Tag Archives: Childhood

Big Picture Parenting

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

In the midst of parenting, I tend to focus on the here and now. Between my wife and I, our idea of getting a big picture in our parenting is to update our calendars with all the events, practices, programs, and activities that people in our family have committed to for the next few months. Even this simple task feels like an amazing feat.

Early in our marriage, however, my wife and I were fortunate to have a group of friends that were intentional about creating a big picture of what they wanted of their marriage and their family as well as what they wanted their kids to be like as adults. We were amazed at this idea, but in the midst of diapers, late night feedings, and making sure we didn’t lose any kids it seemed beyond our reach.

A short time later, my wife’s grandfather passed away. Through the stories from friends and family members, we began to see how his purposeful life created a vision for his family and the long-term effect was a lasting legacy that continued in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

So, we began to create a simple vision statement, first for our marriage and then for our family. Every few years we go away for a few days to pray and reflect on this vision. Sometimes it needs modification, and sometimes we need to modify our life choices.

How would you answer the question: “What do you want your child to be like as an adult?” What parts of your identity, life, values, and faith do you want to ensure continues in the life of your child as a lasting legacy?

It’s too easy to get caught up in the daily busyness of life and miss opportunities to train, invest, and encourage our children.   Maybe now is a good time to step back for a moment and reflect on the big picture.

I’ve provided a few tips and suggestions I’ve gleaned over the years. There is a lot of info on the web, as well. First, though I would suggest you start with a few ideas and then flesh them out without worrying about formatting or cohesiveness. Afterwards, post it somewhere in your house as a reminder to be intentional and to take in the big picture. Here are a few questions to help you get started.

  • What values would you like to instill in your children?
  • What Biblical truths does your child need to be a life long Christ follower?
  • What do you want them to be like?
  • What will their faith look like?

Create a Vision Statement: Write out a statement that expresses the whole of what you want your child to be as an adult. Details can be added later, but this is a simple word picture.

List: Think of faith skills you want your child to have and how you want to integrate their spiritual growth into your family’s daily routine. Consider what elements of spiritual formation are most important for you to focus upon during the time you have available as a family.

Example: We started by listing spiritual and faith elements we wanted our kids to have, know, or have integrated into their daily life with our family.

Our kids would…

  • Have a thriving and active relationship with Jesus
  • Be able to know and hear God’s voice, discerning it from other voices
  • Desire to obey God when they hear His voice
  • Obey God through the power of the Holy Spirit, not just on their own.
  • Love and serve God with all their strength, hearts, minds, and souls (Mark 12:30)
  • Discern that the Bible is true, relevant, and that its words can be applied to our daily lives
  • Know that the Bible and God are exciting!
  • Shift from self centeredness (sin) to others-centeredness (right related/living out God’s agape love)
  • Know how to study God’s word, pray, worship, share, and serve.
  • Reflect God’s love in all their relationships: school, friends, family, and daily interactions in the world.
  • Value being surrounded by faith-filled peers who can speak into each other’s lives (accountability, community, and growth)

Creating a Vision Statement for your children’s spiritual growth not only gives you as a parent a goal and focus, but it also provides a lasting point of reference you can continue to use and adapt as your kids grow.

Imagination: The Gateway to a Child’s Faith

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By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

You’ve probably seen it a thousand times: your child is utterly lost in his or her imagination. It might be while playing with a Lego Star Wars set as an obvious battle of good versus evil takes place on the basement floor complete with laser blast sounds and droid beeps. Perhaps it’s the giggly voices you hear coming from your child’s room as she and her friend play “house” or “school” with their dolls. You’ve seen a towel becomes a superhero cape, a stick become a knight’s sword, and a plastic crown with its stickers missing become the precious tiara of a princess. You’ve read the same story to them over and over till you’ve got the whole thing memorized and, yet, they beg to hear it again. Your child’s imagination is in full gear. And it’s beautiful.

Our imaginations are one of God’s greatest and most profound gifts, and I’m convinced it’s one of the things that Jesus is referring to when he tells his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:14-15).” What exactly does he mean here? Does he want them to be more immature and childish? Is he calling them to revert to a child-like state of being where they refuse to eat vegetables, hate sharing their toys, and want to sleep with the light on? Of course not. But what I believe Jesus is getting at here is his desire for his followers to have a child-like trust and state of mind when it comes to their faith in him.

Kids have the amazing ability to believe in things that adults find difficult to grasp. A child has no trouble believing in his or her imaginary friend, a monster in the closet, that he or she really can one day become a superhero, or that unicorns truly exist. And, because of this, they can believe whole-heartedly in a God they can’t see with their eyes. They can see him with the eyes of their imagination, and that enables them to trust him with fewer holdbacks than we adults tend to have. Where we wonder scientifically how Jesus could possibly make five loaves of bread and two fish feed thousands of people, a child simply smiles and believes that Jesus can do anything, so why not? Where we struggle with the idea of how much God loves us despite our sins, a child – whose whole existence has been wrapped in love and encouragement from family and friends – has no trouble believing he or she is loved unconditionally by God. And where we find it hard to believe that we can make a difference in the world, kids know they can make a difference.

It’s something author C.S. Lewis understood well. In the dedication to what is, arguably, his most famous novel – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – he wrote:

My Dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.

We seem to have this idea that, at some point, the use of one’s imagination should dwindle and be replaced by “real life.” And there is some truth to that, for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” But whereas Paul here is referencing our spiritual maturity (meaning our progress in following Christ), Jesus was speaking to his disciples about our spiritual imagination. For, as Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” A child has faith and confidence in what he or she cannot see, and from that faith springs hope. Good will conquer evil. The hero will win the fight. We can make a difference in our world.

Therefore, one of the best ways to engage your child’s faith is to go through his or her imagination. By telling him or her stories filled with truths, playing pretend, enjoying movies together, and creating art, you can help your child build his or her faith. Engaging a child’s imagination draws him or her in, puts things in a language he or she can grasp, and connects him or her to the larger story of the world – God’s story.

So the next time your child wants to prance about the kitchen in your shoes and pretend to be “Elsa” or “Olaf” from Frozen, just “let it go.” Your child is exercising the gift of imagination. May it inspire you to follow his or her example and engage your imagination and help you grow in faith, as well.