Monthly Archives: February 2011
One of my daughters is experiencing “fear” lately. She will hear a noise while she’s playing with her sister alone in a room and run out into the living room and report to Mom and Dad what she’s “heard” (they’ve got fantastic imaginations as to what those “noises” might be!).
After bedtime, she came out of her room and said: “Dad, I’m scared. I’m really, really scared!” She was inconsolable. I calmly (with a suppressed grin), walked both girls back to their room and I shared with them what I would do when I was afraid. I would pray to God and repeat a Bible verse from Psalms: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” I talked about how God is taking care of us and that Dad and Mom are here to protect them as well.
Very seriously, my daughter quipped: “Is that why you have a BB Gun, Dad? You can shoot [it] with your BB Gun.”
“Yep,” I said. “That’s what the BB Gun is for!”
Then they fell asleep soundly.
It’s a little rated “R”. You see, Amnon, one of David’s sons was “in love” with his half-sister, Tamar (one of David’s daughters). Amnon pretended to be sick all in a ploy to get his father to invite Tamar in to take care of him. When he was alone with her, Amnon forced himself on his sister. After the despicable act, Amnon was filled with hatred toward Tamar – “as much hatred after as he had love before.”
Enter Absalom. Absalom was Tamar’s full brother (they had the same mom). Absalom took care of his sister because his father did nothing. Absalom absolved himself to kill Amnon for what he had done. Two years later Absalom had his revenge on Amnon, and fled the country. Three years later he returned to Jerusalem and began to woo his fellow countrymen into following him, then later declared himself king while his father fled.
Teaching in Main Street get’s a little tricky when we get to stories like these. The audience is filled with grades 1-6 students. So one has to approach stories like this with great care and wisdom. Feel free to watch the video of how I navigated this story with the large group.
I regularly teach the 5th and 6th grade boys, and this audience we can get in to the “trickier” parts of the story. After the large group teaching time, I sat down with the boys and we read out of the Bible what precipitated Absalom’s conspiracy (particularly the part about Amnon and Tamar). The boys were shocked. I asked them what they would tell their parents when they were asked: “What did you learn in Main Street today?” The boys didn’t know what to say.
I then shared with them the difference between prescriptive and descriptive elements of the biblical text. “What does prescription mean?” They knew this one. “Like medicine.” “Yep,” I said. “It helps you out, doesn’t it? Doctor prescribes you a solution to your problem and it will, hopefully, work out for you.”
“Does the Bible want you to rape your sister? Is this a prescription?” They knew the answer to this one as well: “No.”
“What does description mean?” This one confused them for a second until I shorted the word to describe. “Oh,” they said, “to dictate or share the unique qualities of a particular entity.” Okay, they didn’t say that exactly, but something like that! I had one of the students stand up and we described his appearance. They understood.
Then I gave them a scenario:
What if a person after reading the story of Amnon and Tamar proceeds to rape his sister. He is caught by the appropriate authorities after an investigation finds sufficient evidence for a trial. The perpetrator declines a lawyer because he wants to defend himself. At the trial, the defendant defends himself by reading 2 Samuel 13. He says, quite emphatically: ‘The Bible said it was okay!’
The Judge, dumbfounded, looks on the defendant with pity and says: ‘You idiot! Are you serious?!’
I then asked the 5th and 6th grade boys: “Did this guy get his prescriptive and descriptive mixed up?” Again, the young men get it: “Of course,” they confidently say, “the Bible isn’t telling us to do these things, it’s describing an unfortunate event that occurred that led to other unfortunate things that occurred.”
I smiled with pride. Lesson learned. We then went on to discuss how we can tell when a passage of Scripture is descriptive or prescriptive. We particularly tried to discern what might be prescriptive in such a traumatic story as the rape of Tamar.
These young men are really smart!
Key Lesson of the Story? Sin has consequences.
Click Here to access the graphic novel “narrated” version of this story, otherwise, the LIVE teaching video is below:
You attend church, and all of us that work to prepare exciting environments for your children are thrilled that you do. It’s obvious to us that you value what the Body of Christ can bring to your life, and to your familie’s life by attending together. For that be commended. However, please allow me to humbly remind you that church attendance is only the first part of spiritually leading your family. This letter is written to encourage you to talk about your experience at church with your children. Do you ever ask what they really learned? Not just if they had fun (which is an equally valid question, just not the most important information to get from them.) Do you ever tell your kids what you learned? Do you ever think to fall back on what your kid has learned when the situation arises during the week?
Here what can happen if you fail to talk about what happened at church this weekend.
- First, you can communicate that what we do at church is separate from the rest of our lives. // As parents we should be teaching our kids that God is the center of our lives and worthy of organizing all that we do around glorifying Him. But when we fail to talk about what happens at church, we are quietly telling them that what happens at church stays at church. This isn’t Vegas; it’s important to live out what we learn at church outside of the church walls! Work to destroy the walls between church attendance and real life.
- Second, you’re telling them that you didn’t learn anything. // You did learn something right? You are grateful for your experience in worship, right? You should be learning something, or being encouraged in some way with each encounter (and if you’re not please talk to someone.) Share with your children what you are learning, and how thankful you are for what God has showed you.
- Third, to not talk about church is to miss a key step in spiritually leading your children. // That’s a daunting phrase right there, isn’t it? “Spiritually leading your children.” Throw out all those images of nightly devotionals, and long family prayer services. You might get to that point eventually, but right now we are talking about just taking a small but deliberate next step toward nurturing their spirituality. When you fail to ask children what they’ve learned at church you are missing the easiest of easy times to talk to your kid about spiritual things. Take advantage of the awesome team of volunteers and leaders that teach your kids each weekend, and just use what they’ve already taught your children to start conversations. I bet some of them will even put things in your hands to help this happen!
It’s not too late to start talking with you kids today about what happened at church. Please don’t miss the opportunity that you have each time you attend church to start spiritual conversations at home with your children.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
You love your kid. That much is obvious by your willingness to set rules and then hold your children to obedience to those rules. As a pastor to children, I commend your commitment to follow-up your parenting rules with consequences for disobedient actions. Consequences are good things.
However, suspending your child from church is not a good consequence. It sets the wrong precedent. Well-meaning as it is, for many reasons it is the wrong consequence. Obviously it’s a different scenario all together if your punishment is to suspend them from a lock-in, extracurricular activity, or other church-related activity. But when the church doors are open to teaching, mentoring, accountability, and the right kind of Godly relationships…please don’t keep your child from this as punishment.
This what I normally hear in the “witholding church as punishment” dialogue:
“[Insert Name] was not obedient at school this week, and so I told him he has to sit with me in the sanctuary. I know he really loves church, and I just couldn’t let him attend with all of this bad behavior recently.”
What is wrong with this statement? Here is what you are basically saying to them:
You aren’t good enough to go to church, and I will use the adult service as punishment for your crimes.
Why is this bad? It’s bad because you are telling you child a few things when you do this. You are telling them that:
- Adult Worship service is boring and is a worthy punishment. // Your adult worship services may indeed be boring, and if they are I hope that you work to make sure that you find a place to worship that isn’t boring. When you this strategy as a punishment, you are telling your kid that church is something to be “suffered through.” Why would you want to make that impression on your kids? That’s right, you wouldn’t.
- Learning God’s Word is NOT something important. // I know, I know…you think this is crazy and believe that God’s Word is important. But when you deny your child the opportunity to learn God’s Word from godly people who have prepared all this week for the moment that your child would experience on their visit…you are communicating to your child that the lesson he would have learned is not valuable or life-changing.
- God doesn’t want you when you’re disobedient. // This might be a stretch, but hang in there with me on this one. When you punish disobedience by witholding opportunities to learn about God, you are tying obedience/disobedience with God’s acceptance of us. Our Father in heaven has promised to forgive us of ALL confessed sin, and he has said that nothing will ever separate us from his love, and he has said that he has redeemed us from our past mistakes by sending his Son to pay the price for our sin. I say all that to say this…please be careful how you represent the most grace-giving, loving heavenly father in your discipline to your children.
I know that you love your kids, and you are trying to do your very best to lead them spiritually. But from your Children’s Pastor’s heart to your heart let me please remind you that there are many, many, many more creative consequences for disobedience. May I suggest suspension from television, video games, sporting events, after-school snacks, and I could go on and on and on?
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
This past Sunday, February 13, 2011, we invited all of the Followers and their families to sled at the Yoder’s home. As the video below shows, we had a great time!
Thank you so much for coming to church this weekend. It was a thrill to see you and your entire family worshipping with the rest of your church family. I know that you had to get up earlier than you might have preferred, fought to get kids ready in their “church clothes”, swigged down some coffee quickly, and rushed to be with us on Sunday. For that I am greatly appreciative!
However, I noticed something interesting this week. You didn’t arrive until 30 minutes after church started, and our services are only 60 minutes long. This can be problematic, which I’m sure you understand. Let me say that being late isn’t the issue, it’s the consistently being late that is a greater concern. We all have “those Sundays” when everything that could go wrong does, and you get to church much later than anticipated. I’m speaking more towards being late every…single…weekend. Please know that you are communicating the wrong message to your child, those that work with your child, and all the other children attending each weekend.
I can hear it now, “What are you talking about? This isn’t really any of your business!” And I agree, but please let me ask you to consider what message you might be sending by being late every weekend.
- First, you’re asking your kid to play major catch-up. // If the service is 60 minutes long, and you arrive to drop off the kid after the first 30 minutes, then they have probably already missed the following: Praise and Worship, Introduction of Bottom Line elements, Bible Story, and many times your arrival corresponds with the most intense and most serious time of the entire morning. That’s right, by being late your kid has missed everything the kids consider “the good stuff”. In Kid’s ministry things move fast, and we put a premium on quickly moving from one thing to the next. We’re always teaching our bottom line; but by missing the first 30 minutes your child will have difficulty grasping and internalizing the message.
- Second, it’s a distraction. // This is the one that I feel the worst about bothering you about. Apologies as I step on your well-intentioned toes, but here I go… When you arrive 30 minutes late to a 4 year old class, it means the teacher has to stop what they’re doing to check-in your kid. That might mean stopping the lesson right in the middle of a teaching time, when they’ve already worked hard to capture the gnat-like attention of a class of 4 year olds. It’s quite simply a major distraction to everyone already in the classroom. It’s also a major distraction to your own child. There are some major embarrassment and separation issues related to dropping off a child into an environment that isn’t prepped for drop-off and check-in time. It’s hard on your own child in a way that I know you would never intend.
- Third, it’s less than the best. // Everyone wants what’s best for your child. Everyone on my team at the church wants your child to have the most positive experience possible on a Sunday morning, and I have no doubt that you want the best as well. When your child arrives late to church, it’s quite simply giving them less than what is best. My team at the church has planned every minute of our time with your child to help illustrate God’s redemptive plan and His love for your children. Let us have as much of this time as possible!
So you may be asking, “What can I do to help this not be a problem?” That’s a great question, and here are some solutions.
- If you’re running late, then wait until the next service starts and give your kid the 100% experience at the upcoming later service. Of course, this only applies if your church has more than one service, and if you were trying to get to the early service.
- If you’re running late, apologize to the people trying to get your child situated into the environment quickly. A kind word does wonders for a teacher that has to deal with distraction you’ve created. The fact is that being late happens to all of us, but recognize the burden it is on those leading the classrooms. Just apologize, and act like it matters.
- If you’re running late, then promise yourself and your family that this will be the last time. Work hard to be on-time, if for no other reason that because it’s best for your kids. That’s reason enough isn’t it?
Thanks for bringing your kids to us each weekend, and know that we love, love, love having them with us. It’s a thrill to minister to all the different parts of your family, and you are to be commended for the intentional effort you make every week to worship as a family.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
Thank you for coming to church…last month. Where ya been? I love seeing you and your family, but it’s been a while. Don’t lie about how much you attend, because nowadays I can track your kids attendance pretty easy with all the sophisticated software solutions out there. I’m sure your schedule has been really busy lately, and you feel like you’re having to choose to say no to some things. And I’m sure that it’s easy to say no to church attendance. I mean really, you can always go next week, right? I know that there are weeks that there really are conflicts; soccer tournaments, out-of-town trips, and the occassional sick times. But in all honesty and with as much sincerity as I can muster, what do you have going on a Sunday morning that takes priority over worship?
Let me be your cheerleader for a moment: You can get here to church more regularly! You can get there, I know you can! And I’d like to encourage you to make it more of a priority. But why should you?
- The Bible Says So. // That is always a great fall-back, huh? Seriously, you should read some of what Hebrews, Romans, and James says about the matter. It’s important to be in church, period. The church was and is a part of God’s great Rescue Plan to introduce Jesus to the world. It also exists to helps us grow, learn, and give to a community of people all seeking the same things. You knew I’d say this one, right?
- You need to establish good habits with your kid early on. // I’ve rarely met a person that attends church once-a-month that would say that they want their children to grow up and NOT attend church. It’s quite simple really, if you want your kids to grow up and be a part of a community of believers (church), it’s in your best interest to attend one yourself. Make it a priority for your family, and your kids will learn that it’s a vital part of their walk with God.
- Without regular attendance you miss the mentoring and relationship benefit of Children’s Ministry. // This same principle applies to every area of the church, but let’s talk about your kids for right now. One of the best benefits of taking your kid to a thriving ministry for Children is that they get to know other kids learning about God’s Best for their lives, and the adult leaders leading these areas. If you attend inconsistently, you are greatly diminishing the chance for one of our fantastic Small Group Leaders or Classroom Teachers to make an impact on your child’s life. Trust me, it’s so important that your kid hear the same things you tell them coming from a different voice.
It’s obvious, in that you sometimes attend, that you do indeed value what church means in your life, and what it can mean to your kids as you are walking this journey of parenting them. Now it’s time to make it more of a priority, and start getting involved. It starts with being here consistently, then we can happily start finding places for you to serve in this wonderful family called “The Body of Christ.”
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
On Sunday, February 6, 2011, I was given the opportunity to preach on John 1:14. The title of the message ended up being: “When Heaven Came Down and Kissed the Earth.” The worship band, Dutton, has a song by that title, which I borrowed for the sermon because I used their song throughout the message.
When Heaven Came Down [pdf, sermon transcript]
When Heaven Came Down [mp3, sermon audio]
When Heaven Came Down [link to Dutton’s song]
Fully Human, Fully God [preview video link, The Skit Guys]
Kids Camp is an annual summer camp the WI District of the Wesleyan Church puts on for students who have completed grades 3, 4 and 5. It is always a phenomenal week of evangelism and discipleship with campers. It’s amazing how being removed from “normal” life for a week really helps immerse students in the Bible and develop a spiritual hunger for relationship with God through Jesus that is often distracted by “other things.”
I spent time yesterday working on getting the Kids Camp 2011 web landing page and information ready to publish. While it’s not complete and needs some editing work, I made it LIVE:
Four years ago this morning, Sari Mae entered the world. The world has never been the same since – especially Amanda and I’s world! Sari brings much joy and laughter and independence into the Mavis family. It’s never a dull moment when she gets that twinkle in her eye and starts to giggle!
Happy Birthday, Sari!