Mini Missions with Your Kids

In my Ministry with my kids and youth, we’ve been working for several years now on the concept of BEING the GOOD and always choosing kind. We’ve talked about Jesus’ teachings, leading our lives in the way in which God wants us to, and how John Wesley’s belief is that God is here for EVERYONE.

After awhile, I began to notice a change. The kids began to think of other people and how certain situations would affect others… whether in the church or out in the community.  I am not saying that they had NEVER thought of others or never wanted to be helpful… they did! It’s hard to explain, but it just seemed to grow in ways I had not thought of before.

We spent an entire year and a half collecting and fundraising for the shoe that grows… pretty much not long after that charity had come around, and to watch the joy on the faces of the children was truly, as cheesy as it may sound, inspiring. I began to realize that no matter what age the kids were, 3 years to high school… they were excited about helping.

So many times I would see the adults preparing for mission work, or even the senior high and college kids, getting all ready to go on a mission trip, and the younger kids were feeling a little left out. So I suggested one time, a few years back, “would you guys like to help?” and the response was epic. They were all talking at once, a few of them were jumping up and down. And THEN they kind of froze and looked at me. “WHAT do you mean help?” they wanted to know.

I asked if they’d like to help work on the mission trip fundraising. Whether is was helping to bake for a bake sale, or sit at the table with a high school “buddy” to help collect money… or EVEN to help me, when the time came, to pack some Ziploc bags full of different supplies for each youth going on the trip to take with them.

They rose to the occasion and they were SO EXCITED. And they WANTED to help! They worked tirelessly, with an enthusiasm that I think we adults don’t even have sometimes. They want to be helpful SO MUCH and not only that, they wanted TO HELP… their hearts were full of love for people in need, or their youth family who were going out in the world to DO GOOD, or for the older people in the church, whom we would discuss often. A lesson on kindness we had one week was about the older people in the congregation and how often they were alone at home because their families didn’t always live near-by.   What could we, as their CHURCH Family, do for them? They decided on making cards to send in the snail mail so they’d know that they were being thought about. I knew then, that these kids needed more.

I came up with the idea of a “mini mission” program. Now, I am SURE someone else out in the world has too… but at least around me, I created it, lol.

I’d design some mini missions to do throughout the year that “mini Methodists” could handle doing, both on their own, and with help from the church family.

I’ve seen them grow even more these past few years – in their hearts, and in their thinking of others, and in how they see the world and their place in it. It’s a special thing to watch.  The Youth Group also pitches in and it’s kind of a cool thing to watch them get into having giving hearts, and to support the younger kids, who look up to them SO MUCH. The Youth think they’re helping out the younger kids… but in reality they’re getting a lot out of using their gifts and talents and growing into mature and kind-hearted people.

Mini missions can range in level from making the cards for people, to collecting pop cans for a couple months to make money to donate… to helping stuff those mission bags, to going and packing food at a mission (appropriate to their ages… I have taken the younger kids to our city’s food pantry, but NOT to the Cleveland City food bank – that is something our Youth do…) to making ornaments for people in your community Nursing Homes, to baking cookies for the older people in our church… to letting your younger kids take part in helping the Youth in any way whatever the Youth Mission Project is each year, and more!

A mini mission is also a wonderful way to be intergenerational. Sometimes, the adults get involved in the Mini Mission in their brains to “help out” the younger kids or youth… and they end up becoming so engaged and finding so much joy in their projects, that it affects their hearts and faith as well. And that is what it’s all about. Growing our faith as we go on our journey, trying to walk like Christ… And John Wesley’s request of us to Do no harm, Do good, stay in love with God.

Kira Cimino Holchin, DCE & Youth Pastor, Rockport UMC

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Messy Church is Happening in East Ohio

The Spiritual Formation & Christian Education Committee and CEF co-sponsored a workshop in February of 2017 focused on Messy Church.  Since that time, Messy Church has been percolating in several churches around East Ohio.   Following is an article from the East Ohio E-news about what’s happening at The United Methodist Church of Berea.

Finding Faith and Friends in the Mess of Life

By Rev. Carrie Antczak*

Life is messy. Often times, those who are yet to experience faith community, or who have not experienced it in a long time, fear that their mess is not welcome at church – but nothing could be further from the truth. Messy Church embraces the idea of mess through creative play, worship experienced as a celebration and a community meal.  It’s a way of doing church that tells our communities, “your mess is indeed welcome at church.”

At the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District), we launched Messy Church with a desire to reach people in our community in a creative, welcoming way. At first the idea of getting messy to form new connections sounded odd – what could glitter, glue, and God have in common? How could making a mess, make community? As it turned out, it was just what we needed, and what new friends were looking for.

Young girl paints with her feet within the lines of a cross painted on paper

So we gathered a team, encouraged the congregation to come as hosts, and to bring friends. Messy Church was advertised various places, but got the most response from posting it on Facebook. Who showed up? Friends of congregants, kids with their dads who they only saw on the weekend, grandparents with custody of their grandchildren, the OhioGuidestone community, some families needing a free meal, some families with children whose parents had never been to church.

The success of our first Messy Church in November of 2017 encouraged us to host others, once-a-month, throughout the school year.  Average attendance was 65 people, most of whom were not members of our church. By the end of the year: two young people had requested information on baptism; a few new families were regularly attending church; and we developed a passion for using slime, sand, and sloppy joes for the glory of God!

 

If you were to peak through the window during Messy Church, you’d see round tables surrounded by people of all ages getting sticky.  You would see that no child is sitting still, and all of them are joyfully interrupting me and Senior Pastor Nathan Howe. You would hear loud laughter, be surprised by little feet running fast with no one scolding them, and you’d see instruments and praise ribbons strewn about for all to participate in worship as they feel led.

During worship you’d hear “secular” music turned into worship music, and you’d witness kids sliding under pews in races, and some child begging their grandma to take a picture of them in the pulpit. This is their space, where they come, listen, and meet Jesus.

Learn more about Ohio Messy Church on Facebook, or come and visit UMC Berea from 4-6 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month to participate in Messy Church.

Finding faith and friends in the mess of life. Messy Play. Messy Worship. Messy Dinner. All welcome. Always our gift to you.


*Rev. Carrie Antczak is a Deacon in full connection serving as the pastor of Faith Formation and Outreach at the United Methodist Church of Berea.

Being Disciples, Making Disciples, and Maturing Disciples for the Next Generation

Stephanie Caro, the hilariously informative presenter from Annual Conference 2018, will be spending time with us to continue the conversation about reaching those young people in our communities.

If you have an average worship attendance of 120 or less, and a desire to minister with the young people in your community, come join the conversation.

The training will include:

  • Who is the Small Membership Church?
  • Facing Today – it doesn’t work with millennials
  • A Discipleship Path
  • Question and Answer Time

Details:

Where:  Wanake Camp & Retreat Center – The Chapel

When:  September 20, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Refreshments will be provided.   Lunch will be by reservation following the event.

Sponsored by the Spiritual Formation and Christian Education Committee of the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Registration is $10 for the event.   If you wish to stay for lunch afterwards, the cost of the event and lunch will be $18.   Registration here:  https://discipleship-small-church.eventbrite.com

Our Presenter is Stephanie Caro of Ministry Architects.  Stephanie is the facilitator of the Small Church Cohort that began in 2017 as a partnership between the East Ohio Conference Spiritual Formation, Young People’s Ministry and Ministry Architects.   The cohort is a ministry training and coaching program designed to help Smaller Churches in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church be the best ministry that God has created and called them to be. The goal of this cohort is to help the participating churches develop their vision for ministry with young people while helping each team prepare a strategic plan to accomplish it.

 

Safe Churches and Safe Sanctuaries

With the rise of violence reported in our culture and even in local churches, many local congregations have reached out looking for resources to help make their church a safe place. Some confusion has happened, though, with Safe Sanctuaries, which is focused on child-abuse prevention, and overall church safety. We have great resources on our conference web page to help support the Safe Sanctuaries child-abuse prevention in local congregations – just look here: http://www.eocumc.com/safe-sanctuaries/index.html.

For help with church safety, there are several places to look.  Begin by contacting local law enforcement for any support or resources they provide. The connection with the community is always a good thing. Following are links from various resources that focus on church security and active shooter issues. The first are UM resources and the others are from the common insurers for local churches.

http://www.umcom.org/learn/keeping-your-church-safe-from-violence
http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/staying-safe-at-church-what-every-member-can-do
http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/churches-bear-down-on-safety-after-texas-attack
https://www.churchmutual.com/6421/Armed-Intruder
https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/?keywords=active+shooter3&display=search&newSearch=true&noCache=1&categoryID=C721C43A-BDA9-993A-10C4BE0AAA79876D

There has been a tendency in some local congregations to incorporate the safety of the church with Safe Sanctuaries Policies and Procedures. While this may seem like a logical connection, it may overburden the people who are responsible for each area. It is best to allow each area to focus on the overall safety where their passion lies.

Formation, Family, and Faith5

When you sit down at the dinner table, can you imagine anything life-changing happening? Or is it a rush of hurry up and eat your vegetables? That’s the way it was at our house.  We have a five-year-old and a two-year-old and we know that the older they get, the harder it will be to get them around our table for even fifteen minutes. So we decided to make it a priority right now, that they wouldn’t want to live without.

Now granted – it is nowhere perfect, and some nights go better than others.  But each night, we try to let the “Faith5” model guide our dinner time.  Some families do this at bedtime, others in the car, but we found that dinner works best for us – mostly because our two-year-old son is strapped into his booster seat, and our 5-year-old daughter isn’t distracted by other things.

So we get everything on the table, strap in D, and clear H’s crafts off to one side of the table. We go around and share our highs and lows – the best parts of our day, and the worst.  Sounds simple – but this is how we learn from each other what is important to us, and how it affects us. It teaches our kids turn taking, and listening – because they will need this information later in the ritual. Our young talker is just now starting to chime in and understand – what was the best thing today D? “Doh” (Play dough).  For H it might be gym class, or special mommy time. The bad stuff? For H it was not being included in a game. For D it was “no do” (He couldn’t have his pacifier all day). For us, we don’t hide our mess with them.  My worst part of the day was someone ignoring me. For my husband, it was a co-worker gossiping.  Our best parts of our day usually are about family or friends, or getting to help someone, or perhaps each other. How precious are these things for our children to hear? We all struggle, and we all have things to celebrate and be grateful for.

Next we recite our Bible memory verse for the week.  Yep. Little kids can memorize scripture.  There are tons of kid-appropriate, and easy, verses for kids to memorize.  If we get tired of that, we go to the take-home sheet from Sunday School for ideas on faith-talk.  Then we “talk about it” or apply the verse or topic to our highs and lows – uh oh, did you pay attention? They did – H will remind me that our verse talking about patience would be helpful in dealing with people who ignored me. I can encourage my husband with the verse.  Or we can celebrate D’s love of play dough, with all of the ways God blesses us. This is both a time for encouragement, and loving challenge.

Then we each take turns adding to a prayer. We all have to say something, but it’s never a battle. The heart felt prayers of your children are priceless. We pray for our highs and lows, and those we know who are in need of grace.  Our son always prays for one family member who really needs prayer – how would he know he needs it? He’s only two right? But you’d be amazed at the transformation that is happening in that member’s life right now.  He knows and his prayers are being heard.

Lastly we say “God bless you” to each other, by name, looking each other in the eyes.

Can you imagine doing this ritual every night? How would it change your family dynamic? How would it form authentic faith in your family?

We’ve skipped nights. We went a whole week once without doing this in the past year.  They felt empty once we learned to appreciate this ritual.  Some nights end with food on the floor, and us sighing, well maybe tomorrow it will go better.  But more nights than most, my husband and I are left speechless at the table at how God is working in our family.  Give it a try!

  1. Highs and Lows
  2. Scripture
  3. Talk about it – application
  4. Prayer
  5. Bless each other.

For more support, and to read to companion book, visit www. Faith5.org

Pastor Carrie Antczak,   United Methodist Church of Berea

Working with Older Adults

So you’ve been asked to work with the older adults in your church or community.   Kids are fun, but who wants to work with older adults who may be older than your parents or grandparents?    Aren’t they always sick or upset with something?      There are lots you can do with kids, but what can I do with senior adults?

I started senior exercise in a former church.    You may be asking what this has to do with spiritual formation and why in a church?       We always started with sharing joys and concerns.    I used simple stretching exercises from the National Institute of Aging   https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/exercise-guide.     We did lots of balance exercises and we walked in the sanctuary or in the halls of the church.    We closed with a lectio divina and a prayer.      Our group became a support for each other.    We checked up on folks who did not attend.  And we prayed for each other.

I’ve learned volumes from working with senior adults, but the most important lesson that I’ve learned is to listen and learn.

Rev. Linda McCowen

Retired deacon

Lenten Devotional Calendars

As we move into Lent, a great gift has been shared with us by Rev. Kathy Wadsley, a deacon friend who has served here in East Ohio with us.  She has created coloring calendars for Lent Year B that we are able to print off and use for free.  These coloring calendars are available at https://cefumc.org/blog/5684708.  Click on the link and it will take you there.   Thank You , Kathy, for the wonderful gift!