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A Word About Curriculum

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For most of us, summer is the perfect time to rest and recover from a busy season. It’s also a when we make important preparations for the upcoming ministry year.  For the Family Ministries Team, summer preparations usually involve choosing and laying the groundwork for new resources and curricula.
So how do we evaluate and implement new curricula? 
Family Ministries’ staff and volunteers have often heard my motto: Let the curriculum serve us, not the other way around. This means we should never hesitate to eliminate parts of a program that isn’t effective. It also implies that no curriculum should ever be implemented without care and discernment.
We were reminded of this warning in this recent article by Faithfully Magazine which claims that “ROAR”, our recently purchased curriculum for Kids Night Out (our version of VBS) contains dialogue and activities which are racially insensitive. I believe the people who published this curriculum have wonderful, godly intentions. But they definitely missed some things here the first time around. And in my opinion, the concerns listed in the article are insightful, important, and raise awareness for all of us.
It’s helpful for us to remember that no one is perfect and we all have our blind spots, and I’m pleased that the publishers of ROAR apologized and revised the curriculum at no cost.
In light of this, how can we make the best choices and good use of even flawed resources- especially since only samples are available before purchase? We know from experience that published curricula can save valuable time with their versatile themes, craft kits, recorded music, scope, and/or sequence of lessons. But we, the parents and leaders, must remain the primary resources when it comes to the spiritual development of our kids. In other words, published resources can still serve us well, if don’t ask them to do our job. 
As always, we’ll work hard to make sure Bible stories and God’s character are presented truthfully. And this summer, we’ll take extra care to avoid insensitivity to other cultures and races as we ROAR through Kids Night Out.
My goal isn’t for you to believe I always recognize careless language or cultural insensitivities. Or even to reassure you that we can always choose the best curriculum. I don’t and we can’t.
Our goal is to partner with parents in raising our kids to love God and others better than we do. And this work never takes a summer break.  
We have no hope of reaching this goal without much help. I’m grateful for the parent who cares enough about the discipleship of our kids to send me that article about ROAR. Now that’s good partnership! 
Partners, join me in praying for families and our KNO community this summer. May God’s wild kingdom grow for his glory. 
In Christ,
Karen Brown
- with the Family Ministry Team

Posted by Karen Brown

Conversations on Faithfulness

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Happy Anniversary Central! Isn’t it amazing and humbling to reflect on 175 years of God’s faithfulness to our church?

As the anniversary date approached this spring, the Family Ministries Team and I started thinking about how to include our kids in this church-wide celebration. As we brainstormed, we recognized this as a great discipleship opportunity for all of us. We started thinking about how we, as a church body, are intentionally trying to communicate Central’s long history in a way that glorifies God and proclaims Him as the lone hero of it. This God-glorified telling doesn’t come naturally to us, does it? Our tendency is to attribute God’s faithfulness to something we’ve done, or some pastor we’ve had, or in light of some resource we’ve acquired.

But when we look closer, it’s clear we have no business celebrating 175 years, do we? This church, like all other churches, is filled with and lead by sinners saved by grace alone who don’t deserve 175 days, hours, or even seconds of God’s favor.

How do we give our kids this vision? How do we help them see God’s gracious work in their own lives? How do we train the next generation to tell their stories in a way that glorifies God?

First, let's give them practice. Let’s encourage them to share the moments that make up their days really listen when they do. Let’s gently and patiently guide their testimonies so they point to God’s bigger Story. Second, let's train gratitude.  Let’s open their eyes to new mercies every morning and amazing grace every night.  Let’s acknowledge life’s hardships, but frame them with thankfulness and God’s provision.

All year long, we’d like to give our kids an opportunity to practice sharing their personal stories with humility and gratitude. Sunday school leaders nominated students in their class who might be up for this challenge and we’ve chosen some of these for recording.  We’ll share these recordings throughout this anniversary year.

But this is only the beginning, isn’t it?

For our kids to be better God-tellers than we are, we must be willing to walk with them in this learning. In our own narratives, may we let them close enough to see our clumsy erasing of our own goodness while adding shadows of God’s greatness.  May every child get a safe, front row seat to true repentance, thankfulness, and humility.  And may our kids hear so many of our stories that they learn that God’s faithfulness is expressed in unlimited and unique ways.

Episode 7: Sam #3's Story

Episode 6: Sarah's Story

Episode 5: Sam #2's Story

Episode 4: Lizzie's Story

Episode 3: Sam's Story

Episode 2: Jackson's Story

Episode 1: Noelle's Story

Posted by Karen Brown

Understanding Anxiety

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I’ll never forget the day I thought our 3 year-old was missing. 

We searched, called her name, and even drove around the block.  “What if someone took her? What if she’s hurt?… “ Those thoughts closed my throat and chilled my veins. After what seemed an eternity, I finally found her crouched down in the back of her closet. When I asked why she didn’t come when I called, she said, “I was playing hide-and-seek.” Our weak laughter was all nerves and we’ve never hugged her  - or each other – so tightly.

I’m sure most parents have a story like this one; an incident we can point to and remember the pounding heart, heightened focus, and muscle tension that we all feel in moments of crisis – even if many years have past. This short-lived, acute anxiety is normal, and even good for us.  When we might need to fight, escape, or yell for someone’s life, the physiological symptoms are actually helpful, necessary, and by design. 

However, we weren’t meant to live like that. Our body and mind suffer when we live in a heightened state and anxiety becomes chronic. Chronic anxiety is difficult to diagnose. Often, there isn’t one thing we can point to as the source of our stress, or one thing that’s clearly wrong.  It’s a quiet disease that sneaks into our system, takes many forms, and causes a slow-drain of our energy, confidence, and joy. 

Sound familiar? Chances are, this describes you or someone in your family. Chronic anxiety is an epidemic. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 25% of all kids between 13 and 18 are affected by anxiety disorders. This alarming trend reveals our growing need to recognize and respond to the chronic anxiety that’s taking a toll on our families.

We’ve invited Margaret Kileen to help us do just that. Margaret is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works with teens and adults to deal with anxiety issues and depression. In her experience, Margaret believes chronic anxiety breeds avoidance and it takes faith and courage to enter into what is difficult and fight it head on. We are so grateful for Margaret’s expertise and for her willingness to guide us during a three-part seminar on Jan 11, Feb 8, and March 8 from 6:30 – 8pm in the Student Center. There is no cost, but your donations are appreciated. Parent and grandparents will have the opportunity to hear from Margaret and pose specific questions.  We’ll learn calming strategies for ourselves and our children, and how to know when to seek professional help.

Mark your calendars today and invite a friend. And please register HERE so we know how many to expect (this eases our anxiety, you know… ).

Let’s take this step together toward a healthier, more-joyful New Year.

Posted by Karen Brown