Presentation/Performance Ideas

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IMG_0292Rules are not a fun subject – but I believe they are necessary!

Regardless of the lack of actual comments on the last post – I was encouraged with the feedback from twitter, Facebook and with personal messages from friends, and fellow KidMin leaders. Hey, I even got a shout-out from the Kids Pastor at our church during children’s church while she reviewed the rules with the kids 🙂

Here we go with Part 2:

Consider Changing the Rules to Fit Your Needs

That’s why I have a rule that says: “Obey All Rules”. It gives us license that if we need to make a rule to help the kids learn, we will. If a leader has noticed a lack of participation with our worship times in previous weeks, he/she can say something like: “Today we are adding an extra rule… it’s called ‘Everyone Participates’. If it’s time to sing, we want everyone to sing, if it’s time to learn, we need everyone paying attention…”

Make Warnings & Consequences Fair and Helpful

You wouldn’t dismiss a child from your service with a harsh lecture in front of the other children should that child break a rule and it’s their first infraction…. would you? Of course not. It’s not fair.

Let’s face it: kids get excited and will respond with outward expression. If something exciting happens and kids exclaim: “WOW!” cool – it’s what we want. Right? We want children engaged – so make sure you and your leaders can discern when the breaking of rules is a reaction to what’s happening —OR— it’s a problem of the child just doing whatever they want and it’s distracting or interruption the service.

I tend to allow 2-3 personal, verbal warnings from a leader who is not teaching. After that, the child is moved back a row or 2 (I always try to move a child back —OR— off to the side if they are already a few rows back). This is usually serious enough in the mind of the child that they will try harder to follow the rules. If the child is still having a hard time, I have them moved to the very back row (we keep the back row of one of the sections reserved for this purpose). The child is told that before he/she can leave that they will need to have a short meeting with their parents and a leader.

There have only been a few rare cases in which we had to dismiss a child by calling their parent during the service.

By handling the consequences this way, it’s fair because the child gets to remain in the room and receive ministry and participate in worship. It’s fair because the parent get’s to part of the solution. It’s helpful, because the child is moved further back where fewer children will see that child if said child chooses to continue in their behavior.

Let me just state that there are at least 2 more parts to this subject – why so much? I guess I have a lot to say about it. Please feel free to share and comment.

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I hate rules… I really do.

I prefer to do things my way, on my time, with little to no restrictions. That’s how creative people tend to thrive. It feels like freedom – like the sky’s the limit. But I’ve come to realize that I’m sometimes most effective when parameters are defined and a specific objective has been communicated so I can creatively work toward a goal. So, I guess rules are a good thing.

And they are a good thing in your children’s church. Rules are necessary and they can help you reach your objective with kids. It can help kids reach the objective of having a better experience at church.

So without further ado – I give you my thoughts on rules in Children’s Church

Make Only a Few Rules

If you want kids to follow rules, they need to be able to remember the rules. If you give them a list of 10 rules for your hour and fifteen minute experience, it could come across as overwhelming. Kids interpret “overwhelming” as “boring” and may find the list unattainable and stress-inducing. It may cause certain children to disengage or “tune-you-out” when it comes time to review the rules – in turn, tuning-you-out during other parts of the service. If you have more than 5, consider either trimming the list or finding a way to separate the rules for specific scheduled events. For instance: if you have an activity time before and/or after the service (crafts, board games, drawing tables, video games, lego tables) there could be specific rules for that scheduled time: Keep all activities at their own tables; Walk-don’t run; Everyone gets a turn; Respect others at each activity, etc… This might help scale down your list for the service time.

Make Rules that Are Possible to Follow

Remember, these are kids. The rules in your Children’s Church need to be reachable by children. Don’t have unrealistic expectations or rules that have no purpose except for you to flex your authoritative muscle. This could be confusing for the children or, again, overwhelming.

Make Direct Rules

I believe if rules are direct, they leave little to interpret for the audience you’re teaching or ministering to. I like rules that get to the point so we can explain/review them or remind the crowd and move on. Rules like:

  • “Don’t Talk With out a Microphone.”
  • “Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission”
  • “Wear Your Name Tag”
  • “Obey All Rules”

These are the rules we’ve used in our Children’s Church Experiences for over 16 years… and they’ve worked for us. Each rule is simple and direct and the last rule leaves it open if any leader would need to make a rule to fit the day or situation.

“What about sounding too negative?” I get it – I really do get what you’re asking. Instead of saying: “no talking”, say: “please stay quiet and listen” — OR — instead of saying: “Don’t Leave Your Seat”, say: “Please Say In Your Seat”. Trust me, you’re not going to offend children by being direct. But if that’s what floats your boat, be as positive as possible.

Another idea I’ve seen is using the name of the Children’s Church time as an acronym:

“KIDS Church”

  • K- Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • I- If you need to speak raise your hand
  • D- Don’t speak without a microphone
  • S- Stay seated unless called on

(I just helped someone out there come up with some rules didn’t I?)

Announce the Rules Ahead of Time

Your children won’t know the rules unless they are reviewed each service. This accomplishes several things:

  1. It reminds the children what the rules are and what is expected of them during the service time. This can be done with a video announcement, someone live explaining the rules, someone explaining the rules to a character of some sort (puppet, costumed character, clown, etc).
  2. It allows you to confidently address an issue if a child is bending or breaking one of the rules. A leader in the room has the advantage of looking at a child or group of children and simply stating: “Remember, there’s no talking without a microphone.”
  3. Perhaps you need to meet with a parent following the service to discuss their child’s choice to consistently disobey the rules. You have the confidence of knowing you can refer to the rules that are reviewed each service.

So there you have Part 1. In the next post, I will discuss tailoring rules, how to handle the consequences, incentives, and some tools I’ve used for refocusing a large group while I’m teaching. What other rules would you add? What rules do you have?

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IMG_0245I still believe that one of the best ways to minister to children is with the “Children’s Church” model.

Call it “Children’s Church”, “Kids Church”, “Junior Church”, “Large Group Time,” etc. Whatever it’s called, it’s important to promote unity through corporate worship and teaching.

During this series on Making Your Children’s Church Better, we will explore the little details that make a huge impact. Today, we’re talking “Transitions”.  In the last 7 months, our family has had the privilege of traveling the United States and observe the services for children in churches and at Kids Camps. We’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to service planning and presentation… and the transitions stood out the most. So, here are few of my thoughts, tips, ideas and advice for keeping your Children’s Services moving along smoothly:

Know what you’re going to say before you start speaking

  • Have a transitional statement and make it intentional: Don’t start your statement with: “Alright…”, “OK…” and “Well…” These are so common and it makes you sound like you’re unsure about what to say.
  • Consider a “grabber statement” as your first line: “Something REALLY embarrassing happened to me the other day…”; “When I was a kid…”; “I’m bringing my teddy-bear next week! So should you for our pajama day!”
  • Ask the kids a question that you’re confident they will answer: “Does anyone here like candy? I thought so – I’m going to give some away…”; “Don’t you wish you had more money?”
  • Get kids to respond by doing something rather than just raising their hands: “If you’re excited to be here shout ‘Oh Yeah!”; “When I count 3-2-1, Jump out of your chair and give me a big cheer!”; “Give someone next to you a high 5!”; “Knock-knock…I said: Knock-knock…”
  • Affirming statements will surprise your audience: “WOW…The kids in this room are pretty awesome.”; “Good morning, I’m so happy that you’re here!”: “I love getting to be with you – You kids are great!”
  • Get the group to mimic you: Clap your hands in a pattern and point to the kids. Keep doing it until everyone is doing it. Start chanting something that has to do with your segment: “Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here…” Motion to the kids to start chanting with you – getting louder and louder as you go.

Music Transitions help to set a mood.

I love Music – it’s powerful and can be so useful in ministry. But like anything, it’s a tool that should enhance the message or segments that have already be prepared. Background music can be found in a variety of places. I personally don’t like using music with recorded lyrics as background music when teaching – I feel that it will detract from what’s being talked about. I also don’t like altar music that is popular worship music if I’m talking over the top – again, it can be distracting. I don’t mind using worship music with lyrics while children are praying during a prolonged prayer time.

I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids, music by friend and mentor Randy Christensen and music by Gospel Magic/Music Producer, Arthur Stead.

Here’s how I use a background music for transitions and segments:

  • For Segments: I prefer to use music to create a mood during a segment When the assigned person begins talking the background music chosen fades in just loud enough to be heard but not overpowering.
  • For Characters: Music that’s used for characters is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For Teaching (gospel magic routines and object lessons): The music starts immediately as the main teach begins talking.
  • For the Main Illustration: The music begins immediately as the main teacher begins talking.

Video Transitions help to set a mood.

Kids live in a visual, digital age and using visuals is so important. There are many ways to use video clips as teaching tools, but this post is specifically about transitions. Again, I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids.

  • For Segments: As I am finishing my segment, the media team already knows my final statement. as soon as I say the final word in my final statement, they know to start the video. The video plays for a 3-5 second duration when the next person begins talking. As that person begins talking the video fades away and just a screen shot of the video remains on the screen.
  • For Characters: I do create intro animated and static videos (videos in which there is no movement on the screen, just an image that relates to the character) with music in the background to help introduce the character. again the music-video is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For the Main Illustration: I believe a good “bumper” video can be a great way to transition into your main message. A “bumper” video is similar as a transition video used for various segments, but it’s customized with the title of your series and/or the title of the message. It’s only 10-20 seconds with music and video footage or animation that relates to your topic. Many curriculum companies include “bumper” videos for Large-group times. A “bumper” video can be easily created with the modern video editing software as well as creating animated slides in PowerPoint and Keynote that can be exported as digital video files. Perhaps I will demonstrate how I use Keynote to accomplish this in a later post.

A few More Thoughts

  • Timing is Crucial from Segment to Segment: In other words, if there is a leader on the stage presenting the announcements and I am the next person who is supposed to present the offering. I don’t want to be hanging out in the back of the room waiting for the person on stage to finish and motion to me or have to introduce me so I know when to start making my way up to the stage… thus leaving an awkward moment of silence or an awkward moment of the leader having to figure out what to say while I’m meandering my way to the stage.  Instead, I want to know the list of announcements… and their order… and what the previous leader’s final statement will be. As the final announcement is starting, I make my way to the front. During the final statement, I start to walk on stage so I can begin my segment.
  • Stop Introducing the Next Person: Unless they are a guest-speaker or someone who is not known to the kids. Otherwise, use the methods already listed to make the transitions smoother.
  • Have a Microphone in your Hand or on your Ear: That way, when your segment starts, you’re not speed-walking to the opposite side of the stage to get it. Or, your not aimlessly searching around and asking,”What Mic do I use?” BTW: make sure it’s been tested and is functioning properly.
  • Props or Visuals In Place and Ready: If your segment begins with you walking on stage and picking up a prop, hand-out example, offering bucket or other visual — double-check that its in it’s place and ready to be used.
  • Get Everyone On the Same Page: Do meet with all presenters and the media team so everyone knows how to handle the transitions. It might be necessary to have a walk-thru rehearsal where media cues are practiced and opening and final statements are practiced. I suggest using PlanningCenterOnline.com to plan your services that will include the lengths for segments and transitional/media cues. There is a free version that can get you started.

You can find even more videos at WorshipHouseKids.com

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Over the years I have certainly heard the argument that Gospel Magic is of the devil…

that it’s associated with witchcraft or sorcery… that we are in league with Harry Potter etc. And for those situations, I have always had with me either a document by Randy Christensen: “The Magical Method”

…Or Bob Hill’s: “Should a Christian Do Magic?

Just copy and paste the text into your favorite word processor and create a document or brochure you can hand out – be sure to include the author’s name and copyright information.

But to be perfectly honest with you, the biggest complaint I’ve heard over the years from people about Gospel Magic is that people end up remembering the magic and NOT the message. The performer or presenter was a great magician… but had a tough time “Marrying” the Method and the Message together.

The second complaint I’ve heard over the years is that the magic was just a gimmick to get the audience interested in what the presenter had to say… the presenter, then, turned out to be a very boring and/or long winded speaker. In which case, they don’t remember the message and didn’t care about the magic because the audience felt duped into listening.

The reasons I hear this complaint are as follows:

  • Wrong Motivation
  • Poor Prep
  • Poor Presentations
  • Un-Assessed Presentations
  • Performers/Ministers Unwilling to Make the Changes

Come on people! WE can do better than this!

We are talking about presenting the Word of God. And the last time I looked into my Bible, it says that if we aspire to teach others the Word, we will be held to a higher standard:

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
–James 3:1

I don’t care if you are a Pastor, Evangelist or a Performer who presents the Word… YOU have be entrusted with the greatest message in the world! Take that as a challenge to your motivation, preparation, presentation, assessment and the willingness to make the change.

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564736_597514190259187_754582564_nIllustrating the Word of God for kids is a good thing.

I have often heard the argument:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

It’s sad, really. It’s sad because I have watched effective Children’s Ministry communicators shy away from taking advantage of great and creative methods in their presentations because of that statement alone.

I was teaching several workshops on creative teaching methods at a children’s ministry conference where I overheard several criticize me and other workshop leaders for placing an unhealthy emphasis on the methods.

Guess what? I can agree with the statement:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

However, I can only agree with that statement with the following addendum:

“…as long as most of the time, energy and emphasis is placed on the method and very little time, energy and emphasis is spent on the message.”

Unfortunately, the aforementioned addendum is rarely heard… thus holding back the children’s ministry specialist from embracing the effective methods that are available to him/her.

And all of that is worked out in the planning stages of the message. 

In the next few posts I want to explain a few things that should be happening BEFORE the presentation starts… and hopefully, you, the children’s ministry leader – a teacher of God’s Word, can find freedom to “Marry” the message and the method so you can bring your messages to life.

Stay tuned…

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Memorize It

Knowing what you’re doing is different than planning what you’re doing. Again, you can start collecting your ideas and putting together all the stuff to make the service a success. But, if you don’t know WHAT you’re doing in the moment… it can create a moment of confusion, embarrassment or the sense from the audience that you aren’t prepared for them.  Even though, some of these items may be similar to the earlier section on Preparation… this list really is really all about “knowing” your service.  Memorization in a kids service has very little to do with knowing each service word-for-word or action-for-action – it has more to do with knowing the details enough to keep things moving along for so the audience will stay focused for maximum ministry results.

  • Know and be able to quote the main scripture – you’ll want to reference back to it during your teaching times.
  • Know and be able to quote the main idea or key point you want the kids to walk away with… you can’t get something into a kids world until it’s in you’re first.
  • Make and use a schedule of the service – As I mentioned in the last post, I prefer Planning Center Online. It gives you ways to schedule each item in your service and assign it a time. You can also use it to schedule team members for each item.
  • Outline your stories, object lessons, gospel magic routines, illustrative sermons and even skits. It’s not necessary to have it all memorized word-for-word. But if you know the main points and can elaborate on them, you’ll be more confident as you teach.
  • When doing an illustrative sermon or when many props and visuals are being used in one service, put them in order of their use on your table, in your box or from left to right on the stage or presentation area.
  • Make your team aware of what props and visuals you are using so those items don’t get touched, moved or end up getting put away before the service starts (I’ve had it happen).
  • Put a bookmark in your Bible where the main Bible story is found. Mark the passage with a highlighter or red pen… You ARE opening your Bible with the kids and having THEM read Bible stories with you – aren’t you?
  • Make sure everyone understands their cues for their parts. Music cues, key words, graphics on the screen or knowing that “…immediately after such-and-such happens…”, is when the next person needs to be walking on stage will help keep transitions smooth.
  • It helps to have a rehearsal with others involved, even if it’s just a walk-thru of each thing happening in your service.
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Have a very happy Easter – make it incredible for the kids at your church!

  1. Pray
  2. Make the story of Jesus come alive
  3. Greet every kid with anticipation of the day
  4. Give a salvation opportunity
  5. Inspire your leaders all this week leading up to the weekend
  6. Give the kids something to remember their experience by
  7. Present something the kids have never seen before
  8. Keep a record of attendance, salvations, first-time guests, returning guests, etc
  9. Thank God in advance for the victories won
  10. Celebrate your results with your leaders
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Fine Tune Your Ability to Create the Experiences

Whether you choose to use Gospel Magic or not, there are some things you should be doing in any creative presentation method that will help you to create an experience with your class or audience:

Self Evaluation

As you tweak your routines or put the finishing touches on a prop; ask yourself:

  • How am I creating an experience for my audience?
  • What else can I do to add that little extra ‘whoa’ in the moments that I’m with them?
  • What will these kids talk about when they leave?
  • What am I doing to advance my skills as a performer/presenter and ‘experience creator’ so my program stands out?  And not just from others… but, from the last ‘experience’?

Be Willing To Face Evaluation From Others

These are vital questions – and they need to be answered if you plan on succeeding as a performer/presenter.  No question about it, you’re going to have to subject yourself to criticism and evaluation.  Find a coach or several coaches whom you will allow to freely comment on your presentation.  Record yourself on video and invite those who are already successful in the realm of children’s ministry presentation to view your presentation(s)… they can help you.  Invite also, those who are trained and seasoned in drama and theater to view your presentations and get their insight.

You Have The Potential To Be Amazing

If you love what you do… kids will love you, you will feel very fulfilled at what you’re doing.  Put that all together and you’ll be at your best as a presenter.  And when you’re at your best – it will show up in your presentations- therefore, it will help you to create a stronger experience.

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Anticipation – Create It… Maintain It… Satisfy It.

I believe in the old education model.  I believe you can use it in your #KidMin services to create, build and satisfy anticipation.  What is the old education model?  I’m glad you asked!  Here’s what it looks like:

• Tell them what are going to teach them

• Teach it to them

• Tell them what you just taught them

Notice that you’re doing the same thing over and over again.  It’s called repetition.

And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not… you get the point.

You’re doing the same thing over and over again, you’re just going to do it in a different way.  Throughout, you’ve got to have anticipation that will keep kids on the edge of their seats.  Here’s how to use the old education model to create, keep and satisfy anticipation:

Tell them what are going to teach them –

This is the icebreaker/opener that introduces kids to the lesson or topic.  In this moment that happens at the beginning, you’re going to introduce a problem, dilemma, big question, challenge or a cliffhanger that you can refer back to throughout the service.  Here’s an example:  You have a character named Herman enter with a bottle of mustard.  He says that he’s going to: “…teach that guy a lesson by squirting mustard all over his new bike!” You attempt to talk him out of it but he won’t listen.  He leaves angrier then when he entered.  You tell the audience of children that today would be a good day to talk about “Revenge: what does God say about it?”  Go into a scripture memory game.  You’ve just created a cliff-hanger that kids will want to know what happens.  You’ve created ANTICIPATION

Read more over at CMConnect.org

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Performance Skills 102

Specific training to increase your on-stage professionalism

Catchy Title huh?

For some it could be intriguing and they are instantly hooked in, but for the most part I would predict that the title is confusing as the topic of on-stage professionalism is not usually talked about in the world of Children’s Ministry. In our preaching we focus a lot on content, our MC-ing being energetic and making our kids scream, and our performances either being funny or very heavy with the topic we want to teach on. It is not often you will get someone stand up and say “let’s get more professional”.

Now we are not talking about sub-contracting writers, hiring actors and a catering truck. Instead we are talking about working with what you have and taking what you do in your ministry, and sharpening your skills to make it more professional.

Today we are going to talk about something that affects the communicator – the preacher, the MC and the performer (especially on film). There is a phenomenon out there that can plague these people’s performances and most of the time they have no idea it is there. This is not something that makes the difference between a good or bad performance but it is the difference between a great and professional one. This phenomenon I have taken the liberty to call “The Glorified Um”.

When we were children and trying to communicate, a lot of the time we didn’t know what to say. So as we were talking there would be a lot of pauses and because we didn’t want to lose the attention of our audience we filled that pause with an “Um”.

“Mum… um…. can I ….. um…… can I….. um…… because i’m hungry…….. um…………… can I …… um…………have… um…a um…cookie……. um?”

As a child we believe that pauses are not good so we foolishly fill the spaces with that wonderful word “Um”. The word “Um” communicates that we are unsure of what to say next and/or we are not confident in what we just said. This habit is tolerated as a young child but as we grow it is often corrected by parents and teachers because they know that you will disadvantaged in areas of life, especially when it come to job interviews.

“Um…..I ….think…..um that …I….um….. I…..would ….um….be very good as um……….ummmmm…..a…um…..car salesman…um”.

Fast-forward to now and you are in Children’s Ministry and you are happy to report that your days of umming are now behind you. Or are they? Over my years of performing and being in ministry I have realised that the ‘um’ is not behind us but in fact it has evolved and it plagues our preaching, performing and MC-ing. The Glorified Um is in full force.

So what is the Glorified um?

The Glorified Um is a word or a phrase that you the presenter (the word presenter covers all aspects of preaching, performing and MC-ing) will use over and over again whilst presenting. This usually will not be in your script or notes but will come out when you are adlibbing or slightly deviating from what was rehearsed. This phrase or word will not just be in the presentation but stem out from the performers life and be heard in their everyday conversations. For example I once worked for a youth pastor who used to say at the end of many sentences “do you know what I mean?”

This is a classic example of The Glorified Um. Like an um it communicates that he does not know quite what to say next, he is not confident in what he just said and he is cheapening what he is saying by filling his presentation with a habitual saying. I can guarantee on his notes he did not write that phrase once, yet he said it over 10 times.

Now that must not be confused with The Confirming Phrase that is a specific phrase designed to give the audience a chance to confirm what they just heard. An extremely experienced preacher I know always says “Are you getting this?” The difference is that the second presenter deliberately chose to say this, whereas  with the first it just came out without thinking. You can also tell because the first also slightly slurred the phrase and didn’t deliberately pronounce each word.

The Glorified Um is not just phrases at the end, it can be words at the start. Phrases such as: ‘It’s like’ or the word “but” are common examples of this. This can also be found in duel presenters when they start their sentence by acknowledging the other person with the same “it’s true” or “that’s right”. Finally it can even make our way into our writing and you can have a whole play or video with the whole cast using the same Glorified Ums as you do and you won’t even notice.

So what do we do to fix it? The cure is very simple but involves a lot of work and some help.

1. Recognise that a Glorified Um is a problem that is not a part of a professional presentation. I said before you can still be a great presenter with one but you will not reach that level of professionalism with it.

2. Find out if you have a Glorified Um. Look out for it, listen and watch old presentations you have done and look at the people you are leading because if you have it most likely they will have the same one. The best way is to ask a close and truthful friend to find out.

3. Fix your general conversation. A glorified Um is your normal speech creeping into your presentation. Get those close friends to pull you up on it constantly until you realise how often you are using it. This is where it gets frustrating but the effort is worth it.

If you have a platform to present to children on behalf of God then you have a privileged opportunity and I believe you are expected to work on your talents to increase them. If you do the hard yards you will put yourself a cut above and I look forward to seeing where it takes you.

Have Fun

FMD

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