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Summer Camp, Should I Let My Child Go?

June 21st means that Summer is here; and Summer means camp is just around the corner!  Something that both parents and kids get excited for or dread.  For kids, they get to hanging out with friends all day, stay up late, camp fire and smores, swim, ropes course, sleep on the top bunk, and have a week off from parents!  For parents, its a week off from kids!  On the down side, they both get a week off from each other, which can be really hard.

The first time I went to camp I was in 4th grade and was so excited!  When we got there I met the awesome counselors, got to go swimming, played on inflatables and had so many smores!  I was having a great time until it came to “lights out”.  That’s when I realized I was in a different bed away from the comfort of my home and parents!  Even though I had spent the night at friend’s and family’s houses before, this was different.  I wanted to go home.  I felt alone and scared and cried myself to sleep that first night.

Now, please hear me.  That first night doesn’t compare to the fun I ended up having and what God had planned for me.  Camp is where I realized my relationship with God had to go deeper.  Its where I saw the power of the Holy Spirit moving in my life and I received God’s calling to go into ministry.

Fast forward 18 years, I’m still going to camp, but this time I’m taking kids to camp and get to experience another perspective: parents!  I hate to say it, but parents are the #1 reason kids don’t end up going to camp.  It’s not the kids, money, or location, but parents!  Every year I hear some variation of “they’re too young” or “they’re so dependent on me”.

First of all, every single camp there is has been created for specific ages by people who have studied and worked with kids for many years.  Most overnight camps require kids to be 8 years of age or older.  It’s not true that “they are too young” and should never be used as a reason for not sending your child to camp.

Second, saying that a child is too young or too dependent is just an excuse that says a parent isn’t ready to let go.  BUT THAT’S OKAY!  THAT’S NORMAL!  From the moment they are born we do everything for them.  They truly are dependent on us!  However, although it’s a harsh reality, parenthood isn’t about doing everything for your child, but learning to let go at the right time and teaching them to be independent from you.

I can understand and relate to a child being dependent on their parent.  My daughter, Michealyn, just turned 5 months old a couple of days ago.  For the past month and a half she has shown signs of wanting to turn over from back to front while laying on the ground.  Many times she has gotten so close but always flops back.  Her mom and I see that all she has to do is throw her leg over and she’ll get it.  We want to help her so bad and just move her leg for her, but we realize if we do that then she will never learn how to roll by herself.  She would always be dependent on us to turn over.  It just so happened that on the day she turned 5 months she was finally able to roll over all by herself.  Mikayla and I we so proud!  Soon she will be crawling, walking, doing what we currently do for her and even heading off to camp.  Eventually, we will have to learn to let go!

 

Here are the benefits of camp that I hope will encourage you to send your child when the time comes!

Friendships

On a weekly basis, kids spend between 2 to 4 hours at church.  That’s not a lot of time to develop strong friendships with other kids.  They probably have closer friends from school than from church.  The activities at camp are designed to have kids work and play closely together, and even build trust amongst each other.  Since camp is all day, everyday for a week, it’s a great place for them to develop deeper friendships with their church friends that can last a lifetime!

Qualified Camp Staff

The counselors that attend camp with the kids are hand selected by the children’s ministry leadership.  That means they have filled out an application and had a background check done before they can even serve in the kids ministry.  On top of that, every year we have to fill out a 12 page “Cabin Staff” application from the camp and have another background check done.  Your child will be in a safe environment led by qualified camp staff!

Personal Growth

It doesn’t always happen, but there are kids who do have a hard time being away from home.  I’ve had kids come up to me in tears because they miss their parents or even their pets, and I’ve heard kids cry themselves to sleep.  Being independent isn’t easy but it is necessary for a child’s personal growth.  Like I said before, your child will be in a safe environment led by qualified camp staff who have had training on how to guide kids through these sensitive situations.

I’ll tell you flat out, we never promise a child they can call home because the moment they hear their parent’s voice their camp experience is over.  All they can think about is going home.  There are even camp staff dedicated for this specific situation. And when these situations arise, our goal is to get them through the night because we know they will be fine and happy in the morning!  When they are able to get through a week of being away from home and away from parents, kids will have a sense of accomplishment and that they can do anything!

Spiritual Growth

Camp is a place where kids can leave their usual distractions behind and have the opportunity to focus on Jesus!  Going to camp with Biblical teaching, leadership and encouragement is the equivalent of attending church every Sunday for a whole year!  I have no doubt that when your child seeks Jesus at camp, they will come home with a deeper relationship with God and even having received a revelation.

It’s Just Five Days!

Actually its really just four day with three full days at camp and two half days that are spent traveling!  I understand that it’s hard to be away from your child with next to no contact save social media and mail time.  People post about camp all the time on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!  Just follow your children’s pastor or ministry page and you will get to see all the fun your child is having as if you are really there!

Since camp isn’t a full week, it can be hard to send your child mail and have it arrive on time.  I would suggest you write three notes with some goodies and give them to your children’s pastor before camp. That way they can personally deliver your message to your child at camp.  This can even help with homesick kids!

 

If you have any other concerns with your child going to camp, I want to encourage you to talk to you children’s pastor, leaders and even parents who have sent their kid to camp before.  Summer camp is too important for a child to miss out!

Why Should I Send My Child To VBS?

What is Vacation Bible School?  Why is it such a big deal that so many churches host one?  Well, VBS is a much bigger deal than most of us probably think!  It’s origin dates back over 100 year ago in Hopedale, Illinois in 1894.  A public school teacher, D. T. Miles, who was also a Sunday school teachers, felt that she didn’t have enough time to adequately teach the Bible to children.  Using a local school, she had forty kids enroll in a four week daily Bible school.  (Wikipedia, 2016)

Today, churches all across the US host some sort of Vacation Bible School.  Even though the names, themes and subjects are different, they all have one goal: to teach kids about Jesus!

As of 2016, Lifeway Press stats that on average 2.7 million people are enrolled in VBS.  73,000 accept Jesus as their Savior.  3,000 people commit their lives to so form of ministry.  And 5,600 people choose to attend church.  (Lifeway Press, 2016)

VBS is more than just an opportunity for parents to get their kids out of the house for a few hours.  It’s a chance to introduce them to Jesus and teach them sound doctrine that will help them grow into mature Christian adults.

Judges 2:10 tells us that after Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses, died, a generation grew up who didn’t know about God or what He had done for them!  That literally means that parents didn’t teach their kids about God.  We don't want that to ever happen again!

Here are five principles that guide the development of VBS curriculum:

1. Flagship Church Event

Not only is VBS a fun and distinctive church event, but it’s an opportunity for everyone attending to grow spiritually.  Not only do the kids learn in-depth Bible teachings but the leaders do as well.  It encourages me when a leader says that they grew from the experience of teaching kids and the content.

2. Centered Around A Theme

If there was no theme, VBS would pretty must be a regular day at school, and that’s not fun for kids.  The theme allows the kids to have an experience that is different from Sunday morning.  Church go all out with decorations to create a fun filled environment!

3. Promotes Effective Teaching

VBS curriculum allows teachers to establish relationships with kids to help lead meaningful learning experiences.  It allows everyone to teach kids according to their abilities!

4. Sound & Revenant Bible Study

Everything we do at VBS is based around specific Bible content from games to snacks to crafts and more.  We want kids to know the Bible and VBS allows kids to experience and respond to the gospel message.

5. Strategic Outreach Tool

Vacation Bible School is an opportunity to introduce kids to Jesus who wouldn’t normally come on a Sunday morning.  Its an easy way for church kids to invite their friend to experience Jesus in a way they will always remember!

 

References:

Wikipedia. (2016) Vacation Bible School.  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacation_Bible_School.

Lifeway Press. (2016) Galactic Starveyors VBS 2017 Administrative Guide pg. 5

Prayer

Cell phones are one of the most amazing technological advances ever!  I mean, you can use it to talk to someone on the opposite side of the world!  I remember when cell phones started to become more common in households and now most people don’t even have a home phone anymore.  With smartphones available, it almost impossible to do anything without them!  They allow us to stay in communication through voice calls, texting, emails and social media!

How incredible is God that He created a way for us to talk to Him?!  The Bible is probably the main way God talks to us; and prayer is the main way we talk to Him.  Just like a cell phone, we can be anywhere in the world and He will hear our prayer!

Once back when I was 12 or 13 years old, God answered my prayer over night!  I was in 8th grade, a middle-schooler, and I was asked by a 9th grade high school girl to be her homecoming date.  Now this girl and I were friends, we went to the same church and were in the youth drama ministry.  We had known each other for about a year and I thought it was so cool to: 1) be asked to a dance and 2) be asked by an older girl!

I wanted to go, of course, but when I asked my parents, they were skeptical.  Not ruling it out, they encouraged me to pray about it and see what God said.  So that night, I prayed and asked God if I should/could go to my friend’s homecoming.  When I woke up, I sensed in my spirit a gentle and simple “No” from God.

A moment later, my mom walked in and to let me know that her and my dad prayed about it and thought it was okay that I went.  I told her what the Lord had told me and made the decision not to go.

I was taught at a young age how to pray which is why I believe we need to teach our kids to pray from the moment they are born.  Now, of course babies can’t pray; but they do watch and that’s how they learn!  Everyone in my family prays all the time.  As far back as I can remember, we prayed for everything: food, needs and bedtime!

Here are some things to consider when teaching your child to pray:

Keep It Short

Kid’s attention spans are much shorter than adult’s and if you pray for long periods of time, they can forget why and what you were praying for.  And besides, do you like listening to others praying for a long time?  I doubt God does either.

Check out Luke 18:9-14.  Its a story of a Pharisee (someone who represents believers) and a tax collector (someone who represents sinners) praying to God.  The Pharisee prayed a long exasperating prayer, but the tax collector simply asked God to have mercy on him and admitted he was a sinner.  Jesus concludes the story saying that the tax collector’s short and honest prayer was answered.

Remember: Your prayers don’t need to be long or eloquent for God to hear you.  He is always listening, willing and waiting to answer!

Use Scripture

The Bible is full of all different kids of prayers!  Psalms is mostly prayers and in Matthew 6:5-15 Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray.  Pattern your prayers after prayers in the Bible!

Also, use Scripture as a prayer.  For example, using Psalm 117:2 you can say, “Lord, thank You for Your great love and that You are faithful.  Help us to love like You love and be faithful in all we do.  Amen.”

Pray For Different Things/At Different Times

There are different types of prayer: thanking, asking, and praising.  We probably do a lot of asking in prayer.  When I don’t know what to do in a situation I ask God to show me how to handle it.  Our kids are going to go through hard situations and if they see that you go to God for help, so will they!

The great thing about prayer is you can do it anywhere at anytime!  When you’re driving with your kids you can pray for a safe drive wherever you are going.  We know that everything we have is a gift from God, so when you receive anything, thank Him for it.  When you wake up, thank God for another day!

Your kids love you and want to be like you.  When they see that you pray in all circumstances, they will do the same.

Celebrate Answered Prayers

God hears and answers our prayers!  Its usually a yes, no or not right now; but it’s so exciting when God answers our prayers!  Celebrate as a family when your prayers are answered!  It even gives you another opportunity to teach your kids to pray a prayer of thanks to God!

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This Sunday, May 21st is the National Day of Prayer for VBS and a great time to pray as a family!  VBS is an amazing opportunity for churches to reach the kids in their community for Jesus!  Almost 3 million kids attend VBS in the US!  This Sunday, would you pray for kids all across the nation to be able to attend and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior?

Mother's Day

Your mom is probably the only “person who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”  Our mom holds a special place in our heart, so I’m sure you can image my surprise when I found out that Mother’s Day has only been celebrated in the US for 103 year as a national holiday!

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother.  Ever since, Anna campaigned to make “Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the US.  In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, a national holiday to honor mothers.  (Wikipedia, n.d.)

However, thousands of years before Anna Jarvis, mothers have been recognized around the world at celebrations such as the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration.  Today, we celebrate along with over 80 countries on the second Sunday in May!  Some countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent, second Sunday of February, the first Monday of July, and even on specific dates.  (Wikipedia, n.d.)  It amazes me that we can live in different parts of the world, have a different culture and even different beliefs, yet we all recognize the significance of motherhood.

Four months ago, my wife and I became parents to little Michaelyn Marie, our first.  Which means that 2017 will be a year of firsts for us.  I’m so excited to celebrate Mikayla as a mother!  The love that she has for our daughter and her attentive, sweet spirit are just the beginning of a long list of attributes that make her an amazing mother!

Both Mikayla and I have been incredibly blessed to grow up with amazing mothers!  It is only by their unconditional love that we have learned to love.  However, I do recognize that not everyone grew up under the same conditions.  Some mothers aren’t as attentive or as loving; and some mothers weren’t around at all.  But there are a couple things we all should remember.

First, no matter how old we get, we will always be children; whether or not our mother was present during our childhood, or even if she has passed on.  The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promises; ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” (Nelson. 1982)

For those who grew up with an amazing mom, honoring her comes easier than for those who’s mother wasn’t.  If you are the latter, I want to encourage you to set aside any resentment you have towards your mother, obey what God’s Word says and honor your mother at least for giving you life!  Remember that this command comes with a promise!  Obey and see how the Lord will bless you!

Second, Genesis teaches us that both male and female were created by God.  While we celebrate our mothers this Sunday, remember to give thank and honor to God.  He was the one to give life and He continues to give life through all women today!  Just like we wouldn’t be here without out mom, none of us would be here without God!

 

References:

Wikipedia. (n.d.) Mother’s Day.  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother's_Day

Nelson, T. (1982) The Bible, NKJV.  Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ephesians+6&version=NKJV

What Bible Should My Child Have?

Most of us have walked into a Christian bookstore to buy a new Bible, but when we arrive at the “Bible Section” of the store and see shelves and shelves of Bibles we become overwhelmed with all the choices!  We consider which translation to buy, with or with out a concordance or commentary.  Do you want maps located in the back or devotions?  And then there is the cover to consider.  Finally we pick the best one, buy it and are so proud to carry it on Sunday.

Now it’s time to pick out a Bible for your child through the same seemingly impossible process, except now you have to find one according to age!  An already complex system just became harder!  You could barely pick one for you, how are you going to pick one for your child?  After all, the Bible is a very special book; it’s God’s Word which we hide in our heart and use to raise, train and teach our children!

When you are searching for the perfect Bible for your child, here are some things to consider:

Age

Every child should learn about Jesus at their level!  Of course babies aren’t expected to bring a Bible to the church nursery but that doesn’t mean the Bible shouldn’t be read to them.  Many Christian bookstores sell “Baby Bibles”, however, they usually are just a regular Bible with a cute picture on the cover.

My daughter, Michaelyn, is four months old and doesn’t have a Bible.  When Baby Dedication Sunday comes around we plan on getting her a Bible that she can use when she is older, but until she can read it by herself, my wife and I take time to read it to her.  (I would suggest skipping over some parts though.  I mean, what baby should hear about Sodom and Gomorrah or demon-possessed people?)

When your child enters the preschool class on Sundays would be the perfect time to introduce bringing a Bible to Church.  They can’t read it and they most likely won’t use it in class, but it will develop a discipline at a young age to bring their Bible to church.

Any Bible with the word children’s or toddler in the title would be appropriate for preschool aged kids.  These Bibles will have lots of pictures and rewritten stories for their level.  Now, Bible are more than something we bring to church.  It’s our sacred book that gives wisdom and insight for living.  Even though it’s a kids Bible and not what we would consider “Scripture”, make sure you read it to them.  They need to learn that it’s a book that we consistently use!

Once your child enters kindergarten and begins attending classes where they will actually use it, buy them an actual Bible.  This is an age where they begin to read and most church programs begin to teach the books of the Bible.  By this age, most kids know what books are and how the table of contents works, and the Bible can be used in the say way.  Kindergarteners who attend our Awana clubs will learn all the New Testament books.  In 1st grade they learn all the Old Testament books; and by 2nd grade they can quote all the books of the Bible and start learning how to look up scripture.  Having an actual Bible help them understand how to use it.

The Adventure Bible is great for elementary age kids.  It even has fact about the characters, maps, book introductions and even a dictionary/concordance.  However, my personal favorite is the Fire Bible for Kids.  Not only does it have everything the Adventure Bible has, but it also has an interactive smart phone app with activities for each book of the Bible!

Translation 

Although we have one Gospel, it’s been re-written many times for readability.  The King James Version would probably be the hardest for kids to read because it’s written in Old English.  New King James Version just replaces the Old English words for their modern terms.  The New Living Translation and English Standard Version are probably the easiest for kids to read.

Check with your church’s kids ministry and see what version they use.  You want your child to have the same translation the kid’s pastor is teaching from so it is easier to follow along in their Bible.  The New International Version has been the most commonly used in churches and kids ministries.

Reading Level

Every book as a reading level and that includes the Bible and all of the many translations.  Having a Bible with the appropriate reading level for your child will help them read and understand it better.  A 5th grader shouldn’t have a 2nd grade reading level Bible translation, however, it would be better for them to have a Bible with a higher reading level.  Even though it might be harder for them to read, eventually they will be able to read at that higher reading level; and reading at a higher reading level will help their vocabulary.  (A resource list of Bible translations and their reading levels is provided at the bottom of the page)

Provide the Complete Bible

When purchasing a Bible for your child, make sure it has both the Old and New Testaments.  Lots of Bible just provide the New Testament along with Psalms & Proverbs.  The Bible as a whole tells the story about God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation.  Giving a child a New Testament Bible won’t provide them with the foundation (the Old Testament) that the Gospel (the New Testament) and our faith is built on!  Many things that Jesus did, such as celebrating Passover and dying on the cross and coming back to life, are shown in the Old Testament.

The book of John in the New Testament says in chapter 3, verses 14 & 15, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (NIV, 1984)  How would they know what Moses did if they only have the New Testament?  The Old Testament points to Jesus and the New Testament reveals Him!

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For me, the bottom line is that we need to get God’s Word into the hands and hearts of our child no matter their age.  One promise we have from God is that when we train up a child in the way they should go, they won’t depart from it when they get older! (Proverbs 22:6, translation my own based on NKJV, 1982)  We need to train our kids to love Jesus and His Word so that they love Him when they are older!

(A resource list of Bibles for kids are listed at the bottom of the page)

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Bible Translation Reading Levels

 
 
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Kids Bible List