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If you’re involved in Children’s Ministry in some way, then you know that summer is “that” time of year!  You prepare for one of the most popularized forms of Children’s Ministry outreach – the craziness known as Vacation Bible School.  At SVCC, it’s easily the most anticipated week of the year, and much time, resources, and prayer surrounds this very event.

Everyone does VBS (or, in our case, VBA – Vacation Bible Adventure) differently.  I always enjoy hearing about the methods used/avoided by other churches, so I thought I’d share what we do.  I would absolutely love to hear how you and your church does this.  As Children’s Ministers, we’re a Faith Community…and the networking of ideas and resources is one of the many ways we can stay connected and support one another!

With that said, here’s what we do.

-VBA takes place the last week of June.  It takes a lot to prepare for it, so we don’t want to overwhelm those volunteers by having them spend the majority of their summer preparing.

-6pm to 8:30pm, Mon.-Fri. = more volunteers available to serve since it’s at night.

-VBA is available to children who are age 4 (by July 31st) thru 6th grade of the upcoming school year.  It is free of charge.  We also have a nursery component, available for children ages 3 and under.  Their parents must be volunteers.

-We develop our own curriculum each year.  ‘Soul Wars’ derived from Star Wars.  We like to choose a theme that’s easy for kids to connect to.  “May the FAITH be with you.”  Faith was the centerpiece of our daily Bible Stories and Themes:

  • Monday: By FAITH, Gideon was VICTORIOUS!
  • Tuesday:  By FAITH, Esther was BRAVE!
  • Wednesday: By FAITH, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said NO!
  • Thursday: By FAITH, Jesus fought TEMPTATION!
  • Friday:  By FAITH in Jesus, I am SAVED!

-Church Workdays (Saturdays) are established so that volunteers can come to the campus and work on a construction assignment.  We lean heavily on the set designs and environment.  Lots of work has to be done so that the Death Star can indeed be on our stage 😉

-Meetings are coordinated ahead of time for each area: Construction, Crew Leaders, Craft, Snack, Pre-K, Nursery, Games, Skits, Song, etc.  The night before VBA, we have a volunteer meeting/rally to get everyone psyched up for the week, and for prayer!

-The format: Opening – Rotation Time – Closing.

  •  Opening = Welcome, Worship, Soul Wars Skit.  All ages start together, and then split to their areas for rotation (early childhood, pre-k, elementary).
  • Rotation Time
  •      Snack: We offer a free dinner each night for the kids.  Pizza night, burger night, hot dogs, PB &J, etc.  We partner with local businesses and have some financial support from the congregation to make this possible.
  •      Craft:  We made flutes, necklaces, bracelets, and light sabers.
  •      Song:  Each day, the song crew taught the kids a new worship song with motions, while reinforcing the Bible Point and Bible Verse.
  •      Bible:  Brand new story each day that reinforces the theme.  The Gospel was presented to the kids on the last day…and over 200 kids responded in some way!  Praise Jesus!
  •      Game:  This year we did something a bit different with this station.  We had four sets of games that the groups rotated through when they were at the game station.  The kids loved having variety each day!

*Other important elements:

  • Dress Up Days:  (Monday = VBA Shirt Day, Tuesday = Crazy Hair/Hat Day, Wednesday = Wacky/Nerdy Day, Thursday = Star Wars Day, Friday = Water Day).  On water day, we rent water slides for the kids to enjoy!
  • Missions Challenge:  We encouraged the kids to take part in a Missions Project to support a local (School Supplies/Backpacks for kids in Lemoore), national (Disaster Relief for the city of Joplin), and international (Furaha Center in Kenya) ministry.  We made it a friendly competition between the boys and girls!  The boys were ‘victorious’ – but the victory really comes by seeing 710 kids raise over $4000 to bless people in the name of Jesus!
  • Community:  One of my favorite things about VBA is seeing how it brings people together through serving.  These people may not have been connected at all if not for this opportunity – so it’s awesome to see how people work alongside each other in order to bless the kids.
  • Support:  Every single pastor at our church is heavily involved in our VBA.  Every.  Single.  Pastor.  They build, they write, they rehearse, they dress up, they lead stations, they lead kids to Christ, they make runs to Home Depot/Lowe’s.  This isn’t common…and I am so blessed to work with a staff that believes so deeply in the importance of children’s ministry!  One of our pastors’ wife is our VBA director, and she is A-MA-ZING!  She has an amazing heart for kids, and a wealth of experience with VBA.

Anyhow…that’s the gist of it. I am so very thankful for all who have made this year’s VBA possible.  Whether your were visible to the public or behind the scenes, your faithfulness and willingness blessed HUNDREDS of kids and parents.  I praise God for you!

For my fellow kidmin friends, please know that I am praying for you and your teams as you minister to your kids…whether through a VBS, or through your normal modes of operation!

May the FAITH be with you! 🙂

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I love birthdays.  They’re a lot of fun – especially for us big kids 🙂

I remember elebrating my birthday in Kindergarten.  Mrs. Saxton always made birthday crowns for her students’ birthdays, which had our name and age on it.  I remember being so excited when my day to be “crowned” finally came!  We got to wear it all day – so everyone knew it was our birthday.  When I really think about it, the crown wasn’t really wasn’t anything spectacular, but it really made all of us feel special.

Each week at the Kid Connection (our elementary ministry at SVCC), we have a segment during our service called “Is it Yo’ Birthday?!”  If any one of the kids celebrated a birthday in the recent week, they are asked up to the stage.  They share their name, and their age.  We then clap their age for them (so if they’re 11, we clap 11 times as a group).  After that, we all sing to the birthday kid(s), but we usually do it in some sort of different way (i.e. plugging our nose, like we don’t have teeth, in a really high voice, etc.).  The kids enjoy it!  After their song, they get to pick a prize from the prize box to take home.  I just recently made a Target run and did a bit of restocking of said prize box:

Birthdays are special days for kids.  They’re special way for anyone, really.  It’s a great way to affirm and celebrate a life.  If anyone hasn’t told you this lately: your life is unique, purpose-filled, and beautiful!  I’m thankful that you are a part of mine!

By the way…Happy Birthday to: Robin Gail Acierto, Will Knapp, Marlene Bruce, Scott Dean, Maria Licea, Erica Ruse, Bob Pugh, and Kim Bassett! 🙂

My boys…

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last night, I took my CLUB 456 Small Group to Chili’s and Coldstone for our hangout night.  We’ve done things like this in the past….but something really hit me last night:  I’ve had these boys since they were in the 4th grade.  They’re heading into the 7th grade in just a few short months.  Before I know it, they’ll be out of children’s ministry and heading straight into youth ministry.  That’s cray-cray! :’S

These boys are crazy.  They say random things.  They do random things.  They make random noises.  They’re loud.  They smell funny.  But we’ve also shared some pretty remarkable times together.  We’ve studied together.  We’ve discussed difficult topics together.  We’ve laughed together.  We’ve prayed together and for each other.  We’ve made fun of each other.  I’m really going to miss them – and I’m so glad to see how much they’ve grown over the years.  I pray that God will continue to bless their spiritual growth, and that they always know that they are extremely loved!

Love my boys!

 

You could imagine how busy it can get in order to prepare for Easter…especially when you’re involved in ministry!  It was all very much worth it in the end:

 

Each year, the Lemoore Recration Department puts on an egg hunt for community kids, ages 12 and under.  Last year, SVCC donated 12,000 candy-filled eggs to the event.  This year, we challenged the church to donate 20,000…and boy, did they accept that challenge!  They donated 22,395 candy-filled eggs!  You should’ve seen our office…it was like, the Easter Bunny used our office as its headquarters!  Great job, SVCC!  Way to bless the community!

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 On the day of the event (April 7th), thousands of people came to Lions Park to take part in the festivities.  It was so great to see so many familiar faces, and meet new families.  Members of our church helped “hide” eggs, provide eggs for kids who didn’t get much from the hunt, run the prize table, run our church’s popcorn machines, and helped clean after the event.  What a great opportunity to serve our community, and be a reflection of Christ – as best as we can!  Huge thanks to all who sponsored the event – these kids were elated to be there!

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Of course, the cuteness factor at the egg hunt was off the charts…especially when these two showed up! (Oren, age 5…and Aurora, age 3).  They even used the Easter baskets I gave them last year! 😀

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SVCC hosted a service on Saturday and two on Sunday.  It was really a blessing to celebrate our Risen Lord with so many people!  Over 340 kids joined us in our Children’s Ministry.  The highlight, I would have to say, was seeing 60 elementary-aged kids give their lives to Christ over the weekend!  What a huge praise to God that was to witness.  Thank you Lord, for working in the lives of these kids, and for putting so many wonderful volunteers in place to minister to these kids and their families! 

 

“We raise our White Flag…we surrender all to you…all for you!”

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One final tidbit about how I survived the pre-Easter madness:  A “to-do” list.  I never really did these before (well…document them, anyway), but man…it really helped me to stay on task with what needed to be done (and it also helped me feel a sense of accomplishment!).  I continued to adopt it this week – and it’s been super helpful!  Each day when I come to the office, I sit and think about what needs to be done and type those things onto the list.  When I complete a task, I cross it off.

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My personal favorite part of my week was Monday 😉

-Marcus

I’m one that will listen to the same song over…and over…again.  This is especially true when it speaks to my heart.  I heard this one last week, and it couldn’t be a more accurate expression of my current cries to God.  It’s absolutely beautiful – and it helps that Brooke Fraser is singing lead on this!

[Verse 1]
May my prayer like incense rise before You
The lifting of my hands as sacrifice
Oh Lord Jesus turn Your eyes upon me
For I know there is mercy in Your sight

Your statutes are my heritage forever
My heart is set on keeping Your decrees
Please still my anxious urge toward rebellion
Let Love keep my will upon its knees

[Chorus]
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You

[Verse 2]
To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun

All Your ways are loving and are faithful
The road is narrow but Your burden light
Because You gladly lean to lead the humble
I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride

[Chorus]

[Selah]
To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
I will seek You in the morning
I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

I read the following just now.  Thought I’d share:

“There is nothing ordinary about access to God—yet sometimes we take this privilege for granted. He is almighty God, but He is also our Father who loves us and allows us to call on Him at any moment of any day. Now that’s extraordinary!” (Our Daily Bread – 04/02/12)

Amen.

I used to love reading when I was younger…

…but after Street Fighter 2 came out as a video game, my love for reading turned into a love for arcade games.  Haha!

Anyhow, since being at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference in SD a few weeks ago, I got the itch to read again.  It’s been so helpful to me on so many levels.  It seriously feels like a lifestyle change.  Every night, I’ve spent some time reading so I can focus on growing as a leader, and as a man after Christ’s own heart.

At last year’s CPC, Britt Merrick spoke – and I just had to pick up his then-most recent book, Big God.  He was so engaging as a speaker, so I knew I could connect with his writing – and I was certainly correct in assuming that.

Here’s a short video about his testimony:

Big God focuses on the “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11: 1-40).  Britt’s intent is to encourage us to mature in our faith by “understanding the lives of people of faith from Scripture” (p. 34).  With that in mind, he takes the reader the through the accounts of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, and others – and exposes the extent of their faith (and the results thereof).  It’s about ordinary folks like you and I…people who’ve made mistakes…who do amazing things for God.

Some memorable quotes:

“Waiting on God never means paralysis…When we wait on God, we are to be engaged with God.” (p. 137)  God rewards active faith, and responds to our obedience.  Waiting on God doesn’t mean we simply sit and do nothing.  It’s about pursuing Him.

“The enemy designs temptation for our failure, but God designs testing for our growth.”  (p. 152).  In order for our faith to grow in strength, it must be exercised…just like a muscle does.  When we succumb to temptation, we are expressing a lack of trust in God’s purpose for our lives.

“We discover God’s plan – and realize that it’s better [than our plans] – when we choose to live it.  Be faithful in the little things that God calls you to do.  You’ll find that he who is faithful with little will be entrusted with more.” (drawn from Luke 6:10 – p. 165).  I have some pretty big hopes for my life/future.  Sometimes, those hopes cloud my ability to focus what God has in store in the present.

God might just put His hand on that which you love a lot to make sure that you love Him the most.  What is it that you need to offer up by faith?”  (on Abraham and Isaac, p.170).  This really made me think about where God truly is in the order of my life.  Is He the most important thing in my life?  Do I love Him more than my relationships?  My passions?  I can certainlysay that he is…but I have to say that my priorities don’t reflect that statement very well.

Whenever God blesses us, there is an expectation from Him that we will then, in turn, bless others.  He doesn’t bless you just for you.  You’re a part of that equation, but you’re not the totality.” (p. 222)  Imagine if the church truly adopted this mindset: blessing others as a result of the blessings of God!

Thanks for a great read, Britt!

Eleven Things…

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

I got tagged by my friend, Amanda, in this fun little “get to know you” game that’s making its way around the blogosphere.

{By the way:  If you’re a mom of young ones, if you like to cook, if you want to learn how to get into couponing, if you want to learn how to be crafty and creative, or if you just want to be a better person…click on her name and go to her blog}

Anyhow, I’m relatively new to blogging (well…except for the Xanga I used to have back in the day.  Yikes!), and I thought I’d just share a few things about myself, and get to know others a bit better!  Here’s how it goes down:

1. Post the rules
2. Post a photo of yourself & 11 random things.
3. Answer the questions set for you in the original post.
4. Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
5. Go to their blog/twitter/facebook and tell them that you’ve tagged them.

11 facts:

1.  I am an exact mix of my parents’ personalities.  I can be very outgoing (dad), and very reserved (mom).

2.  I burnt the roof of my mouth from eating a hot slice of pizza yesterday.  Hurts to eat anything salty or anything that’s of high acidity.

3.  If I was not a children’s pastor, I would want to be a chef.

4.  I sneeze in threes.

5.  My two main love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.

6.  I grind my teeth when I sleep.

7.  I just bought my first DSLR camera about a month ago, but I still haven’t learned how to use it!

8.  I keep my nativity scene up all year long.

9.  Morning routine = Wake up, workout, breakfast, devotional/prayer, brush teeth/shower, head to work.

10.  I would love to take a tour around the U.S. and visit every ballpark…..OR, go on some sort of food tour.

11.  When I was in pre-school, I bit a child in the face because he wouldn’t stop poking me in the back after I told him to stop.  And yes.  I broke skin…sucka!

Amanda’s Questions:

1. Have you ever been to Disneyland? If so, what is your favorite thing to do there? If not, do you plan on going in the near future?  Yes!  My two favorite rides are Toy Story Mania (California Adventure), and Indiana Jones.
2. Ocean or Mountains?  That’s a hard one.  I’d have to say ocean.  There’s just something about seeing the vastness of it.  Then, on top of that – there’s this completely different world underneath the surface of it, and it really does amaze me how that works.
3. A memory from your childhood.  I remember the day we picked up my very first dog, Lester.  We picked him up at what seemed like some junk yard or something, but I mostly remember bringing him home, and being so happy to have one.
4. Your favorite piece of furniture in your home.  Probably my bed!
5. A picture that you treasure.  This is a tough one – so I just picked one that always makes me smile!  It’s a picture of the 2011 VBA Song Crew.  This picture pretty much sums up their various personalities 🙂


6. An evening with no plans would be spent:  Going somewhere to eat 🙂
7. Camp fire or fireplace? Why?  Campfire – probably because I grew up with a fireplace, but didn’t really get to do the campfire thing very often.  Now, I really enjoy campfires…and making smores…with soft chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers (mmm hmmmm chiiiiiiiild)…
8. Something you wish you could buy at half price (either a one time purchase or something you have to buy often).  I’m not sure….maybe an iPad?  I don’t really need it…but I suppose it would be nice 🙂
9. You get to go back to high school and re-live one day. What day would it be?  Probably the day I won Tiger of the Year.  It was a total surprise.  I just remember how happy my parents were – especially during such a crazy time for the three of us.
10. You’re at your favorite restaurant. What do you order?  Bone-in Ribeye & Chipotle Mac & Cheese (Fleming’s), Kung Pao San Yang (Tsing Tao), Honey Walnut Shrimp (P.F. Chang’s), Rice, Lumpia, Menudo, and Pancit (Zeny’s), Crab Cake Po’Boy & Jalapeno Chips (Daisy Rey’s), Henny Penny Panini & Salt ‘n Pepper Chips (Cafe Connection), Burrito w/Carnitas, Barbacoa, Fajita Veggies, & Chips/Guac (Chipotle), Shrimp Burrito (Figaro’s), Tri-Tip Sandwich & Fries (Doghouse Grill)….the list really just keeps on going.   Haha!

11. Mama always said:  “Don’t drag your feet.”  Haha!  I used to do that when I was a kid – and it drove her nuts!

 

My Questions (Note:  if you want to answer these as a comment, go for it):

1.  Is there a story behind the name you were given?

2.  If you were to sum up your day with a movie title, what would it be?

3.  What’s your favorite part of your job (at-home or in an establishment)?

4.  What’s one of your pet peeves?

5.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

6.  Would you rather have your flight delayed 8 hours, or lose your luggage?

7.  Are you a morning person, or a night person?

8.  How would you describe your humor?

9.  When you are sick, what do you do to get better?

10.  If you could go anywhere for 10 days – and money wasn’t an issue – where would you go, and what would you do?

11.  What are 3 things you’re going to do this week to bring some else some joy?

Hi. I’m New!

Posted: March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

How often is it that you meet new people?

It’s a weekly occurrence for me – especially on the weekends at SVCC.  We get new kids just about every week, and it can be extremely intimidating for a kid to come into an already-established environment.

I like to be a part of the welcoming process when people come.  It’s always great to see the kids, see how their week’s been, hear what level they’ve accomplished on the latest video game, or meet their furry friend they’ve brought with them.  There’s also the fun of meeting new families.  A lot of the times, the kids are pretty shy when they come to church with us for the first time.  I’ve found myself following a pattern whenever a new friend visits us:

1)  Learn their name.  Try to say their name at least 3 times within the first minute of your conversation with them.  This helps to commit their name to memory.  When they come to service the next week, or if you run into them in the grocery store – and remember their name – the response is usually a good one!

2)  Introduce them to other kids.  Find out where they go to school, what grade they’re in, and what they’re hobbies they have.  This is helpful for me, as I try to find other kids who could befriend our guest.  You never know – you could be the catalyst behind a new, great friendship!

3)  Make eye contact with them throughout the service.  Make the connection with them during the service; affirm and acknowledge their presence.  Smiles and eye-contact can really go a long way.

4) Follow up.  I’m really trying to work on this one…but if you acquire their mailing information through your ministry’s registration form, send them a little note to say you enjoyed having them, and that you hope to see them again next weekend!  I remember how cool it was to get something in the mail.  I still do, in fact!  Even now – with all the awesomeness of electronic mail/media – there’s still something about getting a note/card/letter in the mailbox that makes you feel special!….Unless it’s a bill.  I could really do without those.

Think about a time where you felt welcomed by someone, and how you can use this in your new interactions with people.  Be a blessing to those you meet!

Joyful Moments – March 4th

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Today, I found joy in:

  • Teaching the elementary kids about how God has invited us to be a part of His Big Story.
  • Hearing about what these kids did this last week.
  • Celebrating birthdays as a community of kids and leaders.
  • Seeing younger leaders step up and lead a small group of 1st/2nd graders when we were in a pinch.
  • Praying with kids to receive Christ, and seeing the excitement they/their families have for that HUGE step.
  • Cooking/eating cuisine that I don’t often cook/eat.
  • Catching up with two friends that I hold so dear to my heart while eating dinner and watching a movie.
  • Holding the aforementioned couple’s 16-month old son in my arms, and playing with him.
  • Getting a text message from another dear friend, encouraging me to remember that I am “Amazing.”

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me Joy in so many ways today!