Tag Archives: Patrick Showers

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.

Family Devotional: Patience and Self-Control

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 Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Galatians 5 lists fruits or outward actions/expressions that result in being connected to God. These fruits are an expression of our transforming heart as we gain a deeper understanding of God and are reminded that He knows us intimately. Of all the fruits listed, patience and self-control are the two that seem the most difficult to envision as a consistent part of my life. Don’t get me wrong – I desire patience, especially when dealing with irritating people or a child that just keeps bugging me and bugging me and bugging me and, uh, well, you get the point. I’m sure none of you can relate. In fact, I’ve come to believe that patience is missing from my gene pool. I come from a long line of relatives with a weak ability to patiently handle stress, irritation, or discomfort. I’m not sure where this genetic mutation first began, but the legacy has continued for several generations. So, believe me when I say patience was not modeled well in my childhood.

Then there is that next fruit: self-control, a word that has been feared by many throughout time. It is such a big deal in our culture that we have huge sections of libraries and bookstores dedicated to self-help. People crave the ability to control their eating habits, their relationships, their desires, and emotions. We see it on New Years’ Day when many people create a resolution and hope that this year will be different than the past. What usually happens with these resolutions? Most fail miserably in a short time. Here again my genetics have let me down. My family line has struggled with controlling their desires. You name it: alcoholism, overeating, over-spending, and the list goes on.

I’ve hit the opposite of genetic jackpot when it comes to these two fruits. Even when I concentrate my efforts and will towards patience or self-control, I can only manage success for short bursts and even then, the results might be mixed. However, once I realize that I cannot do this alone, that’s when God can really shine. My dependence upon Him draws me close and that is when the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, and my Counselor shines through. The Fruits of the Spirit are a result of me + Jesus = new life.

When sharing the Fruit of the Spirit with our children, we can let them know that it is okay if we can’t do this alone because when we trust in God, when we let Him change us, then we will shine with His fruits.

Here are some ideas for sharing the fruit of patience & self-control with kids:

  • When you come upon an apple tree, what do you expect to see? Apples. The Fruit of the Spirit is what people might expect to see if someone is living their life for Jesus.
  • Save a rotting piece of fruit and have a good piece available. Then ask your children: “Which piece of fruit would you rather eat?” We desire to have fruit that isn’t rotten. We want fruit that looks healthy, tasty, and ripe. Following God’s ways helps us to be that healthy fruit and not a rotten fruit.
  • Ask them to think about fruit: It’s good for you, it keeps you healthy, and it reproduces more fruit. If you do things that are good for you, do things to be healthy and following God’s ways, then you are being what God wants for you and that looks like fruits of the Spirit.
  • Talk to your children about ways that they can grow closer to God: Reading their Bible, prayer, worship, going to Heroes Gate, and hanging out with other followers of Jesus. These are things that help healthy fruit grow in our lives. Just like fruit trees need sunshine, rain, and food to grow healthy fruit, we need to know God and stay connected to Him (like a friendship). Plant a bean seed and as it grows, remind kids to care for their hearts, as well.

Attached you will find a few activity pages, crafts, and coloring sheets to reinforce understanding of the Fruits of the Spirit in the lives of your little ones.

Patience & Self Control pages

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self-control copy

Birds and Bees

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Shortly after I started working as a children’s pastor at Woodland Hills Church, my boss handed me a file and tasked me with teaching 5th graders about their body developments (i.e. puberty) from a Biblical perspective. She saw a need for the church to partner with parents to provide a supplemental resource for kids to learn about a typically taboo topic in a safe environment and tied to a Biblical perspective. The goal was to provide an overview of the body’s changes during puberty with a Biblical understanding of how and why God created us this way as well as how love and relationship were key to expressing our desires in the most healthy way.

Here I was, a young, newly married guy with no children and no formal training in this subject, tasked to teach preteens about a topic that is the equivalent of a “stinky cheese touch” in their eyes. When I looked into the file, all I found was individual photocopies with highlighted sections from various sources of interest to my boss.   I tried to recall what I learned as a preteen about this topic and came up blank. My parents avoided this topic like the plague, so that was no help. I felt ill at ease, ill-equipped, and just plain ill. My only options were becoming knowledgeable or seeing if I could get my old job back. In the end, I decided that in spite of my fears, I would go beyond my comfort zone to ensure that preteens could feel safe enough to ask questions or seek help regarding puberty and sex.   I was fortunate to find a few good resources, which helped me form a framework to build upon.

I eventually, created a booklet complete with visual aids, and a Bible study about sex, love, and the covenant of relationship, especially as expressed in marriage. I prepped my boss so she could lead the girls, and I prepared so I could lead the boys. When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t sure who was more nervous or embarrassed – the 5th grade boys unfortunate enough to have their parents sign a permission slip to participate or me. It didn’t take me long to realize that while these students were uncomfortable, they also wanted to learn about the mysteries of puberty and sex. My boss had a flood of questions from the girls about many aspects of puberty or why women did certain things. The boys, well, they didn’t have any questions, but they did pay attention with a few sniggers and bouts of nervous laughter.

Over the years, we’ve given this talk many times. We even added a workshop where parents can attend with their 5th grader and we go through the content together with activities and discussions. I now enjoy being a part of this class and value the importance of equipping and empowering kids about a topic that the world is all too ready to mislead them about.

Several years ago, my oldest became a 5th grader. I was now in a unique situation as the parent and as the teacher. My wife and I spent time in prayer and discussion about the best way to present this topic to her. We decided that my wife would take her out on a date and start talking about how her body would change and develop. She opened the door for further discussion. Then, they both attended the parent/5th grader workshop, as well. Afterwards, my wife and I used the Bible study I developed for the class with my daughter.   I’m sure she wasn’t overly thrilled about going through this topic with both mom and dad, but it has opened the door for her to ask more questions since then.

As parents, we often have a list tucked in our brain of things we want to make sure kids learn from us. Sometimes, our list gets expanded and stretched through situations in life as we enter new stages of development or growth. Sometimes, other people become a catalyst for learning moments, whether good or bad, planned or unplanned. As a parent of several teens, I’ve realized that if I don’t teach my kids about tough topics, then other sources get the first chance: peers, the internet, TV, music, books, or boyfriends/girlfriends. I was fortunate to be ahead of the puberty talk only because I was given the task to teach it before my oldest child was even born. Sometimes, we are given advance notice or early detection alerts and we have to decide if an opportunity is worth going beyond excuses or discomfort to equip and empower our children.   We are fortunate that we have so many resources available: books, seminars, webinars, and even the classes at the church. You may feel like I did when I was given the task of explaining puberty to a bunch of preteens: afraid, uncomfortable, unprepared, unsure where to start, and overwhelmed. Yet, a part of you may also thank God that you have the opportunity to reinforce a firm foundation in the lives and faith of your children as well as creating a home where your kids feel safe enough and comfortable enough to ask you about taboo topics. Now that is an outcome that is worth breaking out of our comfort zone to have.

Easter and Kids

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By Patrick Showers, Elementary Associate Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Easter is a holiday that many Americans value enough to celebrate in some way. Most people tie the Easter bunny, colorful eggs, and baskets full of goodies to this holiday more than Jesus’ resurrection. Woodland Hills Church just completed a series encouraging followers of Christ to go beyond our comfort zones and share our faith and the love of God with people connected to our lives. So, how does this work with kids?

The Children’s Ministry staff has wrestled with this question for years, and I’d love to tell you we figured out a perfect answer, but that just wasn’t the case. The truth is, it will look different for kids depending on their age, spiritual maturity, and personality. However, we did notice a few things in our observations of children.

  1. Kids are fully capable of following Jesus but at an age-appropriate level. This means kids can be on fire for Jesus one second and erupt in a fit of screaming tears the next. This is normal for kids. They are a work in progress, as are we all. Their brains and bodies are still growing and developing, and this can sometimes interfere with their intention to follow Jesus.
  2. Kids can share about Jesus and the good news, but they will do it in a way that makes sense to them. Some kids are more direct, sometimes because of their age or because of their personality, and may even be unafraid to tell an adult their choices are sinful and they need to ask Jesus for forgiveness while others may talk more about God’s love for them and everyone.
  3. Equipping and empowering kids does not have a simple formulaic answer, but the best thing we can pass onto our children to help them learn how to share the love and good news of Jesus are foundational truths about Him:
  • God loves us no matter what we do or who we are
  • God will never give up on us
  • God has shown His love and provided a way to fix our relationship with Him
  • God wants us to be close to Him
  • Jesus shows us what God is like and models how to live

As parents, we can model all these truths while sharing the good news with people, as well

  1. Children are motivated by love, and I believe they are also prompted by the Holy Spirit even though they may not realize it or even be able to put words to the reason why they shared the good news with someone.

Easter provides a great environment for children to grow in their faith and understanding of the good news.   The story of Jesus is a great place to start equipping our kids.   Retell the story of Jesus and how His life and sacrifice impacted you. Use a set of Resurrection eggs to help kids retell the story. Several area churches provide experiential retellings of the Easter story with the audience being a part of the story as they watch it play out live. (Our family particularly enjoys St. Andrew’s church in Mahtomedi’s Good Friday Easter Experience). Finding ways to tie the baskets, the eggs, and even the Easter bunny back to God’s story is also a great way to empower kids. Their conversations with their peers could get interesting if they start making connections to the good news while chatting about the goodies found in their Easter baskets.

We can do our part to equip kids by passing on the truth, sharing God’s story as well as our own faith stories, and by modeling a faith that follows God and shares the good news with others. The Holy Spirit can take it from there and empower our children to continue the legacy of discipleship that Jesus handed over to His disciples thousands of years ago.

Love Makes Cents 2016 – Camp Penuel Costa Rica

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By Patrick Showers

In February, Heroes Gate and Club 56 children are challenged to raise money to help peers living in Costa Rica attend a Christian camp. While to us this may not seem like an important focal point for raising funds, the value is driven by two reasons. First, we work with Camp Penuel staff to determine how our efforts can directly affect at-risk children in this country. Many of the kids who attend Camp Penuel come from poverty and live in shantytowns where food and resources are scarce. Second, we seek to find a way to connect the need to the everyday things we take for granted in Minnesota. This way we hope to give children an opportunity to see the world beyond their day-to-day experiences and develop a compassion for others around the world.

Camp Penuel Costa Rica has a specific focus to give children ages 7-11 the opportunity to know their heavenly Father through Christ Jesus and the abundant life that he offers through the power and love of the Holy Spirit. The vision is to rally a multi-ethnic team of support to work towards providing facilities of excellence and diversity so that each child can have a wealth of new, safe, and fun experiences that they will remember for their lifetime, but more importantly, that are God-anointed and forever will change their lives for good.

This organization values mission teams to support and enhance their work. Our church has sent several teams there, including a recent group in January that included several volunteers from Heroes Gate.

Love Makes Cents has been a Heroes Gate learning element for almost a decade, and we continue to be amazed at the generosity and compassion of the children. They find a way to fill their banks and meet the financial goal every time. They’ve provided for kids in Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, and now Costa Rica. Their gifts, instead of being minor or unimportant, continue to enhance the spiritual and physical impact of each ministry organization.

We encourage you to discuss why giving is an important part of our role as followers of Christ with your children: our generosity stems from the selfless love and endless provision of Christ, and we are blessed when we give just as much as those who receive it. Over the years, I’ve seen kids give all they had and then work hard to find other sources of money to give. I’ve also heard kids tell their parents that they don’t want to give their money away and refuse to take a LMC bank box. Both responses are normal for children. Giving doesn’t come easy to everyone, and LMC seeks to provide a venue for families to pass on their values regarding generosity to their kids.

Ways to help kids learn more about Camp Penuel Costa Rica:

  • Visit their website and look at the pictures posted there.
  • Using a map of North America, locate Exparza, Costa Rica and the town you live in. Have kids measure the distance between using their arm or a household item, or older kids can figure out the miles with the key.
  • Look for opportunities to have kids brainstorm things they are thankful for in their lives.   Meals, clothes, toys, family, friends, a good school, teachers, and being able to attend church are a few ideas.  Ask your kids to think of things they might not have if your family didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t know Jesus, or had never been out of the city.       Have kids pray for children in Costa Rica to be blessed with things your kids are glad to have in their lives.
  • Share about the ways you give, why you give, and who receives it.
  • Come up with a plan to help your children consistently give and determine who will receive their gifts. Perhaps put together a jar or bank with a picture of the recipient ministry on the outside.

Remember to bring in LMC banks Sunday, February 28th to your child’s classroom. Preschool children can also grab a LMC bank from their station located near the middle of the Early Childhood hallway, or they can drop their money into the offering box in that same location (HG offerings in February go toward Love Makes Cents).

 

Parenting When Life Hits the Fan

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By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

Parenting can be tricky even in the best of times. Parenting can be challenging, exhausting, and often frustrating, but it is also worthwhile, life enhancing, and remarkable. There are highs and lows over the long haul of being a parent. We may have 3 healthy kids one moment, and the next; we have 3 vomit-spewing volcanoes. You may experience a blissful vacation together as a family only to find it ruined on the car ride home with bickering and whining, sometimes even among the kids. Typically, family life doesn’t have many dramatic highs and lows; it is subtler with bumps and small updrafts.

Yet, there are families that experience a life changing moment that can only be defined as crappy (albeit in more mature language). I’m not talking about Blair Walsh missing an easy field goal in a playoff game or even cell phones falling into the toilet. Think worse!

For my family, October 7th, 2005 was our life changing moment. I was on the roof of my friend’s house helping to redo the roof. We worked into the dark, which upon 20/20 hindsight was a really dumb idea no matter how much you want to get done. I took one wrong step and found myself falling, then suddenly on the ground in a lot of pain. I was quickly rushed to HCMC by ambulance. My friend had to make a very difficult and painful call informing my wife that I was hurt pretty bad. Backstory: we had just had our third child five weeks before, meaning we had 3 kids under the age of 3 years living at home, and I was the primary breadwinner.

My wife rounded up a bunch of friends, our small group, and her parents. The doctors informed her that I had broken two vertebrae in my lower back. There was concern that my spinal cord had been damaged, even though the CT scan didn’t show any obvious issues. I underwent surgery the next day. Over 10 hours, the doctors repaired my vertebrae using hardware. I spent 2 weeks recovering from the surgery at HCMC and then was moved to Abbot Northwestern. Over the next 10 weeks, I had to relearn how to function without half of my body. I was officially pronounced a complete paraplegic, meaning that no feeling or movement would return below my waist.

My wife was amazing through all of this. With support from church staff, small group members, friends, and family she was able to spend time with me everyday. My kids also visited me often, especially my new baby daughter, since she was dependent on my wife for food. People provided meals, lots and lots of prayer, cards, money, and even modified my home so it was ready for my return.

The next phase of recovery was 2 months of living at home and learning how to function in that environment while recovering from the surgery. Notice, I haven’t mentioned learning how to parent from a wheelchair yet. My wife was a single parent for 4 months while I focused on recovery. Even still, after I returned to work, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and my emotions were all over the place, so I still wasn’t very helpful in the parenting department. My kids were great! They were a huge motivation for me to get out of the hospital and to continue even when everything really seemed to suck.

Over the next year, my wife continued to care for the kids and for me. My independence was growing, but doctor and therapy appointments took a lot of time. Strangely enough, those moments away together gave us a lot of time to connect and process together while other people cared for our kids. People continued to bless us throughout the next year by cleaning our house, doing lawn work, making meals, babysitting, and even organizing a hugely successful fundraiser.

As life’s new rhythms began to emerge, we had to deal with a new kind of healing process.   I began to mourn the loss of who I was with legs. Being in the wheelchair changed how I operated in my job, in my giftings, in my parenting, and in my marriage. Depression and frustration took us into another season of crap.

Over time, we began to realize a few things that helped us. When you are laid bare from pain, suffering, or grief, your core identity is viewable. My identity as a priceless and loved child of God continued to shine through all of the garbage moments. My kids, our friends, and people around us continued to see this part of me even when I was so distracted by the hardships that I couldn’t see it. Being surrounded by a community of love, lifted in prayer constantly, and cared for reflected God’s love back into my life over and over again until I couldn’t deny that God was bringing good out of this crappy situation.

Struggling reminds us also that we need God. My wife and I relied heavily upon God during those two years of hardship. I was often still and had the opportunity to hear God’s voice directly and through others. Whether I was experiencing a high or a low, I could feel God’s presence throughout. I knew without a doubt that His love was real and discovered that even though He didn’t stop me from getting hurt or fully heal me, He was trustworthy.

Over time, I was able to become fully engage and equal in the parenting department.   I worried for a time that my kids would be damaged from my time of healing, but, instead, I think they have a perspective that few kids experience. They’ve seen me at my worst and how I relied upon God and others. They’ve seen how valuable having a solid relationship with God can be in a person’s life and how important it is to establish loving relationships with other believers. They benefited from the love of others and were able to bask in all kinds of attention during those two years, even if my attention waned at times. We also share a unique family identity together that unifies us. Each of my children has also learned that every family member is a needed and important part of this family, whether 2 years old or 45.

Life will have moments that give you a face full of pain. Being solidly connected to our Heavenly Father is vital to recovery and to restoration of normalcy to family life. Your kids will benefit from your relationship to the Creator as your core identity transforms to reflect a loving and trustworthy God who is actively involved in your life and with you no matter what is happening in life.

Parenting Angst

By Patrick Showers, Elementary Children’s Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

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I have four wonderful children whom I love very much. Each is a gift of life, and I enjoy their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. However, there are times when I could blow my top out of frustration at their choices, behavior, and mistakes. Parenting is like a pendulum swinging from joy and to total frustration. I try to make the most of those positive moments and often take pictures to keep as evidence that my kids are really great people. Yet, when the pendulum swings the other way as my children misbehave, I struggle to retain my cool and determine a way to help them learn from their mistakes. Often, overreacting isn’t just their issues but mine, as well.

I learned long before I became a parent that I tended to overreact when I wasn’t prepared and caught off-guard. One technique I tried was to think ahead and prepare for reoccurring situations. Then I became a parent and the unexpected began to occur all the time. Just when I felt confident in my knowledge of my children’s behaviors, abilities, and development levels, they would grow and enter a whole new age-group complete with different abilities, characteristics, and challenges.

To keep my sanity, I researched parenting books and techniques looking for tools that would help me be prepared. I realized that, as a parent, I need tools and techniques to utilize in the various situations I face throughout the lives of my children. My parenting tools came from various sources. I gathered a few parenting tools from my parents, observed friends in action, read various parenting books, and landed on Parenting the Love and Logic Way.

Parenting the Love and Logic Way provides a host of general-use tools for a parent to utilize whether you have a toddler or a teen. Two of those tools really protected my sanity and equipped me to be prepared for the expected and unexpected. The first, realizing I need to provide my child with empathy before I launch into a consequence. Letting my daughter or son know that I feel for the situation she or he is in keeps the focus of the issue on the child and not on my anger while removing fodder for oppositional defiance. The second tool is setting limits I can actually enforce. Setting limits by describing what I’m willing to do or allow ensures that I can actually back up my words and consequences. For example, if my children are being disrespectful, I can say, “I am willing to help people that treat me with respect.” This also means that I don’t have to provide a consequence immediately but can wait to think it through or calm down first.

I also found that I could do things to build up my children and decrease some of the issues that might arise. By intentionally investing in my relationship with each child, I not only decreased some of the behavior issues, but I invested in a long-term connection that continues into adulthood. My wife and I have committed to giving each child at least five minutes of our undivided attention each day. We also schedule dates where one of us takes out one child at least once every other month. This can be a walk, getting ice cream, or a special activity.
Another proactive Love and Logic tool is practicing the art of sharing control. I watched for areas of our home life that my wife and I didn’t need to control. For a young child, this can be as simple as letting him or her pick between two simple options: “Do you want this shirt or the other one?” As our children have gotten older, we’ve let them have more say in family decisions, both small and large. They may decide what to have for dinner, vote on an outing activity, or even help to determine a consequence for poor choices.

Parenting is challenging and rewarding at the same time. Realizing that our children are wired to develop the skills to be independent of us when they become adults leads us as parents to realize that our job is to equip, empower, and guide our children through this process. We are fortunate that we live in an age with access to a wide variety of parenting tools and techniques. We have an obligation to develop our parenting skills whether we feel they work well or not. I was motivated because of my lack of skills and my aptitude for overreacting. You may be motivated by other reasons. Regardless, building our parenting toolbox will help us become master builders of healthy, confident, and wonderful children while decreasing our parenting angst.

Note: Heroes Gate, Echo, and Resonate have partnered up to provide parenting classes, milestone events, and skill builders. I like the Love and Logic approach so much that I now facilitate the class each spring at Cultivate. Watch for more details through any of these ministries and Cultivate. For more articles or information on Parenting the Love and Logic Way, go to www.loveandlogic.com