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Family Dojo

Back in January I got to hear Mark Scandrette talk about his faith community in California. I was captivated by what he had to say about the Jesus Dojo and decided to attempt something similar with our families at church over this past summer.


We decided that on Wednesday nights we would have “Family Dojo.” Dojo means “way of life.” We wanted our families to center their way of life around the teachings of Jesus. To do this we looked at short passages from the Sermon on the Mount, shared in some discussion then experimented with what it would be like to live those passages out during the week. The response was varied. Some families found it natural to “experiment” in this way, others it was forced. I wasn’t bothered by this since the goal was simply to discover practical ways of living out the ways of Jesus. If it proved difficult for families, then perhaps they were able to reflect on what may need to change about their family rhythm. Families that found the experiments fitting naturally into their lives said the kids would remind the parents of what they were supposed to do!

Below are links to the short devotionals I put together and offered to the families.



Volunteer Strategy – Part 2, Step 1

Kid FirstLast week I posted Part 1 of the volunteer strategy I have begun to implement at 4th Avenue. Part 2 was mostly in place already but now with every volunteer position mapped out and role description created, the fun begins. Getting people invited into a position which will grow their strengths in ways that will both allow them to move into their next level of leadership as well as help children to follow Jesus. Part 2 has two steps. (Remember, I am trying to think small!) Step 1 – Apply, Step 2 – Get connected.

I researched a number of different volunteer applications before arriving at a revised version of Jim Wideman’s. I decided that if we were going to go through the trouble of asking volunteers to take the time to do this, it ought to be thorough. The application includes, personal contact information, desired ministry involvement, personal history (more on this below), church history, reference forms, background check, and a section for them to describe their spiritual journey. We have met some resistance from individuals as to why this is all necessary.  I decided to write Volunteer Approval Letter that would be handed out to anyone who applied. I plan to revise a copy of it to serve as an explanation for those who have doubts in hopes that it will alleviate their concern.

The “personal history” section invites the applicant to go into detail about a lot of personal details including history of psychotic disorder, drug/alcohol abuse, criminal history, etc. In the form we provide a place for the applicant to indicate if they would prefer to discuss the sensitive responses in person as well as to describe the measures they have taken to limit the negative impact of their past in their daily life (counseling, etc.). We feel knowing these things is important because a history that has not been addressed adequately could put a child at risk.

Since the form is somewhat lengthy, we use a web service called Formsite. When volunteers enter application web address, they are encouraged to create a username/password so if they leave the form they can return with their data saved.  As they complete the sections mentioned above, their information is stored on the website’s secure server.  Once they click “submit” I am emailed a copy of the completed form. I create a file for each volunteer and store their information. Since they have completed within the form a section on references, each reference they have listed (name, relationship, and email address) is automatically sent a link via email to another form I have created specifically for references.  The reference completes the short form, clicks submit and the form is automatically emailed to me.  The background check information is sent to our administrative assistant to enters it into our background check service and she gives me a copy of the results.

I feel it is a very smooth process and have not experienced any kinks in it as of yet.  Step 2 of the process will need to include some sort of spiritual giftedness or strengths finder tool for all our volunteers.  I am thinking this may be something that will need to be implemented later but I may do some beta testing on my leadership group.


Volunteer Strategy – Part 1

Today I completed a major piece of the puzzle for the Kid Ministry strategy at 4th Avenue. Every children’s minister I have ever talked to has lamented over the volunteer situation. Occasionally you will hear an incredibly enthusiastic speaker at a conference who seems to have it all together with no volunteer recruiting issues at all. I often will sit back and wonder how do I get from where I am at now to where they are calling me? My typical response is to grieve for a while then try to formulate some grandiose idea that will revolutionize the volunteer work force at my church. This is usually short-lived as I soon realize I have bit off more than I can chew.

My biggest personal hindrance as a minister is that I have a hard time thinking in steps. I try to swallow the elephant in one giant chomp, instead of little bites at a time. This is why I feel like I have accomplished something major in the last week or so.

For the first time since I arrived at 4th Avenue, I have a Volunteer Chart that identifies EVERY volunteer position in the children’s ministry along with the vacancies AND an accompanying “Volunteer Catalog” that clearly articulates our vision for the children’s ministry and a job description for every role. The goal, of course, is to be able to look at a glance at how we are staffed with volunteers to accomplish our vision to

“Grow kids who LEARN, LOVE, & LIVE to follow Jesus.”

We had a strategy for how to reach the children, now we have a volunteer map that identifies who is needed to accomplish it.

As I have shared this project with some of my kid minister peers, most of them have asked if I have a policies and procedures manual. My response has been that it does not make any sense for me to have something like that if I do not know the scope of people that will be relying on it. The volunteer catalog and chart are pieces that will help to comprise the manual. Thinking in steps. The next big piece is helping the volunteers we invite into the ministry to align themselves with the vision and complete our application process. Another huge step.


Kid Ministry Time Fillers

At Fourth Avenue we often have some extra time at the end of our children’s church and need to fill the time with an activity or two until the parents come to get the kids. 

Here’s what I am curious about:
1. What do other children’s ministers find to be a useful way to spend that time?
2. Where do you gather ideas for what to do?
3. What sort of burdens do you feel as you try to fill the time? (Do you feel the need to review the lesson, use the time for “holy” activities, etc.)

Thanks for commenting!

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