10 Ideas to help support missions

” Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your strength.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10 a  New Life Version (NLV)

Want to give to missions or help in some way, but don’t know how?

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

1. Write to a missionary. When you develop a personal relationship with them, your priorities shift and you begin to care more about their welfare and needs!

2. Save your change for missions. A little goes a long way. By putting his change into a cup each night, Pastor Dan was able to save over $30 last year. That’s $30 a missionary might not otherwise get and chances are you won’t miss it.

3.Talk about what you’re doing for missions on your social media sites. Be aware that there are missionaries in sensitive areas who need to remain anonymous – please respect that, But otherwise, promote missions on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks when you can.

4. Educate yourself about problems the missionaries face in the areas where they work.

5. Be a walking billboard – advertise missions organizations on your tee-shirts or purchase items made by people in other countries. Why not -we “advertise” everything else????

6. Pray! Find out what their needs are and get specific in your prayers. Pray alone and have get-togethers specifically to pray for missions.

7. Use your talents to spread the word and raise money for missions. I have a novel and now am making dolls to sell for missions. What has God given you to do?

8. Keep informed about the missionaries you support by subscribing to newsletters, reading newspaper stories about their countries, etc.

9. Fast one day per month for your missionaries.  16. Partner with corporate sponsors for seasonal promotions.

10. Forward missionary prayer requests to others on your e-mail lists. (Why not? We forward everything else!)

These are just a few suggestions. I’d love to know what you come up with!

So What has God given you to do?  Give it all you’ve got today!

Building a “Neighborhood Church” Mentality

A dear pastor’s wife friend of mine has been sharing miraculous happenings at her church on her Facebook feed. I am so encouraged whenever I read her posts – and a little envious I have to admit.

I’ve been praying and desiring a move of God’s spirit in my church too. I want to see people saved and filled with God’s Spirit. I want to experience numerical and spiritual growth in our little flock. But things just seem stagnant right now. The rigor mortis of discouragement has set in, effectively paralyzing any outreach we might consider doing..

But God is faithful. I’ve recently been studying how to market my latest book, Daughter of Scarlet, to effectively raise more money for missions that aid human trafficking victims. In the process I’ve been studying social networking.

Two things stand out to me in my studies: the importance of building relationships and giving my readers something of value – a reason to visit my site and to read what I write.

“Why not apply those same teachings to your church?” God always asks THE RIGHT QUESTION!

As I pondered His question, I realized that one of the reasons my friend’s church was succeeding is because they were establishing a neighborhood church. They were building relationships with the people in their neighborhood (one of  the rougher neighborhoods in the city where they live) – the children, the parents of those children who were heavy smokers, drinkers,  tattooed, hooked on drugs and used foul language.

They  did it by offering something of value  to their neighbors. My friend’s church had a block party with a free petting zoo, free activities, free food, etc. They had a “free” rummage sale where they gave each person a bag to fill for free. And they gave away lots of unconditional love.

My friend related a story of a boy from a few blocks away who dragged his father to the block party. The dad was covered with tattoos and had often been rejected by others because of his gruff  appearance. But though he looked rough and “scary” my friend went over and talked to him for several minutes. She watched his countenance change from sullen to friendly, opening up to share his fear of rejection by the church in his neighborhood.

The concept of a neighborhood church isn’t new. Another large church in the same city as my friend’s church has all sorts of outreaches to their neighborhood. They offer free haircuts to the children, they have a food and clothing bank. They recently purchased an old, abandoned church building to renovate and open a community center with activities and other outreach activities.

Conviction began to grow in my heart. Our church wasn’t as neighborhood oriented as these churches. But, being a small church,  we didn’t have the human, financial and program resources to do the same type of outreach as our counterparts. I began to pray again. “Lord what can we do to reach our community? What does our area need? And What resources do we have to meet those needs?”

The answers to these questions are still a prayerful work in progress. But in the next few blogs, I will try to share some of the ideas God has been giving me to try here in our neighborhood as we work to develop a “neighborhood church mentality.”

Your input is welcome and encouraged!

Ants on parade (A women’s picnic devotional idea)

Having a women’s picnic this summer and need a devotional? I’ve got just the thing!

I used this devotional for our Christian Women’s Prayer Connection summer picnic this week to show just a few lessons ants can teach us about praying.

Scripture:

Proverbs 6:6 “Look to the ant…consider her ways and be wise.” (This and all scriptures used  are from the 21st Century KJV found on Bible Gateway)

Lesson points:

1. Ants ate attracted to sweets.
I made and handed out these sweet little picnic baskets with a template purchased from Paper Wishes and filled it with sweet treats for each lady attending.

Scripture:Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him!

This teaches us to make prayer a sweet time of fellowship between ourselves and the Lord so that we are attracted to our time of prayer. When prayer is a chore or duty, it can leave a sour taste in our mouths and we are reluctant to pray as we should. but when fellowship with our Lord is sweet, we relish our time with him. If we always include praise and bonding time with Jesus in our prayer time, it becomes richer and more inviting.

2. Ants can lift up to 20 times their body weight.
Scripture:Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

Wow just imagine if we apply that one to prayer! We pray so passionately for ourselves when we have a need. Yet our prayers for others consist of  “Bless  them, Lord. Amen.”  We have the ability and spiritual strength to pray just as passionately for others as we help them bear their burdens.

3. Ant’s legs are made for speed.

Scripture: James 1:19  Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…   

After Hurricane Katrina, I remember hearing some people say that Katrina was God’s judgement on New Orleans. These folks were quick to criticise those who were suffering, but yet, none of them were praying faithfully for the hurricane victims – a fact that irritated me to no end. As prayer warriors, we have a need for speed – to hurry to prayer for those who are suffering and to be slow to criticize them. 

4. Consider the Driver or Soldier Ants.
These varieties of ants are  single-minded and united in purpose.  When they move from one place to another, they move together and nothing can stand in their way. They literally destroy everything in their path.

Prayer is such a forceful weapon of spiritual warfare that when we gather together with a single-minded purpose to pray, we can literally disrupt and destroy the works of the Enemy! Look what happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2!

Close your devotional time  with prayer, taking time to bear each other’s burdens and to pray for a harvest of souls.

Other things you can do to  make it a memorable devotional time:
Decorate the tables with red and white checked cloth. Add plastic ants as decorations. Serve “ants on logs” (raisins on top of peanut butter or cream cheese stuffed celery). Photocopy small ant clip art and attach to tooth picks for  your veggie or meat trays.

Resurrection Cookies – A Great Easter object lesson

Have you ever tried making Resurrection cookies? They make a fun project for your children’s class or even a wonderful devotional for a women’s meeting.

Here is the basic recipe with  the accompanying scriptures:

About 15 minutes before you begin, preheat the oven to 300 degrees to give it time to heat properly.

Place 1 cup of pecans in a baggie and crush them with a wooden spoon  then set aside – Jesus was beaten by the soldiers in the early hours of his crucifixion ordeal. John 19:1-3.

In a small mixing bowl, place 1 teaspoon of vinegar – Jesus was offered vinegar to drink on the cross when he said he was thirsty. John 19:28-30.

Add 3 egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs are used in the Seder feast at Passover to represent life.  Jesus gave his life for us. John 10:10-11.

Add a pinch of salt to represent the salty tears of grief shed when Jesus died, Luke 23:27.

Add 1 cup of sugar to the bowl and begin mixing on high speed for 12-15 minutes or until soft peaks form like a meringue. In spite of the sadness, Jesus death is sweet because it shows His love for us.  Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

The mixture will be light and fluffy white, similar to melted marshmallows. The white color in the Gospel story shows the purity of Jesus and how He washes our sinful hearts white as snow. Isaiah 1:18 and John 3: 1-3

We are now ready to make Jesus’ tomb. Carefully fold the crushed nuts into the fluffy sugar mixture. Drop by teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet which has been covered with waxed or parchment paper. The mounds will look like little white-washed tombs.  Matthew 27: 57-60.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven, shut the door and turn the oven off. The cookies must dry in the oven all night. If you are doing this with children, you may want to give them each a piece of tape to “seal” the oven door shut, just as the tomb was sealed by the Roman officials. Then send them to bed.  Matthew 27:65-66.

The next morning, take the cookies out of the oven. They will be firm, but fragile. Carefully remove them from the waxed paper and allow each child to have one.  They will notice that the cookies are firm on the outside and may have a cracked surface, but they are hollow inside! Jesus rose from the grave, leaving behind an empty tomb. Matthew 28:1-9.100_0290

Although this recipe has been around for years, the original author is not known. I found it while working on a devotional for our local Christian Women’s Prayer Connection and presented it as a witnessing tool for the ladies to use with their children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. I suggested making a batch and wrapping them with the Easter story narrative to give out to  everyone.

Certainly, if you are making them as an object lesson in church you will want to go through all the steps and have a second batch already pre-made  so the children can see and taste the finished cookie.

March Bulletin board

After a long winter, who isn’t looking forward to a whimsical touch of spring? March’s bulletin board depicts Spring with it’s newness of life – a branch with blossoms and a bird nest with robin’s eggs.

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The scripture is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17  “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new.” (CEV) 

Reach Out and Touch A Child

Life is precious…fragile. We never know how long we will have to reach out and touch someone with the Gospel message.

Yesterday  the father of one of my Children’s Church students was killed suddenly in a car accident on his way to work.Because of a tenuous family situation, the seven-year-old was suddenly alone, losing not only her dad, but her also her home.

She will probably be relocated into foster care and short of a miracle, we will not see her again in our children’s program.

My heart breaks for this little girl because children’s church had been a constant in her life. A caring neighbor brought her to church each week for the last several years and she accepted Jesus through the messages of God’s love she heard there.

Recently she stopped me after church to give me the project  she made that day. It was a plaque of praying hands cast in plaster, painted in rainbow colors. It didn’t matter that the hands were purple and black or that the background looked like it had been painted by some modern impressionist artist with no rhyme or reason. It was precious because of her smile as she told me about how much she loved Jesus and me.

Her words made me cry that day because I remembered another young child whose life changed dramatically because of the Gospel truth shared by a caring  Sunday School teacher. If that teacher hadn’t shared Christ;s love with me so long ago, I  wouldn’t  be the woman I am today. Her words brought life, comfort and healing to my hurting little girl soul during a time of tremendous emotional upheaval. And they made an eternal difference.

As the tears flowed yesterday for this little one, I have to place her in a loving Father’s hands, trusting He will hug her and keep her. I am grateful for the little slice of time during which my life touched hers. I pray  that God will hug her and keep her when I as her teacher cannot.

There have been many times when I felt like walking away from children’s church ministry. I wondered if the children really heard the message I shared week after week while they bounced off the walls with their ADHD energy or any other syndromes they might have been diagnosed with. I felt inadequate and ill prepared. But each time I felt that way, God reminded me of that one teacher’s influence on my life, sparking a renewed desire to love the kids and reach them for Him.

For those who are discouraged or contemplating giving up children’s ministry for whatever reason, I urge you today to reconsider if you can. We never know what an eternal influence we can have on a life, even though we only touch it for a moment of time. Our children are so precious and few are the workers willing to give up their time or energy to  touch their  little lives.

May your heart be blessed by the words of one of your students someday saying, “Thank you for giving your time and energy to teach me. Because you shared God’s truth with me, my life was forever changed.”

Making VBS Memorable–Part 1

Capture the hearts of the kids

“Look Mom!” The seven year old pointed excitedly across the Wal- Mart parking lot. “It’s Jericho!” He tugged his mom across two aisles of parked cars to  reach my husband Dan and hug him around his waist..

Jericho  Ben Rackshack was a character created for our VBS program to teach the children core truths from the lessons. Each night, the bumbling world explorer went through scrapes and scuffles looking for the lost treasure (God;s Word). And each night he had to ask for the help of the boys and girls to get out of whatever trouble he found. They recited bible verses and facts from their Bible lessons to help him.

Because our church was small, with a limited outreach budget  and a small, but dedicated group of volunteers, we opted to create our own VBS that year. Using the rotation model, we planned three different activities – a Bible lesson, time for games and snacks and crafts. For the program opening, we opted to have a nightly skit to reinforce the lessons learned that week.

In addition to help them remember the Bible truths, the skits also kept the kids coming back to find out what kind of trouble their friend Jericho would get into next.

Though our VBS program had been over for three weeks already, the boy obviously remembered much he had learned as he rattled off bits  and pieces from the lessons to his mom. Obviously, the VBS program had captured the boy’s heart, enabling God’s word to stick.

Over the next few posts we will be sharing ways to capture their hearts. Whether you use the VBS curricula developed by a major publishing house or create your own,  you aren’t just there to entertain, you want to excite and involve them any way you can for God’s kingdom!

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