Monday, August 30, 2010

Goals for Our Children: Thoughts from Titus 2

Earlier this year, I shared my thoughts about the adventure that we think God has for our family, to equip the next generation.  And I outlined our thoughts about how we might carry this out in the arenas of Family, Church, Culture, and the World.  We've been continuing to think strategically, and trying to be aware of wisdom from God in this matter.

Recently I was reading through the book of Titus.  With all these thoughts about family and children in the back of my mind, I read chapter 2 with an entire new perspective -- that is, how it applies to my family.  This is what I think God was teaching me:
  1. Verse 2 applies to me as a husband and father.  I need to strive for self-control, reverence, being temperate, having faith, love, patience, and to be an example for my kids (verse 7).
  2. Verse 3-4 applies to Joanna as a wife and mother.  She needs to be reverent, careful with her speech, and to teach what is good to our children.  (It also says that she shouldn't be a drunk, but I think we're safe here.)
  3. Verses 5-8 give goals that we should have for our children:
    1. We need to teach our sons to live wisely, to know God's truth, to not be easily tempted, and to do good deeds and have good speech.
    2. We need to teach our daughter how to love her husband and children, to make good choices, to be sexually-pure, to be a homemaker (such as in this post), and to be good and kind. 
Of course, these goals must not be for worldly reasons, such as to look good to others, to make ourselves feel good, or to gain any other earthly benefit.  The main motivation to train our children must be because God saved us (see verses 11-14).  Being on God's adventure for us and and making disciples of our children are how we should respond to Him in worship.

Do you have goals for your children?  What is your motivation for those goals?

--  Joey Espinosa

Friday, August 27, 2010

Equipping Men

At Grace Church, we are starting another session of Men's Roundtable, beginning October 14. This ministry has been instrumental for hundreds of men over the past 9 years, helping them have a definition for Biblical manhood and understanding what it looks like to live that out.  This year, we are encouraging middle and high school students to attend -- with their fathers, their small groups, or with other friends.

Do you want some other resources that will help you understand and lead men and boys?  Here are some other resources and articles:
  1. Future Men.  We had an equipping event last fall, with almost 400 people in attendance.  You can find a summary of the event, as well as links to the audio, here. Additionally, you can find some video answers to some questions we received (the first four are here, and another one is only on our YouTube channel). 
  2. Student Ministry.  Read about what was taught on the high school retreat last fall, on our Pastor's Blog.
  3. Books.  Looking for some reading?  Some books we recommend are Shepherding a Child's Heart (for general parenting principles), Bringing Up Boys, and Big Truths for Young Hearts (to help you teach theological principles to your children).
  4. Going along with one of the core principles that was taught at the Future Men event, read this article about how crucial it is to be under authority.  If your young son cannot learn to willingly and happily submit to authority now, he severely struggle to submit and lead when he is older.
  5. Here's another article, published as an editorial in the Washington Post, called "The world is filled with boys who can shave."  Men are called to be creators and producers, not mere consumers and complainers. 
Do you know of any other resources to help equip young men?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: Review

After the series outlining our thoughts and applications for ministering to families who have children with special needs, we gave a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ's) that we subsequently answered on this blog.  Here is a summary of those FAQ's and the links to the answers:
  1. Will my child be with his or her age-group during the weekend programming?
  2. Can my child have a "shadow" or "buddy" to assist them with activities in the Children's Ministry programming?  Are your shadows passionate and equipped?  How should I request one?
  3. Who is in leadership over special needs?  What expertise do they have?
  4. How will I be notified if there is a problem during the worship service?
  5. I am dealing with grief and anxiety.  How can I get counseling?
If you have any other thoughts or questions, please let us know.  Leave a comment here, or email us at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Volunteer Biographies

We've spent a lot of time this summer talking about how we equip volunteers.  But with 750+ volunteers, it's not always easy to know each person who faithfully pours himself or herself out each week.  If you are encouraged by real life stories of "everyday folks" who are being used by God to reach the hearts of the next generation, you should check out this webpage.  On our "Meet Our Volunteers" page, you can read two different biographies each month, plus see our archived list.  Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God Provides

If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought I would be doing with my degree in Management from Clemson University, working at Grace (or any church) would never have crossed my mind, much less in Children's Ministry!  However, after being here for about 11 months (3 months last summer as a Kairos intern, and since January of this year), I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with and be an part of such an awesome church family.

God has taught me so much in the short amount of time that I have been here at Grace, especially in the past 3 months.  Since coming on board this year, one of my main responsibilities was launching and coordinating the Children's Ministry at our Downtown campus.  It was a big but rewarding undertaking.  With lots of last-minute changes and unexpected occurrences, there is one thing God has really brought to my attention.  He will provide!  We just need to put our trust in Him.  When we started the Downtown Children's Ministry, He provided volunteers.  When we opened classes that were not planned, He provided volunteers.  When we needed to make renovations, He provided us with the manpower and supplies.  With all of these things, it may have been at the last minute, and we may have been wondering, "How are we going to get this done?" -- but God provided. 

It has been an amazing experience for me to witness firsthand the obvious ways that God provides for His children.  I have always believed that God provides for those who love and follow Him, but this is the first time that I have actually seen His plan come together when all looked pretty hopeless.  It is a reminder to me that God's works can so easily be overlooked or forgotten if we don't stay tuned into Him.

-- Nicole Snyder, Children's Ministry Coordinator

Note:  To read more about some of the changes we made over the summer to develop our Downtown Children's Ministry, read here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Promotion Weekend Recap

We are thankful for the hundreds of volunteers that made Promotion Weekend a success.  We had almost 900 children in Small Groups (nursery - 4th grade), virtually all of them in their new grade levels.  Even with that number, it's amazing to think this weekend probably won't be our biggest attendance of the fall, since many folks were still on vacation.  Praise God that He gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel message!

As a quick recap, our Preschoolers (2 years - 5k) learned about God as the Creator of the universe, even memorizing Genesis 1:1.  They will continue this series for three more weekends, before doing a new series on Adam & Eve.  See our website for our Preschool Curriculum outline.

In Camp Grace, there was honestly not a whole lot of deep spiritual content.  We had a fun time with songs, skits, and "campers" getting to know their new leaders and friends.  See the video below (or on Vimeo) for some clips from our Pelham Road 11:15 service and our (newly launched!) Camp Grace programming on our Downtown Campus.  Yes, he really did put icing in his armpits, and then eat it.

This coming weekend, we'll resume with our regular Camp Grace curriculum (see the schedule on our website).  If you have a child who is new to Camp Grace, see this post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: How Can I Get Counselling?

For people who are experiencing the effects of a fallen world (Genesis 3), grief is not uncommon.  It is important to not withdraw, but to move towards God and towards others.  Scott Mozingo, the Pastor of Community at Grace Church, gives us his thoughts on the question of grief and counseling:

"At Grace, we take the role of shepherding and care for our members very seriously.  It is helpful to think in terms of shepherding in two categories -- crisis (immediate) and discipleship (ongoing).  Counseling is one form of immediate care that occurs when someone is dealing with grief.  This often takes the form of meeting with a pastor, and some specific instruction and care is given to help get through the immediate state of crisis.
However, as we know, grief does not go away just because an immediate state of crisis has passed.  In my opinion, this is where the real work of the church begins, as the main avenue for that type of member-care is through authentic, Christ-centered community.  The primary form for this at Grace Church is Community Groups.  Community Groups provide an ongoing discipleship context where one struggling with grief could receive encouragement and admonition, as well as give back to the community from their experience.  This two-way relationship is God's primary plan for our spiritual growth.
In addition, there may be seasons where specialized mentoring is needed.  Whenever we can, we are glad to connect folks together in a mentoring-type relationship for a short period.  However, mentoring and pastoral care cannot take the place of an active and ongoing community of believers that walk through life -- good and bad -- with one another."

If you would like to get more information on receiving counseling at Grace Church or to get connected in authentic, Christ-centered community, email Chris McGowan, our Connecting Pastor, at

Image courtesy of mattox via

Friday, August 13, 2010

Training Meetings Recap

We've had multiple training sessions over the past few weeks, where hundreds of volunteers heard our vision, learned what our expectations are, and connected with others.  Thanks to all the volunteers who participated, and especially our volunteer Coaches, who took the lead in our breakout sessions.

We also know that some people were not able to attend any of the sessions (such as those who just this week joined the Children's Ministry team).  For their sakes, and for the sake of review, here is an outline of what presented:
  1. Welcome & Introduction.  And at each meeting, we gave away some recommended books, including What Did You Expect?; Different Children, Different Needs; A Gospel Primer for Christians; and StrengthsFinder 2.0.
  2. Key Passages from I Corinthians
    1. Chapter 3, verses 7-10 --> Paul was disheartened to hear that there was division in the church.  He reminded them that God is the source of life, and it is a blessing to be used by Him.  Only the Spirit can make us grow in holiness, though the responsibility to make an effort is on us.
    2. 4:16 & 11:1 --> Paul called the church to imitate him, not that he was perfect, but that he was moving towards Christ.  Likewise, children will imitate us, so we need to grow in Christ.
    3. 15:1-4 --> After rebuking the church for a number of issues (the core issue being that they were concerned for themselves instead of others), Paul reminded them of his love (calling them "brothers") and of God's love, as proven through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus.  No matter what struggles and sins are in our lives, we need to always come back to the basic message of the Gospel.
    4. 15:58 --> Paul encouraged the church to stand firm and work with enthusiasm.  Though we may not always see the short-term effects or rewards, God honors any work we do for His sake.  We quoted Stacey Wieland, a volunteer on whom we put a short biography on our website.  She reminds us that, despite the fact that Children's Ministry may sometimes feel like babysitting, we "are planting a seed of faith in these children's hearts."  Discipleship is a long-term process, and the blessing for us is to be a part of what God is doing.
  3. Mission & Vision
    1. You can read more about our mission here.
    2. We discussed the focus for our curriculum (read it here).
  4. Expectations.  We expect volunteers to . . .  (read more details in our training packets)
    1. Prepare for the weekend
    2. Execute the programming
    3. Grow for a long-term impact  
  5. Other
    1. You WILL have an impact for God if you serve in Children's Ministry.  The question of how big an impact is proportional to how much you grow.  You cannot lead others (including children) in a direction that you are not heading in.
    2. We need you to recruit.  We have over 750 volunteers, but we are lacking in some key areas.  You have to talk to the folks you know, to share with them the blessing of being a part of an awesome work that God is doing through Grace Children's Ministry!
    3. We are thankful for the huge number of men who are leading.  When men are engaged in playing, teaching, doing motions in Big Group, etc, all children (boys and girls) notice and follow.  God created men to lead.
    4. We are also thankful for the number of students we have that are serving.  It gives us (staff and adult volunteers) the chance to equip two generations for a life in Christ.  For the students, it gives them a chance to submit to authority, to love, and to sacrifice for the sake of Christ.
 We're looking forward to another great year in Children's Ministry!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Promotion Weekend Is Here!

We had our registration, and we had well over 500 families register.  We assigned over 900 children (4th grade and under) to Small Groups, about 250 of them for 2 services.  Over 700 regular volunteers are signed up for the 2010-11 school year (though we still have opportunities during each of our services; it's not to late to email us at if you would like to branch out to serve in Children's Ministry).  We are pretty much ready; now, we're just waiting on the families to show up!

Here are a couple of pointers to help us have a successful and smooth Promotion Weekend:
  1. Arrive early. Like 20 minutes early.  While we may still have some kinks to work out, it is much nicer to work out those kinks at 15 minutes before the service, rather than right at the service time.
  2. Be patient with us and other families.  Each year, a number of families show up who have not registered their children.  We want to work with all families, to help them have a meaningful experience at Grace Church. 
  3. Put others first.  For people who have been a Grace Church for a while, we have no qualms about asking you to make extra sacrifices, to create an environment for others to hear the Gospel.  Hundreds and thousands of people did that before most current members came to Grace, and we should be willing to do the same for others.  This may mean that you take your child with you to the adult worship service.  And if you are not serving on campus during the weekend, you should.
  4. Know where you are going.  Know your child(ren)'s Small Group assignment (it will have been emailed to you if you registered), and remember that all assignments are service-specific.  Check out our maps online, if need be. 
Questions?   Email Joey Espinosa (Pastor of Children & Families) at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are You New to Camp Grace?

Do you have a rising 1st-grader?  Or, have you started attending Grace Church recently and are unfamiliar with some of our programming?  If you have a child who will be in our Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) programming, be sure to check out our New to Camp Grace? webpage for important information and to learn some of our terminology.  You can learn about our Big Group and Small Group times, as well as Quest (for "campers" who stay for 2 services).  Additionally, you will want to read important information about our take-home materials (the S'more Card and ROAD Bookmark). 

In particular, we want to encourage you to lead your child in learning to study the Bible, through the three-day-a-week Bible reading plan that corresponds to each week's programming.  The concept we use is called ROAD, signifying the words Read-Observe-Apply-Depend, and illustrating the fact that the Bible is a "road map" for life.

For most children, the idea of Bible study is very new, and they will depend on you to guide and help them.  What a great opportunity to study the Bible together, as many other families have been using this tool, as well!  You can read and discuss the passages and questions out loud, or you can have children write the answers in their own journal, or (especially for younger children) they can just draw pictures of their observations and applications.  There are many options, but what's important is for you to lead your child.  Think of the eternal impact you can have if you can start now teaching your child to study God's word and apply it to his or her life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: How Will I Be Notified If There Is a Problem During the Service?

In this post in the series of frequently asked questions about how we minister to children with special needs, we'll answer this question and other key topics regarding our safety policies.

Each of our three campuses uses and computer-based check-in / check-out system called Parent Pager.  Upon checking in your child, you will receive a unique (for that campus) 2- to 4-digit Household ID number, which will be the same number every time you return to that campus.  If we need you to return to the Children's Center (or Children's Ministry area) from the adult worship service, your Household ID number will appear in the lower corner of the screens (Pelham Road and Downtown campuses), or on a red LED display under the worship screen (Powdersville campus).  You should return to a Children's welcome desk, where a staff member or volunteer will communicate with you further.

You can read more about our safety policies on our website.  Here are some key elements to our safety plan:
  • We run background checks (using a system that searches a national database) on adults who serve as Small Group Leaders and members of the Welcome Team.
  • We have windows next to every classroom, and always have staff and volunteers walking around checking on the rooms.
  • Men are not allowed to change diapers or accompany a child into the bathroom.
  • Volunteers can only release a child to an authorized person who has a check-out slip.
  • In general, volunteers are not authorized to give a child any form of medicine. 
Questions about any part of our safety policies?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Helping Our Kids Learn to Communicate

Wii Sports
I feel much better about buying a Wii (even though we paid for only half, as I wrote about here) since I figured out a way to use it as a tool to train our kids.  I'm not sure about your children, but sometimes (or, LOTS of times) they have a hard time engaging others in conversation.  They can be pleasant enough with "Thank you" and "Yes, sir," and with answering questions, such as "What grade are you in?"  But we need to train them that good conversation takes effort from both parties.

And each of our children, and one in particular, sometimes tries to avoid conversation, with the claim of "I'm shy."  We don't buy that excuse.  When they refuse to talk to others, it is not shyness, but rudeness.  Someone acting shy is being proud, instead of considering others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).  To talk with someone, to ask about who they are and what they have done, is an act of selflessness and love.

So, back to the Wii, more specifically, Wii Sports, our first game that we had for the Wii.  I explained to my kids (especially Hannah and Elijah) that good conversation is like a friendly game of tennis.  The goal is to keep hitting it back and forth, keeping the "conversation" going.  When something happens to break the conversation, you "serve" up another question to keep it going.  The goal in conversation is to keep it going, to engage the other person by showing interest in him or her.

Conversely, I explained, good conversation is definitely not like boxing, where you just aim to beat up on someone.  And it's not so much like bowling or golf, which are really solo sports and the goal is just to knock down the pins or get the ball in the hole and then be done. 

Elijah chimed in, "But conversation could be like baseball."  I asked why he thought that.  He replied, "Well, you hit it to one person, and then he throws it to someone else, and then he can throw it to someone else, too."  Great thought!  Good conversations can be between two people, but it's great to have them among a group of friends as well, in community. 

Have you used games, toys, cartoons, etc, as illustrations to train your child?

--  Joey Espinosa

Friday, August 6, 2010

Baby Sunday School

A guest post on Stuff Christians Like gives a funny look at what makes a successful transition to "Baby Sunday School."  This includes:
  1. Every question being answered with "Jesus"
  2. Having an engaging curriculum, i.e., "slightly less boring than your grandmother's church"
  3. Ridiculous expectations, whether for the Bible lesson or craft assembly
  4. Horrific performances characterized by nepotism
  5. Snack time and potty breaks
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Promotion Weekend & Volunteer Update

For all children (infant - 4th grade) who registered for the 2010-11 school year, Small Group assignments have been completed and parents should receive an email by tomorrow.  We had over 900 children (not counting the Fusion programming) registered across all 3 campuses.  What a great opportunity to reach the hearts of the next generation!

We're excited to see that we already have nearly 700 regular volunteers (full time or sharing a responsibility) in Children's Ministry, and I thank all of you who are involved in serving regularly on campus during our weekend worship services.  There is no doubt that we are celebrating the servants that will have a Kingdom-level impact!

However, we want to make everyone aware that of a situation that we are facing.  We are short about 105 Children's Small Group Leaders, with less than two weeks until Promotion Weekend (August 14 & 15).  For those of you who are not serving regularly (on a rotation on Saturday nights or Downtown, or at least twice per month elsewhere), I would like to encourage you to do so.  This will be a blessing to you, be a model for your children, and give you the chance to serve others.

If we are not able to find teachers, we will be closing several classes each week.  We will make every effort to place children in other age-appropriate classes, but our ability to do this is limited.  We will make priority for new guests (folks that have come to Grace within the last few months) and people who are serving on campus that week.  Guests and volunteers can check in immediately, and just before the service time, we will check on space in other Small Groups, up until the class capacity.

Of course, our hope is that we will not have to turn away any children, but we are left with little choice if we do not have volunteers.  It is important to understand that we are volunteer-limited, not space-limited.  In order to have a safe and meaningful Small Group experience, we limit the maximum number of children that can be in each classroom.

These are the areas that we currently have a shortage:

  • Saturday Night
    • Nursery:  we need 11 more individuals to serve on a 3-team rotation
    • Preschool:  4 (out of 6) classes will need to be closed once every three weeks
    • Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades):  3 (out of 5) classes will be closed every three weeks, and 4 other classes have only 1 leader
  • Pelham Rd - Sunday
    • Nursery:  4 (out of 16) classes will be closed about twice per month, and 3 classes have no leaders
    • Preschool:  6 classes (out of 28) will be closed about twice per month, and 2 classes have no leaders
    • Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades): 9 classes (out of 26) need at least one more leader
  • Powdersville
    • Preschool:  8 classes have only 1 adult leader, and 1 class has no leaders
    • Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades): 3 classes have only 1 adult leader
  • Downtown
    • Nursery:  Need 2 individuals to serve on a 3-team rotation
    • Preschool:  Need 1 more individual to serve on a 3-team rotation
    • Camp Grace (1st - 4th grades):  Need at least 1 leader, but may need 3
    • Students or Adults:  Need at least 6 to serve in Quest (either at 9 or 10:15 AM)

We are excited about the opportunities that we have this fall, and for the nearly 700 volunteers that we have on the Children's Ministry team.  Please let us know if you have any questions, or if you would be willing to serve regularly, or to at least "share" a class with someone else. You can contact:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's New at Our Downtown Campus?

A couple of months ago, we gave an overview of our Children's Ministry programming on our three campuses.  In the 11 weeks since we launched Children's Ministry programming at our Downtown campus (nursery - 5K), we have planned and executed some significant changes.
  1. We opened two new preschool classes in July.  Typically, our attendance is lower during the summer months, but it has remained fairly consistent on this campus (averaged more than 70 children, not counting two holiday weekends).  Even though families have been traveling, we have also had about 4 new families every Sunday, and many of these new families have been returning.
  2. To speed up the check-in process, we added a self-check-in kiosk, while also removing a large desk that impeded flow.  Within the next couple of weeks, we will add another self-check-in kiosk.
  3. Up until this past weekend, we only had families check-in their children, without having to check them out.  This allowed many new families the opportunity to become accustomed to our computerized system.  But with a growing ministry, we are now requiring children to be checked-in and out (read more here).  In both situations, a slip will print along with the child's name tag.  A check-in slip must be obtained before a child is brought to his small group, and a check-out slip is required for a parent to pick up their child(ren).  
  4. In just a couple weeks, on Promotion Sunday (August 15), we will launch our Camp Grace (1st - 4th grade) programming (see our website for more info).  There is much work going on to get the basement ready, and to get volunteers up to speed.  We're excited for this next step on this campus!  (Just for information sakes, we had about 90 nursery- and preschool-age children, along with over 20 1st-4th graders, registered for this fall on the Downtown campus.)
Any questions or comments about our Children's ministry at our Downtown campus?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Special Needs FAQ: Who's In Leadership Over Special Needs?

Most parents who come to Grace Church and who have children with Special Needs want to know who is in leadership over this ministry.  They may wonder if their child will be merely "babysat" by well-meaning volunteers, but who have no understanding of that child's specific needs.  We have already talked about our volunteer shadows, but who exactly equips these shadows?  And what about children who do not require shadows?  Is there leadership and expertise throughout this ministry area?

Grace Church is an elder-led church, meaning that the elder board has the ultimate authority and responsibility for everything our church does.  However, the day-to-day operations is handled by the staff, including Children's Ministry.  In most areas of Children's Ministry, especially in an area as specific as Special Needs, we depend highly on volunteers to equip, minister to, and inform others.  We have been blessed with two great volunteer "coaches" who help provide leadership, direction, and training for our Special Needs ministry.

Emily McGowan helped get this ministry launched at Grace Church years ago, and currently serves on the Pelham Road campus as the Special Needs Coach (organizes, schedules, and equips volunteers).  She has a degree in Special Education, and is certified  to teach children with learning disabilities and profound mental disabilities.  She taught for three years at the Washington Center, teaching children ages 5-8 who had profound disabilities, and she has also done applied behavioral analysis (ABA) tutoring for children with autism.  She now stays at home with her two sons, including her a two-year-old that has dwarfism and developmental delays.

Jessica Crumpton has served in a number of areas at Grace Church, and is now our Special Needs Coach on our Powdersville Campus.  Like Emily, she has a degree in Special Education, and is certified to teach children with learning disabilities, trainable mentally disabled, and educable mentally disabled students.  She taught for four years in the Pickens County School District before coming home to be with her children.

With a newly launched Children's Ministry programming at our Downtown Campus, we have not had specific leadership over special needs, nor a need for it at the start.  But with a growing church, we hope that God will give us opportunities to minister to families who have children with special needs, and we trust that He will continue to provide the leaders to support them.

Image courtesy of immrchris via