Friday, April 30, 2010

Parenting Tips - NCBP

The National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP) offers a free weekly (at least) email that has parenting tips.  We are not endorsing every tip and piece of advice they give, but there are a lot of good ones.  At the least, we must remember that we need to develop our parenting skills, like any other skill in life, except that parenting skills have a lifelong and eternal impact.

Here is a sample of some recent tips:
  • Good parenting doesn't always work.  Sometimes what we are teaching our children gets too far out of balance. For example, it is good to help our children learn to ask questions, but it may develop into teaching the child to be overly-focused on his needs and questions.  We need to continually evaluate and make adjustments as necessary.
  • The solution isn't just bigger consequences.  We giving consequences for sinful behavior, remember "that the goal is a changed heart, not just punishment for doing wrong."  Know that the pain of consequences is what helps a young child recognize that their behavior is destructive.
  • And then there were two.  Problems often arise when an only child "suddenly" (in her viewpoint) has a sibling, who takes her parents' attention, time, and energy.  A two-fold approach may be helpful.  First, reinforce your love for the older child, and be sure to carve out time for just her.  Second, "increase the firm discipline to reinforce the new boundaries."  Emphasize that their selfish behavior and attitude is sin.  This is a great season to teach the young child that they are self-focused sinners, whom God loves completely. 
  • Obey first and then we'll talk about it.  Before anything else, a child must learn to submit himself to authority.  Obeying does not just mean in actions, but in his heart as well.  If he does not learn to obey happily, immediately, and completely by the time he is done with elementary school, it will make the teen years very difficult.  Parents often allow young children too many decisions to make.  (See this video of Pastor Bill White answering a related question.)
You can sign up for the email with parenting tips here

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Special Needs Ministry

Most people at Grace Church probably don't know that we are ministering to at least 15 children who have special needs in our Children's & Student Ministries.  These "special needs" range from autism, to Downs syndrome, to a toddler with diabetes, and more.  You may not be aware of these ministry opportunities because our goal has always been to keep children with their peers in our regular programming.  Some children require "shadows," volunteers who help ensure that the child can experience our programming in a safe and meaningful way.  Some children do not need a shadow, but we can help equip teachers with information and vision that they need to engage that child according to his or her needs.

Our vision is not so much to go out and recruit families who have children with special needs, so that they can attend our church. Our primary goal is to minister to the families who already want to be a part of Grace Church.  It is our joy to come alongside these families, so that they can be free to worship and free to serve, even to be on campus for 2 services. 

A more detailed picture regarding our vision is in the works, and we are trying to determine how we'll communicate it (probably both as a paper and a series of blog posts). We absolutely do not have all the answers; instead we are learning year by year.  We are moving into uncharted territory for us, not just with the sheer numbers of children with special needs, but also with the fact that we have more and more children who are in their pre-teen and teen years.

For now, let us know if you have questions or thoughts.  Also, we are always looking for committed and loving volunteers who can serve as shadows.  If you or someone you know is interested, contact us at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New & Improved Preschool Take-Home

Every week, we provide a take-home sheet for each child in our preschool programming.  If you have a preschool-age child, you know that it's sometimes difficult to get the entire picture of what they learned about.  (For example, this past fall, we were learning that "God is Eternal."  One young boy told his parents that "God is a turtle.")

We have recently revised this "Parent Page," in order to assist parents in leading their children.  We inform parents about these parts of the programming:
  • The central truth (each 3-4 week series is focused on an attribute of God)
  • What our heart response should be
  • The main ideas of the series
  • The memory verse, so you can practice at home
  • The summary of that week's Small Group lesson
  • The summary of that week's Big Group drama
  • The list of songs that were sung in Big Group time (you can find and purchase some of the songs we do on our website)
  • An explanation of the main craft
Although each week's take-home Parent Page is slightly different within a series (to account for the variety in the lessons), you can also find a summary version on our website, as well as our curriculum outline.  Let us know what else you would like from us, to help keep you connected with what's going on in our weekend programming.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jesus is Lord of the Church

Here is summary from a section on the church (pp. 192-194), from "Big Truths for Young Hearts" by Bruce Ware.  The Bible gives 3 illustrations of what the church is in relation to Christ:
  1. We are sheep, He is the Shepherd. We should hear and follow Him (John 10:3-4).
  2. We are the bride, He is the Bridegroom. We should be pure and submit to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2-3; Ephesians 5:24).
  3. We are the body, He is the Head. We should show love and receive love from other believers (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Events

We wanted to make sure you knew about a couple of events going on this summer, so that you can begin to make plans:
  • Elementary Camp.  All current 3rd & 4th graders are welcome to come to Look Up Lodge for our annual summer camp.  We will leave around noon on Friday June 18, and return the afternoon of Sunday June 20. To learn more, see the following links:

    • Piano Lessons.  Grace Children's Ministry will have a Kairos intern this summer, and part of her role will be giving piano lessons to children at Grace Church (Pelham Road campus).  The $120 fee will cover eight 30-minute lessons, plus the initial interview (parents are also responsible for purchasing the required books), and this money will be split between funding the internship program and helping the church pay down debt (most of it from our E3 campaign).  There is limited availability for these private lessons, so act fast (this blog post is going out in advance of the more public communication)! You can register here, but please note that it is your payment, not the registration, that secures your spot. 

    Leave a comment if you have any questions about either of these opportunities.

      Monday, April 19, 2010

      Our Curriculum -- Summary

      A couple of months ago, we asked some questions about how we got our curriculum, and what we hope to accomplish through it. In case you missed it, here is a summary of the questions we asked ourselves, and links to our answers.
      1. Why does this ministry exist? What's our goal and mission?
        1. The Tension between parents and programming
        2. The Mission to pour into both
        3. The Call: Grow, Learn, Serve, Preach
      2. What do we value? What do we want to see happen?
        1. Staff & Parents
        2. Volunteers & Children
      3. What's our philosophy of learning? What elements should be incorporated in our programming?
        1. Big Group / Small Group format
        2. Visual, audio, and hands-on elements
        3. Take-homes materials to equip parents
      4. What is the focus of the curriculum? What does the scope and sequence need to look like?
        1. Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades): 2-year through the Bible, to teach biblical principles from some main characters
        2. Preschool (2 year old - 5k): attributes of God
      5. What is our ministry model?
        1. Big Group / Small Group
        2. modeled after Student and Adult Ministries at Grace Church
      6. What does a "win" look like? How do we know that we're succeeding?
        1. Parents & Volunteers are growing and engaged
        2. Children coming and growing
        3. Real-life stories
      Thanks for reading!

        Saturday, April 17, 2010

        Daddies and Their Daughters

        Going along with a couple of articles from earlier this week, here is a great post from the Grace Student Ministry blog, called "Daddies and Their Daughters."  Written by a member of the Student Ministry staff who has 3 daughters, there is a great reminder that . . .
        A daughter will view her relationship with her Heavenly Father in a similar way as she views her relationship with her earthly father.
        Read the full article here

        Wednesday, April 14, 2010

        A Word to Dads

        Here are a couple of articles from author and speaker Tedd Tripp.  He uses Genesis 18:19 to highlight some key principles, as a reminder that "raising children to serve God doesn't happen by itself."
        1. Engaging Our Children.  We must be specific and intentional as we give direction to our children. "A defensive coordinator does not get a team ready to make the big plays by lecturing. . . . He employs a clear, defined, intentional process of training."
        2. Protective Authority.  "You must be winsome and gracious as you help your child learn to see that authority is something God brings into his life for a blessing."

        Monday, April 12, 2010

        Why Do I Have to Check My Child In and Out?

        In July 2007, we implemented a computer-based check-in and check-out system, called Parent Pager. Previously, our attendance tracking consisted of a printed roster attached to a clipboard in each classroom. Parents would sign-in, and then a volunteer administrator would check the numbers during the service. There are a number of advantages to our electronic check-in/out system, over the old system, including:

        1. Security. Each weekend, we have over 600 children on just the Pelham Road campus. We cannot expect every volunteer, and especially not classroom substitutes, to know every parent and adult who is authorized to pick up every child. We have never had an issue of someone trying to get a child that he or she is not authorized to pick up, but we want to be proactive in this area, since we are growing so fast as a church.
        2. Safety. Accurate tracking allows us to be able to find a child quickly in case of an emergency. Additionally, we can add comments to the child's information if their parents are serving, so we can find them if needed. The photographs can help if we need to find a parent in the worship service. And we can easily update and identify allergy information with this system.
        3. Parent-Teacher Connection. Soon after we began using this system, we received a comment from a veteran Camp Grace leader, who said that with this system, he's met more parents in a few months, then he had in the few prior years. Parents have to bring their child to class (versus letting them go on their own), which giving an opportunity for the Small Group leaders to meet and talk with them.
        4. Class Sizes. With Parent Pager, we can set maximum numbers on each class. In the past, we've had preschool classes with up to even 18 kids, which creates a less safe and less meaningful environment. Additionally, because we can close classes, most of any bit of 'chaos' is focused in the main hallway, not near the classrooms.
        5. Administration. It is now much easier to update class rolls (just a few clicks of a button). Tracking attendance requires much less man power. Three years ago, it took a staff person from 8AM until past lunch on Mondays to count up all the numbers and enter into a spreadsheet; now, we can run a report in just a few minutes, and the numbers are much more accurate. Being able to accurately track numbers helps us to plan for growth.
         If you have questions, please leave a comment or contact our Children's Hospitality Coordinator, Laura Moore, at

        Saturday, April 10, 2010

        Shepherding Our Future Woman

        It’s hard to believe that Hannah will be 9 later this year. In light of this, Joanna and I spent time earlier this year discussing our vision for our children, where we would like them to be over the next 10 years and what we need to do to help get them there. (This went along with our discussion on Adventure for our family.)  In 10 years, Hannah could be a freshman in college!  We discussed things like her strengths and gifts, God’s call for her as a reflection of His image, and what specific applications we can implement this year.

        Strengths and Gifting. The name “Hannah” means grace. Since she was born, I have prayed that she would be a giver of grace and a blessing to others. Even in a first year of life, a mom we respect told us that Hannah would be sensitive and come to know Christ at a young age; she was right on the money. Hannah loves being at home, and is very motherly. She practically single-handedly taught Elijah to read, she loves to help take care of younger cousins and other friends, and she figured out on her own how to change Sender’s diaper. She is very creative, whether in arts and crafts, or with the colorful outfits she puts together. Like her dad, she struggles with being “wise in her own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7), and with pride and self-sufficiency. But overall, she is very compliant. She is OK at math, and mostly likes science when it involves projects. Sometimes (again, like her dad) she struggles to communicate her feelings, as she bottles it up inside her.

        God’s Call. God created Hannah in His image. That is, in her femininity she has been created to reflect His nature. We at Grace Church are delving deeply into the issue of gender. From over 8 years of Men’s Roundtable, we have a solid language of what Biblical manhood is. Over the past year, leaders at Grace Church have focused more and more on honing the language of Biblical womanhood. We’re not there yet, but for the moment, we’ll use the language that Joanna and I came across years ago.
        • Embrace God’s calling. We must help her know that she was created with unique gifts that she must use to bless God’s kingdom. We feel that part of this involves nurturing the next generation, possibly through children of her own, but definitely through the local church.
        • Reject the world’s temptation for significance. We want her to know that her value must never depend on material things, which is what the culture will tell her. A focus on clothes, money, friends, and even status will never satisfy her or glorify God. We want to disciple her to pursue modesty, and to respect and respond to authority. 
        • Expect God’s reward. Above all, she must learn to trust in Christ. In life, she will experience hardships, unkindness, and even abuse. We must not aim to merely protect her from these things. Instead, we must help her to know that in all these hardships, she should rejoice, knowing that in suffering she has the privilege of identifying with Christ. Furthermore, instead of receiving temporary earthly rewards, she gets to receive eternal rewards from the One who died for her sake. Our goal is to shepherd her towards a gospel-oriented life, with her perspective centered around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

        Applications.  Here are some things for Joanna and I to do this year:
        1. Explain to her the core callings and definition of a woman, and why we think they are important.
        2. Increase her responsibility around the home, so that she can acquire useful skills for life (load dishwasher, help make dinner, clean up after dinner, laundry)
        3. When she does her ROAD Map Bible study, I will start to give her less guidance
        4. Give her more opportunities to serve others, such as in our Preschool ministry, HOG Day, etc.

        Thoughts or questions?

        -- Joey Espinosa

        Thursday, April 8, 2010

        Sharing the Gospel

        From A Gospel Primer for Christians:
        "Additionally, the more I experience the life-transforming power of the gospel, the more confident I am in speaking it to others, both saved and lost. I know what the gospel can do in people's lives if they would believe the fullness of it, because I see what it is doing in me and in others."
         As parents, we don't need to merely teach Biblical truths. We cannot be satisfied, for ourselves and for those around us, with mere knowledge about God. Even the demons know who God is, and they even respond with emotions, but not repentant faith (James 2:19). We need to make everything about the gospel. Talk to your children, whether they are saved or not, about how you are growing in the gospel, about what God is teaching you and how you are trusting in Him. And let them know that in your good deeds, your life is merely a reflection of what God has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ.

        Wednesday, April 7, 2010

        Parenting Conference

        Due to a very limited amount of interest, we are canceling the Transitions Parenting Conference.  For those who had signed up and paid, we apologize for the inconvenience, and we will refund your money in full. Let us know if you have any questions.

        Tuesday, April 6, 2010

        Is That Contestant on American Idol A Christian?

        We are participating in a massive "scorecard," through the blog Stuff Christians Like.  Here's how it works -- there will be a list of identifiers, along with a point system.  You can go through your favorite contestant and see how he or she scores.  Check back tomorrow to see the key so that you know what the final score means. 

        Each participating blogger will only have part of the scorecard.  You can find the list of all the blogs on the SCL website.  Here are our identifiers:

        116. Their cell phone rings and the tone is a MercyMe song  =  +2 points
        117. Their cell phone rings and the tone is a Bible verse  =  +4 points
        118. They find a way to work in that “Jesus is the reason for the season” despite the fact that it’s April and Christmas was months ago  =  +1 point

        To add up your score with over 130 other ideas on this scorecard, visit  Let us know how your contestant scores.

        Monday, April 5, 2010

        Passover Seder - Part 2

        We hope you all had a worshipful Easter.  Here are some more links, as a follow up from last weekend's Camp Grace Passover Seder.

        1. Here are some pictures of the Seder from one of our services. 
        2. If your child was out of town, he can get the Smore Card and ROAD bookmark from our website, so it can be completed and returned to his class this coming weekend. We will resume with our normal programming this week.
        3. I've had two different people make me aware of these, so I feel that I have to let you know. You can buy Passover Plagues Finger Puppets (if not from this site, then just google it). This would go well with my reenactment (for my own kids, not in Camp Grace) of the slaying of the Passover lamb and putting blood on the doorway; I used a stuffed animal sheep, a toy sword, and a red bandana. It was great.

         --  Joey Espinosa

        Friday, April 2, 2010

        Theology Matters

        I've said before that I am not an expert on theology, at least not at the same level as many of the other pastors on staff. The following video shows why it is crucial to grow in your knowledge about God. (If the video is not working, you can view it here or here.)

        Here are some of my favorite lines from this video:
        "What we know about God shapes the way we think and live."
        "You can study [God] the way you study a sunset that you leaves you speechless."
        "We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."
        Do you want to grow in your theology, to know more about Him and His ways, so that you can better live a life of discipleship in Christ?  Here are a few books that can help:
        1. Dug Down Deep (Joshua Harris). The above video is actually a promotion for this book.
        2. Big Truths for Young Hearts (Bruce Ware). We have had a number of excerpts from this book on this blog.  (You can search by the label.) Great for parents of children around ages 5-14. 
        3. Knowing God (JI Packer). This is for the serious theologian. Worth reading, but it's so deep that it's easy to get bogged down. It took me a long time to get through it, and I am sure I only got a fraction out of it.
        4. Mere Christianity (CS Lewis). I agree with most of his theology, but at the least CS Lewis is a great thinker with sharp logic. I have read this book several times, each time gleaning more and more knowledge.
        --  Joey Espinosa