Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is Advent?

From Noel Piper (2009):
"Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25. . . . For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means—coming. Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know 'what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating.' They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like."
Read the full article.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Preschool Curriculum: Christmas

"Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs."
Psalm 100:2

Next weekend, we begin our series in our Preschool programming on Christmas.  Here excerpts from the Leader Preparation section in our curriculum:

The Christmas season is a time of joy and excitement.  But it can also be a time of stress and busyness. . . .  Take a moment to read Luke 2 and Matthew 1:18-25.  Reflect on the extraordinary events of Jesus' birth while remembering the extraordinary love an purpose of Jesus' life.  God chose ordinary people, Mary and Joseph, to be the parents of His extraordinary Son. 

God also chose ordinary people, the shepherds, to proclaim His Son's extraordinary birth. . . .  These ordinary men responded by going to meet Jesus and worshiping God for His birth.  Their joy was so great that they went on to tell everyone they could find about this amazing news.  

In light of this, how does it make your feel to know that although Jesus was God, He also lived an ordinary life on earth and understands what you experience?  How do you respond to what God has done for you through Jesus?  Do you share in the shepherds' reaction -- a heart of worship, praising God for the gift of His Son?
The story of Christmas is one of the ordinary being invaded by the extraordinary.  God sent His Son to ordinary people in an ordinary world and through Him, God brought the extraordinary into their lives.  As you share this lesson, look for ways that God can use someone ordinary, like you, to bring the extraordinary message of Jesus to the children in your class and to others.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Camp Grace Review Day Questions

In case your child missed our programming for 1st - 4th graders this past weekend, or if you want to see how well you could have done, here are some questions that were asked during our Review Day.  Check back on Wednesday for the answer key.

1. What was the first thing Nehemiah did when he learned Jerusalem’s wall and gates were destroyed?
A.  He prayed to God, praising Him, humbling himself and asking God for help.
B.  He immediately went to Jerusalem to see how he could help.
C.  He sent people to rebuild the wall and gates.
D.  He did nothing.

2. Who did God allow Satan to test to see if this person would continue to believe and trust in God no matter what happened?
A.  David
B.  Nehemiah
C. Adam
D.  Job

3. What happened to Daniel after he was thrown in the lion’s den?
A.  God did not take him out of the lion’s den, but God protected Daniel while he was in it.
B.  Daniel was eaten by the lion’s, but God was glorified for Daniel’s faithfulness to Him.
C.  God gave Daniel superhuman strength to fight and kill the lion’s so he would not be eaten.
D.  Daniel escaped from the lion’s den and saved himself.

4. When Jesus was just a baby, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple in obedience to the Old Testament law.  Who was it that recognized Jesus at the temple, and worshiped Him?
A.  Simeon
B.  King Herod
C.  Anna and Simeon
D.  The Magi and King Herod

5. When Jesus was in Capernaum teaching at the house where He was staying, four men brought a friend to be healed by Jesus. What was wrong with their friend, and how did they get him to Jesus?
A.  Their friend had a broken leg, and they carried him through the front door to Jesus.
B.  Their friend was paralyzed and they led him into the house to Jesus.
C.  Their friend was blind and they lowered him through the roof of the house to Jesus.
D.  Their friend was paralyzed and they dug a hole in the roof to lower him down to Jesus.

6. John the Baptist was not like many of the religious leaders of his time, but God still chose to use him to prepare the way for Jesus.  What are some characteristics of John the Baptist?
A.  He ate ants and syrup, dressed in horse hair, and frolicked in fields.
B.  He ate snails and honey, dressed in cat hair, and hiked in the mountains.
C.  He ate snakes and vinegar, dressed in donkey hair, and swam in the ocean.
D.  He ate locusts and honey, dressed in camel hair, and lived in the wilderness.

7. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights while being tempted by Satan. There were three things Satan told Jesus to do in Matthew 4. What was NOT one of the things Satan told Jesus to do?
A.  Jump off the highest point of the Temple and let the angels protect Him.
B.  Turn stones into loaves of bread so He could eat
C.  Change sand into water so He could drink
D.  Kneel down and worship Satan to gain the world and its glory

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jesus Tree

From the Desiring God blog, some creative ideas about ornaments for your Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Are They Pilgrims?"

See this post for a funny Thanksgiving memory and some other thoughts about what it means to be a "Pilgrim."

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Special Needs Equipping Follow Up

We we excited to have 35 people (including Staff, Volunteer Coaches, and Welcome Team members) attend our Special Needs Equipping Event earlier this month.  After an initial welcome, we had about 45 minutes of a highly-informative program, including:
  • Emily McGowan and Jessica Crumpton (our Special Needs coaches on the Pelham Road and Powdersville campuses, respectively) explained the general process of how a child with special needs gets ministered to during our weekend programming.  Most importantly for this audience, we wanted to give an overview of how we try to reach out to families who have children with special needs.  In these cases, we expect our volunteers to go the extra mile, as a way to love on these families.
  • Jimmy & Susan Bates, and Joey & Charley Altom, two families that have children with special needs, shared their perspectives as parents.  In both cases, these families have been ministered to by other folks at Grace Church, and this not only encourages them, but has freed them up to minister to others (II Corinthians 1:3-5).  

The volunteers in attendance asked some good questions, especially of the Bates and Altoms, leading to further discussion and explanation.  For example, the parents said that it's OK for a church to tell a parent in this situation, "I don't know the answer, but we'd love to work with you to find a solution, if you'll help us."  Also, they were asked by a volunteer, "Do you want to know when your child misbehaves, or do you just need a break from that?"  All the parents were emphatic that they DO want to know about the behavior of their children, so that they can better shepherd them. 

We look forward to more events like this, perhaps from a different perspective or for a different audience, as we continue to seek ways to assist families in leading their children, and to equip volunteers to shepherd children

Take some time to check out our special needs page on our website, and watch this video about the Altoms' story when they started attending Grace Church over two years ago.

PS -- Special thanks to Amy Fenton Lee, author of The Inclusive Church, who made the 2 hour trip up to Greenville to check out this event.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winners for the "300" Contest

We're excited to announce the winners from our 300 giveaway!
  • Winner of the $15 gift card to Chick-Fil-A (leaving a comment):  Julie Baker
  • Winner of the $15 gift card to Moe's (subscribing to email updates):  Joy D

We'll get those gifts to you ASAP.  Thanks to everyone for entering, and especially for following this blog! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

At What Age Is My Child Ready for the Bible?

Will Bouton, the Children's Ministry Director on our Downtown campus, answers this common parenting question. 

One of my favorite things to do as a parent is read the Bible at bedtime with my two boys -- ages 5 and 3 -- right before we cut off the lights.  We all snuggle into one of their beds and read one story each night.  I read and they listen . . . supposedly.  Often, one or both of them won't stop talking in order for me to read, and some nights they think it's time to wrestle, and some nights they would rather read some other book.  Nevertheless, I make sure I read each word from the story before we say goodnight.  I started this with our oldest when he was 6 months old.  Maybe you are thinking, "What's the point? He's too young to understand what you are reading."  Here is why I think it's beneficial to read the Bible to a young child:
  1. Model for them.  This daily time with me reading the Bible has impressed on my boys that the Bible is more special than any other book.  It is amazing to see a 1-year-old respecting the Bible.  Does he know everything it says?  Doubtful.  But I can tell you from experience how wonderful it is for your child to see you reading the Bible and run to find theirs so they can read right beside you.
  2. Confidence in God's word.  My children have become comfortable with picking up the Bible and thumbing through it.  I became a Christian when I was 16 years old, but I wasn't confident in reading the Bible until I was in my twenties.  My prayer is that my boys never have a time in their life where they are intimidated by the thought of spending time in the Bible.  They have confidence with it because they know the pictures and the stories already.  They can practically walk you through all three children's Bibles we own, even though neither can read; they have them memorized!
  3. Life application.  Reading the Bible with my boys consistently allows me to speak into their lives in meaningful ways.  I can reference things we have read in order to connect their everyday life to things the Bible says.  I am often able to say, "Son, do you remember the story in the Bible we read last night . . . " and relate what we are doing right at that moment with the Scripture.  And sometimes at bedtime when we are reading I can say, "Do you remember today when you weren't kind to your brother?  This story in the Bible talks about that very thing . . . ."
  4. Personal gain.  As I read with them, I learn just as much -- if not more -- than they do.  I know the order of things in the Old Testament better than I ever have.  Does it replace my own personal time in the Word?  No.  But, it is amazing what the Holy Spirit will point out to you through your children's questions and comments.  There is no question that I am drawing near to God when we have this time together.  Some of my most treasured memories as a parent have come from conversations with my boys while reading the Bible at bedtime.
No matter the age of your child or children, it is never too early or too late to start.  Find an age-appropriate Bible, and when you sense that you have read it so many times that they are getting bored with reading it, find another one.  The three my boys and I have loved are The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, and The Big Picture Story Bible.

God promises us that His word will not come back to Him empty (Isaiah 55:10-11).  Get to reading and watch what God does with it -- in your children's lives and also in your own!!

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    "300" Contest Deadline

    Don't forget the deadline to enter our give-away, to celebrate our 300th blog post, is this Thursday, November 18th.  See the 300 post from last week for more details.

    Remember - it will only take a few minutes for a chance to win a $15 gift card.

    Monday, November 15, 2010


    As we did last year, we are going to "adopt" some children this Christmas season, but helping to provide them with gifts.  Grace Church is working with local schools, and we (as the Children's Ministry) plan to take 15 of those children.  We are going to have volunteers shop for the gifts, and we'll use the money we collect from the children in our programming to cover the costs.

    We are asking each Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) child to bring in $2, and each preschool-age child to bring in $1 sometime over the next few weeks.  The money will be collected during the Big Group portion of our programming, and our goal is to raise up at least $1200, all of which will be donated to this cause.  If everyone does a little, we can have a big impact.  We want this opportunity to be an opportunity to worship God more, as we seek to bless others in a reflection of the grace our Lord has shown us.

    Watch this video from last year, to hear how an initiative like this can touch someone's life:

    (You can also watch this video on our YouTube channel.)

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    All Pro Dad

    All Pro Dad is a great website with lots of tools and insight for fathers.  (See iMom for a related site for mothers; both sites are programs of Family First, out of Tampa, Florida.)  The goal is to help Dads do their most important job better.

    You can sign up for the Play of the Day, "the most popular and most read daily fatherhood e-mail in the world."  Each email will have brief direction and inspiration, as well as links for additional reading if you so choose.

    There is also a database of Top 10 lists, such as:
    Let us know if you signed up by leaving a comment here, to encourage others to do the same.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Meet Our Volunteers: Chris & Dorsey Ward

    Dorsey Ward, mom of 3 young children and a long-time volunteer in our Nursery programming, says this about her husband,
    "Chris thinks that if he keeps me serving in the nursery, it will be keep me from wanting a fourth baby, because it will fulfill my need to love on newborns!"
    While that maybe a valid motivation, this couple also mentions another great reason to serve in Children's Ministry, "the opportunity to meet and build relationships with others parents that have children the same ages as their children." 

    You can read more about their story, and how else they are being used by God to pour into others, on our Meet the Volunteers page.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Preschool Curriculum: God is Love

    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
    and love your neighbor as yourself."
    Luke 10:27

    Starting this upcoming weekend, and continuing past Thanksgiving, we will have a series studying the divine attribute of Love in our Preschool programming.  All of us, kids and adults, are called to love others, not just because it is a good thing to do, but out of a worship response towards God's love for us.  We will use the account of the Good Samaritan to help our kids understand what it means to "love your neighbor."  Here is the Leader Prep material for this series:

    Despite all our technology, we live in a very disconnected world.  We become so consumed with our own lives that we often become blind and isolated from the world around us.  It is in the midst of that reality that God calls us to "love our neighbor as yourself." 
    Over the next few weeks we will be sharing the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:23-37).  During this unit we will also be giving our children an opportunity to apply what they are learning to their own lives by collecting donations for our less-fortunate neighbors.  As Jesus points out int his parable, it is not enough to just know the commandments; we must also live them out.
    There are many reasons why we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves.  One of the biggest reasons is that we just don't see them.  We're so busy with our own needs that we don't even notice the needs of others.  This leads to another reason for our failure -- pride.  Our love of self has poisoned us to see the needs of others as interruptions instead of amazing opportunities to be a part of God's plan.  And often we fail because of fear -- fear of sacrifice, fear of discomfort, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of rejection.

    Whatever the reason for our failure, the answer is a better understanding of God's love for us.  God acted on His love for us by providing a way of salvation through His Son, despite our unworthiness.  His love is freely given, with no strings attached.  And He did all of this for His own glory -- so that He would be praised, not us.  Our compassion for others is merely a reflection of God's love, mercy, and grace in our own lives. 

    As you prepare to share this lesson with your class, first spend some time meditating on the love of God.  What blessings has He poured on you?  What has He saved you from?  Then ask Him to show you how to share that amazing love with the people He has brought into your life.  

    As always, you can see our curriculum outline on our website.

    image courtesy of Billy Alexander via sxc.hu

    Monday, November 8, 2010


    No, we're not talking about the movie about the brave Spartans.  We're referring to the fact that this is the 300th post on this blog, in just under two years.  We are now averaging 700-800 views per month, along with dozens of followers and subscribers.  Thanks for your support!

    To celebrate, we are going to give away gift cards, and you have two ways to win:
    1. To enter to win a $15 gift card to Chick-Fil-A, leave a comment on this post that includes your favorite kids movie of all time.  Be sure to include your contact info, in case you are selected as a winner.
    2. To enter to win a $15 gift card to Moe's, subscribe via email through the FeedBurner link (located to the right, near the top); you must activate your feed by clicking on the link in your email.  If you are already a subscriber, you do not have to do it again; we'll include you.

    You can try for both, but only once for each contest.  The contest closes on Thursday, November 18.  It just takes a couple of minutes of your time, for a chance at a free meal!

    Also, don't forget to follow us on Facebook, too.

    Let's hear those movie titles!

    (Update:  See the winners here.)

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Is God Sovereign Over Disability?

    Of course He is!  John Knight writes: 
    "God's sovereignty doesn't mean he merely permits disability. . . .  [H]e sovereignly intends it, both for his glory and for our good." 
    See this article on Desiring God blog for the full answer.  In this article, note his creative paraphrase of Psalm 139:13-16, with specific descriptions of disabilities.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Camp Grace Curriculum: Following Jesus

    This coming weekend in our Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) programming, we will be learning about what it looks like to believe in and follow Jesus.  From John 1:35-51 and Luke 5:1-11, we'll look at how the disciples left everything behind in order to follow Christ.  Of course, this not only applies to our elementary-age campers, but for our Children's Ministry leaders as well.  In our Leader Prep section, we remind them that they need to be open to hearing God speak, and to be willing to leave behind their plans in order to receive God's plans for them.

    Additionally, we need to remember that our goal must not be to make disciples for ourselves, but that we must point others to Jesus, so they can follow Him.  Here's an excerpt from this week's Leader Prep:
    "As you read John 1:35-36, notice how John's disciples left John to follow Jesus.  As we seek to disciple our campers, keep in mind that our desire is to point them to Jesus.  We want them to see their sin and realize that Jesus is their only hope.  We do not want to create disciples for ourselves; we want to prepare our campers to recognize, believe in, and follow Jesus."

    As you go through this week, think about ways that you can point others to Jesus.  That was John the Baptist's purpose; let it be yours, too.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    12 Good Blogs for Those Who Lead Children

    Besides the "Related Links" to the right (and besides this blog, of course), here are a few blogs that we like, according to general categories:

    For Children's Ministry Programming
    1. Growing Kids Ministry.  "A place to share stories, resources, and ideas."
    2. Ministry to Children.  Tons of resources.
    3. The Inclusive Church.  For special needs ministry in a church.
    4. Relevant Children's Ministry.  Lots of great thoughts from a Children's Ministry veteran.

    For Parents
    1. Shepherd Press.  Great articles for Gospel-centered parenting.
    2. Been There Learned That.  Random and helpful tips.
    3. A Different Way.  "Rethinking how we disciple the next generation."
    4. Creation Inspirations.  Helping people (adults and kids) see the glory of God through His creation.

    For Spiritual Formation
    1. The Gospel Coalition.  As the name implies, deep Gospel-centered theology.
    2. The Resurgence.  Clear and simple theology.
    3. Stuff Christians Like.  Truth, mixed with humor.
    4. Desiring God.  From John Piper.

    Any other blogs that you like that fit into one of these categories?  We especially are looking for more blogs and websites that have a Gospel-centered (not just values-centered) approach to parenting.