Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Partnering with Parents - Part 2

Partnering with Parents

What that means to me as a parent.

I have two teenage boys. Andrew is 16, Jake is 19.

Everything I said in my last post, Partnering with Parents - Part 1, is not just something I believe in because it is my job, or even because I love working with children and am passionate about helping kids know Jesus. 

I also believe in partnering with parents because I am a parent who has been partnered with here at the Church at Argyle.

Before I was ever on staff, I was the Mom of two precious boys who needed help with this parent thing. It is hard. Now, I love being a Mom. It is the one thing, all of my life, that I was certain I wanted to do. But when you actually have a precious, helpless, living, breathing, human being, completely dependent on you....well, for me I realized very quickly, I needed help.

One of the ways God answered my prayer for help was when I found the preschool here and enrolled my oldest son Jake when he was four years old. I did what I saw as my duty and researched pre-schools in the area. I narrowed it down to 4 places based on research and word of mouth. I'll admit I was drawn to the schools that had brand new buildings and security systems with bells and whistles. 

This preschool did not have either at the time but then I walked in the building and met the director. I can only describe it as a peace coming over me. I knew this was the place. I had never had that happen before. 

I still looked at the rest of the schools on my list. However, I came back to Argyle, and this is where I began to learn what it looked like and felt like to not just drop my child off at school but to be supported, encouraged, cared about - partnered with - as a parent.

I could do a whole blog on our preschool but if you need a wonderful preschool for your 2, 3, 4 year old or Kindergartner, I highly recommend you call 904-778-4838 and talk to Terri or Sharon, or go to ACPK's website.

We did have a church home before coming here. We loved it and loved the people, so many of which I had known since I was a little girl. But it was Jake asking about going to church at his school that brought us here for a visit, which along with prayer that took me away from my comfort zone for what my children needed, turned into regular attendance and eventually membership. 

The partnership has continued to grow throughout the lives of my children. From small group leaders in Kindergarten who made Jesus so real, not just by the stories they told and activities they shared but by the way the treated my boys and the way they treated everyone. In the small group of a wonderful married couple, first Jake and 2 years after him, Andrew, accepted Jesus as their savior. From our conversations at the time I know that in their young minds and precious hearts, they knew exactly what they were doing. 

They were not doing what they were told.

They were not following an alter call that 20 of their friends followed.

They had been taught about Jesus' love for them in a way that was so clear and real it gave them the childlike faith to say, this is what I want and I am ready.

They each prayed the prayer of salvation and were baptized here at Argyle. Each event was one of the happiest days of my life as a Mom! To this day I get emotional when I talk about these leaders and the impact they had in the lives of my children. 

And that impact has not stopped. Even though they moved out of that small group and into the next, each leader here has invested in my child. There have been student leaders along the way as well, that have given my child someone to look up to and want to be like while they're still young and still learning. This showed them that they have a purpose right now, not "someday". So when they went from elementary to junior high their leaders took them out into the community to serve and encouraged them to find a way to connect right here. Jesus is as real to them and His love is as clear for them now as it was then.

With the guidance and encouragement of our High School Pastor and his wife, as well as that of our Senior Pastor, they both began serving in our church, one in our worship arts tech department and the other in our Youth worship band, and both of course are serving with me in children's ministry. But they are stuck with me and they honestly do a better job because I'm not the only one who holds them accountable. They serve with our Worship Arts in their areas of passion and giftedness because someone, besides me, believed in them and gave them a chance. 

I had the wonderful opportunity to go to our high school camp (BigStuf for us) this summer for the first time. This trip is what motivated me to write these blogs. Watching our leaders spend a week with our middle and high schoolers. Seeing the relationships that were already there, grow as we spent 24 hours a day for 5 days straight together. Watching them listen, laugh, cry, wait, eat, get tired and get get grumpy together and see our kids understand that they are loved no matter what. Watching them worship with their whole selves, get excited about how much God loves them and hear them say in their own words what they learned from the speakers, whether they were 12, 15 or 18. Watching them support and encourage each other as they shared their sins and fears with humility and courage, give and receive grace, trust and lean on each other like God's word teaches us to.

My overwhelming emotion during the whole trip was gratitude. 

I am so grateful as a leader to know that when the children in my ministry, leave UpStreet and go to Crave (jr. high) and then Impact (high school), they are loved and led and their families have a group of leaders to help them know grace, forgiveness, courage and truth so they learn to trust in the One who created them. 

I am so grateful as a parent to have a family of leaders that we trust, who will pray with and for us. Who because they have shown up faithfully and consistently in my son's lives, they have earned the position of mentors and Godly leaders that my kids will talk to when they have questions. Who I can go to if there is an issue I need help with as a parent and who will come to me if my teenager has an issue that I need to know about. These are the people I will invite to their graduation. These are the people I will call when we need help. And please don't miss this, we all need help. We are not meant to do any of this life alone. 

I'll talk about some ways we can partner together in my next and final post in this series, Partnering with Parents - Part 3. If you're a parent at Argyle and have a story of encouragement for our leaders, please post it in the comments here. If you're a parent who wants to partner with us, email me at amygieger@iargyle.com and I'll get you connected with the right information and leaders. You are not alone.
We are better together,

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Partnering with parents - part 1

"Partnering with parents." 

We use that phrase in our children's ministry. 

What does it mean?

Well I can tell you what it means as a Children's Ministry Director. 

It means having consistent small group leaders, 
the same hours,
every Sunday
for the entire school year. Because this is the best way for our children and parents to feel safe, to connect, to feel welcome and accepted, with a leader who is faithful and invests their heart and their time to care about each child and family in their small group. 

It means using curriculum that meets each child where they are 
at each age 
and developmental level 
so that they don't just adopt their parents faith and then lose it along the way 
but instead transition from believing what they are told, to understanding, choosing and living out their own, authentic faith and relationship with Christ.

It means providing environments where kids are allowed to 
be loud 
and ask questions, because this is how they are made and this is how they learn and grow.

It means finding and training and inspiring leaders to understand that EVERY child is made in the image of God, so that for at least the one hour per week they are here, they have a place where 
they see and are shown God's love for them, 
they are welcome and accepted,
they learn to give and receive grace,
they are valued and cared about.

It also means being intentional and consistent as parents and leaders about letting our junior high and high school students serve alongside our dedicated adult leaders now, so that they realize 
they can lead and make a difference today, 
not someday when they are "grown up". 
If we show them how and let them lead in areas where they are gifted now, 
they transition seamlessly from student leaders to adult leaders because they already know how. 
They learn that they are important and capable and God can work through them just as they are, instead of stalling when they finally become adults because they have been on the outside waiting to get in for so long that the steps they need to take to be a leader are overwhelming and they remember the feeling of being kept out more than what it felt like to want to serve.

This all works best when small group leaders and parents 
make the effort to communicate,
pray for each other and their children,
reach out to each other when there is a crisis or significant change in the life of the family, good or bad, so that they can comfort and pray with or encourage and celebrate with the child together.

When small group leaders and parents recognize their children's interests and gifts, then reach out to get them connected with a leader in that area of ministry as they enter junior high so that they learn what it feels like to serve, 
to think and care about someone besides themselves, 
to stop thinking about their own needs and problems for a while 
and care about the needs and spiritual growth of their small group, their church and their community.

As a leader I am passionate about this philosophy because as a parent I have proof that it works.
I will share those examples in my next post. Partnering with parents - part 2.

Until then - if you are not already here consistently during the same hour each Sunday I encourage you to change that starting this week. 
If you have not reached out to, or even met your child's small group leader, I encourage you to make that happen this Sunday.
If you or your junior high school or high school student is not serving already, call or email me and I will help you find out where there are opportunities in our church and community to start now.

We are better together,