RSS

Category Archives: family ministry

Sun, heat and Jesus

My husband and I are through our Vacation Bible School part of our Summer.  Our churches scheduled things so that I could be at both schools.  It was a great 2 weeks – I’m really tired, but it really was fantastic to spend so much time with the littles we serve.

I start planning my VBS for the following year about 2 weeks after the current year’s program is over.  It’s 11 1/2 months of planning, and it’s over in the blink of an eye.  But really, it’s my favourite time of my year.  It is such a pleasure to work with teams of people who have come together just to be Jesus to a gathered bunch of kids.

The curriculum may differ, and the dynamics of the week are never the same, but the goal of both of our week-long events are identical – to teach children (and hopefully their parents) how much Jesus loves them.  More than half of the children at either Camp are not regular church attenders, with some having never been in a Christ-focused setting.

It was important at both schools that we presented the Bible truths in a way that didn’t assume that our guests knew anything about God’s Word – as one young man illustrated when he asked me “What makes Jesus so special?”  I could have responded with a pat answer, but instead we had a great conversation about who Jesus was and why He was so special…

It was a beautiful thing at the Adventure Camp at SGK to watch the kids worship with the leadership of Nikki Fletcher.  She has such a great way with the kids, and became our own in-house rock star.  Children are natural worshippers  – raised voices and hands, and love to learn new songs that are engaging.  At one point, they brough tears to my eyes as they praised God singing “Mighty to save”…that song will never be the same for me again – and I will cherish that.

At St. Paul’s, I had the joy to spend the week being one of the leaders with the grade 3-4 group of kids.  I love this age group…they have questions, and are hungry for the answer – and they just want to “Get it”.  We had a ton of fun, and it warmed my heart to see them hiding God’s Word in their hearts as they proudly recited all 5 memory verses (complete with addresses).

My concern and passion for these kids is finding a way to have the learning that took place during our week(s) together not be lost after the following Monday.  To that end, I make a commitment to my families that I will have follow-up activities for them to engage in with their kids.  It’s not just me.  Recently my blog was mentioned in the May/June issue of Group Publishing’s Children’s Ministry Magazine: http://www.childrensministry.com/article.asp?ID=2418.  The article has great suggestions for being intentional with family follow-up from a Vacation Bible School program.

They and their children were engaged for a week at your church, don’t let that engagement go stale.  Encourage them, help the children remember what they talked about during the week.  Pray for them, and let them know that you are.  That is a summer church program with an Orange focus…equipping families to “water the seeds” that were planted during your week with their children.

Jeff and I are getting our follow ups ready to go, and we will continue to pray – for the children we had the honour of spending our time with.  For the parents who want to know that their children’s eternities are in order, and for the families that seek to make their walk with Jesus more significant for all their members.

Advertisements
 

Lifted out of the Can

Yesterday, in light of the text of our message at church, I told the following story.  Our scripture focus was the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 3-7).

The story is true…I know the little girl very well, although I never knew her as a little girl…

There once was a little girl, who lived out the truth of her redheaded-ness.  She was mischievous and had a definite mind of her own.  She lived in the city of London, many years ago.  On this particular day, it was a hot summer day in 1936, and she was about 7.  She had decided that she was not happy with something that had happened at home, and determined to take matters into her own hands.  So she ran away.

Her family noticed that she was gone, and began to look for her.  After a considerable time had passed, her daddy started to get worried, and knew he needed help to find her.  Remember that this was not long after the Great Depression, and money was not readily available.  Her daddy knew that if he called the police and fire departments, he would have to pay.

But his daughter was very important to him, and that’s just what he did.  He paid $200 for the assistance (that’s about $3200 in today’s money). It was much more money than he could afford, but she was special enough that he had no other choice.   So, with the additional people looking for her, the search intensified.  The little girl could hear the people calling her name, and the whole time she was thinking, ” how powerful am I?”  What the searchers did not know, was that the little girl was hiding in a garbage can in a park, not very far from the little girl’s home.

Remember that I said it was a hot summer day?  That little girl, despite all her plans, could not help but be affected by the odors that the hot, rotting garbage were creating, and she got sick to her stomach not something that could be done quietly. Her daddy stood very quietly and listened – and it was by her reaction to the smells – that he was able to find her.

As I told that story, it occurred to me – how much like our Heavenly father is that?  When we decide that we need to hide from him (we really are descendants of Adam and Eve), we often find a spot where we are sure He will never find us.  And that usually involves garbage.  That garbage can be all kinds of addictions: drug, sex, shopping, social networking, alcohol, gambling, etc…), or we seek out self-damaging situations, or dabble in “enlightened” paths that lead us away from God (occult, Eastern spirituality). We kid ourselves into thinking that we are “powerful”, and don’t need God in our life.   Being so immersed in this garbage, will eventually make us sick – not always physically (although that can happen), but emotionally, and spiritually.  So, what does God do?

He continues to find us, and the extra help comes in the form of everyday people like you and me.  People who know Jesus, and want to bring you back to safety. And the cost?  God gave us everything He has – His first-born Son.  Jesus, that baby born so long ago, was born crucified.  His first day as fully human, began the countdown to the greatest rescue ever.  He died to pay the price for you and me.  It cost him everything, and he did it willingly.  Just because we are that special to Him.

When we know this, we need to share that good news with other who haven’t met Him yet.  Listen to the heart cries of your friends and family from inside their personal “garbage cans”.  Introduce them, through your love and care, to the One who came to lift us out…

 

 
 

Needles – creative or destructive?

I love to do needlework – sewing, cross-stitching, needlepoint,  knitting – they all are active in my pass time lists.  With a small needle pictures can be brought to life, gifts can be made.  The needle brings things together and permanently joins things that were once very separate entities, and their coming together brings the one creating and the one receiving joy.  That’s my favourite part of crafting, is the giving of the final product, and to watch the joy it brings to the recipient.  I love that I am able to pray over each stitch of a gift, and know that a small part of me will be in the home I have intended it for. 

But needles have another side – a destructive side.  It punches holes into the receiving material, ones that are hard to close back up.  If the receiver of a needle is a body part – it’s quite painful too…trust me, I have much experience with this. 

Have you ever thought how you use words is your personal needle?  How we speak to those in our lives can either create something beautiful, or punch holes that are difficult to close?  I know I have been the deliverer of both kinds of words, and don’t like what I see when I have sent out the latter.  I have also been the receiver, and I would much rather be hearing the uplifting words. 

 Our children, whether our own or those in our community, are sensitive to both kinds of words as well.  Watch how tall a child stands when they are being encouraged about something they have done well, or are able to share their thoughts on a topic – and not be told they don’t understand.  See how that same child shrinks when they are “put in their place”.

 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that ,  “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” NIV

During our Children’s Ministry time, we have been encouraging the kids to engage with the Scripture focus that day.  It is the teaching team’s prayer that they will be able to see that God’s Word is alive, and applies to their lives just as much as it applied to the first listeners.   We have imagined what Mary must have been thinking when Gabriel showed up in her house, we have talked about God’s promises being true and trustworthy. We have watched as David wrote is inner-most feelings through the Psalms.   This coming quarter we are following Jesus life, as he calls his disciples and begins his ministry.  We will make jars of clay, expecting miracles in our own lives, we will see how God can provide bounteously – just as He fed 5000 with a couple fish and a few loaves.  And we will learn what it means to have an Easter Faith, all year round.

It is a privilege to watch these young minds have “light bulb moments”, as they engage with the passage of the day.

 Wanting to invite the community to share in our engaging moments, we are excited to be planning an all ages event in March.  “How the West World Was Won” will be an afternoon where families can preview our upcoming KAC Theme (Saddle Ridge Ranch ), and our church family can have an environment that is easy to invite their friends and family members to.  We will be meeting on March 27, between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.  There will a time of music, teaching (kids and adults on their own), and fellowship.  We will be providing much more information in the coming weeks, but be sure to mark your calendar.

 

The Cradle Calls Each of Us

I have a book by the singer Michael Card, called “Come to the Cradle”.  It was written to accompany his recording of the same name.  One of my favourite  quotes is contained on the first page:

                “The cradle call us to come away from the busyness of the world – to rediscover the holy, unhurried life of a child, and to discover that as we pour ourselves into the lives of our little ones, life overflows in return.  For the cry of a baby in the middle of the night is not simply a summons to change a diaper – it contains within it more than our ears can hear.  It is a call to leave the cozy self-interest of our warm beds; to come, saying no to a thousand voices that tell us to remain where we are comfortable.  It is a call to come away from ourselves.  No one who has ever heeded this call will tell you it was in vain”

Michael’s words were meant to describe the experience of being a parent…but they ring so true for us all, and they come to mind each year as I get ready to celebrate Jesus birth.  The night God broke into history to show us how much He loves us, He didn’t arrive as the scholars had all thought.  There was no white stallion – it was a lowly donkey, being ridden by a young, unwed mother and her fiance.  There were no servants, or handmaids to assist, just a safe place where the animals were kept.  No one to hand out birth announcements,  but there were angels – an army of angels the Scriptures tell us – to invite all of God’s creation, to come to the cradle.

I don’t think that the song, as lovely as it is, Silent Night quite gets the picture of the stable right.  Jesus was born fully human, be assured that he was a “real” baby…that means crying.  I imagine that as one who help create the vastness of the stars, he had a full cry, and I’m sure he used it.  But, just as Mary will have had to respond to her Son’s call – so must we.

Jesus, still today, ask us to leave our cozy self-interest, and to say no to the thousand voices telling us not to go.  He does call us away from ourselves, and calls us to be closer to Him.  When we answer that call – nothing stays the same.  We are able to see the world through His eyes, to care with His heart and to serve with His hands.   As you celebrate the Christmas, listen for the call from the cradle, and answer with “I’m right here”, and hear Him answer, “I’ve been waiting – just for you”.

May your Christmas be blessed.

 

Charming addition to my children’s story collection

I was excited to open the package holding the newest book to my children’s storybooks.  The I Believe Bunny is the first in a series by Tish Rabe and charmingly illustrated  by Frank Endersby.

This charming book is written in easy flowing poetry – which will quickly engage even the youngest of readers.  It’s focal Bible point is from Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Such a great verse for all of us to remember, and what a gift to introduce it early to little ones.

Bunny’s not having a very good day…it’s raining and Bunny has had enough.  He turns down an invitation to play with his friends, because he’s waiting for the rain to stop.  But, when mouse gets caught in the river, Bunny knows just what to do…and although he’s not sure he has the strength to save her, so he stops and prays.

Just then – God sends the solution.  A very important lesson and a model for our children.  If we pray before facing any situation, God will hear, and we will be ready to face it.

I’m truly looking forward to what comes next in this series – it is definitely destined for our local Church library.

 

“…we will come out better.”

marriage shadow pictureI am not one to publicly comment on reality shows.  In fact, I rarely watch them.  But I have been completely captivated by a TLC reality show – Jon and Kate plus 8.  I have gotten caught up in the development of all the children, and have for a long time,and have not wanted to believe the tabloids.

What first caught my attention was the fact that Jon and Kate were quite open about their church involvement and the faith that they are teaching to their children.  To have watched the kids at the Creation play, and hearing Alexis sing praise songs to herself – made me want to applaud this family as they raise their children in Godly ways.

Yet, tonight, as I write this – they have announced that they have filed court papers to dissolve their marriage, just less than one year after they made a huge production about renewing their vows, “to show our kids that we will always be together”.  My heart is very heavy – these are not actors, the children are not living out a script – a family, a very public family – is falling apart.

I cannot begin to imagine, nor will I pass any judgement on the reasons for the dissolution of the marriage.  I have not walked in their shoes, nor do I have the ability to see inside their lives.

What bothers me most the fact that those who seek to discount faith in the God of Scripture and the Christian Church, will be able to point another finger of blame, and reason to not trust in God.

It is my prayer for this family – as well as all families – that they will (they may have already) seek Christian counsel with their pastor.  That they have bathed this decision in prayer, and that they will seek to show their children God’s love through all of this.

For all families – I know that life is hard, and can only imagine how difficult it is to be a couple and parents at the same time.  Know this – God planned designed family, and no where in scripture do we see a flawless example of parenting.  God uses our story to show the proof of His grace, and is redemption.  The family is what He uses to show the world, unconditional love.  Even when words and behaviours have hurt us deeply, we are able to move beyond it, only through showing the Grace that He first showed us.

It is also my prayer any church that has a family going through this kind of trial, will rally around them.  Too often the Church is far to quick to back away from a dissolving family, instead of supporting all the members.  That support means prayer, shoulders to cry on…whatever they need.

And that would be an Orange response to a breaking family.  For the church to come along side the family, and be the light to all the members of the family.  There will always be families in crisis among us – God calls us to love them just the same, if not more tenderly than anyone else among us.  Will you extend them the Grace He has showed you?

 

What are you fighting for?

I love getting an opportunity to spend time listening to Reggie Joiner share his passion for the Orange Strategy.  I did just that this afternoon. I popped in the DVD “What If” and  spent 78 minutes with him teaching leaders to answer that question.

I took many notes, and often nodded in agreement to concepts I have heard him present in other gatherings.  He told a story that particularly caught my attention today.

Reggie shares the account of a time he was having a very loud discussion with his daughter.  Without giving specifics, he described the exchange as one of getting louder and more intense.  Then something happened that he hadn’t seen coming.  His daughter, in a way that only a daughter can do, lobbed a statement that took his breath away.  It was a wounding statement, and Reggie reacted.

He did not yell, he didn’t ground her – he simply turned, walked out of the room and went out to the garage.  Then he got in the car, and drove away.  After about 15 minutes of driving, his daughter called him to apologize, and then made this statement:  “Why did you walk away?  I need to know I’m worth fighting for.”

What stuck me about this, was that our families need to know the same thing.  When ministry gets tough, we tend to pull back on the things that seem to run themselves – or don’t show up as crisis driven things.  I fear that in many churches, we figure that the family will still be there “tomorrow”.  But statistics show us that they just walk away – not angry, or loudly – just quitely go because no one is fighting for them.

In the Old Testament we find the book of Nehemiah.  He was the king’s cup-bearer – this was the man chosen and trusted to bring the wine (after tasting it) to the king.  The job of  cupbearer was one of highest honour, and truly fitting of Nehemiah.  Although he was one of the most trusted men in Persia – his heart was in Jerusalem.  When he learned that the Temple was being rebuilt, he grew concerned because he knew there were no walls left to protect it.

Nehemiah, trusting God’s direction, asked the king for leave of his post to go and help rebuild the wall.  Many people were against this, including those who sought to take over Jerusalem for their own purposes.  But Nehemiah followed his instinct and did what they told him to do.  So, in Neh 4:13, we read his solution to keep the situation safe.

So I put people behind the lowest places along the wall – the open places – and I put families together with their swords, spears, and bows.  Then I looked around and stood up and said to the important men, the leaders, and the rest of the people: ‘Don’t be afraid for them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful.  Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes“.

Wow, if ever a passage of scripture jumped out from a message for me – it was this.  I constantly stand in awe at how God’s Word speaks to situations today.  Our children are being attacked by the Enemy in the open places – at school, through T.V. ads, competition for their time on all fronts – to keep their focus off meeting the Living, Loving God of Creation.   If we don’t stand in the gap, by strengthening families – we will lose this generation.

The Body of Christ, must together position ourselves to show families that they are worth fighting for.  Nehemiah reminded the faithful in Jerusalem to trust the Lord, because He is great and powerful.  We, too, must do the same thing.  Sometimes it feels like it’s a losing battle, but the victory will be God’s – if we truly trust Him to do so.

Churches for too long have thought that if we “allow” families to just be among us, encourage them to be busy for Christ, and let the Children’s Ministry instruct their children – all will be fine, and we will produce Christ followers out of the children who come through our doors.

We are now seeing just how wrong we are.  Church, we were never given that job…standing guard nowhere instructs the Children’s Pastor to teach the foundations of faith.  It was designed to be done in the family setting.  To be passed from generation to generation.   Oops!  We have generations who have never been taught the stories of our Faith.  To see the power and tenderness of the God of the Universe.  We have generations who don’t know the touch of the Father who gave His only Son to pay our penalty,  all just to bring us into relationship with Him.

Who am I fighting for?  Every family who is trying to see that their lives matter, that their child’s eternity is at stake, and don’t know where to find the answer.  The Church needs to fight – through prayer, resources and love – to come alongside our families and outfit them to stand at the gap for their children and protect the generation from destruction.  Are you willing to stand with me?