Child abuse prevention is important topic for us to engage in- for church staff, volunteers and parents. It is a reality in our society which the church cannot hide from. In fact, the church is often a place perpetrators will seek out vulnerable children. Keeping Kids Safe Training is a combination of presentation and dialogue . Keeping Kids Safe training will be provided several times a year, the next date will be fall 2012. Questions about Keeping Kids Safe Training can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
45 “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel…” (45-46)
No. Not shock and awe. How about a big sigh of relief from all the parents? A “woo-hoo” and a “HALLELUJAH”!
It begins the moment your child arrives. The deep and supernatural need to provide for, protect, love and sacrifice everything for your beloved child. Whether this child is born from you, adopted by you, or given to you by some other means, when you become a parent something changes inside of you. We want to be good at what we do. We want to be successful. We want to be proud of what we contribute to the world, including our children. And we have this natural ability to compare our kids to other kids…it’s quite a talent we excel at right? [okay, maybe I’m speaking for myself].
This privilege and responsibility can weigh on us like a burden rather than a joy though. We fight the “Terrible Twos” (and threes in our household) like we can somehow conquer them, rather than embrace the delight inside of them. We tell when-I-was-your-age stories, and say the things our parents said that we promised we would never say (“Because I said so!”, for instance). We proudly display all the brilliant things our kids say and do, all over our facebook pages, or the walls of our homes, but quickly delete or throw away the ordinary or not-so-great momentos. We scrub up and dress up, and accessorize our children so that their outer appearance reflects what we long for on the inside- a well put together, properly behaving, kind and mindful child, oh and don’t forget smart, intelligent, moderately genius with a heart of gold and faith like Peter.
Well, to my great delight a year ago, I discovered that while I wrestled with some un-identified personal expectations (as named above), there was another way to live as a parent. A co-worker handed me this article, “The Myth of the Perfect Parent”, by Leslie Leyland Fields and it was like a breath of fresh air for me. I recognized a desire to strive for perfection in parenting, that was a desire I did not need to have. From personal experience, I will share it is quite freeing to accept that I will not be a perfect parent, nor have a perfect child- and that is a beautiful thing. There is no one-parenting-method that works for all, nor do I have cookie-cutter kids who fit into my “parenting style”. Rather with humility and sincerity, I call on my Heavenly Father, the Ultimate and truly Perfect Parent- to guide and direct me as I love and serve, teach, and nurture each of my children, individually, to help them experience their own path to God. I am thankful for this passage of scripture that speaks of both power and love, but does not expect perfection from me, and reminds me of forgiveness, grace, and mercy when I fail.
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
As I am freed to live life not striving toward perfection in parenting, I am more aware of my need for God’s love and Christ’s presence in my life. The only way I can now parent is by extending that love to my children. No matter what my kids do, say, or how they act- I can love them through it, despite of it, and because of it. I cannot solely rely on my ability to mold their behavior, teach them what is proper and what is not, educate their minds, and get them enrolled in the best schools, clubs, sports, etc. to help shape them into the man or woman they are called to be. It is in experiencing the hi’s and lo’s of daily life- getting back up when I fall down, going to my knees for help, and giving love from the outpouring of my full heart- that I learn how to parent, and my children learn how to live. I cannot be Jesus for my children, I can only point them to Jesus (Fields). So I am proud to say at the top of my lungs, “I AM NOT A PERFECT PARENT!”, what about you?
Wednesday, March 9 marks the beginning of the Lent Season on the church calendar. For many of us, Lent- the 40 days leading up to Easter- come and go without much thought. Maybe you’ve been told to fast or give up something, but like that January new year’s resolution it just doesn’t happen so you have given up on the idea of fasting. Maybe you have heard the sermon that Lent is not so much about giving something up, but choosing to do something intentional in those 40 days, but again, with your full plate and (let’s just be real honest here) maybe a lack of desire to add one more ‘to-do’, you opt not to fully dive into Lent.
The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like Christ.
May I suggest an alternative to giving up something or feeling the need to add one more chore to your chore chart this Lent? As parents, we have a daily responsibility to care for our children, and to model love for Christ-no matter how imperfect or fragmented our ability is to do so. Our kids see all the good and bad in that. All the hugs and kisses, all the demands and reprimands, they see much of the frustration and exhaustion, lack of patience, and also our attempts at being good parents, strong parents, involved parents, loving parents.
So as you go about your daily tasks- consider reflecting on this question- is there anything in my life hindering me from being more like Jesus? As you make meals for the family, carpool or go on outings, commute to work, eat dinner together, share bedtime snuggles and nightly prayers, clean the house and attend the sporting events…let these be the moments for Christ to speak into your life…to transform your thoughts, your attitudes, your words, your actions.
At the end of the day, I am thankful for grace. It is what helps me sleep at night and get up in the morning, because I know, no matter how I have failed or succeeded in that day to be a good example for my kids, and to live my life fully for Jesus, He loves me and forgives me and calls me His own. During the Lent Season, similar to that of Advent in preparing for Christ’s coming, I want to be more acutely aware of that grace. As I prepare to mark Christ’s death and resurrection on Easter Weekend, and the impact that has on my own life, I want my soul to be searched, the dust in the deepest corners of my heart to be cleared, that soul spring cleaning to take place, so that in the ordinary moments of my day I can faithfully live out and pass along a legacy of devotion to the Heavenly Father who loves me, the Son who knows me, and the Holy Spirit who moves me.
“Does your church have childcare?”
“How much do you pay your babysitters for Sunday services?”
“How do you do lessons with 5 year-olds?”
“How do you get volunteers to teach bible stories to preschoolers?”
“Where do the kids go on Sunday’s anyway?”
“I’ve never been down to the basement before!”
These are a few of the questions and comments I get asked on occasion (or quite often) in conversations with children’s pastors/directors, church visitors, or even members of our very own congregation!
I smile a gracious smile, push away the bothered thoughts, and typically reply, “Oh yes, we believe that children are a valuable part of the life of the church, have a place in this community, and are called to be in relationship with Jesus! We consider it a privilege to share the love of Jesus every Sunday with, not just gradeschoolers, but preschool, toddlers, and even babies!” It’s not always that detailed, but usually I can pull it off without getting too upset.
I am sorry (well not really). Maybe I am a little biased. Maybe it is the 16 years I have spent in children’s ministry, serving babies through 5th graders that have helped me understand the significance of ministry to children. Maybe it is the positive impact that children’s worship services, family services, overnight church camps, vbs’, sunday school classes, mid-week programs, teachers and mentors have had on me. Maybe it is the fact that from a very young age I felt secure in my faith- not a life without doubts, distance from God, and struggle- but an awareness of God’s presence in my life, and God’s love for me that goes far beyond how I act, what I may say or do, or how I may feel at any given moment. Am I alone is this?
You know the great thing about working with babies and toddlers at a church? It is through the simplest gestures that we can share God’s love, grace, and truth with children. When we change a diaper and feed a child gold fish we model God’s provision for our daily needs; when we tell a story or wipe a tear we are letting children know that what they feel matters, that the stories we can tell are important, or simply that they matter to us. When we help children enter the story of baby Moses by playing with a basket and a baby we demonstrate to them how faith is a hands-on experience that they can have every day. When we read stories from God’s ‘Special Book’ we are introducing both a love letter and a manual for living a faith-filled life, that they can carry with them for the rest of their days!
With every dedication and baptism class I teach to parents, every newborn I pray for in the hospital, every dedication and baptism service I am a part of, I am convinced more and more that God’s seeds of love must be planted at an early age so they have time to take root, grow strong, and withstand the winds and storms of life.
Every new day I spend at home with my 2 and 3 1/2 year-olds, praying over a meal, reading stories and snuggling together, entering an imaginative world of play, or struggling through toddler tantrums, working through discipline issues, navigating expressions of independence or willful defiance- I become more and more aware of my need for God’s wisdom and guidance, more aware of my need for God’s forgiveness and grace, and more aware of my children’s needs for these very same things. And I want my family to grow with community. Not alone. God did not create us to be alone in our journey. I am thankful for the people who help me take care of my children on Sunday mornings and share God’s love with them as I try to everyday.
There is a crisis in the Church. Too many people are convinced that faith isn’t really real for a child. We often hear the story that a child might accept Christ at a young age, but ‘make their faith their own in middle school/highschool/college’. Does that mean that the faith experience of their childhood does not matter? Certainly not!
What stories of hope can you share about working with babies and toddlers?
Contributed by: Minhee Cho
It has been almost 12 years since I had my first baby. During pregnancy with her, I prayed for my baby since I did not know what she would be like. I prayed for her health, personality, and her gender (with my preference). I also prayed for a fast and painless labor. After my daughter was born, my prayer changed. I prayed that she could sleep through the night! My prayer was all what about my basic need-sleep. Well, God was so gracious that He did not answer my prayer how I expected. Instead, He showed me what my daughter went through. My husband and I found out that she had severe eczema and food allergies. While my daughter cried every night- I learned that people felt extreme itchiness right before sleep- I prayed for good sleep for myself. I remember that I needed to sit by my daughter whenever she was awake so I could prevent her from scratching. I felt so helpless and exhausted, and I cried out to the Lord, “Lord, what are you doing? Do you see me and my daughter? I can’t do anything. I’m just watching her. Please heal her and help me!” And suddenly, God showed me a picture that He sat by us closely. “Minhee, when you are sick and feel lost, I sit right next you and hold you.” God was right there for us and held us tight. As I depended on God, God comforted me and God promised that He would take care of my daughter.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. -Ephesians 2:22
I had two more children after my first born, and I began to pray for their health and safety every day. When they were toddlers, I did not need to pray for them much since they were with me most of time. After they began to attend school, I asked more about God’s presence and protection over them because I realized that I could do anything over them. When I felt helpless, this thought came into my mind. “Minhee, these are my children. I sent them to you so you can love them and pray for them. They will learn about Me through your love and prayer.” The children were getting older and they faced different challenges from school, teachers, friends, and self. Thus, I started to pray for teachers, school staffs, friends, their families and myself who take care of them daily basis. I prayed for God’s daily bread through different people so my children can have their needs met and grow with God.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” -Matthew 3:17
One single mom found comfort in daily listening to God: “In my situation the best answers to the sense of helplessness and frustration came through my early morning quiet time when in prayer I would seek God’s guidance for my son” (Thomas, 1994). Now my first daughter is 11 years old and she is still fighting with skin problems and food allergies. Last summer was extremely hard because my daughter had so much pain on her skin. She was hurting from the inside out because she began to question God’s reasons for her pain. We all cried whenever we prayed and put Vaseline on her body. It hurts me immensely when I am watch my lovely girl go through pain. I wish I could take that pain. While I prayed with her and by myself, God intervened for my daughter through different people. My child learns how to pray to God whenever she feels sad, or happy, disappointed or thankful. And she trusts in him, talks to him and listens to him. We keep praying for God’s healing over her. As a mother, my prayer has changed into listening to God more about how He guides and leads my each child, so I can follow His plan. I believe that prayer is the action of love. As you know, love is long suffering. I know that there are no parents who want to watch their child go through hardship. But what I have learned while I pray for my children, is that God shows me how to trust Him as my child’s Father in Heaven and God set me as an interceder for each child and He reminds me that I am His beloved daughter who also needs the Holy Spirit as my interceder.
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. -John 14:10
Contributor: Brian Bantum
As a father of 3 boys I have found myself being perpetually surprised at the people my sons were becoming. In their getting older, I have come to a conclusion about parenthood that is both daunting and freeing, my children are not bookshelves. Let me explain. In the early days of my parenting I did as so many parents did, dutifully consulted What to Expect When Your Expecting, anxiously interpreting my wife’s pains and any slightest tremor. When my first child was finally born I graduated to What to Expect the First Year trying to orchestrate my children’s feeding schedules, learning habits, all of the small details I was sure were crucial to my children’s proper development into successful people. I tried to seek out instruction wherever I could and follow those instructions dutifully.
In truth I was not parenting but trying to build bookshelves. As an amateur carpenter I would collect books, follow instructions and carefully build up something that was both beautiful and useful. What I came to find is that my children are not pieces of wood that respond predictably to a certain progression of acts. As much as I wanted to believe if I only did things the “right” way my children would turn out okay, I came to realize they were turning out okay even in the midst of my mistakes, in the midst of my repeated and utter lack of knowledge.
What I came to understand in watching my children grow and flourish is that they were more like flowers than bookshelves. They were living breathing beings who existed in a world that was both essential to their well being and contained real dangers to their life. Given this reality, I have come to understand my role to be one of a caretaker, a gardener of sorts. As flowers in my garden I am to become a student of these tender flowers, attentive to what makes them flourish and what makes them wilt. They are my children, but they are only mine for a time. But in all of this it is not my perfect planning, or knowledge, or skill that determines my children’s growth, but God. It is to my wife and I that these flowers have been given while they grow in God’s gracious sunlight and nourishment.
This realization is scary because in many ways it works against our contemporary culture’s assertion that our lives are completely in our control, that if we work hard enough, complete all of the necessary steps, our endeavors will be successful. But on the other hand, the realization that I was not the one building my children was also freeing because if my children are flowers, their flourishing relies not on the perfection of my words, but on a presence that is faithful and attentive.
I do not know you well. I don’t know much of your story. I’ve never had the chance to visit you and see your beautiful home. I hear it’s wonderful. I hear your story is one of heartbreak and struggle to persevere and unity with your family. I hate that this tragedy has struck you. I hate that I sit on a soft couch in a warm building, drinking coffee, knowing that as helpful as my money may be, nothing I send you can take away your pain. I want to take you home with me. I want to clothe you and feed you, and sing songs to you like I do my own children. Haiti, I am sorry that the world has ignored your needs for so long. As awful as this sounds, maybe the beauty from the ashes is that this time, your needs won’t go unnoticed. Maybe this is the season for the world to step up and face their fear of failure, give away their need for power and control, sacrifice more than seems possible, and open their arms to strangers without calculating the costs first. Maybe this is the season that the heart will lead and it will not be a hardened heart, but a broken heart, a remorseful heart. A reconciling heart.
Haiti you have a very amazing creator. He thinks your special. He has given you both your inner beauty and outer beauty. He has given you inner strength, when your outer strength crumbles. If you don’t know him, you should meet him. He’ll walk with you through this storm closer than anyone else.
Haiti. I am sorry. I wish I could do more. Someday I will come meet you and I hope we will be good friends.
1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I can’t help but be drawn to the passion and emotion of this psalm. My own heart echoes the words of David, yet it many ways, I’m not sure I can relate. I have never experienced the physical desperation of being thirsty. To the extent that someone would walk miles for a gallon of water is unfathomable to me…how then can I grasp that desperate of a need for Jesus? I’ve never been in extreme pain, never known persecution. My life has not been easy, but over all it has been comfortable. I want to thirst and long and seek my God like David writes about here…and I know no mountain top encounter or valley of death is necessary for this intense longing for God, but I think in my comfortable life, it’s easy to feel joy and thankfulness to my Heavenly Father, but not as much desperate need for His presence in my life.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I am not ashamed to say I am an emotional believer. Those who can worship God, study the word, pray and praise God and be void of expressing emotion (as they might when they are in love, or angry, listening to a great piece of music, or in a lively conversation)- I don’t understand them. I think David and I would get along great. We whine, complain, cry out in frustration, and make lots of mistakes, but from the inside out, our true desire is to know God and be known by Him. It isn’t uncommon for me to shed a tear when feeling God’s presence, to feel the need to raise my hands and move my feet when singing a song to him. But like David I too have enemies. My enemies probably look more like laziness, being too quick to criticize, not showing enough affection/affirmation to the people I love most, and lack of discipline in certain areas of my life.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
And when I feel my enemies (my sin) overtaking me, it’s comforting to know who is there holding my hand. I look forward to the day my sins will be destroyed forever, given over to the sword. I’m a little like the Israelites and tend to forget from season to season how God has taken care of me- which makes me that much more grateful for Jesus life and resurrection to bring me back to a place of remembrance. A place of reflection.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God’s name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.