Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympics

My kids have proven themselves to be incredibly patriotic throughout these Olympics.  Here are some of the main ways they've shown this:
  • They always pull for USA in whatever competition is going on.
  • If USA is not in that specific competition or race, Hannah pulls for Germany, because she "liked the soda that was from Germany when we went to Disney World."
  • If USA is not in that specific competition or race, Elijah pulls for the person from "the country that is closest to the United States" (usually, of course, Canada).
  • Hannah wore her red, white, and blue gymnast outfit the other day (her mom's outfit when she was in elementary school), even though there's no gymnastics in the Winter Olympics. Odds are that Hannah accessorized with bright green socks, a light blue skirt, and a pink ponytail holder.
  • In true boy fashion, Elijah loves when people wipe out (except for when Americans do it).
  • Hannah made a Shaun White figure out of their Lego guys the other day. It consisted of a regular Lego man, with a Lego girl's long brown hair, and a surfboard used as a snow board.
  • Mimicking ski jump and other acrobatic events, Sender has been jumping off all sorts of furniture. On second thought, he does this throughout the year.
  • Hannah and Elijah are all too eager to stay up an hour past their bedtime to watch more and more Olympics. Surely this is because they're patriotic, not as an excuse to stay up late, right?

But as this Olympics comes to a close, here are some ideas to improve the Winter Olympics for 2014.  My favorites idea: More Rifles.

How have your kids reacted to the Olympics?

--  Joey Espinosa

Thursday, February 25, 2010

God Chooses Some

More from "Big Truths for Young Hearts," this time from the section on "Our Great Salvation." The scriptures used by Bruce Ware include Ephesians 1:3-6 and Romans 3:11-12.

"God has chosen some sinners to be in Christ. . . . [It is] important to be reminded of our sin and guilt before God. . . . If God were to leave it up to us, not a single person would ever want to be with God, and no one would ever desire to do what pleases God. . . . God's choosing is never a matter of his turning away some who wanted to come. His choosing is always a matter of his bringing to him those who never would have come."

That's my story. As much as I like to say that I came to know Christ, I know that He had to be at work in my life to make that happen. He was merciful to me by helping me know Him. To some, it's "not fair" that God chooses some. To me, it's "not fair" that by choosing some, God punished His innocent Son for their sins. I'm glad that God doesn't go by my standard of fairness.

-- Joey Espinosa

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Children's Ministry Values (Part 2 - Volunteers & Children)

We’ve already covered two of our core values, regarding Staff and Parents.  In this post, we’ll discuss three more.

  1. Help volunteers grow. We feel that our Children’s Ministry is as much about volunteers as it is about children. That is, if our leaders are pursuing and growing in Christ, then they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to pour into children. How do volunteers grow in Christ?
    1. Personal spiritual growth, through worship, Bible study, prayer, community, baptism, etc.
    2. Specific equipping through occasional training events, equipping resources on our website, and through our volunteer Coaches.
    3. Feeling the burden of responsibility. We have volunteers doing service that many churches pay people to do, such as scheduling, curriculum writing, and preparing classroom materials. We want to put our leaders in positions where they feel ownership over our ministry. They need to be participating stewards of God's resources.
  1. The curriculum challenges the children.  The Gospel message changes lives, but it has to be more than basic Biblical principles, like “love others” and “make good choices” and “love God.” We want to get down to the core issues, especially that we are all sinners and undeserving of God’s love, but that our perfect God has shown His love for us through crushing His own Son on the cross. We never want to water down the message, even for young preschoolers. We don’t claim to be curriculum experts, but if we are going to err, it will be on the side of making the curriculum a little too advanced and challenging, rather than aiming low. Is our programming easy on all children? Of course not, but even in their frustrations we want them to see their need to put their hope in a Savior.
  1. Small group relationships are crucial for life change. We’ve seen that when people use the term “small groups” in the context of Children’s Ministry, it can mean a variety of things. Some churches consider that 15-20 children per room. Some churches have a big group teaching time, and direct the kids and leaders to just break off into groups and go over a couple of questions. However, we feel that our Small Group time needs to be meaningful (with a thorough curriculum), fun (with activities and crafts), and intentional (with consistent leaders and class assignments).  We are also insistent on setting maximum numbers for our small groups, which is helped by our check-in system. With large classes, the experience is less meaningful and less safe for the children. After all, children, like adults, desire to belong to real community. 

Thoughts or questions?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Attitude

This article explains that attitudes have three components: behaviors, emotions, and beliefs.  We can think of it as a step-wise process when someone is in a situation. First, the person has a core set of beliefs that he holds to.  Then, emotions add fuel and energy to the situation.  Finally, the internal beliefs and emotions are expressed through behaviors.
"Many parents only focus on the first component, behavior, telling kids to "stop pouting," or "Don't roll your eyes at me." . . . . Remember that the goal of discipline is not just to make your children less annoying. As you correct your children for bad attitudes, you are preparing them for the future. After all, they will experience similar situations continually throughout their lives."
In other words, we need to train our children not merely to change their behaviors, but to recognize the core issues in their own hearts.

Furthermore, notice the phrase about "preparing them for the future." We always need to be parenting for the future, thinking ahead at least 1-2 years. It's on this basis that we are offering a parenting equipping event on April 16-17, called "Transitions."  Registration is not yet live, but you can see some details here. If you are in the Greenville (SC) area, save this date and stay tuned for more details!

Children's Ministry Values (Part 1 - Staff & Parents)


Last week, we discussed our mission in a 3-part series (The Tension, The Mission, The Call). Now, we want to explain what we value as a Children’s Ministry staff. Over the past few months, as we’ve met with and exchanged ideas with other churches, we came up with a list of 5 core values for our ministry. As our church continues to grow (we have gone from 2 to 6 services, and from 1 to 3 campuses, in just 2 years), these are some core values that we think we need to always hold constant.

  1. The Children’s Ministry staff is connected to the rest of the church staff. Children’s Ministry has been one of Grace Church’s “growth engines” over the years. And we receive a lot of support and resources to meet our needs. Among children's ministry leaders at some churches, there is a mindset that their ministry is a separate “kingdom” that needs to be protected. A couple of years ago, we were even at a children's conference where the facilitator explained (half-jokingly, at best) that children’s leaders need to manipulate the senior pastor in order to get what they want. We were astounded, and thankful that we don’t have this atmosphere at Grace.

Likewise, we are connected to the rest of the church staff in that we may deliberately choose to do or not do things, for the better of the church as a whole. We are not about our own “kingdom,” although we are passionate about what we’re doing. For example, it is better for our programming to have a two-service format, so that volunteers can attend adult worship while also having consistent small group relationships with children. However, we know that we cannot always have 2 services, so we are learning how to do our programming without back-to-back services.

  1. We want to reach and equip parents. We have a limited amount of time with children each week. Therefore, we know that in order to have a long-term impact in the lives of children, we must do it primarily through parents. There are several ways that we want to equip parents:
    1. Informing parents of our programming. You can see our upcoming curricula outlines for Preschool and Camp Grace on our website. We give take-home materials that explain what was taught in class.
    2. Providing specific parental equipping events.  We have had 3 big events (averaging more than 250 adults in attendance at each) since April 2008.  And on April 16-17 of this year, we will have another one, called Transitions Parenting Conference.
    3. Providing a safe and secure environment, so parents can feel free to worship. We use an electronic check-in system (Parent Pager) that helps us know where all 800+ children are each weekend, and helps ensure that only authorized adults can check-out children. We have a simple but thorough safety plan. We have dedicated volunteers who can help young children and their parents through anxieties, and a method to contact parents in adult worship should a need arise.
    4. Helping children want to come back. Because of a combination of loving volunteers, small group relationships, and fun programming, we have heard from a number of families that their children love coming, even begging to come, on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
    5. Giving parents the opportunity to serve. At least one church we know does not allow parents to serve in children’s classrooms. (They have a very low number of children, so this works OK.)  But we think it’s crucial and a great opportunity for parents to serve during our weekend services.  See this blog post for a more detailed explanation why.

We’ll cover the other three values later this week.  What do you think about what we value in Staff and Parents?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Can I Be Filled with God's Word?

Since being filled with the Spirit is a result of being filled with God’s Word, followers of Christ ought to characterized by being Biblically-Oriented.  Here are some things that have helped me personally:
  1. Have a Bible reading plan.  I’m not a big fan of “read through the Bible in one year” (though I’ve done it a few times) because of the pressure it puts on me, but I always do better with a set plan.  Currently, I am using a one year plan that I’m stretching out over 2.5-3 years; this leaves me time to study other things.  Here are some suggested reading plans from Andy Perry and Justin Taylor.
  2. Along with my regular reading plan, I’ve recently started my daily “quiet times” by reading one Psalm.  This has helped put me in a worshipful state of mind, before, for example, reading the book of Job or Paul’s letter to the Romans.
  3. Read non-fiction books.  I read some fiction, but >90% of what I read is non-fiction.  Our minds need to be stimulated, challenged, and stretched. 
  4. Keep a journal.  If this is new, don’t overdo it.  When I started, it was just very simple observations about what I was reading.  Then, I learned 3 key parts: Observation (What does it say?), Interpretation (What does it mean? -- Hint: you'll need some good commentaries and Bible study tools), and Application (What does it mean for my life?).  Observation and Application are (I think) they two most important steps, but most passages need the middle step of Interpretation, so that you don't take the Scripture out of context.
  5. Know what your children are learning in their Small Groups, and be proactive in teaching them the same Bible lessons and principles.  You can see the curricula outlines for Camp Grace (Elementary) and Preschool on our website.
  6. Especially helpful with elementary-age children, you can try our ROAD Bible-study plan. Be attentive to tailor this to your child’s capabilities.  Younger children may just need to draw pictures of what they read and apply.  Then, they could write out their observations and applications.  For our 3rd grader, we are thinking that this summer will be a time where we try to transition her to needing less guidance from me when she does her ROAD Map.
  7. With Elijah (our 6-year old), we have started having him, one day a week, draw a picture of what his Bible lesson is about.  Over the next few months, we want to help him learn to come up with an application of what he learned about, too.
  8. Read through a Gospel account with your children, even just 4-8 verses at a time.  We’ve been reading through the Gospel of Matthew this year.  Again, don’t overdo it.  Take time to talk about what you read.  Let them hear your thoughts and questions and feelings.  That will have as big an impact as anything else for them.
  9. Check out Grace Church's resources and teaching on being Biblically-Oriented.  You'll find lots of great tools there.

    -- Joey Espinosa

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Who Owns It?

    Our kids are selfish. (I don’t think it’s just our kids, is it?) They insist on what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. And when they exclaim, “It’s mine!” we have a couple of choices. We can take the item away and make them share, or we can go deeper to the heart level, and explain that they actually don’t own anything. We want to teach our children that they are stewards, not owners, just as we are learning ourselves. God owns everything, and He blesses us with so many things, not just for ourselves, but so that we can share with others. So, over the years, whenever our children try to claim “ownership” over something, we remind them that their toy, Webkin, candy, etc, is not theirs, but God’s.

    Well, earlier this week, our 3-year-old Sender showed his understanding of this truth, in his own twisted way. A friend was over, just a few months younger than he is. They mostly played well, but at one point Sender had a toy that the other boy wanted. Quickly, Sender clutched the toy to his chest and started to claim ownership.  He got as far as, “It’s mi—,” when he caught himself. I guess he knew that wasn’t right. So, then he started to say that it was God’s. He only got as far as “It’s G—“ when he again paused. He knew that if he admitted that it was God’s then he would be ‘convicted’ to share the toy.

    So instead of proclaiming the truth (“It’s God’s”) which would lead to a life-change application (“I can share”), he said nothing, walking away still holding the toy.

    Are we not all that self-deceptive?  We claim to trust God in our words, but when it comes to application, we aren’t willing often enough to make the sacrifice in order to bless others. As Matt Williams taught (see February 14, under “Fear & Freedom”) in his sermon this past week, giving is a gospel issue.  We should give not just because it’s a good thing, but because Jesus gave all for us. Any sacrifice we make to bless others is peanuts compared to what He did for us, and His sacrifice should be all the motivation we need.

    In what ways do you need to give and share, as a reflection of God’s ownership and Jesus’ sacrifice?  How can you move from mere head-knowledge of trust in God, to life-change application? Here are some ideas:
    1. Give (financially) just a little more, and see God provide for you
    2. Get in Biblical community
    3. Organize a social event or project for your Community Group; don't let it all fall on your leader
    4. Serve more often and more sacrificially in your local church
    5. Go on that mission trip that’s on your mind
    6. In your local church, don’t go to the most crowded worship service just because it’s convenient for you
    7. Spend more quantity, not just quality, time with your kids
    8. Take your children’s pastor out to lunch (OK, if not that, at least make him feel better by leaving a comment on his blog)
    9. Say “no” to a work opportunity that will cause you to have less time and energy for you family and church
    Any other ideas of how you've been learning to trust God through being courageously-generous with your time, money, etc? 

    -- Joey Espinosa


    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Why Does Grace Children's Ministry Exist? - Part 3 (The Call)

    We have already discussed the tension between focusing on parents versus focusing on children. Then, we discussed how our mission seeks to work in both ends of this tension. In this post, we want to give some ways that you can be a part of equipping the next generation. Remember, the odds are that if someone does not begin to follow Christ during their childhood or teen years, then they will NOT do so as an adult. We have a limited window of a fruitful opportunity!

    1. Grow.  You need to be equipped, to become a mature follower yourself. You cannot lead to a place that you are not at yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, but that you need to be in the process of growing as a true follower of Christ. Here are key ways that you can grow as a disciple:
      1. be in the adult worship service regularly
      2. participate in Biblical community
      3. pursue God through His word and through prayer
      4. give sacrificially
    2. Learn. You need to be teachable. Read parenting books and articles. Listen to teaching about parenting. Ask questions, not just of your peers, but also of people who are in a life stage ahead of you. Ask your Community Group leader or email us parenting questions. Go to parenting equipping events. We don’t do many events at Grace Church, so when we do offer them, make it a priority to be there. Be humble enough to let someone else come alongside you and equip you.
    3. Serve. Be poured out (2 Timothy 4:6) for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Should parents of young children serve in the local church, since they are tired and busy? Absolutely!  See last week’s post for a more full explanation, but in general, know that Grace Church believes that all our members should be involved in sacrificial service within the church body. Nearly 1000 people are needed to serve just during our weekend programming, in Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Hospitality, and Worship. Don't go to church; be a part of it.
    4. Preach the word. Make everything about the Gospel for your children. This is not just about Biblical principles, but about always remembering and reminding them that God is glorious (and deserving of our worship), we are sinners (and deserving of judgment and hell), and Christ died for our sins (proving that God loves us). Don’t be quick to always remove obstacles and hardships from your life and the lives of your children. At the least, use these hardships to lead your children away from self-idolatry or worldliness, and toward a life of repentant faith and dependence on the message of the cross.
     Questions or comments about our mission?

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Why Does Grace Children's Ministry Exist? - Part 2 (The Mission)

    Yesterday’s post explained the tension that we face regarding the purpose of our Children’s Ministry. We recognize the need to help parents grow and to equip them to lead their children. At the same time, we need to pour into children as well, with programming that is both fun and meaningful.

    About 3 years ago, we re-wrote our mission statement.  Grace Children’s Ministry exists to . . .
    • Assist parents in leading their children towards a Gospel-centered life,
    • Equip volunteers to shepherd children, and
    • Encourage children to grow in Christ by teaching them Biblical truths in meaningful ways.

    We want to be clear on what we feel are our responsibilities, and what are not. Our roles are to assist parents (such as through take-home materials, equipping events, etc), equip volunteers (through training, our website, coaches, etc), and encourage children (through curriculum, programming, take-homes, etc). However, these three things are not the ultimate goals and “wins” for our ministry.

    What are the “wins” for Grace Children’s Ministry?  Parents leading their children, volunteers shepherding children, and children growing in Christ. We cannot make these things happen. We can only help create opportunities for them to occur. We can have parenting and volunteer equipping events. We can give out take-homes. We can write curriculum and schedule hundreds of volunteers. But the rest is out of our hands. And if parents are leading, volunteers are shepherding, and children are growing outside of the tools we provide, that is even better! We are in no way claiming that we know all the answers, but we’re glad to be a part of the process.

    Of course, the primary goal is to have children coming to know and grow in Christ. We want to equip the next generation for a life in Christ. Of course, we cannot control this; this is a work of the Holy Spirit. But we also know that God wants us to invest our resources into kingdom-building works. This is not a fruitless and joyless burden. Instead, we rejoice in the fact that He allows us to be a part of His work. 

    What does it look like for you to be a part of building Christ’s Kingdom? Come back tomorrow.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Why Does Grace Children's Ministry Exist? - Part 1 (The Tension)

    Studies show that most people who make a profession of faith and a decision to follow Christ will do so before the age of 18. Therefore, there is no doubt that there is a need to reach young hearts for the sake of the Gospel and God’s Kingdom. The question is how that is best accomplished.

    On one end of the spectrum, we could say that it is responsibility of parents alone to disciple their children, and we could make a great Biblical case for this (Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs, etc). In this scenario, the role of children’s ministry is mainly to come alongside parents who themselves are being equipped and discipled. Our resources would be funneled primarily into equipping parents.

    On the other end, we could say that the local church has a big part to play in equipping the next generation, alongside (not in lieu of) parents. We have an increasing number of families coming to Grace Church who are from a background where they have not been taught what it looks like to lead their children towards a Gospel-centered life. As a church, we strive to help them become mature followers of Christ. But what do we do with their children while the parents are in this growing process? Can we make our church a place where children want to come back and where they are taught Biblical truths? If this is true, our resources should be funneled into fun and interactive and meaningful programming.

    So, we have this challenge/choice/tension: Do we put our limited resources (money, time, energy) into adults, to help them become better Christ-followers and leaders? Or, should we pour our resources out into having exciting and intense weekend programming, where kids love coming?  The answer, we believe, is “Yes” to both.

    See tomorrow’s post for more about this.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Elementary Camp Presentation

    In our Camp Grace programming this weekend, we again promoted our annual summer camp.  If you have a current 3rd or 4th grader, we hope that he or she can join us.  We had 70 campers last year, and hope that even more are able to enjoy this experience.

    See this previous post for more information and to see the video that your child saw.  We'll communicate more over the couple of months (with registration beginning right after Easter), but go ahead and reserve the dates June 18-20.

    Here are some things that campers enjoyed about last year's camp:

    "Being together with my friends" [we had 85 campers and leaders last year]
    "Sleeping over"
    "Pranking the boys" and "Pranking the girls"
    "Shopping at the canteen"
    "Eating smores at the bonfire"
    "Coffee!" [don't worry - only decaf is allowed at dinner]
    "A lake, a giant swing, a giant slide!"

    Rules of the House

    Those of you who are familiar with our Camp Grace (elementary) programming know that we send home a S’more Card each week.  The purpose is to give families an overview of what was covered, and some additional activities.  We’ve made a number of changes to the format of the S’more Card over the years.  For example, over a year ago, we reduced this take-home from 4 pages to 2, to coincide with the introduction of the ROAD Bible Reading plan bookmarks. 

    This past January, we made another significant change. We changed the “family activity” side by giving you three options of ways to lead your children.  We know that whether you use the fun activity, or you help your child with their ROAD Map study, or if you use another resource, the most important thing is that you are leading your child in knowing and worshiping Jesus.  We want to help you with that, and we would love to know what you are doing to disciple your child.  No matter which or how many activities you do with your children, please sign and return their cards each week. If you have any questions about these changes, email Nicky Darling, our Elementary Coordinator.

    Recently, as we studied the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), we asked our campers to list rules that they have in their home.  Here are some answers we got back:
    • “We can’t say bad words”
    • “No running in house. No jumping on furniture. No wrestling. No smacking food. No wineing [whining].”  (Boys will be boys.)
    •  “Collect fire wood”
    • “No playing Wii more than 30 minutes”
    • “No fighting. No hitting. No aggravating. No rudeness.” (Aren’t these sort of the same?)
    • “Clean my room”
    • “Don’t let anybody in unless we ask”
    •  “Pick up your clothes after you take a shower”
    •  “No locking doors to rooms. No yelling at people. No slamming doors. No bad words.”  (Anger issues?)
    •  “Go to sleep at night”
    •  “Do not play with matches. Do not play with knives.”  (Umm. . .  watch out for this kid)
    • “Feed the cats in the morning and at 5:00 PM”

    Then we asked why they think they have these rules.  Here’s some responses:
    • “To keep me safe” (most common answer)
    • “To make the house run good”
    •  “To treat others with love”
    •  “So we do not break things”
    • “To show me that I need a Savior and cannot keep all the rules”
    Of course, God gave us the Ten Commandments (and many other instructions) because He knows what is best and because He wants us to respect and love others. But even more, these commands from Him show us that we can never be perfect. Since we can never fully obey Him, we need a Savior to die for our rebellion.  God provided Jesus as the payment for our sins.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    Money, Money, Money

    In our adult worship services, we have been teaching about money, through the series entitled “Fear and Freedom.”  (If you missed any weeks or want to review, you can get the audio and notes from our website.)  The goal for this series is not to get the body to bring their money to the church, but to rally the church’s resources to help the body. 

    Just as it is the role of the Grace Church staff to equip the body in this area of discipleship, it is the role of parents to teach their children about money from a Biblical perspective.  In this article from The Village Church, we are prodded with these questions:

    “How are you teaching your children to love the Lord in all areas of life, including money? Are you talking to them often about why we give money to our church? Are you leading by example in the way you and your spouse talk about and handle money in your household.”

    Another useful article along these lines is by John Piper, on the Desiring God website.

    Through this series, have you done anything new or different to help teach your children about money?

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Why and How Does the Holy Spirit Fill Believers?

    This summer will mark 15 years for me as a believer in Jesus Christ.  Because of my indifference to God for 19+ years, it had to be the power and grace of God that moved me to surrender my life to Him.  Not only that, God has kept me from repeatedly hardening my heart against Him, as I have gone through seasons of hardships and doubts.  By His love, He wants me to know, follow, and trust in Him, because that is what is best for me. 

    The Holy Spirit has given me new life, and He now gives me the power to live a life that is pleasing to Christ.  He has continually worked in my life to help me live for Christ.  “The Spirit [should] be such a strong influence in your life that you end up speaking and acting in ways that are holy and honoring to Christ” (“Big Truths for Young Hearts”).  But how do we live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)?  Author Bruce Ware helps answer this:
    “The Spirit will have a greater influence and will provide more direction in our lives as God’s Word ‘dwells’ more and more within us.  Our reading of his Word, our time spent memorizing and meditating on Scripture, is one of the main tools that the Spirit uses to help us think, feel, and act in ways that are more and more pleasing to Christ. . . .  Believers should long to be more ‘filled’ with God’s Word so they will be more ‘filled’ with his Spirit.” 

    Therefore, since we need to be filled with God’s Word, how are you doing that?  Even more, how are you helping your children do that?  You cannot rely on mere church attendance to fill this need (although that is a part of it).  Next week, I will give some ideas of things that have helped me and my family grow in God’s Word.  For now, I’d love to hear what you and your family are doing.

    -- Joey Espinosa

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Coats for Kids - Final Tally

    Thanks to everyone who participated in our "Coats for Kids" collection, over the past few weeks.  We raised about $150 from our preschoolers!  The money will be used to purchase coats, hats, and gloves for Pendleton Place, a children's emergency shelter in Greenville.  Hopefully, your children learned that God owns everything; therefore, we should be free to be generous to others. 

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Why Parents of Young Children Should Serve in Children's Ministry

    Parents of young children regularly ask us if they are expected to serve during our weekend services. We understand the thinking behind it, since parents in this season of life are tired and busy. But we must understand that virtually everyone is busy and tired in their own stage of life! The question is, “What are we tired and busy with?”  Many people have the time and energy for other good activities (work, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, para-church organizations, etc), while neglecting or minimizing service within the local church.

    We need to make the most of every hour of the week, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). If you’re not serving during one of our weekend services, what are you doing to redeem that time? Furthermore, we must remember that hundreds and hundreds of people made sacrifices to create room for people like us to be a part of Grace Church, and we all should do likewise.

    Here are some other reasons why parents should serve:
    1. Be a model for their own children. We all need to serve outside the church, but your children need to see you put a high value on giving to the local church. The church is one of the few God-ordained institutions.
    2. They have experience and knowledge. We love that so many singles and young couples serve. But who understands children better than parents who are right in the midst of it?
    3. There is a need. You have probably noticed that Grace Church has a very high ratio of children to adults. Furthermore, we have over 100 children’s small groups every single weekend. Somebody needs to serve. It’s as plain as that.
    4. Opportunity to invest in other children. This goes from leaders of 2-year-olds who reinforce the principle that children need to obey and love others, to the leaders of 9-year-olds who foster an environment where children can learn and relate. Many children in our church body are not being spiritually-led at home. Who is going to teach them?
    5. Receive a blessing from God. Do you trust that God will honor you and bless you for your service? You cannot outdo God in the area of faithfulness and giving. God commands sacrificial service, and He blesses those who obey Him in this area.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Our Curriculum

    I came across this article from childrensministry.com. It walks through a list of questions that a children's ministry should use as a guideline in choosing a curriculum to use. Technically, we have already "chosen" our curriculum, as volunteers have led the way in writing our curriculum over the past few years.

    Our Camp Grace curriculum writing began about 5 years ago, and we are now in our third edition of this 2-year cycle. It was originally a 2 1/2 year curriculum, but shortened so that each child would go through the curriculum twice if they are in Camp Grace for all 4 years (1st - 4th grades).

    We began our preschool curriculum writing process 3 years ago, implementing it in August of 2007.

    Over a series of posts, we'll answer a series of questions from the above-mentioned article, that we hope will help explain why we chose to write our own curriculum, and what we are trying to accomplish through it. Here are the questions we'll address:

    1. Why does this ministry exist? What's our goal and mission?
    2. What do we value? What do we want to see happen?
    3. What's our philosophy of learning? What elements should be incorporated in our programming?
    4. What is the focus of the curriculum? What does the scope and sequence need to look like?
    5. What is our ministry model?
    6. What does a "win" look like? How do we know that we're succeeding?
    If you have any other or more specific questions about our programming or curriculum, please comment here.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Camp Grace Big Group Presentation

    While normally our Big Group time involves levity mixed with Biblical truths, this weekend we had a more serious presentation.  In an effort to come alongside you as you lead your children, we wanted you to see the slideshow that was presented.  For this blog, we put the slide show in a movie format, but here's what we explained about each slide:

    1. Title: Jesus Is Our Sacrifice. We studied through Leviticus and the Old Testament system for sacrifice.
    2. Preview: The Old Testament feasts, sacrifices, etc., were previews of something better to come.
    3. Sin separates us from God.
    4. Animal sacrifices were required to pay the price for sin in the Old Testament times.
    5. Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
    6. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, fulfilling the Old Testament requirement.
    7. Priests were a bridge to God. Aaron and his descendants talked to God for the people.
    8. Jesus is our bridge to God. Like animal sacrifices, priests were a preview of Jesus.
    9. Jesus connects us to God. He's all we need to get near to God.
    10. List of the major festivals in Old Testament. Each festival pointed to Jesus.
    11. Jesus. Everything in the Old Testament is intended to point to Jesus.

    video

    If you have any questions about this presentation, email Joey Espinosa

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    The Holy Spirit Unites Believers Together in Christ

    Not only does the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of individuals, He “also works to unite all saved people together within a beautiful and joy-filled family, a body of Christ’s own people” (“Big Truths for Young Hearts,” pp. 161).  But this unity is not an end to itself; rather, there should be an outward manifestations that flow from this inward reality.  This can be seen in a simple cause-effect relationship, as seen on pages 162-164 of this book. 

    • Cause #1:  Believers are brothers and sisters of one heavenly Father (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:26)
    • Cause #2:  Believers are parts of the same body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13)
    • Therefore:  Believers should seek God’s grace to truly love one another (I Corinthians 12:4-26)

    That is, the fact that we Christ-followers are Spirit-led should be obvious in how we are loving each other.  We are called to use the gifts He has given us to advance His kingdom and to bless others. 

    How has the Spirit led you to be united with and bless other Christ-followers?


    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Scared Straight Marriage Speech

    'If you have kids, don’t ever say that you “have to babysit them” while your spouse goes out. You don’t babysit your own kids. You watch them. Huge difference.'
    Want more marriage advice?  Read the full article here.  If you don't want to click through now, here's my favorite: 
    'If your wife or husband has a job that doesn’t allow them to go out to lunch, don’t describe the delicious lunch meeting you had in exquisite detail when you get home. “The Ahi Tuna was almost too fresh, you know? I’ve just never seen it that perfect. It was kind of intimidating it was so delicious. But enough about me, how was your peanut butter & jelly sandwich? How’s chunky peanut butter working out for you?”'
     -- Joey Espinosa

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Coats for Kids - Continued

    We had a great start to our collection in our preschool programming.  (Click here for a description of what we're doing.)  This coming weekend (February 6-7) will be the last weekend that we will be collecting money, and then a volunteer will purchase the coats for Pendleton Place, and emergency children's shelter.  Please make sure that your preschool-age child brings $1 to his or her small group.  If we all do a little, we can have a big impact.

    Future Men Video -- Respect for Authority

    Here's another video answer, this time to a question we've received last fall as a part of our Future Men equipping event.  "What's the best way to get a young boy to respect authority in general, and not just his parents?"  You can watch this videoed response from Bill White, and some related videos, on the playlist below.  If you have any other parenting questions, please let us know


    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    What is Our Well-Child Policy?

    With lots of illnesses going around, we want to remind our parents of our wellness guidelines for the young children in our weekend programming.  If your child has any of the following symptoms, please do not bring him or her to his small group:
    • Fever (child must be fever-free for 24 hours)
    • Vomitting or diarrhea
    • Runny nose with green or yellow mucous
    • Skin rash of any kind (particularly in the nursery)

    We want to create a safe and secure environment, both to protect the children's well-being and to allow their parents to rest assured. But we also need to balance that with not wanting to create a culture of fear (a group of children's ministers once created a list of 80 safety procedures!). Kids do get sick and hurt, and with 700-800 children every weekend, we know that there will always be germs around. We need to take appropriate precautions, but we need to trust God with (and not fear) what we cannot control.

    To see our full safety plan, see our website.  And let us know if you have any questions.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Dealing with a Lack of Male Leadership?

    Bill White addresses this issue to moms who are concerned about a lack of male leadership for their sons.  This can apply for situations where the father is emotionally-disconnected or ill-equipped, or where the father is physically-absent from the home. 

    First, he cautions that we need to clearly understand what "spiritual leadership" actually is, which may involve moving away from some common viewpoints of this.  Second, moms in this situation need to not fear the lack of male leadership, but to trust in God. In humility, we need to live in repentant faith in our loving God, and not in proud unbelief.

    What does a mom do, if she is parenting alone in the home?
    1. She still needs to teach and encourage his son to be a man.
    2. She needs to be connected to the local church.  Don't just attend, but be serve and be a contributor. 
    3. She needs to respect her husband. 
    Watch the video on our YouTube channel.