A Year of Smiles – Day 337: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #3 (Reason to SMILE #337): THE PAGEANTS

One of the craziest times of the year in children’s ministry is Christmas. The kids are antsy, ready for a break from school. They’re on a constant sugar high as a result of all the school, family and church parties. And their excitement level is through the roof as their days begin to fill with parades, breakfasts with Santa and all the festivities that lead up to the Big Day.

It’s a magical time of year. 😉

In the midst of all that chaos is the annual Christmas play. I once thought making a trip to the mall at Christmastime was the best way to kill a person’s Christmas spirit. Well, I gotta tell ya. Fighting the crowds at the mall is a walk in the park compared to corralling a group of hyperactive kiddos and keeping their attention long enough to learn at least one verse of a Christmas carol – just one, a short one. Five minutes. It’s all I ask!

Though frustrations abound, there’s nothing like seeing the finished product. Practices may have been crazy. Dress rehearsal may have made you rethink your calling. But seeing that rambunctious group of children standing proudly on stage, singing so sweetly and bringing SMILES to everyone’s faces is worth every hair-pulling moment of Christmas pageant practice.

The next time you enjoy a children’s Christmas program, don’t forget to show your appreciation for the director and other volunteers who worked patiently with those kids. By the night of the performance, these folks are tired and they could use a great, big dose of encouragement. Give hugs. Give SMILES. And maybe give a gift card for a day at the spa – no kids allowed! 😉



A Year of Smiles – Day 227

Reason to SMILE #227: SIMPLICITY


I often think I am too simple minded. When listening to the conversations of others serving in ministry, whether it be in children’s ministry, student ministry or pastoral ministry, I am many times awe struck and even a bit jealous. These ministers speak with such eloquence. Their words reflect great intelligence, an impressive education and a wide scope of sound reasoning. Then there’s me, shrinking into the corner of the room and thinking, “Wow! I don’t talk like that. Heck! I don’t even think like that! Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work.”

There’s nothing like being in a room full of fellow ministers to make me start questioning my calling! Ask each one what the requirements are for a successful children’s ministry, and sit back and listen. You’ll find that most everyone will have a list of six to eight, maybe more, foundational necessities that will guarantee the success of their ministry. Then ask me.

“Karen, what is the key to a successful children’s ministry?”

“Love.” The end. Next participant, please.

But, to me, it really is that simple. I could have the grandest of facilities, top of the line sound and video equipment, next generation check-in software, an abundance of committed and hard working volunteers and teachers and an engaging curriculum but if the children in my ministry don’t feel loved, accepted and welcomed, none of it would amount to a hill of beans. Love yields relationships. Relationships yield trust. Trust yields openness to the Gospel. Openness yields new believers in Christ. So, yeah. My answer is love.

We complicate so many things in life, don’t we? We especially complicate our faith in God. We call those complications religion! We argue over how one should dress for worship, what music should be played and what color to paint the walls. We debate methods of baptism, church organization or polity and styles of worship.  But, to me, simple-minded me, our faith doesn’t have to be that complicated. It really is quite simple:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.

Luke 10:27

If we can follow these two precepts, everything else will fall into place.

And I don’t know about you, but when my life has less complications, it’s a whole lot easier to SMILE!

A Year of Smiles – Day 221



• splendid celebration with ceremony and fuss

Tonight at Kids Central (the children’s ministry at my church), we celebrated the promotion of six of my kids to the youth department (The City). Each year, I make a huge deal out of this rite of passage by making the rising sixth graders wear graduation caps (made from construction paper and yarn), donning them with honors (a beaded necklace with a plastic graduation cap pendant) and having them march from the children’s hall up to the youth area to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The kids think I’m crazy! I think it’s fun.

Why not make a fuss over the promotion of these kids? It’s a big deal, especially to these 6th graders. For the past year, they’ve been itching to hit The City. They had reached the top of the pecking order in the children’s department. They’d been the top dogs, the leaders, and were beginning to feel a little out of place. To these kids, they are no longer kids and they’re ready to be considered a young adult.

I see it a bit differently! In my eyes, they’re still kids. Being in the youth group doesn’t change that. They’ll always be my kids and I’m going to miss them at Kids Central. That’s why I make such a big deal of their promotion. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of what they’ve learned in their time at Kids Central. I’m proud of their growth – personal, social and spiritual. And I know that The City will be a little brighter now that some of my kids are a part of it.

Okay. Now I’m making myself cry!

I can’t stop these kids from growing and I can’t keep them at Kids Central no matter how much I want to. Though I hate to see them go, I will continue to usher them into the youth group with all the pomp and circumstance they deserve. And I will SMILE as I watch them march down the hall knowing that God has great things in store for these kids.

I’ll also SMILE knowing what’s waiting on these new youth group members once they walk through The City doors: a clobbering with pool noodles, an attack with silly string, an assault of noise makers and all the fun stuff that comes with welcoming the newbies!

A Year of Smiles – Day 106


The story goes that a children’s department at a little church was fist-up-emoticonputting on an Easter play.  There were many children jumping at the chance to play the roles of Jesus and the disciples.  One little boy, however, had his heart set on being the angel at the empty tomb.  The Director wasn’t too sure about giving him the part, though. This little boy couldn’t sit still very long and was inclined to stirring up trouble.  He had never shown any interest in taking part in a church play before and the director did not want to discourage his enthusiasm.  So, despite her better judgment, she assigned the role of the angel to the eager little boy.

The role of angel had only one line but, as you know, this one line is vital to the Easter story.  When the women arrived at the tomb where Jesus had been buried, they were greeted by the angel which says, “He is not here! He is risen!” The little boy did not want to mess this up so he practiced every night before bed with his mother.  “He is not here! He is risen!” he’d tell her as she tucked him snugly into bed.  His mom would smile and tell him that he was going to be the best angel the church had ever seen.

Finally, the day of the Easter play arrived.  Everything was going smoothly.  The children were singing beautifully; they were standing on all the right marks and they were remembering all of their lines.  When it was time for the little boy’s scene, he excitedly moved into place.  The lights were cued and the girls playing the roles of the women traveling to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body walked up to the empty tomb on stage.  A spot light suddenly shown brightly on the angel which was the little boy’s cue to say his line.  There was nothing but silence.

A whisper from off the stage was heard feeding the little boy his line while the girls standing beside him were nodding their heads his way.  The little boy said nothing.  His mom who was seated on the front pew cleared her throat trying to get the boy’s attention to encourage him to say his line.  The little boy stood like a statue staring into the crowd.   The other children began to giggle and soon chuckles were heard all over the sanctuary.  What was the director going to do?

The director, recognizing the boy’s stage fright, knew he had forgotten his line.  She also knew that if the line was going to be said, she would have to say it.  But just as she was about to speak the first word, she saw the little boy’s eyes light up with excitement as if a switch had been flipped.  The director sighed in relief and sat back in her seat to allow the little boy to speak.

With a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye, the little boy turned to the girls standing beside the tomb and said, “He ain’t here.  He done lef’ out!”  And the congregation stood and cheered.¹

No matter how you say it, folks, the truth is just the same.  We serve a risen Savior today and that’s all the reason we need to SMILE.  Jesus is ALIVE!


Image by symbols-n-emoticons.com

¹I do not know the origin of the above joke/story.  I have taken a few liberties and embellished it some for this post. 

A Year of Smiles – Day 74

pirate_smiley_with_a_hook_hand_and_eye_patchReason to SMILE #74:DRESSING LIKE A PIRATE

How to become a pirate (or at least look like one):

Step 1: Watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for costume ideas.  After all, there is no greater source.

Step 2: Remember that your budget is not nearly as large as Disney’s budget.

Step 3: Search DIY costume ideas on Pinterest.

Step 4:  Remind yourself that you only have one day to pull the costume together.

Step 5: Grab a white t-shirt and a pair of black capris from your drawer.

Step 6: Two hours before the costume is needed, hit the local costume store for striped socks and clip-on hoop earrings.

(Step 6a: Vow to never wear clip-on earrings again!)

Step 7: Raid the church costume room for a red sash and head scarf.

Step 8: Don your pirate ensemble just minutes before your event begins.

Step 9: Strut your Pirate stuff like you’ve been putting this costume together for weeks!

You have now transformed yourself into a Pirate worthy of the Pirate name…. Okay.  Okay.  It’s not all that but at least you look good enough for a kids’ theme night at church.  You certainly look good enough to produce a few SMILES.  And that’s all that matters!


Image by symbols-n-emoticons.com