Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday School and Establishing a Faith Foundation

Establishing a foundation of faith for our son is a top priority for my husband and me. Parents really only have a short time in their child's life where they are the chief influences. Most parents who are attempting to establish a faith foundation are a part of a faith community and consider Sunday School and Vacation Bible School to be important parts of this foundation. Having been a youth minister I have planned and have been a part of many different aspects of Christian education and have always found Sunday School to be an interesting aspect of Christian communities. On a whole I have always been against Sunday School when  occurs during worship service. When a pastor friend of mine shared the article I Wonder IF Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids on Facebook today it got me thinking about the "issue" of Sunday School again.

I wanted to share the article because it inspires good questions to ponder.

  • Is Sunday School really doing good things for our children or is it setting them up to see the Bible as a story rather than as the word of God? 
  • Does Sunday School only teach our children to "be good" so that God will bless them? 
  • The bigger question for me however is: does Sunday School really prepare our children to live by the word, teach them valuable skills for continued self study/spiritual growth, and build a foundation and familiarity with worship? 
Although. I do not agree with all of the theology in this article I do wonder about the negative affects Sunday School may have on our kids. I will also admit that I struggle with the idea of Vacation Bible School (VBS) as well. I will explore these topics further below but first here is the article:

I Wonder If Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids posted on Beliefs of the Heart 

My Personal Reflections on the Topic:

My personal faith journey did not include attending Sunday School or V.B.S. I can remember going to Sunday School a handful of times when I was a kid but I almost always attended services with my mom and grandma. I went to and was active in youth group in my teen years. Summer church camps were a huge part of my faith experience and journey both as a teen and as an adult (I will also add that I met my husband at church camp). When I was in college I was a part of the United Methodist campus ministry which also led to my becoming a youth minister for most of college. I did go through a time of seeking an exploration in college and can admit that I was not a professing Christian for a short time in college before I became a youth minister but I think this period of questioning was what strengthened my faith. Ironically, during my questing phase I did not stop attending functions with my faith community. They were still my foundation in terms of community and support. Some of them may not even know I went through this phase.

When I was a youth minister I remember being really shocked at the expectation that I was to teach Sunday School during worship service so that the youth had "something they could connect to on Sunday morning". I was really surprised by this attitude. I was also confused, as teenagers, I felt they should be able to be in worship, especially if they had gone through confirmation. Many of those youth never attended worship, they only attended Sunday School. Their whole lives they had never learned to sit through worship. It felt uncomfortable and awkward to them. They were unsure of what was supposed to happen or what was expected from them. I know many churches create "contemporary" services to "hook" the young people but I have to be honest; I think our kids have a bigger problem than music with worship. I think our kids don't know how to worship. I think they don't feel comfortable in worship. Granted there are many different ways to worship but one has to have plenty of exposure to various forms of worship in order to find one that feels right for them. If we are sending our children off to Sunday School, how are they going to know this?

I realize that many churches have problems with children in worship. They worry about children being disruptive or distracting. To this I say: they will never learn how to behave in worship if they are never there! We shouldn't be surprised that young adults lose faith and stop attending church. They haven't been attending church, they have been going to Sunday School. Of course worship feels uncomfortable for all intents and purposes it is a new experience for them. They may know their parents have been in the sanctuary worshiping but they haven't experienced their parents worshiping. If they are not with you, you are not teaching them by example. Children need to see you do it in order to learn it as an example.

If Sunday School's purpose is to keep the kids occupied while the adults worship we are doing our children a great disservice. The curriculum being taught may be the least of our worries. As parents it is our job to teach our children to love and worship God. Sending them off to Sunday School is asking someone else to teach them these things.

While we are on the subject of curriculum I might say that it is very important that as parents we know how the Bible is being taught to our children and what they are being taught about the Bible. If we are sending them to Sunday School and not talking to them about what they learned we are creating a separation between our faith and our children's faith. Were your children taught the same theology you want them to learn? Was the story over simplified or presented in a Comic Book hero style? Did your child understand the lesson and how to apply the lesson to their everyday life? These are the kind of questions we should be asking when we pick our kids up from Sunday School.

Recently, I was talking to a friend who was telling me about the VBS program she sent her 11 year old child to this summer. The group he was in was named "The Goliath Men". This struck me as odd. I asked her why they had that name? Did the boys pick the name or was is assigned to them? Do they know who Goliath is? This made her curious so she asked her child and he asked his group leader. All the groups were named after popular roller coasters because the theme of VBS was Facing your Fears with God. To be fair I did not attend this VBS or talk to any of the leadership at the event; but I was really flabbergasted and a little upset with this explanation.

This seems harmless I know but to me VBS and church activities should be a time when kids get to LIVE IN THE WORD because all the rest of the week they live in the world. I would never want my son thinking that Goliath was cool. Goliath was an egotistical bully and an enemy of Israel. David, however, was a youth who used a child's toy to conquer Goliath. David used brains over brawn and faced his fear, trusting that God had his back (1 Samuel 17: The Message Version). I personally don't care if my son can name a single roller coaster. I do, however care that he can name the ordinary people in the Bible who did great things when they trusted in God's master design and will for their lives.

 While Sunday School and VBS may be a time for children to relate to God on their level, it is important that we as parents continue the conversation and lessons being taught to them at church. Building a faith foundation does not happen only on Sunday morning, it happens everyday all day long. We build it by setting examples for them in our actions and words. We build it in our conversations with them, the songs we sing, and the books we read to them. We build it by teaching them to worship, to pray, and to praise. We build it by doing it with them, answering their questions honestly, and letting them know that we too have questions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Fun & Educational Mr. Potato Head...

One of the milestones of learning for a toddler is Body Part Identification. We have been singing songs and we identify parts when we are taking a bath or getting dressed but this didn't seem like it was as much fun as it could be. I started to do a little research and I found an idea that seems like it is a lot of fun- Mr. Potato Head!!!

I found some really awesome links with ideas on how to use Mr. Potato Head in a fun yet educational way. There are many benefits to using Mr. Potato Head when it comes to speech and language development. I am looking forward to our play time!

I also came across a great video created by a Speech Therapist here in CA. I love this video because she is showing me how to play with my son so that I can maximize learning with him. You can find the video here.  

I am really looking forward to our play time!!!

Mr. Potato Head Video Tutorial for Developing Speech

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What does it mean to be a mother?

What does it mean to be a mother?

This summer the group of moms I meet with are reading the book: Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as Sacred Role by Erin Davis.  We started talking about the first chapter of the book last week and it has really made me think about the role of motherhood and who defines this role. Despite what many people may think women are pressured by the church, by family, and by society to conform to vastly different standards of motherhood. It is the life long problem of a women, she is being pulled in many  different directions all at once!

How does society shape my idea of motherhood?

This is a good question to ask and a difficult one too. It is a very worthy question to ask however, and as a believer it is good for me to understand where I am getting certain ideas about motherhood. 

My initial response is that we see two different kinds of moms on television. We see the June Clever's of the television world and think that we must have our hair and make-up done, our starched dress covered in a clean apron while holding a nutritious snack in our hands when our kids and husband come home. We are given the impression by these "Clever" mom's that we must be the perfect homemaker with clean homes and homemade meals to boot. We must always be wearing a smile. Perfect Everything is what comes to mind when we see this television mom. She sets an impossible standard. The second kind of television mom is the Lorelai Gilmore's. The working mom who blunders all the time, who is prone to mistakes but finds a way to put a comedic twist on things. She has a career and tries to balance both family and work. She is a single mom who gets help from family and some how she always has the money she needs to give her kid that really great "make-up" gift. The third is the Clair Huxtable mom who works at a fabulous career and some how has a house that runs smoothly and in perfect order despite the fact that she has 4 kids. She never has to choose between her family and her career- she has it all and it costs her nothing.

I think the idea of all three of these types of moms is very dangerous to women who decide to become mothers. They are also very dangerous to the believer. Yet, their images are stamped in our brains as if they represent the truth. Society would have us believe that our decisions are cookie cutter choices that have specific characteristics we must fulfill. This idea of motherhood however, plagues me. It taunts me. It makes me feel inadequate and less than worthy.

I can't discuss how society shapes our idea of motherhood and ignore the feminist movement in our country. I was raised by a feminist, my single mom; and I was also raised by my grandmother, who was very much a traditional Catholic woman. I didn't realize it until I became a mother myself, but I really did get the best of both worlds. My mother worked and went to night school and m grandmother was a home with me. I had two amazing women in my life but they happened to come from completely different ends of the spectrum.

When I was in high school and thinking about what career path I wanted to choose, I admit that having a family one day played a role in my decision making. I chose to be a teacher for many reasons but a benefit to this career choice was the time I would get to be with my kids if I found the right guy to marry. I was also aware that men leave and being a teacher would give me a chance to be a single mom who has the same school schedule as my kids. My mom was proud of me for going to college but was also very disappointed that I had chosen a "traditional female role" for myself. I have always felt that being a teacher was the right choice for me however, when I became a mom I knew two things at the same time: 1) I wanted to be home with my kid! 2) I felt guilty and as if I had thrown away the hard work women had done to break the barriers down in society so that I could one day have a career and a family.

I personally don't think feminism has done good things for motherhood or for our children. I think it has created a cavern so large in our society that our young girls today don't know what it means to be woman and they don't know why being a woman is great. They have so many choices they are confused. Don't get me wrong, choices are great! However, when I talk to teen girls now I hear the confusion and dismay at not knowing what to do with themselves or which part of themselves to embrace.

I have also thought that feminism is about ensuring that women have choices but I am beginning to wonder if feminism is really about society dictating yet another set of standards and expectations. Only this time no one knows what the "ideal' feminist looks like or acts like. She is the ultimate mysterious woman. The only thing I really know for sure about a feminist is that she should be able to terminate a pregnancy if she wants to and that no one should say anything to her about it.

In the book there is a quote from Rachel Jankovic which had a profound affect on my heart when I read it. Please: read it below:

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.
If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

Since we must have children in order to be a mother it makes sense that we should first look at where our children rank in our priorities and values. This will help us to understand the decisions we make and possibly why we make them.

This quote really made me question the role abortion plays on our ideas of motherhood. I have never consciously connected the two ideas. Before I saw my son for the first time in an ultrasound, I had been on the fence about abortion. I felt it was wrong and against what God wanted for us, but I was not in favor of revoking abortion laws. Seeing my son caused me to fall off the fence. In an instant I became Pro-Life.

When I realized that God had blessed me with the task of raising one of His children I could not deny the call or the responsibility. Once I saw becoming a mother as a calling from God, it ceased to exist for me a selfish act of carrying on my genetics or family legacy and became the next step in my faith journey. This line of thinking led me to the next question:

How does my faith shape my ideas of motherhood?

Well, to this I have answer- in a lot of ways. I will however be the first to admit that I struggle with submitting to a traditional marriage, to submitting to my husband as the authority in our family and in fulfilling the role the Bible sets for me. I guess if I were being really honest I would admit that I am not obedient.

Before I got pregnant with my son I did a lot of research on Mary, mother of God. I guess you could say I had a Mary crush. I read lots of book about her and I attended a worship service at my local catholic church when a Marian visionary came to receive a vision from Mary. I also pray the rosary and feel very close the Mary. My due date was right around Christmas and I felt especially close to Mary toward the end of my pregnancy. Mary is the perfect example of a woman being obedient to God and embracing motherhood. If there was an ideal of motherhood to live up to it, it is the idea of Mary. Yet, there isn't much actually said about her or her mothering in the Bible. She is mysterious in many ways.

There are a few scriptures that I use to help me focus my priorities as a mother and as a wife. For the purposes of this blog I am only going to discuss the virtues of motherhood.  These virtues also seem like a tall order to fill however, the focus is different in the scripture. The focus is on please God not on pleasing the outside world. God does not require that I look perfect or that I have the latest fashions on. God requires that I am living to serve Him and to teach my children to believe in Him and to serve as well. The most exciting scripture for me is Proverbs 31:28. God wants me to be happy and He wants my husband and children to give me praise. That sounds like a fair deal to me.

One of my greatest struggles as a mother of faith is remembering that my son does not belong to me- he belongs to God. When my son is sick and I begin to worry, I try to keep this in mind. It helps me to let go when I need to let go and it helps me to remember to watch my actions and my words. It is much harder to keep this in mind when I am making dreams and goals for my son. It is hard to know when to push him into a certain direction and when to simply encourage him so that God can lead him.

Scriptures on the Virtues of Motherhood

Proverbs 31on the virtues of a mother. Mothering - A Virtuous Woman teaches her children the ways of her Father in heaven. She nurtures her children with the love of Christ, disciplines them with care and wisdom, and trains them in the way they should go. (http://www.proverbs31.org/)

Proverbs 31: 26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”

 Proverbs 31: 28 “Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her”

 Proverbs 22: 6 “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”

Deuteronomy 6 (MOSES EXHORTS ISRAEL TO HEAR GOD AND TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.) “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth. Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may go in and occupy the good land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you, thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised. When your children ask you in time to come, "What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?"  then you shall say to your children, "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.  He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will 
be in the right."

Luke 18: 16 “But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.