Category Archives: Spiritual Formation

Super Summer Sneak Peak

Jesus Superhero Person

We’ve got some SUPER fun Sundays coming up this summer as kids learn about what it means to be a hero in God’s Kingdom through the examples set through people throughout history.

June 4: Toddlers-Preschoolers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Adam and Eve.  Elementary students will blast off into space to join the crew of the Konnect Space Station as they learn to put others first.

June 11: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Joseph in Egypt.  Preschool-Elementary students will attend their first fun-filled day of SKA: Superheroes of the Kingdom Academy, where they’ll learn how we can love like Jesus.  Preschoolers will hear the story of how Jesus showed love to Zacchaeus while Elementary students will hear about the self-sacrificial love of Anabaptist Dirk Willems.

June 18: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Moses and the burning bush.  Preschool-Elementary students will, in their second week of SKA, engage with the idea of trusting God to provide what we need. Preschoolers will be amazed by the trust of Abraham while Elementary students will be astonished at faith of children’s advocate George Muller.

June 25: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of young Samuel.  Preschool-Elementary students will, in their third week of SKA, hear how they can help others know Jesus.  Preschoolers will hear how the Apostle Paul helped others know Jesus while Elementary students will find out how a young rapper named Jordan Heywood is doing the same through his music.

July 2: Due to the holiday weekend, we will be returning to video this week with Toddlers-Preschoolers going on a Bible Adventure to hear about David and Goliath while Elementary students learn about responsibility with the crew of the Konnect Space Station.

July 9: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Daniel.  Preschool-Elementary students will, in their fourth week of SKA, discover that, with God’s help, we can forgive others.  Preschoolers will learn from the example set in the story of the Prodigal Son while Elementary students will hear how Corrie ten Boom was able to forgive with God’s love the man who had betrayed her family in World War II.

July 16: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Esther.  Preschool-Elementary students will, in their fifth week of SKA, hear how we are to do what’s right, even when it’s hard.  Preschoolers will see this demonstrated through the story of Nehemiah while Elementary students will look to the example set by Martin Luther King, Jr. as he worked for justice in the Civil Rights Movement.

July 23: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man.  Preschool-Elementary will, in their sixth week of SKA, be encouraged to look for ways to serve and help others, especially those in need.  Preschoolers will look at how Jesus helped Jarius and brought his daughter back to life while Elementary students will hear how Mother Teresa gave her life to helping the poorest of the poor and the outcast.

July 30: Toddlers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of how Jesus taught people about God’s Kingdom.  Preschool-Elementary students will, in their final week of SKA, be reminded that God is always with us.  Preschoolers will learn this through the story of the Lost Sheep while Elementary students will hear first-hand how God was with Brother Yun when he was arrested for preaching about Jesus in China.

August 6: Toddlers-Preschoolers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear how Jesus fed over 5,000 people only five loaves of bread and two fish.  Elementary students will blast off into space to join the crew of the Konnect Space Station as they learn what it means to have courage.

August 13: Toddlers-Preschoolers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear the story of Palm Sunday.  Elementary students will blast off into space to join the crew of the Konnect Space Station as they learn more about what it means to have courage.

August 20: Toddlers-Preschoolers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear how God sent His Spirit to the first Jesus-followers.  Elementary students will blast off into space to join the crew of the Konnect Space Station as they learn more about what it means to have courage.

August 27: Toddlers-Preschoolers will set off on another Bible Adventure with Emily and friends and hear how everyone is welcome in God’s family.  Elementary students will blast off into space to join the crew of the Konnect Space Station as they learn more about what it means to have courage.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Mommy

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By Paula Bowlby, Associate Early Childhood Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

As long as I can remember, my one and only goal in life was to be a mom. I would dream about being a mom. I would play with dolls and babysit to practice for my future. Twenty-five years ago, I became a mommy for the very first time. It was a long and hard pregnancy which taught me that being a mom starts before the baby is in your arms. He was worth every second that it took to bring him into this world. So much so, I made the conscious decision to be pregnant two more times!

Recently I stumbled upon this quote- “Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”

As parents, I’m sure you can identify with the quote. All those years ago, as I was dreaming about being a mommy, I didn’t realize the responsibility it entailed. I didn’t realize that I could love someone so much that sometimes it literally hurts. The fear and the joy, the ups and the downs that all come with being a parent are things you can’t plan on.

I am thankful for my faith and that I know that I never walk this road alone. I am thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me and my children more than I can ever imagine. I am thankful for the example of Jesus of how to love someone more than myself. The best part is that even when I have a hard time forgiving myself, I am forgiven. This parenting business is downright hard sometimes. Live in God’s grace for yourself and your children. Teach them that they are loved more than they can ever imagine by their Creator. Being loved and knowing that their identity is in Christ is the best gift you can give, and that gift lasts a lifetime.

Remember, you don’t want “she kept a clean house” to be what you are remembered for. Intentionally leave a legacy for your children and others. Be who God is calling you to be. Your kids will do the same.

“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.

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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

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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

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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!