April Preview Pack

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

April 3: Toddlers through 4th graders will hear how we are called to the same mission Jesus gave His disciples of going into the world and telling people about Him (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:1-11). Club 56 kids will begin a unit on worship and discuss the topic: What is worship anyway?

April 10: Toddlers through 4th graders will be amazed as they hear how God worked through Peter to heal a man and bring a woman back to life (Acts 9:32-43). Club 56 kids will discuss the question: Whom are we worshipping?

April 17: Toddlers through 4th graders will learn that anyone is welcome in God’s Kingdom through story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). Club 56 kids will discuss the topic: How do we worship?

April 24: Toddlers through 4th graders will discover how they can be good friends and encouragers like Paul’s friend Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37, 9:26-27, 12:25-15:41).  This day, Club 56 will ONLY be open for the 11am service for their annual body talk for the 5th graders and Echo Open House for 6th graders. If you have questions about either of these, you can contact Patrick Showers at pshowers@whchurch.org.

Easter Weekend Services

We wanted to remind those of you who attend Woodland Hills reguarly that this Easter weekend things will be a little different.

First off, there is a Good Friday service at 7pm.  However, it isn’t recommended for children under 12 as some of its themes will be more on the mature side.  If your family does still wish to attend, there will be children’s activity packets available that include an Easter coloring book.

Our Saturday service will be at its normal time of 5pm.

On Easter Sunday, we will be offering three morning services – 8:30, 10:00, and 11:30.  We highly recommend you try to be early or right on time as we anticipate higher numbers of visitors this weekend.  Due to our shorter service time, we will begin lessons for the children earlier than usual, which is another reason we are encouraging families to try to be on time this weekend.

We’re excited to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior with your family this weekend!

Easter and Kids

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By Patrick Showers, Elementary Associate Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Easter is a holiday that many Americans value enough to celebrate in some way. Most people tie the Easter bunny, colorful eggs, and baskets full of goodies to this holiday more than Jesus’ resurrection. Woodland Hills Church just completed a series encouraging followers of Christ to go beyond our comfort zones and share our faith and the love of God with people connected to our lives. So, how does this work with kids?

The Children’s Ministry staff has wrestled with this question for years, and I’d love to tell you we figured out a perfect answer, but that just wasn’t the case. The truth is, it will look different for kids depending on their age, spiritual maturity, and personality. However, we did notice a few things in our observations of children.

  1. Kids are fully capable of following Jesus but at an age-appropriate level. This means kids can be on fire for Jesus one second and erupt in a fit of screaming tears the next. This is normal for kids. They are a work in progress, as are we all. Their brains and bodies are still growing and developing, and this can sometimes interfere with their intention to follow Jesus.
  2. Kids can share about Jesus and the good news, but they will do it in a way that makes sense to them. Some kids are more direct, sometimes because of their age or because of their personality, and may even be unafraid to tell an adult their choices are sinful and they need to ask Jesus for forgiveness while others may talk more about God’s love for them and everyone.
  3. Equipping and empowering kids does not have a simple formulaic answer, but the best thing we can pass onto our children to help them learn how to share the love and good news of Jesus are foundational truths about Him:
  • God loves us no matter what we do or who we are
  • God will never give up on us
  • God has shown His love and provided a way to fix our relationship with Him
  • God wants us to be close to Him
  • Jesus shows us what God is like and models how to live

As parents, we can model all these truths while sharing the good news with people, as well

  1. Children are motivated by love, and I believe they are also prompted by the Holy Spirit even though they may not realize it or even be able to put words to the reason why they shared the good news with someone.

Easter provides a great environment for children to grow in their faith and understanding of the good news.   The story of Jesus is a great place to start equipping our kids.   Retell the story of Jesus and how His life and sacrifice impacted you. Use a set of Resurrection eggs to help kids retell the story. Several area churches provide experiential retellings of the Easter story with the audience being a part of the story as they watch it play out live. (Our family particularly enjoys St. Andrew’s church in Mahtomedi’s Good Friday Easter Experience). Finding ways to tie the baskets, the eggs, and even the Easter bunny back to God’s story is also a great way to empower kids. Their conversations with their peers could get interesting if they start making connections to the good news while chatting about the goodies found in their Easter baskets.

We can do our part to equip kids by passing on the truth, sharing God’s story as well as our own faith stories, and by modeling a faith that follows God and shares the good news with others. The Holy Spirit can take it from there and empower our children to continue the legacy of discipleship that Jesus handed over to His disciples thousands of years ago.

Lesson Trailer for March 27th

Most Sundays, our Elementary kids watch a short “movie trailer” featuring the next week’s story. This Easter Sunday, March 27th, Toddlers-4th grade will celebrate how Jesus saved us all and changed the world forever on the first Easter Sunday (Matthew 26:36-28:10; Mark 14:32-16:20; Luke 22:39-24:21; John 18:1-21:23).

Interview with Amy Ames

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By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Curriculum Specialist

Woodland Hills Church

I sat down recently with Amy Ames. She and her husband, Alan, have been coming to Woodland Hills for over twenty years. They also happen to be the parents of 15 children: 4 biological, 11 adopted. As we talked, I got to know more about her family’s story and how God has been working in and through them over the years. They’ve had quite the journey, and I’m excited to share part of that journey with you.

Amy and Alan realized early on in their marriage that they had a shared desire to make a difference in the lives of children. Alan, already a teacher, knew he could do this through his work, but they felt called to do more and began doing foster care. However, it did not take long for them to see that foster care provides more of a temporary fix to the problem rather than solving it long term. They wanted to do what they could to solve it.

Around that same time, Amy met a young girl who was living at a shelter. The girl stuck with her, so much so that she and Alan put a picture of her on their fridge and began praying for her. She tugged at their hearts for some reason. Then, a year and a half later, Amy was at the library looking through a book that had the pictures of kids in Minnesota who were waiting for adoption and currently living in foster care. And there was this same girl, staring at her from the pages. That’s when everything changed. They got a hold of the girl’s social worker and began the process of adoption. That was 18 years ago.

Bringing this young girl into their home was both amazing and incredibly difficult. Alan and Amy are both Caucasian, and their new daughter was African-American. They quickly learned a lot about race and racism. Their daughter struggled with reactive attachment disorder, something all too common among foster children. With the constant shuffling between homes and the abuse that can happen in the system, children who have spent large amounts of time in foster care can often find it difficult to truly attach to others and may even act out because of that. Alan and Amy got a crash course on it all as they worked with her, encouraged her, challenged her, and watched her grow. It was a rollercoaster of a journey with plenty of ups and downs, but in recent years, Amy has been blessed to hear her daughter ask her, “Why did you adopt me? You saw my paperwork and how I’d act out. Why did you do it?” And Amy was overjoyed to be able to share the reason: the love of God. God’s love had drawn them to her, gotten them through the tough times, and brought them to this point.

In many ways, their oldest daughter helped prepare them for the other children that would join their family in the years to come, both adopted and biological. Several of their adopted children struggle with the physical repercussions of substance abuse by their parents or live with the scars of physical and emotional abuse. Yet, every day features its own testaments to God’s workmanship in their lives. Amy sees Him in the loving interactions the siblings share with one another. She sees Him in the way they look out for each other, look after each other, and support one another. They’re invested in each other’s lives. Birthdays are a big family event with everyone gathered to celebrate. She sees God in the difference their kids, many of whom are African-American, have made in the lives of their extended family and how their love and presence have changed hearts and attitudes. She sees how strengths and giftings of one child can be a blessing for another in moments of struggle and frustration. She loves seeing how her children have grown and matured, learning from each other and from their own mistakes. They have become advocates for one another and themselves. And she sees how God has met each of her children individually at different times, how even through painful struggles and situations, He has been working to draw each of them into a greater understanding of His love and grace.

15 is a lot of children, but Amy and Alan wouldn’t dream of having it any other way. They love having a large family. It means their kids all know they’ve got more than just one or two people in their corner. There’s always someone with whom they can talk and laugh and play. They know they are not alone in this life. And for kids who have had to live in the foster care system, that’s huge.

It’s not easy managing a household this big. Amy’s day planner is always at her side and has a lot in it. She shared that one of her biggest prayers is that if one of the kids needs something, they will let her and Alan know, that things won’t go unsaid or unheard. She and Alan try to be mindful and aware at all times as to what is going on with their kids and, if something seems to be going on or a child is acting out, they make sure to spend quality time with him or her, even if that means just taking them along to grab some groceries. Life-changing moments can happen even in the aisle at Target.

When I asked Amy if there’s anything she’d want to change about their early parenting years or advice she’d give her younger self prior to having kids, she laughed. She said there’s not much she’d change except perhaps to be less uptight about things. You simply do what you need to do and don’t allow fear to keep you from moving forward. Let things go and don’t hold onto them, especially when it comes to expectations for both yourself and your kids.

The greatest blessing she feels she’s had over the years is her marriage. She and Alan are very close and have continued to be best friends even through the roughest times their family has endured. It takes an unbelievable amount of time, energy, and sacrifice to care for and raise children, let alone children who come from foster care. Many marriages don’t make it through it all, something Amy has seen firsthand with other adoptive families. She says her greatest piece of advice to couples wanting to have children, especially those interested in adoption, is to make sure both people are equally invested. She emphasized that people need to be on the same page or it won’t work. One parent can’t want it while the other is just okay with it. The needs of the children and what will be required are too extreme for anything less than equal commitment.

Amy is convinced adoption was the absolute greatest gift God has given her and Alan. They love all of their children, but they see a unique blessing in watching their adopted children grow up to be successful and caring individuals. Their biological children, she believes, would have succeeded regardless – they had caring, loving parents and a stable home environment – but she shudders to think what life might have been like for her adopted children had they not brought them into their family. Their situations made them so much more vulnerable and their chances of success would have been substantially lower. But to be able to stand in the gap for each of their kids, biological and adopted, is unbelievably fulfilling. They’ve said for years that, if she or Alan died today, they’d know they did enough in their time on earth. With God’s help and love, they have changed the lives of their children forever.