Should Your Kid Ride the Bus?

We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work enviormonments, and raise their families in the most hedonisitic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings.  Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ’s love inside these desperate surroundings.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/wwworks/3957311986/in/photostream/

This quote, which I didn’t write it myself and can’t remember where I got it, came to mind when I was talking with a mother recently.  She was talking about how she was afraid to let her kid ride the bus home, because “nothing good happens on the bus.” The truth is she is right, nothing good really does happen on the bus (bad language, bullying, you know the drill), but does that mean our kids shouldn’t ride on them?

I have known some outstanding parents who have said “no, my kid will not ride the bus.”  Parents who have pulled their kids off the bus, out of public school or away from non-Christian friends because they have noticed their kids being affected negatively by those environments.  I know parents who have pulled their kids out of poor school systems, because they were in fact poor school systems that were only holding their kids back.  Honestly, I think many of these parents were right in pulling their kids out.

I have also known parents who have left their kids on the bus, in the public school system and purposely made sure their kids have non-Christian friends.  I was one of these kids.  I was a bus riding, public school teenager, with several non-Christian friends.  Honestly, I think I am the better for having those experiences, and I think that many other kids would be better for having hem too.

So, when if ever, is it okay to pull your child out of these environments, or should Christian parents keep their kids in there, to grow and to represent Christ?

Should your kid ride the bus?  Should they go to private, or home school, rather than public school?  Should the not hang out with non-Christian kids?  What’s your take?

It Takes A Team To Raise Good Kids

You may, or may not, remember the 1986 Basketball Eastern Conference Finals.  A young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were squaring off against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.  What many people remember from that series is Michael Jordan’s game 2 performance.  In that single game alone, Jordan scored 63 points, which still stands a playoff game record.  The thing that stands out to me, and to most of my Boston friends, is that the Bulls lost that same game.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/arndog/3042577756/

Michael Jordan set a playoff single game scoring record that stands 25 years later, but his team lost the game, and ultimately lost the series.  I think it goes to show, that it takes more than one person to win a basketball game.

It also takes more than parents to raise a great young man or woman.  It takes a team.  Many parents try to do it all by themselves.  They try to be the superstar parent.  They may even score 63 points all by themselves.  The trouble is, parents can be the Michael Jordan of the parenting world, and still lose their kids.

I have written previously about how kids need multiple voices speaking in their life here.  Kids who have no voices speaking into their life, outside of a miracle, are not likely to grow up to be Godly men and women.  Kids who have a all-star parent have a better shot; but how much better off is the kid who also has a youth pastor, or a children’s pastor or Sunday School teacher who is investing in their life?  How much better off is the kid who has close family friends that they know they can go to when they need help with something?

The reality is, even if you are the best parent in the world, there is coming a day when your child will want to talk to someone else about their problems, not you.  In fact, in may be because you are such a great parent, and love your kid so much, that they don’t feel comfortable coming to you.  You are too close to the situation.  When this happens, will your child have not just someone, but the right someone, they feel comfortable talking to?  Will they be going to their friends who will tell them who knows what, or going to someone that you know reflects your families values and priorities?

Who they are going to go to for advice depends on the team you are building when they are young…or whether you are building a team at all.

10 Things Churches Should Learn From Ikea

I’ll admit, I love Ikea.  My first trip to Ikea was less than a year ago when I went to the store in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Since then I have been back to my local Ikea in Avon, Massachusetts, dozens of times.  Honestly, after visiting Ikea so many times I think there are a few things the church could learn from how they run their stores….

1. There is Something for Everyone – Although I have been to Ikea several times now, I have probably only bought furniture 3 or 4 times when I was there.  So, why would I go to Ikea if I am not going to buy furniture?  There are a few reasons, but the biggest one is because my son loves Ikea.  After entering the store the first thing you see is the children’s area.  At Ikea they will watch your kids for you while you shop (nice perk for parents).  Inside the play area there is all sorts of stuff to climb on and play with, there is always a movie playing, and there is a staff that will color and do all sorts of stuff with your kids.  In short, my son loves going to Ikea, not because of the furniture, but because they have an awesome play area that he enjoys.  And, even if your kids decide to stay with you, there are all sorts of mini kids areas throughout the store, where they can play while you shop and look around.

Most stores are not like this.  You walk in and you have to strap you kid down in the cart, because that cart is the only place for them.  Even worse is that many churches are like most stores.  They have no where for kids to go when they show up.  And even if they do have a class, they are boring and kids don’t want to go there anyway.

2. Family Oriented – Not only are their certain spots in the store for you kid, but the entire store is designed to accomadate families.  Two things stand out here.  First, family bathrooms throughout the store with clear signs pointing the way.  Any parent with a child who is having an “emergency” can appreciate this.  Second, their kids meal is about half the cost of a McDonald’s happy meal and is probably 200% more nutritious.  Not only is a good value, but they have a special area where kids can eat their lunch and watch TV and interact with other kids.  Everything from going to the bathroom, to eating, to actually shopping for furniture is designed with the family in mind.

Many churches may have children’s ministries space, but what about the rest of the church?  Family bathrooms?  Crying rooms?  Nursing mother’s rooms?    It wasn’t Ikea, but I was recently at a restaurant that had parking for “Expecting Mother’s and Mother’s of Toddlers.”  What a great idea.

3. Make It Easy for the Customer – When you walk into Ikea the first person you usually meet is the greeter, and not only does he or she greet you, but they hand you a shopping bag.  This doesn’t seem like anything big, until you walk into a BJ’s one day looking for a cart only to realize that all the carts are kept outside, and so you have to walk back out into the cold.

Are churches making things difficult for people?  Do they make it easy to get involved in a small group, get involved in ministry, to give, etc…  Or are people walking right back out the front door looking for a cart?

4. Clear Direction – I don’t believe I have ever been lost in Ikea.  Despite the fact that my local Ikea is 2 giant floors of products, I have never had to wonder which way to go, or where something is, as there are maps all over the place.  Even if you did somehow get lost, all you would have to do is look around and you would probably see a kiosk somewhere near you that has a map of the whole building and each department.  Second, not only are there maps, but there is only one way to go.  Most stores you walk around any which way you like, but at Ikea you start at the beginning and just follow the one isle to the end.  It’s the only official route. There are even arrows on the ground pointing you in the right direction, and clear signage everywhere telling you where to go.

How many churches make it difficult for people, especially first time visitors, to figure things out?  Where to park, where to sit, where that Sunday School class is at, where their kids go, is there even something for their kids?

On a spiritual level, how many people are lost wondering which way to go after they make their first visit, accept Christ, get baptized, etc…

5. They Are Flexible – There is an official route for going through the store, but there are also short-cuts for those who don’t want to take the official path.  Want to cut from bedrooms to bathrooms without having to go through dining rooms?  Not a problem, just take the short-cut.  There is the official path to make it easy for the first-time guest, but are short cuts for those who are more familiar with the store.    They make it easy for both types of people.

Are churches flexible in their approach, willing to give a bit to make it a bit easier for more people?  Or is their favorite two lines, “That’s not how we do it here”, and “This is the way we have always done it”?

6. The Unexpected – Today Ikea surprised me.  Jack and I got to Ikea a little early.  They open at 10, but we pulled into the parking lot at 9:45.  I was content to sit in my car waiting for the doors to open, but I kept noticing people going inside.  I thought I must have misunderstood the opening time, so I got Jack out of the car and we went in.   When I walked in to my surprise the greeter told me the store wasn’t officially opening until 10:00, but they were serving complimentary coffee in the cafeteria for those who got their a little early.  Contrast this with standing outside the post office waiting for them to unlock the door, 5 minutes after they were supposed to open.  Again, today, Ikea surprised me with a nice little perk.

Is church the same boring routine every week?  Or do we do things that mix it up every once in a while?  Small things like gifts for mother’s on mother’s day, and graduation gifts to graduates, go a long way in mixing things up a bit.  Bigger things like Christmas and Easter productions are important too.

7. Attention to Detail – Today I saw one of the Ikea employees cleaning the high-chairs in the cafeteria.  She wasn’t just quickly wiping down the seats, but painstakingly cleaning every square inch of every highchair.  She cleaned the legs, under the chair, the straps, everything.  Here is the crazy part….she wan’t cleaning dirty highchairs, she was actually going back through a stack of clean ones double checking to be sure they were acceptable for customers to use.

Are most churches content with good enough, or do they go the extra mile and re-clean the clean highchairs just to double check?

8. They Let You Take the Experience Home With You – Okay, I’ll admit I am a sucker for the Swedish meatballs they serve.  Those things are amazing.  But what makes them even better is that I don’t have to drive all the way to Ikea to get them, they sell them in their grocery section, which means I can buy them, bring them home and enjoy them anytime I like.

Are Sunday services everything your church offers or is there something for the rest of the week?  Home Care Groups?  Ministries?  Does your church encourage you parishioners to develop their spiritual life beyond attending church?  Are there materials for kids to take home and work on with their parents?  Or, is Sunday morning all their is?

9. It is Possible to Keep The Bathrooms Clean Even With 1,000’s of People Using Them.  Enough said.

10. They Don’t Assume You’re Smart Enough to Figure It Out – Today I noticed a small sign in one of the windows of the cafeteria.  The sign wasn’t selling any products, but rather was explaining that Ikea puts plants on the roof of it’s building to help keep its heating and cooling costs down, which helps the environment.  To be honest without this sign I would have never known this.  I probably would have thought they were doing it because it simply looked cool.

I think many churches assume a lot.  They assume that people understand what baptism, communion, raising of hands in worship and a host of other things are all about.  I wonder how many people sit through a church service, but miss out on so much because churches are assuming they understand everything that is going on?

Again, I love Ikea and I think churches could learn a lot from looking at how they run their stores.  In fact, I am sure there  is even more to learn than what I’ve listed here.  What did I miss from looking at Ikea?  What other lessons can a church learn from looking at other companies and organizations that are doing things well?

 

Save the Shoes

Small acts of kindness can really touch someone. Even if it is something as small as saving their shoes….

If you can’t see the video, click here.

What small thing have you done today, this week, or even this month that made a big difference in someones life? What small thing could you do that would make someones day?

Easter Eggstravaganza

This year we are doing our annual egg hunt a little different.  Rather than just have kids search for eggs on the front lawn of the church, we are stepping it up a few notches and renting a giant inflatable obstacle course for kids to search for all the eggs in.   To go inside the obstacle course we have over 30,000 eggs stuffed with hundreds of pounds of candy!

The egg hunt will be on Easter Sunday morning at Calvary.  If any kid (age 3-11) wants to participate, all they need to do to participate is show up at one of our 3 Sunday morning kid’s services, which are at 8:30, 10:30 or 12:30.

Also, for the younger kids, who might be intimidated by the obstacle course, we have a simple bounce house, or they can simply pick some eggs up out of the grass.

Looking forward to Easter Sunday morning!  This is going to be a ton of fun!  Be sure to pass the word along, and invite all the kids you know to join us!

Humility – Kidzone April Theme

This coming month in KidZone is all about humility.  Each week our kids will be learning about putting others first, and giving them what they think they deserve.

God created new born babies to demand attention, to insure that they get everything they need.  Ideally as kids grow, mature, and become less dependent, they also learn to be less demanding and more giving.  Reality is though this transition doesn’t always take place, and so, many kids continue to be as selfish at age 8, 38, and 68, as the day they they were born.  This month is about addressing this issue.

Our theme verse for the month is “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or van conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3, NIV.  If your a parent and you are interested in following along with what we are talking about in KidZone, our lessons this month are….

April 3rd – Served (Jesus washes the disciples feet) – John 13:1-17 – Treat other people like they are more important than you.

April 10th – Arrested (Jesus prays and is arrested) – Luke 22:39-44, John 18:2-11 – To put others first, you need to put God first.

April 17th – Crucified (Jesus is tried and crucified) – March 14:53-65 & 15:1-39 – Jesus put us first when he died on the cross.

April 24th – Resurrected (Jesus is buried and resurrected) – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20 – We should put others first because Jesus is alive.

Whether you feel your kid has learned this lesson, or needs to hear it desperately, be sure to bring them out this coming Sunday. KidZone services start at 8:30, 10:30, and 12:30.

The End is Near

Monks on the island of Cyprus have an interesting custom.  These monks, by torchlight in the middle of the night, visit a catacomb where the bones of other monks are kept.  While there, they pray and chant for their deceased brothers.  At first this ritual may seem bizarre, or even a bit morbid, but they do it for a very important reason.  This ritual is practiced to keep the reality that death is inevitabel to us all front and center.  It doesn’t matter who you are, the richest, the most popular, even the most spiritual person, will die like everyone else.  These monks want to remember that truth, so that they are reminded to spend the little time they do have here, wisely.

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When we realize how scarce our time is, we value it a little differently.  For example, I added it up, and I only have about 751 weeks left with my son Jack before he leaves for college.  No way around it, Jack will turn 18 one day, move out of the house and I will no longer have him to myself.  751 weeks, give or take a few, and there is no way to get more.  This reality makes me value my time differently, makes me spend it a little differently, makes me prioritize my time with Jack over other things that are really trivial in comparison.

Too many people invest their time poorly.  They spend their time earning lots of money, only to find out when they reach 70 or 80, that they have burned all their relationships and have no one to spend that money on.  They are even too old to spend it all on themselves before they die.

Others spend their whole life building themselves up.  They build their career, their platform, their legacy.  The trouble is they never take the time to invest in others, so that someone picks up their mantle and their legacy continues after they are gone.  They spend their whole life building something that will die with them.

What are the things that really matter?  Fortune, fame, glory?  For me it is my relationship with God, family, friends, my ministry at the church.  Your list might be different.  Whatever your priorities in life, it is important to realize you only have a limited time on this earth to invest in them.  When that time is up, it is up.  You can’t reallocate how you spent your time after your gone.  You can’t go back and focus on the things that really matter after life is over.  And, the reality is, the end is getting near.

When was the last time you thought about how short life really is?  When you think about the brevity of life, what priorities come into focus?  Are you focusing on them currently, or do you need to start spending your time differently?

Why Teens Rebel

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I have heard it more than once.  “Can you pray for my son.   He is just going through that tough time in life that all kids go through and rebel?”  It is a statement that surrenders to the idea that every kid, with few exceptions, has to go through a difficult time where they rebel against their parents.  But, why is it that so many teens seem to hit a time where they want to do their own thing, and go their own direction?

I know that every kid is different, and no doubt there are many reasons kids rebel, but I think that one reason some teenagers rebel against their parents is because their families are simply boring.  Here is what I mean…

Think about the average family for a minute.  They wake up late, leaving no time to spend together in the morning, except to argue  about who needs in the bathroom.  Then off to work and school, typically sitting in the car in complete silence, or perhaps with the radio on.  They spend their days separated, then the kids return home after school to an empty house that is full of nothing to do except passively watching TV and updating their Facebook status.   Then there is taco night for dinner, followed by dad heading off to the living room to watch TV, mom to clean the house, and the teenage son or daughter bored out of their mind heads out to hang out with friends.  When they return home, the TV is still on, like it has been for 6 hours straight.  Before everyone starts winding down and heading to bed, there is some light arguing about how there is still homework to complete.   The teenager slams their door shut, talks to their friends on the phone, sends a few (hundred) text messages, then falls asleep.   The next day, and almost every day thereafter, the same boring routine is repeated…again…and again.

Think about this routine for a minute.  It’s boring.  It’s mundane.  It lacks a sense of purpose.   And it drives kids to look for something better to do.  The trouble is they often find something more exciting in all the wrong places.

Tim Kimmel in Grace Based Parenting writes,

If we fail to address our children’s need for a significant purpose, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily end up living useless and unproductive lives.  In most cases, our lack of deliberateness in grooming their sense of purpose sends them into the future with a foreboding sense of irrelevancy and far more vulnerable to Satan’s counterfeits.

Read that line again, “Sends them into the future with a foreboding sense of irrelevancy and far more vulnerable to Satan’s counterfeits.”  That I believe is why many teens rebel.  Searching for purpose that their family doesn’t provide, they have went out looking for it, and have stumbled across something fake.  It might be a person, an activity, a substance, or something else, but they have found something that offers them greater purpose and joy than sitting around bored, watching TV all day, and arguing over homework.

What if families offered something better though?  What if families offered something that catches the imagination of their kids? What if rather than sitting glued to the TV every day, they served together in a soup kitchen once a month feeding the homeless?  What if families gave up their vacation one year to go on a missions trip together?  What if rather than ignoring each other at home, families spent time serving in their church and community together?   What if parents spent time showing their kids there is a God ordained purpose for their lives, a purpose that cheap substitutes cannot fulfill?

If this happened, I think Satan’s counterfeits would seem far less appealing to teens.  I think less kids would rebel.

I don’t want to oversimplify a complex problem.  Again, I realize that there may be many reasons kids decide to rebel against their parents and their values.  I wonder, though, if one of the reasons kids do rebel is because their families are just so boring?  Because their family lack a sense of purpose, and the counterfeits seem to offer something their family does not?  What do you think?

How to Save $100 Off the Cost of Summer Camp

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This year Calvary is hoping to send more kids and youth to summer camp than ever before. In order to do this we are offering a $100 scholarship for every single camper. Hopefully this will make camp affordable for every family. To qualify all you have to do is be a family who attends Calvary, fill out the camp registration form for your child (which can be found in the church lobby), and turn in the completed form. It’s that easy.

This deal is for every camper, so if you are a family of 2, 3, 4 or more kids, they all can save $100 if they register through the church.  In fact, if you send 2 kids from the same household you get $105 off, and 3 or more kids and you get $110 off per kid.

The dates for camps this year are as follows:

Kid’s Camp (3rd through 6th grade in fall of 2011) – July 4th – 8th
Senior High Camp (9th – 12th grade in the fall of 2011) – July 11th – 15th
Junior High Camp (6th -8th grade in the fall of 2011) – July 18th – 22nd

No, that is not a typo.  Both Kids and Jr. High Camp is for 6th graders. They have a choice. If you are unsure of what camp to send them to feel free to contact me or Pastor Clark.

Hurry up and register.  To meet the early registration deadline we need to have your completed application, which includes a physical dated within 2 years of the start of camp, by April 24th.  The early registration cost is only $155, for one kid with the discount, after that it goes up to $180.

Parents, you do not want your kids to miss camp.  There will be swimming, canoeing, paddle boats, archery, tubing, hiking, bonfires, a game room, tons of fun and competition, but most importantly an opportunity for your kid to connect with God. You don’t want them to miss out!

Kidzturn Supersonic

Strap on your helmets, and get ready for another awesome week with Kidzturn! It will have been 2 years since we had then them here at Calvary last. I have missed all the Lussiers, Elmer, games and especially the foam machine. So, I am super excited to have them back with us this year from May 1st to 4th.

Each night beginning at 6:30 everyone will be meeting in the sanctuary for a time of worship, games, a sermon and altar time. Everything is designed for kids, but for the whole family (kids, moms, dads, guardians, grandparents, great aunts twice removed, everyone). Here is a little glimpse at what each night is all about…

If you can’t see the video click here.

For those of you who have been out to this event before I know that you are already writing the dates on your families calendar. For those of you who haven’t been out to this before, trust me you do not want your kids to miss any of these services. Again, the dates are May 1st – 4th beginning at 6:30 each night.

Also, be sure to invite every kid you know. There will be some wicked nice prizes for the kid that brings the most visitors.