Category Archives: Service

The Big Yes

We are delighted to feature another post written by Erica Morrow!  We hope her humble and insightful words will help you to answer God’s call for your family with a resounding, “Yes!” as well.

I find great joy in being a mother, I adore my three children, and I cherish the responsibility of crafting experiences along the way for them that will shape their view of the world. But in many, many moments, I have to self-talk away the shame of the “not enoughs” that come with being a mom. My children (while I love them dearly) cause me on the regular to send SOS texts imploring friends to pray for their safety and mine when I am losing my patience or sensing my head about to explode. And that experience crafting business? Well let’s just say that errands to Target and distracted multitasking tend to win again and again over intentionality.

My heart wants it. Everything in my soul is longing to take this life work of parenthood and to bring good, true things into it. To sing the song that only I can sing over my children as they grow, to nurture their spirits and stubbornly hold fast to the important things God has for them to learn along the way. And in this last season, God is slowly unclenching my fists and teaching me what it means to deepen my roots as a follower of Jesus, with eyes and ears attuned to His priorities for my family, not mine.

Three kids and a decade into parenting, I can safely say that the method of hoping I’m on the right track with this and wishing my way into the kind of home we want to create is a myth. Pinteresting quotable phrases and reading the right parenting books won’t actually get us there. David and I talking over coffee in the mornings about how we need to change our schedules to make room for more simplicity and intentionality won’t get us there. Yes, those are things that point us down the road, but at some point I need to take a breath, stop trying to do a hundred things in the space for one thing, listen to the Holy Spirit, and then take a physical step in the direction of God’s wooing and compelling voice. He is beckoning me and my family to a place where our hearts long for the things His heart longs for. Where our priorities are the things He prioritizes. Where my deepest joy in motherhood becomes the work of finding wonder in the world all around me and simply aligning my life so that we encounter it more and more.

And something really amazing has happened as I have allowed God to reshape my intentions. I have found a place of serious grace and unrelenting mercy for my shortcomings in motherhood – where I would previously just default to the “not enough” zone, God is speaking new words over me. Words that sound a little like this: “You are equipped through me to do what I have called you to do.” “Let me refresh you, my child.” “Let’s walk this road together.” And this, if you can even believe it: “You ARE enough.” And a funny thing happens when I start to listen to the voice of truth instead of all the others. I am freed up to start thinking creatively about who I am and who our family is. We are His and securely rooted in His love, so heck yes to that crazy thing that will be hard but so good. And yes, yes, and yes to opportunities to adventure with my children into places that aren’t necessarily convenient or rational, but are completely and abundantly spirit led.

So, Mexico. I’m taking the two elementary-aged kiddos from our family to Puebla in April with a group of 17 parents and kids from Woodland Hills. When God speaks words of confidence into my life and my parenting, it frees me up to be brave and say yes to adventures – the very adventure I was speaking of earlier that can help shape the way my children see the world. The crazy thing is that when I believe that true voice which reminds me that He is my sustainer in motherhood (and all the things), the opportunities to respond to that seem like they flash in front of me on bright and shiny billboards. Maybe those opportunities are always all around us, but with truth as my guide, my eyes can be wide open enough to see them.  And sometimes for me, the big yeses strengthen my heart for the often more difficult small ones. I have a feeling that if we want to learn about what God loves and find out what he is passionate about, this is a good place to begin. We know that His love for the kids at Esperanza Viva is passionate and extravagant, and together as parents and children we will be students of that love as we play, sing, craft, dance, and do life together for the week.

My prayer is that as my family and I seek out and respond to opportunities to love what God loves, we will be slowly transformed more into His likeness. That our experiences and interactions in Mexico and all of the other opportunities to come will not only impact us in those moments, but that they will carry over to the breakfast table. I think of Mexico as another step towards that voice that woos us, and my dream is that my children (and I!) would learn that life offers no better adventure than the one that is following the heart of our Father.

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.

New Year – New Opportunities


By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

2017 is here! Going into this new year, many people make resolutions or lists of what they want to do/accomplish/quit/try in the next 365 days. Whatever your feelings about individual New Year’s resolutions, one thing is certain: It’s a new year full of new opportunities for you and your family to grow and learn together. Below are some ideas for how your family can create new memories while also building character and faith this year.

  • Have a Family Fun Day each month – Schedule a day or a weekend each month for your whole family to spend time together doing something fun and engaging (i.e. ice skating, berry picking, nature walk, day at the zoo, movie marathon at home, waterpark, eating out at a new restaurant, etc.). If you have older children, you could even divvy up the dates and allow them to choose what your family gets to do those days. Make the most of these special outings together and take lots of pictures!
  • Family Service Opportunities – Look for ways you and your family can serve your neighborhood/community/world this year. You might want to pick a day each month to serve together, or you could join a mailing list for a favorite volunteer organization and pick out opportunities as they pop up. Serving together as a family does two things: It helps kids put their faith into action and it gives them the chance to see faith and love modeled for them through your example.   Plus, it creates a fun family memory! Some local organizations to get you started could be Feed My Starving Children, the Merrick Community Food Shelf at Woodland Hills, and your local Humane Society.
  • Learn Something New Together – When heading to the library, have your kids (or a designated child if you want to take turns) head to the non-fiction side of the kids’ section and choose a book about a subject they are either interested in learning about or something/someone they’ve never heard of before. Then, as a family, sit down and read the book together. If it proves an interesting topic, encourage your kids to do more research, either at the library or online. (We recommend you do online research with your children as it’s pretty easy to “google” something and get material you wouldn’t want your kids to access.)
  • Try New Foods – When my cousin’s kids were young, she wanted to expand their pallets while avoiding the dreaded dinnertime tantrums. So occasionally, when they went to the grocery story, she would take them to the produce section and encourage them to find a fruit or vegetable they had never eaten before (it was even better if it looked weird). They would buy one, take it home, look up how to prepare it, and then try it in a grand “experiment.” If they liked it (which they often did), they would buy more for a meal. If they didn’t, they all laughed and called it a failed experiment. Her kids got all kinds of exposure to new fruits and veggies and found new favorites they never would have otherwise tried. If you wanted to really get creative, head to an international market or grocery store and find some truly unique foods (and meet new friends from around the world)!
  • Create Sabbath Space for Your Family – We live in a busy world, and families are often some of the busiest people around. But it’s important to take time together to reconnect with each other and God. You might try doing this by creating a specific, regular “Sabbath” time (anywhere from an hour to a whole day) where you intentionally spend time together worshipping, praying, reading the Bible, or enjoying God’s creation. (This could be done as a weekly or monthly event.) Sound boring? Not if you get creative. Your worship time can be full of fun music and dance and even homemade instruments. Prayer time can be artistic with prayer requests being drawn or written into a journal. Reading the Bible gets a whole new life when you encourage your kids to act out the stories. And a family walk takes on new meaning when your kids are excitedly searching for the “coolest/prettiest/weirdest thing God made” in your neighborhood or at the park.

Whatever you do this new year, be sure you make the most of the opportunities you have to love on your kids, build character and wisdom into their lives, and help them to grow in their faith. Time flies, and 2017 will be no exception. So here’s to a great year full of fun, laughter, memories, and togetherness!

Giving Back


By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Giving back is important all year long, but the holiday season seems to bring out that spirit more than other times of the year. It is wonderful to model to our children that giving to others is important. To help you out, we have come up with a few ideas and links. Have fun with it!

Operation Joy– grab an ornament off the tree in the Heroes Gate area and help a family in need celebrate Christmas by providing a gift and/or a meal. Gifts are due back to HG no later than December 11th.

Operation Christmas Child- shoe boxes for kids in need. You can find more information at

Create a Christmas bucket list- here are some fun ideas!

Christmas Service Advent idea- this one is good if you are feeling creative!

Sign up to ring the bell

Other ideas:

Caroling in your neighborhood or in a nursing home

Serving at a shelter

Play “secret Santa” for a neighbor in need

Serve at Feed My Starving Children

Drop a donation off at the Ronald McDonald house

Shovel snow for a neighbor

There are so many fun ways to give back. Some cost very little but require your time. Some cost a bit but will be a huge blessing. Giving back is living out the Kingdom and modeling God’s love to those around you. Be blessed and be a blessing this Christmas season!

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

Family Devotional: Faithfulness

This summer, we’re excited to have two different lesson units for the Preschool-Elementary kids on Sunday mornings! June 5-26 and July 10-24, we will be doing a Dr. Seuss-inspired unit on the Fruits of the Spirit, and August 7-21, we will be learning about interacting with God and the Holy Spirit through prayer, worship, and the Bible, all with an Olympics theme! Each of these lesson weeks, our staff will bring you a devotional idea you can use with your kids to help them take what they just learned on Sunday morning and integrate it into their daily lives.

By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

In our world, a person’s word isn’t always something we can count on. But God is always faithful to what He says and promises. Ask your kids what it means to be “faithful” and ask them to give examples of what faithfulness looks like. If they don’t know what it means, explain that being faithful means you do what you say you will do. You can be counted on to keep your promises.

Read Psalm 136 together and talk about the different ways the psalm celebrates how God is faithful. Are there ways they’ve seen God be faithful and keep His promises to them? (ex. they know God is always with them, God loves them all the time, etc.)

Explain that, because God is faithful and keeps His promises, He wants us to do our best to be faithful to Him and to others, as well. When we choose to be faithful and keep our promises, people know we can be counted on. When they need something, they will know we are the people they can turn to. Part of being a good friend is choosing to be faithful toward others. Ask them for examples of how they’ve seen other people (friends or family members) be faithful and keep their promises or show they can be relied upon to help out.

If you have it in your home or want to get it from the library, read Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg and talk about how Horton shows “an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Discuss how Horton chose to be faithful despite all that happened to him and what people said, and talk about how he was rewarded in the end for his faithfulness.

For a fun family activity around faithfulness, read Psalm 136 again (or part of it if you have younger children), and come up with actions for the words or make it into a song with a dance! You could even make it into a music video!

You can also download this coloring page for your kids to decorate as they are reminded to be faithful people who can be counted on to keep their word and help others.

We Need YOU!


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