Christine Simon

Dec 012015
 

I’ve seen posts all day about how today is called “Giving Tuesday”. It’s a day set aside on the calendar after we’ve spent all weekend shopping on ourselves and loved ones to think of others and “give”. In some ways this struck me as a little backwards.

But I was already convicted on Monday as I read this devotional below with my two teenage boys. We’ve been reading this book every day as I drive them to school throughout 2015 and there have been so many times where I kept thinking of God’s word to me in it all day long. This one in particular lasted more than a day.

Below is what we read in One Year of Dinner Table Devotions by Nancie Guthrie. (Yes, we are using a dinner devotional for the drive time, but it’s short and sweet and perfect for the time we have. Plus my boys like it.)

Getting and Giving

This is the season our mailboxes are filled with stacks of mail-order catalogs. Through their colorful pictures and creative words, they seek to convince us that we don’t have enough stuff – that we need more, newer, better. They go beyond supplying our needs; they appeal to our greed – the desire to get and keep more than we really need.

We have a choice. We can give in to greed and keep collecting more stuff and spending more money on ourselves. Or we can break out of the cycle of believing the lie that more will satisfy us. How? By giving. The only way to do battle with the greed in our hearts is to give – to become outrageous givers. God can turn greedy, grasping, fearful hoarders into generous, honest, trustworthy givers.

To become givers, we have to decide not to listen to the voice inside us that asks, “If I let this go, who will take care of me? What will satisfy me?” We have to face our fear that God will not be able to take care of us, protect us, or at least make sure we maintain the lifestyle we think we need to make us happy. We tell ourselves the truth about God – that because he has been so generous in giving us Jesus, we can be confident that he will give us everything we need. We take him at his word that he can satisfy us and that he will bless us as we give to others. We test his promise that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

“Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” Proverbs 21:26

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12;15

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:5

A few discussion starters:

What do you find yourself dreaming of getting? What do you find yourself dreaming of giving?

When have you experienced or observed someone else enjoying the happiness that comes from outrageous giving?

What does our green or generosity say about what we think of God?

So are you with me? Was your heart struck as mine was by how much I’ve been thinking about what to buy myself or my kids verses what can I give or who can I give to? The verses alone are enough to cut to the heart but then you add my answers to the questions and I’m done.

So what can we do to help our kids think more about giving than getting this Christmas?  One way you can fight this greed in your kids is to give them opportunities to give and learn about giving. Here are a few ideas but I’d love to hear any others you have.

Visit the tables in the foyer and help your kids pick out an organization and specific gift to give through Equipping the Saints.

Find a neighbor or friend who has a need and meet it.

Join us tomorrow night at our Family Christmas Celebration (December 2nd at 6:30 pm) we will be talking all about generosity as well as wrapping up a few gifts for others. We’ll also be sending you home with a Generosity Jar so your family can think more about how to “give” to others.

Ask your kids. I’m sure they have some ideas but just need help figuring out how to make it a reality.

For me personally, I just hear about a new book coming out soon called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch. I plan to purchase, read and apply some of what I learn with my own kids. Click here for  a short write up about this book.

May God give us all a heart that wants to give more than we want to get. It is far more blessed to give than receive.

Oct 262015
 

preschool 3

Life for the preschooler can be confusing. It’s okay to throw a ball, but not a rock. You can hug your friend, but not squeeze his neck. Every day, a preschooler is learning new rules and discovering not only abilities, but also limits. The way you consistently meet their needs, engage their interests, and provide discipline will help them cultivate self-control.

You can help preschoolers learn when you ENGAGE THEIR SENSES.  You can capture their heart when you CULTIVATE SELF CONTROL. You coach their moral abilities when you DISCIPLINE CONSISTENTLY.

preschool 5

Ages three to four is the phase when ANYTHING CAN BE IMAGINED. I remember well the years when my daughter had an imaginary friend. That friend went everywhere with us. And we couldn’t sit on the couch where her friend was sitting. She would talk with her for hours in her room and tell us all about her.

preschool 2

It’s when EVERYTHING CAN BE A GAME. I also remember when my boys would love to make up games. We would sit for hours and play “zoo” with all their plastic and stuffed animals. My oldest would take his miniature football helmets and line them up and play his own game of football with them.

preschool 6

And one curious preschooler wants to know “WHY?” We get lots of questions at this age. Lots of “Why does it do that?”; “Why did she say that?” ; “Why is it blue?” You get the picture.

preschool 4

Here’s why some of our volunteers love working with the preschool age:

“I love volunteering in the preschool room because the children are just starting to comprehend Jesus and what he has done for us. Their excitement and curiosity to learn about our Savior at such a young age is so touching and personally inspiring in my life.  And on a side note my preschooler loves having me in class with him so I can share in all the exciting things he is learning about God on Sunday mornings.”

“They bring a light and joy through the door each and every Sunday. They remind me of child-like faith.”

“I have a preschool aged daughter, so it’s the age of child I can relate to. And they’re great!”

“I serve with the fours because there is never a dull moment with them.  I am more awake and alert for service after serving at 8:00 a.m. because of their energy and enthusiasm.  They are always willing to learn, ready to play, to sing and dance, and to be loved and show off their love.  The fours remind me to find joy in the smallest of things and it’s always a great way to start off my Sunday and begin my week.”

“Four-year-olds are great fun to interact with.  Prior to this age there’s not so much of a give and take in discussion.  Now I can sit down at a table or on the floor and actually have a conversation.  Even more fun than that is the fact that what they say is often NOT predictable. Once I chose to wear a pair of toile-print jeans and one of the kids blurted out, ‘You forgot to take your pajamas off!’ (Ask me if I’ve worn them since!)”

“I often find myself in awe of how much these children love the Lord and understand His word. In the presence of these children, I find myself chuckling and tearing up in their recognition of sin and God’s love for them.”

“They are so funny! They make my week. I enjoy seeing them get so happy about all the music and games.”

preschool 1

We have 780 weeks and counting with these preschoolers. IT’S JUST A PHASE…SO DON’T MISS IT!

*This info is taken from the book It’s Just a Phase – so Don’t Miss It by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy

Oct 202015
 

toddler 6

The Toddler age was my favorite age for each of my four kids. I loved the way they were learning new things every day. I adored the hugs and the “hold you’s” that I got with arms reaching up anxious to be held. So much happens in the life of a child in the phase from one to two years old. They explode in wonder and awe of everything they see, feel, touch and smell. They are constantly moving and exploring.

toddler 2

The phase of One to Two* is when nobody’s on time, everything’s a mess, and one eager toddler will insist I CAN DO IT!

toddler 4

Toddlers think like an artist. They blend reality with imagination and learn best through their senses.

toddler 7

Toddlers want to know AM I ABLE? The goal of this phase is to develop confidence.

toddler 1

As volunteers, we need to embrace their physical needs so they can know God’s love and meet God’s family.

toddler 8

Here’s what volunteers who serve with toddlers had to say about why they love this age:

Maybe not a very “spiritual” answer, but they are the cutest EVER!!

Because they love to snuggle on my lap while I read them a book.

I love the fact that they’re in transition from baby and each child is developing his or her own individuality.

Because I love to their joy and hugs!

I started serving in Crossing Kids as a way to give back to the church and make connections.  I signed up stating I didn’t really care where I was placed and while this statement still holds true today, after serving on the Toddler Blue Team for several months I can say (without reserve) that it has been rewarding in ways I would not have considered. Toddlers, they walk (but often stumble), they talk (but more often they cry or giggle), they exhibit so much of what it means to be un-escapably human.  Nearly every Sunday I am blessed to serve I am staunchly reminded by these youngsters that our time is brief, snot is real, pain is temporary, relationships matter and joy is often found in the simplest of things. May God continue to bless the Crossing, its ministry and the little ones we treasure.

toddler 3

884 WEEKS AND COUNTING….UNTIL THEY GRADUATE. IT’S JUST A PHASE…SO DON’T MISS IT.

*According to the ReThink Group and the book “It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It” by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, a phase is a time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. Most of this post is from this resource.

Oct 132015
 

baby 2

According to the ReThink Group and the book “It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It” by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, a phase is a time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. Over the next few weeks we would like to share with you some thoughts about each age and phase from this book so you can better serve these children in Crossing Kids. Today we will start with Zero to One.

Zero to One is the phase when nobody sleeps, everybody smells, and one mesmerizing baby convinces you I NEED YOU NOW!

Sunday Morning at The Crossing

Babies in this phase want to know “AM I SAFE?”

baby 3

The goal in this phase is to “ESTABLISH TRUST”

baby 5

Our volunteers must embrace their physical needs so they can know God’s love and meet God’s family.

baby 4

Here’s what volunteers who serve with babies had to say about why they love this age:

I get as much love as I give and I get to serve parents on Sundays, by allowing them the opportunity to be part of the worship service. Once upon a time I was in their shoes.

“I love serving with the infants. Love their smiles and giggles, rocking them to sleep, caring for their needs in simple ways. And reassuring their parents we will love them like our own until they return.”

“Getting to spend those special months with precious babies as they explore on all fours and then in a flash are walkers, growing from babies to toddlers before our very eyes.”

“Being around a fresh, new, peaceful, little miracle of God’s draws me closer to Him. It reminds me of His perfect plan for me that started when I, too, was a newborn and that He has fearfully & wonderfully made each of us. There is nothing more beautiful than new life that He has created!”

“I serve in the infant room because I enjoy the cuddles from the sweet babies and I love the volunteers I get to work with!”

I just love the babies! Also hopefully give parents peace of mind that their precious baby is well cared for so they can worship or serve else where.  I remember dropping off my own children and what a blessing it was when care givers were glad to have my child in their care.  I love the fellowship with other volunteers…high school thru grandparent age.  It is a wonderful community that cares about one another as well as the babies and their families. Also fun to see young volunteers come back with their own children a few year after volunteering in college.

baby 1

We have 936 weeks and counting…until they graduate. It’s Just a Phase…So Don’t Miss It!

Oct 072015
 

We are excited to announce October is Volunteer Fall Focus month, meaning all month we will be equipping you with resources to encourage you in your kingdom work with children. This year’s Volunteer Fall Focus is:

Every Phase is Important

Children all go through phases. “A phase is a time frame in a child’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future. If every child has been made in the image of God, and every kid matters to God, then what you do every week in a child’s life matters.”  (from the book It’s Just a Phase So Don’t Miss It; pgs. 7 and 231)

At any given time, each child in our ministry is going through a phase. These different phases baffle us and other times they amaze us. Sometimes we aren’t quite sure what to make of the phase a child is in. This month we want to dig deeper into how we can embrace children’s God given uniqueness at each stage and how we can help you as a volunteer love and lead kids through each phase.

We pray the information in our blog posts will equip you to better serve the individual kids you invest in each Sunday. This month you will see posts on the following topics:

Get to Know Our Interns

The Phases of Children

The Benefits of Play

Giving Children Grace

Are you serving where you should be?

Separation Anxiety and How to Help

Why are worship motions important?

phase wall

Stop by the wall in the foyer some time soon and read about the children you serve with. It’s Just a Phase…so Don’t Miss It!

Jun 052015
 

08-12 Crossing Fall Fest WEB 476px x 261px 72pi

This post was written by Kristin Jeffries, our Crossing Kids Programming Director.

If you joined us for kids club, or if you’ve just been catching up on what we did from home, you probably have seen this phrase a lot. “Stan firm and take action.” After saying, singing, and leading motions to this verse all week I feel like I should now be going out to change the world; spreading the morals and teachings of Christ to a broken culture. Perhaps this is just a product of being part of the “activist millennial” age group, but hopefully that urge to “do” is a relatable feeling.

If we look at this verse in it’s wider context however, or even just as it applied to Daniel’s life, “taking action” may in fact seem fairly passive. Time and time again for Daniel taking action simply meant doing what is right. We saw that in the form of not eating certain foods, giving loving but firm advice when asked, or even just praying to God in his own home. Daniel is respectful to and has good relationships with others who hold different beliefs than he does. Sure, he will share his beliefs with them and his behavior may sometimes differ from the cultural norms of his peers, but from the stories we looked at this week he is far from the activist that the phrase “take action” might suggest.

So where does that leave us? I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t be actively spreading the gospel or standing up for our faith. (Matthew 28:19 would beg to differ.) I am saying we need to “take action” in our own relationship with God first. The more I ruminate on the lessons that were taught this last week, the more inspired I am to actively pursue a more intimate relationship with God and a greater knowledge of His word. In two of our stories taking action was praying to God regularly and earnestly. Knowing that no conversation is more important than communing with God daily. Prayer was often where Daniel and his friends got their strength, and the same should be true for us.

We should also aim to “stand firm.” Our only hope of doing this is to have a solid foundation to stand on! We can proclaim good morals all we want, but unless we are also reading God’s word and learning from it, we will find it extremely difficult to stand when our beliefs are put to the test. Psalm 119:10-11 (ESV) says:

10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

These verses shows us the importance of knowing God’s word in order to live out our faith, as does our memory verse in whole. “The people who know their God, shall stand firm and take action.” Knowledge of God is the condition for standing firm and taking action.

My prayer for myself, and for any of you reading this as well, is that God would grant us the desire to know Him better. That He would use this past week to motivate us so that we might actively seek Him and firmly live out our faith in Him.

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Mar 312015
 

Easter Week Dinner Conversations

I ran across this nightly discussion idea for Holy Week and wanted to share it with you. Seems like a simple way to talk about the Easter story with your kids this week.

Monday Discovery

Scripture: Mark 11:15-19

Talk About It: Have family members each share their favorite thing about going to worship at church. If applicable, parents can share a favorite memory of going to church as a child. Talk about other places you go where you feel welcomed and special. Brainstorm how your family can help others feel welcome in your home, in the community, and at church.

Tuesday Discovery

Scripture: Mark 12:41-44

Talk About It: Ask family members to each share about a time they’ve given up something. Ask about how it made them feel and what made it easy or difficult. Then talk about the sacrifice Jesus made for everyone at Easter and what kind of difference it’s made in your lives.

Wednesday Discovery

Scripture: Mark 14:3-9

Talk About It: Tell about a time you did something kind for someone else. Talk about how your kindness encouraged that person. Have all your family members talk about something kind they’ve done for others. As a family, think of a way you can show kindness to someone this week.

Thursday Discovery

Scripture: Mark 14:12-25

Talk About It: Tell about your best friend as a child. Then have family members each talk about their best friend. Talk about the qualities of a good friend. Are there sacrifices you’d make for a friend? Describe one way you could show friends they’re important to you; then commit to doing so this week.

Friday’s Discovery

Scripture: Mark 15:33-41

Talk About It: Talk about a time you admitted a sin to a friend. Explain what happened because of your confession. Ask family members to share a similar story. Encourage each other to admit your sins to Jesus daily and ask for forgiveness.

Saturday’s Discovery

Scripture: Mark 15:42–16:1

Talk About It: Have family members tell about someone who’s died and what they remember most about that person (it could even be a pet). Talk about how you each keep Jesus alive in your lives every day.

Sunday’s Discovery

Scripture: Mark 16:2-8

Talk About It: Share about a time you received or delivered great news about something or someone. How did that make you and that person feel? Discuss the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection and why it’s important to share this great news with others.

Carmen Kamrath has been a children’s minister for 20 years. She’s the associate editor of Children’s Ministry Magazine. 

Oct 082014
 

A mission statement is a brief description of our fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why do we exist?” So in Crossing Kids our mission is “to partner with families to help kids develop a lifetime relationship with Jesus.”

It is important for our leaders and every volunteer that serves in Crossing Kids to understand and know what we value. These values shape every Sunday, Tuesday morning and Wednesday night. They drive the decisions we make about curriculum, activities, music and family events. They help us accomplish our mission.

blog (families in hallway)Our values are:

Partnering with Families

  • The church must partner with families, because God intends kids to learn in context of family relationships.
  • Two combined influences make a greater impact than two separate influences.

blog (teaching)Targeting the Heart

  • God’s Word teaches that behavior is rooted in the heart.  Therefore, we want children to have a heart to follow God, not just go through outward motions.
  • Teaching must focus on cultivating a heart that loves God and trusts His promises above all else, rather than just seeking to change behavior.

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God-Centered, Grace-Centered Teaching

  • Teaching must be centered on God’s Word.
  • Teaching must focus on the gospel of God’s grace as the primary motivation for obeying Christ.
  • Teaching must be application-oriented, rather than just imparting knowledge.

blog (relationships)Relationships with Others

  • Relationships with others in the church are an essential component for spiritual growth.
  • Learning and relationships should always be in a safe, caring and comfortable environment for children.

blog (serving)Serving

  • We must teach children that everything we have is given to us from God and should be used to bring Him glory.
  • We must provide opportunities for children to express their faith through serving, giving, and reaching out to others both inside and outside the church.

blog (kid friendly)Kid-Relevant Teaching and Programs

  • Teaching must be appropriate to a child’s physical, social, cognitive, and spiritual development.
  • Different children have different learning styles, so we must teach in a variety of creative ways.
  • We must seek to understand a child’s cultural influences and relate to that culture, while never compromising biblical truth.
  • Our standards must meet the level of quality and excellence expected by those outside the church.

Sometimes it is easier to see what a value means when we share a personal story. Some of our volunteers shared a few ways they have seen our values on Sunday morning so I wanted to share them with you.

God-centered, grace-centered teaching:

Recently in my Women’s group study they were discussing the Bible as one big story about God that included the creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  Someone asked if we had ever heard the Bible described in that way and I couldn’t help but say yes, we spent an entire year focusing on creation, fall, redemption and restoration in Crossing Kids last year.  What an amazing gift to the children of our church that they are able to learn deep theological ideas at such a young age so they study the Bible and learn about God through the correct lens.

My husband and I being retired educators are constantly amazed at the wonderful, brain-based lessons that the children are exposed to at the Crossing.  Comparing these lessons to the worksheets our now-grown children had growing up, we just marvel at what these children at the Crossing are being exposed to.  And it’s clear that the children are learning and remembering.  The bible stories along with the concepts about them that these  children retain amaze us each week! Surely the parents of these children are taking the take-home sheets seriously, but the lessons themselves are so memorable!  What a great combination!

Targeting the heart:

The approach that Crossing kids has taken has targeted the heart, but more importantly the souls of the children and kept them interested. Sure we go through motions.  Songs with motions, prayers, and routines.  But all of these, from what I have witnessed, are done with the purpose of praising God.

Relationships with others:

Recently witnessed a volunteer that was with us in 2nd grade and is now in other half of 3rd grade class sought out a girl to give her card that included a note and picture of them together during our slumber party with the 2nd graders last year.  I thought it was such a thoughtful yet simple way to show this young girl that she is loved, thought of and being prayed for.

This is my favorite one.  Every week, we see the same kids, and week after week and we get to know them get to know their parents too, but largely the kids.  We know their strengths and struggles.  We know their moods and quirks.   Most importantly we know their hearts.  Children are so open and trusting, and even more honest.  They allow themselves to be just that when they are with us…themselves.  Even more sometimes I think than they are with Mom and Dad.

Whether you are a new volunteer or have been serving in our ministry for years, it is always good to remind ourselves of why we do what we do. I shared more about this topic here.

Please join us in praying that God would help us accomplish our mission and values and be honored in the process.

Aug 182014
 

08-12 Crossing Fall Fest WEB 476px x 261px 72piRecently we asked our volunteers WHY they serve in Crossing Kids. We asked for one word or a short phrase and got an incredible amount of answers – most were serious and some were funny. Keith shared some of the responses in his announcements on Sunday, but I wanted to share a few more here. We are so thankful to God for each person who serves and uses their gifts and talents to help children learn about Jesus.

elementary pic

Dustin:  Making Jesus known to the next generation.

Hannah said:  To Feel Hope; To Teach Christ; To Grow Love; Be a Model; To Show Care; To Feed and To Be Fed

Rachel said:  Helps me be a better Christian parent. I feel connected to what my kids are learning at church. I can use the lessons at home for deeper understanding.

Aaron said:  Provides a unique glimpse at what God has done and is doing to build his Kingdom—one that I don’t see anywhere else.

walkers pic

Jennifer:  The smiles after the tears!

Joeylynn said:  I volunteer in kids crossing because I LOVE seeing kids begin to grasp God’s story in their little lives

Dee:  Influence, legacy, the future.

Tanya said:  Serving in Crossing Kids is my physical act of worship.

preschool pic

Lauren said:  Love giving back to where my kids are spiritually motivated, fed, and loved.

Jeff said:  Brings me closer to God…I learn so much from the children and co-volunteers and feel God’s presence.

Megann said:  The funny things the kids say!

Katie said:  I volunteer because of what the KIDS teach ME!

Keith said:  I tremendously enjoy hanging out with kids. I believe serving has a large positive impact on my own relationship with Christ.

Sunday Morning at The Crossing

A Crawlers volunteer said: I volunteer for the MOMS.

Jessica said:  I serve in Crossing Kids because children see Christ better than me.

Cara said:  Sunday morning hugs from 2 year old kiddos excited to see me!

Tom:  It’s a blessing to watch children learn to love the Lord.

God has blessed us with amazing people who love, care and teach children every week. There are lots of reasons to serve and lots of ways that God uses that service for his glory.  If you are interested in joining our team, you can sign up here.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)

 

Aug 092014
 

IMG_0057First Day of School in 2006

If you are like me, it’s that time of year when you (as a parent) are both ready for the routine of school but also sad to see summer come to an end. I love having the extra time with my kids. Most of us have gotten the school supplies purchased (although I will admit that I haven’t yet) and have met the teacher or will this next week.

So what else can we do to get prepare for school to start? I ran across this Backpack Blessings idea by CTA (Christian Tools of Affirmation) and thought I would share it with you. It sounded to me like an easy and doable way to encourage my kids spiritually as they go back to school. I’m thinking about starting it even before the first day of classes.

Backpack Blessing

My prayer for my kids has always been that they would see math, science, reading, writing, art, etc as a way to learn about God. But I also want to continue to put God’s word in their minds and hearts so they cling to him everywhere they go and see that his word applies to all of life.

We prayed for you and your kids this past Thursday. May God use this next school year to grow your kids in faith as they learn about the world God created and how it works.