2016 State of Children’s Ministry Survey

Aspen Grove

AspenGrove

Strong leaders look to data not only to measure where they’ve been, but to better understand where they are going. Right now is an exciting and rapidly changing time in children’s ministry—and Aspen Grove wants to unite leaders from all over the country to better understand what the future looks like as we serve the next generation.

In the spirit of cultivating the future church, Aspen Grove has partnered with CMConnectOneHope International, and many children’s ministry thought leaders to create the 2016 State of Children’s Ministry Survey.

Contribute Your Voice to the Survey

Orange Books

Summer Reading List

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.55.35 PM

WHAT ARE YOU READING THIS SUMMER?

Orange Books has put together a reading list just for you.

Whether you are in children’s ministry, a lead pastor, a volunteer, or stumbled upon this page by accident, they have a book for you.

Leaders, like writers, read. So they asked leaders three questions about books:

What books do you recommend to leaders in your area of ministry? 
What books are you asking your team to read? 
What’s on your own reading list?

The Summer Reading List is the result. Organized around eight topics, and comprised of both religious and secular books, it’s actually multiple lists in one. In fact, it could form your reading plan for the entire year. You may wish to read (or re-read) several books related to your area of ministry, or you may want to “cherry pick” across topics, but they think there’s at least one book per topic you’ll find enriching or challenging.

Click HERE to get your copy of the List. By signing up, you’ll receive not only the List itself, but eight special offers (one per week beginning July 12) on select Orange Books. Watch your inbox for details each week.

Give your ministry the gift of a better you. Reflect, rethink, and renew this summer with Orange Books.

A Sincere Response to No

BY: Starr Cliff

Ever seen a stubborn kid throw a fit about not getting his way?  Quite a scene, right?

I can’t quote him exactly, but a few Sundays ago our pastor said something along the lines of “Our response to ‘No’ is a measure of our maturity. How we feel and act when our expectations are not met reveals our self-righteousness.”

toldno

I love when a truth about my relationship with Father God parallels so well with the relationship I have with my own children. Seeing a spiritual truth play out in my parenting helps me better grasp the truth of it in my own personal responses to God.

One of the greatest joys I experience as a mom is when my kids obey joyfully. It communicates so much about trust, and right relationship,  and contentment.

When my child can handle “no” without throwing a fit,  it makes me more likely to trust him with a “yes” down the road. I know he can be trusted in more mature situations (sleep-overs,  parties,  technology) when being told “no” to those things doesn’t leave him undone. He is viewing things with the proper, healthy perspective when not being able to have whatever that “thing” may be doesn’t leave him flailing. If I tell a kid to turn off a video game and he does it happily, great! If I tell him to turn off a video game and he pouts and panics, or even just quietly ignores me,  he’s probably on the road to giving that game an unhealthy place in his life (or in stronger terms, making that game an idol).

Likewise,  what is my response when feeling like I need to put down something in my own life? Do I sometimes quietly ignore prompts from the Father to quit doing something? To start doing something? You bet I do. Because just like my children, I don’t like no.  I think I know best.  And ignoring prompts from the Father messes with the relationship.  It’s not a severed relationship; God doesn’t stop loving me just like I don’t stop loving my children. But in both cases it makes for a petulant, unhappy child.  In my experience as a mom, unhappy petulant children can’t do much other than just be unhappy and petulant.  They miss out.  There is joy to be had, but they miss it.

There’s also a trust issue at hand, right? If my child is mature and accepts my love and care for him,  he can more readily accept my “no”. He wants what he wants,  sure,  but our relationship doesn’t become undone when he hears my “no” because he trusts that I must have a reason. He can experience disappointment while simultaneously trusting that I’m doing what’s best for him.  (Well, at least what I think best within my my limited,  human frailty and understanding. When God says “No”, I can trust in His perfection.)

I have been told “no” by God, and it’s hard.  Painful stuff.  Trust, contentment, maturity — the absence or presence of all those things are on grand display and it’s not always pretty.  The “no” that I received wasn’t a command or a nudging in a certain direction, or a decision I got to make for myself; but instead it was out of my hands and in the form of friendships that didn’t play out how I wanted, jobs I didn’t get to keep, and places I didn’t get to live.  When I see those circumstances in my life as directed by the hand of a loving, caring, perfect Father, they are still painful but not nearly as much so.  I trust him.  His plan is better than mine.

The more I seek relationship with God, the more I believe that He is the author of the story of my life, and the more I experience of His faithfulness, the more I can accept that “no” is always for my good and His glory.

Look for a purpose in the pain that “no” can bring.  It’s there.  He doesn’t waste anything.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Kindness

Kindness

BY: Starr Cliff

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12

Some thoughts, of late, on kindness.

To “be nice” is a very different thing that showing great kindness. Excerpt from a post exploring this idea: “…kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves…..At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others.”  So much worth for me in exploring the true intent of the energy I spend in my words and interactions with others.  More thoughts here.

People won’t always know what to do with your acts of kindness. They might mistrust your motives, or think you are being weird. That’s okay. Do kind acts anyway. Say kind words anyway.

An easy practice:  If you think something nice about someone, SAY IT. Both to them, and to others. If you think something unkind/unflattering/ugly about someone, don’t.  Don’t say it. To them or to others.

I so want to raise kind, caring children.  It starts by figuring out how to teach them to be kind to one another, and frankly, we can use some work there.  It’s always hardest to be kind to those under the same roof it seems.

I was cleaning out a file cabinet this week, and was reminded of a handwritten note I got from a hard-nosed history teacher when I was in 11th grade.  It was short but heartfelt, congratulating me on a performance in a high school play.  In retrospect, that little note really mattered to me. (Duh.  It’s been 20 years and I can still practically recite it.)  I had thought in high school that maybe I was “sorta becoming okay at this drama thing”, but that simple note made me feel like I was really good at something.  How easy would it have been for him to leave that note unwritten or those kind thoughts unshared?  WRITE THE NOTE PEOPLE.  You can’t know how it might matter to someone.

 

Things that Matter More

More

Woah, the past 12 months have been a blur. Much of what I’ve had on my heart to write, my brain has smartly kept me from posting publicly. Much of where my mind has been in this season of transition, has been written with ink on paper in a journal that I’ll treasure for the memory of God’s changing work done in my life.

In the spirit of what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced over the past few months; here is a working list of things that matter more to me than they did a year ago:

The places I visit.

The friends I keep.

The stories I’m telling.

The questions I’m asking. 

Silence.

New friendships.

Advice from trusted friends.

Time alone with my wife.

Time together with those that believe in me.

Adventures with my children.

Red-letter words in the Bible.

Resting on weekends.

Memories that last beyond the picture taken.

Written words that nobody reads.

Conversations that last longer than they used to.