Life after death

chu-tai-121706Several months ago I wrote about our preschool’s last graduation as we closed the door on that part of our church’s ministry. Since then, closing that door has been followed by a flood of new opportunities. As soon as we laid that program to rest, new ministries immediately sprouted and began to grow.

A team of members, both new and old spent weeks cleaning out many years of preschool furniture, toys, craft supplies and teaching materials. A new wall, buffed floors and a fresh coat of paint spawned new ministry ideas.

One area was set aside for youth ministry. Soon after, two young adults took a step of faith and offered to lead our youth ministry, which had lay dormant for a couple of years. They now have more than a dozen meeting each week, not just in our facility, but out serving in the community.

Another area was set aside for our Operation Barnabas chapter, ministering to veterans and families of military in our area. The harvest field of retired vets is plentiful in our area. A place to connect with other vets will also provide a way to connect with the local church and other services that they need.

Yet another area was set aside for our preschool Sunday School class, which is suddenly being populated with little people as the birth rate rises in our congregation and community. Two first-time teachers stepped up to lead this ministry.

Both the girl scout and boy scouts have asked to use our space, another connection with our community, and more importantly, the homes immediately around us.

The space we now have available can be used for disaster relief. We now have space usable as a secondary shelter when the primary shelters close down.

We recently got involved with helping out homeless students at our high schools. We now have some space available to expand our ministry to those families.

Over the past few years, we did everything we could to keep our school open. In hindsight, we were simply providing hospice care for that part of our ministry. From scripture, we should have known that unless a seed is planted in the ground, it remains just that. But when it is buried, it grows into something new and much more than it was before. We should have known that death leads to resurrection, not just on Easter morning, but in the life of the church and her saints.

Our most recent experience in church revitalization happened when we laid an old ministry to rest and watched as God breathed new life into that void.

Advertisements

The Last Graduation

IMG_5792A vibrant five-year old voice filled the room, announcing, “It’s showtiiiiiiime!” the cue for another dozen small voices to join in singing the opening song for the twenty-fourth — and last — graduation ceremony for our Open Arms Preschool. I’ve only missed one commencement in my twenty-one years here in Palm Coast. As we close the doors on this ministry, I am already missing the songs, stories, prayers, laughter and screams that are a part of early childhood education.  Continue reading

Top ministry moments – #7: Teaching preschool Sunday School

In response to a sudden exodus of several Sunday School teachers, I decided to step back from teaching an adult Bible class on Sunday mornings and teach children. The age group we needed to fill was Kindergarten/Preschool, so that’s the class I took on. It was one of the best teaching years I’ve ever had.

I not only love to teach but I love children, so it was a double blessing. From sitting on a little chair at a little table to messy crafts to class trips to the bathroom, it was great. You can read more about my experience in my post “Things I’ve learned teaching preschool Sunday School.

I’m back to teaching adults for now, but I dream of the day I get to get another chance with the little ones. Thank you Riley, Reagan, Owen, Ariana, Savannah, Corbin, Isabelle, and Kiley for a great, top-ten year!

 

 

You better wash your feet!

Tonight is our church’s preschool graduation. Thirty-one four and five year olds will don royal blue caps and gowns and walk to “Pomp and Circumstance” as they receive their diplomas and set their sights on kindergarten. The church will be packed with their families and the night will be filled with photo ops as they sing songs they’ve learned from the past year.

I have to confess that I didn’t graduate from preschool. It’s not that I dropped out or anything. My preschool years were spent at home with mom, before two-income families were the norm. In fact, I think kindergarten was optional, and first grade was when you had to show up for school. Now you’ve got to have a few years of preschool under your belt or you’ll be hopelessly behind when you arrive for the first day of kindergarten.

One of the blessings of being the pastor at my current congregation is being a part of the preschool curriculum. I not only get to know the children and their families, but meet weekly with them for a bible story, prayer, and songs. It’s a ministry that I know has helped strengthen our community. The children go home and expect that there will be a prayer before meals! Families begin to pray and sometimes even make their way to church.

This past year, one young lady went home after we read the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. She told her mom, “Jesus wants us to wash our feet. And if we don’t, he’s going to come and do it for us!”

The cattle are lowing

I sang “Away in a manger” with the preschool children this morning. I meet with them each Wednesday to read a Bible story, sing some songs, pray, and learn some Bible words. They are getting ready for their Christmas program next week, so we practiced a few of their songs.

After we sang about lowing cattle, I asked them what “cattle” were. I got some really interesting answers. Everything from flying very high in the sky to something you wrap up the baby in, to a box with feathers in it. Once I told them it was a bunch of cows mooing, they understood. They told me the mooing cows woke up baby Jesus, but he didn’t cry, at least not that time.

There are probably lots of other words they can’t define, but we’ll just take one at a time.

How do we learn thankfulness?

I meet with our preschool’s students each Wednesday morning. I love the chance to interact with a room full of three, four and five year olds who have such a great way of seeing the world and who teach me a lot about God and faith.

Each November, in preparation for Thanksgiving, we sing a song about how much we have to be thankful for, including Jesus. Now even though most preschoolers know how to say thank you, how do you teach them what gratitude is? How do we learn to be thankful?

I start out by having them share things they have that they like a lot. This would include everything from toys and pets to friends and families. We’ve already talked about how everything we have is from God, who made everything. So then we connect the two. You say, “Thank you, God, for my toys.” Or parents. Or bugs. Or whatever. At some level, I think they get it, perhaps even better than we do.

In time we also learn to take things for granted. Until Thanksgiving comes along and stimulates our gratitude glands and we humbly remember our dependence on God and his grace. At least that’s what happens with me. But I get an earlier nudge since I teach the kids about Thanksgiving and they help me see the God who deserves our thanks and praise.