Empowering Children

This past Sunday I was scheduled to preach.  However, I decided to let Dale preach because of everything that was going on in my life. We had planned to have two of the children of our church to read scripture. We try to find ways to get our children involved with the service to bring attention to the children’s ministry and to teach the children that should serve God as well.

I had worked on the sermon for two months and had really struggled with it. The sermon I was working on came from John 15. God had placed on my heart to talk about the relationship we have with Christ.  As part of that I noted that if we have a healthy relationship with Christ we will bear spiritual fruit. I used a quote from “Crazy Love” by Francis  Chan.

People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people.

If we are bearing  spiritual fruit, we will spend the time looking for doors that God has opened up for us to minister. We will not waste our time looking for the perfect place to minister. When we bear spiritual fruit, we will do good works and most time when we doing good works for God it is not glamorous . Most time it will not with the pretty people either. I explained that a couple of weeks ago during Elementary Worship Celebration I challenged the children to come up with ways they could minister to others around them. The idea had be something they could do. Also it would not be their family or friends but strangers. Here are the things that they came up with:

  1. Walk in a fundraiser for Comfort Care, and collect diapers for Comfort Care.
  2. Collect new crayons and coloring books for children who live at Valley mission which is a homeless shelter in our community.
  3. Donate a stuffed animal to send with our mission team who are going to El Salvador this summer.

If children can think of ways to do good deeds for God, why do adults have a hard time with finding ways to serve God? I try to I challenge the children to think of ways to serve God every couple of weeks.

After the service Dale put a status up on Facebook thanking everyone who helped with the service including the two children who read. One of the parents of the children had a great thought:

We (adults) sometimes underestimate the abilities of children when instead, we should be providing opportunities to groom them as leaders of the next generation.

This really inspired Dale and I to be intentional about including children in our worship services – whether it be leading a call to worship, reading scripture, singing songs or playing the offertory.  I think our friend had a great friend.

 

77 Hours a Week

A great post about the time that we as parents have to influence our children from pastor Jeremy Mavis.

calendarHere’s a little math:

24 hours a day x 7 days in a week = 168 total hours in a week
minus
8 hours a day for SLEEP x 7 days = 56 hours sleeping per week
minus
7 hours a day for SCHOOL x 5 days = 35 hours children are in school per week

equals = 77 hours a week.

77 hours.

That’s a lot of time each and every week we have with our children. Now I know that we’ve got to prepare food and eat it, travel to and from various things, go to sporting events and practices, watch football, etc.  But think about it:

How do we spend and invest that 77 hours per week into our kids?

  • How much are we emotionally investing in our children?
  • How much are we physically and mentally present with our children?
  • How much are we spiritually investing in our children?
  • How much are we investing in our own emotional, physical, and spiritual health?

Parents have a significant amount of influence and impact on their kids.

I know that sounds obvious, but how many of us actually act differently and intentionally in regard to raising our children. It seems to me that we will either raise our children accidentally or purposefully. That doesn’t mean go crazy intentional and structure EVERY hour of every day to get the maximum whatever.

What that does mean is: Are we thinking about our parenting with an end in mind? Do we know what we want our children to look like when they leave our home? What values do we want to instill? What characteristics do we want to send them out into the world with?

Big questions. Significant impact.

What will we do with those 77 hours each week?

Jeremy Mavis is the children’s pastor @ Hayward Wesleyan Church, working with children and youth from birth through 8th grade. In conjunction with that role, he is working for The Wesleyan Church denomination and their Department of Spiritual Formation in Children’s Ministry,serving on their children’s ministry team. Together serving to resource, influence, and encourage churches as well as leaders and volunteers in children’s ministry.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

istock_000006609821xsmallThe church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list. [Click the title below to read the article.]

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

 

 

Raising my Kid Religious, BUT…

One Sunday I was reading an article on CNN.Com it was called “Raising Religious (But Not Too Religious) Children”. It is about a mother who is trying understanding what it means to be Jewish and how the beliefs of the Jewish faith fit in her life.  She is Jewish by birth and considers herself a secular Jew. The problem is that she is trying to find a way to teach her children the things she is having trouble with understanding herself and has wrestled with her whole life.   What got my attention in this article is that I feel there are some parents in churches that are having the same problems with their own faith. They want the children to have some spiritual influence but not a whole lot. Could this be the reason why parents do not make church a top priority in their lives? This is not just a problem in my church – churches all over the United State are having the same problem. It seems that everything else is more important than coming to church. The South is one part of the Bible Belt.  There are those who are “secular” Christians, just as the writer of the article above is a secular Jew.  People in the South are familiar with Christianese and even those who are not Christian by the way they live their lives may use it.  They may consider themselves a Christian because they go to church or do good things at church without having a personal relationship with Jesus.  A second reason is that as we pass down our faith – our children must make it their own.  If we have not made it our own, it will be very difficult for our children to make it their own.  It is so easy to hold on to your parents or grandparent’s faith that you just think you are a Christian because your family has been Christian for generations.  Like the author Laurel, somewhere in her family history their religion has become only a heritage but they have lost the understanding of their faith.  It is important that we as parents understand that we need to have a personal relationship with Christ before we can expect to teach our children to have one. If we want church to be important to our children, we have to make it a priority for ourselves.  On some Sunday mornings there are children into our worship celebration and really don’t care about being there.  And yet when I look at the families, I can easily tell which families make worship a priority (meaning unless the world’s ending…they will be there) and those who come to church if they don’t have something else going on.

Currently, I am teaching a series on worship during our elementary worship celebration time on Sundays.  Last week, we saw that God looks on our heart during our worship time.  Worship is an attitude of respect and awe of God and if we are not doing that, we are not worshiping God.  This week we will be looking at this verse (Exodus 20:3-4): “You must not have any other god but me.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[b] who love me and obey my commands.

God gives us two commands right here.  First, that we have no other God’s but him and second, that we are not to have idols.  An idol is anything that comes between you and God.  It doesn’t have to be a statue.  It could really be anything.  Again, anything that comes between you and God.  Some might think that I’m being a little too legalistic.  But one of the things that the Bible makes clear is that believers grow when they are in fellowship with one another.  We in America have tried to make our faith too individualistic, when it was meant to be lived out in community.  In Hebrews 10:25 we are told “25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  When we gather together, we worship together, we learn together, we fellowship together, and we can learn from each other.  That’s one of the reasons that I think attending church is important.  And it teaches our children that we have to make important choices in our lives.

The Bible Uncensored

From Children’s Ministry Magazine

From the account of Cain murdering Abel, to David committing adultery with Bathsheba, to the woman at the well’s five husbands, to the beheading of John the Baptist, the Bible is fraught with some gruesome and disturbing accounts that expose humankind’s sinful nature. Whether it’s dodging narratives of brutal murder, rape, and incest or navigating Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, children’s ministers face a unique challenge when it comes to knowing how to teach kids the tougher parts of the Bible. How do we prayerfully cover all Bible stories for all ages? It’s no simple task-nor one to be taken lightly.

For some, the idea of quietly censoring the Bible has its appeal. And it’s true: To a degree, simply leaving out the tough stories of the Bible would be easier. But-and this is a big “but”-children’s ministers and experts all agree that omitting certain accounts of the Bible is a flawed approach that can result in children developing a flawed faith.

So what’s the best approach to handling the racier events of the Bible? Read on to find out.

  1. Unpack the Reality of Sin
  2. Use Age-Appropriate Discretion
  3. Build a Simple Foundation 
  4. Don’t Turn Truth Into a Fairy Tale
  5. Build on Basics
For details on each of these steps, click here

• • •
When we look at the amazing array of events in the Bible, it’s all too easy to lean toward censoring the ones that make us uncomfortable. Rather than censoring or omitting, change your frame of reference. Everything in the Bible is there for a reason; it’s up to us to seek out the ways to help kids find the meaning God has for them in his words. Rather than censor it, we can simplify concepts and de-select details so they don’t become a distraction to the understanding kids can get from the basic story. Learn to release and hold back just the right amount for
the kids you minister to.

“Should we censor the Bible?” ponders Brolsma. “Of course not. But we should use wisdom as we teach God’s Word, gleaning applicable and meaningful truths from every portion of Scripture. It means we step out in faith, sharing God’s Word honestly and simply in ways that today’s kids can best understand.”

Teaching Christmas

This week I started teaching the children at our church about the Christmas story.  You might think that teaching the Christmas story would be relatively simple, but it’s not as simple as you might think.  Especially, if you have children who like to ask the questions, “Why and how?”  When the students that you are teaching grew up in Christian homes, it becomes easier, because the parents have interacted each year with the story, so the children know it and some of the finer details of the story.  I remember reading through the Bible one year and we were using a more modern translation.  Several of the people who had grown up on a traditional version were shocked and said that that newer version should have been rated PG.  If you want to see what I mean, let’s take a look at Luke 1:26-27, 34.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

One of the first questions that usually gets asks is, “What is a virgin?”

Then look at this passage from Matthew 1:

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I remember two particular questions 1.) How does Jesus become the Son of God and 2.) How does Mary get pregnant by God, if you can’t see God?  All of these questions and more I have been asked as I have taught the Christmas story.  Some of the other questions I have gotten are:

  • What does conceive mean? (Matthew 1:23)
  • How did Mary get pregnant if she was not married?
  • How does one get pregnant by the Holy Spirit?
  • What are sexual relations? (Matthew 1:25)

It was always interesting to discuss the Christmas story with children who didn’t grow up in the church or were part of the church’s bus ministry.  Many of them were hearing the story through Bible eyes for the first time.  The Bible is like that — sometimes we have heard the stories over and over again that we think we know them — and we skim over the details — not thinking about them too much.  This past week our pastor encouraged us to take the season of Advent and read through the Christmas accounts and read them carefully.  He also encouraged us to read the Christmas accounts several times and in different translations.  When you read it from a different translation, sometimes you hear the story just a bit different and from new perspective and it can give you a new view of the story.  I encourage you as Pastor Barry has encouraged us to read through the Christmas accounts (Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 1; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-18.) Here are the links to the various versions on biblegateway.com [New Living Translation] [New International Version, 1984] [The Message] [New American Standard] [King James Version] [English Standard Version]

As you can see, there are a whole bunch of rabbit trails that you can go off on when you teach the Christmas story.  I try to avoid going on those rabbit trails.  The meaning of Christmas is that God came as a baby and dwelt among us (The Message says that “He moved into the neighborhood.)  God came as a baby to save his people from their sins.  This is the story of the scriptures — the redemption of the human race.  Let’s tell it to everyone that we can.