Tag Archives: Community

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!

 

“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.

I Don’t Agree with You

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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.

Creating Memories This Christmas

By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

This season is prime making-memories time. No doubt, your family has some Christmas traditions of its own this season, but if you’re looking to add some new ideas this year, here are some fun and creative suggestions that might just become new traditions for your family for years to come!

  • If your kids have a flair for the dramatic, why not have them reenact the Christmas narrative! Costumes and props can easily be made from things found around the house. You could even get your extended family or friends involved and do a whole production in your living room!
  • Draw it out! Grab some large paper to create a mural of the Christmas story together to hang on the wall or create a book by stapling papers together and working as a family to write out the story and draw the pictures.
  • Many families have a tradition of baking cookies and giving them away to family and friends, but what if you handed them out to people serving in our community such as police officers, firefighters, librarians, janitors, and even trash and recycling collectors instead? Encourage your kids to think about people who might be overlooked who play an important role in our lives.
  • Visit a nursing/assisted living home. Encourage your kids to make cards to hand out or have them work on singing some Christmas carols together. It’s probably a good idea to talk with your children beforehand about things they may see that might confuse them or even make them feel a bit uncomfortable, such as a resident who doesn’t respond to their greeting or why so many are in wheelchairs.
  • Reading the Christmas story together as a family is a tradition for many, and one fun version to use is The Jesus Storybook Bible. With beautiful illustrations and kid-friendly wording, you can celebrate the story’s message together and talk about the incredible love of God shown through the birth of Jesus. It’s told in three separate stories (four if you include the story just beforehand) that could be read in the nights leading up to Christmas.
  • Write your own Christmas carols! Work together to compose your own Christmas songs that celebrate the birth of Christ. You could reword a familiar Christmas tune or even create your own original song!
  • If you have upper elementary children, you might want to make watching The Nativity Story (2006) a tradition. Grab some popcorn and cookies and enjoy together this compelling version of the Christmas story that could be a great springboard for conversation. (Note on content: The film is rated PG for violence. For details, check out: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/nativitystory)
  • Be secret agents of love! Christmas is a great opportunity to help your kids notice those in need around them. Encourage them to be on the lookout at school/daycare/home/with friends to see if they can spot someone who could use a little extra love this season. Then, brainstorm with your kids what that person might find helpful as a gift, and go get it or make it! You can choose to give the gift in person or, if you want to be super sneaky, you can leave the gift as an anonymous surprise!

Christmas is a season when memories are made and remembered, when nostalgia fills our senses and recalls us to Christmases past. This year, we encourage you to take time away from the hectic holiday schedule to make some truly amazing and meaningful memories together as a family. Whatever your holiday traditions may be, make the most of them and celebrate together the reason for this season: the incredible love of God come to us through the birth of Jesus!

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!

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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!

Music Fest Event Tonight!

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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!