28 August 2012

Reinvention and Re-Direction

First Step Ministries History
This past April 26 I celebrated my 10th year in full-time ministry. From then to now, First Step Ministries, Inc. has gone through a number of changes and directions in ministry. At about the five year mark in Germany, I seemed to be led back into more direct involvement with children's ministry.

This evolved into ministry to men and fathers in a unique way. As a dad, grandfather and a children's pastor, I realized that most kids do not receive any spiritual training at home. In my message, I asked the men to commit to training and praying with their children on a regular basis. It was important to encourage the men and let them know that they did not have to be in "full-time ministry" before they could do it. And if they did it, it would be the most important legacy they could leave for their children.

The Next Step
During one of those meetings I met a Finnish man who publishes a bi-monthly Christian Men's Magazine in Finland called Tosimes Lehti. I emailed him and asked if he would be interested in publishing an article about this concept. He immediately replied asking if I could have an article ready for his next issue. He also asked how many would I like to write. I was excited. Without having anything really ready, I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity. I said yes and we agreed that I would write for a year and decide if we both wanted to continue. This December 2012 will be three years of writing for Tosimies Lehti.

As I traveled throughout Europe and Asia, I saw many churches who actually "babysit" their children instead of teaching them during the main service. Teaching young children the Gospel seems to be more a little more accepted in America than Europe. There are many reasons for this situation.

Some did not have curriculum available to them in their language. Others just didn't have the basic training needed to teach the children and some it was a cultural issue. No doubt people that work with children love them. It is hard enough to get volunteers. But many of them have not been shown the potential their children have to learn both basic and deep spiritual principles.    

The Solution = Reinvention and Re-Direction of First Step Ministries
Recognizing this problem, led me to think about how the European children's workers could receive in-service training. How could they also modify or create culturally and context relevant curriculum for their children.

The idea struck me to try and network the "those that have" with "those that didn't". I know some incredible children's ministry teachers. And I have met those that have a heart but no training. This can work!

Free Mainstream Christian Kids Curriculum
Here's the goal:

  • Adapt existing, copyright free curriculum could be done at a regional or language level
  • Create context and culturally relevant curriculum 
  • Train children's workers how to develop their own curriculum
  • Receive free or very inexpensive in-service training in their own language 
  • Provide open access to translated curriculum and training into their mother tongue available to everyone
  • Create a pool of peer-to-peer trainers based regionally that would provide cost effective training

For two years, I've thought about how to get this done. Everyone agrees it is a great idea. I wrote a basic business plan including a vision and mission statement. It has become the foundation for what is now an incredible concept.

Fresh Eyes = Fresh Ideas
Recently, I lunch with some of my past DHL friends. I shared my concept about the network. They loved it. When they heard the details, it was like an "idea bomb" went off at our table. They started contributing tremendous ideas on how to expand the concept. It was exciting. Fresh eyes with fresh ideas can really made an impact.

We have solidified the ideas into an action plan. A volunteer team is forming based on their skills. Everyone has some part to contribute but many more skills are needed.

Need a Website Developer
The biggest project is to find someone or a team that can build an extensive website. We already know the various functions it will need. 
  • Translated pages in every common European language
  • Forums where everyone can connect to share problems and solutions. 
  • A page to download translated printed curriculum in the various European languages. 
  • Eventually the ability to download audio and video training available in various languages. All of this based on translated pages in common European languages.
  • Moderators to help users in their mother tongue. 
If you know of someone that would like to volunteer their time and expertise in this or any area, please let me know.  You can Facebook me "Larry Blakeslee" or email me at Larry@FirstStepMinistries.net  

God's Ideas Coming Together
This is going to be much bigger and involved than I first thought. But the impact on ministering the Gospel to the children in Europe is going to be incredible.

Lawrence Blakeslee
Missionary to Europe

02 August 2012

Short & Sweet Update

 I won't begin to make excuses for how long it's been since I've blogged. There are plenty of them and all very "legitimate". Rather, I've been feeling guilty about having a "season" where this blog has not been a top priority.

Last weekend I was with some new Finnish missionaries sharing my thoughts about what it takes to be a full-time missionary. The topic of communications came up. How and when do we send out newsletter, blog, Tweet, etc. As I spoke to them, I felt "guilt or conviction" about my own lack of communication. So it's time to "recommit" and get consistent with updating you on all that is going on and has been going on in my life and ministry. There really is plenty to tell. Since we're all busy, I'm going to try to do this in bullet points.

The Update

  • End of 2011: Happy to see 2011 go away. It was the clearly toughest year I've had in ministry. Everyone in the U.S. is having a tough time and it understandably reflected on their giving to overseas missionaries. (Including me.)
  • Start of 2012: Off to a little rocky start but God did some incredible financial miracles. 
  • January - March: God confirmed and re-confirmed my idea to network children's workers in Europe. He would NOT let me walk away from this idea. More info and details to come on that topic.
  • April: Great God directed connections to people that could help build the network.
  • May: Finally after not being able to return to the U.S. for two years, I get back. No attempt to minister anywhere in the U.S. I needed the time personally. In Phoenix, nearly every hour was dedicated to getting personal tasks done. Work on my rental house, major dental work, new glasses and I passed my next level up test of Amateur Radio License.
  • June: Off to the East Coast to visit my two sons and three grand kids. One in North Carolina and the other in Florida. Again, no ministry time, just much needed family time. Two years is too long for me not to see and hug them. We had soooo much fun together. They needed their dad and grandpa. I needed them to remember what's important in life. 
  • July: Back to Bonn. Refreshed, good attitude adjustment and ready to jump on the kids network project with maximum energy. 
  • August: Recommitted to blogging and communicating more. Team building for the kids ministry network. Prep time for promotional media for the kids network and two conferences in October. Still writing a series of articles for the Finnish Christian Mens magazine called Tosimes.  
Proud dad Shawn and new 7th grader Antonella

William, Hailey & Bradley

Blessings from Bonn,
Rev. Lawrence Blakeslee
Missionary to Europe