Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 2: Shaping Influences

This chapter introduces an interesting tension: children are shaped by circumstances, but these influences are not completely deterministic. The Bible is clear that all people (children included) are responsible for how they respond to the circumstances brought about by God, parents, and others. In fact, the condition of the heart is revealed by how one responds. Tripp comments, “Children are never passive receivers of shaping. Rather they are active responders” [emphasis added].

Nonetheless, the Bible also teaches that family influences do affect children; look at the example of how Isaac and Rebekah favored Esau and Jacob, respectively. As parents, we must consider what influences shape our children. Some common influences are family structure, values, roles, conflict resolution, responses to failure, and history.

Have you ever considered how some of these common family influences have affected your parenting and your children? What have been some of the most prominent shaping influences in the lives of your children? Remember, we don’t need to fear how these circumstances have affected our lives (listen to the teaching from the Feb. 15 adult worship service at Grace Church, on I Peter 3); rather, we are called to prayerfully consider how the Lord can redeem His story as it is worked out in our (and our children’s) lives.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Parenting Conference Audio

The audio from our Intentional Parenting Conference is now available on our website. You can hear all five of the teaching sessions, plus the three question and answer sessions. You can listen on-line or download them to your computer. Let us know your thoughts and questions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nursery & Preschool

Do you have a young child who has a hard time being dropped off in our nursery or preschool during one of our weekend services? With about 800 children that participate in our weekend programming, we know that children are unique in their talents, temperaments, and personalities. However, there are a few things that you can do to help your young child transition well into his or her "small group" time:
  1. Arrive early. When we're rushing around to get to the worship service, our children feel the tension and anxiety. Try to arrive at your child's class 5-10 minutes before the service; this means you should probably arrive on the campus at least 15 minutes before the service. This will allow you plenty of time to check your child in, and you will have time to catch your breath before you worship.
  2. Stay in the hall. We prefer that parents not enter the classroom when other children and volunteers are already present. We've seen that it's best to make the separation between parent and child as quick as possible; entering the room with your child tends to drag out this process. Furthermore, too many people in the room can create an unsafe environment.
  3. Talk to the small group leaders. Let the volunteer know of any information that might help them shepherd your child, including how long you would like them to try to comfort your child before we page you from the worship service. Our awesome volunteers will do all they can to minister to your child, so that you can be free to worship and serve during our weekend services.
  4. Talk to your child. All during the week, talk positively with your children about going to their small group. Encourage them to do a little better each week. Remind them that you love them, and that you trust their small group leaders to take care of them while you are being taught God's word.
  5. Be consistent. We've seen the value of a child having consistent leaders, and we try (as much as possible) to have regular volunteers in each ministry area. On your part, try to attend the same service each week, so that the leaders can get to know your child better.
We know that many of you have (or have had) children that cry week after week. We want to encourage you to be faithful and consistent. Give us the opportunity to love on and shepherd you children, so that you can freely worship and serve on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings. Often, it takes weeks or months to ease your and your child's anxieties, but it will happen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Parenting Q&A

There were many questions submitted at our Intentional Parenting Conference that we were not able to directly address. And we know many more will come up simply through the everyday challenges parents face.

So, we are launching a new feature that we hope will allow more of you to get the parenting questions most relevant to you answered. We are using a new application by Google, called Google Moderator, to allow you to submit and vote on questions you would most like to see our Children's Ministry leaders and the speakers from the parenting conference address. You will need a Google account in order to participate. Here's how it works:

1. Click here.
2. Click "View Questions." We have posted several questions that were submitted at the parenting conference. If one or more of these questions is particularly relevant to you, click on the check mark to the right of that question. Or, you can submit a new question.

At the end of February, we will take the top four questions and post answers to those questions from the conference speakers and other leaders at Grace Church.

Try it out, and let us know what questions you'd like to see answered.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 1: Getting to the Heart of Behavior

The fundamental proposition of this book is that the heart is the source of all behavior issues (Prov. 4:23; Luke 6:45). Behavior should not be the main focus, though that occupies most of our attention. Tripp cautions, “Parents often get sidetracked with behavior. . . . Behavior irritates and thus calls attention to itself. . . If you are to really help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of the heart that drive his behavior.” As my child’s authority (see the Introduction of the book), I must require proper behavior, but I cannot leave the matter there. I must also help him understand how his rebellious heart resulted in his wrong behavior.

The goal of this book is not to give a “simple, clever methodology” or “a new three-step plan for trouble-free children.” Tripp’s aim is to help us as parents see why and how we must work from behavior back to the hearts of our children. Instead of merely correcting behavior, we must engage our children and expose their heart issues. Then, we can use these heart issues to help our children see their need for a Savior, who died for their sins and who can change their hearts.

Do you agree or disagree with Tripp’s basic tenet about the key focus needing to be the heart? Why or why not? In what specific instances have you been able to expose your child’s heart? In what ways have you focused merely on behavior?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Parenting Conference Photos

We've posted a gallery of photos taken at our Intentional Parenting Conference Jan. 23-24. Take a look - you might find yourself in one or two of them! Click the photo above to see the gallery.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shepherding a Child's Heart: Introduction

In the introduction to Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tripp outlines a multifaceted philosophy of parenting. First, a parent must be an authority who is kind. Being authoritative is not about holding your child under your power, but about helping them learn to freely put themselves under your and God’s authority. My children are called by God to obey and honor me, knowing that under my authority they will find security, love, and peace (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Second, a parent must intentionally shepherd their child, so that the child can understand themselves in God’s world. This understanding doesn’t come by mere instruction, but through an intimate discipleship relationship. “Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught.”

Third, a parent needs to always keep the gospel as the central focus. Our children need to know that they are created in the image of God, and that they are also fallen sinners. Parenting is not about getting children to behave and do good works, but to help them understand the condition of their hearts. Tripp explains, “Your children desperately need to understand not only the external “what” they did wrong, but also the internal “why” they did it.”

What are your thoughts on these ideas? How have you communicated the gospel truth (image of God, fallen sinners) to your children? If this is a newer concept, how could this be applied to your family? Additionally, what are your struggles with being an authority or a shepherd for your child? What has gone well?