Last Day

I’ve shared with some of you at camp that while most of my luggage was lost in the crash of AA1420, James Harrison’s luggage was recovered along with his footage from his video camera. A friend of mine, Nate Ragan, put this video together from his footage – our trip from James’s perspective. 

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Rachel’s Poem

Many of you attending camp with me this summer have asked for a copy of Rachel’s poem. Here it is! I hope it is a blessing to you and that you share it as a blessing to others.

Where Will We Go?
Rachel Fuller
Arkadelphia, AR
6th Grade

When we reach the end
Where will we go?
When we get there
How will we know?

After it all, After this life
What will we do with
No troubles, no strife?

Where will YOU go?
What will YOU do?

I know where I’m going
When my life is through.

To a place of no worries
A place of no fear.
A place of joy
And a place of cheer.
Of love everlasting
Peace throughout.
All these things
And never doubt.

13 Reminders for Those Who Minister to Kids

I recently had the blessing of leading some kidmin leader training at South Crest Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. In that room were 50 of the sweetest, most dedicated kids ministry volunteers I’ve ever met. We laughed, we cried, we prayed for those kids entrusted to us — it was beautiful. I’ve had a few requests for my 13 Reminders for 2012-2013 I shared that night so I thought I’d share them here. Feel free to share with those who work with kiddos in your church if you find them helpful.

1. Be prepared. Your kids, their growth and the Gospel is worth the hour or so of prep it takes to knock it out of the park on Sunday/Wednesday. You can do it! Don’t put yourself on auto pilot. You feel like junk afterward and your kids walk away empty – not filled, joyful and excited about their faith!

2. Be present. Put your phone away. Quit checking Facebook when they kids do their word search. Be 100% focused on your kids and make the most of the hour or so you have with them!

3.  Be ready with the Gospel. Everything you do in your group of kids needs to point to Jesus. And when your kids are ready to begin their relationship with Him, be ready to tell them how: God Rules. We Sinned. God Provided. Jesus Gives. and We Respond. (Learn more about The Gospel: God’s Plan for Me through LifeWay’s new curriculum The Gospel Project for Kids.)

4. Be consistent. Do whatever it takes to be at church every week. Kids need consistent faces – folks they can count on to be there each week to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus. Interacting with a maturing follower of Christ helps them put their faith and trust in Him, too. Maybe you can leave for your vacation on Monday? Or come back a bit earlier to be at church with your kids.

5. Be relational. I’ve often heard: “No has ever gotten to the end of their life and said, ‘That curriculum saved my life!'” And as a writer of curriculum, I know you need solid, Biblical truths to share with kids. But if not delivered by a caring, loving adult, it can be worthless. Ask kids how they’re doing – and really listen! Go to their ballgames. Cheer for them. It may be cheesy and over said, but kids won’t care how much  you know unless they know how much you care. Go and tell that! :)

6. Be in prayer. This is often overlooked when you’re preparing your lesson or running out the door, but be in prayer as you prepare, as you drive to church, during your time with kids – prayer should be the foundation of everything you do.

7. Be patient. This one is hard for me. If things don’t go how you planned, or you get sidetracked praying for a kid’s cat – it’s okay! Take a deep breath. The main goal of your time with kids is that they come to know Christ or grow in their relationship with Him. Is that happening? Then you’re good. Be patient with their questions, their energy…  Just breathe.

8. Be sensitive. I learned something important while on staff at Brentwood Baptist Church – my first place to serve in kids ministry. It’s called the Iceberg Theory. When you see an iceberg, you just see the tip top – not the 80% or so of it below the surface. This is also true of those we minister to. You may see how a child is responding but not see the part of their lives we don’t know about that are influencing those behaviors. When you know a kid isn’t getting nutritional food at home, that a parent has abandoned them, that their mom is going through chemo – suddenly their actions you thought were “crazy” make a lot more sense. So be sensitive and think about what might be below the surface.

9. Be engaging. Be energetic! (That was two for one!) It’s okay to drink a 5 Hour Energy (or 2!) on the way to church if that’s what it takes to be full steam ahead by the time kids get to your room. Think to yourself – if this was the last hour on earth – how would I tell the story I’m about to tell? What would I tell these kids? How would I tell it? We’re not guaranteed another minute of life. Tell the story. Mean it. Believe it. Point them to Jesus.

10. Be a servant. One thing I feel is missing as I work with college students and kids these days is the lack of an attitude of service. Model servant hood by not just singing “the clean up song” but by serving your kids. Encourage them when they serve others. A servant’s heart is contagious!

11. Be a resource. Parents are with their kids way more hours than the 2 hours you MAY get with them at church if you’re lucky. Do whatever you can to equip parents to lead their kids toward a growing relationship with Jesus at home. Share book suggestions. Make yourself available outside of church. Help parents be the parents God has called them to be. This graphic from the folks at CentriKid Camps showing the hours kids have in a week. Are you making the most of your time with them? Are you equipping those with your kids when they’re not at church?

12. Be YOU! Don’t be afraid to be you – to share about your life, admit when you don’t know the answers – be honest. Be a role model. Be you!

13. Believe. In yourself. In God equipping you with what you need to minister to your kids. Believe that all you do for kids and for Christ is worth it! And it is worth it!You know the Barna stats I’m sure, but if you need reminding: half of all those who accept Christ do so before the age of 13. 64% do so before they’re 18. Just 13% do so between ages 18-21 and less than 1 out of 4 who accept Jesus do so after they turn 21. What you do matters! Kids need to hear and respond to the Gospel. So pray and ask the Holy Spirit to work through you as you guide kids into a relationship with God.

His Ways Are Higher!

There’s a song I love by The Martins from their Windows CD called “Higher Than My Ways.” It has really shaped my heart and my attitude about God’s plans for my life since I first heard it years ago. And these past few months, He’s continued to show me that His ways are most definitely higher than my ways!

As I sat in church at Second Baptist Church in Arkadelphia a couple of weeks before my time at Sweet Sleep came to an end, I was trying to make my plan for what the coming weeks and months might look like. I could feel God preparing me to not be at Sweet Sleep but what would I do in Arkadelphia? Emily had this great dream job at Ouachita but those come along once in a lifetime. Maybe I could get my masters degree and teach middle school since I love working with that age group at church? Maybe I could write and speak full time? Many thoughts were flying around in my head and heart.

That Sunday, the church unveiled the new Master Plan for their campus – and I was excited to offer input on how to lay out the kids ministry rooms, to make things accessible for those with disabilities, etc.  I met with our wonderful pastor, Stan Parris, and just hurled out dreams, ideas — all sorts of thoughts I had on how to continue the great ministries at Second and grow them to reach and impact more people in Arkadelphia and to strengthen our discipleship processes. By the end of our talk, I think we both knew God was up to something but we weren’t quite sure what.

The next time we met, we prayed about what it might look like for me to come on staff in some way at the church – to work with Community Groups, Sunday School, Men’s/Women’s ministry, Kids Ministry/Student Ministry – to look at what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing what is best to disciple our folks and what is best for our families.

As I left that meeting, I was excited about what God was up to! I sped to work, temping at Ouachita, grinning ear to ear! Then I sat down at my desk and my phone started buzzing. That’s when I learned of the dream position opening in the Ouachita Alumni office. I was torn knowing that I would love both positions! I prayed and sought great Godly counsel from a dear friend in ministry that knows me, my heart, my passions and my giftings so well. As we talked, we began to see how God could potentially call me to serve in both capacities – since the Ouachita position was not quite full-time and with Wednesday and Sunday ministry time I wouldn’t need to devote many hours during the Ouachita work week for the ministry work at Second.

So I accepted the job as Director of Ouachita Alumni in January and I’ve loved every minute of it. I get to plan reunions, Homecoming, give scholarships to deserving students – its so perfect! And when I met again with Brother Stan to talk about what a part-time position would look like, it lined up even better than we could have planned ourselves – because His ways are higher than our ways!

So last night, the church voted for me to begin my new role as Discipleship Minister at Second Baptist on March 1! (…which also happens to be our 7th wedding anniversary and the 15th anniversary of the Arkadelphia tornado – which is how I first met Emily – serving chili-mac to her family as I volunteered with the Red Cross.)

I would love your prayers as Emily and I step back into, even part time, church work. We’re excited to see what the Lord has planned for our church as old buildings come down and new ones spring up to best minister to people of Arkadelphia. God is doing amazing things in His church and Emily and I are excited to be a part of it!

So if you’re keeping count, I went from no job to a few jobs in a very short time. That’s because God is awesome – and He has a plan for our lives that is perfect. In more ways than I could have imagined, God is using me. He wouldn’t let me sit idle long – there is much work to be done and I pray that you are letting Him use you, too. I’ll be sure to update you on things here at Ouachita, at Second and with my writing and speaking, too. :) And if I show up at the wrong place at the wrong time – please turn me around and send me in the right direction. :)

A Match Made In Nashville…

It was a couple years ago at Children’s Pastors’ Conference in Nashville that my friend Sam Wey came running to tell me about an awesome product he had just encountered — The Waterproof Bible. After I experienced it for myself, I fell in love with this Bible and told everyone who would listen about how great it was – not just because I could read it in the shower or while doing dishes – but because I knew it would become revolutionary for kids and kids ministries.

In 11 years of speaking at Centrikid Camps, and attending camps and retreats for over 20 years, I’ve seen Bibles left in the rain, abandoned on park benches and even dropped in fountains. I’d probably still have the Bible I had in jr. high if it had been a Waterproof Bible!

I’m excited to announce that in the coming months, I’ll be out and about representing my friends who created this amazing product – helping get the most durable copy of the Word in the hands of as many people as possible and sharing about it’s awesomeness.

I’m so happy to be able to support this product and share it with you. You can go ahead and pick yours out at http://www.waterproofbible.com or come see me at the National Bible Bee in Nashville in November!

Be on the lookout for more great product and ministry highlights here at http://www.jonmerryman.com –including some more orgs I’ll be partnering with in my new freelance endeavors.

Blessings!

jon

A New Chapter

Hello, friends!

After 4 years of serving full-time with Sweet Sleep, I’ve turned a new page in the story of my never dull life. During my time at Sweet Sleep, God worked through me in some pretty amazing ways – and I am so very happy to know the impact I’ve made not just on the organization but in the lives of thousands of orphaned children around the world.

For many reasons, Emily and I have known God had new works in store for me and have been praying for quite some time. We’re excited to share with you all that I will now be focusing more on my writing and speaking, as well as consulting and helping some wonderful ministries with communications, pr, social media and branding. You can learn more about my background and experience in ministry, writing and speaking on the About page – and if you are looking for a speaker for an event, curriculum writer, etc. – please be in touch.

Thank you for your friendship and your prayers as I launch into this newly focused ministry. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use me to share His message and encourage children and students to passionately follow and serve Christ.

Blessings —

jon