What is Your Purpose?

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director

What do a pair a pumps, slippers and Nike running shoes have in common? My purpose on Sunday as Director of Children’s Ministries of course.  Sundays are my longest day of the week.  A hot cup of coffee and creamy oatmeal begin the morning before I’m dressed in my pumps and Sunday best.   On the road I pray for a smooth day, rehearse for the worship announcements, and upon arrival exchange a cheerful greeting with those setting out goodies for our parishioners and guests.  The classroom doors are then unlocked and supplies set as I review the lesson.  Most importantly the Bible point for the Children’s Story during worship must be solid in my mind.  It’s rehearsed one last time.  Never under estimate a child’s heckling skills.  Last week during the story time we talked about Communion.  When the communion bread was displayed their eager little fingers reached for a piece, distracting my vibe.  Thankfully this public moment in front of adults was short lived as next Kids Worship began.  I ran back to the Kids Zone following their pace in my pumps, gladly sliding into my slippers before the lesson began.  Kids opened their Bibles to read the scripture aloud, not missing a beat as they discovered that the couple Isaac and Rebecca were cousins.  A brief yet truthful discussion ensued on how cousins could possibly be married.   Then kids head back to their parents, finally able to partake in the body and blood of Christ.  The 9:30 service ends.  The pumps are back on and I deliver the announcements and lead the liturgy for the 11:00 service.   

Once morning worship is complete and the parishioners gone, the building is locked and I’m relieved to feel the fuzzy warmth of my slippers again.  After the active morning it is a sacred time of eating lunch in the quiet and stillness of the place.  There is email to check  and routine tasks to complete but God is present.   At 3:15 prep for 45s begins, our 4th and 5th grade pre-youth ministry.  I change into shorts, a funky 45s shirt and then PHHEEWW!   Time to tie on my Nike running shoes.   The indoor basketball hoop, the air hockey and foosball tables, paints and model magic, set.  The lesson baskets used by my beloved volunteers now friends, also set.  I pray.  I am set.  Everyone arrives.   

We start 45s with a game of kickball using a ball that’s half the kids size.   The bigger the better and of course I join in the fun, only half remembering my age and knee injury.   Then it’s the story of Nehemiah, and we divide into small groups, discuss the lesson and recite the weeks memory verse.  A teeny tiny rubber chicken is passed, our prayer chicken which reminds the kids not to be chicken about praying.   Last Sunday my small group was all boys so obviously we ended early.  It was a good thing my Nikes were still on because we began whacking each other with pool noodles.  To my surprise the whack didn’t hurt, but the sound was amazing.  Needless to say, my group was late for dinner.   Sunday’s are the longest day of my week.  But thankfully I have my trusty pumps, slippers and Nikes to get me through and am reminded of my purpose as Director of Children’s Ministries.  

ROMANS 8:28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.

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Kids Know Things…

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director

A child should be seen and not heard, a phrased coined in the early 1900s.  During this time it was thought a child’s mind was like a blank slate, void of reason and knowledge and therefore not encouraged to engage in public discussions.  While I fully support the voice of children, for a second during Sunday School this past Sunday, I wished I had not heard it.  Inevitably with kiddos there comes an uncomfortable moment when you are faced with a squirrel of a question.  In this instant it was, “What does circumcision mean?” a word found in our scripture passage that morning.  As it escaped their young lips, the question hung heavy.  All their laser-like eyes fixated on me and I could tell an answer was expected, one that would respect the minds of both parents and their offspring.  With questions like this you are forced to think on your feet and tasked with a legit answer that neither confesses nor hides.  Kids are not a blank slate, they know things! 

It has taken time to perfect my stealth like skills during these hot seated moments, and the solution simply is this.   Children should be heard.  Answer them with a question such as “why do you want to know, or what do you think it means?”  This practice of answering a question with a question accomplishes much.  In their answers you discover what they know and you can simply agree or disagree.  You model the skill of conversation, which children are still learning, and then gain an understanding of how they want the question answered.  This allows you to then cater the answer to meet them where they are. They are children and while they do know things, they do not know fully.  It provides practice in listening too and buys you time, if just for a moment to consider your response, if you actually end up needing one.  Most importantly it encourages your relationship.  Children need the opportunity to communicate.  They want to practice expressing their opinions and want to be heard.  In case you’re wondering, I was able to dodge the full meaning of circumcision.  But in the mean time we had a hearty conversation about Biblical relationships.  Like I said, kids are not a blank slate, they know things! 

Genesis 21:3-4.

Abraham named his son—the one Sarah bore him—Isaac. Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old just as God had commanded him.

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A Lesson Learned

~Julie Chatfield – Children’s Ministry Director
I grew up in Medina Ohio, a small town where everyone knew each other.  It was natural to walk or bike anywhere and we did it often.   When I was fourteen, a curious teenager,  I would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to wander around with friends.   We would engage in a minimal amount of mischief but it was thrilling, and thirty five years ago wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it is today.   I managed to continue this scheming act until one evening an informant filled my parents in to my conduct.  My father parented me in an ingenious way, probably without even realizing it.


  First my father announced his knowledge of my behavior, but instead of accusing, asked me to tell my version of the story.  Through my act of communicating, I immediately owned my poor choices.  Most likely it was a calculated response because I didn’t want to disclose all the shenanigans.  But that’s o.k., inside I knew where I had done wrong.  He then shared his disappointment in me.  His words were not overbearing, threatening, or condescending, just a sigh and then, “I’m disappointed. ” It was all I needed to hear.  He then continued instructing that a punishment was in order.  But instead of inflicting one, he asked my opinion on what that should be.   I was in charge of my behavior and the consequences, and ended up being harder on myself then my dad would have been.
A person cannot change another person and this holds true in parenting as well.  You can only help your kids change themselves by giving them the tools they need to do it.   This is most effective through self awareness.  If my dad had yelled, scolded and directed at me all the things I’d done wrong,  I would have become defensive and most likely tuned him out.  Instead I was engaged in my story, defined my mistakes, and whether I told the whole truth, owned what I had done through “MY” words and self actualization.  Ultimately a lesson well learned.
Proverbs 20:5 (CEB). Advice comes from the deep waters of the heart; those with understanding can draw it out.

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“Why Did This Happen?”

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director
I am not naturally an evangelist.  I wrestle with this character trait because it seems contrary to our calling as Christians.  Part of my challenge comes from being overtly conscious of those sensitive to Christianity, which causes me to feel uncomfortable sharing Gods story.  Lately though, I have found myself in casual settings suddenly engaged in faith talks.  They usually begin normally with nothing at all indicating a discussion about God is soon to ensue. Then suddenly BOOM, an “I believe in God but why did this happen?…” type of comment surfaces. I am caught off guard and frankly never feel adequate in my response, fumbling somewhere between too cerebral or not convicting enough.  I walk away having a “palm slap to the forehead” moment realizing an evangelistic opportunity foiled.  This weakness of mine has me grappling a lot.  Why does it seem suddenly I am positioned for these faith conversations? And why do I feel so apprehensive about them?  
As my position to evangelize has increased, I have identified a few common traits.  First, God provides.  God provides the person, the topic, and the dialogue.  I don’t have to go fishing, all I have to do is remain aware, willing and available to the conversation.  Next, faith talks usually come unexpectedly but are fully recognizable because Gods name is implicitly stated.  I’m also relived a well crafted response is not necessary.  Instead, a listening ear, an open mind, and a praying heart frees the Holy Spirit to work.  It is the praying heart that keeps the cerebral responses at bay and the convicting responses to prove.  Oh, and sometimes I speak, other times not.  But that’s ok, God is in charge.  And because God is in charge, the explicit questions about God are so much easier.  When our human nature controls, evangelizing feels unnatural because we are sharing our story, not Gods.  God does what God does, so slow down and let go of any agenda.  When we allow God to lead the process, evangelizing will feel natural after all.
I thank God for safety from Hurricane Dorian.  But many were impacted by this catastrophic storm.  If you are able to help, please donate
1 Peter 3:15 Instead, regard Christ the Lord as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.

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“We are No Longer Allowed to Color at School”

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director
Each week I have the privilege of teaching our 2nd-5th grade kiddos during our 9:30 a.m. worship service.  We have started a wonderful new curriculum full of activities that touch upon the various learning styles.  Last Sunday we were learning about Adam and how God tasked Adam to name the animals.  The first activity was a worksheet that encouraged kids to imagine and draw their own animal and then name it.  I gave the students a box of colored pencils and 5 minutes to create.  The kids worked furiously.  I noted how quiet they were, how peaceful the room felt, and recognized their joy in this activity.  When I announced time was up, all of the kids expressed sighs of disappointment.  At first I assumed it was the typical antic to continue coloring, but one of the 3rd grade students bluntly stated, “We are no longer allowed to color at school.”  I laughed,  thinking it was a joke, only to hear all the children then chime in to her remark.  The kids continued, “We aren’t even allowed to keep a box of crayons in our desk or color during free time.”
Perhaps the kids have a misunderstanding about the purpose behind this absurd rule.  Maybe being in third grade, they are encouraged to use their writing and verbal skills and therefore coloring is not permitted.  It makes sense for this purpose.  But whatever the reason or level of truth, it was their tone of despair that was most concerning.  Even the kids seems incredulous that coloring was no longer necessary, adding to their already existent dread for learning.  
According to an article in the Medical Daily,  aside from being a necessary learning tool, coloring helps relieve stress, maintain attention, refocus negative thinking and is a wonderful, therapeutic activity for all ages.  Whatever semblance of truth this pronouncement may be, I wonder.  In the end, is this no coloring rule and the kids negative perspective, along with the repercussions influenced by it, a sacrifice worth taking? 
Genesis 1:31-  God saw everything God made:  it was supremely good.  
Here kids use drama and clay, other tools for learning.

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“Prayer Chicken”

~By Julie Chatfield, Peace Children’s Ministry Director
One of the best ways to connect with God is through prayer.  It is fascinating that in spite of this, prayer is one of the hardest things to encourage children to do.  During our 45s pre-youth group, we have a long standing tradition of praying while holding a rubber chicken, because sometimes we feel “chicken” to pray.  The hope is that while holding this silly thing, kids will find the courage to lift up a prayer.  Prayers don’t have have to be long winded.  There are not “right” words.  They don’t even have to be inspirational.  Prayers are simply an expression of the heart. 
We have recently started a new prayer tradition during our Kids’ Own Worship during the 9:30 a.m. service.  At the end of class, one at at time each child is encouraged to look into a mirror.  As they gaze at themselves, I pronounce their names and state they are a special child of God.  The group at large then in unison repeats the said child’s name, speaking the blessing again.  In this scenario, children relish the opportunity to gaze into the mirror, hear their names, and be reminded they are special.  
Affirming your children is a simple and easy way to build their confidence and remind them of their worth.  It may seem hard at first, but there is no need to feel ‘chicken.” Your words don’t have to be long winded, and they don’t even have to be inspirational.  They simply need to be an expression of your heart.   Spend a moment this week,  look your children in the eyes and say one or two things about them you find special. 
1 Thessalonians 5:11  So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. 

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