Those of us who work with children know it. How we treat children is essential to their future…and ours.
But many have known it over the years. As revealed in Childhood and Society, the published findings from his research, Erik Erikson understood this. “Erikson believed the effectiveness of leaders in his day was limited by a major blind spot in their thinking. As they sought solutions to the problems of society, they ignored childhood. They made no connection between the ways in which children were raised and how they functioned as adults. No importance was attributed to the formative processes in childhood when considering cause or solutions for social ills.”[i]
You could have told him that.
And it’s not so different in our churches. Catherine Stonehouse has also studied children and states in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, her published research findings, that “church leaders suffer from a similar blindness. Although we claim to value children and give lip service to the importance of their Christian education, reference to their spiritual formation seldom becomes a significant theme in major strategies for the church. Often senior pastors leave the care of children to support staff and volunteers without having integrated the nurturing of children into the big picture.”[ii]
You could have told her that, too.
George Barna’s findings substantiate this fact, too. Barna, who says that in all his years researching adults and ignoring children he didn’t just miss the boat, he missed the ocean, says that “if you want to shape a person’s life – whether you are most concerned about his or her moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional or economic development – it is during these crucial eight years [5-12 years per Barna] that lifelong habits, beliefs and attitudes are formed.”[iii]
And you could have told him that, too.
Whether you are a children’s pastor, school teacher, volunteer Sunday school leader, parent, tutor or babysitter, don’t give up. You know what you are doing is important. Don’t forget it.
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).
[i] Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society, 104, as referenced by Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.
[ii] Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.
[iii] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, 18.
Posted in Family Ministry, Preteens, Reaching the 2.2 | Tagged catherine stonehouse, erik erikson, kidmin, leaders of tomorrow, proverbs 22:6, train up a child | Leave a Comment »
We just heard yet another news story about the evergreen tree with colored lights on it being called a “holiday tree” this year. We attended the Phoenix Symphony yesterday for a wonderful afternoon of “Holiday Pops,” where Santa Claus wished us all “Happy Holidays.” And last night a very kind Home Depot employee noticed my VBS t-shirt before telling us that he refuses to obey corporate policy and always wishes people a “Merry Christmas.”
All of this got me wondering, does it really make any difference? Perhaps the bigger issue is how we, who know Jesus, celebrate every day of our lives! In fact, instead of watching the world take Christ out of Christmas, what if we put Jesus INTO every holiday? Why not try celebrating a bit differently in 2013:
- On January 21 (MLK Day), honor God and Martin Luther King, Jr, by living in peace with others in so much as it is possible for you.
- On February 14 (Valentine’s Day), don’t just talk about love; set aside your ”wants” and do what’s best for another human.
- On March 31 (Easter), dedicate your life to enjoying the “life” (and life abundant) that Jesus came to bring.
- On April 22 (Earth Day), consider God’s blessings and see how you might be a better steward of all he has loaned you.
- On May 12 (Mother’s Day), consider how you might truly “honor” your mother, and her Creator.
- On May 27 (Memorial Day), remember those who have served you, by serving others in the name of Jesus. (Have you washed anyone’s feet lately?)
- On June 16 (Father’s Day), consider how you might truly “honor” your father, and his Creator. (I can always use a, “Thanks for trying hard to be a good dad,” from my kids.)
- On July 4 (Independence Day), confess the sins of our country and admit our dependence on him!
- On September 2 (Labor Day), thank God for your job…for the call he has given you to make a difference in the world!
- On October 31 (Halloween), recognize the reality of the spiritual realm, and be thankful that our God is a mighty God.
- On November 11 (Veteran’s Day), pray that Jesus returns soon, to end all wars!
- On November 28 (Thanksgiving), show your thankfulness for his blessings by not obsessing over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Be satisfied!
- On December 25 (Christmas), don’t worry about what Santa wishes you, but know that Jesus came so that we might have life and commanded us to made disciples of all the nations. Hey, maybe that should be our New Year’s resolution?
Gordon & Becki West
Posted in Life, Thoughts about God | Tagged a, Christmas, culture, evangelism, leadership, love, spiritual disciplines | 2 Comments »
The Key to Discipline: Giving students what they want!
We know it seems contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about nurturing children, but the quickest way to achieve a well-disciplined classroom is to give your students (of any age) exactly what they have been wanting all along. Let us explain.
Garrido, a researcher in the field of children’s education, says it clearly: “Children quickly become restless when they are given peripheral material, but concentrate and settle down when given what they have been hungering for.” The problem is that if we don’t know what our students are hungering for, we end up giving them the peripheral materials that cause them to be restless, i.e. to not behave well.
So what is it that children really want…deep down inside? While each child might have his or her own items to add to the list, we believe that it is safe to say that all children of any age in every culture desire a few simple things:
- To be treated with respect.
- To be loved unconditionally.
- To be given safe boundaries.
- And to experience deep, meaningful relationship with God.
While many of us work hard to create lessons that are polished and presented with great flair, we believe that some simple elements in each session can improve overall behavior.
Start your class by lighting a candle. While this may sound too “churchy,” children are very aware of symbols and your weekly reminder that God, the Holy Spirit, is present in your classroom will have great impact on your students and the depth with which they approach what goes on there.
Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just listening to God. Children often struggle with prayer because they think they have to come up with lots of big words. Ask your students to sit silently and simply listen for God’s still, small voice. Trust that God is willing and desiring to speak to your students and give him the chance. This very real connection with God combined with a quieting activity will help students focus.
Finally, engage students’ imagination in the Bible story. Instead of the teacher deciding the point of the story and telling her students how to apply it, try asking open-ended questions and making statements that cause students to think. Ask your students to “find themselves” in the story and then explain why they identified with a specific character.
Why do these approaches work? Each of these suggestions is designed to connect your students with God and God with your students…an essential way to feed a child’s hunger. But they also show the child that you and God both respect her, love her unconditionally, and are providing enough attention to keep her safe.
Give a child what he is hungering for, and he will be his best!
Posted in Discipline, Family Ministry, Reaching the 2.2 | Tagged discipline, kidmin, motivating kids, prayer, silence, solitude, thinkorange | Leave a Comment »
Although pollsters can’t seem to agree on the exact percentage of kids who are dropping out of church in the “gap” between children’s ministry and youth ministry programs, we all know that the number is high. Too high!
While many ministry leaders have used creative ways to prepare kids for the transition by overlapping leadership teams or visiting each other’s classrooms, for years there has been a critical element missing: relationship. But we’re not talking about “relationships” with other students and ministry leaders. We’re talking about that most significant relationship of all, the child’s personal and transformative relationship with God.
We say that “true Christians” have a “relationship with Jesus.” But let’s be honest. For most evangelicals, “relationship” simply means some unique standing I have that will get me into heaven for free. That kind of relationship falls far short of the intimacy that we would want with any beloved human in our lives and will never be transformative in the child’s life, nor mine.
That’s where “spiritual formation” comes in. For a few decades, leaders and ministries have focused on equipping volunteers to teach kids about God in the most effective ways possible. While this is good, teaching kids “about” God is only one piece of the puzzle. Spiritual formation engages kids with God. That’s very different.
The principles of spiritual formation are ancient and involve practices that have been exercised by God’s people before and after Jesus’ day. When we set aside time for scripture reading, prayer, fasting, solitude…in ways that slow us down long enough to listen to what God is saying…we are opening ourselves to the transformation process.
Children can encounter God personally through spiritual formation practices, too. If we trust kids to want God and we strip away a few minutes of the “noise” at church so that our students and our Lord have time to talk.
In their book, Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey, Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May share their research involving children who had engaged in spiritual disciplines in their regular children’s worship. Sam, a five-year old boy, tells them: “He just talks! He talks to us overnight, he talks to us, he never stops!” (p. 47).
Let’s not just change the name of our Christian education and discipleship programs to go with the new trend of spiritual formation. Let’s expose ourselves to the same spiritual transformative disciplines that helped Jesus as he grew in wisdom and stature. Then let’s share them with our children and students, trusting that a real God can and will speak to children who can and will listen. That relationship will keep kids coming back.
Posted in Family Ministry, Leadership, Life, Preteens, Thoughts about God | Tagged family ministry, kidmin, Kids, motivating kids, motivating preteens, outreach, prayer, preteens, Relationship with God, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Formation | 5 Comments »
While American churches are doing more than ever before for children, the most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them discover what they can do for others!
In the words of that great philosopher, Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” But just as the Whos needed Horton to stop and listen to them, so do our kids! KidZ KaN…make a difference! And they want to make a difference.
KidZ at Heart International is not a “foreign” missions agency. We are a mission for God’s kids, here and there! And we are passionate about equipping families in North America to reach and teach their own children for Christ.
And that’s why KidZ at Heart International is inviting you and the families of your church to register for our brand new KidZ KaN for Families program. Each month, your family will get easy-to-use tools to help you stop and listen to one another as you tour the world. You’ll receive creative, flexible activities that will help your whole family gain a heart for God’s work around the world!
In their landmark study, Search Institute tells us that “four family practices are particularly important in helping young people grow in faith:
- Talking about faith with your mother.
- Talking about faith with your father.
- Having family devotions or prayer.
- Doing family projects to help other people.”
And now your family can explore all four of these faith-formation factors through the creative activities of KidZ at Heart’s KidZ KaN for Families. Each month, you will receive an electronic newsletter focused on a new country and packed with creative ideas for you to use at your own pace, including:
- “Make It” (create a family memento or do a project together);
- “Play It” (enjoy a cultural game);
- “Pray It” (gather to pray for the real needs of real children);
- “Read It” (explore life in-country through a story);
- “Taste It” (follow a kid-friendly recipe to make a cultural dish).
KidZ KaN makes a great Christmas gift for your own family, your grandkids or your friends! Subscribe to KidZ KaN today for just $22 for the first year and get age-appropriate activities and discussion ideas that will easily fit into your busy family life. Know that this small investment will help fund ministries to children around the world, through the work of KidZ at Heart International.
KidZ at Heart wants to help you maximize those special moments with your family – and give your kids a heart for the world.
Posted in Family Ministry, Giving, Life, Missions, Preteens, Reaching the 2.2, Thoughts about God | Tagged 2.2 billion, Christmas, family ministry, missions, motivating kids, motivating preteens, outreach, prayer, reaching unreached kids | Leave a Comment »
From a press release dated May 17, 2012: “The U.S. Census Bureau released a set of estimates showing that 50.4 percent of our nation’s population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011. The population younger than age 5 was 49.7 percent minority in 2011.”
But why is this important? Because it’s strategic.
No matter what your thoughts are on the immigration issues so prevalent in the news these days, it’s obvious that God loves these young children. It is also obvious that many children are coming to and being born in our country, cities and neighborhoods, and children represent a very strategic way of reaching the world! As we welcome these young lives into our communities, let’s welcome them in the name of Jesus. (Remember, over seven million children in our world have not yet even heard that name for the first time!)
KidZ at Heart is being proactive in welcoming children in the name of Jesus!
KidZ at Heart International is not a “foreign” missions agency. We are simply a mission to children. All children. Red and yellow, black and white. Here or there.
And that’s why, with the help of some godly Hispanic leaders from churches across America, KidZ at Heart is launching Corazón de Niño. This weekend training conference will equip moms and dads and church leaders in the Spanish-speaking community to reach and teach their own children for Christ! This is one of the only Spanish-speaking children’s ministry training conferences in the entire United States. And Corazón de Niño is just one of the ways KidZ at Heart is seeking to reach the children of this world, here and there.
National children’s ministry leaders are joining us in our excitement, as no other organizations are meeting this need. Read what Idanerys has to say…
“For many years I have attended English trainings only to come back to my home church and have to translate all the material in order to share it with the volunteers, leaders, and families of my church. I am firmly convinced that the Spanish/bilingual training of Corazon de Niño will be an enormous blessing to the Hispanic community by providing information and materials in our own language.” (Idanerys Montalvo, graduate of KidZ at Heart training)
Now you can help, too!
- Consider giving just $49, one scholarship to allow a Spanish-speaking kidmin leader attend the conference.
- Prepare yourself for cross-cultural children’s ministry in your community by attending one of our regional sessions of KidZtitute! (English only) or Corazón de Niño (bilingual) this fall.
- Tell your Spanish-speaking friends about this exciting new training conference. They can get more details (in Spanish or English) and register online.
Who are the children that God is bringing to your neighborhood? What is being done to reach the children in the city or community next door to you? What is God calling you to do to help?
Posted in Family Ministry, Missions, Reaching the 2.2, Thoughts about God | Tagged bilingual, kidmin, KidZtitute, spanish, training | 2 Comments »