Monthly Archives: November 2010

Why Does Joseph Have His Shirt Off?

Last year we started a Christmas tradition of watching “The Nativity Story” together as a family. Our oldest daughter, Anna, who is in kindergarten is old enough to be inquisitive about everything she watches.  She doesn’t act interested when we read the Christmas story but when she watches it on TV, she pays attention.  Last night as we watched the movie she had a lot of great questions that led to great discussions.  Here is a glimpse at some of the conversations:

  • Why were the people in the town mad at Mary because she was pregnant?
  • Why did Joseph have his shirt off when he was sleeping?
  • Why doesn’t the angel have wings?
  • We talked about how Joseph wasn’t the real father of Jesus and how it was a miracle.  This almost went into “the talk” but I breezed around it.  I’m not quite ready for that one yet.
  • Anna made the connection between Zechariah and Elizabeth having a baby in old age and Abraham and Sarah having a baby in old age.
  • Anna also made a connection between Herod killing the babies and Pharaoh killing the babies when Moses was born.

I would definitely recommend watching this movie as a family this Christmas.  It is one “Christian” movie that I think is well done and accurately portrays some of the realities of Christ’s birth.  For kids that grow up in the church, it can make the story come alive in a way they have not seen before. This movie can definitely lead to some great conversations with our children.



I’m Bored with Christmas

This past Sunday we started our focus on Christmas and tried to stress the importance of giving instead of getting to our Sunday School class children.  I told the students how we would be focusing on different characters in the Christmas story over the next few weeks.  All I got back were blank stares that I read as, “I’m bored with the Christmas story and baby Jesus.  I’ve heard it all before.” I wonder how one of the most transformational and earth shattering story of God incarnating himself became boring.

I was a pastor’s kid growing up so I was the worst at being bored with the Christmas story.  I hated that my dad would read the Christmas story on Christmas morning before we could open the presents.  All I could think about was what was under the tree.  Tomorrow I am meeting with our Children’s Ministry staff and my big question is, “How do we regain the excitement and wonder that the shepherds, wise men and Mary had that first Christmas?”

What do you all think?  How have we become bored with Christmas and lost the wonder and excitement that was present at the birth of Christ?  How has this story lost the original earth shattering message of hope, joy and salvation?  How do we help our children experience what it was like when Jesus was born?

Celebrating Advent as a Family

This December our church is providing some great resources for families to celebrate Advent together.  We are preparing an Advent devotional available through email and have some great Advent readings and activities for families. The readings and activities follow the ideas of Advent Conspiracy. This upcoming Sunday we have Advent candles and a holder for families to purchase as part of this tradition.  You can check out the Advent readings here (1st Pres families don’t worry about printing this out. We will have them available on Sunday.):

Advent Readings and Activities

We have also included some great Advent Conspiracy family activities from Imago Dei in Oregon here.  Hillary and I excited to do these activities as a family and do the Advent readings each night at dinner.

Say “Thank You” to the Overlooked

This week is Thanksgiving and the focus is on gratitude.  We often overlook those who view this weekend as the longest work weekend of the year.  While most of us have a three day work week, many in the retail, travel and restaurant industries don’t get a chance to relax.  One simple way to make this Thanksgiving a memorable one is to focus on saying “thank you” to those you come in contact with as you travel, shop and eat in restaurants.  So here are some ideas that might not immediately come to mind, but can make a big difference:

  • Say “Thank You” to the TSA agent that serves you as you go through the security lines.  Instead of thinking about how crazy the new regulations are, think about how awkward it is for these human beings to follow through on their orders.
  • Say “Thank You” to the retail workers on Friday who had to wake up early and work long hours for demanding customers, instead of relaxing with their family and friends. As a former retail employee, don’t get me started on this one 🙂
  • Say “Thank You” to the grocery store workers who work long hours this week to help customers prepare for a big meal.
  • Say “Thank You” to the restaurant employees who serve you food on Friday or Saturday after you are sick of leftovers and cooking your own food. If you pray before your meal, make sure you tip big and for heaven’s sake, don’t give them a religious tract disguised as a dollar bill.

First Homes: Equipping Families for the Journey

Yesterday I wrote a post about the lack of a roadmap for the spiritual development of children and youth. I have been on a mission to discover what this roadmap could be like for families at First Presbyterian since I started my role here. Today I want to share this roadmap in a redefinition of our First Homes initiative. First Homes is all about incorporating the Christian faith into the home and equipping parents to be the main spiritual guides for their children.

Read the rest of this entry

A Roadmap for the Spiritual Development of Children

After a few months in my position as Family Director, I have realized one thing that is lacking in some churches today is a fluid curriculum and pathway for the spiritual development of children.  At our church we have two main events for children: Bibles for 3rd grade students and confirmation for 8th grade students. These two events are good but families need more than this.

For the past few months I have been reading and studying what other churches do in the way of a roadmap for the spiritual development of children and youth.  I have taken these ideas and morphed them into a format that fits our context at First Presbyterian.

Check my post tomorrow to see what this roadmap looks like!

Social Networks and Children

When I look at my daughters right now, I see them as teenagers. I can’t help it. Because of my ongoing experiences in youth ministry, I know that what happens with my daughters now will affect how they are as teenagers. Now my daughters like being around daddy but in a few short years they won’t want to be around daddy as much. I need to take advantage of this time now.

One of the big things that shapes children and especially teenagers are the social networks they take part in. A child’s friends have a big impact on the behavior and experiences a child has. Now that Anna is in school Hillary and I are very mindful of the friends that Anna has at school. Hillary volunteers in Anna’s classroom to help the teachers but also to learn about the children that Anna spends time with.

A few months ago I watched a TED presentation by Nicholas Christakis in which he talks about social networks and the impact that our friends on our behavior. It is so interesting and has ramifications for parenting and youth ministry. You can read a Wired interview with Christakis here or watch the TED presentation below.  This is why I strongly encourage parents to involve their children in the children’s ministry or youth ministry at their church.  Children and teenagers need friends that share the same values and beliefs as they do.

Be Here Now

A Microsoft ad made me get rid of an Apple product. I am a self-proclaimed Apple fanatic.  I love Apple products, especially when they enrich my life. Last week I took a big step and decided my iPhone was not enriching my life. I was watching the latest Microsoft ad for their new phone and the message of the ad really sunk in.  I was disconnected from the real world because of my iPhone. Having such powerful technology in my pocket was cool but I was not present with my kids and wife.

So I sold the phone.  It has been hard to get used to, but it is worth it.  On Friday we went to the mall and I didn’t bring my phone.  I wasn’t constantly checking my email and my Facebook. I have a cheap Walkman phone which is hard to text on. Even though it is a Walkman phone (they do make them) I can’t get music onto it but I don’t care about that. My phone is no longer my status symbol. I truly want to “be here now.”

Here is the ad from Microsoft that got me thinking.

Skipping Thanksgiving

Today we took the girls to the mall to ride the carousel and return something.  If it wasn’t 70 degrees out, one would have thought it was almost Christmas. As we walked by the stores, our girls were pointing out all the Christmas decorations. Stores were already playing Christmas music.

I’m definitely not a Scrooge but I think it is sad that we quickly jump from Halloween to Christmas. Thanksgiving has just become a quick holiday focused on gorging ourselves for Black Friday. In our family we are trying hard to focus our girls on being thankful instead of whining or thinking about what they want for Christmas.  We need Thanksgiving before Christmas.  We need to remind ourselves what we are thankful for before we think about the consumerism of Christmas. It’s hard to do this when the retail culture has skipped Thanksgiving for the money maker holiday of Christmas.

Nothing New Under the Sun

My fondest Sunday School memories are of Eugene Anderson who was my fifth grade teacher.  He was a World War II vet and told us stories from those years. Since then I have always tried to connect with those of older generations than myself.  The wisdom and experiences of those who have gone before me is so important as I grow into the man that God wants me to be.  The temptation of young leaders is to think that their ideas are the newest and greatest ideas.  The irony is that most of the time there is nothing new under the sun.

This morning I met with a men’s group from our church and was the youngest in the group by thirty or forty years.  As we studied the life of Christ, I loved hearing how they interpreted Scripture based on their current and past experiences. They had interpretations I would not even think of. We need relationships with those who are further in the journey than ourselves.