First Steps: Details, Details, Details (Part 4)

I am a details person. I love taking notice of the little things that often pass other people by. 

If I'm really being honest with myself, I love details sometimes to a fault. I can find myself "missing the forest for the trees". When I pay too close attention to the details, I can sometimes miss the work God is doing overall in my area of ministry. 

It's a line we all have to walk in ministry - doing ministry to the best of our abilities with excellence and giving the Holy Spirit enough room to do his.

When I was at Orange Conference attending a breakout on Rethinking Your Baby Dedication, the speaker made a comment that stuck with me - "Love is in the details." Since then we have made it our motto to take care and time to show the families who go through First Steps that we love them through the details of their take homes from the event.

1. Dedication Certificate and Imagine the End
During a portion of our First Steps event, we have a time where we call our families down front to receive their dedication certificate. On the certificate is the child's name that is begin dedicated along with the 4 commitments the parents are agreeing to uphold. We have the parents and our pastor sign their dedication certificates before the start of the event.

We also have their Imagine the Ends printed on a nice keepsake paper for the parents to read during the Imagine the End portion of the event. After the event, parents have told us they have keep theirs in a baby book or a memento box and some have even framed it for their child's room.

2. Dedication Pallet Art
We wanted our families to have something cute that they could keep as a reminder of this special day. The first year we started doing our First Steps event, we gave our families a commemorative plate that had their child's name and the date they were dedicated.

We now have a hugely talented lady at our church who does pallet art. She makes us a dedication pallet art for each child that is begin dedicated.  It says "Impress upon your children" and has the child's name and the date they are being dedicated.  They are super cute, and they have been something unique and unexpected for the parents to receive as a gift. I love going to family's houses and seeing them in there!

3. Storytelling Video and Pictures
I realize we are very blessed as a church to have the staff talent and the ability finanacially to pay said talented people. We have a professional photographer onsite taking pictures of the event. We also set up a photo booth and encourage families to take as many pictures as possible. We have a 2 man video crew capturing the event as well. Our families don't have to worry about taking pictures with their phone camera. They can enjoy living through the moment of their child's dedication.

About a month after First Steps, we give our families a DVD of the storytelling video along with all the pictures from the event. We also use the storytelling video to celebrate what God has done through First Steps in our Sunday morning services.

If you're wondering what in the world First Steps is, check out these previous posts...
First Steps (Part 1)
First Steps Class (Part 2)
First Steps Event (Part 3)



First Steps (Part One)

Outside of when a couple marries each other, there is no other time in a couple's life that is more life changing and precious as when a couple has their first child. Outside of when a couple marries, there is no other time that a couple is more receptive to seeking help than when that bundle of joy has been delivered to them.

See, when a couple has their first child, it makes them start thinking. They think about their childhood. They think about the things they want to replicate and the things they would do differently. Maybe they've slacked off in attending church since they've become an adult. Maybe they're so wrought with anxiety over "not messing" this kid up, that they'll take any help they can get...even from a church. 

As a preschool ministry, we have an incredible opportunity to impact the life and direction of a family when they have a baby. We have the privilege of coming alongside a family to help them realize the importance of faith in their family.

As a church, we are very committed to making this time as meaningful as we can through our parent/child dedication event. You didn't read that word wrong...it's an event. I believe when we get serious and intentional about this time, no longer will the "drive-by baby dedications" do on a Sunday morning. If our faith commitment is important and warrants going public with our faith and our vows to our spouse are said in a wedding ceremony in front of others, why would the next biggest commitment we make not be important enough to commission a strategic event? 

Over several blog posts, I'll break down how we do First Steps, our parent/child baby dedication, at our church. I'll write about what we've see work and what we've seen not work.

One thing I will tell you I've learned over time is that "content is king". If you start with good content and build off of that, you can figure out how to do a dedication event on any budget. If this is the time in a parent's life they are more receptive to feedback and instruction, we've got to give them good content...good content that the rest of the world isn't saying to them.

I first heard of doing events for baby dedications when I attended the Orange Conference several years ago. So when we began to dream about how to be more intentional with our dedications, I started there with Orange's Baby D event kit. The content is incredible. The 3 principles they use of asking parents to Imagine the End, Make it Personal and It's a Partnership was a great jumping off point for us when we began to develop our own event. Why reinvent the wheel when it comes to great content? With great content, you can tailor it to fit your church's context and culture. 

Over the next few blog posts I'll unpack some elements of the experience we want to give families who go through First Steps. From the class to the event and all the details in between, we want to inspire parents to "begin with the end in mind".

Volunteer Appreciation Events

I've heard it said many times..."If you have to spend money on a volunteer to appreciate them, then you don't really have them. If they're bought into your vision, a simple thank you will do."

I do agree that I don't want my volunteers to be motivated by material things. Ultimately, I want them to believe in what we're doing, I want them to believe they are changing children and families' lives, and I want them to believe that it's their duty and honor to invest in the next generation. I want them to want to serve kids and their families.

BUT

I want them to know they are loved by us. I want them to know they are my teammates - that they play a vital role in our ministry. I want them to know that as much as I think about investing in preschoolers and their parents, I'm also spending time thinking about how I can invest in them...and that I don't just take them for granted.

Last year we began doing Volunteer Appreciation events. We try to have these 3 elements in our events - eating, training, and fun.

1. Eating - This one is slightly self explanatory. I mean, churches definitely have the eating together thing down...especially us Baptist churches. All kidding aside, I do think there is something great that happens when you put people around a table together sharing a meal. You share more than a meal...you share life. Volunteers begin to get to know each other better. They build community. They build friendships. Volunteers who feel like they have friends/allies/team members stick around your ministry. 

"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts," Acts 2:46b

2. Training - This could be considered the "downer" of the evening. Who wants to hear all the things they're doing wrong? Instead, we try to reclaim the high ground, remind them of what the "win" is and let them know again and again the impact their serving is making on the families in our ministry. Do we have to say some hard things too? Of course, they will always be things we all have to improve on, but we try to build in as much positive as we can. We also "train" them on anything new we have coming up. At our last training, we walked through the Lead Small App from our curriculum providers, Orange. We spoke to them about the advantage to using this new app and how it was going to make it easier on them with weekly preparation and serving. We even made them get out their phones and install and subscribe to the app while we had them "captive".

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," 2 Timothy 2:16

3. Fun - I want our volunteers to laugh together. There's camaraderie  in laughter. We try to add an element of fun to our event. The "fun" factor has been different for all of our events (sometimes, budget has dictated what we did for our fun). One time we all bowled together. One time we had a "Mexican Fiesta" at one of our volunteer's home and played games and had a piñata. At our last volunteer event, we held it at a restaurant in their back room. After the eating and training portion was over, we had them break off into teams and do trivia. It was a blast!

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.'" Psalm 126:2

I think the danger we as leaders can get into is thinking...How can I use  ALL my resources to invest into the children/families on Sunday mornings? And most of our resources should go to that. Thats's the business we're in. But, I want my volunteers to know they are worth investing in too. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. We as ministry leaders can't do it all. Our volunteers are the hands and feet that we as leaders can't be to everyone.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always praywith joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6