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Trunk-or-Treat Community Outreach

Last night was Trunk-or-Treat at my local congregation.  What an amazing outreach!  Every year we decorate our trunks with bible themes and hundreds of kids participate.  Mine has been a F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely on God) with a wooden “fly” launcher my husband built.  The kids eat it up!  They stomp on one end and send the fly (a Badminton birdie) into the frogs mouth (or bucket in our case).  We have a bounce house, train rides and serve corn dogs.  Kids from our church and the community come out for fun and treats.

You don’t have to travel across the globe to minister.  There’s an opportunity in your own backyard.  Take our community, for instance.  We have a congregation of about 250.  There are thousands more people in our community that don’t worship God.  We don’t preach to them at Trunk-or-Treat, but we bring people in and serve them.  We show them love and hospitality.  We open the doors for an opportunity to visit about the gospel at a later time.  Last year we held a raffle for a $20 gift card. This allowed us to get many names and email addresses of people in our community.  Now, we can send something to them each month to set their focus, even if for a moment, on God.  Plus, we get to tell them about all kinds of children’s events coming up that we’d love to have their child at.

Look for opportunities to be hospitable to your community.  Make the community aware that you are there.  When the time comes, when they realize they need God, they will remember you and know they have someone to turn to.  Trunk-or-Treat may not be for your and that’s okay. Look for what works for your congregation.  It may be a movie night where you play a movie and serve popcorn.  How about an Easter egg hunt?  Breakfast with Santa?  Share some things you have tried and let us know how they worked.  I love new ideas!

This is what the Lord has commanded us to do. He said,“I have made you a light for the Gentiles.  You will bring salvation to the whole earth.” -Acts 13:47

A Spooky Bible Story for Kids

For parents or teachers, this works for both!

Christmas and Easter get all the attention in the religious world, and Halloween gets a bad rep (for obvious reasons).  Keep in mind that the bible has something for everything!  Our God is brilliant!  Take time to share a scary story from God’s word with your children.  It shows your kids that the bible is not some boring old book we make them read, but one that is exciting.  There are lots of “scary” stories.  Several examples: The Witch of Endor summons Samuel’s spirit, King Jeroboam’s hand shrivels, The Valley of Dry Bones, and the one I’m sharing today… the Writing on the Wall.  There are so many.  These are just a few of my favorites.

This is a scary story so make it fun and spooky.  Grab the sheets and flashlights.  Use the sheets to build an indoor tent.  Climb inside and hold the flashlight under your chin to give it that scary face.  Let the kids each have a turn too.  Better yet, let them have their own little flashlights.  Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn!  Now you are ready to show your kids just how fun God’s word really is.  Make sure they know that this isn’t just a made up story, but it actually happened!  I like to use one of the easy reader versions because they are on a child’s level, making them easy to understand.  You can read straight from the bible or modify it (I pulled out a few verses for times sake.)

Use your spooky voice:

King Belshazzar gave a huge party with thousands of noblemen. He drank wine with them.  While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to his servants to bring in some gold and silver cups. They were the cups his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Belshazzar had them brought in so everyone could drink from them.  So the servants brought in the gold cups. The cups had been taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem. The king and his nobles drank from them.  As they drank the wine, they praised their gods. The statues of those gods were made out of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood or stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared. They wrote something on the plaster of the palace wall. It happened near the lampstand. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale. He was so afraid that his legs became weak. And his knees were knocking together.

The king sent for those who try to figure things out by using magic. He also sent for those who study the heavens. All of them were wise men in Babylon. Then the king spoke to them. He said, “I want one of you to read this writing. I want you to tell me what it means. Whoever does this will be dressed in purple clothes. A gold chain will be put around his neck. And he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in. But they couldn’t read the writing. They couldn’t tell him what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified. His face grew more pale. And his nobles were bewildered.

The queen heard the king and his nobles talking. So she came into the dining hall. “King Belshazzar, may you live forever!” she said. “Don’t be afraid! Don’t look so pale!  I know a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. This man’s name is Daniel. Your father called him Belteshazzar. He has a clever mind and knowledge and understanding. He is also able to tell what dreams mean. He can explain riddles and solve hard problems. Send for him. He’ll tell you what the writing means.”

So Daniel was brought to the king. The king said to him, “Are you Daniel? Are you one of the prisoners my father the king brought here from Judah?  I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you. I hope you can read this writing and tell me what it means. If you can, you will be dressed in purple clothes. A gold chain will be put around your neck. And you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then Daniel answered the king. He said, “You can keep your gifts for yourself. You can give your rewards to someone else. But I will read the writing for you. I’ll tell you what it means.

“Your Majesty, the Most High God was good to your father Nebuchadnezzar. But his heart became very stubborn and proud. So he was removed from his royal throne. He was driven away from people. He was given the mind of an animal. He lived with the wild donkeys. He ate grass just as an ox does. He stayed that way until he recognized that the Most High God rules over all kingdoms on earth. He puts anyone he wants to in charge of them.

“But you knew all that, Belshazzar. After all, you are Nebuchadnezzar’s son. In spite of that, you are still proud. You have taken your stand against the Lord of heaven. You had your servants bring cups from his temple to you. You and your nobles drank wine from them. You praised your gods. You didn’t honor God, so he sent the hand that wrote on the wall.

“Here is what was written:  mene, mene, tekel, parsin

“And here is what these words mean.

Mene means that God has limited the time of your rule. He has brought it to an end.

Tekel means that you have been weighed on scales. And you haven’t measured up to God’s standard.

The word Peres means that your authority over your kingdom will be taken away from you. It will be given to the Medes and Persians.”

That very night Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, was killed.  

Imagine a large hand, like a giant ghost, wrote on the castle wall.  Spooky!

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3T Thursday (Tickles, Truth & Tips)

Something funny…

What animal could Noah not trust?

The Cheetah.  Ha! Ha!

Something Spiritual…

God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, the servant of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIRV

Something Useful…

Training a child to do what is right isn’t an easy task.  Choose one thing to focus on this week.  That may be being polite, truthful, generous or any of a million other things we hope our kids learn.  Now, take that one thing and work it into every day.  For instance, if you choose to work on manners, make sure your child says “thank you” when you give him/her anything. Make sure your child says “please” before giving him/her what they’ve asked for.

Not only do you make sure your child says these things, but praise them each time they do.  If you spend a whole week focusing on this, I think you will love what you see next week without your prompting!

Child Development Based Teaching

Kids learn at different paces, but there is an average age kids are developed enough to learn certain things. Infants and toddlers need repetition, songs and movement. Elementary kids are little sponges ready to take in whatever information is put in front of them. Middle schoolers want to know why things are the way they are; why we do things certain ways. High schoolers are testing boundaries, living their lives and trying to make a place, or a name, for themselves.

What does this mean to parents and teachers? We teach basic bible stories and that God loves us to our infants and toddlers through song, rhymes and movement. We teach elementary children all of the Bible stories. Get the facts into their minds. As middle schoolers, we teach them why God gave us these stories; what message did God want us to learn. This is where we focus on biblical principles. Then in high school, they have all the tools they need to answer questions for their lives. A party with alcohol? Gender identity? Little white lies? God has an answer for all of this right in the scripture. He gave us His word and His spirit. High schoolers are prepared to pull from their knowledge base to answer the questions for themselves and make wise choices.

Next week we will spend time on ways to present lessons to our elementary children so they learn who God is, to love God and share God. When our kids beg to invite their friends to bible class we know we have something amazing!

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3T Thursday (Tickles, Truth & Tips)

Every Thursday I’d like to share something funny, something spiritual and something serious. I hope you find these helpful for your week!

Something Funny

If you work with kids, whether young or old, you can always use a good laugh. On Thursday’s we will provide just that! Share the laughs with your church family!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Don’t clip a childs wings. Allow them to be creative, to think and come up with new ideas. You will be amazed at what kids think up on their own and how well they retain what they’ve learned this way!

For example, I teach a summer Bible Science program to Kindergarten through fifth graders each year.  A few months before this last summer began one of my second graders asked if we could dissect frogs this time.  He asked this in class, in front of everyone.  Me, thinking I was smart enough to fix this, said, “Well, we can’t just do any experiment.  It has to go with a Bible lesson.”  The class full of second and thrid graders came up with a solution in less than a minute!  They decided, “We can learn about the 10 plagues- you know, the one with the frogs!”

What was I do to?  They had come up with an experiment they wanted to do AND even had a Bible lesson to go with it.  Their creative minds were at work.  Of course, I worked with the high schoolers to help with a dissection experiment that summer.  I want to encourage this any chance I get (even if I don’t like the idea of dissecting).  Kids thinking about God and inviting their friends to participate.

Is Children’s Ministry THAT Important?

We have heard the phrase, “Children are the future of the church.” Do you believe this? If you DO believe this, then the children’s ministry is vital to the future of the church.

I like statistics and I despise them. I say this because I am about to quote some statistics but want to clarify that I do not think they are 100% accurate, but more an indicator of things. It’s like the old adage “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” The information from these studies came from somewhere, so there’s bound to be some truth to them.  Keep in mind, there are always exceptions.  Thank God for this!

So here goes. Modern research indicates that what a person believes is locked in by the age of 13. (George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions 2003)   “What you believe at age 13 is pretty much what you’re going to die believing,” Barna said. Research compiled by his Barna Group shows that children between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32 percent probability of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. That likelihood drops to 4 percent for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18, and ticks back up to 6 percent for adults older than 18.

THIRTEEN! I find this both scary and incredibly exciting! This means that parents, teachers and ministry leaders better take children’s ministry pretty seriously. It means that what we do has a deep impact; it’s meaningful. For me, this is awesome. I am not just some babysitter. I am making a difference in the spiritual welfare of a child of God! This statistic points to the fact that churches need to make children a priority. It does not mean run out and hire a children’s minister (although you may); rather it means to be intentional about what we teach and how we teach our children. We have a big job that is exciting and full of reward!

What does this mean for churches?  it means we need to get our acts together.  We need to be intentional in our design for reaching children (and their parents).  We need to create a plan for how we are going to do this.  We need to commit NOT to change God’s message, but find a way to get children interested in hearing God’s message.  What doe kids enjoy doing?  What gets them excited and invited their friends to come too?  We should be thinking outside of the box, finding ways to get kids excited about the Word of God because it is truly far from boring!  It’s all about how we share it.

Jesus understood people so he told stories, performed miracles and offered grace that wasn’t there before. Jesus also knew children and considered them important.  We see this in Mark 10:13-16:  People were bringing little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on them to bless them. But the disciples told them to stop. When Jesus saw this, he was angry. He said to his disciples, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them.  What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God’s kingdom like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms. He placed his hands on them to bless them.

How are we, as Christ’s church, going to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, spreading His message and raising kids for Christ?  We will explore this very topic in a series of articles.

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