Monday, July 27, 2009

Recruiting Update

I'm excited to say that we currently have over 500 regular volunteers for the fall! This includes more than 80 people who are getting more connected through an increased role in serving. The various Small Group, Big Group, and Welcome Teams are shaping up well.

However, we still have a need for over 150 additional volunteers, mostly in Small Groups (classrooms). If you or someone you know can join the team, we'd love a chance to talk more with you. You can email either Joey Espinosa at (Pelham Road campus) or Kathryn Sanders at (Powdersville campus).

Another alternative? See our video.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 12: Appeal to the Conscience

In the last few chapters, we've learned how communication and the rod (discipline) are the core tools to help reach a child's heart. However, what should "give biblical shape and structure to our parenting" are appealing to the conscience and correcting with a focus on redemption.

Children (with very few exceptions) have a conscience, a capacity to distinguish right from wrong. The rod can get their attention when they sin, but my children need me to instill the truth of God's way in them. Questions and stories, not mere preaching to them, are great tools to reach their hearts (see 2 Samuel 12 and Matthew 21 for biblical examples). What is needed is not mere correction and instruction; I need to get past surface issues (or, "Thorns," to use the language from "How People Change"), and to get to the core issues -- sinful hearts.

How do we keep a central focus on redemption? Children need to know that they are sinners and that God is merciful. It is only be these two truths being coupled and prominent that we are driven towards Christ. Discipline does not lead to the cross; it is a tool that can help us expose our child's incapability to live a life that is pleasing to God all on their own power. "Discipline leads to the cross of Christ where sinful people are forgiven. Sinners who come to Jesus in repentance and faith are empowered to live new lives."

Therefore, we must not focus on teaching children to merely obey the rules. I believe the chief purpose of the Old Testament law was to show people that they could not keep God's standard. Furthermore, the danger with children believing that they are doing good and keeping the rules well is that they tend towards self-righteousness and hypcrocisy. They have a hard time seeing that they need to trust in Christ.

Should we aim to raise "good kids," or young men and women who depend on Christ in every area of their lives? How are you working towards this goal? Do you ever find yourself basing your expectations of your child simply on your desires or what is easier for you now?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Heart vs. Behavior

This is great article by Carl Brower at The Village Church. Enjoy!

As I type this my children are indefinitely grounded from video games. Indefinitely, you ask? Yes, indefinitely. The allure and excitement found in video games had transfixed and consumed my children’s thoughts and affections. They constantly thought about it, talked about it, sung the music from it and were otherwise immersed in the fantasy world these games create. This was an obvious example of idolatry. We are created in the image of God, to be heralds of His goodness displayed through the gospel. We will worship, we will proclaim. The worship and proclamation of anything but the gospel and the redemption offered therein is idolatry. My children were worshipping and proclaiming these games. It was a sweet opportunity for me to teach this concept to them and to demonstrate the love of Christ, Who asks that we lay our idols down and follow Him.

All sin is idolatry

As we shepherd and disciple our children, we must be constantly aware that all sin is idolatry. In disobedience, the proclamation is that someone or something else is more important than God. This holds true for our children as well. “Mine! Mine!” Ever heard this screamed from down the hall in your home? This is your child demonstrating idolatry of self. Making oneself ultimate above God and His commands is so common that we often don’t recognize it in ourselves and see it simply as a behavior issue in our children.

Behavior vs. heart

As we go through our daily lives – filled with work, activities, events, car rides, housework, homework and sleep – we can easily find ourselves falling victim to one of the biggest lies the enemy whispers to us as parents: If you control your children’s behavior, their hearts will follow. Just get them to act nicely. Be polite. “Please, thank you, yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am” are the words of the day. If we can get our kids to behave well, then we have accomplished our goals. We have fulfilled our parental duties if people see our kids as “good,” or mention that they are “so well mannered!” Be cautious that your own pride in being a “good parent” does not blind you to the truth. Your charge is not to make well-mannered children, but to make disciples. Disciples are those who love, trust and follow Jesus Christ. The difference between these is the state of the heart. Just as the Pharisees had learned proper behaviors without a true heart of repentance and acceptance of the gospel, so can our children. And they will, if that’s what we teach them. We must be willing to address these demonstrations of idolatry with the time it takes to truly explain to our children the truth that their behavior comes out of their hearts. They must be made aware they have a wicked and dirty heart that can only be made clean by the cross of Jesus Christ. We must tell them that, just like God, it is their hearts that we are after – not their behavior. It is the state of that heart we must address as parents, trusting the Holy Spirit to move and convict them.

Does this mean we ignore behavior?

As Paul would say, by no means! Behavior must absolutely be discussed, demonstrated and developed. It cannot be the end, but shown to be the symptom of what is happening in their hearts. Discipline is necessary and must be administered with love, mercy and grace. But if we focus on the behavior in our discipline, then we will get the results we seek: changed behavior. If, however, we resolve to invest in discipline where the focus is addressing the heart, then again we will see, by the Grace of God, the results we seek: changed hearts.

We must not only tell our children these things, but we must live them. A child knows a hypocrite when they see one. If we profess these truths, but do not demonstrate them, then it is our own heart we must be addressing. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my children see me confessing and repenting of my idolatry?
  • Am I trying to be “superman/superwoman”? Do I let my kids think I’m faultless?
  • Am I identifying myself as a sinner in need of grace right alongside my kids?
  • Do I walk in community and accountability?

There is no doubt that parenting with the heart in mind rather than behavior is more difficult. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) But we can trust in the Lord to be gracious and merciful as we endeavor to fight against the lie we mentioned earlier, and rest in the knowledge that the opposite is true. If you minister to your child’s heart, by the grace of God their behavior will follow.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Elementary Camp 2009

This coming up weekend, we are going to show a video of our camp for 3rd & 4th graders, from June 12-14, 2009. We'll post that video online soon, as well as pictures. If you've never been on the big swing at Look Up Lodge, here's a first-person perspective of what it looks like to be dropped from 70 feet. Joey Espinosa is riding with 2 of our campers, and I promise that he is just fake screaming. I promise.

Monday, July 13, 2009

If They Can Do It, . . .

We are less than 5 weeks away from Promotion Weekend (Aug 15-16), when we move kids up to the next grade level for our weekend programming. We expect to have 900 children registered over 5 services (3 on Pelham Rd, 2 on our Powdersville campus), and will need close to 700 regular volunteers in Small Groups, Big Group, and Welcome Team. I'm excited to say that we are over halfway there, but we have a lot more opportunities still available.

This summer in our Children's Center, we have a display of a mock "Connect 4" board, titled with "Who's getting more connected in Children's Ministry?" We are going to put up the names of people who are taking a step up in their serving role, such as just beginning to serve, serving more regularly, or becoming a Volunteer Coach. Our goal is to get 100 new volunteers for this fall. We'd love for you to get more connected by serving in Children's Ministry. You can see a previous post for some thoughts about the value and blessing of parents serving in the local church body.

Wondering if you can do it? Check out our Volunteer Central page, but first watch this video for a little encouragement:

By the way, if you haven't yet registered your child(ren) for our fall programming, please do so (the deadline is July 26th). When you register your child(ren), you will have the opportunity to sign up for a volunteer area. Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 11: The Rod

Besides communication, the rod (or, physical discipline) is the second key element in training children. It is important to remember that these two methods are designed to work together (although which is used more does change depending on the age and maturity of the child).

Before we discuss what "the rod" is, we must understand the nature of the problem that we are trying to address. The Bible teaches that a person does wrong not because of a lack of information in his head, but because of wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9) and foolishness (Proverbs 22:15) in his heart. A child is wicked because he is primarily concerned for his own wants, and he is foolish because his concern is for his immediate wants rather than God's ultimate best.

Discipline is not about being angry at the child, but about teaching the child to obey and about rescuing her from the spiritual death that comes from rebellion. For a child to refuse to submit to his parents' God-given authority is foolish behavior, as she is rejecting God. A spanking, given in a Biblical manner (more on this later in the book), helps prepare a rebellious heart "to receive life-giving words."

Physical discipline is a parental exercise that shows your faith in and obedience to God, and it's "an expression of love and commitment" to your child (see Hebrews 12). Think of it as a rescue mission: my rebellious child has distanced himself from god, and I must be willing to do anything to reach his heart with the Gospel. God has given us a wonderful instrument to help do this -- the rod.

Tripp gives a good list of common distortions and objections to the rod, and I invited you to prayerfully consider that list to see where you have been misled or mistaken. For me, I must remember that the rod is not about retribution (my child paying for his sins); it is a teaching tool, not for punitive reasons.

How have you used this element of child training? What questions have you had?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I don't know about you, but I struggle to help my children understand the nature and blessings of obedience. I recently read this great article about this topic. My favorite quote: "When children disobey, the solution should not be to do better next time. The solution is to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in one's own strength. Apart from Christ we can do nothing."