Posts Tagged ‘family’

I love baseball! I started in Little League when I was 10 years-old and by the time I was eleven, I had found my position. I was a pitcher. I threw hard and could get the ball over the plate—all you need to dominate when you are eleven!

One Wednesday night when I was eleven, I was having a great night. After four innings of our five-innings game, the other team had no hits. I had pretty much struck out every batter.  But it was 7:15 and church started at 7:30.

My mom and dad gave me the choice of staying or leaving, but there was no doubt what they thought the right decision was, so we left the game and went to church.  No regrets, not really any big deal. In my family, it was just the right thing to do.

Now, I know that we have discovered that Wednesday nights don’t count—so it may be difficult to even relate to family values that were so different, but it is not about Wednesday nights. It’s about an 11-year kid learning that what he is doing is not the most important thing in the world.

That was 1958. Let me show you how that translated into the Woodward family of 1987. Ben, our middle son, loves everything sports, but especially baseball.  By the time he was eleven, he had played several seasons of Little League—or parts of several seasons.  You see, when Ben was four years old, Sherrylee and I started taking our family to Europe each summer for Let’s Start Talking mission projects.

I would usually go with the students about mid-May and Sherrylee would stay home with the kids until school was out about June 1.  Little league baseball season usually started about the first of May and went until the end of June.  This meant that Ben was only around for a couple of weeks of practice and a 3-4 games at the most–every summer.

We always registered Ben for Little League. We always paid the fee for the whole season and we paid for the uniform. We got the bat and the glove that he needed, and we made sure that he got to every practice and every game—BUT, Ben knew that baseball and his activities were not at the center of our familiy’s summer activities.

We did not ignore Ben’s needs. No matter where we were in Europe, we bought a daily newspaper for him so he could study the box scores and follow his baseball teams.  Every year, we asked friends who had Armed Forces Network television to tape the All-Star Game for us, and then whenever we passed through their city, we would all sit down and watch the All-Star game with Ben.

I don’t remember Ben ever complaining. I don’t know if he knew what he was learning.  He knew we loved him, but he knew that he was not at the center of our family’s universe.

I could have told you about purchasing dumbbells in Germany and taking them around wherever we went so that Philip could lift weights after he started playing prep football. We didn’t stay home.

We did all kinds of things for our kids while we were traveling every summer, knowing that we wanted them to love what we were doing. We went to theme parks, we put all three of them in German church camp, and one summer we even arranged for Philip to go to soccer camp in the Netherlands—where he was the only “foreigner.”  But we did not stay home!

For most kids, I would not advise preaching the “seek ye first the kingdom of God” sermon to make this point. That’s a sermon for parents.  For kids, it suffices to learn from the decisions their parents make that the world—especially the world of their family—does not center on them! They are important—but not the center.

Then, of course, the big question becomes what is the center of your family’s universe? If you want to make sure that your children grow a heart for the mission of God, then make sure they see you making decisions that clearly make the mission of God the center of your family’s world!

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My special guest blogger today is Anna, my seven year-old granddaughter. On Friday, we went to see Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole with her and her sister Olivia. This morning, Anna was reading my blog on Alice In Wonderland and offered to help me with blogging, so we decided to do something with this movie.

I will say that we all enjoyed the movie very much. It has wonderful animation and design. The plot is a little scary sometimes.  Olivia, six-years-old, found it a little too scary.

Well, here is what Anna would like to tell you about the movie!

  1. Don’t get moon-blinked!  When you disobey God, you could get moonblinked. You can’t think anymore for yourself. You can’t see with your eyes.
  2. How far do we have to go? When you are exhausted, then you are halfway there!  Some things are worth really straining for, really doing even more than you think you can do.  Everything for God is worth straining for.
  3. Don’t get too out of control when you are playing. When you get too rowdy, then you fall out of the tree.  When you fall out of the tree, then bad things can happen!
  4. Listen to the old birds—some of them! Some old birds are good; some old birds are bad. How do we know which one is which? The ones who tell us the truth about God are the ones we want to listen to. They tell you the right things to do—just like the Bible says.
  5. Different children in the same family have different problems. Brothers and sisters sometimes make bad choices, but that doesn’t mean we have to. We should always love them and try to help them make good choices.

Thanks, Anna! Great thoughts—and keep on thinking when you see movies!

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Being afraid of foreign things is part of the Fall, I suspect. I know that we have encountered this same fear in children all over the world.  In Africa, the little children who have never seen a white person run away crying. In Japan, the little children cautiously want to touch our “round” eyes.  The Chinese can’t keep their hands off the blonde hair of some American children.  If we want our children to have a heart for the mission of God, then we have to begin helping them not be afraid or put off by foreign things.

In fact, what would happen if they loved foreign things? God so loved the world . . . which was very foreign, so perhaps learning to love foreign things is learning to be more godly!

Here are a few ideas for you to help your kids (and yourself) love the world—the whole world, not just your small corner of it!

  • Never talk disparagingly about foreigners and foreign things! We all know that prejudice and bigotry are passed on from generation to generation, but sometimes only very subtly.  You don’t have to wear a white cap and robe to teach your children to be racists.  Just your typical racial jokes or stereotyping will suffice. The same with their attitude toward foreigners. What do you say about the men who cut your grass or the teaching assistant that is difficult to understand? What do you say about foreign cars, foreign athletes—even about immigration issues?
  • Expose your young children to foreign foods. Instead of just Happy Meals and hamburgers, take your kids for a gyro sandwich on pita. Some of our grandkids like Sushi (I don’t), but all of them think that the Hibachi steakhouse is the best treat ever for special occasions. Our son’s family found a German deli where they could buy Brötchen and other German things, so we had a very fun German breakfast together one morning!  Take your pick from all the countries of the world and explore their foods. Remember, they are all going to be at the banquet of the Lamb!
  • Encourage your children to start learning other languages as early as possible. I love that Dora the Explorer and other kid shows expose the pre-schoolers to Spanish. Did you know that only about 1/3 of American children take any foreign language in school!  No wonder we are internationally illiterate. I just read that 200 million Chinese children are learning English and only 24,000 American children are learning Chinese.  Who do you think will influence whom in the future?  For us Christians, the question is not political; it is who will share their heart for/against God with whom?
  • Watch foreign movies! (Now I’ve really crossed a line, haven’t I !!) With all the rental possibilities now, you have access to children’s movies from around the world. Yes, they may be subtitled, but unless you make a big deal out of that, your children won’t.  Maybe start with films from England or India in English. There are also cartoons. Sure they are different—that’s what foreignness is!!  You might even try some yourself!
  • Look for schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program! The IB program, which is an internationally recognized curriculum, is gaining some popularity in the U.S,  You do find it in public schools as well as private schools.
  • Give your child an early experience abroad—anywhere! Lots of soccer teams, choirs, bands, etc. are doing international trips. Encourage this. Of course, a mission trip would be even better.
  • The absolutely best thing you can do is to take your children with you overseas—especially on a mission trip. The combination of watching the people they love and admire the most, interacting with foreign people and foreign situations, together with their own unique opportunities to experience foreignness are the best heart-forming experiences hands down!

I do need to warn you that loving foreign things is not very American—to our own shame! I do believe, however, that it is very Christian.  Perhaps we should take Paul’s words more seriously when searching our own hearts to discern our attitudes toward foreigners:

“Remember that at that time you were separate . . . excluded from citizenship  . . . and foreigners . . . But now you who once were far away  have been brought near through the blood of Christ . . . .Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people!” (Ephesians 2:12-19).

As God loved us foreigners, so we should love other foreigners—and teach our kids to do so also. By doing so, we will certainly see a heart for the mission of God grow in them.

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I once mentioned to our daughter Emily while planning a family road trip, that she might enjoy the trip more if she invited a friend to go along with her.  She appreciated the gesture, but her negative reaction surprised me.  She said, “Dad, none of my friends ever do car trips with their family. They say they could not stand to be cooped up together in the car for so long at one time!”

My surprise has been reinforced many times since then with parents who won’t fly with their children “because the kids could never sit still that long,” or parents who won’t disrupt their children’s schedules for . . .  well, for almost any reason.

Believe me, I do know the hassle of packing for a family of five, the challenge of driving thousands of miles with three kids in the back of a Volkswagon Golf, of dealing with jetlag with a baby that can’t tell time, so I’m not oblivious to what it takes.

On the other hand, how will we ever teach our children to have a heart for missions, if we as their parents are not willing to do whatever it takes to expose them to the life of one who lives within the mission of God?

We will approach this same question from many angles, but today I want to talk about instilling in your children an essential trait for everyone who loves the mission of God—flexibility!

I don’t know where Sherrylee and I got this idea, but very early in our marriage, we decided that our children would learn flexibility from the very beginning of their lives.  This was a conscious decision on our part, not just a necessary reaction to our lifestyle.

But what did this mean in practice?  At their earliest ages, it meant the following:

  • Wherever we went, they went! At three weeks, baby Philip traveled to Cologne with us where he got stuck in his Kinderwagon in the revolving doors of the Cologne cathedral!  Ben flew back to the States with Sherrylee and Philip (2 ½ ) at six weeks, and Emily had four Atlantic crossings by the time she was six months old.  LST started in 1980 when our children were 6, 4, and 2, and we all spent 6-10 weeks traveling together by plane, train, and car for the next ten years. 
  • We never reinforced “structured requirements” like sleeping in my own bed, special blankets or dollies that they couldn’t do without, or even “shhhh, no noise while the baby is sleeping!” If this sounds draconian to you, let me just defend myself a bit by saying that we were not compulsively structure busters, but we just did not want our kids to require these things in order to be decent human beings!
  • We did not really ever find the words “I’m bored” to be appropriate. Our kids road in our back seat for literally thousands of miles each summer as we traveled between LST mission points.  This is where they learned to do without television, to read, to listen to all kinds of music, to beat their parents in games like the ABC game or Bible Twenty Questions (Ben stumped us all once with “the white knight”!  We said, Ben, there is no white knight in the Bible. He replied, Yes, there is—in the book of Revelation—and he was right! Read Revelation 6.)
  • The children never heard their parents use their needs as an excuse for avoiding something important! I will admit that sometimes we were so tired that while staying in other people’s homes, we fought over who got to go in and put the kids to bed—and we usually fell asleep as well! In fact, what I see not only in our own family, but in the families that take their children on missions is that the children become the reason FOR going, never an excuse for NOT going.  What is the message any child at any age gets when he/she hears their parents say, “Well, maybe when the kids are older!” or “The kids are too busy with their summer activities!” or “It’s too much hassle with the kids. Maybe when we are empty-nesters!!”?

If you want your children to have a heart for the mission of God, then teach them from the first days of their lives to put the needs of others before their own—including things as basic as their own creature comforts.

We recently had a family stay with us that has spent well over a decade in Africa as missionaries. This family has two wonderful children, ages 10 and 12.  We heard from them after they arrived back in Africa and had been there a couple of days, the younger child said, “Dad, it’s so good to be home. I love Africa. I love to sweat. I really missed that in America! “ Children have a great capacity for flexibility—usually greater than the parents.

Teach your children to become all things to all people so that by all means some can be saved!

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For over thirty years, Sherrylee and I  have been dealing with parents who thought that their student’s desire to do an LST summer mission trip was at best just a one-time fling, and at worst, a frivolous, extravagant indication of their child’s immaturity.

A large number of our summer workers have come home wanting to change their majors from Accounting to International Business, or from Computer Science to Ministry—just exactly what their parents were afraid of!

Do you really want your child to grow up to be a missionary? Here are the obvious reasons why parents do not encourage this desire in their children.

  • No money in it.  In fact, you become dependent on the charity of others.
  • Not a success-oriented career.
  • No upward mobility.
  • Takes you away from the family. And what about the grandkids knowing the grandparents?
  • Makes you misfits! Everyone knows that missionaries don’t really fit into mainstream America after returning home.
  • Bad for your children. They grow up not speaking English, not playing baseball, and maybe even vegetarians.
  • It’s not safe. Stay home and live in Oklahoma City or Dallas or Los Angeles or New York City, where you’ll be safe.

I love the Old Testament story of Hannah, who can’t have children, so she prays—so hard that the observing priest thinks she is drunk.  Then she does something pretty preposterous: she vows to God that if given a son, she will “give him to the Lord all the days of his life”(1 Samuel 1:11).

If she hadn’t been quite so rash with her vows, she would have realized that she was giving away what she so desperately wanted—but I don’t think she saw it all that way!  When Samuel was very young, his mother took him to the priest and gave him into the ministry.  I’m sure there was pain in the moment, but the first words out of her mouth are:

My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. . . . There is none holy like the Lord…there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:1ff)

Hannah visits her young son each year, bringing him new clothes to wear. Samuel served the priest Eli humbly for many years until one day the Lord called his name! Yes, that is what happens when we raise children to be servants of God.  They are called–and not to that which we may have planned for them.  Samuel does not become high priest. Samuel does not become king over Israel. Samuel does not become commanding general of the armies of Israel.  Scripture says,

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19-20).

Here’s what I glean from this story that will help you have a child with a heart for God’s mission:

  • Recognize that your child is a gift from God, that he/she belongs to God, and that if God had not answered your prayers, you would have nothing!
  • Having recognized that your children belong to God, don’t hold on to them as if they are yours. Give them back to His service at a very young age. I don’t know exactly what this means search for any answer about our children.
  • Teach your children to serve the Lord by placing them in the hands of those who do serve the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:11) Learning to serve is almost always the first step, not learning to lead.
  • Support your children in their service! (1 Samuel 2:19)
  • Teach your children to hear the voice of the Lord calling their name! And if you can’t do that, then bring people into their lives who can! (1 Samuel 3:1-14)

So the first step in helping your children have hearts for the mission of God is to search your own heart as a parent!  What precious item belonging to God are you trying to keep for yourself? Are your desires for your children covered in prayer by the words, “not my will, but Yours be done?”

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Sherrylee and I are going to California today to be with our daughter Emily and her wonderful family. We had to get up at 5am to catch an early flight, so I woke up even earlier, thinking about—and giving thanks to God—for the family that He has blessed us with.  Our family members—starting with the Mom and Dad—each have their own battles, but there is much, much more that keeps us thanking God for His undeserved graciousness in our lives.

One of the characteristics of our children—and their families now– that I personally take great delight in is that our grown children, now in their 30s, all love missions!  Of course, that they are all involved in various ways in Let’s Start Talking is one of the great joys of our life, but even more importantly, they each have what today is called missional hearts.  I think what that means is that they are both sensitive to and burdened by the needs of others to know Jesus and they actively do something about it.

I’d like for you to have this measure of joy when your children are grown, but I don’t have any formulas. Sherrylee and I certainly had a desire to see our children like this, but we did not have a plan to ensure it. I feel a bit like Peter: “Silver and gold I don’t have, but what I have, I will give to you!”

Over the next few days, I’d like to share with you some ideas that we have discovered in retrospect. These are lessons that God has taught us, and so we share them with you.  Don’t hold me to this outline–I often discover that some of the topics are really two or three and others are just bits and pieces–but here are some of the big ideas I want to explore with you.

  1. Do you really even want your kids to be missionaries?
  2. Teaching kids to be flexible.
  3. Teaching kids to love foreign things, not be afraid of them.
  4. Teaching kids by example and by participation.
  5. Teaching kids instead of just letting them happen.
  6. Making missions fun and meaningful for kids
  7. Teaching kids that they are not the center of God’s creation
  8. Teaching kids to love people, not just to be loved.
  9. When to let your kids do what they want to do, not what you want them to do.
  10. Giving your kids to God!

OK, that’s way too much, but maybe you get a hint of where I want to explore in the next few days.  I hope you will go with me.

P.S.      Did you know that you can subscribe to this blog and that by doing so, a link to it will come to your email whenever there is a new post. I usually create a new file for blogs that I subscribe to and have those go right into the file rather than cluttering my inbox, so that I can stop and read it when I have time to.  Click on the Subscribe button on the home page of this blog and you can do the same—if you think it will simplify your life a little

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Twice in the last few days, I’ve heard star athletes described as humble. The Dallas Cowboys just signed Miles Austin to a six-year multi-million dollar contract, and when asked what made Austin—who has really only had a partial break-out year—special, the notorious Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Cowboys (and head coach), used the word humble over and over again.

Then this morning, I heard Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski ) talking about Kevin Durant, a third-year NBA player, and he used these very words: “he is pure; he’s humble.” Kevin Durant has just led the USA men’s basketball team to its first world championship since 1994 and was voted MVP for the tournament.

Is humble a trait that superstars  are supposed to have? Is humble something you can learn in the minor leagues or in college?  Is humble found in the gym or on the practice field?  What makes humble important enough for it to be an important description for outstanding athletes—or outstanding people, for that matter.

One of the strangest verses in the Old Testament raises for me the same question. In the context of a fairly mundane case of jealousy between Moses and his siblings Miriam and Aaron, the biblical writer makes a parenthetical statement: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3).  There it is again!

Don’t forget who Moses was and what he had done! He was raised as a prince of Egypt. As a young man, he killed an Egyptian overseer in defending his people. Later he drove off a whole group of bully shepherds from the well in Midian. Forty years later, he returns to Egypt, challenges Pharaoh over and over again to his face, then leads hundreds of thousands or more people out of Egypt.

In the face of certain destruction, he walks them through the Red Sea. Then days later, he explodes in fury at their whiny rebelliousness in the wilderness as well as their flagrant relapse into idolatry at Sinai. These same former slaves Moses leads into armed conflict.  This is no humble guy! This is Rambo!

In our culture that values and promotes assertiveness, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-promotion—SELF–what do we do with these New Testament exhortations to humbleness?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 5:2)

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

And especially listen to the words from Jesus:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Here are just a few concrete suggestions for teaching ourselves and our children to be humble:

  • Learn to respect every person—every person—as equally important to God as you are! We do lip service to this, but, in fact, what about the people we disparage: foreigners, alternate lifestylers, athletes, nerds, tea party people, liberals!!, et al. When we disrespect someone, we are putting ourselves above them. God does not love you more than he does that person you disrespect—no matter who you are!
  • Learn to see yourself as the result of God’s work, not your own! Are you wealthy, are you smart, are you talented, are you kind, are you generous, are you a great athlete, are you spiritual?  Why?  If we answer with reasons that describe our work, then we are mistaken and showing our own conceit.  It is God’s work in you that makes you everything that you might be tempted to think sets you apart from others.
  • Learn to be about others, not yourself. Learn to praise others, serve others, allow others to go first, even to get the credit for what you did. I suspect this is why Moses needed to stay in Midian and herd sheep for forty years before he was ready to lead Israel. The prince of Egypt needed to learn to lead sheep, to serve sheep—without any glory—before he could be a true leader –a great leader–of people.
  • Learn that you not only can be, but SHOULD be great at what you attempt to do! Moses was a great leader and continues to be honored by all Israel today. Humility is not antithetical to excellence!

If we start with our kids and grandkids in T-ball or pee wee soccer, making humbleness a virtue to be learned and practiced, if we the parents and grandparents will continue to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (I Peter 5:6), all the while striving for greatness—to God’s glory—then the promise of Scripture is that we will have all the glory we can stand—and much more than we deserve!

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Are you waiting until your children are teenagers before you think about going on a short-term mission trip with them?  DON’T!

I know what the popular wisdom is here:

  • Young children won’t understand or appreciate the experience, so wait until they will get more out of it.
  • Young children are a pain to travel with.
  • Young children are not really useful, so it is hard to justify the expense.
  • Young children are impossible to fund raise for, so you can’t afford to take them.


  • The best time for children to experience missions first is when their young minds and hearts are still soft and impressionable–not after their hormones create havoc in them for a few years.  We have 8 grandkids under the age of 8. Only the two born this year and the 3 yr old have not been on a foreign LST project, and most of them have been multiple times. They have friends in Japan. They are not afraid of foreign languages. They know what the grown-ups are talking about when they tell of teaching others about Jesus. They are very disappointed in the years they can’t go.
  • There are challenges to traveling with young kids–but they make little kids suitcases and backpacks.  They will sleep in the airplane seats. Travel is quite a fun game if the parents will invest just a little time to make it so!
  • Children are magnets on the mission field. No matter whether it is Germany or Africa or China or Turkey, adults accompanied by small children find it much more common to get into conversations with people.  I know of 6-8 year olds who have “helped” other children with their English, while their parents read the Bible in English with LST workers.  Children may be the best missionaries ever!!
  • Unfortunately, the previously mentioned misconceptions do make it difficult sometimes to raise money for children to go. We faced this even more strongly back in the 80s, when the Woodwards were starting LST, towing 3 small children behind them. I just dug in my heels and said, we don’t go without them–and tried to educate people on the good a whole family does who goes together. God provided.

Many, many mission churches do not have whole families. Often only the mother and children come, or only the father, or only the children.  To see a whole family–parents and kids–being Christians together is inspiring to onlookers, no matter what country you are in.

Your decision to take your children on a short-term mission trip will be one of the best decisions you have ever made!  And when you do it the second time, you will thank God for removing the doubts that you had.

And your children, when they are young adults,  will put their arms around you and thank you for doing something wonderful that dramatically changed their lives and helped them know God!

And is there anything in this world you want more than that?

Don’t wait!

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Several years ago, Sherrylee and I were at the Tulsa Soul-Winning Workshop and heard Harold Shank quote a statistic in his keynote address that said that the number one correlating factor with continued faith in God and a relationship to His church after high school is a summer mission experience.

Sherrylee and I turned to each other literally and said that is what Let’s Start Talking has been offering college students!  But if what he said is true, we can’t ignore high school kids any more. So we put together a mission package for high schoolers called YoungFriends that LST now offers to churches as part of our comprehensive church transformation ministry (Centurion Project).

Several challenges surfaced in presenting this opportunity to youth ministers. One of them concerns me more than the others.  Here is the general list. Can you guess which one concerns me most?

  • Youth ministers are sometimes organized and sometimes not—not any different from anyone else, except it takes a lot of organization and planning to pull off a good summer mission project.
  • Youth ministers are often trumped in money decisions by senior ministers or elders who may or may not share their vision.
  • Youth ministers are also at the mercy of parents, so only to the degree that parents trust their youth minister are they willing to let him step very far out in faith.
  • Youth ministers generally tend towards service projects over evangelistic missions.

Of course, this last point is the one that concerns me most.  In our presentation to Youth Ministers, we have tried to present an evangelistic mission option—one where kids learn to tell the story of Jesus and share their own faith in a natural and non-confrontational way– as one that makes sense in a stair step approach to mission experiences.

Young people start by learning to have a heart for people, but perhaps don’t have the social skills or cross cultural experience yet to really share their faith, but by the time they get to be juniors or seniors in high school, why isn’t it time to help them verbalize their own faith story and show them natural ways for them to share their faith in Jesus with others?

Although this idea seemed to resonant with lots of people in theory, when it got to decision time, most youth ministers opted for the service project over anything evangelistic.  I think they go this way for any or all of the following reasons:

  • Service projects are tangible. Your goal is to paint a house. You buy paint and brushes, you go to the house, you paint, you clean up, and then you go home, knowing that you have accomplished your goal. You have painted a house and done good for the sake of Christ.
  • Service projects are more predictable. Things can go wrong, of course. You can run out of paint, but then you can usually buy more pretty easily. You might not finish, but it looks better than it did. Things that do go wrong are fairly easily remedied.
  • Service projects are generally low risk.  They often can be done relatively close to home. A large group can all do the same thing in the same place for mutual protection. Not much interaction with strangers. Easily supervised.  No risk of rejection.
  • Service projects are familiar to both the youth minister and other adult sponsors, as well as parents and church leaders.

Faith-sharing mission projects are a harder sell for the following reasons:

  • Faith-sharing missions are harder to describe to parents, elders, and kids.  What “strategy” or “method” are you going to use to talk to people? How are you going to meet the people you want to talk to? What if they don’t want to talk to you?
  • Faith-sharing takes most people way out of their comfort zone, so it is a harder sell. (Of course, I’m pretty sure if we did it more, we would be a lot more comfortable doing it.)
  • Faith-sharing has greater risks. Again, what if someone rejects you? What if you mess up and don’t say the right things?  What if they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer?  Isn’t this why most adults don’t share their faith?
  • Faith-sharing mission trips are much less predictable. What if the local church doesn’t prepare well? What if no one responds to advertising? Why if local Christian teens don’t warm up to the visiting group quickly? What if it rains all week, so no visitors come? Because a faith-sharing mission is totally dependent on people, LOTS of things are unpredictable!!
  • Faith-sharing mission trips are not familiar experiences for most Christians.

And they never will be familiar unless we find a way–starting with our young people—to learn to share faith as one of the most natural activities of the Christian lifestyle.

A professor of youth ministry at one of our Christian colleges, when asked why youth ministers do not tend to choose evangelistic mission opportunities, told us that he had queried all of his youth majors about this and that NONE OF THEM had ever had a personal faith-sharing experience. They themselves had only experienced service project missions, so, of course, they tend to do with their youth what their own youth ministers had done with them.  If our ministry leaders have never shared their faith personally . . . .?

If we don’t teach our kids to tell the story of Jesus, who will do it?

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During my morning walk today, I saw two different mini-vans loading kids with new book bags, new clothes, and big smiles on their faces. At the first house at least, both Mom and Dad were getting in the mini-van, and at the second house, the Mom was saying loudly as Dad closed the door, “And have just a wonderful day,” her voice breaking just a bit on wonderful.

It’s the first day of school for three super gkids here in North Texas.  It is also the first day of school in Escondido, California, because we have one granddaughter starting second grade today and the other starting first grade.

I don’t know if I really remember the first day of first grade in the fall of 1953. I do remember some things about first grade though! I went to first grade at Springdale Elementary School in Fort Worth, starting when I was five and turning six in late October. I didn’t go to kindergarten; it wasn’t required, and I think it cost money.

I was trying to think this morning of what was different on my first day of school from this day for my grandkids. Here are just a few things you might find interesting.

  • There was nothing electronic in our school supply list! The one piece of equipment that I remember owning for the first time was a #1 pencil. They were big and red with very soft lead that wrote very large and very dark lines.  That’s what all kids learned to print with.  They did not have erasers on the end. You had a separate eraser–usually red or green.  I searched for a picture of a #1 pencil and didn’t find any that matched my memory. One more thing to look for in the antique stores.
  • My classmates all had regular names like Ed, Larry, Janice, Betty, Mary—a few double names: Linda Jo, Billy Mac, and one boy’s name was just initials—H.L. –I don’t know if he put periods after them or not.  And I think they were all spelled like you would expect, not in ways that will require life-long explanations.
  • The school was not air-conditioned, which is one of the reasons Texas schools always started after Labor Day. We also stayed until at least 2:30, maybe 3:30. Then we were picked up by my Mom who drove carpool that year and taken home in our air-conditionless Chevrolet. Today, it is supposed to be 105 degrees here in Fort Worth. I’m glad the gkids have air-conditioning.
  • War stamps were sold in our classroom. The Korean War was almost over, but one way the federal government funded the war was by selling war bonds to adults and war stamps to kids at school. I don’t think they cost much and you put them in a stamp book like green stamps and cashed them in later.  I know I bought some. That was back when people always supported the wars that the country was in. Pretty big changes since then!
  • My first grade class learned the 23rd Psalm by memory and recited it to the whole school over the public address system for the regular morning pray. I do regret the disappearance of Christianity from our common life together—but I am not worried about prayer in public schools. As long as we teach our children to pray at home, there will be plenty of prayer at school.

I loved school from the beginning.  It is important to love learning, to learn to read and write well, to learn history, to learn how things work, but as I have thought about it, maybe the most important thing that our children learn in school is how to live in a community with others.

Do you remember the book by Robert Fulghum that came out about 1986 called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten? I’m finishing today with just a little excerpt from his book that reminds us of what is really important about school.  This is what you want your child to learn, isn’t it?

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

I would just add,God loves you and God is with you, so make Him happy with everything you do and say.”

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