Don’t forget to celebrate
Partay! Celebrate! Raise the roof! Bake a cake! Hats and whistles! Balloons and flowers! Seriously, what is your “party-ability factor”? There is an axiom we live by in our ministry and at our church that goes like this, “Celebrate as hard as we pray!” That statement alone might be making you a little uneasy and you might even be tempted to turn to the next article at this point, but hear me out.
Ministry is serious business. I get that. We work very hard for a dynamic and glorious, all-knowing, all-powerful, magnificent God who requires laser straight, red-hot passion and obedience in order to do all the things He is asking us to do while being used to build His Kingdom. We pray hard, and we work hard: planning, answering emails, casting vision, talking, building relationships, building teams, writing curriculum, building sets, providing resources for parents, counseling … the list is endless. It can be very easy for us to stay in the “weeds” of ministry and go from one project to the next.
Right now, you are probably three to six months out in your head from the calendar that reminds you daily of all of your tasks. As I write this, we’re heading into the holiday season (which I know is a faded memory for you now, but I’m excited about the family, turkey and presents that will be visiting our home in the next few weeks), but my head is already thinking about March, Easter, end of school and summer camp. I am a hard-charging, 30,000’ level leader, always praying and thinking about new ways to reach kids and their parents. I can compartmentalize yesterday’s event and move on to the next project without skipping a beat. (I know! I’m pretty sure there is a psychological term for that, which some of my counselor friends could help me work through.) The downside to my hard-charging personality is that it is sooooo difficult for me to STOP and take time to enjoy and celebrate the beautiful moments—amazing ways God shows up and works in each of the big and little things we have done. So, I’m trying to live with this new axiom to celebrate as hard as I pray and charge.
Here’s my question: How do you celebrate all that God is doing? Do you recognize the huge answers to prayer? Or are you too focused on the day-to-day tasks that take your energy and lower your “party-ability factor”? Do you encourage your team and your staff to celebrate big and little things? Or do you simply check yesterday off the list and move you and your team onto the next agenda item?
God made it very clear throughout the Bible to point out that He enjoys a good celebration and party like the rest of us. You might even say that God (and I say this with the deepest respect and honor) sports the best, most nar mullet EVER … we’re talking business in the front and partay in the back! He instructed them to celebrate the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread which commemorated their grand exodus out of Egypt. This is a seven-day celebration people! When was the last time you partied for seven days? There was the Festival of Weeks to celebrate the Israelites reaching their final destination of the Promised Land. The Feast of Trumpets was about preparing for the Day of Atonement. The Festival of Tents (or the Feast of the Tabernacle) rejoiced that they were not living in tents in the desert anymore! And, the Feast of the Last Great Day celebrated a great year of celebrating!
The word “feast” in Hebrew is “mo’ed” and means an appointment, a fixed time or season. The word for “festival” in Hebrew is “chag” and is derived from the root word “chagag”, which means to move in a circle, to march in a sacred procession to celebrate, dance, to hold a solemn feast or holiday. If we really understand that God set specific times aside to remember Him, to rejoice over all that He had done, and to fill us with faith for the future, it seems like this should be a natural and rhythmic part of our lives as well.
So now that we’ve given biblical substantiation to bust loose and celebrate, let’s talk about the moments when we can add a little party punch and what that can look like. Because I’m a bullet-point kind of gal (remember the charger personality), here’s a small list of ideas.
- Child Dedication. You may or may not have the ability to do this, but instead of placing a rose on the platform for each new baby born or acknowledging the new parents and babies during five minutes at the beginning of a regular service, create an entire event for these new parents and children. Make it an intentional time to really speak into their lives and allow the parents and families to celebrate the blessing of this new little life. This is the first step for these parents as they begin to be the spiritual influencers in this child’s life. Set them up to succeed by making this as big a deal as baptism, graduation and marriage. We do this on a Sunday afternoon, complete with gifts, table decorations and cupcakes! A great resource for an event like this is available from the ReThink Group Orange store.
- We make this a huge deal! After a child has crossed over the line of faith, they are ready for the next step of baptism. We are committed to making these moments memorable for everyone. We make this day a big celebration by videotaping their testimonies and playing them as they enter the water. We also give them a special gift. This doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Just think about what kids like and put it together in a fun, colorful way. We created a “My Believer Bag.” It’s filled with an assortment of candy that we’ve attached little tags to with scripture—so cute and so easy and creates such huge smiles in every child. We even give these to our adult or student team members who are baptized and they love it, too! Encourage families to celebrate with a party or special dinner with friends and family. This is a BIG DEAL and begs to be celebrated!
Ministry WINS, Team and Staff
- Small weekly victories. How are you recognizing the little things, like the child who finally “gets” it, or a worship song that every kid joins in with? Make postcards that have your ministry logo on them or “Woo-Hoo” on the front of it. Send them during the week telling kids that you are so proud of them and love having them in your ministry! Do you recognize and send a welcome letter to first time kids? How about including a gift card or treat with it? (Apparently, I love treats, but kids do too.) Or better yet, a picture of them in the act of doing something fun and cool? Bottom line is that everybody likes to be noticed and every parent likes to know when their child does something awesome!
- You could not do what you do week in and week out without your team members. (We’ve eliminated the word “volunteer” from our vocabulary, but that’s a whole other article.) So how are you celebrating them? Find out their favorite things and randomly give them little gifts of appreciation (yes … coffee, candy bars, small books, movie passes). Just say, “Thanks, you’re awesome!” Celebrate holidays with a party! Get everyone together just to celebrate!
- They work hard, long hours to make ministry look very easy. After a big event celebrate with a special lunch. Bring in coffee and muffins from the favorite local bakery or send them a gift card to be pampered (such as pedicures, sports tickets, movie passes, date night coupon). Don’t forget to celebrate and recognize the unseen partners in your ministry either—spouses and kids who give up countless hours.
As one of my favorite new people, Bob Goff likes to say, “I used to think …”, I used to think this business of ministry was a serious, hard working, straight-faced, pious, prayerful kind of life. What I’m realizing is that it is all those things because there are people who are dying and will be separated from God eternally. But the God of the universe is the God who created baby giggles and new puppies, giraffes and sloths, who makes rainbows in the sky and dolphins to playfully jump in the water. He is the same Savior who produced 682 liters of the finest wine at a wedding feast and the God who instructed the Israelites to celebrate special festivals seven times a year for days on end. Our God loves us to celebrate Him and all that He has done.
So here’s to a good partay!
Celebration and VBS
- In the large gathering, throw out a giant beach ball for the kids to bat around. Each time someone hits the ball they must SHOUT out an attribute of God.
- Rather than spending time during VBS preparing for a closing program, invite parents to join their kids the last night for a hot dog feed with lots of outdoor games.
- On strips of paper, the kids will write encouraging phrases about our incredible God. Insert these into balloons and then inflate them with helium. At the closing of the last day, give each child one of the balloons. Pray over the balloons that they will be encouragement to just the right people. Then, go outside and release all the balloons at the same time!