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noticing {stations}

wowzie. and, hello. it's been a busy few weeks and i've not had the chance to pop over here and share ALL that's going on. apologies. and, much, much love. 

so -- a quick update. the first week of october, we launched our brand-new-never-before-seen, custom, multicultural kidmin curriculum. THIS IS SO AWESOME. then, the same week, we launched our all new Everyday Spiritual Parenting class which includes new content, and a new approach {child development + faith development + practical parenting}. ALSO, AWESOME. the following week {yes, a breather!} we continued our Lunch + Learn series which is a monthly, mid-day lunchtime training session for the parents + volunteers who work downtown.


my takeaway from this month -- it's super fun to launch things! and, exhausting. especially, when they all occur at the same time. #lessonlearned

about the curriculum. it's been a challenge. of course. we were all well aware of the challenges when we made this nuts-o decision. but, now that we're implementing, it's nice to see a bit of the fruit. kids excited to come to church. kids repeating lessons to parents. kids interacting and engaging in deeper conversations. kids noticing + celebrating the differences between them. thankful, thankful. 

one thing i'm especially proud of is our new noticing station -- each sunday, we're including a noticing activity station {along with building, art, play, sensory} that helps children express who they see in the classroom, who they imagine is missing, and discuss their similarities + differences. we're working hard to build a culture of noticing {for kids + volunteers + families}, and this is a super practical and fun way to help kids develop the skill of noticing. 

for these first months, we're rotating between four activities at the noticing station:

{art supplies} encourage the children to look around the room and notice who they see at church. use the multicultural art supplies to draw on butcher people the people they see.

{toy people} encourage the children to look around the room and notice who they see at church today. arrange the toy people to reflect who they see at church.  

{paper people} encourage the children to look around the room and notice who they see at church today. use the paper people to create clothes for the people they see. 

{mirrors} encourage the children to use the mirrors to notice who they see at chruch. use the dry erase markers to draw the friends they see at church on the mirrors. 

AND then, YESTERDAY! just as i was beginning story time in the age 4/5/K class -- a girl asked if two of the teachers were sisters "because they looked exactly alike." they're not sisters; i assumed the girl asked because of their similar skintones. without judgment towards her statement, i replied, "nope, they are not sisters. but, i am really glad you noticed. you paid attention to who is here today, and that is great!" because, this is EXACTLY what we hope for as we show kids that church is a safe place to notice each other and ask questions, talk about who we see. 

ALSO! at the end of the lesson, i asked the pre-K kids to compare their skintones to mine. i gave them each a chance to put their arms next to mine, and notice if the color was the same or different. all were different -- some lighter, some darker. i then asked, if all of us were made to reflect God's image, why do we all look different? and without skipping a beat, a precious boy answered -- if we were all made the same, we wouldn't be able tell each other apart, and the world would be boring. SO. STOP. i mean. it's only week 3 of the curriculum, but this is very good.

for me, this is worth the extra effort of writing + creating lessons. so that kids notice each other, discover their interwoven-ness, learn that God's world is big and great, and as a result become leaders in their communities towards diversity + reconciliation + love. 

heart exploding. 


Pep Rally 

we're moving full-steam ahead on our new custom, multicultural curriculum launching this sunday. THIS SUNDAY, people. as per usual, i'm equal parts excited + nervous, and depending on giant mugs of coffee + the holy spirit to guide us home this week. 

there's so much to say about the new lessons -- if we were at a coffee shop together today, i'd tell you all about how God's spirit has been present and guiding us, and how it feels like a divine movement that's gaining steam each day while we do our best to keep up with HIS plans.

also, i'd love to tell you all about the amazing level of teammate-ness i've experienced, how the pastors and staff of our church have encircled this project making it their own, and how loved and cared for and inspired this has made me. and, i'd probably go on-and-on about our brand new noticing stations that help children see each other and take note of those in their classes who are present and absent, while acknowleding each other's similarities and differences.

there's SO MUCH TO SAY. but, more on all of that soon. i promise. 

for today -- the Promiseland Pep Rally. 

in an effort to inform + inspire our volunteers about the upcoming curriculum changes, last week we hosted a Pep Rally. it was our first time gathering the group together, and man-oh-man was it fun. we went full on crazy with the pep rally theme: concession stands, foam fingers & cowbells, a grassy stage, chairs set up as bleachers, and a hand-painted team banner. 

during the night, we shared: Vision -- Jesus-Centered learning and spiritual friendships for the sake of greater faith for children. Values -- Relationships, Global, Holy-Spirit Guided. 

post Pep Rally, as i was reflecting on the event, i realized two specific lessons i had learned: 

first, after sharing the curriculum specifics, i felt led to remind volunteers that it would take the efforts of us all to effectively pull off the curriculum for the kids of our community, and, if God was leading anyone to contribute deeper on the curriculum, that they bravely follow that leading. this was a RISK. everyone i was speaking to already serves in Promiseland and is committed to the mission, but i sensed God might be moving amongst them, possibly in unconventional ways, and wanted to be sure we created space for all to contribute.

sure enough, SEVERAL folks came up to me and emailed me afterwards letting me know they had experienced God's leading and wanted to chat more about how they might contribute to the curriculum development. SAY WHAT. lesson{s} learned. follow God's leadings, always. and never shy away from calling your best people to contribute more. 

second, diversity matters. technically, not a super new lesson. but, a VERY important reminder. i chose all women {4} to speak during the pep rally. even though the women were from various backgrounds, STILL, all women. our current volunteer team includes A LOT of men. so, it would have been fairly simple to include them. lesson learned. next time, maybe ALL men. can you even imagine how amazing this would be?! done + done.  

also, i showed a video that mostly included white folks. it was a really inspiring video, but as it was playing i felt nervous that it wasn't accurately reflecting our community. next time, something different. mindfulness, always. that's the only way we're going to get to something new.

that's today. a pep in my step from the Pep Rally. and now, back to writing curriculum. peace out.



it's the most beautiful day today in Chicago -- seventy, sunny, and magical. as always. it's possible today's morning prayers included a tiny request that God consider keeping the weather like this all through the year. we'll see. prayers of the people are powerful, right? and also, larry king says "if Chicago had LA weather, the whole world would live here." and, who can refute larry?

given that the weather is near perfection, it's the best time to start thinking about Christmas. at least in Chicago, we're all in good spirits. no snow, no freezing temps, no deep depression in our souls. all good. let's have some candy canes and sing joy to the world!

today, my fellow CM directors from the Willow Creek campuses are meeting together to brainstorm Advent ideas. in the past, we've all done our own things to make the season meaningful for the families in our communities, and this year, we're wondering if together we might create something great for all. i'm hopeful that even given the diversity of each of our campuses, there might be a central theme for families, and a simple way we can serve them this holiday.   

ALSO! regarding CHRISTMAS! last year, i was a part of this advent project. it was a ton of fun, and reached nearly 20,000 families. this year, my pal Matt had the genuis idea to create a physical book that families could read together during the season. and, to fund the book, he's launched a kickstarter campaign. because, he's MATT. that's how he rolls. entrepreneurly. intentionally. 

please, check out The Advent Book, and consider being a backer. i think i remember matt saying something about how he'd come to your house caroling if you gave the entire amount -- $5,000. so, let that be your motivation, if nothing else. {KIDDING}. 

BONUS! here's how we planned christmas last year. and, another great family christmas resource. so, that's how i'm kicking off Christmas today on this near-spring-like-day. you? 


{ramblings} on living from calling

so, here's something. last week, i was walking to church for an evening meeting, and as i walked in, i realized i felt a bit frazzled after trying to squeeze in errand-running and dinner before the meeting. it wasn't pretty. i didn't like how i felt, and wondered how i looked to others. which, led to this --

am i modeling a life that shows i'm living from my deepest calling? 

i love leading in the church. i love pastoring, and creating, and serving, and dreaming about the potential of our church. i feel called, and clear, and exactly where i'm supposed to be.

and also, i remember what it was like to not feel so clear. to feel confused and drifty about what God wanted for my career and specifically, how i could match my skills with the needs of the world. i really never imagined this would be the way my life would turn out. i had BIG plans for teaching in the schools. until those plans turned into a new direction, a leading, during my third year in college, to teach kids about God's great love in the local church context.

since then, it's been a journey of editing, tweaking, re-fining, re-shaping my calling. after working in the church for a few years, i taught in a head start school -- looking to inspire kids and encourage parents. after that, consulting, and church jobs, and curriculum. all the time, gaining more clarity that my purpose is to care and lead for the sake of spiritual growth in families and children. 

and, right now, in this season, i'm working in a job that exactly matches my purpose and skills. most days, because of the life-giving work i'm part of, i feel energized and excited and thankful. on the other days, i feel tired and busy and anxious. and, that's ok, too. that's real life, and i NEVER want to model a life, or show a false picture of what it looks like to have a career in the church, of perfection and all-the-time-happiness.

BUT, for those in my community who have not yet found their calling, or are not aware that using your life for the sake of the local church is a real calling, and job, and amazing way to spend your days, i want to show an authentic life that inspires them and possibly calls them to consider a new way of life and career. specifically, the women in my community. i want to highlight that gifts of leadeship, teaching, managing, strategizing are important and necessary in the church. 

i want my life as a pastor and church leader to reflect authentically what it really is -- the best way for me to spend my days, operating from my skills, genuinely helping, caring, and making a difference in the world. and, because doing that is not usually simple or easy or balanced or perfect, i'll be open about that, too. 

today, i'm mindful that others are watching. and, i promise to do my best to show that working in the church for the sake of children's faith is one of the greatest privileges and opportunities.

also: i like to write about calling, often. please excuse my broken record-ness.


on teammate-ness {from CM Leaders}

friday, i spent the day at CM Leaders -- a fantastic event designed just for those leading children + family ministries. because, it's always a good idea to step away from your own context and learn, connect with other leaders. the event is hosted by INCM, and led by this friend of mine. 

INCM is focused on 3 leadership arts: Develop, Lead, Disciple. i spoke during the Develop session, and shared on the topic i'm most being developed in right now -- becoming a better teammate to my peers. because, seriously, i'm a terrible teammate. 

a short summary of the talk: 

as leaders, somewhere along the road, we've learned that to be the best leader, we must be self-sufficient and keep our game face on at ALL TIMES. to show any real need for others, or to ask for help in leading is a sign of weakness and must be avoided at all times. 

sometimes, i’d chalk up my bad teammate-ness to being too passionate, too called, too focused on my work. how could i be bothered to look up and help my co-workers lead their ministries?

STOP. ridiculous. 

but, you know where that got me? exhausted. tired. a one-woman show. because when you’re a bad teammate, all’s you’ve got are people to lead, but no one to shoulder the burden with, no one to collaborate, and really, no one to make the ministry better because one person leading a ministry ever all totally alone is a terrible idea. always.

in the last year, as i’ve been leading at Willow Chicago, i’ve discovered that being a good teammate is a learned skill. and, is absolutely crucial to a successful ministry and a healthy life.

so, this is how i’m currently being developed. every single day. 

First, what do I mean when i say i’m developing into a better teammate? i mean that i’m learning how to collaborate with my peers (my fellow ministry leaders) with the intended goal of (1) aligning our ministries – in order to not cause unnecessary confusion for our congregation, AND (2) contributing to the overall goals and purposes of the larger church, and (3) sharing the weight and responsibility of leadership in my ministry. 

i’m experiencing something new. i’m being developed in a new way. my team shows me graciousness, care, and is committed to my success. in turn, they’re developing me, and I want to be more like them.

consider your teammate-ness. how good of a teammate are you to your peers?

Second, Patrick Lencioni. Always. The Advantage

teams should be like a basketball team – one that plays together simultaneously, in an interactive, mutually dependent, and often interchangeable way.

teams have: Collective Responsibility + Common Objectives, Practice Team Number One, Avoid Artificial Harmony, and Mine for Conflict.  

Third, what can you do?

Identify {your team}

Lean IN {go to them}

Trust {share with them, unfiltered}

Share the Burden {genuinely, shoulder it together}

Collaborate {create something great together, help solve each other's problems}

also: jesse's got some great notes here!