amo.says

my life in my words


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Pour My Love

Dear Dad:

I know I posted that funny JibJab video on Facebook, but I figured that since you managed to score a double special day, you deserved some extra special celebrating. So here is my short list of reasons why I’m thankful to have you as my Father and friend!

 

 

THANK YOU for every prayer you have ever prayed over me.

THANK YOU for letting me try on the giant soda dispenser pack while working concession stands at the UT Stadium, even though you knew it was way too heavy for me. You’ve always enabled me to try big adventures!

THANK YOU for teaching me the importance of Community Groups.

THANK YOU for being an AMAZING cook!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU for not laughing at me too hard when I fell backward from said soda dispenser backpack . . . I know it was tough. Don’t worry, little Ray did enough laughing for everyone. ;)

THANK YOU for driving me around to see the beautiful mansion-sized houses and reminding me to keep my dreams alive when I was having sad days.

THANK YOU for letting me move to Seattle. It hasn’t been easy for any of us to have this many miles between us, but I still feel your love and hear your voice each day.

THANK YOU for blasting Christmas music and dressing me up like a Christmas tree that one year.

THANK YOU for all the cookie dough you let me eat when you worked at Delectable Edibles. ;)

THANK YOU for holding me and cleaning up my mess that one time I puked on the city bus.

THANK YOU for encouraging my discipleship teachers to keep chasing after me even when I said NO a million times.

THANK YOU for singing that song onstage with me during my 1st/last VBS at GT! I will forever treasure that moment!

THANK YOU for being willing to constantly re-explain sports to me. And don’t worry, I’ve learned that it’s pronounced “Sell-tics” and not “Kel-tics” . . .  Viva le Basketball, eh?? ;)

THANK YOU for not getting mad at me when I backed the car into a pole while you were doing that Christmas play at GT that one night.

THANK YOU for encouraging me to write stories and poems!!!!

THANK YOU for the teddy bear you brought to me when I was in the hospital after that ridiculous kidney surgery thing.

THANK YOU for letting my crazy friends come over to hang out with me even when you had other things you wanted to do.

THANK YOU for not always letting me get my way.

THANK YOU for all the courtesy laughs. ;)

THANK YOU for teaching me how to do laundry and how to iron.

THANK YOU for reminding me that it’s never too late to do what you are passionate about doing.

THANK YOU for all the cheesy Dad Jokes and raspberries on my cheek.

THANK YOU for giving me roots AND wings!

THANK YOU for every tear you ever cried over me.

THANK YOU for teaching me how to be brave and selfless.

THANK YOU for letting me officiate your wedding—it was an honor to be involved in such a special way!

and most of all,

THANK YOU for being my daddy—fully present, encouraging, loving, filled with compassion, exemplifying the heart of God for me.

 

I love you so much and I’m blessed to be your daughter,

Mandy Pandy

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
&
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

 

PS: Yes, this is the short list! ;)


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Maps

Bags packed, Itinerary Compiled, Passport in hand, ready to board the plane to Atlanta!

Bags packed, Itinerary Compiled, Passport in hand, ready to board the plane to Atlanta!

 

When I accepted the position of Children’s Director a couple of years ago, one of my leaders reminded me that taking on this role would mean I would become less invested in my current role as Youth Pastor. Still, I accepted the additional role. I expressed to that leader that I would be okay with that because what I really wanted to do as Children’s Director, was to begin investing into a new culture of Children’s Ministry where we would develop habits to set kids up to be more easily integrated into youth group, and thus into the future church. I wanted to become more invested in their overall spiritual growth from cradle to college and beyond.

As I looked at the opportunity for structural growth in our Children’s Ministry, I made a conscious choice to adopt the Orange Strategy. I had heard about the Orange Strategy years before I had even taken on the Children’s Director role, but knew right away that it was where I felt we should be heading. What is the Orange Strategy, you ask? It is simply the impact of successfully combining the Light of the Church (represented by the color yellow) and the Love of the Family (represented by the color red) to work together and show a generation who God is, thus creating a new color—ORANGE. I tell ya what . . . here’s a visual of what that looks like . . .

As our Children’s Ministry Crew and parents have made the shift to the Orange Strategy elements we’ve implemented, we’ve seen quality growth not just in numbers of kids, but in their excitement to show up and participate in church, their desire to become leaders in Kid’s Church/Youth Group, and their efforts to hide the Word of God in their hearts. I was talking to one of our parents yesterday morning and he said,

“When I picked my son up from Westside Kids on our first visit here, he asked me, ‘Dad, can we come back tomorrow!?! Since being plugged in here, I’ve noticed that He has more faith than I think I do at times. He gets excited about scripture memory and really holds on to the verses we memorize at home together.’”

That, along with similar feedback from other families, reassures me that we are heading in a great direction. Since adopting the Orange Strategy, our volunteers and workers have become more involved and invested in the lives of the kids we see each week and it shows in all of their testimonies of what God is doing in their classes. By no means am I saying that Westside Kids is a perfect ministry free of shortcomings and hurdles, but I am saying that we are now working more as a team to strategize how we can best serve and minister to the kids that God has entrusted to our ministry. Our team is committed to the journey and is able to trust the process more and more as we continue to bond together. While we still have a way to go, I have no doubts that we are on the right track.

SO stoked I get to spend the day at Orange Tour w/ the Westside Church staff & Heather Jolly, working to build a better Kids/Student Ministry!

Last year, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to attend the one-day Orange Tour in Seattle, hosted by the folks that run the Orange Conference and the masterminds behind the Orange Strategy. I learned a LOT of great material to implement and walked away feeling equipped for even more forward motion in Children’s and Youth Ministry. In fact, I gleaned so much from the experience that I knew I should make it a priority to attend the actual Orange Conference in Atlanta. I was so passionate about that pursuit that at the end of the Orange Tour, I purchased (out of my own pocket) my ticket to attend the Orange Conference. After that, I brainstormed and worked with my Pastor to create a game plan for me to be able to actually attend it. Thankfully, I was able to cut costs by arranging lodging with my best friend Joy. After hammering out a few more details, the game plan was able to work out (including being able to take off time at my other job to travel this week to Atlanta for the conference). It feels like a dream come true knowing that I will get to spend a week gleaning wisdom, inspiration, and guidance from some of the greatest minds surrounding Children’s and Youth ministry. To say I’m bursting with excitement would be an understatement! Here’s a sneak peak of what I’ll be experiencing at the conference this week:

I am flying to Atlanta today and then tomorrow I will have a day off to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different friends of mine that live in Atlanta. Then on Wednesday, I start with the Pre-Conference Workshops. The Pre-Conference Sessions I chose are:

  • YOU LEAD KIDS:  [With Mike ClearCome network and learn from others who do what you do every week. Discover the five critical areas you need to grow and develop as a leader. Practically assess where you are now, in each of these areas, and begin to create your own long-term development plan.
  • BUILDING A HEALTHY VOLUNTEER CULTURE:  [With Chad WardIn this breakout we will discuss ways to recruit children’s volunteers in such a way that you create something they will love . . . almost as much as you do.
  • STARTING A CHURCH FOR UNCHURCHED FAMILIES:  [With Carey NieuwhofHow do you create a ministry to effectively reach the families in your community? In this breakout, we’ll look at 12 characteristics of today’s unchurched families and discuss what these characteristics mean for your ministry.
  • SAFETY SYSTEMS:  [With Jim WidemanSafety is essential for ministry. In this breakout, we will talk about practical ways to develop and implement policies and procedures for your ministry, how to evaluate the ones you already have, and how best to communicate ministry expectations regarding your safety plan to volunteers and families.

 

Ready to cover some ground in networking with fellow ministers and workers at #OC14.

Ready to cover some ground in networking with fellow ministers and workers at #OC14.

At the conference, I’ll have the chance to network with leaders and speakers across the nation. One that I’m already particularly looking forward to meeting is Megan Stewart, who is the Preteen Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, where my bestie Cindy J. and her family attend. Not only will it be refreshing to connect with others in my same vein of ministry, but we actually share a lot of the same interests and personality traits. Along with those connections, I’ll get to hear from incredible speakers and artists who work to help us make Children’s Ministry “the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week.” Those speakers include Doug Fields, Perry Noble, Sue Miller, Derwin Gray, Reggie Joiner, Heather Zempel, Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, Jon Acuff, and more! During the main portion of the conference, I’ll also be attending some breakout sessions I hand-picked to help us grow in some specific areas that I see our ministry moving forward in:

  • STRATEGIES TO INCLUDE EVERY CHILD (including those with special needs):  [With Amy Fenton Lee] Join us as we discuss new ideas as well as tried and true strategies to help volunteers present Bible stories and engage every student, including kids with ADHD, autism, sensory needs, and other learning differences.
  • DESIGNING A FAMILY EXPERIENCE TO CAPTURE THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR COMMUNITY: [With Mike Clear] Some people like mediocre. But you’re not some people. You want families in your community to experience something that will capture their imagination and change the trajectory of their week. You want them to be drawn to each other and to be excited by relevant biblical principles. In this breakout, we will explore ways you can make that happen when you decide to do an FX
  • LEADING TEEN VOLUNTEERS: [With Meaghan WallWith intentional recruitment and well-planned training, teens can fulfill many volunteer needs for a ministry. In this breakout, we’ll show you how to create an environment that fosters experiential life-change for contributing students while raising up future ministry leaders.
  • SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY TOP 10: [With Amy Fenton Lee] In this breakout, she will share 10 current issues a church can anticipate facing as they welcome kids with special needs. Join Amy as she prepares you to meet these new challenges well.

 

With a natural bent toward learning/research, I’m very much anticipating all of the knowledge I will gain to help propel us steadily and sustainably toward a better, brighter, and bolder approach of healthy discipleship for the children at Westside from cradle to college. I’m also looking forward to coming back home with more practical tools to equip our team to uncover their sweet spots in life and ministry as they continue to invest in the future of the Church!

 

I'll also be sure to keep you all updated with pictures on my Instagram (hashtagged with #OC14). In the meantime, I'll be getting some good reading done on the flights ahead! F

I’ll also be sure to keep you all updated with pictures on my Instagram (hashtagged with #AMOC14). In the meantime, I’ll be getting some good reading done on the flights ahead!


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I Know You Care

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One of our Westside Kids ministry workers told me a story about a kid in her Pre-K Class. During part of the lesson, the teachers were to ask the kids, “Who is the strongest person you know?” As she asked, one of the little boys said, “Jesus is! You told us that two weeks ago!” It was exciting to hear how the kids in our church are remembering the things they are being taught week after week. I’m consistently inspired by the efforts of our Kid’s Ministry workers, who don’t always get a chance to see the progress week after week. We realize that in kids’ and teen ministry, that you may not get to see the fruit of your labor until these children become college students and professional young people with families, holding a solid foundation in their faith and instilling those Christian values into their own family life.

 

 

Similarly, I was reminded this past week of how we hang on to the things we are taught far beyond the day that they were taught to us. While I was working at GTAustin in Texas, my pastors and mentors consistently  emphasized the importance of “becoming a regular” in local businesses. Our Master’s Commission Director (whom I served under) would always study at the same coffee shop (Genuine Joe) and get to know the baristas that worked there. We also held our Off-Site staff meetings in that same coffee shop. They knew who we were and where we worked and it was up to us to share the practical side of Christ’s love with them. Even when I go home to visit, I always make it a point to stop in for coffee at Genuine Joe. Through the years, that practice has stuck with me and I’ve established the same connections here in Seattle. As I’ve adopted this concept, it hasn’t really been about the coffee as much as it has been the building of relationships. . . . I’ll admit, it does help that I LOVE coffee. ;)

 

 

In my own neighborhood, I frequent 2 coffee shops: The Jewel Box Cafe (which I call Hogwarts) and Cloud City Coffee. When I’m working at the job downtown, I either stop by Metropolitan Market or Caffe Ladro. I’ve taken time to get to know these baristas and they have taken efforts to remember my name and my drink/food order. They notice when I’m not around and when I do show up again, we play catch-up. It’s been really fun to find a local coffee shop “where everybody knows your name.”

 

Caffe Ladro Uptown | Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

Caffe Ladro Uptown | Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

 

Every Sunday morning and afternoon, I get coffee from Robertino’s, a coffee shop just a couple of blocks away from Westside Church. I know the baristas and they know me. They know what I do, where I work, and also notice when I don’t stop by. Often, some of the 2Twelve youth students will stick around with me after morning church services and we will hang out together until youth group in the evening. When it was still in business, our routine was to eat lunch at Great Harvest Bread Co. (we miss it dearly), then grab coffee at Starbucks, and finally head back to the church to get things set up for the youth service. Since Robertino’s closes at 5p, we would always head there at 4:30 to grab some pre-service drinks and treats. The baristas have always been warm, friendly, and attentive while we placed our large and often times confusing order. Then we’d head back to the church and get on with our evening. Over the past month, our youth schedule has been off-and-on due to holidays and special events, so I haven’t been able to bring them in with me as much.

 

Robertino's near Westside Church

Robertino’s near Westside Church

 

It’s been sweet to have the baristas at Robertino’s ask me how the 2Twelve students are doing and how our youth group is going. I even got a chance to meet a new barista the other day and invited her to join us for a service at Westside. She appreciated the offer, but told me she attends another church in the area. However, that didn’t stop us from talking about our faith and I even found out that just like me, she has “faith roots” in The Assemblies of God. It was cool to share some quality time with her and begin to build that relationship. On Saturday, as I was preparing the Easter Baskets for our Westside Kids Crew Leaders, I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to make an Easter Basket for the baristas at Robertino’s. I tried to drop it off on Sunday, but they were closed, so I decided to drop it off yesterday and the barista was so excited to enjoy and share the treats with her co-workers. She then asked me how our Easter service went and what I was up to at work that day. We chatted for a bit about before the next customer walked in and went on with our day.

 

Happy Easter to Robertino's!

Happy Easter to Robertino’s!

 

I treasure those special connections and I’m looking forward to even more when I move to Green Lake! What about you, do you have any “regular” spots that make you feel like you walked into an episode of Cheers? If not, I really encourage you to do that—the power of intentional connection in community is a gift that keeps on giving!

 

★ Breakfast of Champions ★


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When I’m With You

Hoppy Easter, y’all!

 

Whew! What a rip-roaring fun weekend this has been! I don’t have much mental power or time to really expound on all that went down, so I will let the pictures and videos do some of the talking. Here are some written highlights, though:

  • Taking care of Ben and Ryan while their parents were away for the weekend. These boys are awesome and so much fun to hang out with! I talked them into watching 2 episodes of CSI:NY with me and we also cracked up watching Zoolander together! 
  • I went Ice Skating with the 2Twelve crew! The last time I went ice skating was in Junior High, so the fact that I was able to actually skate “off-the-wall” was FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!
  • Our Easter morning service at Westside Kids was wonderful and hectic and awesome and exhausting—everything a special service should be ;) 
  • Ben & Ryan’s folks returned on Sunday afternoon, and after church, I got to spend family time with them catching up and watching HACHIE (I HIGHLY recommend you watch it!!!—tears galore!) and then I made them a yummy Easter dinner so that they could unpack and unwind without any extra responsibilities. It was my first time making Easter dinner (smoked ham, garlic roasted brussels sprouts, and mashed sweet potatoes) and it was a HIT! 

And now for the pics and videos! 

 

Deep down inside, I know the Miller boys are *really* excited to have me taking care of them this weekend!

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This was so fun that I couldn’t NOT post it!

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Pre-Chill at Menchie’s before the Big Chill on the ice at our Sk8 D8!

2Twelve Sk8 D8

Shenanigans On Ice

Enjoying a rad SK8 D8 with the 2Twelve Crew!!!

 

 

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Even though they’re in High School, those boys totally deserved an Easter Basket . . . you’re never too old, right?? ;)

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E. Stubbs crafting the Easter snack—Dough Bunnies

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Even with all of the rushed craft prep, E.Stubbs still managed to spell out her love for me in jelly beans ;)

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Me and my widdle wabbit fwiend at Westside Kids!


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Holding On And Letting Go

★ A sneak peek into my near future ★

★ A sneak peek into my near future ★

 

My housemates are calling this The End of an Era and it feels just as awkward to label it as it does to live through it. However, the time has come for me to move on to the next season of life and for me, that means moving out of my little room in my beloved Roosevelt House into a new larger, more consistent living space with two of my friends from Westside Church. Having lived at the Roosevelt House for the past 6 years, it’s been a surreal transition even from the get-go. The thought of leaving the Roosevelt House before entering into a romantic engagement was never fully formed in my mind. According to my road map, I’d stay there until there was a ring on my finger and a date set for a wedding ceremony. It appears that someone moved my cheese and things are shifting—for the bittersweet better!

 

 

The years I’ve spent there have been packed full with fun memories, treasured traditions, housemate dates, ugly cry sessions, hallway chats, and even recovering from one of the most traumatic experiences of my life to date. As I was procrastinating the beginning of the packing process, I looked back on some of these photos from when I first moved in and I barely recognized the place! My walls, once bare, were now covered in Christmas cards, love notes, concert posters, movie posters, and more memories than I could count. I moved into this house with next-to-nothing (seriously, the bed isn’t even mine—it came with the room!) and now I am leaving with boxes of memories, ready to be scrap-booked and set on a shelf in front of bare walls once again.

 

 

For the most part, my housemates have been a genuine source of positive momentum. In general, they haven’t had solid religious beliefs, which challenges me to share the truth of God in new and practical ways. It also gives me a constant perspective on life outside of the “bubble” of Christian thought. They’ve never judged me (well, except for one of them) based on my own religious beliefs and many times have asked me to pray for them and their families. And even those who have not been ideal housemates—a klepto, a sociopath, those with severe OCD, language/cultural barriers, personality clashes, and nudists—I have learned greater people skills, safer boundaries, and empathy on new levels. I’m still FAR from perfect, but I’m excited for another round with new housemates. My landlady has also been an incredible source of life and strength for me in my many years at the house. She’s let me become a part of her life when most in her position wouldn’t. She’s been an encouragement to me in hard times. She’s been more than a landlady . . . she’s been a friend! It will be hard not being able to see her quite as often once I move. I’m just glad we are still Facebook friends! :)

 

 

I have loved making traditions with those in my current place and look forward to even more when I move. The great thing about seasons of life is that we can take some of the best things with us into the next, while leaving the rest behind. One of my housemates already commented that when the next person takes over my room, she’s going to have a talk with that girl and let her know that she has “some big shoes to fill.” My other housemates are concerned they’ll get a weirdo to replace me and she won’t be as fun to live with. I hope to high heaven that the next tenant in my room embraces these incredible ladies and this house with their whole heart. I’ve mentioned it on more than one occasion, but my housemates have become my friends and I would ‘go to the mats’ for them in a heartbeat!

 

 

Leaving convenience is never easy. Moving to a new neighborhood means that the grocery store isn’t just a block away anymore. It’s no longer a 5 minute walk to the gym, it’s now a 20 minute commute (still worth it). I won’t be living 15 minutes away from the movie theater and transit center. There will be a lot of trial and error as I learn to navigate the new commutes, but I’m thankful that both buses near my new place will get me where I need to go quickly and that I’ll be able to get to know a whole new set of bus drivers. Moving from Northgate to Greenlake will introduce me to a whole new culture of people, pace, and places, which is pretty exciting!

 

 

What I do know is that once I move, the old familiar things like my favorite coffee shop (The Jewel Box Cafe) and Target shopping sprees will be much more appreciated and valued. It will cause me to plan better and become more efficient with my schedule, which I’m all about! However, it will create more distance between me and my best friend, Heather. Although she has a car, living in close proximity to her has been a comfort through the years. Truthfully, my initial move to the Roosevelt House was inspired by the comfort of home. Moving halfway across the country with no friends or family to call my own, I craved some form of stability and connection to my life in Texas. That came in the form of a mall, double decker Target, Ross, and eventually movie theater. Those were all happy places for me back home and not having grown up in a culture where each neighborhood has its own local markets and shops that people frequent it was a good transitional culture for me. After 6 years of living in Seattle and exploring almost all of the diverse neighborhoods, the move to Greenlake seems less scary and more filled with adventure.

 

 

Now this is where things start to seem a bit silly and wonderful. As I was taking a tour of the new house to decide whether or not it would be the right place for me to move to, there were a few things that drew me in. First of all, the front flower bed had these beautiful purple flowers that resembled Texas Bluebonnets, which I’ve grown up with and have always loved. Secondly, the upstairs bathroom tiles and layout reminds me of my grandmother’s bathroom—a little piece of traditions and memories. Thirdly, having a downstairs kitchenette all to myself is quite liberating! I love cooking and meal prepping, so the convenience of having my own designated space for that was a big sway. Fourthly, they are building a brand new Starbucks right on the corner by my new house! If that isn’t the voice of God, I don’t know what is! ;) Just kidding, I had already prayed about this move and felt comfortable with it, and after praying even more about the house after the tour I believe God has some special stuff in store for me in the new place with the new housemates.

 

♥ Looking forward to a season of new beginnings ♥

♥ Looking forward to a season of new beginnings ♥

 

I will miss many things about living in the Roosevelt House. Mainly, my housemates and my amazing landlady, but also other elements of communal living in that culture. There will also be things I don’t miss. What I hope I don’t miss the most during this move is the opportunity to make every last moment and new moment between houses count. I hope I don’t miss taking in the beauty of change, the treasure of growing friendships, and the renewal of a fresh start! For now, it’s packing, packing, packing. Then it’s off to Atlanta for a Children’s Ministry conference. The day after I return is moving day. And that next Monday begins a new Era—one I’m very much looking forward to! One month is all I get to hold on to what matters before letting go of my own plans and stepping into the one that God has in store!

 

Enjoying precious moments with my housemates, sharing memories of our former rotating housemates and how our friendships have grown in this house.


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Let My Soul Sing

Part Of Our Westside Kids P&W Crew!

Part Of Our Westside Kids P&W Crew!

 

One of the fun aspects of working in Children’s Ministry is integrating my bent toward creative communications with practical ministry tools. As a Children’s Director, my inbox is constantly flooded with “the next best thing” . . . which actually looks and sounds a lot like the previous best thing, which actually wasn’t something that I think would appeal to our kids. All of that has taught me that though it may be a great thing, it’s not the best thing, and that’s okay. Different strokes for different folks, eh?

 

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Singing along to SHINE by North Point Kids—this one was a total favorite for all of our kids!

 

Our Children’s Ministry curriculum is supplied through a four-year package from a well-known ministry resource company that I’m sure supplies hundreds (if not thousands) of ministries with the tools necessary to make ministry a lot less stressful, more engaging, and easier to manage than what has been used in the past. While I truly appreciate all that the company, and its curriculum creators invest into providing said resources, there are some aspects that are not my idea of the “best” thing for our particular ministry. This shows up mostly in the form of their praise and worship resources. Each quarter of the curriculum comes with its own set of videos and songs to use on that particular set of lessons. Those songs are designed to help reiterate the theme and engage the kids in a meaningful time of praise and worship. However, that hasn’t always been the case for our kids. On more than one occasion, kids in our ministry have noted that the songs are not exciting, the moves are too difficult to follow, and they find it hard to move past the cheese factor on some of the videos. I get it—I really do—I also find myself conflicted in some of those circumstances. After going through a couple of series experiencing a lack of momentum during our worship time, I decided to look outside of our set curriculum. What I found was a fresh take on kid’s praise and worship songs!

 

Our Children's Ministry Intern, Chelsey D., leading the kids in one of our songs!

Our Children’s Ministry Intern, Chelsey D., leading the kids in one of our songs!

 

Some of my favorite artists to utilize have been AMBER SKY RECORDS and NORTH POINT KIDS, and GATEWAY NEXT. When I swap out songs in the series soundtrack, I usually stick to lyrics videos because they are readily available from those groups, however the motions are not. That poses a new problem, but also opens many new doors for ministry. It is in those moments that I’m able to integrate creative communications with practical ministry tools. In the anticipation of planning the next series, I will review the curriculum-included songs and watch the accompanying motion videos. From then, I’ll decide which ones fit with our ministry style and which ones I don’t think would fit. Then I’ll whittle down the list to see how many songs I need replaced, making sure there is a good balance of both praise and worship tunes. Then, I will preview other songs from various sources and ask myself:

  • What is the biblical truth found in this song?
  • Is it catchy enough?
  • Does it fit with our theme?
  • Does it provide too many lagging moments?
  • Would it be easy to choreograph and teach?

We also try to include some more traditional favorites to “pass-on” to the kids. Last series, we did THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE and it was so sweet to see the kids singing along to the same song I learned when I was their age. As I finalize the list of  songs we’ll include, I buy the ones I need to and make sure that they are all loaded on my phone’s music playlist. I’ll listen to them for a couple of weeks everywhere I go so that I can get them stuck in my head and allow for any creative inspiration to arise. Then, when I’m at home, I’ll shut myself in my room and practice some sample choreography. From there, I decide what works, what doesn’t and what is too repetitive. These moves have to be easy enough for our Pre-K crowd and engaging enough for our Elementary crowd (we do an all-ages worship set in our main meeting space). After settling on moves for the 4 or 5 songs (on average) that need choreography, I steal away to the dining room upstairs in my house where we have a full wall of mirrors. I’ll blast the songs from my headphones and then watch myself in the mirror to see how everything flows and work on transitions. A few weeks before our new series, I’ll create and burn a soundtrack CD/DVD for all of our workers and volunteers to have so that they can get accustomed for the songs we’ll be doing in the next series.

 

With the new songs we've introduced, we have more kids coming up asking if they can dance with us in front of everyone because they know the moves! I love seeing them so excited for praise and worship time!

With the new songs we’ve introduced, we have more kids coming up asking if they can dance with us in front of everyone because they know the moves! I love seeing them so excited for praise and worship time! [Photo by Corbett Stubbert]

A lot of the assistance I receive in this aspect of ministry comes from our first service teenage volunteers (from our youth group). They show up about an hour and a half before service check-in time begins and they help me do “last looks” to be sure that all of our rooms are set to go for the morning with all supplies needed. Then, we’ll vote on and organize the song set list for that morning, since they help me lead in both services. During that time, I’ll also introduce new songs that I’ve been working on and they’ll start learning those moves, as well as helping me re-choreograph trouble spots and give me honest feedback on how they’re feeling about the flow and moves of each song. They’ll also look at the videos provided by our curriculum and let me know ahead of time if they think those songs are workable, too cheesy, or not engaging enough. We’ll go over the new things we’ve learned and that morning’s set list a few times before we all head upstairs for a quick bite to eat and coffee to sip on. Then, it’s GO time!

 

This song is called RAISE YOUR HANDS by Amber Sky Records

Kids take to the sides to give themselves ample dancing room and sometimes they ask to join us up front! I love seeing our Westside Kids Crew Leaders joining us onstage and in the crowd, helping kids to not just wake up (gotta love those early Sunday mornings) and start the day with praise & worship, but also to get a head start on the fun times they’ll be having in class that day. It’s great knowing that our team is passionate about being involved with this process. We can already see the foundation it is building in the lives of our kids. During class time, some of the kids will request specific songs from our series soundtrack to play as they work on their crafts. This past Sunday, even after service was over, some kids stayed behind and danced on the stage to another one of our soundtrack songs. I love knowing that we get to join God in helping to guide these kids as they begin to understand the beauty, fun, and freedom that comes through praising and worshiping our King of Kings!

I love seeing our kids get excited about taking a next step to help lead their peers!

It’s so fun seeing our kids get excited about taking a next step to help lead their peers!

For those involved in ministry who are looking for some fresh new songs/choreography to add to your Sunday mornings, here are a couple of the new songs (not part of our provided curriculum) that we are featuring during this current series, READY, SET, GO!:


This song is called GROW UP by Amber Sky Records and was recorded at our Kid’s Praise & Worship Workshop


This song is called HERE I AM TO WORSHIP by Integrity Music and was recorded at our Kid’s Praise & Worship Workshop

And as a bonus, here’s one I am strongly considering for our next series, SCHOOLED:

 


This song is called LET YOU KNOW by Amber Sky Records

Again, it’s a couple of months away and it may not make the cut, but I think it’s might be a fun mid-set song. We’ll see! For those on our Kid’s Ministry crew reading this—THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for ALL of the time and energy you put into making each Sunday a truly Fun Day for the little lives entrusted to our care! You rock!


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Love Alone Is Worth The Fight

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
[Psalm 30:5]

— feeling discouraged.

 

That was my Facebook status a couple of days ago. It was a rough day. It was a rough couple of days. From feeling inadequate at both jobs, to family concerns, to doubts of self-worth, to feeling unneeded, to having nobody show up for my ministry team meeting . . . I went to bed  with my pity party hat on, crying (yes, big girls DO cry), and wondering if what I was doing even mattered. I wondered why I was trying when it didn’t seem like I was actually making a difference. I poured my heart into my work, my passions, my family, and over those couple of days, it seemed as though I had taken 2 steps forward and 15 back—I was failing big time and bringing the people I cared about down with me. I posted the above statement on Facebook, partially wanting to just “leave it behind,” partially wanting to show my weakness, and partially as a landmark frozen in social networking time. So I posted it and traveled from FB Land to my Pillow Palace. The only thing I could do in that moment to calm the mind games was ask God to be with me. No really, I simply whispered as I lay in bed, “God, be with me. Please.” Then, I turned on this song and fell asleep, unmotivated, discouraged, and defeated.

 

 

Then I woke up to a brighter day. The thoughts of inadequacy were still hiding out in the corners of my mind, even as I looked in the mirror and said, “Today will be better. It’s a new day.” The feelings lingered and I kept pressing on. I knew they would—I’ve served in ministry long enough to recognize the mind games and the trying seasons post-victory. I just wish they would get easier to deal with as time goes by. Sadly, they get trickier and hit harder the further in you go. I played some of my favorite praise & worship songs as I got dressed and headed downtown to the waterfront for a special quiet time. The water is where I connect with God the most. The boundless wonder of the fluid mass reminds me that every particle that makes up that large body of water was handcrafted by the same Creator that made me. The the same God that orchestrates the tides also orchestrates my life. The stretch of water that spills over the horizon is as boundless as the Father’s love for me. As I sat by the water, meditating on 1 Kings 19:11-12, I asked for that whisper. I asked for the peace that passes understanding. I asked for the courage to face the earthquake and the fire, and to be able to walk away like guys do when walking away from an explosion . . . in confidence, without looking back. (Look, not all my prayers are PC.)

 

 

After that quiet time, I did what any normal human being would do when they realize they are the solo kid hanging out on a pier by the cold water—I checked my text messages and I checked my Facebook. What I got was that whisper. A very loud whisper. Friends had commented and texted some of the most ENcouraging things and it combated my discouragement like a rookie in a prize-fighting ring. Though the thoughts still clung to me for dear life, they were weakened, primed for a TKO. Part of that TKO came when I showed up to work at Westside. Our associate pastor’s mother noticed me walk in, but my headphones were in (as per my usual bad habit), so I didn’t hear her calling to me. Instead, she followed me into my office and I turned in shock that someone had followed me into my office, and stumbled to my desk as I belted out a terrified scream. Once I calmed down, she asked how I was doing and knowing she hadn’t seen my Facebook post, I broke down in her arms and let it all out. I’m not sure how much of those tears were induced by the circumstances and how much was induced by having the bejeebus scared outta me, but it felt great to cling to her and just cry it out. My co-workers at the other job would be so proud of me (it’s a Counseling Resource Center and they LOVE when you show emotion). After drying my eyes a bit, I went upstairs to see my G-Mama (our Office Admin), who invited me to come talk to her about what was going on, since she had seen the post on Facebook. I talked it over with her and was left even more encouraged and finally began to feel a strong peace about things. My heart had endured some good healing that morning.

 

 

 

The pinnacle of it all, and perhaps the driving force behind this post, was what happened later that evening. As our youth group game night began, one of my students asked if they could talk to me in private. We headed to my office and they began to share with me that one of their siblings had undergone tests and that it’s more than possible that their sibling has cancer. The student was overcome with fear and the tears were flowing as they asked me to pray for their sibling and their family. In that moment, I felt a fresh wind in my sails. I felt needed again—not to be their Savior, but to stand in the gap and assure them that their family wasn’t in this fight alone. My faith activated and I prayed one of the most passionate prayers I’d prayed in a while. We both walked out of that office with empty shoulders, having cast all of our fears and doubts on God, believing for the best. We spent the rest of the evening surrounded by people who share our hope, our faith, and our love for full life. Things came full circle and I had seen that not only was this a time for me to lean on others, but to be reminded that whether I’m in ministry or not, God wants me to be a refuge for those in need. In that moment, the student and I were twinsies—both broken, both hoping for greater things, and both putting our hearts in each others’ hands. I believe that’s what God intended from the beginning and it’s one of the lessons that it’s taken me what seems like forever to put into practice: To be able to surrender that image of “having it all together” and walk with others through the truth of “I have no clue what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it because nothing makes sense right now.” In the end, we were left with a hopeful future, knowing that whatever comes our way, we still have each other and we still have God. Before I went to bed last night, I thought to myself, “What you’re doing does matter. Stay the course.”

 

 

To everyone who left encouraging messages on my Facebook, THANK YOU! To Donna Stubbert, THANK YOU!! To Glenda Wright, my G-Mama, THANK YOU!!! And to my 2Twelvers, THANK YOU!!!! Thank you all for helping me stay on the right track and for reminding me of the complete greatness of God! I think I’m ready to go another 5 rounds!

 

rocky

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