Supporting Our Teachers

This week we had a special opportunity to talk with a teacher from the I Promise School. Kay Low shares her experience at the school, but also her passion for the calling God placed on her life to be an educator. We also toss around ideas about how we can support and love on teachers especially this fall as they navigate their classrooms during this pandemic. Take a listen, then take action to reach out to an educator! Be inspired!

See Ya Later

We’ve prepared our kids (if they are college bound) and ourselves for this exact moment in time. And yet, we dread the day that it comes. The college move-in day. It is such a mixed bag of emotions. We want them to graduate high school, to have goals, dreams and aspirations. We don’t want them living in our basements forever, but do we have to say goodbye? The summer before they leave the nest is a roller coaster ride for everyone. They want their independence, they are excited to go, they don’t want to leave their high school friends, they are nervous. As parents we feel it as well: excitement, sadness and doubt. Eventually, the day comes. The suitcase is packed and the car(s) are loaded. The only thing that’s left is to say good-bye. The thing is, this is just the beginning. Every weekend trip home, holiday or break, you will have to say it all over again. It doesn’t get easier. And don’t even get me started with those of you who raised a child who is brave enough to serve in the military! This podcast features two moms who have young adults. We have said “See ya later” too many times to count and have lived to tell you about it!

Navigating a pandemic

Parenting is a tough job, no doubt. We typically rely on our own experiences as children, good, bad or indifferent, to shape us as parents. The same is probably true of youth leaders and teachers. But what happens when you are in a situation you, yourself, have never experienced?  These last six months have found us all reeling. We are all trying our best to get through the situation, and if you have young people in your life, you also have the weight of guiding them. So, we brought in an expert to help us all. Missy Jones is a mental health therapist who works with children/teens and is also a mom. She gives some excellent advice to navigate this pandemic with our young people.

The Truth Matters

This blog is a summary and review for Chapter 5 of Reggie Joiner’s book, “A New Kind of Leader.” It is a great little book to read as a leader in Children or Youth Ministry whether you are a paid staff person or a volunteer. These summaries will highlight the most important points, but to get all the information, you should pick up the book and read with your ministry team.

This chapter starts establishing the fact that truth always matter. However, to teens, it doesn’t matter what you know, if you are right or if it’s true. “It only matters if it matters to them.” (p. 75)

Here are a few things to consider when discussing and thinking about truth

  • The Bible is TRUE
  • Every TRUTH is not in the Bible
  • Every truth does not matter equally
  • Every truth does not matter to everyone

So, it is important for those who lead children and teens to prioritize which truths are most critical to teach. If you then consider the above statement that things only matter to kids when it matters, our job becomes a bit complex. You have to take the truth and make it relevant. This does not mean the truth changes, it just indicates the it is up to the teacher to reword it, re-frame it, repackage it, re-imagine it until it matters to a child or teen. (pg 78)

We all know that it is important to be in the lives of teens. That takes time, listening and learning about them. You need to know what is going on the other 167 hours in their week when they are not in church. You have to connect the truth with what is real and relevant in their world.

It is also extremely important to understand about child development. Kids ability to understand abstract concepts, like faith, doesn’t develop until their teens years. When they are children they have a blind faith that is helpful for them to establish a love for God. Think about things like Santa and the Easter Bunny. At some point in the older elementary years, the idea of imaginary legends doesn’t make sense. Have you ever seen a giant bunny? And how does Santa make it all the way around the world in just one night? The same doubts can come up about God and faith which makes it vital for adults to allow children to ask lots of questions. The adults need to be prepared to respond with truths. Even if that truth is, “I don’t know the answer.”

I really appreciate the advice given in the second half of this little chapter. It is so important that when we are focused on teaching theology and faith that we do not forget that the heart matters. If you do not connect with the student, getting to know them, they will never listen to any truth you try to share with them. “[W]e don’t begin with theology, but we begin with what we have in common-fears, joys, challenges, and a new for love-and that draws people in…” (pg 80) This is true for parents as well. It is important for any adult who loves children to understand the importance of interacting with them, to play a game, to eat a meal, to listen, to read alongside, and to watch a band concert. It’s this kind of investment that shows kids how much you care so that you can have influence in their lives.

 

Moms of the Class of 2020 Unite

The Class of 2020 will go down in history. They will be forever bonded because of their experiences they have shared being quarantined this spring. As the parents of these young people, we, too, share a special bond that others can’t understand. In this blog and podcast, three moms talk about our different experiences being in the same situation.

Bishop Tracy Malone has a daughter graduating high school and one graduating college. Lillian has a son in the class of 2020, a son in 8th grade and a daughter in 7th. My youngest is a daughter graduating high school this spring. So, we are all experiencing the circumstances of having our kids go through the disappointments of missing out on all sorts of important experiences. In the podcast, we talk about the phases of grief we have witnessed in our children as well as the emotions we have felt as we walk through this time with them.

We share our thoughts from our experience. As we watch our graduates process their emotions, we have had to ride this roller coaster along the way. But giving them time and space seems to have helped our own kids. We have also see that finding new or different ways to celebrate these milestones with them helps us all.  Ways to allow the seniors to be a part of the discussion and decisions will help them feel more in control of their chaotic life right now.

All three moms agree that it is also vital to look for the blessings in the situation we are in currently. What have you learned? What is something new you are doing? Who is someone you’ve come to know during the quarantine? (Or someone you know better, even a family member.) Focusing on the positives helps us get through tough times. Also, find ways to be a blessing to others. We have made cookies to deliver. I know other families have made cards to take to shut-ins. There are all kinds of ways to reach out to others.

Three months ago, no one would believe where we would be right now. Our seniors dreamed of all the “lasts” they were going to get to encounter. All the fun that comes with being a senior, especially the last few months. But that isn’t how our lives played out. It has been a difficult season, but we have managed to pull through it together. As parents of the class of 2020, we, too, will be forever bounded with one another through our common experiences with our children. Together we will be stronger because of it. Congratulations parents and a special congratulations to the Class of 2020!

Podcast:

Practically_Honest_Being a Class of 2020 Mom

 

A New Kind of Leader: Kids Matter More Than Adults

This blog is a summary and response to the first chapter in Reggie Joiner’s book, A New Kind of Leader. The title really resonates with me. Through the years, I have often thought that many of the issues we face with children/youth ministry lays with that fact that we do not take passing our faith on to the next generation very seriously. The Christian denomination has relied on the “professionals” or volunteers to train our children on the way they should go. We have not understood the responsibility to be on the whole congregation.

Joiner’s quote on page 19 is spot on, “[I]f you want to affect the way a generation sees the world, then it makes sense to start influencing their character and faith when they are young.” Anyone in youth ministry will tell you it is vital to form the faith foundation of individuals before the age of eighteen.

He goes on to say on page 20 that “What you do for kids is more important than anything else you do.” I know plenty of churches that believe if they spend money hiring a Children’s or Youth Director, give them a budget, they have done enough. This is just not the case. It takes the investment of the entire congregation in the lives of the young people in your community to make positive impressions. Reggie says, “What you do now for a kid is more important than what you do for them later as an adult.” (pg. 21).

Research shows that the average age of church members increases by seven years every decade. (pg 24) In fact, in the next decade the average age of those in our mainline denominations will be over sixty. I know many churches see this and want to do something about it. The problem is, we keep thinking we have to go back to the last time we saw the numbers we wanted in children and youth ministries. Here is the catch, we can’t do ministry now like we did twenty years ago when our Sunday school classrooms were full. Times have changed, culture has changed, kids have changed. But for some reason, the church has stayed the same.

So, bottom line here is: WE NEED MORE ADULTS INVOLVED IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN IN OUR COMMUNITIES. Youth and Children’s leaders have been saying this for years. We MUST invest in the future of our faith, and the way to do that is to invest in the lives of children. This is not just a financial investment. Children need your time, your attention and your love. They need to know that there are adults in our churches who care about them enough to get to know their names, their activities, their interests and their passions. No one ages out of this responsibility.

If you have reached the end of this blog and are a little offended or uncomfortable, then I have accomplished my goal. I admit, I live with blinders on, always focused on ministry with young people, but I do not believe I am off the mark here. In fact this book states everything youth leaders have been talking about in their own circles for a number of years. So, what are you going to do about it? What conversations to you need to have? What questions are swirling in your head? Leave a comment, make a suggestion, or simply give your own opinion. Let’s start the conversation together.

This book is discussed on Fridays at 10:00 a.m. on Zoom. Send a message for a link to be a part of the conversation with youth leaders and pastors.

Losing a Savior and Gaining a Future

During this Holy Week, as we prepare for Easter, nothing is the same as before. We can not prepare to gathering in one building for Easter services, or plan Easter dinner with extended family. But we can still celebrate. It may take digging a little deeper this year to search for the blessings, but they are still there. Please take a few minutes to listen to the podcast and challenge yourself to look at the Easter story in a new way.

Scripture Reading: John 18:28-38

Book recommendation: “The Last Week”

https://www.cokesbury.com/9780060872601-The-Last-Week?cid=6663109565&aid=79443367579&keyword=895352700411%3A%3Apla-895352700411&kid=895352700411&gclid=Cj0KCQjwybD0BRDyARIsACyS8msfCg2i0srr7yhAf-jUzfNdtZjUomZuT2J1iSjqoIkwHzTYehMbj6IaAhLlEALw_wcB

Discussion Questions:

  • Theologians assert that this exchange between Jesus and Pilate is a profound statement about non-violence. (It helps to know that other men claimed to be the Messiah and usually tried to prove it through efforts to overthrow the Roman government through violence.) What do you think?
  • Much ink has been spilled over verse 38, in which Pilate asks, “What is truth?” What do you imagine he was thinking when he asked that question?
  • The story of Good Friday raises some tough questions for us as Christians.
    • Do you believe that it was impossible for God to forgive humanity without the death of a sinless person? Why might that story have made sense to Jewish communities? Is it harder for us to understand now?
    • What is atonement theology? Is that the only way to understand Jesus’ death and resurrection?
  • The Easter story is central to the Christian faith, and it is not uncommon for Christians to assert that belief in a bodily resurrection is “the” non-negotiable element of being Christian. At the same time, many young people wrestle with the idea of a physical, bodily resurrection from the dead. What do you think about it?
  • Are there other ways of understanding resurrection that might be equally valid?

Podcast:

Movie Night~"The Longshots"

Grab your popcorn, and invite your friends, family or youth group to join together for a movie night on Netflix Party. Everyone can watch at the same time, and there is a chat box where you can all talk as you watch. Below are some discussion questions and a short Bible study you can do along with or after you finish. (Everyone needs a Netflix account.)

Directions: 1. Download Chrome 2. In your Chrome search bar, download Netflix Party 3. Go to Netflix website 4. Pick the movie 5. Click on the “NP” icon next to the address bar in Chrome 6. Click “start party” 7. Copy URL and email to friends

The Longshots (125 minutes) rated: PG

  • Sometimes we have to focus more on what we do have and not on what we don’t. Have you ever had to learn this lesson first hand?
  • Have you ever felt like you were not a part of the “in crowd” like Jasmine? How did that make you feel? What did you do to overcome that situation?
  • Jasmine was trying to fit in with the other girls. But they kept disappointing her. How do you know with whom to trust? Is it the same or different with adults?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where someone in your presence was getting made fun of? What did you do? How did it make you feel? Has someone ever stood up for you?
  • Words can really hurt us. Jasmine’s Uncle Curtis said some mean things about her. Have you ever been in that situation? (Either the one saying something or the one who overheard.) What did you do?
  • Jasmine hides her insecurities behind books, Uncle Curtis behind football. Why do people do this?
  • Have you ever been embarrassed by your parents/family? How did you handle it?
  • Football was a way that the pastor connected with Curtis, and the way that Jasmine and Curtis got close. Thinking about your life, have you ever had a hobby, or past time that has allowed you to become friends with or grow closer to someone? How could we use this to multiply the kingdom?
  • Uncle Curtis saw Jasmine’s talents before she recognized them in herself. Who has encouraged/mentored you in your life? Who is in your corner, cheering you on in your accomplishments? Who do you cheer for?
  • The opposite can be true. Sometimes people, especially when they are jealous or out of fear, will tear us down. What would you do in that situation?
  • What are some examples of teamwork in the movie? How can we relate those examples to real life? To our Christian walk?
  • When the coach had a heart attack, the assistant jumped in and encourage Uncle Curtis to help out. Have you ever had to respond in a tragic situation? What about what we are going through right now? How have you adapted? You have you leaned on to help you?
  • Why was Uncle Curtis hesitant to step into the coaching roll? What was he running from? What happens when we run from fear?
  • Coach Curtis told the team not to celebrate touchdowns. Why do you think that is? How can you celebrate victories with humility?
  • Jasmine welcomed her dad with open arms. Do you think you would have extended the same grace to him? That changed in the end. Why? Do you think her response was justified? Why or why not?
  • Coach Curtis said, “If we have heart, we have everything we need.” What does this mean? Where does it apply in your life? What if you replace “heart” with “Jesus”? Do you feel like it is true?
  • The community gave up their prized possessions to help the team get to the Super Bowl. Have you ever given up something for the benefit of someone else? How did that feel?
  • How did you view Uncle Curtis at the end of the movie compared to the beginning? What can we learn from this?
  • Jasmine was disappointed that her dad didn’t show for the Super Bowl game. Has anyone every disappointed you? How did you handle it? This is a reminder that humans will disappoint, but God is always with us.

Bible Lesson: 1 Samuel 16

The Lord sends Samuel out to anoint the new king.

What is Samuel’s response at first to this command? (He is fearful) Why does Samuel responds this way?

What does this teach us about God when we are facing our fears?

Verse 7 is especially meaningful. Read that again. Put it in your own words.

How does this verse relate to the movie?

How can it relate to your life today?

How do you think the older brothers felt when Samuel passed over them and anointed David? What are the similarities to David and Jasmine or David and Curtis in the movie?

Why do you think Saul’s heart was changed?

What lessons can we learn about God and about our human nature from this story and/or movie?

Everything Happens for a reason, or does it?

Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders. He had a key role in the story of the arrest and eventual crucifixion of Christ. Was Judas a pawn in this event? Was it free will or predestination? What if he had made a different choice? We dive into these questions and more in this podcast.

Scripture Readings: John 13:21-30 and 17:6-19 (focus v12)

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think everything happens for a reason? What situation could arise where this idea may be damaging to a person?
  • How do we answer that same question from the framework of our faith?
  • In the gospels, there is some suggestion that Judas was “used” in order to accomplish a greater purpose. What is your reaction to that?
  • Do you think God uses people to accomplish certain purposes?
  • How do we understand the relationship between free will and God’s will?
  • Can you think of other stories in the Bible in which it seems that people do/don’t have free will?
  • How does this help/change your perspective on your own life?
  • Or in your life decisions?

Podcast:

We’re All In This Together

Hello! It has been a while since I have just written a blog without a podcast. I will have our weekly devotional/Bible study out tomorrow. But for today, I thought I would just sit and write for a minute, and be honest…and maybe not so practical?!

This sucks. (There is no better way to say it, and if my mother was alive, she would probably allow me to say that, even though at 16, she’d correct me.) But it does! It is tough for everyone right now, but being a parent is especially rough. You are being asked to home school, while trying to work from home. There are those who may not even be working right now because your place of business is shut down, or you are worried about losing your job. Maybe you are part of the population who can’t work from home, still have a job, but no childcare. As parents, we are all anxious. We are living through a situation for which we are not prepared. The closest thing to this in my memory is 911, but even that is different. Then we did go out, we did gather to support each other, we just didn’t fly…for only four days! Our churches saw a huge surge of people gathering for worship, and we made it through…together.

But here we are, sitting in our homes, or going to work, then straight home. No church, no school, no concerts, no games, no practice…even no toilet paper! I want to remind you we are still in this together. Stay calm, especially for our children

I am a mom of an 18 year old who is a senior in high school and a Marine who just turned 21. It has impacted us. We are consoling our senior who is grieving the thoughts of the possibility no graduation or prom, and also the last weeks of school with all of her classmates and beloved teachers. And supporting our Marine from afar who is stuck at his current base, as his schooling is over, and he unable to travel to his Permanent Duty Station.

But, I keep reminding them, and I will remind all of you. Find the blessings. Look for the good. We get to sit down as a family every night and have dinner TOGETHER. My husband isn’t gone, traveling for work. We can watch movies, play games, do whatever we want because no one is running out the door to practice or a meeting. We are right here, TOGETHER. What a blessing!

And on the days you can’t find a blessing…be one! I just saw a friend post that her son is out of the country on military deployment, and while he is very safe, his is worried for his young family who is quarantined on base. So, this friend asked for people to send letters. I’ve also seen suggestions to send letters, or have children draw pictures to send to those in nursing homes. Do it! Maybe you can show support to the first responders in your community. Or just simply pick up the phone and make a phone call to someone who lives alone. Praise God this is happening at a time where FaceTime exists! How wonderful to see faces of loved ones that we can not visit right now.

Where are you struggling? Where are your blessings? Keep your chin up friends, we are all in this TOGETHER…and if you have kids my age (and maybe younger) these lyrics may be in your head now and are so fitting:

Together, together, together everyone
Together, together, come on lets have some fun
Together, were there for each other every time
Together together come on lets do this right

We’re all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We’re all stars
And we see that
We’re all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true

Peace my friends! Stay healthy and calm.

***Image taken from Pinterest of Disney’s High School Musical