Well Done My Favorite Sunday School Teacher

Everyone likes affirmation. Everyone likes knowing that they have made a difference. The words “well done” confirm that leaders can bestow a huge amount of influence with this simple blessing.

Short. Sweet. Real.

To someone who has invested their lives into teaching and blessing little ones, their praise, their affirmation, comes from students or adults who reflect back and use words like, “my favorite.”

You were my favorite.

Let me translate what they are really saying:

“You meant the world to me when I was little and you greeted me with a smile and a hug. You looked into my eyes when I spoke and listened as I shared my thoughts.

You made me feel

that I was loved,
that I mattered,
that I was important,
that I belong.

That’s how I knew I was was your favorite too!”

So when a title is bestowed on you like, “Favorite Sunday School Teacher,” it’s not just a title of honor. It’s a title of accomplishment and wise investment.

Children are only small in terms of our own physical perspective.

Children are GIANT in terms of potential. They are at their prime of framing a future filled with hope and big dreams. They are learning our job as teachers, parents and leaders and already trying to figure out how to do it better.

The sky is not their limit – it’s the universe!

When a child feels safe, loved and affirmed… we can guarantee a brighter tomorrow for all of us.

That is the gift you offered every week, year after year after year. It was given to children, but we all have benefitted because of it.

The important words in red, that Jesus spoke, say this…

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭21‬ NLT)

Well done Linda, I would say.

And also, “You have been faithful in handling our little ones, so now He has given you more!”

And we ALL celebrate.

 

Ten tips before launching a ministry to foster children in your community.

Jeff Juhala found this on Sleeptrain.com and I love it,

“not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child.”

Think about these ten words to help map out a plan to help foster children:

PRAYER

1. Prayer 
- Believe me it’s not just word that sounds good to put in a list. Prayer is the beginning of fleshing out all the other words in this list. It’s the singularity of prayer in the leader’s life and ministry, “Lord, direct our path!” The plurality of the team focus on unity and attitude, “Lord, give us wisdom.” And finally, there should be a rhythm of prayer through every facet of the program. Specific prayer times at all meetings, training, and events. Plus, it’s a way to include folks through Prayer Teams with reminders like a bracelet with team members and children’s first names and other ways during the ministry event to get the word out fast for prayer. Close the ministry time with prayer over the children. We encourage a circle of prayer symbolically putting the children in the middle.

PLAN

2. Plan – You need a roadmap to where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Typically, we want to make things happen – NOW. We have found that a well, laid out action plan gives all leadership personalities the ability not only to communicate the vision, but the process of getting it accomplished. We plan from our event (camp or club) backward. We train our volunteers to take the date and begin going back ten or even twelve months. We also provide a ten (or twelve) month planning guide. Each month includes a team meeting, people involved, a checklist of things to do within that month and discussions about the overall plan. For instance, we train our volunteers that they are basically going to do four things: 1) Lease a campground 2) Engage Social Services to secure the children 3) Get the volunteers (staff require a personal ask, camp counselors a general bulletin or pulpit ask) and 4) Raise the money (see # 10).

 PEOPLE

3. People
- Get the right people leading. The personality of the leader and the process of running the ministry are critical. However, much of the time those qualities do not exist in just one same person. So, you need a leader who can find, inspire, train and lead others. They should have the potential of communicating and delegating to others in your church. Maybe they won’t be an immediate superstar right away, and may need time to grow and develop but they are willing to work hard, learn, live and lead. We have also found that the adults need care, support and community as well. One our values is, “treat people royally.” how can your team do things for the volunteers that go above and beyond. How can you make things nice, respect their time, help them grow themselves and give them opportunity to do great things for God.

 PASSION

4. Passion
- The adults who volunteer should be trained and prepared for the ministry. People need to know what they are getting into and what it will take to be successful. Don’t slack on preparing them for the ministry. Often times in ministry we are afraid of making the entry to difficult. This ministry should have a VERY high expectation bar that requires the sacrifice of time, comfortability and money. Some people will not make the cut, it’s not personal; it’s just not a fit for what’s needed for these children.

 POWER

5. Power
- The relationship with the children begins with permission, high standards of safety and care and following the rules set up by social services. As much as we’d like to think we’re in charge and should have total access to foster children the truth is – we’re not in charge and we don’t have total access. However, we can help the government want to allow you to serve the children. The church world is very different from the government services world. I tell my friends in Government that they eat Acronym Soup for lunch everyday! Their world is a world of rules and systems and acronyms. If you learn their rules, build relationships and keep your word they will let you help them. These folks have a huge amount of pressure to protect and limited resources of people to do it. Plus, those who have authority over the children want the same thing as you do – the children to be safe and to have a chance to go on to be productive people in the future. We play by their rules. We respect their rules and are honest about how we run our program and why we do what we do. We do not tell the government one thing and then do whatever we want and justify it!

 PLACE

6. Place
- Yes, your church is awesome. But I tell you what. It can in no way compare to the Cathedral of the Outdoors! God has designed such an amazing and beautiful expanse. Getting the children (actually anyone) out of their normal environment, routine of sights, sounds, smells, taste and textures forces our brains to say, “hey – this is new” and we become more aware of our surroundings, our own thoughts and even others. There is something specific and unique about camp that you cannot get any other place.

 PROMISE

7. Promise
- The relationship with a child of abuse starts with trust. That’s why we know a week of camp in the cathedral of the outdoors works. It is a five-day experience to build a loving, trusting relationship with a child. One day is built upon another and these God moments are woven together to create powerful memories. My friend, Joanne Feldmeth says, “the one thing a foster child knows about you as a an adult is that you will leave.” Everyone in the life of a foster child tells them they care and want to help but the child thinks that everyone in their life gets paid to say that. So keeping you your word is primary to building trust. Simple things like keeping a schedule, having regular meal times and snacks, and following though with simple plans. We train volunteers to be very careful when making even simple promises – a promise made is a promise kept.

 PURPOSE

8. Purpose
- The children don’t want to be fixed they just want to have fun. The want the luxury of just being a kid, a chance to be normal, feel normal and doing kid things they missed out on. It is extremely important for the children to experience those “firsts” in life – first time to swim, catch a fish, ride a bike, and have a birthday party. If they don’t get the chance to experience “kid” things while they are kids they will be missing a childhood. And for children, love is spelled t-i-m-e. Especially for foster children, it’s important for them to be seen, heard and known. These children desperately need to belong and have an identity. They want to hear their name in positive ways and be affirmed for good decisions. So whatever you do as a program it needs to have a lot of positive affirming adults present. You need to be consistent and keep your promises. You need to think long term and about the process not just the goal.

 PROCESS

9. Process
- We have a phrase we often use in our community – “its about the process not the project.” What we mean by that is, focus on being present with the children not just checking off a task to be finished. This not only becomes important as an operational or programming element, like hosting a Bible time or an arts and crafts time. It also becomes important to think of process in terms of salvation or a child’s decision to follow Jesus. Foster children, in particular, have a chaotic understanding of God, the father. Not just for the typical “father-issues,” but more so because they have been surrounded by a mixed-bag of spirituality. Some of the children have never heard the gospel, but most often they’ve never seen it actually lived out. Some have come from religious or even Christian foster homes and know all about church or Bible stories. Some have come from abuse even within a Christian home or Bible believing church. And, most often they will accept Jesus just because they know that’s what you want and they want you to like them for that decision. In working with our Social Worker friends who try to “hold the line” to keep religion from invading government, they have placed all their concerns under the word, “proselytizing.” The dictionary meaning, “to convert or attempt to convert someone from on religious faith to another.” However, it has come to be generally accepted that the word means “to force” religion on someone (a child in this case). I would serious consider removing overt, group asks for salvation. I would seriously consider removing the sacraments and some practices of the church when working with foster children.

PARTNERSHIP

10. Partnership
- How should we pay for this idea, this ministry? We should not expect the church to just “foot-the-bill” for every God-inspired idea. If the ministry touches the lives of children of abuse, asking people to help is just a matter of communicating the vision and personally asking for their financial help. Remember, in America, prayer always follows our money but not usually the other way around. Businesses, civic groups & other churches will want to be involved (even financially) but there has to be a plan to ask. We say, “oftentimes ministries operate on the hint, hope and wait method – but the Bible talks about knocking, seeking and asking.” And when it comes to asking for money, hope is not a strategy! We advise a four-tier plan to fundraising. The bottom (foundational) is to total up the cost of the ministry event and divide that by the total number of people involved. That number should include all volunteers and the children being served. Folks often ask for just the cost of the children attending the event (in our case, one week of camp or nine months of club) but that does not reflect reality. The reality is it takes a whole lot of adults (who donate their time) to make the ministry happen. So, factor in those folks. That final number is the amount of money you ask people to give to accomplish the vision God has called you to do. The second tier includes small group asks (civic groups, businesses and churches). The third tier includes fundraising events (Bake sales, Car Washes, Golf Tournaments). We caution folks to NOT build the ministry on the event ask. It is a lot of work, it takes a lot of volunteers to run the event and it can fail (date conflict, rain out). Sure, events are fun – we call them fun-raising. And yes, they build awareness. But events are not a sustainable model in the long run to fund your ministry idea for years to come. The last tier is grants and foundations. You need to know a few things about grants and foundations: 1) They are still based on relationship and the personal ask (if you want to receive long term gifts, 2) They require specific projects that match what the foundation wants to fund, and 3) Foundations normally want to fund startup ideas and then see your sustainable model to keep the ministry going.

 

22. Confess – To One Another

(exomologeo, – acknowledge or (by implication, of assent) agree fully: — confess, profess, promise)

James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

*A Scottish Proverbs says, “Ane open confessione is good for the soul.”

We practically eliminated this concept from the way we live out our Christian faith.

Catholics practice confession under the sacrament of penance. With that come images of beautiful, private confessional booths where one can talk to a Catholic priest. Catholics believe their priest has the authority to forgive sins. Check. Got it.

However, James tells us to confess our sins to one another. Have we abandoned this practice because we think this is only for the “professionals”? Or have we decided that this one was too weird or uncomfortable to put into practice.

Have you ever done this…confessed to a friend?

I have (believe me, not often though). I found it to be terrifying, emotional and bonding all at the same time!

A while ago while leading a men’s retreat I was speaking on King David’s life. As a small group exercise I asked the guys to pair up and confess a personal sin that really bothered them; something they felt like they could never talk about. Yeah, I know – sounds crazy!

For a couple of minutes we all just stared at each other in silence. It was VERY awkward. But then the dam broke. And men were confessing, crying, laughing and telling stories for over an hour.

It was truly amazing. Of course things were shared in complete and total confidence and trust. Though they were never talked about again there was an understanding – a knowing. Like we were saying, “I’m human, you are human. We fail. We sin. We have confessed it and now we get on with life!!!”

Call me old fashioned, but I would only do this in groups of men or women. Not in a combined male and female group setting. There’s no way I would have men confessing to women (unless it’s just a general men’s choral singing “we’re sorry”) or vice versa. 🙂

Is it hard to practice? Extremely. Who knows, someday we may get better at it.

What can I say? It’s in the Bible. It’s a command. It’s on the list. Are you up for the challenge?

Father, I can barely bring myself to confess and bring up my sin in private with just You listening. This would be a huge step of maturity and faith to talk about my sin with a close friend – even in confidence. Please help me in this – it’s not only good for my soul, its an obedient step to trust.

*[c 1641 in E. Beveridge D. Fergusson’s Scottish Proverbs (1924) no. 159]

And wrapping up the entire 23 week blog… next week is appropriately – Pray!

21. Fellowship – With One Another

(koinonia – common, partner, sharing)

John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

This word, “koinonia” is one my favorite words in the New Testament.

I came to Christ at fifteen years old and it was the tail end of the famous “Jesus Movement.” Don’t ask to to explain what all that means I just know that in the mid-sixties and throughout the seventies there was a sovereign move of God among the youth in the United States. I always thought it was kind of a heavenly response to the hippy movement. I found out the love was not free, it was extremely costly. And that sex outside of God’s instructions were devastating to individuals and families.

Anyways, the word Koinonia was hip and cool and I loved it! It’s translated “fellowship,” but I’m not sure most people really know or use the word. It’s simply means a common partnership. I get partnership.

I came into Christianity really believing that these folks that said they “loved” me were out for our common good. At first it was all about them helping me grow and learn about God and the body of Christ (the church). But one day in the near future I was planning on giving back big time. After a couple of years I was teaching those same adult’s teenagers. Then, for awhile, I was their teen’s Youth Pastor. Then, as I grew, I married, buried, cried, taught, corrected and loved those same teens (now adults) even as they began to have their own children. In fact, for that small investment those first Christian adults made into my life, I’d say I’ve given ten-times that amount back to their children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

I have always seen the church as a community of “fellowship” or partnerships.

Is John giving us somewhat of a litmus test of Christianity? IF we walk in the light…then we have this fellowship with one another. The partnership is automatically created with the commitment to Christ. If fellowship is a problem, doesn’t it make sense that walking in the light would be a problem as well?

I think it would be best to see each other as God sees us…as common partners.

Do you see yourself as a partner with the family of God? Trying to find ways to help each other toward the common good of being like Jesus? Who are your partners? Who are you a partner to? How’s the partnership going? Is someone else giving a proportionately greater effort into your life than you are giving back? I know, it’s not a competition, but seriously are we acting like partners?

Prayer: God, it’s simple. If I’m going to walk with you I better do it with some partners. So now I need to figure out who I can work with to be more like you and help them do the same. Maybe you could help point out some possibilities for me?

Next week – Confess

20. Hospitable – To One Another

(philoxenos Root (strangers or foreigners) of guests) (I Pet 4:9)

1 Pet 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

I still remember walking into a restaurant and seeing a brand new position waiting at the checkin podium, Hospitality Server. So, they weren’t a hostess or host or just a server, they were – hospitality.

That not only seems like an outdated word, but one that is almost unheard in our culture today.

What does that word mean and where has the concept gone?

Wikipedia says it comes from the word “host” and “stranger” and It’s root word is enemy (ENEMY? – wow), where we get “hostile.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospitality.

It eventually comes to mean entertain or care for guests.

The way Peter uses it here it means to be “fond of foreigners (guests).”Philos” is a friendly love and “Xenos” is a stranger.

It is interesting that Peter attaches the phrase, “without grumbling” to the admonition to be hospitable. I’m sure there are stories that he does not tell that made him write that extra bit.

I know as a little boy growing up in the sixties I would go along with my grandparents when they visited friends. We would all be warmly invited in, offered something to drink (and depending on the season a goodie or two) and then they would get down to the serious business of “visiting.” Sometimes it was a brief visit, never less than a half-an-hour, and that was if we just stood at the door and politely denied entrance because, “we were in a hurry.” Other times it would go on for a couple of hours! The point is, I know what it’s like to be a good host and I know what to expect when I drop by the house of a friend. Do you remember the simpler times in life when you or your parents would just “drop by” a neighbor’s home. Oh, I hear the backlash, “how rude – I would never go to someone’s home without warning.” Okay, so for you folks, warn them and then follow through by making the visit.

Are we just too busy to do this anymore? Is it about time or vulnerability or disconnectedness?

I can tell you this, if you are a friend of mine, you can know right now – sooner or later – I’m dropping in just because! And I expect you to offer a drink, some goodies and really good conversation about the things that really matter in our lives. So put on some clothes, forget about picking up the house and answer the door.

Is it any wonder we feel like strangers on Sunday morning? We practically are! Do you want to be family or congregants?

You and I can turn this whole “hospitable” thing around by being more intentional, sporadic and fun about being truly involved in each other’s lives. Oh, and don’t give me that, “but I’m a private person” nonsense. Jesus didn’t die “publicly” for us to live “privately!” We are family, let’s start acting like it.

Prayer: Father, we desperately need to see it each other more like family. Help us get over our comparisons and isolation to prepare us for heaven. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.

Next week – Fellowship

19. Sympathize – With One Another

(sumpathes -suffer with, be compassionate)

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

Can you “feel it in your gut” when a brother or sister is suffering?

Peter writes that harmony means “being sympathetic towards one another.” When your fellow Christian sister goes through difficult times, knowing that you feel that pain right along with them gives them great comfort.

I have to ask myself, “Am I coming to God and presenting my sister’s need as though it were my own? Do I shed tears or feel grief on behalf of someone else? Am I willing to feel “unsettled” because of her pain?”

Being sympathetic in prayer is one way to love one another. The way we talk to God about our fellow brother or sister’s pain can tell us a great deal about the level of our sympathy. Another way to love one another is to talk with someone when you know they are suffering. We all wonder, “What should I say? How should I act around them?”

It might help to think about how you would like to be treated when you are in pain. I know everyone in our family expresses suffering very different from each other. One, simply wants their basic needs met and prefers to have time just being left alone. Another, wants more and regular “attentiveness” even if that just means checking in on them. Still another, wants someone to stay close and “suffer” (linger) with them – they want to feel the physical presence of someone they know, love and trust. If you don’t know someone well enough to pick up on their preferences, you may need to ask. And then, maybe it’s not about words. I think people know when you care and are honestly concerned.

Here’s a tip. Rather than saying, “if you need anything let me know.” come up with a simple way to express your love and just do it. Send them some flowers, a heartfelt card or maybe a meal. Folks going through tough times rarely ask for help. Sometimes the suffering ones just assume their close friends will know what they need. In being sympathetic, put some actions to your love.

I know there are plenty of non-huggers out there. Honestly, a hug or even a double-handed handshake can go a long way to communicate when there are no words. A quick phone call or even a text message to say, “I was thinking about you and want to let you know I’m praying” will go a long way for a hurting soul.

Prayer: Jesus, help me to not only see when my sister or brother is in pain but help me to put myself in their shoes, to feel what they feel –  that should help my prayers to be more effective and my care to be more authentic. And help me be creative to actively serve them as well.

Next week – Hospitable

18. Spur One Another

 

paroxusmos – incitement (to good), or dispute (in anger): — contention, provoke unto.)

Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

If you knew me, you’d know that I love to tease people. So with with word “provoke” or “spur” my imagination can really run wild.

But the truth is, we are told to poke, prod, spur or otherwise LIGHT A FIRE under a brother or sister – IF – it’s toward love and good deeds.

So, along with Paul’s “outdo” each other in love the author of Hebrews says, “Go for it!” What’s the best way to inspire others to pursue godliness? I don’t know – use your creativity.

– Help a friend to be adventurous in their faith.
– Plan a blessing’s party and celebrate someone for their rarely recognized ministry.
– Have fun putting out a challenge to give or serve and do something out of the ordinary for God or your church.

I had a friend that I just knew he’d make a good Sunday School teacher.

The problem was, he didn’t believe me.

He didn’t think anyone would want to come to his class or listen to him. I continued to try to talk him into giving it a try. He kept turning me down. I even talked to his wife and kids and got them to work on him as well. He finally gave in and asked if he could teach a class on prayer (and he was a praying kind of guy). His class was packed and he did a great job. In fact, it’s been almost twenty years since then and he is still teaching Sunday School and is doing a great job!

Come in, this word is easy and fun – so give it a try!

Prayer: Jesus, I know a lot more people would be excited about serving you and loving each other if I could just convince them they’d be good at it. Could you help me help someone!

Next week – Sympathize

17. Exhort One Another

(parakaleo – comfort, aiding, assisting)

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Most of our Bibles may translate the word exhort, as “encouragement”. But we just looked at that word last week and this word is very different.

…To call to one’s side.

One of the words used for the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete.” One who “comes along side.” Also known as comforter.

Where in the world did we get the idea that the Christian life is a solo act? No wonder so many are discontented with their walk with God – they are doing it alone!

The whole idea of coming together is to experience life and Jesus alongside each other. And when things are really tough (because life is hard) we have each other to bring comfort. Most often we don’t need to give vast words of wisdom, we just need to be present – and listen. Folks want to be heard and understood. They want someone just to sit with them, even in complete silence. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this can do that!

Those 52 Sundays aren’t supposed to be filled with regular sit-fests staring at the back of someone’s head and nod-smiling at the Pastor from time to time. Come on! What part of any of these “one another’s” do you see in that?

“Exhort” or coming alongside to comfort must be done regularly and authentically to make love work. You have to know AND be known.

Sometimes I hear folks say, “Christianity isn’t church attendance.” I tell them, “the church needs you!” I can convince you that you need people, but what about all those people that need you?

Can we heed the author of Hebrews advice? – “Exhort one another; daily and regularly!” Who needs you to come alongside and just have you present, giving your full attention to whatever they are saying (or not saying).

Prayer: Father, I really need to see my church as a community of giving and receiving exhortation – comfort. And I need to come alongside people that are hurting and just be there for them. Help me also to share my needs when I’m feeling alone or in trouble.

16. Encourage One Another

(oikodomeo – literally to build houses, plan and plant)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Plan to build.

What a wonderful word Paul gives us. Encourage – be a house-builder. This word is a combination of the words, “house” and “build.” The thing I love about building is that it takes planning and a blueprint.

When we built an addition to our house several years ago I was surprised at how much time and money went into the planning stage. I was also surprised by how often I looked at the plans to make sure I knew where things were supposed to go and how they were supposed to work.

I had never thought of encouragement working in that way. I thought of encouragement as a spontaneous expression. The concept of catching someone doing a good thing and giving them recognition right then. It was serendipitous!

Is it possible to have a building plan and modify it when it comes to encouraging one another? Yeah, I know it sounds like work, but it is godly work.

What would happen if we could recognize a brother or sister’s gifting in the body of Christ and then systematically, methodically encourage them to develop that gift? Who has that role in our churches? If you answer, “Sunday School teachers and pastors,” or “Jesus” you are missing Paul’s point. Ask yourself, “What am I doing to encourage someone else?”

And before you turn inward by indulging in self-pity by thinking, “No one is encouraging me”. I challenge you to go first!

Encouragement can be more than a momentary boost of affirmation. It can also add long term strength and hope for the individual’s future. Any amount of godly encouragement is never a waste of time.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I may not be the best planner in the world but I do know how to listen and obey. Please lead me and inspire me to think beyond just today and help build someone up for their tomorrow.