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Doing Smart Things

It’s March, and I’m approaching my 35th birthday. Compared to some people (See Gina and Sam) this isn’t really that old yet, but I feel like I’ve learned a few things over the years. After 12 years of marriage, I’ve learned that there is a right time to say certain things to my wife, and most defiently other times that are not the right time. After 8 years of being a parent, I’ve learned that quiet and solitude are things of the past, and that coaching sports is never as glamorous as they make it sound. After 11 years of living in Texas, I’ve learned that things really are bigger here.

Image Source: bizarrocomics.com/

And after 10 years of working in and around churches with all different sorts of ages (predominantly children), I’ve learned a few other things. Here is that list:

  • Prepare for the weekend. Even when you don’t think you need to, just go ahead and prepare like you need to prepare. I don’t teach every weekend, but I still prepare as if I am. You read that right. I take time to look over Kindergarten lessons, Elementary storytelling segments, and all small group materials. I’m not claiming to be totally 100% prepared, and ready to teach at any level; but I’m at the very least familiar with what’s going on in most every area I’m responsible for.
  • Say Thank You. Simply put, it’s my #1 gift to those that serve all around me. There are a few 1,000 ways to do this, but the easiest of these is to just say it.
  • Clean your shoes. I didn’t say this list was perfect, but I’ve learned that a pair of nicely polished shoes or clean converse’s can go a long way with people. Don’t believe me? Good for you.
  • Speak well of those that don’t speak well of you. There is no easier way to make someone look like a fool than to find positive things to say about that person (hopefully person and not persons…) that continually speaks ill of you.
  • Get good at shaking hands. There is such a thing as a wimpy handshake. If you disagree with this one, then I can guarantee you are offering wet fish handshakes to the rest of us. Come on, firm that handshake up and watch your respect level rise!
  • Be good at what you do. I guess this should be obvious, but whatever your job description is where ever you work; you should be exceeding this and more every day you do your job. Be good at what you do, is my little secret to you. You’re welcome.
  • Do whatever it takes to make kids like you. It is always worth the investment to spend time with children. After a while of being around kids, you’ll learn what it takes to endear them to you. When you’ve done this, then influencing their parents is gravy!

So I’m gonna push away from the advice table now. Here is my official advice from a nobody. But I have one final question:

What am I missing? Add your own advice in the comment section below!

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Jeff · March 1, 2011

    Great list! I especially liked #1, 4, 5, & 7.

    Here are some things that came to my mind:
    1. Kids are like the mafia: you forget their name just once, and you re dead to them for life.
    2. You’ve run out of intelligent conversation when someone starts talking about the weather.
    3. Set ground rules for a guest speaker and preview their talk before they give it.
    4. Always have a pair of unisex clothes for a child to change in to for those unexpected accidents.
    5. Never confirm/deny the existence of Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or Pet Heaven.
    6. Peanut butter is like kid kryptonite.
    7. Don’t say anything for or against homeschooling.
    8. Always preview movie clips before you show them in your lesson.
    9. The word fun should not be in the word fundraising.
    10. Consider permission slips like the Golden Tickets of every trip: no one goes without one.
    11. Puppets can be just as scary as Freddy Krueger to some kids.
    12. Killing a beloved program can feel like putting Fido to sleep and making the kids watch to some members of your church.

  2. JC · March 1, 2011

    Listen to advice from those that are older and wiser. You are most definitely not a nobody JC :)

  3. JC · March 1, 2011

    Listen to advice from those that are older and wiser. You are most definitely not a nobody JC :)

  4. JC · March 1, 2011

    Listen to advice from those that are older and wiser. You are most definitely not a nobody JC :)

  5. JC · March 1, 2011

    Listen to advice from those that are older and wiser. You are most definitely not a nobody JC :)

  6. JC · March 1, 2011

    Listen to advice from those that are older and wiser. You are most definitely not a nobody JC :)

  7. Jared M · March 1, 2011

    I’ll never forget the day my dad yelled at me about my handshake and told me I shook hands like a girl. I’ve had a firm handshake from that point on and I’m confident that it has benefitted me in relationships.

  8. MK (Sunday School Teacher) · March 23, 2011

    What a wonderful array of things that you’ve learned over the years of being involved with children’s ministry. I, too, have learned a few of the lessons you’ve listed (especially “Say Thank You”). However, some of them were very new to me, and I hope to implement this knowledge into my own life as a children’ ministry leader.

    • Jonathan Cliff · March 24, 2011

      Thanks for the comment MK. It’s always a learning process, keep on learning and you’ll be right where God needs you to be.