Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Do I Have To Check My Child In And Out?

In July 2007, we implemented a computer-based check-in and check-out system, called Parent Pager at our Pelham Road campus, and have since implemented it at our Powdersville and Downtown campuses. Previously, our attendance tracking consisted of a printed roster attached to a clipboard in each classroom. Parents would sign-in, and then a volunteer administrator would check the numbers during the service. There are a number of advantages to our electronic check-in/out system, over the old system, including:
  1. Security. Each weekend, we have over 600 children on just the Pelham Road campus, around children at our Powdersville campus, and around 150 children at our Downtown campus. We cannot expect every volunteer, and especially not classroom substitutes, to know every parent and adult who is authorized to pick up every child. We have never had an issue of someone trying to get a child that he or she is not authorized to pick up, but we want to be proactive in this area, since we are growing so fast as a church.
  2. Safety. Accurate tracking allows us to be able to find a child quickly in case of an emergency. Additionally, we can add comments to the child's information if their parents are serving, so we can find them if needed. The photographs can help if we need to find a parent in the worship service. And we can easily update and identify allergy information with this system.
  3. Parent-Teacher Connection. Soon after we began using this system, we received a comment from a veteran Camp Grace leader, who said that with this system, he's met more parents in a few months, then he had in the few prior years. Parents have to bring their child to class (versus letting them go on their own), which giving an opportunity for the Small Group leaders to meet and talk with them.
  4. Class Sizes. With Parent Pager, we can set maximum numbers on each class. In the past, we've had preschool classes with up to even 18 kids, which creates a less safe and less meaningful environment. Additionally, because we can close classes, most of any bit of 'chaos' is focused in the main hallway, not near the classrooms.
  5. Administration. It is now much easier to update class rolls (just a few clicks of a button). Tracking attendance requires much less man power. Three years ago, it took a staff person from 8AM until past lunch on Mondays to count up all the numbers and enter into a spreadsheet; now, we can run a report in just a few minutes, and the numbers are much more accurate. Being able to accurately track numbers helps us to plan for growth.
 If you have questions, please leave a comment or email us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kairos Internship Reflection - Caleb Phillips

"How was your summer?" "What did you learn this summer?" "What was your favorite part of the summer?" These are all questions being thrown at me left and right as the best summer of my life draws to a close. My summer as an intern at Grace has been, as I describe it in my response to the above questions, "beyond words." I couldn't begin to put into words an adequate description of what I have learned and experienced this summer, but I am going to do my best.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at Grace on Pelham May 21st for the first official day of Kairos. I walked into a room of more than 20 people, knowing only 3 of them, then sat down behind a notebook and stack of books. I was completely clueless on what was about to hit me. I was quickly made aware that I would be serving with Children's Ministry, Fusion, AND 24Seven. After receiving multiple calendars and schedules from my ministry leads along with several meetings, my first day was over. The first week of my internship felt like pouring the Atlantic Ocean into a five-gallon bucket.

Ten weeks later, that first day feels like yesterday. The task lists have been completed, and the summer calendar has come to an end. My feelings were mixed as I thought about moving out of my host home and returning to college life. This summer, I learned more about myself, the church, and about the Lord than I could ever have imagined possible in a ten-week span. Through my experiences this summer, I have learned who I am and who I am not, who God is and who He is not, and what the church is and what it is not.

I found out very quickly this summer that I am even dumber than I thought I was! I can remember walking out of class after hearing Bill White or Matt Williams teach, and having nothing left in the tank to even begin my day. My brain was fried from having everything I believed in questioned and challenged, but it only took a few short days to realize how great of a blessing this was. I realized how important humility is to the learning process through the classes and teaching. The idea of me being under authority and being transparent played a huge role in the formation my view and striving towards humility.

My view of who God is has been transformed as well throughout the summer. I realized it's not in my job description to understand everything about Him. He is greater than I try to make Him to be, and His love is beyond comprehension, so I should praise Him for choosing to love me instead of trying to earn or understand that love. Nothing I do can rid God of His supreme sovereignty, and that gives me a peace beyond measure.

In one of the first Kairos classes of the summer, Jeremy Keever talked about what the Church is and what it isn't. My idea of the Church (little "c" and big "C") had been formed or deformed by my Southern Baptist upbringing and the Southern Baptist University I attend. It was refreshing and encouraging to be immersed in a gospel-centered and biblically oriented church with such a strong heart for community. These three aspects were absent from any church I have ever been a part of, and are my foremost motives in pursuing my membership at Grace.

I am thankful for Grace Church and the people who made this internship possible. I am excited for the momentum gained this summer, both in my life and in Grace Church, and I am looking forward to what God has planned for the future.

- Caleb Phillips, Children's Ministry Kairos Intern

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kairos Internship Reflection - Katie Horton

One of the questions I get about once a week is, "How is your internship going?" I know that in a couple of days, that question will be a past tense question, and I'm just going to have to embrace that. But for now - I never really  know exactly what to say. Don't get me wrong, the internship has been fantastic and life-changing for me. But how do you describe to someone a time in your life where the Lord absolutely rocked you? It's been hard to describe to others the growth and changes that have occurred when I am still trying to figure it all out myself. It hasn't always been easy to learn what I have about myself, and the areas that I need to grow in, but it's great to walk through that in a safe environment.

I guess the best way to share this with others is to pick a few things that I have been learning. I know that I spoke to this to some degree in an earlier post, but I feel like I could easily spend hours telling people about my internship.

From Children's Ministry, I learned the importance of doing behind the scenes work. In the past, most of my ministry and service has been up front and visible, something I have loved. This summer, however, my role in Children's Ministry was the opposite of that. I spent my days in the office cutting paper and prepping for bin stocking each week. It took me a while to realize how important this part of ministry is. It was good for me to see how much prep-work has to be done in order to have Children's Ministry run each week.

From Student Ministry, I learned that stepping outside of my comfort zone is a good thing, and that I need to do it more often. I'm an Early Childhood Education major, so hanging out with children is something that I am familiar with and am gifted in. Hanging out with middle- and high-schoolers, however, is a completely different scenario. As uncomfortable as it was for me at times, I quickly learned that Student Ministry is something that I love and have a passion for. Those students taught me far more than I taught them, and demonstrated a passion for the Lord that encouraged me greatly. I'm excited to get to hang out with them some this year!

I learned the importance of really digging into and studying the Word. Typically, when I would read scripture, it would be a surface level reading and I didn't really have much of a desire to understand the context behind it. However, in class we have learned the importance of understanding scripture in its context. I've learned that in order to enhance my understanding and application of scripture, I should first look at how the original audience would have interpreted it.

From my co-workers, I learned about community and how necessary laughter is. If you haven't spent time with the interns yet, it's a shame. They are some of the most hilarious people I have ever met, I ten to take myself and other things way too seriously, and need people to make me laugh about situations and life, and stop stressing about things. I quickly learned that it was hard to take yourself seriously around them, and that I needed to lighten up and laugh some more. At the same time, however, it's not just fun and games. In class, I learned they are also incredibly wise and knowledgeable about the Bible. They taught me so much and really helped me walk through what we were learning, and what I was going through outside of work. I can't explain how grateful I am for their friendships, and I truly hope that they will continue as we all go our separate ways. They have been incredible community to me, and a huge blessing this summer!

On a practical scale, I learned how to work under different types of management. I have never had a "real" job before where I report to people and have assignments that I turn in, and so the whole experience was an adjustment. Because I was split between two different ministries, I was switching gears between different managing styles and environments. I had to learn how to multi-task, prioritize, and work in different settings. There were times when this was difficult for me because I like to zone in and focus on things, but I know that in the real world, that is not always going to be the case. It was good for me to gain some practical skills in a setting where people are gracious and are willing to walk through things with me.

I am so thankful for the experience that I have been able to have this summer. I know the things that I have learned about scripture and about myself are things that have changed my life in a way that I can't even describe. Not only am I leaving with knowledge, but I'm leaving having gained a community and a church family. As sad as I am about Kairos ending, I know that I have been well prepared to head out into the world to minister to others and spread the Gospel of Christ.

- Katie Horton, Children's Ministry Kairos Intern

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kairos Internship Reflection - Michelle Phillips

Being a Kairos intern this summer has definitely changed my life in more ways than one. I had certain expectations coming into this internship that came with their own set of worries and concerns. As early as my first full week working at Grace, they were exceeded by a level I never thought possible. My first day was very intimidating seeing all of the tasks and meeting eighteen other fellow interns, who would soon become some of my new closest friends I hope to stay connected to for years and years to come. I have made so many memories and changes in my life that have given me a sense of excitement for what the Lord has next for me.

To debrief my summer with Kairos, I want to share what I have learned about the Children's Ministry and the staff that works there. I have a great appreciation for what the Children's Ministry staff does. Before beginning my internship, I could never imagine the hours these people put into the children at Grace. From an outside perspective, the staff seem to have tons of fun, including doing fun skits and making crafts with your children, but it is so much more than just that. Although the Children's Ministry office is one of the most fun offices I have worked in, it is also a very hard-working and intense place. One of my main projects this summer was doing a lot of organizational and administrative tasks to get ready for the Camp Grace Summer Camp for 3rd & 4th graders. I couldn't imagine that the staff did all of the work I was participating in. It took me hours to create a simple driver's list, only for it to get revised seven times, even the day of camp. This was very frustrating to me, but seeing the way the staff handled this and similar situations was very humbling and encouraging. I was constantly reminded by the staff's words and quiet actions that we are here working to glorify our Almighty God and spread His Word to the young hearts here at Grace Church. As for me studying Elementary Education, I hope to incorporate this work ethic and love for my future students. All in all, it has become very apparent to me how important and vital of a role the Children's Ministry and its staff at Grace and any church plays in its foundation.

A few other things I learned throughout the summer about myself and in a work-related situation are organizational stills, to trust and obey, and a goal of furthering my dependence on God. Firstly, to tie into the many tasks I was involved in this summer, came a necessary skill of organization. I am a pretty neat person all around, but working in the Children's Ministry required a new form of it. I had several tasks from people with due dates that I had to manage and balance. It was very helpful to see the staff work. The way they managed their time, relationally, in the office, and with children was very helpful for me. Secondly, I learned something I was taught before - to trust and obey. I was faced with several challenges this summer I never thought I would have to face, and I was forced to trust and obey God in those times of controversy. No other source could help me with my trials except my Lord God. A verse that a good girl friend shared with me this summer was Isaiah 54:5, "For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven's Armies is his name!" I found a great amount of comfort in this verse because it gave me a reminder that God is eternal and will never leave me, so He should be my focus and the One I place my trust in and submit to. Finally, another area I learned a great deal about this summer that goes hand-in-hand with trust is a goal I have of completely being dependent on God. I know that it is hard to accomplish, but I am excited for my journey. A verse I have clung to dealing with this has been Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I have learned that God is ever-present and there is no need to try to be independent because He is forever.

As a whole, my experience with Kairos has been awesome. I have benefited from it in ways I never thought I would, personally and spiritually. Kairos has been a huge blessing to me. It has taught me all of the things I spoke about earlier. Also, I feel like I have an entire new look on God and the Kingdom I never knew before. The lessons we received in our Kairos classes have opened my eyes to huge concepts I hadn't known before. So many of the lessons were extremely practical for me, such as Matt Williams' lessons on gender and woman's role in the church, and Bill White's teaching on the Gospel. I feel like I have several challenges waiting for me when I go back to school in a few weeks, but I know God is in my life and He is a shield for me to use to protect myself. Also, I feel confident in what I have learned, and I hope other people around me can be blessed through my words, like I was through so many people this summer.

I could never pin point my favorite thing about my Kairos experience, but I do know that I have made some relationships that I could not have gotten elsewhere and gained knowledge that is unique to this opportunity. Also, I got to do one of my favorite activities, which is interacting with kids. I love to be involved and get to know and love on kids. I feel like that is where God wants me to put a lot of time and energy throughout my lifetime. I am so unbelievably thankful for the way God has been moving within me and my fellow interns. It has been a daily reminder for me that God is active, constant, and a light into darkness. I would encourage anyone considering participating in a Kairos internship to do it! I have not been disappointed at all. I have had experiences that you cannot experience anywhere else. It is obvious that God is present here at Grace Church, in the staff, its members, and its community.

1 John 4:4, "But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world."

- Michelle Phillips, Children's Ministry Kairos Intern

What To Expect This School Year

As a mom and a teacher, I do look forward to a new school year. Its arrival brings a mixture of excitement about the possibilities and a little fear of the unknown. Even though we can’t anticipate the surprises this year will bring, there are four things that every parent can expect and embrace in order to help our children succeed:  

Successes and failures.
Children will experience both success and failures of varying magnitudes. It is a parent’s responsibility to maintain a big picture perspective. We shouldn’t be too puffed up about successes or too deflated by failures. Failure is often our greatest teacher and motivator. What a blessing a parent can be by coming alongside a child as he experiences the ups and downs of life. In his book Running the Rapids, Dr. Kevin Leman illustrates adolescence as a wild raft ride over white water rapids. School is sure to introduce a few bumps and turns along the ride. A child needs to know that mom and dad are in the raft with him, no matter how rough and crazy the ride becomes.

Teachable moments.
Education is more than learning multiplication tables and interpreting literature. It is preparation for life. Take advantage of every opportunity in your child’s life to mold his life skills and character. God is always loving and faithful in our lives – even through bad teachers, pop quizzes, embarrassing moments, hurt feelings, and playground fights. Pray that your home is a safe haven where you can apply God’s truth to every situation in your child’s life. 

Conflict – among parents, children, teachers, and peers.
Don’t be surprised when you experience it. Conflict is inevitable, but as Christians we have Biblical guidelines and examples to follow in dealing with it. May our children see Jesus in us as we train them to work through conflict with grace and wisdom.

This year will end.
Since a school year is a finite amount of time, it is perfect for setting goals. Think about what amazing things you or your children could accomplish in one school year. Maybe it is breaking a habit or developing a new one. If you begin with the end in mind, it helps you run your days instead of letting your days run you.

So it’s time to gear up for battle and prepare for success. What should my focus be for the school year? Can I really begin with the end in mind and succeed this year? Yes. Here are my favorite 5 P’s: 
  1. Provide peace in your home. 
  2. Pray, plan, prepare, but do not panic when plans fail. 
  3. Prioritize and let some things go. 
  4. People > productivity. 
  5. Problems are merely opportunities for growth

- Susan LaFlam