Sunday, March 29, 2009

Q&A: "How do you know when a young child is ready to accept Christ? Our 4-year-old is asking questions about asking God into his heart?"

This question was answered by Bill White, one of our pastors and elders:

I have to confess that I first thought this would be a fairly easy question to answer. I thought I would throw out a few biblical concepts interspersed with a couple of personal illustrations and be done with it. It hasn’t turned out that way. I’m 3 weeks overdue, our Children’s Pastor is breathing down my neck, and I realize that I can’t possibly answer the question in 250 words or less. So as we begin let me recommend that you take time to download some teaching we did on this subject last spring as it will give you a more thorough answer than is possible here. With that being said, here are 4 suggestions for parents of young children who are struggling with this question.

  1. Let’s move away from the language “accepting Christ into my heart” and use the biblical language of believing and repenting. We need to call our children to believe that they are sinners who are estranged from God by their sin and that God has made a way for their sins to be taken away by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If they believe this then they will repent of their sins and follow Christ.

  1. Don’t think of your child’s conversion as a one time prayer but as an ongoing work of God’s grace that will become increasingly clear with the passing of time. Neither you nor your child should feel pressure to “settle” this issue before the Holy Spirit has made it clear. On the other hand we should never discourage our children from coming to Christ because they are young. Faith is not an intellectual exercise but a spiritual exercise. This means that your child’s largest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge but the deeper orientation of their heart that the Bible calls “sin”. Clear information cannot solve this problem. Spiritual blindness is a problem that can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2). If this is true, then prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in your child’s heart is as critical as teaching our children the Gospel.

  1. If a child is beginning to grasp the spiritual truths of the Gospel, they will begin to confess sin freely and desire to follow Jesus in how they respond to parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect any more than you are perfect; it simply means that they will be sincere and they will grow in their love for God and others.

  1. Daily prayer is a wonderful opportunity to see whether or not your child is getting the Gospel. If their prayers reflect a growing sense of sin and a growing sense of God’s grace given to them through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, then you can know that God is at work in their heart.

There is no doubt that much more could and should be said, but this is a good place to start. May God give us all wisdom and grace as we seek to lovingly hold out the hope of the Gospel to the next generation.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Preschool Big Group Songs

Have you ever wondered what songs we sing in Preschool Big Group? Maybe your child knows a few of the words, and you'd like to buy it, but you can't quite figure out the name of the song. Well wonder no more. Our staff has put together an imix of some of the songs that we do regularly in Preschool Big Group time. Through iTunes, you can buy 1 or more of these songs, and enjoy them with your child! We hope that you can use this tool to teach your children what it looks like to worship God through singing.

Note that we plan to put together an imix of Camp Grace songs soon. Stay posted!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 4: You're in Charge

The Bible clearly states that parents are the God-ordained authorities in their children’s lives (see for instance Ephesians 6:1-4 and the command to Abraham in Genesis 18:19). We as parents must understand that our children are ultimately God’s children, and we have been given jurisdiction over them as stewards. If we fail to exercise our authority over them with the goal to be a blessing, then our Lord will hold us accountable. Like the centurion in Luke 7, we are both in authority and under authority.

So, what does it mean to be a parent? What is involved in this role? It is more than just providing care. Parenting also involves having a clear vision and objectives for them (we’ll read more about this in the next chapter). We must have humility in our task, realizing that God’s agenda is all that matters, and that we cannot do this job well outside of a dynamic relationship with Him and outside the context of Biblical community. Parents must avoid anger and pursue righteousness (James 1:19-20).
Furthermore, we must be diligent to correct our children, reminding them that their sinful behavior offends a holy God.
The goal of discipline must be corrective, not punitive, to help them return to the path of God’s righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). Tripp reminds us, “Discipline is an expression of love” (Proverbs 3:12; 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19).
Consider how you view and present your authority to your kids. Examine your heart, and get counsel from others, to help determine if you are asserting your authority on your own or with the perspective that it is a call from God.

Related Post:  Proverbs 23 (Wisdom for Parents & Children)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Q&A: "What is the heart issue behind crying when you lose a game?"

Travis and Crystal Runion, leaders in our church and parents of six children, share their thoughts:

We think the heart issue behind crying when losing is training your kids to "rejoice when others rejoice." It is about thinking about others more than yourself (Philippians 2:3).

Sometimes, when some of our kids lose they may throw down the Wii remote (or some other form of anger) and that too must be dealt with. There, self control is the heart issue.

I think doing your best is very important, but wrapping all your hope in the game or sport is definitely not where we or our kids need to be. This must be seen and modeled in us parents first!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Parenting Questions Answered Online

Don't forget to vote on parenting questions that you'd like answered on this blog, and we'd love for you to submit some of your own. For some families, this can be a great alternative (or supplement) to the Q&A sessions that we're hosting on the Pelham Road campus.

You can go to the Parenting Q&A link to the right, or click here, to go to the Google Moderator forum. Remember that you'll need a Google account (it's free) to submit or vote. Thanks for participating.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Upcoming Camp Grace Programming

We're excited about some special programming for the first two weekends in April. On April 4th & 5th, we'll have our 4th annual Passover Seder in Camp Grace. This purpose of this program is to teach our elementary-age children the meaning of Passover, and how it connects with Jesus and the Gospel message. It's a unique way for our campers to experience and worship God, using all five senses. For more information, click here.

On Easter weekend (April 11th & 12th), we strongly encourage parents to take their elementary-age children with them to the adult worship service, so that they can participate in the Easter baptism service. Doing this could help you start or continue conversations regarding your child's understanding and grasp of sin, redemption, salvation, and baptism.

Please note that we will have very limited programming for Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades) during the weekend of April 11th & 12th:
  • Saturday Night: no Camp Grace programming offered
  • Powdersville: no Camp Grace programming offered
  • Sunday Morning (Pelham Road campus): a movie will be shown in the Lodge as an alternative for parents who are not able to take their children with them to the adult worship service.
If you have questions about baptism, you can get more direction on our church website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 3: Godward Orientation

In the previous chapter, Tripp explained that children are shaped by influences and circumstances. However, a parent must also consider what their child’s Godward orientation is. In every circumstance, we have a choice: we can either respond to God in faith, or we can suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-19). “Even as a young child, he is either worshiping and serving God or idols. . . . Your children are never morally neutral.”

Proverbs 22:15 states that something is innately wrong with the heart of a child, and needs to be corrected, such as with spanking. Selfishness, rebellion against authority, etc, are never simply outgrown. That's because they are reflections of idolatry in one’s heart.

So, what is our role as parents? First, we must recognize that our children’s behaviors stem primarily from their sinful, rebellious hearts. Second, we must be concerned with the shaping influences (see chapter 2) that we can actually control. Third, we must be intentional to shepherd the Godward orientation of our children. We must know and communicate that they are created in God’s image, but are also fallen sinners in need of redemption (not just in need of better influences).

For examples of having a Godward orientation, take time to study the lives of Joseph (in the book of Genesis) and the servant girl of Naaman’s wife (II Kings). Despite terrible influences and circumstances, they lived out their faith in the LORD.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Got more parenting questions?

You're in luck! After the high volume of questions we received at our parenting conference, we sensed a need for additional events to help parents with the questions they have about childrearing. Two of these events are coming up this month - separate Q&A sessions just for dads, and just for moms. At these events, Grace Church staff and leaders will once again tackle your questions about parenthood. See the details below:

Parenting Q&A session for Dads
7-8:15 p.m., March 16
Multi-purpose room, Pelham Road campus
No childcare available

Parenting Q&A session for Moms
7-8:15 p.m., March 30
Multi-purpose room, Pelham Road campus
No childcare available

Also, if you can't make it out to the appropriate session, be sure to submit your questions on our Google Moderator voting system. You can read more about it a few posts down, or by clicking here.

Q&A: "As I give my older child more freedoms, how do I deal with younger children wanting the same treatment?"

This is another question that was asked at our January parenting conference that we did not have time to address then. Mark Ratchford, who spoke on the subject of freedoms at the conference, and his wife Susan share their thoughts on this question below:

Freedoms are given in relation to the amount of responsibility the child is ready to handle. In short, freedoms are earned. They are a privilege not a right.

You need to explain to the younger child that one day he/she will have the same freedom once they are ready to handle the responsibility that goes along with the freedom. Be careful not to set a specific age/date for the new freedom. It is tied to each child’s ability to handle the responsibility. What freedoms are given to one child at 5 years may not be given to the next child until 7 years or vice versa.

Remember, delayed gratification is a good thing. It will mean more to the child when it is truly earned and not just given to them because the older sibling has a new freedom. Don’t give in to pleas for freedoms given to the older child by a younger sibling, as this will dilute the impact of the privilege given to the older child. This will also impact negatively the younger sibling’s desire to want to earn the new freedom.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March Parenting Questions

As you can see from the previous post, we are starting to post answers to some of the parenting questions featured on our Google Moderator topic in February. We'll be answering four or five of the top vote-getters from last month, and have placed the other questions on a new Google Moderator topic for March.

Our hope is that you will not only vote on the questions currently on the topic, but add the questions you are dealing with in your own family and in your own home. We will continue to host this forum and provide answers to your questions as long as interest appears to be there.

Here is the link to our Google Moderator page, so please pay a visit, cast a vote, and if you have a question, add it to the list. Voting for this month will run through Friday, March 27. Remember, you will need to have a Google account to submit or vote.

Thanks for participating!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Q&A: "How do we develop our relationship with our kids so we can talk openly about adolescence, changes and sex?"

This question was asked at our Parenting Conference in January, but due to time constraints we were not able to answer it then. Mike Chibbaro (an elder at Grace Church) and his wife Cindy give us their thoughts:
  • Create an environment where "no question" is a dumb question. Never laugh at a question your child asks, or joke about their curiosity.
  • Create a "trusting" environment with your children...when they tell you something deeply personal, make sure you don't inappropriately share this with someone a sibling.
  • Listen....when your child inquires about a "deep subject" make sure you stop what you are doing, look at them and truly listen. Engage in the conversation. Never brush them off
  • Create a special "space" or place for these types of, putting them to bed at night. ...or a date night....or car time. Car time is especially good because it takes some pressure off of the child...they are captive and they have to listen to you, but they don't have to look at you.
  • Don't be afraid of the really tough had rather have them hear from you on these.
  • Look for opportunities in your daily life to teach about these topics...for example, you watch a tv show or a movie that makes an inadvertent sexual reference...stop the movie or at the end, speak truth into the situation with a discussion around what they saw.
  • The more you talk about these matters, the easier it gets.
  • PRAY for wisdom and opportunities.