Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

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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Private schools, public schools…or homeschooling?

After talking to some of the parents in our family ministry, it occurred to me how much of a struggle some families have in choosing how to educate their children. So, I did some research and I dug up some facts on options other than public schooling, thanks to our friends at Focus on the Family… Here is goes:

School Choice in the United States

School choice, or the right to decide where and how to educate your children, has always existed for parents who could afford to send their children to a private school or to move to a better school district. Today, however, many states are implementing policies and programs that make available an unprecedented array of education options for families of varying levels.  As of 2011, families in at least 18 states had some form of school choice, and legislators in 41 states introduced or passed school choice bills.

While there are many different types of “school choice” programs, they can be generally categorized into two basic forms: public school choice and private school choice.

Private School Choice

Private school choice refers to publicly funded scholarship programs that redirect the flow of education funding to individual families rather than to government schools. In other words, the money now follows the child rather than a bureaucracy. Under these programs, parents can apply for scholarships that allow them to send their child to a private school of their choice, including religious ones.

Without school choice scholarships, parents who want their kids to go to a private school would have to, in essence, double pay. In other words, they would pay for a private education while also paying taxes that go toward public education. That means private schools are out of the question for many middle class and underprivileged families. School choice is designed to solve this problem. It would level the playing field for families of different incomes by allowing parents to redirect their tax dollars toward schools of their choice.

More than 150,000 children benefit from private school choice programs across the country.2

These programs can be categorized into three main types:

  1. Opportunity Scholarship Programs. The purest form of school choice, opportunity scholarship programs offer parents the opportunity to apply for scholarships that they can allocate toward tuition for their children at a private school, including a faith-based institution.
  2. Special Needs and Foster-Child Scholarships. Even in states where there is significant opposition to more widespread school choice, incremental programs that seek to benefit the neediest children have been successful – especially scholarships designed to assist children with disabilities and those within the foster-care system.
  3. Tax Credit Scholarship Programs. These programs allow corporations who donate to school choice scholarships to receive tax credits for their contributions.
  4. Education Savings Accounts: ESAs allow parents or guardians to have the state deposit a percentage of their child’s per pupil funding into a savings account, which they can then use for various educational options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring costs, or even college courses.

Public School Choice

Despite the spread of private school choice programs, the majority of students – an estimated 56 million – remain in government-funded public schools, and too many of those schools are under performing or failing. We spend nearly 500 billion on public schools, and yet graduation rates are as low as 52 to 56 percent for minority students. Clearly, efforts to increase choice and competition for families inside the public school system remain essential.

This being said, the school systems in the area surrounding our church in particular are some of the best in the country, with a huge turn-over rate to colleges and successful careers. My hometown public schools was amazing as well. Ranking extremely high in test scores and career success. I was also able to learn how to deal with the real world before becoming an adult, which I believe matured me more as a person, and strengthened rather than hindered my strong faith.

But, if you feel that your local public schools are doing poorly and not giving kids the best possible education, you have more public school choices.

  1. Charter Schools.Charter schools represent the most popular form of public school choice and have seen tremendous growth in the last few years. Charter schools are publicly funded institutions that have more autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic control than standard public schools. This autonomy is provided in exchange for agreed upon measures of accountability described in the school’s charter. Charter schools can be started by parents, private companies, religious organizations or even universities. Parents often work together to start charter schools in their neighborhood that offer unique programs tailored to the needs of community children. Many charter schools are designed to assist disadvantaged students or those who have not been able to thrive in traditional public schools.
  2. Other Forms of Choice. Another example of public school choice worth mentioning is a key provision in the No Child Left Behind education law. This provision allows children in consistently failing schools to transfer to a better performing public school.
  3. There is also a significant growth of “virtual schools,” which allow students to participate in online public education in the privacy of their home.

Home Schools

Outside both private and public choice, home schooling is an important option that provides parents complete freedom to choose and direct their child’s educational curriculum. Today there are an estimated 2 million students receiving their education at home. I would not, however, recommend this option if you don’t feel that teaching is a part of your gifting.

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December Materials

Here are our Family Ministry resources for the month of December:

All Parents:

Orange Blog

252 Basics (1st grade-6th grade)

Parent Cue

Extra Memory Verses

God Time Week 1

God Time Week 2

God Time Week 3

God Time Week 4

God Time Week 5

First Look (age 3- Kindergarten)

Parent Cue

Parent Cue Cards

Don’t forget our Schedule!

Our TrinityKids services:

9:00 Sunday morning eXplore!

  • Group 3s-kindergarten
  • 1st-4th grade groups based off of The Dig Curriculum
  • 5th-6th grade Grapple Group

10:30 Sunday morning eXclaim!

  • Small groups 3s-Kindergarten
  • Large group for 1st-4th grade
  • 5th-6th grade X-Crew

6:30-7:30 Wednesday night  eXplosion!

  • Game Based Lessons 3s-Kindergarten
  • Game Based Lessons 1st-4th Grade
  • eXtreme56! for 5th-6th Grade (Game Based Lessons with a Youth Group Atmosphere)

The Nursery is always up and running when we have programming!

Special Event this month!

Parent’s Night Out: Bring your children to Trinity for a night of fun while you go Christmas shopping and get you gifts wrapped for free by our helpers! Go to www.encountertrinity.com for more information!

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November Materials

Here are our Family Ministry resources for the month of November:

All Parents:

Orange Blog

252 Basics (1st grade-6th grade)

Parent Cue

Extra Memory Verses

God Time Week 1

God Time Week 2

God Time Week 3

God Time Week 4

First Look (age 3- Kindergarten)

Parent Cue

Parent Cue Cards

Don’t forget our Fall Schedule!

Our TrinityKids services:

9:00 Sunday morning eXplore!

  • Group 3s-kindergarten
  • 1st-4th grade groups based off of The Dig Curriculum
  • 5th-6th grade Grapple Group

10:30 Sunday morning eXclaim!

  • Small groups 3s-Kindergarten
  • Large group for 1st-4th grade
  • 5th-6th grade X-Crew

6:30-7:30 Wednesday night  eXplosion!

  • Game Based Lessons 3s-Kindergarten
  • Game Based Lessons 1st-4th Grade
  • eXtreme56! for 5th-6th Grade (Game Based Lessons with a Youth Group Atmosphere)

The Nursery is always up and running when we have programming!

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October Materials

Here are our Family Ministry resources for the month of October:

All Parents:

Orange Blog

252 Basics (1st grade-6th grade)

Parent Cue

Extra Memory Verse

God Time Week 1

God Time Week 2

God Time Week 3

God Time Week 4

First Look (age 3- Kindergarten)

Parent Cue

Parent Cue Cards

We are kicking off our new fall schedule!

Our TrinityKids services:

9:00 Sunday morning eXplore!

  • Group 3s-kindergarten
  • 1st-4th grade groups based off of The Dig Curriculum
  • 5th-6th grade Grapple Group

10:30 Sunday morning eXclaim!

  • Small groups 3s-Kindergarten
  • Large group for 1st-4th grade
  • 5th-6th grade X-Crew

6:30-7:30 Wednesday night  eXplosion!

  • Game Based Lessons 3s-Kindergarten
  • Game Based Lessons 1st-4th Grade
  • eXtreme56! for 5th-6th Grade (Game Based Lessons with a Youth Group Atmosphere)

The Nursery is always up and running when we have programming!

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And they’re off…..to school again

I remember being 5 on the night before my first day of kindergarten. I was so anxious and scared for all of the uncertainties of being in school that I couldn’t sleep. I was put to bed at 9:00 (my parents always let me stay up later than the other kids), Called for my dad at 9:15, 9:30, 10:00, and on and on it went until I finally found my way into my parents room at midnight and slept on their bedroom floor next to the foot of their bed.

I woke up the next morning with a tummy ache and was sure that I wouldn’t make any friends. But, by the end of the day, I loved my teacher, had a bunch of friends, and decided that school wasn’t that bad of a place to be. I continued to become anxious at times and even doubted myself, but I never had too much of a problem.

I do wonder – how do our kids feel when they go back to school? I know some of the kids in my ministry are excited, some are nervous, and some seem to even be scared to go back to school – especially the kids who struggle with reading, writing, or making friends. I thought since school is right around the corner (especially for us in Indiana), I would take a look at some articles and think about how we can help our kids with different issues that they face in school.

A Practical Approach to Bullies:

Focus on the Family gives us some pretty good ideas on how to prepare your kids for bullying (let’s face it – it happened to all of us) and how bullying can be handled once it’s happened. Here are some ideas – role-play bullying situations, talk through the details of what bullying is or can be, and discuss strategies for kids in bullying situations (tell an adult, avoid/walk away, deflect/use humor, take a stand without becoming violent). Remind kids – “Be strong and courageous,” Moses encouraged God’s people (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Anxiety about school:

“The first thing you can do to help your children make it through “new school year anxiety” is to validate their feelings. Many kids can’t articulate why they feel apprehensive. Instead, they simply start showing physical signs of anxiety such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, moodiness or irritation.”

Ask your children questions regarding their feelings about the school year starting. You might even ask what your children are most excited and most nervous about. Then, explain that it is normal to feel jitters before school starts. These feelings will most likely not be going away any time soon, but this will help kids acknowledge the feelings and get past them.

Struggles with academics:

You have a few options here. You could: 1- try to help your kids on your own, by making up fun and creative games to help them along – or- 2- you could get your kids professional help with teachers at their school or at another teaching or mentoring institution. And remember parents, just because your child is having difficulties in learning does not mean they are not intelligent or that they will always be behind. If you see your child struggling, get them help! Don’t ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

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How can we keep our kids safe?

How many of your kids use the internet? All of them, right? Well, more and more frequently, children and teens are put into dangerous or threatening situations because of ads, social media sites, and gaming networks. If your child has a research project at home and accidentally types “.com” instead of “.org” for many government agencies, they are linked to pornographic sites.

You might even be putting your child in danger by the activity that you participate in on the web. There are some steps that need to be taken to insure our kids’ safety on the internet. But first, I know you’re thinking “this can’t happen to me or my kids” so, let me give you some statistics (from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children):

– 1 in 3 teens (12-17) have experienced online harassment.

– 27% of teens (12-17) play games with people they don’t know online.

– 1 in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact (to put that into perspective, we have an average of 50 kids coming through KidZone each week… that means statistically, 2 of them will be solicited online each week.)

Aren’t those statistics scary? It seems like every new and great piece of technology comes along with a scarier danger. What can we do to keep harmful people away from our kids? Well, there are a few things, but the first and most important thing is – BE EDUCATED. A lot of times I see parents letting their children surf the internet without even knowing what sites they visit or having protection set up on their computer! Know that there is danger online, from even the most seemingly innocent websites like YouTube.com or AddictingGames.com and that there are people trying to solicit and harm our kids.

To become more educated on this issue, there’s a great site called “Enough is Enough” – Protecting your family

Next – Protect yourself so your kids are protected. These three things can keep your kids, and yourself protected:

1 – Set all of your social media sites (Facebook and MySpace) to “private”. If you don’t do this; Anyone and Everyone will be able to see your pictures, your posts, your likes, and any personal information that you share (where you’re picking up your kids, what friend they are spending the night with, what park you’re going to….and the list goes on and on).

2 – Go into the settings of your SmartPhone and turn your location settings “off” at least for the photo section. Here’s why – NBC news

3 – Create safety settings on not only your computer, but on your router at home. This will automatically protect your computer from pornographic sites, extremely violent sites, and pop-ups that might come up in front of your kids’ eyes. Here’s what you can do for a free (and this is what I use at my house – thanks, Pastor Mike!) – This Website explains it better than I could

How do I know what I’m talking about? Do you still think that you don’t need to take measures to protect yourself online? Well, you may notice that my husband and I don’t have Facebook. It’s not because we aren’t social people. It’s because we were harassed via email (which we had to change) and Skype (which we don’t have anymore) because someone found our information on Facebook – and we weren’t even kids when this happened! We were young adults! It was hard enough for us when this happened. But I can’t even imagine what it would be like for a kid who didn’t know what to do to fight back and protect themselves.

So Please take this seriously. Protect your family!

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