Family Rhythm in Nicaragua

20 09 2019

Dear friends and family,

After four years, I am returning to Nicaragua for a ten-day training trip!

As many of you know, I run a program at my church called Family Rhythm. It is an equipping ministry for building strong family habits that points children to Christ daily. Through classes and coaching conversations, parents learn to make stronger connections with their kids for 

  • training wisdom
  • growing character
  • instilling foundational Christian thinking.

This material is also packaged in the form of a conference for the church in Nicaragua. Bluewater Baptist Church has a strong partnership with Threefold Ministries. Locally, the Skylark Retreat Centre, which is Threefold’s foremost project, provides churches with “a multi-use facility to congregate and raise up its leadership.” I will travel there from October 16-26 to teach the Family Rhythm (Ritmo Familiar) conference for church leaders and parents. 

I will be travelling with Rev. Wayne Hancock, the managing director for Threefold, and Deane Proctor, lead pastor of Queensway Baptist Church. Deane will be simultaneously leading a conference for pastors on leadership and hermeneutics.

Nicaragua is located in central america. It has recently gone through a period of significant political turmoil. For many months, travel to the country was restricted. “Approximately 67% of those living in the Los Medranos area subsist on less than $9 per day. There are no local health care centres in the immediate area and transportation options to larger centres are limited. 93% do not have permanent access to clean water. Children make up 1/3 of the population” (Annual Report, 2018).

I am so thrilled to be a part of this ministry! I am thankful to my Bluewater church family for sending me. I am thankful for my wife who will hold down the fort while I am away. Please pray for the families of Nicaragua as we also continue to pray for the families of Sarnia and Canada. Through Christ, our stronger families can carry out His mission in the world. And we press on toward that goal.

Prayer requests:

  • Families moving closer to Jesus, closer to each other
  • Staff making preparations at Skylark to host 
  • Obstacles removed for people to come
  • Inner peace in the midst of political turmoil

Living life with Jesus and you,

Pastor Steve

September, 2019

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Four Steps to Form a New Habit

18 12 2018

45571249_2106844162701275_2640239142721552384_nHabits are human nature. As the saying goes, “We are creatures of habit.” But habits, particularly family habits, direct the course of our lives. They take us places. Sometimes places we want to go, other times…not so much. Families that take the time to intentionally think through and plan their patterns and habits will be able to navigate better and influence the next generation well for the long journey. 

So let’s get disciplined and train our families with well thought-out habits. Here are four steps to make it happen.

…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-5

 

  1. Identify Pain: There is suffering and there are trials in life. Good habits are an antidote to the chaos that sin brings into God’s world. Consider pain points in your family. Perhaps you are disconnected. Maybe your children are behind in their education. Consider patterns of misbehaviour and what that reveals such as lying or whining.  
  2. Implement Training: When you have clearly identified a pain point in your home, use that starting place to blitz ideas or research possible good habits that will counter it. For example, the pain of loneliness might stir up desires to find ways to get more regularly connected at church. Or, too much screen time might generate an urge to block out some quiet time or schedule a board games night. Pick one and schedule it (daily, weekly, monthly, annually). Schedule time and place. Learn how to coach well. Plan to persevere.
  3. Influence Growth: Once a habit is going, keeping it going is a struggle. But this is where character is formed. Be all in on what you decide. Review to make sure your framework in place will make the habit sustainable. Get buy-in from everyone in the family at a family meeting. Be aware of natural resistance to change. Build trust through positive reinforcement and meaningful attention and connection. Consider your use of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, motivators and incentives.
  4. Inspire Destiny: Hope is like a deep breath of fresh air. It fills us so we can keep going. One day, God will restore a New Heavens and New Earth. Until that time, good godly habits are how we partner with God in His restoration plan. Our families can provide fertile soil for planting and reaping good habit fruit. With every habit you learn, strongly answer the question of why you’re implementing it. Consider the impact on your peace and joy at home. Consider the character it will form. Consider long-term health benefits, financial benefits, educational benefits, spiritual benefits. Young children will have difficulty seeing the long-term, so that will mostly be for you. But as children grow, you can add more terminology and reasoning that will help them get over the hump of resistance. 

Identifying and coming to grips with pain and suffering is a driver for learning a new habit. Implementing a new training plan with a simple and actionable goal gets the habit off the ground. Steady, ongoing coaching and practice will sustain the habit and influence its growth. A sustained habit will shape who you become so continually inspire a hopeful destination.

Your kids need you. Lead them well by showing them how to form strong habits for life…no matter how often failure creeps in and how crooked the path may be.





Is this Really Worth My Time?

14 09 2017

“Is all of this really making a difference?”

132H

Steve Adams, Executive Pastor of Children’s Ministry at Saddleback Church in California, asks this question in his book, Children’s Ministry on Purpose. And we all do don’t we? We wonder if our efforts developing children really means anything. Perhaps we should ignore our little ones and not make any attempts to build their character.

No! Don’t do it!

Of course, this question is not an easy one to answer and our children don’t often come running up to us to thank us for all our wisdom! But like a seed planted and watered, we watch it grow and mature over time by God’s power (1 Cor.3:6-7). As Adams says,

Farmers understand that when they plant a seed in the ground, there is a process that goes with the planting…This is a process worth every minute of our planting efforts regardless of the demands, obstacles, and sacrifices we face. God’s Word tells us that our work does make a difference.

Every word, every lesson plan, every visual aid, every story, every high five is a seed. A seed that sinks in and shapes and influences young lives as they grow, change and adopt internal core beliefs. What you do matters in the life of a child!





How a Child Grows

31 08 2017
People who work with children have the privilege of watching children grow up. Even more, we get to see them form a solid foundation for their lives with Christ. Spiritual formation is a fancy term for becoming more like Christ. Michelle Anthony, author of Family Ministry Essentials, reminds us of this process:
…Holiness is not found in some formulaic package of ingredients. It’s not necessarily defined by what we do or don’t do. Rather, it depends onwhat Christ is doing in us. This was a big “Aha!” moment for me. To see spiritual formation as something I was doing puffed me up and made me feel superior. To see spiritual formation as something Christ was doing in me as I submitted to Him was a game changer.
Recall the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 4:19: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth untilChrist is formed in you.”
May you see Christ formed in you and the children you serve!
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Human Sin: Avoiding Two Traps

14 06 2016

My wife doesn’t like this word, but sin sucks! Children are aware of their own sin. When approaching the topic of sin avoid these two traps: 1) Gloss over sin saying, “That’s just kids being kids.” (Seeds planted soon grow.) 2) Squash children with an overbearing weight of impossible expectations. Rather, teach awareness of personal and mass sinfulness while always holding onto hope that God has a way out.

Thorns

Sin is anything we think, say or do that does not please God.

-Child Evangelism Fellowship

No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds.

-Galatians 6:7-8

Glossy

Because children are aware of so much wrong around them, glossing over it, watering it down, ignoring it or flat out denying it only masks an oozing wound. A wound that’s infected must first be recognized before it can be cleaned. A seed of sinfulness planted will soon become an unwanted, choking weed.

Squashy

Because children are so trusting and delicate, they can be easily squashed and crushed under the weight of heavy burdens that we may put on them to act right. The wound is opened further with forced conformity and children may respond in one of two ways: 1) withdraw and pretend to behave well or, 2) resist and rebel.

Mix-y

I wonder if there’s a middle ground here-perhaps a beneficial mix. Not between glossing and squashing, but take a closer look at what good may possibly be embedded in these mindsets. I like the words awareness and hope. People who gloss may tend to want hope, however, they distort it. People who squash may tend to promote awareness, but they dwell on it. Let’s mix ’em.

Awareness and honest assessment of my personal sin will cause varying degrees of guilt and grief. This is actually a good thing, but not on its own. Hope comes along and shows us the way to complete relief and freedom from the oppression of sin. So with children, we show them the serious effects of sin which can lead to repentance (change of heart and mind), but also show them hope in a God who makes things right and brings us back together.

Here’s a simple and effective visual you can use with children to explain the effects of sin and the reward of hope. Hold your two fists together. Talk about close and enjoyable relationship. Pull your fists apart. Talk about the pain of a good relationship that is separated. Bring your fists back together again and celebrate the joy of coming back to good relationship. You could even try moving your fists slowly apart to illustrate little sins building up over time. Or try moving your fists apart quickly to illustrate something more harmful.

 

That’s what sin does: separates. 

That’s what hope does: rejoins.

Lord, don’t let sin crush us. Deliver us!





Trinity: Perplexing Mystery, Fascinating Hope

31 05 2016

Have you ever tried talking to children about Jesus being equal with God the Father and just ended up stumbling over your words? Then try saying that there’s a Holy Spirit too and he’s God, but there’s still just one God. Perhaps we can use words like these when explaining Trinity to children: “Thanks to Jesus Christ, we can have closeness with God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Let your clarifications flow from this.

Understanding God as triune is a non-negotiable dimension of the gospel.

-Stanley Grenz

…for through [Jesus Christ we] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

-Ephesians 2:17-18

Epic Quest

Understanding the Trinity is a perplexing mystery and yet, it is a fascinating hope worth gazing on.

Consider the galaxy. It’s vastness overcomes our sense of wonder. But at the same time it continually draws us into a longing to discover every aspect of it.

The unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three distinct persons is like this. Our little human minds fail to properly understand this God, but at the same time, we are fascinated with the pursuit of knowing God personally. The Trinity pictures for us unity, diversity, loving relationship, unique roles, one source of life and various expressions of life.

With children, however, the complexities of these thoughts can quickly be lost. As I recommend in another post, let’s keep it simple. But keeping it simple does not mean boring or dry. We can stir up children’s imaginations and propel them to want more.

Let’s send kids on an epic quest of endless discovery of their Creator, Lord and Best Friend.

Let’s break down my kid-friendly description of the Trinity: “Thanks to Jesus Christ, we can have closeness with God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Thanks to Jesus Christ

Without Jesus (being God/deity, becoming human/humanity, bringing together/atonement, etc.) we can’t come to God. He makes forever friendship with God possible. He defeats death, which is the opposite of God who brings life to all things. He shows us what God is like. So we teach kids to thank Jesus for what he’s done for us.

Closeness with God the Father

God is Father to Creation, all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere-present. We honour God to remember this. Furthermore, God is all-loving and endlessly kind. A simple way to start this conversation with children is to say, “God is great and God is good.” While God is super strong, he also wants to be crazy close.

Holy Spirit Power

The Holy Spirit gives us power to come alive. He connects us to the Father. He fills us with all godly things. He helps us live as God designed us to. He is not the force. He has much better power than that. So we teach children to want the power of God in them.

The Father creates life, Jesus brings back life and the Holy Spirit empowers life. God is all about life (one God). Each member of the Trinity shows off that life in different ways. Trinity: One God united and three diverse persons. This is over simplistic, but I find it helpful to say big truths in small ways and in many ways. Don’t lose sight of the Quest!

What are your own ways to speak of these big truths with your children?

Lord, I want to understand how you are one great God, and three distinct persons!





Human Worth: How to See the Good in Others

25 05 2016

Why is it that so many of us feel worthless? Why is it that so much of the world treats others as worthless? Whatever the reason, let me state something very clear: you…have…worth! God made us to be like him. No other creature is given that gift. So see the good that God sees. Draw out the wonders kids have buried in them. When we see people the way God sees them, we will treat them with higher honour. Kids matter to God. We matter to God. You and the children in your life are not throw-aways.

teddybearstreet.gratisography

I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand!

-Linus (Charles Schulz)

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness.”

-Genesis 1:26

See the Good

Seeing the good in kids takes practice. It starts with seeing the good in yourself. If God looks at you and says, “You are very good,” there must be a reason for it.

Think of this practice as a treasure hunt.

Hunt for glimpses of hope, joy, kindness, or thoughtfulness. It’s easy and, quite frankly, lazy to just notice what’s wrong. Be on the lookout for talents, abilities, character traits, gifts, potential, development, skills, effort, attitude.

Then, when you’ve seen the good, notice it. Comment on it. Develop it further. Celebrate the image of God. Look for and draw out the image of God wherever you are, wherever you go.

Tips for Noticing Worth

Here are some quick and powerful ideas for adding value in your family and with the children in your life:

  • Names. Making the effort to remember kids names you don’t know quickly increases your connection with them. Nicknames and affirming labels with children can be fun and also meaningful.
  • Attention. Locking in with kids shows you care. Authentically listen and show interest in what they’re interested in.
  • Ask. When it’s all about you, you won’t express interest in others. Asking thoughtful questions tells a child they have a voice and have something worth sharing with the group or family. Beware of dominating conversations.
  • Sympathy and Empathy. The dictionary shows the similarity and difference between these two words. Sympathy is to suffer or feel with or alongside. Empathy is to suffer or feel within. In other words, sympathy comes alongside someone in an attempt to care. Empathy internalizes and identifies with those feelings. The former shows worth because the other person is noticed and compassion is expressed. The latter shows worth because there is identification and understanding-a mile was walked in the other’s shoes.
  • Imitate God. John Maxwell said, “If I want to add value to people, I will do the things that God values.” Lay aside your own interests, serve, care for the least lovable, continue loving when it’s hard and forgive and forgive again.

How have you shown worth to children recently?

Lord, we celebrate the worth you give us.








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