Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Childishness Versus Foolishness

The following post was written by Molly Burns, our Saturday Night Coordinator for Children's Ministry.  Can you give another example of how you've had to differentiate between childishness and foolishness?  Share with others by leaving a comment below.

The Crime: Spilled milk 
The Defendant, Self-Representing:  Quirky 7-year-old girl, missing one tooth 
The Prosecutor: Frazzled and time-crunched mom
The Scene:  Weeknight dinner prep time.  Quirky 7-year-old girl trying to make  setting the table more enjoyable by reenacting "Whistle While You Work" scene from Snow White.  Dancing inevitable.  Liquid spills also inevitable.  Milk all over table, chairs, floor, and quirky 7-year-old's favorite mismatched outfit.  Mom's reaction, typical:  "How many times do I have to tell you . . ."

I can't make this stuff up.  This is my house, and yours too, if you are being honest.  So how can I as a parent change my typical reaction of exasperation and frustration to patient, understanding and discerning?  Is it even possible for my typical reaction to be loving instead of annoyed?  In these moments I find myself questioning and doubting how I should lead my children:  How can I keep from driving us all bonkers repeating myself over and over?  As her parent, how do I know if this is a time for warning her and explaining cause and effect, or a time for consequence? 

Our 7-year-old daughter asked us recently, "Why do you say that I did something 'childish,' when I am a child and isn't everything I do going to be childish?"  My husband explained to her that there were two different ways she can act out of her own nature: childishly and foolishly.  When she is childish, she is doing something because of a lack of understanding or knowledge.  When she acts foolishly, she is doing something she knows she should not be doing, but chooses her way despite her understanding of the expectations.  When she made the mess at dinner, was she being childish or foolish? 

I have read childishness described as "innocent immaturity" (Ezzo), along with non-malicious or non-rebellious behavior, and as Ginger Plowman says in Don't Make Me Count to Three, an "accidental mistake."  Foolishness is a heart issue, a child that in their heart doesn't want to do right.  There are sinful motives and rebellion in a foolish act.  Let's return to the scene of the crime and look at it through the lens of childish vs. foolish.  She was not malicious when she spilled the milk.  My little rule-follower would never purposefully spill milk and make a mess.  But for some reason, I felt like she was not being entirely childish, ether.  I had warned her before about not having self-control while doing certain things because it shows a lack of concern for others.  In her Snow White reenactment, she was displaying what Reb Miller calls "thoughtless disobedience."  Plowman cuts to the chase:  "Childishness becomes foolishness when the child has been given clear instructions and understands those instructions but chooses to disobey." 

Ah ha!  There it is!  I have told her before what happens when she is not paying attention to what she's doing, and explained to her that the next time she does not pay attention, there will be a consequence.  Although her Snow White impression was dead on, and very endearing, she was being foolish as she danced around the table while doing her chore because I had warned her before to do her part without being silly, so that something or someone didn't get hurt.  She was foolish because she was self-focused (Making her taks pleasant) and not others-focused (serving our family by helping prepare for dinner). 

If I filter my children's actions through the lens of childishness versus foolishness, it helps me decide which call to make while I am training them to be mature followers of Christ, as I help them understand what it looks like to deny themselves and responsibly serve others.  And the bonus is that I don't have to repeat myself over and over to the point of frustration and anger that can turn me into the wicked witch.  And we can all live happily ever after. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Engage the World

This past weekend, we had high school students from Grace Church present in our Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) programming, about the mission trips they were involved with this past summer. These high schoolers talked about why they went on the trip, what they did, and how God grew them through this experience. They shared stories and pictures, to help the campers connect with what God did.

Why have we done this over the past few years?  For one, it helps adults, students, and children see that we are one church with a unified mission to spread the Gospel.  Second, it is a great opportunity for these students to be leaders and to be able to share what they did.  Third, this has helped our elementary-age kids grow in Christ.  We want them to grow up thinking that it's perfectly normal to go to another culture in order to demonstrate God's love through their actions and words.  (In fact, we timed this presentation to coincide with us beginning our study of the New Testament.  We learned about John the Baptist, and we feel that we are all called to tell others about Jesus, just like John the Baptist did.)

If you have a child in our Camp Grace programming, be sure to talk with them about what they learned.  Also, consider what it would look like for you to go on a mission trip (see our Culturally-Engaged webpage).  It is great when a child can hear about someone else doing missions work, but if you go, it brings it home to a much more personal level, even for them. 

To learn more about Grace Student Ministry, see their website.

Friday, September 24, 2010


In this article on the Student Ministry blog, Leah Pinckney (Fusion Director) talks about the positives and dangers about putting people into categories.  But she reminds us that we are all in the category of being "broken and in need of a Savior."

She also discusses more specifically the category of students with "special needs."  Here is an excerpt:
"As I think through how to love students with special needs, how to meet them where they are and push them towards Jesus, I see all over again how much our body of students need to be in community with people in different categories.  We need those with special needs to be a part of our body.  We, as a body, need to be more mindful of how to adjust the way we do things to help grow those that our “different”, whether it’s someone who is categorized with special needs, someone who is weak or someone who is just outside the category that the majority fit into. . . .
"Our student ministry at Grace Church desires to integrate those with special needs into our body.  We believe that God has a specific role for them to play within our student ministry, just as every other student does.  We desire to push them to pursue God, connect with the church and engage the world by meeting them where they are and equipping them to know and love the gospel."
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Gender & Sexuality Matter

In our Preschool programming, we are in the midst of our series on God is Relational, as we teach about Adam and Eve (see this post about the leader preparation material).  Grace Church has been teaching more and more about biblical masculinity (see this blog post, for example) and femininity (we have been developing and rolling out some newly-developed curriculum, in stages).

Here is another blog post on why gender and sexuality matter, on The Resurgence blog.  Some key points:
  • "God does not create a generic human being and then add gender; rather, he creates a human being either as a male person or as a female person."
  • "[M]en and women should be thankful for the gender with which God created them. . . .  Gender differences should be celebrated."
  • "[T]he biblical portrait is that marriage is between a man and a woman who commit themselves to living in a monogamous relationship.  Sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed within the bounds of this covenantal framework and is designed for several purposes, including pleasure, procreation, a guard against immorality, and unity."
Read the full article here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Glitter, Glue, & Goldfish

You are one of the hundreds of Children's Ministry volunteers, and you feel like you do the same thing every weekend.  You enter your room, pull out the crafts and goldfish crackers, and try your best to keep the kids' attention.  For the whole service time you feel like you're maintaining order, picking up smashed goldfish, and drying tears.

Some weekends are good; some are so repetitious that you wonder if you're making a difference in the kids' lives.  Do you feel like any of this really matters to God, or do you feel like you're just surviving away the weekends until you get to heaven?  Does God actually care about glitter, glue, and goldfish?

Actually, He does.  Very much.  In our Preschool programming, we have recently studied how God is Creator, and now are learning about how God created man and woman in His image.  As I was preparing for these units, I was reminded of who our Creator is, how we were created, and what our response should be.
  • Genesis 1:1 --> God creates.  Light splits the darkness, order emerges, and it is good.  We have an energetic, creative, ordering God.
  • Genesis 1:26-27 --> God makes man in His image.  We are made in the image of a creative, ordering God.  Humanity is given a mandate:  take dominion over the earth, cultivate it, take care of it.  We are to imitate our creative, ordering God.
Here is the connection to glitter, glue and goldfish.  When we serve, create, and keep order in our classrooms, we are imitating our God.  God loves to see His creatures imitating Him.  You're not just "babysitting" the kids; you are fulfilling the creation mandate (command), which pleases God.  You're not merely doing crafts; you're actually imitating the creativity of God.

When we imitate God in front of the kids, we are setting a model for them to follow.  Greater things are at stake than smashed goldfish and soggy diapers.  The glory of God is at stake.

Remember, dear volunteer, that each weekend you serve isn't just another weekend.  It's an opportunity.  It's an opportunity to imitate and glorify our God, our Creator.  Don't waste it!

-- Val Gutschow, Children's Ministry Coordinator

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur

This article from Justin Holcomb helps explain the relevance of Yom Kippur (which begins this evening) to the Christian faith. 
 “Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement, which is the climax of the Old Testament sacrificial system and is the most solemn day on the Jewish Calendar. . . .  The Day of Atonement was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and our great High Priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. These great images of the priest, slaughter, and scapegoat are all given by God to helps us more fully comprehend Jesus’ bloody sacrifice for us on the cross.”
You can also read our post from last year.  Yes, we know that both of these articles are from last year.  But do you think that a 3500 year old holiday has changed much in the past 12 months?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Questions About Children's Ministry?

We have recently updated our FAQ's page on our website.  There are some questions that can help new guests, as well as long-time members.  You will see answers to such questions as:
  • "How do I check my child in?"
  • "What if I need to be contacted during the service?"
  • "What security measures do you have in place to provide for my child's safety?"
Read about these questions and more here.  Also, let us know if you have any other questions by leaving a comment here, or by emailing us at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teach Your Kids to Be Safe

Within the past year, we have had two instances of a child pulling a fire alarm in the Children's Center on our Pelham Road campus.  Once was in between services on a Sunday morning, and today it was right before a home school co-op was starting up.  Neither time was the offender caught, but both times there were consequences for others:  programming (where children were being discipled) was disrupted for dozens -- if not several hundred -- children, fire men responded to a false alarm (drawing them away from potential life-saving duties), a monetary fine was required, and young children got upset at the noise of the alarm.

One thing I realized was that while my older two children know to not pull fire alarms except in an emergency, I don't remember ever specifically telling my 3-year-old to not pull a fire alarm.  I would hope that we've taught him enough to know that he is not to touch things that do not belong to him.  But from experience I know that he is a selfish sinner who needs to grow in self-control.  I need to specifically tell him that fire alarms are only for emergencies.

Similarly, based on a suggestion we saw on a news show, I had a talk the other day with my older children about talking with strangers.  Like most parents, we have tried to teach our children to love and serve others.  However, evil-minded adults could use this against us.  Predators have been known to ask a child for help (as in "Can you help my find my lost puppy?  He likes little boys.") in order to lure them away from safety.  So, I told my children that an adult who is a stranger should never need help from a child.  If a strange adult needs help, they should find another adult.

If you are like me, there are some things that are easy to assume that our children would know, and some things that we do well in emphasizing.  For example, most parents are great about teaching children to not run in the street, but can you think of a few examples where you have not specifically forbidden and warned against an unsafe action? 

--  Joey Espinosa

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Is Worship?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,  singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:16-17)

In both our Preschool and Camp Grace programming, we have Small Group and Big Group times.  During Big Group, we sing, pray, have skits, and sometimes watch videos.  We want to provide a model of what it looks like to worship in community.  (Read more about our philosophy of learning.)

If you have some musical ability and want to be a part of our music team, we want to encourage you to sign up for the next church-wide worship audition, on September 29-30.  You can find out more information on our website.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dancing Dog

Purely for entertainment value.  Let us know what your kids think of this:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preschool Curriculum: God is Relational

We are excited to be starting a brand-new series in our Preschool Curriculum this coming weekend.  We will use the account of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2 & 3) as our backdrop.  Coming off of the past four weeks of teaching about God is Creator, we will now focus on the divine attribute of God is Relational.  (See our current curriculum outline on our website.)  One thing that is incorporated into each lesson is some "Leader Preparation" material, that has the purpose of equipping our leaders with additional theology and application.  Here is the Leader Preparation for this upcoming series:

What's the plan? . . .  One of the first lessons you learn in working with preschoolers is that it's good to have a plan -- not that things always follow the plan perfectly, but it certainly helps to keep things on track.  Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring God's plan when He created human beings and the implications that plan has for us today.

God created human beings to reflect Himself.  Our memory verse for this unit says that we were created "in His own image."  However, we were not all created the same.  The verse goes on to say "male and female he created them."  Even though we are different, we still reflect the image of God.

God also created us to be in a relationship -- relationship with Himself and with others.  God knew that it was "not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18) so He provided another person for Adam to connect with.  God also provided instructions and responsibilities.  Just as God gave Adam & Eve the job of caring for the Garden, God also gives us responsibilities.  He has a purpose for each of us.  But He doesn't leave us on our own to find and pursue that purpose.  He gives us instructions.  Just as He gave Adam and Eve guidelines for living in the Garden, our instructions are found within His word, the Bible.

But the most perfect plans don't always go smoothly.  and God, in His infinite wisdom, even had a plan for our shortcomings.  When Adam and Eve failed to follow God's instructions in the Garden, God already had a plan for their restoration.  He provided His Son, Jesus, as a substitute for the punishment that we all deserve and through Him the hope of a restored relationship.  

As you prepare to share these lessons with your class, take a moment to meditate on God's plan.  Are you even aware that you reflect God's image?  Do you trust in God's plan, His purpose, for your life?  And do you have faith in the restoration that Christ offers, even when you mess up?  Ask God to make His plan real in your life and reveal how you can share this amazing hope with the children in your class.

To learn more about our vision for our Preschool ministry, see this post.  Additionally, you can read a previous post about being created in God's image

Monday, September 6, 2010

Camp Remix: The Substitute

This past June, almost one-hundred 3rd & 4th graders (plus 26 leaders) enjoyed our annual camp weekend.  While we could not recreate the full camp experience during Camp Grace this past weekend, we were able to give a much-abbreviated version of the teaching sessions, while also showing the funny video that was created to go along with the teaching. 

The video showed the "adventures" of two men, Larry (played by our own Matt Gaymon) & Duke (also our own Blake Bridges), who are assigned the duty of re-building a cabin that had been destroyed.  They rely on their own know-how and skills, instead of seeking help from a substitute counselor who has joined the camp staff.  Their best efforts to build a cabin amount to little more than sticks and a tarp, and after being failed by the inspector (Val Gutschow), they finally seek the help of the substitute counselor, who builds the perfect cabin.  (Thanks to Look Up Lodge for letting us use their property to film this video!)

The teaching was centered around these principles:
  1. God created everything good, and created us to live in a relationship with Him.
  2. Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God.  Likewise, we are innately sinful and are separated from God and His perfection.
  3. God is the only one who is holy.  We can never do enough good on our own to become holy or to be near God.
  4. God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us so we can be saved from our sin.  It is only through Jesus that we can be redeemed.  He is our Substitute.
Thanks to the teachers who led the presentation this weekend during all six Camp Grace programs.  Let us know if you have any questions about this special programming.

We will resume with our regular programming this coming weekend.  See our website for our upcoming curriculum outline, especially as we are nearing the end of our study through the Old Testament.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do You Love Your Spouse?

We have already discussed and recommended Paul Tripp's latest book on marriage, What Did You Expect?, on this blog (see here).  This book would be a great resource if you are considering marriage, and even more so at any point during one's marriage.

From The Gospel Coalition, here is another article giving excerpts from chapter 12 of this book.  The point of this chapter is to show that we are not capable by our own efforts of truly loving our spouse as God would have us.  The impossibility of this task should drive us to the Gospel, as we are weak and needy.  Jesus died not only to make us righteous despite our failure to love, "but also so that we would have the desire, wisdom, and power to love as we should."

Additionally, there are some videos on that blog of Tedd Tripp talking about some of the principles in this book.  Here is one where Tripp says, "I'm proposing that marriage is war." 

Here is another video, from a more personal perspective from the author.  ("The character of a marriage is not built in three big moments; it's built in ten-thousand little moments.")

After reading the article, we encourage you to get a copy of What Did You Expect?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Start to the School Year

We now have three weekends of programming under our belt for the 2010-11 school year, and we are off to an exciting start.  Here are some pieces of information about what's happened, and what is coming up.
  1. Our weekend attendance, for children 4th grade and younger, has been 900, 920, and 923 for the past three weekends.  Of course, we expect to be lower this weekend (for Labor Day weekend), but these have been our highest children's attendance weekends ever!
  2. We had a fun-filled kick-off to Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades; see our video here), before picking up with our regular curriculum the past two weeks.  We'll have special programming this weekend (a Camp Remix), and then we'll finish up our study of the Old Testament in mid-September.  See our curriculum outline here.
  3. Later this fall in Camp Grace, we will have . . . 
    1. Wafuasi students share about their mission trips;
    2. A re-cap video from our Elementary Camp from 2010, and the dates for next year's camp;
    3. A collection for "adopting" local children for Christmas (more details to come).
  4. Our preschoolers have been learning about and enjoying our series on God is Creator.  We've heard stories about how they are "getting it."  One two-year-old who is new to our church left her class and immediately told her mom, "I love my church!"
  5. After finishing our series on God is Creator, be looking for a brand new series on God is Relational, in our preschool programming.  (See our outline on our website.)
Thanks to everyone who has worked to get the new school year off to a great start!  We are so thankful to the 760+ volunteers in Children's Ministry, and to our God who lets us all be used for His purposes!