You-Didn’t-Have-To-Type of Experience

In my last post, I admitted my awe and love for everything Disney.  It’s mostly because they give you an experience you don’t want to forget!  Well few months ago, I got to experience something new at Disneyland.  As we were walking back to Main Street, we saw a crowd of people gathered around the Astro Orbiter.  I just assumed that it was just bunch of people walking in massive crowd.  What we came upon was a cast member dressed all in white holding a broom stick.  The head of the broom was all taped up.  My friend told me that he was probably a broom artist.  A broom artist?  What’s that???

When we got closer, I saw that pink and lavender rose petals were on the ground in a specific formation.  There were lots of people trying to take photos.  Once I made my way to the bottom, I saw that the rose petals were swept in the outline of Mickey holding balloons.  It just made everyone “oooh & aaah.”

Seriously Disney?  How do you manage to always come up with new experiences for people?  There will be tons of people who visit Disneyland that will never get to experience broom art.  However, for those that do, I bet they wouldn’t easily forget it.  Disneyland is already deemed the happiest place on earth.  They didn’t have to do another thing on the side to make this place feel better.  But they did… they added another WOW to the experience.  It seems so little, but it really wow-ed people.

My thought that evening… do we offer WOW experiences to our kids and parents that come to our church week after week?  It’s not that we have to do something magical every week… but it’s in the way we interact with kids and parents.  It’s in the way we welcome them.  It’s in the way we talk with them.  It’s in the way we show our love and care to them.  One parent told me that his daughter and son liked our church because we sent them postcards addressed to the kids, and they had never received postcards before.  Are we offering the type of experience that makes parents say “you didn’t have to…” to which we say “we wanted to”?

It’s In the Little Detail…

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Confession:  I really tried NOT to like Disney and his empire!  I mean, how much more money could he possibly take from all these families that just wanna have a good family time?  Although I lived about 35 miles away from Disneyland, I didn’t go for about 11 years because Disney was not gonna get MY money!!!  That money afterall can be used for something more useful!

Confession:  Disney this, Disney that… that’s all I kept seeing on facebook and blog posts; that’s all I kept hearing how magical and awesome everything Disney is… I secretly really wanted that magical experience again… so last summer right before Disney hiked up their annual pass cost to pay for Carsland, I broke down and got myself an annual pass.

Confession:  Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth… It’s seriously magical!  I’ve gone to Disneyland and California Adventure (DCA) 15 times in the last 10 months.  Not only am I having a magical time… but I’m learning a lot about what it means to create a magical experience for people.  I jokingly (actually I’m not joking) say that my church should pay for my annual pass because I’m learning so much and I’m doing so much research at Disneyland and DCA.  I’ve been thinking about few of things that I have learned, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it… I’m sure there is more to come…  but this one is one of my favorites!

Confession:  I’m a detailed person… I notice random things that most people don’t notice.  I absolutely FELL in love with this sign!  This sign is actually very easy to miss… You wouldn’t even notice it unless you were by the City Hall by the Entrance.  This is where people come for information, lost & found, etc… I love that this simple sign is from the perspective of a child… Who has ever heard of a lost parent?  Isn’t it always the kid that is lost?  Well, depending on whose perspective you take… “I lost my parents,” that’s what kids say!  Thus, lost parents!!!  I love that Disney pays attention to every little detail that screams “this is a place for kids!”  Disney truly is magical… and be warned that there will be many more posts regarding what I learned from the Disney empire!  I keep saying “Disney is gonna rule the world some day…”  I think I half-mean it!

why I don’t resolve every conflict for kids…

conflict resolutionLast week, I blogged about why I don’t make kids say sorry.  We don’t merely want to teach kids behavior, rather we want them to know how their actions affect other children and help kids grow in their spiritual formation even through conflict.  Similarly, I also don’t come to rescue every child who is upset or having conflict with another child.  Often times, kids are told to “tell the teacher” when conflicts arise with other children.  Of course there are times when an adult needs to step in.  However, what I see too often are kids who haven’t developed the skills to talk through issues with their peers.

For example, we have a big tv with wii hooked up to it on Sundays so kids can play outside of ministry time (we have a lot of kids lingering while their parents fellowship).  It’s there for the kids to play and enjoy!  But the problem is, only so many kids can play at once… and they’re not always good about taking turns.  Inevitably, I always have a child whining and complaining about how their turn was skipped.  I could make everyone get in line and take a number.  I could ask each child what their version of the story is.  Rather, I tell them that they need to figure out a way to make this work amongst themselves.  Our game supplies are a privilege we have through generous donations.  It’s not our right… thus if they can’t figure out how to play together and take turns, then the privilege will be taken away.  I would say, 8 out of 10 conflicts that are brought to my attention are something the children can resolve on their own.  When it’s appropriate, we also take the time to discuss this teachable moment.  We talk about how our faith and obedience to God plays into our decisions of resolving conflict.

The truth is… we do ministry to kids and family because we want to guide them to learn about God and love Him more and more… but when you’re doing life with the kids and families, every day stuff just comes up!  If we’re not applying biblical principles to our every day life stuff, then our ministries become irrelevant!  Thus, ministry isn’t just about our Bible lessons… but it becomes about applying our Bible to every day stuff–including learning conflict resolution skills!

Why I Don’t Make Kids Say Sorry…

Whenever I talk about discipline in my children’s ministry workshops, I share that I don’t ever MAKE kids say sorry.  Of course, I get few “are you crazy?” looks from parents and other children’s workers.  The reason?  Well, consider following scenarios:

  • a boy bites a girl; he says “sorry”; she cries; he hits her again; he says “sorry”; he hits her again; he says “sorry”; etc.
  • a girl hits mom; she says sorry; mom gets upset; the girl yells “but I said SORRY!!!”

What does the word “sorry” mean to the boy and the girl in the above scenario?  What I hear is… “as long as I say sorry, I can do anything I want.”  In both scenarios, the boy and girl are only 2 and 3 years old.  From very young age, our kids are being conditioned to behave in certain ways (what some might consider the social norm).

It never fails.  Every time I’m with a group of children, one child runs up to tell me how another child hurt his/her feelings or one of them will burst into tears.  Conflict among children is normal.  It’s part of growing up and learning how to manage conflict.  Too often, I see adults stepping in, making the offender say “sorry,” making the other child accept the apology (even if it’s insincere), and life goes on as usual.  It may seem the conflict has been managed on the outside… but what did we just teach these kids?  We merely taught behavior… and didn’t get to heart matters.  And we did not teach kids to manage conflict in healthy ways.

When I do have to step in… I ask each child why and how:

  • Why did you do what you did?
  • How did you feel when the other child did that?

We talk… then I proceed to ask “what would you like the other child to do now?”  “What would you like to do?”  “What do you think God thinks about this situation?”

To be honest, it’s not always pretty. Sometimes, all that needs to be said is “sorry,” and we can go on.  Other times, we don’t come to a resolution.  One child may say “I want him to say sorry.” But the other child might refuse to say “sorry.”  But once again, I believe this is part of life… sometimes, apology doesn’t come so easy.  Sometimes, conflict isn’t resolved in 5 minutes even if it’s just over legos.

I believe this is what spiritual formation looks like… when we hit heart matters rather than behavior.  Conflict is a big part of a child’s life… and guiding them to resolve conflict in healthy, Christ-centered ways is helping them to grow spiritually. By the way, I also don’t resolve conflict for kids–that’s another blog in the works!

I couldn’t resist including this awesome apology letter from a child!  I think this sums up exactly what I’m talking about!

Apology Letter from a Child!

Great Small Group Leaders for Kids…

I’ve been on a crazy RECRUITING mode for the past month!!!  Launching a new ministry and not knowing people has been a big challenge in terms of recruiting KidMin & youth leaders… I usually have no problem approaching potential volunteers, but when you don’t know who the potentials are in a sea of hundreds of people, it’s been a real big challenge.

I’ve had some GREAT conversations with few that are seeking to serve in KidMin or Youth… and I’ve been emphasizing over and over that their role isn’t to “lecture” and “transfer information.”  However, their role is to help foster and further explore and develop our main lessons so the kids can own what we talk for their lives to be transformed… that means they have to facilitate relevance, experience, exploration, and investing in the lives of kids…  I feel like I’m becoming a broken record (some of you are asking, what’s that?  look it up!), but I truly believe in this with all my heart…

Today, I came across this great blog regarding 3 characteristics of a GREAT teacher, and it really summed up what I was thinking… so of course I had to share!

It’s in the Details… and Customer Service

I spent the day at the Happiest Place on Earth on Monday for my friend’s bachelorette party (yes, she’s a young kid at heart)!  I was reminded why Disneyland is such a happy place… IT’S IN THE DETAILS!!!  Some people may not even pick up on them, but the effort they took to pay attention to every detail is just absolutely amazing to me!!!

My birthday button from last year!

Disney is already a fun place for the whole family… but they go the extra mile to to make it even more fun!!!  My bride-to-be-friend’s mother joined us, and it happened to be her birthday!  So of course we got her the “Happy Birthday” Disney button!  And in true Disney fashion, every cast member that saw her wished her happy birthday!  Those simple words and recognition put a huge smile on her face!  I had a similar experience last year.  I had dinner at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando on my birthday last year… and when our waiter found out that it was my birthday, he came back with a phone because there was a message for me!  Goofy wanted to wish me a Happy Birthday over the phone… and also gave me dessert covered with Mickey Mouse sprinkles!  Seriously… talk about details!!!  I was giddy like a child!

Mickey Sprinkles

If you didn’t know, Disneyland is filled with Hidden Mickeys!  If you’ve never heard of Hidden Mickeys, you MUST check this out!!!  So of course I’m standing in line looking for Hidden Mickeys!  How fun!!!  When you go to CarsLand, you see every little detail from the movie!  I almost felt like I was in the movie!  When you buy snacks and specialty drinks at Cozy Cone Motel, they come in orange cones or upside down cones!  DETAILS!!!

The bride-to-be’s sister had a mega-stroller for her baby, and cast members would help lift it as needed.  When they ran out of strawberry frozen lemonade, they told us exactly where to go get one.  CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!

Even if I want to hate this place, it’s really hard to do so… because so much of what they do just makes me smile!  As we talked about how happy this place was and how amazing their customer service was, I just happened to say “I think church experience should be like that…” and all in unison everyone said “YES!”  Not that we need to transform our ministries into Disneyland, but pay attention to the details and customer service!  I’ve been thinking about this… and I’ll do a follow-up post on some ideas for KidMin!!!

Minnie in the lab at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Mickey leading the parade at Disneyland

Fail-Proof KidMin…

I started my current ministry back in February.  I was hired to start Children & Family Ministry from scratch at our new multi-site campus.  This multi-site is different in that we will not be duplicating current ministries… but our new site is going to look different to meet the needs and reach people who we’re not currently reaching.  It almost feels like a church plant in a way.  So the past few months have been filled with meetings to plan and prepare for this launch that will happen in the fall.  I have also been trying to meet and get to know as many people as possible.  One of the overwhelming part of this whole experience has been that my reputation has preceded me… and they already have a specific perception of who I am and what I am going to do.  Few conversations have gone like this:

People:  Oh, so you’re THE Pastor Gloria… so we have heard so much about you.  We heard that you’re going to change everything, and it’s gonna be awesome.

Me:  Oh.. nice to meet you.  I don’t know what you’ve heard… I’m not here to change everything… but just to do my best to have the best children’s ministry we can.

People:  We heard that you’re gonna reform children’s ministry… and you’re gonna do all these new programs and stuff…  Is that a rumor?

Me:  Hmmm… I wish I was a miracle worker… but what I’m committed to doing is to help kids connect with Jesus, and love Him more and more!

So you can see the progression of countless conversations like this…  I’m flattered that people think I’m that good (which makes me cringe on the inside…) and scared that people have such high expectations of this ministry I will be launching!  Man, it’s A LOT of pressure!!! I wish there was a fail-proof formula to doing Children & Family Ministry… but we all know that  there is no such thing!  In fact, there are so many variables… what may work gloriously in one church may not work for us.  We need to take into account the context, dynamics, and culture of the church… yes, I believe we can have a bit of control over these… but not 100% control.  I will be honest–I’m scared of this not working out so peachy (at least in the areas I’m overseeing).  This is where I need to be good steward of what is entrusted to me, and do my best to create the best environment for the kids, parents, and volunteers… but ultimately it’s up to God to make this ministry happen!

Recently in my conversation with friends, they reminded me that Jesus often used parables and illustrations that deal with gardening, farming, plants, and agriculture rather than carpentry, which was His job.  If you’re familiar with gardening, you don’t have full control over how your plants grow.  All you can do is to give it what it needs:  appropriate amount of sunlight, water, quality of soil, necessary pruning, etc… All you can do is give it the best environment you can, but you can’t make your plan grow to your liking!  Wow–how profound (it was to me at the time)!  In the photo above, I planted 2 calla lily bulbs… I got them at the same time from the same nursery… they’re even in the same pot.  The bulb on the left bore a lot of leaves.  In fact, it started growing so fast that I thought it was going to flower first.  However, the bulb on the right grew slowly and steadily and birthed a beautiful burnt orange calla lily!  I’m still waiting for the other one to flower!  They both had the same amount of sunlight, water, same soil, and same TLC… but to my dismay, only one of them is growing tall and beautiful…

In the same way, I think ministry is the same way… No matter how much we think we have control over people, we DON’T!  No matter how much I dream of kids becoming perfect children that love and obey Jesus all the time, it’s out of my control… I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:6

“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

God is the One who will make the kids grow… not I!  My job is to do my VERY BEST to create the best environment for that growth to happen… so there is NO fail-proof Kids Ministry… but I’m trusting in God!  And I look forward to what God will do in and through our new ministry as it launches with excitement!!!  In the meantime, you can see another success/failure of another plant I planted–one bulb on the left just died while the one on the right is slowly steadily growing!