Right now in Uptown we just finished up The Story for Children curriculum. Chyanne Higgins, our previous Children’s Director, started the transition with this curriculum taking the kids through the Bible learning about the scope of the narrative overall. Through this curriculum, your children have seen how God made the world, they have seen that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit the relationship between God and man was broken. God knew that He would need to send a savior, and designed a history of man that points towards the person of Jesus. Abraham accepted the promise of God, he begat Isaac who begat Jacob, and the Israelites who descended moved to Egypt. With them they carried the promises of God. Israel eventually left the grasp of Egypt, and spent every generation from that time on struggling to remain faithful to God. We learned about good kings who tried to pull them back to God like David, Solomon, and Asa. We learned about the prophets who God spoke through to put them back like Haggai and Jeremiah. Through it all, they were promised a savior. When Jesus was born, he fulfilled everything. We wrapped up from there – showing the kids that Jesus is our king and he has something great for us.
As I was planning these lessons for our department it was refreshing to be reminded of how the whole story comes together to show the insane goodness and persistent love of God. I hope my children’s ministry staff benefited from these as I did. Most importantly, the kids had fun learning, too! They played games and did crafts that emphasized these lessons.
We are now learning about the Fruits of the Spirit as a mini-series around Easter until we start something new later in the spring. The emphasis is being placed on God working on earth through His Spirit to make us more like Him. When we know him, he gives us these qualities in our lives. “But the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This is found in Galatians 5, and we are combining them with stories of the apostles from Acts that exemplify these qualities.
Also, recently, children have been learning some songs in a gathered worship time. We have implemented this for the month of March to help them learn songs for Palm Sunday and
Easter kids choir performances. Parents do need to sign kids up for the stage performance, but they have had a ton of fun with Rachel Johnson learning these songs as part of their normal Sunday activity.
I am also planning fun times for our parents and kids to get together, providing that Christian community that we keep encouraging. We had an ornament decorating party at Christmas where kids and parents alike were given an avenue to be creative. This week, during spring break we will spend Thursday (March 30) in the gym playing kickball, tag, and parachute games around a break for lunch.
Our UpCamps from last summer will be surfacing again around the centerpiece of Vacation Bible School from July 10-14. We will meet in the mornings, getting out in time for lunch.
Mark your calendars! Our theme is “Galactic Starveyors.” I am excited to be able to lay out for you our daily themes:
- The Relationship Began – Genesis 1:1-2, 26-31; John 1:1, 14
- The Relationship Broken – Genesis 3
- The Relationship Promised – Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 2:22-39
- The Relationship Restored – Mark 12:22-16:7
- The Relationship Continues – John 21:1-19; Acts 1:4,8
We will have more information and more excitement as the week gets closer, but keep us in mind when you are planning your summer. This will be a great event for kids familiar with church to build some theology and continuity, as well as a great outreach and evangelism tool for anyone else you may want to invite. We will also need plenty of help in many different areas!
Before I sign off, I just want to share that my personal focus when it comes to children’s ministry is to build up our local community. I want to provide Biblical teaching for your kids in a safe environment, to provide resources for your family to grow to know God better, and to equip you to go and be a light in our dark world. I hope that what I have to share about our ministry encourages you, that it shines a light on the little ones in our midst and shows that they are important to us because we know that they are important to God.
If you are interested in having any information about our Children’s Ministry, think you might want to volunteer, or want to know what other sort of resources we have for families please e-mail [email protected]
February 24th-25th, Harvest’s preteen ministry (The Bridge) hosted our 2nd Overnighter event. We had 34 students gather together with 8 adult volunteers to spend 15 hours together in community having some good old fashioned fun. We ate a lot of junk food, watched a movie, threw dodgeballs at each other, participated in nerf gun warfare, played games, and created lasting memories. Some of us even got a little bit of sleep!
As parents were checking in their students Friday night they were equal parts excited for the kids and concerned for my well-being. Mostly, they were grateful that we were willing to spend some quality time with the students.
Here at Harvest we have some truly amazing young people and equally amazing adult volunteers who are here to support our students and create lasting relationships with them. Preteens are an amazing age group. They are forming their own ideas about the world around them and discovering where they fit into the grand scheme of things; they ask questions and begin to develop critical thinking skills; they are anxious to grow up, and yet still know how to let loose and exhibit a carefree spirit.
I look forward to the Overnighter every year. The beauty of the Overnighter is that we can all come together to just have FUN. No lessons, no discussions, and an extremely flexible structure of events. The Overnighter is about building community and relationships. To the parents, thank you for trusting us with your kids. To the volunteers, I praise God for your hearts and willingness to serve. To the students, thanks for the fantastic memories! We will see you at the Overnighter next year!
We live in a very unique time.
I remember being in high school and getting my first cell phone ever. It was literally about the size of half a brick, and came with a holster to sling it on to my belt. I kept it next to my pager.
These days, students have the world at their fingertips. A wealth of information is available beyond anything that’s ever been known in history. People have dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to communicate with one another, and all with a single device in their pocket.
But, as we all know, this comes with many drawbacks as well, especially for teenagers. Students have begun to rely on their cell phone and social media as their primary form of communication. Because of this, deep, genuine, Christ-like friendships are becoming harder and harder to achieve, as this isn’t something that’s likely to come via a screen.
Because of this, we in the Refuge decided that this February, our discipleship camp would be focused on showing the students the importance of a Christian community that stretches beyond social media. So we headed out to Sweet Home to grow in our faith in Christ, and to grow as a Christian community.
The weekend began with the students being given prayer partners for the weekend, one specific person with whom they would be praying for, and would pray for them, throughout the weekend. Kyle Fox brought our messages, and he taught us the importance of how we connect with God, how we connect with each other, how God connects with us, and how we are meant to connect with the world.
The students we also challenged with a game that put the same limitations on them that social media does. They could only communicate in short phrases, like Twitter; only with pictures, like Instagram; for only ten seconds at a time, like Snapchat; and so on. Throughout the weekend, we were shown how limiting relying on social media is, and how important it is to have friendships that go beyond a screen.
Now that we’ve returned, friendships, new and old, have grown and students have learned to be praying for one another and to be in the Word together. In fact, a student led Bible study will be starting along with all of the new small groups beginning within the church.
It was an incredible weekend, and God moved in many ways. If your student wasn’t able to make it, be sure they can go during President’s Day next year, and make sure they can be at our summer camps this year!
Hey, everybody! Kyle here. I just wanted to introduce some of the greatest people of all time: Harvest’s team of small group leaders!
When I began looking for people to take the lead in the effort to create an atmosphere of fellowship and community within the Harvest family, I did not have to search very long. The call was (and continues to be) answered by those who have caught the vision of creating a church that lives life together, and we wanted to give everybody the chance to be able to see exactly who they are.
If you haven’t taken the step of joining a small group yet, get in touch with me, or any one of our leaders and we would be happy to talk to you about how to make that happen!
Most of our small groups start this coming week (week of March 12th)! We are adding new groups all the time. If any of these groups work well with your schedule, location, and childcare needs, be sure to send me (Kyle) an email or give the office a phone call at 503-492-9800 and I will give you more details on how to connect with that group. If you haven’t signed up yet to participate in a small group, click this link to fill out the form!
As Christians, we understand and believe that the Bible is important. The Bible is scripture, it is God’s word to man, and it is central to the understanding of our faith and our relationship to God. The Bible offers us comfort and encouragement; it give us assurance and guidance; and it provides us with discipline, admonishment, and conviction. It is through Scripture that God reveals himself and his character to the world, and speaks into our lives.
The apostle Paul writes that:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Bible is an important book, dealing with all the major issues we face in our lives: God, eternal life, death, love, sin, relationships, morality and ethics, etc. The Bible lifts our spirits, build us up, gives us hope, and brings us close to God. Knowing God’s Word is one of the primary ways that we grow in our knowledge of who God is. As Christians we are followers of Christ, the adopted children of God – we should desire to know God, and do so to the best of our abilities.
As believers, we recognize on an intellectual level that knowing God and knowing God’s Word go hand-in-hand. However, as important as the Bible is to our discipleship to Christ, we often do not know how to approach reading the bible, let alone how to study it. The bible is intimidating. It is an ancient book, written over the course of 1600 years in different countries, cultures, and languages with over 40 different authors contributing to its 66 books. The Bible is a book, but it is also an entire library. It can be hard to read, and sometimes even harder to understand.
In general, as Americans we do not read much of anything anymore. An article posted by Christianity Today revealed that for nearly 1 in 4 of us it had been over a year since we last read a book, any book. Let alone a collection of ancient religious writings. Study after study in the last quarter-century has shown us that American Christians increasingly do not read, engage, or even know their Bibles. We live in a world of increasing biblical illiteracy. A recent LifeWay Research study found that only 11% of regular church attending believers read the bible every day, and only 3% study it.
If we, as Christians, claim that the Bible is central to our relationship with God then our actions must line up with those assertions. We need to be spending time (on a daily basis) with God, His people, and His Word. If we claim to follow Jesus then we must follow him every day of every week and every hour of every day. I believe that learning how to study Scripture is a key step in furthering our spiritual maturity and deepening our relationships with both Christ and His Church.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Law was, Jesus answered:
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Learning how to study God’s Word is one way that we can Love God with our minds. Starting March 10th we will be offering a free 8-week class called “Grasping God’s Word.” Throughout those 8 weeks we will be looking at how to read, interpret, and apply the Bible. You can think of it as a crash course in Biblical Studies. It is my belief that as a Christian I am to be continuously seeking to grow in faith and maturity, and allow the Holy Spirit to shape me into the image of Christ daily.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
So, if you’re ready to challenge your mind and learn how to dig deeper into God’s Word I encourage you to sign up for our “Grasping God’s Word” class. I firmly believe that the entirety of Scripture holds value for all believers. Loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind does not require a degree from a Bible college or a seminary, but it does require our readiness to live our entire lives for Christ and to open ourselves up to be stretched and refined by the Holy Spirit. We do not have to know everything, that is impossible for all but God, but we do need to be willing to learn. To sign up for the class, email Rachel Johnson at [email protected].
Ash Wednesday is perhaps my favorite holiday on the Christian calendar aside from Advent and Christmas. I grew up Catholic, and Ash Wednesday was the first mass my step-dad shared with me. One night, I asked him to take me to church and he responded, “Get your shoes on”. I remember my acute confusion because it was Wednesday and with all the authority of a 10-year old, I declared church was for Sundays. He said “let’s go – get in the car”. We went to church. On a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. It was a solemn service launching the 40 days of Lent. The priest smudged ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead and said the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Harvest Christian Church doesn’t ‘celebrate’ Ash Wednesday per se, but I’ll personally still go to the nearest Catholic church for Ash Wednesday service. Last year, I came into the office and Mike said “Did you forget to wash your face today?!” hahaha! It gave me a chance to explain why I had ashes on my forehead.
Why ashes? Wikipedia explains it best: “Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief…. The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes.” Interesting side-note: in the Catholic Church, the ashes are from the previous year’s palms given out each Palm Sunday, collected and stored, then burned down to ash. A symbol that we must not only rejoice of Jesus’ coming but also regret the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us.
Growing up and attending a Catholic high school, I learned that the purpose of the 40 days of Lent is to prepare the believer through prayer, repentance of sins, almsgiving and self-denial for deeper understanding and awe of Resurrection Sunday. The 40 days represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and being tempted in the desert as described in the Gospels before beginning his public ministry. Today, as a Christian spending a lifetime in the desert of our present culture, I still find great value in this practice.
Traditionally, many people will give something up (example: chocolate/sweets or red meat) for these 40 days as a fast – remembering each time they have the urge to break their fast to deny the self and remember the sacrifice of Jesus in that moment and stop to pray. Many others will add something to their daily routine that they do not normally do such as giving food to those in need or adding a daily devotion for 40 days.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the preparing process. Preparation to draw closer to God and experience Resurrection Sunday with eyes wide open. In awe. In breathlessness. In fear and trembling. In renewal.
You do not need to run out and go get ashes – that is not the point. However, I would encourage you to start a fast or add a family devotional time or jump into a small group or bring in a food pantry donation item for the next 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Remember Repent and Prepare. Start today on Ash Wednesday. Start here.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”