A Pastors First Sunday

Children’s Message for A Pastor’s First Sunday

This children’s sermon is written to help pastors connect with children in their new congregations. It should be presented by someone other than the new pastor. It’s intended to be an introduction for both the children and the pastor. It is adapted from a Midrash written by Rabbi Marc Gellman in his book“Does God Have a Big Toe?” Though the book is out of print, there are still many copies floating around in used bookstores and online. Special thanks to Rev. Kevin Armstrong who introduced me to the children of North United Methodist Church using a similar retelling and application of this Midrash.

Good morning boys and girls! Today I want to share with you a story about a story in the Bible. These stories are called Midrash. And this story is about the story of creation, way at the beginning of all things. God had just finished creating the whole world, the sky and land, the sea, the plants, and of course the animals. God had named most things, even the first human, who’s name was Adam. But God didn’t name the animals. God wanted Adam to name the animals.

Adam was thrilled to name the animals! He saw a big, brown furry animal with teeth who was sleeping under a tree and yelled in its ear: “I’m going to name you!” The brown furry with teeth opened one eye, yawned, and went back to sleep.

(look worried) But Adam didn’t know what to name the brown furry with teeth. He didn’t know what to name any of the animals!

So, he decided to call the brown furry with teeth, number one. (look smug) Adam spent the rest of the day numbering the animals….

But then… (look frustrated and sad) Adam lost count.

He needed a new plan (thinker pose)

(excitedly announce:) Finally, he had it! Adam declared, “I’ll call all the animals, “Hey You!” (look smug) Adam thought this was super smart because then he only had to remember one name.

The next day, Adam needed a big rock moved. He wanted the large-grey-wringled-up-long-nosed-big-eared-white-tusked-tree-eating-stomper for the job, so he yelled (cup your hands around your mouth) “Hey You!”

But the rather-small-quite-noisy-banana-eating-swinger showed up instead. And just stood on the rock eating a banana.

(look very discouraged) Adam didn’t know what to do. He went back to the brown furry with teeth to think of a new plan.

Then, the brown furry with teeth woke up. Shook Adam and said, (put your hands on your hips) “Did you ever think to ask us animals what we want to be named? I don’t know what they call a skinny-hairless-foot-walker like you, but I’m a bear.”

So, Adam asked all the animals what they wanted to be called and they told him! (smile really big!) 

Today, our brand new pastor is here with us and I think we should do the same thing. Let’s ask her/him what we she/he wants to be called. So, pastor, what would you like us to call you? (this is when the pastor should very clearly communicate to the children, and even the congregation, how she/he prefers to be addressed)

Thank you title name! And over the next few months, I know  title name will want to know your names, too. So, please speak up and tell her/him what you are called.

Let’s pray together:

Holy God, thank you for the gift of new friends and new beginnings. We are so glad you have brought  title name to our congregation and you have called all of us by name to follow you. Amen.

Placed with Joy

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You must rise in the presence of an old person and respect the elderly. Leviticus 19:32a

Serve: elder care facilities

Connect: children won’t have a heard time imagining a time they have felt bored, encourage them to think of something that would have made that time more joyful (reading a book, playing a game, drawing a picture, etc.); explain that at many elder care facilities, older adults eat together and often wait quite awhile before being served, which we might imagine can get boring; challenge children to think of how something as simple as a placemat could make waiting more enjoyable — what can they do to turn an ordinary placemat into something an elder may enjoy?

Materials

Directions

  • give each child white placemats to decorate
  • if close to a holiday, challenge kids to decorate the holiday theme

Central Command

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“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin

As I start a new appointment in Family Ministries, the need to develop a system to organize volunteers, forms, calendars, and program publicity seemed overwhelming, but I knew it was time well spent. An added challenge was having only one bulletin board to work with (in a perfect world, I would split this into two distinct boards with “Helping Hands” separate from the rest) to display everything. But I’m very pleased with the way my “Central Command” turned out and I think it will be an effective way to meet the needs on hand.

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For organizing volunteers, I developed a “Helping Hands” area. You can get all the details and materials from a previous post. Even though it takes up a good portion of the space, it’s well worth it and helps get a wide variety of people involved.

A good calendar is both helpful to keep myself organized for planning and help others know what’s happening. I publish a new calendar about every four months (fall, spring, and summer semesters). I’ve found that by giving families early notice of events, they are more likely to save the date and attend programs. My calendars also include other vital information, like my contact info, links to stay involved via social media and online signups, as well as save the dates. But of course, a calendar is only helpful if it gets in the hands of others! So, I created a designated space at Central Command for copies of the current calendar. They are stored in a pocket made by cutting a file folder to the desired size and using clear tape to close the sides. The pocket is attached with staples on the inside.

Using the same kind of pocket, Central Command is the place for volunteers and families to pickup necessary forms. Though event forms may rotate in and out, I keep two forms there at all times: Authorization for a Criminal Background Check and Family Information Form. We use Trak-1 to run all background checks for volunteers serving with children and youth, which only requires one form for authorization. Printed in a different color, potential volunteers can easily grab a form, complete it, and return it to the church office. The same is true of the Family Information Form, which captures all the vital information I may need for families. These forms are updated yearly and only one form per family is needed.

Central Command is also the place for flyers about upcoming program events. Because I think social media is vital to communications, I adapted my paper flyers to fit social media standards. By using Instagram, the choice for shape was determined for me and then it was simply a matter of creating a template in Mac Pages to easily produce square flyers that I could export as a JPG to share. Also, by sharing through Instagram, I can  post to my Facebook and Twitter accounts at the same time. And I often share these images via email and text messages. One size really does fit all with this system of communications!

And that’s my Central Command bulletin board! I hope it inspires you to get organized in ways that make your life easier as a leader in ministry.

Peace.

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)