RSS

Tag Archives: church

The Lingering Pain of Loss

The Lingering Pain of Loss

Ministering in the midst of brokenness

I place a high value on authenticity and transparency in leadership.  With that in mind, I’m going to lay some stuff out there that some in ministry circles might cringe at.  I apologize in advance.

Church leaders are just like you.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Just. Like. You.

We have struggles and hurts and brokenness.  When you see us on Sunday, we aren’t serving the church because we have it all together – we’re serving because we’ve submitted our broken and imperfect lives to something bigger than ourselves and the call on our lives is something that exists in spite of, in the midst of, and even through our imperfections.

—-

“One of our friends needs to have a baby…”

I was sitting in a car on the way to lunch this week when one of my friends dropped a seemingly harmless thought into conversation.  As I sunk deeply into my seat, he continued to talk and think out loud about how much fun it is to go through the holidays with pregnancy stories and how our circle of friends needs someone who will bring up the stories of helplessness that are associated with trying to care for a newborn.

It was just a few months ago when we were that family.  Just before our nation’s birthday, we had news to share of another coming birthday – my wife and I found out that we were expecting another child.  We were ready to welcome a new baby into the world.  A baby that might might grow to love the color green or have a passion for cartwheels or desire to one day be an amazing stay-at-home mom like the one that she was going to grow up with.  Then, on a Sunday morning, when I was getting ready to take a bunch of kids on a week-long adventure to summer camp, my wife came to me crying.  She was bleeding and frightened and scared that she may have lost our baby – and I had to keep our Sunday programs running.

Life happens.  Even on Sundays.

We came out of that scare with hope that the baby was fine.  Our doctors and nurses seemed to think that the episode was just a hiccup in the pregnancy and that we’d still deliver just fine.  And yet, a few months later, we received the news that we had prayed against – our baby was gone.  We weren’t going to have a chance to meet her on this side of Heaven.

We were crushed.

“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”

We were sitting in our living room a few days ago when my son began pondering this question.  He decided that he’d ask if he was going to get to see Baby Tiny in Heaven.

Months have passed and yet time is moving slowly for my family.  Carter still draws pictures of the baby he’ll never meet.  Christine stands in the kitchen and stares off into the distance and holds her now empty tummy.  Kate continues to grow and continues to dance in slow motion.  And then there’s me.  I keep standing in front of crowds of people on Sunday mornings and at conferences to tell them that parenting is hard and marriage is hard – so we shouldn’t do them alone… we need to be part of a family that’s bigger than the walls of our home and a church that’s bigger than the walls of the sanctuary.  I get to tell kids that God is with them in hard times and that he writes a better story than we could ever imagine.

Yet, for the last few weeks, I’ve avoided checking in on our nursery team on Sundays.  I can’t even walk into the room.  I’m broken.

—-

The funny thing about loss is that it lingers.  Knee surgeries give you a limp – people can see the scars and have visual reminders of your story.  Losing a baby is different – there’s now a nothingness that sits at the dinner table with us, is in the corner of our family pictures and continues to draw hits to a video we posted on youtube to announce the news of our pregnancy.

If I didn’t tell our story, we’d be the only ones who knew that nothingness even existed.  And, here’s the thing, we’re not alone in dealing with our loss.  Because we’ve been transparent and we’ve told our story, we have a community that understands.

And so, on days like today, our story continues moving forward.  We eat goldfish crackers, build LEGO creations, shop for eyeliner and fill the refrigerator with new groceries.  Life, at times, is hard – that’s why we don’t do it alone.

Thanks for being a part of our story.

for other posts related to our journey though miscarriage, check out

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/losing-baby-tiny/

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/saying-goodbye-to-baby-tiny/

 

Advertisements
 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Throw Away Your Cookie Cutter “Family Ministry” Strategy

This last week, I had the privilege of spending time with Amy Dolan, children’s ministry consultant and founder of Lemon-Lime kids.  Amy led a session at the conference I attended and facilitated a conversation about what family ministry will look like in 2011 and beyond.  I’ll lead with some new facts and ideas that Amy planted in my head and what I think we, as ministry practitioners, can do to revamp and re-imagine what family ministry looks like for a new generation of families.

What is a family?

In order to begin reaching families in your community with the Gospel, the first thing you need to throw out is your definition of family.  “Why?” you may ask… well, to begin with, the families you minister to are living in a world where the definition of family has changed.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s let Diane Sawyer and her team do the talking:

In my own home – we’re faced with redefining what a family is.  I have a sister who has been with the same boyfriend for over a decade.  We like him a lot.  At Christmastime, our family (my wife, 2 kids and I) buys them one Christmas gift in the same way that we send our sets of parents one gift each.  Our kids even call him Uncle Jordan.  He and my sister aren’t married, they don’t have kids, and yet – we, in all practical purposes, call them a family.

There almost seems to be a generational divide over who is and who isn’t comfortable with the loosening of the term “family” – especially in the world of Church.  Don’t believe me?  Ask an elder or board member at your church to write the definition of “family” and then ask a teacher or administrator in your local public school district to define what a family is – they’ll probably sound a little different.  And, as you reach out into your community, you need to know that the definition of family is changing – whether the church is ready for it or not.

Throw away your cookie cutters!

These are my words, not Amy’s.  However, I think she’d be in full support of them.  Over the last decade, as the church has re-struggled to engage families by tapping someone on staff to “Run” family ministries, the Church has gotten great at running “family” events.  Many churches, if you asked them what their family ministry strategy was, would point to a potluck they host or a movie night they invite families to.  Think about the way that we’ve often pitched these events…

To kids, we encourage them to bring their parents to events – but… what about kids who come to church with their grandparents?  Or what about the ones who have neighbors driving them to church?  And how about the kids in your church who are in foster care or have been removed from their parents’ home by local authorities?  Have you ever considered how those kids feel when you get a room full of their peers excited about inviting their parents to an event?

To grown ups, we announce that family events are upcoming and tell parents to bring their kids – but… do we consider the couples in the congregation who are struggling after a miscarriage and ache to be considered a “family” by those around them?  Have we thought about the message that we send to singles in our churches who already feel as though the church tells them that their life isn’t complete without a spouse… and now there’s another hurdle they’re going to have to jump over to be considered a “family” by their pastor?

I think we can do better and that we need to do better if the church is going to run effective family ministry in the changing world around us.

Practical next steps

I want to suggest a handful of next steps for those of us in the church who are looking to better serve families and the communities around us.  However, I want us to also sit and consider some of what we just read and heard.  If the definition of “family” is more fluid in the year 2011 than it’s been over the last few decades, then what does that mean for those of us who have been tasked by our churches to facilitate “family” ministries?  Where are some places in our churches that we can make room for singles and couples without children so that they know that they are a part of our church family and their voices are valuable in the conversation?

I’m going to hold off on practical application until my next post.  I feel like throwing out answers this quickly doesn’t allow the space we need to consider the changes on the horizon for Family Ministry in the Church.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Train Up Your Children

Train up your children

Holy snap, the verse you know & love doesn’t exist

I love having friends who are brilliant.  In fact, anyone who knows the story behind my wife and I falling in love and getting married knows that it all began because I wanted to marry someone smarter than I am (and… it helped that she is smokin’ hot).

So, I was sitting down for dinner with one of our brilliant friends the other night when she dropped a bomb on my world.  It went something like this:

Laura: Hey, you know that verse about training up your child in the way he should go?

Me: Yup.

Laura: That’s not in the Bible.

Me: *confused silence*

Seriously – it was like a bomb went off in the room.  When I asked her, in a stumbled and broken sentence, what in the world she meant, she went on to explain that the verse is a bit confusing in the original language and that the KJV translators sort of guessed at what the verse said.  And… most every translation afterward has made the same guess!

The verse is more likely to be a warning about how, if you let your child choose their own path, they’ll continue on that path when they’re an adult.  This makes total sense… but I’m seriously wrestling with how many people have taken this verse as a promise (which is a bit silly because it’s a Proverb, not a Promise) and how to best point them in the right direction.

Rather than go any further, I’m going to link to a post that explains all of this better than I could.  My brilliant friend, Laura Ziesel, wrote a post on the subject here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/10/train-up-child-in-whose-way.html

Not sure you want to click over?   Let me tease you with this:

I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone, but Bible translation has failed miserably in regard to Proverbs 22:6 and we have all been duped. 
Okay, now hold on. I hear you groaning already: “Oh great, she’s going to tell us what the Hebrew really says, as if the Hebrew is clear. Pulease.” I get it. I really do. If Scripture were clear, many scholars and pastors would be out of work.
So, I’m not going to pretend as if the Hebrew is clear here because it’s not. But I (via my awesome professor and a little independent verification) can tell you what Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say. Ready?
Laura blogs over at www.lauraziesel.com – a great way to break the news to the parents in your ministry is to post a link to her article on Facebook… just a suggestion.
 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting ready for VBS

Less than a week from now, our church will be packed with kids and youth – all expecting one of the best weeks of their entire year.  At our church, VBS isn’t simply a fun week where kids spend time away from video games and television for a week.  Instead, it’s a rock concert, it’s Bible stories brought to life, it’s water slides, crafts, games and time when kids learn that there are people in their lives that love them and there’s a God who created them on purpose and for a purpose.  It’s such an amazing experience for kids that we have a handful who travel from out of state in order to spend the week with us.  Here’s a quick video of what last year looked like:

When I have a chance to talk with other ministry leaders about why and how our VBS has tripled in size since my friend, Staci Travisano, and I took the helm I often point to three things I think have worked in our favor:

Our Community Trusts our Church

We have a Senior Pastor who believes that our church should function as a resource center for lost and broken families in our surrounding communities.  Because of that, we’ve been able to launch after school clubs at local elementary schools that reach out to kids and families who may have never stepped foot onto a church campus before.  By bringing our programming to them, and doing so in a way that shows that we care more about those families feeling loved than pushing kids into crisis conversion moments, we’ve built trust in our community.

Now, when a Glenkirk family invites a friend to church or VBS, there’s less hesitation on the part of families who aren’t connected to our church – and that, my friends, is priceless.

Our VBS is Youth Driven, Church Supported

Today, 400 Middle School and High School students will begin arriving for a week of intense training as they prepare to be VBS counselors next week.  All in all, they’ll spend around 30 hours getting ready for their chance to lead a group of campers through VBS.  Every year, that number grows and I believe that our VBS grows because of it.

If you spend just a few minutes watching Nick or Disney this week, you’ll discover that programming aimed at elementary aged kids is primarily dominated by characters who are in Middle School and High School.  I know a ton of 3rd grade boys who are reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books – a series that documents a boy’s experiences in Middle School.

By running a VBS that’s Youth Driven, we provide our campers a week in a program that feels like a show you’d watch on the Disney Channel… and we get to talk about Jesus, which is something that makes what we do a little more lasting than Disney.

If you want to get a sense of what our leader roles look like at VBS, check out this post https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/to-be-a-leader/

We Keep Unchurched Families in Mind

I cannot stress this idea enough – many VBS programs only pull in churched kids because they only program with churched kids in mind.  This philosophy starts from the top of our church – our Senior Pastor is constantly reminding us that what we do is not about us… we run programs and gather as a community in order to show lost people who Jesus is.

This frees us up to do all sorts of cool things.

Our church’s “Sanctuary” is transformed during the weeks leading up to and following VBS.  And, I’m not just talking about a backdrop that we purchased from Oriental Trading Company.  I’m talking all out transformation – we’ve built pirate ships, castles, science labs, swamps, full-size swinging rope ladders, larger-than life Swiss Family Robinson-esque tree houses – all in order to create a space where kids feel like they’re in a whole new world.  Church kids are (sometimes) comfortable in a church’s sanctuary… but, for an unchurched kid, churches often feel a little stuffy.  For about a month every summer, our main adult worship space on campus is the least “church-y” room at our church.

We also never assume that kids have heard a Bible story before – we never begin with phrases like, “We all know who Peter was…” because we expect that not everyone knows what we’re talking about.  We spend twice as much time playing games than we spend doing any other one thing – because we know that kids like games and don’t spend NEARLY enough time playing outside in the summer.

And we tell our church families, over and over and over, that VBS isn’t just for their kids – it’s for their friends.  We have families who are out of town for VBS inviting their friends because they know that it’s an experience that’s been created in order to change lives.  And it does.

—-

As much as I can over the next week, I’ll be posting more thoughts and updates on VBS at Glenkirk.  It’s one of my favorite seasons of the year – and I can hardly wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Kidmin

 

Tags: , , , ,

Kids in Alabama Need Your Help

Speaking of talking with your kids about death, I was just informed of an amazing organization that is coming alongside families who are recovering from the devastating tornadoes that hit the South last week.

Mitzi Eaker has put together a really neat project that is a very practical way for your family to lend a hand in bringing hope and love to kids who need to know that God and the Church are still looking out for them.  Think “Operation Christmas Child” – but in May.  Here’s some quick info I was provided by some friends who are close to the project.

“We are asking that families and children’s ministries across the country get involved by creating “Boxes of Hope” for children which will be distributed in disaster relief centers, emergency shelters, and area hospitals to storm victims. These boxes will contain a personal note to the children with scripture for encouragement, fun activities such as a coloring book, small toys or games, and a few toiletry items. “Boxes of Hope” are aimed at providing a distraction and encouragement to children who have lost everything in this heartbreaking disaster. As parents, we know that seeing our children receive such a gift in this circumstance would help put our minds at ease as well.”


Read more,  including how your family can be involved by visiting kids4al.com.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Talking with your Child about Death

There’s no way to avoid this simple fact: death happens

And, when it does, we often struggle with how to approach talking to our kids about the subject.

Recently, in our community, a young mom passed away suddenly – leaving behind her husband and two children, a 1st and a 5th grader.  In other parts of the country, recent tornadoes have devastated communities and left hundreds of families grieving the loss of loved ones.  Across an ocean from us, Japan is still reeling from one of the largest earthquake/tsunami combinations many of us will see in our lifetime – with a death toll that has surpassed 10,000 lives lost.

In the midst of dealing with death, our children often approach us looking for answers.  At the same time, we’re faced with the daunting task of balancing our own grief with guiding our kids through the process.  Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind as I guide families tackling important questions surrounding death and mourning.

The question I’ve been asked the most in my years of ministering to families and communities who are grieving is whether or not a child should attend the funeral of someone outside of the family.  When answering this question, it’s good to think about where a child is developmentally.  As parents, we often project our emotions and desires on our children – for better or for worse.  If one of my closest friends lost a family member, I would want to be there for that person to provide a sense of community in mourning.  My four year old son, however, wouldn’t provide that same sense of community for a peer – children’s friendships are different than adult friendships and parents often lose sight of that during times of emotional crisis.

I encourage families to talk openly about the grieving process, but forcing a young child to attend a memorial service might cause more harm than good.  However, if a child wants to attend a service with their parents, I see that as an opportunity for a family to share the grieving process together.  I discourage families from having their younger children sit amongst peers – again, they aren’t looking to each other for support – adults are most often viewed as their protectors/comfort.  Peers rarely operate in this role for young children.

The most important thing I try to tell families during the grieving process is that children need to know that they aren’t alone.  Parents don’t have to have everything “figured out” in order to give children a sense of safety and comfort.

I have found the following online articles helpful in shaping my conversations with parents talking to their children about death:

One of the best articles I’ve read on natural disasters and our response as Christians was written by my Senior Pastor and friend, Jim Miller

http://pastorjamesmiller.com/2011/03/14/religion-disaster-and-japan/

Children’s Ministry magazine provides more than just information on the subject, they actually provide suggestions for how to talk with kids about death

http://www.childrensministry.com/articles/helping-children-deal-with-death

http://www.childrensministry.com/articles/helping-children-grieve

iVillage gives an in depth answer to the question “Should my child attend a funeral?”

http://www.ivillage.com/should-your-child-attend-funeral/6-n-146437

The most useful article I’ve ever read on the subject is from hospicenet.org

http://www.hospicenet.org/html/talking.html

If you don’t want to click through right now because you don’t have time, I encourage you to at least read their summary of how children mourn, based on age and developmental stage. (below)

Characteristics of Age Groups (to be used only as a general guide)

Infants – 2 Years Old:

  • Will sense a loss
  • Will pick up on grief of a parent or caretaker
  • May change eating, sleeping, toilet habits.

2-6 Years Old:

  • Family is center of child’s world
  • Confident family will care for her needs
  • Plays grown-ups, imitates adults.
  • Functions on a day-to-day basis.
  • No understanding of time or death
  • Cannot imagine life without mum or dad
  • Picks up on nonverbal communication.
  • Thinks dead people continue to do things (eat, drink, go to the bathroom), but only in the sky.
  • Thinks if you walk on the grave the person feels it.
  • Magical thinking
  • you wish it, it happens (bring the dead back or wishing someone was dead)
  • Death brings confusion, guilt [magically thought someone dead]
  • Tendency to connect things which are not related.

6-9 Years Old:

  • Personifies death: A person, monster who takes you away
  • Sometimes a violent thing.
  • Still has magical thinking, yet begins to see death as final, but outside the realm of the child’s realistic mind.
  • Fails to accept that death will happen to them – or to anyone (although begins to suspect that it will).
  • Fears that death is something contagious.
  • Confusion of wording [soul/sole, dead body, live soul].
  • Develops an interest in the causes of death (violence, old age, sickness).

9-12 Year Old:

  • May see death as punishment for poor behavior.
  • Develops morality – strong sense of good and bad behavior.
  • Still some magical thinking.
  • Needs reassurance that wishes do not kill.
  • Begins an interest in biological factors of death.
  • Theorizes: People die to make room for new people.
  • Asks more about “what happened”
  • Concerns about ritual, burying
  • Questions relationship changes caused by death, life changes.
  • Worries about who provides and cares for them.
  • May regress to an earlier stage
  • Interested in spiritual aspects of death.

Teenagers:

  • Views death as inevitable, universal, irreversible.
  • Cognitive skills developed
  • Thinks like an adult
  • Questions meaning of life if it ends in death
  • Sees aging process leading to death
  • Sees self as invincible – it will not happen to me.
  • Sees death as a natural enemy
  • Need for adult guidance (grief process, coping skills).
  • Needs someone to listen; to talk with.
  • May feel guilt, anger, even some responsibility for death that occurred.
  • Not sure how to handle own emotions [public and private].

—-

Other thoughts or questions?  Do you have resources you’d like to suggest?  Share them in the comment section below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Aligning #kidmin + #stumin | Jim Wideman

Jim Wideman brings it.

Brother can give a message.

Can I get an amen?!

Brother Jim led a great breakout at the Orange Conference called Aligning Children & Student Ministries. In the midst of giving us a vision for aligning out kids and student ministries, he gave us 5 things we should work on together to make it happen. The headings are his, the commentary is mine.

Start with the end in mind to build a plan

If there’s no unified vision, you’re toast.  Your teams need to sit down and define the goal they’re aiming for.  If you are flying blind, you’ll never be able to teach kids how to see Jesus.

Create in all groups a hunger for the word of God

At the core of what we do, we should be passing on a love for the Bible.  Jim’s a good ‘ol boy when it comes to Scripture, and I dig it.

Help all understand the importance of spiritual service

We need to come up with a unified passion for kids and students serving in the church.  If we want faith to stick, it needs to be something that kids are living out and practicing regularly.

Watch out for sibling rivalry

If we’re a family ministry team, we need to learn to share and to stay away from jealousy.  If one area is winning, we need to celebrate as a team.  Sharing needs to be a value on your team if you want to work together.  Ministries that can’t share (space, supplied, volunteers, etc.) will be ripped apart.

Work Together to Connect with Parents

We need to decide, early on, that we’re going to work together to equip parents.  Kids need models of what it means to follow Christ at home.  They need consistent and intentionality to leave a mark.  We need to teach parents to take back the time God said they have with their kids – Morning, Bedtime, travel, and when they sit at home.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Orange

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: