Mungu Land: Come to the Castle

It’s time to “Come to the Castle” and hear stories from the King.  This month’s theme was inspired by Chris Tomlin’s new book, Good Good Father and we encourage you check out the board book version, Good Good Father for Little Ones.

As we travel through the stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Hagar, Gideon, and Daniel, your preschoolers will learn that . . . …

God is always with me.
God hears me and gives me what I need.
God teaches me the way to go.
God protects me.

It’s a fantastic month that is sure to help your preschooler know that God is with them all the time, and God’s got it.

May’s Preview Video is available. Check it out!

*Content taken from First Look Orange Curriculum May 2017

The importance of mentoring students

Guest Blog post by Marica Ramey. Marica attends Parker Hill and serves as a small group leader in 3D. 

My hair was teased so far out it required half a can of Aqua Net, so I could somehow intentionally make myself look like I had elephant ears. I beach rolled my jeans, popped my collar, wore hula-hoops for earrings, and wore jelly shoes that left the most horrible blisters on my feet. Yes, you were there with me and you know who you are… We lived the 80’s!!! Ever wonder, “What was I thinking?” The decisions we made were likely based on what friends, celebrities, and TV told us was “totally rad” at the time. We naturally imitated those we admired. Now, we all get the privilege of looking back at pictures of our younger self with an overwhelming sense of equally co-mingled embarrassment and entertainment! Today, in this technologically and social-media saturated society, students continue to be exposed to the influences of culture, media, fashion and music that we will never be able to completely control. So, shouldn’t that make us focus even more on intentionally and purposefully linking them with people and organizations that are going to make a vested investment in their growth and health, while promoting and shaping the kind of values that you also promote at home? Where would you find such a person? Glad you asked…   

 

Mentors. It’s one of those words that can be hard to define. Mentors equal influence. I think of mentors as the select few who will be on the lifetime-highlight-reel of VIP’s that made the most substantial deposits and investments in your child’s emotional, mental, and spiritual resources. Sometimes it’s over years and other times it’s just a short chapter in their life, but incredible mentors leave a mark that will last a lifetime. Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner) explains that “Trust equals consistency over time. There’s no shortcut for either.” We know that increased trust results in increased influence. While parents are most definitely the strongest influence in their child’s life, it is also extremely important to have trusted adults that will consistently choose to show up in that child’s life and walk alongside them through the highs and lows, while using their own unique experiences, talents, resources, and wisdom for the benefit of your child! However, not every adult is automatically a mentor. In “The Power of Following” (http://amzn.to/2nkBm1A), Freedom Kongvold talks about the unique role of mentors and points out an important distinction that there is a “…difference between someone who cares about you versus someone who can lead you forward” (p. 17). Mentors are meant to lead your child forward in a specific area.

 

Mentors are also coaches. Think of a sport you’ve played. How would your performance have been affected if there was no coach directing the team at practices and games? Now, picture a favorite teacher or coach that you had growing up. Why did you like them so much? Chances are pretty high that they believed in you and helped you believe in yourself and probably gave you some sort of tools to help you succeed. I’m sure they encouraged, supported, and challenged you in some way too. When it comes to issues like moral boundaries, conflict resolution, and personal faith we must be intentional about placing these kinds of adults in the lives of students to help coach, shape, and guide their decisions. The most effective mentoring with the greatest influence usually happens in informal, everyday settings and, in my experience, often comes in the form of late night phone calls and texts, or impromptu talks at camp or even at Sky Zone. By the way, why is it that a student’s emotional processing has an incredibly resilient nocturnal feature that brings out the “big” issues late at night? 

 

What can parents do to facilitate this connection?  Prioritize. Identify. Encourage. Make church and small group activities a priority. This may mean some schedule changes. Also, contact and connect with small group leaders and other positive, adult mentors in your child’s life to let them know how they can support you in handling specific issues with your student. Browse through the Parker Hill Students Facebook page (@parkerhill3d) or message small group leaders to stay up to date on the weekly teaching topics. Encourage your students to talk with these mentors, especially about things they may not be comfortable talking to you about. Small group leaders are positioned to be mentors that can strengthen spiritual growth and cheer your child on through whatever phase they are in and the challenges they are facing. Research shows that a large majority of students, who hold on to their faith and stay in church after graduation, have had positive adult influences and connections during high school. In Christianity Today (May, 2014), Ed Stetzer reports that the ages of 17 – 19 is when the highest rate of church drop-out occurs. However, one of the factors that most predicts a teen’s likelihood of staying in church is that “At least one adult from church made a significant investment in me personally and spiritually (between 15 – 18).” MENTORS!!!!!!!

 

So, what’s the end game? What are the future results you can expect to see? Well, it’s hard to say because an effective mentoring relationship is often going to be just as much about the things that DON’T happen in your child’s life, as it is about what DOES happen. It’s about the choices they make and the choices they decide to walk away from. Parents, mentors are one of your best resources to promote these daily “wins” and to help students face challenges. Connecting your student with mentors will definitely make your parenting more effective because now there are other adults speaking the same truth into your child’s life. Mentors turn up the volume on truth.

 

Bottom line: A mentor accelerates and maximizes your child reaching their God-given potential. They are a traffic light to prompt and guide them on the road ahead and to help them navigate the pitfalls they may face.

 

A core value that we purposefully promote at Parker Hill is: “Life is better connected!” It’s true. Try it out! Who can you encourage your student to connect to that can be a mentor in their life? Coaches have a roster of players and positions to maximize the success of their team and as parents, so should you! So here’s your game plan: Prioritize. Identify. Encourage. (That’s right, “P.I.E.” because who doesn’t like pie?)

EpicKidz in April: Humility

Humility is a response of the character of God.        

God has no beginning and no end. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He deserves all of our worship and praise for what He has done and continues to do in our life.

On the other hand, we are humans, created by God. And while we are the crowns of God’s creation, we are nothing without our Creator God.

Yet so often, we act like we are God. We allow our pride to take over and forget that any of our strengths or accomplishments would not exist without God. The only proper response in light of God’s greatness is to respond with humility in our interactions with the people around us.

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility.

Jesus is the Son of God. And in the beginning, Jesus was part of creating the heavens and the earth. And as the Son of God, there is nothing in Heaven or on earth that isn’t under Jesus’ command. Yet Jesus chose to become one of us. He was born as a baby and walked among us. He developed calloused hands as He worked in a carpenter’s shop. The dirt of the road caked His feet as He traveled to show love to others. Jesus willingly left the majesty and glory of Heaven to laugh and cry as He fully became a human.

Jesus’ ultimate act of humility on Earth was His sacrificial death. He could have called down an angel army to protect Him, but instead, allowed Himself to be wrongly accused and arrested. He could have been worshipped with a gold crown and royal robes, but instead wore a crown of thorns. Jesus deserved praise and adoration, but sacrificed Himself for us.

We live in a world that’s all about putting ourselves first. Jesus lived in a world like that too. He could have looked out for Himself, called 10,000 angels to come and rescue Him. But He didn’t. Out of His love for us He chose the humble route and put us first. It cost Him everything.

Putting others first will cost you something: your time or money. Maybe it will cost you some pride. But when we choose to follow Jesus with our lives, believing that His death and resurrection made it possible for us to be right with God, the least we can do is put others first even if it’s a bit uncomfortable and cost us something.

We think it’s important, especially at Easter, for us to help our kids and families discover more about humility–putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve.

Our Memory Verse for April comes from Philippians 2:3.

In Philippians 2:3, we read, Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. (NIrV)

This verse is part of a passage that describes Jesus’ humility. Jesus left everything He deserved to humble Himself to save us. As we respond to Jesus’ love, we can show humility as we love on those around us.

As we celebrate Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection this Easter season, we’ll be taking a closer look at the way humility shows up throughout the end of Jesus’ time on earth.

WEEK 1
We start our discussion about humility in John 13:1-17 where we find Jesus and His disciples celebrating Passover in the upper room. Jesus wanted to give His disciples an example of what it meant to be a servant leader. With humility, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. He served them by doing the job of a servant.

Bottom Line: I can put others first by serving them. Kids will learn that they don’t need to wash their friends’ feet to show humility, but they can serve them and put them first. We pray this will be a powerful week for kids as they see how much Jesus did for them and how they can respond to Him by how they treat others.

WEEK 2
In Matthew 26:36-56, we take a look at the very garden where Jesus showed an unbelievable understanding of how important it was to put the will of the Father ahead of His own. Jesus knew why He came to earth. While He prayed for His Father to make another way, ultimately Jesus knew that He had to let go of what He wanted for the sake of saving the world from sin.

Bottom Line: I can put others first by letting go of what I want. At some point in our lives, we’ll be faced with a decision to give up something we want for what someone else wants. For Jesus this was a matter of life and death. While that may not be the case for us, showing humility in these situations is still important. We pray that kids will realize that showing humility is often more important than getting their way.

WEEK 3
We’re excited to celebrate Easter as we spend time in John 18:12–20:23. We’ll start with Jesus’ trial and end with celebrating the resurrection. The religious leaders are up in arms because Jesus has claimed to be God. Doesn’t matter that it’s TRUE; they’re still ready to dish out the ultimate punishment. And Jesus chose to give up everything and take that punishment, so that no one else has to.

Bottom Line: I can put others first because Jesus put me first. It cost Jesus everything to put us first. He gave up His life, so we could be with God forever. As we respond to God and His gift of salvation, we can follow Jesus’ example and put others first.

WEEK 4
Next, we head to Matthew 28:16-20. Now that Jesus was alive, the disciples would have thought that now it was time for Jesus to become king, but that wasn’t God’s plan. Jesus gave them a new job: go and tell everyone about Jesus and be like Jesus was to the rest of the world.   

Bottom Line: I can put others first by doing what Jesus said. We get to continue the mission that Jesus gave His disciples all those years ago. When we choose to share Jesus’ love with others, we’re putting them first. We pray that kids will realize that they have an important role in God’s One Big Story.

WEEK 5
Finally, we’ll take a closer look at the passage where we find our memory verse. In Philippians 2:3-8, Paul tells us how Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. He gave up everything to come to earth and save us.

Bottom Line: Put others first. We hope that when kids take a look at the people around them, that they will start to understand just how much Jesus loves them, it will change the way we treat them, and they’ll make sure to put them first.

*Taken from Orange 252 Basics Preview for April 2017 

Mungu Land in April: Jesus is #1

 Happy Easter! It’s time to celebrate that Jesus is alive! He went away, but He came back! Yay, Jesus!

Remember, this Easter could be the very first time EVER for some of the preschoolers at your church to hear the true story of Easter. And for others, this could be their first time ever even going to church. We have the awesome opportunity to tell them for the first time about how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet; made His triumphal entry; died and rose again; built His Church; and gave us the Great Commission.

We get to tell them the true story of how much God loves them and how He gave them His only Son. We get to tell them that Jesus is alive, and He wants to be their friend forever. We have one of the best jobs in the world! We get to share with preschoolers that Jesus is the best! What an honor and a privilege.

Check out the preview video for this month!

*Taken from Orange First Look Preview for April 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

Let’s talk about sex.

Maybe you have lived through some of these scenarios:

•   During bath time your three-year-old son asks you why his younger sister’s bottom looks different than his.

•   You are driving down the road when your seven-year-old daughter asks how babies are made.

•   As you are working on the family computer you stumbled upon your teenage son’s recent search history on Google.

How do you respond in these moments? As parents these scenes make you sweat. You can feel the lump forming in your throat as you picture these scenarios becoming a reality. For all the dads reading, you instinctive reaction is shouting, “Go ask your mother!”

Part of our squeamishness with sex dates back to the very first man and woman. God created us in his image. Adam and Eve were the only humans who knew sexual identity apart from bashfulness and brokenness, but this all changed when sin entered the world through their disobedience. We feel the effects of their actions in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. Part of the consequence of sin is the awkwardness that now accompanies sexuality.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”                                                                                                                              Genesis 3:7

Ever since that moment God’s plan for sexual identify and sexually integrity has been distorted.

When it comes to the topic of sexuality, we can too easily feel ill-equipped to field these questions and conversations with our children, or maybe that’s just me! However, we can’t ignore the subject. In fact, to do so will be detrimental to our children. God has given us the immense responsibility of helping our sons and daughters understand God’s design for sexuality. So what can we do?

Let me disappoint you up front by letting you know that there is no secret formula or recipe. There is no way to entirely remove the tension that will surface. With that in mind, I encourage you to try three things as you navigate this critical role in your parenting.

1. Talk about the subject openly and often. 

Maybe you are familiar with “the talk.” Yes, the iconic let’s sit down and discuss the birds and the bees discussion. Perhaps you even had “the talk” with your mom or dad. The premise of this right of passage is that you sit down and have a single conversation about the subject (as if you could cover all your bases in one session). Let me suggest a better way.

Our kids are going to hear this information from somewhere, so let it be from you and me rather than their friend on the school bus or their gym teacher. Instead of having a single talk before our kids head out on their first date, to prom, or off to college, let's talk about sex and sexuality often and honestly. If we create a safe environment for our children to ask questions, they’ll ask questions! Don’t just play defense but go on the offensive and look for opportunities to start the conversation.

2. Take the phase into account.

When talking about sex and sexuality, you don’t need to be bashful, but you should discuss the subject in an age-appropriate manner. What we share with a three-year-old should look drastically different than what we share with an eleven-year-old. That’s why is so important to take the phase into account.

A phase is a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage unique opportunities to influence their future. Each stage of a child’s life holds unique opportunities to discuss sexuality.

Dr. Jim Burns of Home Word focuses on four phases as a guide for talking with your children about sex and sexuality:

Preschool Phase- The goal: Introduce them to their body

Elementary Phase - The goal: Inform them about how things work

Middle School Phase- The goal: Interpret what is changing

High School Phase - Coach them towards healthy relationships

To learn more about these phases and tips on how to navigate these conversations, check out this podcast: Sex Conversations Trough the Phases.

3. Trust God to use you.

Sometimes it’s easy to want to rely solely on the experts like Dr. Jim or even your child’s teacher or student pastor. At Parker Hill, we believe in the power of combined influences. You don’t need to have these conversations alone, and there is power in many adults who speak the same message to our children. However, let me encourage you to not offload this responsibility simply because you're uncomfortable.

God has given you the unique opportunity to parent your child, and no one knows them like you. Trust God to use you in spite of your shortcomings, quirks, and sweaty palms to make a difference in the life of your child, even when it comes to talking about sex.

Additional Resources:

Pure Foundations Series

 

Written by Jason Castelli, Director of Family and Adult Ministries at Parker Hill. 

 

Mungu Land in March: Build it!

This month, we’re working to build into kids a love for others. Imagine with me, for a moment, a world filled with men and women who love others the way Jesus loves us. That’s what we want for our preschoolers.

We’ll begin with the story of the Good Samaritan. He was a great example of how to love everyone. Jesus was always helping people—no matter who they were—and that’s what the Good Samaritan did too. We want our preschoolers to know that they can love others by helping.

After we talk about helping, we’ll move on to sharing. We’ll tell the story of the guy who built bigger barns for his grain, instead of sharing with people who needed food. Our preschoolers are going to learn that sharing is the way to go, when you have overflow!

Then, we’ll talk about how we can still love others by sharing, even when we have a little. In fact, it’s an even bigger expression of love when we share out of our little, like the widow who shared two small coins.

We’ll wrap up the month with the prodigal son where we’ll see that we can love, no matter what, thanks to forgiveness. Just like Jesus loves us, even when we do something wrong, we can love others, even when they do something wrong.

It’s going to be an awesome month of building with our preschoolers. We’ll be building into kids who can then proclaim, “I can love everyone.”

You can check out the month's preview video here.