When Should We Begin Talking to Kids About Race?

Have you ever wondered when is the right time to begin conversations with your child about the realities of race and racism in our world?

It is never to early to begin these conversations with our children.

We are living in a world that often sends confusing messages to kids about identity, culture, and race.  Sometimes we hear, “True love is color blind!”; or in Christian circles we might hear, “Skin color doesn’t matter because we are all one in Christ”, but the reality is Sunday is the most segregated day in America; and what we see in the classroom, our parks and our neighborhoods tells a different story.  Color does matter.  What we know from educational, developmental, and spiritual study is that it is never too early to begin conversations and engage teachable moments about race and racism with your children.

In fact, if we don’t help shape their worldview, someone or something will, even as early as the toddler and preschool years.

At Quest we have created a safe space for kids to explore their identity; celebrate the things we have in common with each other, as well as our differences; and consider God’s love for all people and how we are called to live in the world because of this great love!  We have helpful resources for parents as well.

Read this helpful guide for beginning these conversations in your own home!

 

 

Camp Cascades is Calling

Summer Camp

 

Quest has thoroughly enjoyed our end of summer retreats at Camp Cascades, but did you know it has much more to offer us?  Many people at church can share stories of the impact that summer camp had on them as a child; it can be life-changing, pivotal, instrumental, encouraging, uplifting, a ‘mountain top experience’, and often is the place kids say they came to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

I [Katey] for one, was profoundly shaped by the week I spent every summer at camp from 3rd grade through my freshman year of college.  I want to provide a similar opportunity for our kids too.  Camp Cascades fits the ethos of Quest community: we believe in the value of time together as community, retreating, worshipping, spending time away from the day to day, and being a part of the larger Covenant Family.

Our hope is to build excitement about camp year round, so that it becomes a regular rhythm of our congregation- to encourage kids, to share stories, to participate with, to engage the kids and youth and encourage them to seize the day and go to camp!  Whether our kids are from an urban setting and need a good excuse to get into nature for a week, or they are kids with busy schedules who need a break from the day to day routine; camp provides space for kids to meet Jesus in a way they may not experience Him otherwise.  From those who cannot afford it, to those who can afford to sponsor another child we want to encourage all to consider camp…let’s dive into this camp experience together1

Dreaming of Camp Cascades  as home away from home.

 

A Child’s Faith

I have wrestled in different seasons of ministry with this idea of when does a child’s faith become their own.  Those of us who work with kids in the church might not question the importance of our work because we are in it day in and day out, and we know personal stories of children who have been touched by God at an early age.  We know kids who follow Jesus.  We know kids who want to be disciples of Christ.  We know kids who worship and pray and share God’s love with people around them.  So what’s with the wrestling?

I regularly have the opportunity to hear adults’ faith stories.  Often [especially in the church], it begins like this (sorry to generalize): “I grew up in a Christian home, going to church, BUT it wasn’t until high school [or college] that my faith became my own”.  What is up with that?  My first question is why?

When I tell a child about the love of Jesus, when I teach basic Bible skills- like bible memory or  how to navigate book/chapter/verse, when I tell stories from the Bible that reveal God’s love for His people, I don’t do it in hopes that one day they will decide to follow Jesus as an adult.  No!  I want them to know Him now.  I want a child to believe that they can “own their faith” as a child, they don’t have to worship God just because their parents do.  But what does that mean?  Is a child capable of making that distinction between individual faith or, as James Fowler might describe it, the

imitative [faith] phase in which the child can be powerfully and permanently influenced by examples, moods, actions and stories of the visible faith of primally related adults.

What makes a child’s faith real?  What makes a child decide to worship God because they want to not just because they are told it’s the right thing to do?  Is there any way to help a child understand that even if they go through seasons of doubt, or seasons of struggling with sin and reconciliation, that the faith of their childhood is still valid?  I want to believe it is possible.

  • I see genuine faith in the 6 year old who sincerely wants to be baptized to share with his church family, that he loves Jesus.
  • I see faith in my 5 year old as he chooses to pray with his arms open, palms up as a way to posture himself before the Lord.
  • I see faith in the worship songs played by a 5th grader learning how to play the piano.
  • I see faith in the art of the 4 year old, drawing herself and Jesus hanging out in a garden under a colorful rainbow.

Sticky Faith, it’s a book on my shelf, waiting to be read, and seriously calling my name late at night when I crash in my bed at the end of a long day.  I love the idea of kids catching a sticky faith early on in life.  How can I lead kids into a life of faith that’s sticky…a faith they don’t have to wait until college to own, a faith that they don’t have to wait until going through their “rebellious” years to turn to.  A faith that calls them to serve the church at a young age, and a faith that keeps them coming back to the Word, to Christian community, and to the feet of Jesus without a long absence.  A faith that sticks with them through the ups and downs of childhood, teenage years, college days and early adulthood, and chases them to the porch and rocking chair.

Take Heart

Part of a letter I wrote to the team I am privileged to serve along side at Quest and the parents I partner with. There is nothing new or earth shattering about these thoughts. But I felt convicted to proclaim them out loud again,

We live in an era where it is necessary to fight for a child’s heart.  When the world says there is no God, we say, ‘God made the earth and everything in it, look and around and witness the miracle of His creation!’  When the world says you are not good enough, we say ‘God made you and loves you just the way you are’.  When evil and injustice overwhelm the world and children are convinced there is no power over evil, we declare: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  And as believers in Jesus the Son of God, we cling to this promise as His disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  May 2013 be a year of witnessing the transformative love of Jesus capture the hearts of kids.

In Response to the tragedy in Newtown, CT

As a parent of a kindergartener, this tragedy struck me especially hard, as I recognize that my family is not much different than many of the families who will never fully “recover” from what has transpired this December.  Hearing news of tragedy that strikes an elementary school can bring a mixed bag of emotions.  After the shock and sadness sets in, if we are honest with ourselves (come on, parents) it is likely that we either a) sigh in relief that is wasn’t in our community and go hug our children tighter, thankful for another day with them or b) wrestle with the brokenness in this world and in helplessness, wonder ‘how on earth?’ we can respond to such painful events that transpired…in what now feels like ‘a world away from us’, or c) something in between.

Out of a sincere desire to be a church who carries another’s burden, and who gives voice to those who mourn, we provide space to process a very difficult and traumatic moment in history.  Quest is holding a community prayer gathering on Monday, December 17.  We are also committed to providing resources for families, to help both children and adults mourn, grieve, process, seek hope, pray and find comfort.  We respond on behalf of the community in Newtown, but also out of care for our own communities.  We say thank you to the men and women who care for our kids.  We don’t forget.  We don’t move on.  Not yet.  We stop to mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep.  May we grow in our care for one another during this season.  ~Katey

Our Denomination’s (ECC) recommended resources for parents to talk to their children about tragedy.

Resources from the nation-wide Children & Family Ministry Community through Kidzmatter:

http://www.parenting.com/article/5-tips-on-talking-to-kids-about-scary-news

http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/news.html

http://www.parentsconnect.com/parenting-your-kids/parenting/talking-to-kids-about-scary-news.html

There are many, many good resources on the web for families.  It is also important to discuss, in the context of a safe community, your families needs and concerns with other people.  Parents, remember you are not alone.  If you would like more resources, please contact Katey Hage.

*we acknowledge that not all children in Global Village are aware of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  The children’s ministry staff will not initiate conversations with the children who attend Sunday School, however our KidMin leaders have been equipped with ways to respond to kids to provide care and support.  Conversations may take place in one on one or small group settings (not in large group settings).

 

 

Lent is Here- Do We Care?

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.

What exactly is ‘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.

Family Resources for Lent
A Child’s Guide to Lent
Family Activities for Lent
What are Stations of the Cross?
Love Life Live Lent Ideas for Families

Why holding babies and playing with toddlers matters in the kingdom

“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?