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Where we got the name “Christmas”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibyur0xMeBA%5D

Where we got the name “Christmas”

WITB Tour: The Tricky Bits of Christmas

Have you ever wondered where the name Christmas comes from?  And… why don’t we just call it “Jesus’ birthday-day”?

Today, I get to talk a little about an amazing resource that’s coming out this holiday season.  Each year, I come across some tricky questions from the kids at my church, and even the kids who live at my house, as Christmas approaches.  Questions about Santa, the date of Christmas, some more questions about Santa, what the deal is with Christmas trees, and… yes… more questions about Santa.  I’d imagine that, if you’re a parent or work with children at your church, you face some of these same questions every year.

Well, I just happen to be friends with someone on a team who has developed a new tool for parents and church leaders to answer some of those hard questions surrounding Christmas.  The guys and gals who produce What’s In The Bible?  are launching a new resource this holiday season called Why Do We Call it Christmas (You can order the series at this link).  At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can win a FREE copy of this resource.

I’ve been asked to tackle some of the tricky bits that surround the lesson about where the name “Christmas” comes from.  It’s probably one of the lesser controversial lessons in the series (tackling the Santa thing sure sounds tricky, but the WITB team actually did it better than I’ve EVER seen), but it’s an important question that I want my own children, and the children in my church, to have the ability to answer.  Christmas is kind of a big deal, our kids should be able to talk about it from a place of understanding… and their answers should sound a bit different than the other answers on the playground at school.

When we work through this series at Glenkirk in the coming weeks (and at my house with my own kids), I’ll be giving my volunteers and church parents a head’s up about some of the trickier parts of this lesson.  The things I cover will probably look a little something like this:

For Volunteers and Parents

  1. In explaining the origin of the name “Christmas,” the video talks a bit about Communion.  Be ready to answer questions about what Communion is and why we take communion.  At our church, Communion is something that we celebrate once a month… but, be ready to explain to kids that some churches take communion more often and some take it less often.  At the time that Christmas originated (not when Jesus was born… but when we started celebrating Christmas on December 25), Communion was a part of each church service.  Having that information in your back pocket is going to be pretty helpful.
  2. The video talks about the fact that the holiday that started out on December 25th wasn’t Christmas.  You should be comfortable talking about this and shouldn’t shy away from the history of the date.  Try asking the kids in your group or in your family what day their birthday is on and if they’d change the day they celebrate it, if they could.  For example, my birthday is on December 27th and I’d change the day I celebrate it in a heartbeat.  I’ve lost count of how many “Christmabirthday” presents I’ve gotten over the years.  I think I’d want to celebrate my birthday in early May, if I had the choice.  Or maybe February.  How about you?
  3. When explaining the history of the holiday, it’s easy to talk less and less about the actual Christmas story.  Make sure that you point your discussion back to the birth of Jesus if it begins straying too far away.  If we spend a whole lesson talking about Christmas and forget to talk about God sending his Son to rescue us, we’re failing.  We should make sure that we make a big deal out of what we celebrate at Christmas.

Ok, here’s how to win your own copy ($79.00 value).  You can enter for the drawing by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter and by sending me an email at aprince(at)glenkirkchurch.org.  Your email should include a quick story about how you handle (or how your parents handled) talking about Santa in your home.  This post isn’t about Santa… but I’m working on one and would love to use some of your stories (I’ll keep them anonymous, I promise).

Write to me, tell me about Santa, share this link and I’ll choose the winner next Tuesday, Nov.15, and post your name here on the blog.

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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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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.

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“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/

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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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.

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

 

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Meeting Families Where They Are

 

Meeting Families Where They Are

Family Ministry Connect Group Reflections

I had the privilege this last weekend to have spent some time in Chicago at Group’s Kidmin Conference.  While there, I led something called a “Connect Group” – a multi-day conversation and gathering of ministry practitioners who spend time connecting over a common subject.  The group I facilitated was focusing on Family Ministry – specifically answering the question, how does the church best partner with parents and families in order to pass the faith on to the next generation in relevant and lasting ways?

While spending time together, I noticed a common theme.  Those of us around the table were talking about ministry ideas that we’ve tried in order to reach and equip families – both the ideas that have worked and the ones that have failed – and the ideas that worked almost sounded like a broken record… churches are succeeding when they meet families where they’re at, rather than telling them what would be best for them.

Making the things you’re already doing count

Most of us know the story and the power of the movement behind an organization called TOMS shoes.  Their founder, Blake Mycoskie, decided to leverage an action people were already doing – buying shoes – and use that buying power to help children in need obtain a higher standard of living.  It’s a great example of meeting people where they are and making it count.  I tell high schoolers and young adults all the time – if you want to do the MOST good, your $60 can help out an organization like Compassion tremendously.  However, if you’re already going to drop that kind of money (or more) on a pair of shoes, then why not buy a pair from an organization that will pass on a pair to a child who has never owned shoes?

I say that to say this – from the conversations around our circles, it sounds as though family ministry is most effective when churches find things that families are already celebrating or doing (Halloween Parties, Christmas activities, lunch after church, parenting conversations, celebrating milestones… among others) and lean into those times to equip and resource families and often give them a shared experience alongside other families who are committed to raising up their children well.

Family ministry, it seems, is more than just handing out take-home pages.
Who knew? 😉

I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations throughout this coming year… and we’d love to have your voice in the mix – what has your church done to meet families where they’re at?  Are you connecting with parents on Facebook, spending time at school events and soccer fields to meet families in your community, or something else creative?  Use the comments section to let us know!

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Guest Post: The Price of Privilege

The following is a post from our Middle School intern, Kailyn King (@kailynking).  You can share your thoughts about the book, or questions about this post, by commenting below.

I have to say I was really excited to start this book. I’m not a parent, or a teenager anymore (granted only by a few months) but I have known and now know plenty of teens that fit the demographic of this book (including my previous self) and I was really interested to see what Dr. Levine had to say about privileged teens and their emotional problems. I have known all kinds of teens struggling with the challenges of growing up, but this is the first time that I have read a book specifically about the particular needs of teens growing up in affluence. I grew up in an affluent home in an affluent town and am now graduating from UCSD with many more affluent young people raised all over the state. This book didn’t trivialize these kid’s needs, or the challenges presented to their parents and never reduced the root of the problem to some sort of “poor rich kid” syndrome. Dr Levine was able to talk about some of the challenges of raising kids in tactful and honest way that called particular attention to the difficulties in raising kids in an environment where money is no object.

The chapter on the formation of “the healthy self” stood out to me as particularly relevant to what I have seen. With statements like “It is hard to develop an authentic self when there is constant pressure to adopt a socially facile, highly competitive, performance-oriented, unblemished “self ” that is promoted by omnipresent adults” (page 65) it was hard for me not to see a little bit of myself, and tons of other teens I grew up with being described to some extent. I know young adults who were so over scheduled as kids, so encouraged by parents and adults, so socially crafted that they get to graduation and honestly have no idea who they are. I have seen people I love go away to college and have no idea how to self regulate, how to make decisions like picking a major or class schedule for themselves. They become literally paralyzed with indecision and with lack of self awareness. Having seen this in action, Levine’s book becomes an important resource for me to understand how being raised in affluence may be a risk factor for emotional difficulties instead of being a buffer as has been suggested in most of the other sources I have read.

The next chapters of the book focus on different aspects of parenting that are affected by money and the kinds of societal norms that may emerge in areas where there is money. I won’t go into details about exactly what she covers, but I will say that I would strongly recommend giving this book a read. I think parents, prospective parents, people who work with teens or their parents could really use this book as a starting point (or a continuation of) taking a hard look at the effects of monetary comfort on their kids and teenagers. Levine is understanding and sensitive to the challenges parents face while still managing to get real about how important it is for parents to understand how what they do influences the emotional state of their kids. I know my parents fought hard to make sure to cultivate in me a sense of self and of personal ownership and responsibility and I so appreciate their hard work. I know it wasn’t easy for them to do but I have to say everything they did then is greatly appreciated by me now! This book seems like it would be a resource I would want to have if I were looking at the incredible challenge of raising kids.

I hope this was helpful, either in encouraging you to read this book or helping you decide it’s not for you.

 

 
 

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End of the Year Celebrations: Parent Resources

As our mid-week programs are wrapping up at our church, I thought I’d share an idea that we put into practice last year and are still in the process of refining.

A few years ago, as we handed out awards and recognition for our students at the end of the school year, I began wrestling with how empty our awards ceremony felt.  There we were, with a ton of our committed parents in the room, handing out ribbons, certificates and trophies and then sending families on their merry way for the summer months.

So, last year, I decided to turn part of the night into a vision casting session for parents.  First, we show this video:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/18984255]

this video is courtesy of Orange and 252 Basics which we use as our Sunday Morning Strategy at our church

Then, with moms in the room getting all teary-eyed because they think of their baby leaving the house in a few short years, we give them a vision for making the next years of parenting count.  We explain that our church desires to come alongside them and partner with them to raise their children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus.  With the term “partnership” in mind, we then offer them resources that we feel will help them a) catch the vision of partnership with the church and b) equip them to parent more confidently over the next year.

This year, we offered three resources for parents to choose from.
You can read about them here: http://www.glenkirkchurch.org/articles1-170/ParentingResourceList

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So… here’s my question, have you done something like this and, if so, what resources are you putting in the hands of the parents in your community?  If you haven’t… tell me why not.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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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].

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

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

 

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