Thursday, April 30, 2009

Camp Announcement

See below for a video announcement about our summer camp for current 3rd & 4th graders. For more information about camp, see our website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 6: Reworking Your Goals

By re-visiting the goals that were discussed in chapter 5, Tripp helps us examine and evaluate our motives in parenting. Also, we need to constantly seek proper balance with any area of our lives.

For example, there is nothing innately wrong with your child developing special skills. But is the activity being used to build your child's self-worth? Or, is it teaching him to trust in his own skills and abilities? Your child needs to be reminded that God gave him those skills, and that he needs to think about how those abilities can be used to serve others.

Are you concerned with your child's psychological adjustment? When he is being unfairly treated, are you helping him learn to fight back, or to trust in God? Using scriptural principles (such as Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:17-21; I Peter 2:23; Proverbs 15:1) and the example of Christ, you must train your child "to use hurt to learn how to love God and deepen their trust and confidence in Him."

Instead of focusing our getting our children saved, we should teach our children how knowing God and His Gospel impacts their lives -- with all their struggles, failures, and successes. Since salvation is at least as much of a process as it is an event, we need to trust Jesus for not only our eternal salvation, but also for daily living. Likewise, remember that family worship is not an end, but a means to the end of knowing God. Be flexible and creative as you seek to connect with your child's heart.

Do you have a Gospel-centered perspective when it comes to having well-behaved children? Good manners and morality, outside of the context of the Gospel, can be merely pleasant social norms. "In a biblical vision, manners are an expression and application fo the duty of loving my neighbor as myself." Children must be taught that acts of kindness should be done, not because Mommy and Daddy and society say so, but because putting others first is the type of life that Jesus modeled and expects from us (Philippians 2). Finally, Tripp cautions us to communicate a biblical perspective to our children regarding a good education. God intentionally gave whatever level of intelligence and gifts each child has. The child's repsonsibility is to be a good steward and to use those gifts to the fullest, always as working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

To repeat, these parenting goals are not evil, but they are insufficient (see Grace Church's recent teaching from Ecclesiastes 1 and 2). Perhaps it may be best for our children to be frustrated with this fallen world, rather than teaching them to cope with and manipulate their life without the help of the Holy Spirit. We must always point to the Gospel, and help our kids see their need for the power and grace of the Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update Your Family Pictures

If you attend one of our weekend services, you know that our Children's Ministry uses a software called Parent Pager for child check-in / check-out. This tool helps us with safety and security, as it allows us to know where each child is in case we ever need to find someone. Additionally, the attendance reporting allows us to monitor our growth, which helps us as we plan for the future.

We obtain a picture of each child and guardian, but you know how children change fast! If you haven't taken or updated your family's pictures in 2009, will you please stop by one of our Welcome Desks after the service? We would love to keep our pictures as up-to-date as possible, especially with children under 3 years old.

Thanks for your help with this, as we strive to maintain a safe and secure environment for all our families who worship with us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Q&A: "What are some good consequences to have in place for children who yell in frustration and/or anger?"

Thanks to Mark & Beth Selby, leaders at Grace Church and parents of three daughters. Mark taught on the topic of kindness at the Intentional Parenting Conference in January. Here are their thoughts:

Any outbursts of yelling, whether in anger or frustration, are a lack of self-control. This is an issue that needs to be addressed no matter what the age of the child . . . the earlier the better (not necessarily easier!).

If the child is an infant and begins whining or yelling, we would touch our finger to their mouth and give a firm "NO." Your goal at that point is for the child to associate the scream/noise with the consequence of mom or dad's tone change in "NO." Occasionally, we would finger flick the cheek (not hard!) to sort of "shock" them into associating the behavior with the response. There are times when a child cannot gain self-control (especially at a public place); you will need to remove them, whether to a restroom or out of the building. The child should be instructed that they cannot return to the table, playing, etc., until they have demonstrated self-control. They need to understand that losing self-control has consequences.

The technique we found to be most helpful when our girls were toddlers was the folding of the hands. When they began to have a meltdown, we would have them look us in the eyes and fold their hands together and use the term "gain self-control." If they were old enough, we would physically hold their hands together until they could compose themselves enough to express what was frustrating them. Your goal should be for the child to be able to calmly tell you what is making them angry or frustrated. Making eye contact, holding their folded hands, having them take a deep breath, and then truly listening to why they are so frustrated gives them a huge sense of self-worth. They know you care enough to listen, as long as they can communicate in a calm, acceptable manner.

If your child is older, past the age of 4-5, you have opportunities to talk about self-control. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be pro-active; talk about self-control with your children. Give them examples, talk about it in times of non-conflict so that they have a frame of reference if/when they do lose it. Give them very clear parameters with very clear consequences. Example: "Hailee, if you choose to yell in anger at your sister, you will not be able to have Rachel come over to play tomorrow. Do you understand?" If the child says "yes" and later loses it with her sister, the consequence has already been put before her.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Comparison of Goals

Besides "Shepherding a Child's Heart," I am also reading another book for parents, called "Parenting by the Book" by John Rosemond. The author gives some strong principles in "Parenting," many of which are parallel to those in "Shepherding." Rosemond is especially keen on stressing that a child should be given responsibility in the family, and that children should learn to esteem others more than they esteem themselves. Furthermore, he gives a number of specific applications which can be implemented and helpful for many families, and we have incorporated some in our family already.

However, reading chapter 5 in "Shepherding" helped me to compare these two books from a new perspective. In "Parenting," Rosemond's apparent goal is to help make the job easier and less stressful for parents, while producing responsible children who will grow up to be productive members of society. While those may be reasonable or noble goals, I do not believe that they should be at the forefront of our minds.

Instead, I would suggest that the main goal for parents should be Gospel-oriented life change. I believe that it is only the Gospel -- and not tips from any person (including Tripp, Rosemond, or any other source of counsel) -- that has the power to change the hearts and lives of our children. While we are called to love and lead our children, we can actually do nothing to cause them to have a heart that is repentant and humbled before our Lord. No other accomplishments or characteristics (even being responsible and morally-ethical) will ever be as glorifying to God, or fulfilling to man, as having a redeemed life that can only come by a dynamic faith in Jesus.

Here is the tension: even though there is nothing we can do to make our child receive the Gospel, Gospel-oriented life change still must always be our main goal as parents. The best we can do is to model what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ, to create an fertile environment where their faith can grow, and to cry out to our Father to have mercy on the souls of our children.

These are just my thoughts. I'd love to hear your thoughts or comments, especially if you think I am off-base or unclear.

-- Joey Espinosa

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Camp Grace Big Group Songs

In case you haven't seen it yet, we now have an iMix of 11 of the songs we sing in Camp Grace, besides the Preschool Big Group iMix. See our website if you're interested in purchasing some of these songs for your family. We hope your family can enjoy these worship songs together!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 5: Examining Your Goals

No decisions we make are done in a vacuum; there are always driving motives and goals for our choices. In this chapter, Tripp highlights some common unbiblical goals that parents may have for their children. It’s important to remember that none of these goals are basically “evil,” and there could be a place for all of them. However, any of these goals could easily become idols, for us parents and/or for our children. It’s not the goals themselves that are unbiblical; rather it’s our heart-attitudes in each of these areas that can have self-focused motives.

For example, why do we put a high importance in helping our kids develop special skills through extracurricular activities? Are we teaching them to think that success and happiness are measure by the number of skills they have? Instead of focusing on our child’s psychological adjustment and self-esteem, should we not train her to esteem others (Philippians 2:3)?

Even the seemingly-noble goals of saved children and family worship can be idols. Neither of these is a substitute for a true, dynamic, living relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus warns us that false faith can carry someone a long way in life (Matthew 7:21-23). Since our discipleship of our children is a process and not an event, even a profession of faith does not change the basic principles of training them. “You can never know with absolute certainty whether your child is saved.’ Therefore, we should always point them to the Gospel of Christ, since it is the only source of life, fulfillment, and joy.

More unbiblical goals are having well-behaved children, a good education, and control. It is so easy for us parents to make these idols, especially as we tend to focus on convenience and appearances. But we must remember to focus on the hearts of our children, and not their behavior (see chapter 1). Focusing on outward appearances can easily lead to rebellion or arrogance in your child.

We need to prayerfully consider the importance we are putting on each of these areas. Our chief goal in parenting must never be to help our children be happy, comfortable, or successful. In fact, the more we give our children to fill their lives, the more likely we are to distract them from God. How can we focus on giving them so much, and then expect them to understand “that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God?” Our hearts have room for either the true God or false idols (Luke 16:10-15).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Summer Camp 2009

This summer, our (current) 3rd & 4th graders have the opportunity to participate in a two-night camp at Look-Up Lodge, from Friday June 12 to Sunday June 14. The campers will learn about how we have been uniquely created in God's image. We will examine the gifts God has given to each of us, and how He wants us to used our gifts for His glory.

Proverbs 30:24-29 will provide a fun and meaningful platform to dive into the plan and purpose God has for each one of us to use our gifts. We hope for the campers to be challenged and encouraged in their faith, and to bond with each other as well as with the adult leaders as they experience camp together.

In addition to the Big Group and Small Group programming, the campers will have the opportunity during free time to enjoy the amenities that Look-Up Lodge has to offer, including: a double zipline, 75-foot waterslide, paddleboats, swimming, basketball courts, and hiking trails (just to name a few). We hope your child will join us this year at Summer Camp 2009!

For more information about camp, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Q&A: "How do I deal with family members who don't have enough boundaries set for their children? I don't want to seem like we are mean parents."

Thanks to Mike & Tracy Collins for answering this question. Here are their thoughts:

Our first thought is to check your boundaries to make sure they aren’t overly strict. Ask a trusted friend/mentor about specifics. Looking back, we were too strict on some issues.

If you feel you are balanced in your boundaries, then your main priority in any situation is representing Christ. We represent Christ in our marriages by how we treat one another, to our children by disciplining them with both love and firmness, and to our families by being humble & gentle (Ephesians 4:2).

Ask yourself, why is this an issue? Are their children making yours misbehave? If so, your responsibility is to parent your child through the situation with the boundaries you’ve established for your family, not worrying about what other family members think. However, if your issue is that your family members need to parent with better boundaries (which very well may be true), you need to check your motives because you could be perceived as being prideful. Remember that your goal is to represent Christ, and you do that by being a humble example as you lovingly parent your own children.

Several years ago we were perceived as being too permissive with our children by some close friends. Our two families were sharing a beach house for the week. By the time we left, the difference over parenting styles had caused tension and distance between us. The one thing we did not do was have an honest conversation, which would probably have kept us as close friends. Being open and up front can often avoid hurt feelings.

One of the main things to keep in mind is your goal in parenting – a changed heart. In many cases, God uses these opportunities to change our hearts as parents! This may be an area where God is giving you the opportunity to represent Him through loving your family members, being patient with them where they are, and allowing Him to change them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Camp Grace Passover Seder

This past weekend, we had our 4th annual Passover Seder in Camp Grace. About 150 elementary-age children were able to take part in this hands-on program, some for the very first time. This unique teaching event has a very clear Gospel message. If you want to know more about what was taught, or if you or your child have any questions from this experience, you can contact Joey Espinosa (, our Pastor of Children & Families.

Don't forget that there will be very limited Camp Grace programming for this coming Easter weekend (April 11th & 12th). We strongly encourage that parents take their elementary-age children to the adult worship service for the Easter teaching (and to watch the baptisms, if you worship on the Pelham Rd campus). Click here for more details.