3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

Every ministry kid needs a friend!  Did you ever have a pen pal? I had lots through the years when I was a kid and teenager. I even have a pen pal I have written for the past 3 years and I still love it.

I would encourage you to help your child find a child who is also in ministry or another Christian kid of like faith and practice. Ministry kids need to know there are other ministry children who are doing similar things they do in their family and in their church. I believe the common factor of similar beliefs alone will help establish a good friendship (but Ministry Mamas, we may have to help the kids be faithful to writing… more on that below!) Missionary children can also benefit from pen pals because it helps them be able to express themselves about their life and experiences on the mission field.

The truth of it is, they wouldn’t have to write a child but maybe a trusted Christian you know. A godly person with wisdom who would encourage and cultivate a good relationship with them that points them to Christ. Other people to keep in touch with might be: A Christian soldier who is deployed, a Bible College student, a youth pastor and/or his wife, a young adult on the mission field, or any other godly influence with time enough to sit and write.

 

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

  1. Writing to people keeps children connected to a broader world. There are lots of ministry kids who are lonely because they go to a church with very few children their age or missionary kids are in a foreign country surrounded by a different culture. Having a pen pal can connect a ministry kid with another child who lives like they do, serving God with their family.  Another lesson under this umbrella is that writing a person who is different lets your child understand variations in personalities and family preferences are common and that’s a good thing! When our children learn people can be different and still love and serve God the way they do then it helps them understand we do not have to be exactly alike to enjoy the company of one another.
  2. It teaches children about the joy of giving and receiving. To keep a pen pal relationship going there has to be reciprocation between letters — I send one, I receive one, etc. (This principle applies in so many aspects of life.) Receiving real mail is exciting! Letters have a mysterious element to them because you do not know its contents until you read it. Ministry kids who may be seeing or experiencing trials or personal struggles can benefit from the blessing of the letters from a friend and giving back. It can also help them look outside themselves by asking about the other person and being interested in their life.
  3. Having a pen pal teaches how to converse and encourage others. Reading letters can help your child learn to read tone and understand the feelings and heart of the other person. This practice of learning about the heart of another person can generate the qualities of empathy, compassion, and kindness. Children may open up to each other about their experiences and it can allow them to be able to have an opportunity to be a prayer partner with their pen pal and encourage them in life’s joys and struggles.

 

Helping Your Child Succeed as a Pen Pal

  1. Create a basket or kit that will have the necessary supplies they need to be able to write to their pen pal. Paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps are the very basics — add in stickers, gel pens, and stamps for more fun. There are great ideas for pen pal kits to send to your pen pal all over Pinterest, check this one out. It does not have to cost a lot of moolah, dollar stores have cheap supplies and cards. You can also teach your children to invest in buying the supplies for writing with money they earn.
  2. Help them with their writing skills. Teach them to write a letter and then teach them how to read a letter and respond with care. Teach them that writing a good letter can contain stories, descriptions, and questions. Writing without “I” as the main subject can be a challenge and should be attempted. Note: Boys may only have a factual type of letter exchange while girls may tend to share anything and everything going on in their lives and that’s okay! Help them spark their creativity with ideas and examples if they need it.
  3. Remind them to write when they receive a letter. There’s nothing worse than being a pen pal waiting desperately for a letter to arrive only to find out that you have been forgotten. It would be better for your child to write to their pen pal explaining why they will not be writing than no explanation at all. Before committing to a pen pal relationship consider the amount of time your child has. If they will be too busy to write it may be best to postpone having a pen pal until a better time.
  4. Be knowledgeable of the content of the letters if you can. Help them navigate even a pen pal relationship if they need help. Your job is to protect and nurture a good relationship. If the relationship goes south because of inappropriate content or the two pen pals are not a good match, then be willing to let that pen pal go. Be there for your child when and if those disappointments come. It is understandable people do change over time and so do their interests and not all pen pals are a good fit with each other.
  5. Spark their creativity! Help them keep the pen pal relationship interesting by being promoting thoughtfulness. Encourage your child to praying for their friend, include drawings, poems, whatever creative medium your child is good at doing. Or teach them to stretch themselves on the behalf of someone else just to be a blessing. You know your child best and can help them use their talents and gifts to be a blessing to their pal.

Hand writing letters is not for everybody so maybe pen pals won’t be for your kid– but what about Skype pals? or e-mail buds? Or phone calls? Or writing cards to missionary or church planter’s kids for their birthdays? There are other ways to “pen pal” and have our kids connect to kids in ministry (and others!) who may not be local.

Encouraging godly relationships is always good for us because we never know how God will use those things in our lives later on down the road! Just recently my husband was reunited with an old acquaintance he attended church camp with in junior high, and it seems they will be working on some upcoming projects together. God’s paths often intertwine in the most unusual ways.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article about how I’m involving our oldest boys in pen pals and for a free printable with themes for boys to write about or gifts/exchanges to make with their pen pal!

A “Fruitless” Sunday

Fruitless Sunday

Quick Family Update: We are now working in a church plant ministry in the southwest and have been since March 2016. We hold our services in a local elementary school. We travel around 30 minutes to services on Sundays and meet in the pastor’s home on Wednesday nights. We are still living with my in-laws which is allowing our children special time to spend with their grandparents. My husband serves as the assistant pastor leading music and teaching the adult Sunday School class while also working a full-time job. We are all growing and enjoying the new experience church planting really is… this story is from a “fruitless” Sunday this summer!

The plan was to have a Sunday morning “Fun Day,” a morning Vacation Bible School type service in hopes to meet people in our community. Our little church plant had a group of eight teenagers and four adults come for a week on a missions trip. Throughout the week we went out in the blistering heat and passed out flyers in the neighborhoods surrounding the elementary school where we meet. The teens practiced special music weeks ahead before they arrived and did fundraising for their trip well in advance.

Canvassing for our upcoming event

Meeting and planning where we will put out flyers

The week before our event…

The sun was wearing us out within two hours of putting out flyers. Water bottles were in high demand. I took all five of our children out two days of four to put out flyers on doors. It was hard to get through those two smaller neighborhoods without sweaty foreheads and pink cheeks close to being overheated even though we stopped toward the end every five minutes for a drink. Our Tres (nickname for 3rd child), who is six years old and learning to read, began recognizing the “No Soliciting” signs that were dispersed along the neighborhood doors. Our baby rode along in the stroller playing with a little monkey key chain, I was constantly adjusting the shade over her to keep her feet from being sunburned. The teenagers did more leg work but came to the end of the mornings just as drained. When the afternoons came, they crashed into a heap taking naps on the couches because the heat had zapped their energy. The flyers were distributed and a few contacts had been made.

The day of our event…

Two hours before the service we were setting up around the school for the fun water games. Water balloons and other supplies were ready, ice in ice chests for snow cones, two lessons ready for younger and older children. We waited in anticipation.

Several people waited outside the school gates to welcome visitors but no one came.

No one.

Not one kid, adult, or new guest at all.

My heart had built up an anticipation for multiple visitors so when no people came it was a crash of disappointment. I won’t lie, I am human, and a woman with emotions. I was disheartened. I wanted to cry for everyone who put forth all the effort. I was not disappointed in God but surprised at our results. I tried reading the faces of the other adults as the morning service time came and our services began with just our small handful of church folk.

Were we really okay with what looked like an event of menial proportions?

The answer is yes,  we were okay. The group went on with the program with our children (our children plus the pastor’s children = 8) They still played the games planned, ate the snow cones, gave away the candy prizes and did the “Grand Prize” drawings that had been advertised in our flyers. Most importantly they went on with the Bible lesson and the youth pastor spoke about “The Greatest Gift Ever Given.” Almost all of our children have given a profession of faith except our Cuatro (4 year old). We all needed the reminder of Christ’s gift of His own precious life dying on the cross for our sins that day.

The youth group treated our “ministry kids” as if they were just as important as any visitor.  The pastor and the group did not just drop the program because guests did not arrive. It could have been easy to throw our hands up in the air and have everyone join in together for the regular church service. Our children were taught ministering to them was important because it’s true: Ministry children are important too.

Sunday night the youth group sang, “If just one more soul were to walk down the aisle, it would be worth every struggle, it would be worth every trial, a lifetime of labor would be worth it all if it rescued just one more soul.” My heart was struck that may not have been our week to rescue one more soul but if in the course of time we see someone saved, a Sunday like that day genuinely would be worth all the efforts.

After Sunday was over…

The thought occurred to me that night as I lie in bed in the twilight of sleep, there was fruit. The fruit of my womb, my children. The fruit of my pastor’s wife’s womb, her children. The fruit of some parents and youth leaders and a pastor in that neighboring state were there ministering to us. The fruit of paFruits of Laborsrents and youth leaders decades ago were there, my husband and I and our pastor and his wife. We are all fruit of labors people invested in our lives for the Lord’s sake. The Lord Himself has been the investor of our lives, nurturing our hearts all along to help us have spiritual growth and understanding. He has been watering, pruning, investing since we were all children to bring us to where we are today. We, the ministers, count as fruit although at first glance the “reward” from the labors for our current day left us seeming empty-handed. The truth was the opposite. The enemy would love for us to discount the Lord’s investment and make us feel like failures.

Church planting is beginning with a bare field and seasons of time include sowing the seed of God’s Word and letting people know you are in the community. To all the church planting families out there I say, keep planting, the Lord will give the increase. Don’t give up on reaching out in the community to all the “neighbors” out there, souls still need Christ no matter your attendance. Compel, sow with energy, pray in earnest with tears, fruit will come in its season.

To all the Ministry Mamas out there I say, even if it is only your children teach the class or run the program! When the church van or bus route is filled only with your children share the joy of the Lord with them and invest in them in a special way. Relish the moments of only watching the few babies in the nursery, laugh and have fun with them for they too need a good experience in learning to love going to church. When your ministry seems to bear no new fruit and no visitors walk through the door or souls come forward in a church service, do your job and leave the rest to God. Value those who are present, they are fruit worth loving and investing in!

 

Q&A: Church Kids, Choirs, and Singing

Are you trying to get your children involved in participating in the music program of your church? If you’re in ministry you will either face this question of “Does your family sing?”  or maybe even “Can you sing a special for us today?” As a family that is musically inclined I have done my best not only to take the things that we have done with our children but what other families and musicians have suggested when I have asked them these questions. I hope that some of these helps for preschool-upper elementary children will help you.

Church Kids Choirs and Singing

Q. How early should you get children involved in singing?

A. We recommend getting them involved as early as you can. For our boys our church had a choir for 1st-6th graders and they were able to join when they were in 1st grade. This year they opened up the choir to have a younger age group beginning at age 4, which allowed our oldest daughter to take part. Our youngest daughter, Cuatro, who is almost 3 years old sang with her siblings (and one friend) for the first time this past Sunday. She had practiced with the kids enough at home that when we did the practice at church she decided she wanted to sing too. We were not sure if she would go through with singing but she loved every minute of it. Did she sing all the words correctly? No… but she had the cutest smile on her face like she was so proud of herself for being so brave. Not all kids will choose to do that, but we believe the sooner you get them acquainted with singing the easier it will be on their nerves as they grow up and do things publicly.

Q. Should children be allowed to be in the adult choir of your church?

A. My husband, the choir director of our church, said “no.” He believes that children should have something to work toward, a position that they should look forward to serving in as an older teen or adult. His main concern is them not having a salvation testimony and singing about things they have not experienced personally in the salvation experience and Christian life. Also, having a post-puberty voice for young men that has already changed is better for an adult choir leader to work with.

Some churches do allow children in the adult choir, but it is a choice that the pastor and music director must agree on.

One idea my friend had since their church does not have a children’s choir was to create a small choir of girls. The group consisted of church and bus girls and  the purpose has worked to help them learn musically while singing for the Lord, which they have been excited to do.

Q. Should children wanting to sing in church be required to be members?

A. If the child desires to sing with a choir then we suggest if they are not members of your church that they have parental permission to participate and meet all the required practices to be a part of the music program. Children always need Bible truths sown into their hearts and minds and teaching them good godly music is a good way to do that. Our children’s choir is composed of children of all ages and they have not all been saved yet. Our hope is that the music will aid their heart’s understanding along with the Bible truths they are learning at home and in the other church programs (Sunday School, Junior Church, Preaching).

Q. “My child loves to sing and practice but when we get him up to the microphone he begins to shy away from it and avoid it. What can I do to help him with this?”

A. Encourage, encourage, encourage! Many children have fears of disappointing their parents or even teachers when they sing publicly. One of the best things you can do is to praise him, possibly a little above and beyond what you might normally do at home or in other situations. When your child feels confident you are proud of them and they are not disappointing you, then they will show improvements. Make sure not to flatter, but to reinforce the good you are hearing.

Another thing that could be bothering him is hearing himself in the microphone. Having the microphone on a stand and positioned about a foot away a little lower than the child’s mouth (this may need to be adjusted to specifically to your church’s microphones). Practice more often in front of the microphone at the church so they can become more comfortable hearing their own voice through the sound system.

Q. How do you help children sing on pitch?

A. There are two methods. 1.) If you play the piano, you can play the notes for them and have them match their voice to the note. If they continue to be off pitch, then play the note that they are singing and the play the note that they are supposed to be singing. Show them that they are either higher or lower than the notes that are correct. Have them correct their sound to match what you are playing 2.) It may be easier to sing the notes along with the child(ren) and have their pitch match yours. You can do the same thing in showing them where they are actually singing compared to where they need to be singing.

Practice regularly and as my high school band director used to say, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” In other words, make sure they are practicing it right first. We all have what’s called muscle memory (your vocal chords are muscles!) and the more you practice something wrong, the harder it is to learn it correctly. Be aware of the child(ren) that have these problems and try to catch their being off-pitch before letting it go on and on and trying to back track.

You may have a child or group of children (or teens!) where music does not come naturally to them so they need to be taught to hear it and understand it. This may take time you will have to invest to help them musically. If you get discouraged, remember some people will always struggle and you may have to appreciate the joyful noise they are contributing!

Q. What programs are for children’s choirs?

A. The only program that I am familiar with that is already organized to teach people how to implement a children’s choir is Patch the Pirate. You can learn more about it by calling 1-800-334-1071 or visiting Majesty Music’s website. Our children have been involved with the Patch the Pirate program in our church for four years and love it.

You certainly can create your own program and teach basic musical education and choose appropriate Bible songs that are for children. It would have to be organized and well thought out with your own musical knowledge, incorporating Christ and the Bible as well as excitement!