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Standing Up, Standing Out

There’s no shortage of news–that is, good news about kids doing great things! Check out these amazing boys–and what their selfless acts can mean for your ministry.

Every day, all over the world, kids are making headlines–some for outlandish things, some for amazing things. Kids lead noteworthy efforts to save the planet, raise millions of dollars for people in need, and guide others to greatness through their exceptional creativity. They’re inventing things. They’re writing books. They’re surviving diseases and overcoming disastrous world challenges. In fact, search YouTube and in a matter of seconds, you can find hundreds of child prodigies, little Mozarts, and even 3-year-olds solving Rubik’s Cubes puzzles. Kids truly are amazing.

As children’s ministers we’re around kids–a lot. That’s why it’s sometimes easy to forget just how remarkable and unique they really are. It’s good to step back every now and then to consider some of the superstars of this emerging generation. Seeing the standouts helps us remember all the potential of the kids gathered in our ministries. Read on and you’ll see kids as larger-than-life individuals with the greatest faith, strongest spirits, and most indelible hope and potential of anyone on Earth.


My name is Pat. I’m 12 years old and I have leukemia. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March 2006. This diagnosis came after a long, painful year suffering from what we thought was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The pain and swelling in my joints got so bad that I was in a wheelchair for five months because I was unable to walk a single step. When the pain got worse and I had a fever that wouldn’t go away, my doctors put me in the hospital where they found out that I really have leukemia.” This is what Pat Pedraja writes on his Web site,

The day after Pat’s diagnosis, he told his family his situation had happened for a reason. This was an important event in his life, he said, meant to teach him something. Pat immediately began asking himself what he could do to help others. He got his answer when a close friend who couldn’t find a lifesaving marrow donor died. Pat felt compelled to do something so no other kids would die because they couldn’t find a bone marrow donor match, so he started Driving for Donors.

Driving for Donors began in 2007 as a nationwide event. Pat’s family traveled around the country in a special “Donormobile.” In collaboration with other organizations, Pat and his family hosted successful donor drives in more than 30 major cities. Pat’s raised more than $100,000 for tissue typing fees and driving expenses by selling advertising on his bald head. Driving for Donors has signed up more than 6,000 donors to the National Marrow Registry, and Pat’s efforts have helped save four lives so far.

Pat has been interviewed, written about, and honored, yet he says his proudest moments are the times he’s received phone calls telling him that his efforts have helped save a life.

How can this story shape my…

• Ministry? Kids are just waiting to be moved to action. Move them. Expose your kids to real problems people are struggling with daily, and encourage them to think critically about how they can help, using their purpose and potential. God uses children to change the world; it’s time to follow in his footsteps, don’t you think?

• Programs? Create programs that challenge kids. Encourage kids to participate in service learning projects. Challenge their ideas and give them forums to hash out their feelings within your programs.

• Perceptions? Kids are capable, aware, smart, and innovative leaders. See your kids as powerful people who have strong feelings, passion, faith, and a calling from God to do miraculous things. Believe that kids aren’t too young to save the world. “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity”

(1 Timothy 4:12).

• Actions?

Look for the silver lining.

Continue to ask, “How can I help?”

Reflect on ways God may use you to fix or relieve a problem.

Take action on your ideas.

Network with others who share your vision, passion, and goals to accomplish success.

Celebrate every child who enters into a relationship with Jesus.


“I’m not perfect,” admits McKay Hatch in a Los Angeles Times interview. “I’ve slipped before. I’ve said the f-word. I used to say, ‘Oh fudge!’ and the other word would slip out. So I don’t say ‘fudge’ anymore.

“A lot of kids at my school, and some of my friends, would cuss and use dirty language all the time,” says McKay. “They did it so much, they didn’t even realize they were doing it…But some of the kids said they didn’t know how to stop. That’s when I started the No Cussing Club.”

The goal of McKay’s club was to create a group that challenged kids to quit using profanity. Word spread at his school, and a month later the No Cussing Club had 50 members. Before McKay knew it, the No Cussing Club created a nationwide sensation through its Web site, Today, club membership is free and there are more than 20,000 members worldwide. McKay’s story has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, and McKay is writing a book about the No Cussing Club.

All kids are influenced by their surrounding culture; they’re in schools, sports, and circumstances that come with a melting pot of personalities and pressures. They see and hear things every day that are disturbing-and that’s just at school. McKay took a stand for what he believed in: eliminating profanity from his vocabulary, school,and beyond. He demonstrated great leadership, courage, determination, and confidence. McKay took the concept of peer pressure and turned it into an outlet for positive change.

How can this story shape my…

• Ministry? See kids as leaders. There are kids just like McKay looking back at you every Sunday. Look for opportunities for them to enlarge God’s kingdom by standing for what they believe in. Kids want to be trusted with important tasks, they want to be respected, and most of all they want to be valued. Kids don’t want to be told to sit down and be quiet and wait for the teaching to begin. They want to live the lesson. They want to have ownership of the ministry.

McKay had a deep-seated passion, like Nehemiah and his passion to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:17-18). McKay was contagious with his vision and shared it enthusiastically-and he consequently inspired others. There are kids in your ministry right now with the ability to lead. Who are they?

• Programs? Cultivate multiple opportunities for kids to lead other kids. Create programs that allow kids to lead in various areas, such as outreach, worship, small groups, or even attendance tracking. By intentionally allowing kids the chance to come to the forefront within your ministry, you’ll help transform those young leaders and the kids they’re leading. This interaction helps kids identify with other kids and with God on a deeper level. When kids see other kids participating, leading, and enjoying the programs, they immediately want the same things-they participate, lead, and enjoy the programs even more.

• Perceptions? Kids are deep thinkers with opinions, hopes, and dreams even at young ages. Kids have matchless power to bring other kids along in their journey toward greater faith and commitment to Jesus. Kids have power that adults don’t have; they can challenge other kids in a way that’s unique to them.

Giving all kids positive Christian role models can empower the kids in your ministry and may take them places they’ve never been in their journey toward a lifelong relationship with Jesus. Relationship is the key to any successful ministry. If kids are truly going to find Jesus and give their lives over to him, they need to see other kids already doing it.

• Actions?

Take a stand for what’s right.

Take chances that could improve your community.

Set memorable, positive examples for team members and kids.

Leave people better than you find them.

See kids as your most influential power players when it comes to spreading God’s Word.


“I like to draw because it’s fun and it’s my passion,” Dillon Koehn says. “I feel that’s what God’s calling me to do.”

When Dillon began doodling in the margins of his schoolwork, he didn’t think much of it. But his third-grade art teacher took note-and encouraged him to pursue art lessons. Now, at age 15, Dillon’s remarkable artistic talent is getting attention. His exhibits have drawn more than 1,000 people who want to purchase his work-and rather than enriching himself with the growing profits, he’s enriching the lives of orphans. (Check out his amazing work at

Growing up, Dillon says he heard a lot about orphans in Haiti. His grandfather had been involved in creating a mission that assisted orphans there since 1966. Dillon knew about their lives and challenges-and he’d long wanted to help. So when his artwork began to command higher and higher prices, Dillon decided to donate a percentage of the money to the orphans. To date, he’s been able to purchase shoes, clothes, and toys for orphans at the Christian Fellowship Mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He hand-delivered the gifts to kids-and left behind beautiful murals he painted on the orphanage walls.

“I painted some murals on the walls of flowers and palm trees with verses in them,” Dillon told Breakaway magazine. “I just want God’s love to be with the orphans as they grow up…they don’t have their earthly parents, but they have a heavenly Father, and that’s what I want them to know.”

How can this story shape my…

• Ministry? Dillon has long felt compassion for the orphans in Haiti, and his art provided the conduit for him to help them. Spend time learning where your kids’ “compassion points” are. Do they long to help kids who are bullied? Are they worried about the plight of polar bears? Once you know their compassion points, help them find ways to turn compassion into passionate action.

• Programs? Keep kids’-not your-compassion points in mind when you create programs and serv-ice projects. When you give kids specific opportunities to provide tangible help (dishing up food at a shelter food line), you allow them to see the immediate results of their compassion in action.

• Perceptions? All kids have gifts-even the tough kids and the kids who challenge you most. And sometimes tapping those gifts can help a struggling child become a star player. Any time children help someone else-especially in direct, tangible ways-they’re building self-worth and empathy.

• Actions?

Do more than just encourage the specific gifts you see in kids-help them find ways to use their gifts.

Point out the amazing things you see kids doing-no matter how big or how small.

Never give up on the idea that you can make a difference.

Dream big-and be willing to wait for God to deliver the pathway to that dream.


Ryan Hreljac was 6 when he first learned in school that people in developing countries were dying because they didn’t have access to clean water. This knowledge moved him deeply and spurred him to action–Ryan worked for four months to earn $70 that he donated to help bring clean water to people in need. When Ryan was 7, the first well was built at a school in a Ugandan village. That well has since served thousands.

Ryan’s determination grew from that first $70 he earned by doing simple household chores-and it eventually evolved into a foundation that today has contributed 432 wells in 15 countries, bringing clean water and sanitation services to more than 577,640 people, according to The foundation has raised millions of dollars.

Ryan speaks passionately about the need for clean water around the world, and he’s visited over two dozen countries to spread his message. He makes presentations to hundreds of schools, churches, and civic clubs. Ryan is recognized by UNICEF as a Global Youth Leader, and his efforts have allowed him to meet some of the world’s most important people. But despite all that, he maintains, “The most impressive people I’ve met are the other kids who want to help, too.”

How can this story shape my…

• Ministry? Ryan was only 6 when he was moved to help people. Expose kids in your ministry to human needs sooner-in your ministry, community, and around the world. Give kids opportunities to bless others.

• Programs? Model your programs so kids learn they’re conquerors. Make sure they leave your services knowing they’re smart, talented people who God ordained for a purpose. Empower, encourage, and educate kids-don’t just entertain them.

• Perceptions? Numbers don’t matter. Ryan started with just $70, but multiplied it to make a global impact. Your focus should be likewise-focus on your ministry, not on your ministry size.

• Actions?

Become a passionate and strong voice for those impacted by crisis.

Act as a role model.

Believe that one voice can make a huge difference.

Never give up on good ideas.

Find ways to grow big.

Tracy Carpenter is a children’s pastor and chief creative officer for Kidsworld Studios Inc. ( She’s author of CAMP children’s curriculum. BLIND SPOTS

Here are reasons adults may fail to see kids’ potential-and how to take off the blinders.

• We may be influenced by old traditions, where kids are to be seen and not heard. But today’s kids want to contribute and collaborate.

• We may have an inaccurate perception and assume that kids today are just like our generation years ago. But today’s kids are in a generation with distinct characteristics in a culture that’s dramatically different from when we were children.

• We may have too much pride to give the reins over to a child. But children prove over and over that they’re innovative, trustworthy, capable-and up to a challenge.

• We may be too busy programming and planning services, caught up in what we’re going to teach them. But often they are the ones who teach us.

• We may tend to see kids as a population or group. But they’re individuals-with individual potential.

• We may think kids are too innocent to think big. But this generation is savvy, technologically in tune, and more in touch with the world at large than any generation in history.

• We may try to overprotect kids. But ultimately this hurts them-and eventually they’ll rebel against it.

• We may keep kids’ potential limited to our own understanding, failures, and fears. But they can see through this, and they’re not afraid of a challenge.

• We may not be willing to give up the time necessary to truly mentor, lead, and disciple kids. But if we won’t do it with God as our overseer, who will?

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