They Care That You Care

Children don’t care if you’re adequately educated.

Children don’t care if you have your act all together.

Children don’t care how spiritual you are.

Children don’t care how long you’ve taught.

Children don’t care about your impressive resume.

Children don’t care if you live in a perfect world in a perfect house with a perfect family.

Children’ don’t care if you don’t live in a perfect world in a perfect house with a perfect family.

Children don’t care if your lesson plans are polished.

Children don’t care if you’re the best of the best when it comes to teaching.

Children don’t care about all your accolades and accomplishments.

They do care that you care. That you sincerely care.

They care that you are the real deal.

They care that you like children. Or don’t like children.

They care that you want to hang with them.

They care that you’re sincerely interested in them as an individual.

They care that your smile is genuine and not forced.

They care that you accept them just the way they are.

They care that you pray for them and encourage them.

They care that you want to invest time and love into their lives.

They care that you want them to do their best without holding up perfection as the plum line.

Children care that you care. Most times, that is more than enough for them.

Sometimes the Call is in the Need

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I chose the above picture because the floor mat reminds me of the one in the preschool children’s church room. My husband, Mike, and I have the privilege of spending time with the preschoolers one Sunday a month. If you ask Mike, he’ll probably tell you he’s there because I have a call from God to work with children and I need help. And he would be correct. God has called me to hang with kids. What he probably doesn’t realize is that God wants him hanging with the kids too. He thinks he’s there because of a need…I need an adult to help me. To be honest, sometimes the call is in the need; however, don’t let Mike fool you. He has a unique gifting from God…he gets down on the floor mat and plays with the children on their level. Those kids love Mike.

The next time there is a call for workers in the nursery or Sunday School or Children’s Church, don’t be too quick to shrug it off. Sometimes the call is indeed in the need. And yet, you might be surprised to find yourself on the floor with car in hand yelling, “Varoom” and liking it.

Our Teens Rock

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Strobe lights flashed. Colored spotlights swirled around the room. Smoke poured from a machine at the front of the stage. Music blared. The lead singer didn’t hold back. Musicians bopped to the beat. Backup singers jumped with joyful abandonment. The audience, on their feet, clapped and danced. Their voices rang out almost as loud as those on stage.

No, this wasn’t a rock concert at the local city auditorium. It was teenagers at The Crossing in Lexington, NE, passionately worshiping Jesus. Sometimes they laughed. Sometimes they shouted. Sometimes arms were lifted high. Many cried as they connected intimately with the Kings of king and the Lord of lords.

Amid the craziness of COVID-19, the Nebraska Assemblies of God decided to have camp. Instead of conducting several camps, the leadership decided to merge junior high and high school teens together into two camps with 50% capacity. There were many regulations put into place to keep them safe throughout the week.

It didn’t take long for camp leadership to realize the magnitude of making the right decision. These teens, whose world had been turned up-side-down for several months, desperately sought God.

At the first merge camp, I worked in the kitchen during lunch and at the pop stand in the afternoon and evenings. Once the nightly services concluded, crazy activities took place and the pop stand opened for business.

However, the services went late because the teens desired to stay longer in the tabernacle. The speaker, Christian Chambliss, had a specific Word from the Lord for these young people. Sometimes he gave as many as four or five altar calls per service. With open spirits, they received all God had for them. Many nights the teens tarried at the altars long after midnight.

Even though it meant later nights for the staff, it was worth every sleepless moment. God radically changed those teenagers. By Friday, their hearts were full of renewed hope and fervent commitment. God transformed them in a powerful way and the “proof is in the pudding” so to speak. After God got a hold of them, I had the privilege of seeing them sacrificially serve others.

Two weeks later I saw the same teens at Kids’ Camp. Most of them worked on the Recreation Staff. Not only did they help with afternoon games and late-night activities, they scrubbed toilets (ew), dumped massive amounts of trash, washed pots & pans, and cleaned the dining hall. They served the children willingly in whatever way they could. Just like Jesus laid down His life for them, the teens laid down their lives for the kids.

I experienced an incredible couple of weeks hanging with the teens. With young people as passionate and committed to God as these are, the future of Christianity is in good hands. This grandma couldn’t be prouder.

COVID-19, elections, and national civil issues have our nation in turmoil. As a result, there are a lot of uphill battles the teenagers will have to fight. The uncertainty of the coming school year is a major one. But they will stay the course. Our teens rock because they have chosen to stand on The Rock. He transformed them and will see them through, perfecting the good work He began in their hearts.

Know When to Fold ‘Em

 

Remember the catchy Kenny Rogers song, “Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em?” (I’m sure you’re humming it right now.) There’s a lot of truth in that song and I’m smart enough to know when to fold ’em.

Come January, after a life-time of hanging with elementary kids in children’s church, I indeed am going to “fold ’em.” Kids will still be a major part of my life but that one particular ministry in my life will fold. It’s time.

And it’s okay that it’s time cuz’ I’ll be almost 70 years old by then. To be honest, my get up and go doesn’t want to, well, get up and go like it used to. Mike and I will still do preschool children’s church once a month and I’ll be part of the Wednesday night community outreach. I’ll also go to my fair share of teen and kids camps.

But come January…it will be strange to sit in church on the fourth Sunday of the month and not go to elementary children’s church. That also means I’ll pass along the B.G.M.C. ministry (children’s mission program) to a younger whipper-snapper. I’ll miss the kiddos but it’s been a good run.

I thank my heavenly Father for the wonderful privilege I’ve had to speak into the lives of children and tell them about Jesus. I’ve been at it so long that some of my earlier students are now grandparents. How cool it that? Totally cool, if you ask me.

Is There Anything I Can Say?

Let’s face it…things have been better. Way better. Right now the coronavirus has the world in a tight grip. The good news is, yes, it will eventually have to loosen its grip. But that doesn’t help with the here and now. It doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table for those who’ve lost their jobs. It doesn’t bring comfort for those who have loved ones who are sick or who have died from the coronavirus. It’s a scary time.

During these tumultuous times I have been praying specifically for the children. It’s been said physically they will weather this trial better than most. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I hope it is so. My prayers have been focused primarily on their peace of mind and their fears. I’m close to my grandchildren, and yet, I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this is having on them.

Is there anything I can say that will make this easier for them? Probably not. Their lives have been turned upset down over an extremely short period of time. (I mean, whoever thought that even finding a package of toilet paper would be a big deal?) I can’t make this thing better for them. What I can do is allow them the freedom to express themselves. I can allow them to share their fears, their disappointments, their anger.

When they cry, “It’s not fair,” because they can’t see their friends…they’re right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair when they can’t play sports. It’s not fair when they can’t go to school. It’s not fair when they have to be confined to the backyard on a beautiful spring day. It’s not fair when their relative dies from the virus and they can’t say good-bye. It’s not fair when dad and mom lose their jobs and now they have to do without some conveniences they’ve taken for granted.

I would encourage you to allow your children to express what they’re feeling. Allow them to release the emotions which are bottled up inside. Allow them to mourn the loss of graduation celebrations, not participating in sports, not being able to play with their neighborhood friends, not getting to say good-bye to their teachers with a hug. To adults, some of these things may seem minor compared to paying bills with money they don’t have, trying to put food on the table and put toilet paper in the bathroom.

But it’s not minor to them.

There’s a fine line between all of this and having a pity-party. A pity-party isn’t going to make them feel better. However, allowing them to express themselves and release pent up emotions will probably help them in the long run. You’ve probably seen the fear in their eyes anyway. Or the sadness on their faces. Or the explosive anger over minor incidences. Or the dark bedrooms where they’ve been keeping themselves.

God is an emotional God. And since we are created in His image, we are emotional beings as well. Perhaps it’s time to take the cork out of the bottle and let our kids express what’s really going on deep within. Maybe they simply need to have their feelings validated by someone no matter how trivial it may seem. And once they do open up, don’t judge. Hug them tightly and pray with them.

 

God Set Me Up, Again

tomica cars collections

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God did it again…He set me up royally. Once in a while, He reminds me that ever since I starting calling Him Lord, I freely relinquished my life’s control to Him. (He also likes to remind me He has a keen sense of humor.) Take last night for example.

Shortly before I left home for Superbook Academy (a children’s ministry at our church), I told God this was going to be the last year I’d teach. I reasoned that at my age it was getting harder for me to keep up with the 3rd & 4th graders.

One teacher couldn’t be at church due to her public school’s parent/teacher conferences. Since her kiddos have joined our class before, I was glad to have them do it again. We had a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves. Right before we dismissed, my regular students put stickers on their charts. (Once they earn 30 stickers, they receive a super cool toy or large candy bar from the “prize closet.”)

I need to put a disclaimer here. What I’m about to share doesn’t mean I’m a better teacher than Camille. I’m not and never will be. The key factor is the lure of prizes.

Several boys from Camille’s class wanted to add their names to the chart. I explained they couldn’t since they weren’t in my class. The boys begged to join our class. (Again, it had to do with prizes, not me.) I found out several of them would be in 3rd grade next year. In the middle of their protests, I promised them I’d be their teacher and we’d put their names on the chart then.

In that moment I heard the Lord say, “Gotcha!” I’m fairly sure He chuckled too. After promising the kids they’d have an opportunity to win prizes, I think I committed myself to another year of teaching.

Even though He got me good I’m not frustrated. I know if He’s called me, He’ll give me the zip my old bones will need to hang out with these incredible kids a little longer.

Living My Childhood Dream, Almost

Buddy Barrel

I’m living my childhood dream, almost. I lived with my grandparents until I was five years old when my mother remarried. During those early years, Grandma Walls took me to church every Sunday. She said when I was four-years-old I wanted to be a missionary.

The denomination we belonged to had a program for children called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade. (It’s still around with a slight name change – Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge.) The children took home wooden barrels (now they’re plastic) which they saved coins in. Once a month they returned the barrels to church. The money went to missions around the world.

B.G.M.C. evidently made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to be a missionary. Unfortunately, the closest I came to being one was going on a mission trip to Mexico. I did travel for four years with an evangelistic team in the 70’s called “Early Church on Wheels.” Even that didn’t fulfill my dream of impacting lives for Jesus in a foreign country.

And yet, I feel like I’m fulfilling it now. At the church we’re attending, I’m the B.G.M.C. director. How cool is that? I may not reside in a foreign country but I help support the missionaries who do. Who knows? Perhaps I can influence some of our children to become what I always dreamed of becoming.

What childhood dream did you have? Is it possible for you to pick those desires up again? If you dreamed of being a classroom teacher and you’re not, maybe you could teach Sunday School. If you longed to be a professional singer and it didn’t happen, maybe you could conduct a church or children’s choir. Did you want to be a doctor or nurse? Most folks in the medical field have compassionate hearts. Maybe you could volunteer at a nursing home or homeless shelter allowing your compassion to flow towards those who desperately need it.

I may not be living my childhood dream in the way I’d hoped but I’m living it in the way God intended. Perhaps you could too.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

photo of a boy listening in headphones

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I love when children and teens respond to God’s presence with expressions of joy, song, dance, and shout. Every summer at Camp Lex (in Lexington, NE) there’s always a lot of praising going on. I wasn’t at Kid’s Camp but saw videos where kiddos passionately expressed their love for Jesus. However, at a couple teen camps I worked in the kitchen. For me personally, the highlight of both weeks was when during evening services, teenagers uninhibitedly worshiped Jesus.

I’m thankful that at Omaha Christian Center children are part of our worship service before they’re dismissed for Children’s Church. I’m sure Jesus is thankful too since He understands the importance of their praises.

Remember the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem? People greeted Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” After His grand entrance into the city, Jesus briefly visited the temple. (For the complete story read Matthew 21 and Mark 11.)

The next day, Jesus returned and became furious when he saw folks desecrating the temple. He got a little hot under the collar overturning tables and scattering money changers everywhere. But it didn’t end there. Read what happened next:

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”    Matthew 21: 14-16 (NKJV)

Did you notice the children’s actions? They worshiped Jesus as passionately as they did the previous day. It was one thing for their parents to cry “Hosanna!” in a large throng of people with the priests a safe distance away; however it was quite another when the children didn’t hesitate to honor Him right there in the priests’ midst.

What happened when pure praise flowed from the children’s hearts? It frustrated the enemy…those who were opposed to Jesus, the True Messiah. The chief priests hated the children’s response, and yet, they were powerless to stop them.

In Matthew 21, Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2: Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.

Even now, one of the greatest spiritual weapons we have is the praises of our children and teens. Often, their sincere worship is more effective than any defense we adults might present. It has the ability to confound the opposition and silence their arguments. It also has the ability to soften the hardest of spirits opening the way for the Holy Spirit to minister.

I would encourage you to allow children to be in the sanctuary during your church’s worship service. If they’re in Children’s Church the entire service, then set aside time for them to sing and praise Jesus. Also, find ways to incorporate teens on your worship teams.

I wholeheartedly believe their praises can directly impact the spiritual dimension of your church.

 

Do You Need A Good Laugh?

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When I taught Kindergarten, every Friday morning was show and tell. We invited other grades to join us…and quite often they did. It was usually a highlight of the school week and the kiddos looked forward to it. They would plot all week long as to what cool stuff they could bring from home to wow all their friends. By far, the funniest show and tell item was brought by Alaina, a sweet little five-year-old. Never in a million years did I ever think she was capable of bringing such a thing.

What did she bring? I’m glad you asked. She brought a fart machine. Seriously. It made about a dozen different fart sounds. In all the years of show and tell that, by far, was the most popular toy ever brought. There is no way I can describe the awe of the other children when she demonstrated the machine. I didn’t even know such a machine existed until that momentous morning. All day long, fart sounds could be heard throughout the school.

It still puts a smile on my face every time I think about it. Hope my little story brightened your day as well.

Adaptability: When Plan A Doesn’t Work

boy child childhood class

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I’ve been teaching children since 1970 (school, Sunday School, children’s church). I should be a master teacher with wanna-be teachers sitting at my feet gleaning from my years of experience. For good reason, that’s not the case. I have a tendency to do stuff the hard way. For example, I offer you a lesson learned from the what-was-I-thinking and I-really-knew-better kind of experience.

I taught children’s church this past Sunday although it wasn’t my usual week. Since lots of folks were gone the class was smaller than normal.

Great. Small class. What can go wrong?

The answer is everything can and did go wrong. And I have no one to blame except myself.

Even though Kindergarten through 6th grades are grouped together, a lot of what I do is geared toward the older children. Fortunately, they’re extremely helpful in taking the younger ones “under their wings.” With their help, we make the wide range in ages work for us.

On Sunday, about 75% of my students were in kindergarten and first grades. I knew the lesson wouldn’t work because most of the older children were absent. Plan A was a mistake. I knew that, and yet, proceeded with it anyway.

Surprise! Surprise! (Not) The kiddos were a challenge. I knew from the start these little ones weren’t able to go where I wanted them to go. But I plodded on while chaos ensued.

Adaptability. I should’ve changed class up a bit but, instead, stubbornly clung to Plan A. There were several things I could’ve done differently; however, I simply chose the harder way. As a result, the children were miserable and I felt frustrated.

Adaptability. If I would have paused for a moment asking God for new direction, there might have been a different outcome. He’d gladly have guided me.

Adaptability. One of the first applications a teacher needs to grab a hold of. It can help them keep their sanity and bring peace into the classroom. Learn from my “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” method. Otherwise, you too might be in for a long day.