May Preview Pack

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

May 1: Toddlers through 4th graders will travel with Paul as he journeys throughout the ancient world to spread the good news of Jesus (Acts 9:1-31, 11:25-30, 12:25-15:2, 15:36-28:31). Club 56 kids will finish their unit on worship and discuss the topic: When and where should I worship?

May 8: Toddlers through 4th graders will be amazed as they hear how God rescued Paul and Silas from prison via an earthquake and showed that even when things look bad, there’s always hope (Acts 16:11-40). Club 56 kids will begin a unit based on the documentary Father of Lights and discuss the question: Who is God?

May 15: Toddlers through 4th graders will meet Paul’s good friends Priscilla and Aquilla who worked hard to share God’s love with everyone they encountered (Acts 18:1-4, 11, 18-19, 23-28; Romans 16:3-5a; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Club 56 kids will continue their Father of Lights series and discuss the topic: What is God really capable of doing?

May 22: Toddlers through 4th graders will hear how Paul continued to trust God even as he was arrested, shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, and put in jail again (Acts 21:27-28:31; Ephesians 4:1-2, 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14, 18b-24, 4:10-13, 21-23; 2 Timothy 4:7-8, 16-18).  This day, Club 56 will conclude their Father of Lights series and discuss the topic: How is God able to do the impossible?

May 29: This holiday weekend, toddlers and preschoolers will go on a Bible adventure with a fun and interactive video lesson while kindergarten through 6th graders will enjoy a fun game day!

Love in the Face of Defiance

By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

I was talking to a friend this week about kids and behaviors. I have a theory: I would rather have a child that acts out a bit, a child who talks to me and questions me, than a child who does everything I say and never questions, acts out, throws a fit or gets angry. Now, do I believe that kids should be able to say everything they think, be disrespectful and throw things around? Absolutely not! I do believe if my kids challenge me, talk to me and ask why it gives us both a chance to grow. Were there times when I wanted my kids to listen and do things just because I said so? Yep! Is everything up for discussion? Absolutely not! I remember when my oldest was around seven we worked out a system. He would say. “Can we discuss this?” and that was my cue that he felt he needed more say in something. Sometimes my answer was yes, and often it was no. Very often, parenting is a delicate balance. I will be the first to admit, I have felt like I have failed many times.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The beautiful aspect of this scripture is that we get to model “others-centered” living. We get to model believing the best. This scripture is often used in weddings, but I think it should be read over and over. I love how God models parenting in this scripture. God lays out what love isn’t and what behavior he doesn’t want to see and then we get to see what he expects. He expects patience and kindness; he expects us to be self-sacrificing and rejoice in truth. God expects us to put in effort. I don’t know about you, but I think it is so awesome that we get to partner with God in this adventure. My heart hurts for those who don’t know God and have him to rely on. We are blessed!

Birds and Bees

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Shortly after I started working as a children’s pastor at Woodland Hills Church, my boss handed me a file and tasked me with teaching 5th graders about their body developments (i.e. puberty) from a Biblical perspective. She saw a need for the church to partner with parents to provide a supplemental resource for kids to learn about a typically taboo topic in a safe environment and tied to a Biblical perspective. The goal was to provide an overview of the body’s changes during puberty with a Biblical understanding of how and why God created us this way as well as how love and relationship were key to expressing our desires in the most healthy way.

Here I was, a young, newly married guy with no children and no formal training in this subject, tasked to teach preteens about a topic that is the equivalent of a “stinky cheese touch” in their eyes. When I looked into the file, all I found was individual photocopies with highlighted sections from various sources of interest to my boss.   I tried to recall what I learned as a preteen about this topic and came up blank. My parents avoided this topic like the plague, so that was no help. I felt ill at ease, ill-equipped, and just plain ill. My only options were becoming knowledgeable or seeing if I could get my old job back. In the end, I decided that in spite of my fears, I would go beyond my comfort zone to ensure that preteens could feel safe enough to ask questions or seek help regarding puberty and sex.   I was fortunate to find a few good resources, which helped me form a framework to build upon.

I eventually, created a booklet complete with visual aids, and a Bible study about sex, love, and the covenant of relationship, especially as expressed in marriage. I prepped my boss so she could lead the girls, and I prepared so I could lead the boys. When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t sure who was more nervous or embarrassed – the 5th grade boys unfortunate enough to have their parents sign a permission slip to participate or me. It didn’t take me long to realize that while these students were uncomfortable, they also wanted to learn about the mysteries of puberty and sex. My boss had a flood of questions from the girls about many aspects of puberty or why women did certain things. The boys, well, they didn’t have any questions, but they did pay attention with a few sniggers and bouts of nervous laughter.

Over the years, we’ve given this talk many times. We even added a workshop where parents can attend with their 5th grader and we go through the content together with activities and discussions. I now enjoy being a part of this class and value the importance of equipping and empowering kids about a topic that the world is all too ready to mislead them about.

Several years ago, my oldest became a 5th grader. I was now in a unique situation as the parent and as the teacher. My wife and I spent time in prayer and discussion about the best way to present this topic to her. We decided that my wife would take her out on a date and start talking about how her body would change and develop. She opened the door for further discussion. Then, they both attended the parent/5th grader workshop, as well. Afterwards, my wife and I used the Bible study I developed for the class with my daughter.   I’m sure she wasn’t overly thrilled about going through this topic with both mom and dad, but it has opened the door for her to ask more questions since then.

As parents, we often have a list tucked in our brain of things we want to make sure kids learn from us. Sometimes, our list gets expanded and stretched through situations in life as we enter new stages of development or growth. Sometimes, other people become a catalyst for learning moments, whether good or bad, planned or unplanned. As a parent of several teens, I’ve realized that if I don’t teach my kids about tough topics, then other sources get the first chance: peers, the internet, TV, music, books, or boyfriends/girlfriends. I was fortunate to be ahead of the puberty talk only because I was given the task to teach it before my oldest child was even born. Sometimes, we are given advance notice or early detection alerts and we have to decide if an opportunity is worth going beyond excuses or discomfort to equip and empower our children.   We are fortunate that we have so many resources available: books, seminars, webinars, and even the classes at the church. You may feel like I did when I was given the task of explaining puberty to a bunch of preteens: afraid, uncomfortable, unprepared, unsure where to start, and overwhelmed. Yet, a part of you may also thank God that you have the opportunity to reinforce a firm foundation in the lives and faith of your children as well as creating a home where your kids feel safe enough and comfortable enough to ask you about taboo topics. Now that is an outcome that is worth breaking out of our comfort zone to have.

Heroes Gate Foundations

Did you know most of the large group lessons your child experiences on a Sunday in Heroes Gate are written in-house?  We firmly believe kids can be active and powerful players in God’s Kingdom, and we want to do our best to encourage and equip them to love God and others as Jesus does.  That’s why we decided a few years ago to create our own curriculum, and we wanted to do that in a fun and engaging way.  Our toddlers through 4th grade lessons involve dramatic storytelling to bring kids into their weekly Bible story and help them apply it to their daily lives while our 5th and 6th graders are active participants in games, activities, and discussions centered around their lesson’s weekly discussion topic

So what are some of the the messages we want to make sure kids know as they’re growing up in Heroes Gate?

  1. God loves us: 1 John 4:8 tells us God is love. It’s the foundation of who He is, it’s why He made us, and we clearly see His love in action in the life and words of Jesus (who is the exact representation of God – Hebrews 1:3).  Therefore, we want kids to know with each Sunday lesson and interaction that God loves them with an unstoppable, unchanging love.
  2. God’s Holy Spirit is with us: We believe the Holy Spirit is active and with each believer, and so we encourage kids to engage with the Spirit as they pray, worship, discover and use their various gifts and talents, and seek wisdom and guidance in their lives.
  3. Jesus made a way for us to be with God forever: Genesis 3 tells us the sad story of how humanity chose to allow sin into the world, ruining the perfect, loving forever relationship we were meant to have with God. But God’s love for us was greater than the power of our sin, and so He chose to die on the cross so our wrongs could be made right and He could be with us forever!  Jesus’ death and resurrection give us life forever with God!
  4. We are to be sharers of God’s love and good news: Jesus taught through his life and death that we are to show the kind of love God has for each of us with others, no matter who they are, and we believe kids can be powerful examples of this self-sacrificial love in the world. Our lessons help kids understand they can be agents of God’s love and forgiveness in the world around them and that, by their example and words, they can share with others the good news of what Jesus has done for all of us.
  5. The Bible is God’s Story, and we’re all a part of it: The Bible isn’t just a “good book” to us – It’s a gift from God that shows us how He has been working throughout history to bring everyone into a loving and right-relationship with Him, and we believe He is still working today, which means we can all be part of what He’s doing! Each week, we encourage kids to engage with the Bible, see how the stories connect to one another, and learn from its wisdom how they can become the kind of Jesus-followers God is calling them to be.

Each Sunday morning in Heroes Gate, our prayer is that as kids worship, pray, engage in the Bible, and interact with teachers and leaders, they are growing more and more in their understanding of who God is, how much He loves them, and the role they can play as His followers.  But we only have kids for a few hours a month.  As parents, you have the potential to be the main spiritual example and teacher for your child, and that’s why we love the idea of partnering with parents in helping kids to grow spiritually.  So how can you partner with us?  One way is to take the above truths and messages and sift them into your daily lives.  As you’re reading a Bible story, don’t just zoom through it – Ask kids questions about the story and what God is doing in it.  Pray with your kids, helping them to understand that prayer isn’t something formal or formulaic – It’s just talking with God, and it’s a powerful gift He’s given us!  While out on a family walk, point out the beauty God has created around you and get them thinking about what God made and why and how it shows His love.  Make serving others as a family an adventure and fun time – Find ways (big and little) that you can help others and show them God’s love and His good news.

Heroes Gate is where kids and families connect with God’s Story so they can live like Jesus and make a difference in their world.  And we’re love seeing it happen each week!