Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Give Kids a Chance

I spend my Monday lunch break hanging out with boys in our local schools.   It's rewarding because it's the one chance I get to just hang out with kids and not have to be in charge of any program or anyone else--my mind and heart can just focus on the boys.  I have found over the years that not only do I get to influence the student I am assigned to, but also his buddies who want to be around me as well.

Last week in Kid City, one of those classmates showed up in the 4th grade room.  Bryce couldn't believe I was a pastor (kids don't usually ask you what your job is) and worked at a church, but he was excited to see me.  In fact, the next day at school he told the whole class about our church and what he had learned (how Jesus died on the cross and what it all meant!!).  He came back this past week on Easter, so I pulled him and another 4th grader in to the large group room before we got started and asked if they would be my stage helpers for the day.   I have learned over the years that people feel a sense of worth when someone believes in them enough to ask them to do what they view as an important task.  All Bryce and Josiah did was to move stuff around on stage before and after games and hand me props when I needed them, but it made a huge difference.  Later that afternoon at the Easter Egg Hunt, Bryce brought his mom over to meet me.  Before he walked away, he leaned in and whispered, "Thanks for letting me help today--that was really cool."

I saw the same look in his eye that I probably had in my eye when one of my professors/mentors at Cedarville, Cheryl Fawcett, asked me to look over a talk she was giving at a conference, because she wanted to know if I thought it flowed well and made sense.  I couldn't believe she was asking for my advice and felt so honored.  (Looking back, I know now she didn't really need it, but she was pouring confidence into me.)  I'll say it again, "People feel a sense of worth when someone believes in them enough to ask the do what they view as an important task."

It's a simple truth, but the more you let your kids know that you believe in them, you'll begin to see positive stuff come out of them you'd never expected.  Bend over to get on their eye level, put your hand on the shoulder, and say, "Hey, I need your help today.  I don't think I can do everything I need to on my own.  Do you think you can ___________?"  Try it--often, kids just need a chance.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trying to Take it All In

God has moved wave after wave over the last week at Grace, and I'm just trying to take it all in and appreciate it all today.  Last Sunday we collected an offering of $57, 216.00 to build a home for our orphans (no more) in Cambodia--in one day!!  During the week we boxed up 2,416 pairs of and shipped them to Japan via Soles for Souls.  On Friday, we connected with Jesus on a unique level through communion.  I took some pictures, but they're kind of dark--anyway, Jesus said we would blessed for keeping communion and we were.

Then yesterday was Easter!  We had over 700 kids in our kids' ministries yesterday!  We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus; kids gave their hearts to Him--it was incredible!  I was in the middle of it so I didn't get a chance to snap any photos, but I took this one from our balcony of one of the adult services--each person who wanted to accept Jesus flipped a light switch and turned on a light signifying what was happening in their heart.  As you can see, there were so many it just looks like one big light! I think there were 98 total adult decisions.

That wasn't even the end of the day.  Afterward, we had our Easter Egg Hunt.  I don't know how many people were there, but it was packed.  I snapped a shot of the field that Ethan and Elisha were on--this was just the kids age 5 through 1st Grade.  Our Blue Crew got to mingle with so many people from the community.  Ethan and Elli both had classmates at the hunt who we prayed for last night and will invite back to church.  God blew us away again.

I say all this to give praise to God and to help myself not go the next thing without thanking Him first.  I also say this to shout out loud that God still moves through the local church, which is the hope of the world!  I hope you jump in and are a part of all that God is doing in our world.  If not, you may miss out on the very thing you were made for!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

What the Cross Means for Kids

Yesterday in Kid City we talked about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for each of us.  I wanted the kids to really try and process it.  As I talked about the events on that day in history, I passed around rough ropes like the ones that would have been used to tie Jesus up, crowns of thorns like the ones Jesus would have worn, and large nails like the ones that would have been used to hold Him on the cross.

I don't believe there was anything scary presented, and none of the kids showed any fear.  But you should have seen the intensity in some of their eyes.  My goal was to use the sensory learning skills that we all possess, so they could remember this for a long time.  (Like how you can remember the way something felt or smelled years later.)  I wanted the kids to feel some of what Jesus felt, so they could try and grasp how horrible our sin is and the great price Jesus paid.

We closed the morning with the kids taking paper and crayons and writing down their response to what Jesus did for them.  Some of them wrote one word answers like "Grateful" or "Thanks."  Others wrote sentence prayers describing their feelings, and some sketched out pictures to express their emotions.  Then they brought those up front and stapled them to a cross we had in the front of our theatre as a way to honor Christ.  It was a pretty cool morning as many young hearts were stirred in true worship of their Savior.  Can you believe that we all can be forgiven of everything in our past and future because one perfect God-Man sacrificed Himself for us?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parenting is Hard!

One of the roles I have at our church is meeting with all the potential members coming into our church.  It can be really rewarding hearing all the stories of how God's grace has changed the lives of so many people.  He really is an awesome God!
Yesterday, I talked with two different families--both remarkable stories of grace and both hurting because of  choices made by their adult children.  All of these parents would admit they weren't perfect, but both of them were godly in their parenting and tried to do things the right way.  We can't control our kids and the choices they make--although we wish we could.  It's so rewarding when they follow God, but it's equally devastating when they don't.  Take a moment to pray for the parents and kids you know whose relationship is strained because someone is walking away from God.  There is always hope--no person is EVER too far from God's reach (see Luke 15)!

Monday, April 11, 2011

You can NEVER Outgive God

I had the chance to preach in the adult services yesterday at Grace--something I enjoy, although I must admit I miss seeing the kids.  We're in the middle of a series on Giving, so I shared from the Bible how God will take care of all our needs, which allows us to be generous with our resources, knowing He's got our backs.

God showed Himself faithful again!  After church, our family had lunch together, and I sat on the couch with the boys to watch the Phillies and take a nap before small group.  Tara ran to a store to get some things, including Easter candy so we could fill our family's eggs for our church's upcoming Easter Egg Hunt.   While there, she struck up a conversation with a man buying candy for his nieces and nephews.  She invited him and his family to the egg hunt and to visit our church some time.  He shared he would be out of town on Easter, but he was very moved and, out of nowhere, whipped out a $50.00 bill as a donation toward the hunt!  Then, when they were standing in line, his receipt popped up a $5 off coupon, which he passed to Tara behind him for the candy she was buying!  We ended up paying practically nothing for our candy to fill the eggs for the hunt, and Grace can get extra prizes for the 3,000+ kids coming!  God always does that sort of thing!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kids Need More than One Voice

Here's a homework assignment for every parent and children's ministry leader.  Sit and watch 30 minutes of TV with your kids, listen to 30 minutes of music with them on a "kid" station, or play 30 minutes of the current popular video game.  Popular media has learned something that Christians would do well to learn as well.  Multiple inputs of information/influence have a much more profound impact than just one!

During that 30 minutes of homework you're doing, listen to the messages being conveyed.  "You deserve the best!"  "This will make you popular and happy!" "Everyone who is anyone has this or is doing this!"  "You can do anything if you just try your best!" and other culturally popular agendas like them come through loud and clear.  The trouble is, these messages are flat out wrong and will destroy the life of whoever chases after them.

Here's the good news!  The same strategy of multiple inputs from popular media can also be used by Christians for incredibly positive results in a kids' life!  Know why?  It was God's design!

God knows that your kids will be dramatically influenced more when they hear the same message over and over, so He designed families and churches to work together to bring up a godly generation.  It doesn't work if you just drop your kids off at church to let them take care of the "God thing."  And it doesn't work if you as parents think you can teach your kids everything they need to know about God.  Both of those extremes are harmful.  Our kids need godly families and a relevant church!

So, 1) turn down the influence of popular media in your kids' lives.  We don't hide our kids from everything out there, so they look and feel like social freaks around friends (I know a few Christians like that, and it's not a pretty sight), but we do set limits on how much and what they are exposed to.  Media is not the best baby-sitter (even though as a parent, I know how tempting it is), because it does affect how your kids think and view the world.

And, 2) turn up the influence of godly people in your kids' lives.  For instance, why don't you start looking for the teachable moments when you can bring God into your kids' worldview.  Also, make sure your kids are plugged in to a relevant, Bible-centered church ministry where others can speak and model truth in front of your kids, too.  Reggie Joiner is famous for rightly saying that every parent needs another godly adult to say the same things they say to their kids.  I'm so glad my kids have other people from our church pouring into them.  Here is a picture that two of Elli's favorite Kid City leaders sent to me after church last week!  Where else but church can you be influenced for Jesus and get wrapped up in a carpet like a taco? :)

These are two pivotal ideas that Christan parents must do in order for their kids to be life-long followers of the Way.  Now, go back and take in another 30 minutes of media with your kids, so you're not that socially freaky Christian!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Inspiration

The past month or more I have been in a bit of a creative lull (hence not blogging).  It seems I've had to struggle for every little ounce of creativity coming out, but some fresh reading, continued time with God, and challenged thinking has me starting to go again.

What's more is that I've had the privilege of watching God move in the lives of kids--something that always inspires me.  In Kid City this month, we're talking about ways we can live our lives as if other people are more important than we are...humility.  In big church this month, we're talking about giving, which is in the same vein.

On Sunday our adults were challenged to give their shoes they were wearing to be sent to the people of Japan who are homeless (and many shoeless) right now because of the devastation presently there.  Last night the kids that made it to Phase 2 rubber banded all the shoes together in preparation for shipping.  One student even put his dollar inside his shoe "so a Japanese boy could get something special for himself!"  That is putting someone's needs ahead of your own, the kind of gesture that I know makes our Father proud!