Monday, May 31, 2010

What Do We Mean by Special Needs?

In this post in the series, we will explain what we mean when we say "special needs."  There is no universal consensus as to what term is most appropriate to describe children who have disabilities or handicaps.  Some prefer "children with disabilities," "differently abled," or "challenged," along with many other possibilities.  We have chosen to use "special needs" and use that term throughout our ministry, and we do not mean to offend anyone who does not prefer this description.

We have traditionally included a variety of situations under the scope of "special needs."  This can include emotional, mental, and neurological disorders, such as autism, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or Tourette's (and we have different children with each of these conditions).  "Special needs" also includes children with physical disabilities.  This includes children with diabetes, children who are wheelchair-bound, or children who have immune system deficiencies due to illness or surgery.  Our goal is to minister to all families, knowing that each situation is unique.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shepherding Our Future Man Sender

After talking about our vision and adventure for our family as a whole, I also posted our thoughts about shepherding Hannah and Elijah over the next 10 years.  Last but not least, I will summarize our thoughts about Sender.

In 10 years, Sender will no longer be some high energy, "crazy" 3-year-old; he'll be a crazy 13-year old!  Like a typical third child, he desperately wants to have the same freedoms as his brother and sister.  Our job as parents is to only give him the freedoms that coincide what he is able to be responsible for.  It is too easy for us to "open the funnel too wide;" we must remember that this will only lead to frustrations, for him and for us.  (On the other hand, by watching and imitating his siblings, he has picked up on some things faster than they have.)  There is no doubt that our three children have very different personalities and gifts.  Therefore, we have been intentional to discuss each child's strengths, God's call for them, and what applications we intend to implement over the next year.  I've already gave my thoughts for the other 2, and in this post I will outline our ideas about Sender.

Strengths and Gifting.  The name "Sender" is from a the Hebrew form of Alexander, which means protector.  (Alexander was the name of my Jewish grandfather, who died when Hannah was just 6 months old.)  Since he was born, I have prayed that he will always be a protector of others.  Well, it seems that his physical attributes and personality may fit those prayers.  At every age of development, he has been bigger than either of his siblings, and he is the most rough and tumble of our three kids.  For example, just today, he was jumping from the couch to the ottoman to my back as I was laying on the floor.  Also, a couple of months ago I accidentally kicked him in the head with a soccer ball; he was sent sprawling, but quickly got up and told me to do it again.  He is outgoing, loves to play, and seemingly has no fear.  And he cracks us up with his slapstick humor, like running full speed into closed doors.  Like a typical preschooler, he struggles with being obedient.  This, of course, stems from his sin nature, but is made worse by us giving him too many freedoms.

God's Call.  I've already outlined a core definition of manhood in the post about Elijah.  I won't repeat it in full here, but I will give the language that we use for biblical masculinity.
  1. Reject Passivity
  2. Accept Responsibility
  3. Lead Courageously
  4. Expect God's Reward
Applications.  Here are some ways that Joanna and I are trying to help Sender become the man that we think God wants him to be:
  1. Begin to use the language of what it means to be a man (as given above).  He won't understand it all, of course, but it's important for him to begin hearing the language. 
  2. We need to be more consistent in disciplining him.  He needs to learn that God wants him to obey and follow, and it's up to us to be the primary agents in this.  Sender can never be the leader God wants him to be unless he learns to submit himself to authority now.  Watch this video, from Pastor Bill White, from a question we received at the Future Men event (October 30, 2009). 
  3. Going along with this, we need to give him clear and narrow parameters and boundaries.  At this point in his life, he needs virtually zero options.
  4. Help him grow in understanding of who God is, through consistently teaching him from God's word.  This can be done with a good storybook Bible, through discussing our Preschool Curriculum (which focuses on the attributes of God), and even just non-structured talking about a biblical perspective on life (as described in Deuteronomy 6). 
Thoughts or questions?

--  Joey Espinosa

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elementary Camp Update #2

We're glad that we extended our registration one more week, as mentioned in our last post.  We now have more than 90 children who are signed up!  This group, plus about 25 solid leaders, means we should be having a busy and action-packed weekend on June 18-20.

Speaking of the leaders, that is one particular area we are very excited about.  Most of the leaders are moms and dads who serve in our Camp Grace programming on a weekly basis.  Some are involved in Big Group (music and drama), some are Small Group Leaders, and some serve in Quest.  Most are from our Pelham Road campus, but we also have leaders (and children) from our Powdersville campus.  (There is no Camp Grace programming at our Downtown campus, yet.) 

You can read about some camp FAQ's in last week's post, and if we have informed you that we are missing some of your child's information, please get that back ASAP.  If you have any questions, contact May Lauren Dirksen (our Kairos Intern) at, or Nicky Darling (Elementary Coordinator) at

Also, be sure to read the post from Jeremy Keever (Student Pastor) about the recent Fusion retreat.  If you have a current 4th grader, who will be in Fusion (5th & 6th grade) in the fall, you should be excited about what lies ahead of him. For all rising 5th graders, there is a Parent Meeting this coming weekend, May 29 & 30.  Contact Leah Pinckney for more information about this event.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Are We Focusing on Special Needs?

To start off our series of posts about children with special needs, we need to explain why we are putting a focus on this topic.  Going back almost 10 years, we have had a few children at Grace Church who have had what we call "special needs" (we will define that term in the next post in this series).  For some of these children, this has required a "shadow" to accompany him or her during the weekend programming.  We have been blessed with great leaders (predominately from a volunteer role) who have provided insight and support to come alongside families in this situation.

Within the past 2 to 3 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of families at Grace Church who have children with special needs.  This is due in part to the sheer growth at Grace Church (with our Children's Ministry attendance nearly doubling in the past 3 years), along with the support that families have received from leaders.  Families have found a safe haven here, where both parents and their children are loved and ministered to.  Because we are currently ministering to at least 15 children who have a variety of special needs, we feel the need to give some theology and direction for families who have children with special needs. 

As stated in the previous post, the topics that will be covered in the rest of the series will be:
  • Our Definition of "Special Needs"
  • Important Biblical Principles
  • The Role of the Church
  • The Role of the Parents
  • Growing in the Gospel
Additionally, we plan to list and answer some Frequently Asked Questions.  Please let us know what questions you have by leaving a comment here or emailing us at

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Children's Ministry on Three Campuses

    Yesterday, we launched Children's Ministry programming (through 5K) at our new Downtown Campus in Greenville.  In the past three years at Grace Church, we have gone from 2 to 6 services, and from 1 to 3 campuses.  We are excited about the opportunities that God has given us, to be used by Him to spread the Gospel (you can see a video of the past 15 years on our Grace YouTube Channel). Because most people are familiar with only one campus, here is a brief summary about the current state of each of the three campuses, and our Children's Ministry programs:
    • Pelham Road.  Our busiest campus, with three services -- 1 Saturday evening and 2 on Sunday morning.  We typically have 80-90 children on Saturday night, and each of our Sunday morning services has about 300 children on a weekend.  With so many children and adults on this campus, we have a number of opportunities for people to find a need that matches the talents and resources that God has given them.  Our biggest challenge on this campus is that with so many children and such a big building, it is easy for people to slip in and out, and not think that we need them to give back.  The truth is that we right now need over 50 volunteers to start serving in Children's Ministry.
    • Powdersville.  This campus was began in February 2008, with 70 children (nursery through 4th grade).  One of the biggest joys when we launched it was that over 30 people started serving in Children's Ministry who had never before served in this area.  Our biggest upcoming challenge is with facilities needs, as our lease runs out at the end of the year.
    • Downtown.  What a huge start in our new facility, and with the introduction of Children's Ministry programming to our Downtown Campus (which began in September 2008)!  In the adult worship service, it was standing room only.  There were nearly 80 children in our programming (nursery through kindergarten), but unfortunately we had to turn away about 15 children due to a lack of resources and volunteers.  We can solve the issue of resources, but we are in need of more volunteers in order to open a new preschool class. 
    Though our goal is not to grow our attendance numbers, we are glad that we have been growing by about 15-20% per year, nearly doubling the number of children in our weekend programming over the past three years.  How many is that?  In January, we hit our peak with 895 (4th grade and under) children during one weekend (all services).  However, our average in April (about 820) was even higher than our average in January.

    If you have questions about Grace Children's Ministry, or want to know what it takes to be a part of the team to help reach the hearts of the next generation, contact us at

      Thursday, May 20, 2010

      What Did You Expect??

      I'm about halfway through Paul David Tripp's new book on marriage, "What Did You Expect??" There is enough theology, principles, and application in the first chapter alone to help you rethink and improve your marriage.  Too often, relationships are formed and centered around each person's expectations and presuppositions.  The ignore the fact that they are sinners living in a fallen world.  Even worse, they forget that God is faithful, powerful, and willing enough to want the best for our marriages.

      But the key issue, I think, is that both men and women think marriage is about achieving happiness.  In the worst case, people expect marriage to make themselves happy, but it is just as wrong to think marriage is about making your spouse happy.  Don't get me wrong -- it's not that God doesn't want me or my wife to be happy; it's just that He is much more concerned about my holiness than my happiness.

      Above all else, God wants me to worship Him.  He wants my marriage to reflect His nature and glory, and He is using my marriage to expose my sin issues and to make me more like His Son Jesus Christ.  He is not satisfied with helping me a little; He wants to change my heart. 

      What does worshiping God have to do with marriage?  Tripp writes,
      "Marriages are fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally. . . .  When God is in his rightful place, then we are on the way to putting people in their rightful place." 

      For additional thoughts on this book, you can read book reviews by Scott Freeman (on the Grace Church Pastors Blog) and by Justin Taylor (on The Gospel Coalition). 

      --  Joey Espinosa

      Wednesday, May 19, 2010

      Shepherding Children Who Have Special Needs

      A previous post gave an overview about how we are ministering to families who have children with special needs.  We said that we were working on a more detailed picture and that we wanted to communicate it.  Over the next month or so, in a series of posts, we will communicate our thoughts and vision on this blog.  Here are the topics that we will discuss:
      1. Introduction
      2. Our Definition of "Special Needs"
      3. Important Biblical Principles
      4. The Role of the Church
      5. The Role of the Parents
      6. Growing in the Gospel
      As we've said repeatedly, we are learning a lot; therefore, we welcome and hope for comments and questions.

      Tuesday, May 18, 2010

      Elementary Camp Update

      We are super excited to have over 75 3rd & 4th graders signed up for our Elementary Camp, which will be on June 18-20.  Knowing that some people have missed yesterday's deadline, we are extending the registration due date for one more week.  Please get your registration information in by Monday, May 24.  Here are some common questions we have been receiving:
      • I cannot afford camp for my child.  Can I pay a reduced rate?  Yes!  We do not want to be cost to deter your child from attending camp.  Pay what you can, and if you are not in a place to afford any of the $115, don't worry about it.  We have even had some families generously donate extra money, to cover the cost of "scholarships."  If you need a full or partial scholarship, register and let us know how much you can pay.
      • Can I pay half now and half next month?  Yes.  As we said, just pay what you can.
      • What does my child need to bring?  We will be sending out more information later, but you can get the packing list on our website.   
      • Can children from outside of Grace Church attend?  We are always glad to have kids that aren't a part of Grace Church.  As long as they meet the grade requirements (3rd or 4th grade), and complete a registration form, they are welcome to attend.
      • Is this camp for current or rising 3rd & 4th graders?  Current.  They must be now be in 3rd or 4th grade to attend camp.
      • My child is nervous.  Can I stay for a few hours at Look Up Lodge to help her feel more comfortable?  We feel it's best for parents to not stay long after drop off; it tends to draw out the process.  We have plenty of loving leaders who will work to help your child feel safe and secure.  Two summers ago, we did have one child that could not be consoled and went home that night.  Last year, out of 68 children, no one went home.
      • This is my child's first "camp" experience.  Is he the only one in that situation?  No!  Each year, for about 50-70% of the children, it is their first away-from-family experience.  We want to celebrate that with you!  If a child is going to go to camp for the first time, is there a better situation then with their church body?
      If you have any other questions or concerns, please let us know at

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      Giving Your Life Away

      Grace Church member Dave Allston shares his thoughts on serving in a Preschool Small Group (you can also watch the video on the Grace YouTube channel):
      Jesus talks about children differently than He talks about any other group of people. . . .  I think [teaching children about Jesus] is one of the most important things you can do. . . .  It's an easy thing to do, but it's a great opportunity, and a great way to learn to how to share who Jesus is with people. . . .
      Children are very important to Jesus, and so they should be important to us. . . .  One of the best ways to give your life away is to minister to children.

      We have a number of immediate needs for Children's Small Group Leaders, for all age groups:
      • Nursery (infants through toddlers):  providing security and love
      • Preschool (2's - 5k):  teaching basic concepts of who God is
      • Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades):  teaching heart-level Biblical principles through main characters of the Bible
      • Quest (4k - 4th grade):  a special program on Sunday mornings for children who stay for 2 services; read more about Quest here.
      If you want to partner with us in ministering to children during our weekend programming, we would love to have you on the team.  Let us know which age group(s) and service you'd like to serve in, by emailing us at

      Saturday, May 15, 2010

      Homemaking Internship

      Carolyn Mahaney has written a great article called Homemaking Internship (you can also view and print the article as a pdf on that site), published in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  She views marriage as a sort of "profession," for both men and women, with skills to be learned. As opposed to most professions, "we aren't forbidden from marrying simply because we aren't prepared."  We believe that parents are entrusted by God with the responsibility to prepare their children for adulthood.  Since most people will be married at some point in there lives, this is not an area that should be overlooked.

      As I previously discussed in Shepherding Our Future Woman, Joanna and I are intent on helping Hannah become the woman that God wants her to be.  In particular, Joanna wants Hannah to know "the joys of being a wife, mother, and homemaker. . . .  We must tell our daughters of the sacrifices that homemaking demands -- but also of the unsurpassed rewards it offers."

      What are some specific homemaking skills that we can teach our daughter, so that she can care for and help her family?  It is a very diverse list!  (And please don't think that I'm saying every woman needs to be an expert in all these skills, any more than I believe that every man should know how to grill a steak or change the oil in his car; I can't do either.)
      1. General management and organization of the home
      2. Nutrition and health
      3. Decorating capabilities
      4. Childhood development and education
      5. Finances and budget
      I encourage you to read the full article.  Please let me know what you think -- comments, criticisms, and questions.  What other skills does a homemaker need?

      --  Joey Espinosa

      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      Swagger Wagon

      Just plain funny.

      Wednesday, May 12, 2010

      Created in God's Image

      Our Fusion Director, Leah Pinckney, wrote an insightful article based on the recent teaching for 5th & 6th graders.  They have been discussing what it means to be a man (boy) or woman (girl) who has been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  They used the following core callings:
      • Men pursue, provide, and protect
      • Women encourage, help, and care
      The article not only explains these core callings, but there is also some practical examples of how this can play out for children in elementary and middle school.  I encourage you to read the full article.

      Additionally, this topic will be touched on (but on a more basic level) this fall in our preschool curriculum.  We will start the school year with an updated, four-week series on God is Our Creator (based on Genesis 1).  Immediately following, we will have a new series on God is Relational, where we focus on Adam and Eve, as we study Genesis 1-3.  The four topics will be:
      1. Adam and Eve were created (male and female) to reflect God and His glory
      2. Adam and Eve were given work and roles to carry out
      3. Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned, after being tempted by Satan
      4. Adam and Eve received consequences for their sin, but God had a plan to redeem them and all mankind
      We're excited about this series, as we come alongside parents by helping to lay a foundation of truth.  You can read related posts by clicking on the label "gender."

      Monday, May 10, 2010

      Why Don't We Do VBS?

      For many churches in the south, summer marks the time for vacation Bible school (VBS).  Since we are such a large church, people often ask why we choose to pass on this.  For some folks, VBS seems to be a great time to reach out to the community and get people to come to one of our campuses; in this viewpoint, VBS can serve as an evangelistic tool.  For others, VBS is a way to bring members and children together during the busy summer schedules; therefore, it can serve as a means to fellowship.  While these are good motivations, I believe that there are several reasons for Grace Church to not have VBS during the summer.

      To host a week-long VBS would require a lot of resources (time, money, energy, etc).  Instead of using these resources for a single week, we would rather pour our efforts into an entire year.  Our model of discipleship is more based on having long-term relationships, not one-time events.  Furthermore, we are already preparing for Promotion Weekend (where all children and students are promoted to their next grade level in our weekend programming), that will occur on Aug 14-15.  We try to minimize the number of events we do in June, and by July we are completely focused on getting ready for the fall, with recruiting, training, and planning. 

      Despite the resources that are required, we would be more likely to host VBS if there were a big need in the Greenville area.  But it is obvious that there are no shortage of churches that have VBS.  Over the past 6 years, my own children have participated in VBS events at four different churches, and we have never been turned away for a lack of space.  Additionally, we have seen that the VBS programs that most churches do are very similar to each other, and well-executed.  From our experience, I honestly do not think that we could do significantly better than what other churches are doing.

      Probably the biggest reason that we do not do VBS on our campuses has to do with our value of being culturally-engaged.  I love that my children get to be a part of other churches’ VBS events.  I want them to learn that it is normal to fellowship and worship with other local churches.  Furthermore, I think that this is a great opportunity to go be in our own community.  Instead of focusing on getting people to come to our campus, we need to go where others are.  For example, one summer my wife had the idea for our children to go to VBS with a neighbor’s kids, at their church.  I drove all the kids to the church, Joanna picked them up afterward, and she kept them until the other mom came home from work.  It was a great way to connect with, support, and love our neighbor.
      --  Joey Espinosa

      Sunday, May 9, 2010

      Happy Mother's Day

      With over 800 kids (4th grade and under) each weekend at Grace Church, we know we have lots of moms.  We're thankful that God has allowed you to be a mother.  This post reminds us that Mother's Day is about giving honor, not receiving it, and has links to some John Piper sermons.  Here's another blog illustrating the dedication and passion of mothers. 

      Have a wonderful Mother's Day!

      Thursday, May 6, 2010

      The Cost of Discipleship

      CS Lewis, in "Mere Christianity," reminds us that following Jesus isn't about doing a certain amount of good, or avoiding a certain amount of bad.  If we are settle for holding something back from Christ, we will either give up trying to be good, or we'll just become very unhappy people.
      Christ says, "Give me All.  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.  I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.  No half-measures are any good.  I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there.  I want to have the whole tree down. . . .  Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked -- the whole outfit.  I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.  (from "Mere Christianity," Book IV, Chapter 8)
      We must understand that our lives are not our own.  We were bought at a price, and a life of discipleship means to give our lives away, for the sake of Christ's Kingdom.

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      Thank You, Volunteers!

      We have over 650 regular volunteers (not even counting substitutes) in our weekend programming, from Big Group (Music, Drama, A/V), to Small Group (from Nursery to 4th Grade), and to Welcome Team members.  With Children's Ministry programming on Saturday night and on two (soon to be three!) campuses, it is hard to know who all those folks are who are ministering in the Children's Center.  You can read short biographies about some of our volunteers on our website

      We want to say "Thanks!" to all the volunteers that are currently serving.  Many of them have been serving the entire school year, or even longer!  As a small token of our appreciation, we will provide some light refreshments on the weekend of May 15 & 16.  Your volunteer coaches can provide more details.  Thanks for how you have poured yourselves out, as we try to reach the hearts of the next generation.

      Finally, if you are not serving anywhere during our weekend services, we could use some extra hands, even if just as a summer substitute.  We have a lot of our regular leaders who will be on vacation this summer.  If you are interested in helping out in this way, please contact us at

      Tuesday, May 4, 2010

      Connect With Us on Facebook

      Grace Children's Ministry has a new Facebook fan page.  Connect with us by clicking here, so we can keep you posted on what's going on in our ministry.

      Monday, May 3, 2010

      What is Quest?

      Every week, we have about 160 children (nursery - 4th grade) who stay for two services, because their parents serve or have a membership class.  For nursery up through 3-year-old classes, the children remain in their same classroom for both services.  However, older children have an opportunity to attend a program called Quest, where they can participate in active play, fun crafts, and more.

      On the Pelham Road campus, we have a Quest program for 4k/5k and a separate one for elementary-age, during both Sunday morning services.  On the Powdersville campus, we have Quest for 1st & 2nd graders during the 11AM service only.

      We used to avoid the term "structured play" for Quest, but we are more likely to use that term now.  We know that "church" does not just mean coming to a worship service for singing and hearing God's word (though those are important things).  Being the church involves ALL that we do together -- studying God's word, sharing what's going on in our lives, having fun, serving others, etc. We know that young children connect with each other and with adults through play.  The children who attend Quest will also have their regular time for their Bible lesson, but this extra time allows them to continue to build on the relationships they are already forming, and even make new ones.

      Another great part about Quest is that this is an area where a number of students (5th - 12th graders) serve.  The young children really tend to connect with and look up to these "big kids," as they bring lots of energy and enthusiasm.

      Here is a representative list of some activities that we do in Quest:
      • fun crafts
      • outside play (including a semi-annual Field Day, complete with popsicles for all participants)
      • inside play
      • crafts with a mission-mindset, such as cards for sick children or coloring labels for the cups that Grace uses to sell coffee to raise money for mission trips
      • short "circle" or "huddle" time, where children have a chance to listen to a Bible lesson and share about themselves
      Let us know if you have any questions about one of our Quest programs.

      Saturday, May 1, 2010

      Shepherding Our Future Man Elijah

      As we did with our "future woman" Hannah, Joanna and I discussed our vision and desires for our two "future men," Elijah and Sender.  In this post, I will summarize our thoughts for Elijah, and in a couple of weeks I'll discuss Sender.

      We are trying to picture what Elijah will be like in the year 2020.  He will be 16 years old, so instead of being a skinny little boy (he's very cute, but don't call him that!), he could be a hairy, deep-voiced, driving teenager!  Of course, while we don't know what the next 10 years may hold, we do want to shepherd and train him according to how we believe God has gifted him (Proverbs 22:6).  As I did for Hannah, I will outline his gifts, God's call for him, and what applications we plan to implement over the next year.

      Strengths and Gifting.  The name "Elijah" means Yahweh [the LORD] is my God.  It is a bold statement, especially in this post-modern culture, and since he was born, I prayed that he would always know and stand for the truth about  God.  He is a good, deep thinker and absorbs the nuggets of theology that he is taught.  He is great at math and loves science (maybe he'll be a chemist like his Daddy).  Being a middle child, he shows good flexibility in either playing with his older sister (they could play together all day and then want a "sleepover," where they'll talk for another hour or two), or playing with his younger brother (trains, puppet shows, or just plain wrestling).  Much like his dad, he struggles with feeling the need to be right and technical about everything; he and I both have that major pride issue.  As a typical middle child, he hates being overlooked and left out.  He is probably the most emotional person in our family (when he's not overly-serious), and sometimes has a hard time controlling his emotions when he gets hurt (physically or emotionally), but he has definitely grown in his self-control.

      God's Call.  It's awesome to know that God created Elijah in His image.  As I've learned from Men's Roundtable and other teaching at Grace Church (sermons, Future Men, etc), biblical masculinity reflects God's nature.  We have a core definition of what biblical manhood is, and how we think it applies to Elijah.
      • Reject passivity.  Men, as a whole, tend towards passivity.  God created us to lead and to engage the world and people around us, but we tend to slide towards passivity.  Instead of avoiding responsibilities, we must run towards the battles in life (see I Samuel 17:48). 
      • Accept responsibility.  As a man, Elijah must learn to own burdens and responsibilities, to wear that "pack" so to speak.  He needs to be able to recognize what needs to be done, and then act on it (like seeing that the recycling needs to be taken out).  We must help him learn that he must respond when we or anyone speaks to him, and to have self-control before he acts (he is responsible to control his emotions and actions).  Hard work is a part of being a man.
      • Lead courageously.  In the concept of leading courageously, I like to imagine an army commander leading others in the field.  Leading may cause us to lose our life (at least metaphorically), and will at times cause us to fear, but we must move forward despite our emotions.  I want Elijah to know that his life is not at all about him, but all about serving God and loving others, no matter what the cost.
      • Expect God's reward.  Men who read these first three definitions (which overlap with each), may wonder if it's worth the cost.  I want Elijah to know that even if he pours his life out, even if he is abused and taken advantage up, even if he gives up all his desires, that the end reward is worth it.  God's eternal rewards far outweigh all of life's hardships (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Like the apostle Paul, I want him to be poured out, to keep the faith, and receive God's reward (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
      Applications.  Here are some ways for Joanna and I to help Elijah become the man that we think God wants him to be:
      1. Explain and help him learn to apply the core definition of manhood.  Joanna has worked on some images to go along with the 4-part definition, and I plan to share those in the future.
      2. Help him learn to work more, like helping to make dinner, cleaning-up after dinner, being responsible for our recycling, etc.
      3. Help him learn and apply God's word.  I already have him drawing pictures in a "journal" about what he learns each week in his Preschool Small Group.  This summer, I want to help him start coming up with a specific application for each week as well.
      4. I have been pushing on him to be a model and a leader for Sender.  I call out a lot of his behavior based on how it affects Sender.  When we were potty-training Sender, I made it Elijah's responsibility to remind Sender to go to the bathroom when he woke up.  I want Elijah to feel a burden of responsibility for others, and this can start with his brother.
      Thoughts or questions?

      -- Joey Espinosa