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On Sunday mornings, the hallways of our kids ministry are bustling. There are parents picking up kids, parents dropping off kids, and just a lot of conversations and connections happening each week.

I’ve found that it’s a great place for me to slow down and be present with families and kids. As families pass in the halls, I’ve heard one question over and over again. The question is:

Did you have fun?

I’m all for fun. I think fun is such an important ingredient to reaching kids, but there is so much pressure wrapped up in that question. ‘Did you have fun?’ implies that our primary focus should be spending 90 minutes entertaining kids. I wonder how I can compete the all the entertainment that kids have at their fingertips, and even more so I wrestle with the conviction that this should not be the measuring stick of Sunday morning. There is so much unnecessary pressure in this question.

This is also no knock against parents. Admittedly, I’ve asked my kids the same question. Every parent wants their kids to enjoy coming to church so that there’s not a battle every Sunday morning. I want to be more focused on how the Gospel connected with the heart and less on how the teacher did or did not entertain for the full 90 minutes. As a pastor, I can’t expect a parent to change the question they are asking until I’ve cast a vision for something greater. The more I heard this question, the more it caused me to think about the question I wish every parent would ask instead.

When a child comes running to the classroom door to head home with a waiting parent, I wish every parent would be excited to ask:

What did you learn about Jesus today?  

This question anticipates that children are learning who Jesus is and all that He has done to seek and save the lost. The immediate inquiry about Jesus means parents are excited to hear how their child is learning the riches of the Gospel. And this question provides our ministries with accountability to keep the message of the Gospel as the central theme to everything we do.

Think about this for a moment: If every parent asked that question, would your kids ministry provide kids with an answer? 

This is still not the predominant question being asked in our hallways, but I’m praying that it would be heard more and more each week. We have tried to explicitly emphasize the Gospel in every aspect of our kids ministry. There are other steps we need to take to get parents thinking and listening for how their child is growing in the Gospel. We will keep working on reaching kids with the Gospel and equipping parents to engage in Gospel-centered conversations with their kids. As we do what is humanly possible, I’m trusting in God and begging Him to fill our hallways with the question I wish every parent would ask.

Sweet Morning Prayers

October 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

morning prayers

One morning, I parked the car at school and turned around to talk to my 2-year old daughter. She was having a hard time with being dropped-off at school. And by hard time I mean snotty-nosed crying fits that left me feeling like a terrible father. As we talked, I asked her if she wanted to pray about it. I’d like to say that moment was my wisdom, but it was really just a moment of frustration and desperation!

We prayed a simple prayer that morning, but nothing really changed about the drop-off meltdown. I didn’t think anything else about the prayer until the next morning. As soon as I turned off the car, she said, “Let’s say a prayer?”

That prayer has turned into a moment that we share every time we pull into the parking lot. Before I can even turn the car off, she’s getting excited and ready to pray. Part of it is that she just likes to see her daddy talk with his eyes closed, but I think she also gets the point of Who we’re talking to.

As we were praying this morning, I was just reminded at how important those types of moments are for parents and children. As parents, we are called to disciple our children but we often don’t understand when or how to do this. These moments create a rhythm that is necessary to discuss and model faith.

This rhythm is a routine. It is not necessarily a sit-down Bible study that bores the kids to death. It is infusing Grace and the Gospel into every moment of every day life. These moments are special. They take the ordinary and connect the dots to the extraordinary. They will often lead to other moments. And the goal would be that the whole day is filled with moments that strengthen our faith and bring us closer to God. I think that’s what it means to disciple your children.

I want to find more moments like this to share with my daughter. I want to be constantly looking for teachable moments when I can help her see God’s Grace and the power of the Gospel. Even as a toddler, I want her to understand Who God is, what He has done and what great plans He has for her.

I don’t have it all figured out. No one has called and asked to make a documentary on my life because I’m an expert of discipling my children. I doubt that will happen. But, I’m thankful for our sweet morning prayers and what God is showing us in that time.

design23Yesterday, I got the opportunity to have a meeting with a future volunteer for our preteen ministry. His name is Sujay. Sujay communicated an interest in serving through our church-wide recruitment, we talked a few times via email, and then we set up a meeting to chat on Sunday morning.

My goal for the conversation was to get a feel for Sujay’s skills and work experience because he had signed up to work in a tech support role. As we talked, we got onto the topic of why he wanted to serve. His answer was amazing.

He shared with me about how he was growing and maturing in his faith while attending our church. He was so excited about everything that he was learning and applying to his life. He decided to serve because he wanted to have another way to worship God. Let me repeat that. He wanted to serve as an act of worshiping God.

This guy has “IT.”  I was ready to sign him up for a lifetime commitment. And just when I thought the conversation couldn’t get any better, Sujay floored me.

He wrapped up our conversation by asking about our plan for training young leaders. He shared his desire to take what he has learned and pass it on to the next generation!

We’re less than a month away from the launch of a new ministry year. I’m so excited to see what God does through an amazing group of leaders just like Sujay.

This past weekend was a powerful one. Saturday, we hosted a retreat for preteens and parents. We had 36 families attend what turned out to be a very powerful day. Then on Sunday, we met with over 200 parents to cast vision for the future of preteen ministry. The room was buzzing with excitement!

Each event was significant enough to talk about for hours, so I’m breaking this post into two parts. Part one is all about the Preteen/Parent Retreat.

Our prayer for the weekend was to connect preteens and their parents in powerful conversations about life and faith. We petitioned God to show up, and He did in a powerful way.

Here is a copy of the schedule and handouts we used for the day. I’ve also included my notes for the talks that I gave in Session 1 and Session 2. (I also have Prezi presentations for Session #1 and Session #2, if you’re interested)

Preteen Retreat Handout
Main Session 1–Communication
Main Session 2–Letting Go of the Bike

 

Main Session #1: Communication
In the first session, we began with a game of “Telephone.” Round 1 was complete chaos. We had 80s music blaring, the repeated message was just ridiculous, and you could only whisper it to the next person once. Needless to say, the message was lost in translation.

Round 2 was different. We kept the room completely silent and had each team repeat a simple message out loud as many times as needed. They could also write the message down and pass it on. Of course, the message easily passed through the line.

Round 1 is much like our lives: chaos, distractions, and a failure to repeat important messages. Round 2 is what preteens need: clear message, repeated often, sometimes even in writing. The game was the perfect segway into a talk on communication.

We focused on very practical steps for parents to carve out time to talk about the important things with their son or daughter. Parents and preteens worked together to choose 3 times that were best for them to talk with one another. Then we gave them 3 important topics to talk about with preteens: Life (day-to-day events), Faith (where do you see God in the dad-to-day events), and Prayer (pray for and with one another).

We closed the session by asking families to create a calendar that included their specific talk times and talk topics. They put the dates on paper and made a commitment to one another to honor those talk times for the month of May. Our prayer is that committing to one month will lead to long-term commitment.

 

Main Session #2: Letting Go of the Bike
The second session was all about the philosophy of “Letting Go of the Bike” from FourFiveSix.org.

We started in a fun way with a bike race. We put parents on toddler bikes and watched them race through the parking lot. Before the race, we had every parent hand over their camera phone to their preteen. It was so cool to watch them snapping picture after picture of their parents!



In the session, we talked to parents about how to help their preteens take ownership of their faith. It was a great conversation! Several parents were hearing their preteens discuss their views on faith for the first time. They had some great ideas for how to live out faith in their home and in their community. As a practical example, we had preteens shout out attributes of God—loving, powerful, all-knowing, provider. Then we had each family pick one attribute of God and share how they saw Him be that in their lives. Dads, Moms, and Preteens were all sharing ways that they have seen God move in and around them. So cool!

 

Main Session #3: Dr. Robert Lewis
After lunch, I took preteens outside to just run off some pent-up energy. Meanwhile, parents got to hear Dr. Robert Lewis, founder of Men’s Fraternity and author of Raising a Modern Day Knight, share about parenting. He dropped so much wisdom that I will share in another post. After an hour and a half, the parents were begging him to keep going and give them more!

 

Closing Ceremony
We closed the day with a very special activity. We gave every individual a pen and piece of stationary, and we asked them to write a letter. Preteens wrote a letter to their parent(s) with three parts: thanksgiving for their parents, a plea for them to stay involved and lead them, and a prayer for their future relationship.



Likewise, parents wrote a letter to their preteens telling them how much they love and value them, the characteristics that pray their child has at 18, and a spiritual blessing for their child. After the letters were written, the families reconnected and had a special time to read the letter to one another.

This was a very special moment to end on. At one point, I looked out a window and saw a dad and daughter clinched in a bear hug. I went on doing something else for about 5 minutes, and when I looked up again they were still in that bear hug. She had tears streaming down her face, and she just wouldn’t let go of her Dad.

We wanted to connect the hearts of preteens and parents in this unique stage of life, and we prayed that God would do more than we could ask, think, or imagine.

He did. He definitely did.