Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Activity Centers - The Why?

I get this question a lot ... Why use activity centers?

Here's a couple reasons...

1. Consistency/Predictability

Having the same structural format from week to week provides the consistency that preschool aged children need. 3, 4, and 5 year olds want to feel in control of their world, even though they have very little control or choices - however their ability to "know" what is going to happen next gives them the feeling of control that they need! Each week the kids rotate in the same order of colors - thus, children always know where they're going to next, even though they don't know what they will experience in that center - thus keeping things new and exciting each week!

2. Small Groups

Traditional small groups can be difficult in the preschool age group. However, there is still a need for children to interact and learn in small groups of children! Thus, the activity center format breaks down the entire group of children into four smaller groups - allowing each of the children to experience the centers and have the opportunity to connect with their leaders in each area.

3. Hands-On Experience

Preschoolers learn through their senses! When the children in a room are broken down into four small groups we are able to provide so many more experiences than can be provided in a large group setting! Feeling sand or making animal tracks in play-doh may not be possible with 30, 3 year olds ... but when there are 7-8, 3 year olds in your group it becomes a much more enjoyable experience where the children are able to learn and connect the activity with the lesson!

4. Organization

Ultimately, having the same structure from week to week provides organization to the classroom. Leaders know what they can expect each week coming into the classroom - there are 4 centers which take 40 minutes (10 minutes each) and a large group time. The things within the centers switch each week, but that's it - thus there are no surprises!

Stay tuned for ... The How!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life's Markers

There's a picture that sits on my desk - its a picture of me and two boys. Those boys are part of a story - a "marker" in my life. Each time I see the picture it reminds me of how precious life is and how important it is to take time for people. Markers in life change us forever. Whether a joyous occasion or tragic event, they mark us, scar us, change us and continue to shape us into the person that God wants us to be.

January 3rd, 2007 became a marker in my life. That night I stood in the ICU at a hospital in Ohio with a 5-yr old wrapped tightly around my neck. We were there that night to say goodbye to his mother - a long time friend and fellow servant. The images are vivid, the memories clear - it is a night that has forever changed me and one that I will never forget.

There were the ups and downs of a nearly 9-month battle with gallbladder cancer - that became a brain tumor - the experimental treatments, the successes and the failures. That night has become a marker in my life - a "brick." It has forever changed me and caused me to look at life differently than I ever have in the past.

Time heals, but I'm certain that the images and memories will never fade - things like that just don't.

Ministering to the "new" Norm

In 1986 my family was in a minority group - my mom found herself with two small children, living in a world made for 2-parent homes. At the time we were "different," I grew up in a world where nearly everyone had a dad and a mom at home - in fact, I only remember 2 other families who were also in our situation. Today though, my situation, my background has become the norm in America. So, how to we minister to this new "norm"? Here's a couple things that I've learned over the years from first-hand experience...

1. Remember that Father/Son and Mother/Daughter events are difficult when there's only a mom or a dad in the home - be flexible and provide opportunities where a Father can attend with a son or a daughter or where a Mother can attend with a son or a daughter.

2. Be conscious of their situation - word questions and conversation carefully - showing that you are aware of their situation, thus showing the child you know them, but not focusing on their situation - build a relationship with them and be consistent - children may struggle to trust adults because they have experienced a parent leaving the home.

3. View your ministry as weekend to weekend. While keeping attendance is a part of ministry - don't use it as a reward or a point system - children who spend every other weekend with another parent will always be at a disadvantage and may not feel part of the program. When activities build upon one another or stretch across a couple weeks a child who can only be there a couple weekends a month is immediately disconnected from your ministry.

Ultimately, encourage, encourage, encourage - often the stresses at home cause kids in this situation to grow up well before their time - they take on added responsibilities and worry about things that children should never need to even think about. Don't judge, let them be kids - allow them to find a few minutes of respite while in your care, just as their dad or mom is doing in the adult service!

Want to read more about ministering to children in these and similar situations? Check out... When Families Fall Apart by Linda Sibley.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Journey

I read this statement on a blog I came across a few months ago. The person who wrote this has been through a TON of stuff during this past year - yet this statement struck a cord for me - because its not just true of their journey - its true of mine and yours as well.

"To change any part of the journey would mean to change the entire journey."

Think back over the story that God has been writing - the story of your life. If you changed any part of that journey you would change the entire journey. There are things in my past I wish I would have never done, that would have never happened, or that I wish I would have done - yet to go back and change those things - would change the very person who I am today. I think its a good reminder through the good and the bad times that God is using them to continue writing our story, to continue shaping us, and to continue helping us to become more and more like Him.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Story from South Dakota...

While in South Dakota I shared about how mission trips with kids and teens are really about all the teachable moments that arise during them! Here's a cool story about one of these moments while I was in South Dakota.

On Friday, we arrived in White Clay, Nebraska and immediately got to work on several different tasks. I found myself and two teens in a garden. Now, let's take a sideroad for a moment...below is the "garden" I thought we were going to be weeding with hoes... looked like a small, bordered garden - between the three of us I thought surely we could have this finished and looking nice in about an hour's time - that was until Bruce, the 555 Ministry Leader kept walking...right past the "garden"!

And walking, and walking, and walking ... until our view opened up to this...

THE REAL GARDEN! At this point I was thinking about how much harder the task ahead had just become, but we got to work and began weeding the garden row by row - taking a quick break each time we would complete a row! About the third row in I heard one of the teens say..."I hate weeds, why do we have to have them anyway?" Well, this led to a conversation about Adam and Eve, Creation, Sin, the things that changed when sin entered the world, and about Heaven and being restored with Christ. Questions abounded and conversation went on and on as we talked about these things all because of a simple garden, overrun with weeds. Even in the midst of all the hard work I know that I will never look at a garden overrun with weeds the same again, nor will these teens. Forever I, and hopefully they too, will see a weedy garden as a result of sin coming into the world and our separation from Christ, which can only be restored through our relationship with Him.

To today's generation hands on experience means so much more than reading something in a book or hearing it - obviously the teens I was with didn't remember that weeds and toilsome work were because sin entered the world, but through their experience and conversation in the garden that day, I'm not sure they'll ever forget the lesson they learned!

Brookside Mission Trip


I spent a few days in downtown Indianapolis a couple weeks ago with a team of 11 others. We worked with the Brookside Youth Program while there! The team read with the kids in the program, joined them in their daily activities and even had a cookout for many of the staff who work there each day one afternoon! Take a look at this video to see more about the trip!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Busy Month, BUT A New Look!

It's been quite awhile since I've seen most of you and even longer since I've blogged! Hopefully this weekend we'll be able to reconnect and catch up on life! I'm looking forward to seeing all of you and the preschoolers!

As you've probably noticed ... my Blog looks quite a bit different! From the main page by clicking on resources you'll be able to find information about the upcoming weekend, monthly curriculum themes and anything else specific to the Preschool Ministry here at Northview! The Photos link will take you to another page with photos from events, mission trips, and even some of my favorite photos that I've taken over the years! Finally, on the main page you'll find general information about preschoolers, preschool ministry, thoughts, and general things that go along with life as a Preschool Director!

I hope you enjoy the new look and find it useful!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

South Dakota - Day 8

We arrived home in Indy late this afternoon! To say the least, I think everyone is pretty exhausted!

I had the opportunity to sit down today with the members of the team and ask them about their experiences on this trip, what God had taught them, and their favorite parts of the trip. Their answers were amazing - from meeting new friends to learning that there's a big world out there - everyone learned so much and did such a great job!

What impressed me the most though was that everyone's favorite part of the trip - was the most difficult part of the trip. The overnight trip on Friday and Saturday to White Clay, Nebraska left quite a lasting mark with each person. Being able to be there and minister in a difficult environment was amazing, but what was more amazing was the response of everyone - even the youngest members of the team. I watched in awe as 12 and 13 year olds sat down with homeless people who looked tough and scary, yet opened up so much as the kids began to talk with them and share stories about life. Everyone was deeply impacted by this time over lunch on Friday.

To say the least, we shared life this past week with some wonderful people in Rapid City and with each other. Lasting relationships were built and a deep impact was made in each person's life. I could not be more proud of the team that I got to serve alongside this past week - from the way that they took in new friends and showed love to everyone they met to the way that they were willing to do whatever was asked of them - everything came together and made up a great week of ministry.

Each of us this week had the opportunity to grow more in our faith by hands on experience. It created some great conversation time while we were working and many opportunities for teachable moments along the way. This past week I had the privilege to work alongside a group of people who are willing to live lives that are owned by God!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

South Dakota - Day 7

We packed up and left White Clay early this morning. On our way back we took the scenic route through the Badlands. It was amazing to see - we even stopped and walked around a little! This afternoon we helped the local YMCA with setup for a banquet. After dinner tonight we'll be heading back over there to bring everything back to the church. Right now we're getting cleaned up, resting, and packing! We'll be heading home tomorrow!

I can't say enough how amazed I have been with this group of teens. They haven't complained all week! Instead, they've worked very hard and done whatever they were asked to! God has really been working in each of our lives and I know that they will be excited to share the things that they've learned when they arrive in Indy tomorrow!

Nebraska - Day 6

Yes! You read that right! Nebraska! We got up early on Friday morning and drove about 2 hours to White Clay, Nebraska. The population there is 14, but the alcohol sales each year total more than 4 million dollars. The town is the first place you come to just past the reservation - its about 2 miles from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We worked with the 555 Ministry while in White Clay - the team divided up and accomplished a lot! Some helped prepare lunch for some of the people there, while others worked in a large garden, treated a wood platform, and took apart a fallen tree. Pat even had the opportunity to help put the Tee-Pees together! It was a busy, busy, busy day, but everyone worked hard and did a great job!

Following the long day of hard work, we had a wonderful evening. A Native American Storyteller joined us for about an hour and shared some stories, then shared about her life and testimony. The winds then died down enough for a small campfire where we roasted hot dogs for dinner and S'mores for dessert. We also sat and shared about the week and what God has been doing in each of our lives this past week. There was also a beautiful sunset. Then, we had the opportunity to camp-out and sleep in Tee-Pees!

Friday, July 11, 2008

South Dakota - Day 5

After working so hard this week, we took a little time off today and had some fun!

Our first stop was the Cosmos, which was probably the kids favorite! Its a place way back in the Black Hills where the gravity is a little bit off. It was pretty hard to stand up straight - and I have to admit that I'm getting old, because it made me a bit woosy!

From here it was on to Mount Rushmore! What a sight that was to see as we walked the 1/2 mile around the Memorial and took in the statue from several different angles! There was also a museum where we learned more about the mountain and of course, a food court, where we had some lunch!

Following Mount Rushmore we shopped a little in Keystone, then headed over to Sylvan Lake - YES! The lake where National Treasure 2 was filmed! The lake was beautiful and the kids had a chance to cool down and swim a little!

Following our time at the lake we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial - It is currently the only mountain carving in progress, and has been in progress for more than 50 years!

We wrapped up this fun filled day with a cookout at the Sorum's home. The kids got to hang out with some new friends while we sat and shared stories and talked about the week here in Rapid City. The Sorum's live on the edge of a beautiful canyon at the edge of the Black Hills!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

South Dakota - Day 4

Teachable moments are one of the best parts of mission trips - opportunities abound to be an example, have a conversation, and just live life together! One such moment arose this morning.

George, who runs a local school here for Native American children, shared with the team about how he strives to help children learn life skills, as well as academic skills. He also talked about how high the unemployment rate is in the area and on the reservations.

Later on I found myself with several of the teens finishing up one of the rooms in the duplex. One of the teens mentioned a conversation that happened in the van while we were driving through Bear Country a few days ago.

The conversation went something like this...

"Hey, look! That guy is cleaning up bear poop!"

"Ew, that's gross, I would NEVER do that job!"

After seeing the things around them this week, spending time with the people here, and beginning to process the situation here in Rapid City - today's conversation went something like this...

"Remember that guy cleaning up the bear poop and how I said I could NEVER do that?"

"Yea, I remember"

"Well, I've realized that I could do that, if it meant that I would have a job."

This is what its all about - helping kids see a world that is bigger than their day to day surroundings and understanding the needs that exist both at home and around the world. We've had some AWESOME conversations the last few days - everyone is really digging into their faith, learning more about God, and evaluating their own situation and how they can be involved in missions both at home and around the world!

We spent today finishing up the two rooms in the duplex and helping to finish painting a mural in Bethel's Special Needs Classroom. This evening, we finished up Global Expedition by visiting Nicaragua. Everyone connected with the children and the other volunteers and did a phenomenal job helping things to run smoothly! Our time here in Rapid City is finished, but we will be traveling to White Clay, Nebraska to work with a local ministry there for two days following our visit to Mt. Rushmore.

Here's a picture recap of the day!

George with the team during Devotions this morning.

A quick game of basketball with Daryl during lunch.

The girls painting the mural in the Special Needs Room.

A new friend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

South Dakota - Day 3

First of all, let me say that this group is AMAZING! Everyone worked so hard today and accomplished so much - they're also asking some incredible, thoughtful questions, learning more about their faith and have an excitement to serve the Lord - parents you have some amazing young people!

This morning began with the opportunity to hear a man named Rusty share his story. He is currently seeking out God's purpose for his life, and as we talked about tonight he has broken through the cycle that seems to be all around us - from home to here and across the world! We talked about how many times people can become prisoners of their past, slaves of their current circumstances, and fearful of their future - but Rusty clearly has broken through these things! Christ has freed him from his past and he is daily overcoming the circumstances that he faces, while seeking the Lord about his future and knowing that God is in control.

Following our time with Rusty we got to work!

Paint...Paint...Paint!!! That was our theme for the day!

After a full day of painting, we cleaned up and got ready for the third day of Global Expedition! Tonight almost 100 children attended and everyone had a great time! We made weavings, played games with a parachute and had pudding and Oreos for snack!

The teens have done an incredible job connecting with the local teens here! They are enjoying hanging out with them each night and partnering with them in ministry here in South Dakota!

Here's a few more pictures from our time today! Tomorrow will once again be a busy day as we attempt to finish painting the duplex and wrap-up Global Expedition!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

South Dakota - Day 2

Pastor Jim shared with us this morning about the importance of just being a good neighbor and building relationships - this is what they have focused on for many years here at Bethel and over time they are beginning to see progress because of their efforts to reach the community here in North Rapid City.

There's a lot to be done here at Bethel! They too are in the middle of a building project! Their project will provide some much needed space for an after-school program. Pastor Jim took us through their new addition and shared with us the vision of the center that they are building. When complete, the center will house a gym, game room, sitting area, snack shop, locker rooms, and a youth group area. This will help them to further reach their community and partner with local agencies, such as the YMCA! Below you can see some of the lower area that is being built.

This morning we worked on the Duplex that the church owns. Team members continued tearing out paneling that had been ruined during a recent flood. Tomorrow we will spend a great deal more time continuing to remove damaged paneling and hopefully begin the process of fixing some of the damaged areas.

This afternoon we took a couple hour break and headed toward the Black Hills before returning to Bethel to prepare for Global Expedition. Jim and Pat suggested a neat place called Bear Country, so we headed there for about an hour or so. We were able to drive through an area that had many types of wild animals - including lots of bear! Since it was the middle of the afternoon, most of the bears were taking afternoon naps, but they were still fun to look at!

We wrapped up this evening by traveling to China for our second night of Global Expedition. The kids here are really enjoying the videos that we brought which have the same drama on them that we did in Carmel. The kids are so excited to learn more about Moses and Bob and Charles each evening! Pastor Jim has also been doing a great job with the object lessons - one child tonight even congratulated him on having his shirt buttoned right tonight :-) Since he had trouble getting it started during last night's object lesson!

Monday, July 7, 2008

South Dakota - Day 1

We're here! We had a couple short, great flights with no delays or anything on Saturday! The schedule worked out great so that we were able to wander through Minneapolis, grab a bite to eat and then head to South Dakota with no rush and no sitting around waiting! Everyone is doing great and the teens are really connecting not only with each other, but also with the teens here who are helping with Global Expedition!

Yesterday was a long and busy day. We began with breakfast and then helped out with Children's Church, while others began preparing for Global Expedition! A few also had the opportunity to attend church - which was a great experience! After spending the afternoon running about setting up for Global Expedition the kids began coming and things really got going last evening! Our team divided up and partnered with the people here to help in many different areas! Some are helping with games, some with crafts, some with registration, some with worship, and we even helped with the drama and media last night!

Today we'll be helping clean up some flood damage...YES! It has been just as wet here as it has been at home and they have had some flooding - but it has made everything a BEAUTIFUL green color! Then after a couple hours to relax this afternoon, we'll head to China with Day 2 of Global Expedition!

Everyone is doing great and says hello! They're already very tired :-)