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i’m praying for you

uploaded to flickr by nick hermann

this week, i’m committed to praying for you — my friends leading in children’s ministry christmas programs this week. you can know that each day i’ll be asking god for these things on your behalf:

for peace | for the details |

for a spiritual impact in the lives of children|

for families to find new meaning |

for joy & laughter | for enough volunteers | for safety

may you be blessed as you lead strong this week & may the love of christmas overwhelm your heart.

if there is a more specific way i can pray for you this week – let me know.

leave a comment on the blog | email me: | tweet me: @adolan

my reflections on christianity 21

originally uploaded by christianity21

originally uploaded by christianity21

i think i might be forever changed from spending last week with a very special group of people at the christianity 21 event. the experience was so different from other christian conferences that i have been to in the past, and it might have been because of that – that my mind and heart were stretched and shaped in new ways.

these are my personal reflections that i hope will continue to shape me as i return to normal life:

1. “the church must listen to the neighborhood.” someone said this during a video and it has yet to stop swirling around in my mind. what if we really listened to the adults and children in our neighborhoods and created church missions and strategies based on what we heard, instead of assuming that the church is exactly what the neighborhood needs.

2. there is a desperate need for women pastors and leaders in the church of the 21st century, and we’ve done too much in the past to simply talk about women in church leadership. it’s time to give women the stage to lead and influence us with new forms of ministry.

3. the glbt (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) conversation is not going away anytime soon and i’m grateful for that. it was refreshing and wonderful and quite beautiful to learn from speakers representing the gay christian community, and to be in small group discussions with gay church leaders. something is stirring in my soul as i learn, and discuss, and interact. i hope the same is true for our churches.

4. there is a deep need for people to be safe and loved in our churches. we must continue to reinvent our churches so that people don’t need to be right before they can fully belong.

originally uploaded by christianity21

originally uploaded by christianity21

additional christianity 21 resources: flickr photo stream, sparkhouse video, and a fantastic summary from intervarsity press.

has god left the building?

i’ve been surprised at the number of conversations that i’ve had lately with friends who are currently confused by their faith and are wondering where god is in the midst of their life circumstances. of course, i’ve wondered where god has been lately, but usually i assume that i’m the only one who feels this way. it’s interesting, isn’t it, how we naturally lean towards isolation instead of community when faced with questions and fear?

but talking and listening and doing life with others who share the same fears and concerns – this idea that maybe god really  has taken a break from overseeing the world – somehow makes my situation feel more real and authentic.

last week during a conversation with some friends, i actually got lost in my thoughts imagining god on a beach somewhere enjoying the sun and a well-deserved vacation and a break from walking with his people every single day.

now i did graduate from bible college so i know none of this is actually true, and deep down in my spirit i do believe that god is still with me and my friends, and that he cares about my life, and that really this whole world isn’t just about what god is or isn’t doing in my life.

but what sometimes gets confusing is what to do when god’s voice and presence feel extremely quiet. right now the best i can do is to keep walking and moving forward each day searching desperately for any evidence of his love and grace.

today i saw just an inkling of him during a brief conversation with a woman at church.

and tomorrow i’m hoping for an even slightly larger inkling.

because in all of this confusion – my hope is what remains.

a triathlon and preparing well for meetings

6495_125180907384_687067384_2717559_6758705_nlast weekend my brother quinn and my sister-in-law jenny participated in the spirit of racine triathlon.

jenny is a seasoned competitor and has competed in this race several times. she’s amazing and impressive and i wish i was like her.

but this was quinn’s first race – he’s a well trained athlete having played college baseball, but he’s never done something like this before so he prepared big time!

for months and months, quinn and jenny spent their evenings biking-sometimes even for 4 hours at a time, and they had spent weekends running miles and swimming endless laps – it was crazy. but they were focused and committed – and worked extremely hard preparing for this very big day.

and then yesterday, i was having lunch with a children’s director and we were discussing how to best prepare for meetings – we were chatting about how often we are tempted to not prepare for meetings – it always feels easier to not prepare and just hope for the best. but lack of preparation rarely results in a fantastic meeting – meetings need love and attention and careful preparation, kind of like preparing for a triathlon.

a simple list to consider when preparing to lead a meeting:

  • think about your audience: do they know each other? is any 1 person new to the group? has it been awhile since they’ve been together as a group? as you think about your audience – consider planning a short time at the beginning of the meeting for the group to get to know each other better or to become reacquainted with each other.
  • create an agenda with time codes: there’s no better feeling than walking into a meeting with an agenda that has accounted for every minute. while preparing for a meeting – create an agenda that spells out how every minute will be used. for example:  7:00-7:15 – Introductions, 7:15-7:45- Strategic Planning, 7:45-8:45 Creative Brainstorming, 8:45-9:00 Meeting Summary and Next Steps.
  • set very clear meeting goals: while preparing for a meeting, take time to think about what you hope will be accomplished at the end of the meeting. set 2-3 tangible goals, for example: brainstorm 5 possible christmas themes, define 3 next steps in implementing the christmas program, and identify 2 potential volunteers.

work hard and commit to leading a great meeting – the effort you put in during the preparation phase will surely pay off during the actual meeting time. and if all else fails, try preparing for a triathlon – it might be easier than leading a great meeting!

follow up resources: my holy discontent: bad meetings –  a previous blog post, death by meeting – a book by patrick lencioni, and meetingsa fantastic blog post by seth godin.

thanks for visiting!

ado headshot

thanks for visiting my blog! i’m excited about the newly designed site and only hope that it can continue to be a place of encouragement and inspiration for children’s leaders. i love to spark conversation – especially when it benefits the spiritual formation of children- so this blog will continue to be a place of conversation – around the topics of leadership in the church and the spiritual formation of children in today’s ever-changing context. i look forward to chatting with you soon!

if there is any way i can encourage or serve you in your church – please feel free to contact me via email: | phone: (847) 754-5157 |twitter | facebook

be blessed and inspired today,


children’s ministry in the urban context – tuesday

we are continuing the conversation in how to best reach children in the urban context. today’s thoughts from darlene kelley relate to building on a different foundation and limited ministry resources.

building on a different foundation
urban ministry to children is a ministry that is built on a foundation that is vastly distinct from that of many suburban churches. many suburban churches are built on the foundation of spiritually forming children so that they live for and serve God as children and into adulthood, while many urban ministries are built upon a foundation of cementing biblical truth into the minds of children in order for them to store it up for a later time when they are old enough to use it. the expectation of many is that they will eventually leave church and return some day when they are adults because we have taught them well enough. the drop – out rate of young people continues to repeat itself because kids are not experiencing relevancy when they come to church, rather they are forced to sit through worship gatherings that are designed to be relevant to adults who are present.  change is necessary to achieve the desired result of developing children who passionately follow Jesus

limited resources and adult ministry focus
many urban churches tend to be adult focused. urban leaders are focused on repairing the lives of the broken adults they see within urban communities with a seeming unawareness that part of the reason for the brokenness they see is because of a failure on the part of adults to properly invest in the lives of those broken people while they were young children. an additional unspoken barrier to giving adequate attention to ministry to children is the financial needs of congregations – kids’ allowances are not adequate to finance the ministry. this remains a frustrating reality and is in desperate need of innovative and fresh solutions.

join us wednesday as darlene leads conversation in developing a children’s ministry that has a holistic approach, and encourages children to develop a proper view of self.

Darlene R. Kelley has served as a leader of various ministry teams throughout the East Coast and Midwest teaching and shepherding children, parents and volunteers, hosting various community wide family events, and preaching to local congregations. She is a pastor and teacher with a heart for teaching the Bible and training others for ministry. She currently holds a Master of Arts in Educational Ministries from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and is currently studying full time as she pursues a Master of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL

growing into leadership

P1010042lately, i’ve been reflecting on how i grew into my leadership. specifically who had influence in my life to challenge and encourage me to lead as myself. today i’m thinking about the influence of my family.

it all started with my grandpa, my Papa Paul. he told my parents when i was just 3 years old that i was a leader – and that they could expect to work for me someday. my papa paul passed away when i was just 7 so i never had the chance to fully discuss what specifically he saw in me – my sneaking suspicion is that he saw a 3 year old who loved to boss around her parents and her little baby sister, used her charm to get what she wanted, and most importantly never took the word “no” as an official answer to any question.  i maybe didn’t exemplify the definition of leadership at age 3, but i am grateful that Papa Paul saw something in me before anyone else did.

maybe because of the words of my papa paul, my parents encouraged me as a leader each day of my childhood. my dad often told me to do my best, and stand out in the crowd, and work hard, and lead so that others would follow. and he modeled to me the life of a leader with integrity – to not play games with your co-workers, and to always tell the truth – despite how good it might feel in the moment to lie, and most importantly to never, never cheat. he convinced me that if i played by the rules and did my very best work each day – i would earn the right to lead, that i would be a respected and trustworthy leader. and he was right. 100% right.

i’ve often been in leadership situations in which i’ve been tempted to play games – to make the right move politically. to lead selfishly so that i could get ahead. and i always come back to the example my dad set and i choose to lead with honesty and integrity.

my mom, day by day encouraged my leadership with her words – which turned out great for me because my love language is words of affirmation. my mom used words to tell me what she saw in me – “i love the creativity that comes from your heart – i could never think the things you think.” or “i see the way people follow you when you lead.” my mom always supported and even encouraged my crazy expressions of leadership as a kid – specifically when i pitched the idea of turning our entire backyard, including her shed – into a “Summer’s Fun” kids camp – which included inviting all of the neighborhood kids over for a full week of games, art, races, prizes, and a carnival – in which we would invite all of the parents over for a bbq. i even hired my sister as the Assistant Director, and I typed up a contract for her (and i do mean “typed” as in i typed the contract on my parents’ typewriter) in which i promised to pay her $5 a day for her duties as Assistant Director (not Assistant to the Director). And to all of this – my mom said, yes! What a great idea, Amy! She really did encourage me with her words.

and so because of my family’s influence, i began growing into my leadership. the first step was acknowledging it. fully embracing the fact that God gave me leadership gifts to be used for His good and His Kingdom and for His children. Leading well, and leading as myself so that others would be affected.

how are you growing into leadership? and who specifically influenced the leader you are today?

a great week with many highlights

Kate Harborit’s been a great week with so many highlights! i’m praising god for this week – and excited to continue following him in this new adventure.

this week – i spent time working in my office while my niece kate played on the floor next to me. an ideal working situation!

i had lunch yesterday with my friend lou ann, children and family director at vale community church – as always, i was filled up and inspired by all of lou ann’s dreams to impact children in her community!

i had several great meetings with potential partner organizations – i’m excited to partner together with others who are passionate about changing the future of church for children.

and i imagined new ways for inspiring children’s leaders with customizable training and speaking events. i’m looking forward to sharing more on this soon!

and of course, i was reminded that ministry is always better in team – with partners and friends you can trust, respect and share common vision and purpose.

what was the highlight of your week?

all leadership, all the time (well, at least for this week)

lately, i’ve been consulting several children’s ministry leaders on how to lead well. how to lead so that your vision for children is effectively executed. this week – i’m talking up a storm on leading well. i promise to you – all leadership posts, all week long. including: leading efficient meetings, improving your communication, self-leadership fresh ideas, leading with instinct, and discovering your leadership style.

when i was in college – a friend defined leadership to me by saying, “a leader is someone who has followers.” i thought this was a rather simplistic definition, but over the years – it has occurred to me that this might actually be the very best definition of leadership. you see – it’s not easy to have followers, just because you are assigned to be the leader – doesn’t mean people will naturally follow you. followers come as a result of clear vision, ownership and commitment to that vision, trust, respect, and assigned specific gift-based tasks.

my favorite leadership resources: howard hendrick’s book “creative leadership: a revolutionary approach to creative leadership” originally published in 1998 – still a go-to resource for me, anne jackson’s book “mad church disease: overcoming the burnout epidemic” challenges me to lead myself well, and of course i love to read children’s ministry leadership magazines: k!magazine and children’s ministry magazine.

connecting with parents – ask the expert

i love 9 year old alec greven’s new books, “how to talk to dads” and “how to talk to moms.” he has so much wisdom!

alec says the main goal for his book is to get dads and kids closer together. alec’s last chapter is called, “the power of the father” and believes it is the most important chapter – in it he says, “a dad’s goal for you is to be proud, confident, happy and safe.. and your dad helps you become you, so don’t underestimate the power of the father.”

i love the idea of going straight to the experts – kids – in order to better understand how to connect and inspire parents.