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Nothing is more precious than a newborn baby. However, in the months leading up to his birth, a lot goes into organizing for that infant’s arrival! One major undertaking for most expectant families is clearing out a room to become the nursery in order to fill it with baby items: a crib, changing table, toy shelves, diapers, burp cloths, and bibs. Hours of thought even go into deciding on a theme for the nursery décor, bedding, and stroller.
Christmas Advent includes preparation as well. Not with finding a spare room in our homes, but in our hearts, for the arrival of Jesus! As we move expectantly into this year’s Advent season, let’s consider the thoughts and actions of a certain mom in biblical history—Mary—as she gave intentional focus to servanthood, acceptance, thankfulness, and finally celebration in preparing for the coming of her firstborn child—Jesus!
WEEK 1 (December 2):
“’I am the Lord’s servant,’ said Mary.” Luke 1:38
Gifting vs. Giving (of Yourself)
From the time we’re young, we aspire to greatness! As children, we tell our parents that one day we will be the best doctor or astronaut or dancer they’ve ever seen! As parents, we then brag to others as we tell them how great our kids are with all their endeavors.
There’s nothing wrong with striving to use God-given talents and skills in the very best ways possible. But proper attitude is key! We’re reminded of this in Philippians 2:3-4, where we read: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Even though many people ascribe to Mary greatness for being the mother of Jesus, Mary’s attitude going into her pregnancy with the Christ child was one of humility in servanthood to God—giving her total being to the Lord without hesitation.
As we look toward Christmas Day this year, how can we change our focus from achieving greatness in the eyes of others to serving one another out of the blessings God has already given us?
This month, try a few of these “giving” activities to those in your community:
- Serve in your city’s soup kitchen for the homeless.
- Take some easy-to-heat meals to an elderly neighbor.
- Collect colorful, fun hats and gloves (child and adult sizes) for a homeless shelter.
- Deliver Christmas goodies to a local pregnancy center.
- Invite a college student (who can’t get home for the holidays) to your home for Christmas parties or on Christmas Day!
WEEK 2 (December 9):
“May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Worth the Wait
Especially for kids, it’s hard to wait for Christmas Day to get here! How often do we hear our children ask, “How many more days until Christmas?” The anticipation of ripping open big, shiny, bow-wrapped gifts is almost more than kids can stand! They ask the question each time—even though they really don’t want to wait until Christmas!
As parents, we also get in a hurry for what, how, and when we want things. Waiting often feels unbearable! How can we model to our children the ability to be satisfied with answers given from God, accepting His plans over what we may be wishing for or wanting to hear?
In this week’s Advent verse, Mary’s summation was right on point in her attitude and timing when she told the angel Gabriel, “May it be to me as you have said.”
Use the acronym W–A–I–T for ideas to use with your family as you count down the days leading to Christmas.
W “Welcome Christmastime! Idea Jar” Place a festively decorated jar in a common area of your house, along with small pieces of paper and a pencil. As ideas come for things to do over Christmas break, write them down and toss them in the jar. Then have fun engaging in those activities!
A Assemble a Christmas tree (real or artificial) for an elderly person in your neighborhood or church or help a single mom who might need assistance with her décor.
I Invite families of your children’s friends to a Christmas program at your church.
T Text one person each day between now and Christmas with a heartfelt Christmastime greeting. Adding an appropriate seasonal meme would be a fun touch as well!
WEEK 3 (December 16):
“My soul praises the greatness of the Lord.” Luke 1:46
There are moments that are difficult to express in words. One such time for me was immediately following my son’s birth. I had a C-section, so I was hooked up to all types of tubes for anesthesia and oxygen. But even with all of those awkward instruments and positioning of my body, I’ll never forget the moment the doctor laid my newborn son to my chest after he was born. My eyes immediately filled with tears of absolute joy in witnessing the arrival of my long-awaited baby boy!
Mary was obviously struck with such great pleasure that her very soul was overwhelmed in thankfulness to the Lord for giving her such wonderful news—that soon, she would be the mother of Baby Jesus!
Assign (or draw for) names of all family members. Each person is to write (or younger children may draw pictures) how they are thankful for the family member assigned to them. In other words, how they’ve been a “Christmas blessing” this past year. The message may be gift-wrapped and then opened Christmas Day.
WEEK 4 (December 23):
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:47
Let the Party Begin!
This season, no doubt you’ve been part of at least one Christmas party with tables overflowing with food, hours of enjoyment with friends, and possibly funny gift exchanges. Holiday celebrations are simply part of the Christmas spirit!
But years before holiday parties came about, Mary celebrated (rejoiced) over the news that Jesus would soon be arriving! She knew Jesus was not just a baby to be born. He would be “great … the Son of the Most High”—the Savior!
What are some ways your family can celebrate Jesus amidst other Christmas events? Start this focus when your kids are young and make it part of your Christmastime tradition. Here are a few ideas:
- Enjoy a “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” cake as part of your family’s Christmas Eve party. Sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus before you begin eating it.
- Set up a makeshift Nativity scene alongside your Christmas tree décor. Talk with younger children about the biblical story of Mary and Joseph watching over Baby Jesus.
- Keep child-safe Nativity sets available for preschoolers and younger children to play with during weeks leading up to Christmas, and talk about it with them.
This post was provided by ParentLife Magazine. The writer, Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.
Christmas can be the most chaotic time of year. With so much focus on material gifts and the anticipation of a certain jolly visitor, families can easily feel they are missing the true meaning of Christmas as they count down the days until December 25. LifeWay Kids is pleased to share a new family Advent guide published by B&H Kids, The Way to the Manger. This resource will engage families with the biblical truth of Christmas through twenty-five Advent devotions that redirect families to their need for a Savior and the amazing gift of Jesus Christ. We hope you’ll consider recommending this resource to families this season.
In addition to this family resource, we’d like to share with you a reproducible, email attachable, family advent guide that you can share with families in your ministry. We hope these will help to focus your ministry emphasis this season and lead families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.
Click this link to download the free guide: Family-Advent-Guide
Kids Ministry 101 welcomes this article written by Wynter Pitts. Wynter lived with a passion to introduce young girls to Christian values in a way that they’re able to understand, so they can walk passionately and boldly in who God has created them to be. Wynter authored For Girls Like You Tween Devotionals and founded For Girls Like You Magazine. We are honored to continue her legacy! #wynterslegacy
I imagine the conversation will go something like this:
“Mom, remember that time you wanted us to do a craft together and you looked on Pinterest?”
Silence – immediately followed by an uproar of contagious giggles and uncontrollable laughter.
You see, I am not the craftiest of girls, but God blessed me with four sequin-wearing, glitter-paint-splattering, and sugar-loving darlings, so I try.
The reality is, I am actually the mom who …
- Has an entry-level Pinterest board named, “Projects I think I Can Handle.”
- Buys a kit to create your own gum, only to burn it in the microwave.
- Takes three days and a dozen YouTube videos to figure out how to turn rubber bands into a beautiful work of art and a colorful accessory using a “Rainbow Loom.”
- Tries to bake an edible cookie bowl … I can’t even think of the proper words to describe how horrifically this ended. It was pure pandemonium as a party of 10 girls tried to scoop ice-cream into a pile of burnt crumbs.
- Paints nails. And cuticles.
- Always has to double the amount of suggested flour in order to stop the homemade play dough from becoming a permanent placemat.
- Forgets to turn on the oven light when making a “Shrinky Dink.” Causing us to entirely miss the point—the shrinking.
- Successfully bakes reindeer cupcakes (from Pinterest!) but then arrives too late to the class party … missing the unveiling and enjoyment of my labor.
And this is just the beginning! I am serious—this list could go on and on! Regardless of my many failed attempts, my ultimate goal is to never stop adding bullet points.
Let’s just call it a work in progress.
The specific activities may not be my proudest parenting acts, but combined they are what define the most significant contribution I give to my girls.
So, I imagine my girls will have endless stories from their childhood … and I am prepared to be the punchline for most of them! However, it’s the first few words of their stories that are the most important to me, “Mom, remember …”
Memories are not defined by perfect scenarios. It’s the present—the daily and the quality time we spend with our children that will guide and provide the substance of future conversations.
Enjoy the activities, but focus your best efforts on the memory.
Few would argue that storytelling is a highly useful tool when working with or teaching kids. The availability of hundreds of thousands of children’s books gives testimony to the commonly understood reality that kids connect with stories. In fact, it’s not just kids. Storytelling is a powerful means of communicating with just about everyone. Whether you are 9 months old, 9 years old, 39 years old, or 90 years old, nearly everyone loves a good story.
Of course, there are stories, and then there is The Story—that is, God’s one big story. While we should be very careful not to place the stories of the Bible next to fictional stories of many children’s books, we can redeem the craft of storytelling for helping children begin to see and understand the most important story of all. It is to the next generation’s advantage that we lead children to begin understanding the Bible as one story with Jesus as its central figure. We must see the Bible as God’s story with a beginning, middle, and end. There is one focus throughout the narrative. His name is Jesus.
In Gospel Centered Kids Ministry, Brian Dembowczyk notes, “Jesus interpreted Scripture, not as a collection of random stories but as one big story about Him.” (p. 34) And just as Jesus began “with Moses and all the Prophets … [interpreting] … the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures,” we should too. (Luke 24:27) Jesus was communicating to the disciples of Luke 24 that it is only by understanding the whole story that we can truly understand His work on our behalf. In his article “4 Reasons to teach the Bible’s Storyline,” Trevin Wax put it this way: “The story of the Bible gives context to the gospel message about Jesus.”(1) To begin to grasp the fullness of our salvation, we must understand—and help the kids and families we serve to understand—that every story points to the One, making the Bible one big story about Jesus.
When we see the Bible as Jesus’ story, we are freed from implying (or outright expressing) kids carry an unrealistic, unhealthy, and impossible burden of being more courageous or more faithful or even more obedient on their own. We will begin to see God’s immeasurable grace radiate off every page as we look to His Son who loves us, took the punishment we deserve, and now empowers us to live holy lives for His glory. We will see that God is faithful to carry on what He began in the garden to its completion in the new heavens and the new earth—creation’s final restoration.
Toward this goal, we want to help kids ministry leaders and parents have a framework by which to read the Bible this way, as one big story. We have included a section in our new resource Big Picture Questions and Answers for Kids called “Seeing Jesus in the Bible.” In this resource, we have included six “lenses” that can help us when studying individual stories of the Bible. Each lens gives readers a way to understand both Old Testament and New Testament stories in light of the gospel. We pray this resource will be another tool your ministry toolbox as you point your kids to Jesus.
Jeremy Carroll is the team leader for LifeWay Kids Discipleship Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.
Other helpful posts:
Micheal Walley, LifeWay Kids Event Producer, takes you behind the scenes for ETCH 2018! Hear why you should take your family ministry team on a retreat or a conference, the impact of gathering together in person, and the heart and vision behind the ETCH Family Ministry Conference.
Find out more about ETCH Family Ministry Conference here, and join us in Nashville October 17-19!
Micheal Walley serves as the LifeWay Kids Event Producer and leads the ETCH Family Ministry Conference and other LifeWay Kids Events. He is a graduate of Mississippi College and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He loves coffee, leadership, all things creative, and his wife, Anne Marie.
Many people recognize September as the beginning of fall. September is also the month we celebrate grandparents. National Grandparents’ Day is September 9. For the last few years, I’ve noticed a trend of more and more grandparents bringing their grandchildren to church. We as kids ministry leaders have the opportunity to minister to grandparents as they have taken on this responsibility. The following ideas can be used to minister to the grandparents in your kids ministry.
- Encourage. Many grandparents may lack confidence in their ability to connect with their grandchildren. It can be as simple as listening to and encouraging them as they have taken on the role of spiritual parents to their grandchildren.
- Communicate. Communicate with grandparents as you would with parents. Be mindful some grandparents would prefer a paper copy of a newsletter rather than an electronic version.
- Pray. Ask grandparents how you can pray for them. They may have some of the same needs as other parents. They may also share prayer requests for their adult children.
- Partner. Partner with the Adult and Senior Adult ministry in your church. Introduce yourself. Let them know you are a point of contact and resource for them. They are more likely to come to you when a need arises if you’ve established a relationship. One possible need may be scholarships for kids ministry events.
During this special month of celebrating grandparents, make sure to recognize them. Celebrate them. Encourage them. Communicate with them. Pray with them. Partner with them. Love them. You never know how God will use you in their life, as they seek to be the spiritual parents to their grandchildren.
Delanee Williams serves as a Ministry Specialist with LifeWay Kids. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Delanee has served in kids ministry for over twenty years and is passionate about developing, equipping and encouraging leaders.
Meet my friend, Stephanie Chase.
Stephanie Chase has been married to Rick Chase for 25 years and has loved partnering with him as they raised their three children. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie has served in Education and Kids Ministry as a teacher, director, writer, and trainer for over 20 years and currently serves as the Kids Minister at Champion Forest Baptist Church. Stephanie loves the Lord, her family, people, and is passionate about developing leaders and raising up the next generation of believers through writing, speaking and serving!
We are very excited that Stephanie is returning to our faculty again this year for ETCH 2018. Stephanie will be leading these sessions at this year’s event:
Burn Out? What do I do When I Can’t Go Anymore?
Nobody wants to admit when it happens but it does. Every leader experiences burn out at some point in ministry. Learn the signs, steps to move to a new start, and ways to prevent it.
You + Parents = Eternal Impact
Where do children go when they leave your ministry each week? HOME! What’s happening there? Discover how to connect, encourage, and equip parents to continue at home what you start in your small group or ministry!
Technology is Taking Over the Families I’m Leading – What do I Do?
Families spend far more time on technology than in God’s word, at church, or with each other? Frustrated by this fact? Discover ways to help families put technology in its proper place and move from screens to faces, keyboards to conversations, and pics to people they love.
The LifeWay Kids and LifeWay Student teams cannot wait to host hundreds of kids, preschool, student, and family ministry leaders in downtown Nashville October 17-19 at the ETCH Family Ministry Conference! ETCH stands for “equipping the church and home” and we are praying that everyone who attends ETCH leaves better equipped and deeply inspired to take their ministry a step further. We want to give you an exclusive sneak peek at ETCH 2018!
WHAT IS THE ETCH THEME THIS YEAR?
This year’s theme is “Unbroken” and our inspiration was the verse in Ecclesiastes: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Throughout the conference, we are going to be exploring what an “unbroken” ministry looks like. How can we as ministry leaders link together with other ministries in our church? How can we better link together with parents and families? And how can we link with those people in our cities and communities outside the walls of our churches?
WHERE WILL ETCH BE?
Once again, we are happy to host ETCH in downtown Nashville at the beautiful Music City Center. We cannot wait to host you in our hometown surrounded by fun things to do, unbeatable restaurants, and one of the hottest destinations in the country.
WHO WILL BE THERE?
From Pre-Conference Sessions to practical Breakout Sessions, to inspiring Main Sessions, ETCH is going to be packed with experts and motivators in family ministry. We are excited to hear from Ben Trueblood (Director of LifeWay Students), Jana Magruder (Director of LifeWay Kids), Dr. Russell Moore, Jared Hall, Lisa Harper, Dorena Williamson, Dr. Crawford Loritts, Michael Kelley, and more! It wouldn’t be “Music City” without great music, so come prepared to be led in amazing worship with Jimmy McNeal Band and a special guest appearance by singer-songwriter Ellie Holcomb!
HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
ETCHConference.com is your go-to spot to find out more information about ETCH 2018. Register now because this month is your last chance to get the best rate for ETCH. (The ticket price goes up on August 31!) If you have any questions, our team is always available to help by emailing email@example.com.
We hope you’ll consider joining us for ETCH Family Ministry Conference 2018! You don’t want to miss these unforgettable three days to be inspired, refreshed, and renewed with your ministry team.
Micheal Walley serves as the LifeWay Kids Event Producer. He is a graduate of Mississippi College and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Micheal has been serving in Kids Ministry from the moment he was “promoted” out of kids ministry himself. He loves coffee, leadership, all things creative, and his wife, Anne Marie.