Teaching Kids about Advent

Meredith —  December 3, 2012 — Leave a comment

It’s the most wonderful time of year… Christmas, which means presents, Santa, Rudolph, wish lists… advent! Advent? It’s the time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Advent is celebrated in the weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus, but many kids don’t have a clue what it’s all about. As a young child, I remember advent meaning families lighting candles in a wreath at the front of the church. I didn’t understand until later what each really meant. Celebrating advent is an important part of teaching kids that Christmas is not about getting lots of presents, santa, or that silly elf on the shelf, but about Jesus, the most wonderful gift we could ever receive!

Although advent may have started December 1 for some, and yesterday (the 4th Sunday before Christmas for others), it’s not too late to begindaily helping kids understand the advent season and the importance of Christ’s coming.

I’ve found a few resources to help kids understand advent.

teaching kids about adventThe Family Advent Calendar. This website was put together by my friend Jenny Funderburke, and is a great daily resource for kids and families. It provides Scripture passages, videos, discussion questions, and activities to do together as a family each day. I love that it’s a daily reminder for kids. Sometimes when we jump from week to week, kids easily get wrapped up in other things and seem to forget what they are learning. What better way to reinforce those things than to spend time together daily remembering why we celebrate?!?!

The Advent Conspiracy. This project is geared toward churches, but they provide a short kids curriculum for four weeks, with Scripture passages, activity pages, and discussion questions. It’s a great way to teach kids about the importance of giving rather than receiving.

The Grateful Christmas Project. A late find (after initial blog post). While this isn’t strictly about advent, I love it! Scroll to the bottom of the post by Ann Voskamp to find seven ways help kids be more grateful this Christmas. Great stuff here!

Search the web or pinterest. If you’re crafty, you’ll find lots of ideas for making a homemade advent calendar… and many, many more ideas to fill those advent calendars with daily activities. Be careful in your search. Many advent calendars have become purely family fun activities, which are not bad, but do not accomplish the goal of teaching kids about keeping Christ at center stage this Christmas. This blog site also had a number of ideas as well.

The Gospel, God’s Plan for Me. In the advent season, let’s not neglect helping kids understand the gospel, the whole reason for Jesus coming to earth to dwell with man. In this advent season, a new resource for sharing the gospel with kids has been released from LifeWay! I’m so excited about this… it’s a project I got to help lead, and I hope it will be a tremendous resource for children’s leaders and parents. Check it out and add it to your advent calendar… maybe even read a page or two (and the accompanying Scriptures) during a week of your own advent calendar planning. Maybe next year, I’ll write a series of family advent devotionals to use alongside this small booklet.

How do you help kids keep Christ at the center of Christmas? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! I’m most excited about the online Family Advent Calendar!


My New Ministry Adventure

Meredith —  October 5, 2012 — 4 Comments

I always count it a privilege to get to be a part of work that I love, and that ultimately has an impact on the Kingdom of God. CentriKid has been that for me. It’s been an incredible place to work full-time for the past four years and many summers before that. I have absolutely loved my time in the camp world! Over the past several months, the Lord has led me down a (rather long) road of transition (due mostly to my own questions, hesitancies, and requests for clarity). I digress. I knew the Lord was working, but it wasn’t until recently that I understood what those next steps might be. While I knew it would be hard to say goodbye to my current work and teammates with CentriKid Camps, I’m very excited about this new adventure. In case you wanted to ask…

Are you leaving LifeWay? No, actually I’m not. I’ll still work at LifeWay, just in a different area.

What will you be doing? I’ll be working on a fairly new team at LifeWay, called Discipleship in Context. The team is led by Michael Kelley. I will be writing and editing customized kids curriculum for churches… and doing a little bit of work on adult curriculum as well. One of my greatest passions in ministry is being a resource for people, so I’m excited to get to do that in a very tangible way!

What is customized curriculum? Visit the website and watch the video to learn more! Basically, this is an option for churches who either currently write their own curriculum, or who are doing a short-term series together as a church (or just for kids) and need kids curriculum, or who don’t find that any other curriculum fits their specific context, format, etc. With children’s curriculum, we write for elementary age groups up through preteens, as well as preschool curriculum.

When does this new job begin? I officially begin the transition on October 15.

Do you still love camp? Absolutely! Camp will always be a big part of my heart for ministry. It’s a place where I’ve grown tremendously, learned from some of the best Christian leaders, learned great life lessons, and where I’ve been given the opportunity to impact thousands of lives. It’s quite humbling to look back on the number of summers, staffers, and churches that the Lord has allowed me to influence in one way or another.

Thanks to all who have influenced me through CentriKid since 2002 — you have challenged me, encouraged me, taught me how to follow and lead, prayed for me, trusted me, allowed me to speak into your lives, and you have been incredible blessings from the Lord! Thanks especially to JE and Lance for being great example of leadership for me to follow. I will certain cherish the MANY memories of camp ministry.

But, now, it’s time to move forward to a scary and exciting new adventure. Did I mention that I’m pumped about serving churches in this new role?


4 Reasons to Take a Vacation

Meredith —  September 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

I just got back from Alaska… a super-fun vacation with my hubby. We went for a wedding and decided to make a vacation out of it. You can’t go to Alaska for three days, right? While we were there, I realized that I REALLY needed a vacation. I needed to get away and not think about life and work and home, but just enjoy God’s beautiful creation (some of the most beautiful in my opinion) in the great state of Alaska.

panoramic view in homer alaska

While we were there, I started thinking about all the reasons this vacation is good for me… maybe just for my own sanity, so that I didn’t feel guilty for being away from home and work so long! However, vacations and rest really are important, especially in ministry. No, you don’t need to go to Alaska just to get away, but here are four reasons you do need to take a vacation!

1. A vacation can help you regain your focus. I’ve found that some of my most productive times of work are right after a vacation. I’m refreshed, renewed, and ready to get to work. That time away also helps me know where I am on completing projects, so I can plan ahead to get things done.

2. A vacation can remind you why you do what you do. It can help you know if you really are passionate about your work. As I was in Alaska, part of me was just itching to get back to some of things I love most about my work. Of course, there were other projects I was happy to get away from for a few days! But, essentially, a vacation can remind of just what drives you to keep going in the everyday work.

3. A vacation with your spouse is great for your marriage. I loved getting to spend time with Nic, go hiking together, ride in the car, and just chat about life. We got to have conversations that often get overlooked in the shuffle of day to day life. This time away can really help you reconnect!

4. A vacation can serve as a form of sabbath. Rest is a command from God. It doesn’t mean you are lazy because you get away or take a few days off to relax.

You come home and need a vacation from your vacation, right? I’m not sure how to solve that issue… but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Just before our Alaska trip, I listened to a great podcast from Michael Hyatt on How to Get the Most out of Your Vacation. Check it out before your next vacay. What other insights would you add to the list?

I have a few friends who are new to ministry and have asked how to handle criticism. Critics can be extremely tough on ministers. In ministry, we can easily get bogged down by the criticism we hear about ourselves, our churches, our ministries, or even our families. How do we handle that criticism? It’s not easy, and some situations require much more time and prayer, but here are five tips for handling criticism.

1. Recognize that you can’t please everyone. As much as you try, you just can’t make everybody happy. Embrace it, and know it before you begin. There will always be critics in the world. Work hard to make the right decisions, but when you don’t…

2. Accept any wrong decisions you make. Perhaps you are criticized about something, and you know you did the wrong thing. Admit it and own it. The words, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry” can go a really long way! Use them… but don’t over use them.

3. Pray about your response. If you must have a hard conversation, ask the Lord’s guidance. Pray for God’s grace in not only your words but your attitude as well. Pray for the critic as well. Pray early and often.

4. Smile and say, “Thank you.” Don’t keep on defending yourself. While the person may be completely wrong in your opinion or totally misunderstood, tell them thanks for the feedback. A smile can go a long way, and body language speaks far more than you may realize. Keep a relaxed and open posture and a positive attitude!

5. Be a life-long learner. Build a reputation as someone who wants to learn and grow, who appreciates feedback of any kind and takes it in stride. When we know criticism will come, we must seek to understand where the critic is coming from, and seek to learn from the criticism. You may learn nothing more than how to handle difficult people. But, hey, you did learn something, right?

What tips would you add for dealing with criticism in ministry?

Coming off a summer full of ministry can be extremely tough. You just spent a couple of months with other young adults who love the Lord and love working with kids. You’ve been challenged in your faith. You made new friends who are now best friends. You worked harder than you ever have in your life, and probably weren’t sure how you would make to the end.

CentriKid camp staff blog photos

But now it’s over. Done. No more camp. No one telling you what time to get up, where to eat lunch, or when to go to bed. No water coolers to fill or rec fields to setup or track time supplies to count. No worship every night, no more church groups to invest in each day. No more OMC cheers to write or shaving cream to clean out of your hair. So… what do you do? How do you handle this massive change in schedule, sleep, ministry, and environment?

Here are my top 5 ways to handle the post-summer slump:

1. Be where you are. Don’t keep living at camp. If you’re home, invest at home. If you’re at school, invest at school. The folks you are around deserve your time and attention. You can choose to stay glued to text messaging and skype, or you can choose to invest where you are. I’m all for keeping in touch with camp friends — many will be friends for life — but there’s a point where those friendships can take over life and make it hard to pull away from camp. So, get off facebook and be where you are. :)

2. Spend time in the Word. At camp, this time is set aside for you. In fact, you usually have no other choice, except maybe to sleep, which I wouldn’t recommend. At home, it can be tough to stay in the Word every day. Make yourself set aside that time. Embrace the extra time you have after camp to soak up as much as you can. Spend extra time in prayer. Don’t let spiritual growth stop because you are not at camp anymore and no one is mandating your daily quiet time. Your relationship with God is just as important away from camp as it is at camp!

3. Do ministry. Find a place to serve – at church, at a ministry at school, at an after-school program for kids, or somewhere you love. Find ministry and start investing. It’s easy to become lazy when summer ends, but you’ve just been equipped with incredible tools for loving on kids, sharing the gospel, and intentionally investing in their lives. You wouldn’t believe how naturally you’ll lead kids after weeks and weeks of doing just that, so get plugged in and keep serving! It allows you to continue to be used by God, and it makes that post-camp slump much easier to handle when you’re working toward a Kingdom purpose!

4. Become real-life friends. It’s easy to relive funny and life-changing moments from camp, but let your camp friendships become more. Share real-life struggles. Hold one another accountable in your daily walk. Have intentional, not gossipy, conversations. Let camp friends get to know the real-life you, not the glorified-super-fun-pretending-everything-is-always-awesome you. Embrace real life and share it with camp friends.

5. Check yourself. Are the “camp you” and the “real life you” the same person? Are there habits or issues you struggled with before camp that you were able to let go of this summer? Are you living a life outside of camp that would set the right example for campers and church leaders? This is a struggle for all of us as sinners, but work to recognize the importance of the gospel in your everyday words, thoughts, and actions. As we talked about at OMC each week… it’s sometimes easy to do these things at camp, but much more difficult when we are alone, at home, or by ourselves, so be accountable to someone.

Camp is an incredible opportunity and privilege – something we can’t take lightly. However, God desires our hearts just as much outside of camp. The gospel is just as real and just as important outside of camp…

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. -Romans 12:1-2