Follow the Leader: Bringing Kids to Worship

Thank you. Parents, let me be the first to thank you. What for, you ask? For simply bringing your child to worship. I know – it is often a less than simple task! Sometimes it can be a little chaotic. Other times, you spend an hour with a restless toddler and leave feeling like you have missed out. Or, maybe your 5th grader is a little less than excited to get in the car with you on Sunday morning? However, there are also those moments when you hear your 4 year old singing along with a song or you see your toddler run up to a trusted adult after church, and you are reminded of the importance of worshiping with your child.

If you haven’t heard it before, let me be the first to tell you – it mattered. The act of coming to church is noticed by your child. Watching you participate in worship is the most important sermon for your child. Seeing that you prioritize that hour of the week, every week, is an important step in training your child to love the Lord.

How then, can you as a parent help make that hour on Sunday mornings meaningful for your child? In the September-October Good News, you can check out my full article filled with tips on how you can help to make Sunday morning worship more accessible for your child. 

Here are some specific things you can try out this week as you and your family prepare to worship together this coming Sunday.

  • Over the last several weeks we have been talking about being a leader at church. At home this week, play Follow the Leader with your children. Talk about what it means to influence others and be a leader. For older children, you could have them lead the family in prayer before a meal or in a discussion about a Bible Story.
  • Download one of the songs we will be singing this week in worship. Play it for your children this week as you drive them to school or before bed after story time. Help them be familiar with the song so they can participate on Sunday. For older children, print out the lyrics and talk about them together. In Fitchburg this week we'll be singing Spirit of Heaven by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend at the early service and and at Exalt we'll be singing Rejoice by Dustin Kensrue/Stuart Townend and Glorify Your Name by David Glenn
  • Help your child decide on an amount of money that they would like to bring this week for an offering. Place it in an envelope and decorate the envelope as an act of worship and praise for God.
  • Pick a night this week to have a prayer time as a family. Have each person name one prayer request. Write those down and, on Sunday, transfer them to prayer scroll together.
  • Have your child list 1-3 people from church who they trust and enjoy being with. Help your child write notes/cards to those people this week and deliver them on Sunday at worship.

How do you help to engage your children in worship? I’d love to know what has worked for you! Or, check out the article in the good news and let us know which idea you are trying out.

 

Moved to Action

This week, as we think about how we can be compassionate leaders, we have a great opportunity to follow Christ’s example in going beyond sympathizing to reaching out to relieve the suffering of others.  


At the Preschool, the other teachers and I are privileged to help young children learn what it means to be children of God.  Since the tragic death of our fellow Preschool teacher Ashlee Steele and her sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, last month, many of you have shared our suffering and reached out to support us as well as the affected families. Now I’d like to share another way we can demonstrate compassion to Ashlee’s children: Preschool families will gather on our playground in Fitchburg tonight for a Back to School fundraiser, all of the proceeds from which will go to the Ashlee Steele Memorial Fund.  If you’re moved to donate, please visit or call or any Wells Fargo location and refer to account # 658 421 6003.  


I’d also really like to hear from you: will you share a time when you saw compassion in action?  What did that mean to you? 

 

Let Go and Lead

This week we’re learning about being selfless leaders, and I’d like to take this opportunity to propose stepping into lifeGroup leadership as a great way to practice selflessness.  Will you consider giving up to Jesus any apprehensions or concerns about time commitment, and leading alongside a group of people who are also learning to be more selfless?  


As I think about selfless leadership, I want to share a bit about Between Sundays, a book written by Karen Kingsbury that tells the fictional story of an NFL Quarterback who realizes that the most important victories are won off the field.  I read the book this summer and I kept thinking about our lives as Jesus followers.  What really matters is how we live our lives “between Sundays.”  It is good to come together as the family of God and worship and praise Him on a Sunday morning: we are encouraged from His Word and our faith is strengthened.  But then what?  What we do with what we know “between Sundays” is what matters.  With whom do we share what we learned?  How do we put our love into action?  Where do we use the gifts that God has given us?  How do we live out what we learn?  With whom are we building relationships?


lifeGroup is just the place to practice what we have learned on Sunday, to check in with one another and see how it is going living out what we have learned.  We can put into practice the very things that we have been asked to do. It is more than just another meeting we go to to fill our calendars.  It is where we help each other follow Jesus.


Lately we have been hearing a lot about 1more leader, and have been asked the question, “Will you choose to lead?”  Perhaps that word doesn’t sit well with you. You might say, “I’m not a leader, I don’t have those skills.”  Or, “I’m too shy to be a leader.”  Or, “I just don’t know enough about the Bible to be a leader.”  The truth is, we all have different styles of leading, but we are all people who can influence another person.  Without people stepping up and saying, “Yes, I will lead a lifeGroup,” we will stay at the same number of groups, reaching the same number of people.  Healthy groups are designed to grow and multiply.  I am thankful for the many people who have said, “Yes, I will step out and lead,” and the new groups that we have.  Most of those people at one time were unsure about leading a lifeGroup.  What they have discovered over time is that they can do it.  It is much more about facilitating a discussion and asking questions than it is about having answers.  It is about walking alongside of others and sharing life together, and discovering how to follow Jesus.  There is shared leadership in the group; it really does not fall on just one person.  


The last words that Jesus shared with his followers before he ascended into heaven were not about just going to church on Sundays; he said, “Go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19-20).  We need to do more than just “church” people: we need to disciple them.  Who do you share life with that is close enough to you that they can see how you handle a stressful situation, hear how you pray, actually read God’s word with you to learn how you ask questions of what God is showing you?  Who can you share your story with, and share the good news about the abundant life that is waiting for them as they trust in Jesus?  Don’t wait for someone else to step up; you can do it, you can lead.


To start the conversation, I’d love to know: where you have you led in the past, and what was that experience like for you?

 

What is Real Work?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”  

1 Corinthians 10:31


What gets you out of bed in the morning?  And perhaps more importantly, why does it motivate you to put your feet on the floor and move forward?


In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Timothy Keller (with Katherine Leary Alsdorf) argues that work is integral to our fulfillment as beings created in God’s image. God designed us from the beginning to delight in the work He gives us. Our first vocation, in Eden, was to garden. As Keller observes, gardening involves cultivating the raw material of the world, shaping, arranging, and limiting it in order to create more beauty, draw more food or coax more usefulness from what was there.  As God worked creatively and joyfully, we were made to work creatively and joyfully.


Does any of that sound like what you do, or aspire to do?


We are often vexed by this.  We long to achieve an ideal, a vision of beauty or order, of goodness and usefulness, and can never quite get there.  We experience frustration and friction in our work and relationships. We get tired. We struggle to find meaning in the endless “maintenance” jobs of life, or to find meaningful work at all.  


God’s original plan – a delightful relationship between us and our work, each other and Him, was undone by sin.  In the world we inhabit now, nothing is untouched by sin, including work.  But Jesus came to redeem the world: soul and body, work and creation, living and dying.  He came to make all things new.  As Keller says, “If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.  That is what the Christian faith promises.”


Which gets to motivation:  who are you working for?


If our work is redeemed through the gospel, then the attitude we take to work, the way in which we carry it out, and the results of our work can bring glory to God, regardless of our occupation.  How might you walk that out in real life?  The final section of the book discusses this; for example you might:

 

  • learn to recognize and resist the idols peculiar to your profession
  • utilize your Christ-like mindset and worldview in making decisions and relating to others
  • model rest and excellence in your work

 

As we do our work, which God has given us to do, for Him, we are able to work with more creativity,  purpose and freedom.  We know that in the end, we work for a Kingdom and a King that cannot fail.


I’d love to hear from you: what hobby, job, or other endeavor that you engage in brings you the most joy? 

 

Serving Is...

Serving is… SIMPLE.  Not always easy, but simple.

That’s an important distinction: simple is not always easy.  For example, we can be leaders and serve others by being truly present in each moment, fully engaged with the people who are in front of us.  Sounds pretty simple, right?

Not so, for me.  I often feel like I need to rush through things to get to what’s next.  And I confess that as I wrote this article, I was frequently distracted by a little girl who sometimes has much more to say than I think I’m capable of listening to in a given moment.  Ever been there?  It was honestly a real struggle for me to get myself to put the laptop down, let go of work for the two hours left before bedtime, and not worry about how to make the time pass quickly so I could finish my writing.

I had the same struggle while I was with other adults and teens on the mission trip to South Carolina a few weeks ago.  The photo here, which some of you may recognize from my original Facebook post, tells a story -- maybe something like, “You can use a power tool even if you’re pregnant!” -- but it hides an underlying dynamic.  Every time their was a new board to cut, I had to remind myself that it was much more important to let the kids use the circular saw and realize their own potential in building things for the Kingdom than it was to get things done efficiently.  This was a point that our Emily, our Youth Director, mentioned several times, and it was a crucial reminder for me to remain engaged in the moment and remember why we were there, rather than rushing to the next step in our project.

I’ve found that leadership, and discipleship in general, frequently involves such experiences: we want others to just “get it” so we can move on to someone else, or to some other focus area.  Whenever I take the time to reflect on this, however, I remember the truth as taught and lived by Jesus: serving is simple.  Focus on one person, one thing at a time.  Instead of grabbing a water to go, “sit by the well” while you drink and converse with others around you.

Serving doesn’t necessarily have to involve planning a service project weeks in advance, following a set curriculum, or even leaving our neighborhoods.  God designed us to live in community with others, and we’re already situated in communities where we can serve in simple, meaningful ways.

Here are just a few more examples of how simply being present in a moment can allow you to serve others:

  • Commit to spending the hour before dinner talking and playing together as a family or with your roommates, with everyone’s phones and other electronics put away.  

  • Ask a coworker or lifeGroup buddy to get ice cream or a drink with you after work, and take an hour or two to catch up (again sans phones).

  • Read to your child’s class once a week and make eye contact with each child, noticing how their little faces drink in the story you’re telling.  

  • When a friend shares how tired (s)he’s been lately, listen, and offer to babysit his or her kid(s) for an evening.

  • When someone who’s dealing with an illness, work crisis, or other struggle crosses your mind, pause whatever you’re doing and send a text message to let them know you’re in their corner.

Matthew 25:40 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these bothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

What reminders or practices have you found that help you to remain engaged in the moment?