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4 Things We Can Learn from Apple

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I have a confession to make. I am writing this on my MacBook Pro, while my iPhone rests next to me. At home, my wife is probably working on her Mac. Maybe I’ll dial her iPhone when I’m finished. All told, our family has several iPods, an iTouch, five iPhones (six if you count the broken one that’s in a drawer), three MacBooks, 2 iPads, and a partridge in a pear tree. Or something like that. So far, our dog Joy is Apple-free, but give me time.

So, yes, I am biased. It didn’t used to be this way. In fact, as a Cisco and Microsoft guy, I was openly derisive of the “cult of Apple.” But I was won over and now I readily drink the Kool-Aid and find my thirst well-satisfied. But this isn’t about the merits of OS X vs. Windows, or Android vs. iOS. Whether you are pro- or anti-Apple, there’s little disputing they are good at what they do. Very good.  A few recent interactions with Apple made me realize there is much that we as Christians can learn from the folks who work at Apple.

Be Accessible

Apple stores are brilliantly designed, transparent both literally and figuratively. The prominent use of glass creates a very open atmosphere. The products are front and center, and readily available to try out, and they don’t limit you to a prescribed “demo” either. Want to check your email or perform some other on-line task? Go right ahead. They make no apologies for who they are (or are not), don’t try to hide in a carefully-controlled environment, and don’t make you enter their own specialized “world.” Rather, they basically say, “We’re Apple. Come check us out for yourself."

How refreshing would it be if the church was like this? Are we making the gospel as easily accessible as possible for our guests, or are we putting up barriers? Are we using unecessary insider jargon (narthex), when simple words everyone understands would suffice (lobby)? Do we spend more time on guests conforming to our needs (“You need to check your child in over at that kiosk"), rather than meeting theirs (“Welcome. How can I help you this morning?)?

Be Authentic

I have heard a few people say they are put off by the casual appearance of Apple employees in their stores. It can be very difficult to distinguish a worker from a shopper. Still, almost without exception they are knowldegeable, generous with their time, and patient. It is immediately apparent they enjoy talking about Apple. They believe in the product, and trust in its ability to perform. They share their experiences using Apple devices, and you get the impression they would still use them even if it wasn’t how they earned a living.

Seems like a pretty good example for us. When we share the gospel, we do more damage than good if we pretend to know all the answers, or pretend to be anything other than who God has made us to be. Be yourself and just share with them how you have experienced the love of Christ in your own life.

Be Relational

Next time you have the opportunity, look through the window of an Apple store. You will see people of all descriptions: Teens who have literally grown up with technology all around them, and retirees buying their first smart phones. You will see I.T. pros and people unsure of how to turn a computer on. It doesn’t matter. With the I.T. person, Apple is happy to talk “speeds and feeds,” while with grandma, they will keep things really simple. In short, they relate to the individual they are working with, and meet them at their level.

The next time you have the opportunity to speak with a non-believer, try the Apple model. Listen to the other person to learn what is going on in their life and where they might be spiritually. Then meet them where they are. You shouldn't try to recite everything you have ever learned in Sunday school. Save the canned spiel and just have a conversation.

Be Passionate

I was recently in one of their stores to upgrade my phone. While one salesperson helped me, another approached my daughter, who was at the next table over. She was exploring the new camera features. When he asked if she had seen the new slo-mo option, she replied “oh, I’m just playing with it. I’m not buying anything.” His reply was awesome. “So what, it’s really cool! I’m going to run in place and you film me!” Which he did, right in the middle of the very busy store.  No sale resulted, but he definitely got her attention and created a ton of interest.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to share the greatest story. Ever. Are we passionate about telling others about it? Are we ready to share it at every opportunity, even when a “sale” doesn’t seem likely? How much do we really trust our story, or more importantly, the Author? We should be thrilled to share even a part of Christ’s love for us. After all, it's a whole lot cooler than slo-mo.

Posted by Jeff Brown

10 Tips for Children's Volunteers

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Dear Friends,

You have a wonderful, but difficult job. People say “bless you” when you tell them your title. You wake up on Sunday mornings with this week’s Bible verse on your lips and butterflies in your stomach. You have witnessed more people giving their hearts to Jesus than most people will ever do in their lifetime. You have walked into church with glue on your hands and a cotton ball stuck to your shoe.  

Your subject matter is invaluable, but you don’t get paid. Your job is monumental, but you already work full-time somewhere else. You try to keep the kids quiet and happy, but they are miserable until they can make some noise. There is a curriculum, but no principal. There are expectations, but no tests. It’s the weekend, but you’ve got to convince them to go to school. Sound familiar? If so, then you’re a Sunday school teacher.

And I owe you an apology. I fed you lunch, handed you the curriculum, gave you details about logistics, and even prayed for you…but I left you to guess about the unspoken struggle when dealing with children’s ministry: discipline.

I don’t claim, in any way, to know everything about classroom management or discipline. In fact, there are many ways in which I could improve in this area, but I can pass on a few tools that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. You can expect the kids to obey you. One of my favorite quotes about training kids is from Dr. Dobson: “The two most important things you can teach your young child is that he is loved and he is not the boss.”
  2. It sounds contradictory, but while you are expecting them to obey, you can also expect them to push back. Good teachers are ready for students to try to bend the rules, so when it happens, they don’t get pulled in emotionally or flustered. Your students are kids, not robots, so they will try. But we are the boss, right?
  3. You can expect them to be smart. Sometimes, we are so quick to feed information and we miss out on an opportunity for kids to figure things out themselves. It sends the message that they should be passive and decreases their engagement almost immediately. One of the hardest things I had to learn to do as a teacher was to be patient and increase my “wait time”. This involves less talking from the teacher and more thinking space for the students.
  4. Offer a second chance. "Try that again” -usually when you offer a kid a second chance, he will obey/respond appropriately.
  5. Proximity and Touch is so effective.- Sometimes, just moving closer to a child who is distracted will help. Or, by simply putting your hand on a child’s shoulder while you are giving instructions or to redirect him, adds to the impact.
  6. Choice is very motivating, even when it’s in disguise. “You can choose whether you would like to play a game or do this craft.” It’s freedom within boundaries, and it usually leads to less rebellion. Also, choices can be taken away if needed. “Sorry, you’ll have to move to another activity since you aren’t following the rules here.”
  7. Talk to the parents. Please don’t feel like you have to lie and say a child is behaving “great” if he isn't. Let the parent know what you are struggling with, and ask what motivates the child at home. Good parents want to be told the truth about their children, even if it’s not pretty. Make sure to follow up and report any improvement. And to be clear, we are talking about patterns of behavior, not isolated incidents, unless very serious. Everyone has a bad day.  
  8. Balance your schedule well. For elementary students, for every minute that you need them to sit still and listen, also allow for two minutes of movement and appropriate noise. If you expect them follow only your directions for a certain time, also give them other opportunities to choose what they would like to do.
  9. Don’t ask for permission: Eliminate the word “Okay?” from your instructions. Instead of saying, “I want you to take out your Bible, okay?” say: “It’s time to take out your Bible.” Let your language show who is in authority.
  10. Smile. Talk. Ask questions and listen. The more you engage with the kids, the more they will feel loved and want to participate appropriately. You all are so good at this!  :)

And finally, there aren’t enough ways to thank you for your countless hours of service, for enduring the graham cracker crumbs and crashing block towers, and for using your gifts in such a sacrificial way.

Your church loves and appreciates you. And the kids do too, they just show it a little messier.


In Christ,

Karen Brown

Elementary Education Coordinator

Central Presbyterian Church

A New Chapter

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We are about to begin a new chapter at Central Presbyterian Church. In a matter of days, our new parking garage and student center will be open for use, and this provides new potential to be a powerful blessing to our current congregation and to the community around us. Just as the best hammer in the world is only as effective as the craftsman who wields it, the extent of the blessing hinges in large part on how we as a congregation choose to use the new facilities.  In an effort to steward these resources for maximum benefit, we are honing our philosophy and policies which will guide the use of the new facilities.

The Parking Garage: Sundays vs. Weekdays

For the first time in our history on this property, we will have a place to park that is "on campus." The garage provides nearly 100 parking spaces. As a result, we need to be smart about how we utilize the garage for our different events. Generally speaking, there are two distinct scenarios: 1) Sunday morning, and 2) Weekdays.

Sunday Mornings are a special time at Central. Our campus is teeming with activity as we worship the Lord together, attend classes together, care for children of all ages, and enjoy times of fellowship together. This makes it critical for us to think strategically about parking on Sunday mornings. The new garage doesn't replace any of our existing options (outlined below), but rather supplements them. These options allow us to think “missionally” about how to use the new parking garage. The temptation will be for all of us to flock to the new garage because it is so convenient (and nice looking!). But that would be an opportunity missed.

In order to make Sunday morning as accessible to those who need it most, the new parking garage will be prioritized in the following manner:

    1. Guests: How many times have you invited someone to Central, only to have them frustrated by the parking situation? The new garage gives us a new way to improve our guest experience, and to make the Gospel more accessible to the world around us.
    2. Disabled and Elderly (age 70+): The new garage provides safe and easy access to this important segment of our congregation. 
    3. Families with Young Children (5th grade and younger): Parents with young children will have a much safer way to get their families into the church.

If one of the above 3 categories does not describe you, we ask that you NOT use the garage on Sunday mornings. 

This is ok, because we can still have all of our traditional Sunday parking options:

    • Along Hanley Rd. in the designated areas near Central
    • In the Central Christian School garage
    • In the parking lot behind th sold Layton's (7930 Clayton Rd.)
    • In the old Schnuck's lot at the corner of Hanley and Clayton
    • In the Davis Place neighborhood between the hours of 8am and 1pm

Weekdays are a completely different dynamic. The new parking garage will be able to serve the needs of just about every program we have at Central. Come and experience the convenience and beauty of the new garage anytime between Sundays, without restriction. This is also the case for Sunday evenings and Saturdays.