Bible, Life, Ministry, Uncategorized

Understanding the Bible

Understanding the Bible can be challenging at best and discouraging at the worst. It’s frustrating when you want to know more about God, be a better person, have a better life, and yet you can’t understand the manual. If you feel that way – or know someone that may feel that way – this post is for you!

First off, don’t feel like a freak. Everyone – at some point in their journey – has read the Word and gone, “Huh?”

Most people simply don’t announce that but it’s common place. Even myself, even the elders that I know, sometimes spend days or weeks on one passage trying to understand it by delving through concordances and Hebrew translations.

Reading the Bible is truly a journey. You’ll read a passage and it will mean one thing to you. Many years later, it will be more complex and mean something even deeper to you. That’s one of the most amazing things about the Word of God to me – that the Word never changes yet somehow it always adapts and becomes what you need in your very personal season because it’s alive.

Secondly, God wants you to understand and know Him so He wouldn’t give you a book that you couldn’t understand. He loves you and He want you to succeed.

So, here’s a sort of game plan for you…

1️⃣ Call on God

Don’t just open up the Word and expect it to make perfect sense to you. Don’t open up the Word and expect it to pertain to your moment. Instead of expecting the word of God to apply to what you think you need, go to God and ask him to open your heart and open your mind to what he would have that passage teach you no matter what’s going on in your life right now.

2️⃣Never give up

Often times, when something is difficult, we just want to give up. Reading the Bible is one of those things that, once you get going, you can’t seem to put it down. Unfortunately common too often, it’s that “once you get going” part that’s the challenge. As crazy as this may sound, the devil doesn’t want you to read the Bible. If you believe in God, you must believe in the devil. He knows that if you read the word of God you will become stronger and you will be armed for battle. So, you will find that distractions will occur, confusion will happen, exhaustion will come against you,… and it’s your job to stick to it and not give up.

3️⃣Trust God

You may feel like, “What does this have anything to do with?” when you are reading the Bible. That’s OK. Just trust God. Usually you will find that the information that you’re receiving, that your etching upon your heart, will be there when you need it though that time may not be right now.

4️⃣Not sure? Test it!

Don’t know if that passage was for you? Test it!

Ask your elders that are more wise than you, those that God has placed in your life!

5️⃣You were meant to understand His Word

As insulting as this may sound to some of you, the Word was written even for the most simplest of minds. Christ spoke in parables so that anyone and everyone could understand. We do not teach children in Sunday School for no reason. If they are capable of understanding the word of God so is any adult that so desires!

6️⃣Understand that you may understand His words, but may not understand all

Sometimes God reveals His words to us just when we need to understand them the most. Sometimes we hide a word in our hearts and at just the right moment the Holy Spirit reminds us of that word and it all suddenly makes sense. Then there are other things such as the idea that God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… How can one God be three entities yet one God? If we could all answer these questions, we would have no need for God. All of these things will be understood once we’re with Him. Until then, we have to come to terms with the fact that on this plane we will not understand it all.

7️⃣ Taste and see…

Challenge yourself. Give yourself a deadline. Test Him. Say to yourself, “I’m going to try this Bible reading thing for one year.” In my life, and all the people that I’ve met from around the world, I have yet to meet a person that has told me that the Bible returned void.

8️⃣ Testify

When you see that the Word is good and that it has changed your life for the better, remember where you were before the Word touched your life. Don’t just bury that. Go out and share your testimony so that someone else can have their life changed.

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Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it?

Start this 6 part series HERE or refresh yourself on the last article.


When I taught children a lot more than I do now, I used to often say, “God sends them to us perfect. It’s our job not to screw them up.”

So, when parents tell me things such as…

“My kiddo was just asked to not come back to church next Sunday as punishment for behavior…this is the third church we’ve been to. We’ll try again the next Sunday, but this momma is afraid we might be three strikes and we’re out.”

“I was dismayed today to have it reported that a nursery volunteer told a child ’you’re a bad boy’ in response to something he did. The church has such a profound influence on a child’s identity formation- we need to take care to reach children that they are beloved bearers of Christ’s image.”

it breaks my heart.


When I asked if I should write on this topic, parents said…

“Yes! I honestly can’t even take my children to church at times because they are trauma kids and need help. But they have been told they were bad, they’ve been put in time out, and I’ve been told that I’m not a good mom and don’t have control over my kids… I know they are tough. I live with them. I don’t need them to be hurt at church.”

Also…

“Definitely! I have that kid, and now when I serve in children’s ministry, I seek out ’that kid’ and their mom, and try to encourage them and love them both!! I also found that the teacher who I initially felt was tough on my kid turned out to be EXACTLY what he needed.”

I want to be clear about something though: all throughout the responses and emails I’ve received, the parents have been understanding! They’ve been understanding about a lack of volunteers, a lack of training, and more. No parent came across angry or unforgiving. Rather they came across to me as simply wanting a solution, and to be a part of it at that! Occasionally, they were clearly hurting, frustrated, confused, or fearful.


So…how do we fix this?

Well, first – as with any problem , a great part of the solution lies in communication. Just because it’s church, doesn’t mean you just hand off your child as you would with maybe their grandparents. Just as if you were interviewing a babysitter or checking out schools for your little one you need to know the situation they are walking into. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to sit in the back of the classroom and see the way they facilitate their class. It can be frustrating to experience the way a ministry may facilitate discipline, celebration, worship,… any list of things if you are not first aware of how they will be doing that, if you’re not already prepared.

As an example:

If you know that your little Johnny gets out of hand when excited then you need to be his advocate and be proactive. Don’t set him up for failure. If you know that your children’s ministry has exciting worship before their lesson, then maybe you go to children’s church during praise and worship and sit by him simply to teach him how to control himself and then wind down for the lesson…and then you leave. Alternatively, maybe you keep him with you wherever you are until the lesson starts and then you escort him to children’s church.

Another example:

If you know that your children’s minister calls people out by name and sends them to timeout but your child has experienced a past trauma that would be revisited or exacerbated by this, then speak privately with your minister and come up with a plan beforehand. Hit it off at the pass!

These were just some of the responses that I received from ministers when I asked them “What does your department consider a ‘problem’ that must be addressed immediately with parents?”

“Anything that a child brings up about their home life that could be harmful. That would be first and foremost. If a child is injured I would bring that up immediately with a parent. If a child wants to be baptized and has questions about Jesus or God, I would always pull the parent to the side and have a conversation with them. I never addressed behavior [with a parent] unless they harmed another child.”

“A ‘problem’ would be anything that is keeping the department or class from running smoothly. If a child were to hit, kick,bite, cause distraction, harm Church property or others, defy leadership. Any of these things happen, parents are notified.”

“One of the few times I had problems with behavior was if after many times of trying to redirect a child who was unruly (fighting, yelling out, being sexually inappropriate, cussing) I would send for their parents or if it was one of my inner city kids, I would get the superintendent. One instance I was able to turn around was a child who I suspected was dyslexic. The kids were teasing him. So I just rewrote everything on the chalk board for the class. No one could read it but the said child. Victory for him! Understanding and empathy for the other children [goes a long way].”

Do you see how very different all three of those answers were? Different churches, different ministries, different ministers will respond and direct differently! You need to know who and what you’re dealing with so you can be proactive.

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part…But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it…Yes, there are many parts, but only one body….while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-14, 18, 20, 24-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Second, you have to be understanding of your church’s limitations just as you are their positive aspects. Some churches are blessed with an over-abundance of volunteers in every department of ministry. Others are not. Did you know that children’s ministry needs the most volunteers yet typically is the very ministry that has the very least people that volunteer for it? Further, with things being the way that they are in the world now, churches find themselves having to go to the extra expense of paying for background checks. That cost alone can limit them to the amount of volunteers they can afford. Your simple offer to pay for your own background check could nullify that. Also, while there are many that love children and may be parents themselves, they may have not been given any training in regard to the teaching or caring of others’ children outside of or within a church setting…for whatever reason. If there has been no training offered, you should know that before your child has joined children’s church. If you have a problem with that, then you have some options: 1) you can volunteer yourself; 2) you can spearhead getting training brought to your church’s children’s ministry; or 3) you can take your chances knowing that or keep your child out.

When I asked ministers “Are all of your volunteers trained? Some? If so, how?” these were just some of the responses I received:

“[Our] churches do not have a lot of money for training and materials. We offer them the best training possible which is to tell them what we expect in each class/service. If something were to happen, we are to be alerted as the leaders of the department, and then we talk to the Parents.”

“All volunteers are trained before being placed in a classroom. Training takes place monthly for new team members and is required for all team members because it is held monthly in a team rally situation.”

“We took classes taught by church for training. I had an advantage in that I had my AA degree in child education and additional classes in special needs children.” Not all ministries have the luxury of having formally trained teachers, obviously.

Lastly, you must be an active participant. You can’t treat children’s ministry as if it’s a babysitting service and then be disappointed, upset, or angry when you don’t get the results you’re hoping for (e.g., your child knowing the Bible, knowing Christ, understanding repentance, your child ultimately accepting Christ). Babysitters don’t do anything other than assure that your child is safe while you’re away. If you treat it all as babysitting, then you should expect to get called out of church. After all, you wouldn’t expect your babysitter to discipline your child would you? If you treat them as a babysitting service, you would be shocked and astounded if you came to pick up your child and your child suddenly knew how to read a book.


You know…you may feel like they want to get your kids and to get rid of you at the door. If you feel that way, that’s probably not what’s going on. Teachers and ministers get in a zone just like the players of a game do. Seriously! They get totally focused on their “game plan” and are anxious to initiate it. So, don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I get involved?” Because just as you’re getting different responses here, you may get a very different response from your children’s minister!


When I asked “What do you think parents can do to be most beneficial overall and for their children specifically, in regard to their relationship with your children’s ministry?” These were some responses I received…

“The most important thing a parent can do is serve in kids ministry. Especially if they have a child in kids ministry. It helps them [that] you sweat and it’s not a babysitting service and opens up communication about their children’s faith. Children’s ministry is one of the most important ministries in a church and will help promote church growth if done correctly and parents are a big part of this.”

“Talking positively about the teachers. Calling them Ms. or Mr., not their first names. Speaking with parents separate from the classroom. No one needs to hear [about situations] but those involved. Not calling out or speaking about the issue in front of [a] child and [the] whole class. Talk about [the] problem, not [the] child, and without naming names!”

“In our department, we had parents who used us as babysitters. If they would see us as much more than that. We are pouring into the souls of their children for the sake of the Kingdom. If parents could put our classes and services on the top of their priority list, ensure their students are in class on time and as often as classes or an event are held, it only helps. If parents could remind students of how they should behave that would be great. If parents would communicate with leadership and let them know about any special needs the student has, that would be great! As volunteers freely give up their time to serve in the ministry, it is our hope that children and students will have a great time so parents can focus on their own class/service.”

No. You need to treat them and respect them for what they are – educators. They are educating your children on the very most important thing they’ll ever need to know in life – God and His will. Do you recall at the beginning of this series where I lined out how “kids” in the Bible learned?

In Christ’s time, a Jewish child was sent to school within the fifth or sixth year of his life. Until they were ten, the Bible was their one text book. From the ages of ten to fifteen, traditional law was their main subject. After the age of fifteen, they studied theology as it was taught in the Talmud. The Talmud is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years… The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out.


If with school you get progress reports, you meet with the teacher, you assure that they are behaving properly, you ask them what they learned that day…why would you not do that and more for their lessons on God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit? We are talking about their entire life on this planet and eternity!

Somewhere along the line we all get our priorities messed up, out of alignment, out of order. Sometimes our churches do. After all, they’re ran by us – deficient humans. Sometimes Churches get distracted by trying to entertain the children, trying to hem up the children, trying to grow the ministry. So too, though, do we parents get messed up and begin to treat children’s ministry as if it’s somehow less important than school, a reprieve from parenting for a couple of hours, not our responsibility.


So, today take responsibility for yours! If you feel like your children are being entertained rather than ministered, speak up. Do so with respect and patience; because these folks are working hard for your children.

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish when you are directed by the Holy Spirit and speak as Christ would. After all, complaints are usually filed away and put in one of two boxes in our minds: 1) “I can’t let it bother me”; or 2) the box of insecurities. When spoken to with suggestions and concerns, offers of assistance and encouragement, those words are often put into boxes like: 1) “That’s someone who’s on my side. I can work with them.” 2) “Maybe that’s who God is sending me to help me.” 3) “I see there’s an area I need to work on; and, I’m okay with that.”

Lastly, I would challenge you to pray for your children’s ministers and teachers. Are you praying for our president? Your governor? Your boss? Your pastor? You better be! And, if you are, then shouldn’t you be praying for all of those same people that influence your children’s lives?


Thank you for staying with me throughout this series. I pray that God has brought hope and forgiveness to parents. I pray that God has brought insight to teachers and ministers. Above all, I pray that this series is able to change the outcome of even just one of His children and the path that they take for His kingdom.


Do you want to do more with your children? You might start here: Focus on the Family’s Summer Adventure Kit! It’s completely free (but you can always donate) and is a great way for you to take an active part in the Biblical education of your children in a very fun way.

Do you need some more encouragement on a very real and specific thing you and your child(ren) are going through? I encourage you to check out Focus on the Family’s parenting website. They cover a variety of topics from newborn on up. To learn more about them CLICK HERE.

“Focus on the Family is a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. We provide help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God’s design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles.”

STAY TUNED: We’re on vacation this week but because so many of you have responded so well to this series, when I return home, I’m going to be doing a giveaway! Follow my blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and on Instagram and you’ll never miss a giveaway!

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? (5 of 6)

Begin this six-part series HERE or refresh yourself on the last part.

Then we encountered something God knew we needed – a group of people that just wanted to love my son. Even though my husband still did his leadership gig at “the big church” – and still does – we began attending at a church a ways out from our house. We knew, at the very least, that it was where our son needed to be to heal and we saw this very quickly. His first few Sundays he didn’t trust his teachers for obvious reasons. And…you know what? They thought outside of the box… without even knowing what had happened to him. I found out that Mr. Zach, the youth pastor, was taking him out to the inflated moon bounce every Sunday morning… just the two of them while class was going on. Then, after my son would burn off some energy and see that he was loved and accepted, Mr. Zach would take him back to class.


After a while, I only got random messages (about once every few months) from an usher asking me to check on him. My son would often get excited during music and not be able to calm himself down afterward. I’d sit in class and remind him of his expected behavior. These events only happened on days when there was only one teacher and she couldn’t do it all. It was completely understandable to me. It was a wonderful season for my son that allowed him to see that there was a healthy environment for him to learn about the Lord, away from Mommy’s house, where he could trust the teachers and others to love him and expect good behavior as well.


Thankfully, his preschool school year helped to solidify this as well. God showed us a great school for our son and placed him with the most perfect teachers ever. His preschool teacher was an amazing balance of firmness and love. She saw all that he had inside him: leadership skills, intelligence, zeal, etc. but didn’t allow her love for him to cause her to neglect to be firm and not reward him for poor behavior. No matter how many times he got put in time out or didn’t get “a bug in his jar,” my son never – not once – felt unloved. I told her many times, “This is your calling. Don’t underestimate that for a moment.”


I was beginning to gain perspective that these were all the growing pains of dealing with many other people very unlike myself. These were the growing pains of being made aware of a growing dichotomy between how the church once did things and now do things. After all my children are 15 years apart.


Then my son visited that same church as his preschool, of where he was so successful, for its Vacation Bible School (his preschool was not at the same church of which we attend). On the very first day of pick-up (a day of which included excitement because it was the first day, meeting new friends, bouncie houses, dancing, etc.) the teacher welcomes me by saying, “He was disruptive during music, bumping people next to him while dancing, so I had to pull him out of music.” I didn’t even get a “Hello,” y’all. I swear I am not making that up. Can I just tell you that it was one of those days and I barely made it to the car before I began hiccup crying in front of my five-year-old? That was never my intention. I don’t like to argue in front of my kids. I certainly don’t like to cry in front of them. I’m not saying those things are bad I’m just saying they’re not who I am or, try to be, in front of my kids. Was it an overreaction? Yes – to this one incident. But my reaction was one of a working mom doing her best and getting a “bad report” yet again.

And…it ruined my day. It disappointed my son. It was Vacation. Bible. School. Why was there even in a behavior chart? It’s four days of bible, songs, and games. We didn’t even have a behavior chart at church camp where we stayed overnight, let alone any VBS I ever went to or taught! Is someone going to tell me they do that at camp now, too?!


The following morning I had gotten it together. I told the teacher calmly and even pleasantly (because I had allowed God to adjust my attitude), “Please remind him to stay in his personal bubble during music time and he won’t accidentally bump into his friends. If you have any problems, though, call me and I’ll come get him.” I think that she read from my body language that if that were the case, he wouldn’t be back. Her entire demeanor changed so I believed the very best.


I was pleased when I picked him up to find out that just as I had adjusted my attitude, the teacher had adjusted hers. She shared with me how all of the kids had learned about their personal bubbles and they all stayed in their own. She shared with me her appreciation for me teaching her about the whole “personal bubble” method. God is good!


I had to remind myself that Matthew 22:14 says that “many are called but few are chosen.” I think that every parent has to remind themselves of that when they place their children in others’ hands. I also did something that some may think a little odd but I put my son in a shirt that I bought him last year. I wanted his teacher to remember something about him just as God was reminding me (Matthew 22:14) about volunteers and teachers. His shirt said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our children are. You know? Whether they’re perfect angels or being selfish. Whether you’re teaching a child that knows every single answer or you’re trying to teach that one kid that just acts as if he’s full of vinegar, God made them and He doesn’t make junk.



Come back tomorrow for the last installment of When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? I think it’s the most interesting and informative of them all! And…I have a surprise for you for staying with it through this whole series!

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? (4 of 6)

This is part 4 of a 6 part series entitled When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? Start HERE at the beginning or refresh yourself on the last post.


When my son was three, we attended a church that was pastored by someone who went to Bible college with a great Pastor-friend of ours. The church was exceptional. The children’s ministry seemed to be organized and exciting. The youth was on point with an outstanding youth pastor. The pastor himself delivered a good word every sermon. 

Bells and whistles went off, for me however, when I picked my son up one evening and the teacher – of whom has no medical background – tried to insinuate that my son may suffer from ADD or ADHD. I assured her that he was a typical three year old boy who was also under the care of one of the best pediatricians in the area. Then she proceeded to encourage me to put him in preschool – even though I worked from home – because “the consistency and discipline of being in a classroom environment would benefit his behavior.”


Now, I think every mom – at some point – has experienced the whole unsolicited advice thing; but, I’m sure you can agree with me that this was both a little over the top and above her pay-grade. It was unbelievably hurtful and worrisome for her to infer that my son may suffer from a very real behavioral disorder. Then she assumed my family had the budget to put my son in a preschool and that I would rather him be there than at home with me. All of this should have worried me and it did. I shared my concerns with my husband and he (and please know that I’m not throwing him under the bus here) assumed that this was just one woman who’s opinion didn’t matter a flip to him.

Well, a couple of weeks later I found my three year old in the nursery with the infants. I inquired as to why he was not in his classroom and they said that it was just easier for the class for him to be in there. I was hot. I was livid. I was ….. beyond angry. I was so angry, in fact, that I asked my husband to deal with it because if I dealt with it, I could not promise that I’d be Christian about it. So, my husband spoke to the women of the preschool classes there to assure that it would not happen again. He even offered for either himself or me to be in the classroom if there were any problems. They assured us there would not be and we were not called away from church… ever.

Fast forward about three weeks and while picking up my son a little girl who was about four or five very nastily says in a sing-song way, “Oh she’s here to pick up little baby Eli.” I would not have thought much about it except for the fact that one of the teachers quickly shushed her with a composure of utter guilt all over her face. I came to find out that this was a name that not only the children were calling him but a name of which had been perpetuated by one of the teachers. I guess they thought they would teach him to man up by calling him a baby and allowing everyone to make fun of him.


Can you imagine how I felt in that moment? Can you? I can try and take you there. I can try and explain the seething anger that vibrated through me like a coursing river. I can attempt to describe the way it felt as if my blood was quite literally boiling and the top of my head might blow off. I can tell you that my hands fisted and flexed and I took several deep breaths before lovingly taking my son and then not-so-lovingly looking at the teacher and saying, “You never have to worry about my son being a problem in your class ever again. He will never again darken the doors of this place. Mark my words.”


Pretty awful, yeah? Yeah. I thought so, too. For two years my son called it “the mean church” whenever we drove past it. We tried to never drive past it obviously because we didn’t want our son to harbor anything but good feelings towards a house of God. We would get something in the mail from them and he’d say, “The bad church” and I would have to redirect him. At three! Does that tell you the amount of hurt he had to have endured there that I wasn’t even aware of? I mean… most three year olds forget about their best friend saying they hate them the very day before but my kid held onto this for nearly two years.


Now, because my husband and I have been and are a part of different ministries we’ve experienced several different churches and, with them, their respective atmospheres. One church in particular that my husband must attend weekly because he has a leadership role there has an interesting approach. The woman who runs their preschool ministry does in fact run a daycare. With all due respect, this doesn’t impress me as it does others. It’s not a daycare. It’s church, as I inferred earlier. To me that’s like asking me to be impressed that a high school principal is my highschooler’s new youth pastor. The two are different vocations and require different approaches. I cannot tell you how many times my husband was called away to come tend to our son. There was simply too many times to count. At one point we were asked to come get him and take him.


I was done after that. I’m not saying whether they were wrong or right. All I can tell you is my opinion. In my opinion, you don’t kick ANYONE out of church. I mean…exactly how terrorizing can an overly-hugging motor-mouth 4-year-old be?! Isn’t that quite literally saying, “You’re not welcome in God’s house because of your behavior,” when in fact God’s word is constantly begging everyone – regardless of their background – to come unto the Father?


If my home church in Savannah, Georgia could lovingly tell fuddy-duddies that complained about the guy on the pew that stunk to get over their sensitive nose or find themselves a new church, then I’m pretty sure this much bigger church that is spreading its seeds all over North Georgia can figure out that church is where the hurt, lost, confused, and sometimes stinky people – whether in body or behavior – are supposed to be and that my four year old is welcome there no matter his behavior. They never wanted us to partner with them. They wanted our son to fit into their mold or leave. Seriously. That was it.


Come back tomorrow when I’ll share with you the hope we found, the hope God sent us. 

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it (3 of 6)

This is part 3 of 6 of When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it? Begin this subject HERE or revisit the LAST POST.


NO!

No, I did not do that. You know why I didn’t kick that child out of my class? Because you don’t teach a child by removing them from the classroom. I would have him immediately apologize to the child. I would inspect the “hurt” child in front of him and see that they were fine and put that child on a task. I would talk it out with him away from the other children, not embarrassing him. I would be firm and say, “We do not hit. Ever. If someone in this classroom hurts you or upsets you, you tell me. I will protect you and be by your side if something is wrong. If you don’t understand or you’re angry, you do not hit. You talk to me.” Between my being firm and my providing him a place where he felt safe – where he didn’t have to protect himself, he was able to just… be. He never hit a third time in my class.


This brings me to other children. I had some children that needed validation so they may be my helper for the evening. I had some children who were desperate to talk and show off how smart they were so they make it to read or act out a part of the Bible. I had some that were overly excited and had a lot to say so they sat in my lap and helped me from there. Why? Because he needed a little extra attention and I didn’t want him to distract the entire class. I would find myself saying things like, “Tell Mrs. Erin in her ear while the others work on their project.”


Never… not once… did I ever send for a parent. Ever. The thought never crossed my mind. I was a youth leader on Wednesday nights and kept children from infant to fifth grade on Sunday nights for at least 13 years. I never in that entire time called a parent. Further, it would have never even occurred to me to ask that a child be removed from the classroom or nursery. I remember separating a biter in the nursery and – after church at pick up – speaking to the mom and saying gently, “We’re going to work on not biting.” I remember being on a youth trip and the youth pastor and I pulling a kid aside and saying, “I know you have a smoking problem at home but you won’t be smoking on this three day trip. If you do, you’ll be sent home immediately and the cost will go to your mom.” Do you know? I don’t even remember putting a child in time out?

 

Who needs to be REMOVED from hearing about the word of God? 

Who needs to be REMOVED from hearing about the word of God?

Isn’t that counterproductive?! I mean… if we’re not to expect the unbeliever to act as believers, if we know we’re all lost without Christ, if we know that it’s the direction of the Holy Spirit residing within us that directs our path in the way in which we should go… then wouldn’t it stand to serve that we should be collecting everyone regardless of age and clutching them as close to the Word as possible? One would certainly think. I mean that’s fairly logical. Right? I mean… I am going on basic logic and Biblical knowledge here. I have had no formal training in either child rearing nor childhood education. I’m simply a mom.

Yet…what do we see in The Church now? We see our children being assigned numbers in order that a parent could see it flashed across a screen if they’re needed. Of course this is a great way of getting a parent’s attention if the child has gotten injured or something. (We just used to use ushers, though.) I mean: exactly how many parent-retrieving-worthy injuries do you really think are going on? Not enough to need a flash-the-number system, I assure you. No. As sad as it is, we have parents being called out of church because of the behavior of their child. As mind-blowing as this may be to some of you (and I hope it is) we even have children being removed from the classroom because of their behavior, some of them even indefinitely until a time for them to be reevaluated in the future. This is happening…in The. Church. Today.

This is hard for me because my two children span the spectrum. Seriously. My daughter was the perfect child. She was the most well behaved, intuitive, intelligent, respectful little girl you would have ever met. Everyone loved her – teachers, elders, peers,… everyone. Then… I had my son. I often joke that God had me wait 15 years because I needed to store up the patience necessary to raise him.


Quick rundown on the way we parent in my house: Biblically, with consistency, we give no slack because therein lies the path to madness, and we do our very best to love far more than we discipline. This means that if we’re disciplining hourly, there’s a lot of love that has to be given to balance that. There is no spoiling in my house. My children get no quarter with me. My “no” means “no” and that is the end of it. My children know where the rubber meets the road with me no matter how “cool” I may seem. I’m all kinds of cool and fun until you cross me or my rules. I do believe in spare the rod spoil the child [Proverbs 13:24]. (But don’t send me emails or nasty responses because I know that there is an exception to every rule and that that verse in the Bible may not apply to a child who has had a horrific experience in their past. I’m only referring to my children).


Now, that being said, my son is hell on wheels. Seriously. He’s headstrong, strong-willed, stubborn, and to make it all worse… he’s unbelievably intelligent. He’s going into kindergarten and reads at a 3rd grade level. Smart + Strong-willed = I think I know everything and far better than you…. which subsequently = a lot of discipline. He’s truly very smart and imaginative but thinks he knows everything and has the self control that most five year old boys have which means he has very little. He can’t seem to control his mouth and he’s excited about life in general. I’m well aware of the child that is my son.


So, if you thought this was where I was going to tell you how horribly misunderstood my child has always been in class, you’re wrong. Again, I’m aware of who he is and what he’s capable of. No. This is where I tell you that every single teacher he has ever had has been met by myself and my husband, we have told she or he that we are on their team and want our son to get the most he can out of their class while behaving appropriately, and have made ourselves readily available to them. This is also where I tell you that we have had experiences ranging in “Wow. That just happened.” to “Oh my dear Heavenly Father, tell me that did not just happen in the house of God.” I kid you not. At times it’s been a revelation and aweing. At other times, however, it was heart-wrenching and astounding in its hurtfulness.


Check back tomorrow when I’ll share with you the heartache we experienced…along with the hope. 

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: whose fault is it? (2 of 6)

This is part 2 of a 6 part series on When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: whose fault is it? Begin at Part 1 HERE!


When I asked my dad why he became a children’s pastor, he said, “To make a long story short, you and your brother started to go to children’s church; and, when you did, I wanted to go down there and see what y’all were being taught. There was a young man down there that – little did I know – wanted to rid himself of having to teach children’s church and… I sort of inherited it because of no interest by anyone else in the church. It became something important to me because I saw the effect that it was having on the children there.” My dad didn’t have lesson plans given to him. He created his own lessons; being a long-time Sunday school teacher of adults this wasn’t hard for him to do. He built inspiring sets, had puppetry, and even dressed me up as a giant cardboard Bible for the “Hallelujah Party” (aka Halloween). I’m pretty sure I’ll need hypnotherapy and psychedelics to remove that particular memory.

I think this is often how it happens. A person feels called into the ministry but not necessarily children’s ministry. Or, there’s simply a spot that needs to be filled. I know that, as for me, I kept nursery for many years and when my daughter came along there weren’t many volunteers for teachers. I believe in being part of the solution, not the problem. In other words, I wouldn’t complain that there were no teachers and then not volunteer. So, I found myself teaching my own daughter from Pre-K through 5th grade on Sunday nights. Don’t get me wrong, though, I felt a passion for it – a calling even. I had always volunteered in one capacity or another for the kids and youth. I’ve always liked teaching and talking about the Bible and love, love, love, children; so, this was truly a passionate thing for me and no burden at all. My only requirement, of which the pastor approved, was that I didn’t have to use the lesson plans that the church offered. The pastor knew my family well, knew my father’s teaching style. He understood that I would never deviate from the Bible, so he was fine with my creating my own lessons.


Why would I do this, you ask? Why would a person who was a single mom at the time and working full time, put upon her plate creating a captivating lesson plan each week for her students? I’ll tell you: because the kids could teach me about Noah’s ark and every parable known to man. They all knew them by heart but… not in their hearts. You know? They knew them like you’d know a song. They could repeat them back to me but couldn’t apply them to their lives. Further, they lost their excitement for the stories they had been taught.


Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com

So, I found myself asking them about their days at school, at home, what sort of situations they were dealing with; and we found the Biblical answers for what to do when your friend decides to not be your friend anymore. We found the Biblical answers for why we must be bold and at times quiet. These things were not over the kids’ heads. And… I’m talking about first graders, here. I mean children! These were real-life scenarios that we were conquering through God’s word. Not to disparage such stories as Noah’s ark and the parting of the Red Sea but they weren’t what some may call a “rhema” word. They weren’t the Word that these children needed at the time. They didn’t need the same stories regurgitated to them in a circular fashion for five years in a row. They were hungering for meat and yet still being given milk. Sounds very adult-y, doesn’t it?


Not to digress, as you may already think that I have, but this leads me to a valuable point: When you have people “teaching” Sunday school and children’s church that are really more of a daycare or day school coordinator or administrator, they are approaching the children from a caretaking standpoint rather than a spiritual or ministerial standpoint. When this happens, you find that your children’s ministry is treating your child as if they are a student in school rather than a church member – a child of God. For instance, at school if your child is disruptive, not listening, invading someone’s personal space… they will probably find themselves in time out. If this happens repeatedly, they may be asked to be removed from the class. Have you noticed any of these things happening in your church? If it feels as if that’s wrong, that’s because it is.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew‬ 19:14

If Christ says it, that settles it. So.. back to our regularly scheduled programming where we left off with Little Timmy and Little Molly having real world “adult-y” problems… 


And…just as with a group of adults, a group of children have very different… complex personalities. Sure, I always had my core group of children that I could count on to be called to attention under my authority; but… there were other children that I had sometimes regularly and sometimes not. Those children were the ones that I prefer to refer to as “unpredictable.” 


Unpredictable is not a bad word. It’s simply a word that means “not able to determine what will happen.” Some of these children cried at the tiniest thing because there was no continuity at home and slight changes terrified them. Some hit because they thought that was the only way to get something to change, however it ended up… they just wanted the situation changed. Some unpredictable children simply didn’t talk. They were shy. They were quiet. Some were quiet because they didn’t yet feel comfortable talking but once they felt part of the family you couldn’t shut them up. Other quiet children simply were observers. They preferred to keep to themselves yet were devouring everything around them.


Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com

We don’t kick the grumpy out of church. We don’t kick the person who talks all through service out. We don’t kick out the prostitute, the drug addict, the gang banger. So….why are we kicking children out of church? Don’t we realize this is setting a precedent in their minds? Is that how God deals with us when we’re difficult? 


As I write this, several children stand out in my head. One child was what some would label “a hitter.” I refuse to label children. I believe it’s a horrific practice. People today would never label a puppy “a bad, biting, puppy.” They would teach the puppy healthier behavior and simply call him a puppy; yet, in the same breath they’ll say, “That kid is a spoiled brat.” It’s awful.


Whenever a kid would do something unexpected this child would hit them. It only happened maybe twice with me. It apparently happened more often on Wednesday nights because that teacher asked me how I had stopped it. Simple, I called his mom and told her she had to come get him in order for me to protect the other children!
 Or did I?🤔😏

Come back tomorrow for Part 3 (of 6) of When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: whose fault is it? when I’ll talk about our approach to students, the Church’s responsibility, and ours!

Read Part 3 HERE!

Bible, Children, Church, family, Kid's Fun, Ministry, Parenting, Uncategorized

When Children’s Church Goes Wrong: who’s fault is it?


Have you ever had something you knew you had to do but really didn’t want to… for whatever reason? Maybe it was too personal. Maybe you knew you’d step on a few toes. Maybe it just hurt to do, was emotionally painful for you to do. That’s what this is for me. I guess I should preface this post by saying that I made a promise to God when I began writing my book and this blog: I would not write about the things He turned my heart away from and I would write about every single thing He wanted me to write about no matter how difficult.

So, here it goes…

What has happened to The Church’s approach to children, today?

Whoah. Let me take a step back. That could have read in an accusatorial manner. I don’t mean it that way. I’m genuinely asking this question, no matter how general it may be. What has happened over time? What has happened since churches were first formed? What has happened just within the last twenty years?


Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com

After all I’ve seen and experienced in my 39 years, I have to wonder if Children’s Church actually came to fruition because of an initial desire, or calling to minister more specifically to the children of a church; or if it was a way to do so while also having the added benefit of lessening distraction in the main sanctuary. Keep in mind, that I say this having a father who was once a children’s pastor. That sounds almost cynical and I guess, if I were to be honest, it is a bit cynical… but also realistic.

In Christ’s time, a Jewish child was sent to school within the fifth or sixth year of his life. Until they were ten, the Bible was their one text book. From the ages of ten to fifteen, traditional law was their main subject. After the age of fifteen, they studied theology as it was taught in the Talmud. (Fred H. Wight, Manner And Customs of Bible Lands, 1953) The Talmud is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years, beginning in the first century C.E. and continuing through the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out.


So, to recap: from around 5 years of age until 10 they’re learning the Bible…only. From 10 to 15 years of age they’re studying law. After 15, they’re studying theology.

I have to share this additionally because it’s … well, it’s beautifully written:

“There is a passage in the Mishnah (Aboth. v.21), which quaintly maps out and, as it were, labels the different periods of life according to their characteristics. It is worth reproducing, if only to serve as introduction to what we shall have to say on the upbringing of children. Rabbi Jehudah, the son of Tema, says: “At five years of age, reading of the Bible; at ten years, learning the Mishnah; at thirteen years, bound to the commandments; at fifteen years, the study of the Talmud; at eighteen years, marriage; at twenty, the pursuit of trade or business (active life); at thirty years, full vigour; at forty, maturity of reason; at fifty, of counsel; at sixty, commencement of agedness; at seventy, grey age; at eighty, advanced old age; at ninety, bowed down; at a hundred, as if he were dead and gone, and taken from the world.” (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life)


Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com

So, history shows us that the Bible was of the utmost importance and held in much higher regard than maths, sciences, a trade, etc. As you saw above, Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity and Bible scholar, said that within a passage in the Mishnah (a part of what comprises the Talmud) it says, “…at twenty, the pursuit of trade or business…” Prior to learning a trade, Jewish children are learning the Bible, the law, the Talmud, and even marrying. Yet, what are we doing with our children today?

Well, I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for myself and the parents in my life. Being a woman of God, of course I’ve done everything in my power to teach both of my children about God. I’ve done everything from talking of Him and the stories of His word daily in my home, to praising Him and worshipping Him in front of them. I have done everything from purchasing children’s bibles and VeggieTales VHS tapes to What’s in the Bible DVDs! We love, love, love JellyTelly in this house! It’s like Christian Netflix for kids! All of these things are great and I feel no conviction in this area if I were to be honest. I do reflect, though, on the balance – or possible imbalance – of the overall lessons I have taught them in their lifetimes and if it would be pleasing to God. Have I spent too much time on reading? ABC Mouse? Mathematics? When I should’ve left those subjects for the school and only focused on Bible? Only God knows at this point.


Before you go off on a tangent and think I’m some “crazy, hippie, Christian extremist” that’s telling you to throw out the school book and television and force feed your child Bible 24-7, settle down and read on.


You see, I’ve also taught my children music, art, sports, and language. I was teaching my daughter music and acting at a very young age. I was a voice major and a drama minor in college, after all; and, she has a beautiful voice and an abundance of talent. Of course I would! I loved seeing her have opportunities to minister within the church and at her school. As my son came along, I was excited for my husband to teach him all of the Korean language that he possibly had time to teach him for both of their own edification. I mean… how amazing would it be if God used my son to reach lost, confused, and hurting North Korean people? Can you imagine?! All of this is full of good intention. That’s what parenting boils down to, though, doesn’t it? Good intention.

I think that’s what Sunday School and Children’s Church boils down to as well – good intention. It’s like anything else in this world – there’s nothing wrong with it until it doesn’t line up with God. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what has brought me to this topic – when the church forgets its intentions for my child; or…when I do.

Check back tomorrow for the next part of this six part series: When Children’s Church Goes Wrong.

Be sure to follow my blog and you’ll never miss a posting! Read part 2 HERE!