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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Hunger Games Discussion Guide

The Hunger Games

A Thoughtful Discussion Guide for Parents

Whether or not you want your high school students and preteen kids to be reading the books and watching the movie, chances are high that families in your church are coming into contact with the current excitement surrounding The Hunger Games.

Our student ministry team has developed a response that we’re distributing to parents of our kids to encourage them to dialogue with their children and talk through some of the serious content and questions that The Hunger Games is bringing into the lives of our youth.

Feel free to take this resource and run with it.  I think a part of our jobs, as those who are called to serve kids and families in our communities, is to resource them to have significant conversations around their dinner tables about stuff like this.  And, I think that part of my job is to share neat things like this that our student ministry team made for our families.

Sharing is a good thing, right?

Hunger Games Discussion Guide (PDF)

CLICK HERE

A special thanks to our Student Ministry intern, Kailyn King, for doing the footwork to make this resource a reality.  One day, you’ll be allowed to hire her at your church to run your student ministry.  But… not yet – we want to keep her for a while :)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Orange, Resources

 

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Vote for West Coast CM

West Coast CM in Blog Madness 2012

** UPDATE **

West Coast CM made the Final Four! 
I’ve been named the underdog… and I’m a long shot to win.
You can help keep this run alive by clicking here:

http://ministry-to-children.com/kids-ministry-bm-2012-final/

Vote for the Little Guy

For a few years now, Tony Kummer (the guy behind Ministry-to-Children.com) has been putting together a small competition that brings attention to those of us who blog in the Children’s Ministry community.  It’s a fantastic way to get a fresh perspective on serving children and families in the church; I always find at least 1 or 2 blogs that I’ve never read before and add them to my list of must-reads.

This year, I have a chance to make the Final 4 round – something I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the competition.  My region is a little stacked (one of the bloggers has another site, Kidology.org, which has over 30,000 subscribers. Small Town Kidmin won last year’s tourney.  Gina McClain is a sought after keynote speaker on the national conference circuit), and yet, with a day to go, I’m still in the hunt and need you to vote, if you haven’t already.

Voting is easy.

  1. Go to the Blog Madness Site:
    http://ministry-to-children.com/kids-ministry-bm-2012-final/
  2. Scroll down to the 4th Region (SOUTH)
  3. Click on the bubble next to West Coast CM (#3)
  4. Click VOTE
  5. Tell a friend to do the same! 

You can only vote once per round.  No working the system on this one, friends.

Watching the other regions, I’ll need to push over 100 votes by tomorrow afternoon in order to have a chance.  Thanks for your support – now go vote!

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Thoughts

 

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Songs about Jesus

Songs about Jesus

Essential words we need to say in church

A few weeks ago, the team that leads worship for our elementary-aged children on Sunday mornings had just wrapped up their set and closed in prayer when a child from our 2nd grade section called out, “When are we going to sing a song about Jesus?”

Though two of our songs that day came directly from the words of Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27 & Luke 9:23) and our third song was a song that sings of our God’s power, I had not been intentional about making sure that our kids (especially the short ones in the room) sang a song that specifically mentioned Jesus that morning.  I’ll get to why that is a big deal in a moment.

I believe that the words we speak and the songs we sing in our church’s worship services help create a reality for the community we worship alongside.  And, though I believe that statement, I sometimes forget how important it is to remember its truth each time I have the opportunity to lead from the front of the room – with adults or with children.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m going to be super intentional about saying when I have a chance to speak in front of our church.  If there’s anything you’d add to the list, feel free to add on.

The Name of Jesus

I am convinced that this is what separates the Church from being just another neat place where people go and learn to be nice.  It’s a big deal that Jesus was a real person.  It’s an even bigger deal that he died for our sins.  It’s the biggest deal that he came back to life and that we can experience eternity in Heaven because of the gift of grace that his resurrection offers to us.  With that in mind, we should probably say the name of Jesus and sing songs that specifically remind us of his name – the Name by which we are to call to during life’s storms and the Name by which we pray.

Visitors are Welcome

It’s possible, believe it or not, for someone to feel unwelcome at your church.  In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that our churches face in getting a first time visitor to become a second time visitor is helping them feel welcomed and connected during their first visit.  I was recently speaking to a group of children’s directors and youth pastors when I suggested that they always take a moment to welcome first time visitors.  Afterwards, I had multiple people come up to me to tell me that they haven’t had first time visitors for over a year at their church.

I’d encourage you, much like I encouraged them, to begin talking about visitors before they are there.  If you intentionally begin talking about first time visitors and using words that express that everyone is welcome at your church, you’ll begin to teach your congregation that (a) church is a place for visitors and (b) they need to live into the reality that it’s their job to make your services a place where they can invite their friends who do not yet know who Jesus is.

You Matter

If I could encourage you to be intentional about the words you choose when speaking in front of children, teens or adults at church, I couldn’t end the conversation without talking about this next idea.  We live in a culture where fame and outward beauty are the bars by which we measure worth.  And those who try to measure up to that world and fall short question their own worth. It’s our job, as those who have the chance to speak words of truth to our churches, to make sure that we let others know that they matter – that God loves them and created them on purpose.

Make it a point, every time you gather, to speak of a world where God loves us deeply, where our community needs us and where we are valued… because that’s the world that exists and speaking of it gives others a little glimpse into what Heaven on Earth might look like.

These are the things that I’ll be making sure that we say in our church and in my ministries because I believe that they are true and I believe that it’s our role to say them regularly.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.  Feel free to add on or ask questions below.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Why You Might Experience Serious Regret this Thursday

Why You Might Experience Serious Regret this Thursday

The folks at ONLY144.com have done it again…I don’t think they sleep.

This time they’ve teamed up with 20 different producers to put together the most epic bundle I’ve ever seen for anyone who does Children’s, Preteen or Student Ministry.  It’s really cool stuff, but the only catch is that they can only do this for 144 hours, then it’s over.

This deal ends on Thursday at noon…that’s in 2 days…just sayin’.

If you want to turn $97 into $2,000 for your ministry, snag this and don’t cry yourself to sleep on Thursday night.  Dave Ramsey would be proud of you!

Visit www.only144.com to check it out.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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The Hardest Part of Kidmin

The Hardest Part of Kidmin

Thoughts on Ministry Burnout

I was recently reminded of the staggeringly high drop out rates of those in ministry… and my heart broke a little bit.  My heart didn’t break because I had never heard the figures before.  (Check out these statistics to see what I’m talking about)  I was deeply saddened because, often, I think that burning out in ministry can be avoided with a basic understanding of why ministry is hard.

If you’d add anything to my list (or suggest that I take something away), share your thoughts in the comments section.  This post is not meant to be THE answer… it’s meant to start a conversation.

Ministry Can Disconnect Us

The problem: The next time you have a chance to attend a conference, watch the people who work in children’s ministry.  They sing their hearts out.  And here’s why: I’d be willing to bet that only 20% of those of us who work in children’s ministry regularly attend worship services with our congregation.  When we don’t worship with our congregation, we become disconnected in a handful of ways (spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically) – all of which begin to wear away at your soul.  It’s easy to lose your passion when you feel as though you’re on an island.  Ministry, at times, can be exhausting and you need to know that you’re a part of a larger body and that you’re surrounded by others who are living out the faith alongside you.  If you’re not in your church, it’s hard to feel like you’re a part of your church.

The fix: Serve at a church that you would choose to attend and then actually be a part of a full worship service a minimum of 3 out of every 5 Sundays.  I’ve seen people take positions at churches where they would not choose to attend.  If you do that, you’ll wear yourself out.  I’ve heard of children’s ministry workers who haven’t attended a worship service at their church in over a year.  If that’s you, your wearing yourself out.  Listening to the podcast is not the same as being a part of a worshipping community.  If you want to last in ministry – go to church!

Our Systems are Broken

The problem: Many who are in ministry are underprepared for the expectations of ministry and the work that it takes to care for a congregation.  Before seminaries existed, those who were called into ministry received Theological training and then spent years serving under someone as an apprentice before taking their own position in a church.

The pieces of paper that students are earning in ministry programs across the country are not preparing the next generation of church leaders for the struggles and hard work of ministry.  We’ve lost our apprenticeship model within the church and are sending too many young leaders to the front lines of ministry ill-prepared.  And they’re dying out there.

The fix: If you can do anything other than ministry, do anything other than ministry.  That is to say – you’re going to get burned out in ministry if you don’t feel a deep sense of call to the position that you’re in.  Don’t go into ministry because it’s always sounded fun (it isn’t always), or because you think Jesus will love you more (he won’t) – go into ministry because you can’t do anything else.  Then, once you go down the path of seeking out a career in ministry, start small and build from there.

Find a ministry you love and volunteer with intentions of interning under those in charge of that ministry.  From there, take a mid-level or assistant position in the field of ministry you want to be in and commit a few years to being in that role.  Churches who are looking to hire full-time staff usually look for someone who has served at the same church for multiple years.  They’re not just looking out for themselves, they want to know that you’ve put in the work that it takes to learn the balance of life and ministry.  Start out small and take on roles that you feel overqualified for – because you aren’t overqualified and you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Satan is Real

The problem: As church leaders, we don’t talk about sin enough.  I mean, we talk about the sin of others… but many of us don’t have a place to talk about our own sin.  And I have something to tell you about that: Satan is real and he is delighted when people burn out in ministry because of the weight of unconfessed sin.

We’ve lost the art of confession in the protestant church and have especially lost our way when it comes to allowing our ministers and church staff members to admit their shortcomings.  If this were a battle (and it is) and we were sending people to the front lines without an understanding of how the enemy operates (which is what we do), we’d be sacrificing our best and our brightest future leaders simple because we don’t want to talk about sin.

The fix: Church leaders need accountability.  I’m not calling us to sinless lives – that’s an impossible bar to get over.  I’m calling us to surround ourselves with people who we can be real around.  And, I want you to know, it’s good to know yourself.  I know that, as someone who loves to tell a good story, I face a constant temptation to tell a “better” story than what actually happened.  I deal with that sin by (1) being very open about it and letting others know that it’s a struggle of mine and (2) giving people in my life the ability to call me out when they see this sin surfacing.

Sin has more power over us when it’s unspoken.  Every week, church leaders leave their ministry because of some sort of moral failure.  It’s an ugly truth that exists because those leaders lacked accountability in their lives.  So – can you name 3 people in your life that you can be honest with?  I believe in a God who, through the power of Christ’s resurrection, has freed us from sin’s grasp.  Are you living a life where you can confess the sin that holds you down so that you can experience that freedom?  If you don’t, you’re going to burn out.  It’s just a matter of time.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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CYMLC 2012

Children & Youth Ministry Leadership Conference 2012

I had the honor of taking my 2012 workshop presentations for a test drive today at the 16th annual gathering of children and youth ministry leaders at CYMLC in sunny Murrieta, CA.  As promised to those who attended my sessions, I’ve uploaded my notes here.  If you’d like the slides that go with them, comment below and I’ll pass them your way.

Tapping into Teen Helpers in Children’s Ministry

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

This workshop examines best practices and next steps for getting teen helpers involved in children’s ministry at your church. From getting your youth pastor in your corner to a how-to guide for getting teens to serve in your ministry, learn how to take your children’s programs to the next level by effectively integrating teen leaders onto your team!

Turning Parents Into Partners: Family Ministry 101

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

Family ministry is more than just large events and Sunday morning handouts that end up in the church parking lot. In this workshop, we discuss the best ways to create a church environment that encourages parents (and other adults who bring children to church) to partner with your children’s ministry team as you raise up children in the faith together. We also examine the common pit-falls that family ministry models fall into as well as simple ways you can make your ministry more family-friendly.

 I’ll be leading expanded versions of these workshops at Group’s Kidmin Conference this Fall.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Kidmin, Orange, Resources

 

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When You Least Expect It

When you least expect it

Open positions you can’t afford to overlook

Recently, I’d had the chance to connect with an amazing organization that is committed to connecting the best churches with the best children and family ministry staff in a hope of revolutionizing the way that the Church-at-large reaches the next generation.

Currently, there are two open positions that you’ve gotta check out – even if you’re happy where you’re at, God can call you out of your comfort zone when you least expect it.

Pastor of Family Ministry in Washington – Crossroads Community Church

Director of Children’s & Family Ministry in Naperville, IL – The Compass Church

Both of these churches are doing pretty creative things in the world of Kidmin.  Full details about the positions and church profiles can be found by visiting:

http://kidmin360.com/staffing/candidates/

If these positions aren’t quite the perfect fit for you, but you’d like information when other jobs come available, send me a DM on Twitter (@anthony_prince) or a private message on facebook (www.facebook.com/anthonyprince) – all inquires will be completely confidential.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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Making Camp Accessible

Making Camp Accessible

Tips for Making Camp Accessible for Special Needs Children

Each year, our church takes elementary-aged students to camp; we take children once during the summer for a week-long adventure and once more during the winter for a weekend experience in the snowy mountains near where we live.

I believe in taking kids to camp.  There’s something about unplugging from the busyness of life and spending intentional time on faith development that I can’t put a price tag on.  I’ve seen the lives of children and families transformed through the ministry that takes place at Christian camp centers.  I have one moment in my own life that I can look back on where I felt like God was whispering to my soul. That moment took place in a quiet prayer chapel at a Christian camp.  For me, that was the beginning of my journey into ministry.  God can start things in the lives of kids at camp that can change the world around them.  I firmly believe in that.

However, going into this year’s winter camp, our team was faced with a dilemma.  Our ministry to special needs children is growing at our church and a handful of those students wanted to attend camp with us this year.  Though we were thrilled at the idea of bringing these children to camp, we knew that good intentions were not going to be enough to create a safe camp experience for these potential campers.

Today, I want to share three essential things you would need to do in order to take special needs kids to camp.  If camp is something you believe in, then it should be something that children with special needs have an option to attend – it just takes some extra work.

Have a Plan

If you have children with special needs in your ministry, you are probably familiar with the idea of Individualized Educational Program (IEP, for short).  As a church, we try to develop an IEP for each child in our ministry who we identify as having a special need.  Our IEPs vary in their formality – if a parent approaches us in hopes of establishing a partnership, the plan we develop will be more involved and specific than the plan we draft for a child whose behavior warrants special attention but whose parents might not be willing to talk about the issue in terms of drafting an IEP.

Because camp is away from home and routines, we require a consultation between the parents of special need campers and our special needs ministry team – children whose parents are not willing to have those conversations are not ready for camp.  Good intentions won’t help you or your camper when you’re dealing with needs you weren’t prepared for.  You won’t be able to coach your volunteers well if you haven’t established a plan for making camp work for your special needs camper – if you want to bring a child to camp with special needs, you need to have a plan.

Think About the Details

Part of having a plan in place is thinking through the details.  I’ll be honest, without the partnership from the camp that we take our kids to, having details and plans in place wouldn’t be something that we could pull off on our own.  If you plan on taking kids to camp, thinking about the details should include:

  • Ask for each day’s schedule from the camp center
  • Bringing ear plugs for children who are sensitive to sound
  • Have a structured plan for special needs children who cannot handle unstructured time
  • Have a plan for the routine of bed time and ask parents about special considerations (bed wetting, sleep walking, night terrors, comfort items, etc.)
  • Make sure the camping site is 100% accessible for your camper

By no means is that an exhaustive list, but it should get your team started when it comes to brainstorming what details you need to have in place for camp to be accessible to all of the children in your ministry.

“No” is always an option

One of the neatest moments in having special needs campers with us this last winter camp came when a mom came to pick up her son at the end of the weekend.  She told me, through tears, how moved she was that we were able to take her son to camp.  He had never stayed the night anywhere away from his family until that weekend.  She went on to tell me that she felt like she could send him with me because I’ve become a part of their family over the years of being the Church together.

With that in mind, I want you to know that there have been times when we had to tell this family, “no.”  We haven’t always been a ministry that could give this young boy full access to all of our events.  During the first years of revamping our VBS, we could not accommodate his needs.  Until this year of camp, he has not had the chance to head up the mountain with our team.  However, those moments of saying “no” and explaining our reasons to this family earned us the ability to one day say “yes”… and mean it.  By always putting her son’s safety and well-being first, we earned the right to finally say “yes” and give her son an experience away from home to connect with his Creator.

And, to save the best news for last, this young boy decided to give his life to Jesus at camp.  Heaven got a little bigger because of the hard work our special needs team put into making camp accessible.  That moment made all of the hard work worth it.

Without a plan, working out the details and only saying yes when we were actually ready to make camp a great experience for our special needs campers, things might not have gone as smoothly as they did.  As those who follow Jesus’ call to “let the children come to [Him]“, we have a great responsibility to provide care for all children – even those with special needs.

If you have anything to add to this conversation, feel free to do so in the comments section.  We look forward to the addition of your thoughts and perspective.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Kidmin

 

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Reaching a New Generation of Families | redux

Last October, I had the privilege of leading a family ministry conversation at Group Publishing’s Kidmin Conference in Chicago. This next Fall, I’ll have the opportunity to lead a workshop where we will talk about the specifics of turning parents into partners in ministry.
I’m honored to be given the chance to speak on a topic that gets me as excited as this does.
 
 

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Practical Next Steps for Church Leaders

I walked away from some recent ministry conversations with the sense that a lot of people are talking about “Family Ministry” but are having a hard time navigating what their next steps should be.  Today, I thought I’d share three statements to keep in mind as your church moves toward a more effective family ministry model.

The Parent is the Expert

The reality: All too often, those who serve families in the church come across as thinking that they have all of the answers for the hard times of parenting.  However, most parents don’t see the need for your voice in the conversation – they’re the ones doing the parenting… so, obviously, they are the experts.  In a way, they’re right: they have logged more hours with their children than anyone else and they have the potential to be the greatest influencer of their child over the course of their lifetime.

Try this: Talk and act as though you are on the same team as parents. In front of children and their parents, support something that a mom or dad has said.  Follow up those moments by reminding those around you that you’re on the same team as the parents.  A healthy family ministry model is one that recognizes that you are not only serving children – you’re serving the entire family.  If parents see and hear that you believe yourself to be a member of their team, they’re more likely to treat you as a partner instead of just someone who spends time with their child while they go to church.

Families are Busy

The reality: Families are being pulled in more directions today than they were a few decades ago.  The childhood you remember doesn’t exist anymore. When you tell a family that bringing their child to church isn’t going to be enough – that there’s more to passing on the faith than simply showing up twice a month to Sunday School – you run a strong chance of overwhelming them.  Their calendars are already full.  They’ve double booked themselves at least twice in the coming week.  The don’t have time to do extra things and they’re more likely to give up on you than on Little League.

Try this: Cast a vision for younger families about what it will take to pass the faith on to their children. I’m fond of telling parents of toddlers and preschoolers to “Do what matters before it matters so that when it matters you’re already doing it.” In other words, the rhythms you create when your children are young matter – parents need to be intentional about how they’re spending their time.

Families of older children can be comforted to know that they are already doing many of the things that it takes to have spiritual conversation with their child.  Remind them about how they can leverage things they are already doing – sharing meals, bedtime routines, driving in the car & getting ready each morning for the day to come – in order to talk about the things that matter.  Don’t give parents an extra list of things to do – teach them how to add value to the time they are already spending with their children.

Not Everyone Cares

The reality: At best, 20% of the families at your church are fully committed to partnering with you in raising up the next generation (their children included) to love Jesus. 90% might check a box saying that it’s a good thing… but, at least 80% of the families in your church think that it’s the church’s job to teach people about Jesus – their own children included. And, to be honest, I’m probably being generous in saying that 20% of your families are bought in to partnering with you.  But, if I told you the real number, you might just get sad.

Try this: Don’t be upset when families don’t understand their need for partnering with you.  They’re at church – that’s a huge step in the right direction! Work on developing a tiered approach to partnership.  Think of commitment in terms of levels of engagement and work on moving families toward having a full commitment to spending time outside of Sunday teaching their children about Jesus.  If your church is doing its job, you’ll always have new families coming in and you’ll need an approach to getting them on board with partnering with you – start figuring out what those steps are with the parents you already know.  Want to find out what parents are committed to partnering with you? Try “forgetting” to hand out take-home pages this next Sunday and see which parents notice.  Warning: only do this if you’re ready for some hard conversations with parents at your church and with yourself.

Families are more diverse than they’ve ever been. For more reading on Reaching a New Generation of Families, check out this post: http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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My Intentional Hiatus

My Intentional Hiatus

The reason for my 10 week break

I live a life of rules because I know myself.

I know that, at my core, I wasn’t born with discipline.  In the same way that I had to learn to dress myself, to tie my shoes and to play an instrument, I’ve had to learn how to live a life where priorities matter and rules can help direct a busy life.

(for more on my ideas about the proper Order of Things, check out this post: http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-order-of-things/)

Last year, I was approached with the idea of continuing my education and pursuing a seminary degree.  I come from a small town, where going to a 4-year college is out of the ordinary – in fact, I’ve often looked at the idea of pursuing degrees as a slap in the face of those in my family who came before me.  So much of what they accomplished was done so through the strong foundations they learned through serving in our country’s armed services; a formal education in a classroom seems so far removed from the DNA of my family history.

Without the details completely hammered out (with what money? with what time? with what end in mind?), I began meeting with those who have voices in my life that I trust.  I also began spending time in specific prayer about the potential of going to seminary.  And, in the latter part of last year, I enrolled in my first class at Fuller Seminary in nearby Pasadena, CA.

As I pursue a degree in Global Leadership (the MAGL is a brilliant program, by the way. designed for those in full time ministry, this program blends what I love best about collaborating communities and prepares pastors and leaders for a world that is both more diverse and “flatter” than ever before) I had to remind myself of my priorities and what in my life comes first.

I’ve said it before, but my local ministry will always come before any projects or conversations I’m asked to be a part of.  Because I was taking multiple courses this last quarter, I wanted to make sure that I could keep my priorities in place.  For that reason, my unpaid writing gigs were put on a shelf for the quarter.  However, with my finals in their last stages, I wanted to return to share some of what I’ve learned over the last few months.

What I learned most, and what I’d encourage you to consider, is the importance of priorities.  If you’re in ministry, you need to model for your church what a life lived with proper priorities looks like.  Take a day off.  Make time to worship in song and in community.  Choose your family over ministry and tell others about it.  If you’re a parent, teach your kids about priorities and time management by showing them what they look like.  Take an intentional quiet time and make them take one as well.  Choose time with your spouse.  Read your Bible and talk about your faith with your children.  Don’t say yes to everything.  Show them that missing a baseball practice to attend a worship service is okay to do.

Consider what you need to take a break from in order to better line up your priorities.  Alignment and structure aren’t things that happen on their own.  Being organized isn’t something that just magically happens.  It takes being intentional.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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