Helping Hands

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Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord  – Colossians 3:23

Anyone in ministry with children knows there is always a lot to do and many needs! To help get the whole congregation involved, I developed a “Helping Hands” area on my central bulletin board. It covers three major needs: preparation, special materials, and volunteers.

To brand the area, I created a logo using the same colors and Original Surfer font used in the logo for Epworth United Methodist Church Family Ministries (did I mentioned I started a new position this summer?!). In the center of the Helping Hands area is a brief and easy to follow explanation to help adults choose a way to serve: help at home, help by giving, and onsite help.

In my experience, people want to help in ministry with children, but don’t necessarily have the time or ability to help directly with programs. Thankfully, helping with preparation can be done by just about anyone and happen anywhere, which inspired “Help from Home.” Instead of signing up for some nebulous project, I print direction cards onto 4×6 blank index cards so volunteers know exactly what to expect from the project. Each card is labeled with a specific work bag, which are conveniently located for pickup. Inside the work bag (I use heavy duty storage bags 3/$1 from the dollar tree, which are a sturdy plastic with a ziplock close and handles and have held up wonderfully through multiple uses) are all the materials needed to complete the prep project. And, I do mean, ALL the materials right down to scissors or pencils, or whatever else is needed. I also include a sample inside the work bag to accompany the step by step directions.

For special materials (you know, all those things not covered in the budget!), I created “Help by Giving.” By using a circle shape, these tags stand out from the others. After printing onto card stock, I use my 2.5″ circle paper punch (probably one of the best investments I ever made!) to make quick work of the cutting. On each tag I include the item and quantity needed. If the item is specific to an online retailer, like Oriental Trading or Amazon, then I include the product number and retailer as well. In my experience, church members love to donate items to help supplement and support programs. Another tip to encourage donations is to display the price range so folks know what to expect – I rarely ask for anything over $10 and usually the items are closer to $5.

And of course, the need for adult volunteers. There are so many ways to get volunteers signed up and organized. I love using Signup Genius but I’ve found that some congregations, especially those still developing digital communications, need paper and pen. To meet this need, I use a spreadsheet titled “Onsite Help.” I try to give the most needed information (role, time commitment, and a brief description) and request back the information I need (name and email — I really prefer email to phone numbers for ease of sending one blanket message to every volunteer). I attach the spreadsheet to a clipboard, which hangs on the bulletin board via a small binder ring on a large push pin.

That is my “Helping Hands” system! I hope it inspires you to think of a way to get others involved in ministry with children and families and keep everything running smoothly.

Peace.

Welcome Kids *Special Tip for New Appointments*

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When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Serve: children visiting church for the first time

Connect: help children imagine going to a new place filled with strangers and how they may feel, even if the place is a church; invite them to share ideas about welcoming first time visitors to your church; then challenge children to think about a special welcome for other children to help kids feel extra special when they visit

Take the next step: encourage children to serve as greeters to help welcome all guests to church

Materials

  • cello bags with twist ties (available online)
  • stickers
  • sharpened pencils
  • dumdum lollipops
  • thin markers for writing
  • “One Thing” card, 4 per page (printable)

Directions

  • before class, print the “One Thing” card onto heavy paper and cut to create four cards
  • give each child a “One Thing” and a thin marker
  • read children the question “What is one thing about God’s love you want another kid to know?”
  • encourage children to think about things they enjoy at church to help them learn and grow in God’s love
  • ask children to neatly write their answer in the space provided
  • combine the following in a cello bag
    • “One Thing” card from child
    • 4-5 stickers
    • one sharpened pencils
    • one dumdum lollipop
  • close each bag using the provided twist ties

Tip: If your church gives first time visitors welcome materials (like a bag or mug, etc.), then be sure to show those to the kids and explain that every guest receives a welcome gift.

Special Tip: As United Methodist pastors begin new appointments, this is an excellent way to introduce themselves to children. Make one of these simple bags for each child and present it during the children’s sermon or as you visit with children in other settings. After you introduce yourself, explain that you hope to teach them a lot about God’s amazing love and the first thing you want them to know is written no the card inside.

Simple Bird Feeder

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Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26

Serve: birds (and squirrels!)

Connect: most children don’t need too much help to notice the changes spring brings with it’s longer and warmer days, and in many areas of the world, the reappearance of birds after the winter; help children consider ways we can care for birds just as God has cared for all animals by creating a simple bird feeder; challenge children to especially think about ways it may be difficult for birds to find food in more areas where nature has been overrun by urban development

Materials

  • toasted oat cereal
  • pipe cleaners

Directions

  • thread toasted oat cereal onto pipe cleaners, leaving a little space at each end
  • carefully bend the pipe cleaner into the shape of a circle and twist the ends to create the first loop
  • repeat the threading process with a second pipe cleaner
  • connect the shapes by looping them inside one another and twist the ends of the second loop closed
  • repeat until you have a nice chain to hang outside

Goodbye Kids

Goodbye Kids

Moving is part of being a United Methodist Elder. We serve a connectional system in which the bishop seeks to match local congregations with pastors for the best fit to further the work of Jesus’ mission to make disciples. It’s both difficult and exciting. It’s hard to leave a church, a community of people you have come to know and love. At the same time, it’s exciting to meet new people and see how God is alive in their midst. Perhaps the most important thing is to leave well in order to begin well.

As I thought about how to say goodbye to North United Methodist Church, I immediately wondered about the best way to share my farewell wishes with children. I turned to my trusted source of all good things: Pinterest. I found a lot of good ideas but none that spoke directly to the relationship of being a pastor in ministry with children.

Thankfully, inspiration struck and the pieces began to come together from a variety of Pins and blog posts. I decided to give each child a personalized magnet with a poem adapted to a pastoral role. As I made the magnets, I thought about each child and prayed for him/her. It turned out the process of making these gifts was a balm for my soul as I said my goodbye and trusted their care to the pastor who will follow me.

Saying goodbye is always hard. It is especially hard when ministry has been good and love is shared. But when we remember goodbye is really a blessing of care, then the ritual can become a time to remember and bless one another.

Personalized Magnets with Poem

Materials

Directions

  • select a picture of each child
  • place the large bead on the desired area of the picture
  • trace around the bead
  • cut out the bead shape
  • use your finger to add modpodge to the back of the glass bead and attach it to the picture
  • press firmly along the back and edges to remove air bubbles and ensure the picture is secure
  • allow to dry
  • add a small piece of magnet tape to the back
  • put the magnet and a copy of the poem in a cello bag and seal it closed

Sundae School Party

Sundae School Party

There are natural times of transition in Sunday school when one period comes to an end and another starts. Sometimes this happens at the beginning or end of the school year and may be marked by a kind of promotion to the next age-level. At North Church Indianapolis, we move from age-level classes to a one-room Sunday school during the summer for elementary age children. It’s a great opportunity to bring together all children to build relationships across grade levels and to offer something unique (like learning with LEGO bricks or Dr. Seuss!) for a set period. To mark this transition, I wanted to do something creative and fun so I went to my best resource for ideas: A Facebook group for United Methodist in Ministry with Children. Another member gave me the idea for a sundae school party and I ran with it!

Of course the foundation for the idea of a “Sundae” school party is ice cream sundaes. I decided on a make your own sundae bar with a variety of toppings (all peanut allergy friendly!). We also played games — never underestimate the joy of a parachute and beach ball. And, we celebrated our teachers who serve for the whole year with a class with a theme related gift card to a local ice cream store.

The hallmark of the event, though, was the activity “Get the SCOOP.” After eating their sundaes, children wrote questions for the pastors to answer about God, the Bible, and church as well as “get to know you” type questions. Keeping with the theme, the questions were written on ice cream scoops, which were printed onto colored paper and cut out in advance. The questions were taken back to the pastors who answered each one. Some questions were trickier than others, a few were funny (like “How old is God?” answer: Infinity plus one), but most were really thoughtful and a great way to connect children and pastors. The finished project created a really amazing bulletin board under the heading “Get the SCOOP on God, the Bible, Church, and More!” with all the Q&A scoops piled on top of ice cream cones.

Download the materials:

Santiny Scrub

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Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Let her share in the results of her work; let her deeds praise her in the city gates. Proverbs 31:30-31

Serve: women’s shelter

Connect: whether a mother, grandmother, teacher or family friend, most children can think of at least one woman who has had a positive effect on their lives and the desire to show appreciation for that woman’s work; take the tradition of honoring mothers to a new level by challenging children to honor all women for their work through a simple gift of pampering

Materials

  • sugar
  • dawn hand renewal
  • 4oz plastic cups with lids 
  • instructions printed onto cardstock and cut out
  • bowls
  • plastic knives
  • measuring cup
  • plastic spoons
  • stickers (hearts, stars, smiley faces)
  • ribbon (optional)

Directions

  • give each child a bowl and plastic knife
  • add a 1/4 cup of sugar to the bowl
  • add a tablespoon of dawn hand renewal
  • have kids stir well
  • add a little dawn hand renewal a time until it’s a paste like consistency
  • scoop mixture into 4oz containers and secure lids
  • add stickers to decorate
  • secure the containers with ribbon (optional)

Nurse Appreciation

Nurse's Survival Kit

Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your others, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land. Deuteronomy 15:11

Serve: nurses (school, local hospital, etc.) during National Nurses Week, May 6-12

Connect: help children think of a time when they have been physically hurt or sick and a nurse has helped to care for them; nurses often work long hours and do extra because they care about others and a simple, fun “thank you” can help them know they are respected and appreciated

Extra: invite a nurse to share about why he/she became a nurse and what it means to serve others in this profession

Materials: 

  • survival kit explanation card printed onto cardstock
  • nurse’s prayer printed onto colored paper:
    Holy God, guide the heart, hands, and healing words of this special nurse each day as this person cares for your children in need of healing. Help each nurse provide comfort and compassion at just the right moment. And when the day comes to an end, allow for peaceful rest to keep this person strong to continue again in healing ministry. Amen.
  • sandwich or snack bags
  • marker
  • crayons (optional)
  • For each kit:
    • lifesaver
    • marble
    • candle
    • snicker
    • starburst
    • button
    • lollipop
    • mint
    • tootsie roll
    • gum

Directions: 

  • put one of each item in a bag
  • give each child a marker to write his/her first name on nurse’s prayer card
  • ask each child to read the prayer before putting it inside the kit
  • have children use crayons to color the front of the survival kit explanation card (optional)
  • seal the bag
  • fold the explanation card in half along the dotted line
  • staple it over the top of the baggie zipper (try not to cover the contents too much)

Outreach Oatmeal

Oatmeal Packets

I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35

Serve: hungry members of the community; local shelters

Connect: for most kids, oatmeal is a staple food and they are probably most familiar with it in its prepackaged, instant form; help kids appreciate the goodness of oatmeal as a hearty and healthy food source but also one that is not expensive, made even less expensive with a homemade version so that with a little effort, children will be able to help more people for less money

Go Further: show kids the difference a little effort can make with a quick object lesson:

  • show kids a box of prepackaged instant oatmeal, affirming that 10 people can enjoy a good meal by each eating one package, and the cost is about $2.50
  • ask children if they think spending about $0.25/meal is a good deal? feeding 10 people for $2.50 a good thing? what if you could feed six times as many people?
  • pour out the contents of a large container of instant oats into a clear bowl; scoop out a 1/4 cup of oats and explain that is how much is in an average packet; there are about 60 servings in one container of instant oats, and the cost is about $3.70
  • ask children if they think spending $0.06/meal is better than $0.25/meal? is feeding 60 people the same amount of food better than only feeding 10?
  • explain that they can go the easy way and feed 10 people or put in a little effort and feed six times that many people

Materials: 

  • print cooking instructions onto Avery® 8160 labels (add your church name and address)
  • 12 oz. styrofoam cups (double check the label for microwave safety)
  • markers (optional)
  • plastic spoons
  • measuring cups
  • plastic wrap
  • twist ties
  • instant oats
  • brown sugar, cinnamon, etc. (optional)
  • cinnamon
  • snack size baggies (alternative for styrofoam cups and plastic wrap)

Directions:

  • give each child a 12oz styrofoam cup and explain it will be used as a bowl
  • have children attach a label to the cup
  • children can decorate the outside of the cups with markers (optional)
  • combine into a 12oz styrofoam cup
    • 3/4 cup of instant oats
    • 2 plastic spoonfuls of brown sugar
    • 1/2 plastic spoonful of cinnamon
  • place the styrofoam cup in the center of a piece of plastic wrap
  • gather the plastic wrap up and around the cup, secure closed with a twist tie

Welcome Everyone Stickers

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I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34).

As a disciple, I strongly believe in the message to love others as Christ has loved us. This motivates me to work as an advocate for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church and society regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I believe RFRA, a new law in Indiana legalizing discrimination, stands in direct opposition to Jesus’ command to love others. To show support to all people and to make a visible stand against discrimination, I have joined with others to create a free sign for churches* to show they welcome everyone. This sign is intentionally modeled after the Open for Service movement, which many businesses are using, and donations are appreciated.

To learn more about the importance of people of faith standing against this legislation, please read  Reconciling Ministries Network’s letter “When the Right to Discriminate Collides with the Rites of Holy Week.” 

*You can easily create stickers by printing directly onto Avery® Removable Full Sheet Labels 6470.

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Care Compress

Sock Compress

I’d still take comfort, relieved even though in persistent pain; for I’ve not denied the words of the holy one.
Job 6:10

Serve: persons who have chronic physical pain, a physical disability, or recovering from surgery

Connect: every child has experienced a bump or bruise and the resulting pain; try to help them understand that some people experience that kind of pain all day, every day; in the same way children have experienced care and comfort from aches and pains, they have the opportunity to make something that will bring comfort to others time and again

Materials:

  • crew style white cotton sock
  • rice, not instant
  • dried lavender (optional)
  • sharpie markers
  • rubber bands
  • wide ribbon
  • poem with directions printed onto card stock:
    This little sock filled with rice,
    is such a comforting device.
    Microwave for 1-2 minutes on high
    and kiss those aches and pains goodbye.
    Apply it to the troubled spot,
    the heat will ease the pain a lot.
    Or warm those little toes so cold,
    you’ll find this nice to have and hold.
    Or freeze it for a little while,
    and fix that boo-boo up in style.
    Instead of a compress made of ice,
    use this pillow filled with rice.

Directions:

  • allow kids to decorate the outside of a sock with sharpie markers
  • fill the sock with rice leaving about 2-inches at the top
  • add a few pinches of dried lavender (optional)
  • secure the sock closed with a rubber band
  • cover the rubber band with a decorative ribbon
  • attach the card with directions to the ribbon

Special Note:

When we introduced this mission project at North United Methodist Church, we invited Jeremy Warriner, a church member and double amputee, to share his story of living with a physical disability and pain. In a uniquely wonderful way, Jeremy talked with the children and encouraged them in their mission project to share care and comfort with others. For the kids, and all of us adults too, Jeremy put a face to the mission so that suddenly it wasn’t serving “somebody” but rather serving our friends, like Jeremy who many of the kids lovingly know as “the man with robot legs.”

Thanks to Artsy-Fartsy Mama for the cute poem to include with this mission project.