November Preview Pack

Here’s a quick look ahead to what we’ll be learning in Heroes Gate over the next few weeks:

Nov. 2: Toddlers through 4th grade will hear how faith-filled David took on a giant named Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and learn that following God isn’t always easy.  Club 56 kids will learn about encounters with Jesus and how our response to encountering Jesus should be of thankfulness and  gratitude

Nov. 9 Toddlers through 4th grade will learn we can trust God to amazing things as they hear the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  Club 56 kids will learn how each of them is a key connecting point for their friends to encounter Jesus

Nov. 16: Toddlers through 4th grade will cheer along as young King Josiah leads his people back to God (2 Kings 22-23) and finds out that God speaks to us through the Bible.  Club 56 kids will learn that Encountering Jesus leaves us two choices: either ponder it or act on it.

Nov. 23: Toddlers through 4th grade will watch as Nehemiah and his friends rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1-9) and see how God creates us to do good deeds.  Club 56 kids will learn that an attitude of gratitude means living in a way that shows thankfulness for everything, including loved ones.

Nov. 30: Toddlers through 4th grade will be amazed as three young men stand up for what they believe and survive a trip through a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and find out that following God is always the right choice.  Club 56 kids will learn that whether my day is good or bad, living with an attitude of gratitude changes my perspective

Train Up a Child?

We were excited to invite Erica, one of our Echo Youth staff, to write another blog post for us, and she sent us this great story.

The smell of freshly wrapped and fried egg rolls was my constant companion last Thursday evening. I was a table-length away from the confident hands of Vietnamese parents who served no less than 200 egg rolls in an hour’s time at our elementary school carnival. The food table was near the karaoke stage, providing live entertainment as I served hot dogs to anyone with 3 tickets to spend on the ballpark classic.

It was like sensory overload in HD as the food aromas layered upon each other and mingled with the sounds of Rhianna, Pharrell and the Cha Cha Slide. One of the best karaoke performers was a bright-eyed, confident boy who couldn’t contain his excitement as he questioned, “What Does the Fox Say?” His mom waited for him at the end of the stage and they danced their way to the cotton candy booth, her sashaying made more dramatic by her flowing hijab.

This was our last carnival at the elementary school our three kids have attended for a span of 9 years. They spent over 1,200 hours per year in the classrooms and hallways of the place that shaped some of their earliest memories and friendships.

The school is within a mile of our house and we chose it because of the proximity, the cultural variety of students and adults, and a gut feeling that our kids would be well-cared for and empowered. The school didn’t stand out academically, but we were hoping the environment would provide what we couldn’t at home – diversity of thought, experience, language and perspective. We wanted them to see curiosity in faces that were many shades of brown and recognize kindness in eyes that were different from the round blues and greens in our family.

Through their elementary years, we tried to walk alongside our kids as they navigated the bumpy terrain of making and keeping friends. Almost always as the only white, middle class kids in their classes, there were additional twists and turns as I tried to communicate birthday party details to parents who were proficient in languages other than English or who practiced different traditions for their family celebrations.

We had countless conversations with our kids about things they were learning from, and about, their friends. Each of them can name a short list of guys and gals who helped them in some way during those important years. Friends who made them feel like they belonged, drew out their silly sides or encouraged them to try something new. Our kids did the same for them. These are jackpot qualities for any friend, but we considered them more valuable in the long run because of the inter-cultural nature of the exchanges.

Starting a few years ago, our older kids moved from elementary school to a nearby middle and high school. In the same school district and neighborhood, these school communities also represent a broad range of cultural backgrounds.

But their friends don’t anymore.

The diversity of their social environment we so intentionally tried to create in their early years seems largely absent as they make more independent choices. When playing on a bigger playground, they have gravitated towards people who are a lot more like them. Their friends’ names are similar to our own, accents are imperceptible, and our kids have a lot more life experiences in common with their current crowd. Their newer friends seem kind and polite, but we worry our kids’ perspectives might start to narrow if they get too comfortable with like-mindedness.

When I think of the proverb “train your children in the ways of the Lord and as they get older they’ll stick with it,” (my paraphrase) I want to claim it as a prescription or a promise, of which it is neither. It’s a reminder that what kids experience in childhood has profound meaning and will shape their future. It’s that simple and that daunting.

We’re trusting God with the developing minds and hearts of our kids, especially as they move further into independence. And we’re grateful for the nine years of memories at a school that helped reinforce ideas and values we think are important. We might need to go back to the Carnival next year as visitors, although the egg rolls and karaoke will make it feel like home.

Family Traditions

By Paula Bowlby, Early Childhood Associate Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Family traditions are such wonderful ways to bond and pass on family values. Growing up, I fondly remember going with my family to look at Christmas lights, eating special traditional meals, and playing “secret Santa” to a family in need. As I raised my children, I started traditions of my own: fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies on the first day of school, waffles for breakfast on Christmas morning, and leaving little love notes and gifts around for my kids to find. Some of the traditions were intentional, some of the traditions changed as my family changed, and some of the traditions were born out of listening to my kids and their desire to continue on with an activity year after year.

I found when my children were younger, I defaulted to many of the family traditions that I had grown up with. As the kids and I both matured, we settled in and made our own traditions. When I was first establishing our traditions, I stayed with the main holidays: Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. In my little family, the traditions quickly branched out to first day of school, Caribou and bagels on standardized testing days, and a bag of goodies for Valentine’s Day. This year was my very first year in 18 years where I did not make the first day of school cookies. 18 years! As a mom, it was a little bit of a sad day watching all the kids get on the bus and know that I was through with that stage of my life. Now, because all my children are adults and starting to branch out themselves, new traditions will need to be established again.

What traditions have you established in your family? Did you intentionally establish those traditions? Have your traditions changed? We would love to hear, so please comment below.

God’s Big Story

789347_73486442By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist

Woodland Hills Church

If your kids have been to Heroes Gate in the past five years, they’ve heard the phrase “God’s Big Amazing Story” more than a few times. It’s central to what we teach Sunday mornings. We feel called to make sure kids go home with a solid understanding of their place inside His story. So what exactly is God’s Big Amazing Story?

Also known as the Bible’s “metanarrative” – a fancy word that basically means a story about a story (think of it like a movie about the making of a movie) – God’s Big Amazing Story is the incredibly true tale of how God has been working throughout human history to bring us back into a right-relationship with Him and restore the world to what He originally created it to be.

The story begins, of course, at the beginning. We know the tale – Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree and get kicked out of the garden. But the story goes much deeper than that. The first couple have a perfect relationship with God whose essence is love. That means Adam and Eve, made in His likeness, know only real, unflawed love as they walk through Eden, speak with one another, and learn directly from God Himself. They have never experienced grief, anger, betrayal, or death. And yet, as “the serpent” sidles up to them one day and begins to twist God’s words, they doubt God’s love for them. Perhaps God isn’t who they thought. Perhaps he’s been holding them back from their full potential. So they eat the fruit. And everything changes. Sin enters the world. Like a disease, it poisons their hearts. They begin to accuse one another, desperate to shift the blame from themselves. Their sin corrupts the world around them, as well. Thorns and thistles begin to grow from the once-perfect ground. Disease and sickness and death are not far behind. Nothing will ever be the same again. Before long, even Adam and Eve’s children discover the terrible depths to which sin can take the human soul.

So what is God’s answer? Does He throw away the human race and start again? Does He turn His back and say, “You made this mess – Deal with it on your own. I’m done with you!” No. Out of a broken heart that loves beyond measure, God chooses to redeem. He immediately begins working through their disaster to bring restoration. God plants seeds of hope as He continues to interact with Adam and Eve’s descendants. Despite their flaws and their sinful nature, He lets them know Him bit by bit. He gains back their trust, as warped and imperfect as it may be. He raises up from among them a nation of people, Israel, who are to be an example to the world of what it looks like to follow God. And through that very inconsistent nation, He brings about the salvation of the world through His Son, Jesus.

Jesus’ death on the cross reclaims what was lost in the garden. His resurrection proclaims eternal life is now possible and freely-given for those who chose to follow Him. The relationship with God that was broken so long ago has been made possible again, and we, as His followers, are given the incredible task of telling others this amazing, life-changing news! And one day, Jesus will return to finish the restoration process He began on the cross. One day, all things will be made new and right and good. One day, Love will truly reign on the earth once again.

This is the story we have been given to share with everyone we meet and, most certainly, with our kids. It’s not just a story about God or people from ancient history. God’s story is our story. He’s still working and moving in our world today, and He’s calling each of us to step up and play our part in His story. So the next time your kids ask for a bedtime story, why tell them our story. After all, they, too, have a part to play in God’s Big Amazing Story.