Category Archives: Volunteering

Volunteers are Awesome!

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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!

 

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.

Giving Back

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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 https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Create a Christmas bucket list- here are some fun ideas! http://www.thedatingdivas.com/printable-service-bucket-lists/

Christmas Service Advent idea- this one is good if you are feeling creative! http://www.thedatingdivas.com/printable-service-bucket-lists/

Sign up to ring the bellhttp://salvationarmynorth.org/volunteer/bellringing/

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!

Roots are Vital for Families, Too!

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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!

September Preview Pack

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

September 4: Toddlers will discover the Bible is God’s Big Story through a fun, interactive video while Preschool-6th grade will have an extra-fun morning with a very special surprise guest!

September 11: Fall curriculum begins in Heroes Gate! Toddlers and younger Preschoolers (Monkeys and Lions) will watch a final video lesson on how God loves everyone and wants us all to know Him while Preschool-6th grade will be gathered together for one big lesson on the Big Story of the Bible.

September 18: Toddlers-Kindergarten will return to the Story Fort where Paco and his friends will walk them through the story of Creation. 1st-4th graders will also hear the Creation story and be reminded that God loves us, no matter what. Club 56 kids will kick off their year with a discussion on the topic: What is God Really Like?

September 25: Toddlers-4th Grade will hear the sad story of Cain and Abel and learn that it’s important to choose love rather than allowing anger and hate to grow. Club 56 kids will talk about the question: How is God different from other gods?

As we head into this next school year, we are hoping you will prayerfully consider joining us in Heroes Gate. We have openings in nearly every area of our ministry (from infants to elementary, from worship to teach). For more information, you can contact Bethany at bblick@whchurch.org or 651-287-2714 or stop by the HG registration desk on a Sunday morning. If you’re ready to go, you can sign up by following this link!

A Colorful Village

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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 rrichmond@whchurch.org.

We Need YOU!

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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.