When Camp is Over

I spend a good chunk of each summer at camps speaking to kids. I kinda really love it. It challenges my communication skills, it gives me amazing “kid time”, it draws me closer to Jesus, it allows me to build into young leaders, it gives me stories and illustrations for days, and the list goes on and on. It’s equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.

I’m currently winging my way towards New York where I’ll be doing my 30th camp in 5 years. What an incredible blessing.

I do something that apparently is unique to most speakers, at the end of my week I give kids my card. They are given one of these.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.40.37 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.40.51 PM

Kids are natural connectors and most of them are more sentimental than grandmothers. When they connect with someone they want to continue that connection. I’m the queen of sentimentality so I get that, I understand them. So I allow them to have access to me.

A lot of people think I’m crazy to give out my information to kids. I know I’m not crazy (ha ha), but I am unique. Kids make huge decisions at camp that directly affect the rest of their lives. That impact is never felt quite so deeply as right after camp when the spiritual high is low, the sunburn is peeling, and the songs are still stuck in their heads. They begin to question and doubt and wonder. Mostly they’re looking for someone who was there, someone who remembers. I remember.

And then there is Miss Mel’s heart who has thousands of kids etched upon it. Each one holds a piece of my heart and I love that. I love them.

So I allow them to be connected. A lot of them follow me on Instagram. They go through right after camp and like every single picture I’ve ever taken and then they take silly pictures and tag me in them. A few of them put right in their instagram bios that you simply MUST follow @melissajmacdonald.  Very few actually text or e-mail me for very long. I typically average about 10 a camp and they usually taper off in a few days. 3-5 call me in a summer. But nearly every kid who had me at a camp the year before will tell me they still have their card. They know right where it is and they’ve saved it.

Camp Decisions

It’s worth it.

2 weeks ago I got a call from an 8 year old girl from camp. She said, “I figured since you were religious I could talk to you about my mom’s cancer. I’m scared.” So we talked and I prayed with her as my eyes welled up with tears.

One 11 year old has been texting me every day telling me about how scared she is about her grandpa’s health and how much she wishes her mom wasn’t in jail. So I text back and tell her I’m praying.

And then I get these kind of e-mails:

Hi Miss Mel,
It’s Kami!! I haven’t written to you in a while! I miss you so much. I have great news!!! I FULLY ACCEPTED CHRIST INTO MY LIFE!!!! I’m so excited and happy!!! I just wanted to let you know!!!
Kami
From camp rivercrest last year

Sent from my iPod
Hi this is Tara from 9 square

It’s not getting better for  family but I am still praying.

Dear Miss Mel,

I was one of your students at camp rivercrest. It seems as if I am having a different relationship with God outside of camp also I don’t feel like my life is complete still I am with God but I feel as if my whole life has been turned upsidown because of my mom and dad have been divorced since i was three and I am worried about going back to school and that I’ll have no friends and get made fun of and I know I am a pineapple person because my mom dad and grandma say that I am being rude to a lot of people but i really need your help especially with my moms boyfriend Steve I just hate him so much and I really need your help please write back talking to me and telling me what I should do you can contact me and write back at

The cost per card is pennies, the cost for me to reply is nothing but heart time, and the meaning it has for them is priceless.

I am by no means saying that everyone should do this but for me it works and I thought I would share. I love love love all their messages and pictures and awkward texts. It brings joy to my heart and it reminds me to pray. It’s worth it to connect.

Passport to Purity- Review

If you’re like me, you have an awkward memory of “the talk”. Ambiguity and confusion marked that particular moment in my life. While what was being told to me was important I can’t say that the communication was as clear as my parents would have liked. So while “the talk” doesn’t stick out to me when I think about purity the conversations with my parents throughout my teen years do.

Passport to Purity is an awesome program that gives you (parent, caregiver, etc) all the tools you need to discuss a lifestyle of purity that goes far beyond a purity ring and a curfew.

As a children’s pastor and #kidmin consultant I am a huge fan of this program. Countless parents I know have done this program with their kids with outstanding results. It provides a beautiful opportunity to have intentional time with your kiddo to talk about purity. The getaway kit is designed for a weekend getaway with your child but it can be broken up into different periods as well.

The getaway kit includes:

(1) Tour Guide for the parent, (1) Travel Journal for the preteen including 25 follow-up devotions, and (8) CDs containing 5 sessions, scripture memory songs and downloadable MP3s:  Session 1: Beginning the Journey – Challenges, Traps, and Choices; Session 2: Running With The Herd – Friendships and Peer Pressure; Session 3: Ready For An Upgrade? – Changes in Him, Changes in Her; Session 4: Destination: Lé Pure – Setting Boundaries; Session 5: Crossing The Date Line – Seeing Dating Differently
After completely Passport to Purity one of my #kidmin girlies text me a picture of her new purity ring and told me here weekend was “amazing”. Mom and Dad were happy too.
I highly recommend this program!

Your child begins the journey into adolescence in a world of sexting, bullying, online stalking and moral defiance.  Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules.  The primary defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.  FamilyLife developed Passport2Purity (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare him or her for the turbulent years ahead.

Through the shared listening experience, object lessons and guided conversations of a P2P weekend getaway, you can set your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity – and strengthen the bond between you.  It is designed to be used by a mother and daughter or a father and son when the child is a preteen.  It is suggested that the materials be completed over a weekend away from home, as the child may be more open to discussing the topics away from his or her normal environment.  If this isn’t possible, the material can be completed over a period of four or five weeks.

 

p2pThey have a great offer to receive 25% off the getaway kit by using the promo code PASSPORT on their website.  This promo code is good through 8/31/15.  

A Well Timed Word

3 years ago I woke up on a Sunday morning with anticipation in my heart for a week at camp as the camp speaker. I laid in bed for just a minute to think of all I had to get done before I was on my way and then I got out of bed, or attempted to get out of bed. Somewhere in the normal every day getting out of bed process my back gave out. With a weird pull and a muscle contracting all normal movement ceased. I managed to hobble to the bathroom and when I bent over to try to turn the shower on the tears started as I realized I couldn’t bend to reach the faucet.

The story goes on to involve a whole church praying, a dear doctor friend paying a house call, 6 shots, 2 major prescriptions, and a lot of stubborn perseverance. At the end of the day with my 16 year old assistant by my side I was at camp. I wasn’t standing upright but I was there. I knew I was supposed to be there and so there I was. Despite opinions to the contrary it never occurred to me not to be there.

They story would be so great if I had stood on that stage that night and been healed while telling kids about Jesus. Amazing story, right? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, the back spasmed and I tried to decide if I could speak while laying flat on the floor. I was quite sure I could but after a couple deep breathes I was able to keep going. The whole week was like that. A lot of deep breaths and a lot of keep goings. and in it there was beauty.

I alternated between the recliner and limping. People brought me food and ice. Staff came and talked with me. Kids waved at me from afar with strict instructions not to touch and I kept going. In the middle of one afternoon when I was feeling quite sorry for myself someone left this note on my door. Little did they know what beauty there would be in this simple anonymous note.

545090_10151052091593488_980623293_nTears ran down my face as I read through that scripture. Over and over again I read through it and over and over again I found my resolve strengthening, I found my heart healing, I found hope. I kept going and while the pain was still there (it would take months to fully recover) my purpose was redefined from me to Him.

Those verses have been my defining verses for the last 3 years. I have preached more sermons from 2 Corinthians than I can count. I have passed on these verses to people on almost a weekly basis. I turn to them repeatedly. I turned to them yesterday as the cold I picked up at camp in Alabama this week had me in bed for the day. I opened my Bible and there was that 3 year old note speaking to me yet again.

I wondered….

I still have no idea who left me the note but I know it was from one of the young staff members. Their boldness and obedience still blesses me. I’m sure they felt inadequate and maybe a little silly giving scripture to the speaker, and yet they did. I’m sure they wondered if it would mean anything and yet they gave without expecting to know. I’m sure they doubted the timeliness and didn’t want offend with such a simply “Christian” note, and yet they gave it just in time. I’m sure they had no idea that their obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit would significantly impact my life.

And I wonder…

How often I have been too scared, felt too silly, been too busy, believed I was too inadequate, doubted, ignored, run away, etc and missed the moments the Holy Spirit has desired to use me to bless someone. I have no doubt there have been many.

I look at this timeworn tiny note and resolve to be bolder and more obedient. I don’t want to miss moments like this, for me or for someone else.

20150620_164252

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. Proverbs 25:11

The Power of Listen, Love, and Be

I believe most of ministry is about relationships. It’s not about a certain age group, or a certain church, or even a certain “niche”. Ministry is about loving people where they are at and building relationships with them.

I’m a recovering task-oriented minister. I spend a lot of years thinking ministry was about the spreadsheets I could make. I thought ministry was about the yearly calendar I had marked up (color coded!). I thought ministry was about schedules, and ratios, and words and checklists. I look back and shake my head realizing no impact was made on a person’s life through my checklists. Yes, it may have been a tool to reach people but I was much more concerned with said tool than I was with people. There’s a place for task but even more so there’s a place for us task-oriented people to put aside the calendar and simply listen and love and be.

The Power of Listen, Love, and Be

I can’t remember the exact moment or process that began to shake my idea of what ministry was. Maybe it was that time at camp when I stopped talking long enough to listen to that camp counselor who was sharing about how God was challenging him. Maybe it was that time at the hospital when words failed and I cried and listened and hugged.

Most likely the turning point was when I entered into a 3 day session of counseling and my counselors looked at me with genuine interest and compassion and said, “tell us your story”. The power of someone listening to my story astounded me. For the first time I understood the healing power of listening.

Along with being task-oriented I like to fix things. So I began listening but in my listening I was half-eared. While they were talking I was solving their problem. That’s not really listening. I went through a tough period and realized I didn’t want to be around the people who tried to fix me, I wanted to be around the people who just listened and loved me.

And so I adjusted again.

Now I’ve reached the point where I’m striving to just be. To just listen. To just love.

It’s kinda crazy, the quieter I am, the more they actually say and the more He breaks in.

And because I’m still a fixer at heart I’ve been taking them to the Great Fixer. I’ve prayed with more people lately because I’m being quiet more. Look what God can do?

So I challenge you my friends, how about this summer you spend a little less time using label makers, and sharpies, and lists and spend a little more time intentionally being relational. Intentionally listening instead of speaking. Intentionally being instead of doing. Why intentional? Because if you’re like me you have to do it intentionally until it becomes a habit.

And I won’t tell if you add “be intentionally relational” on your to do list. 😉

The Alliance

Print

I have the privilege of being the National Children’s Disciplemaking Specialist for The Christian and Missionary Alliance. I mean for real, it’s like the greatest honor ever. I’ve been in a version of this role for about 4 years. We had our General Council just a couple of weeks ago in California and it brought immense joy to my heart to see kids noticed, recognized, promoted, and loved from the main stage. Over 4000 church leaders heard that we at The Alliance believe that kids are some of God’s most precious people.

11391205_884690028244545_2573212516557834660_n

We have a newly revamped website you should check out. The story of why I left Council early is in the blog over there. www.cmalliancekids.com. God is on the move and I’m in awe of his kindness.

And in case you’re wondering, this is what we believe….