Preteens are at a crossroads of growing up and growing in the Lord, with the world pushing in on them from all sides- temptation at every turn and seeping in through the cracks through peer pressure, social media, and more. The world they are facing is scary, and we want to FIGHT FOR THEM and teach them to fight for purity.
We want them to chase after Christ, and let Him fill every area of their lives with purity. To pursue holiness and become molded and shaped in to His image. To strive for purity in their minds, bodies, friendships, and social media- in ALL areas of their lives; to live without even a hint of impurity or immorality. That is the goal.
The path to get there takes intentionality and dedication. It takes prayer and investment, long term relationships and pouring into kids. It takes parents who are empowered to fight for their kids and lead them, and a church who equips kids and parents and challenges them.
Teaching kids to live in purity isn't a one time thing. It's not just a lesson or a weekend trip. It's a journey.
We recently started a ministry just for 4th and 5th graders at our church. Our first event was a purity retreat at a lake house. We had over 20 kids participate, and it was amazing! God worked in some great ways. After the retreat, we asked kids to share testimonies of what God did in and through them that weekend, and one 5th grade boy shared a vision that God gave him of how God fills our lives with light and gets rid of our sin. After he stood on stage in a crowded room and shared his testimony and vision from the Lord, his parents came up to me in tears and told me that was the first time he shared a word in front of people, and that before he was even born, they were given a prophecy that he would be a preacher of God's word. This was the first seed from that prophecy.
Another 5th grade girl shared a testimony of God speaking to her and giving her a vision and word straight from HIM. During her time alone with God, she and a friend were praying and reading the Word, and suddenly they both felt the presence of the Lord, and felt Him speak to them, saying "Fearfully and wonderfully made...." and another girl got a vision of angels surrounding the room singing, 'Holy, holy , holy." What a powerful testimony!
Another 5th grade boy shared that God had told him was going to be a missionary when he grows up. When he was asked where he felt God leading him to serve, he simply replied, "I will be a missionary to the most dangerous places on earth. Places where people are persecuted and killed for being a Christian."
It was such a powerful weekend. We shared stories and played games, built relationships, prayed together, read the Word together, and had a blast. We made so many memories. We couldn't have done it without an amazing team of volunteers who are dedicated and passionate.
One key for success is including parents in the process. Parents were given information about what their kids would be studying. Parents attended the retreat and helped lead sessions. And we ended the retreat with parents meeting together with kids and gave parents a Scripture Guide and Prayer Guide and asked them to pray with their kids. They were given a purity pledge to sign together (optional). The next night, we had a special event JUST for parents, where we brought in speakers to equip and empower them. One speaker was from the Sheriff's Department, and he shared about keeping kids safe online, and the other was a licensed Christian relationship/sex therapist, who shared about how to talk to your kids about sex, and we had a panel for questions and shared resources. It was a wonderful and informative session!
The purity weekend was a powerful weekend, but it is only the start in helping kids build a foundation of living for Christ and purity. We will continue to mentor them, teach them, pray with them, and come alongside them in their journey. We have an opportunity to invest in the lives of kids and help draw them to the Lord, so HE can transform their lives and their hearts.
FREE PURITY RETREAT RESOURCES
I am attaching some resources for you, if you want to host your own preteen purity retreat.
Click HERE to download the sample pack from our purity retreat, which includes (in Word, so you can tweak):
And the Purity Pledge and Parent Guide
What other ideas can you share to help preteens live in purity?
My friend Heather did not particularly love doing housework and cooking, like many women. She was a hardworking mom to a beautiful 3 year old, wife to a wonderful husband who is a chef, business owner and restaurant owner, and worked full time as an accountant. She also helped others and volunteered whenever possible, served on committees and boards, and volunteered in the children's ministry. That's how I met her. Heather and her husband came to church several years ago, with a little baby. She and I immediately developed a friendship.
It was hard NOT to be friends with her- she was one of the friendliest people I've met, which is why she started serving in the First Impressions Ministry. She LOVED greeting and welcoming people to church. She became the First Impressions team leader, in charge of recruiting, training and heading up the ministry that made people feel welcomed and loved at church. Nobody got past Heather without being greeted warmly. She and her husband also served in the nursery, and basically ANYWHERE in the church that they could. My husband and I became fast friends with Heather and her husband.
She was an ordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life for God - full of humility and love, strong faith, and a willingness to serve God and serve others any chance she got.
Then, I got a text from her on Nov. 28, 2012 that said she couldn't come to church, because she was in the hospital for what seemed to be an infection. Two days later, on November 30, 2012, I was sitting her hospital room, crying and praying with her as she got the diagnosis: she had breast cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
From the moment she got the diagnosis, she put herself in God's hands. She was brave, and had unwavering faith. She clung to God and allowed Him to give her strength through her weakness. She was courageous and beautiful, and never stopped trusting Him and His plan.
Throughout her treatments of chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy, and everything else she went through, she fixed her eyes on the Lord. I recently read through all of my text messages with Heather from the last two years, and I was amazed to see how often she was the one encouraging ME and lifting me up.
Heather went to be with her Savior on February 17, 2014, just weeks after her 32nd birthday. But her legacy is alive and strong.
Before her diagnosis, and during her fight with cancer- Heather lived a life poured out for God; always joyful, always serving, and always striving to become more like Christ- that is her legacy.
She kept a blog throughout her fight with breast cancer, and these quotes stood out to me and have inspired me....
God IS Sovereign over me. "Sovereign" is defined as "A supreme ruler; Possessing supreme or ultimate power; Lord; King" He is my King and I am here to do as sees fit. He has a purpose for my pain. He is refining me. He is molding my faith, my values and my priorities. Knowing those two things - that he promises good for me and that He has the supreme power to see it through gives me solace in this struggle.
Just like with most things in life, the memories and emotions begin to fade and I settle into my "normal" routine. I spend my days trying to catch up on the duties that I've been unable to fulfill for the last week...most of which are the never ending kind of tasks. I find myself tackling them with so much more pleasure and joy than before I got sick though. I still get tired and I have to rest more. Like I said before, I'm not 100%...but I'm at least 80%! I've changed in so many ways over the last month and a half.
Each day we wake up to is a gift from God. I've always known that, but didn't understand it the same way as I am coming to understand it. I always thought that meant that in order for it to be appreciated fully that I needed to cram as much activity into it as possible. I'm coming to understand that sometimes the gift is just the joy we get in living it. My to do list is so full right now, but the to do list can wait while I put a puzzle together with my little girl.
My job was supposed to be taking care of my husband and two year old. I am supposed to be doing the laundry and cleaning the toilets and putting new pull ups on my little girl. I will never look at the mundane tasks of life the same again. Just like everyone else, I took the ability to take care of myself and my family for granted.
An "ordinary day" is a GIFT that shouldn't be taken for granted!!!! I'm going to try to make the most of every second!
I remember Heather saying that she couldn't WAIT to get back to doing regular things, like housework and cooking and cleaning and laundry. She said she wouldn't take those ordinary tasks for granted, because each day is a gift.
How many times do we get lost in the ordinary, mundane tasks, and complain about doing housework and caring for kids, work, etc., without taking time to thank God for those things? Heather won't get to pick up after her baby girl anymore, or take her to kindergarten, or share memories with her family. But you can. You have today. Thank God for the housework and cooking and cleaning...the regular days that are a gift from God.
Heather said an ordinary day is a gift, and we should make the most of every second. Don't let one day slip away without truly LIVING.
I will always be impacted and inspired by Heather's life. She was an ordinary woman, who lived an extraordinary life for God. I am honored to have known her. Instead of complaining about daily mundane tasks, I will thank the Lord that I CAN do housework, and make the most of the time He has given me. I will love more fiercely and serve more freely. I will find joy in the gift of each new day.
I hope I can become more like Heather, because that will make me more like Christ.
And I also have to say, in honor of Heather, "ROLL TIDE."
The phrase, "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade" comes to mind...but it doesn't really work that way. We think that's the lemon is only ingredient we'll need, but then we realize that there's more to it than that...we need some sugar too. Instead it's more like when life hands you a lemon, give it to God and he'll send you back some lemonade. He will step in and fill in the holes in our life. He'll provide what we need, even when we didn't know we needed it. - Heather Ryan
This Sunday is NFL Sunday at our church, and I'm pumped! We're playing lots of fun games and teaching kids about living the ADVENTURE of being on God's WINNING TEAM! We're bringing in 4 Former NFL players to talk with the kids, and all the kids will get free pics and autographs and a chance to win cool prizes!
What is your church doing to celebrate the Super Bowl?
Click HERE to download a fun NFL Trivia PowerPoint Quiz for this Sunday in kids church!
*For my Eastgate friends... NO PEEKING until Sunday! =)
Earlier this month, we did a church-wide fast. I wanted to get kids involved and find a good way to teach them about fasting. So I did some research. I spent hours looking online, and not finding much AT ALL for teaching kids about fasting. The only thing I found was a fasting calendar.... then God put this idea on my heart as a fun and engaging way to teach kids about fasting.
This was a fantastic way for kids to learn in a hands-on way that they can understand. I came up with a lesson, based on the object lesson of an empty cup- which represents us as we empty ourselves from the distractions that keep us from focusing on God, and the way God fills us up. He fills us with His love, His strength and grace, and His Spirit.
The lesson was fun for the kids, but my favorite part was getting to give the kids their own Fasting Cups to take home. We don't just want kids to focus on what they are GIVING UP, but on what God can do to FILL them up. We didn't encourage kids to fast from meals, because their growing bodies need nutrients. Kids would get two cups: one that says "GIVE UP" and one that says "FILL UP." Each cup had slips of paper in them. They would do a drawing a few times a week; one drawing would tell them what they would give up for one day (TV, cell phone, sweets/junk food, etc.) and one cup would be something they could do to allow God to fill them up (Read a certain Scripture, memorize a verse, write a prayer, etc.).
It was really cool to see the kids involved in the church-wide fast, and see their dedication. I had parents tell me that even when THEY started to "cheat" on their fast, their kids would remind them about fasting and the importance of it! The kids inspired me with their hearts for God. I love hearing stories of kids living out their faith at home. The fasting cups were just one simple tool to help kids connect with God at home and live out their faith.
If you want a copy of the lesson "Fasting for Kids" or more info about the cups, click HERE to get this resource from my store.
My husband and I finished the 21 Day Daniel fast last weekend, and it was a great experience for us, although I'm glad to get back to eating regular food!
Two weeks ago, our lesson in kids' church was based around the main idea that God shapes us and stretches us. I gave all the kids a silly band, to help them remember this main point. How many parents do you think asked their kids as soon as they picked up them "What did you learn today?" I think most parents ask that question, and the kids had something fun to remind them of the main point.
Last week, I shared about helping parents become empowered as the spiritual leaders in kids' lives. Many parents are doing an awesome job at this, but some are at a loss for what to do, and end up just leaving it to the church to disciple their kids. That's why I look for lots of ways to work WITH parents to help teach and lead kids spiritually. I look for ways to put tools in their hands, and make it easy to take the lead in their child's spiritual walk. I shared last week about our Family Advent Devotional Boxes we gave out at Christmas, and this week, I want to share about something I give families every week.
Children's Ministry Magazine recently published an article called "The State of Family Ministry" which asked parents and children's pastors to grade themselves and rate their church's efforts to help parents minister to their kids. Their findings were interesting, and it was noted that many parents appreciate Take Home papers and helpful tools churches send home to assist them in leading their kids. I have tried lots of different ways to communicate with parents and help connect what is being taught at church with kids at home. I've tried hand-outs and emails/newsletters, parent meetings, etc. Here are two simple ways I have found to be effective at connecting the Bible lessons at home....
1. Let the parents know what the Bible story is. It can be a poster with the weekly Bible story and main point, an email, a text (I'm about to start texting it to parents), a Facebook Post- whatever works for your parents! But it's important to let them know WHAT the kids are learning, so they can talk about it and make connections at home. Some churches do this via their app, or even making CD ROMS for parents and kids to listen to in the car. I don't give out paper hand-outs, because I have found that they mostly end up in the trash can or the floor boards, but I DO give out paper handouts for nursery and preschool classes, because those kids don't have the verbal skills to communicate the Bible story to their parents.
2. Take Home Object. Every week. This is a simple way to help kids internalize and remember the Bible story, as well as help parents make connections and start conversations with their kids. Each kids church lesson should be able to be summed up with one main point, or one sentence, to drive home the truth.
Every week, I give the kids a simple object to take home, as a reminder of that main point or truth. Sometimes I have to get VERY creative to come up with something, but it's always something small, easy, and fun for kids. It's something tactile, to remind them of the Bible truth, something they can put their hands on. Something they can keep at home to remind them of that lesson.
I've given out rubber bands, rocks, cups, tiny pirate telescopes, marbles, and so much more. It's something different every week. The kids never know what surprise they are going to get to remind them of the day's Bible story, and parents know they can ask the kids about their object, and how it relates to what they learned in kids' church. I think a tiny message in a bottle is more fun than a take-home paper handout, and it can say just as much about the Bible story.
A mini mirror can remind kids to be a reflection of Jesus; a penny can remind them that 'In God we Trust,' a balloon can remind them to be FILLED with the Spirit, a rock can remind them that God is our rock and our strength. It takes a little effort and creativity, but that's what makes ministry fun and engaging for kids!
I always want to look for ways to help kids connect Bible truths with real life, and make the Bible come alive to kids in ways that are fun and relevant for them. This is a small object that can make a big impact in making faith connections with kids at home.
Next week, I will share about our Fasting Cups we sent home with all kids for our 21 Day Church-wide fast.
The 2018 Boxes are now available.
If you're looking for a great resource this Christmas to help families grow in their faith together, this has been a fun and easy way to do that.
One of my goals as a children's pastor is to empower parents to be spiritual leaders. God designed families as His number one plan for discipleship for kids. There are many parents who are doing a great job with this, but many parents also don't feel equipped to lead their kids spiritually. The church should be ONE avenue for kids to grow as disciples, but not the ONLY place. Leading kids spiritually doesn't have to be complicated- parents can weave faith conversations into every day life at any time!
I am always looking for ways to help bring tools and ideas to parents for teaching and leading their kids. One thing I did this Christmas season was send home Advent Devotional To Go boxes with every family at our church. I had never seen or heard of anything like that before, so I wasn't sure how they would go, but they were a hit! They were gone very quickly, and people even wanted some for friends and neighbors!
The goal of the boxes is to get families talking together in fun and easy ways, that engage kids at any age. Even my 3 year old nephew loved the one I sent him in the mail!
Each box contained 10 Devotional Cards and 10 small, simple objects:
Each object corresponds with a devotional that the family does together. The devotional cards are labeled and in order, and the kids can take out the object while the family reads the instructions to see how it goes along with that day's devotional and Scripture. The idea was to get kids involved with hands-on devotionals using simple objects, and get families talking about Scriptures and praying together. It's not complicated, but it can be a powerful way for families to connect and grow together!
If you are interested in this resource, you can get it for only $10 by clicking HERE.
This is just one way I hope to empower, equip and partner with parents in the journey of raising kids who are strong and devoted disciples.
Let me start by saying that we have a BLAST at church! The pic is from last week, when we brought in KidzBlitz Live! (Thanks to my friend Clayton Poland). Check them out here. I highly recommend them! It was CRAZY FUN! Kids played awesome games, and they loved it! We want kids to have fun EVERY time they walk into church.
There is a catchphrase in the kidmin world that children's pastors sometimes use. They say "We want church to be the best hour of every kid's week."
I want the best hour of their week to be outside the church walls, where their faith collides with the real world and their faith becomes real and strong. I want the best hour of their week to be with their mom and dad, learning and growing in Christ together, or on the playground, sharing their faith with their friends, or praying on their own, outside of church.
One mom recently shared a story of her 4 year old going through devotions with her, and putting his lesson into practice in his everyday life, and what an amazing moment it was when he truly GOT it and lived the lesson out! Another mom shared how her preteen daughter spent her whole lunch period sharing the Gospel with a non-Christian friend. Another mom shared that her 1st grade son asked his best friend for the first time if he was a Christian, then spent his recess witnessing to his friend... a 1st grader! Another mom shared how her 5th grade daughter got a word of PROPHECY for her mom, and how God had given the daughter a Scripture verse for her mom!! These stories are amazing!! I want times like THESE to be the best times of each kid's week!
I'm not saying I don't want kids to have a great time in church. We always want them to love church, and love learning and growing together! I want more than just fun. My prayer is for something more. Something that will carry over through the church walls and outside the church doors, when their relationship with God leaves the bounds of the church and infiltrates their world and impacts our world for God.
We have fun in kids church. But the goal is not to just have fun, but to help kids encounter God, so He can change their lives and change the world through them. That is my hope and my prayer as a children's pastor.
Over the last month, I have been in transition. My husband and I moved from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Cumming, GA, and I am now serving as Children's Pastor at Eastgate Church. It has been a truly God-ordained transition, and I am so thankful for the way He has guided my steps each step of the way.
We are right outside Atlanta (northeast ATL, outside the perimeter), and have enjoyed getting to explore the new area and meet new people. We received a WARM WELCOME from the wonderful people of Eastgate, and I have jumped right in and enjoyed my first month of serving here. My husband was able to transfer within his company, and all the details of the transition fell right into place. The people here have made it an easy transition, as they have been so welcoming and a huge blessing.
It's a great feeling to know that I am completely in the center of God's will, and that I am surrendered to Him, ready to be used by Him, and always desiring to grow and change as a leader. God is on the move at Eastgate, and I'm honored to be a part of the leadership team, and a be small part of what He is doing. The leadership of Eastgate is off-the-charts- amazing, Godly people that I am so thankful to get to serve with.
Within the last month of starting at Eastgate, we have kicked off a new Sunday morning series and curriculum (Currently: Spy Chase....SO FUN!), and a new Wednesday night program (kicked off last week: Super Heroes for God series!), a new check-in system, a volunteer recruitment and training time, and many more exciting things! I love my job, and I am just thankful to get to serve God in children's ministry every day! I'm also thankful for a husband who will move to another state, and start a new journey with me.
I will continue to blog about the adventures in children's ministry, and things God is teaching me as a kidmin leader. I recently attended Jim Wideman's Infuse retreat (a mentoring group for kidmin leaders from across the nation), and it was an AWESOME time of learning and growing with a team of fantastic children's ministry leaders. So much good stuff and good conversations.
For now, I am thankful for God's faithfulness and blessing during this time of transition, and for the exciting things happening
Every now and then, in the kidmin community, I hear people talking about ways to keep kids quiet during church; techniques and tips for getting kids to sit still and stay distracted so they don't talk or fidget or giggle.... One website suggests parents bring "busy bags" for kids to use during church, another suggests parents practicing "quiet times" at home with kids. Another website suggests that candy canes were originally invented to keep kids quiet during church services, and tells parents to bring items for their kids to eat or play with, so they don't talk.
While I believe there is a time and place for kids to listen and be reverent, I don't believe church should be a place where kids are mostly quiet. I think when kids are at church, they should be shouting praises, laughing and giggling, asking questions, engaging in discussions, praying, singing, and having fun.
God is not boring. When we expect kids to sit quiet and still, the message they get is that God isn't relevant and engaging, but rather boring and distant. God is SO much more! Kids need to know a God who is fun and exciting. They need to know that living in relationship with Him is an adventure- an abundant life!
The Bible says there is a time to be quiet and a time to speak. It's important for leaders to help kids know and understand the time and place for being quiet and reverent before God, and have boundaries and structures in place to help kids learn at their best. It is just as important to model for kids the excitement of knowing God, and help them know that God IS relevant, fun, and exciting!
Luke 19:40 tells about people shouting praises to Jesus as He rode past them on a donkey, and the Pharisees told the people to quiet down! Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, telling them "If these people don't cry out, the rocks will cry out in their place!" I have a feeling Jesus wants to say the same thing to some people in church who expect kids to sit quietly for an hour or more. He wants to hear little voices singing praises and reading Scriptures and asking questions.
Some Christians may spend their lives sitting around by themselves, praying and reading the Bible silently, enjoying their "quiet time" (a phrase the Bible doesn't use, by the way). But I want to live with purpose; my life with Christ is anything but boring! Life with Christ is an adventure! I want kids to learn about God through discussions and object lessons, games and songs, science experiments, skits, puppets, and so much more. I want them to leave church energized and excited to know Christ more, worship Him with passion, and live with an extravagant faith! Doesn't that sound so much better than trying to keep kids quiet and still at church?
Children are a Gift
kidmin leader, mother, and servant of the Lord.
These are the views of Lynne Howard, and are not necessarily the views and opinions of any church.