We Need YOU!

natural-frame-1439402-639x519

We are gearing up for a fantastic summer in Heroes Gate, but in order for that to happen, we need your help! We are giving our incredible school year volunteers the summer off, and we are looking for new volunteers to fill their shoes while they’re taking a break. We invite you to prayerfully consider helping in Heroes Gate over the upcoming months. Here’s the scoop on what you can expect if you decide to volunteer with us:

  • You can choose how often you volunteer and which days and Sunday service work best for you
  • We have four age-groups from which you can choose to work with: Infants, Toddlers, Preschool, and Elementary, or, if you’d prefer to work as a one-on-one buddy with a special needs child, we have spots open with that, as well
  • We’ll have yummy snacks ready to help power your morning with the kids
  • You’ll help the children of Woodland Hills know they are loved and important to others as well as Jesus

We’re so excited for this summer and have a lot of fun in store for the coming weeks. We hope you’ll choose to be a part of it all!  To sign up online, click on this link, or you can contact Bethany Blick at bblick@whchurch.org.

Thank You, Volunteers!

20160417_114147.jpeg

By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Our school year has almost wrapped up, and summer is nearly upon us. The regular volunteers that you see week after week will soon be on summer hiatus. We as a Heroes Gate staff would like to thank our regular volunteers for all they have done over the past year and send them off with blessings and prayers as they take a break for the summer.

We know there are many wonderful stories about how our volunteers have blessed your family throughout this year. Whether it was going above and beyond to make sure your child felt loved, a volunteer’s big, welcoming smile, or a hug or a personal note, I am sure you have experienced care from our volunteers in some way this year. Our volunteers are awesome and give so much to the kids of Heroes Gate! A few stories we have heard and seen this past year include volunteers setting up snack like a tea party for the little girls, playing hide and go seek in the room, bringing ice cream treats, helping out with Club 56 fun nights, and providing plants for Mother’s Day.

Our volunteers partner with you each week to provide a safe and loving environment for your kids to learn about Jesus. They pray for your kids and strategize with us to make Sunday a great day for your kids so they learn to love Jesus.

This Sunday, we’re excited to provide cards for you or your child to write his or her leader a note. Would you take some time this week or on Sunday at the card station to thank the volunteers who have poured love and care into your child this year? Would you pray with us that we are able to staff the rooms for summer so that no child is turned away? And would you consider giving 4 Sundays this summer so other children can hear about Jesus? We’d love to have you join us for a fun and exciting summer in Heroes Gate!  Sign up is easy and online!  Or you can chat with any HG staff on a Sunday morning, and we’d be happy to talk about what summer opportunities might fit you best.

We have such wonderful volunteers! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you have done for the kids in Heroes Gate!

**Parents and Volunteers: Tell us how you or your child have been blessed this year in the comment section below!

Lesson Trailer for May 22

Most Sundays, our Elementary kids watch a short “movie trailer” featuring the next week’s story. This Sunday, May 22nd, Toddlers-4th grade hear of Paul’s epic adventure to Rome and how, despite all he faced, he kept his faith in God (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).

Imagination: The Gateway to a Child’s Faith

602173_77988074

By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

You’ve probably seen it a thousand times: your child is utterly lost in his or her imagination. It might be while playing with a Lego Star Wars set as an obvious battle of good versus evil takes place on the basement floor complete with laser blast sounds and droid beeps. Perhaps it’s the giggly voices you hear coming from your child’s room as she and her friend play “house” or “school” with their dolls. You’ve seen a towel becomes a superhero cape, a stick become a knight’s sword, and a plastic crown with its stickers missing become the precious tiara of a princess. You’ve read the same story to them over and over till you’ve got the whole thing memorized and, yet, they beg to hear it again. Your child’s imagination is in full gear. And it’s beautiful.

Our imaginations are one of God’s greatest and most profound gifts, and I’m convinced it’s one of the things that Jesus is referring to when he tells his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:14-15).” What exactly does he mean here? Does he want them to be more immature and childish? Is he calling them to revert to a child-like state of being where they refuse to eat vegetables, hate sharing their toys, and want to sleep with the light on? Of course not. But what I believe Jesus is getting at here is his desire for his followers to have a child-like trust and state of mind when it comes to their faith in him.

Kids have the amazing ability to believe in things that adults find difficult to grasp. A child has no trouble believing in his or her imaginary friend, a monster in the closet, that he or she really can one day become a superhero, or that unicorns truly exist. And, because of this, they can believe whole-heartedly in a God they can’t see with their eyes. They can see him with the eyes of their imagination, and that enables them to trust him with fewer holdbacks than we adults tend to have. Where we wonder scientifically how Jesus could possibly make five loaves of bread and two fish feed thousands of people, a child simply smiles and believes that Jesus can do anything, so why not? Where we struggle with the idea of how much God loves us despite our sins, a child – whose whole existence has been wrapped in love and encouragement from family and friends – has no trouble believing he or she is loved unconditionally by God. And where we find it hard to believe that we can make a difference in the world, kids know they can make a difference.

It’s something author C.S. Lewis understood well. In the dedication to what is, arguably, his most famous novel – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – he wrote:

My Dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.

We seem to have this idea that, at some point, the use of one’s imagination should dwindle and be replaced by “real life.” And there is some truth to that, for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” But whereas Paul here is referencing our spiritual maturity (meaning our progress in following Christ), Jesus was speaking to his disciples about our spiritual imagination. For, as Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” A child has faith and confidence in what he or she cannot see, and from that faith springs hope. Good will conquer evil. The hero will win the fight. We can make a difference in our world.

Therefore, one of the best ways to engage your child’s faith is to go through his or her imagination. By telling him or her stories filled with truths, playing pretend, enjoying movies together, and creating art, you can help your child build his or her faith. Engaging a child’s imagination draws him or her in, puts things in a language he or she can grasp, and connects him or her to the larger story of the world – God’s story.

So the next time your child wants to prance about the kitchen in your shoes and pretend to be “Elsa” or “Olaf” from Frozen, just “let it go.” Your child is exercising the gift of imagination. May it inspire you to follow his or her example and engage your imagination and help you grow in faith, as well.

Lesson Trailer for May 15th

Most Sundays, our Elementary kids watch a short “movie trailer” featuring the next week’s story. This Sunday, May 12th, Toddlers-4th grade will discover the power of friendship in the Kingdom as they meet Paul’s good friends, Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-4, 11, 18-19, 23-28; Romans 16:3-5a; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19).

How My Mother Taught Me to Follow Jesus

We’re delighted to bring you another post from guest blogger, Erica Morrow.  This Mother’s Day week, Erica shares with us some of the life-lessons she learned from her mother and how her mother’s example influenced her own relationship with Jesus.  Enjoy!

20160522-IMG_8964

By Erica Morrow, Guest Blogger

I have a mother. She taught me how to uproot flowers so they can be replanted in healthier soil. She showed me how to fold towels just so in order to line them up correctly in the linen closet. She helped me learn how to sew lines with my sewing machine, making sure the tension wasn’t too tight or too slack.

She also taught me most everything I knew about Jesus. How if he were walking with us, skipping over sidewalk cracks and anthills, he would have stopped to speak to the elderly woman passing by. He would not waste a chance to make her feel known and important.

She showed me that Jesus values the fight against injustice – that he weeps over children like those in my mother’s preschool classroom who came to school without coats in the winter, and as my mother clothed those kids out of her own resources, I learned that Jesus would have, too.

My mother showed me how much Jesus loves the little ones without a family to call their own – how he would have given the “chief seat” at our kitchen table to a little boy without a mom or dad, holiday after holiday, just as my mother did.

She steadily taught me through the times of both lean and plenty to choose joy, to look for the place in my landscape to be grateful for, to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness that does not depend on circumstance. Day in and day out, as she walked me through the successes and dismal failures that come with growing up, my mother taught me to look closely for the beautiful blessing that could be found in any moment. She worked hard to train my eyes to see such things all of my days growing under her care.

To be completely truthful, my mother has said some pretty profound things to be sure, but these things from her that I have learned and taken deep into my heart – these are the things I saw her doing and living, day after day. The steps she has taken while I have watched and listened – these are the things I have learned.

And now I am a mother, my arms sometimes full to the brim with children and responsibilities and all of the uncertainty that comes with it. And as I think about who I am to my children in this season, I remember: folded towels, lonely neighbors passing by on walks, coats for small, cold bodies, and I remember. Who I am as a fully known, fully forgiven, and unbelievably loved child of God will be what my children need to see in me. I can relax about saying all the right, important things. I don’t have to carry the guilt and pressure of wondering if my kids are in the right activities, if they are being fed exactly the right organic, free range everything all the time, if I am doing everything I can to build creative, exciting soil for them to grow in. My job, my first and at the core only job, is to sit at the feet of my Jesus, to spend time listening to his voice, learning what it is he loves, and then running with everything I have after those things. Then my children will learn what Jesus loves as they see me live, not from a to do list but from a place of deep friendship with my Father.

My encouragement to all of us who are parents is to stop worrying so much about saying the right things to our children, and instead let our hearts speak through our lives. In the same way my mother taught me how to serve and love through her actions, may our lives be the clearest reflection of the beautiful, self-sacrificing God we pray our children will come to know.

For me, that means spending time hearing from my Father, sitting close to him and growing a spirit that loves like he loves, sees like he sees, fights for what he fights for, so that my children will know the love of their God through my life. As they look back someday over their own growing up, may our children remember not our words, but our entertaining angels.