Category Archives: Community

Volunteers are Awesome!


By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Have you ever thought about how many volunteers are serving on any given Sunday in our church?  Much of church ministry is done by people who willingly give of their time, talents, heart, and love.  This equates to a lot of volunteers each week.  In Heroes Gate alone, we have over 95 people helping children to be safe, to be loved, and to learn and grow in their faith every Sunday.

Over the course of a year, these volunteers are serving a lot of hours.  They don’t do it for money, fame, attention, or any tangible gain.   Most are just excited to invest in the next generation.

I’d like to challenge you and your family to show your appreciation for the volunteers in your life this week.  They might be part of Heroes Gate, but you could also show appreciation for volunteers with your child’s school or sports team or elsewhere.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Make a card or draw a picture
  2. Create an encouraging poster
  3. Bring a yummy treat
  4. Say thank you in person with a big hug!
  5. Make a short 10 second video saying thanks
  6. Snap a photo or selfie with the volunteer and send them a copy of the photo or even make a thank you card out of it
  7. Share a story of how your child was impacted or encouraged by a volunteer
  8. Sing a song

I’m sure you could think of many more ideas, but these are a good start.  Another great way to appreciate volunteers is to keep them in prayer, asking for encouragement, protection, peace, wisdom, and joy for them and their families.

Take the volunteer appreciation challenge and bless those who serve you and your family!


Parent Night Out

By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

As a parent, we hear a lot of internal and external noise reminding us how crucial it is for us to invest time, energy, and love into our kids.  The experts warn us about the danger of not spending enough quality time, not reading enough, or not being diligent enough.  We also have voices in our mind pointing out our mistakes, our lack of effort, or any other of a thousand ways to make us feel guilty.

Yet, I’m confident that most of us are putting the needs of our kids before our own much of the time.  We sacrifice sleep, we burn through free time helping kids with homework, we chauffer kids all over the county, we volunteer to help with sports teams, and we work to ensure that kids have all the equipment needed for all their activities.

One thing experts have said that often gets lost in all the noise about what parents should be doing is the importance of a parent taking care of him or herself.  A crucial element to being a good parent is being rested, energized, and healthy.  Caring for our heart, our mind, our body, and our soul.  We only have so much to give of ourselves, and when our tank is empty, then our kids are in an emotional drought.

If you are like me, it is difficult to put importance on doing things to ensure that I’m well cared for rather than doing stuff for my kids or others.  Somewhere in our psyche, we’ve got a misguided sense of selflessness that can be unhealthy.  I think this parent guilt is emphasized in our culture and reinforced in our daily comparisons to other parents.

Whatever the reason, I think it is about time you recharged your internal love bank, and your kids will benefit from it.

We’ve got a great solution that not only helps you but also ensures that your kids are safe, welcome, and having a great time!


Tuesday, February 14th

From 6 – 9 pm

Check in begins at 5:45 pm

For kids birth – 5th grade

Fun activities, a light snack, games, crafts, a bouncy house and more!

All you’ve got to do is register before February 8th (after that it is $10 per child) to keep it free.

Click Here register

I encourage you as parents to build time to recharge your batteries as a part of your normal routine.  It benefits you and your family.  It is a win-win and worth the effort to arrange your schedule and say no to all the possibilities as well as that internal voice trying to guilt you into being an emotionally drained martyr.

I Don’t Agree with You


By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

“I don’t agree with you.” “I feel differently than you do.” “Have you thought of it like this?” Sometimes it is hard to say those words. Other times, it is very easy to say those words. The question I have been asking myself, especially when I am on social media is: how do we model to our children respectful disagreements. Respect is the key word for me.

How do we, individuals who are trying to the best of our ability to be Kingdom Followers, have our own opinions and have healthy discussions about the opinions without tearing the other person down? Do we always have to be right? What is our motivation in the discussion? Most importantly, what are we modeling to our children when we speak, in our actions and in our body language? Little eyes seem to see and hear everything. As a parent, as a volunteer or as a family member, you are being watched. How do you handle the responsibility? How do we model?

I did a little research to see what the experts were saying on this topic. I found some good reminders for myself, what I would like to model. Here is a small portion of what I found:

  • Model – challenge yourself to use a calm and neutral tone. Stick to facts, your feelings or what you have observed; no name calling.
  • Permission- our kids need to know that they don’t always need to agree with others but do need to show the love of Jesus in how they disagree, which, again, means no name calling. Help them see the value of teaching in love while doing nothing out of selfish ambition.
  • Give the words – help your child work out with appropriate words for disagreements. You can even do this with younger children by teaching them to say that made me sad. This helps them identify how they are feeling, teaching them to identify early what is causing an Older kids can be encouraged to use phrases like, “This is what I think,” or “Can I tell you how I feel?” as great starters. You modeling this will help them even more.
  • Be willing to listen – if your child is making a good faith effort to respectfully disagree, listen. Help them build the skill.
  • Don’t fix it – let your child know you heard them with your words but don’t simply step in and take care of things yourself. Help him/her work out the situation using love and respect.
  • Teach and practice – help your kids see that you will not always agree and that is okay. Teach them that those who see the world differently have value and are loved by God.
  • Help your child learn that his/her identity comes from God, not others. This lesson is good for us all but is sometimes very hard to remember.

As we move into 2017, let’s love and model love. Let’s respect and respectfully disagree. Let’s let Jesus shine through us and be different.

The Importance of Community in the Spiritual Formation of Our Children

By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Our identity has a big impact on the way we live and the choices we make. What we believe about who we are impacts our lives for eternity. This is where community really comes in for our kids and us. A faith community is meant to be a source of strength. According to C.S. Lewis, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

For adults and children alike, spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. Joseph Hellerman sums it up well: “People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding. And they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often-messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay grow.”

As parents we want our kids to have a living and thriving relationship with Christ. We have a huge impact in the spiritual formation of our children simply by living out our faith in their presence. Parents that are intentional about teaching their children about Christ influence the results even more.

Yet, our kids’ spiritual development can benefit from the influences of other Christ followers being an active part of their lives. By partnering with family members, church ministries, and faith community members, you are investing into your child’s faith. Like the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a church to raise a child into their identity as a Christ follower.

Outside influences are a constant part of your child’s life. They spend many hours in the presence of peers, classmates, teachers, coaches, neighbors, TV, movies, music, and video games. A strong strategy as a parent is to counter the outside influences with Christ followers who can invest into your child’s life in a way that multiplies the effectiveness of your teaching. This can be children’s ministry, youth ministry, FCA, and midweek ministries like Awana.

Since we as parents also benefit from being in a faith community, surrounding ourselves with other believers on a consistent basis not only spurs us to grow in our faith but also gives our children other trustworthy adults to learn from in a safe environment. This can be a small group, a house church, or even an informal group of people that consistently and intentionally stay connected and growing spiritually together.

God designed us as relational beings so that we could build one another up and support each other in spiritual growth. It is especially important for kids as they grow and leave the security of family to know that God’s family is there wherever they go

Having your family be a part of a faith community environment…

  • Offers adults and children a strong sense of identity, security, and belonging.
  • Equips and disciples parents and kids
  • Brings the richness of worship together as a community
  • Provides a reprieve from the temptations and influences of the world around us.
  • Provides help to the family in terms of creating opportunities to grow spiritually by serving others and worshipping in the presence of others.
  • Gets kids connected to a spiritual support system
  • Helps kids understand why they need it.

According to George Barna, parents that relied on faith communities to provide emotional support through difficult times in relationships with other like-minded parents gained perspective, fresh ideas, and were spiritually nurturing their need to grow spiritually. They were more likely to raise kids with a strong identity tied to Christ and a thriving faith.

Another benefit of having children connected to church ministries and faith communities is the opportunity to make friends that are more likely to have Biblical morals and parents who take these matters seriously.

If you are committed to raising your children to be lifelong Christ followers, then take some time to strategize ways to get them connected to ministries within the church and to surround your family in a community of like-minded people, as well. They benefit, you benefit, and the other people connected to you in community benefit, as well. That’s a win-win investment!


Roots are Vital for Families, Too!


By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Did you know that Sequoia trees are some of the biggest trees in the world, the current record holder coming in at 275 ft. tall, (that’s 35 stories high), 25 feet in diameter, and approximately 2,500 years old? Such a tree is an amazing sight to see, but it’s what you don’t see that makes it all possible. Sequoias have a unique and marvelous root system beneath the ground. Though the roots are relatively shallow with no taproot to anchor them deep into the earth, these trees rarely fall over. They withstand strong winds, earthquakes, fires, storms, and prolonged flooding. How is that possible?

It comes down to connection. The root system of a sequoia is wide spreading and often intertwined with other trees. Twisted around and holding tight to one another, they literally hold each other up. Whereas most trees compete for space, sunshine, and nutrients, sequoias support other redwoods. They are not only gentle giants, but they are extremely fruitful, as well, and can produce up to 400,000 seeds a year, all of which are no bigger than a tomato seed! When a forest of sequoias is thriving rather than just surviving, they are ensuring a lasting legacy through their connection with one another. Their individual stories are intertwined along with their roots, uniting each of them to a much larger story.

These connections are vital to sequoias, and it’s the same with us. We were never meant to go this journey alone. Instead, God – who is a relational God – made us for community and dependence on Himself and one another. When we truly connect with others and create a real and vulnerable relationship, we can truly be ourselves. It’s a mutually invested and authentic relationship where we feel valued and known, which empowers us to give back relationally to others.

In this way, we want to emulate sequoia trees through our ministry in Heroes Gate. It’s our desire to see community growth and for meaningful connections to be made among our staff, volunteers, families, and the children to whom we minister each week. How can we do this? By striving toward continual spiritual growth together as we help each other, share resources, support one another through hardships, and hold each other up in words, actions and prayer. We seek to be fruitful and produce change in others as well as ourselves as we spread the Good News of God’s amazing story. Like a forest of sequoias, we will only truly thrive when we are connected to one another.

That’s why this year, the staff and volunteers of Heroes Gate are focusing on a key word: CONNECT.

·      We want to help your kids connect to peers and their leaders in authentic & real relationships that are appropriate for their age levels.

·      We also want to help your children connect to God in a meaningful way so they can see themselves as God sees them and to intertwine their individual stories to God’s story.

We want to extend an invitation to you, as a parent, to provide feedback or suggestions on how we can help these connections occur and how we can assist you in becoming connected to other families, as well.   We will continue to share more stories and ideas on connecting throughout the year!

Music Fest Event Tonight!


We are SO excited to be co-hosting tonight’s Music Fest event at Woodland Hills!  It’s a free evening of music, fun, games, bouncy house, dancing, and tacos for the whole family.  The weather is looking great, so bring some chairs or a blanket, come meet other WHC families, and spend the evening with us out on the green grass in front of the church!  Hope to see you there!

A Colorful Village


By Ruth Richmond, Associate Worship Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

God cares for us through the willing hands of people around us. It’s his design to accomplish his purposes in partnership with humans.  One stunningly beautiful result of this design is that the gifts, talents, faith and even the interests of the people that surround us swirl their colors into our lives. God uses others to help us discover talents and have experiences that reveal our own capacities for things like faith, love and strength.

I have a very colorful testimony not because I took a dramatic turn away from evil, but because all of my life willing Christians dipped, speckled, swirled, and buffed me. They enabled me to catch the light and reflect it in my own way so that I could bring prismatic light to dark places. I was shown my strength and was deeply, honestly connected to the love of God through the Christ followers around me.

My general trajectory was set by the age of six or eight because of the early influencers around me at church.  I wonder what I would be doing today if I’d had different people around me at church as a child?  Don’t you love looking back at your life and realizing a new thread of the narrative that God was weaving in all along the way? It’s a proof of His love that He works so much together for our good regardless of whether we will ever notice or thank Him.

Speaking of that, thank you God, for the rag-tag group of farmers and small town folk at the First Presbyterian Church in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. (Amen!)

Wow, God – thanks for Toots, who taught me about Jesus’ birthday and sang with us in pre-school. Thanks for Bessie, the quiet gray widow who took on the challenge of teaching rambunctious young grade schoolers!  (Amen!)

Thanks for the Pastor and his wife who began to lead the church when I was six. And that she started a choir for the children. Thanks that she was willing to stick with it even though we were squirrely. And thanks that she noticed I could always start a song in just about the right key, because then I noticed that about me, too, and started thinking of myself as musical. (Amen!)

Thank you for the local band teacher John, and his wife, Kay: Deeply passionate educators who joined our church and shared their interest in music contagiously. Thank you for the clarity of their love and for their obedience to leave us when you called them to minister at a school in the Philippines. (Amen!)

She (Kay) was my first and, therefore, my favorite piano teacher. My lessons were right after school. She prayed with me and had me memorize scripture verses. She taught me to play hymns and insisted that I sing them simultaneously. She taught me to write down musical thoughts on paper. I was eight when we started and thirteen when she left. By then, the path was level before me. At seventeen, I wrote my first five songs for piano, all in one sitting. At nineteen, I started working toward a music degree at Bethel College.

Now, I feel closest to God when I am writing musical thoughts on paper. I have worked for fifteen years singing, playing piano, and bringing music to this church. I have little kids of my own to share music with.  And, I’ve just been tasked with supporting and developing the worship area in Heroes Gate, so I have truly come full circle!”

My experience proves that when it comes to kids, it “takes a village”. A village full of willing, loving adults. Not because kids are difficult, but because they’re curious and clear: Ready to have the color and love of their village swirled into them.

I’m going to use this blog to give a little pitch! I am currently looking for accomplished musicians who can support the kids’ worship time in Heroes Gate. The village is forming now. If Woodland Hills is your church, please seek God about joining me and then contact me at