Oct 212015
 

_DSH0539What if I told you that what you do on Sunday mornings can make an impact in a kid’s future? During the month of October the Crossing Kids team wants to equip you do just that. According to Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy, “A phase is a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.” Throughout each phase we want to identify what makes a child tick, so today we are going to focus on students in the 2nd/3rd grade phase. Did you know that students in the 2nd/3rd grade phase have an average of 572 weeks left until High School Graduation? That’s 572 weeks that we have to engage them and make an impact.

 

 

 

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Before we can start to engage kids on Sunday mornings, it might be best to simply identify some things that make kids in the 2nd/3rd grade phase special. The reThink Group describes this phase like this, “the phase when everything is an adventure, nothing is impossible, and your enthusiastic kid thinks anything sounds like fun!”

  • They start to become funny
  • They are quick and eager learners
  • They are creative
  • They ask great questions
  • They wonder about the world around them

 

 

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By the time kids are in 2nd and 3rd grade, the excitement of school starts to lessen, the amount of homework increases, and the pressures to be the best start to form… so here are some ways to engage these young learners on Sunday mornings.

  • Get excited: Kids in this phase get excited when they see their leaders do the same. Show your enthusiasm for a game or activity and they will be more likely to join.
  • Give them space: 2nd/3rd graders are becoming more independent. Ask them if they want to teach a group of kids a game they are playing, or have one of them tell the others about what the lesson topic was the week before.
  • Let them explore: The best way to engage kids at this age is to let them be involved in hands on learning, to explore the world around them. Let them look up the Bible verses you plan to read use, or give them the chance to ask questions that they have about the current lesson topic.
  • Encourage them to be deeper thinkers: 2nd/3rd graders really begin to think deeper, and this is one of the things that Sherrill, one of our workshop teachers loves. Something that amazes Sherrill about this phase is, “how their belief can apply to their world and behaviors – keeping promises, obeying parents, praying, dealing with siblings and friends.”
  • Help them feel loved: One of our 3rd grade team leaders has learned “that a lot of times a hug or a pat on the back goes a lot further than reprimanding them during class.”

I had the opportunity to teach 2nd grade for two years, and 3rd grade for three. Working with kids in this phase was a joy, and it’s amazing how much I learned from them. I can only hope the same is true for those of you who work with kids in this phase. Thank you for making an impact on this group of young learners.  It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it!

 

Mar 072014
 

Last weekend was one of my favorite weekends in Columbia: the True/False Film Fest. Not only are the documentary films thought-provoking, challenging, inspiring, and beautiful to view, the films are surrounded with great interviews and Q and A with the film directors. I saw six films this year – most were marvelous, a few were just okay, and one film I loved and hated all at the same time.

Approaching the Elephant.

Because of my background in education and my love of documentaries that feature kids, schools, and teachers (To Be and To Have; Pressure Cooker), I was really excited to see Approaching the Elephant. The True/False description of the film reads, “The free school model proposes a learning environment where classes are optional and all rules are determined by democratic vote…this radical concept has reached the small town of Little Falls, New Jersey, where an ambitious idealist…opens the world’s 262nd free school.”

I’ve heard of free schools before and the concept is intriguing to me. In seeing the film, I wondered how students would handle their freedom to choose classes and run the school themselves. I wondered what role the teachers would play and how they would teach if children didn’t choose to learn. Approaching the Elephant gave a true and up close view of what happens when kids have complete freedom to do whatever they choose. And it was difficult to watch. The teacher and mother in me were cringing throughout most of the film.

In one scene, the children are haphazardly using handsaws to cut boards with their fingers literally an inch away from the blade while the teacher gives loose instructions. One little girl eventually says, “I don’t think my parents would want me to do this.”

Another scene shows the same little girl being bullied and chased by older boys while they are unsupervised outside, which is where one of the older boy students spends most of his day choosing to ride his bike for hours instead of choosing to take a class.

The teacher helps guide one of the many democratic meetings we see in the film where the students are upset with him because he asked them to stop jumping off some plastic bins so they wouldn’t get hurt. One girl was so upset with the teacher she said she would not come back to school over the issue. Another student and assistant teacher decide if the main teacher was guilty or innocent in this situation and provide the verdict he was innocent.

I could go on. Watching the children choose over and over again to fight with one another, wander around the school, ride bikes, and play video games was so disheartening. These children needed guidance. They needed a teacher who would instruct them, provide boundaries, set high expectations, and discipline them when needed. They needed an adult to lead them; someone with wisdom and experience and compassion for his students.

I am all for giving kids choices, when adults are helping them to learn how to choose. For example, when I taught at Stephens College Children’s School, the children had a 90-minute literacy block. During that time, they would attend reading groups, writing circles, and meet individually with a teacher. But they could also choose how to structure the rest of their time. They could choose to read or write or edit or work on a new poem or publish some writing. But there were parameters for their choices.

Teaching and disciplining children is biblical. It is God’s design for adults to model and instruct children so that they will grow up in faith and knowledge and wisdom. To this point, consider the following verses:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. –  Proverbs 22:6

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. – Matthew 19: 13-15

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15

This is why Approaching the Elephant was such a difficult film for me. It showed in explicit ways how children are unable to guide themselves to make good choices when left completely to their own desires. They need some help to see what is wise and good and true. As Christians, this is especially important because, as the verses above proclaim, we are charged by God to teach our children about Him and His holy word. Teaching, instructing, and disciplining is not optional work – we want to impress God’s truths and teaching on our kids’ hearts.

You’ll remember I said at the beginning of this post I both “loved and hated” this film. Though I’ve mostly discussed what I found troubling, there were some things that make this film stand out. First, it is beautiful to watch. In striking black and white, the film feels timeless and set apart highlighting the gray subject matter of the film. Secondly, the film is impeccably edited. The director, Amanda Rose Wilder, condensed hours and hours of footage into a tight and engaging story that allows the viewers to feel like they are a spectator of the inner workings of the school. And, lastly, the film feels true. Though I didn’t agree with the philosophy of the school, the film itself reserved comments and ideas about what the viewers should take from it. Since there were no interviews or voiceovers or soundtrack, we simply got to watch the teacher and his students interact. We are to draw our own conclusions and this is why the film felt real and pure.

If Approaching the Elephant ever makes its way to Ragtag or Netflix, be sure to check it out. Through this film was frustrating in many ways, it was still engaging and caused me to roll out some of my thinking on how important teachers are for our children and their future.

Jan 162014
 

God has made it clear in his word, that parents have a responsibility in teaching their children truth. It’s scary! No one is an expert. One way to do teach children truth, is by having some time during the day dedicated to worshipping God as a family.

However, be aware of the enemy that is idealism…

You may have this picture of a perfect family sitting around the table listening attentively to you as you read through the whole book of Leviticus in one sitting. Your children ask theological and thoughtful questions, which you in turn answer wisely. You sing through a couple of Psalms from memory, before taking it in turns to pray for 30 minutes…

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you then turn to look at your table. Your wife is looking exasperated and rolling her eyes, your two-year old is throwing spaghetti around the kitchen, your five-year old is burping the alphabet and your teenager has her earphones in – inattentive to the mayhem around her. If you’re a single parent… it’s simply impossible!?

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Don’t let the gap between the ideal and the reality stop you! We pray that your children will grow up to thank you for persevering, and the memories of the truth you tried to teach them to be permanent and real truth in their hearts.

Growing up, the best time for my family to come together was (bizarrely), breakfast! We would be under strict instructions to shower (5 minute max in our one bathroom for seven people!), dress, and be down for breakfast by 7:15am! A bowl of porridge would be shoved in my groggy face, and as I slowly came awake to the world around me, Dad would open the Bible. As there are five children in my family, we each had one day of the week that was ‘our special day’. Being the eldest, Monday was the day I got to sit on Dad’s knee (a practice I’m not ashamed to admit I still do…) whilst he read God’s word.

Looking back it was very simple. Dad would read a couple of verses or story from a book in the Bible – we did all sorts. I remember my brothers in particular loving Judges because of all the blood and gore! He would then (starting from the youngest), ask each of us kids an age appropriate question, from basic comprehension and observation, to meaning and application. Silly answers and bursts of laughter would sometimes ensue!

The lucky person on Dad’s knee would get to pick who prayed for what (we had it written on a card – family, friends, missionaries etc). The hilarity was to choose the order of who prayed when e.g. age, height, biggest nose (and yes it caused arguments). Sometimes, we would add a song, missionary book, poems, or even history to our morning routine. Sometimes life was just too crazy, and getting out the door was mission accomplished in itself!

In this safe environment we copied and learnt from our parents skills in how to read God’s word, and pray out loud together. I look back on those years with such fond memories. All together it was probably only 10 minutes (varying on the day!). Sometimes we would have big life questions. Sometimes we would simply want more porridge.

It can be a struggle for parents and children to read the Bible regularly together – but help is at hand.

  • The Crossing Kids team has put up some devotionals (here) for you to read with your family.
  • Using different children’s storybook Bible’s can be helpful. Suggestions: The Jesus StoryBook Bible, The Big Picture, The Mighty Acts of God, My First Hands-On Bible, The Beginners Bible… The Gospel Story Bible, to name just a few!
  • Long Story Short, and Old Story New – family devotions (found on Amazon)
  • Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – by Sally Lloyd-Jones (f0und on Amazon). I love this for myself!

From the same website…

  • Table Talk is designed to form the basis for a short family Bible time – maybe just five minutes at a mealtime. It includes a simple discussion starter or activity that leads into a short Bible reading, and can be used alongside eXplore The Bible (XTB). Here you can see a sample, and video of it being put into practice…!
  • XTB (eXplore The Bible) is our range of Bible reading notes designed especially for 7-10 year-olds. XTB encourages children to understand, apply and pray through the Bible in an accessible and thought-provoking way. XTB also links in with Table Talk, our Bible reading resource for families – so you can use the two books together, or on their own, whichever suits you best. Here you can see a sample, and video of it being put into practice…!
  • Beginning with God helps parents with young children to explore the Bible with their child. It provides a simple and fun way to start your child in a regular habit of reading God’s word and growing to know God, who loves them. Here you can see a sample, and video of it being put into practice…!

Here is another blog that gives some helpful suggestions and advice re family devotions… http://asahel.wordpress.com/2006/08/30/doing-family-devotions/.

Remember to release yourself from the pressures of being a ‘perfect parent and family’. Jesus is all we need. Our identity is in him. He is LORD. We pray, trust him, and go for it!!

Simply to make you smile, have a read of the prayers below (if you click on it, you can then zoom in)…

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Oct 302013
 

Did you know that there is a list of the classroom clean up responsibilities posted inside the cabinet of each Crossing Kids room? After a busy Sunday morning, that probably sounds like the last thing you want to think about. But I’d bet that you already do most, if not all, of what is on the list each week as you serve.

If you serve during the 8:00 or 9:30 services, you won’t be able to clean up the entire classroom before the next group of volunteers arrives. We still ask that you wipe down the tables, tidy up unused toys, and organize the supplies left on the countertops so that the next hour’s team can have a fresh start in the room. If you serve during the 11:00 service, please help us take good care of our rooms by completing this list at the end of each Sunday morning. You can have the kids help, too!

Below is a copy of the list posted in your classroom. If you work during Seeds of Promise or Night Crossing, be sure to follow the same guidelines. We are thankful for everything you do to serve Crossing families and help us maintain clean and safe classrooms!

Classroom Clean Up Procedures

• Help kids put toys back in proper bins when finished playing.

• Make sure all toys are neatly put back on their shelves in proper bins.

• Stack the chairs in the corner by the windows.

• Put away all supplies (i.e. diapers, pens, etc.) in appropriate clean bins and place in the cabinets.

• Throw away all trash including open snack packages.

• Wipe down all counters, tables, chalkboards, and chairs (if needed) using Windex.

• Wash all toys that have been in children’s mouths using Clorox Anywhere Spray.

• Wash all plastic sippy cups and let air dry in the drying rack.

• Wipe the mirror in Infants, Crawlers, Walkers Room with Pledge.

• Put used socks, crib sheets, blankets in the laundry bag.

• Take classroom rosters on clipboard to Registration Desk.

• Circle any items needed on the supply list and leave on counter.

NOTE: Our cleaning company will clean floors and take out the trash. 

Oct 242013
 

Why do we do Night Crossing for Kids?

Why do we seemingly feed kids with sugar, pump them up, and then send them home?

Why are we trying to teach tired kids who just want to play? Is it worth it?

Are we just providing child care?

And what’s with all the shoes boxes?!

 

You may start the evening like this…

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… but go home like this?

temper-tantrum-girl Child covering his ears with his hands.

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Sorry if this is your experience – whether as a volunteer or parent! Night Crossing for Kids has developed over time. It does provide child care, enabling many adults to take the various classes. But it does so much more.

 

Our Mission:

To partner with families to help kids develop a lifetime relationship with Jesus.

Our hope is that kids will grow in their faith and have a blast at the same time on Wednesday nights while their parents are attending Night Crossing.

 

Our Goals:

Quality Bible Lessons: Kids will learn about God through a fun, age-appropriate large group lesson, high-energy songs, and hands-on games and crafts each week.

Consistency with the Sunday Morning Routine: We will maintain a routine that is similar to what kids experience at Crossing Kids on Sundays.  Kids can expect free play, circle time, a lesson, snack, and playground time.

Safety in the Classroom:  All of our sitters must go through an extensive, nation-wide background check, an application process, and attend our training session.  In addition, we will continue to enforce our registration system for dropping off and picking up children.

 

Sitters – have a look back at your training packet. Read it through again (I find its amazing how quickly I forget things!). Absorb the helpful discipline and classroom management ideas, preventing behaviour problems and managing those that arise. Remember we want to be prayerfully loving and modelling Christ to the children in our classrooms.

This semester we’re using the memory verse from Mark 10:45 to teach children to serve – following Jesus’ perfect example.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45.

Jesus, creator and ruler of the heavens and earth, high King and judge… didn’t come to be served but to serve. He ultimately served his people, by giving up his life for them. Rejected by people, and by his heavenly Father. Not just suffering physically, but spiritually taking upon himself the sins of the whole world. The prophet Isaiah foretells that the promised rescuing Messiah would be ‘a man of sorrows’, ‘despised and rejected by men’…

“Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us

peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all like sheep have gone astray,

each of us turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6.

Wow. I know I too easily forget this, or simply pass it by with a ‘I know this’ attitude. As we teach truths to children, our hearts also can remember, be thankful, warmed and overwhelmed once more with the grace of the Gospel.

Finally, the ‘what’s with all the boxes?’ question…

Operation Christmas Child sends boxes of gifts to children in over 150 countires and territories who would otherwise receive nothing.

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Samariten’s Purse lies behind this wonderful service project. They aim to teach children the great news that Christmas reminds us of. To teach them about the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but serve, and give his life and a random for many. The Crossing is partnering with Operation Christmas Child. Below is the list of suggested gifts. Please bring them by next Wednesday (Oct 30) as we’ll be filling the boxes the following week (Nov 6). Join us in following Jesus’ example of service.

Click here: Operation Christmas Child Promo Video

Items Needed: 

  • Old Shoe Boxes 
  • New School Supplies : Pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, notebooks, coloring and picture books, etc…
  • Toys : Small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch, slinky, etc…
  • Hygiene Items : Toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc…
  • Other : T-Shirts, socks, ball, caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc…
  • Do Not Include: Used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures, chocolate or food, out of date candy, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, or breakable items.

 

Oct 102013
 

How was your day? Fine.

Did you go to school? Yup.

What did you learn? Nothing.

Do you want me to play that game with you? Nope.

Can I do anything to help you? No.

The situation turns into something like this…

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Sound/look familiar? Is this the limit of conversation with children? Do we end up just managing behavior? They just don’t care! How can we go deeper? How do we help them see and learn about God throughout the day?

God says that intentionally talking to children about Him, is part of his training plan:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts…

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Jesus used this intentional, everyday talk as his primary method of teaching. Whilst living, eating and travelling with his disciples, Jesus was intentionally talking, and training them to live God’s way – which brings life.

BEFORE

  • Pray

Ask God to give opportunities to talk, share life and apply God’s word.

  • Be prepared

Are we walking closely with God ourselves? Our talk will reveal where our treasure is, and therefore where our heart is (Prov 5:3?).

If in a lesson, do we know and understand the big idea?

  • Remember

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DURING

  • Chit chat

Talk through the Bible story again together: What did you learn about God today? What did you learn about people/yourself? What makes you go ‘WOW’? How can we thank God? What do we need help with?

Talk about your days together. Maybe they’re excited about Fall, you can praise God for making the beautiful colors. Maybe they’ve seen a funny/weird commercial.

  • Play with purpose

If the story was about a King, pretend to be a King. Repeat the main idea: Jesus is our King.

  • Sing

Singing helps children and adults (!) to remember what they’ve learnt. It’s also a great way for memorizing scripture.

  • You’re on display.

Children are watching. They see how you respond to each situation, frustration, screaming child, worried parents, and hyper kids. Have a look at the ‘Wise Words for Moms’ up in the elementary classrooms, a great resource in being intentional (especially in a heated moment!).

  • Listening

We can learn a lot about where a child is coming from, where their heart is, by listening. Listen and then apply God’s word to their hearts and the specific situations of their lives.

AFTER

  • Pray

Thank God for any conversations. Remember that He can still work, even if we made a complete mess!

  • Follow up

Remember the conversations had with children and try to follow them up the following weeks. E.g. how’s your Grandma doing? How have you lived for God this week? Thank God that he forgives us when we don’t live for Him (including us as adults!).

  • Keep trying

It takes courage and perseverance. Dying to self and the wounds we may receive. Yet, as John A. Younts concludes his book ‘everyday talk’ we see:

“The challenge is great. The power of God is even greater. His power can make your everyday talk what He wants it to be … loving God means many things, but perhaps most profoundly it means loving Him so much that you speak of Him when you walk along the road, when you sit at home, when you lie down and when you get up.”

 

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Oct 042013
 

As Christine talked about in her post earlier this week, we are aiming for something of eternal significance in Crossing Kids: for kids to develop a lifetime relationship with Christ. This post is written for all the teachers in Crossing Kids who commit themselves to teaching the gospel of grace in order to help children follow Jesus all their days.

As teachers in Crossing Kids, we know implementing a lesson successfully can be challenging. There are countless variables that impact how a lesson might go: the kids, the materials, the space, the time, the other leaders, the technology. However, no other variable has as much impact on the success of your lesson as the variable of teacher preparation.

How do we prepare to teach a lesson in Crossing Kids? Is it just reading the lesson through a couple of times on Saturday night? I admit, some weeks, this has been my level of preparation and I see the effects of it on Sunday morning. I feel under-prepared and because kids are so smart, they pick up on this. I come away from these lessons feeling I didn’t hit the mark I’d hoped to.

Below are 8 steps for preparing to teach a lesson in Crossing Kids. I’ve learned that all 8 steps are critical for setting myself and the kids for a successful morning of learning together. The weeks I prepare to this level, I am better equipped to sit back and see God working in the kids’ hearts to know Him better. Truly, as teachers, this is what we are called to: to put everything we can into teaching this next generation so that these kids would develop a lifetime relationship with Christ. It’s worth it.

8 Steps for Preparing to Teach a Lesson

1. Put in the time. Early in the week (ideally Monday or Tuesday), sit down for an hour with your lesson, Bible, pen, highlighter, and post-it notes – and a cup of coffee. Set aside some time Saturday afternoon/evening to go over your lesson again so it is fresh in your mind on Sunday morning.

2. Pray for God to teach you and the children through His life-giving word. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work through you to draw the kids in your group closer to Christ. Humbly ask God to use you for His glory and to build His kingdom.

3. Read the scripture your lesson is about. It’s great to read from a Study Bible, so you can read the notes covering the scripture you will be teaching on. You want to have a solid and deep understanding of what God is saying in His word before you teach.

4. Examine the objectives – Define the “win.” See what it is the kids are supposed to know and/or be able to do at the end of lesson. Clarify these in your mind and see how you can help kids achieve these objectives in the time you have with them. Pray for God’s help.

5. Consider your audience – Think about the age of the kids, the class size, the other leaders in the room (and how to utilize them!), the kids’ developmental and cognitive abilities, cultures, backgrounds, and interests. This will help you tailor your lesson to the group you are working with.

6. Consider the environment – How much space will you have for your lesson? Will you start the lesson sitting on the carpet or at the tables? Will you sit on the floor with the kids or stand while you talk? Will you move the tables around the make room for the game? Think about the physical space and make and notes or diagrams to help you prepare what you will do.

7. Do the activities ahead of time – any crafts, experiments, or games need to be done by the teacher prior to teaching. Make sure you understand the materials and directions so well that you will not need to refer to your notes on Sunday morning.

8. Memorize the lesson. Seriously. Teachers are most effective when they are not reading and referring to their notes. When you memorize what you will say and do during the lesson, your mind is freed up to engage with the children. You also will have much more credibility with the children when they see you talking to them, not reading a piece of paper.

Father God, we pray that you would help us, the teachers in Crossing Kids, to put in the time and effort necessary to prepare for our lessons. We pray you would use us to plant seeds of faith into the children of The Crossing. May they hear the truth, love Your Word, and cherish Christ above all else in their lives. It is a joy to be in your service, God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.