the board of truth

Back in the day, when we younger, thinner, and less wrinkled, Rich made me a little book: The Book of Truth.

It was filled from cover-to-cover with bible verses which all proclaimed my identity in Christ. I needed my thinking to be reconfigured with God’s truth, and filling my mind with those bible verses was one way that helped to recalibrate my thinking in line with God’s. That’s the simple command that Paul gives in Romans 12 when he tells the church to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Of course the journey continues forever, this side of eternity. There are new aspects of God, and my identity in Him, that I need to re-engage with, or learn afresh, on a regular basis. There are some days where living in God’s truth feels a lot harder than others. I’m guessing maybe you feel the same.

I’ve been thinking about how we are helping our kids to walk in their true identity as God’s kids. We aim to read the bible every evening with our kids. This usually happens. But at the end of a long day, when everyone is feeling a bit cream-crackered, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a ticking-the-box thing, or a passing-on-information-thing. There is definitely some value in this, and the kids are picking up foundational truths. But I know from my own life that if the word isn’t applied, and if it doesn’t take root in my heart, it doesn’t really make any lasting difference: it just remains as head-knowledge.

We want the Holy Spirit to speak to our kids as they read the word, and we want to help equip them to apply God’s truth in their real, everyday, normal life. Because that’s where it has power to bring about transformation.

So a little bit similar to the Book of Truth, we have now developed the Board of Truth.  Just outside their room they have a chalkboard – with each of their names written on it. We have been writing little messages next to each name, which has a simple key truth they are currently reading through, or thinking about it in the bible, and how it applies to them right now.

I do not have nice, neat writing, so you probably can’t read very well what I’ve written in the picture below… but this gives the general idea. Esther actually re-worded her “truth” on this one, as she didn’t feel what I’d initially written accurately represented her key truth ( 🙂 )

board of truth

My hope is that this will help them absorb, and live out more fully what they are learning, rather than forget about it, and move on. It also helps us grown-ups to think more consciously about whether or not we are helping them to apply truth.

It’s just one very simple idea

How about you? – I’d love to hear any creative ways you have as you disciple your kids – we might “borrow” a few of them!

news on our move….

Back in October we communicated our decision and call to move to Edinburgh, which you can read about here.  We realised it’s been a while since we shared how things are progressing with our move, so we wanted to share a little update here just to fill you in with where things are up to…..

We’re really looking forward to our move to Edinburgh and each time we visit the city and connect with the community up there we feel increasingly envisioned and excited for what’s ahead.

Our house is currently on the market and we’re looking to sell it in the next month or two and our plan is to move to Edinburgh on June 17th.  We’ve set this date so that that we, as a family, have a fixed point to move towards,  but this date also gives us the ability to say goodbye to people here in Sheffield properly rather than waiting and wondering if it’s the last time we’ll see them. We really want to celebrate our time here in Sheffield, and to thank and bless the many people who have been part of our journey here over the last 20 years. We’re really looking forward to being able to do that over the next few months.

We just spent the last week in Edinburgh getting the kids used to the area and also doing lots of driving round, praying, and checking out different areas within the city. Housing in Edinburgh is more expensive than Sheffield so we’re getting our heads round the potential of flats and apartments rather than houses and gardens! There are a few options of neighbourhoods where we could settle but we are still at the stage of looking before our house is sold.

If you’d like to pray for us we’d really appreciate the following:

  • Our house sale in Sheffield, and then the house purchase in Edinburgh
  • School places to open up in Edinburgh at the right time in the right place
  • Transition for our kids as they leave school and friends behind
  • Finishing well in Sheffield – celebrating, saying thank you and reflecting on what God has done
  • Wisdom for the right area to settle in Edinburgh

So, that’s it for now, but if you would like to stay up-to-date then do subscribe to Anna’s blog as this is where we’ll communicate our news.

Thanks for your encouragement and prayers; it’s great to journey together,  even though many are at a distance!

Much love,
Rich, Anna, Josiah, Esther and Samuel

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xx

How to make Missional Communities and children work together

There have been countless studies on how children learn, how they interact with information and how they grow.

One of the themes of this research is that there are three primary environments in which children learn – classroom, apprenticeship and immersion:

# Classroom – The child is taught something by somebody. They listen and then process the information being shared with them.
# Apprenticeship – The child is shown something by somebody. The child is involved in, and so learns from, a process. Information is engaged with and processed through implementation, experimentation and application.
# Immersion – The child experiences and gathers information from the culture, environment or context within which they live.

Sunday morning kids work is 45 minutes, an hour at best, in the week of a child’s life. There might be activities, object lessons or games to go along with the bible teaching to help the children think through how to apply what they are hearing. It’s good sharing of information but it’s still a classroom environment.

Missional community, extended families of 15 to 30 adults (and any number of children!!) on mission together, give children & young people the environment to learn by being part of a community that lives out its faith. They are given the opportunity to be part of a group that looks to share its faith with others that don’t know Jesus. They don’t just attend an event but learn from many different and varied life experiences. They are encouraged to take more responsibility and participate; to be part of the community – not just to be talked at but talked with. In a missional community context children are not just waiting for adults to define something but shaping and crafting it themselves. They can be involved in, and contribute to, the life of the community.

Children learn by living out their faith – not just learning about their faith from others. They take hold of it for themselves through apprenticeship and immersion – seeing their parents lead, learning how to study the Bible for themselves and share Biblical reflections themselves. The community necessitates that young people help with younger children. Children can share with adults their thoughts on a passage, serving and sharing faith together as family.

There are many different ways communities function as they gather but three ways we found missional communities can ‘work’ well as they gather together have come by thinking about family environments; environments that are normal to families, both Christian & non-Christian.

Three environments all families interact with  are:

1) The Educational environment (i.e school, nursery)

2) The Coffee Shop environment (i.e. Starbucks, restaurants)

3) The Party dynamic (i.e. birthdays)

# The Educational environment – is where the parents & children are learning together. We encourage families and extended families (missional communities) to think about rhythms of family prayer, worship and study. One of our family missional communities had gatherings where they took a bible passage and the children & young people came up with a drama, craft and teaching lesson from what they’d learnt and then shared with the adults.  Lots of applause and then good conversations were had afterwards!

The Coffee shop – is an adult environment with children present – tables, papers and coffee with activities in the room. This environment encourages the informal relationships and interactions between children, parents and the extended family. One geographical missional community did this as an access point for non-Christians with prayer cards and opportunities for conversations on the tables.

# The Children’s party environment – (if you haven’t yet got kids there’s a treat in store!!!) is an environment where parents serve the kids – everything is set up for the kids to have a great time together – noise, mess, chaos, games, fun………sweets!!

 

 

This is a great way to really help relationships & their faith come alive because if there’s one thing kids can do it’s have fun!! This is also an environment where non-christian parents and children can engage – enjoying the experience together.

Parents taking the responsibility as primary disciplers of their children and doing this in the context of a missional community is often a major but important shift

Effective missional communities use some or all of these dynamics as they gather and disciple their children rather than abdicate to the children’s workers or do a smaller, “worse” version of sunday school in a side room whilst the adults gather. Central children’s ministry should function to resource the communities – prayer, training, resources so that families can express their faith locally in community.

The synergy that comes from both a Sunday celebration (with central ministry resourcing) and a missional community lifestyle for discipleship of children is a dynamic that works for both parents & children. They are able to grow not only in relationship with God but also each other and they learn, together, how to be a family of missional disciples.

It’s not easy – but neither is being a parent!!

 

on “family prayers”

A few people have recently asked us about our family prayer rhythm so I thought it might be useful to share our process and journey here. There’s always a tension for me in sharing this kind of stuff publicly. I hope you hear my heart here – I don’t share this to infer that we’re doing anything special. We’re not. My heart, and hope, is that this may be helpful for others who are trying to go on a similar journey to us. What I intend to share here is our journey, incomplete and imperfect as it is.  If this is unhelpful for you, or if it doesn’t resonate with the journey that you are on, then feel free to click away to somewhere else…..

So this was the thing….

About 2 years ago Rich and I were talking about how we wanted prayer to be something that we grew together in as a family. We took some time to reflect and discuss on how we wanted it to look for our family, and how we wanted to grow. We didn’t want anything to feel like a heavy burden. We wanted a rhythm and routine that was simple, regular, and easy to follow-through.

And this was the plan….

So the plan we came up with is that we would all be dressed, and adults would be caffeined-up, by 7.00 a.m so that we had until 7.30 to pray before breakfast.

And this is how it worked out….

We’ve tried out a few things but over the months we’ve created a simple structure, which the kids are able to communicate to any visitor in our home. We begin by each of  us saying what we’re thankful for and then saying what or who we’d like to pray for. We then read a small portion of scripture either from an adult orr kids bible and then we get praying.  To help the kids we talk about saying “thank-you” prayers and “please” prayers which can just be one-liners. We start with thanking God for who He is – His character. Some of my favourite one-liners from the kids:

“ Thank you God that you’re king of kings and lord of lords”

“Thank you that you care for the rich and the poor”

“Thank you that you’re the shepherd of the sheep”

“Thank you God for being with me all the time”

And then we talk about our one-liner please prayers:

“Please help me in the playground”

“Please heal Samuel’s tummy”

“Please help me to be kind

“Please help x to have a good day.”

We’ve tried to do this step-by-step:  first learning how to thank God, and then learning how to ask God. The next thing I’d like us to grow in together is “listening” – making space together to hear what God is saying.

We generally pray in this rhythm Monday-Thursday each week. On Fridays we pray like this over breakfast using our prayer and thanksgiving spoons. You can read a post on the spoon of thanksgiving here.

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On Mondays our core 3dm team join us for prayer (either in person or by skype), followed by breakfast together.

And this is why we needed some routine….

I would naturally always prefer spontaneity over routine but what I’ve learnt is that spontaneity can be forgotten, overlooked, or side-lined whereas routine creates patterns and easy access points both for the kids, and other adults to join us.

Routines mean that when the alarm goes off at 6.15 I’m not thinking “shall we or shall we not pray today?” quickly followed by a hit on the snooze button.

Routine means that if Rich and I happen to overlay then the kids will be in our room telling us that it’s time to pray.

And this is what we’ve noticed….

Interestingly, this simple routine has been a foundation for prayer at other times in the day. The kids are learning to pray and talk to their father in the morning. They’re listening to the adults and joining in with short and simple prayers. But it’s often in the more spontaneous times that I notice that they’re growing in faith and in prayer. So, it may be when someone has hurt themselves, or at bedtime or some other point in the day, that they spontaneously pray for each other or someone else. They’ve been listening to us pray in the morning and then are putting it into practice at another point in the day.

I guess it’s a bit like learning a language. When we first learn a language we’re usually able to understand a lot more than we’re able to verbalise. But, over time, the more we listen and observe, the more we’re eventually able to speak and communicate. I think it’s the same with prayer. As our kids regularly hear us as parents, each other,  and other adults pray, they are learning how to talk and listen to their father.

And finally, a few practicalities….

These are our simple boundaries for prayer time:

  • No toys in hands
  • No talking to each other when we’re praying.
  • Children sit on an adults lap if possible.

All these boundaries just help the kids to focus.

lord's prayer

P.S our friend Katherine Lockwood has recently started a blog and I’ve just noticed that she’s written a really helpful post on their family prayers too. You can read it here.

How about you? How do you help your kids to pray?

Would love to hear your ideas, and your journey too…let’s learn together.