A Pastor friend recently asked me to come work with him & build that church’s Children’s Ministry from the ground up. It was an extremely difficult decision for me to make. On one hand, I’d love the challenge of beginning a new ministry. On the other hand, we are beginning some amazing new spiritually forming ventures at my current Children’s Ministry & I’m at the beginning of a high-risk pregnancy with my first child. The timing is terrible. Without going into all the details, friends & mentors helped me discern that the wisest decision is to stay where God already has me. When I shared my decision with my Pastor friend he was gracious & understanding & said if he’d only known it was a high-risk pregnancy he wouldn’t have even asked me. But the truth is if he would have known & assumed the answer (even though he would have assumed the right answer) he would have denied me the opportunity to pray & seek God’s wisdom in this matter. He would have denied me the chance to come to terms with how life changing this new baby is & that my identity & priorities will & should change.
Shannon Rains might arguably have the craziest summer of anyone else I know right now. While completing her final summer at Kingwood Church of Christ as Children’s & Family Minister, she is also a D.Min student at Abilene Christian University and in the middle of that she moved to Lubbock Christian University to begin working this fall as the Assistant Professor of Children’s Ministry.
It seems appropriate that she joins our conversation again today sharing the importance of practicing silence not only in our own lives but also with our children.
I have a keen interest in engaging with children in the spiritual disciplines of silence and reflection. This concept seems counter-intuitive to most philosophies of children’s ministry. But, it is not counter-intuitive to centuries of spiritual practice or the witness of Scripture. The process of spiritual maturation needs silence and reflection on God. This is as true for children as it is for adults.
Our children live in a very busy world. Their days are filled with noisy and activity: morning news, music in the car, school buildings full of kids, sports and music practice, multiple electronics are always on and with the average family. Parents, how many times a day do you ask your kids to do something? Kids receive constant input of stimuli.
Chris Field is the Founder and Executive Director of Mercy Project. He traveled to Ghana for the first time in August 2009 and has since been on a mission to bring new life to children in slavery as well as empower those around him to make the world a better place.
Chris and his wife Stacey have been married since 2005. They have four children – Famous, Micah, Beckett, and Lincoln. Chris is a gifted speaker, avid runner, and inspirational world-changer.
I’m grateful for his contribution to the conversation today. Welcome, Chris.
Practicing the discipline of service with our kids is really, really hard, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking.
The biggest problem with practicing the discipline of service with our children is that they are just so darn generous.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall love as Christ loved, I shall do His work.”
– John Henry Newman
There is something so empowering for children to know now, at their young age, that God has a job for them to do. They are called to love & serve others just as Christ loves & serves us.
The Discipline of Service “is a way of offering resources, time, treasure, influence and expertise for the care, protection, justice, and nurture of others. Acts of service give hands to the second greatest commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Calhoun, p 144)
This year during VBS we scheduled some “Digging Deep” time: group time after Opening Worship. Digging Deep was designed for children to have some quiet, centering time with God at the beginning of their day.
On the day we were learning that “God is Love” their Digging Deep activity was to write a love letter from God to themselves. What did they think God wanted to tell them? What did God love about the way He created them? Why does God love them? Children entering kindergarten through 5th grades wrote & drew letters from God.
For most, this was the first time they had ever done anything like this before. But God showed up and spoke to the hearts of our children. Here are some of their letters.
“Dear Liam, You are good at defense. I love you. You are cool. God”
Caleb looked at me with furrowed forehead and whined, “I’ve been at school all day, do we really have to ‘study’ anymore today?” The same Caleb who a month later would beg for time to ‘study’ during class. Because study isn’t about memorizing facts or lectures from the teacher. It is about diving into God’s Word and learning to listen for what God has to say to my heart, today, right here & now.
Shabbat seems like the perfect counterpart to Fasting. We are not a culture that says “no” often or intentionally self-sacrifices to make space for God in our lives. Fasting & Shabbat seem to directly challenge those principles more than any of the other disciplines. Shabbat is another discipline that is best practiced within the context of the home but must be modeled first by ministers & pastors.
Today I am grateful that Stacy Smith joins our conversation. Stacy is the Associate Director of Discipleship for Alamo Heights United Methodist Church Student Ministries. She and her husband (who is the Worship Pastor) not only model Shabbat as pastors but also practice Shabbat as a family. Regularly. May we all model Shabbat for those we serve and challenge all to honor one of the most beautiful disciplines given by God.
Two summers ago, my husband and I made our way to Israel for the first time in our lives. It was the trip of a lifetime, destined to forever alter the way I saw God, the way I saw myself, and the way my family engaged our faith. Over the two weeks we spent in Israel, we witnessed many traditions and observances that we ourselves found quite appealing—one of which was Shabbat, or Sabbath.
Josh practices fasting regularly. One day, Josh’s son told his dad he wanted to fast, too. He was 6 years old.
Little eyes are always watching and eager to follow the example set before them.
Fasting is an interesting discipline to explore with children. To be fully transparent, I haven’t done it a lot with children and until I heard Josh’s experience I had never thought about practicing it with them. Fasting is difficult for adults so it’ll be especially challenging for children who aren’t used to choosing self-sacrifice. For this reason, I believe fasting works best in the context of the home. So in preparation for this post, I asked several families to practice fasting. You can see what was asked of them here. No really, take a minute and read through this so the rest makes sense. I’ll wait.
Praying blessings over your holiday weekend. We’ll return to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow when we explore Fasting with children.
There are few people I’d be willing to lead me up Masada, sail the Sea of Galilee, crawl through the aqueducts at Qumran, and climb Mt. Carmel with than Cayce Harris. Cayce is a woman with a deep faith & love for God and a heart of wisdom that knows no ends. I’m grateful for her friendship & leadership. Cayce is the Director of Ministries at Christ Healing Center. She and her husband, Joel, have 4 children with another on the way. The fruits of Cayce’s prayer life are evident in her work, her family & in all of her life. I’m so grateful she is willing to share with us even in the midst of morning sickness. May you be blessed today by Cayce Harris. Welcome, Cayce.
I love it when kids bow their heads and say amazing sweet, simple prayers with their hands folded and their bodies still. But let’s be honest, while it’s tender when it happens – most kids are all over the place most of the time. Activity and noise define what my kids are doing almost always.
I want my kids to learn to be still and listen – and they will learn that, there’s time for that. Even more so, I want my kids to live a life-style of prayer. I want them to know that because of Jesus’ incredible love for them, they have access. Access to GOD – the God who made it all. They can access Him as much as they want – there is no limit. There’s no such thing as too much or too often. There are no boundaries when it comes to their relationship with God and by extension, their prayer life.
How do we foster this as adults who sometimes require stillness and a 3 point lesson to feel connected to God?