Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Success is really a complex concept. It's contextual and as such, it's definitions vary widely. I've had the opportunity to share with other people in ministry to children what I think success looks like. That has been fun. But more often, I am asked what things I have personally done that account for any success we've had in swcc kids. This is a little more difficult because of the varying definitions on "success in ministry". However, regardless of what those definitions are, I can feel confident in offering a few insights.

In order to have "success" in ministry:

JUST SHOW UP...I am completely serious about this one. I noticed early on that children are the victims of a culture that moves at an increasing rate of speed. Teachers, coaches, friends and sometimes even parents move in and out of their lives haphazardly and without warning. There is very little they can count on and find faithful. When people ask me, "What do you do it get the kids to love you and listen to you?" my answer is: I just show up. I'm consistently a part of their lives. And if I'm not going to be there, they usually know about it and are prepared because they know I'll be back. They trust me because I just show up.

LISTEN TO GOD...The Christian publishing industry inundates me with ways to "take my kids to the next level". Here is the problem with that - they don't know my kids. As well intentioned as those people are they are writing curriculum from an office and packaging a product. On occasion, God has led me to some spectacular products but I always asked him first what he wanted me to teach. Listening to God is becoming a lost art. Instead of frustrating myself by listening to all the gurus that are convinced they know what my kids needed to know, I just learned to ask God. I never had to wait very long for an answer either. He really is an excellent communicator if we would just be willing to listen.

PUT A STAMP ON IT...Now many of you aren't going to believe this, but I will go to my grave saying the most effective things I did were notes I put a stamp on and sent out to encourage the body of Christ. Both postcards to kids and cards to volunteer staff members - these are the most important things I did. We live in a world that is constantly trying to make us loose our focus on Christ. It is a long time between Sundays. Just giving small reminders to people that they belong to God and have inherent value for that fact alone has made the biggest difference in my day to day ministry. I actually made it a discipline of sorts. No matter how big a disaster an event or a Sunday was, I could always find at least 3 people to praise God for. After I did that in prayer, I'd send them a note telling them the same thing.

DON'T PLAY SCARED...One of the biggest criticisms I have faced is that I am "too passionate" about what I do. I guess people could say worse things about me than that I was just over the edge of reason for Jesus Christ. During my time in leadership, I read the Sermon on the Mount continuously and let it drive my work. I looked at the way Jesus ran his ministry and it inspired me to preach, teach and lead with wild abandon. I asked the impossible from people in the name of our risen Christ...and I got it. I pleaded that they serve our Lord with unwavering commitment because of what he did for them...and they did it for Him. I wasn't afraid to expect people to be powerfully affected by the gospel message...and they always were. I didn't play this game of ministry scared. I played it and I played it hard. I always went for it on 4th down. After listening to God, I called the hard plays and trusted the Holy Spirit to empower a rag tag bunch of volunteers the same way he did the first disciples. I let the Holy Spirit have it's way with me and with our ministry to children...and boy, did he ever.

I know this isn't the practical checklist everyone would like me to produce. I could go over best practices for administration and curriculum development (and I will for anyone who really wants to know). I could talk about marketing and communication and other stuff like that. But on reflection, the things I listed are really the only things I know for sure I would do exactly the same way again.

Just show up for God. Make it a practice to listen to Him. Encourage one another (and put a stamp on it and mail it so they can have it to look at later). And for heaven's sake, quite literally, don't play scared.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On Taking a New Direction

Dear Friends and Family,

It is with no small amount of regret that I hereby tender my resignation from the position as Minister to Children at Southwest Christian Church. After considerable prayer and soul searching, my husband and I feel this is a step necessary for us to take at this time. The past seven years of ministry experience have been truly life changing for me. We pray that we are leaving the ministry more whole and healthier than when we began serving it full time those many years ago. It is also our goal to make this transition as seamless for the children and families of our church as possible. The transition out of my “official position” will be slow and carefully considered in each step. I also plan to be a part of the transition team that will seek my replacement, working alongside them for the health of the body of Christ at Southwest.

Please continue in prayer for us as we seek to realign our priorities around worshipping God and continual service in His kingdom. We love Southwest Christian Church with all of our hearts and pray to continue our partnership in the gospel of Jesus Christ with you always. I look forward to continuing my ministry at Southwest as a volunteer in Children’s Choir the way I began my ministry twelve years ago. In addition to taking the opportunity to worship together as a family, I am also excited about my plans to pursue my seminary education on a full time basis. Learning more about Jesus, the kingdom he came to establish and what difference he makes in our everyday lives can only strengthen me as a disciple and my family as a witness of His love for the world in which we live.

“And this is [our] prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1: 9-11

In His Service,

Vangie Shaver

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tyler Was Listening

I'm spending quite a bit of time in reflection of both Jerusalem proper and our Jerusalem Marketplace this week. Here is a story I can't help but share:

At the end of the day as Libby was trying to corral the tribe of Joseph into their tent, she overheard Tyler talking. Now this is not unusual in itself - Tyler is a pretty social little fellow. But it indicated to Libby that she'd lost one of her sheep so, being a good Tribal Family Mom, Libby went to retrieve Tyler and bring him back into the tent. As she poked her head out of their tent she saw Tyler in deep conversation with someone who'd just exited the Sanctuary Service.

Tyler stopped the man (who was to him a stranger) and asked, "Do you know what happened in Jerusalem today? Do you know Jesus? Do you know what happened to him?" Thankfully, the stranger was in good humor and, seeing Tyler's enthusiasm replied, "No, I don't know what has happened!"

Tyler went on to tell the man that his tribe had encountered the someone in the market who had reported that Jesus had been arrested. Then he went on to tell him everything they learned in Synagogue School about the Tabernacle and The Mercy Seat. After that, Tyler told him he had met Malchus and that he had blood all over him. Tyler then recounted the story of how Malchus' ear was cut off when the disciples reacted with violence at Jesus arrest. He told him how Jesus reacted to this violence with peace and healing. (I included a picture of Tyler that I took during the drama. I knew he was absorbing some of what was going on but I had no idea just how much!)

It appears that Tyler was listening. And after listening, he had to talk about it:) My favorite part of the whole thing is that in his exuberance to share the story, Tyler approached a total stranger without a thought and asked this question: "Do you know Jesus? Do you know what happened to him?" With the innocence and excitement only a child can capture, Tyler encountered the first person he met with the gospel message. Tyler is my hero.

As I reflect on Jerusalem this week, I pray that I can live a life that says: Do you know Jesus? Do you know what happened to him? Jerusalem is not had actually just begun. Now is the time when we should feel challenged to take this message so seriously that it inhabits us. Resurrection Sunday is not a one day event, but a pivotal moment in our history that should forever change every minute of our every day.

Tyler was listening. Tyler gets it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Batman Theology

Some of you may have noticed the "Wanted" posters in Jerusalem. I was very interested in these myself, seeing as I wrote the curriculum and have no recollection of this ancillary product.

Sunday morning Noah had the tape from my desk and several posters he had drawn up himself. At the top it says, "WANTED". Immediately under this mandate is a picture of Noah's favorite super-villian - Mr. Penguin from Batman. (You know it is Mr. Penguin because of the top hot and monocle...not many bad guys can pull that look off.) Under the picture Noah wrote "get he"...we obviously still need to work on our pronouns.

Now call me narrow-minded, but I could not make the immediate correlation between Batman, super-villians and Jerusalem. So I had no choice but to ask Noah on the way home what his inspiration was. This was his reply:

"Well, mom it is like this. Mr. Penguin was a know a bad guy. He makes bad choices. And he reminds me of know the guy who was kind of like a king or something. And Mr. Penguin has his own henchmen and those are like Pilate's soldiers who came to get Jesus and arrest him. The henchmen are bad guys too but they can't help it as much. Then there is Batman...he is like Jesus. Do you understand this mom?"

Suddenly it did make total sense. But then Noah elaborated even further...

"But, when Mr. Penguin is captured Batman and Jesus will just love him even though he is bad. The henchmen too, Jesus loves everyone more than they are bad. Right mom?"

I told him "yes", Jesus loves everyone more than they are bad. That is really what the story of Jerusalem is all about. Redemption and reconciliation of a very bad people (complete with super-villians) to a God that just flat out loves them "more than they are bad".

Batman theology...not so far off base.