soil.  One would never guess this to be true, but the bright, proud bonnet tells no lies.  Not even unkempt soil can keep a bluebonnet from producing its lovely blossoms. People can be similar to the bluebonnet flower.  They too can be born into poor soil with environmental and contextual challenges.  Kids from neglectful or abusive families are called Bluebonnet Children.

We are trained in Children’s and Family Ministry that the parent is the primary faith nurturer.  But what happens to a child who does not have a healthy parent to nourish him?

While it is tempting to leave such work up to the professionals of the courtroom and counseling sessions, the faith community can also play a formative role and act as a supplemental family.  This book offers helpful tools and inspiring stories to catalyze the entire congregation towards action. The tale of the Bluebonnet Child is heavy, but in Christ there is hope.

The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil is a ministerial resource that guides readers to adopt the Triple-A Approach. With this approach, they can become more aware of the child’s story, advocate for her needs, and theologically articulate how the healing power of Christ is at work in her life.  Each chapter is full of concrete examples and educational tactics that are immediately applicable in one's ministry setting. This is an intentionally short work (twenty-four-thousand words) for the busy practitioner. 

The Bluebonnet Child brings a unique voice to the conversation on healing through trauma because it is written from a theological perspective, as opposed to an autobiographical,  or psychological/ legal one.  Its foundation is James 1:27 which calls the Body of Christ to care for the orphan, the loveless and the fatherless.  Unlike similar reads, this book seeks to improve the systemic issues latent within Children’s Ministry programs.  The author is well-versed in developing healthy volunteer teams - the bedrock of a Children’s Ministry system. Regardless of a reader’s prior knowledge of theology, psychology, or educational theory, this book will hold his hand and lead him into the light of this dark work. Readers can also earn CEUs for this book through a two-week online class/book club where they can discuss its contents right along with Meg and others.

So if a kid's face came to mind as you read this, may I encourage you?😌 Don't be intimidated by this dark topic. Don't think that only counselors and caseworkers can make a real difference. Don't think praying as you turn down the other aisle is enough. You are needed, and this book will hold your hand as you extend the other out in hope. 

Get your copy of The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil on Amazon or shop local at Graves Drug Store Online

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Top 6 Takeaways of My Hometown Conference



A beloved tradition of mine is to venture to my hometown each summer and help at my mom's conference. Know Your Impact is a cost-efficient and highly-equipping opportunity for educators of all settings.  In the above pic, the keynote speaker is presenting my mom with a gift of appreciation. What fun! 😁

From "Mrs. Beautiful of MHS '04" telling me that I get prettier with age, 😂 (#ConfidenceBoost) to learning new ways of using technology in the learning space, KYI was filled with takeaways, but for now, we will start with the top six.

Doc Brown getting rid of implicit biasses one amAzing talk at a time. 

Doc Brown sets the standard for Keynote addresses. 
  • Every second of Doctor Adolf Brown's address was infused with his endless knowledge of behavioral science. From laughing to dancing to crying and creating, my brain has never held so much oxytocin/many endorphins in a lecture hall. I loved how his vocational calling as a professor/dean/author/speaker was so beautifully integrated into his life as a dad and husband. His wife was even on his PR and Tech teams--so.Cool! He had many tweetable tidbits, but my fav might have been, "Genetics may lower the gun, but environment pulls the trigger." If your event is needing a keynote speaker, check out his website and search no further. Seriously, if you want motivation with some sharp undertones of spirituality and heaping doses of research, he's your guy. 
The fantastic musician, Mitch Michael with my Mom, my sister from another mister, Hilary, and future YA Author, Anna Rhea

When you're following a divine nudge, God will bring about the "right" people to partner with you towards the goal.
  • Back in January, my mom joined me as I presented at a Children's Pastors Conference in Orlando. While she was there she was recruiting musicians for KYI. As we dined at the Royal Caribe Hotel, we heard the glorious sounds of Mitch Micheal and he agreed to offer up some tunes at her KYI conference. He is an insanely versatile pop rock/acoustic/acoustic rock artist. He can do Cash one second then jump up three octaves and do Coldplay. Insane! He's amazing on guitar and his voice is beyond lovely. Check him out! 😍
  • As I have shared before, my favorite teacher of all-time is my choir teacher from middle school and high school, Mrs. Catherine Lindsley. Two years ago, I met her partner-in-crime, Hilary Strum and she and I have since bonded. Although I only get to connect with her when I am in Mabank, I honestly feel that she is my sister from another mister. 😂 Her friendship has been a blessing on both a personal and professional level. 
  • One workshop that I attended was on using Google forms to connect with the parents you serve. Anna Rhea was the presenter and after one-minute into her content, I knew I was learning from a highly creative, competent, and hilarious person. As we got to talking, I found out that she is an aspiring YA writer with some books already completed. I connected her to another Winfield author, Andrea Berthort, and I can't wait to buy her first book. ❤ To add to this, Anna and I are now niche-mates and will be trading publishing advice for editorial work on my next book. How fun is that?! 
Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant
  • I also had an awesome conversation with Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant. She was another one who my mom recruited while at the Children's Pastor's Conference in Orlando. Instead of premarital counseling books, she writes resources for parents to use while they are expecting a child. Her work is beautiful and unique. Click on the above link and see how it can enhance your church's serve. 

Region 10 Autism Consultant, Layne Pethick 

Layne Pethic taught me to move differently with my toddler and screen time. 
  • Did you know that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates limited their kids to twenty-minutes of screen time a day? 😕 Yep, it's true. This is shocking considering that the average kid in America spends seven hours a day in front of a screen when kids really should not be in front of a screen for more than two hours a day (and kids under five should only be in front of a screen one-hour a day). Layne taught us that too much screen time increases cravings, alters kid's mood and causes inconsistencies in speech. After being in front of any screen, all of us need around five minutes for our brains to scramble back into place before transitioning on to the next thing. 
  • Layne's presentation was based on 55 neuroscientific studies and he shared that the latest research is pointing to the sad increase of anxiety and depression in teens due to increased screen time. 😢
  • The three things we need to support healthy brain development at any age? Layne proclaimed, "conversations, play and being in nature". (It's really not that surprising, right?) 
While I was presenting at KYI, my Aunt Nancy (and Dad, and Grandparents) 
filled Henley's days with fun. 

I am (almost) ready for Henley to go to preschool. 
  • Fear has been overwhelming me lately as a parent. Pour on the courage, Lord! Help me to gather up my gumption! 😆 As my offspring turns four in the fall, I am shockingly terrified of sending her off to preschool. However, as I saw how much fun she had with my Aunt, and all of the neat things my Aunt taught her, it gave me a glimpse into our new chapter. And what I saw made this wimp-of-a-parent a lil' bit bolder.  

Me and my bold offspring, Henley June

Here we are exploring the "7 Dwarfs of Setting the Brain up for Success: The Internal and External Factors that Affect Every Learner".

As a presenter, it is helpful to set out promotional materials on the tables/chairs before folks arrive. 
  • When I have presented in the past, I always waited until the end to share fliers on my book, workshops or online book club. And I always wait for folks to ask for them first, as to not come off as pushy or cocky. However, since I was offering three different workshops at KYI, I figured I had nothing to lose in doing a little experimenting. With this said, during my last workshop, all of my promo materials were awaiting folks at their tables as they arrived. The timing of this experiment was also golden because most of the people got there twenty-minutes early. (Who are these people?!)To my surprise, people were actually interested in them.😆 Most took them home, some took pictures of them, and the rush of book sales after my presentation was more than those of the past. (Insane!) Most importantly, this intentional time for them to explore what I was all about enriched our conversations because they knew the ways that my services could help them. From now on, promo materials will always be set out at the start! 💪💓🙋

My fav hometown dining spot, Vetonis

There is just as much comfort found in change as there is when things stay the same. 
  • In the fourteen years since I flew north, it seems that one of the rare things that remains unchanged in my hometown is my fav restaurant, Vetonis. This place is very near and dear to my heart. I learned how to go on dates here. I won a speech scholarship here. I got shot looks from my mom for eating an entire calzone (on multiple occasions) here. 😅(#NotAshamed) When I think of my years in Texas--I taste the sub-par pizza of this almost out-of-place mom-and-pop joint. It nurtures me on every level, and I am so thankful that the menu, like the wallpaper, has not changed in two decades.  On the flip side, I am thankful for the change in my relationships. My Dad and I are much more capable of healthy convos now then when I was in school, and I am so grateful. I am thankful that we have both evolved as emotionally mature humans (for the most part). I have also reconnected with friends from my teen years in new and fresh ways because of KYI, and this calls for much rejoicing as well. 
Thanks, Mabank, for a refreshing time, and in closing, I will share two of your eye-catching murals.

"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Prez. Willie











Monday, May 14, 2018

Tomato, Banana: The Differences Between Children's and Youth Ministry

"Tomato, toma(h)to?" It's more like, "Tomato, banana" when it comes to comparing Children's ministry (KidMin) to Youth Ministry (YouthMin).

Yes, they both coexist in the figurative fruit bowl of careers, but these two callings are vastly different.

It makes sense that one is often confused/enmeshed with the other, for there are some similarities. They both involve lesson planning, pastoral care skills, and volunteer teams to lead homo sapiens that are not yet adults. However, upon a closer look, one can see just how different these two gigs actually are.

When compared to YouthMin, KidMin takes more:
  • Volunteers due to the regulated kid/adult ratio. Not to mention that the variety of developmental needs of early to middle-aged kids will require a plethora of gifts among your volunteers.
  • Relational work with parents due to the child being less independent. Parents are (usually) much more protective when their kid is in elementary school, so more connections with parents are needed. (#SaysThisHelicopterMom) This will also call for a teacher who is comfortable with her participants being more dependant on her. 
  • Classroom management skills. Kids reveal when they have checked out mentally much quicker than teens.  Plus, kids (usually) have more energy than teens.

When compared to YouthMin, KidMin takes less
  • Work getting kids through the church doors because they have fewer options of outlets to be with their friends, most kids don't own their own car, and it frankly takes less to impress them. This is not permission to lower the standards of your KidMin programs though! You are not running a YMCA! Make fun the means to the end, and the end goal is always authentic spiritual formation! 💪 
  • Managment of peer relationships and dating drama. 
  • Breaking down of the emotional barriers that a teen might put up as she's trying on different identities as part of her healthy social development. (Thanks, Erik Erickson!) Ya just can't beat the authenticity with which a 4th grader presents herself, and I think in a sense we spend a lot of our adult lives trying to return to this state of presence, wonder and sense of self. Whoa--that got deep *real* fast! Lo Siento...

Contrary to popular belief, both YouthMin and KidMin involve:
  • A leader's ability to tap into a silly/fun mode of being/leading. Up that retention in their brains--make 'em laugh! You are telling the greatest story ever told, tell it with joy! Make the lasting impression that church *can* be fun. 
  • The talents to play the "political church games" enough to shift member's mindsets on what valuing kids and teens as equal and heard members of the Body of Christ looks like. 
  • Biblically sound teaching pedagogies. While in YouthMin, you want to guide your teens in safely thinking abstractly on the mysteries of the faith. In KidMin, you want to understand theological truths so well that you can transpose complex concepts into age-appropriate forms *without* dumbing it down to some weaker version of an Aesop's fable. (Get that out of here!)  

This a huge subject matter and I am excited to hear from you below on the other differences and similarities between these two vocations.✌❤💬

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What Needs Our Kid's Prayers Reveal

Conversational tools can be helpful in assuring functional discussions with Bluebonnet kids. Such tools encourage proper listening, while also meeting the needs of more tactile learners. For almost a decade now I have used the same, palm-size painted stone as a talk-rock for varying ages during prayer time. (Yes-I hear ya, if it were smaller, it would be deemed a “prayer pebble”.) The stone is gray, and it was given to me by a camper at Camp Quinipet in Shelter Island, NY where I served as a chaplain. Like many stones on the Peconic Bay, this one is deep gray, and the waters have sanded it down to its soft, lovely state. The camper painted the top of it with different colored stripes. It’s smooth on the bottom, but highly textured on the top.

As a talk-rock, the kids hold it and pass it as they share their prayers. While they sit in a circle, they know that the only person that can speak is the one holding the stone. All the other children must aim to be good listeners. It beautifully sets up prayer time. At the end, I close us in prayer holding the same rock. This stone is more than special to me, it’s sacred.  It holds a subtle power after so many young disciples have held it while tuning into the Holy Spirit.

Over the years, I have heard some charming, prayerful moments. Pre-schooler, Hazel once lifted up this prayer, “Dear, God. My mom says, ‘Hazel, you don’t got a choice.’ But God, all I want is more choices, so if you could give me some- that would be great. Also, thank you for bacon.” And a kindergartener once stated his entire prayer in the voice of a Transformer.. Praise for Pokemon-Go, and strength to unlock the next level occurs often in all the grades.

While these moments are pure and quite humorous, there have been many more moments of holy depth. Transcendent moments of praying with children flood my memories. Many times during our pre-school lunch, I have had to hide my tears. One of my most beloved Bluebonnet Children, Ellis, had a speech impediment. For five years he would offer up the most long-winded prayers; his eyes tightly shut, the stone tightly clenched. No one could understand a single word, but his passion left the room (of other young children) silent in attention. The only word that was clearly articulated was ‘Amen!’. I looked forward to his prayers each week.

There have been times during prayer, that I have cringed a bit, due to some heretical undertones. I have heard fearful prayers towards God (since God killed Jesus), “Please don’t do it again, God.”  Prayers against those who are homosexual have also been offered from these young ones, “Help us to not talk to them”, one 5th grade boy said.  And materialistic lamentations have been prayed more than one can imagine.

You don’t need me to tell you that the "littlest of these" require mentors in the faith to prayerfully articulate how the Holy Spirit is moving in and around them (while also kindly correcting the false teachings they bring with them). While children can sense that something different is occurring as they enter our church doors (hopefully), they lack the language to claim and capitalize on it. Not to mention the fact that some holy hums could easily be drowned out by the noise of the world. As the creator of Godly Play, Jerome Berryman states, “Religious language gives words, narrative, and parables that help us to make sense of our experiences with God, to come to know God better and to make meaning of what we experience and learn in all of life.”

The third and final step in the Triple-A Approach calls for us to theologically articulate the grace-filled hope and new life that awaits these Bluebonnet Children in Christ.

Stay tuned as we take some applicable steps in this theological articulation. Be sure to subscribe to the right. 😁

Can't wait that long? Own The Bluebonnet Child eBook now!


Meg

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mindfulness in KidMin; Help Your Students Carry Their Emotional Baggage Properly

Not only can we do our best to assure their safety while they are within our care, but we can also fight for their needs by equipping them to care for their own needs. ‘Mindfulness’ is a huge buzzword right now in both the secular and spiritual teaching arenas.  Although this practice is far from cutting-edge, new affirming research has re-birthed it. This therapeutic technique equips one to  fully concentrate on the present moment. In peacefully noticing and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings, he can take ownership of these and guard them from the actions of others in the past or future.

Although, mindfulness exercises can take the form of sculpting a symbol of one’s day out of play-dough or rediscovering one’s groundedness while laying the floor with soft music, one of the original forms was a lesser kinesthetic version- prayer. As one of London’s leading voices in mental health, The Mind & Soul Organization teaches,

 “Within the Bible there is an implicit theology of attention and awareness. Jesus goes off very early in the morning to a solitary place to pray, which is an act of sustained attention (Mark 1:35). Peter and the disciples hunt him down and interrupt him, trying to distract him with what the crowd wants. Jesus switches his (and their) attention back to what really matters and says, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come’ (Mark 1:38).” 

Not only is Jesus seen prioritizing stillness in the New Testament, but so are our Hebrew ancestors in the Old Testament. The prophet Elijah was striving to hear the voice of God, and while mistakenly thinking it would be heard in an earthquake or a fire, it was found in a still small voice in 1 Kings 19. As a compliment to the Biblical emphasis on solitude, neuroscientists and psychologists offer many helpful resources on the subject as well. One that I have recently found very helpful is “The Whole Brain Child” by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. Here, mindfulness is taught to combat the “flight or fight” feeling that many kids experience while in fearful or uncertain situations. Even a child with extreme behavioral  issues has been found to behave better after a moment of mindfulness than he would have after a moment of conventional punishment.

One school in Baltimore has replaced visits to the principal’s office with a mindfulness room and behavior and academic success has never been better. The school is located in a very low-income area with a high crime rate. Many of the children struggle to feel a sense of security and love. Upon entering the mindfulness room a child is led by a trained facilitator through a breathing exercise. Once this is complete, the two begin to explore the emotions that surrounded the behavioral issue. In time the student’s visits to the mindfulness room decrease, and they begin utilizing these helpful methods on their own wherever they may be.

This is such a mighty tool for children to take with them from your programs. While they can’t control the actions of others, students can learn to own their emotions and take control of their reactions. In pausing for a moment of solitude, they can tap into the sense of peace, strength and affirmation that only the Holy Spirit who dwells within can provide. While the concept of mindfulness could have been placed anywhere within the Triple A Approach (be aware, advocate, and articulate), the fact that it arms kids to fight for their own needs outside of your church programs puts it in this chapter.

One of my most affirming moments in ministry was birthed out of a mindfulness exercise. It was during our fifth grade after-school program, Extreme Explorers. I loved this group of nine preteens so much, but if these students had attended the school in Baltimore, they would have spent many  hours in the mindfulness room. This was quite a challenging bunch. Each Wednesday I would go home and research how to present a more engaging lesson. In my research I came across mindfulness exercises.

One day after their routine time of snacking and mingling in the church courtyard, I invited them up to the teaching space. We reviewed last week’s lesson and I shared with them how proud I was of them. I pointed out that I sensed some distracting feelings were being brought into our space and that I wanted to help them take control of those so they could get the most out of EE.  I then showed them a short and powerful video called “Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer-Salzman and Josh Salzman. This amazing bit is made up of children teaching the practice of mindfulness to adults. It’s beautiful.

After the video, I invited them to find a comfortable place in the room to lie down on their backs far from their friends. I dimmed the lights, played some soft spa-like music, and walked them through what is known as a grounding exercise.  This involved focusing on one’s breath-the rise and fall of the abdomen along with tightening and loosening different muscle  groups. Knowing the energetic dynamics of this group, I only allowed three minutes for this. I then led them through an echo prayer. While still lying comfortably, they repeated after me. At this point, the Holy Spirit filled my mouth with different words than what was on my script. The prayer that came out was one of forgiveness for those whose presence or absence had caused us pain. We then prayed to see ourselves as God does-a strong, smart, and loved tween. At this point, my eyes were closed and I heard (what I assumed was long-overdue) snickering.

As I opened my eyes, I saw six of the nine students crying. The other three were respectfully remaining present, while the room was enveloped with a slew of emotions. I was speechless from shock. My prayer was over, but I felt the Spirit nudging me in a different direction. I asked the kids to give a thumbs up if they desired more time.  They all did. For the next five (yes-five!) minutes, they continued to breath, to cry, and to experience the palpable presence that is the hug of God; while I, awestruck, subtly sobbed like a baby in a chair off to the side. I was no longer needed for the remainder of the exercise.

When five minutes were up, I left the lights dim and invited them back together as a group. I had not planned on a time of sharing, but once again-the Holy Spirit had different plans. In a gentle way I invited anyone who so desired to share their thoughts of this moments. This then opened the floodgates to the most vulnerable and deep moment of sharing. Some shared stories of divorced or incarcerated parents. Others shared of the lesser sadness of GPA-inflicted stress and peer pressure. One boy cried with his entire body for his mom that had abandoned him when he was four. I tear up now just at the memory. To my utter amazement, every student was respectful and comforting as the others shared, and what was meant to be a three-minute activity became a thirty-minute one.

In the weeks that followed, they requested more moments like this.  One time when tensions were rising during a team-building activity, Maria jumped up on a chair, turned off the lights and belted at the top of her lungs, “YOU ALL NEED TO CENTER YOURSELVES!  WE ARE NOT COMMUNICATING WELL!” We did many more mindfulness exercises and in time they all grew in awareness and ownership of their own emotions and reactions-despite the poor choices of those in their lives. More importantly, they learned how to tap into the healing voice of God which  resides within. Arming Bluebonnet Children with spiritual disciplines such as these is a mighty way to advocate for them.

Stay tuned as we explore how intentional worship opportunities is one way to advocate for students of troubled homes.  Be sure to subscribe to the right. 😁

Can't wait that long? Own The Bluebonnet Child eBook now!


Meg

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Advocate for Your Students with a Safety Policy

While there may be varying levels of concern for children’s safety (depending on the parent),  I am convinced that ‘safe’ is nearly synonymous to ‘successful’ in our Children and Family Ministry Programs.  The value of security is a top priority for most parents.  One step in assuring the welfare of all is to create a Safety Policy for your church.

Now, before the operational and tactical side of this compels you to hurriedly exit this tab-hear me out. There is a very helpful tool I can offer you to help make this a reality for your church family. It’s called BeaDisciple.com. This is a digital hub for Christian education with professional wisdom at extremely reasonable prices. You will find a course which uses Joy Thornburg Melton’s text, Safe Sanctuaries, to walk your team through creating your own Safety Policy. The course blessed us with a consultant that held our hand every step of the way. With focus groups, data collection, and then the actual writing (and rewriting and rewriting) of the policy, this intimidating task turned out to be a lot more manageable. The course also guides your team in ensuring your policy meets the unique needs of your church’s programs.

It has been seven years now since our policy was created, and it has been so refreshing to have this foundation as we strive to protect the safety of our kids, adult volunteers, and the overall integrity of our program. A supplemental tool that has helped us along the way (and that is required by our denominational conference) is www.safegatherings.com. It makes screening and training for abuse prevention BEYOND simple for our KidMin team.  Safe Gatherings certifications are only good for three years. And our Office Administrator keeps our certification records.

Having a solid safety policy in place sends the message, “We love you with the love of the Lord, and we are going to work our tails off to provide you with a safe, nurturing church family, filled with loving and equipped Christ-like mentors to guide you as you grow in your faith.  Despite the poor soil to which you may return, here at [insert your church’s name] you will learn that God’s grace has the final say in how you blossom in life.”

Stay tuned as we explore the power of practicing mindfulness with your students. Be sure to subscribe to the right. 😁

Can't wait that long? Own The Bluebonnet Child eBook now!


Meg

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Power of Awareness in Serving Troubled Kids Part II




(Read Part I first 😀 .)
Another external factor that should be considered is a child’s socio-economic class. This paints a different worldview for each person. While we might be more aware of it in lower class families, poor soil can be found in any class. I was once guilty of judging the impoverished families of our community for how they ran their families, and I am so thankful that I had a change of heart.

As soon as the strap hit my shoulder I knew something wasn’t right. Heart racing, I unbuckled my bag only to find that my wallet had been stolen. Stolen? Yes-stolen. I was heart-broken; it was most likely pocketed by a person who came to our office seeking shelter, funds or food.

The church's community meal was the next day, and unlike previous shifts, I was not feeling good about this one. My heart was bitter. Needless to say, the disappearance of my wallet gave me a resentful filter through which I viewed the entire evening. My usual common courtesies of small talk or topping off waters were non-existent.
Despite my sullen mindset, I remained faithful to my volunteer hours. The following week was Christmas, and each family would receive a gift from us. With my prickly attitude and low expectations, I began lining up these twenty-plus bags of groceries.
The fake Holiday-cheer of mine quickly faded with the first person who fought me on the “one-per-household” rule. It also did not help my morale when families sent different children through the line to get an extra bag. But I remained faithful. I showed up and served.
Man Wearing Black Apron Near Two Silver Metal Cooking Pot
My infant daughter joined me at the next weekly meal. I wore her in a carrier. She and I weaved through tables giving refills and taking trays. Similar to before, I was not emotionally present until a voice shook me out of myself. “How old is your baby?” I turned around to see a round-faced, brunette in her mid-twenties with a messy ponytail and pastel sweats. She was surrounded by a flock of children.
Our paths had crossed before, but the extent of our conversation was based on her preferred amount of gravy.


“One,” I said.

“She walkin’ yet?”

“Yes. On Christmas day, she just decided to take off,” I replied.

After sharing a chuckle, she did something unexpected. She went around the table and shared the early milestones of all of her children. Sharing at great length, she spared no detail. Her cup overflowed with pride and love. Her memory far surpassed mine, and I only had one child. Prior to this moment, I had wrongfully doubted her competence as a mother. In fact, since the wallet situation, I had been viewing all of the guests as potential thieves who could not be trusted.

Suddenly, I was ashamed of my thoughts and suspicions.  As I walked back into the kitchen, the Holy Spirit humbled me. I realized that while my lens was temporarily tarnished, God’s perspective is always grace-filled. God loved her and me in the same unconditional way. Regardless of social class, God sees through a filter of love. Instantaneously, my negative lens was wiped clean, and my bitter dehumanizing thoughts vanished.

Awareness of one-another’s story is key as we serve others in Christian love.  Even though grace is God’s gift to all social classes,  each person brings a different set of values and perspectives to the table. Since Bluebonnet Children can be planted in any socioeconomic class, it does nothing but enhance our ministry if we are intentional in our understanding of these differences and opportunities.

One leading expert on this topic is Ruby Payne. While I do not know her personally, she holds a very special place in my heart. My mother was enthralled with her work while she was completing her Masters of Education Degree. In Payne’s book, “Bridges out of Poverty; a Framework for Understanding Poverty”, she clearly articulates the unwritten parameters by which the impoverished, the middle class and the wealthy move through the world. Her work has been monumental in the world of education; and has influenced numerous community initiatives that are eradicating poverty (not an overstatement).


With this chart as a tool in comprehending my experience at our community meal, offering mercy naturally takes less effort. My wallet was (most likely) stolen by one who sincerely believed that he had no real control over how his life turned out. Like cards, the lives of the impoverished (so they believe) were dealt to them and choice plays no role in their circumstance. Unlike other socioeconomic classes that revere the concept of personal responsibility, whoever took my teal Liz Claiborne  wallet believed that the rest of the world owed him something. No judgment here-it is what it is.

Furthermore, since persons in extreme poverty operate out of a “survival mode”(in which all decisions are based on temporary feelings) it makes sense that many parents deemed it “moral” to send their kids through the grocery gift line under false pretense. When a person’s main goal is feeding their family, the black and white rules of the surrounding culture fade to grey.  Political connection? Personal achievement? Nope-the driving force here is to simply live. Wake up tomorrow morning? Mission accomplished.

When someone is operating out of survival mode, they are also unable to plan ahead or even envision the future. All basic needs must be met first. Sadly this is not the case for those who are in poverty. We know this from Sir Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Basic needs must precede all psychological needs and needs of self-fulfillment. It should not be surprising to us that our meal guests are not rushing to worship with us on Sunday morning. How can we expect them to give any thought to the spiritual trajectory of their lives while they're not even sure from where their next meal will come? And for those of us who serve in Children’s and Family Ministry, what does partnering with a parent from this family look like?

Grappling with questions such as these will equip us as a Bluebonnet Child’s supplemental family and in time, Christ will reveal the answers. As partners with Him in the Gospel, He is counting us to become aware; aware of self, aware of His holy hums (through prayer), and aware of the internal and external factors of each child’s story.  May our awareness move us towards action on the pages to come.

Questions to Ponder
  1. Are you aware of your gifts (talents) and limitations? How could you better honor both of these?
  2. What does your ideal regimen of prayer look like? How do you operate differently when you are fully in tune with the Holy Spirit?
  3. Think of a time in your ministry when a lack of awareness towards a person’s story (all of the internal and external factors at play) negatively affected the situation. Looking back, offer a solution for a better outcome. Send up a prayer for those involved.