If you were blessed to be at Children’s Pastor’s Conference this week, then you already know it was packed out. I heard a couple thousand people were there! Which makes sense since I saw volunteers having to set up more and more and more chairs. So here are just a few of my favorite memories from Children’s Pastors Retreat 2019.

  1. Location- I certainly enjoyed the weather (67 and sunny in Orlando versus 23 and snowing in WI). Children’s pastors retreat is something I look forward to every year-a refreshing winter retreat to be with Jesus and others passionate about kids ministry. The stunning Caribe resort seemed well able to accommodate all of us, and their staff were very helpful. This year there were a lot more food trucks, making things a bit easier to get lunch onsite. (I particularly liked the salted caramel gelato! Yes, that WAS my lunch lol.) Also, the close proximity to Disney meant that many children’s leaders were able to go over to one of the parks or Disney Springs for a bit. Several kid’s pastors brought their families to stay an extra day or two after the conference. This makes CPC a place for growth and learning for kid’s pastors, as well as a place for CP families to refresh and make memories. Nice plus!
  2. The Powerful Main Sessions- The worship was powerful, expressive and engaging. Now worship style can be a controversial thing. But I felt that just about anyone could feel at home in these worship services. Many people seemed to enjoy the prayer stations set up around the room as well. People lined up for different prayer stations to make a lasting moment there with God. The speakers were amazing as usual, however I was especially touched by the ministry of Beth Guckenberger (again) talking about the sweetness of God and inspiring us to a new level of intimacy with God. And Robert Madu- oh my goodness!!! I was blown away. I will never forget all he had to say about “staying in your own lane” and the “but me!” glasses. I laughed so hard but left deeply impacted. I hope he comes back!!!
  3. The Large Variety of Relevant Breakouts- There were a wide variety of breakouts that I felt were hot button issues for most of us who attended. I still like the fact that you can choose a “track” that you are interested in, and find classes on that theme (Or not). For example, you can pick, “Special needs ministry” and find the 4-5 breakouts that will specifically deal with that issue. I know many of the breakout leaders, and they are extremely qualified, experienced people who absolutely love to serve others.
  4. Coaching- CPC Conference is a bit unique in that personal one on one coaching is INCLUDED in the price of the conference. This coaching allows the attendee to get a 30 minute session with a kid’s ministry professional. You bring one issue and together you work out a “plan.” The idea is to “Go home with a plan.” I saw God at work in these sessions. I saw kid’s pastors leaving their coaching sessions with hope and a new excitement for their ministries. Coaching is one of my favorite ministries offered by CPC. (I was blessed to be a coach, and to teach a breakout).
  5. The Networking- Most children’s pastors will tell you that the best part of a kidmin conference is the networking that happens between children’s pastors in classes, at meals and in the hallways. Children’s leaders are born networkers. I heard a first time attendee remark, “Wow, I am impressed. I haven’t met a single snob here yet!” The organizers of CPC get this and intentionally build in networking time. But they also allow this to happen organically as well.
  6. The Schedule- I felt that the schedule was well planned out- not too busy and not too lax. Plenty of time for coaching, worship, networking, resource center and even relaxing. I actually did not go home from this conference completely spent.
  7. The staff and volunteers- They were so helpful and friendly. They all seemed thrilled to be there and to be serving!
  8. The resource center- I always have a lot of fun there. There were so many booths and so many fun things to do. I THINK that we got more time allotted there this year and perhaps a few more booths. It was a blast.

If you were there last week, please tell us what YOUR favorite part of the conference was? Do you agree with my favorites list? What did I miss? Lots of love and blessings- Thank you for all your work for Jesus and His kids! Love Trisha

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Well-child policy.

Common sense tells us that when your child is vomiting, has a fever, or is blowing lots of thick green guk out his nose, you stay home with him until he is well. Your work would not be happy with you if you brought that child with you into the office and held him on your lap hacking stuff up during a meeting. And the schools all have “well-child” policies that would keep you from leaving your child in class that day puking in a bucket under his desk or passing out during gym. Doctor’s offices would make your child with a heavy cough wear a mask while there. So why do we treat church so differently?

I overheard a staff member whispering to another staff member once, “I would never ever leave my child in the nursery here. That place is a Petri dish of every bacteria known to man. No one leaves there healthy!” Several parents responded to our survey saying they wouldn’t use the nursery for fear of their child catching an illness. It was time to act. We researched well-child policies from surrounding schools and churches and came up with our own that matches our needs.

Some things we included in ours went something like this:

“If your child is displaying any of the symptoms below either now or in the past 24 hours, please keep your child with you, and have them sit out of children’s ministries until they are well.

Keep your child home if they have:

Fever over 99, vomiting or diarrhea,runny nose especially with any color of discharge, heavy wet coughs, unexplained rashes, skin infections, impetigo, boils, ringworm, eye infections, childhood diseases such chickenpox, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis, scarlet fever etc.

If a child develops any of the above symptoms while in our care, we will contact the child’s parents as soon as possible so that they might tend to the child’s illness.

Our Children’s Ministry staff will not administer any type of medication to the children placed in our care.”

At first we caught a lot of backlash. I had the volunteers call me over to speak with parents who were not being able to leave a sick child. I got a lot of excuses like “Well, the school won’t take him either and I really need a break. Here you take him!” And “Oh yeah, that rash has been spreading all over his legs since this morning. He caught it at daycare, but it’s not contagious.” and “This is a church. You have to take anyone!” No wonder people didn’t want to use the nursery. Again, I didn’t understand this until I had kids of my own and found out that one nasty virus could waylay our whole family for a week. The bottom line is that you need to do your research, come up with a solid well-child policy, and have your pastor approve it. Then you need to post it somewhere visible so you can make it apparent you are not targeting any particular child; this is the policy across the board.

NOTE:

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It is extremely important to make sure no parent feels singled out or embarrassed in front of others. Yes you do have to turn some children away if they are too ill, for the safety of all the other children and your workers, but remember to be kind and caring. That poor parent may have had a very rough week and thought “maybe we are well enough now to finally get out” when they just weren’t quite ready. Always use grace and kindness. But keep that kids’ area a “well-child area” as much as you possibly can.

From “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” available on Amazon

fundraisersFundraising can be such a pain! And even if you have a children’s ministries budget at your church, chances are that you will be called upon to raise money for some project- camp scholarships, a new set of puppets, missions etc. Teaching our children to give is an important part of their faith. I do not believe that faith is genuine if it never touches our wallet! And children need to be taught from an early age to tithe and to give of their time, talent and money.  This needs to be a “habit” that extends into adulthood. Also, if your church as a whole is working to raise funds for something, then your kid’s church should be a part of that (they are part of the church right now!) Although children may not have access to the the same flow of cash as an adult, I am continually surprised at the amazing things kids can do when someone challenges and inspires them. Over the years our team has done MANY fundraisers and missions pushes. And I wanted to share with you the ones that worked the best for us. I know that what works at one place will not necessarily work in another; nevertheless, I hope this gives you some great ideas.

  1. Fill the crate- The premise of this fundraiser was unusual but simple. We were sending missionaries to an African village and they were asking for children’s clothing to pass out to orphans in need. We got a large crate, advertised the challenge, showed pictures of some of the children in need and heard from the missionaries. We gave the children 30 days to fill the crate with kid’s clothing items, used or new, of all sizes.  To my surprise and delight, our kids filled the entire crate in only 8 days. EIGHT DAYS!!! The clothes were all in good condition, although one or two dresses were far to fancy to be usable in that climate. It was too late at this point to advertise that we had filled the crate early, so we filled a second one for an orphanage in Kenya. I think this one was so successful because it was visible and tangible. Kids could see the bin filling up! We followed up by having the missionaries take a lot of pictures of the kids at the orphanages wearing the clothes from our kids. We showed these photos so the kids would see the results of their giving.
  2. Fourth and Fifth Grade Clean Your Church Day- I’ll be honest, I was did not know if this one would fly. My elementary director really wanted to do this. She suggested having all fourth and fifth graders come in on a Saturday and give their free time to THEIR church by spring cleaning- doing the windows, cleaning out flower beds, carpet cleaning etc. etc. She hoped to teach kids to treat God’s house with respect, to make a habit of volunteering at church, and to realize this was THEIR church. I will admit I was skeptical on this one. But I was wrong. These kids came out in record numbers, thoroughly cleaned our massive building, had a blast doing it- and couldn’t wait to do it again. We showed pictures from this event to inspire our adults to higher levels of serving.
  3. Papa Murphy’s pizza deal. Not sure if this one is still available- but it was amazing. We bought Papa Murphy’s pizza discount cards for 1 dollar each and then sold them for 10 dollars each. If a child wanted help with money for camp or an event, then they had to participate. Children who did NOT need a scholarship were allowed to raise money for their friends. I had kids who sold 400 cards all by themselves in a week just to send 4 friends to winter camp. It became a way to fund our events, allow less fortunate families to send their children, and to teach giving to others of our time and money. This also really got the attention of our community because our kids were hitting up EVERYONE. We ended up bringing 50-60 people to winter camp each year because we raised so much money.
  4. An Incentive- I know this is controversial, because we do not want to teach children to expect a reward for giving and serving Jesus. However, I have found that an incentive can make that event stand out in a family’s mind in a sea of information overload. I also believe in celebrating together and commemorating successes as a team in ministry. We teach kids not to expect rewards for giving, but to celebrate when we “win” as a team. Our 19 year old sound guy had extremely long hair. He offered to have his hair shaved to the scalp live on stage if we met our missions giving goal. The kids were so excited that we not only met our goal, we exceeded it. The day of the “shearing” the kids all brought their friends and we gained a lot of new kids to our kid’s church as a bonus.
  5. A Competition- Again, this one is controversial, as some churches discourage competitions in a church. It seems to me however, that kids are hardwired to love playing games and to compete. We do need to teach our kids that loving others is more important than “winning.” One competition we had that went very well was our kid’s church versus youth group challenge. We raised money for missions over the course of 6 weeks. At the end we had a pizza party that both groups attended. Since youth group raised less (slightly), they had to serve the pizza to the kid’s church kids. This worked so well because the youth pastor and I switched places a lot to promote it. It showed our groups working together. The kid’s church kids got to meet the youth pastor and interact with him. The youth group kids actually seemed to be having fun serving the kid’s church kids. It was an example of the church working together toward a common goal. The “competition” just made it really fun and no one felt like a “loser.” The main winner was our local women’s shelter who received the money, and our young people who all had a great time.
  6. Walmart matching- Now I have seen this one work differently in different cities/states. Where we live, Walmart will match what a non-profit makes selling food in their parking lot. There is an application process and some work involved in setting this up. “Brat fry’s” are big in Wisconsin, and whatever profit we make is matched by Walmart. This has paid for several of our kids to go to Bible Camp. If they wish to use a church scholarship for camp, they MUST help out at the brat fry. We want kids to think about putting some of their own sweat, funds and time into obtaining the things they want.

I am very curious to know what fundraisers YOU have used. What worked? What did not work at all?

I truly hope to see many of you next week at CPC in Orlando Fl! God bless ALL of your fundraisers. God bless the work you do for Jesus and His kids. Love Trisha

PS- I’ll be coming to you live next week from Orlando so stay tuned!

 

Long gone are the days of “lone ranger” ministry- of one minister charging in, doing it “all” while everyone else follows. Today your ministry will literally rise or fall based on your ability to build and lead a strong team. Ministering to your TEAM should be one of your number 1 ministry goals this year. So how do you build a stronger, more unified team in 2015? The teams I have led, and been on over the years have become more of a family, and I am so blessed to be a part of them. Whether you’re leading a team of volunteers, volunteer department heads, paid staff or all of the above, these ideas you’ll see below have worked for me and other ministry leaders, to build a winning team.

1. Pray together- There is power in praying all together with one purpose. Pray FOR each other as well. It is a lot tougher to stay angry with someone, when your hand is on their shoulder in prayer for their upcoming surgery. This time spent in prayer together should not be “optional” or an afterthought. I cut 15 minutes of every outreach practice time just so we could spend that time in prayer together. It changed EVERYTHING- attitudes, effectiveness of “performances”, and our focus on the unchurched people who attended. Praying as one team can bond us in a way that nothing else can. I appreciate teams that begin and end all of their gatherings with prayer.

2. Grow together- Have you ever gone to a conference by yourself? You have this AMAZING experience, epiphanies that change your life! And then you come back to your church and try to explain those moments, those feelings to your team? It’s almost impossible isn’t it? The old saying is all too true, “You just had to be there.” Everything changes when the team returns together from a training/conference with a more unified vision, and everyone at the table “gets the inside jokes” and has the same memories of the event. You do not have to get them all excited or try to explain the experience, because they went through it with you. Other ways to grow together would include doing a book study or a Bible study together- we have had a LOT of fun bonding over our book/Bible studies! You can also find inexpensive local trainings to attend as a group or hire a speaker to come in and do a training for your team. A great newer option would be to do a live streaming training or conference and watch it all together at your church (or a neighboring church).

3. Serve together- Nothing, and I do mean nothing, seems to bond a team like working long hours on a major project. When you have a community outreach, vbs, service project, musical, Easter or Christmas function, it is good to have “all hands on deck” and give every member of the team a “job”. This laser focus- everyone pulling together in the same direction- everyone going for the same win, can show the “real side” of the people you minister with, the good, bad and the ugly. We get to know each other for REAL, and still love and appreciate your team for all of their unique giftings. We experience first hand the power of working as a group toward a common goal. This usually attracts new team members as well who want to be a part of something that is succeeding and so rewarding (Great teams are the best recruiters).

4. Dream Together- Is your “team” still a hierarchy of “I say and you do and don’t ask why?” Much better is the model “Let’s do this together, and I’ll help you until you can teach it yourself.” When you sit down to plan your calendar of events for the next year (which I really hope you are doing), who is sitting around that table? By that I mean, who has input in the planning of events and the pitching of new ideas? This can be scary to some leaders, and it definitely takes a lot of trust. But great ideas often come from diverse teams, even quiet, introverted team members. Perhaps your team members have been doing a lot of thinking and just need the chance to let those ideas out. They’ll think of great innovations and solutions that you never could on your own. It’s about letting go some of that need to control for the greater good of the people you minister to. Make it a safe place to express ideas, and even constructive criticism. But never allow pouting, grudge holding, or gossip. You can reserve the right to the final say, and you can always shut down negative or argumentative talk. But allowing a few more people at that planning table will not only uncork amazing creative conversations, but when you actually DO begin to implement your new ideas, you will have your teams buy-in and eager support, BECAUSE they had some say. BUY-IN always comes from IN-PUT. 🙂

5. Play together- It’s official; teams that play together, stay together. If the only time you contact your team is when you want something from them (work related), they may start to feel used; they may also dread it when they see you coming (just more work to do). Don’t just see people for what they have to offer you and “your” ministry. These are people, with lives and joys and hopes and jobs and families. Go to their sports games and cheer them on. Go as a team and do something fun- bowling, roller blading, boat ride, mini golf, a concert etc. I also highly suggest that you eat together. Sharing meals together has been known as a bonding activity throughout history. Go out to eat together as a team after services. Better yet, go to each other’s HOMES and COOK together. Being a team means caring about people’s lives OUTSIDE of the job you are trying to do together. If their child is sick, pray together for that child. If one of your team is in the hospital, go visit them together. As they say at Willow Creek, you are not just doing a job together, you are “doing life together.” You are building relationships to last for the long haul. These relationships give birth to the best, most successful ministries you will ever know.

What kind of team are you dreaming of? The best things in this life don’t just “happen”; they are intentionally planned and crafted. Put the majority of your time into growing a unified, effective team this year, and you’ll be surprised how far you’ll GROW. How do you disciple and pour into your ministry teams? (board, parent teams, teachers, volunteers, staff etc.)? Please let us know your best ideas for team building!

PS: I’d love to pray with you or sign a book for you. You can get a copy of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” TODAY on Amazon, Kindle. Already have your book? Please make sure to rate it on Amazon- I read each and every review. God bless!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE PEACH PIT!
Merry Christmas! We hope God grants you peace and time with family this Christmas. We are so appreciative for all of our family and friends- thank you for being in our lives! All in all this has been a really good year for our family. We are grateful, because there were several years that we could not say that. But in good years and tough years, God has been so faithful. So here is what we have been up to in 2018!

SCOTT: Scott has had a great year at his job. He has impressed his employers time and again by solving some major problems, including switching the large company over to a new phone system and a new computer operating system. He said that this year has been one of the best he can remember. A highlight of the year for him was our Disney trip in September, where once again, he was able to wait in line and meet “Dug” from the movie “Up.” Scott loves living in Wisconsin, being so close to our families, getting to help his parents on their farm now and then, and having so much snow around Christmas. This summer he surprised us by installing a pond in the backyard complete with fish! He loves improving our house.

Trisha- I had an epic year. In May, I walked the line for my graduation with my Master’s from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. It was an amazing weekend, and it meant the world to me that my husband Scott, my parents, sister, brother-in-law, my children, my niece and nephews were there to share the moment with me! I have written a third book about ministry burnout which will be coming out in 2019! (God willing). Scott and I celebrated 19 years of marriage in May!! That is like 2,342 years in Hollywood years. I love you babe! I did more traveling than ever before this past year- FL X2, NC, MI X2, WI, CO, MN X2, MS. So glad I got to see my aunts and my grandmother in MI. It was a busy year of ministry, but I loved it. I wrote articles for a few children’s ministry publications. In June, I started work for my doctorate at Bethel, and it is going well! I also started teaching English online from home- which I am loving. Life has been busy, but oh so wonderful. I loved our Disney trip, as well as summer fun hijinks with my sister and her family! We had so many fun holidays with both sides of the family! Another highlight of this past year was officiating at my sister in law’s wedding. Congratulations Kerri and Jerry! This year I have been on the pulpit committee at our church; it has been different to see this side of things. Scott and I and the kids are getting more and more involved in our church home. It is a privilege and a joy for us to do ministry together as a family.
Sadly, I did lose my Grandmother Stevens this year who went to be with Jesus just a few weeks ago. She really loved Christmas, but I know hers is extra special this year.

Logan- Our amazing son is 15 now. How is that possible??? He is so smart, funny and loveable. He is doing great in high school and has several good friends. Logan is still pursuing a career in computer programming. He still reads his Bible nightly and now he hits me with some really tough Bible questions! Logan loves animals, especially our dogs Ursani and Sam. Logan’s favorite part of our Disney trip was the fast rides- Tower of Terror and Mount Everest Expedition. And wow did Logan get taller this year! Logan and Eliana love spending time playing with their cousins Isaac and Caleb.
Eliana- Our daughter is a sunshine in our lives. She is so smart, witty, hilarious- social butterfly with a lot of friends. She is a friend to anyone who needs a friend at her school. This year she tested in the 98.2 percentile for math in the state of WI. She is now in Advanced Placement Math. She is leaning towards a career in graphic design. Eliana, now 13, loves Jesus and reads her Bible nightly. She and Logan still get along great and are best friends. She adores her cat who sticks to her like glue. Eliana’s favorite part of our Disney trip was the icecream at the Japan pavilion at Epcot. She is quite the gifted artist, if I do say so myself. Our family still loves playing board games and watching movies together.

We love you all and wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for making our year even brighter. I pray for a good year for you and your family in 2019. God is so faithful.

Love Trisha, Scott, Logan, Eliana 33745722_10157522033783345_4814512769489436672_n

Are you ready for Christmas yet?  YIKES! How did it sneak up on us so quickly?? I hope during this season we thank God for all of the blessings in our lives……

Are you perhaps, one of the many this year having a bit of trouble trying to describe last year??  For MANY people I have been talking to, this was a tough year financially, tough on the job, tough on family relationships.  Holidays and heartache are a rough combination. Let me just bring up for a moment, a famous Christmas character’s name- the name “Ebenezer”.  Did you know that it is a Bible name?

Most people associate the name Ebenezer with Scrooge and Christmas.  But the name originates in the Old Testament- when someone followed God’s leading, through tough times and good times, on to what God had for them- they would set up a large stone to help them remember.  The stone was called, “Ebenezer” or “thus far the Lord has helped me.”  Meaning, every time you looked at that rock, you would remember just how far God has brought you. They would go out year and after year and show their kids the Ebenezer rock and say, “See kids- this is how far God brought us.”  God brought his people through darkness, war, plague, deserts- and He was with them every moment every step.  And when they finally took that promised ground, through a lot of tears and pain, they would set up that big rock to help them remember always, “This is how far our God brought us.”

For too many of my friends, this was a year of severe high and lows.  And there were battles, victories, wounds etc.  I have lived some very tough years in the past as well. It amazed me how God walked with us through every battle, and provided even miraculously for us. He didn’t spare us the deserts, but He went alongside us and lit up the nights.  I can honestly say, when I look back over my life, “Ebenezer- look how far God has brought us.”

Maybe you can’t look back at 2018 and say, “What a prosperous year” or “What a fun year”  or “best year of my life”  but many of us can say- just look how far God has brought me now!  And what better time than Christmas to share a story or two with your kids about your own family’s Ebenezer- tell them how far God has brought your family and what He has brought you THROUGH.

The best part of all this is hope- the spirit of Christmas indeed.  The hope –the CERTAINTY that the same God Who has brought us through will bring us on to even greater things; and He’ll be with us all the way.  What has God brought you through this year?  When you set up your tree this year, (along with a leaner Christmas perhaps), don’t forget to set up your family Ebenezer- and rejoice.  Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare  and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Image result for ebenezer scrooge

For my doctorate, I just had to write a paper on the topic of Christian suffering, as presented throughout the book of 1 Peter. This is just an excerpt from that paper. Too often the verses in 1 Peter are used tragically and inappropriately against victims of domestic violence. Here are just a few of my thoughts on suffering, 1 Peter, and domestic violence. Love Trisha

“The teaching that God brings something good out of a Christian’s suffering, is called the doctrine of redemptive suffering. A note of caution is in order when we study and teach this doctrine, outlined mainly in the book of 1 Peter. Feminists have alleged that evangelical Christianity has emboldened and validated the abuse of women, especially domestic abuse, by promoting the concept of “redemptive suffering[1].” In effect, Peter reminds Christians to follow Christ’s example during suffering to receive a reward from God (2:21-25). If a Christian suffers “well”, with patience, faith, without retaliation, God will turn that suffering around for a good purpose. Paul echoes that sentiment by stating that “God works all things together for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Unfortunately, the doctrine of redemptive suffering has been grossly misunderstood and misused in order to subjugate and perpetuate the abuse of women[2]. Women may be taught from a young age to meekly accept abuse, because all abuse is “the will of God.” A Christian woman may believe that she must suffer any and all domestic abuse in silence in order to be like Christ. She hopes that if she suffers “well enough”, then God will bring “redemption” out of her suffering. Peter’s teachings have likewise been twisted to say that Peter prescribed slavery as an acceptable practice, and that God wanted slaves to suffer in silence. The teaching of “redemptive suffering” must be carefully weighed in light of the whole of Scripture. At that time, women, children and slaves had few, if any, rights[3]. It must have been surprising that Peter addressed women and slaves directly in his letter (3:1-10). In actuality, Peter is reacting to the suffering that was going on, without prescribing or condoning this suffering. He points out that God will judge those who are abusing others (4:5-7, 17-18). Peter tells Christians to do their best to obey the law as it was then (3:1-10), even though Peter himself disobeys a legal order, telling him to stop preaching about Christ (Acts 4:18-20). Our laws today do not allow for any abuse of others. As Christians we are to obey the law as it is today, unless it directly contradicts Scripture. Christians are to follow the example of Christ, Paul, and Peter to call people into accountability (Luke 13:32, Matt. 23:27-28, John 19:11, Gal. 2:11-13, Acts 13:8 etc.). Holding others responsible for their actions is also a form of grace. There is even evidence that abusers were to be separated from the Christian community until they showed through their actions that they were truly repentant (1 Cor. 5:5). Peter’s teachings, it can be argued, refer to inevitable suffering, with no legal or human recourse[4]. Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen more than once (Acts 22:28, Acts 25:9-12). Paul also told slaves, “to get free if they could” (1 Cor. 7:21-22).  Paul and Peter were surely aware that the penalty for slave rebellion was crucifixion[5]. Peter, despite accusations of “disloyalty” to Rome, was not trying to lead a revolt against Rome. He seems to be encouraging and exhorting Christians on how to endure the suffering that they could not get away from. The doctrine of “redemptive suffering” should not be used as an excuse to abuse, subjugate or control another human being. Those who call themselves Christ followers must challenge, clarify and correct any misunderstandings of Peter’s teachings on suffering. How are we helping victims of domestic violence find help and hope? How are we confronting the abusers?

Peter’s message about suffering is not only still relevant; it is sorely needed in our world today. Social media is overloaded with images of the pain and misery, starvation, war, genocide, earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fires, mass shootings, extreme poverty, Ebola, AIDS and more. Peter teaches that some of this horror is caused by decisions that individuals make. Some of this pain is no one’s “fault.” Some tragedies are simply a part of living in a fallen world. Christ is, as always, our Example. Jesus left the comfort and plenty of heaven to enter into human suffering, including being hungry, thirsty, homeless, rejected and poor. He knew He would be condemned, tortured and killed. Yet He still came. Christ healed the sick, raised the dead, validated the outcasts, saved the sinners, fed the hungry and restored the broken, regardless of whether the suffering person “got themselves into that situation” or not. Christians are similarly called to enter into the suffering of others, to change a person’s destiny, regardless of what caused that suffering.

Peter and Christ both use the familiar imagery of “shepherd” and “sheep” to describe the relationship of Christ to the church, because this would have been something that most first century people would be familiar with. If this letter were written today, perhaps Jesus or Peter would use the imagery of a mother, who is missing a child. There is absolutely nothing she would not do to rescue her child. That mother would never give up fighting for the benefit and welfare of that child.

Christianity is unique in that we worship a God Who understands what it is to be human. Our God suffers. Likewise, Christians can still expect to experience persecution for their faith. Around the world, Christians are still being tortured or killed for their faith. In the western world, Christians can still expect some of the same persecution that is mentioned in the book of 1 Peter, including having their businesses boycotted, being ostracized for not participating in accepted cultural practices such as alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity, or to be verbally abused on social media. Christians must actively face unavoidable pain with joy, hope, service, faith and persistence. The Church worldwide still needs this poignant reminder that at least some degree of suffering is inevitable and HOW a Christian suffers matters. Joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive. Christians can still come through suffering stronger and more Christ like, trusting in the good character of God and in His plan.”

[1] Tracy, “Domestic Violence in the Church.” pp. 276

 

Please let me know what you think! Love Trisha

church-and-abuse

 

Yes I’m a woman in ministry, ordained in 2006. And I’ve done weddings, funerals, baptisms, visitation….you name it. I am totally ok with working on a large staff of mostly males. But I have noticed a few challenges that I think female leaders in a church, may face more often than their male counterparts. What do you think? Am I right? Here’s my top ten things only female ministers will understand:

1. Oh no. I wore a dress today. Wearing that lapel Mic is going to be rough.

2. I am going to have to take these gorgeous shoes off if this prayer line gets any longer…and not because of a burning Bush.

3. Too many crying infants in this sanctuary. I’m going to have to go feed my own infant during worship and before my message, just to be safe.

4. After being up most of the night with a sick toddler, teething infant, I’m here on time for work, prayer service (a miracle) and no, I’m not feeling overly sympathetic that you, dear young intern, are too tired for these early mornings.

5. If it says, “all staff should attend”/be copied,  YES that should include me too.

6. After a church tragedy/death, yes I will need extra time to meet with my all female staff, because one will start crying and then they all will. Then they will need to start verbally processing their thoughts, emotions, and talking it out, encouraging each other-hugging. But together we will pull through and get it all done.

7. Another envelope came in the mail for “Reverend Scott and spouse”. He’s an I.T. Guy. But he thinks it’s really funny.

8. In college, people actually told me, “Oh honey, you’re a Children’s Pastoral major? Don’t be upset. You’ll meet someone.” When I first started dating Scott, a psych major, I heard, “I thought you said you felt called into ministry? Why would you throw that all away?” Lol

9. I am stressing so bad about the upcoming pastoral staff retreat. I have to coordinate the kid’s schedules, write out instructions for the sitter , make sure all the kid’s laundry is done, Scott’s lunches packed, dinner meals frozen, schools notified, dog meds laid out etc etc etc

10. Why oh why didn’t I remember to wear waterproof!!!! I always cry when I’m baptizing. And I’m in the tank today! Oh Lord, please help me wrestle that really big dude back up out of the water…..

How about you? Are you a woman in ministry? What are your pet peeves, funny or tender stories? God bless, and thank you all, men and women, for the ministry you do!

Love Trisha

Here is a great parent, child activity to help teach gratitude in an increasingly ungrateful world.

I don’t know about you, but this year was a rollercoaster at times of highs and bitter lows. And it can become easy, to focus on the negative, or to take all the good in our lives for granted- to not realize the beauty in our lives until it’s gone. Our American culture at times pushes us to be entitled, without even realizing it. So this November, I announced to our family, that we were going to cover a wall in our living room with butcher paper, and every single day before bed, we would write at least one thing we are thankful for. I got a box of brightly colored markers and we set up the large wall of paper. At first I got a few lame excuses, “oh mom, I don’t know what to write…..this is so different” But even after the first night, everyone has been having fun with it. And the best part? We all have to walk past that wall so many times a day, and just seeing it, reminds us all how amazing God is. And I love seeing my kids stop to read everything on the wall before we thank God at the end of the night. That visible reminder of God’s goodness changes your view of everything else that day…..God tells us in His Word to be thankful, and grateful, no matter the circumstances. We are to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” in our homes, and we as parents lead the way. What has God done for you and your family this year? This is the perfect week to stop, remember and say, “Thank You Lord”.

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Today my grandmother passed away. Even though she was 90 years old and in frail health, you are never really “ready.” My memories of grandma are of a fiery, passionate woman of God who loved gum drops, root beer and Burger King. She had the energy of a hyperactive chipmunk after 4 monster drinks. She was so full of life (and orneriness) we all thought she’d outlive us all! At 80 years old she was diagnosed with cancer and the doctor told her she would need a permanent port because she was not going to survive it. She answered, “Well, just because you said that, I’m going to beat this cancer- just to spite you!” And she did. She was cancer free by 82. When I was feeling down or someone had been nasty to me, she would “preach” at me, “You get that chin up right now young lady. You’re a child of God! You are a Stevens!” Grandma had a great singing voice and was also a good shot at the shooting range. A few years ago I had the privilege of riding the Badger Ferry with grandma and my kids- we had a blast, even though Grandma sneaked her tiny dog on board and ate doughnuts the whole trip.

We are weeks away from Thanksgiving. And these holidays will be without grandma. You do not get to choose when you lose someone. You do not get to choose (sometimes) when a church transition happens. You may not get to postpone a heartache until January.

Some of my dearest friends are in the middle of fiery trials and ordeals right now. My heart aches for 2 of my friends who had major tragedies last week. Another of my close friends is in a gut-wrenching church battle right now. Perhaps you too are facing a different kind of holiday season this year.

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Several years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are hurting at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays uncertain.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha  and P.S. Grandma, I love you. So glad you made it home. I will remember to keep my chin up.

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