Creative Faith-Based Conversations for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving provides one of the best holiday opportunities for parents to pass down faith to the next generation.

I’ve been working on some great ideas to infuse faith into Thanksgiving, and I’d thought I’d share them with you.

I’ll share one  a day for the next four days.  Here’s the first.

1. First, the food: With the excitement surrounding Master Chef Junior,
kids are more excited than ever to help out in the kitchen. If your kids haven’t seen this show, you can log on and watch an episode together.

Serving together in the kitchen just might lead to a great discussion about how kids can and should have an important role in serving their local church today, not just when they “grow up.”

Sprinkle in a little talk about 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, and you have an organic home Bible study!

Include fun backstories to “secret family recipes” and why you serve certain dishes at your holiday meal.

Maybe even go really crazy and let your children plan the menu this year, (with a
little adult help and suggestions, of course.)


This was originally posted as a blog post I wrote for parentministry.net and can be found here: http://parentministry.net/2014/11/4-creative-faith-based-conversations-for-thanksgiving/

“Do Not Be Afraid! God Is With Us!”

At a time where our nation mourns the tragedy in Connecticut, I am reminded of one of the most common phrases used by God and Jesus, “Do not be afraid…I am with you.” It doesn’t explain, excuse or make all things better. Tragedies like this one don’t make sense no matter how many questions are answered.

These words of God simply remind us of the truth that God is with us all the time, even when it doesn’t feel that way. These are words a parent shares with their child in a storm, a crowd, an adventure and now also a tragedy: “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

So whether you are a parent, student, Christian, or just filled with emotions and questions, please allow these verses to be important, encouraging reminders in a time when we desperately need them. They are not answers or solutions. They are reminders of God’s presence with us, in good times & bad.

Genesis 26:24 NLT
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you”

Deuteronomy 7:21 NLT
“No, do not be afraid…for the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Joshua 1:9 NLT
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT
“Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Matthew 28:20 NLT
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

What Is Family Ministry?

So, what is “family ministry”? Basically, it’s coming alongside parents and helping them teach their kids how to ride their bikes. (If you need more than the Twitter version, please read on. And be sure to join all of us on this Family Ministry Blog Tour as new voices share their answer to this question each day.)

I used to feel guilty about not having a formal program that could be labeled “family ministry.” I partner with our Children’s, High School and Young Adult Pastors, but we’re not a formal “Family Ministry Team.” But I stopped feeling guilty when I realized I do quite a bit of family ministry. However, it is woven throughout my ministry. And I wonder if it might be in yours too.

As I have studied and reflected on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 over the years, I have realized that God gave this great guide for family ministry. Verses 6-7 sum it up. I like the Message translation best: “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Basically, wherever you are, all the time, parents are to lead their family in being about God and his commands!

I see this through the eyes of a husband, father, and Middle School Pastor. I’m going to focus on that last one today. I am responsible for leading two ministries, one for preteens (5th-6th grade) and one for middle schoolers (7th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in central Indiana.

I have some great friends in a group called FourFiveSix who nailed what Family Ministry Looks like in 2 pieces. The motto of this group, of which I am a part, is to “help your preteen ministry take the next step.” The second part is in our metaphor: “Letting Go of the Bike.” Basically, FourFiveSix wants to help churches take the next step, whatever that is, with their preteen ministry. At the core of that, is helping parents “let go of the bike” of their child’s faith. As I equip and encourage fellow parents of preteens, (I have a 6th grader myself), I am constantly doing so through the lens of helping them allow their child to make their faith their own while they “run alongside” and help them on this journey.

Then, in working with parents of 7th-8th graders in my ministry, I feel like, (to continue the metaphor), we are helping parents allow their child to ride the bike of their faith around the block. They get more freedom, but within reasonable boundaries. I feel like this ministry is one where “family ministry” really stands out to me. Why? Parents of middle schoolers really want someone to help them. They don’t understand what is going on with their kids, (especially if they have forgotten what they were like in middle school). And I believe they get too many “I’m sorry for you.” and not enough “Let me help you.”, or even at least a few who might say, “Let me walk beside you.” And sometimes, parents of middle schoolers just need us in the church whether as a pastor or small group leader to simply echo to their kids what they are saying at home so that when it comes out of our mouths, the kids will actually listen and accept it!

What does this look like in real life? With parents, it starts by helping them known and follow Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:6 commands the parents to be committed before they can lead their children. Sometimes, I help a parent find a good Bible or Bible app. Other times, I’m simply a listening ear or understanding friend walking alongside them through the joys and challenges of parenthood.

With parents of preteens, it’s often us as parents who have a hard time letting go of the bike, even though our children are more than ready for the opportunity! So, sometimes I make a simple suggestion that helps a parent like providing a simple tool that their preteen can choose to use in developing a quiet time. Or, it might be that I bring parents in to a service to play games alongside their preteen and see just how much fun this age group is.

And with parents of middle schoolers, I ask for directions when I get lost in the school myself! (It’s helpful to show humility and realize that sometimes the best ministry we give families is allowing them to minister to us “experts.”) Sometimes I remind them of the importance of us as parents being parents and knowing that being our child’s friend comes much further down the road. Other times I pray with them and recommend a Christian counselor when problems are beyond what we can handle.

You won’t find much of this in my blog, on our church website, or in any printed material you might pick up. But these things are part of the DNA of how we do ministry with families. And keep in mind, these are all different kinds of families with various joys and struggles. For me, especially as I work with families of preteens and middle schoolers, family ministry is not so much about any one specific thing we do as it is about keeping Deuteronomy 6 in mind and helping families live that out themselves in the context of a church community.

(Books have endnotes. I haven’t quite seen how to do that well in blogs. So, although I’m probably breaking some blog etiquette, here are my endnotes.)

Although I regularly contact them to voice my thoughts, concerns and suggestions on how they can better help those of us ministering specifically to preteens and middle schoolers, I owe a HUGE amount of thanks to Orange and all they have done to help me and so many others reThink ministry, especially family ministry. Their “orange” concept is brilliant in its simplicity. I highly recommend reading Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. I’m reading it right now!

If you are working with 4th-6th graders in your church, I know I am biased, but I really believe you can find so many people and resources to help you at fourfivesix.org

Another book I am reading right now, and the best I have come across for parents of middle schoolers, is Mark Oestricher’s Understanding Your Young Teen

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