November Preview Pack

Here’s a look ahead to what we’ll be learning in Heroes Gate in the month of November:

November 1: Toddlers through 4th graders will hear how young King Solomon talked with God and asked Him for wisdom above all else (1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Why should Jesus be in charge of everything in my life?

November 8: Toddlers through 4th graders will rejoice as they watch Elisha heal Naaman by God’s power and show us how we can share God’s love with others (2 Kings 5:1-27). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: How does confessing sins fit into living a Kingdom life?

November 15: Toddlers through 4th graders will hear how Jeremiah chose to follow God even when it was hard and others were against him (Jeremiah 1:1-19; 20:1-21:14; 26:1-24; 29:1-23; 36:1-40:6). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Our identity is more than pictures, facts, and likes.

November 22: Toddlers through 4th graders will cheer as they watch Daniel stand up for what God says is right (Daniel 1:1-21; 6:1-28). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic of prayer and it’s role in our lives and how we can pray for others.

November 29: Toddlers through 4th graders will learn that God’s love isn’t always far as they hear the story of Jonah and how God’s mercy won the day (Jonah 1-4). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: Why should I love my enemies?

Old Fashioned Parenting

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate parenting classes for several years. Often, I hear parents describe how they’ve utilized parenting techniques gleaned from their childhood only to find spotty success at best. One dad even exclaimed his frustration at not being able to just tell his child to do something and have success. I feel their pain! Before we make an assumption that this generation of children has evolved beyond the use of these old fashioned parenting techniques, we should try to understand a few basics.

Parenting is not an exact science. There is not a parenting system or technique that works for every child in every situation. Our children are unique, special, and complicated. They are going through different stages of growth. Each stage has some general characteristics, but variance is normal.

If you combine a new stage of development or phase of behavior with other common variables in a home such as over-extended parents, illness, travel, a new sibling, or just about anything, then you can find a technique that worked 100% of the time in the past suddenly doesn’t work at all.

So, what’s a parent to do? Some people just keep doing the same thing or start yelling louder or acquiesce to certain behavioral patterns.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some encouragement. Think of parenting behavior issues like getting a car repaired. When your car has an issue, you take it to an automotive repair shop to have them diagnose the issue. Even with computerized technology, a mechanic may not be able to discern what is causing the issue. Some mechanics will just start trying to repair or replace various parts until they have success. Most of us don’t like this method because it can get costly. Other mechanics will try to pinpoint the cause of the issue and fix it.

As a parent, I found it easier to want to fix the problem than discern the cause. When you are in the midst of busyness or juggling multiple kids, the last thing you want to do is figure out why a behavior keeps reoccurring.   I found myself often throwing every parenting technique or trick or consequence I could think of at an behavior issue hoping I could find something that worked and be done. It wasn’t until a few years into parenting that I realized there are some underlying issues that can cause a child to misbehave or act out while other times the way I was parenting became an issue.

I’m one of those lucky ones that have been told my car repair was my own fault. It turns out that some of the ways I was driving or not taking care of my car increased the wear and tear on my vehicle and led to various repair issues.

In a similar way, we can get into lifestyle patterns that can add to behavior issues. We may have given in a few too many times on dessert, ignored certain behaviors because we didn’t have time to address it at that moment, or any number of things. It can be helpful to step back from a reoccurring behavior issue. We can reflect on our patterns, check on age-level characteristics to see if this is common for this age, or seek input from other parents or teachers.   Once we determine a behavior needs our intervention, we can then decide the best course of action.

In car repair, there are certain tools that can be used for a number of different repair needs. For example, a wrench or socket set is a good general-use tool. Some repairs require specialized tools, and a wrench just won’t work no matter how you try. This is the same with dealing with behavior issues. Some issues can be addressed with general parenting tools, such as providing a consequence or motivation for good behavior. Yet, there are some behaviors that require a specialized technique or a modification of a tool we’ve used in the past. For example, if a child is hurting other children on a regular basis, you may need to do more than provide a consequence.

Be encouraged though! While parenting can be difficult and even overwhelming at times, it can also be rewarding and amazing, as well. Children can be horrible one minute and doing something amazing and loving in the next. They are growing and learning. They are discovering their own identity. Their biggest job during childhood and adolescence is to become an independent and thriving adult. You are providing the foundation to their success. As they get older, they will push back more, become more independent, rely on peers more and more, and eventually, leave home. You have a wonderful role, and I’m sure even in the midst of wild behavior issues, your children are thriving and growing.   When you are dealing with the next big issue, take a few minutes to reflect and assess a reoccurring issue. Then decide which tool or tools will work best to intervene and reset their behavior to be on track again.

Parenting with Love and Logic provides wonderful articles on a variety of behavior and discipline issues free on their website.

The Story Behind Our Stories

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By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist

Woodland Hills Church

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with “story.” Whether it came in the form of books, movies, television, a play, or just a well-told story from a friend or family member, I’ve never been able to resist a good tale. My grandmother insists I was jabbering on with imaginary friends before I was out of diapers. I’m pretty sure I wore out several beloved childhood videotapes from frequent re-watching. Once I started learning to read, I could not be stopped. I loved books. They accompanied me outside, in the car, and even to the breakfast table. More than that, I’ve discovered my brain thinks in story. I’m wired to understand life and situations based on characters, relationships, and plotlines. Forget math, taxes, and health insurance – They make little sense in my mind. It all comes back to story, for me.

Which is why I’m so fascinated with the greatest story I know: God’s Story. Here, I find the ultimate tale of love, conflict, sacrifice, and redemption. Since the days when humans first walked the earth, storytelling has been a part of our culture. We tell stories of the past. We create stories for the future. But, as any English student can easily tell you, nearly all of these stories, no matter when or where they come from, follow the same basic format: Exposition, Conflict, Climax, and Resolution. At the story’s beginning or exposition, we learn about the characters and their world. Then, something goes wrong as the conflict arises. The characters struggle against this conflict until we come to the final pages or minutes of the tale where the action reaches its climax and the struggle is either won or lost. The story then wraps itself up, and we say goodbye to the characters and their world as the tale resolves itself, hopefully with the quintessential “happily ever after.”

This format is so connected to our understanding of story, we use it when summarizing a story: “There’s this kid named Luke Skywalker who lives with his aunt and uncle, but when they’re murdered, he is helped by an old warrior named Obi Wan Kenobi. As Obi Wan trains him to be a Jedi who can use the Force, Luke makes new friends and joins the rebellion against the evil empire that killed his relatives. In the end, Luke uses the Force to destroy the Empire’s newest weapon, the Death Star. As the movie end, Luke and his friends reunite to celebrate their victory and are rewarded for their efforts.” Those four points in the story give us the basis for what we need to describe it. They are its “bare bones.”

I don’t know if you realize this, but the story of the Bible – God’s Story – follows this same four-part format: (Exposition) God creates the world and the first humans. (Conflict) Adam and Eve mistrust God’s love and let sin in the world. God continues to be with his people as they struggle against the fallout of sin. (Climax) Jesus comes to heal, teach, and, ultimately, die on the cross to redeem humanity and restore our broken relationship with God. (Resolution) Christ will one day return to make all things new.

So here’s my theory: We tell stories in this format because God’s Story is written on our hearts, and it exemplifies this storyline. Think about it – Why else have humans across time and culture told stories that all follow the same basic format? Why would we all share this cultural trait if we didn’t somehow recognize at a deeper level that this storyline is what is most basic and true about our universe? How else could you explain our cross-cultural desire to see wrongs righted, for good to win, and for the hero to save the day? If you ask me, it all comes back to God’s story, which He’s written on all of our hearts. And through the stories His creative nature helps us to create through books and movies and theater, he’s trying to draw us back to the ultimate story – the metanarrative – of our reality. It’s a story that’s centered on Him and His love and in which we play a vital part.

Stories That Grow With Us

Guest Blogger Erica Hunt works with Woodland Hills’ Youth Ministry, Echo.  We asked her to give us her perspective on the Bible and the role it’s narrative has in our lives today.

I don’t know about you, but of all the Bible stories I heard growing up, there were a few favorites. Joseph, Moses and Esther were my favorite characters of the Old Testament. Peter’s astounding (albeit quick) walk on water and Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well stand out for favorite New Testament tales. These, more than others, captured my imagination for what could be, not what is.

What I didn’t notice or understand was how all the characters, scenes and plotlines fit together in a cohesive whole. I was well into adulthood before I heard of these “stories” referred to as episodes in a larger Story, the broader narrative of God’s relationship with Creation, including, but not limited to, humans. Thinking about the Bible differently was one of those moments that signaled that I was growing up and my understanding of the Bible needed to grow with me.

When the possibility of connection is introduced, our minds are invited into a more active level of engagement. It took more effort on my part to make connections and see themes emerge from what had previously seemed completely different stories, but I welcomed the challenge because it introduced complexity to my faith at a time when the stories had become stale to me. As we get older, we realize the world is complicated and more gray than black-and-white. We move from concrete thinking and interpretation into abstraction. If our understanding of God and the Bible do not allow for tough questions, doubts, and wonderment, we can easily cast it aside as irrelevant to “grown-up problems.”

For most of us, the age of exploration with our faith starts in adolescence. We naturally start to separate from our parents and seriously consider other sources of information about every aspect of life. In Echo, the middle and high school ministry of Woodland Hills, we try to capitalize on this process of discovery by inviting students to engage the Bible and approach God with curiosity and authenticity. We tell the Story of God, but we also set an expectation that students will be active listeners instead of passive hearers. We spend less time talking at students so we have opportunity to hear their ideas and questions. Each of us adults has marveled at the insight of students as they interact with the bizarre, powerful, amazing, confusing episodes of the Story.

Echo staff will be co-teaching a Cultivate class with the Children’s staff in November that will share our teaching strategy in more depth and provide tools to use at home with your adolescents. We encourage you to sign up so you can gain tools to walk alongside your adolescent as they transition to a more complex faith. Watch for more information in the coming weeks.