Christmas Traditions: Decorations

December 7, 2010

Goes without saying really, it just wouldn’t “feel” like Christmas without decorations. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I love sparkly things.  I love tinsel, I love candles, I love colour coordinating the Christmas tree… ok that one might be because I have a problem…

Most Christmas decorations have some kind of story to tell.  Even if they originated from some kind of pagan tradition you can find a way of using them to tell the story of the original Christmas miracle.   Here are some thoughts…

  • Gold and silver: royalty, Jesus is King and some wise guys brought him gifts.
  • Christmas tree/green: represents life, Jesus is the giver of eternal life.
  • Red and White: Jesus’ blood + he was perfect and pure

As for pink, purple and blue… I dunno, make something up.

Make decorating a special time.  Perhaps you do it together as a family on the first Saturday of December, but whenever you do it, TALK about it.  Take your time and talk about different parts of the Christmas story as you go, using the decorations to draw their attention to it.  Whenever the kids see the decorations, they will remember what you told them.  Just something else to point them towards Jesus who is the most important part of it all!

I tend to avoid Santa, elves, reindeer, snow men etc decorations just because they don’t add anything towards the real point of Christmas.

Nativity Set


I saw this in someones house and I had to get one… a beautiful wooden nativity set that sat on a coffee table.  It was large carved out blocks that fit together and painted different colours.  I think it was from Trade Aid but unfortunately I couldn’t find one quite like it, but found something along those lines in Trade Me.  A plastic one would do the same thing.  It’s cool to have it somewhere where it can get played with.  Once again you can use it to tell the Christmas story, then when kids play with it they will think of the story, they might even be able to retell it using the pieces of the set.


Christmas Tradtions: Op Shop Christmas

December 5, 2010

For the past two Christmas’s our family has done an op-shop/trade aid/gifts for life Christmas.  Now that we’re older the idea of spending money on gifts just cos that’s what you do at Christmas when we pretty much already have everything we need seems silly.  Why do we spend money on stuff we don’t really need meanwhile kids on the other side of the planet starve?

So mums great idea was an op shop Christmas.  We spend the money we otherwise would on a Gift for Life or something similar and buy each other something from an op shop.  It’s caused us to be really creative and have a lot of fun with what we get for each other.  This would also be a great idea for a family who don’t have the luxury of spending extra money on Christmas.

Last year I took the 4 kids I look after to an op shop cos I needed to do a bit of last minute shopping.  They ended up finding presents for each other.  the most expensive gift as about $2, and everything they got was either new or had a special character to it.

So if you don’t mind buying stuff that someone else has already used then this idea has lots of potential.  What a great way of teaching kids about the value we put on material things.  Gift giving doesn’t have to be about how much you spend or where you get it from to be valuable.  It’s the time, effort and thought that makes it special.


Christmas Traditions: Christmas Bear

December 3, 2010

This one isn’t overly spiritual or significant, it’s just plain fun… and really CUTE!

I’ve been known to be a winner at finding treasures in op shops, yea I like to call it a gift.  So one day last year I was shopping for our family op shop Christmas (something worthy of a separate post) and I came across this little treasure.  I took him home (at the steep price of 50c) gave him a little wash (to be on the safe side) and made him part of the family.  Introducing… Christmas Bear


Christmas Bear sits on the side of the couch all December.  He is available for hugs for anyone that needs them.  He can be used to comfort upset kiddies (he’s been known to be a great listener to the occasional adult too).  Just like a puppet who only talks to the adult then the adult tells the kid He can be used to teach kids stuff  and behavior management… “Christmas Bear tells me that if you tidy the toys he’ll give you a big hug”, “Christmas Bear wants to hear a story about Christmas, do you want to listen too?”.  Kids can tell Christmas Bear how their day has been or how they feel about something.

I got Chrisrmas Bear out of the cupboard today while the kids were at my place and they were really excited. One of them even tried to use him to comfort a younger sibling when she was upset (emphasis on tried).  This character (or any others you want to create) come alive in a kids imagination while still being tangible enough that they know the difference between what is real and fantasy.

At the end of December Christmas Bear goes into hibernation along with the rest of the decorations.



Christmas Traditions: Seriously Santa

December 1, 2010

Ok, the Santa thing.

Before we start, here is a joke…

What do dyslectics do at a prayer meeting? The bind Santa. *Que the uncontrollable laughter* (ps I had to use spell check to spell dyslectic correctly)

The Deal

Santa can be quite a controversial topic in Christian circles.  Some don’t do the Santa thing usually citing commercialization and materialism as the reasons while others have no problem and jump right in.  I don’t want to tell anyone which side of the fence is right, but I do what to encourage parents to really think about the decision they make.

If you don’t know much about the history of Santa then look it up.  Wikipedia is always a good place to start.  There are a few different variations that the idea of Santa came from, and interestingly a lot of them involve Christian figures.  Either way, the model of Santa that our kids are exposed wears red, rather chubby but somehow manages to fit down the chimney, lives in the North Pole with a bunch of Elves that make toys (replicas of the ones you can buy from your local toy store), has reindeer that pull a flying sleigh, steals milk and cookies, knows when you’re bad or good… the list goes on.

Despite the obvious flaws in the scenario, kids still have no problem believing in Santa.  Kids have incredible God-given imaginations.  Believing in Santa is so exciting.  Waking up on Christmas morning to find out what he has left in the stocking, what kid doesn’t love that?

My Challenge

So I’ve got two main things I want to add to the discussion…

First, the obvious, the emphasis that Santa adds to Christmas on me getting what I hope for.  It’s can easily become a self-centered thing.  Truth is that even without Santa, it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in it.  It’s not that different from getting birthday gifts.  I remember as a kid anticipating some kind of happiness when I receive gifts.  Have you ever seen a kid rip into a bunch of prezzies, then at the end hear them say, “is that all?”  Ha, I’ve heard it!  And if I didn’t say it then I sure felt it.  I can remember very clearly at the end of one Christmas day feeling very sad.  All the things I had hoped in that day were over.

The key here is HOPE.  Kids really do put their hope in Santa to bring the gifts they perceive will give them some kind of selfish fulfillment.  As Christians we know that the only thing worthy of our hope is Jesus Himself.  Everything else other then Jesus will let us down.  It wasn’t until I had a personal belief and trust in God that I didn’t feel that down feeling at the end of an anticipated event like birthdays or Christmas.

So given that gifts from Santa aren’t the only object of our selfish desire, unless you’re going to cut out birthday gifts and other gifts altogether, I don’t think it’s reason enough to boycott Santa.

The second is based on BELIEF.   A friend once told me about how she became a Christian.  She was the ripe old age of 4.  All her life (all 4 yeas) she had held a belief in Santa.  She knew about God.  The story goes that one day her neighbor broke the bad news to her, she had been lied to, Santa was not real.  Very soon after this life shattering event (actually I don’t think she thought it was a big deal) she suddenly became acutely aware of how real God is.  In her 4 year old way, she began a friendship with God.  My friends recons that it was kinda like Santa filled this space in her heart that should have been for God.

Lying or Fantasy

Is it OK to encourage kids to imagine characters that aren’t real?  Imagination a fantasy are a normal and very important part of a child’s emotional development.  So I still don’t really know the answer to that question.  But here another issue about believing specifically in Santa, if we lie about Santa (a character who knows if we are bad or good, who has the potential to fulfill the desire of our hearts) and kids are to put their hope in him and try to be good for him, then what are they to think when we tell them to do the same thing in Jesus?

A Possible Solution

I REALLY like how my parents approached the Santa thing when I was a kid.  We “played” Santa.  I remember clearly one of the first years that we did this, I must have been 2 or 3.  I remember mum smiling and telling me that they are going to pretend to be Santa, sneak into my room and leave something on the end of my bed.  I can’t imagine being more excited then I was then.  My imagination played along, and while I knew Santa wasn’t real the way God is real, it was still loads of fun.  I woke up a thousand times during the night, kicking my feet to see if something was on the end of my bed.  One year I opened it all when it was still dark.  My heart was still very focused on GETTING.  So this solution didn’t cover that issue, but it sure dealt with the belief one.

So, there you have it.  Whatever you decide to do about Santa make sure you know why.  Most importantly, make sure you talk through these issues with your kids.


Creating Christmas Traditions

December 1, 2010

Quite a few of my friends are at a point in life where the have young families and are talking about creating Christmas traditions.  It’s a great way to create memories and a sense of belonging and identity as part of a family. But another cool thing about it is that traditions can be used to point ourselves towards Jesus.  The old cliche says, Jesus is the reason for the season.  How easy is that to forget?  Especially in such a materialistic self centered world.  Kids especially get gripped by the sparkle and lights, the food and presents.  No matter what they learned at church on Sunday it’s kinda easy to get distracted.

Kids (like the rest of us) need be reminded in the midst of all the other stuff we love about Christmas that it is actually all about Jesus and to make Him number one.  That’s actually what Advent is all about. The Latin word that Advent comes from means “coming”.  It’s a season of expecting something… it has the potential to be a season where we once again focus on Jesus, remember that He is the centre of EVERYTHING, and that He is coming again… ADVENT.  So how bout create some traditions that not only bring familes together and create memories, but point us all towards Jesus.

I’ll try and post a few ideas over the next couple of weeks… I will field test them first with the kids I look after, and some will be from my own family and childhood.  If you’ve got any ideas then sharing is caring!

P.s here is the wikipedia article on Advent, give you some context to it.


add a little ORANGE

November 22, 2010

I love that family ministry is so hot right now in kidmin.  Whether it’s Orange or something else that has inspired you to think family, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the stuff we think we should be doing. If you’ve been doing this gig for long enough then you’ll know that trying to do it all at once is a recipe for disaster… so here’s my strategy…

add a little ORANGE

We look at what we are already doing and… add a little ORANGE!

Examples…

  • Guy Fawkes – rather then just doing an EPIC and Urban event on a Friday night, we added a little orange and opened it up to families.  We had a wide range of ages there, young families spent some quality time together without having to organise something themselves or spend much money, new families connected well with existing families, families invited other families. All round a winner I think!
  • Sunday services… while the way we do church on a Sunday is not very “orange”, we managed to reintroduce the (once dreaded) Family Service. Traditionally in our church this means putting kids on stage cos they’re cute and making everyone cringe with hideous puppets and awful songs and making everyone that is not a parent feel out of place… not very orange really.  We added a little orange and had an “All In” service were the main goal is for families to have a meaningful time in church together and people of all ages to be contributing in different ways.  I think this was fairly successful and I’m looking forward to doing it again!
  • Revo Film Festival – this wasn’t my doing, it was opened up to the whole church (used to be just youth and students) and families took their own initiative to add a little orange. Kids were involved in some of the films and a few of them even got dressed up and came along to the Roscers.
  • Project Solution also used to be a youth and students thing but was opened up to the whole church.  Adding a little orange meant that kids wern’t involved in a project just as part of LifeKids but as part of their family.  I really believe that families are called together, not just called as individuals.  Serving their community together is very orange indeed.  Very cool I think.

We’re just beginning, only scratching the surface really… baby dedications is something else on the cards to get the orange paint bucket out for, and we’re going to paint E-Nights orange by developing two night courses for parents around spiritual parenting.

It’s actually fairly simple when you take something your church is already doing and add a little orange!


Bubbles

November 21, 2010

How did we ever survive at LifeKids without bubbles?  Especially in Pips and Sprouts (2-4 year olds)

Here are some of the ways that we’ve been using bubbles recently…

  • During Part at the Start – free play time.  We’ve made giant bubble wands plus a variety of other bubble wands.  It’s proven to be one of the most popular activities, especially for the girls but boys enjoy it too.
  • Break the ice with new kids, particularly really young kids.  It’s not uncommon for new kids to feel quite anxious about talking to someone new.  Blowing bubbles for them to catch – get them laughing and moving helps them feel more at ease.
  • Distraction for preschoolers.  Our team bring out the bubbles when they know the kids are about to loose it and it’s very effective.  They literally could spend the whole session blowing and chasing bubbles!
  • Connect with kids before church in the foyer and give them something fun to do while their parents talk and sign them in.

Someone asked my why I don’t get a bubble machine.  Apart from the fact that I quite enjoy being a human bubble machine, the opportunity to connect with kids while holding a bottle of bubble solution and a bubble wand is something that couldn’t be replaced with a machine.

Here’s a good recipie…

1 cup detergent

2 cups water

1 tablespoon glycerin (just ask at your pharmacy)

Stir gentley, try not to make too many bubbles when you’re mixing it.

Play around with the recipe, you could get away with using less detergent depending on what brand and how strong it is.  We have a bunch of bubble mixture bottles that we just keep refilling.  Another way of blowing bubbles is with a straw, just make sure the kids don’s suck the mixture… they’ll learn fast if they do!


My Beef with Bieber

November 20, 2010

I’ve got to start by saying that I know Justin Bieber isn’t the first to do this, it’s just that I’ve come back from school camp.  3 hours there and 3 hours back with a whole lot of short trips in between with the constant nag… “put on Justin Bieber”, and “no this music is stupid, I want Justin Bieber”.

This kid is only 16.  I know that he probably doesn’t write his own songs, but I find it weird that EVERY song on his album is about girls.  Half of them about how he is jealous that his ex girlfriend is seeing someone else now. In “Baby”, Ludacris’ rap starts with… ‘when I was 13, I had my first love…” don’t ask me to quote the rest… I’m ashamed to admit I actually could though…

So, here’s my beef… the kids in my car that were into this “artist” (?!?!?!?) range between 8 and 10 years old.  Almost every 10 year old wants to be 13, probably older.  Many readily take on these messages as cues as to how they should behave.  We’ve got kids this age in “relationships” that mock 13 year olds that mock 18 year olds… the copy the dance moves, wear the clothes and make up, use the language… they’re just growing up so fast, they have such a small window of being a kid.  Add to that the fact that they are not as emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually developed as the adults they are trying to be.

The thing that I care about the most though is the words and how they effect their hearts and minds.  Words are powerful.  Words in songs are very powerful, especially when sung over and over and over and over… the songs that kids listen to, even though the messages can be subtle effect the way they think and feel about what happens around them and to them.  Do we REALLY want our kids hearts and minds to be impacted these sorts of words of a grown up sung through a kid?

Justin Bieber isn’t the first I know.  When I was a kid we were also listening to the same sorts of messages, but the difference was that adults were singing them.  This is not kids listening to adults singing about adult things, but KIDS singing about adults things.

So… how do we approach this?  Half of me just wants to run…


YIKES!

November 20, 2010

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything… perhaps it’s time for a little update.  Here’s what I’ve been up to…

  • Writing our own curriculum… we’ve been using stuff we’ve bought mostly this year, so the stuff we’ve written ourselves has had a lot more go into it then what we used to do.  Our kids have responded very well to it. The funest part has to be making videos… it’s loads of work but worth it… I am however very glad for our friends at Hillsong Kids and 4 who write awesome stuff… makes the rest of the year loads easier!
  • The birth of my second niece, Chloe Eileen Thompson in October.
  • My Birthday in October, I had a great time with family and friends
  • All In Sunday – probably the best “family” service we’ve ever done.
  • Double in a Day – we went nuts promoting this with our kids and did a huge push to get them to bring their friends.  We had quite a few new kids.  It was like LifeKids on steroids, heaps of fun!
  • School camp – I had the privilege of going to St Leonard’s School camp with Megan and Owen.  I really enjoyed getting to know some of the parents and the teachers.  A great bunch of kids too, they really look out for each other.
  • We’ve been rocking the face painting recently… at every opportunity it comes out. Kids love it… and  Parents love it a little more then they used to now that we ditched the cheap face paint and invested in some good stuff.  No matter how cheap it is, NEVER buy face paint from the $2 Shop, you mind as well use poster paint!
  • We’ve also been going a little crazy with the BUBBLES!  I don’t know how we did kids ministry without bubbles before.  I love bubbles so much I think i”ll write a whole post about it…
  • Fireworks this year were fantastic.  We took the opportunity yo combine with Urban Youth and have a family event.  It was easy to run and had a great atmosphere.
  • A team from LifeKids went down to Balclutha for the Clutha Youth Trusts Guy Fawkes event.  Dave and I had a slot on the stage, the first time we’ve ever done that outside of our own church.  And yes… we did face painting… and also the bubbles 🙂

I heart pastors kids

September 30, 2010

If I had ten cents for every time I hear about pastors and leaders kids getting messed up because their parents pour their heart and soul into ministry, meanwhile the kids are getting their second best then I would be very rich indeed.

We’ve all heard those stories. However, I’ve noticed something different in the leaders kids in our movement. I’ve only seen a glimpse this week, but they are kids that love God more then any other group of kids I’ve seen, and they love the church too.

We seem to have a great healthy culture of parenting in our movement. It gets talked about a lot which is good. Parents don’t put their “call” on hold because they have kids, but they do understand priorities. Even our national leader’s kids have grown up to love the house of God because of their parents love for the House and love for them. And their kids are going on to love God too.

These kids love worshiping God, they love praying, the know EVERY Bible story (which as I’ve found makes it very difficult to create suspense), they are pretty much AWESOME!

I know these parents aren’t by any means perfect but they’re healthy. It’s very exciting to see!