Abstract big speech bubbleWe recently started spending time each week thinking through the creative elements for our preteen ministry. (I really want to share more about that process later.) Our worship and planning had basically been an afterthought until now.  Our worship leader is very gifted, and he’s been like a spring rain for me in a dry creative time. After just a few meetings, I already feel like our preteen ministry has become more effective and definitely more creative.

Next week, we’re launching a series on prayer. One thing that came out in the creative planning was that we really wanted to create space for preteens to pray. As we’re talking about what prayer is and how Jesus taught us to pray, it’s important that preteens have space to practice.

Our series artwork has based on a collage of conversation bubbles. Our series point is that prayer is a communication between us and God. As we thought about how to make space for preteens to practice prayer, here are the ideas we’ve come up with:

  • Create a Prayer Time at the end of teaching time for Week 1.
  • During the Prayer Time, each preteen receives a personal size conversation bubble to write or draw their prayers.
  • The “conversation bubbles” will be collected in small group and used to create a large wall mural between Week 1 and Week 2. The “conversation bubbles” will be “collaged” together to form a large conversation bubble on the focal wall of our preteen space.
  • Week 2 will begin with a Prayer Time for preteens and Small Group Leaders. Personal size conversation bubbles will be available to record prayers. They can then be placed on the collage at the focal wall
  • All worship lyrics and Scripture slides will be presented in conversation bubbles on screen to illustrate that these elements are also part of the communication between us and God.

I’m really excited to see preteens using this space for prayer. We want prayer to become an integral part of our preteen ministry, so we plan to keep the theme of conversation bubbles going even after the series.

Here are my questions for you:

1) What is your process for planning the creative elements in your ministry?

2) How do you create space specifically for prayer with your preteens? If you’re a parent of preteens, what has helped them feel comfortable communicating with God through prayer?

Creating Balance in Life

February 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

do-you-balance-14-nails-single-nailhead-find-out-with-diy-gravity-puzzle.w654The picture above is all about balance. The objective of the riddle is to balance all the nails on the head of the one nail attached to the wood. It seems impossible, but it’s actually very easy with a little bit of balance.

A few weeks ago, a seminary professor used the riddle to illustrate the importance of balance in the life of a minister. This is something I’ve been thinking about and realizing that I need to work on.

Here are a few things that I’m thinking will help me to create balance:

1. Stop doing some things

When I look at my calendar, I realize that there are some ineffective things that take up my time. Many of them are tasks that were one time important and effective, but now they’re pointless tasks. I’ve also realized that these are the things that drain me the most. I need to evaluate my schedule and get rid of the things that are not effective uses of my time.

2. Keep a To Do List

I already have a weekly To Do List, but I’ve recently made some changes. I have broken the list into categories and subcategories. These breakdowns have helped me to keep focused on tasks and relationships in ministry and my personal life.

3. Delegate

I shared my thoughts about delegation a few weeks ago. I am still learning how to do this well. I’m learning not to just pass tasks to someone else, but to actually release the power to make decisions and carry out ministry plans. It’s a little scary, but also really exciting. Once I’ve gotten rid of the things that are ineffective and created a To Do List, it’s easier to decide what things can be delegated to others.

4. Leave the Office Early

This has been the hardest but most rewarding part of creating balance. I often get too focused on projects and forget to take care of my health. Two weeks ago, I left the office early each day to exercise before heading home. I really focused on what I ate and tried to get more sleep. Last week, I did the complete opposite! The week of exercise and sleep felt great. I know that it will be a necessary part of a balanced life.


On a day that honors him, I wanted to comment on this letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. I decided that my comments would only cheapen it. So, here is an excerpt from the Letter from Birmingham Jail and a link to the full document. It is a great example of leadership and grace in the face of opposition.

April 16, 1963


While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

This Sunday, we’re talking with preteens in Fifty6 about our love for technology. Unfortunately, many of us have taken this love for technology to an addiction.

When you think of preteen behaviors and issues, it’s always important to consider where they might be picking up on such behaviors. I have to say that I’m pretty bad about attaching myself to the phone, computer, or television instead of my family. It’s something that I really have to discipline myself. Moms and Dads, please watch this short clip and think…

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