The Children Shall Lead Them

This past weekend we had our annual children’s program.  In small-town church life, this is one of the biggest services a year.  I remember years ago, while church planting, when a good pastor friend of ours told us about how they focused on the kids.  Their yearly children’s program grew so much that they actually had to tell regular attendees to the church to stay away on the week of the program, unless they were working or greeting.  Can you imagine telling people to stay home or go to a neighboring church just so people who normally are not in church could have room.

Our service this year didn’t push people out of the building, but it was wonderful to see families who normally are not in church in the service.  It was great to see both parents of children, who don’t even live in the same town, putting aside differences and coming to worship and see their children.  One grandparent even told us how much they appreciated that we kept the focus on the story of Christ, and on the kids.  She said her own church had been making the services more about the adults and they were happy to see the children running the service.

Over the years of ministry I have had people help my wife with the kids and say how much they learn from the kids.  We are reminded in Isaiah 11 of when God will restore all things to the place it was before sin entered the world.  In reference of course to Jesus, verse 6 says “a child will lead them.”  However, many people play down children, or push them off to the side.  I am often reminded that we can learn a lot from children.  Especially, about peace, love, and faith.  After all, Jesus even said we should have the “faith of a child” (Matthew 18:3).

Never underestimate the power of your children’s program.  More important, never underestimate the power of God’s work through the children of your church.  You may be surprised by how much they can lead others to Jesus, and just how much you will learn from them.

Keep building your ministry to families on the whole family approach, which Jesus has for all of us.  May God bless your ministry Journey.

 

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Advice for the Small-Town Pastor, from a Small-Town Pastor (Part 2) : Evaluation & Prayer

By R. Duane Cragun

In last week’s article I spoke about the need for a small town pastor, (or any pastor for that matter,) to listen and learn from the people, to understand what it is that they see as a need and areas to be addressed in the church and in the community as a whole. This week we are going to go a step beyond learning and move to the next phase, Evaluation.

 

Once we have discovered areas to address in the church and its ministry then we need move on to the task of Evaluation.  In this stage of Evaluation, we start doing two things, both equally important.  We pray for guidance in evaluating our ability to meet said needs, and then we pray for His provision to make it a reality.

My pastor friend I mentioned last week was going through some difficult times trying to do everything he had been taught.  Yet, when I talked to him he seemed unaware of ether some basic needs of his church or community, or what resources he had or did not have to try to meet those needs. Listening was something he had not developed, so I asked him to do this for a month and then get back with me.  When he called back he was better informed about his situation, but was still unsure about how to work towards meeting these needs.  In his situation, a major need was developing a stronger and larger youth group. He said “What can I do, I don’t have a gym?” Guess what, neither did I.   When I tried to address getting kids off the streets, I also thought about structured activities, so I evaluated what I did and did not have. What I did not have was a Gym or large space, our little town did not even have a park in it. What we did have were several people that also saw this as a major need in our community, many of whom offered to help me in this cause. We also had a school with a playground which was to be used only for school activities.

So what did this evaluation lead us to? I took this the discovered need and facts about the high levels of young people getting into trouble in the community, and I shared these findings with the local School board, the American Legions and the local Sheriff’s Department.  What came out of this were the following things.

The School decided to partner with us in two ways: (1) They allowed us to rent the school’s gym and playground areas during the warmer weather, for a very small fee, and listed it as community involvement. They even waved the normal insurance user fees for us.   (2) They helped me advertise this once every two-week activity night within the school’s system.

The American Legion decided to help fund some of the cost for our community youth activities.

The local Sheriff’s Department would sometimes send an officer by, simply to work on building relationships with these kids that only saw them as the bad guys.

We had such a large positive impact that the local community store started donating soda pop to be given to the young people.

Members of the church came down and assisted at our activity nights.

Finally, the people went from being groups of people that happened to live in the same area, to a group building a community.

How did all happen? By evaluating both the need and how to best address that need.

No church can do everything, but with a great deal of prayer and evaluating the situation we can decide what we need to focus our efforts on and how to attempt meet that need. Like a very good friend, Dr. Jim Dunn used to tell me, “Keep the gold and get rid of the dirt.”  Discover what is needed and how to achieve the goals that the Lord gives you.  Through His grace, you can make a difference!

Purposeful Living: Lessons From a Leaf

By Duane Cragun
Today it was unseasonably warm outside so I decided to clean the gutters. As I was working I saw some of the few leaves left in the yard that had fallen from the maple tree out front. They were being blown around in a whirl wind. As I watched them, one of the leaves escaped its little vortex and landed by my feet, I picked it up and looked it. It struck me somewhat odd that something that was once green and alive, is now brown and dead. This caused me to look at the tree with its bare branches and think about how short time is. This very leaf was a sign of warmer weather coming last spring when it started to bud, and now here it is, in just a few short months, dead and gone.

What about our lives, are they that short? Most of our lives are usually much longer than that of this leaf, but how do our lives look to God? Are they short or long? Are they productive or wasted? Are we like this leaf, here today and gone tomorrow? If so how can one measure their own life and worth?

The thought came to me that it’s not the amount of time we are given in this world, but what we do with it. Think about all that this little leaf did during its short life time. It helped bring shade on a hot summer’s day, it gave protection from the rain and sunlight for the birds that nested within the tree, and it even helped make oxygen for this world. For something so small it has made a lasting impact, can this be said for us? Can anyone see that we have made things better for others?

You see, God made this leaf for a purpose, it had a job to fulfill, and so do we. We are called to be witness for the Lord (Matthew 28:19-20). This means to bring them the Good News of the Gospel, to share what we, as believers, have found with others.  This hope brings life and protection from the Lord and stops the plans of the Evil One in his tracks. Just as we saw the good that a leaf can do, so others need to see the good that we, in the power and grace of our Lord Jesus the Christ, can do. This is how we as believers should have our lifetime measured, not by how long we may live, but by how much we followed the will of the Father, and became good servants for Him.

Just like the leaf, one day we to will come the end of this life. The leaf does this by giving us a beautiful show of color before it ends, let us do it by giving the beautiful light of Christ for all to see, so we can brighten their lives.  Then, just as in the spring the tree is rewarded with new life in its branches, so we to will be given a brand new life that will never end. I guess you can learn a lot from a leaf

By Duane Cragun

A Living Part of Our Communities

I walk down the halls of the local school, and I think of the kids and families of my community.  We are not unique, but an average Mid-American rural community.  Yet, the people are important to me.

  My wife an I have lived just under ten years.  We have watched children grow up from elementary through college, and some we have known since they we a few hours old.  I substitute  in the local nd help our local Youth For Christ leader, and it is great to see how young people are comfortable with me many time.

I learned long ago in ministry that I have a much more interaction with my community, by simply laying aside so called planned evangelistic outreach, and living life with the people of my community.  It is my community, and that is a key to small town and rural ministry, it may take time but when you really become a part of the community ministry takes a Kore comfortable and open place.

I encourage any pastor moving into a small town to get with other ministers for support.  However, to minister to people you have to become a true part of the community.  You have to work and play with them in the everyday, and in time you will hopefully be able to show them Jesus in all you do.

          Blessings on your ministry journey