Thursday, June 30, 2005

In His Image/free will

The last re-post, I think...the short version is still pretty long...

Little people given to us...created as we were, in the image of God. Created with a free will. Part of you but not. If you expected someone to obey you, would you create him/her with a free will? If you were really a control freak wouldn't you create an autonomaton? Yes, He wants us to obey Him. Yes, He made us with free wills. He made us a part of Him but not. A mystery, but not a mystery: God is God and we're not but He created us in His image.

Job is one of my favorite Bible characters not because he suffered but because God trusted Job. He kept giving Satan a little more access and a little more because God was bragging on Job. God let things get hard for Job because God had faith in him. He tells us, teaches us, trains us, and then He lets us make choices that inevitably have consequences. I'll venture to say He has faith in us. We were made in His image. Ultimately He works all things together for good for those who love Him...the end of the matter is better than the beginning. . . His love is everlasting...

Pretty amazing that God entrusted His own son to human parents. Pretty amazing that He gives us children to love, nurture, and train. He entrusts a whole generation to the generation before. But each person is created God shaped. The best of human parenting will never fill that space. You can build "to spec" the best way you know how. You can pray for wisdom and intercede. You can call on the Lord who is near when you blow it (some of which is inevitable, by the way) but when it's all done only God Himself can come and fill that place that's meant for Him. Anything else would be idolatry. And by nature God is faithful...

So we have these little free will plants made in the image of God to train and prune and tend. If you're into the time and work of meticulous gardening or if you depend on your garden for food it will look a whole lot different than if you're going for the wild look. Being more a naturalist than a gardener, I've always wondered: if the vinedresser prunes the branches that bear fruit and cuts off the branches that don't bear fruit, how does the thing grow? There are wild grape vines on the fence. Somebody cuts them them to the ground every year. Believe me, they grow!

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he's old he won't depart from it...Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right (the first commandment with a promise) so things will go well with you, so you'll live a long time in the land God gives you...God faithfully watches over His Word to perform it. . .It endures forever across generations, He doesn't change...He gives us promises, words to obey, words for comfort and encouragement, words of warning, stories, proverbs, songs, teaching (a Father's words) and His example...

He also made each of us unique, planted us in unique families, in unique communities, in a specific time and place and He gives us the freedom to chose. He's pretty amazing... and He made us in His image.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Pondering Instruction

A drastically revised re-post:

We probably take the Sunday school model and other church related teaching models for granted but starting a new church (church plant) is an opportunity to revisit all the who, what, when, where, why, how and "so what"s of church.

What do you want to teach? Who do you want to teach? Why is it important? When is the best time to teach it? Where is the best place to teach it? How is this material or concept best taught? So, what are you hoping to accomplish? I'm thinking mostly, about kids here.

What things are better taught by parents? What things are best taught by experts? What things do we learn best from one another? What things do we only learn from the Spirit of God?

And that's probably the heart of it...The answers may not be the same for everyone. But starting something new we have opportunity to think about it.

George likes thinking about objectives like this: We want to _________in a way that__________so that________. As I say, starting something new, we have opportunity to think about it.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who's accountable?

A scary title! But knowing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and that there are things God will hold us accountable for should cause us, at the very least, to carefully consider our choices.

Considering children and instruction (and you could, conceivably, have one without the other) who's responsible for what? We're accountable to God as individuals, as parents, as families, as church communities. Even nations are ultimately accountable to God whether we believe it or not.

Individuals become families that grow into communities and communities into nations. God examines our work. Eventually He burns off the dross and we all hope that when it's finished He'll see Jesus. That's the telephoto shot. You can't see the detail...

What are we accountable for? As individuals we're responsible to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and to love our neighbor as our self. We create the detail.

As parents, we're responsible to love our kids, to deliberately train them up in the way they should go, to teach them to obey so they can inherit the promises that go with it, to tell them stories of what God has done, to teach them what God has said when we rise up, when we sit down, when we walk along the way...Again, we create the detail.

"The church": the people of God ie. a living growing body of people who are following the way of Jesus. There was probably a time when people thought they could better meet needs through an institution with more organization and government, a well- oiled system with strong leaders. When, where, and how did a community become an institution? . . . another discussion. . . The institution may become a bit calcified, but across time where people are hearing His words, doing what He says, responding to His Spirit and the people around them, there's life beyond the walls. And again, we create the detail.

Over the years, church and school have taken on the responsibility of formal instruction so we hold them accountable. There are probably a lot of good historical reasons for that. Yet having the mind of Christ, being formed in the image of Christ, being imitatiors of Christ and members of His Body are more than knowing the right answers. Does it just happen? How do you measure it? Do we need to? God is the only one who knows the heart of a person. Surely Father, Son (Living Word) and Holy Spirit have a huge role to play instructing and forming as we make our choices in families and communities.

For His three years of ministry Jesus was very deliberate about what He was doing, yet He said to His disciples, "Follow me..." He created and equipped a community of believers. They would have to continue the work when He was gone. His teaching/forming process wasn't unlike the passage in Deut. 11: 19. There were a lot of relational things going on.

Parents carried responsibility for training their children but families were part of multi-generational communities. My experience with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents around all the time was quite different from that of my children who saw their extended family 3-4 times a year. But 2500 years ago, life probably wasn't changing at the pace it is today.

Paul says the church is responsible to equip the saints for the work of service and to display the wisdom of God to the nations ... Jesus said "Go...teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you..." and Jesus told us to make sure we don't cause one of these little people to stumble... to keep the debris off the path.

Who's job is it to train and trim the branches of a vine that's graced with its own will, so it will be bearing lots of fruit when the Vinedresser comes to inspect it? Who initiates our children into a friendship, a relationship with their creator? Who trains them and inspires them to keep running after God to know Him because they're being driven from the inside, not the outside? (a process not unlike what we hope will happen with new believers.)

Who is responsible to fullfill the mandate to teach our children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? Do we really have any control over that process except to pray, share our own life, share what our own eyes have seen, be ambassadors of the listening love of God?

If we believe the influence of community matters to God we, as parents, have a responsibility to raise our children in a community of caring believers who will also make meaningful contributions to their lives. What role does leadership play?

What role does the church play in the lives of children? Does instruction need to be deliberate or will formation happen if we're living the way God wants us to live? Does the church have a role to specifically equip parents? To specifically equip children? Or will it just happen if we're equipping the saints for the work of service? Does it matter?

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Bows and Arrows

Yes, they used bows and arrows, swords and shields and fought wars in scripture but that's another conversation...

I once heard someone use this image of bows and arrows - that the older generation is the bow and the younger generation is the arrow. Each generation is a bow for the next.

I've also been thinking about a statement that appeared on one of the resource list sites, that most teachers of emerging kids are more than one generation removed which could be a negative or a postive but probably an observation worthy of comments. . .

(c)2005 Margie Hillenbrand

What Are We Doing With Kids?

What are we doing at Artisan Church? (

Most of our kids are under 8 years. Sometimes they come to service, sometimes they stay in nursery. Sometimes they help us get ready for service. They come to House Blend and Immersed events (which are usually an opportunity for personal meditation with individual worshipful activities). Sometimes they help design some of those stations.

Most of the nursery time is free, unstructured time. We also try to translate the topic presented in our wild, creative, not quite predicatable gathering into a Bible story and a creative hands- on activity for little people with the option to play, of course. Sometimes they play with play dough and it stays at church. Sometimes they make something to take home. Sometimes they make something to give away: planting seeds, making trail mix... They've made up their own games. They made a wonderfully decorated "Congratulations" banner to hang for our graduates.

We have different volunteers in nursery each week. Most are parents, some are not. We offer ideas for stories and activities that go along with whatever the adults are doing with the option to just keep watch and enjoy the kids. Our resources are parents and other Artisans, a craft box, music tapes, and a well equipped nursery in an already established church building.

But the more interesting stories are the stories parents are telling. . .

What are you doing with kids in your church?

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand


Your feedback has been great! And your stories! Lisa also had a great kid story on her blog at ( "Enlightened and Loving It") "I Couldn't Possibly..."

I deleted some of my posts and comments because I just felt like I was rambling or dominating the converstation or it was too much to read... I don't want to be the only one talking but I suppose blogging puts you in that position doesn't it . . . but maybe it's good to have a place where you can just ramble with the option for comment . . . LOL!

. . . so I'll repost (I guess that means re-writing because they aren't coming up by themselves!) I'll try being a little more patient and a little more confident that these are important things to think about . . . and a little more patient ... still hoping for dialogue...

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Saturday, June 11, 2005

3) Engaging Culture

How do we equip children to engage the culture around them in the way of Jesus?

  • biblical family/faith community enculturation
  • encountering and engaging the other cultures around them (when? where? how?)
  • distinguishing and respecting cultural differences
  • attitudes
  • words, vocabulary, meanings
  • talking about ideas (What’s the message? What’s God’s message? How to live it? How to deliver it? )
  • creative alternatives
  • talking about artwork or commercials
  • talk about stories (movies, tv shows, books)
  • supervised community involvement (faith community and outside community)
  • some cultural elements will help illuminate the nature of God, the Gospel, the scriptures
  • some cultural elements deny it
  • families participating together in the outside community
  • parents sharing ideas and resources
  • parents using each other as resources

more thoughts?

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

2) Embracing People

How Do We Enable/Equip children to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

  • practice and encourage the “one another”(s) you find in scripture
  • loving your neighbor as your self ie. what would you want …?
  • I Cor. 13 qualities of love
  • respecting others : please/thank you, gentle, look & listen - respecting people’s space
  • learning to listen and hear what someone's saying
  • posters, magazine picture collages, visuals, videos, of lots of different kinds of people, places,
  • guided discovery: exposure to culture, geography, people, different foods, clothes, music, etc.
  • games
  • free time to interact and build friendships
  • supervised group activities (structured and unstructured)
  • serving, giving, helping, sharing, graciously receiving
  • participation in intergenerational family and community life
  • building relationships in your neighborhood and school
  • building relationships with people who aren't like you
  • participating in activities outside of church with kids who may not believe what you believe, making friends and having these people to your house for a meal
  • learning when to say "no"
  • learning to respectfully disagree
  • parents sharing ideas and using each other as resources

[The ECC has projects for kids that enable them specifically to give to kids in countries that are hurting]

You'll think of more!

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

1) Encountering God

These 3 E lists aren’t intended to limit the ways we can Encounter God, Embrace people, and Engage culture in the way of Jesus with kids. A list like this just helps us start thinking that way. You're probably already doing these things!

How do we enable our children to encounter God
or equip them to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength” ?

Remembering what God has done

  • Listening to or interacting with a Bible Story or scripture - it’s about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) interacting with people and people interacting with Him
  • Activities that help little people ponder, remember, or interact with the story/scripture
  • Today stories about God
Singing/Playing/Listening to music
  • worship choruses to God
  • scripture in song to meditate on His words
  • choruses from songs we sing to one another for encouragement
  • choruses we sing to ourselves for encouragement
  • fun songs
  • songs that declare what God has done
Talking to God
  • for kids
  • with kids
  • agree with them while they pray

You are the one who…
thank You for…
praise You for…
I am…
Please do …
Help me…
question . . .

  • sometimes God answers, sometimes he doesn’t answer the way we expect
  • noticing when God answers and how
  • remembering to thank Him when He answers
  • different prayer postures
  • learning traditional practices



Meditating: Thinking about

  • God’s Word
  • things He’s done in scripture
  • in our lives
  • our own actions
  • What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? ( Creation) Who made…
  • Looking at faith filled creative works (art, literature, film, music, invention, etc

  • talking with/listening to children
  • including them in adult conversation
Adult Example
  • how we interact with kids will tell them how God loves them and other things about God
  • how we spend our time
  • who and what we give to
  • how we interact with God, our own personal disciplines
  • how we handle inconvenience
Guided Discovery (not giving kids all the answers. Giving them room to go after God and find Him or be found by Him.)

Parents sharing ideas and resources or using each other as resources

You'll think of more!

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Monday, June 06, 2005

Kids in Worship

Somehow this got lost and turned back into a draft. Sorry! Hopefully I didn't lose Tyler's comment. If it's lost to cyberspace I'll find my copy and repost that, too!

There are a number of books out there to help churches include kids in worship - mostly aimed at established churches with separate children's programs. There are emerging churches and church plants working hard to include their kids in community life as much as possible without a separate "program" because they want the kids to grow up knowing that they belong to the larger community, expecially once they graduate from school. Surely there are established church communities that have their children still walking with them as adults and bringing their own children.

Some people like the option of childcare during worship, especially for toddlers and preschoolers. If you're offering childcare, you want the kids in your care to be comfortable, secure, well-cared for, and happy as an expression of the Father's love for them. But if you make your child care something that kids want to come back too, you compete with your efforts to include them in worship.

It might help to ask, what's worship? Ultimately we're worshipping God - a separate multifaceted study and discussion - it even includes whatever our spiritual service of worship is that extends beyond the sanctuary. What if, in its simplist form, we ask - "what will please God?" How do we bless Him? Do we honor Him best as families or in our respective age groups?

It appears that in the OT the assemblies/the gathering of the people to worship and hear the scriptures included all ages. Some NT passages to ponder: Mt. 21:14-16, Mt. 11:25-30 and Mt. 19: 12-15. I don't think we're taking them out of context to examine them as we think about kids in worship. What about Mt. 23:27?

Some believe it's enough just for kids to be with us and be a part of the experience. Others believe it's important to share the experience in ways that enable kids, as well as adults, to relate and participate.

What are your thoughts and experiences? What are your questions and concerns, as leaders, as parents, as members of the community?

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


I probably come to the Lord with more questions than not. If He was someone other than God, He'd probably get tired of me. But I love the journey with Him, prayerfully pondering His words - words as alive this morning as they were hundreds of years ago. He even keeps watching over them to perform them! Add the dimension of people to love, add the context of time and culture . . . Didn't Jesus say that eternal life is to know Him? A lifetime can't possibly be enough time.

My five kids are young adults and teens but as I'm watching young parents I've come back to ponder Deut. 11 (particularly vs 5 - Imagine generations of parents telling their children what they've seen God do, Verses 8-9 aren't unlike the promise that goes with "Children, obey Your parents . . ." But it's for us. Verses 18-21: God is so relational - He's there when we get up, when we lie down, as we walk through the day willing to share, willing to teach, the way parents and children are when they're home together, working together or doing anything together - the way Jesus walked through life with His disciples. He must spend a lot of time fielding questions. Maybe He enjoys it. Parents teaching these things to their children is relational. Being part of a larger community of parents and children (we're all someone's children) is relational too.

Lord, help us to be as willing to share as You are. Help us draw our children into the ways we interact with You especially when they're little and so easily awe-struck. Teach us to think the way You do as we do what You ask. Help us see and remember what You've done, what You've said. Show Yourself to our children. Interact with them. Thanks for taking so many questions. And when You choose not to answer our questions thanks for just being there. You are truly awesome!

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand