Got a Cemetery?

Serving local churches adjacent to cemeteries offer a great opportunity to take a walking field trip and learn the history of the church and the community. I’ve served at two local churches with cemeteries and oh the stories.

Every other year, on a Sunday afternoon before the time changes, we enlist the presence of a saint to meet our 3rd-5th graders at the cemetery ready to tell the stories of the people who have gone on to Glory. These folks gave money, prayed, and served on committees to make the decisions to provide the spaces the kids now call ‘my church.’ 

Most cemeteries have a caretaker who grew up in the community the cemetery and church serves. This saint knows the families and the history of the community more personally than anyone else. They know the founding families, what used to be where the drug store is now, why their school and roads are named after these folks, and how these folks made church-life part of their holy habits in following Jesus.

We invite parents/grandparents and the church-at-large so we never know who will meet us there.

Program
Supplies: 2 bunches of yellow carnations; hot apple cider (for our return to debrief)
Arrival: a short time of teaching at the beginning makes space for late arrivals (we taught on Baptism last week continuing our teaching curriculum for CLUB345) .
One of our leaders wears a bright-yellow vest so motorists see us as we walk to the cemetery.
Teaching: What can we learn about the person from the limited info and symbols provided on the grave marker/stone?
Response: a single yellow carnation is left on each grave if we stop to learn.
Allow time for wandering, chatting, and storytelling.

  • Two brothers are buried head to head, yet their names are different by one letter. There was a family feud and they refused to be associated with one another in life, yet are buried head to head.
  • The first youth leader was a new burial site when we visited. She sat in the front youth pew at 11am worship with her special-needs, adult, son up until the Sunday she passed away in her nineties.
  • The wife moved to the area with her new husband as part of a Cobb County land grab, crossing the Chattahoochee River on the ferry. She desperately missed her family and told her new husband that when she died, we would not be buried in the field where their animals relieved themselves. Her daddy purchased the adjacent land for her to set up a family cemetery and a church for her to start for the community. Her husband is buried in the field. She is buried in the cemetery.
  • The church I currently serve is named after a man who started an insurance company. His family trust now funds with the interest only the local high school (which was a 1st-12th grade school originally), facilities and missions for our church, and Young Harris college. But the history goes all the way back to the 1830s with the community’s priority of the local church and education. We heard of the unwed teacher’s home (dormitory) and the principal’s ‘parsonage’ of the A & M school. 
  • One of our buildings is named to honor his incredible wife. She was an educator, business woman, and built the church on her husband’s donated land. She was elected president of the National Council of Federated Church Women and was a member of the World Council of Christian Education. 
  • We learned about the only place to get gas, the hardware store which is no longer there, and so many young educators which came to the area for teaching jobs until they married.
  • One of our students in attendance last Sunday had his own stories to share he’d heard from his mom, who joined us, and his grandmother. His family is part of the community’s history. He shared who were teachers, a dog story, a first mayor story, and was filled with delight to be sharing HIS family stories with us, too.

Learning the stories of real people who followed the Lord and have gone on to Glory is a gift only the local church can share and share well. How do your kids learn of the people who made your church the place it is today in your community? Enlisting the service of the saints of your local church is always a win-win!

“Let this be written for a future generation that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18

Parenting With A Purpose: Accountability

We have been super intentional to equip and invite parents into the faith formation of their children. The scriptures outline this is God’s plan in Deuteronomy, Psalm 78, Isaiah 18, etc. 

When young adults who never strayed from the faith are asked the how and why, they speak to learning to read/listen to the Bible as a regular habit. First and by far, foremost. Followed by the family minutes, moments, and milestones which impressed the priority of their faith in Jesus in community: home first, then church.

Let’s be real. There are 168 hours in a given week. Even if we throw everything we have into that one hour of developmentally appropriate faith formation in a typical Sunday school setting, it will never be enough for a robust faith in Jesus in any culture. 

A multi-level plan (developmentally appropriate), over time (habits), in community (home, car, extracurricular, church) is the best strategy. That’s a big elephant to eat. We can eat that thing one bite at a time and over a period of time, but we need permission for accountability.

We can’t tap into the accountability of ‘if you’re not here for practice, you can’t play.’ We can’t lay out expectations to parents like a teacher can at a parent-teacher conference of ‘Sue is lost and I would suggest a faith tutor to meet with her every week, sometimes twice a week, to get her up to speed.’ We can’t send a note home with ‘Joe has already been absent 9 days. One more day absent and he’ll be held back to be sure he gets the material to be successful.’ None of these options are reasonable for the local church.

So what do we have? 

Side note: Our parents have more than enough guilt. They lay awake at night questioning their parenting skills already. I’m not adding to that. Every parent I’ve ever met wants the best for their kids. The very best! They have dreams and hopes for their children and want desperately to make available every opportunity for success. Christian parents want their kids to have a robust faith in Jesus. An hour a week, even if they come every week, is not gonna cut it for a robust faith in Jesus.

So what can we do?

We can equip and train parents and grandparents (the greatest untapped faith formation resource in any family) and offer space to make all their minutes, moments, and milestones count for Jesus. Everything we do must point to Jesus. Everything!

We offer Parenting With a Purpose classes each fall and spring. Last week it looked like this with a PowerPoint and a Ziploc bag of 167 M&Ms + 1 jumbo gold gumball (representing the weekly Sunday school class): Parenting With A Purpose – A Blueprint.

6pm-6:30pm Kids had pizza dinner (+water, fruit) with 3 kid’s Bible study leaders wearing candy corn flashing headbands (a visual that this is a special night); greeted and checked in by an Ambassador (relationship with an older kid); eat and check in with friends (relationships; food; table life).

Parents set up in another room to get a chance to breathe, get water and cookies, take a bio break, chat with who they sit beside. Hospitality time for me to work the room saying, “Hey ___, do you know ___? She goes to the 11am service and has a 3rd grader” to intentionally introduce the commonalities of participants. Then give time for them to chat before the program starts at 6:15pm.

6:30pm-7:30pm Kids bring in buckets of building toys they chose from the Children’s Welcome Center and sit together at the feet of their parents to play. The visual for parents and children was intentional.

Program: Though six Biblical holy habits are important only one, the research tells us, bears the greatest weight, so we will focus on Bible Reading.

Read the Bible, not a devotional, not a study Bible. Read the Bible. Listen to it in the car on a Bible app. Use Breath prayers to remember phrases and words from the scriptures. Begin with a book with a narrative like the Gospel of Luke. Introduce the author as Dr. Luke and the gospel is his letter to his friend Theophilus. I wonder if Theo was short, tall, quiet, or his loud friend? Dr. Luke investigated and determined these events to be true, historical, and worthy of defense.  

The Next Generation Ministries suggests the narratives of the New Testament first. Then the Old Testament. Then a Chronological Bible. Several of our kidmin leadership team took an online conference of Discipleship Begins at Home sponsored by Women In Apologetics last summer which taught and offered the Blueprint resource to all participants to share with our families in their local churches. 

They reminded us that if a kid can read a chapter book, they can read the Bible as a family and in Christian community.  “This is what Christians do and we are a Christian family.” At middle school, purchase a study Bible. Invite the grandparents to purchase it and make notes in the margins of their favorite passages. The kids can read. The parents can read aloud. A Bible app can read it aloud for you.

Each participant received a children’s book on a hard faith subject (the Trinity) and what I think is the best Bible Handbook in print (which is hard to find) published by Gospel Light (I miss them) which is child, youth, adult-friendly to give context to the family Bible reading.

Parents are front-line disciple-makers and the saints the local church is supposed to equip. This is one very intentional way we are living into Ephesians 4:12.

At the end of class, I gave them each a heads-up. By walking out with all those resources, they are inviting me and everyone else in the room to hold them accountable. 

That accountability might sound like a hallway conversation, “How are you doing with your family Bible reading?”, or “Have you started with your family Bible reading yet?” That’s what partnership looks like. A life coach does that. A pitching coach does that. A personal trainer does that. A math tutor does that. 

Let me ask you, “How did you do last week in your Bible reading?”

Nehemiah 6:3 “I’m carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”

Getting Organized For Advent

It’s Fall Break in the school systems of North Georgia. While others are headed out of town or enjoying a staycation, it’s the week I set aside to get organized for the fall and advent season. Everything was calendared months ago, published on July 1st. Now it’s time to put some details on the Advent google docs to be shared with the lead teams for each event and campaign when they return.

Parenting With A Purpose – with a focus on Apologetics (giving God our minds to defend our faith in Jesus) we will share a Blueprint for Discipleship at Home for the fall and a teaching of what God teaches us about work in a world that only wants to play for the spring.

Grandparenting With A Purpose – with a focus on engaging in sacred conversations we’ll have a table chat in both the fall and spring with other grandparents who have navigated the hardest conversations with their grands.

New Faith Milestones
I Can Tell the Story (one for Advent, one for Lent) which will be Messy Church events using images to tell the birth story of Jesus and the resurrection story of Jesus. For Advent: soup & bread, activity themes from Matt Rawle’s new advent study, The Heart That Grew Three Sizes: Finding Faith in the Story of the Grinch. It’s a post-pandemic look at the Grinch taking the redemption story to a whole new level. The adult videos, only around 10 minutes in length are so rich I was able to write the Children’s Moments, the event stations, and a lot of the Christmas Eve service from Rev. Rawle’s materials speaking of phrases kids get like hate, words and people redeemed by Jesus, truth vs lying, and the power of music and memory.

I Can Worship With My Family – interactive, intergenerational worship service for kids with adults in the room. We bring our teaching services from the summer parking lot to Big Mac (the sanctuary). It’s a teaching service at 11am in Big Mac for worship, prayer, giving, singing, Apostle’s Creed, doxology and more when the whole family learns together why we do what we do and what makes Big Mac, Big Mac. Opening a registration link for kids and families who want to take a lead lets us communicate expectations to families and not just kids. Clarity and communication builds trust. All of the other Faith Milestones we teach separately will be now be lived out in community with our church family, not only the Children’s spaces.

Part of that organization is also getting some shopping done so the resources are on hand and we’re not scrambling hoping to find what we need.  The complete details are not on the google doc yet, but today I placed orders for….
Advent Blocks (purchased in summer at deep discount/added another church to order for even more discounts)
Red squishy hearts imprinted with “Jesus loves me”
Red, green, white, lime chenille sticks
What the Bible Is All About Handbook for Kids
Discipling Your Grandchildren: Great Ideas to Help Them Know, Love and Serve God
Prayer buddies in pompoms
God Is Three Persons
Family Advent Pop-up Calendar

Let’s not forget to be clear of the goals and the why of each experience. Every experience must be a developmentally appropriate faith formation experience. Ministry leaders are not event planners, but disciple-makers who take every opportunity and effectively use what’s in our hands to give testimony to God’s goodness and His faithfulness to His people. Determine when, where, how, who, and the discipleship follow-up for sharing the good news of Jesus and His plan of redemption and restoration in truth as the priority not the add-on or side-note. Write it down so not to be distracted by a negative comment or an expectation expressed after-the-fact. Measurable goals offer clarity, purpose, and let you set priorities to filter the could-haves and should-haves. The experience is part of your over-all strategy for faith formation, not a one-and-done.

Partnering with families means they can trust that we will be prepared to be a blessing as their calendar begins to turn into fall. Partnering well with our leadership team means they will not be overwhelmed and will have on hand the tools to be successful.

How do you get organized for the next season?

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Neighborhood Prayer Partners

One of our super-leaders serves on staff at another local church in a neighboring county. She shared with me how the church she serves lives out praying for their neighborhood at their weekly prayer meeting. We’ve adapted their system to be kid-friendly for our own community using the 5-finger prayer method for a sticky, holy habit with our students.

5-finger prayer
Thumb – pray for someone closest to me (a local business; local entrepreneurs)
Pointer – pray for someone who teaches me (a local school)
Tall – pray for our leaders (a local public official; local first responder)
Ring – pray for those who need help (another local church/missionary)
Pinkie – pray for our own (a church family facing extraordinary challenges)

We introduce our monthly five on the first Sunday of each month. A new prayer prompt card is shared with the students to take home. We invite the students to hold up that finger (their whole hand for the tall finger) as we silently pray as a large group for each organization/family/person is named. We practice in large group each week, then follow it up throughout the month on social media and by email who the prayer recipients are each month. This time of silent prayer and repeat-after-me prayers naming our neighbors has become one of my favorite moments each Sunday morning. 

At the beginning of each month, we draft a letter to each organization, family, person. The students and our leaders sign their first names in fabulously colored ink to each letter upon arrival in the Welcome Center to be mailed the following week. One example would be:

Dear…..
We consider it a privilege at McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church to partner with and to pray for our neighbors. We believe that it is also a joy to lift up our local businesses and their staff. After all, we are all serving God’s families and that service needs us working together.

This month you were chosen as our local business of the month. During the McEachern Kids Sunday school hour you and your staff will be mentioned by name in a specific season of prayer. We will pray that you will be touched by God’s protective hand as you go about your daily interactions with our community. 

May God’s greatest blessings rest upon you as you faithfully serve in this community.

Seek Him First,
McEachern Kids
K-5th graders and leaders

Teaching students to pray for their neighbors, at church and at home, is a holy habit everyone can practice. Yet most littles don’t know who to pray for outside themselves, making most of their prayers all about themselves. This holy habit also lets our neighbors know that we want to be good neighbors, too.

Who can you pray for today?

“When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.” Acts 21:5 

S’more Jesus Late Night for 3rd-5th graders

When families prioritize a time on their calendar for a weekend retreat for their 3rd-5th graders and discover we are unable to make it happen the way we’d originally planned, we pivot with intentionality because our 3rd graders have finally arrived. Our 4th graders should’ve arrived last year, but 2020. Our 5th graders see everything as ‘the last time’. Asking the question, “What’s in our hand?” and partnering with another local church, we planned a late night event, 4:30-9:30pm on a fall Friday night.

Promotion
– 3rd-5th graders are invited to learn to grow s’more like Jesus as we travel to Mountasia for putt-putt, go-kart, and pizza then back on campus with s’mores at the fire pit. $25 per student. Chaperones free.
– Logo image built on phone through Bazaart app
– Coordinate original chaperones along with new leaders for driving, fire, tshirts, hospitality, setup, cleanup, and space arrangements on a campus used by multiple ministries on a typical Friday night.
– With the ‘bring list’ including non-typical items, we sent 3 emails before event night: one week out, 3 days out, the night before so families could make whatever arrangements were necessary.

Space
Everything was outside except the bus ride. Dinner of 2 slices of pizza and unlimited pitchers of water (my beverage of choice) and unlimited putt-putt and go-cart time for 2 hours cost $25.10. With local Friday night football, we were the only group at Mountasia. Most of our kids were not old enough to ride alone, so this was a time of intentional relationship building between leaders and students to share a go-kart.

Students were instructed to bring
– Gas or food gift card for a mission project – a dear church family battling childhood leukemia would be delivered a gift box filled with notes written by students along with the gift cards the following Sunday
– Refillable water bottle – holy habit to take care of our bodies and the earth
– Bible – Bible study on Luke 2:52
– Closed-toe shoes (can’t go-kart without them)
– Camp/lawn chair – place to keep track of their own stuff, personal space, and to sit for Bible study

Schedule
4-4:30pm Welcome, Rules, Introductions
4:30pm Assign small groups w/leaders
5-7pm Mountasia
8-8:30pm Bible study and teaching
8:30-9:15pm Split into 2 groups, with time then flip
Group 1: S’mores at the fire pit & note writing to mission family
Group 2: Breath prayer Labyrinth
9:15-9:30pm Talk to each other-1 on 1 w/ get-to-know-you and either/or questions
(students stood facing each other so they could move; release nervous energy)
9:30pm Group picture, dismissal

Bible study: Luke 2:52
The one Jesus-as-a-kid eyewitness account was placed in God’s Word especially for kids by Dr. Luke. How do we become s’more like Jesus? We spend time with others who love Jesus together in prayer (labyrinth), play (Mountasia), service (gift cards/note writing), at tables sharing food (pizza, water pitchers, s’mores), and in conversation (get-to-know-you questions).

Scripture memory: Jesus grew in…(chat through ways to grow in…)

  • Wisdom – take good care of your mind – hands on head
  • Stature – take good care of your body – arms up showing muscles
  • Favor with God and man – take good care of your heart – hands over your heart in shape of a cross.

Breath Prayer at Labyrinth w/Bible Buddy (plush s’more distributed by Ambassadors)
Lord, let me grow in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.
The prayer labyrinth has been a labor of love and gifted by an art teacher in our church. Though unfinished due to the rain, she came to teach and practice the labyrinth journey with the students at it’s inaugural use. 

Weather was the greatest consideration of the entire week preceding, so Plan B was walked through and ready to go: gym reserved if not outside, umbrellas for labyrinth, sterno tins in glass jars for s’mores in small groups (now we can take this anywhere and share), arcade was arranged if no putt-putt/go karts running, gaga ball pit space/covered space for outdoor Bible study with camp chairs. Both Plan A and Plan B were walked through every step the week before and the day before.

Leading ministry with children and families has always required navigating multiple moving pieces, especially people and calendar resources, and requires pivot adaptability and Plan Bs. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we’ll always do. When done often, it builds adaptability muscles. When done well, it builds trust and integrity.

How did you spend last Friday night?

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

The gold-framed Guardian Angel picture followed my maternal grandparents to every home they lived in. They moved from the coal mines of West Virginia to Virginia to Florida then back to Virginia. They also kept a huge, white family Bible on the coffee table. These are the images I recall from my childhood related to their faith.

In Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes To Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God,  Voddie Baucham, Jr. speaks of marking the home as God’s territory. He shares the memory of his Buddhist mother. Her regular practice of that belief system involved all five senses: a black lacquer box in the corner of their dining room, a statue of Buddha, a scroll of strange writing, incense, fruit, beads, and a small gong or bell. Those images remain with him to this day even though she became a Christian within six months of his conversion.

“Imagine the impact that Moses’ teaching had on the children of Israel in the Promised Land.” God’s people were entering a new land with new smells, sights, sounds, tastes, yet were expected to retain their distinction as followers of the one true God. How?  Marking their doorposts, celebrating annual feasts with bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and the stories. Oh, the stories, the stones, the Sabbath practices, the music, and so much more.

My BFF-in-the-Lord just set up her new office space with bright yellow chairs and throw rugs to cover floor stains. She has stuffed animals (you know, the holy stuffed animals like sheep, donkey, lamb, plush Jesus which are staples for family faith experiences) on shelves and filled a wall with pictures of remarkable moments with the people of God she has served alongside. Visual reminders of creative, innovative, hard, hilarious moments in time where she served her families in ministry with great zeal and joy. She has marked her space as the Lord’s.

How can we regularly and intentionally mark our spaces and places for the Lord? At home? At church? At work? Sticky faith formation experiences engaging all five senses.

Engaging Eyes
“There was a period in history when anyone who wanted to be considered a serious painter, a grand master, painted biblical themes.”
At this week’s Faith Milestone: Bread & Juice Class, we’ll pull out the jumbo framed picture of Da Vinci’s Last Supper for our kindergarten and first grade students to stand behind for their class photo.

Engaging Ears
“Music is an incredible medium. With a few notes we can be transported to another time and place.”
Preparing for this week’s S’more Jesus Late Night with our 3rd-5th graders, we prepared a Spotify playlist with camp songs. Sent it out ahead of time to the leaders and the children.
Dr. Richard Hunter offered a sermon based on his daughter’s favorite song, at the time, Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying at my home church. There are some messages super sticky because of a song.

Engaging Taste
“There is no such thing as Christian food.” Well, I beg to differ.
I recall a young pastor at my home church who prepared a summer sermon series based on breakfast cereals. I’ll never be able to look at a box of Frosted Flakes the same again.
Goldfish? Cheerios? S’mores prayers? Bread and juice? 

Engaging Smells
“I could almost smell the Sunday dinner as he described in great detail his vivid memory of every aspect…”
Dr. Doug Thrasher gave a sermon at my home church about Sunday dinner with biscuits and gravy on a communion Sunday. I’ll never forget the intentionality of a mama setting the Sunday table for her family and the planning involved.

Engaging Touch
“Have you ever walked into a home with one of those enormous family Bibles? I mean the kind you have to open with two hands.”
When a local UMC church was closing in our district, one of my moms went to the garage sale the church was having. It was her home church. She asked about the Chrismons which were a sticky faith formation experience of her now art-teacher-of-the-year faith journey. They pulled them out and gave them to her! Even before this, she had led our 3rd graders in October and November for the last four years in a rite of passage to make and learn about Chrismons. She leads those students to decorate the children’s large group space each year for Advent: Hanging of the Greens. Lots of gold beads, lots of white styrofoam, lots of conversation, LOTS of stick pins. The Chrismons of her home church are now enjoyed and shared with her students at her son’s home church. The Chrismons of both churches hang together in our children’s spaces.

In my weekday preschool days, we displayed an apple when we studied apples. We ate apple stuff, counted apples, played with apples, used apple-scented shampoo in the water table, read apple books, painted with apples, and did everything we could possibly think of with apples.

“It all comes down to a simple question: Why are we here?” If our local church, and our family, exists to know Jesus and make Him known, how are we intentionally marking our lives for Him in the stickiest ways possible, through our five senses? At home. At church. At work.

“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:9

Breath Prayers of a Jedi

Rev. Ken Hagler is widely known as Jedi Pastor Ken. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church currently serving a local church in Alaska, he records video, writes a blog and books, speaks, and prays like a coach and teacher to help spiritual pilgrims along their way. He is a real Jesus follower in the trenches of life who experiences great joy, great grief, great redemption, great wonder, and has faced head-on some of life’s greatest challenges. 

A jedi is someone trained to guard peace and justice in the universe. 

Ken is one of my favorite Jesus guys. He’s just written a new book and it comes out TODAY and you can get it FREE for two days on Amazon. You can download it for free on your Kindle app on September 7 and 8, 2021. Hardcopies can be ordered, but this can get you started.

“Prayer: Simply Breathe” is a compilation of 52 Breath Prayer Devotions including a short, closing section on how to create your own prayers. “A breath prayer is intended to ‘drill’ down to the cry of our heart. It is not so easy to discern what the cry of our hearts might be though.” (pg 112) 

The book is framed around praying Scripture as you breathe. A short sentence or phrase prayed as you breathe. Repeated over time as a holy habit. Short…holy habits…prayer…scripture…it’s the perfect model for teaching and practicing prayer with little people. 

“Prayer is the act of turning our mind, our emotions, our body, and our spirit to God.” (pg 5)

Ken writes in short, simple sentences introducing each breath prayer with a short ‘something to think about’ as you prepare to practice each breath prayer:

Sometimes, your week gets out of hand.
There is no shortage of news related to those in power.
I have spent a lot of time out in the woods hiking and camping.
You have had it happen, no doubt, when things did not go as planned in your life.
It hurts when people lie to us.
There seems to be no end to the evil that human beings will do to one another.
Our lives are meant to show out what God is doing.

There is scripture all over. There are people quoted all over from all walks of life. Ken is deeply knowledgeable about sacred practices of following Jesus to help the people of God of all stages and all ages. He is one of my teachers. 

Ken led a workshop on prayer at a retreat for 5th graders. When Ken led the prayer workshop, the boys hung on every word he had to say.  I remember a conversation Ken and I had on our way to the dining hall. I asked him about boys and prayer. He spoke of the importance of physicality, short words and phrases, and prayer postures. I heard his words again on page 116, “It is my hope and prayer that if nothing else, you leave here with a prayer you are not bored to pray.”

Order your free Kindle edition on September 7 and 8 here.  Check it out and let me know what you think. I’d like to chat with you about how you might use this resource to teach your littles and their bigs to practice the holy habit of prayer. 

“Faith is fun.” Rev. Ken L. Hagler, Jedi Pastor Ken, Prayer: Simply Breathe, pg 116.

National Grandparents Day

As a Louisiana gal with weekday preschool roots, I’ve never met a national holiday I didn’t like and wouldn’t leverage to put Jesus at the center.  National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 12 and we’ll be celebrating and teaching the Biblical mandate found in Deuteronomy 6:20 to ‘teach your children and their children after them’ the decrees and commands God has given His people. National Grandparents Day always falls on the Sunday following Labor Day.

Before the pandemic quarantine we began a Grandparenting With A Purpose initiative in children’s ministry. With the average age of the first time grandparent in America being 47, this is a demographic and a remarkable moment of life children’s ministry can step into naturally. But, it was during the quarantine we got great traction with online through a Faith Grandparenting Facebook group offering specifically curated resources for grandparents to share their faith in Jesus with their grandchildren. We also offer in-person and Facebook Live workshops, one each spring and one each fall.

The pandemic has both separated grandparents from their grandchildren and has brought others geographically closer together. Many families have reset their priorities by relocating closer to grandparents or grandparents have moved closer to their grandchildren. Though the holiday is a secular holiday, it’s a natural invite for intergenerational worship and recognition. The Legacy Coalition, which provides weekly webinars to confidently equip Christian grandparents to intentionally share their faith notes, “National Grandparents Day is an important official marker of intergenerational relationships.”

To learn more about the history of National Grandparents Day, click here.

To ponder ideas to celebrate National Grandparents Day, check out…
The Legacy Coalition: Christian Grandparenting Ministry 
GrandparentsDay.org
The Legacy Project
Proper spelling and more

We are preparing a photo station and inviting the children to bring a grandparent or grandfriend to Sunday school on Sunday, September 12. We’ll open the Welcome Center early for the children to play games with their grandparents/grandfriends. They’ll attend a 10-minute small group time together, then all will gather in the large group to sing and dance and learn a bit. I will have a dedicated photographer to get all the shots. When the children return to their small group, the grandparents/grandfriends will come with me for a short, interactive lesson on Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78. We’ll then share how we can partner with them to confidently and intentionally share their faith in Jesus with their grands. This is what family does and we are family.

The Children’s Moment will be a ‘hands up’ blessing with copies of scriptures to pray for grandchildren (English and Spanish) found here along with other free resources found at GrandparentingWithAPurpose.com

Before you think, “What about the child who doesn’t bring a grandfriend?”, I’m thinking there is a small group or two of senior saints in your local church who would be thrilled to step in. After all, we are family!

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” Psalm 78:4

Praying Mom

Brooke McGlothlin is a co-founder of Million Praying Moms. Million Praying Moms is a community equipping parents to make prayer their first and best response to the challenges of parenting. Brooke has authored several books and resources and is known as a prayer mentor.

I was thrilled to be included on her launch team for Praying Mom because it was not about your typical book launch strategies, but rather prayer. Each day we were invited to specifically pray with a prompt through social media. After reading her other books and being involved in this prayer community I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her book. 

This book is gold.

Praying Mom is filled with multiple testimonies of parents on their knees, some on their faces, before the Lord who hears His own. The community of prayer warriors willing to share their challenges, their hopes, their disappointments, their holy habits, their tips, their vocabulary speaks to parents today. I say today because it wasn’t long ago we in the trenches needed to give testimony to God being real. Today, we need to give testimony to God being good. We know He is good in our heads, but sometimes we need to speak it regularly, repeatedly in prayer for our hearts to hear it, for our lives to live it. You can download a free chapter of Praying Mom at www.millionprayingmoms.com

Praying Mom is separated into two parts. Part one addresses seven challenges for the praying mom including “I have small children. I can’t even think, much less pray!” with a gentle breath prayer prompt in the Table of Contents, “Lord, teach me to pray in the moments of my day.” Part two offers scripture-inspired prayers for today’s Christian Mom which include specific scriptures followed by prayers to pray those scriptures right back to the Lord. Short succinct prayers for…
when you need hope
when your child needs help
when you need more joy
when you’re angry
when you’re worn-out and weary
when you’re afraid
when you need God to move
when  you need strength to make it
when you’re sad
when you need peace.

There are two appendices: The Wake-Up Prayer and The Way To Salvation. If it’s been a bit since you’ve shared with someone the way to salvation in Jesus, and you need a refresher, those three pages are worth the price of the book alone.

The prayers are all about praying scripture: declare the trust over your heart and mind, then ruthlessly apply it. “This means you might have to choose to believe God’s truth over what you can see, hear, taste, or touch over and over again until you believe it.” (pg 75) 

At the end of each short chapter is a call to action she calls Pray It Forward offering several things to remember and several cautions to overcome: Remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts. (pg 39)  Then the gold: Scripture Prayers. The scripture is first, followed by the prayer vocabulary to pray it back to the Lord. 

“There is an intimate link between God’s Word and prayer. We need both in order to be adequately prepared to face the world.”

Brooke McGlothlin, Praying Mom, pg 45

I have always had a limited vocabulary. Regularly meeting with prayer partners have helped me grow in the holy habit of prayer. There are two other well-worn, go-to books which have coached me into a deeper and more faithful prayer habit for my family and the families I serve: Stormie Omartian’s Power of a Praying Parent and A Diary of Private Prayer: John Baillie, updated and revised by Susanna Wright. I heard about the John Baillie classic from Priscilla Schirer about four years ago and is never far from my Bible.

My copy of Praying Mom is already written all over, pages folded, and been handled/wrestled. Praying Mom is a resource for today’s Christian parents written by a prayer warrior. Don’t we all need more prayer warriors to model and tell the stories of God’s goodness?

“So my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” Isaiah 55:11

Stay By The Stuff

Last week I traveled with my traveling bestie to Boston. We checked out the Monet exhibit with it’s ‘Boston stories’ and the power of visual narratives on display by the Paper Stories of Ekua Holmes at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and enjoyed some downtown Concord shopping. We were surrounded by creativity, collage, children’s books, and Christian community. I didn’t know how empty my creativity bucket was until it started getting refilled.

The best part of the trip was the radically ordinary hospitality we experienced at two dear friends’ homes. Both hostesses, and their families, embraced our presence with great food and table-life filled with sacred conversations. 

Rosaria Butterfield, in The Gospel Comes With A House Key, writes that Christian hospitality is what loved her to Jesus when she was openly hostile to the good news of the gospel. Dinner times of table-life with ordinary food and conversations regularly, faithfully offered by a humble couple were the key to opening her mind and heart to living a life for Jesus. Today, she and her family open their home, spare room, table, and crockpot in ways that would make most of us shudder. She reminds me of just how good the good news is. 

Butterfield challenges her Christian readers to be ready to assume the posture of host, obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, or the posture of guest, graciously and humbly receiving nourishment and care from our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Ordinary hospitality works on the principle of tithing. God commands we are either returning 10% to our church or receiving aid from our church because we desperately need help. Both giving and receiving bless the church.” 

There was so much laughter, so many cups of tea, and multiple conversations around the gathering of God’s people and His Word. One conversation in particular I wish to share.

Sometimes mighty warriors stay with the stuff.

In 1 Samuel 25 we read how David’s men have a run in with Nabal, a Calebite. David sends a small group of ten young men to Nabal asking for favor, asking for help. Nabal is beyond salty, but ‘surly and mean in his dealings’. When the ten return and report to David, it doesn’t go well. David tells his Mighty Men to ‘strap on your sword’. ‘About 400 men went up with David, while 200 ‘STAY WITH THE SUPPLIES.’ The KJV reads, “abode by the stuff.” 

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, goes on to save the day, but of the 600 of David’s Mighty Men, 200 of them stay by the stuff. 

Who are the mighty ones who may not be ‘strapping on their swords’ yet use their swords staying by the stuff? It’s one thing to love on those who are on the front lines of the ministry you lead, but we all have the mighty with swords who ‘stay by the stuff’.  Finance Committees who have to make big decisions for the local church as a whole. Trustees who have to answer for a whole lot of ‘stuff’. Your church saints who can surround you and your kids in prayer. Do you have a prayer team? Are we only reaching out to the local church leadership when we want something, or also checking on them in the parking lot before and after services. 

Perhaps YOU are the mighty who are called to ‘abode by the stuff.’ While the denomination and the world is making so much noise, we are staying the course of making disciples of Jesus Christ in our local church, in our backyard, from our spare room, table and crockpot. Be not distracted nor consumed by the battles elsewhere, but rather strap on your sword and abode by the stuff well. 

I’m still processing and holding dear the experiences of last week. Thanks to the hospitality of our hosts, Mr. Bob is getting to taste some new recipes, which he is all-in for. He is our family’s #1 Mighty Man. He stays by the stuff. I can not do what I do and be who I am if it were not for Mr. Bob staying by our stuff. 

Who is staying by your stuff? How can you show your appreciation and gratitude this week for the mighty who stay by the stuff?

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it.” 3 John 1:3