Tag Archives: Outreach

Exciting New Updates!

13 Jun

Over here at River’s Edge we have new and exciting things happening. After a long hiatus, River’s Edge is gearing up and getting ready to bring to you new content, ideas, and inspiration –Starting this upcoming week. Keep an eye on your email inboxes Monday. For those who are on the edge of their seats in excitement, we will give you a glimpse of what is to come. BeFunky Collage.jpg

Monday Mornings: Looking Back at Halloween

4 Nov

There is nothing like waking up at 5 am on Halloween with a creative idea jumping around in your brain. And when you are THAT person, you find yourself jumping out of bed and through the course of the day gathering supplies and making monster hands to give out that night to the 200 trick or treaters appearing at your door. Your husband and future daughter-in-law join in the fun when there are two hours to go and you only have 60 hands made. Chaos. Creativity.

halloween hand

Was it worth it? Yes. I want kids who come to my door to know that they are SPECIAL and someone thinks they are totally WORTH it. I want families to know that the pastor family down the street cares enough to make something fun for their child. I want those extra conversations that having something FUN at your door will illicit from otherwise harried parents chasing after little Duck Dynasty guys and princesses and miniature Clark Kents.


Halloween has been one of those touchy subjects among church people. When I was growing up, it wasn’t a THING. As in- will we, won’t we- what should we do- kind of THING. A movement happened and those of us in the evangelical world wondered if we should. Alternatives popped up. People hid in their homes with the lights out. Everything changed.

And here is what bothered me about this whole THING. Those of us who might not have the same convictions were often shamed into going along with the crowd. We were made to feel LESS THAN if we ventured out into the neighborhoods with our littles dressed as clowns and princes and ninjas instead of going to the church Harvest party with our littles dressed as Bible characters.

I’ve been the children’s pastor hosting the Harvest Party. I’ve been the children’s pastor secretly taking my kid’s trick or treating so as not to offend those in my church.

Life is a process and we think differently and do differently and we learn. And here is what I have learned. There is a time and a place for a Harvest party in a church. There is a time and a place for Trunk or Treating. And there is a time and a place for opening your door wide and welcoming even the most ghoulish of costumed kids. There is a time and a place for joining in the community of parents keeping up with their kids and saying hello at the street corners.

It all depends. It is complicated. Can we just trust one another to do the THING that makes the most sense to them? For me, I have 200 kids in my neighborhood so this is where I want to be. For someone who lives in the country, a trunk or treat would be just the right THING. For someone who truly has a deep conviction about the whole night, quietly bowling might be his or her answer.


It was the year that I refused to go to the Noah’s Ark party at the church. It was pre-kids. Something deep within me wanted to be home to give out special candy to the kids in our neighborhood so I made a lame excuse why I couldn’t be at the party.  They didn’t buy it and I knew it. But I pretended anyway. I spent the night feeling guilty. Here I was secretly doing this THING but it felt right and good.

She came to the door with her neighbor and their kids. She looked at me and said, “I’ve never met you but you sent me a note. I don’t know if you remember. Thank you so much for caring about us. You have no idea what it meant to me.”

I asked how she was doing. We spoke a few quiet words away from the ears of the littles with her. Then she was gone. With the kids. Down the dark street.

I remembered the note. In the small town paper I read how she had held the just born baby in her arms as he took the last breath and drifted off to heaven. And so I sent a note telling her how sorry I was. She lived down the street. I recognized the address in the obituary.

If I had gone to the Noah’s Ark party at the church that night I would never have met her. After that night, I never saw her again. But for one moment in time we were community. For one moment I was able to step into her pain.

I had no idea when I wrote that note, when I stood at the door looking into her eyes, feeling her pain and hopefully reflecting God’s love that one day I, too, would hold the body of my own baby. One without breath. One who drifted off to heaven.

I’m so glad I stayed home that night.

Starbucks for Preschoolers

20 Aug


As a children’s pastor, I realized that I was becoming insulated from the community. All of my work was taking place within the church. How was I to be the salt of the earth and light to the world if I lived in a cocoon built inside the walls of the church? How could I be Jesus to my community in a way that relationships could be built and sustained? The answers to my questions came inside a coffee shop surrounded by preschoolers and their moms.

Each Thursday morning at ten o’clock do not look for me lurking around my church office. Instead, you can find me drinking a medium one shot, skim mocha while reading about hungry caterpillars, lonely fireflies and mad llamas. You will find new little friends of mine named Alex and Daniel and Olivia sitting around me with their moms hovering not too far away. You will probably feel the sense of community and energy that fills the coffee shop for half an hour. And you will find lots of smiling people as they witness the enthralled looks on each child’s face.

Story time consists of more than just reading a few random stories to whatever children happen to show up. Instead, it is an intentional time of character building activities. Each story time contains two classic read aloud books based on a theme such as “I can help my family” or “I can share with my friends.” Finger plays, puppets and child friendly props are also integrated into the sessions. God moments naturally happen as a child will mention that he belongs to God or that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. While the goal is not a spiritual lesson, the character building books naturally lead to short conversations that plant seeds with the children and their families. Each session, the children walk away with a fun activity page and a tangible object such as floppy dog ears or a candy cane. Parents walk away with a much needed break and a take home page with a list of books read and suggestions for extension activities to do at home.

To start a story time, first pray about the location. Look for a coffee shop that is child-friendly. Talk to management, pointing out the advantages a story time would bring to their shop. Advertise in the paper, on community bulletin boards and with mom’s groups. Create a mobile story area using a rolling cart for supplies and blankets for children to sit on. Carefully choose books that have large, colorful pictures. Rhyming books are especially popular and keep children’s attention. Use simple, short books that tell stories that have unspoken morals or lessons. The desired outcome of the coffee shop story time has been to build relationships that would lead to real conversations about life. I know which child’s mom is struggling with having to go back to work to make ends meet. I know which child’s grandma loves to come after story time for a cup of coffee and to hear her grandson tell her about a dirty dog named Harry or a boy that remembered to say thank you. I know which child’s mom quit teaching to stay home with her kids and is exhausted. I know that these moms cannot help but feel loved by the church as they know that someone is dedicating a portion of time to provide a quality experience for their child and a much needed break for them.

The outcome that I was not expecting was how surprised by joy I would be each Thursday. I love the excitement, the wide eyed wonder, and even the spills of hot chocolate and other unscripted interruptions. Imagine ministering outside the walls of your church, planting seeds of God’s love and anticipating how He will make those seeds grow. Imagine breaking out of your usual routine, going outside the church walls and being Jesus to your community. Take a step out of your comfort zone and head to your local coffee shop with an armful of books and a heart full of God’s love.

Learn how to start a Coffee Shop Storytime in your neighborhood.  Includes 10 sessions, advertising, parent take home pages and detailed instructions.

For more detailed curriculum based on kid’s books to use in a church or classroom try Dr. Seuss and the Bible.