Boys – Part 3

This is an ongoing blog based on becoming more boy-friendly in children’s ministry and faith formation. I am challenged by Dr. Sax’s research and ongoing family practice as laid out in his book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Before you think I’m picking on one gender, I just happened to read this book before Dr. Sax’s book Girls On The Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis For Girls. Future posts will come from that one.

Dr. Sax shares that factor #1 is the accelerated teaching methods for early childhood education. My insights can be found here.  Factor #2 has to do with video games. My insights can be found here. Factors #3 and #4 I will address in this blog.

Factor #3 – Dr. Sax gives story after story of how young men are prescribed drugs abundantly in America. His view: ‘the person most likely to suggest a diagnosis is a teacher’ (pg 112) and ‘boys are being put on medications to fit the boy to the school.’ (pg 125) Whatever your opinion on daily and regular medications, we have to admit that even over-the-counter medications are prevalent in every home today. As a kid I can only recall taking aspirin when I had a fever. I also can’t recall the last time a sickness was obliterated, yet there are entire industries who’s sole goal is to help us take away the symptoms that make us ‘less than what we think is our best.’ It seems like everybody’s on something and now we can get it online and dropped off in the mailbox. Even the essential oil phenomenon is a way in which families are trying to educate themselves on healthy alternatives to the crazy stuff in our food and to limit the intake of mass-produced processed medications. Which brings us to Factor #4 – Endocrine Disruptors.

There is an overwhelming amount of modern chemicals acting like human sex hormones, specifically female hormones, aka environmental estrogens. If it’s just the hormones in our beef, why are only girls going through puberty as young as 7 or 8 years old, but not boys? Puberty is out of sync. Pesticides permitted in the US from 1950s through 2010, “this product was on the market for roughly 50 years before scientists discovered its effect on puberty in boys, and another 7 years followed before the EPA took action to remove it form the market” (pg 135) and heated plastic byproducts (BPA, phthalates, pg 132). “Researchers have also found that early exposure to BPA reduces or eliminates the normal sex differences seen in the behavior of laboratory animals.” (p 137). Scary enough?

Another issue with endocrine disruptors? American parents are letting their kids decide what to eat. Anyone else remember being told to eat your spinach? And forget getting dessert EVERYDAY, much less at just about every meal. “Chemicals in the environment are changing the way fat cells work, so that they become fatter more easily and are more resistant to weight loss.” (pg 141) “Boys today drink less milk and more cola beverages than they did 30 years ago” (pg 144) which may explain the 350% increase in broken bones of children from January 2004-December 2009. (pg 144-145) “Here’s what’s scary: scientists are finding that exposure to environmental estrogens early in life, (plastic baby bottles, plastic bottle liners…isn’t plastic supposed to be safer than using glass with babies and toddlers?) particularly in utero and in early infancy, blunts or eliminates sex differences in behavior. Females become less feminine. Males become less masculine. For example, when young laboratory animals were exposed to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the males stopped acting like males.” (pg 145)

Wow! Take a breath.

So what does this mean for the local church and the environments we offer to our kids?

I’m using paper cups and a lot of water. When it spills, it’s not the end of the world. Kids don’t get enough water anyways. When we travel or go on field trips, I invite the kids to bring their own water bottles. Moms and Dads are doing the best they can. I won’t be getting on some soapbox for nor against medication or oils or food or whatever. I won’t offer candy every time they are in the building. I will publicly support my parent’s roles in determining what is best for their own kids. I will pray for the decisions my parents must make every single day. I wish for my parents and the families who have invited me into their lives to believe and trust that I will always speak highly of them.

In Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys these are some considerations as we seek to be boy-friendly in ministry….provide more than medicine (we don’t make that decision anyways, thankfully!) (pg 324-325)

  1. Loving authority – be supportive, loving, consistent in structure (be prepared and have a plan for every part of an event/gathering)
  2. Good diet – use water; caffeine, sugar, and excessive carbs drive unwanted behavior
  3. Plenty of rest – one of the reasons we make the choice we do when we attend a retreat for our 3rd-5th graders is the one when they get to bed by 10pm.
  4. Daily exercise – let them move!
  5. Discipline toward character – not punishment, but rather logical consequences and remember that each boy, if a believer, is your BROTHER-IN-CHRIST. If not a believer, your goal is love him in such a way that he will become your BROTHER-IN-CHRIST. He is your family!

What else?

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10

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Boys-Part 2

This is a continuing blog based on Dr. Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Part 1, focusing on accelerated early childhood education, can be found here.

The second factor affecting American boys today is the impact of video games. I was surprised to hear of why they are so popular among young boys. It is not what I thought.

In complete honesty, I didn’t grow up with video games, but rather on the side of an orange grove in south Florida until my late teen years. My brothers and I would set out each day building tree houses, rigging up Big Wheels behind mini-bikes, making mud pies (more like ammo), and throwing late-season oranges with the fierceness of a military operation. We all have scars from injuries and great stories. We steered clear of video games in #1 Son’s life until he was old enough to wheel-and-deal the neighborhood’s semi-annual garage sale to build a sufficient balance at the local Game Stop to purchase his first video game system, eventually, as a high schooler. We chose to have only one TV in our home until we permitted he purchase one to play video games. We were the family that held off long enough getting a computer at all until Baby Girl was required to do a report as a junior in high school about the Vietnam War. According to our go-to research resource, our 1971 World Book Encyclopedia, the Vietnam War was still going on. We acquiesced and bought our first home computer. #1 Son played video games well and often, but he didn’t start as early as kids do today and they were certainly not on every device he held in his hand. Things are different for American boys today, for sure.

Video games feed a kid’s ‘will to power.’ The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche likens it to one’s need to be in charge of their environment. In boys, this ‘will to power’ takes precedence over other drives, worldviews, and other perspectives. (pg 76) Dr. Sax shares that boys who appear unmotivated are indeed motivated by this ‘will to power.’

“Secretly, these boys often believe that they are special, that they are unique, that they have a hidden destiny that will be revealed in time. As a result, they believe that the rules that apply to ordinary people don’t apply to them. Their ‘destiny’ matters more to them than friendship or academic achievement – more than happiness, for that matter. They often do not expect other people, including their parents, to understand them. They may not even want other people to understand them, because they sense that their worldview, with all its megalomania, will appear puerile and egocentric to most adult eyes.” (pg 76) Are you grinning yet? I am!

So, think about it. Take on the world and beat the bad guys or choose math homework? The virtual world is fast-moving, interactive, collaborative, and fun. “And it is heroic…..In the world of the video game, you can be great.” (pg 79) This is where the distinction between Kenntnis (playing football online) and Wissenschaft (playing football on a field) gets blurry for a boy. This is where a boy believes he can drive a real car because he can drive a virtual car.

Boys are then challenged in this ‘destiny-fulfillment’ and ‘healthy competition’ because the screen has replaced engaging in reality, even outdoors. Boys who can climb, jump, win, and drive online have difficulty climbing a tree (upper body strength), jumping (gross motor skills), winning (racing without breathing heavy), showing endurance (riding the bike for long distances), and, well, you get the idea. Where does a young boy learn patience…humility…how to play with a friend…ride a bike…healthy relationships (many boys today prefer to play video games to being with their families or even girls – pg 89)?

High schools are so large now that only the 30+ athletically elite out of a school of 1,000-2,000 will make the team. So let’s be creative on how we, as the local church, can offer reality, competition, and Jesus ‘is a real man’s man.’ Jesus was hardly a weakling. He was a carpenter’s son, a fisherman, handy, yet patient, kind, and spent time with his tribe. Tribe here means a group of people with similar ideas and interests.

Dr. Sax’s suggestions? Nothing teaches a boy patience like going fishing. Want to make a fishing trip even better? Take a boy fishing with an older guy. The best way for kids to know Jesus is to know people who know Jesus. The best way for a boy to know about being a man of faith is to know and spend time with men of faith doing guy stuff with other guys. Not every guy likes sports, but there is healthy competition to see who can catch the first fish, grill the best burger, and drive a bumper car. Sign boys up for contact sports, classes to learn to play an instrument to play in a band (one band, one sound!), and live out the real thing. Video games are just pretend, an imitation. Encourage boys to take cotillion classes so they learn that spending time and sharing real experiences with real girls is way better than spending time with imitation or pretend girls online. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

My response? I’ve enlisted the help of the Men’s Ministry of my local church to begin offering these outlets for my boys and connecting my dads with Titus 2 men of the church. Let’s break out the power tools, the duct tape, and offer time for creative work with their hands. Will look at planning a local fishing trip, too. “Let’s reconnect the generations.” (pg 255) We’re in the brainstorming phase right now. What else?

“Once you have a boy in your life, things you never dreamed of become normal.” ~ Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas

Easter Love Letters from God: A Book Giveaway

Glenys Nellist has partnered again with illustrator Sophie Allsopp to provide a beautiful book for children and the young at heart in Easter Love Letters From God: Bible Stories. Glenys has authored two popular book series: Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time. She serves ministry with children in Michigan and comes from northern England. Sophie Allsopp is an award-winning illustrator of many children’s books and lives in England. These ladies have come together to present an interactive Easter journey that is delightful!

Seven sections take the reader through seven events of Holy Week: Triumphant Entry, Washing Feet, Last Supper, Gethsemane, Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection. Each page has a 3-D look to it with the appearance of multiple items placed together to further visualize the setting of each event. The artwork is lovely, simple, and delicately fills each page to add to the story. Even the detail of the stamp on the lift-the-flap share an image that compliments each of the seven events of Holy Week.

In the writing of the story, Glenys does well in speaking of the humanness of Jesus.

“And even though he felt all alone, he knew that God was with him.” (pg 16)

The lift-the-flap love letters from God were a reminder on each page, in each scene, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even the darkest events were written tenderly, yet truthfully. Sin is not mentioned, but forgiveness is.

Dear _______,  Do you like surprises? Inside that quiet cave I was working on a surprise that no one could imagine. It would be the greatest surprise the world had ever known. Something was happening to Jesus. My son was going to have a brand-new life. But for three whole days the world had to wait.  Love, God (pg 27)

In just a couple of weeks there will be a free, downloadable activity and resource pack available to accompany the book designed for families and those who serve in ministry with children.  The first look of that resource will be made available at http://www.glenysnellist.com.

Though the events of Holy Week are the saddest in the whole Bible culminating in a way I have a hard time wrapping my head and heart around, this is the basis of our faith: the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s own perfect son who came to seek and to save the lost. We must share this with our little people. They need to know. We need to know. If we already know, we need to be reminded. This hardy book shares the stories and does an amazing job of sharing images that are kid-friendly. It’s perfect for family devotion and to accompany the teachings of Holy Week in the local church.

You can win your own copy! Just comment on the blog THIS WEEK with an idea of how you share, celebrate, or remember an event of Holy Week. It can be in your classroom (for all my preschool champions), your church (for all my Sunday school and small group servant-leaders), or your home (for all our Mamas & Daddies & Grands sharing their faith in our fabulous Jesus with their little people.) Zonderkidz will be sure you get your copy early in Lent.

How will you share, celebrate, or remember our best friend Jesus this Lenten season?

“Can you believe that my son, Jesus, came back to life? Only the King of the whole world could do that. Jesus is the King of Love, the King of Hope, and the King of Heaven. And he wants to be the King of your life, too. Will you let him?” Glenys Nellist, Easter Love Letters From God, pg. 31

 

Boys-Part 1

Growing up with 4 brothers, wedded to a man, having raised 1 son, welcoming a son-in-law, now with two grandsons….boys are fascinating, terrifying, and created in the image of a great God. When Baby Girl (who just turned a beautiful 30!) said, “Mom! You’ve got to read this!”, Amazon Prime delivered an amazing book filled with clinical research, case studies, and challenges facing American boys today. My filter? How we can best ‘share life and the gospel’ with boys today. (Books also read in this endeavor included Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas, Raising A Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis, and Knights In Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, Compassionate Boys by Heather Haupt)

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men written by Dr. Leonard Sax, a practicing family physician, psychologist, and author draws on more than twenty years of clinical experience to explain why boys and young men are ‘underperforming in school and disengaged at home….how social, cultural, and biological factors have created an environment toxic to boys…and presents practical solutions, sharing strategies that points us toward a brighter future for America’s sons.”

Why does this matter in the local church? Because I want every kid to want to come back to hear about Jesus again and again and again. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Little boys and big boys need Jesus, just like little girls and big girls. Though I have experience with boys, I am a girl. My job? Give ’em Jesus so that Jesus is irresistible to little people in an environment that meets both a girl’s and a boy’s developmentally appropriate needs.

This blog post will focus on one of Dr. Sax’s five factors affecting American boys: accelerated early childhood education

What happens in kindergarten today is what happened not long ago in 1st and 2nd grade. “Male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes.” (pg 21) This doesn’t mean that girls are smarter than boys, only that girls are trying harder because they are somewhat motivated to please the teacher. Boys, not so much. Boys are motivated by competition and physical activity. Boys are more inclined to go on a walk and say, “Race ya!” and take off. Girls are more inclined to hold hands and talk your ear off telling you about their day. When boys find they can’t please the teacher (can’t sit still, etc.) they find the environment ‘not for me’, boredom ensues, and motivation to do better is tossed out that little boy’s heart-window.

“Boys endure a greater struggle with ‘nature-deficit disorder’ which is when most of life is spent indoors rather than touching, smelling, seeing, hearing the real world which is required for a child’s brain and mind to develop properly. We have replaced nature with computer screens and fancy indoor toys.” (pg 35). All children need a balance of Wissenschaft (knowledge from books/screens) and Kenntnis (knowledge from real experience.) “For boys, in particular, emphasizing Wissenschaft while ignoring Kenntnis may seriously impair development – not cognitive development, but the development of a lively and passionate curiosity.” (pg 36) Hence the lack of interest and motivation for a natural curiosity.

What does this mean for the local church setting? We can’t just tell them about Jesus without giving them a chance to experience the saving power of Jesus. When we teach of sin (missing the mark) let’s use spit balls on a target and bring out the archery tools. Go outside! Go to camp. Engage in lessons outside. Get hands dirty. Run! A dear colleague teaches about baptism with a squirt bottle, a toothbrush, and a dowsing of a cooler filled with water. What I do indoors, what can I move outdoors?

“The regions of the brain associated with negative emotion in teenage girls are closely associated with the language areas of the brain. In boys of the same age, by contrast, brain activity associated with negative emotion is localized primarily in the amygdala, a nucleus with comparatively scant connections to the language areas of the brain.” (pg 51) If the question is to share how you FEEL if you were a particular character in a story, girls will do well. A better question for boys would be, “What would you DO if…”

What does this mean for the local church setting? Instead of asking “How did this make you feel?”, we might ask, “What would you do if…?” For instance: Joseph tossed into a pit by his brothers because they were jealous. Instead of asking, “How do you think that would make you feel if you were thrown into a pit?” we should ask, “If you were thrown into that pit, what would you have done?”

“Team competition socializes boys. It teaches boys to value something above themselves.” (pg 60). “Most girls value friendship above team affiliation.” (pg 61) “We now know that self-esteem has a value for girls that it simply doesn’t have for many boys, while competition – particularly team competition – has a value for many boys that it doesn’t have for many girls.” (pg 65). “Most girls, even athletically talented girls, need encouragement…girls are more likely to decide they’re not good enough, fast enough, strong enough, so they give up…Many boys – especially athletically talented boys – have a tendency to overestimate their skills and their ability.” Girls need encouragement, but if you take away the competitive edge for boys (everyone gets a trophy), they tend to disengage and will seek their natural ‘will to power’ and ‘hero status’ elsewhere: video games, anyone? We’ll go there next week.

What were other suggestions? Inspire boys to learn by providing a ‘boy-friendly’ environment. For my preschool peeps: restore kindergarten as kindergarten, preschool as preschool. Ask them to learn about frogs after they’ve chased some frogs and not just images on a screen or in a book. If our focus is on reading only, stop it. Make sitting optional. I personally prefer spaces without tables, or at least without chairs. Rather than talk about their feelings, give them images to use to communicate and something in their hands. When their hands are busy, their minds are calm. What else?

“God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.” Genesis 21:20

Got Monkeys?

Have you ever read a book because someone you love and admire recommended it? When that someone you love and admire orders it in front of you, on his phone, through Amazon Prime, while shaking his head, with a grin on his face? The book did arrive two days later and because I love and admire #1 Son, I read The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Kenneth Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr., and Hal Burrows. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey was required reading for a supervisory course for #1 Son. He’s read the thing three times. He recommended it to me because, evidently, I am a classic Monkey-Picker-Upper.

An example of a Monkey-Picker-Upper: Kid comes home from school and says he wants to play hockey with his buddy. Mom takes that Monkey (the next step is to prepare the kid to play hockey) and adjusts the family schedule for all the practices and games, runs all over town securing all the equipment, fills out the paperwork, fills the cooler with snacks and drinks, fills up the van with gas, writes the check for the season. All the kid has to do is show up.

A Monkey-Picker-Upper is someone who picks up the ‘next steps’ or ‘action steps’ for others…aka ‘the Monkey.’ A Monkey-Picker-Upper is someone who feels responsible for other’s ‘dropping the ball.’ A Monkey-Picker-Upper is one who champions their own duties and concerns, as well as the those of the team.  A Monkey-Picker-Upper may be one who is a detail person who partners with a vision person. A Monkey-Picker-Upper feels their calendar and time is easily highjacked for another’s cause. A Monkey-Picker-Upper is typically exhausted and dreams less because they are running around reacting to problems created by others with very little time, if any, ‘to create and innovate and initiate’ on their own. That’s the line that stopped me in my tracks.

Serving on a local church staff team, I found the last part of the book incredibly enlightening. It has to do with managing organizational time. Time for me, also means ‘taking up space in your head.’ The writers share there are three kinds of organizational time:

1. Boss-imposed time – “Keeping bosses satisfied takes time, but dealing with dissatisfied ones take even more time.” (pg 113). As Christians, we submit to the authority over us. It takes time to keep the boss informed, to protect him/her from embarrassing surprises, to anticipate how he/she wants things handled, to build a record of success so he/she feels more comfortable giving me more autonomy, and so on.” (pg 115) Be sure to take the time so he/she knows you can be trusted. Ask the question, “What’s the best way to keep you informed?” Then do it.

2. System-imposed time – Time spent on the administrative and “related demands from people (peers/associates) other than our bosses and our own staffs’ demands that are part of every organization.” (pg 116) This is where relationships come in and learning the organization’s system’s requirements. “We can’t manage without the support of these people, and we need them more than they need us. So, in order to survive within the organization, we have to conform to the red-tape requirements of the system.” (pg 118) Be sure to make the Christmas party, join in on the office lunches, bring some cookies or biscuits to the ones who manage and run the system. Learn the movers and shakers, the hands and feet, and love on them well by listening and being fully present.

3. Self-imposed time – The time I spend doing what I decide to do – aka, discretionary time. “Self-imposed time is the most important of the three types of time because that’s the only time in which we have discretion to express our own individuality with an organization. It is only with self-imposed time that we make our own unique contribution to an organization.” (pg 119)

So, what will it take for you to be able to pursue more discretionary time? This I know: I have been the Monkey-Picker-Upper for a staff team. It’s exhausting and not the best God has for us nor for the organization. It’s incredibly difficult to break the habit of picking up other’s Monkeys, because the Monkey-Picker-Upper desires to present the very best to the One and Only who has called us to serve with gifts and graces and vision and energy. “Although discretionary time is the most vital time of all, it is, unfortunately, the first to disappear when the pressure is on.” How will you manage your organizational time this week?

“If all I do is tasks, I leave a ton of value on the table for creating and initiation of doing things better.” – Seth Godin

Just Stop It!

A grandfather asked if I had a few jobs his granddaughter could do for me while she visited the week before Thanksgiving. Still building relationships at my new church, we made arrangements for the following Tuesday afternoon. Sweet girl arrived right on time and started making halos for Christmas Eve, helped me set up the Kid’s Welcome Center for Sunday since Preschool was out, and released quarters to be rolled from coin envelopes collected during the previous month’s stewardship campaign.

Come to find out she attended a church where I knew people. Rattling off names, I asked if she knew them.  She did not. One family I knew had endured a horrific and very public loss over the last year, so I found it odd she didn’t know them. I then asked if she went to youth group or middle school group since she was in 8th grade. She said she didn’t have time because of all the other things she’s involved with. “Like what?”, I asked.

She is part of two organizations. One requires 10 hours of community service per semester, and the other 40 hours. 50 hours of community service…per semester! Wow! When I asked how she got involved in the one requiring 40 hours of community service, she said she was invited due to her good grades and it was a high honor to be included…at 8th grade. Pressing further, I asked if she knew of the time commitment ahead of time when she joined? She said, “Yes, but it’s a high honor and I need it on my college application.” I asked, “Can you get your community service hours at your church?” She said, “No. I have to get them at other places.” And would I mind signing this form to get credit for her service hours today?  She pulled out a clean, folded chart filled with 1 hour here, 2 hours there. As I wrote in her 2 hours with me, my heart hurt for her. No doubt she was a ‘good girl’, but she was missing out on the deeper relationships with her local church, the Titus 2 men and women of her home church, and I was the only faith-based organization on her list. What in the world?!

Just the year before a college freshman who was one of my main volunteers for special events told me he could not use all his hours serving in his own home church for community service to receive his ‘cords’ at high school graduation or on his college application according to his high school guidance counselor. So he was scrambling to get the required community service hours in with everything else he was doing as a senior in high school. His team sports hours counted, but his service to his home church did not….except for Vacation Bible School. What in the world?!

Rant coming: Can we just step back and stop it! Stop the busyness and over-crowded schedules of our kids at such a young age especially for the sake of getting into a good college and the honor of being invited to join the elite dance team, elite junior beta club, and elite travel sport team? I know that academics and team sports are important and there is much to learn, but are the ‘honors’ of that taking priority over their deepening relationships with the Lord and His people in His church? It’s the ‘taking priority’ that saddens my heart. Every parent wants the best for their kids, but we get sucked into following the many voices of academia et al as if they know what’s best for our kids. My own kids were average students, not great students in primary, middle, and high school, but they were growing into great people, because of the people who spoke into their lives deeply and shared lives over time at their home church. When they got to college (they still got into good colleges) they knew how to balance their lives, had great devotional skills, and had wonderful people who loved on them through those early years because of the relationships they built in their home church through children’s and youth ministries. When they graduated college, they graduated with the ‘cords’ they didn’t have at high school. Today, they are both highly trained in their vocational fields AND serving local churches, along with their spouses because they had living, breathing, authentic examples of men and women who love the Lord with all their heart as young people. Moms and Dads are doing the best they can. Can we just help them choose Jesus and not apologize for guarding that priority in their lives? Can we just stop saying, “It’s ok,” when it’s not? Can we choose to raise adults committed to the Lord and the gospel rather than over-committed to what? A form? A team? An honor club? Grades? Can we just stop it! Rant over.

As a young mom, I read the following from a source unknown…

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.”
“Here is how I want you to do this. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day.”
“But how shall we do this?” shouted one of his angels?
“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent numerous schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.  “Steal their time. Persuade them to work long hours and every day of the week. Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.”
“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, the VCR, their CDs going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day and invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from it exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week.”
“Don’t let them go out in nature. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion.”
“Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause.”
Well, in the end it was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments, causing the Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.”

Not on my watch!

“My zeal wears me out…” Psalm 119:139

2018 Faith Milestone Schedule

Faith Milestones are those moments in time when we can stop to say, “This skill is important for me to learn and understand to continue to grow in my faith in Jesus Christ.” Celebrating these specific faith milestones helps bring an awareness of God’s presence into our homes and highlights the rituals of daily faith formation experiences shared by the family of faith. Just as learning to tie shoe laces, learning to pump your legs on the swing, riding a bike without training wheels, and learning to drive, milestones give us the confidence to say, “This is important and I can do this!”

For 2018, this is the schedule:

January – I Can Pray (1st grade) 1/17 5-6:30pm
Engaging children and families to grow in relationship with Jesus through various prayer practices. Establishing prayer as a normal part of a family’s daily routine and tradition for passing on and experiencing the Christian faith.

February – 5th Grade Rock Solid Retreat (5th grade) 2/3-4
Outdoor ministry is a memorable, formative, and vital part of a child’s faith journey. The experience of going away to camp can renew and enhance spiritual growth.

February – I Love My Church (2nd grade) 2/28 5-6:30pm
Families are invited to come for this special event where they tour the church, learn more about things like baptismal fonts, Bibles, Sunday School rooms, and choir. Memories are created reminding your child of this special place where they hear God’s promises and learn to live and love like Jesus.

March – Bible Ninja Warrior (3rd-5th grade) 3/18 3-5pm
Learn how to use your Bible with the skills of a Ninja, both physically and mentally. At each station resembling the TV show American Ninja Warrior, students will learn the basics of studying the Bible as part of every day, thus building their spiritual muscles as a follower of Jesus.

Princesses of the King 3rd-5th grade Friday 3/23 7-9:30pm Secret Keeper Girl Mother & Daughter Conference @ FBC Woodstock

May – I Can Serve (graduating 5th graders & middle school youth) 5/16 5-6:30pm
Graduating 5th graders, as well as middle school youth) can serve as co-leaders in VBS after learning how to lead and serve our smallest disciples. Students will learn Safe Sanctuary guidelines and appropriate child care-giver systems.

July – Day of Service Retreat With Ms. DeDe (rising 5th & 6th) 7/17 10am-5pm Ambassadors will prepare spaces and supplies for fall children’s ministry programming and last week of summer kid’s camp happening the following week along with fun, fellowship, and learning what the Bible says about being a true blue friend.

July – I Can Go To Sunday School (K4) 7/29 12:15pm-1pm
A special time to welcome preschoolers and their families to Sunday school. This meet and greet event includes hearing a Bible story in The TreeHouse, singing songs, and meeting Sunday school teachers.

August – Blessing of the Backpacks (all K5-5th grade)
Wear your backpack to the Children’s Message at any of the worship services and receive a special blessing as the new school year begins.

September – Fall Camp Glisson Retreat (3rd-5th grade)
Outdoor ministry is a memorable, formative, and vital part of a child’s faith journey. The experience of going away to camp can renew and enhance spiritual growth. Students will attend overnight camp from Friday pm through Sunday midday with other students from North Georgia Conference local churches.

October – Bread & Juice Class (K5 & 1st grade) 10/10 5-6:30pm
Learn the how and why we say, “Yes!” to Jesus as He invites us to the table as his friends for Holy Communion.

November – Ambassadors (4th-5th grade) 11/7 5-6:30pm
Students are offered an opportunity to take on various leadership roles in the year to come. Expectations and learning to serve using their gifts and graces in their home church and in the world.

What else would you add?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Party Sundays

If we can agree that every Sunday should be a party, some Sundays are even more so!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS PARTY!
Christmas Eve morning there will be one service with multiple services that same Sunday evening. Wanting to make the morning special with my kids, we’ll ‘go tell it on the mountain.’ We worship and serve a God of celebration, so let’s do this!

Immediately after the children’s moment in the one service, we will enjoy birthday cake (picked up from BJ’s), party hats and horns (picked up from Dollar Tree), play ‘decorate the Christmas tree’ by wrapping little people with green crepe paper with a bow on top (picked up from Dollar Tree), and making megaphones from paper cups. The kids will decorate their own cups with stickers and such, use a sparkly pipe cleaner, and go around making noise like nobody’s business. Jesus being born is worth making some noise about! Our lesson will be on The Great Commission as we heard the shepherds did just that (Luke 2:20). Go and tell…go and tell!

PAJAMA, POP TARTS & PRAISE PARTY!
New Year’s Eve morning we will be back to regular programming, but Sunday school will be a large group celebration since the volunteer base will be lower than usual. AND it gives my weekly faithful Sunday school teachers a break from Ur (usual routine).

Wearing our pajamas to church, eating from a plethora of pop tarts, we will also decorate snowman cookies and play in snow. All to celebrate how Jesus loves us SNOW much! We will cut paper snow flakes and use cars, trucks, spoons, and more in tubs of fake snow. Oh, and we’ll sing and dance!  These are just a couple of our favorite dance praise songs:

What are your favorite praise dance songs?

By the way, the winner of Glenys Nellist’s new book ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas (blog giveaway) is Misty Dolph. Misty is a preschool worship leader at West Cobb Church and a preschool teacher! Thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone who commented.

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

Family Tacky Christmas Party

The goal of the first Christmas Party at my new church was to offer a sticky (excuse the pun) faith formation experience with the children and their families where we serve one another and take a break to play together. When we play together we learn we belong together. Between the games and the food, we accomplished our goal.

Using tacky sweater stickers from Oriental Trading, the photo backdrop from the Preschool’s Breakfast with Santa, and the chance to decorate their own small Christmas tree cookies (tea cakes recipe) with squeezable icing, there was more than enough to do with families lingering as long as they wish in each station.

These were the station signs:

Christmas Card Station: We are so glad the witnesses to Jesus’ birth told the story and someone wrote it down for us to know and to have in the Bible. Who do you think it was that told about what they had seen? Write a Christmas card to someone special. Tell about your family and what’s going on in your life. Then sign it, take it home and your parents can write the address on the envelope to mail this week. (Gel pens, various blank Christmas cards.)

Guessing Station: There were so many people in Bethlehem that Mary & Joseph couldn’t find a room at any inn in Bethlehem. Yet when the baby was born, they knew what to name him: Jesus. Jesus is the sweetest name we know! Write your name on the line and guess how many pieces of candy are in each jar. (One jar filled with miniature candy bars, one jar with skittles, and another jar with starbursts.)

Voting for Tacky Christmas Tshirt or Sweater: Funniest, Largest, Scariest, Clever, Most Original, Most disturbing.

Census Station: Mary & Joseph went to Bethlehem because they had to take a census. A census is an official count or survey of a group of people giving details about the people. Please take this census as a family (I don’t remember where I got the questions, but these are fabulous)…

Game Station: What is your favorite card game and how did you learn to play? Choose a game, find a place to play, and invite others to join you to join in the fun. (UNO, regular deck of cards, Pass the Sweater Game)

Chili Fritos Station: What is your favorite Christmas food? Comfort food is food that makes you feel good and reminds you of people and celebrations that make you feel good. Celebrations like Christmas always have special foods that make the season so very special. (Chili, Fritos, shredded cheese, sour cream, bowls, spoons).

Coloring Station: What’s your favorite Christmas color? Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus colors our life brighter when we follow Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our love, all our minds, and love our neighbors as ourselves? (Enlarge multiple ornament coloring sheets.)

Hot Cocoa Bar: Knowing Jesus came to earth to show us how much God loves us makes us all warm and fuzzy inside! (Candy canes, Swiss Miss in a crockpot, marshmallows, spoons, etc.)

Gingerbread Nativities: Why is the frosting so important to this station? Just like we needed frosting (aka meringue powder found at Michael’s) to hold the nativity together, we need Jesus to hold our lives together. He came at Christmas to be born for us so we can be saved from a life of sin and selfishness. At Easter Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins and selfishness so we can have a forever friendship with Jesus and one another both here on earth and in heaven. That’s a reason to celebrate! Where were you born?

Nativity Craft Station: What happened on the day you were born? Jesus was placed in a manger by Mary & Joseph because there was no room in any inn in Bethlehem. Enjoy making a manger for your family to take home. Use the model as an example, but change it up as you see fit. (Lots of ways to do this station based on what is already in your storage/supply room. Pinterest it!)

Minute to Win It cup games made for a hilarious way to close out the night and even the youngest siblings could play with inexpensive, yet colorful props for photos. We had a ball! A home-school mom even asked to borrow much of what we put together for this event for her home-school group. I considered her asking as the ultimate compliment.

“Sing to Him a new song! Play your best with joyful shouts!” Psalm 33:3 CEB

We’re Going To Bethlehem!

We’re going to Bethlehem…Bethlehem, Georgia, that is! At our October children’s ministry networking luncheon, Kate suggested we partner with one another and take older elementary students to Bethlehem for Christmas. Bethlehem United Methodist Church presents a live nativity in downtown Bethlehem each year, so we are travelling to Bethlehem on the Friday before Christmas!

Each church has promoted it among their own, secured or are sharing transportation, picked up glow necklaces, and ordered tshirts for everyone: Christmas green with white print…United Methodist Church logo of cross and flame on the front pocket…”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15 on the back. We wanted something that could be worn beyond the Advent season.

The plan is to leave our churches early Friday afternoon and meet up at Fort Yargo State Park just outside of Bethlehem, Georgia for hiking, playing, snacks, and putt putt golf. $60 reserved a covered pavilion to share with $5 parking per vehicle. This gave us a great first destination to meet up not knowing what holiday traffic in Atlanta would look like.

After contacting the fabulous Children’s Ministry Lead there, we have all been invited for a hotdog dinner at the beautiful Bethlehem United Methodist Church. We’ll play get-acquainted games, share some table-life, then all head to the live nativity together for the 7pm presentation.

With Chick-Fil-A around the corner, the plan is to stop for ice cream before heading home.

I love the creative connection of our Children’s Ministry teams! Ever been to Bethlehem for Christmas?

“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15