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Advent @ Willow Chicago

i'm so proud to introduce this year's Advent resource -- created for our community at Willow Chicago. early on, we decided that we wanted a simple resource designed for ALL ages and ALL types of community. ONE resource that families with | without kids could do together, small groups could discuss over dinner, or roommates could text about during the week. SO GOOD.  

to make the resource practical for all folks, a small group of us worked together writing, designing, planning, creating. me + Community Care Pastor + Associate Pastor + Creative Director. LOVE. 

here's the result: 4 cards | 1 card per week. each week = a theme: hope, peace, joy, love. on sunday, we handed out a beautiful set of printed cards to each attendee at church. AND, the cards are also downloadable here, so that folks can print additional sets or pass along to friends. 

ALSO. we're trying a new texting service. folks will receive 3 prompts | week in order to encourage engagement during Advent. if you'd like to join us, text ADVENT to 62953. 

we've shot 4 short films that highlight a different group of folks engaging with a particular week's theme. we hope the films visually inspire people to consider who their community is, and take active steps towards celebrating Advent with them. for today: our first short video introducing the project.

that's us. i'm excited + expectant. what are your plans for Advent?


Grade 4|5 spiritual development 

so, this was fun. last week, my brother + i co-taught our final everyday parenting class on Grade 4|5 development. he's an elementary school principal, and prior to that taught in the Grade 4|5 dual language program, and the magnet-gifted program. so, he's good. AND, i take full credit for his professional success. there were many, many days during our childhood when i made him play "school." he complained. but, look where he is now. 


quinn's presentation focused on 3 key areas of development: physical, academic, social. a few highlights: the 8 keys to {academic} success -- integrity, failure leads to success, speak with good purpose, this is it!, committment, ownership, flexibility, balance. LOVE. my mind's been racing ever since about how we might incorporate these into sundays.  

also, helpful definitions: tween {10-12 year old} of which there are currently 20 million in the US. projected to hit 23 million by 2020 {316 million total = 15%}. preteen/preadolescent refers to 9-14 year-olds. adolescence is the changing from childhood to adulthood, 13-19 year-olds. 

following his presentation on child development, i offered everyday, practical tips for spiritual development. my categories: relationships, biblical + faith literacy, and holy spirit response. 


Encourage Noticing {who did they see | discuss similarities + differences} Lean into Spiritual Friendships + Peers: Encourage Kids to seek friends for prayer, help, encouragement
Consider faith role models + share faith stories: PL teachers, aunts/uncles, neighbors, mentors

Biblical + Faith Literacy
Challenge kids to learn / go deeper in faith / encourage Fact Finding together
Listen to their questions + give honest answers. Don't stunt their growth because of fear
Encourage connections between stories / Ex: Adam to Noah lineage 
Encourage discussion about worship {what it means, how God speaks to them}

Holy Spirit Response
Encourage + Create space for response
Prayer {out loud} / Create your own Body Prayer
Create Quiet Space for: Journaling / Art / Reflection
Ask questions: What does God look like to you? What does your faith look like today? 
Music: Encourage Original Song as Response  
Service: Find areas to serve together or ways to contribute skills to others
Regardless of specific response — offer on-going encouragement about faith growth

favorite things {contribute}

the question i'm asked most often by parents at my church is -- what are your favorite faith resources for kids + families? bibles, apps, music, what can i do with my kids at home? 

PS: parents wanting to connect spiritually with their kids. THIS IS FANTASTIC. 

so, in response to this question, next week i'm hosting a lunchtime session for parents called Amy's Favorite Things. it's a fun opportunity to show parents all of my favorite faith resources. i purposely scheduled the session for next week so that parents can get a few ideas for meaningful christmas gifts. ALSO: what favorite things session would be complete without a few giveaways? i'm thrilled that several publishers have sent us a few copies of their resources that i can share with parents.


my list is well on it's way, growing every day. but, i could use your help. would you mind leaving a comment with faith resources that are currently on your favorite things list? i'd love to include as many resources as possible -- and your suggestions will help make that possible. 

specifically, i'm looking for resources that parents + kids can enjoy together in these categories: bibles, books, dvds, music, apps, and websites. all faith based, encouraging, helpful. 

AND. after the session next week, i'll post my list here on the blog. 

as a tiny tiny peak: these are top of my list --

Action Bible Handbook, Yancy's Roots for the Journey, and the WITB Christmas Book


everyday spiritual parenting {update}

we’re nearing the final weeks of our Everyday Spiritual Parenting class. it's hard to capture in a blog post all that's been happening in the class and in the hearts of parents. this i know for sure -- God's spirit has been moving and encircling the groups, and each week, parents have left inspired.  

for this class, we tried a new formula: 

child development expert + faith development expert + practical parent.  

the six-week class focused each week on a different age {Infants/Toddlers, Age 2/3, Age 4/5, K/1, Grade 2|3, Grade 4|5}. FYI: this is a winning combination. 

at the beginning of each class, i remind parents of 3 things: (1) you're doing a great job (2) you're never alone, and (3) every day faith formation is possible for your child. i'm reminded every single time -- there isn't an over-abundance of encouraging voices in parents' lives. positive, truthful words are one of the greatest gifts we offer parents as they seek to grow their children's faiths. 

in last week's class, on grade 2|3 development, christina klinepeter, incredible mom of 2 boys shared her definition of spiritual parenting:

shaping a child’s heart, brain and body to look for, feel and know the presence of God and teaching them to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

in light of spiritual parenting, success for christina's family looks like: making good choices, developing a servant heart, having resilience, being aware and feeling God's presence, standing up for justice, fighting for peace, loving their neighbors and those different from them, becoming generous, and willing to take risks. i love that she's defined real, tangible points of success. 

AND! her spiritual goals for her children:
  • I want their spirituality to be authentic
  • I want their spirituality to be intertwined into their every day life. 
  • I want them to know the vastness of God. That He is everywhere and in everything.
  • I want their spirituality to be life-giving. 
i mean. SO GOOD. 

i've learned a lot during this class -- first and possibly most important: always give parents a platform to share their experiences. they're HUNGRY to share. they're experts. AND, in highlighting multiple expressions of parenting, we'll {hopefully} get rid of the comparison game. instead, helping parents see they're best equipped to lead their unique child. my job, as family pastor, is to appropriately facilitate and create experiences for these types of community and learning to happen.

Age 2 + Age 3 {activity}

we've just completed our first month of multicultural, urban curriculum at willow chicago. 

this is one of my favorite activities that we're trying out in the Age 2 + Age 3 classroom. for the purpose of encouraging children to explore God's diversity in creation, we gave them a toy camera. 

our talented team of artists created a set of animal polaroid pictures. the kids take pretend pics as they notice the similarities and differences between animals. at the end of this activity, they say God is big! God made the animals! our hope is that children will respond with curiosity towards God's creation, and an awe for all that He's made. love, love, love.