Oct 292015
 

This is a question I often get as Programming Director or “that girl from large group” as your kids may say. Why do we use motions? We, as adults, don’t do synchronized motions for our worship, so shouldn’t we be teaching kids what real worship looks like?

While I think this is a very valid point, I want to teach kids what real worship feels like. Some kids may be able to earnestly engage during worship without motions but most children need that element to help them focus and think about what they are singing. So here are 3 BIG reasons why we use motions for worship in Crossing Kids.

Reason 1: It is in the Bible!preschool 4

Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,

making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

Psalm 149: 1-3

There are several references to dancing in the Bible as an act of worship. True, this kind of worship was probably more free-form than what we do in Large Group, but there is something really powerful about worshiping with your whole body if you embrace it. If you have ever felt the impulse to raise your arms or clap during worship then you know what I am talking about. God created us to move, so we can use that as a tool to help kids engage with what they are singing.

Reason 2: Moving Helps Kids Focus

I am sure you have seen the articles; kids sitting on exercise balls instead of chairs in school, teachers taking short “brain breaks” to get rowdy kids active, or even the latest story of a reading room with exercise bikes! Study after study has shown that children need to move and be active to help them focus. Whenever we can appropriately include movement into our curriculum it makes those times when kids do have to sit quietly and listen much more successful. Motions during worship time help make the lessons kids are learning on Sundays stick. Since we have already embraced a child’s need to move it is much easier to engage them when it is time to focus. Giving kids a chance to burn some energy helps cut down on behavior problems too!

Reason 3: Motions Help Kids Learn the Words

I saved this one for last, because it is one of the primary reasons that we use motions – to help kids learn the words! A lot of our kiddos are either non-readers, or beginner readers, and that means they might not be able to follow along with a lyrics PowerPoint like we can as adults. We put a lot of thought into our motions to make sure that they are both fun and helpful. This could mean bringing in some sign language that we pre-teach the kids. Other times it means having consistency with our motions from song to song, like always pointing up when we sing “God” or putting our hands on our heart when we sing the word “heart.” For a kindergartener who has not learned to read yet, or a second grader who can read well just not very quickly, having motions that go along with what we are singing helps them to understand what they are singing about.

One time we had a song where the lyrics were from scripture, particularly something that Jesus said. Every time we sang the word “I” we pointed up, like we usually do for “God” or “Christ” since in this song Jesus was the “I.” Even though we always introduced the song by telling kids that the words in the song were things that Jesus actually said, it was that motions that helped the kids make that connection. “I GET IT! WE ARE POINTING UP BECAUSE JESUS IS TALKING!” an elementary girl exclaimed one day.

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I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we are trying to teach children what worship feels like. By engaging kids with motions we are taking the focus off of them and putting it on the songs. Many kids, especially our older elementary kids, are starting to enter that self-conscious phase. What do I do with my hands? Can my friends hear me singing? What if I am not a good singer? For lots of our kids the motions help them know what to do so that they can stop worrying and start worshiping. We want worship to be a joyful and gospel-centered time. We choose our songs and verses carefully to make sure that worship is focused on the gospel and big biblical truths. We use motions to help kids engage in a fun and developmentally appropriate way.

Oct 282015
 

_DSH0798There is something happens when a child hits 4th or 5th grade. They can focus on a task or activity longer, they can read more difficult text, they develop true friendships, they begin to smell (terribly), and many of them also develop attitudes that are less than desirable. But what if I told you it’s just a phase? Would you want to hurry through the phase, or join the kids in the here and now? Here in Crossing Kids we encourage you to do the latter, to leverage the time you have with your 4th and 5th graders each week. Here are some things to think about as you work with kids in this phase of their life.

 

 

 

 

The “I’ve got this” Phase

4th and 5th graders want to be seen as independent. They can pick out their own clothes, get their homework done on their own, and often make choices that lead them down the wrong path. Our job, as leaders, is to be there when they do mess up, and to treat them with grace in the midst of their failures. We can do this in two ways…

  1. Teach them that failure is part of the spiritual journey, and that the church is a place of grace upon return.
  2. Be more intentional about admitting our own messiness. We need to tell real stories about God that evoke a response to follow Jesus.

They wonder, “Do I have friends?”

This is the phase where kids begin to value friendships and peer approval. They want approval from adults too, which is where we come in as leaders because we can help them feel loved and accepted. We need to be ready by knowing what they like, and that comes from serving consistently. We can ask kids about…

  • Their interests
  • Sports they play
  • What special events they have coming up

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We need to engage their interests

According to the reThink group, we need to gauge kids interests, “so they can trust God’s character and experience God’s family.” We can do this by…

  • Connecting them with a faith community.
  • Praying with and for them.
  • Reading Bible stories and helping them answer questions that they have about God and the world around them.

What do our volunteers find to be important?

Erin, one of our 5th grade volunteers recognizes that this phase is a “tweener” phase. One of his favorite parts about volunteering is “how the kids and I build a personal relationship within our Sunday mornings together…They are figuring out that friends and relationships can be difficult at times, and it’s exciting to see them grow…physically, intellectually and spiritually.”

Kerry, another 5th grade volunteer, likes tying the lesson to a real life testimony. When he does this, he’s helping kids see how God works, and engaging them in real-life stories.

_DSH0521So whether we are helping kids view the church as a place of grace, connecting kids to a faith community like Erin, or engaging their interests like Kerry, we are working to leverage the phase that these kids are in now. It’s a phase that won’t last, and we don’t want to miss the chance to make an impact. 4th and 5th graders have an average of 468 weeks until graduation, and we want to make every week count.

 

*Most of this information was taken from the book, It’s Just a Phase so Don’t Miss It by Reggie Joiner & Kristen Ivy, and from the Orange Tour conference.

Oct 272015
 

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“I love serving in second grade…they’re really good kids.”

“What a good boy to help clean up.”

Good little girls always tell the truth.”

We hear and say things like this all the time when it comes to children. It seems that recognizing good behavior in good kids is the mark and end goal of a child’s achievement. As parents and adults who teach and minister to little people, we want good kids. Good kids are compliant, truthful, helpful, easy to instruct, thankful, and generally easy to work with for these reasons. Who wouldn’t desire “good kids?” Our goal can easily become to keep good kids on the road to superior “goodness” and redirect rebellious, challenging children toward becoming “good.”

Continue reading »

Oct 262015
 

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Life for the preschooler can be confusing. It’s okay to throw a ball, but not a rock. You can hug your friend, but not squeeze his neck. Every day, a preschooler is learning new rules and discovering not only abilities, but also limits. The way you consistently meet their needs, engage their interests, and provide discipline will help them cultivate self-control.

You can help preschoolers learn when you ENGAGE THEIR SENSES.  You can capture their heart when you CULTIVATE SELF CONTROL. You coach their moral abilities when you DISCIPLINE CONSISTENTLY.

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Ages three to four is the phase when ANYTHING CAN BE IMAGINED. I remember well the years when my daughter had an imaginary friend. That friend went everywhere with us. And we couldn’t sit on the couch where her friend was sitting. She would talk with her for hours in her room and tell us all about her.

preschool 2

It’s when EVERYTHING CAN BE A GAME. I also remember when my boys would love to make up games. We would sit for hours and play “zoo” with all their plastic and stuffed animals. My oldest would take his miniature football helmets and line them up and play his own game of football with them.

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And one curious preschooler wants to know “WHY?” We get lots of questions at this age. Lots of “Why does it do that?”; “Why did she say that?” ; “Why is it blue?” You get the picture.

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Here’s why some of our volunteers love working with the preschool age:

“I love volunteering in the preschool room because the children are just starting to comprehend Jesus and what he has done for us. Their excitement and curiosity to learn about our Savior at such a young age is so touching and personally inspiring in my life.  And on a side note my preschooler loves having me in class with him so I can share in all the exciting things he is learning about God on Sunday mornings.”

“They bring a light and joy through the door each and every Sunday. They remind me of child-like faith.”

“I have a preschool aged daughter, so it’s the age of child I can relate to. And they’re great!”

“I serve with the fours because there is never a dull moment with them.  I am more awake and alert for service after serving at 8:00 a.m. because of their energy and enthusiasm.  They are always willing to learn, ready to play, to sing and dance, and to be loved and show off their love.  The fours remind me to find joy in the smallest of things and it’s always a great way to start off my Sunday and begin my week.”

“Four-year-olds are great fun to interact with.  Prior to this age there’s not so much of a give and take in discussion.  Now I can sit down at a table or on the floor and actually have a conversation.  Even more fun than that is the fact that what they say is often NOT predictable. Once I chose to wear a pair of toile-print jeans and one of the kids blurted out, ‘You forgot to take your pajamas off!’ (Ask me if I’ve worn them since!)”

“I often find myself in awe of how much these children love the Lord and understand His word. In the presence of these children, I find myself chuckling and tearing up in their recognition of sin and God’s love for them.”

“They are so funny! They make my week. I enjoy seeing them get so happy about all the music and games.”

preschool 1

We have 780 weeks and counting with these preschoolers. IT’S JUST A PHASE…SO DON’T MISS IT!

*This info is taken from the book It’s Just a Phase – so Don’t Miss It by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy

Oct 222015
 

As a Crossing Kids volunteer and mother of two toddlers, I am learning firsthand the joys and hardships that come along with a growing and developing child. After reading Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson this past summer with our Crossing Kids Interns, I was able to better connect the message of the Gospel with raising and working with children through a grace-centered approach. I would like to share with you some applicable truths that have begun to transform my heart towards children.

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  1. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. No one is perfect at keeping the ‘law,’ especially a developing child trying to navigate a broken world. The only perfect record-keeper was Jesus Christ. None of us are ‘good’ and Give them Grace frankly states, Our children aren’t innately good, and we shouldn’t tell them that they are. But they are loved and if they truly believe that, his love will transform them.”
  2. Don’t confuse outward obedience with Christian righteousness. We would be missing the point of the Gospel if all we cared about was how children acted on the outside. We would never want our kids to think that their works would lead to salvation. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. No amount of goodness can lead to salvation.
  3. The ‘good’ children (who always follow the rules and want to people-please) can actually be the ones who need to hear the message of the Gospel more than the rule-breaking children. They may often struggle with pride, judging, and false idols. Their self-reliance may hinder them from not seeing their need for Jesus. Whereas the ‘bad’ children (who struggle openly with sin, temptations, and often identity issues), may be able to more easily see God’s grace and forgiveness during hard times and rest in the hope that He wants to give. After all, Jesus loved being around these types of people most.
  4. Salvation is of the Lord. Let us rest in the beautiful gift that our children’s salvation is not up to us and our ‘works’ with them. It isn’t about what we do right or wrong during our interactions. Let us rejoice in this burden being lifted. However, know that by serving in Crossing Kids, you are making yourself available for God to use you as a means to show children grace, forgiveness, and understanding.

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As I close, I do want to acknowledge that rules/law are pivotal in children’s lives. To ignore instruction, training and discipline would be irresponsible and apathetic. Giving grace to children involves keeping order and sanity in the Crossing Kids hallways, but by readjusting your perspective to a more gospel-centered approach, it can help show children (and all of us adults too!) more about God’s unwavering, grace-filled love for those who believe in Him.

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Oct 212015
 

_DSH0539What if I told you that what you do on Sunday mornings can make an impact in a kid’s future? During the month of October the Crossing Kids team wants to equip you do just that. According to Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, “A phase is a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.” Throughout each phase we want to identify what makes a child tick, so today we are going to focus on students in the 2nd/3rd grade phase. Did you know that students in the 2nd/3rd grade phase have an average of 572 weeks left until High School Graduation? That’s 572 weeks that we have to engage them and make an impact.

 

 

 

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Before we can start to engage kids on Sunday mornings, it might be best to simply identify some things that make kids in the 2nd/3rd grade phase special. The reThink Group describes this phase like this, “the phase when everything is an adventure, nothing is impossible, and your enthusiastic kid thinks anything sounds like fun!”

  • They start to become funny
  • They are quick and eager learners
  • They are creative
  • They ask great questions
  • They wonder about the world around them

 

 

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By the time kids are in 2nd and 3rd grade, the excitement of school starts to lessen, the amount of homework increases, and the pressures to be the best start to form… so here are some ways to engage these young learners on Sunday mornings.

  • Get excited: Kids in this phase get excited when they see their leaders do the same. Show your enthusiasm for a game or activity and they will be more likely to join.
  • Give them space: 2nd/3rd graders are becoming more independent. Ask them if they want to teach a group of kids a game they are playing, or have one of them tell the others about what the lesson topic was the week before.
  • Let them explore: The best way to engage kids at this age is to let them be involved in hands on learning, to explore the world around them. Let them look up the Bible verses you plan to read use, or give them the chance to ask questions that they have about the current lesson topic.
  • Encourage them to be deeper thinkers: 2nd/3rd graders really begin to think deeper, and this is one of the things that Sherrill, one of our workshop teachers loves. Something that amazes Sherrill about this phase is, “how their belief can apply to their world and behaviors – keeping promises, obeying parents, praying, dealing with siblings and friends.”
  • Help them feel loved: One of our 3rd grade team leaders has learned “that a lot of times a hug or a pat on the back goes a lot further than reprimanding them during class.”

I had the opportunity to teach 2nd grade for two years, and 3rd grade for three. Working with kids in this phase was a joy, and it’s amazing how much I learned from them. I can only hope the same is true for those of you who work with kids in this phase. Thank you for making an impact on this group of young learners.  It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it!

 

Oct 202015
 

toddler 6

The Toddler age was my favorite age for each of my four kids. I loved the way they were learning new things every day. I adored the hugs and the “hold you’s” that I got with arms reaching up anxious to be held. So much happens in the life of a child in the phase from one to two years old. They explode in wonder and awe of everything they see, feel, touch and smell. They are constantly moving and exploring.

toddler 2

The phase of One to Two* is when nobody’s on time, everything’s a mess, and one eager toddler will insist I CAN DO IT!

toddler 4

Toddlers think like an artist. They blend reality with imagination and learn best through their senses.

toddler 7

Toddlers want to know AM I ABLE? The goal of this phase is to develop confidence.

toddler 1

As volunteers, we need to embrace their physical needs so they can know God’s love and meet God’s family.

toddler 8

Here’s what volunteers who serve with toddlers had to say about why they love this age:

Maybe not a very “spiritual” answer, but they are the cutest EVER!!

Because they love to snuggle on my lap while I read them a book.

I love the fact that they’re in transition from baby and each child is developing his or her own individuality.

Because I love to their joy and hugs!

I started serving in Crossing Kids as a way to give back to the church and make connections.  I signed up stating I didn’t really care where I was placed and while this statement still holds true today, after serving on the Toddler Blue Team for several months I can say (without reserve) that it has been rewarding in ways I would not have considered. Toddlers, they walk (but often stumble), they talk (but more often they cry or giggle), they exhibit so much of what it means to be un-escapably human.  Nearly every Sunday I am blessed to serve I am staunchly reminded by these youngsters that our time is brief, snot is real, pain is temporary, relationships matter and joy is often found in the simplest of things. May God continue to bless the Crossing, its ministry and the little ones we treasure.

toddler 3

884 WEEKS AND COUNTING….UNTIL THEY GRADUATE. IT’S JUST A PHASE…SO DON’T MISS IT.

*According to the ReThink Group and the book “It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It” by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, a phase is a time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. Most of this post is from this resource.

Oct 142015
 

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When I first graduated college, I taught Kindergarten. For four years I taught kids their letters and numbers, tied plenty of shoes, and laughed frequently with 5 and 6 year olds. One of my favorite things about the Kindergarten and 1st grade phase is how honest kids are, and how funny they can be. If you’ve ben lucky enough to work with this age group you know what I mean. For those who don’t, here are a few examples…

“Miss McClelland, we have cows at my house…we used to have pigs but we ate them.”

Student: “Miss McClelland I know how to spell be right back…BRB”

Student: “I like your hair.”
Me: “Thanks.”
Student: “I like all colors of gray.”

Not only do Kindergarten and 1st graders hold a special place in my heart, but they are special to our ministry. They make us laugh, make us cry, and remind us to let our guard down and have fun. Kids in this phase have an average of 676 weeks until graduation, so we want to leverage the time we spend with them on Sunday mornings. The challenge for volunteers working with kids might be knowing how to engage or interact with these small people. Here are some things to consider…

  • They thrive on routine. Kindergarten & 1st graders want to know what’s going to happen. You can help them by showing them the picture schedule hanging in your classroom, telling them about the activity, or introducing them to the workshop teacher.
  • They love to play. Invite them to put a puzzle together, read a book, or build with Legos.
  • They love to learn. Join a kid in this phase by teaching them something new. They would love to learn a new game, a new joke, or how to spell a word.
  • They want your attention. Ask them about what they are drawing, have them tell you about a vacation they took or a movie they saw, or thank them for a great morning.
  • They love you. Kindergarten & 1st graders are the best at giving hugs and rarely turn down piggy-back rides.

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Just like Kindergarten and 1st graders are special, so are the volunteers who work with them week in and week out. From the bottom of our hearts, we say thank you. Thank you for passing out Z-Bars, for laughing at bad jokes, for tying shoes, for wiping tears, and for high fives. Thank you for being consistent, trustworthy people who are making an impact in the phase that these kids are in. After all it’s just a phase…so don’t miss it.

 

Oct 132015
 

baby 2

According to the ReThink Group and the book “It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It” by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, a phase is a time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. Over the next few weeks we would like to share with you some thoughts about each age and phase from this book so you can better serve these children in Crossing Kids. Today we will start with Zero to One.

Zero to One is the phase when nobody sleeps, everybody smells, and one mesmerizing baby convinces you I NEED YOU NOW!

Sunday Morning at The Crossing

Babies in this phase want to know “AM I SAFE?”

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The goal in this phase is to “ESTABLISH TRUST”

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Our volunteers must embrace their physical needs so they can know God’s love and meet God’s family.

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Here’s what volunteers who serve with babies had to say about why they love this age:

I get as much love as I give and I get to serve parents on Sundays, by allowing them the opportunity to be part of the worship service. Once upon a time I was in their shoes.

“I love serving with the infants. Love their smiles and giggles, rocking them to sleep, caring for their needs in simple ways. And reassuring their parents we will love them like our own until they return.”

“Getting to spend those special months with precious babies as they explore on all fours and then in a flash are walkers, growing from babies to toddlers before our very eyes.”

“Being around a fresh, new, peaceful, little miracle of God’s draws me closer to Him. It reminds me of His perfect plan for me that started when I, too, was a newborn and that He has fearfully & wonderfully made each of us. There is nothing more beautiful than new life that He has created!”

“I serve in the infant room because I enjoy the cuddles from the sweet babies and I love the volunteers I get to work with!”

I just love the babies! Also hopefully give parents peace of mind that their precious baby is well cared for so they can worship or serve else where.  I remember dropping off my own children and what a blessing it was when care givers were glad to have my child in their care.  I love the fellowship with other volunteers…high school thru grandparent age.  It is a wonderful community that cares about one another as well as the babies and their families. Also fun to see young volunteers come back with their own children a few year after volunteering in college.

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We have 936 weeks and counting…until they graduate. It’s Just a Phase…So Don’t Miss It!

Oct 122015
 

This post was previously published on October 8, 2014.  We thought it would be wonderful to share again!

A mission statement is a brief description of our fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why do we exist?” So in Crossing Kids our mission is “to partner with families to help kids develop a lifetime relationship with Jesus.”

It is important for our leaders and every volunteer that serves in Crossing Kids to understand and know what we value. These values shape every Sunday, Tuesday morning and Wednesday night. They drive the decisions we make about curriculum, activities, music and family events. They help us accomplish our mission.

blog (families in hallway)Our values are:

Partnering with Families

  • The church must partner with families, because God intends kids to learn in context of family relationships.
  • Two combined influences make a greater impact than two separate influences.

blog (teaching)Targeting the Heart

  • God’s Word teaches that behavior is rooted in the heart.  Therefore, we want children to have a heart to follow God, not just go through outward motions.
  • Teaching must focus on cultivating a heart that loves God and trusts His promises above all else, rather than just seeking to change behavior.

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God-Centered, Grace-Centered Teaching

  • Teaching must be centered on God’s Word.
  • Teaching must focus on the gospel of God’s grace as the primary motivation for obeying Christ.
  • Teaching must be application-oriented, rather than just imparting knowledge.

blog (relationships)Relationships with Others

  • Relationships with others in the church are an essential component for spiritual growth.
  • Learning and relationships should always be in a safe, caring and comfortable environment for children.

blog (serving)Serving

  • We must teach children that everything we have is given to us from God and should be used to bring Him glory.
  • We must provide opportunities for children to express their faith through serving, giving, and reaching out to others both inside and outside the church.

blog (kid friendly)Kid-Relevant Teaching and Programs

  • Teaching must be appropriate to a child’s physical, social, cognitive, and spiritual development.
  • Different children have different learning styles, so we must teach in a variety of creative ways.
  • We must seek to understand a child’s cultural influences and relate to that culture, while never compromising biblical truth.
  • Our standards must meet the level of quality and excellence expected by those outside the church.

Sometimes it is easier to see what a value means when we share a personal story. Some of our volunteers shared a few ways they have seen our values on Sunday morning so I wanted to share them with you.

God-centered, grace-centered teaching:

Recently in my Women’s group study they were discussing the Bible as one big story about God that included the creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  Someone asked if we had ever heard the Bible described in that way and I couldn’t help but say yes, we spent an entire year focusing on creation, fall, redemption and restoration in Crossing Kids last year.  What an amazing gift to the children of our church that they are able to learn deep theological ideas at such a young age so they study the Bible and learn about God through the correct lens.

My husband and I being retired educators are constantly amazed at the wonderful, brain-based lessons that the children are exposed to at the Crossing.  Comparing these lessons to the worksheets our now-grown children had growing up, we just marvel at what these children at the Crossing are being exposed to.  And it’s clear that the children are learning and remembering.  The bible stories along with the concepts about them that these  children retain amaze us each week! Surely the parents of these children are taking the take-home sheets seriously, but the lessons themselves are so memorable!  What a great combination!

Targeting the heart:

The approach that Crossing kids has taken has targeted the heart, but more importantly the souls of the children and kept them interested. Sure we go through motions.  Songs with motions, prayers, and routines.  But all of these, from what I have witnessed, are done with the purpose of praising God.

Relationships with others:

Recently witnessed a volunteer that was with us in 2nd grade and is now in other half of 3rd grade class sought out a girl to give her card that included a note and picture of them together during our slumber party with the 2nd graders last year.  I thought it was such a thoughtful yet simple way to show this young girl that she is loved, thought of and being prayed for.

This is my favorite one.  Every week, we see the same kids, and week after week and we get to know them get to know their parents too, but largely the kids.  We know their strengths and struggles.  We know their moods and quirks.   Most importantly we know their hearts.  Children are so open and trusting, and even more honest.  They allow themselves to be just that when they are with us…themselves.  Even more sometimes I think than they are with Mom and Dad.

Whether you are a new volunteer or have been serving in our ministry for years, it is always good to remind ourselves of why we do what we do. I shared more about this topic here.

Please join us in praying that God would help us accomplish our mission and values and be honored in the process.