Helpers?

I was trained when I was 12 on how to be a helper during children’s ministry activities. That training, and the rest of the training I have received in subsequent years, has been vital to my life and ministry. But, I’m finding more and more that the training I received growing up is not something that is commonplace anymore. One of the main issues I have in children’s ministry isn’t even the children; it’s the helpers! Or, lack thereof. I train children’s ministry workers, but I feel like there should be a manual specifically written to the helpers in a classroom. So, here’s my basic manual on how to be a helper at any children’s ministry event. These are things that I expect from myself and the people I work with:

  • Participate with the children! If you expect them to play a game or sing a song or do an activity, you better be doing it right along with them and not off having a conversation with your friends instead.
  • Sit with them! Sit in the middle of the kids, especially the ones that tend to talk or cause problems. Be actively engaged with them during class times. There should be no “back row” of helpers in a classroom; they should be spread throughout the room.
  • Be attentive! Even though it’s a good thing to model behavior like listening to the teacher, don’t get so engrossed in the teaching that you forget the children sitting around you who may be acting out. Be constantly watching around you and keeping an eye on those sneaky children.
  • Whisper when you need to correct someone during a Lesson! There is nothing worse than a helper who’s trying to help, but ends up being louder than the teacher and distracting from the Lesson that they’re trying to keep the kids from distracting from! If you must correct a child during class, do so quietly and with as little intrusion to the class as possible.
  • Catch the child before the teacher has to step in! Helpers should be attentive enough that they see – and stop – a discipline problem before the teacher even notices it is happening and certainly before the teacher needs to step in and correct it themselves.
  • Be on time! I, personally, like to go over the event with my helpers and pray with them before we begin. I cannot do that if my helpers don’t arrive on time – or early, preferably! Once the kids are in the room and the program has begun, it’s really too late to lay out the game plan to the helper and then the teacher just feels like they’re running the event alone.
  • Build relationships with the kids! Many times the helper has an “in” with the kids that the teacher simply will not have. Use this opportunity to get to know them, talk with them, build a relationship with them. Relationships are normally the biggest key to leading a child to Christ and to discipling them to grow to become like Christ.
  • Be who you want the children to become! If you want them to grow up unselfish, friendly, attentive, and respectful, then model those attributes in front of them.
  • Be helpful! Do your best to help lighten the load of the teacher. You have no idea how much time goes into prepping a good lesson or developing a good program. We just genuinely need people who are willing to jump in and be helpful. When we have to give loads of direction or basically do your tasks for you, that’s not helpful.
  • Be all there! If you are totally distracted or over-tired or just don’t want to be helping out one night, it might be best to consider not even coming. Kids recognize faster than adults when someone does not want to be there. Again, it goes back to modeling. Do we enjoy teaching children that make it obvious they don’t want to be in our class? No. So, we shouldn’t act that way in front of them, either.

I believe it all goes back to one key phrase:

“Be who you want your students to become.”

And… can I say this here without getting blasted? Please don’t complain unless you’re willing to be part of the solution to the problem. If you notice an issue in a ministry, be part of the solution! That’s far more helpful than merely pointing out faults that we probably already know exist… but normally can do nothing about without help.

Last of all: love on those kids. Kids these days just want to be heard, accepted, and loved. Be all there. Be Jesus to these precious children. Be who you want them to become. Love them like Jesus does.

Baby J’s Story.

So, apparently, it takes me just about a full year to process the births of each of my children. Baby J’s birth was much easier than E’s, but still, it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. He turns one in less than a week (has time really gone that fast?) and so, in keeping with what I did with E two years ago, I thought I would write out his birth story. Although why I choose to do so at 10:30pm on a Thursday, I’m not really sure. Probably because the house is quiet and it seems… fitting.

30+ weeks

30+ weeks

My pregnancy with Baby J. was a lot easier than with E. Namely: no shingles at the end! No, but seriously, it went so much smoother. Of course, I also knew what to expect and my body was a little more used to this pregnancy thing. However, I did have serious pain right on my incision scar from E’s c-section. Many times, I was unable to get up or change position without severe pain.

I had wanted a VBAC so badly after my traumatic experience with E. I was not looking forward to any of the delivery process, especially the epidural and the recovery. With E, I could feel where they placed the epidural for the c-section for three months and it took me more than six to be able to move around with serious pain from the surgery. I was dreading all of that again.

My doctor was, at first, very positive about the possibility of a VBAC. She didn’t think I’d have to worry about it. And then, I had my 7 month check-up in July. And she thought my little girl I had been told I was expecting¬†was actually:

twins1Twins! yup. Twins. There was absolutely no reason for us to think that he was NOT twins. We spent that night in complete shock, calling our families and informing our friends in Peru. Saturday, we shopped at a rare yardsale and purchased additional clothing for a baby boy since we had been planning on a baby girl this whole time and now, we were expecting one of each. Monday, we arrived an hour early to a 4-D ultrasound place (we were ANXIOUS!!) only to be informed by the doctor with the worst bedside manner on earth that no, we weren’t expecting twins, or even a little girl. We were expecting ONE little BOY.

I was devastated. Even as I write this, tears are in my eyes and I can’t get over the emotion of feeling like I lost a child… even though there was never a second child there to lose. I have no clue why God allowed this mess-up to happen, but happen it did. Thankfully, that “mess-up” gave us a baby boy, of which I’m incredibly thankful for.

But anyway —

When my doctor thought I was expecting twins, there was no choice but another c-section and I agreed. After the heartache of finding out there was just one after all, I didn’t have the energy to argue anymore and just went along with another c-section. I tried to convince her, but really, at that point, I just wanted the baby born. I didn’t particularly care HOW he arrived; I just wanted the process over with.

We used a better clinic than with E. From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in a nice place. It’s quiet. Clean. Organized. Polite. Modern. Ahhhh…. it was so peaceful!! Especially in comparison to the chaos of last time!! The day of the planned c-section, we arrived around 11am after dropping E off with a trusted friend and her family. I was a bundle of (very hungry) nerves and it felt completely surreal to be writing the name of the baby on the chart they would be placing on his bassinet in just a few short hours.

It was so nice to be escorted through the building and reassured of where we were going and why and what would be happening next (none of which happened last time). We were brought to a prep room, which had its own TV and restroom and was private. The prep was much more relaxed than E’s emergency two years before and the staff was much more polite and professional.

My surgery was to begin by 1pm, but my doctor ran late. Very late. It was after 1 before the anesthesiologist even showed up! But, he was so reassuring about the epidural process — I was so grateful for him.

When it finally (!!!!) came time, I was wheeled downstairs with the firm assurance that Brian would be following and that we would find our personal affects safely in our room when it was all over. I was brought right to the O.R., which was surprisingly clean and modern and even comfortable. E’s operating room was sterile, large, bright, and scary!! The epidural took probably close to half an hour to get in (at least it felt that long – could’ve been shorter) because apparently my back is “strange” and they had to go in and then sideways to get it in right. Can we all say, “Uh, ahhh!” I did not enjoy that process and, I found out later, I almost broke my doctor’s hand in the process. She had promised to hold my hand during the process since she knew I was terrified. But, I guess I literally almost broke her fingers, so she made me hold onto the bed and she disappeared for awhile to get feeling back in her fingers. Woops. Probably should’ve taken into account that she’s like 5’2″ with heels on…

Brian, meanwhile, was getting into his scrub gear and wandering lost in the hallway until someone finally grabbed the “handsome gringo” (my doctor’s description) so they could begin the surgery. He was in the room less than five minutes and they began. He was so nervous, his fingers kept slipping and taking accidental pictures, like this one (which happens to be one of my favorites from the day):

DSC00718Candid, yes. Beautiful? Absolutely.

When they got close to pulling out baby J, they had Brian come to the other side of the room. He was told, “Hurry! Just don’t trip on anything!” From what I’ve been told and seen on movies, in the States, when you get a c-section done, there’s a curtain that goes up rather high right in front of your face. You can’t like accidentally see over it and the spouse doesn’t normally move from his spot by your head. Not in Peru! The curtain was barely high enough to cover MY face, much less Brian’s, who was sitting. When he was brought to the other side of the table, he saw it all. He saw the entire process of getting J out of my tummy, including the little stinker moving further up inside of me whenever they’d get close because he didn’t like the light and didn’t want to come out! Again, Brian’s nervous finger went trigger happy and we got some funny, candid shots of the room (which I won’t scare you with, don’t worry).

Finally, out he came:

DSC00723I had forgotten to warn Brian that he may not cry right away. woops. Oh well, he learned.

DSC00730They even let me put on my glasses so I could see him!

Moments later, Brian took my glasses and followed the baby and the pediatrician out of the room. The entire room took the time to say, “Congratulations!” and then, they let me sleep. Ah, merciful sleep. Last time, I was awake for the entire hour plus they took to sew me up and it was miserable. This time, I woke up to, “You ready for recovery? You’ll see your baby soon, let’s go.”

Recovery took me something like three hours because my body temperature would not regulate. I just remember being bored out of my MIND and freezing, freezing cold regardless of the heater and layers of blankets. I bugged every nurse within ear shot, “Can I go yet? I feel fine! Can I go NOW? I feel GREAT!” haha!

Finally, I was brought up to my room. I was greeted by an anxious, happy hubby who had been asked to get out my own toothbrush, hairbrush, and clothes. The nurses were happy, cheerful, and talkative as they let me get dressed, brush my teeth, wash my face, and brush my hair. I felt somewhat human within 20 minutes! And then… they wheeled him in and put him in my arms. Por fin.

 

 

 

DSC00734He was so tiny in comparison to E. My handsome Joseph Christopher was a mere 6lbs, 8oz, 19″. My little blonde peanut.

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Recovery went much smoother with him. It was different since Brian couldn’t be with me at night – he went home each evening to be with E, so I had three nights in a strange clinic all alone. But, the staff was awesome, taking Baby J for me when I needed them to, helping me nurse, and getting me medicine as needed.

My doctor had a different policy: you were not allowed to get out of bed for a solid 24hrs after arriving in your room. So, that meant I was in bed from when they began prep at noon Thursday until 7pm Friday evening. However, they took my catheter out at 7am Friday. I’ll let you do the math on that one. Not cool. And then somehow, there was a mix-up, so even though I was supposed to have at least broth for lunch Friday, I had no food until late Friday afternoon, which actually meant I hadn’t eaten since Wednesday evening at 6:30. Or had anything to drink. ahhhh….

The only real issue I had with pain was that I had an allergic reaction to whatever pain meds they tried getting me onto after the epidural. In Peru, many believe that Tylenol is a very strong pain killer, so when I asked what I could take for pain, I was told one Tylenol, once a day. Idiot me, I followed that. I would be in so much pain by evening, I couldn’t do anything except sit in bed and cry. Which also hurt, come to think of it. I couldn’t move, I could barely walk because lifting my legs hurt, I couldn’t stand or sit because changing position hurt, and don’t even talk to me about nursing! It was miserable until a friend Stateside told me it was safe to up that dose! phew. I still didn’t take too much, so I still had more pain than probably necessary.

Unlike E, J took to nursing quite well. We had some latching issues, but with a good pediatrician, that was fixed within the first week and a week later, everything was great.

It took me quite awhile to get used to the fact that we had a BOY. He was different from E right from the beginning and we love every bit of it. He is all boy and just… wonderful. We are so blessed.

DSC00829

 

Now, he turns one on the 27th! He walks four steps at a time by himself. He loves music and his big sister. He’s strong and tough – nothing makes him cry! He’s got the most beautiful smile and little blonde curls on the back of his head. He has killer blue eyes and has the sweetest, friendliest personality. He’s not one that’s prone to crying or fits; he’s pretty laid-back and relaxed. Except when it comes to food. He’s all business when it comes to food and wants ONLY table food, preferably whatever is on everybody’s plate but his! He’s started giving kisses – on your mouth, with his mouth wide open, eight teeth bared and all! He waves, especially when he’s excited. He growls when he’s trying to be funny, or when he’s not getting food fast enough! He squeals when he sees animals, especially dogs and cats, and is strong enough to basically fling himself out of your arms if he wants down to pet them! He’s a speed-crawler who crawls through the house with all manner of bags and purses wrapped around his arms – he thinks it’s hilarious. He’s my big, handsome boy and I love him to absolute pieces!

P1010710

 

P1010860

 

Happy Birthday, little man! We love you!!

Next time, I’ll have to write about my sweepea, who turns 3 on the 29th!¬†

P1010924

 

 

 

 

Introduce them now.

I am a children’s ministry director at our church and I have worked with children since I WAS a kid, so it’s been a good 18 years of teaching (arrrg that makes me sound so old!). To me, introducing children to Christ is fairly simple and even somewhat of a “no-brainer.” I don’t say that to sound condescending; only to say that when you’ve been doing it for so long, you forget that it’s not “the norm” for everyone else.

This past week, I got an email from an old friend who wanted to know how best to introduce her 16 month old son to God. I began thinking that if she asked for advice, others might want the same. So, here’s some simple ways you can introduce your young preschooler (or older toddler) to God because honestly, it’s never too young for them to meet!

–Pray with them before meals. If they’re speaking, they can repeat after you simple thank you prayers. When they start really talking more, have them thank Jesus for things as well.
–Pray with them before bed – same idea.
–There are preschool devotions out there that are wonderful. CBD online has good resources for good preschool devos. We have one book that has short devotionals that are age-appropriate for E. that we use.
–Read a children’s Bible to them as often as possible. The ones with beautiful pictures keep their attention really well.
–Talk to them about things like, “Who made that bird? Who made you? Where does God live? God loves you so much more than that dog! God made you so special! Let’s thank Jesus for that beautiful sunset.” Throw it into the every-day living that you do.
–Sunday School is never too early. E. will be 3 the end of this month and children’s church has been HUGE in teaching her that Jesus loves her, that He created her, and then taught her simple songs, too, like “Jesus Loves Me.”
–Christian videos, like Veggie Tales, and then talk with them afterwards.
–Have them see you and your spouse do devotions together. We try to do devotions as a family each evening during dinner and the kids sit and listen.
–When you get upset or you have an issue with your child, take time to pray with them before continuing on with the rest of the day. I’m learning that it makes a big difference after we fight to stop, apologize, then have E. sit with me while I pray out loud and ask for forgiveness and for Jesus to help us the rest of the day.
–When they’re naughty, take time to explain to them (before or after the punishment) that it makes Jesus sad when we’re disobedient. Even take the time with them to pray and ask Jesus for forgiveness. They won’t understand, but it’s a good practice to begin now. There are many times where, when the punishment is over, I’ll have E. say, “I’m sorry, Jesus,” before we move on. I try to help her understand that sin isn’t just bad to mommy and daddy – it’s bad to God, too, and that’s a bigger deal.
–Pinterest is a great place to get ideas for how to celebrate Christian holidays in an age-appropriate, simple teaching way. Coloring pages, activities, conversation starters, etc.

The most important thing I’ve learned is to seize every opportunity, big or small, and put God into it. Are you facing a big family decision? Be sure they knows that you’re trust God for it. Did God supply something for you unexpectedly? Be sure they knows where it came from. Do they LOVE some animal or some view from the car window? Talk to them about how God created it, but that even though that animal is really cool, God loves them even more.

Keep in mind that God purposefully made the Gospel simple enough for a child. They are also observant and will mimic what you do, so if you make God priority in your life, they will want to make Him a priority in theirs. If you are constantly late for church or skipping church for things like sporting events, then they will pick up the queu that learning about God in church is not important for them, either. If you want them to read their Bibles, let them see you doing it now. Introduce them now so God can save them later. You cannot force them to accept Christ as Savior, but you can provide them with enough info to make an informed decision as soon as they are able. Never discount how much they understand and never think that what you’re doing is in vain. God’s Word will never return void, even if it falls on young ears.

September 2013
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