Archive for the ‘Children’s Spiritual Formation’ Category

birthdays, baseball & the bible

first: thank you, thank you for all of the lovely facebook, twitter, and text birthday messages. i felt loved and celebrated and grateful. as you may know, i’m a big fan of birthdays and i especially love my ownbirthday. so after a very full day yesterday of eating at my favorite restaurants, and cheering on the cubs to an actual victory, and being with my family, i was a very happy girl. and, it was especially fun to watch my little niece experience her first cubs game. when you are born into our family, you are a cubs fan for life. there is no other option!

and second: while i was out celebrating, the team from what’s in the bible announced it’s official release date! lori and i have been developing the content and writing the lessons for the last couple months, and we are thrilled to finally get it into the hands of children’s ministry leaders! dvd 1 releases november 15, while dvds 2-4 will release january 2011!

a really unique feature that we’re right in the middle of developing is the mobile site for volunteers in which leaders can access the curriculum guides from their smart phones.  we wanted to create a simple way for volunteers to prepare during the week and implement the lesson on sunday. i personally can’t wait to teach a lesson from the curriculum guide on my iPhone. way. too. fun.

we are also creating an at home interactive site for families. we know that take home papers, even with the best of intentions, don’t always actually make it home. so we are creating small take home cards that point families to the online site where children and parents together can answer questions, interact with the characters and videos from the sunday morning lesson, and utilize further bible discovery resources. it’s going to be really fantastic!

oh! and of course we would love help spreading the word about the curriculum. if you’re interested in tweeting, facebooking, blogging, or yelling from your rooftop – let me know! | @adolan | leave a comment


play with your food (?)

photo by Balla Tamas

i know. playing with your food is fun. i was an elementary education major and we used them&m counting bookall the time to teach our students math. it was fun.

then, when i began my first children’s ministry job, i created activities for kids that included making art out of food. noodles, coffee beans, and rice are the most perfect supplies for creating necklaces, and flower pictures, and musical instruments.

and all was fine and good. i played with my food and encouraged kids to do the same.

until, i began my next job. teaching underprivileged preschool children at a local head start school, and learned of our playing with food policy: don’t play with food. that was our policy. because 90% of our children were living below the poverty level, we needed to teach them a healthy approach to food. not only how to make nutritional choices, but how to have a positive attitude towards eating by sitting together for meals and learning to how to cook and prepare. and, at the school, we believed that when we used food to play with (create crafts, sort to learn colors or shapes) we were highlighting what you can do with food when you have extra, more than enough, and when you don’t desperately need it for eating – you can play with it, and maybe you start to take advantage of food’s intended purpose.

the policy made a lot of sense to me. in a western mindset, where we (usually) have enough food to eat, when we use our “extra” food for playing, we might unintentionally communicate a sense of wastefulness to our children.

what if, in our churches (whether we have families with plenty or little food) we didn’t use food for playing, but instead used our extras to highlight giving and serving to those without extras?

what do you think? does it make a difference if we play with food in church?

children + city = strong faith

i’ve been thinking a lot recently about the characteristics of parenting children in the urban context. last week tammy melchien,who is in the midst of launching acommunity church in chicago,pointed me towards a resource from tim kellerat redeemer presbyterian church in new york city.

the sermon titled “it takes a city to raise a child” is a fascinating look at the advantages of creating strong spiritual families in the city.  tim keller claims that 2 of his 3 children would not be interested in christianity had they not been raised in the city. i love the idea of equipping churches to build strong spiritual families in the city.

the sermon is fantastic, about 30 minutes long with a great question time at the end. below are my notes, but i would love to interact with you. take a listen, take some notes, and then share your thoughts!

3 cons for raising children in the city:

1. money: taxes and rent, it costs more to raise a family in the city

2. physical logistics: it’s difficult to get around the city with young children

3. educational complexities: too many options in the city that can prove overwhelming for parents

8 pros for raising children in the city:

1. the city environment provides real world experiences for children

2. an urban context for children undercuts self-righteousness towards parents and their faith

3. children are able to become more confident and self-reliant

4. children are able to handle diversity well

5. the city pushes the family together and creates more connection between home, work & activities

6. in the city, teenagers are able to more easily see a christianity that can be modeled and respected

7. more opportunities for parents to process real world events with their children

8. urban children do not generally have the same pressures to conform as suburban kids

typically, there are 3 factors for influencing a children’s faith: the influence of the holy sprit, the nurturing environment, and the choices of the child. raising a child in the city provides a great place for these things to happen.

fascinating! what do you think? would love your thoughts: city or suburbs?

what matters NOW (in print)!

i’m thrilled that our what matter’s now in children’s ministry eBookis now available in print! our desire increating this book was for as many people as possible to access the book in order to encourage conversations around what really matters now, for our children, for our families, and for our churches.

it’s been an absolute thrill to hear the conversations, and specifically to hear what word you are choosing to describe what matters most right now. and so, we thought the best way to spark the most conversations was to make the book available in multiple formats. so that’s why today, the print version of what matters now in children’s ministry is available! and of course, imago once again did the design – so it looks fabulous! we’re excited about the possibilities the print version will allow for further conversations. i’m planning to use it with groups i’m consulting, as a training exercise at conferences, and as a starting conversation with brand new volunteers!

but, i’m curious how you will use the print version of the book. and of course, i’m always interested in the word you would chose right at this moment to describe what really matters.

share your ideas here on the blog | on facebook | on twitter | on kidology | on cmconnect

[5] real world parents: ages 11-12

happy friday! happy blackhawks stanley cup championship day! and, of course day 5 of our real world parents blog series.

today, wendy douglas shares her thoughts on encouraging failure while raising tweens.

“please lord let my children be successful at failure.” isn’t the usual prayer of a parent, especially not the parent of an eleven or twelve year old.

preteens or “tweens” are at the in-between developmental stage where they are in the process of sorting out all the information and values they are exposed to. they are reaching out, questioning, and testing. children at this age are in a time of transition while facing more “adult” issues at an earlier age and beginning to make decisions that will have long-lasting implications. they are constantly evaluating whether or not they are fitting in and receiving approval. this is an opportune time for us as parents and those in children’s ministry to help them define success and failure in god’s story.

success in god’s story means something very different than that of the world’s story. the world views success as how much we do and have materialistically while god’s story is about what we do and have in relationship with him. our view of this has to be through the eyes of god and not people of the world. this is something that has to be addressed with preteens as this is the age where friends and media become the basis of self-view.

from mark matlock’s book real world parents:

“our ability to trust god and become more and more like jesus comes through our experience of loss. and often that includes our failures. ‘consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.’ james 1:2-4

failure is one brand of trial. james tells us to embrace the trials because they lead to trusting god and trusting god-perseverance in faith-is the definition of success for a jesus-follower.”

an important part of success is failure. as parents and leaders we have many conversations on success, but very few on how to fail well. the first step has to be addressing a child’s innate fear of failure, and that fear can paralyze, slow down, and diminish faith in god. then, we need to stop minimizing the impact of failure. many times we are too quick to put a “band-aid” on it and move on. lastly, we need to stop being afraid to fail in front of our children. they learn best by our example.

having this conversation with preteens is a way to help them define themselves and what success is by who god is. encouraging them to have a radical faith-living and walking in god’s story.

so i will be that parent that prays that my preteen is successful at failure.

thank you, wendy! such a fantastic perspective. grateful for your encouragement and challenge today!

wendy douglas: also known as saved sister 7 on both on her blog and twitter, is a children’s leader at summit church kidz in tennessee. she is a wife and mother to 4 awesome guys!

[4] real world parents: ages 9-10

day 4 of the real world parents blog series,and it has been a great week! if you’ve missed any posts, you can catch up here & here!

today, doug olson discusses ideas for parents with children ages 9-10. may it spark fresh thoughts for you today!

i recently read real world parents by mark matlock. as a parent i was impressed with how at ease mark made me feel. as a parent of 3 boys, ages 13, 11 and 10 and a girl, age 8, i often find myself questioning everything. knowing that i am held accountable for the spiritual development of my kids, everything from school choice to what they watch on tv to what they hear and repeat is constantly being evaluated and reviewed for it’s appropriateness. matlock put me at ease when he showed that each family’s dna is different. how encouraging!

matlock shows us that we all need to make a decision: do we follow the world’s story or god’s story?  as a parent i know this, the problem is how do we move to make the decision to follow god’s story for our kids. this is especially important for children ages 9-10 as these kids are learning how to make good decisions and use wise discernment. matlock suggests a series of questions that can be applied when kids are trying to make good media decisions. start by encouraging the child to consider, “should i watch this?” knowing that they should or should not watch a certain show is something a 9 and 10-year-old kid knows. but matlock suggests pushing the conversation further by encouraging children to make good decisions based on these questions:

  • have I had enough already?
  • have my parents said no?
  • will consuming (watching, listening or playing) this media make it easier to sin or do good?
  • will it make me struggle with fear?
  • will it cause me to struggle with sexually (yes even at 9-10 years old!) inappropriate, confusing or immoral thoughts?
  • will it cause me to struggle with anger? (maybe the biggest question for gaming and this age group)

these are presented as a way to help our 9-10 year olds think about their media saturation whether parents are present to help them or not. these steps are very practical and useful as a parent of these almost pre-teens who are enthralled with the world’s story. the hope is for them to be enthralled and live out god’s story.

i like the way matlock was straightforward and descriptive in his presentation of tools for parents to make sure the whole family is following and living god’s story. matlock was very particular in not making us feel like failures because we are messed up in our parenting. our kids were not born with instruction booklets. god did not spell out how to raise our kids. i was impressed with the practicality, specificity and ease of implementing some serious spiritual direction in our kid’s lives.

thank you, doug! a fantastic tool for helping our children make wise media decisions! lemon lime kids’ readers, i would love to hear from you – what are some resources you offer parents with children ages 9-10?

doug olson: doug is the father of 4 awesome kids(3 boys and a girl), married to his beautiful bride for almost 19 years and a teacher of the mentally impaired. after serving his current church as part time cm director for 4 years, doug is currently seeking god’s direction into a full time children’s ministry position with emphasis on families and parents.

[3] real world parents: ages 6-8

we’re continuing on in our real world parents blog series, today wednesday is day 3 and our focus is on practical ideas for parenting children ages 6-8. in his book, real world parents mark matlock refers to the home as an embassy. he writes, “our homes are embassies, safe havens, sources of hospitality, places where people can come and learn about our heavenly country. about the king who really saved us and whom we serve and follow” (p.66).

this idea of the home as an embassy really connected with me while i was thinking about the early elementary aged child. at this age, kids are actively involved in school, sports, music, art, and tons of activities with friends. it’s important for children at this age to have a safe place where they can relax, feel refreshed, and know they are unconditionally loved.

i love this practical idea from mark on how to create a safe environment at home.

it’s called a family toast! and the idea is to help families practice verbal communication in a safe and positive environment. here’s how it works:

plan on having a toast at a family meal once a week for as many weeks as you have eligible people in your household. assign each person (including the adults) to give a toast in honor of another person in the family—making sure nobody gets left out. the toast should be prepared ahead of time, be five to ten minutes long, and include the following elements:

  • a brief description of the family member’s history and current activities
  • a few words about some of that person’s best qualities or achievements
  • at least one personal story that shows that person in a positive light
  • optional: a verse, a prayer, or a blessing offered on behalf of that person

also, be sure to enforce the idea that this is not a “roast.” nothing should be presented that is unkind or potentially hurtful to the “toastee.” this is about honoring another person out loud and on purpose.

beyond that, encourage creativity. jokes and humor are important parts of giving speeches. quotes from famous people or the bible are often helpful. and it’s essential to keep this little toast to a maximum time; it’s never welcome to talk much longer than your audience is expecting.

a family toast as a practical way to verbally affirm children! i love it! have you tried this in your home? would love to hear how it went, or any additional ideas you have for considering the home as an embassy.

this activity and many others can be found at real world parents activities.