The Gospel And Kids

I had the honor of presenting the gospel to 3rd-5th graders at a local camp here in Cincinnati.  Preaching the gospel to kids is always a difficult task because how do you make it interactive, how do you add an object lesson, and how can you help them understand such an abstract concept as following Jesus?.  I put several hours of prayer and thought into my sermon.

The kids paid attention so well.  They were engaged throughout the message and many gave their lives to Christ last night.  We put all of them in small group to talk about their decisions and for the small group leader to go more in depth with each child.  I don’t want to hold a child back from Jesus, but we want to make sure children understand the basics of salvation.

My hope and prayer is that they go home, get baptized, and their lives are changed forever because of what happened on the second floor of Woodland Lakes Camp!

20245639_10213961339209253_8108584359270089995_n

 

No Place Like Home

My family and I got to spend a few days in my hometown of Sevierville, TN.  Always a joy to come home.  We got to go to Cades Cove, Dollywood, the Petting Zoo, and ride the giant ferris wheel at the Island in Pigeon Forge.  We love the new build your own donut place and rolled ice cream. In between all of that time was spending time with my mom and dad.  My mom is in a rehabilitation center/nursing home.  I am working on getting her to stay permanently.  As you can imagine, that was a difficult part of our time away.  However, getting her in a healthy place is the most important thing.

19959013_10158961026705137_4708964427042446456_n19905322_10158962201830137_3856161223457584329_n20106813_10159005534680137_7497247638367566166_n19961184_10158961028025137_153165173096647722_n19959460_10158961026940137_9024557577097626844_n19884230_10158956254155137_8606202649944261401_n.jpg

Lessons from FC Cincinnati

FCC

Last night I stood among 33,000 people watching a soccer game for 120 minutes in downtown Cincinnati.  I confess:  I don’t like soccer.  I’d watch hockey and almost every other sport over soccer.  Yet here I was having spent $30 on a ticket, $50 on souvenirs, and $4 on gatorade standing for almost the entire 120 minutes of the game.  Passionately watching and caring about something that I had no interest in before.  I’d love to see them go MLS – why I don’t even know.  It is weird.

A historic baseball town become a soccer area.  A 2 million plus metro area with hardly any soccer lovin’ internationals has become soccer central for the USA – if just for a moment.

I think I didn’t love it because I’d never experienced it like that before.  The excitement of penalty kicks.  The fun of a full stadium all wearing blue, orange, and white.  The non-stop cheering from The Bailey.

This is just like the gospel.  People don’t love it because they haven’t experienced the power of God’s love and forgiveness.  They haven’t seen the excitement of a changed life.  They haven’t seen people from all backgrounds come together for a cause bigger than themselves.

Many didn’t think soccer would work in Cincinnati, but it has.  Many have given up on the local church and the gospel working in our area too.  It will work – people just need to see it.

Cincinnati Bengals Playground

18619990_10158640841685137_2953754548512729227_n

As a dad of 3 kids and a Kids and Family Pastor of a medium sized children’s ministry – I love playgrounds.  They are either free or cheap.  It gets kids and families outdoors.  They help improve balance, hand/eye coordination, motor skills, etc.  Kids nap better once they play hard on a playground.

This spring and summer I’m checking out playgrounds around Cincinnati.  I thought we’d start with a unique experience:  the playground the Marvin Lewis Community Fund, Cincinnati Bengals, and the United Way built in Cincy!

Name:  Hometown Huddle

Cost:  FREE

Age Appropriate:  Something for all ages including young teens

Water:  Seasonal outdoor pool (may have fee)

Where:  Ryan Memorial Sports Complex and is located at 3324 Meyer Pl, Cincinnati, OH 45211

What I LOVED:  The equipment is brand new and unique.  The obstacle course is age appropriate for 13 and above, but my preschoolers loved it too.  The turf on part of the playground is great for kids to fall on and not get hurt.  The gate around the playground is terrific because I never worried about my kids leaving the area.  The Play60 logo and Bengals themed areas make for good pictures.

NOT my favorite parts:  This playground is not easy to find.  Make sure you use a GPS.  The area around this playground probably isn’t the safest in Cincinnati.  I wouldn’t recommend going by yourself or at night, but overall I felt like it was safe enough.

Overall:  We stayed for about an hour.  We probably would have stayed another 30 minutes if a thunderstorm wasn’t coming through the area.  It was fun and I’m glad we checked it out, but I probably would not go back.  Too far away to frequent and my kids love other playgrounds just as much.  If my kids were older and loved football – I’d would make this a 2-3 times a year trip.  A young football fan will LOVE it way more than my kids.

Orange Conference 2017 Review

So many good messages throughout the day.  No one can possibly remember them all.  These quotes, thoughts, and websites stood out to me.  I know Jud Wilhite, Ryan Leak, and Andy Stanley all gave me a lot to think and pray about in my life.

Busy is the enemy of neighborly – Doug Fields

Instead of seeing busyness as a badge of honor, maybe we should see it as a sign of brokeness – Doug Fields

Something powerful happens when the neighbor who isn’t for the church realizes that the church is still for them – Jeff Henderson

Not the pace of ministry, but the weight of ministry that hurts – Judd Wilhite

Ask ‘how can I pray for you” – Ryan Leak

Jesus doesn’t want your help, he wants your heart – Bob Goff

equip leaders to be great where they are, not at the church – Ryan Leak

People brought others to the marketplace, weddings, and other non church places to meet Jesus – Ryan Leak

Only 8% of Jesus’ miracles happened in the synagogue – Ryan Leak

To reach outsiders, you have to go outside – Ryan Leak

You can download great preaching, you can’t download mentoring – Kara Powell

You can’t dismiss people and be in love with God – Andy Stanley

When considering your volunteer strategy remember that Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity

Create beautiful spaces – it tells people you were expecting them – Reggie Joiner

God never answers the question “How close can I get to sin without sinning” – Andy Stanley

You can’t be right with Jesus and wrong with others – Andy Stanley

If were not careful we will orient children toward keeping God happy  rather than loving people – Andy Stanley

What does love require of you – Andy Stanley

If you give the devil a foothold, he will turn it into a stronghold – Jud Wilhite

Want to know your community?  Government already did the job for you – factfinder.census.gov – Kara Powell

I will forgive and take the high road – Jud Wilhite

prodigalparty.com – Mike Foster (love this idea)

 

 

Christmas Hope at Waffle House

img952632

I share this not to brag about what we did, but an idea to bless others.

I grew up with one of my parents typically leaving on Christmas day to go work.  My dad would work afternoons/nights at a local hotel as a desk clerk.  My mom had a few jobs that required her to work the holiday.  Our normal Christmas was to open presents and then go to a restaurant for lunch.  My big Christmas meal was spent at Shoneys, IHOP, Chinese, or another local place that would be opened for the holiday.  When we lived a good amount of restaurants were opened on Christmas.

I often felt bad for the waitress or waiters that we had on that day.  They had to leave their family to come wait a table at Shoneys.  That never seemed fair to me.

As I’ve gotten older I realized that most of those folks needed those hours.  Many are getting the best tips they do all year long during those holiday hours.  Almost all are getting paid time and a half or even double time for those hours.  It is true that those businesses are making good money, but by staying open they are helping their employees not miss a significant portion of income that month.  It is also true that none of them want to work Christmas but most of them need to work Christmas.

About three weeks ago I was thinking of my holiday experiences and all those waiters and waitresses.  I knew I wanted to communicate to my kids how blessed they are that their dad and mom doesn’t have to leave to work at a job.  I  wanted them to know that we are blessed to be a blessing.

I asked Jennifer what she thought of going to Waffle House and giving our waitress a gift. I told her what I wanted to communicate to our kids and the opportunity to bless someone that was working on Christmas.  She loved the idea.

After opening gifts we loaded up the kids and headed to Waffle House.  It was total chaos.  The busiest I’ve ever seen a Waffle House and we’ve been during busy times!  They seated us quickly and we ordered our food.

We had my older daughter give the waitress a Christmas card with my business card and a $20 bill.  My wife started talking to her about her Christmas.  She has 3 kids and is expecting another in the next few months.  She was able to get the lunch shift so she could celebrate Christmas with her young kids early this morning.

My kids were crazy so I was thankful that we gave her a card with money and we tipped too!  It was a good experience and gave meaning to our meal.  My hope is that this also encouraged our waitress as she served today.  We try to treat others as we would want to be treated.  If I were giving up time with my kids on Christmas to work at Waffle House, I’d hope someone would bless me with good tips and cards.

Teaching Kids By Giving Presents

15267524_10157772781380137_1966957937810001455_n

I love this time of year.  Peppermint Mochas, claymation classic cartoons, pretty lights, and decorating a tree.  Almost all of us are doing something family oriented and trying to slow down for a few days to enjoy time with family.  One of the best things about Christmas is the opportunity it gives for family discipleship and missions.

At Connect we are doing a missions endeavor called Project Joy.  We’ve helping 9 families from Amelia, Ohio by providing Christmas presents and food for them.  We want each child to receive 4 presents on Christmas Day – something to wear, something to read, something they need, and something they want.  We want each family to receive a food box and a couple of grocery gift cards to help during this season.  In addition to that we are collecting movie passes and gift cards for these families to provide a family night out for them.

We divided up the needs and listed them on ornaments.  If someone just wanted to do a movie gift card – take that ornament.  If they wanted to provide an outfit for a kindergarten girl – there is an ornament for that as well.  Our hope was that this would allow everyone to take part in Project Joy.

Jennifer and I took 3 ornaments because we have 3 kids.  Normally I would take ornaments that are close in age to my kids, but we decided to take the ones that might be more difficult for others to do.  We want our kids to enjoy this and help meet the greatest needs that we can.  There is balance.

We took our family to Wal-Mart last night to shop.  I talked to them about why we were doing what we were doing.  I wanted my oldest daughter to understand that there are kids that wouldn’t receive a Christmas present if we didn’t help.  We have been given so much and we need to help others that are struggling this season.

We started by shopping for a book for a little girl.  We took our kids to the book isle and explained again this is not for them, but for a girl that is similar to their age.  Options are a kid’s enemy.  Too many options mean they can’t make a decision.  We narrowed it down to a couple of books and allowed her to pick.  Then we went shopping for clothing and shoes for the next kids.

When we left it was time for dinner.  We went to a restaurant and took the ornaments in with us.  These ornaments are made to decorate and the restaurant had crayons.  Our kids were able to color the ornaments while we waited on our food.  This was another opportunity to talk to them about our gift.

Our plan is to put the 3 ornaments on our tree.  These ornaments are a reminder of the three kids that we provided for this holiday season.  We are going to pray for these kids each night during our family devotional.

My hope is that this reminds our children that there are many kids in our community in need of food, shelter, etc.  We/They need to step up and help those in our area.  We are increasing their knowledge and understanding of poverty, but also planting seeds of prayer, generosity, and kindness in their lives.  Plus it is a lot of family fun!