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How to throw a Splash Bash and Tell Kids about Jesus

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If you’re looking for a reason to beat the summer heat, get out and have fun, and make a difference in someone’s life consider doing a two hour Splash Bash in a park near your home.

A “Splash Bash” is an outreach idea that was born out of desperation a couple years ago. We live in the Dallas suburbs and instead of doing a VBS we decided to do something creative and go for a week-long backyard Bible club (be careful about being creative). We got our kids ready. We advertised for it. We put all our crafts together and planned the lessons out for a couple weeks.

On the first day we got nobody.

On the second day we got nobody.

On the third day we simply got desperate–guerrilla warfare desperate. So we TOTALLY switched gears and decided on a spontaneous outreach to kids. We took all the water balloon gear we had and the colored gospel bracelets and advertised a Splash Bash event in the park. Instead of a week-long event it was just over an hour. Instead of trying to accomplish a lot of Bible teaching we focused on just sharing the gospel as simple as possible. And even though there was a pool next to us we got kids showing up! Since then we’ve done this in other places and seen kids pray to trust Christ through this event. Here is all we’ve done. You can take this and improve on it.

1. Decide on a location and time for the event. You need to simply find a park or gathering spot where kids are present. We’ve seen this work really well at an apartment complex or densely populated area with kids. You might need to get permission but if you’re hoping to build community most places will let you do it. We have done ours at 10am on Saturday though an evening might be better in some places.

2. Advertise for it. Take your team of people (you only need 5-6 but you can have more if you like) and pray for God to open doors in the community. Go to the homes and put a flyer on their door inviting the kids to the Splash Bash event. You should do this the day before because kids may forget. Any kids you run into that day talk it up and let them know there is going to be a water balloon war at the end of the event with popsicles. Your flyer just needs to have basic information with pics of water games…make it fun.

Splash Bash! Tomorrow! Saturday at __________park at 10am | Water Games | Water Balloon War | Popsicles | FREE

If you’re doing this as a missional outreach with other believers in your neighborhood maybe you want to add “hosted by your neighbors _________________” If you’re doing it as a church put your church logo on the flyer.

If you have time go out in twos and knock on some doors and let them know what you’re doing. Ask kids to tell their friends.

3. Prep for it. The biggest items to prep for are filling up the water balloons. If you’re expecting 15 kids from the neighborhood to come out you need to have anywhere from 50-100 water balloons. Keep in mind that for a kid the more balloons you have the better and the more legit the Splash Bash the more likely you will be invited back. You also need to put a list of your games together and ask one person from your team to lead the games. This person is ideally great with kids and a good leader and able to get everyone’s attention.

4. Start with Games. Show up early and give any kids that show up a balloon and ask them to take that balloon around to their friends in the neighborhood and tell them to come to the Splash Bash. A kid telling his friend about a water balloon event at the park while holding a water balloon is awesome. They will leave the TV to come out.

When a good amount of kids show up you can start playing games and let the crowd build a crowd. If ANY game seems to really take off than do it several times…

* Water balloon toss (just like egg toss)

* Over/Under relay (you could also do this with a cup of water)

* Hunger Games–this game can be done on your own or as a team. Each person tries to protect their balloon while breaking all other opponents. The last man/team standing wins.

* Water Gun War–break up the group into teams and pull out some super soakers and have a war

5. Tell them about Jesus. Ask everyone to sit down in groups of 3-4 kids per leader. Have prepared kits ready for each kid to make a gospel bracelet. Have each leader share the story of the gospel and how trusting in Jesus has changed their life. Take your time and get to know the kids. If any child is interested in trusting in Jesus show them how to pray by modeling it and praying with them. From these conversations you’re seeking to build a relationship with parents in the community and establish a gospel presence through the church.

6. Give out popsicles. Have a cooler with your popsicles ready to go and a leader who can give them out. Use the opportunity to get to know the kids more and talk with any parents who are there. Tell them you are there simply to get to know the community and share the love of Christ.

7. Do a final water balloon war. Save a few balloons and make two teams (maybe out of the original two groups who did the egg toss). If kids are small you will want to create some distance between older kids who will hurl it and hurt the little ones. So make a line like in dodgeball and give each kid one or two balloons and let them go at it.

8. Finally clean up the park. Make sure you have the kids pick up the broken balloons all over the park. We’ve given incentives like an extra popsicle or make it a final game to see who can get the most. Leave the park better than you found it.

This is an event that can work in almost any context that is hot like Dallas. The advantages are it is relatively short to do, creates a memory for your team, builds relationships with the community (most parents and grandparents we’ve interacted with LOVED that we cared about their kids to do this), and very inexpensive.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/limedivine/3094164070/)

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Five Principles for Sharing Jesus (With People Very Different than You)

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In a class I’ve been teaching at church we have looked at what the Bible teaches about how to make disciples. If you’re anything like me you can over-think, over-spiritualize, and over-complicate anything–much less leading people to Jesus.

In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul does five things I have found helpful to reach those we are sent to with the knowledge of the amazing love of Jesus. Each principle can be leveraged to connect your neighbor with the truth of Christ regardless of how wide the cultural gap or challenging the visible differences.

  1.  Pray for them.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. (Acts 17:16 ESV)

Notice that God doesn’t drop some awesome strategy on Paul. He doesn’t with us either. Paul begins where we should–with just being provoked through prayer. Walk your neighborhood and different parts of your city. Allow your heart to break for the people around you. Get angry at the decay. Be unsettled by the spiritual bondage of the enemy.

“The evangelization of the world depends first upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for workers; deeper far than the need for money; deep down at the bottom of our spiritual lives, is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, worldwide prayer.”  Robert Speer, quoted by Dick Eastman, Love on its Knees, p. 175

2. Go to them and engage their philosophy.

So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:17-18 ESV)

Every person on your office floor, neighborhood block, or extended family has a worldview and philosophy. If you don’t believe me just ask them. Ask what they think about the afterlife, the idea of forgiveness from God, or the idea of resurrection or the latest zombie movie. By asking good questions you show respect for beliefs they have taken years to arrive at and you open the door to begin “reasoning” with someone. In other words if you ask good, patient, and fascinating questions at some point you will be asked some yourself. When you get that opportunity don’t begin by tearing down their ideas…just make a B-line to Jesus. Although Paul could have engaged all the nuances of Epicureanism (headonism) or Stoicism (fatalism) he doesn’t. He listens to their culture and reasons with their ideas but does so by showing how Jesus and the resurrection are central to their hopes.

 3. Respond positively to invitations.

 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” (Acts 17:19-20 ESV)

It sounds silly, but whenever someone invites you into their home, or out to lunch to talk more about topics that surround Jesus take them up on it. By accepting invitations you take another step toward building relationships and you build trust. Be smart but be willing to walk through any doors that open.

When Jesus sent his disciples out he made them vulnerable and dependent on those they were sharing the message with. He said, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart (Luke 9:3-4).” By responding positively to invitations we show our humanity and need for grace and that reflects the very message we are sharing.

4. Show how Jesus is the answer to their religious hope.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for  “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
 (Acts 17:24-31 ESV)

By observing and listening to the culture of the people of Athens Paul is able to share the gospel in a way that is not only respectful but hopeful. He doesn’t come with a message that “you’re wrong” as much as a message that “you’re close.” Wherever he can affirm their religious pursuit and respect their religious ideas he does. He’s not afraid of them. He knows that Jesus is better. Don’t be afraid to let music, movies, books, or any cultural topic be a platform to talk about Jesus and the resurrection. Paul quotes from the most popular artists of the day to drive home a point of God’s transcendence (power) and immanence (closeness) in Christ. We should do the same.

5. Leave the results with God.

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34 ESV)

The fifth principle is very important. If we are faithful to respectively and boldly share our believe in the resurrected Christ and his redeeming love some people will believe (v. 34), but some people won’t (v. 32). It’s really not up to us to try to make someone believe in the hope that we have. Moreover we can’t control if our intentions will be misunderstood or even publicly mocked. We’re just called to love like Jesus loved–and that means sharing the message of his death and resurrection so that anyone who believes in him can be forgiven of anything (anything!) they’ve ever done and know God as a Father. If we get too wrapped up in how someone will respond we are thinking too much about us and taking it too personal.

Helping someone discover a relationship with God was worth it all to Paul–and it should be worth it to us as well.

Let’s do this together…

photo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonrw/3521982740/)

How to Become a Racist

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I used to be a racist.

Like many people today I didn’t think I was. I was raised in a Christian home with solid biblical teaching. I was raised to believe that God made all people and loves all people. I believed that he died and rose for all people. I can remember as a child having friends of all colors and not thinking twice about it.

But as a young white youth living in an exclusively white town in Texas (I have no recall of an African American student at any point in my school growing up) you hear things. You laugh at things. You repeat things. You want to fit in. You go with the flow.

I slowly became a racist not because of a conscious choice to do anything. In fact it was really easy. I did nothing. I questioned nothing. I muted my conscience for the sake of being liked. It was so simple.

I didn’t question why there were no black students in my school, my church, my neighborhood. I knew why. The reputation of the town insured that only white people would live there.

And everyone was just fine with it.

I didn’t think the opinions from my friends were acting like poison in my veins–creating a hardened perception of people. I didn’t realize that hard working, loving, and generous people I knew could gently spew the same venom as my more clearly racist friends without the Red Man chew or four letter words. I didn’t know that white people could live in cultural ghettos of blind privilege.

Only when I started studying what it meant to follow Jesus and the claims of the gospel later in college did God initiated an invisible and unintentional journey out of ignorance. I was often unaware of corrections to my thinking. As I moved closer to Him, I only know that I moved away from what was natural to they way I thought about non-white people. It wasn’t like I woke up one day all fixed.This journey has been slow and embarrassing at times. Old patterns of thinking die hard.

I’ve been learning the hard way that the only journey out of racism is looking at the person of Jesus, His death for all people, and His reconciling and multi-ethnic pursuit to make a new race of people known only for their love.

So, if you want to become a racist–here’s my advice.

Just do nothing.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

(photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellyjean/3331718607/)