May Preview Pack

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

May 7: Toddlers-4th Grade will hear how the Early Church did life together, loved and cared for one another, and sacrificed for each other (May 2:42-47; 4:32-37).  Club 56 kids will talk about the question: What does faith look like in real life?

May 14: Toddlers-4th Grade will be amazed as they hear about Peter’s miraculous escape from prison and the power of prayer (Acts 12:1-17).  Club 56 kids will talk about the question: What is a soul and how does it affect my life?

May 21: Toddlers-Preschool will engage with a fun, interactive video about God’s Big story.  Kindergarten-4th Grade will play a fun, interactive review of this year’s Bible stories via a game show!  Club 56 kids will talk about the question: Why is it important to serve others?

May 28: Toddlers-Preschool will enjoy another fun, interactive video, this one about Creation.  Kindergarten-6th Grade will have a fun day with games and live worship.

“Love Your Neighbor” – With a Twist

Once again, we are honored to share another insightful post written by our co-worker, Erica Hunt.  Erica is an Associate Pastor with our Emerging Generation youth ministry here at Woodland Hills Church.

1196529_39079647

It feels like I blinked a few times and suddenly we have three teenagers in the house. People always told me it would feel like that, but in the groggy years of their infancy and the harried years of pre-school and early elementary, the idea of teenagers seemed like a stage of parenting that would never arrive.

One of the many changes we’ve noticed in this season is the increased difficulty in sitting down together for dinner. This used to happen every night, but now there are work shifts, piles of homework, social plans and the standard teenage angst that makes a meal together more rare. Still, we try to have one meal a week that includes intentional conversation about faith, life and the intersection of the two. Some of these conversations have been surprisingly engaging for all of us, and I get a glimpse into the more complex thoughts and questions that come with their developing brains and expanding worldviews.

Recently, our dinner conversation was prompted by a postcard we received from the St. Paul Police Department. The card informed us that a Level 3 Sexual Offender would be moving into the neighborhood, within a block from our house. We passed the card around the dinner table for each of them to read and then share their thoughts on the question, “As Christ-followers and engaged neighbors, what should our response to this information be?”

There were a few clarifying questions, but then we dove into this tricky conversation. A few things jumped out at me. They all had the perspective that this conversation mattered in a very real way. While the specific house address was not provided, they have a strong sense of place in our neighborhood, where we’ve lived for almost 16 years. We know a lot of people and, whether we ever personally encountered this person or not, they had a sense of ownership in their neighborhood and spoke about what kind of place they wanted it to be for everyone.

Any thread of unity that came from their shared sense of ownership was short-lived as their personal opinions came through. One daughter was adamant that we should extend the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance. We should assume that he learned his lesson and is a reformed person. Another daughter was equally passionate about her caution. How could we be so sure that he wouldn’t recommit the crime? Details of the offense were not provided, but statistics suggest that teenage girls might be at a greater risk around a male convicted sex offender. She admitted that she was a little bit afraid. The third daughter brought a philosophical angle as she asked about why he would do what he did and wondered how it affected the people who loved him. She considered if he had children, a wife, good friends and how much they might be missing him.

Our dialogue on this matter is ongoing and no answers or conclusions have been reached. We were all reminded that difficult questions are not resolved quickly. In addition to the questions of justice, grace, wisdom and loving neighbors that started our conversation, it also became an experiment in having a meaningful conversation with someone with whom you disagree.

In reflecting back on this dinner table conversation, I’m grateful for this season of life. We get to walk with our kids as they gain more independence in their interpretations of faith, life and the intersection of the two. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and full of hope. Kind of like the toddler years…but different.

The Power of Story

1149105_81890812

By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

The Power of Story

“Once upon a time” … or “in a galaxy far far away” may be familiar tag lines of popular stories, which are very entertaining, but they don’t compare to the power of another kind of story.

A few years back, my wife and I prayerfully decided we wanted more children.  At this point, we already had three young daughters.  I really wanted to have a son but felt confident the genetic jackpot would land on female this next round.   I wasn’t sure I could handle being outnumbered 5 to 1. God placed a desire on our hearts to adopt, and we went from there.  We discovered our desire to adopt an African-American boy was well received.  Several months of paperwork and waiting followed, and then suddenly we got a call.  We drove through the night and arrived in Nashville.  The baby and birth mom were still at the hospital.  As soon as we saw this little one, we fell in love.  After spending some time with his birth mom, a bond began to form.  The following day we headed home.

My son loves to hear this story, especially the part about us falling in love with him and later when his sisters went gaga over him.  It reminds him of who he is and that he is part of our family.  His story merged with our story that day.  My wife has done a wonderful job of creating scrapbooks with photos from each year of our family’s existence.  The kids love to go through and talk about those times.

The power of our story is rooted in reminding us of our value, our importance, and our identity.  My children love to hear their birth stories as a milestone of their being part of our family.  God’s story is powerful in the same way.  The fall of man, the birth of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection all highlight his amazing love, but also our immeasurable value to the Father.  Sharing the God’s whole story during Easter is a great way to help kids merge their stories with his.

Another powerful story is our testimony.  Sharing how we became Christ followers, how our trajectory was diverted and our story merged fully with God’s gives our children insight into our hearts and a glimpse of being a part of a much bigger family – God’s family.  In a way, our testimony is our adoption story.  God adopted us, and when we embraced him as our Father, we became his children.

I encourage you to share stories during this Easter weekend.

  • Tell the story of each child’s birth or adoption (be sure to share what you felt)
  • Tell God’s whole story – the need for a savior, for a price to be paid, and his victory as well as what it means to us.
  • Tell your faith story and let your children know why you decided to follow Christ.
  • Talk about your faith story as your birth story/adoption story and how you are a child of God’s now.

The power of these stories is their ability to remind us of our identity, our value, and connect us.  Let your stories be told, retold, and continuing to be told a milestone.

A Sad Friday and a Happy Sunday

easter-lily-1-1398769-1280x960

By Teresa Sayles, Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

I grew up in the Catholic church and always loved Easter week.  Amongst the usual parts of mass and the liturgy, Holy Week was full of once-a-year events: foot washing, the reading of the passion drama complete with different people speaking the dialogue parts, and candles in each of our hands which were blown out in solemnity before we all filed out in silence.  And then, Easter morning, the music was more joyful and light than usual with everyone in their nice clothes and the scent of Easter lilies filling the church.

Now, as an adult, I still love Easter week but for different reasons.  Rather than being a welcome change from the usual, I now anticipate Easter with both sadness and joy because of its story.  The Easter narrative is full of both gut-wrenching grief and utmost joy.  And while many of the details of the story are perhaps not quite child-friendly, the message of it all very much is.

As we prepare for Easter this next week, I encourage you and your family to intentionally set aside time to walk through the story together.  As you do, ask questions about what Jesus and his friends might have been feeling at various points, and allow space for your kids to ask questions, as well.

One great way to walk through the story is to use The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  With beautiful illustrations by Jago, the story really comes to life in a meaningful and yet child-appropriate manner.  Even older children will love this version of the Bible!  You might consider this reading plan for your week:

  • Sunday: The beginning: a perfect home” (page 18)
  • Monday: The terrible lie (page 28)
  • Tuesday: He’s here! (page 176)
  • Wednesday: Washed with tears (page 280)
  • Thursday: The servant king (page 286)
  • Friday: A dark night in the garden (page 294)
  • Saturday: The sun stops shining (page 302)
  • Sunday: God’s wonderful surprise (page 310)

For added fun and focus, you can work together to create a mural or comic book of the events as you read them.

However you and your family choose to prepare for Easter, be sure to include time for kids to ask questions and talk through the aspects of the story that might be a little confusing or scary.

May you and your family have a blessed Easter week as we prepare and celebrate the greatest event in history!