Friday, July 30, 2010

Focus On The Family

Parents are always looking for useful resources and tips, and there are a lot of good places to go for solid, Biblically-based advice.  One such resource is the Focus on the Family website.  Here, you can find articles on a variety of topics.  Here is a sampling of the articles you can find:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Transition

The following blog post is from May Lauren Dirksen, one of the Kairos interns this summer.  You can learn more about her here.

When I was younger, I had this idea that "growing up" was like stepping off a ledge onto a giant water slide.  For the first 18 years of life, you move along comfortably in what you regard as normal: school, homework, piano practice, and doing things with friends on weekends.  When you left for college, I thought that you were leaving this realm of the known to embark on a dizzying, whirl-wind adventure.  Like a trip down a giant slide at a water park, I expected rapid change that would be both exhilarating and terrifying.

Now, on the other side of four years as a student at Furman, I can laugh at this worldview.  Life isn't like a water slide at all!  Instead, I envision an hourglass.  Sometimes the sand might flow more rapidly, like when great changes occur, such as moving off to college.  Most of the time, though, the change is gradual -- the sand flows slowly but consistently.  This summer, as a Kairos intern for Grace Children's Ministry, I have been exposed to language that better describes my image of moving sand.  Stages of life would be the term that describes the major segments that compose life; transitions are the incremental changes that lead up to and set the stage for the separate stages of life.

The Kairos internship program at Grace recognizes the transitions that college students undergo as their identities shift from that of children to that of adults.  I can't pinpoint exactly where that shift came for me, but sometime during my junior year at Furman I became convicted that God wanted me to be involved in a church in Greenville.  Though I had been attending Grace since my freshman year, I did nothing more than show up on Sunday mornings and leave immediately after the service.  I wasn't happy doing this -- I wanted to experience community and feel like I belonged here -- but because I viewed myself as a child, I didn't think that I could join Grace as a member.  I told myself, "I'm only going to be here for a few years, and I'll still do things with my home church on holidays and summers."  I thought my greater obligation was to the church I grew up in, but in reality that I was no longer a part of.

Last summer, with the encouragement of some of the Grace staff, my perspective began to change.  I started serving, became a member of the church, and joined a Community Group.  Through those processes, I've realized that college is just one stage of many in life.  Refusing to serve and participate in community in the church that is feeding me spiritually -- that is simply selfish and immature.  Wherever I live, wherever I'm being fed, that is where God has put me, and that is where He will use me.

As I prepare to leave Greenville and head off to graduate school, I'm going to take these lessons with me.  I'm transitioning to another stage of my life.  In less than 2 years, I'll have my masters in piano pedagogy (a fancy way to say "piano teaching") and will be preparing to set up my own studio of piano students.  Through it all, though, God will be sovereign over both the transitions and the changes -- continual and rapid sand flows alike.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Registration and Small Group Assignments

Promotion Weekend (August 14 & 15) is when we promote virtually every child to their next grade level.  With three campuses and six services, we needed families to register to let us know which service they plan to attend.  Registration closed this past Sunday, and we had over 500 families (about 1000 children from infants to 6th grade) registered.  (We probably had a few who forgot; if that includes you, please email us ASAP at children@gracechurchsc.org.) 

Everyone who registered will be notified via email by the middle or end of next week of their child(ren)'s small group assignments.  We are looking forward to another great year in Children's Ministry!

Please remember that small group assignments are service-specific.  While you have the freedom to go to other services, your child will not be automatically promoted to the next grade level for every service, and we encourage you to go to the same service as consistently as possible in order to help your child develop meaningful relationships with peers and leaders.

Through the registration process, we received a number of questions of how we assign children to small groups.  To learn about how we place children in their age-appropriate grade level, read this

Furthermore, for our Pelham Road Sunday morning services (where we have multiple small groups per grade level, for each service), we generally try to group children by whether or not they stay for two services (because their parents serve).  For older children (4k - 4th grade), this helps the transition to or from Quest, since it's easy to move all the children in a few classes, rather than than a few children from every class.  For younger children (infant - 3 year olds), it is difficult on some children to see their peers be picked up in between services when they stay for two, so we try to group the 2-service children together as best we can.

Questions or comments?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: Shadows -- Can My Child Have One, and Who Are They?

Next in our series of FAQ's about Special Needs are some questions regarding "shadows" or "buddies."  We currently have about 8 children that require a "shadow" during our weekend programming.  These range from children with autism or developmental delays, to preschool-age children with physical disabilities who need someone to specifically ensure their safety, and even a 2-year old with diabetes that needs a trained medical professional to check his blood sugar level.  Most of these children stay for two services, allowing their parents the opportunity to worship and serve.  Accordingly, we currently need at least 12-15 volunteers to regularly serve as Special Needs shadows.

Unfortunately, at this point we do not have an abundance of trained shadows on "stand-by" to be ready for the occasional visitor that has special needs.  Therefore, it may be difficult for us to provide a shadow on short-notice, although on more than one occasion, God has raised up someone just in the the nick of time for an unexpected guest.  If a parent expects to need a shadow for his or her child, they should contact the church office (864-284-0122) or email us at children@gracechurchsc.org with as much notice as possible, and we will do our best to provide a shadow.  We may not have an immediate and permanent solution, but for families that want to be a part of our church body (or at least explore that possibility), we desire to come alongside them and assist them.  We put a high value in a long-term relationship. 

Who are these shadows?  We have folks with a range of backgrounds and experiences, but they are all equipped and trained by leaders with expertise (more on that next week), and they all are passionate about ministering to children, especially children with special needs.  We do not compromise in this area at all.

Some of our shadows are teenagers who just love being with younger children.  Some are adults that come with experience (professional or volunteer) working with children or adults with special needs.  We have some nurses and physical therapists, who primarily work with the children in our programming that have physical disabilities or illnesses.  Since we are ministering to a variety of special needs, we try very hard to match up the needs of the child with the passion and skills of the volunteer.  The right fit, coupled with training, makes all the difference.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are You Listening?

How often have you ever felt like asking this question?  Or, how many times has it been asked of you?  In a book that I am reading, A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life (by Lysa Terkeurst and Sharon Jaynes), Sharon shares characteristics of being a godly mother.  One of the keys is listening with our whole being.  My whole being?  You mean I can't multi-task while listening?  Yes we can, but by only focusing on the person speaking to us.

You look with your eyes to see what you observe in the person speaking to you.  
You listen with your ears to hear them.  
You ask questions with your lips to deepen the discussion after they share with you.  
You think with your mind to comprehend what is being said.  
You use your heart to seek what is there but isn't being said.  
 
A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life: Finding God's Refreshing Priorities for YouThis kind of listening isn't only for our kids.  What would happen if we used this with our spouses, friends, and friends' children?  Are we truly seeking to listen?  Are we teaching our kids how to listen?  Or are we missing a few key pieces?  Sometimes just being available will deepen relationships and open new opportunities.  May we be encouraged to listen with our whole being so that we may be an example to others. 

--  Kathryn Sanders, Powdersville Children's Ministry Director

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Branch Out . . . Serve in Children's Ministry

If you walk into the Children's Ministry areas on any of our 3 campuses, you'll see a tree (not real, all drawn on paper) with branches on it, and a few leaves with people's names written on them.  What is that about?  Well, we expect to need a total of about 750 volunteers in Children's Ministry to kick off the 2010-11 school year.  Most of these will be returning volunteers, but we need about 200 volunteers to either start serving, return to serving, to take a step up in their serving regularity or role (such as by going to full-time or coaching).

So, we are calling folks to "Branch Out . . . Serve in Children's Ministry."  For every person who starts serving or serves more regularly, their name will be added to these trees, for that specific campus.  Will you be one who answers the call to serve and give you life away as a sacrifice?

This "tree" theme also goes along with our training manuals for this summer.  Just as there are three main parts to a tree, there are three key parts to what expect volunteers to do:
  1. Prepare for the weekend (roots, where it all starts)
  2. Execute the programming (trunk, the main part)
  3. Grow for a long-term impact (branches and leaves, where a tree grows from)
All volunteers must attend one of our training sessions, to hear our vision and expectations, and to connect with others.  There will be a total of 8 sessions to choose from, on all 3 campuses; just pick the one that is most convenient for you.  See the list on our blog (in chronological order) or on our website calendar (organized by campus).

Interested in "Branching Out" into Grace Children's Ministry?  Email us at children@gracechurchsc.org.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: Will My Child Be With His Age-Group During the Weekend Programming?

For each child who takes part in our weekend programming, we want them to have a meaningful experience.  Our staff and volunteers desire to shepherd all children in our body, but there is a tension between meeting the individual needs of each person, while also doing what is best for the ministry as a whole.  This tension exists throughout our Children's Ministry programming, including how we allocate our resources, how we assign children to their small groups, the focus of the curricula, the crafts and activities we do, and how we minister to children with special needs.  Our goal is not to be "one size fits all," but "one size fits most."  With a ministry of around 1000 children, it will be impossible to meet the specific desires of every family. 

So, to answer the question above, the simple answer is "It depends."  In our experience over the past 6 or 7 years, there have been a number of possibilities, such as placing a child in his . . .
  1. Exact age-group.  As we noted in this post, our ultimate goal is for every child to be with his or her age-group.  We believe that meaningful and long-term peer relationships are a crucial part of spiritual growth, whether for children, teenagers, or adults.  That's why virtually every child is in a small group of children that are in the same grade-level.
  2. A slightly younger age-group.  There are situations when it is best to have a child in a lower grade level.  With school-age children, we typically assign children in our programming to the same grade level that they are in the school system.  For example, we have had children with autism who are in a grade or two lower than their age would typcially dictate.
  3. Own room, temporarily (with a volunteer "shadow," but not with peers).  We have had children with health issues (such as a weakened immune system), for whom it would be dangerous to be in a group of children.  These children were placed in their own room with a shadow, until their health situation changed and their doctors allowed them to be around other children.  In these situations, the blessing for the parents was having the freedom to continue to worship in community, without worry about their children's safety.
  4. Something else?.  We realize that our current weekend programming may not be the right fit for all people who have special needs.  For example, what if we had a 21-year-old man who functions the level of a 6-9 year old?  At this point, we don't think it is best if he was in our Camp Grace (elementary) programming.  As we grow, we realize that we are likely to encounter more and more cases like these, and we will do our best to work with families to find the best possible solution.  All we can ask from families is for grace and patience, as we grow and desire to learn and adapt.
With regards to which small group each child is assigned to, we want parents to know that we don't make these decisions blindly or recklessly.  We want to dialogue with parents about what is best for the child and for the ministry as a whole.  Know that this dialogue is not necessarily a one-time event, but a long-term process and conversation, as we seek to balance the needs and wants of the individual family with the needs of the ministry as a whole.   

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Your Image

If you want a wake up call, tell your child (especially one who is observant, dramatic, or just completely out-going) to imitate you.  Recently, we did this with our 3-year-old son Sender at the dinner table.  As he imitated me, he made a bunch of silly faces; I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but it was better than Joanna got.  When it was time for him to imitate her, he got a serious look on his face and very sternly said, "What?!"  Joanna and I both tried to remember when she actually says that, but we laughed and shrugged and let it go. 

Two days later, Joanna and the kids were with some other families for a "play group" at someone's house.  A handful of moms were inside, and about 15 kids were outside playing.  Sender began repeatedly knocking on the door, and eventually Joanna (understandably not wanting to leave the conversation) went to the door and sternly started to say, "Wh--?!"  She caught herself.  What an eye opener!

Our kids follow our lead, sometimes in negative ways.  Negative as in mimicking the tone of voice that they hear us use (and doesn't it sound so much worse when we hear it in others?).  Negative as in strongly preferring being inside reading, watching TV, or playing video games, instead of outside playing and working up a sweat (our son Elijah gets this from me).  Negative as in having a bad attitude when life doesn't go our way.

Of course, imitations can be positive, too.  I remember when Elijah was a baby, and Joanna was constantly caring for and feeding him.  Hannah (age 2 at the time) copied her mother, and seemed to always have a baby doll under her shirt, "feeding" it as best she could do.  What started as merely a cute imitation has now morphed into something more, as Hannah has an incredibly neat motherly side to her.  She regularly asks to read to Sender and put him to bed at night or naptime.  When he wore diapers, she often changed him, even without us telling her to.  She loves serving in a Preschool Small Group in our weekend programming, choosing to forgo a fun time in Quest.

Paul called young believers to follow his example.  "And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ."  (I Corinthians 11:1).  Similarly, we are the primary models for our children, to demonstrate what a life in Christ looks like.  Consider how you are doing this, such as by putting first things first, and by serving.  The best way to be an example for your child is for you to follow and imitate Christ.

(To read more thoughts about calling others to imitate you, read this blog post.)  

How has your child imitated you, for better or for worse?

--  Joey Espinosa

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Volunteer Equipping

For a ministry that will require about 750 volunteers for the 2010-11 school year, it is crucial that we equip volunteers (see this previous post for a detailed explanation of why).  We have already begun training meetings for our Volunteer Coaches (who are volunteers that lead groups of volunteers for specific service times and ministry areas).  At the end of this month, we will begin our training sessions for all Children's Ministry volunteers.  No matter what campus you serve and worship on, you can pick any one of the 8 options, and you do NOT need to RSVP.  Just show up and sign in when you get there.

Whether you are a new volunteer or have been serving for years, it is crucial that you attend one of these sessions.  We will share our vision for Grace Children's Ministry, lay out expectations for you,and give you a chance to connect with other volunteers like you.

Here is a list of the training sessions, in chronological order (alternatively, you can see a per-campus list on our Church Calendar):
  • Wednesday July 28:  Pelham Rd - Student Center
  • Thursday July 29:  Powdersville
  • Monday August 2:  Pelham Rd - Worship Center
  • Tuesday August 3:  Downtown
  • Thursday August 5:  Pelham Rd - Worship Center
  • Monday August 9:  Downtown
  • Tuesday August 10:  Powdersville
  • Thursday August 12:  Pelham Rd - Worship Center

Questions?  Email us at children@gracechurchsc.org.

Special Needs FAQ's

Through the process of writing about children with special needs,we have received a number of questions regarding how our ideas are put into effect in Grace Children's Ministry.  Here are some of the more common questions that we'll answer over the next couple of weeks:
  1. Will my child be with his or her age-group during the weekend programming, or in an isolated classroom with other children with special needs?
  2. Can my child have a "shadow" or "buddy" to assist them with activities in the Children's Ministry programming?  How should I request one?
  3. Who are the shadow that Grace Children's Ministry uses?  Are they passionate and equipped?
  4. Who is in leadership over special needs?  What expertise do they have?
  5. How will I be notified if there is a problem during the worship service?
  6. I am dealing with grief and anxiety.  How can I get counseling?
If you want to learn more about our vision for children with special needs, see this post that gives a review and links to others posts in this series.  Have another question not listed here?  Leave a comment or email us at children@gracechurchsc.org


Image courtesy of immrchris via sxc.hu

Monday, July 12, 2010

Facebook: Question of the Week

Starting today, we're launching a "Question of the Week" idea on our Children's Ministry Facebook page.  We'd love to here from you -- make sure you become a fan, so you can share your thoughts with the 260+ other "fans" of Grace Children's Ministry!

Friday, July 9, 2010

How Do I Train My Child to Manage Money?

Here are some thoughts from Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, a great resource for adults that we have used at Grace Church:
  1. Give your children something greater than money -- your time.
  2. Use life's teachable moments to train your children.
  3. Take a field trip to a junkyard. 
  4. Teach your children to link money with labor.
  5. Teach your children how to save.
  6. Get your children started on the lifetime adventure of giving.
  7. Provide your children with financial planning tools.
  8. Teach your children how to say "No."
  9. Show your children how family finances work.
  10. Never underestimate the power of your example.
Read the full article for more details on each idea.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Elementary Camp Pictures & Videos

We have a bunch of pictures from our Elementary Camp on our Facebook page. You'll see just as sample of the great time that we had! Tag anyone you know, and share the memories. (And if you're not a FB fan of Grace Children's Ministry, go ahead and sign up, so we can keep you posted on the many things going on in our ministry.)  For a summary of the 2010 Elementary Camp, see our website

Here are some video clips of some of the fun times, including . . .

Bobble Heads Competition
video

The Big Swing

video

The Zip Line
video

Singing and moving to "Everlasting Love"
video

Grecian Fountains (a Camp tradition)
video

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Serving In Children's Ministry

Nick, Nate, and Gabrielle Mylander have been serving in Children's Ministry, with Elementary, Preschool, and Nursery programming, respectively.  Their parents have told us that these students have turned down opportunities to be with friends if it meant that they would miss serving on Sunday mornings.  Watch the video below to hear their story (or see it on our Grace YouTube channel).




We expect to need around 750 regular volunteers in Children's Ministry, starting with Promotion Weekend (August 14 & 15), for all 3 campuses and 6 services.  If you want to join our team and be used by God for a Kingdom-level impact, email us at children@gracechurchsc.org.  Additionally, if you have a child or student who wants to serve in Children's Ministry, take a moment to fill out this form.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Favorites of 2010

With 125 blog posts in the first 6 months of 2010, we thought we'd give some of the favorite posts, as judged by individual hits and comments.  For newer readers, and if you just missed some, this also gives you the opportunity to find some older posts.  Feel free to let us know if you had other favorites that we don't list here.

By far the most popular post was our Free Book giveaway.  We gave away about 100 copies of John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.  It's a great book for exploring the purposes of Jesus' death on a cross.  We hope everyone who got their own copy found it to be a blessing.  If you missed the free book, you can order your own copy here

The most popular type of posts were related to common questions that we receive and answer.  Here are the most popular questions, judging by the activity on the blog when they were answered:

Another popular type of posts were along the lines of vision, whether for the church and our Children's Ministry programming, or for family.  These include articles regarding:


What were your favorite posts on this blog?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Difference Being a Parent Makes

Just weeks ago it was reported that Steve Jobs would not allow pornography apps in the Apple Store. Here are thoughts from Albert Mohler.