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The following is an article that I shared last year on the Fellowship Bible Church blog. In just a few weeks, we will send our daughter to her first day of Kindergarten. I’m excited about practicing some of these notes, and I thought it might be helpful to other parents.


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It’s time to go back to school.

I can hear the collective groan of children from all over the city. The memory-making events of summer are coming to a close, and parents’ days will soon be filled with school supplies, homework, pickup lines, and trying to fit all five food groups into that tiny lunch box!

I dreaded the first day of school every year. Well, every year except for one. The year I started second grade, my excitement was off the charts. I just knew that I was going to be the talk of the school because of my new G.I. Joe lunchbox.

This lunch box was bright red with locking latch. The front was decorated with the battle-ready cast of the cartoon. But the pièce de résistance was the Thermos. It featured a matching G.I. Joe design, and it had the lid that could also be used as cup. There was something classy and sophisticated about a second grader who could pour Kool-Aid into a cup and sip as if drinking tea with the Queen of England.

Whether your child has a G.I. Joe lunchbox or a paper sack, you can make it a great discipleship tool by including a special note from you.

Deuteronomy 6 specifically commands parents to pass faith on to children as they go throughout the day. Imagine your son or daughter sitting down for lunch, opening their lunchbox, and finding a special note from you to remind them of who God is and what He has done. These lunchbox notes can be your way of speaking Truth to your children even when you can’t be with them throughout the day.

Three types of notes that could be used to disciple your child through their lunchbox:

Affirmations or Encouragement

Every child needs and wants to hear encouragement from their parents. As you see the unique gifts and character that God has placed in your child, be sure to acknowledge and affirm that to them.

Try not to make this about their performance. Instead, focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing in them and through them. An example might be a note that says: I have noticed how patient you are with your little brother lately. I can see the Holy Spirit working in you.

Scripture and Prayer

There is nothing more necessary for children than to know Scripture. In a world of information, some children may not understand the authority of the Bible. As a parent, you can help them to store up God’s Word in their hearts.

This type of lunchbox note can be as simple as a Bible verse that you’ve been talking about as a family and a prayer. It might also include a question that the family will discuss at dinner. For example, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 God, help Maggie know that she was created in a wonderful way for a wonderful purpose. Help her to feel Your amazing love today!

Challenge

What kid doesn’t love a challenge? As children are growing in their faith, challenge them to apply it. This type of lunchbox note is geared to helping your son or daughter be more intentional in how they live out the Gospel in their school. Here’s an example: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 I challenge you to ask a friend or teacher this question: What’s one thing that is making you worry? Tonight, our family will pray for that person and for God to give them peace in that one thing!

The beginning of the school year is a great opportunity to be intentional in the discipleship of your child. As you’re packing their lunch with PB & J and handi-snacks, write a special note to encourage them, pray over them, or challenge them in their faith.

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Every human is created to worship something. God designed that something to be Him, but, as Romans 1:25 says, we tend to focus on the created things rather than the Creator. This can be especially true with children.

So when we dreamed of where to begin with the FellowshipKids app, it only seemed right to help kids see God’s power. Paul Tripp says, “Only when awe of God progressively replaces awe of self will we joyfully, willingly, and consistently live as God designed us to live.” We want kids to develop an awe of God that radically transforms their every thought, word, and action.

Here are a few ways you, as a parent, can help your child develop an awe of God:

Point to the Powerful Works of God in Creation

God has filled the whole Earth with His glory, which means every where we look is a reminder of His power. When you see a beautiful sunset, a powerful thunderstorm, or a fresh snowfall, make every effort to point to the Creator behind the creation! Take a moment to say, “Wow! Isn’t God amazing? Just look at what He made to remind us of His power.”

Verbally Thank God for His Power at Work in Your Life

God’s glory and power is on display through creation, but sometimes His power comes in less visible ways. My wife was driving with our 2 daughters in the car when she realized that the gas gauge had slipped way past empty. In a moment of panic, she started looking for a gas station and told the girls just to pray! When they coasted into the gas station for a fill-up, the girls celebrated that God had answered their prayer. Whether it’s big or small, take time to talk with your kids about the way God answers prayers and works in your life.

Let Yourself Be Overwhelmed by the Power of God.  

Many children will learn to value the things their parents value. Concentrate on setting an example by living in awe of God. Find wonder in His grace that saves and sustains you. Find peace in His power that protects and guides you. Find joy in the relationship that He has chosen to have with you. And let your children see you be overwhelmed by an awe of God.

This article was originally posted in the Parent Talk section of the FellowshipKids app. To download the app, click here.

books that helped in ministry

7 Practices of Effective Ministry

Strategy. I was handed this book when I was just a part-time intern during college, but I have kept at least two copies in my office ever since. I’m always passing 7 Practices of Effective Ministry on to other ministry leaders! This book is all about strategy—why we do what we do. It has helped me to be intentional in ministry and keep focused on the end goal.

Holy Discontent

Passion. I don’t remember where I picked up this book, but I’ll never forget reading it. Holy Discontent gives some great examples of how God ignites a passion in our hearts that will not go away. It is that issue or cause that keeps you awake at night and calls you into the fight. Hybels labels it our “holy discontent.” The insights of this book have helped me discern God’s call on my life and challenged me to pursue that passion with everything.

Next Generation Leader/Making Vision Stick

Leadership. These two books are made to be read together. Next Generation Leader gives a great blueprint for strong leadership. The tips given in this book are designed to develop a long-lasting leader. Reading this book on leadership with Making Vision Stick really has helped me to survive in ministry and navigate through tough changes.

Let the Nations Be Glad

Perspective. I love John Piper and his zeal for Christ. Let the Nations Be Glad provides a great perspective for any Christian, but especially those in vocational ministry. The book can be summed up from Piper’s quote of the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Even when ministry gets hard and distracting, it is great to know and understand that God created me to glorify and enjoy Him!

Parent Meeting

No matter what age group you minister to—children, preteens, or students—parental involvement is essential. Parents need to know about your ministry so they feel confident that it is safe and secure. They also need to know how you will equip them and call them to disciple their sons and daughters.

One of the best ways to communicate vision and strategy with parents is to host a Parent Meeting. Bringing parents together in one room can be very beneficial, but it takes planning to be effective. Here is a basic outline for how to plan your next parent meeting.

Step 1—Invite Parents

Guess what? Parents won’t know about the meeting unless you invite them! Send out an invitation (via print or email) at least 1 month in advance. Give them plenty of notice so that they can make the meeting a priority in their schedule. Try attaching some meeting details to the invite. Let them know what the meeting is about and why it is so important for them to be present. Be careful not to give too much away! The best invite will communicate two things to parents: urgency and mystery.

Step 2—Create a “Wow” Environment

You may only have one chance to connect with a parent, so make it count. Use videos, bulletin boards, or testimonies to highlight what God is doing in your ministry. Make the room comfortable and provide refreshments. Who doesn’t love some warm cookies??

Step 3—Keep Content Limited and Focused

A parent meeting is not the time to try to cover everything you’ve ever wanted to tell parents. Try to focus on one topic that is relevant to your audience. For example, you might have a parent meeting that trains parents on how to have a family devotion or how to share the Gospel with specific ages. Other focused topics might be specific to your ministry vision or strategy. If you need to cover multiple topics with parents, it may be better to consider a parent retreat or a parent discipleship class that meets over several weeks.

Step 4—Leave Room for Discussion

Every group of parents I’ve ever met with has requested more opportunities to talk about issues with other parents. Talking with one another helps parents to get ideas and share their stories. It also helps them to see that they are not alone in their struggles and failures. Encourage parents to break into small groups and discuss the information covered in the meeting. Provide some discussion questions for the parents, and ask them to end by praying for one another in their groups.

Step 5—Provide Action Steps and Follow-Up

When the meeting is over, it will feel like a huge success—mainly because it’s over and one with! However, the true test is whether or not the meeting led parents to take action. Give some specific action steps and ideas for parents during the meeting, and follow-up with them 3-6 months later.

Here’s an example of action steps and follow-up. We hosted a parent meeting last spring on the topic of adolescent transition and sexual purity. At the end of the meeting, we gave parents a copy of Passport 2 Purity to use with their child. We asked parents to schedule a purity weekend with their preteen sometime this year, and then send us testimonies about their weekend once it was complete. It’s amazing to read the emails we’ve already received from families that have taken that step. At 6 months (mid-November), we will follow-up with all parents and remind them about the call to take that step with their preteen. Instead of a one-time meeting, we’ve managed to create a year-round conversation. It’s all about the follow-up!

If you haven’t hosted a parent meeting in your ministry, I strongly encourage you to do so. Parents need to have a major role in your ministry if you want to be effective. Parents have far greater influence and time than anyone in your ministry, so find a way to connect with them and leverage that influence for good!