5 things every kid needs || uncommon sense


#4 uncommon sense

When we were growing up we were always that family. You know – that family who went to church, that family that didn’t watch certain videos or TV shows, that family who weren’t allowed to go to certain parties or events – that family. 

There were times when being part of that family was embarrassing. Those awkward moments of needing to explain to our friends how our ‘totally mean’ parents were not letting us do, buy or see something that made us different from our peers. But, ultimately, the consistency of the decisions our parents made and the reasoning they gave us to understand something of the values those choices represented, didn’t cause our social death as we feared they might! In fact, they were part of establishing our character and gave us a strong sense of confidence in boundaries well defined and maintained.

There is a degree to which a choice to live by God’s big picture plan for our lives and to walk in His ways will see us looking different than those living by another standard. There are times when using a God-lens to look at a decision or a choice of opportunities will cause us to form a different conclusion to those who view life through a different lens.

To grow and establish themselves in faith, our children need uncommon sense that will help them make wise choices. They need a sense of God’s perfect and amazing plans for their lives that empowers them to say ‘no’ to behaviours and attitudes that would take them down a different path. They need to be inspired by His love for them and His promises towards them in ways that cause them to process and translate life through HIS eyes – drawing them to wisdom.

We are often tempted to condense the Biblical narrative and the gospel down to a behavioural code to live by – particularly as it relates to young people. We teach obedience and sharing, apologising and forgiving, generosity and listening as the ‘moral’ to a Biblical story when the bigger picture is one of a completely new way to think, respond and act. God’s love in us calls us to see others and ourselves in a different light. His activity in our hearts ought to draw us to consider our actions and decisions as HE would consider them. More than ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ – why would He do that? What would motivate Him to turn the other cheek? What would cause Him to give so generously and unreservedly of Himself?

Where have you found that ‘uncommon sense’ needed in the lives of your kids? How have you gone about teaching them the values and ‘why’ of our motivation to make wise, God-honouring choices? 

5 Things Every Kid Needs || Think Orange

#1 a really BIG God

#2 someone else

#3 another voice

#4 uncommon sense

#5 nosy parents

 

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how to fix your church 


When your children or youth are reluctant to go to church things can get hard. (Read more – against their will

If you’ve elevated and communicated the value of church attendance, negotiated and threatened your lips off and offered bribes of every incentive you can possibly imagine but are still struggling to get buy-in from your kids – there’s only one thing left to do. 

You need to fix your church

You know the old adage about not just identifying the problem but being part of the solution? Yeah, that. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and get involved in fixing your church. 

It may seem like a big challenge (depending on what your church dynamic is like) but it may take less than you think. Here are some low output-high impact first steps. 

  • Show up yourself

Passionate, genuine, supportive and committed people who show up regularly and consistently make every/any church better. Whether your attendance almost doubles the size of the congregation or fills one of 60 rows, every person who shows up contributes something vital to the dynamic of a gathering. 

It may seem a little arrogant to assert that your very presence could improve your church – but flip it over and consider what would happen if everyone thought their attendance didn’t matter and didn’t show up!

And as a side note – not surprisingly, your kids won’t be passionate about attending a place that you are not demonstrating a passion for. If your attendance is more about a week-by-week decision based on feelings and schedules rather than an anticipated fixture in your weekly rhythm you undermine the integrity of your desire to see your kids engage. 

  • Serve. 

There isn’t a church in the world with the budget to professionalise all aspects of church life. And even if finances allowed it, it would not reflect the church as Jesus declared it or as Paul and others advocated in the New Testament. 

Pretty much every service your church provides is possible because of the contributions of “someone” like you. “Someone” with skills, time, talents, heart and availability to serve one another – and the desire to see needs met, people connected, God encountered and disciples developed in a variety of ways for a diversity of people. 

The only way your family benefits from corporate worship, generational ministry, events, and shared faith experiences is because “someone” serves. “Someone” gives their Friday night or their Sunday morning over to teaching and leading – in music and word. The building is physically ready and you are welcomed because “someone” comes early to prepare for you. Small groups happen because “someone” opens their home. Morning tea is served because “someone” sets up the urn and packs away afterwards. 

Again, if everybody thought that they didn’t need to contribute you would show up to a very different kind of service, in a very different physical space and ultimately be paying for some very expensive psychiatry bills for your burnt out Senior Pastor! It’s not rocket science. You need to give something for the system to work. 

Side note – your child is much more likely to feel connected to a faith community when they experience a sense of ownership and purpose (true for you too). Serving is essential for fixing your church

  • Influence the influencers. 

All people thrive under the intentional investment, discipleship and encouragement of others. In any church environment there are going to be specific people who have influence over your child/ren. They may be positional influencers – those with the title of “leader” or “coordinator” in specific departments or ministries. They may be proximity influencers – those they’ll serve next to or find themselves spending time with. Or they’ll be influencers by personality – that cool young adult that everyone gravitates to or the super caring and connected person whose name your kids remember and repeat most often. 

If you want to spend your fixing energy wisely, direct it to the influencers. If, by your investment, care and counsel, you can help an influencer flourish you will be influencing your own kids through them. You will be making the church a better place for them (and others in kind) to connect to and thrive in. 

Invite your kids’ youth or kids ministry leaders for dinner or to birthday parties and basketball games. Host their groups in your home. Pray for them. Know them well so as to be able to assist them best. 

You can fix a lack of leadership or develop the competency and confidence of leaders by your intentional encouragement and support of those who God has appointed and who stand to impact your child’s sense of belonging in a faith community. 

***

Again, they’re simple steps but also essential. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who will speak of their disappointment in them or their families not finding a place of belonging, connection or support in a church community and they haven’t tried any of these fixing tips. They’re certainly no guarantee that your child will grow to love God and church – but their absence has a far greater likelihood of assuring the opposite. 

celebrating mother’s day

As a gift to our Mums and families on Mother’s Day, our church photography team offered family portraits. I love that our church did this! We were excited to think of all the mums who would love the chance to have a quality photo taken with their brood – for free! Winner, right?

What I didn’t anticipate was an extra blessing that came from offering this service. One that swept me – and others – up in its expression of God’s heart for His family and generated such a great buzz amongst those who were present. 

It’s all summed up by these three photos. 


The first photo is my Mumsy and me. Isn’t she the cutest? Bless her little silver socks off! If she’s lucky enough, I might get it printed on a coffee mug so she can look at us all the time! 

But here’s where the fun started. 

The middle photo is of my great friends, the Whites … and me! As they rounded up their children for the photo Sharyn walked past me and said, “Get ready, you’re in the next photo!” I replied, “Me?” And the answer came, “Yeah, of course, you’re family!” It’s no wonder my smile was so cheesy and bright! 

Of course, the photo itself doesn’t make me family. But it captures a heart and relationship that is very much about being family. These guys have consistently extended themselves to include and support me in ways I have come to rely on and I love the relationships I share with them – individually and collectively. Such a blessing. 

The third photo is a “3 generations” photo. Elise came alongside me and said “So, family photo? Y’know, spiritual mum and all that.” (Of course I am far too young to be a biological mother to someone her age. Cough. Cough. Not really. Sigh.) And then she called out to young Alex and said, “It’s family photo time!” Of course, Alex’s eyes lit up at the idea of her mentor (and hero) including her. And so the three of us snuggled up for a shot. 

Together, these photos reflect what celebrating Mother’s Day looked like for me. An opportunity to honour and love on my own Mum; being included in a family’s celebration and expression; and acknowledging the special role of spiritual mothers. 

As people lined up for photos in our foyer, those relationships were captured in various combinations, with similar feelings of honour, inclusion and gratitude. 

Mother’s Day is simultaneously one of my favourite days and one of my most difficult. I have long ago made the decision to celebrate the day (read “I will celebrate Mother’s Day“) because despite my grief and longing there are many women who are worthy of recognition and honour. This year I found that in celebrating others I, too, was celebrated and it was a truly memorable day. 

Focus on the Family interview #2

It was great to have a chance to chat with the team of Focus on the Family Australia.

You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE

The first interview went live last weekend and I was encouraged to receive responses from people all over the country. (You can listen to that one here.)

The feedback Focus on the Family has had over many years is that this topic isn’t discussed that often so it’s great to be part of bringing it to the fore.

There’s some strange vulnerability associated with having a very unknown listening audience but I keep trusting that it’s landing on the right ears, encouraging the right hearts and advancing the conversation in all the right places. 

Barrabool Hills Baptist Church – Aug 30 2015

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It was great to be at Moolap and Barrabool Hills Baptist Church on Sunday across all three of their services.

Seated in one of the services was a lady who had recently lost her husband … and when I say recently, I mean super recently … 4 days earlier! She was there with a girlfriend who had come to stay with her – clearly still in that numb state of shock and disbelief that can often accompany grief and loss. But they were both blown away by the sovereignty of God to have her sit under a message about the importance of community and family for the Single person. Her girlfriend was challenged to understand the new needs and challenges that were ahead of this newly widowed lady. They bought a copy of the book for them both to look at in the weeks and months to come.

What do you say to someone who is processing such grief and loss? She was so convinced of God’s timing and provision of this message (& the book) and we were able to agree and affirm that God clearly had her number. While everything else ahead of her is uncertain right now – she can be sure that God is right there with her in it.

You can listen to the message HERE

against their will

Parents will sometimes talk to me about the struggle it can be to get their young people to church. It can be hard for a whole range of reasons – tiredness or sickness, insecurities or relational tensions, ‘boredom’ and the lure of other events (sports, birthday parties etc). But parents can also be faced with resistance to church attendance as a child starts to gain (and fight for) degrees of independence and particularly as they transition from a church’s children’s ministry into “adult church”.

I don’t believe the importance of church (a gathered community of believers) attendance can be overstated. Many would posit that they can ‘do faith’ without regular church participation or aside from meaningful engagement with a faith community but my understanding of the place of the church in God’s plans – as well as research and anecdotal observations over many years – tells me otherwise.

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“12 thoughts of Christmas” #2: the Santa Question

In Kids Ministry and more incidental interactions with children at this time of year, I’m always interested to see how children of various ages process the conundrum of Jesus “versus” Santa! Every church going child knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and yet, often, the presents that miraculously appear under the tree on Christmas morning have come from Santa (we know this because the cookies were eaten and his reindeer left half-eaten carrots on the driveway!). Obviously our community celebrates a Santa-driven Christmas season and yet we sing songs like “Away in a Manger” and have donkeys and camels in the nativity pictures. How can we reconcile the two?

Teaching Grade 2 (at a Christian school) there were always a few children who would loudly proclaim to all that Santa wasn’t real and even a couple that would go so far as to say he was ‘of the Devil’. There were then many conversations to be had with distraught children (or less-than-impressed parents) whose Christmas paradigm had been shattered.

My response was always to gently remind the children that all families have different ways of celebrating special occasions and, at Christmas, some of them have Santa as part of their tradition. Generally this was enough to quiet the militant few and was innocuous enough to allow the ‘believers’ to continue in whatever their family had raised them to consider as ‘right’.

The breadth of Christian response to “the Santa Question” stretches from here to the North Pole and I would never pronounce judgement on anyone for the choices they make within that … just some thoughts to ponder.

  • If you decide to include the ‘make believe’ of Santa in your family traditions, be sure to speak clearly to how that matches up with the real story of Christmas. There aren’t two different occasions being celebrated here – just the one; Jesus’ birthday. How do Santa and presents help us celebrate a special day?
  • The unfortunate flow-on effect of the Santa-based Christmas model is that the focus becomes all about “ME”!! What do I want for Christmas? What will Santa bring ME? If I am good I’ll get everything I want! The REAL story of Christmas is that God made sure we would have EVERYTHING we would ever NEED!! The humble nature of the nativity tells us that serving and giving are more important than getting and “things”. Children need our help to not lose sight of that.
  • Christmas is a time of awe and wonder for children. Who isn’t captivated by the sight of a small child whose tired face is lit up by a candle as they sing carols with their family or by the glow of Christmas lights tinkling on their tree; Christmas stockings that go from flat and limp to bulging with goodies – all while we’re asleep (whoever delivers them there)?! But I can’t think of anything more awe inspiring or worthy of our wide-eyed wonder than the truth that the God of the Universe would make Himself to be a human child. Born to a place and in a manner that even our pets wouldn’t have to endure. The greatest gift we could ever conceive and an act of the greatest love we will ever know.

What about you? How do you manage the “Jesus/Santa” question in your household and family?

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #1: Preparation

I LOVE Christmas! I do! It brings together all of my favourite things (Jesus, worship, family, friends, food, presents and celebrating) in the one internationally sanctioned season!! I love it!

Your attitude to the Christmas season may be slightly less enthusiastic than mine – in fact, it may be diametrically opposed – because we all have different experiences to draw on and expectations that we foster.

Here’s the first of “12 thoughts of Christmas” as we look to doing the Christmas season WELL!

Preparation.

Of course, you’re all in various stages of preparation for different aspects of the Christmas season. For some, your ‘to-do’ list is nearly all crossed off. For others, you are perfecting the art of denial and hoping that if you ignore it long enough it will all do itself!! 🙂

Many churches and faith traditions celebrate this season of “advent”. The process of counting down, of looking ahead and of preparation. Some of you may even have an advent calendar in your home. The best ones have a chocolate or a treat that you get to enjoy as you mark off each day on the countdown to December 25th.

Over 2000 years ago the world was in a season of preparation that had been thousands of years in the making! If you read the first few chapters of the book of Mark in the Bible you see the process unfolding. The prophecies of Jesus’ impending arrival were finally coming to pass. Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and becomes pregnant by the Spirit of God … her season of preparation was well and truly come! Joseph responds to God’s call to be Jesus’ earthly father and weds Mary. Jesus the Messiah was to be born!

In the Christmas Carol “Joy to the World” we see the line “let every heart prepare Him room”. That’s the kind of preparations we need to be including on our ‘to-do’ list. It’s easy to be so absorbed by the busyness of the season and the various tasks that need to be done that we lose sight of what this time really represents. The Saviour of the world has come! God has come to earth in flesh – “Emmanuel” (God is with us).

How do you include this kind of preparation in your family life at this time? What stories do you tell, what activities do you do, or what reminders do you have around your house? Let me encourage you to consider this – and share your ideas below for others to use as well!