Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

He is Risen!

He is risen, He is risen indeed! It’s Easter. Time to celebrate that triumphant morning when our Savior rose victorious from the grave!

According to the New Testament, during the Jewish Passover season, Christ was tried for treason by Pilate, the Roman appointed governor, and then by Herod, King of Judea, and again by Pilate, before being sentenced to death on a cross. Though declared innocent by the authorities, Christ was crucified and laid in a sealed and guarded tomb. But on the third day He rose from the dead, with the power to save mankind from their sins. This event is commemorated every year in the spring as a holy day for Christians around the world.

But, did you know Easter was never intended to be just one day? For most families, including Christians, God gets an hour on Sunday, and we get the rest of the day to hunt eggs, think of cut little bunnies and lambs…and eat lots and lots of chocolate. Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with traditional Easter celebrations; it’s just thatwe can’t focus all of our attention on those things.

“The shame isn’t that we are celebrating Easter Day; it is that we are missing Easter Season. It’s like scraping off the icing without realizing you could have had cake too. That may be hard for most of us to comprehend in our culture that prizes a hurry-up and move-on attitude. But God, who specifically called his people to times of annual celebration and festival, did so because seasons of celebration accomplish significant things in the lives of His followers.” (Kim Wier)

How about your family? Ready for some cake? Try these faith-filled activities that go beyond Sunday morning as you usher in this Easter season.

Ages 0-3

Help your little ones stuff hollow plastic eggs with one chocolate heart, because Jesus came to give us a new heart toward God. Then allow your little one to hand them out to friends, neighbors, or people you meet during the day. You might include a note inside with the passage from John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus

Ages 4-7

Hold a neighborhood egg hunt, but award the large basket filled with candy for whoever finds the one empty egg, representing the empty tomb. When the child finds the empty egg he or she must call out, “He is not here he has risen, just as he said.” Be sure to conclude the hunt with an Easter story on the lawn. I’d recommend The Very First Easter, by Paul L. Maier. (If you go to my church, I can lend you a copy 🙂

Ages 8-12

Sometimes the greatest joy is in the giving. Visit a nearby hospital or retirement home and greet one of the residents with a fresh Easter lily. You may want to attach a card with some encouraging words about the hope we have in our risen Lord.

Age 13-18

Children this age might enjoy a surprise field trip for a sunrise service at the park or a nearby lake. Be sure to bring a Bible, hymnbook or maybe even a guitar for a worshipful early morning celebration.

All Ages

Since there are many new visitors attending church for the Easter service, make a point to greet and invite someone to lunch afterwards. Then remember to make plans to sit together next Sunday at church.

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Is it spring yet?!

A lot of the kids in our church have the week of Easter off, making it their spring break. Parents can get bogged down and overwhelmed with having the kids running around the house all day (because a lot of our parents take that week off, too)…and that just doesn’t help anyone! So, I thought I’d give you a list of 10 fun things that you can do with your family over spring break. Be adventurous, and do a different one every day! (thanks to all pro dads)

  1. Hit the beach!
    For many people Spring Break = The Beach. For good reason. Winter has been cold and gray. Work and school have been rough. No place on earth relaxes the spirit like the coast. Bright sun, crashing waves and feet in the sand. Your family will have nothing but smiles. (If it gets warm enough during spring break 🙂
  2. The big parks
    The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. The Great Smoky Mountains. America is full of natural wonders and beauty. Somewhere within driving distance lies a national park offering endless opportunities of fun and exploration. Get out there and show your family the world is more than strip malls and endless concrete.
  3. Baseball
    Starting in March, America’s great pastime begins another season. The states of Florida and Arizona host teams from all over the nation. Spring training offers fans a much more intimate experience with the sport. Small stadiums. Access to the players and coaches. Great weather. Smiling faces. Hot dogs. What could be more fun? And, you don’t have to travel to Florida or Arizona to get the same thrill.  Minor league baseball has teams all over the country offering the same thrills!
  4. The big rig
    How many times have you been on the road with your family and you all see that big motor home next to you and wish you were in it? Make it happen. RV dealers rent those big rigs for surprisingly reasonable fees. There are special resorts all over the country that cater to big motor homes. Research an itinerary that works for your family and get out on the road!
  5. Backyard fun
    Traveling is not the only way to have a great time with the family on vacation. Turn your backyard into your very own resort destination. You can play all types of different sports such as ultimate Frisbee or volleyball. Maybe you will put down an old fashioned slip n’ slide. Even a sprinkler can keep young kids entertained for hours on end. Think outside the box and come up with your own unique backyard fun.
  6. Grill Master
    A skill your child should have as an adult is the ability to cook good food.  The popularity of outdoor grilling is bigger than ever. Get in on the fun. Spend the week with your kids challenging and expanding your abilities. Become a grill master. As a family, research and find recipes of food you have never attempted. Try a new one each day. Have your kids involved every step along the way. Not only will you all have fun and eat well, you will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.
  7. The outdoor project
    Yard work on vacation? Sure! It’s the perfect time to add beauty and function to your home. Take this time to add that long talked about gazebo. That fountain. Maybe your wife wants a garden. Get the whole family involved with the vision and planning. Then get out there with your family and make it happen!
  8. Volunteer
    Spring break is a perfect time to give of yourself. Spring is the time of new life and renewed hope. Your family can join in giving nature a hand. Clean up litter in your neighborhood. Pick up trash around ponds and creeks that harm wildlife. Help an elderly neighbor with yard work or house maintenance. Let your family choose the cause and then be the solution.
  9. Wacky destinations
    America has millions of strange and odd attractions. Most times they are free or very low-cost. The “Blowing Rock” in North Carolina. Dinosaur World in Florida. These types of places are all over. So much fun and so very silly. They offer a balance to the massive and very expensive theme parks. Yet strangely, they give the same thrills and smiles. Don’t forget your camera. That picture of your daughter standing next to the 40 foot tall Paul Bunyan will be a timeless keepsake. A great source for this type of experience is:www.roadsideamerica.com.
  10. The food tour
    We all love to eat. What is your passion? Seafood? BBQ? Southern cooking? Plan a road trip hitting some of the very best of the foods you love. Maybe you will drive all over Texas sampling the best of their unique beef BBQ. Or it could be a trip up the New England coast for classic seafood. How about sitting in New Orleans eating jambalaya in an open-air café? Nothing brings a family together better than food.
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Let’s Get Messy to Make Peace!

I was reading through some KidMin (Children’s Ministry) Blogs the other night, and really liked this one – put out by our Orange Curriculum. It talks about some creative ways to help kids remember what the virtue and the lessons are for each week. Here’s a great idea that I found and thought I would share with everyone. It’s something really easy that a church, or even a parent could organize for kids!

From 252Blog:

Sometimes making peace can be messy, and getting messy can be lots of fun!

As we’ve focused on “Peace – choosing you care more about each other than winning an argument,” we’ve seen monumental growth in our kids!

We talked about how it’s not always easy to make peace. We knew that if our kids were going to understand this difficult concept, we had to do something drastic that would capture their hearts and their imagination. So when our creative team met last month, we planned a “Get Messy to Make Peace” event, as a finale to our month-long study.

We knew three things going into the planning for this day:

We wanted the kids to remember it

We wanted them to get messy,

We wanted them to bring their friends.

With that end in mind, we took our inspiration from the nation-wide phenomenon known as “The Color Run.” This new, relevant 5K running fad was the perfect way for us to show that getting messy to make peace was worth it! We contacted “The Color Run” and found out what we needed to put on a very similar event at our church to wrap up “Peace”. On February 24th we did just that.

We challenged our kids to make peace with those in their lives and asked them to make a commitment to do so. When they stood to show their commitment, the fun began. Their Small Group Leaders “colored” the kids, making each of them not only extremely messy but also brightly colored!

The church that did this is in a downtown, urban setting. We held the event outside and saw people from neighboring hi-rises standing on their balconies watching. It was a moment I won’t soon forget.

All of our kids left in a heap of color, with smiles on their faces. They understood what making peace meant. Not because I told them to, but because God called us to.

Get Messy!

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Let’s Hear a Good Story

There’s one thing that most of us know will grab and hold a kid’s  interest like no other.

A story. And it’s even better if it’s real.

They love them. And if you capture their imagination, tickle their funny bone or surprise them by your actions, they will ask to hear it over and over or beg for another. It’s like you’ve given them a tiny window into another world and they just can’t get enough.

Especially if you share stories about things that happened to you when you were their age. It practically blows their mind as they try to picture it.

My go-to story involves the time my family came home from an overnight stay at my grandma’s house. There had been a blizzard (I grew up in Buffalo, NY) and we were trying to get home. I tell of harrowing experience of my family having to roll down the windows to stick our heads out and see as much of the road as possible. Then, we when go home the back door was open and we thought an intruder had gotten into our house. But that’s not their favorite part—they love hearing how our pipes were frozen and how my parents had to literally shovel out our kitchen!

You probably already know the power of story. But did you know, across several different studies of interviews with kids who say they have a relationship with Jesus, that they just plain run out of words?

They really struggle to explain what it means to love God beyond the very basics. I know we always tell them, “Love God and love others.” But…what does that really mean?

And it gets even harder if they’re asked about how their parents or other important people in their lives came to faith—what they believe. They just don’t know!

I think it comes down to this—we assume that kids can connect the dots for themselves. That they will understand why it’s important to go to church, or give back some of the money we earn or to help others in need. That we don’t need to spell it out for them.

Maybe we feel strange or unsure about how to explain it or when is really the best time, so we just hope they’ll catch on. Or someone else will unpack it for them later.

These findings—that Christian kids lack the language to really express their faith—is one of the main reasons that we do a couple of things in our curriculum.

Every week, in the Small Group activities there is a “Personalize” prompt for leaders to share something age appropriate and relevant with the kids from their own faith journeys—how a biblical truth or idea played out in their lives in a real way.

Many times in the Large Group scripts, we encourage the Host or the Storyteller to also share something from their own life and learning with their captive audience.

Some say it this way—instead of being a Sage on the Stage—with it all figured out, like you’ve arrived, but it’s a real mystery to the kids on how you got there, we want to be a Guide on the Side—walking in the same direction as the kids you lead, with a similar goal (despite your age differences) of becoming more like Jesus every day.

And there’s a real side benefit for us as adults when we get in the habit of not only sharing biblical stories, but how God is personally active in our lives today—we are more aware and thankful of all that He’s done and is still doing. Of His love.

So, as you are either editing your curriculum each month or teaching your kids at home, keep an eye out and leave in those teachable and timely moments to give kids a glimpse into the faith journeys of the adults all around them. Maybe even add in a few more!

(Credit to Orange)

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Human Trafficking

This is going to be a more grown-up blog than usual. And has a very outward focus…

Something that has always weighed huge on my heart was human trafficking, or sex trafficking. This is a practice started hundreds of years ago, and unfortunately still exists today. We, as a society  have been able to accomplish many great things – women given the right to vote, abolishing slavery in America, helping with clean water and food distribution in war-torn and impoverished societies. But, we’ve not solved the problem of sex slavery and human trafficking. This horrible problem comes down to our greatest human sin – selfishness. Because of selfishness, we desire money, power, and sex. And as humans, we would go through any lengths to get these things. So how can we address this problem?

“Over two hundred years ago, British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce tirelessly crusaded to protect innocent humans from forced bondage. His efforts led first to Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and finally to a prohibition on slavery in 1833.

The United States ended slavery with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Or so it would seem. By the beginning of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt warned against the “white slave trade,” which involved the abduction and forced prostitution of young women and girls. Although Congress passed the Mann Act in 1910 forbidding the interstate transport of persons for immoral purposes, the forced prostitution of women and children continues in the United States – and globally – to this day.”

The definition of sex trafficking is:

a specific form of human trafficking in which a victim is induced by fraud, force or coercion to perform a sex act for payment. One common scheme to seduce women is to promise them jobs overseas as waitresses or domestic servants. Once out of the country and away from their family, traffickers take victims’ passports and subject them to beatings or rape to force them into their new “job.”

In the United States, victims of sex trafficking are often young girls who have run away from abusive situations at home and are quickly picked up by pimps who coerce them into prostitution by promising food, shelter or clothing. Pimps tighten their control over the girls by getting them dependent on drugs. Other recruiting methods include befriending vulnerable-looking girls at malls, movie theaters and even schools. The recruiter could be a young man posing as a doting boyfriend or another girl who appears to be friendly. (FOF)

Here’s some stats that I think might shock you:

Global

  • In January 2006, Interpol announced that human trafficking generates $32 billion annually.
  • The United Nations claims that the trafficking of human beings has surpassed the drug trade to become the second largest source of money for organized crime after the illegal arms trade.
  • The U.S. State Department estimates at least 600,000 to 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year. Numbers within national borders are much higher.
  • Among all trafficking victims, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.
  • Seventy percent of trafficking victims are forced into sexual servitude.
  • UNICEF reports that more than 1 million children around the world enter the sex trade every year.
  • Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood to sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.

United States

  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually from other countries.
  • Congress reported its findings for the Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 that between 100,000 to 300,000 American teens are at risk for sex trafficking annually.

Despite an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available. (FOF)

What can we do?

This is a had question to answer. When we look at stats like the ones above, we can become overwhelmed and get a huge feeling of helplessness. But, here’s some things we can do and some organizations that we can support:

– Educate your kids, families, and friends. The more people know about the secrecy of the sex trade, the better.

– Buy “fair trade” merchandise. What is “fair trade”? It’s merchandise made by people who were rescued from the sex trade or other difficult situations. Fair Trade means that the money you are paying goes straight to the maker of the merchandise. For example, if something costs $3…the person gets the profit (aside from the shipping cost). There is not a huge mark-up of the price from the retailer. https://admin.tenthousandvillages.com/index.php/storelocator/category/view/id/festival/ is a reliable fair trade retailer that’s been around for a long time. You can find others by searching “fair trade” online or asking your church about their knowledge of fair trade merchandise. (if you really like coffee, check this out – http://landofathousandhills.com)

– support organizations who are fighting to save people from the sex trade, and keep them out of the trade! here’s a few that I know of:

– PRAY! Those who are in the U.S. and other countries directly fighting trafficking by undercover operations are in a dangerous line of work. These people and their families need our prayers desperately!

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the WHY to Small Group Leaders

After looking through our Orange Blog for this week, I thought it would be beneficial to share it with all of you:

When we create large and small group materials for you, I’m always putting it through what I call the  “Cale test”.  You see, I’m not just a content editor and a  developer, I’ve been a teacher and a children’s director and maybe most of all, I’m a mom of elementary-aged kids.

I wanted to share this story so you can see why I believe so strongly in recruiting and empowering small group leaders in our children’s ministries.  It’s personal.

Just last week, Cale came home from church with a big grin stretched across his face.  “Guess what, Mom? Today, Mr. Norm gave me my nickname!”

Cale’s one of the lucky ones.

He’s had Mr. Norm as a small group leader for more than 5 years now.

This man is a steady fixture in his life.

And I’m glad for many reasons.  One of the main ones is that Cale is quiet and for the most part well-behaved.  That means that at school and at church, it’s very easy for him to blend in to the background and feel invisible.

But that’s one of the blessings of smaller numbers of kids and one consistent leader.  Mr. Norm has learned each kid’s different bents and quirks over the years—he knows when to push and when to pull.

Education researchers call this “theory of mind”—when a teacher or mentor can watch closely enough to see if they get something or are confused, to figure out what motivates and interests them to keep them growing.

Getting a nickname is just another way of saying “I see YOU! I notice what makes you TICK and I love it!  You belong HERE.”

So even if the nickname is Stretch- as my long and lean son proudly told me—you claim it with pride because it was given with much affection!

We have a sweet picture that not only lives in Cale’s room, but in my mind.  It’s a shot of Mr. Norm with his hand over his heart, baptizing my son in front of many others, including family and friends.

Norm had confided just minutes before that he thought he was more nervous than Cale about the important milestone.

Cale may not say as much as other more out-going kids, but he didn’t hesitate when we asked him who he first wanted to tell about his decision to trust Jesus and follow Him the rest of His life.  “Mr. Norm.”

And later, “Who do you want to baptize you?”  Without missing a beat—“Mr. Norm.”

Years ago, Mr. Norm was a favorite four year old teacher.  In fact, many of the older kids being baptized the same day as Cale had passed through Mr. Norm’s class years before.  He still remembered their names and greeted them with a smile.

But something big happened when Mr. Norm was invited to move up with his then four year old class and continue with them through the elementary years, branching off with the boys’ later on.  At first, he hesitated– he really liked the PreK age group.  But when he heard about what a difference this consistency could make and that he could go deeper with just a few, Mr. Norm decided he’d give it a try.

And my family is so grateful he did.  What Cale will remember is someone that cared enough to show up week after week for years to laugh with him and the other kids, to tell him about Jesus and what the Bible has to do with his everyday, outside of church life.

He’ll remember that on the night before his baptism, Mr. Norm paid a special driver to get him to another airport and just barely made an international flight home, because he didn’t want to miss out on the honor (his words) of baptizing Cale and welcoming him into our church family.  He thinks Cale is worth it.

As parents, we’re expected to love our kids and to be there for them.  It’s practically part of our job description.  But when others do too…. it stands out.  It marks them.

I wish people realized how little is required for such a huge and priceless pay off.  Committing to one group of kids—someone else’s sons and daughters—for at least one year, but hopefully more, can make a world of difference.  It did for us.

What stories could you add to make a case for WHY consistent small group leaders are so crucial in our children’s ministries?  How do you vision cast this need and role?

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Thank You!

During the Christmas Season, it’s easy to get busy and all wrapped up in things like gifts, cookies, or decorations. But, we need to remember all of the blessings that we have all throughout the year. This made me think – do I appreciate my volunteer enough? Do I show them how much they really mean to me and how much I really enjoy having them on my team?

So I thought, what are some ways that we can appreciate our volunteers, co-workers, employees, or just someone we are acquainted with? I read a blog from 252 Basics to get some ideas. Here are the top ideas from Orange (now this is volunteer-based, but could work for others as well):

  1. Find some cute portable tissues. Create a label that says “Bless you!” and hand them out after volunteers serve. These are guaranteed to get a grin or laugh, plus they’re actually practical!
  2. Provide your volunteers with a quick pick-me-up. Load up a wheeled cart or a basket with treats; walk around handing out breakfast for morning services and snacks for afternoon/evening shifts. Hint: if you buy in bulk or on sale, look for non-perishables, so they last longer!
  3. Pick a week and ask other parents or adults who aren’t serving regularly to surprise your weekly volunteers with a full-on buffet of goodies. They can send in breakfast foods or snack things. Set it up on a long table off to the side of your gathering area with fall or winter decorations so they can easily “graze” and load up a plate while still keeping an eye on kids.
  4. With Red Box and Blockbuster Express kiosks in so many places, it’s never been easier or cheaper to thank volunteers. Pair a dollar or six quarters with microwavable popcorn or a box of movie candy, providing the entertainment and snack! If it’s too overwhelming to do this for everyone, think about highlighting and celebrating one volunteer a week or month.
  5. Find out if you can have a special sign made to mark one or two parking spots closest to the children’s ministry area. It would be great if it said, “Volunteer of the Week” or “Volunteer of the Month,” and had a place where you could change out the name. They’d get a thrill to see their name and be able to run right in!
  6. Buy a bunch of Pay Day and 100 Grand chocolate bars—write up a little note saying how much you appreciate what they do and this is just a down payment on all you wish you could give for their service! Sign it with a smile.
  7. Ask around to see who in your church takes decent photos and has patience with herding kids. Find a week (or two in case some leaders are absent) for them to stop by and take pictures of each of your leaders with their kids or serving on stage with the kids in the audience. Print these in black and white or sepia tones, then put them in a classy or fun greeting card with a magnet on back. Write a note, even getting their kids to sign it, saying how much they mean to the ministry and to you!
  8. Get everyone on your staff and other key volunteers to show off their favorite dance move. Take videos and photos. Put them all together and upload them to a service like Animoto, pick a fun background and music, add some text and a word of thanks, then email out the link. This will unleash lots of warm fuzzies with not a lot of cost! There are also other options like SmileBox to add photos or JibJab where you’d just add your faces to a funny scene.
  9. Create a Gratitude Card or End of Year Newsletter with a goal of mentioning all your regular volunteers by name in the body of text. Group them up by things they have in common—always arriving with a smile or coffee cup in hand, staying behind to help clean up, going the extra mile with kids, etc. Volunteers love to see their names as part of the team and get a specific, public shout out that shows you notice and appreciate them!
  10. Plan an Appreciation Night where you not only thank the volunteers, but their families and close friends or roommates that share them with you! Host a drive-in movie—turning a wall into a big screen—or watch a big game or even awards ceremony together. Your snacks and other activities can match the theme. This is another time you could ask kids/families not serving right now to bring in something as their way of saying thanks to help offset the cost. Borrow a projector and encourage people to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets inside the building and spread out. Go over the top—serve in roller skates or set up a photo booth with lots of props to make it a night to remember!
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Finances…how to tame the beast!

There have been many great wars; the war of 1812, civil war, world wars 1 and 2. But families have been waging another war in recent years. That war is with their finances. You see, when your family operates without a financial strategy, when you don’t communicate to each other about money management or when you don’t trust that God will provide Sunday through Saturday, you inevitably set the stage for a financial defeat.

Consider this:

  • Only 1 in 5 people use a monthly budget.
  • Families carry 2.1 trillion in debt, up from 351.9 billion in the late 1970s.
  • About 50 percent the families surveyed spend $2,500 to $5,000 a month on debt payments.
  • Savings are at an all-time low, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Analysis. We tuck away only 1.2 percent of our income. (Focus on the Family)

Now let’s assume for a moment that your family has a realistic budget and a sound financial strategy. You’ve cut out the morning Starbucks run and weekly Amazon or Ebay purchases, and you are among the 22 percent of Americans who claims they waste no money. Still, after paying off expenses, your family is left with only pennies to spare. Despite your best efforts, saving for emergencies is out of the question.

If this sounds like your household, a change in tactics might be in order. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate spending habits for necessities like housing, food, transportation and insurance. Even small savings can add up over a year.

Another option is to examine your attitude.  Are your budget battles all-consuming, or are you embracing Christ’s instructions in Matthew 6:25: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

Maybe you’ve never developed a solid financial strategy. If so, sticking to a monthly budget is a good start, but it’s only the beginning. Wherever you place yourself on the money management scale, the following advice from Crown Financial Ministries may relieve some of the stress and help prepare you for financial battle.

I have a HUGE amount of student debt. In fact, I almost laugh at the statistic that says most college students leave college with about $25,000 in debt. I hold more than three times that much in college debt, and this does not include my husband’s college loan debt! Though it’s going to take us a very long time to pay it off, thankfully, though, it’s the only debt we hold.

We’ve decided to follow the Dave Ramsey plan for finances and I would suggest the same for your family. Even if you aren’t struggling financially, a plan like this could help your family substantially. Please go to Dave Ramsey’s Website to read about a plan to follow, books that can help you, and the way to set up a proper budget.

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I’m Thankful

This Thursday is one of the best family days of the year- Thanksgiving! Unfortunately, so many families forget that it’s a day about being Thankful and being with family. More and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day and more and more people are choosing to forego dinner in order to get in line at stores and get the latest and greatest thing. Now, I love a good deal as much as the next person, but as they say on ESPN…C’MON MAN!

Let’s continue our family traditions, or start some new ones this year. Cherish your family. And, be Thankful for everything that you have been blessed with! Here’s some ideas:

1- The Turkey Trot: Whether your ‘trotting’ pace is a stroll or a sprint, the ubiquitous Turkey Trot is a fun way to offset that extra slice of pumpkin pie. And on such a day of gratitude and appreciation, you can’t argue with a community-centered event that often raises funds for charitable causes. (my aunt and uncle always have their kids trot with them…ages 6 and 8 – never too young!)

2- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Watch the parade! This is a great time for the family to gather in your PJs and experience the joy and excitement of Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas Season!

3- Let the kids cook: Bring the kids in the kitchen with you so they can “help” (or you can show/teach them) how to prepare a part of Thanksgiving Dinner. Kids can do something easy, like pouring the cream of mushroom soup in the casserole dish for the green bean casserole, beat the mashed potatoes (with your help of course), or set the table!

4- Play your own game of football: This was always a tradition in my husband’s family and with friends. Go outside and run around! Play catch, tackle each other, and see who’s going to win…boys or girls!

5- Make a wish: This is a tradition in my family. Known as a “lucky break” the tradition of tugging on either end of a fowl’s bone to win the larger piece and its accompanying “wish” dates back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England and the English colonists carried the tradition on to America. You’ve gotta break the wishbone, and of course…make a wish!

6- Pre-meal prayer and Thankful wishes: Say a family prayer. After doing this, everyone around the table shares one thing that they are thankful for. It really makes you remember how much you really have and how blessed you are!

7- Football: If your family likes sports (as mine does) take some time to snuggle up after eating Turkey and watch one of the big games of the day. If you’re like my family, most of you will end up falling asleep!

8- Serve: There are people in our church this year that are spending their Thanksgiving with those who are less fortunate – by preparing a meal for them and sharing it with them. Take your kids and show them what serving is all about!

9- Show your gratitude to an unsung hero: Get together with your family and decide on a person or a group in your
community who could use an extra pat on the back; firefighters, soldiers, police officers, volunteers. Put
together a special plate of goodies and deliver it (or pack it up for shipping) as a family.

10- The day after Thanksgiving: You may be a family that does black Friday shopping…but after that – put up the Christmas tree. You don’t have to decorate it, or the rest of the house either (unless you want to) but putting up the tree (or the manger) the day after thanksgiving will help your family to remember what the Christmas season really is all about.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Spend time with family and friends, and remember all you have to be thankful for this year!

 

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It’s time to give back

We live in a very privileged society. In the United States, kids are blessed with the gift of education, safe building guidelines, clean water, and so much more. Now I know this isn’t the case for all families or kids, but the kids who are lacking in basic needs are the exception. There are many kids all over the world who are unable to find clean water, don’t have parents due to illness or war ravaged societies, and who die from every day illnesses or other cause that are easily preventable and treatable. The exception in countries like Zambia or Burma, the exception is a healthy child who gets and education and who has two parents living.

Helping kids in impoverished countries touches dear to my heart as I’ve traveled to both Africa and Honduras helping families in need. So I got to thinking, how can we inspire our congregations to give to those who have so little when we have so much. After talking to some families in my church, I quickly learned that people are just unaware of the needs of others or how they can truly help people and make a difference in someone’s life!

You might be thinking, I tithe to my church, isn’t that enough? If you feel that it is, that’s your prerogative  But, I feel that God has called us to more than that. Matthew 25:35 – 40 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” We need to help the least of these!

First, here’s a great video that I saw 4-5 years ago that might hit home with you. I think once we’re aware of different situations in the world, we are obligated as Christians to do something about it, and to show our kids how to make a difference. See what you think about this: 

So, I have a challenge for you this holiday season. Spend less money on yourself and your family. Give more to people in need. Here’s some awesome ways to give back that I’ve been a part of (and there’s many more organizations).

Samaritan’s Purse: Samaritan’s Purse is a non-denominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that works worldwide to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease, famine, and persecution. At Christmas, they do Operation Christmas Child. We’re doing this with our kids at church this year. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to give. Go to the website for more information.

World Hope International: Faith based relief and development organization alleviating suffering and injustice through education, enterprise and community health. I’ve done Missions work through WHI. Every year, they have a “gifts catalog” where you can select gifts for people overseas in someone else’s name. View the catalog at  and see all the ways you can impact someone!

Compassion International: Compassion International is a Christian child sponsorship organization dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty around the world. My husband and I sponsor a child through CI, which you can commit to ($48 per month for kids who need HIV vaccines, $35 for kids who are not at risk) or you can make a one time donation to CI through their Christmas Gift Catalog. You can see all of the ways you can help others by going to the Compassion Gift Page for more information.

Advent Conspiracy: Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption. You can give water or rescue to people all over the world. Go to their Website for more information.

American Red Cross: You may want to give to disaster relief and because of Hurricane Sandy, the Red Cross has taken up the responsibility of getting donations to help people who have been effected by the hurricane. You can also choose to give a recurring gift so there’s money available for future disasters. Go to the Red Cross Giving Page for information.

Aside from these monetary ways to give back during the holidays, you and your family can serve together locally (or if you feel God’s calling, overseas) as well.

Some ideas for serving:

  • serving at a soup kitchen
  • serving at your local church
  • handing out food to the homeless in your city
  • rake leaves or shovel for a shut-in or the elderly
  • visit a nursing home
  • visit an orphanage
  • if there’s a refugee area near you, go and spend time with the people

There are so many ways that we can give our time, money, and talents to those in need! Let’s think of others this Christmas Season. If you need help contacting different organizations or are still unsure of how to plug-in, contact your local church and they would love to help you! (I can help those in Western New York and Central Indiana, because that’s where I’ve lived and have been heavily involved!)

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